Register a SA Forums Account here!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
  • Locked thread
After The War
Apr 12, 2005

to all of my Architects
let me be traitor

Pham Nuwen posted:


Thranguy posted:

TD 184 Crits

Thanks for the crits, guys.


Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Tyrannosaurus posted:

We're still supposed to write horror, yeah?


Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Oh if this is a horror week, then count me in.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Djeser posted:

Oh if this is a horror week, then count me in.

Jan 26, 2013

Awesome prompt. I'm in!

Blue Wher
Apr 27, 2010

The Smart Baseball Dargon Sez:

"Baseball is chaos!"

His bat is signed by Carl "Yaz" Yastrzemski

gently caress it, I'm in to torture you all with bad writing

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

JuniperCake posted:

Awesome prompt. I'm in!

Blue Wher posted:

gently caress it, I'm in to torture you all with bad writing

Apr 12, 2007
eat up


Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


Hey Pam Nuwen and Thranguy! Thank you for crits, critters!

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

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

Strange Logs Crits Part 2/2

Thranguy - The Troll Surgeon

I like where you were going with this - it's got a kind of Catch-22 vibe with fantasy trappings, and it was a cool way to interpret the prompt.

The prose is solid, and it flows pretty well for the most part. There is a bit more telling vs. showing than I'd like, but it would be tough to convey everything organically within the wordcount, and since it wasn't in the form of pace-breaking exposition dumps, I can work with it.

The primary issue I had with this piece is that the conflict feels a bit low-stakes, and the solution isn't all that satisfying. The narrator mentions that he's risking a black mark on his career, but he comes across as kinda flippant about the whole thing, especially since you time jump past the bit where he's presumably stressing out and feeling the pressure over finding a realistic solution. Just having the trolls eat it works, I guess, but I don't really see the difference between that and just chucking it in a bonfire. Either way, it's fraudulent, but only if he gets caught. Still, it's got an arc, a likeable narrator, and a recognizable voice, so it's certainly not a bad piece overall.

Jeza - Filth

I liked that you went all in and actually incorporated the prompt itself into your story - I think you were the only person to do that this week, and in this case it worked.

It is a bit odd in the sense that I already know about the game / character Dropsy, so it was basically impossible not to picture him while reading this. I'm not sure if someone who wasn't familiar with it would be better off or not. The Dropsy in your story is sympathetic and compelling, but he does seem to set up as the very obvious victim from the beginning, which maybe undercuts the pathos a bit.

This whole piece has a really effective, sinister tone, thanks to your strong prose and your smart use of detail. You give us just enough to get a good sense of what is going on, while managing to keep the darkness at the end of the platform a mystery in a way that isn't disappointing. I believe this just narrowly missed HMing.

Ironic Twist - Iota

This was a really interesting piece. Strictly speaking, not a lot happens - it ends by teasing future narrative development, rather than actually going through it, but there's enough of an arc / characterization to make that work.

Your prose is unsurprisingly strong, though one of the judges cited some minor clarity issues. For me, the abstraction is effective - it does a good job of evoking the narrator's mood / thought process, and it takes a bigger risk than most of the stories this week, which is something I like to see. The only other quibble I have with it is that the narrator's motivation feels a little hollow - it sorta feels like a setup for a story instead of a natural chain of events, but on the other hand it works in the sort of mythic context you've established.

I dunno, not a whole lot else to say about this, really. A strong, neat take on a prompt that would have been really easy to mess up.

Sitting Here - Sign Language

This was one of my favorite prompt interpretations this week, just because it went in a direction that I probably never would have considered.

This was also a really tricky approach to take, because it kinda requires a lot of psuedo-worldbuilding / exposition to frame the action and establish the story's logic. For the most part, you pull it off admirably - you've got this confident, casual narrative tone that turns what could have been really dry and info-dumpy into something genuinely engaging. There are a few places where you teeter on the edge of telling vs. showing; it takes until a third of the way through the story to really form a connection to the characters and their motivations, which is definitely a bit later than you'd ideally want. But to your credit, I didn't want to stop reading before that point, and once you get into the meat of it, it more than makes up for that initial sluggishness. This was a really close contender for the win.

Broenheim - Snail

The tone in this piece is pretty neat - it's got this weird mix of nostalgic innocence and sadness that play very well off of each other.

The prose here is very utilitarian and the cadence is pretty choppy. I'm pretty sure this was intentional, because it gives it a sort of children's book feel that meshes with the characters / plot / tone, but it's not a whole lot of fun to read. I feel bad saying that, because you pulled off what you were going for pretty well, and that's quite possibly just the fault of my personal taste.

It's a really sweet story, and writing from the POV of a snail is great. There just isn't a whole lot of meat on the narrative bones - the arc is predictable, and we don't really get into the snail's headspace enough to make it really connect on a deeply emotional level.

Chairchucker - The Fin on the Back is Part of the Deal

First of all, good on you for snapping up someone else's failed prompt and running with it.

This was a really fun little piece, and it made me smile. You actually did a pretty impressive job of compressing an entire narrative arc into such a tiny space - there's a conflict established right away, a buildup, the climax, and denouement, all in less than 400 words. It's nothing profound, but it isn't pretending to be. Nice prose, nice use of voice, and a genuinely funny bit of action.

FreudianSlippers - Blood and Soil

Solid hook, makes me want to see what is going to happen next.

Your prose isn't bad, but there are quite a few proofreading errors - mostly missing punctuation and some clunky lines that need to be combined or split up. There's bits of characterization here and there, but a lot of the action here feels a little disconnected, because character motivations are either unclear or just kinda presented in the form of exposition, which makes it hard to relate to them. The narrative arc itself is solid enough - it doesn't fall into the obvious cliches that "evil plants" usually leads to. The ending works, though there are some issues with pacing / clarity towards the end. Overall, this was a solidly middle-of-the-pack story this week, which is not bad at all for a first effort!

Wangless Wonder - Play Him Off

I liked this one quite a bit - the setup initially seems absurd, and there are these establishing bits of setting / characterization that bounce between comical and sad in a way that works surprisingly well.

The prose is pretty good throughout - everything is clear and concise, and there are some nice little subtle details that give this piece texture and make it feel real and human, which is important when it comes to empathizing with characters. I will say that the wife feels a bit left out - she comes across more as a sounding board for the plot beats than as a living, breathing character. There's just enough there to keep her from being totally one-dimensional, but there's also room to make her decision to leave more impactful.

The ending works well, and it feels natural. It's maybe not all that satisfying, but that's thematically appropriate, I think.

Entenzahn - Bedrock Bottom

This was an entertaining story - one of the other judges said it feels like a Dwarf Fortress scenario, and it definitely does have that tone and general narrative structure, which isn't a bad thing.

Your prose is solid, and the little bombastic flourishes work well, though the voice is maybe a little weaker than your usual stuff. There's a strong narrative arc, multiple conflicts with clear motivation, characters that behave in a believable way, etc. - the issue I had is that it all feels like it's sorta taking a paint-by-numbers approach to it all; everything that happens makes sense and drives the plot forward, but none of it feels particularly compelling / stimulating, as a reader. Things happen, and it's compelling enough on a basic dramatic level to keep me reading, but afterward I just don't really end up very invested in it. That's a common problem this week, though, and there's enough good stuff here to put it in the upper half of the week, in my book.

curlingiron - Darkest Desires

This was one of the trickier prompts this week, I feel, but you handled it well.

Good hook, and a strong voice right out of the gate. There are a few "as you know..." moments in the beginning, but you break out of it pretty quickly. The prose is solid, with a few really nice turns of phrase sprinkled throughout. Enough to give it flavor without becoming a distraction.

Eustace feels like a real person, or at least like a few of the alcoholics I've known; he's mean, and angry, but there's still something there that makes you sympathize, or at least acknowledge that he's hurting. The double itself is interesting. There's the obvious thematic stuff there - a manifestation of subconscious thoughts and misplaced aggression, etc. Then it seems to take on a more sinister aspect, and the bit where Eustace is just totally powerless to do anything is pretty creepy. The dialogue is a bit on the nose - parts of it work, but other parts feel artificial, like something a person in a B-movie would say. The cap locks + exclamation combo sticks out, especially - honestly, it's almost never a good idea to use either, let alone both.

I'm still not totally sure how I feel about the ending. It's bleak as hell, and although Eustace seems to be stuck in a rut / having doubts about the course his life has taken, it doesn't seem like his subconscious would literally want to murder them. It's just such a brutal resolution that it's hard to even process it any farther than the surface level. On the one hand, I think most of the alternatives would be cliche, but on the other, it feels a bit out of character / proportion. I'll be curious to see what the other judges think about this.

kurona bright - Locked Elevator Puzzle

I like the premise here - I guess it's maybe not the most original idea, but you do enough with the tone and voice to make me not care.

The dialogue is nice - it feels like a realistic progression for someone trying to bargain their way out of a frustrating, mundane situation, and you do a good job with the tonal shift about halfway through as it starts to feel more panicked. It's tough to write a scene like this, where on the surface not a whole lot is happening, but you pull it off by creating dramatic tension.

The ending, though, is kind of a disappointment. It feels like you weren't quite sure where to go with it, or that a more naturalistic ending would likely be anticlimactic / unsatisfying, which is definitely a risk. But here, you just give us some eldritch abomination out of left field, and it doesn't feel earned. Then you undercut that moment by making it sort of slapstick - the guy sees this monster, then gets shot with a dart, and slumps to the ground while he formulates a parting quip. It just takes that tone you've been working with and pushes it a bit too far over the edge into the farcical. As a result, it feels like you pull back at the last minute instead of committing to the set-up.

Bandiet - Rabbit and Turtle

I'm guessing this was written in a last-minute rush, because it feels very incomplete.

Your prose isn't bad at all on a mechanical level, which is always impressive for a first-timer. You spend maybe a bit too much time in the beginning before you actually establish the conflict / motivations, but I'm still not entirely clear on the what or why. It's a shack full of weapons, I guess? And they are going to steal them for some reason? Are they gonna pawn them, keep them, start a revolution, what?

You've got some nice banter going between them - the bit with the nerves in the turtle shell is a nice example of working characterization in through dialogue. But then they start walking toward this shack, and a guy falls through a hole in the snow, or through some ice? "They" dug it out - who is they? As far as I can tell, these guys were going to steal the guns hidden in an old shack, but the owners got there first and carried them all away and left some kind of pit trap? So they both fall in, and scream, and the story ends, right as you are getting to the actual action. What happens to them? Are they dead? Do they sit in a hole and freeze to death, or do the owners come back? You had a ton of words left to go somewhere with it, and what you actually have is a promising set-up, so it was a shame it ended right as it was really beginning.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

:siren: SPECIAL ONE-TIME OFFER :siren:

In front of you:

Door #1
Door #2
Door #3

There's a song behind each door. Sign up, pick one, you get 200 extra words. I'm not promising these songs will be easy. First come, first served.

Dec 15, 2006

Come fight terrifying creatures in the THUNDERDOME!

Ironic Twist posted:

:siren: SPECIAL ONE-TIME OFFER :siren:

In front of you:

Door #1
Door #2
Door #3

There's a song behind each door. Sign up, pick one, you get 200 extra words. I'm not promising these songs will be easy. First come, first served.

Question: can we pick a door if we already signed up?

a new study bible!
Feb 1, 2009

A Philadelphia Legend
Fly Eagles Fly

If so I want door 3

Dec 15, 2006

Come fight terrifying creatures in the THUNDERDOME!


If so I want door 3


E: Door 1, I guess.

a new study bible!
Feb 1, 2009

A Philadelphia Legend
Fly Eagles Fly

I love a good door number 3. I can stick with my original song if Twist or others object. I have an idea, I just appreciate Let's Make A Deal.

Dec 15, 2006

Come fight terrifying creatures in the THUNDERDOME!


I love a good door number 3. I can stick with my original song if Twist or others object. I have an idea, I just appreciate Let's Make A Deal.

Same, except I love the Monty Hall Problem. (You are the goat in this scenario.)

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

curlingiron posted:

Question: can we pick a door if we already signed up?

For the time being, this is intended for people who haven't picked a song yet.

Feb 25, 2014


i dont want a door but can i get a flash rule?

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

flerp posted:

i dont want a door but can i get a flash rule?

Your story must take place on a planet other than Earth.

Aug 2, 2002

can the planet be earth?

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Alright, if someone takes door #2 tonight I'll open all the doors. curlingiron, WLOTM, you already respectively called dibs on Doors # 1 and 3, unless you want to switch.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012


I'll take Door #2.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

curlingiron posted:


E: Door 1, I guess.

Benny Profane posted:

I'll take Door #2.


If so I want door 3

Each of you get 200 extra words. curlingiron, WLOTM, you do not need to use both songs, you have effectively switched your former songs for these ones.

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011

After The War posted:

Thanks for the crits, guys.

Yeah cheers, Pham Nuwen and Thranguy.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Signups closed, get to it TD

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

flerp posted:

1443 words

The Ocean’s Sorry, He Really Is

“I hate this,” the girl said. “I hate the ocean.”

“I’m sorry,” the ocean said, his words being eaten by the tossing waves. “I didn’t mean to.” She couldn’t hear him. She was lying on the raft, the sun hitting her rough skin, the waves squirming beneath her.
There’s a hint of conflict, but not much of a scene at all. You’re starting your story with dialogue, which—I mean, I’ve never gotten up in arms about that, but I can understand why some people do, because it usually tells you a lot less about the story you’re about to read.

He was angry a couple days before. He was thrashing, screaming. Huge waves reached up high into the sky. He wasn’t sure why he was angry, he just was. He never knows why.
Getting flashbacks to your Gray story. Two characters, one a young child, one a force of nature, talking over each other and past each other. Hopefully there’s more of a point to this story than the other one. Also, “he never knows why”? Whose PoV is this story from?

“God,” she said, dipping her feet into the water. The ocean felt her kick, ripples fluttering through the water. She wanted to leave, but he wasn’t angry. He understood why she hated him. He hated himself too. He kept the waves short, calm, hoping she’d not be knocked over. “Why’d this happen?”

The ocean didn’t remember that night well. All he knew he was angry, like he gets, Yeah, we get it
and that the waves pushed and pulled and he wanted to tear apart everything. There was a ship, and he could seem them struggling, pulling on the masts, and he didn’t care. So far, I kinda don’t care either. We know what the ocean does. Why’s he focused on this one girl?

“I’m sorry,” the ocean said and the waves died down. They stopped and the ocean was flat and still. “Goddamnit, I’m sorry.” Wobbly timeline here, is this present or past?

He remembered what he did.


The night he hurt the girl, he was more angry than ever before. He just wanted to scream and shout, but no one ever heard him. Wouldn’t it be more interesting if we got a reason why the ocean was angry? All they saw were the waves. Everything got gray and dark and he saw that ship, struggling against the waves, and he couldn’t stop himself. He slammed it with wave after wave, stronger and stronger, until he could hear the wood splinter. There was shouting, crying, splashes as people fell overboard. The waves grabbed them, pulled them down. He was angry. He didn’t want to be, but he was. Yeah, no, we get it, we understand He kept thrashing. Everything got darker but he kept thrashing. He couldn’t see anything. He was screaming, everyone else was screaming, and the waves were churning and screaming with them. This is kind of effective but it’s still in this facile method of description and I don’t know why. Why not give the ocean an older voice?

Day came. He stopped, still angry, but not wanting to scream. He saw the girl on the raft, drifting through the waves. Her shirt cut up through them like the ocean had slipped a knife through the fabric. ??? Her shirt cut through the waves, vice versa, I can’t picture this He said he was sorry, he was always saying he was sorry, but she never heard him. She kept rowing, off through the waves, and the ocean tried to stay calm.

She yelled at him that night. She asked why, and he tried to answer, but the waves were too loud. She slapped the water, over and over, until her palm was red and bleeding. How old is this girl? She’s old enough to row the boat effectively but she throws a tantrum at the ocean like the ocean will answer her? Then, she used her other hand until that bled too. Odd waste of energy, but she’s not in her right mind, I guess She kept shouting and shouting and shouting, and the waves shrunk. The ocean wanted to sink down, to sink to the bottom, to forget, to stop being so angry.

“I hate this,” she said, her voice echoing in the darkness. “I hate this. I hate this.” She kept saying it until she started crying. The tears hit the ocean, joined him, and he wanted them to stop hitting the ocean. Wanted them to stop making him so cold. The tears? Have you never heard the metaphor “a drop in the ocean” before He wanted to reach up, to do something, to say he can help. Check your tenses, sir He could save her, he could, but whenever he tried to say it, he couldn’t. He couldn’t ever say it out loud, the words dying in the wave. Just the one wave, you see. That one. *points*


He screamed, and the memories faded. Hmmmm. The waves rocked the raft. She fell over, a loud thunk crashing through the air, and the ocean stopped. He wanted to say he was sorry, but she was crying so loud he couldn’t even hear himself.

“Why?” she said again, but her voice wasn’t sharp or loud. It was a whimper, but it hurt more than anything else. Nice.

“I can help you,” he said again, but she couldn’t hear him. “I can help. I mean it.”

Her stomach growled and she closed her eyes. Tears streamed down her cheeks, through the cracks in the raft. The ocean got so cold that he felt like he was frozen solid. I see the magical realist thing you’re going for here but I can’t quite buy it. The ocean’s already cold. It’s the ocean.

He got mad, and the waves struggled and slammed against each other and he wanted to scream. He wanted her to hear him. But whenever he screamed, no one would hear the words. They would heard WHOOPS the crashing of waves. Everything would break, and wood would splinter and shatter and everyone will WHOOOOOOPSdrown. He didn’t want them to drown. He just got angry.

The ocean held in his shouts, his screams. He felt it shaking underneath him. On the surface, the waves areSeriously, dude, check your tenses. This stuff knocks the reader out of whatever dream you’re creating for them. weak, rocking the raft softly. But there was a rumbling pooling inside of him. It was this circling tide, swimming underneath the waves. it was like he was about to burst, like there was a huge wave inside of him that was about to jump through the air and collapse on everything when he finally let go. This is really difficult for me to picture. She was still crying, and between the sobs, she was saying something. He couldn’t hear it, but he wanted to. He needed to. There’s this conflict that’s never going to be addressed or resolved because each other’s EXISTENCE is enough to set them off. Which is fine, but I don’t feel like I know enough about the two characters to care why they want what they want. Yes, she’s afraid of the ocean. We all would be, in this circumstance. Give me something else to grab onto.

Then, she stopped. She pulled herself up, and looked at the ocean, the small waves that hid the shaking inside of the ocean. She closed her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” the ocean said. The words were only for him, though. He could feel everything inside of him tumbling over each other, waves and waves crashing onto each other. These descriptions are getting a little repetitive. So many tumblings and crashings. He couldn’t think or feel, he could just hear the waves crashing and aching to scream.

Through all the noise, though, he remembered something. He remembered how she looked up at the stars, and she pointed to one. She didn’t say anything, but the next day, she started paddling towards it. She kept pulling with her hands, saying something, but he was too angry to hear her back then. Too mad at the cold tears and splintersplintered wood, too mad at himself.

She stopped rowing a few days ago. Later, you mean. Her eyes were sunken and swollen and her skin was stained red and peeling. She couldn’t stand up. She’d look out at the distance, and for the first time, the ocean understood. A bit unearned.

He felt the turmoil inside of him fade, like the wave inside of him fadeWHOOPS and all the crashing water became a single raindrop. She was lying on the raft, eyes glazed over, and he pushed it. Just now? Finally? The raft moved along, and she didn’t even notice. She just kept her eyes closed and waited.

He kept pushing the raft, through days and night. She’d take small sips out of her canteen as she looked up at the sun, the waves pushing her along. Sometimes, she’d cry. Sometimes she’d shake. Sometimes she’d scream. The ocean didn’t say anything. He just kept pushing her. Oh, so because she stopped struggling, now she’s being saved? If there’s a moral here, I don’t get it.

The water changed, got warmer and brighter, and he knew was getting closer. He heard the girl’s stomach rumble, and she clenched it tight. She panted and shook, and the ocean made the waves bounce a fish up on the raft. Again, can’t picture this. She reached over and ate it. Then, she sat over the edge of the raft. She was looking into the waves, her eyes blank and tired. She touched the waves, the cold waters slipping between her fingers. Then, he saw it. This little glisten in her eyes, and the ocean kept pushing the raft towards the star she pointed at.

Days kept passing. She was out of water. Then, he felt it. That shift in the water. A ship, big enough to save her. He kept pushing her towards the shifting water. Days still passed. She was getting more tired. She wouldn’t sit up. She wouldn’t move sometimes. The ocean kept pushing. He had to. He was sorry. They couldn’t ever hear him, but he was. I get that the sentence fragments are a part of the voice, but they also keep you from saying anything complex or interesting.

Then, the ship appeared in the distance. There was shouting and screaming, and the girl lifted her head up. She saw the ship loom over her, a huge shade in the waves. She pushed herself up, aching and tired. Oh, good, glad that’s over

The ocean didn’t say anything. He just kept pushing her closer. He saw her smiling, eyes wider than ever before.

“Thank you,” she said to the air. The ocean knew she wasn’t saying it to him, but he didn’t mind. He didn’t say anything. They couldn’t hear him, after all.

That didn’t matter though, because the waves were small and short, and she was smiling and he didn’t want to scream.

The ocean still screams sometimes and feels that churning inside of him. He still wants to say he’s sorry, but as long as he’s got that smile, he knows that it’s alright as long as he tries. Kinda touching at the end, but everything in this story feels so flat and facile that I don’t know what anybody earned through it, including me for reading it.

Sitting Here posted:

The Show
1300 words
Flash Rule: 98) Venice (The Books)

More than ten million people watched Yacob Chen lean over his sink, look in the mirror, and stretch his mouth into an oblong ‘O’ so he could get a closer shave. His headset partially concealed his left eye behind a tinted lens, which reflected the mirror reflecting Yacob. The camera mounted over his left ear captured every bit of black hair that fell to the white porcelain. The microphones captured, with stereoscopic technology, the wet sandpaper sound of his straight razor scraping over stubble. Language is sharp, and it definitely sets the tone and tenor of the story. I want to know why he has ten million people watching him.

Dan Hufflaw from Idaho said, Commissioned a custom str8 razor just like @YaChen’s, never had a closer shave! and his comment was buoyed to the top of cross-platform newsfeed aggregators by an oceanic swell of ‘likes’ and favorable replies. Within hours, it was the featured comment beneath Yacob Chen’s live video feed.

But then a new faction appeared. Dan, @YaChen taught himself metalworking so he could make his own razor, but you non-brands just see something original and throw money around trying to copy it, said Gage Remo from Oregon. There was a small, fierce avalanche of agreement, and a volley of ‘dislikes’ rained down like arrowscliché on Dan Hufflaw.

If you want to have on-brands, you have to have non-brands, Dan said. Creators need emulators and spectators or there’s no point. Somewhere in Idaho, his phone buzzed off the hook as the ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ poured in. I like this, although it might go on a bit too long for this length of a story. But I’m glad we see into his audience right away.

Yacob Chen finished shaving, washed his face, then moisturized with some homemade cream, which he scooped out of the stone mortar with two fingers and spread across his high, fine cheekbones like cake frosting. Which you spread across your cheekbones? Sshh, his fingers whispered as they moved over his freshly shaved skin. Sshh. He was careful to not smear any on his eyepiece. And, for just a moment, his viewers hushed. This was @YaChen, after all. The simple novelty of his morning routine could at any moment unfold into spectacle. The steps in his shaving ritual were, as far as his audience was concerned, no different than plot beats in a film script. This metaphor falls flat for me.

Blue-balled, Gage Remo commented when Yacob Chen finished moisturizing without incident and proceeded to get dressed. Yacob’s walk-in closet was famously austere; rather than filling the racks with clothing, he arranged his handful of outfits like visual merchandising displaysWhich look like what, exactly, a neo-normcore rainbow of greys and beiges and blue jeans.

After he was dressed, Yacob sat in his armchair and stared at his living room for twelve hours. Commenters inspected the video feed pixel by pixel. The image was divided into quadrants and @YaChen fans collaborated in poring over every last couch fiber, looking for some clue as to what Yacob was up to. Why would anybody just sit in a chair for twelve hours, even if they are in fact this Andy Kaufman-type performer? ANYBODY would get bored.

At exactly nine o’clock central time, the lights in Yacob’s house went out, and there was a collective international gasp. The stream was still live, but pitch black. There were shuffling fabric noises and heavy breathing. Within thirty seconds, Yacob’s steady viewership of ten million jumped up to twelve million as casual fans caught wind of the hubbub and tuned in.

At fifteen million viewers, the lights came back on. I get what you mean here, but the sentence is structured like the lights are directly controlled by the number of viewers. Yacob Chen was standing with his back to a full-length mirror, looking over his shoulder so the camera could capture his reflection. His stance was bowlegged and he was naked from the waist down.

Neither Dan Hufflaw of Idaho nor Gage Remo of Oregon could summon the words for a comment. Do we know at this point why the focus is on these two in particular? Somewhere in the real world, Dan’s finger was pumping the PRTSCRN button like a piston. nice detail

Yacob crouched down, his backside still facing the mirror. He reached. His fingers dug around inside of his body until, with effort, he produced a small ball from his anus. It dangled there, swaying slightly. Worth a street value of one milli—oh. With a gesture from Yacob, the camera on his headset zoomed in on the reflection of the ball and the fleshy environs surrounding it. There were words on the ball, apparently hand-written and in Sharpie.


So, this is…something, at least. I’m disgusted, but like the viewers of the video, I’m not looking away.

Here’s Why @YaChen’s Portland Performance Will Be the Most Important Show of This Century, proclaimed the front page of the Portland Mercury. Could we get an excerpt, because I still don’t know why. The alternative newspaper’s website had become a sort of ad hoc outlet for Yacob Chen news and speculation.

Ticketmaster’s website slowed to a crawl. Dan from Idaho was in the digital queue, his whole body quivering with tachycardic excitement. A bit of an awkward phrasing. In another browser tab, he compared ticket prices from Coeur d’alene to Portland. Gage Remo in Oregon actually went to the box office at the Keller Auditorium, physically, redundant to stand in line and get his paper ticket, which was actually just a printed copy of the E-Ticket. Seems like an unnecessary detail.

Yacob Chen arrived in Portland a few days before the show. Crowds gathered where he went, whether he was sampling the local food trucks or exploring the famous japanese Capitalize gardens of Washington Park. How is he able to –walk- anywhere? Nearly one thousand people were waiting outside of the old Cinema 21 when Yacob emerged from an afternoon showing of Man on the Moon, Dan and Gage among them. Everyone had their phones, tablets and headsets out, watching Yacob watch them watch him. This is where the Black Mirror vibe gets a little heavy-handed.

I liked that movie before @YaChen made it cool, Gage Remo commented on the stream as the Portland drizzle fell lightly on his phone’s screen. He saw the top of his own head in the crowd on the video feed, his face angled down at his phone. He saw, from Yacob’s perspective, Yacob hold up two open pans of gold paint. Then, like a holy man giving darśana to his followers, he swung the cans by their handles and doused everyone within fifteen feet with liquid gold. Cries of protest and confusion went up as expensive electronics were ruined. Twenty million viewers watched Yacob Chen watch his fans watch themselves get covered in paint. I like the scene, but what does it add other than satisfying the prompt?


@YaChen Promotional Event Turns Into Panopticon of Chaos reported the Portland Mercury the following day, hours before Yacob was set to take the stage at the Keller Auditorium.

I haven’t washed the paint off my hand yet, Dan Hufflaw commented, and attached a picture of his gold-spattered hand as proof. So psyched for the show.

Dan replied with an eye-rolling emoticon and said, You’d eat up any spectacle they set in front of you if it got enough enough shares in your social network. It’s weird, things are happening within the story but it doesn’t feel like there’s any sort of real progression. No one’s really changing. Maybe if the gold paint had spurred something within one of the characters.

Both men were seated in the front row at the Keller Auditorium. The room was quiet except for quiet quiet quietmurmuring between those few who’d come with friends. White-blue screen light from nearly three thousand phones made everything look ghostly. All eyes were on Yacob’s feed. He was watching them from somewhere. The audience watched themselves through his camera, trying to suss out the angle from which Yacob was observing them.

At eight o’clock, the house lights went down, the stage lights went up, and the audience fell into an excited silence, like inverted applause. -Is- silence the opposite of applause?

Dan and Gage crainedcraned their necks, trying to see through the tiny gap in the red velvet stage curtains.

The curtains opened. The stage was sparse, empty of everything except a large, hanging screen, which was bathed in empty white light from a projector. There was a long beat, like the gap between songs on a randomized playlist, where anything was possible. I’m torn on whether I like or hate this simile. It’s shallow, but that fits the story. All eyes in the auditorium were on the stage, their devices temporarily forgotten.

On the projected screen, credits began to roll:


Kaylee Buxton……………………………………….10,344 Comments
Pradeep Krishnan…………………………………...10,011 Comments
Dan Hufflaw………………………………………….9,804 Comments
Gage Remo…………………………………………..9,804 Comments
Mirna Smoot………………………………………….9,799 Comments

And on, and on, and on. The house lights went up. Ushers came down the aisles to escort the disabled and elderly to the exits. ha

The stream was over. Dan and Gage filed out of the auditorium in the gush of bewildered fans, viewers with nothing to view except their own gape-mouthed reflections against the black of a dead video feed.
We never get a “why”, is the problem. There’s plenty of “what”, and the “what” is flashy and captivating, but the lack of any central character motivation leaves the readers on the wrong side of that twist ending.

Mar 21, 2010

The South Sea Shuffle

Marnie had the moves, man. When Marnie moved her feet, men fell to pieces - literally. Marnie, the Loveliest Leper - Queen Bee of the South Seas, who shuffled from town to town swaddled in bandages, leaving little bits of herself behind in every new bed. She wore an engraved silver mask, and her bloodshot-blue eyes stared out from behind it. When Marnie tweeted, a million Buzzfeed hacks screencapped it and worked it into a listicle. Marnie had men dying at her feet, but it wasn’t enough.

Marnie was terribly, terribly hungry. That is to say, her hunger inspired terror. She was done with Patrón and caviar: she wanted to eat somebody beautiful, and in consuming their flesh to steal their memories and their strength, and to become twice as beautiful and twice as wise. She met a man called Fitzgeraldo - he was tall, and blonde. He walked like a long-wandering king - each falling foot a gunshot to the heart of a sloppy and classless world. His eyes were green. He knelt before her, and she took a steak knife and pushed it into his eye. It split, and dead liquid inside spilled over her hands and made her shudder with pleasure. She fell to her knees and tore at his body with her bare hands. She ate him raw, on a golden floor. Her manicured fingernails dug deep into his guts. She chewed his intestines - so thick with muscle and poo poo. It filled her mouth, and she cried out - whether in pleasure or disgust was never clear, nor did it matter. She split Fitzgeraldo’s bones with her bare hands, then sucked out the marrow. By the end, her clothes were ruined with blood, and pus, and bile. Her three trusted attendants were present. They tweeted it, and their followers doubled overnight. #cannibalchic.

The next morning when Marnie awoke, she laughed, then she didn’t. It wasn’t laughter as she’d ever known it - not a reaction to something on the outside but instead a literal gut reaction - something deep inside her pushing its way up through her windpipe and out her mouth in a hukhukhukhukhuk. She shivered, then she shivered again. She shivered so hard that her left pinkie, heavy with rings and precious stones, fell off; the skin and muscle tore, and the finger hung by a red thread for only a second, then the whole thing hit the floor with a splut. She laughed a-hukhukhukhukhuk, then something caught in her throat and she coughed. A small chunk of lung came up into her mouth and she tasted it only for a second before it flew across the room and slapped against her gilded mirror. She wasn’t sure whether the lung was hers or not.

“Who got the Kuru? You do, you do!” said her doctor, Mister Mistakolophese. He was short, and hairy, and had steely grey eyes. He swore up and down that he wasn’t the devil, and he had a habit of appearing behind people in locked rooms.

“You’re gonna shake shake shake until you die, baby,” he said. “It’s a two-for-one terminal disease special in Marnie’s body today!”

He shook his booty at her, as per usual. She clapped, then stopped when her right pinkie brushed against the place where her left pinkie had lived. She wept, and Mister Mistakolophese’s twerking hit a new tempo - a sort of vibrant madness, a spastic booty-bumping that was almost hypnotic. He disappeared in a puff of foul-smelling smoke, and Marnie was left alone in her bedroom, with the bits of her body flaking off all around her.

Marnie shivered and jerked her way to the kitchen, all the while hukhukhuk-ing up little bits of her insides all over her pristine floor. Some were red, some were green, some were grey. They were all different shapes, and smells, and textures. Mostly though, they just smelled rotten. Marnie took a pair of eggs from the pantry, then cracked them into a pan. Something changed in the weight of her body - she was overcome with vertigo and she was only on the fifth floor! All the blood rushed away from her hands, and she barely felt it when her whole hand came off at the wrist and splooshed down into the frying pan. The effluvium from it mixed with the egg whites, and turned them into egg pinks. She shivered and laughed, shivered and laughed. A-shake shake shake, no! She couldn’t stop. Her body was falling to pieces and she needed help, but she had nowhere to turn. She picked up the lump of flesh that’d once been her hand. She shrugged, then picked it up and bit deeply into it. Her mouth filled with a dozen different flavours - rot, pus, marrow. She licked her lips greedily, and drank deeply of her own discharges. It made her feel strong, and beautiful. She didn’t want to do it, but she needed to do it - some little voice inside her stomach and grabbing her tendons and tugging them and twisting her around like a puppet.

Marie staggered into the street, clutching her own ex-appendage. Her chin was covered in her own blood, and worse. A small group of paparazzos broke popped up from behind her gate and started snapping pics. It was all over the net in a matter of seconds. #needahand.

“Help!” she said, “I’m eating myself and I can’t stop! I’m shaking and laughing and I’m going to die unless you help me!

They tweeted it.

Her neighbours waved to her. They were standing around a grill, drinking beer. Some of them wore bandages over their own faces. As she watched, one of them took a heated knife from on top of the grill, and carved off his own nose, then popped it in his mouth. The other folks around the grill fell on each other with knives and fists and stones. Bones shattered, muscles tore, guts and blood and poo poo spilled all over the lawn. The paparazzos were going berserk - snapping snapping snapping and uploading it online. It was no doubt going viral as gently caress. People spilled out of the nearby buildings to snap their own shots. They carried bricks, and bats, and anything heavy they could get their hands on.

A portly man with a stuff moustache swung his kitchen kettle, and bashed his little daughter’s delicate skull right the gently caress in. Her brains spilled out onto the tarmac, and her father fell to his knees like a rooting pig, snuffling and chewing at the grey matter. Mister Mistakolophese popped into existence behind Marnie.

“Ooooh nooo,” he said. He farted. It smelled like the grave. “Ooooooh yes.”

“Help me,” said Marnie. Something fell off her face, and her vision went blurry. Something else fell, and the world went dark. She pawed at her face with her remaining hand, and found two sucking holes where her eyes had been. Her skin fell away, exposing viscera and bone. Her world was vile, and moist, and blind. Her whole body shook. Her knees buckled as the tendons fell apart, and she hit the road with a squelch.

Before her ears fell off, she heard her neighbours’ footsteps coming towards her. She smelled their drool, and the blood on their weapons and on their teeth. They bit into her, and she tried to scream in pain, but her tongue fell out and flailed around in her mouth before it went down her throat. She choked, and tried to scream, and choked again. Marnie died shaking, and choking, and laughing - Marnie died the #1 trending topic of the day, and the most beautiful woman alive.

1271 words. Taylor Swift's Shake It Off.

Mar 21, 2010


Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.


I'll take care of yours, Muffin, but posters past this point should link or beware.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Also, deadline is in less than eleven hours.

a new study bible!
Feb 1, 2009

A Philadelphia Legend
Fly Eagles Fly

Lingering Things (1600)

Miranda’s two and a half hours away from Fayettport when her husband’s voice grows faint.

“... and that was Toys in the Attic with the classic jam, 'Sweet Emotion.' This is 105 FM, The Force, and before that, you heard 'Born to Run,' and 'Tangled Up in Blue.' You know, 1975 was an interesting year in mus-”

She presses upward on the seek button until the sound dies. For all that she loves her husband, Liam Spence, she refuses to listen to him. Not now.

She’d read about a bank robber once, couldn’t remember when exactly. Following three rules, the guy had gotten away with eighty-something bank robberies. Never caught. Scott Free.

Miranda tries to reason how someone could rob eighty banks and never so much as receive a phone call, when every time she changes her number the debt collectors and student loan sharks find a way to sniff her out.

Rule one: pick a bank that’s far away.

She presses downward on the seek button and her husband fills the car again, his voice seeping through the plastic speaker-grating like chlorine gas.

Not far enough.

She’d asked him as delicately as she could to abandon the DJ dreams for something that would pay well enough to support the two, soon to be three, of them. Her cubicle slave wage doesn’t provide much, but it paid more than Liam made as a glorified disc changer at the station.

“It’s about the music, not the money” he’d said.

A year into the marriage and she already resents him. Bills have been piling up, and Miranda’s just recently started showing, her tummy pushes out just slightly enough to where she can still conceal it, but she’ll have to tell Liam soon.

With every second that Liam’s voice breaks the gentle humming of the highway sounds, Miranda grows increasingly unsure, so she presses downward on the button with glee.

Thirty minutes later she presses up again and is met with the sounds of a gospel choir and prayer. Hallelujah. Miranda figures that driving until the station frequencies change over is far enough. Still, she isn’t interested in God at the moment, so she presses upward, and upward, and upward, until the digital display read 111 FM.

She’d never seen the numbers go so high.

“... Listen people,” the voice says. The audio quality is horrible; there’s an undulating tone to the sound, that ripples through the air like molasses waves. “There’s a front pushing through Orvell County that will arrive in about-”

Miranda isn’t paying attention; her exit is approaching. Trosclair, Louisiana. She’d picked the bank in advance. Minutes later, she’s there.

Rule two: park out of sight.

“Heavy rains, nearly impassable,” the voice says, “a cloudy pale yellow that smells like Hershey’s sauce. Strange things come out in these storms; I have reports here, Mexico, Peru, a ship that got caught in this poo poo off the gulf. It does something to them. Leaves them changed.”

“The mainstream media won’t help,” he says, “the government won’t help. Big Zeke here is the only person keeping Trosclair safe. You all know it. Stay indoors. Stay dry.”

She assumes the program is some lovely performance piece on public access, or the guy is a loony yokel, broadcasting from his basement to the few inbred swamp hicks who are dumb enough to listen.


She kills the volume entirely.

After parking, Miranda takes the old hammer sitting on the passenger seat and tucks it into her sock. She put on three pairs this morning, layered so it wouldn’t slip. It’s the only weapon she plans on needing. Then, she checks her face in the rearview. What kind of police report could the teller give? Brown hair pulled into a tight bun, brown eyes, no fingernail polish or makeup, brown jacket, blue jeans.

Rule three: be forgettable.

As she walks the block towards the bank, the rain begins to fall in a medium drizzle. The streets are empty, but that’s nothing surprising for these one hat towns on a sleepy Tuesday afternoon.

Miranda cups the precipitation in her hand as she walks; it’s clear.

The kook.

She rounds a corner and the rain begins to come down in sheets. The bank’s in front of her now, and she can see three geriatrics in the lobby and two tellers behind the counter. Jackpot.

As she approaches the lobby, the three begin shaking their heads, slowly, at first, as she approaches the door.

“Rain’s already started now,” one of the women says.

“Go away!” the old man shouts, “can’t let you in here.”

The two tellers are looking between each other in rapid succession. The older of the two, the manager, nods her head.

Miranda can hear Big Zeke playing through some hidden radio.

She puts her hand on the handle, and the alarm cuts through the loud pitter-patter and hits her like a bullet. The door locks, and she tries to rip it open.

The hammer is supposed to be used for getting out of locked buildings, when the alarm traps the perp in the lobby until police arrive. It isn’t for breaking in.

She’s about to forget the whole thing and drive back home, back to Liam, but as Mirada turns, she notices cloudy yellow droplets bouncing off her pale skin. She lifts her hand to her nose and is overwhelmed by the scent of chocolate, as if she’d been clawing through a hot fudge sundae.

And she believes Big Zeke.

“Let me in!” she shouts through the door.

Miranda can hear something against the white-noise static of the downpour, a chattering of hundreds or thousands of little fingernails, all drumming against the concrete in an unholy harmony, as something vile moves towards her. She looks back, but against the veiled layers of heavy rain Miranda can only make out the vaguest of silhouettes, a large, hunched carapace, scuttling pointed feet.

The old man has approached the glass and is face to face with her. “Run!” he says.

Miranda pulls the hammer from her sock and rears her hand.

“You’ll get us all killed, you bitch,” the man yells before ducking.

The hammer slams against the door, but Miranda hasn’t read about the strength of modern tempered glass, nor has she read about the strength required to break it, so instead, the glass vibrates through the impact, flinging the yellow droplets that had previously clung to its surface directly into her eyes. They burn like nothing she’s felt before.

“Behind you!” the man shouts, unsure himself of what was actually there.

She swings the hammer blindly, making contact with something, as a guttural yelp undercuts the buffeting winds. It sounds vaguely human, but Miranda doesn’t care; the burning in her eyes compels her to scream out too.

Miranda tries to run, but something grabs her foot and trips her, yanking her shoe away in the process. She tumbles, crushing her head against the sidewalk as she bounces. Rising is impossible, whatever it is has her foot, and as she tries to stand, Miranda only succeeds in grinding the knuckles on her hand to the bone. She can feel the little loose stones of old pavement flaying and tearing against her, each digging its own path deep into its burrow in her flesh.

Miranda stomps and kicks towards whatever it is, and something crunches under her heel.

A screech erupts from where her foot hit, followed by a chorus of hissing, like the sound of a dozen steam vents all releasing their pressure at once.

Then Miranda is on her feet, hobbled, but still moving as fast as she can. The world is a vaseline-blur, and she passes through a cloud of hot air; the smell of chocolate becomes so powerful that her sinuses could be packed with the stuff. She gasps and sputters, and can feel the mist, even in the rain, filling her lungs and clinging to their walls like syrup.

She runs blindly through the streets, never sure if the sounds behind her are the chattering of a beast, the downpour picking up, or something altogether different.

Eventually, all the sounds stop, and she hears someone calling to her.

“Over here!”

She follows the voice with arms outstretched, until a callused hand takes her’s. He’s a trucker, and since she can’t see, he has to lift her into the cab and drag her across his lap to the passenger’s place.

“Drive,” she says while spitting yellow water onto the floor. Miranda fumbles against the dash, mashing the plastic bits as the man puts the rig into gear and pulls forward. After driving for minutes, he turns the radio on for her.

“111 FM,” she says.

“Frequencies don’t scan that high,” the man says as the display rolls over from 106 to 88.

He puts her on the CB and manages to make contact with Liam’s station, but Liam himself won’t talk during a show. Miranda’s hyperventilating, so she has to move away from the mic to breathe when speaking to him, but they agree that the trucker will drive her home. Kindness of strangers and all that.

Miranda places her hands on her taught belly. She swears that something deep inside her is kicking, but it’s too early for that, she knows. She blows her nose on a rag over and over, desperate to vacate the cocoa smell. The trucker holds the burger he was lunching on under her nose, but it doesn’t help.

When they get within range, the trucker turns on Liam’s station.

“Road music,” he says.

Miranda tells him to turn it off.

Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha

Prompt: Poker Face by Lady Gaga

A Stop Along Briarwood Way
1400 words

Toby pressed his palm against his steering wheel and his truck let out a long, loud honk. Come on, Toby thought, as snow swept across the road. Move. A sedan had parked itself in the road, blocking the dark wooded street. In the glow of Toby’s headlights, he could just make out the outline of the sedan’s license plate, its number half-concealed by ice. Inside, someone stirred.

Toby pressed his horn again, cursing, before stumbling into the snow. He knocked on the other driver’s window.

“Hey lady,” he shouted over the howling wind, “You can’t just park in the middle of the road like that. You’re gonna kill someone.”

The driver blinked at him. She was a heavy-set woman wrapped in a puffy grey jacket that reminded Toby of the Michelin Man. Her hands gripped the steering wheel.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said. And then, craning over Toby’s shoulder, “Henry, are you alright?”

The pair remained silent for a moment. Him, shivering in the snow, and her, listening over the wind and a crackling radio. He wanted to be back in his warm car. To be anywhere but here. If they didn’t get moving, their cars would get stuck. The Weather Service had called for two to three feet overnight.

The woman looked back at him. “Did you see my husband? He got out of the car just as you were coming up the road.” Her breath fogged the half-rolled window. “He thought that we might have hit something.”

Toby glanced around. Truth be told, he hadn’t been looking at the road much. His eyes had been focused on the forest, watching for deer. On nights like these, they liked to jump into oncoming traffic, jamming themselves through the windshield. Kicking drivers to death.

The woman bit her lip. “Could you look around for me? I think he wanted to check the bumper.”

Before he could curse again, Toby walked in front of the sedan. The front bumper looked brand-new, pristine even. The front plate wasn’t even dented. Frowning, Toby stared down the road. The forest cast heavy shadows over the gathering snow, looming over the dim beams of the headlights, but he saw no one.

Toby turned from the darkness and stumbled towards the passenger’s side door. A single set of footprints led towards the woods before stopping abruptly. As though someone had covered their tracks.

A chill went down his spine.

“Your husband thought he hit something?” he shouted, trying to sound normal. There were criminals who flagged down motorists claiming car trouble. At best, they might distract you while their partner rooted around your car for valuables. Worse, they might lead you into the snow and make sure no one found your body until the next spring. Back country roads hardly ever got plowed.

Toby glanced back at his truck. The car lights were still on and, barely audible over the wind, he could hear the faint dinging of his open car door. The trees creaked and swayed in the wind.

“Yeah!” Said the woman, “Do you see him? Is he there?”

Toby hesitated and heard the opening of a car door and shutting of a car door. The engine continued its hum as the woman waddled over to him. Her hands were shoved deep into her pockets. Holding something bulky.

Don’t let appearances fool you, the small voice inside him whispered. Find out what she’s holding.

Toby cleared his throat. The woman looked at him with wide, unflinching eyes. Her face half-concealed in shadow. “I, uh, didn’t see any sign of an accident. Could you maybe point to...”

She said nothing. He stole another quick look at his truck. “Lady-.”

“Jenna. My name is Jenna.” She looked up at him with a blank expression. “Could you look under the car? Maybe...”

Toby stared at the dark, icy space between the sedan and the road and then back at Jenna. Her hands remained planted. Clenched in her pockets. “Please. He could have slipped and gotten hurt.”

Dreamlike, Toby got to his knees. He let his hand rest on the front bumper, as snow soaked into his jeans. His head was so close to the tires. She could burst it like a melon. Look and run, he thought. She can’t get you if you’re quick. His heart raced. He stuck his head beneath the car.

Nothing was there.

He was suddenly aware that Jenna was no longer beside him. She was standing opposite the sedan, the back of her Michelin Man jacket illuminated by the sedan’s headlights. Toby sprang to his feet, ready to run. Jenna turned and gave him a relieved smile.

“Look, look!” She said, pointing into the darkness, her other fingers wrapped around a cell phone.

Toby squinted and walked towards her. There was a man in the woods slouching toward them. The light from the cars caught him and, for a second, Toby saw his face. Pale and expressionless. In the midst of the storm, Toby suddenly felt cold. Colder than he had ever felt before. His eyes darted towards the sedan. Henry was on the wrong side of the road.

“Henry. Oh God, Henry.” Jenna said, “I was so worried.” She made a half-step over the snow drift towards the man before Toby grabbed her. She stopped and looked at Toby, confused.

“What-? What the hell are you doing over there?” Toby asked. His hand gripped tight around Jenna’s arm. Henry looked wrong, as though someone had bent him in all the wrong places. How did get over there without leaving tracks?

Henry continued toward them. His face frozen and unreadable.

“Say something.” Toby said and he backed toward the cars, dragging Jenna with him. The snow came down in thick white torrents, almost blinding them. He breathed like a man struggling to stay above water. The faint ding of his open car door echoed across the road.

“Henry?” Jenna squeaked. Toby could not see her, but sensed her inch behind him. Henry’s coat was torn and a wide hole had been opened along one of the seams. Stray threads fluttered in the wind. Jenna took a step backwards.

Then, several things happened at once. Jenna shrieked as she stepped onto a patch of ice. Her arms and feet swung wildly as she attempted to regain balance. Then, flailing, she grabbed onto Toby’s jacket. As he toppled, something pulsed beneath Henry’s exposed stomach. Slithering.

Toby fell onto Jenna, their heads slamming together against the icy pavement. His teeth sang like a bell and there was something sticky on the back of his head. But it didn’t matter. Henry was wavering at the edge of the snow drift now. His jacket seethed and writhed as something boiled upward through his neck.

Run. The voice inside him was a shout. A deep throbbing that coursed through his body. Henry’s swollen jaw unhinged, revealing something dark and wriggling beneath. He scrambled, tugging at Jenna’s half-limp body. RunrunrunrunRUNRUNRUN.

But Jenna refused to move. She stared, hair tossed in wet clumps over her face, at the thing wearing her husband.

“Oh God.” She managed finally. “Oh Jesus, God.”

Toby ran as the thing oozed onto the road. Wetness dribbled from its vacant mouth and eyes. He could hear Jenna screaming. Then the thick, wet clumps of something dense impacting flesh. He ignored his truck, lights still on and parked useless behind the sedan. He tore open Jenna’s car door. Hot air and radio static greeted him. The keys jangled in the ignition.

His foot slammed against the gas pedal. The tires spun in place and then, mercifully, the car shot out along the road, leaving Jenna and her husband stranded in the snow. As he zoomed toward a curve, Toby looked in the rearview mirror.

Henry hung above the road, suspended by meaty appendages that had forced their way through his overstretched mouth. Jenna thrashed as she vanished beneath the mass of flesh, her mouth wide in mid-scream. Henry seemed to watch the sedan as it sped away. Then, as Toby made the turn, Henry jerked and scuttled into the woods.

Toby kept his foot on the gas until he reached the end of the forest. He watched the trees, searching for movement.

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011

by sebmojo

1388 words

“You know, I’m getting a little older,” Theron says. “I’m just gonna stay off Wish, focus on the music.”

“Ther,” Gail says, “this is off the record.” He can’t stop some panic from creeping into his voice.

“Sure,” Ther says, “it’s not dangerous in any way. I know it’s just brain chemistry manipulation with no adverse effects. But I…,” stumbling on what he’s saying, like he’s dropped a cue card, “I’m just becoming a different person now. More… together.”

The way he said “together,” like he really had to reach for the word, should have set off alarm bells. But all Gail Beelar, hotshot reporter for Third Ear could see, was that he was losing someone. Theron’s eyes, once so warm and inviting, were now distant. Far off, inhospitable planets.

“I should get back to the studio,” Theron says. “There’s something I just need to record, you know? Before it passes.”

Abstractly, Gail does know. It sounds like something Theron would say. But not exactly like something he would say. He watches as Theron gets up, putting hands in the pockets of his woolen sweater, though it’s twenty degrees out. He walks in the general direction of the metro station only a block away. Gail finishes his caffeine cube and watches the passerby, who swallow Theron up, like a ghost in fog.


“Cosmic Plaything’s music is worse since they signed that contract,” Gail says to his boss, Lead Editor Max Washler.

Washler sneers. “Worse, huh? By what metric? Your highly personalized, ‘bohemian’ taste?”

“All I know,” Gail says, “is that Theron’s lyrics used to feel real, and now they don’t. The metaphors have gotten so vague that they don’t mean anything. And they’re interspersed with cliches that have been around since the beginning of time.”

“Just like his old lyrics,” Washler says.

It’s true, Gail thinks. That’s what it must look like to everyone. I’m the only one who can tell.

“Boss,” Gail says. “I think there’s a story here. My reporter’s sense is tingling.”

Washler ashes his imported Venusian cigar. “Look, Gail. I trust you. But if you fall too far down the rabbit hole of subjectivity, I won’t be there to save you. You understand?”

Gail nods, but he isn’t really in the conversation anymore. He’s thinking about the story. Sometimes Gail feels he isn’t really a person. He’s just a moving view of the world as his body hunts down leads and converts reality into fairly well chosen words.

But Theron was his friend.


After Gail leaves, Washler makes a phone call on the fifth line, the one only he knows exists. It’s activated by pressing the third and fourth line buttons simultaneously.

I need to buffer this, he thinks.

“Washler.” Silence.

“Gail’s going to sniff around,” Washler says, and then his frustration boils over. “You shouldn’t have signed Cosmic Plaything. He grew up with them. He can tell that they’re different.”

“Is that it?” The voice never says more than a few words at a time. Washler has started to see the silence that drapes everything it says as a void. It’s a void he fills in with horrible things.

“Look,” Washler says. “You might need to do something to him. I get that. But I have a professional interest in making sure he retains his ability to write. For that he needs his ability to think.”

“Professional?” Almost taunting.

“That’s all I have to say,” Washler says. He waits for the click then hangs up himself. Then he checks on his cigar stash. But he knows what’s waiting for him before he even opens the desk drawer.

It’s empty. He’s out.


Gail’s just taken a hit of Wish and put the Cosmic Plaything’s new LP on the holographic turntable emulator.

For the first time in his life, he’s hit a dead end.

He’d expected Xenon Records to give him the silent treatment. But he didn’t think that even the janitors would give him death glares as he paced through the building. What’s worse is that Cosmic Plaything themselves won’t talk to him. Even to grab a caffeine cube at an official dispensary.

And Theron might as well be in another dimension. For Gail, waiting for a response is like listening to the five minutes of silence at the end of a record, trying to figure out if there’s a hidden track. But, Gail gradually realizes, the record’s over. The empty air is just an engineering flub.

And he’s been seeing things out of the corners of his eyes.

He starts to come up. He makes his first wish to the quantum djinn that has awakened from its sleep in the depths of his brain. Please, he says, don’t let this trip kill me. And I don’t want to be addicted. I’d like my life span to stay the same, and my day to day functioning to be normal.

The djinn’s laugh flutters like petals on the spring breeze. I won’t hurt you.

I’d also like to be safe forever, he adds.

It sounds unsure. You won’t be, it says. I’m sorry. He feels it hugging the part of his brain that makes peace with unpleasant existential truths.

The first song has started. It’s an intro, but this isn’t like the one on their self pressed first album. That was a simple ambient space-out, asking the listener to trust them before the record really got moving. This, Gail thinks, is almost an actual song.

I don’t like this, the djinn says. It’s manipulative.

If you’re a part of me, Gail thinks, then that means I don’t like it. My opinion. But if you’re just the drug, just foreign chemicals, then that means Washler is right. I’m losing myself to a world where nothing is real, and maybe I’ll never find my way out.

Don’t think about me like that, the djinn says, its voice rising. Just don’t, okay? I’m a part of you and I’m a part of everyone and that’s all I want to be.

You’re better than most, he thinks, and then there’s a knock at the door. He moves to answer it, the djinn kissing him goodbye as it floats away.

It’s several men, brimmed hats tilted over their heads, dark glasses, charcoal suits. They grab him by the arms.


Washler stares at Gail, sitting stiffly in the guest chair. So far he hasn’t said anything, even during the increasingly awkward silence.

“Well,” Washler croaks, “what did you turn up?”

“I was just imagining it,” Gail says. “They sound the same. If anything’s different, they’re just evolving.”

“Well, yeah,” Washler says. “That’s uh, pretty much what we say in our review. That’s good, that uh, matches up. Consistency.”

He’s smoking a cheap cigar, still waiting for his re-order to come through. He wills Gail to comment on it. Come on, he thinks.

“Anything you want me to do, boss?” Gail says. His focus is creeping Washler out. He’s totally zeroed in. Zeroed in, he thinks, on another meaningless conversation at Third Ear, who are selling more and more of their controlling shares to faceless mega-corporations.

He gives up. “Here, just interview Lissie Fastling. She’s about to do a huge inter-system tour.”

“Right,” Gail says. “Any way you want me to,” face blanking, “play it?”

“Keep it light,” Washler says, helpless. “Hey, are you in touch with Theron?”

“Yeah,” Gail says. “But we don’t talk about music. Just life.”

After Gail leaves Washler turns to his window, to the city outside. It looks like it’s made of porcelain.

He went into music journalism because he couldn’t feel music the way everyone else did, no matter how hard he tried. So he figured he’d support it by writing about it. That was a long time ago.

Now, when he turns on the radio, he can’t feel anything at all.

Gail is a casualty, he thinks, of these entities that are taking over everything. Maybe he’s one of them. Any way you read it, he’s not himself anymore.

I can’t give in anymore, he realizes. I still have good reporters, so I can still find things out, and I can strike back. With the truth, the only thing that matters. I just need to pick my moments and words carefully.

I’ll know what to do when my next shipment of Wish-laced cigars gets here.

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011

by sebmojo

double post

The Weeknd - I Can't Feel My Face

Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all. ILOVEMAKONNEN feat. Drake, “Tuesday”

Tuesday Night Lock-In 1,361 words

They shut us in at nine. Joe and Trey forced the double-doors shut, locked the handles, tied them together. Joe held up thick plastic sheeting while Trey duct taped it around the frame and floor. I watched with the other club-rats, glancing around to see if Stacy made it. Someone banged on the door, and the plastic billowed out taut.

While Joe and Trey made their way around the room, sealing the vents and fire exits, the crowd milled toward the bar. I saw Vic and Anita and Luise, our usual Tuesday night crowd, but no sign of Stacy. I shook my head and fought my way to the tables and barstools at the back of the club. My feet throbbed; planter’s fascist, or whatever the doctor had said.

I checked my phone. Nothing since her last message on Sunday, in the middle of her ER shift.

“Its worse than on the news. Be safe. See u soon.”

I’d sent fifteen messages since, the last telling her I’d be at Club Divine for their lock-in and that I loved her.

“Rick! Glad you made it, man. Some party, right?” Vic appeared out of the crowd and sat across the table. “Stacy?”

I shook my head. He opened his mouth, but the lights went out and the music cut in before he got it out. Some song I didn’t know. They usually were. Stacy loved coming here. I came because I loved her.

In seconds, the dance floor filled with people, shaking, thrashing, gyrating to to deep bass pumping from the speakers. I saw flashes of faces in the strobes and twirling spotlights, grins and bright eyes. Faces confident that whatever was outside couldn’t reach in to touch them.

Vic shouted something, but the massive sound swallowed it. He slapped the table and leapt to join the crowd. I let him go, tapping my fingers, checking my phone, letting my eyes skim over the crowd.

I saw her in a sudden gap through the crowd, standing at the bar. I couldn’t be sure it was Stacy, but she had on that black hoodie she’d always worn on our Tuesday nights at the club, with one wing etched onto the fabric in the plastic poo poo that always flaked and wore off. I hopped off the chair, winced at the bright flash of pain in my feet, and wormed my way through the crowd. By the time I reached the bar, she was gone.

“Berto!” I shouted and knocked on the bar to get his attention. He came over and crooked an eyebrow. “Was Stacy just here?”

He frowned and shook his head, then gestured toward the stacks of bottles behind him.
“Sure, double-bourbon.”

He reached back and grabbed a bottle from the top shelf, a tall glass full of ice, and poured until it floated. It looked more like a glass of apple juice than whiskey. He laughed when he saw my face.

“It’s all on the house, so who cares?” he shouted. I just shook my head and wandered back through the mass of dancers.

It went on for hours. The thumping bass, pulsing and dropping and springing back, the crowd pulsing with it. I watched from my table, working my way through that first drink and a second, losing track of time, losing track of people, the dancers melding together into one mass of thrashing limbs. Then they parted and a clearing formed around one young black girl, staring around at the faces watching her with wild eyes. She coughed, and a spurt of crimson flew from her lips. Trey rushed into the empty space, elbowing people out of the way, and grabbed her, rushing her to the only door not covered with plastic. It opened with a flash of bright light, and a moment later Trey came back alone. The music never stopped.

The crowd closed in, and in moments it was like she’d never been. I watched them move with frantic energy, my eyes wide and my hand gripped tight on my glass.

A man staggered out of the throng and collapsed into the chair next to me. It took a moment for me to realize it was Vic. He’d stripped off his shirt and wore nothing but a yellowing white tank-top. He reeked of sweat and booze. I stared at him and he grinned at me. His teeth looked pink.

“Hell of a party, Rick. Hell of a party, am I right?” The words were a slurred mess, and he had to prop his weight up with an elbow.

“Christ, Vic,” I said. “That girl...”

The grin sagged, and for a moment it looked more like a grimace.

“poo poo happens, Rick. They got her out on time.” He nodded once, then again, more vigorously. Before I could say anything, he lurched to his feet and staggered back to the dance floor.

I couldn’t keep sitting there watching them. I circled the room, checked the doors. A huge bouncer stood guard on each. I knew Joe and Trey, but the rest I’d never seen before. Maybe the weekend crew, maybe new for tonight. A mass of people were lined up at the bar, Berto racing back and forth looking like he was rushing to disarm a bomb. I glanced at the dancers and saw a flash of that wing, the hooded profile, and rushed into the mass.

The heat on the dance floor was intense. My nose filled with the scent of sweat as I wound my way through, my eyes focused on the spot I’d seen her.

“Stacy!” I screamed to be heard over the music, but my voice barely reached my own ears. I reached the center of the crowd, jostled back and forth, caught an elbow in my ribs. I stood and turned a slow circle, shifting with the crowd, checking faces one by one. I rose up to my toes, wincing at the pain in my feet, trying to see through the forest of raised hands and swaying arms. “Stacy!”

I heard a hoarse, ragged cough to my right and something splattered on my face. I stepped back, swiping my face with my hands. They came back red. My stomach turned. I looked, and saw Vic, swaying behind some girl I didn’t recognize. He grinned and blood streamed down his chin.

“Some party, right Rick?” He screamed the words at me, blood spraying as he did. It misted the people around us. Someone shrieked when they turned and saw. A sharp thread of panic laced through the reek of sweat. I heard more coughing over the bass thrum. Vic looked around at the retreating crowd with a frown. Then he retched a stream of red, thick with black clots. I danced back, like it getting on my shoes would be the worst thing about this. The music still pulsed in the air, but the crowd pushed away from the floor. They massed at the sealed doors, pressing in. Except the doors open into the club. My mouth tasted of copper and the back of my throat itched. Vic fell to his knees, retching and coughing and sputtering. The crowd by the front door split and rushed back in, two thrashing shapes left in their wake. Blood dripped down the plastic. I saw Berto behind the bar, chugging a bottle of vodka. Vic lay in a pool of blackened blood and tissue. Red bubbles foamed at his lips. I coughed, and my hand came back with a faint mist of fresh blood. Coughing and screaming drowned out the music, but the bass still pulsed the air like a frantic heartbeat. Black flecks flashed at the edge of my vision.

I turned and Stacy stood there, the hood pulled down over her face. I pushed it back and she looked up at me with a smile and blood, oh Christ, the blood streamed from her eyes and she grinned crimson and she reached for me and took me and held me and all went dark and she leaned in close and I could feel the white heat of her and I whispered, “I’ve been looking for you...”

Apr 12, 2007
eat up

Lorde - Royals

I'll Never Be - 1319 Words

When you think about yourself, you aren’t really thinking about yourself. You’re thinking about an idealized version of yourself. One that is braver, smarter, sexier. This isn’t a story about the idealized version of me, but the real me.

They knew me. They had done their research. They knew about my lack of personal connections. They knew about my crippling debt. They knew how lonely I was. They knew I would say yes before they even knocked on my door.

I was perfect, they told me. Something released in me when I heard that. I didn’t even know I had been waiting my entire life to hear that phrase. I was her spitting image, they said.

Of course I knew I looked like Alice Gold. When she rose to popularity I noticed the sideways glances on the street. When her face got plastered all over the city, I felt that every face that turned upwards to gaze at her was really gazing at me.

Turns out looking like the world’s biggest pop star was a marketable skill.

She had needs, they said. She couldn’t be in every place at once. She needed time to herself too. The world demanded she remain constantly in the spotlight.

That’s where I came in. I would be her during those times. I would learn to walk like her, talk like her, bat my eyelashes like hers. When they world loved her, they would be loving me in secret.

Would I be interested, they asked. Of course I was.

There was a catch. I would have to undergo extensive surgery. It wouldn’t do to just look like Alice. I had to be her.

I was perfect, but they would make me more perfect.

I remember staring in the mirror for hours after the first surgery. I grew to know the dark circles around my eyes - side effects of the nose job. The silhouette of my nose was obscured under the bandages, but under the gauze it was already thinner, more shapely. I memorized every square inch of my face. That was the last time it felt like my own.

I wasn’t allowed any contact with friends and family during all this. That wasn’t hard, I didn’t have any friends or family to remain in contact with. Recovery was long. It hurt immensely. Each new scar and notch on my face made it less my own and more Alice.

I met Alice after the fifteenth surgery. My recovery room was white and bathed in sunlight. I was torn from the light and inserted into a cavernous room without windows.

I blinked as my eyes adjusted to the dim light. Afterimages of my recovery room faded as the truth before me coalesced into view. I sat on a cushion that was so overly plush as to be uncomfortable. I tried to suck in all available light, to gain any information I could about the room around me. I found that drinking in the details of a new place was exciting after being in the recovery room for so long.

I remember the room well. It felt timeless in the way that I couldn’t think of a period where the furnishings would be in style. Everything was too thick, from the carpet to the cushions, to the table. The room was dark. Shapes were unsure of themselves, they blended together in the darkness.

I was alone and the room was silent. I sat there for a while. It wasn’t until I learned to quiet my own self that I realized that the room wasn’t so silent as I thought.

I heard breathing, shallow and ragged.

That’s when Alice leaned forward in her own cushion across from me.

I looked nothing like her.

That is to say that I very much looked like the face on the billboards, on the television. But I did not look like the Alice that sat across from me.

She was wasting away. Skin hung loosely from her body. Her eyes had sunken deep into her skull. She looked more like a skeleton draped with a thin layer of skin than a human being.

She coughed, a ragged sound that tore the room apart. Her manager emerged from the darkness to hold a cloth to her face as the spasms wracked her body.

Then the room was silent for a while as he dabbed the phlegm from her face and she stared at me from the glassy hollow orbs of her eyes.

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say. I felt at that moment like an interloper. A thief with a stolen face.

When they did start talking, it was to each other and not to me. They spoke about me as if I was not even there. Alice regarded me with a hunger that made me shiver.

“She’s a work of art,” Alice said.

“She’s perfect,” her manager said.

“Not perfect. But nearly.”

“We’re close.”

“So very close.”

With that she waved her hand and I was pulled from the room. That last image of Alice haunted me. The door opened and the light of the outside world hit her. Never before had I seen a person look so frail, so weak, and so desperate.

I saw then why they needed me. I wasn’t supposed to act like her. I was supposed to become her in the truest sense of the word.

I wanted out. I demanded out. When that didn’t work I begged, pleaded, and cried. I had signed my life away. My desire to be loved and remembered left me alone and forgotten in that recovery room.

I tried to escape. I made it down the hallway before security got to me. They were rough enough to scare me from trying it again, but gentle enough so that they left only bruises and not scars.

After that was when they started keeping me sedated nearly constantly. I would wake up with a fresh set of bandages on my body. I had parts of me touched up that I didn’t know could be touched up. I was less myself every time I woke up.

One time I woke up and it was dark. Alice sat above me. Her hand caressed my face with something between pity and desire.

“Thank you,” she said and a fat tear dropped onto my cheek. The sedatives kicked in and I fell back asleep.

When I woke next I was in the surgical theater. I knew this room better than any other, save my recovery room, but this time was different. I was strapped to the table. Wires ran along my body like electric veins. I panicked as I tried to look around the room.

Alice’s naked body lay on a cold metal slab. I could see the full ruin of her body under the harsh light. She wore a crown of stainless steel and wires. Her chest rose and fell as I watched. Then it stopped. A mask descended over my face and I lost consciousness.

I didn’t even notice anything was different for a long time after I woke up. I didn’t grasp anything was strange as I walked on unsteady legs to the mirror to see what they had changed.

There were no bandages on me. I was finished. I was gorgeous. I was lost in myself. Maybe it all had been worth it after all.

Then my mouth opened and sang one of Alice’s songs unbidden. I willed my mouth to close, for it to stop, but it didn’t. I tried to close my eyes, but I couldn’t.

In the mirror I could see a familiar look in my eyes. That look of hunger and desire. And I knew my body was no longer my own. I was merely a passenger along for the ride.

“It’s her,” says the world when Alice Gold goes by.

But I’ll never be.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Yeah, this is just not happening for me this week. I'm out.

Per tradition, since I can't say I'm fond of toxxing, I cannot re-enter TD until I've redeemed either this or my previous (still unclaimed) Bingo Night failure. That said, since this failure was due more to me wasting time playing video games in my spare time than anything else (go go Ethiopia), I'm gonna throw this out there as an extra layer of punishment for my procrastination and last minute panic: If I owe you a crit for any week in TD history where I was a judge and didn't deliver, I will provide late crits to the first ten people to quote this post and provide a link to their story from a week where I dropped the ball. Furthermore, if the judges call time and ten people haven't cashed in on their IOUs, however many slots remain will be opened up to any story by anyone from any previous week besides this week.

Feb 25, 2014

flash rule: Your story must take place on a planet other than Earth.
978 words

The Fate of the Animals


flerp fucked around with this message at 00:14 on Feb 23, 2016


Feb 25, 2014


Bad Seafood posted:

Yeah, this is just not happening for me this week. I'm out.

Per tradition, since I can't say I'm fond of toxxing, I cannot re-enter TD until I've redeemed either this or my previous (still unclaimed) Bingo Night failure. That said, since this failure was due more to me wasting time playing video games in my spare time than anything else (go go Ethiopia), I'm gonna throw this out there as an extra layer of punishment for my procrastination and last minute panic: If I owe you a crit for any week in TD history where I was a judge and didn't deliver, I will provide late crits to the first ten people to quote this post and provide a link to their story from a week where I dropped the ball. Furthermore, if the judges call time and ten people haven't cashed in on their IOUs, however many slots remain will be opened up to any story by anyone from any previous week besides this week.

if you want a crit for fantasy week this is the place to be btw

  • Locked thread