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D.O.G.O.G.B.Y.N.
Dec 31, 2011

THUNDERDOME LOSER

in

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Blue Wher
Apr 27, 2010

The Smart Baseball Dargon Sez:

"Baseball is chaos!"

His bat is signed by Carl "Yaz" Yastrzemski


gently caress me, in

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


sebmojo posted:

prompt me up beardo

MEDICINE: James F. Nolan, Thomas J. Stillwell, and John P. Sands, Jr., medical men of mercy, for their painstaking research report, "Acute Management of the Zipper-Entrapped Penis." [Published in Journal of Emergency Medicine, vol. 8, no. 3, May/June 1990, pp. 305-7.]


MEDICINE: Dr. Arvid Vatle of Stord, Norway, for carefully collecting, classifying, and contemplating which kinds of containers his patients chose when submitting urine samples. (REFERENCE: "Unyttig om urinprøver," Arvid Vatle, Tidsskift for Den norske laegeforening [The Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association], no. 8, March 20, 1999, p. 1178.)


SAFETY ENGINEERING: Troy Hurtubise, of North Bay, Ontario, for developing, and personally testing a suit of armor that is impervious to grizzly bears. [REFERENCE: "Project Grizzly", produced by the "National Film Board of Canada. ALSO: Bear Man: The Troy Hurtubise Saga, by Troy Hurtubise, Raven House Publishing, Westbrook, ME, USA, 2011.]

Blue Wher posted:

gently caress me, in

PEACE: The British Royal Navy, for ordering its sailors to stop using live cannon shells, and to instead just shout "Bang!"

Killer-of-Lawyers
Apr 22, 2008


Alright. I'm game, toss me a paper.

Bird Tyrant
Apr 21, 2003

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In.

skwidmonster
Mar 31, 2015

THUNDERDOME LOSER


In

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch


In.

newtestleper
Oct 30, 2003

by Nyc_Tattoo


In and

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


Killer-of-Lawyers posted:

Alright. I'm game, toss me a paper.

BIOLOGY: Richard Wassersug of Dalhousie University, for his first-hand report, "On the Comparative Palatability of Some Dry-Season Tadpoles from Costa Rica." [Published in The American Midland Naturalist, vol. 86, no. 1, July 1971, pp. 101-9.]


CHEMISTRY: Yukio Hirose of Kanazawa University, for his chemical investigation of a bronze statue, in the city of Kanazawa, that fails to attract pigeons.


BIOLOGY: N. Bubier, Charles G.M. Paxton, Phil Bowers, and D. Charles Deeming of the United Kingdom, for their report "Courtship Behaviour of Ostriches Towards Humans Under Farming Conditions in Britain."
[REFERENCE: "Courtship Behaviour of Ostriches (Struthio camelus) Towards Humans Under Farming Conditions in Britain," Norma E. Bubier, Charles G.M. Paxton, P. Bowers, D.C. Deeming, British Poultry Science, vol. 39, no. 4, September 1998, pp. 477-481.]


CHEMISTRY: Donatella Marazziti, Alessandra Rossi, and Giovanni B. Cassano of the University of Pisa, and Hagop S. Akiskal of the University of California (San Diego), for their discovery that, biochemically, romantic love may be indistinguishable from having severe obsessive-compulsive disorder.
[REFERENCE: "Alteration of the platelet serotonin transporter in romantic love," Marazziti D, Akiskal HS, Rossi A, Cassano GB, Psychological Medicine, 1999 May;29(3):741-5.]


PHYSICS: Jack Harvey, John Culvenor, Warren Payne, Steve Cowley, Michael Lawrance, David Stuart, and Robyn Williams of Australia, for their irresistible report "An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces."
PUBLISHED IN: Applied Ergonomics, vol. 33, no. 6, November 2002, pp. 523-31.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


btw if you're on the fence, i'm not being super strict this week about THE LITERAL PROMPT, just something inspired by it that uses some elements and what not. you don't literally have to write about a man with his dick stuck in his zipper (tho you're welcome to)

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch


*scraps prompt-faithful story about a man who caught his dick in his zipper 50 times in a row and orgasmed.*

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


no dont

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
Probation
Can't post for 2 hours!


spectres of autism posted:

Analogues
1388 words

“You know, I’m getting a little older,” Theron says. “I’m just gonna stay off Wish, focus on the music.” Okay, dude wants to get off a drug and focus on his art. That's easy to glean from this opening.

“Ther,” Gail says, “this is off the record.” He can’t stop some panic from creeping into his voice. It's not really obvious why this would elicit panic, and at this point it's not clear whether gail is a reporter or what.

“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.” There's something just...stilted about this exchange. Like I can wrap my head around it, but I'm not following either person's reasoning. I'm guessing Theron is losing himself to Wish, so the only way I could see Gail being alarmed is if he knew Theron wasn't really going to quit the stuff? Unless Gail thinks Wish is good and doesn't want Theron to quit?

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, this comma is in the wrong spot was that he was losing someone. Theron’s eyes, once so warm and inviting, were now distant. Far off, inhospitable planets. This whole para is weird too. I like the planet metaphor, though. That 'but' is weird because it implies the second sentence is contradicting the first, but it doesn't.

“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.

So, on my first read, what I gathered from this was that a reporter is afraid of losing his musician friend to a "drug". It's weird because IF Theron is losing himself to some sort of altered state of mind, then you'd think Gail would be happy to hear he wants to stop. But somehow, and I don't know if this was intentional or not, it's hard to read it that way.

***

“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?” Why would Washler employ Gail if he doesn't seem to respect Gail's taste or instincts? I think it would make more sense to have Washler be skeptical because of Gail and Theron's personal relationship

“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. On my first read, this is where I started to wonder if you wanted to set Gail up as kind of an unreliable POV. He does Wish himself, so it's not inconceivable that he's a little out of touch with reality. In retrospect, I'm actually not sure, and it's mainly because dialog leaves a lot of stuff super ambiguous.

“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.

I'm kind of liking this characterization of a futuristic music/music reporting industry. But at the same time, the setting is so sparse. And the dialog just isn't landing with me because I don't understand what the characters are motivated by (with the exception, oddly, of Theron, but we don't get his POV)

***

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. This is kinda cool and spooky and I kinda dig, but at this point it feels like another detail in a story already stretched fairly thin. Why does Washler want Gail to retain his ability to write when he seems to have this sort of contempt/skepticism for Gail's perspective and relationship with Theron?

“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.” Like I said above

“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. I feel like you're trying to leave things unsaid to add to the horror aspect, but I don't have like, enough insight into anyone's motivations to get why this is horrifying.

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. Okay, so I guess this guy is on the outs with everyone because he had the audacity to notice his friend was slipping away. I'm guessing this is a situation where, like, Theron is the money cow pop genius or something, so it's in everyone's interest to keep Gail from loving it up in any way. But there's still a lot I'm not really following.

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. I kinda like this, actually

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. This is probably my favorite bit in the whole story. Even though I can only sort of guess at the nature of Wish and the quantum djinn, These is the most honestly human exchange in this piece.

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. Okay, so is the deal here that people are being controlled by these quantum djinn via Wish, and wriggling into the collective psyche via drugs and popular music? Keep in mind, I didn't listen to the prompt song, so if the clues are there, i have no idea. I sort of assumed that somehow the mysterious scary voice on the phone and the Wish and the quantum genie are all related.

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?” Kinda weird that he dragged Gail in seemingly by force to ask for a progress report. I guess this is some sort of pop culture dystopia?

“I was just imagining it,” Gail says. “They sound the same. If anything’s different, they’re just evolving.” So he's decided it's all in his head I guess. But I, the reader, am still not sure at all.

“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. Ok so I guess this confirms the pop culture dystopia theory. But I still don't have a very good picture of the kind of world these people live in.

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. This section humanizes Washler a bit, but it comes too late because up until now he's been kind of a thinly-drawn evil editor guy. I feel like there is a story to tell about this guy and his involvement in Gail and Theron's conflict, but it's all so so so thin. I need something more than conversations and emotions and a handful of clues about the world at large.

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. It seems like they've already taken over, and no one is really themselves. Maybe they all just have a part of their brain that thinks it's itself, but by and large their perceptions and behavior is controlled by beings who...influence humans through Wish? And spooky phone calls?

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. Uh ok so this makes it sounds like Washler is actually trying to protect Gail. Which is neat. But because I don't have a good picture of anyone's motivations, and the fact that this revelation comes at the very end, means it falls flat.

I’ll know what to do when my next shipment of Wish-laced cigars gets here. Cool, but i don't know what he's going to do.

This was strange, but not horror. The only nod to horror is the phonecall and the concept that quantum beings might somehow be taking over our minds and changing us without our knowledge or consent, I think? There are these flickers of humanity in the characters, but it all feels really loose and sparse. There's very little in the way of setting description. Like, I don't want elaborate descriptions of the weather, but having a better idea of the space around your characters and how they're moving in it would give my mind more things to imagine, which would better anchor me in the plot. Having more physical, concrete description would also give you more tools to show the characters' moods, thoughts, and motivations.

But really dude, I've read stories where you put these way-out ideas into a concrete setting. I know you know how to do that. I hate to speculate, but I wondered if this was really hard to write. Sometimes the idea is there, but the execution is just difficult for whatever reason.

After The War
Apr 12, 2005

to all of my Architects
let me be traitor


Let's see, playing a show on Saturday, so no practice after work at weekend job on Sunday... sure, give me an Ignobel that's as good an idea as me taking part this week.

Meis
Sep 2, 2011



It's been a long time since I last thunderdomed, but I've been feeling the urge recently. So I'm in.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


After The War posted:

Let's see, playing a show on Saturday, so no practice after work at weekend job on Sunday... sure, give me an Ignobel that's as good an idea as me taking part this week.

NEUROSCIENCE PRIZE: Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller, and George Wolford [USA], for demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere — even in a dead salmon.
REFERENCE: "Neural correlates of interspecies perspective taking in the post-mortem Atlantic Salmon: An argument for multiple comparisons correction," Craig M. Bennett, Abigail A. Baird, Michael B. Miller, and George L. Wolford, poster, 15th Annual Meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping, San Francisco, CA, June 2009.

Meis posted:

It's been a long time since I last thunderdomed, but I've been feeling the urge recently. So I'm in.

ARCHAEOLOGY PRIZE. Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino of Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, for measuring how the course of history, or at least the contents of an archaeological dig site, can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo.
REFERENCE: "The Role of Armadillos in the Movement of Archaeological Materials: An Experimental Approach," Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino, Geoarchaeology, vol. 18, no. 4, April 2003, pp. 433-60.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!


flerp posted:

i will

Grizzling Here Brawl

Now, the theme I want you to work with is endings. What does it mean for something to end? Do things ever really end? I don't know. Answer those for me. Tell me something cool about endings, something that you think endings mean.

I also want these stories to be big. That means I want somebody who is bigger than life, someone who does big stuff and who does not settle for the little things. I want an epic adventure in an epic world with an epic character. Also, you're word minimum!!!!! is 1750 words. No padding, make every word count. Since that's mostly for you GP, I'll put also another restriction so sh doesn't get off for free. No dreams. If you somehow write a 1750 word vignette I will make you insta-lose btw. This to both of you.

A max of 2500 words, but if I catch a whiff of padding I will not hesitate to stop reading. End it where it needs to end.

Due Saturday, February 27th, Midnight PST.

new deadline: February 29th, Midnight PST

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)


Let me in, please.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


Schneider Heim posted:

Let me in, please.

PHYSIOLOGY PRIZE: Anna Wilkinson (of the UK), Natalie Sebanz (of THE NETHERLANDS, HUNGARY, and AUSTRIA), Isabella Mandl (of AUSTRIA) and Ludwig Huber (of AUSTRIA) for their study "No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise."
REFERENCE: 'No Evidence Of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise Geochelone carbonaria," Anna Wilkinson, Natalie Sebanz, Isabella Mandl, Ludwig Huber, Current Zoology, vol. 57, no. 4, 2011. pp. 477-84.

wigglin
Dec 19, 2007



I've been dissatisfied for 38 weeks. In .

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


Pete Zah posted:

I've been dissatisfied for 38 weeks. In .

PEACE PRIZE: Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, LITHUANIA, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armored tank.
REFERENCE: VIDEO and OFFICIAL CITY INFO

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


i'm off for the weekend, i'll be back sunday night to read stories. I still need a third cojudge, but until i get back, Flerp has been instructed to go mad with power.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!


sign ups closed

Meis
Sep 2, 2011



What happens if we go over the word limit a little bit?

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


You get disqualified from winning, but may still lose.

So dont do it.

D.O.G.O.G.B.Y.N.
Dec 31, 2011

THUNDERDOME LOSER

throwing in the towel this week, toxxing next time, gg, gl etc.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
Probation
Can't post for 2 hours!


omg goons, the best way to get away with breaking the rules is to NOT post asking if it's ok

geeze

a new study bible!
Feb 1, 2009



BIG DICK NICK
A Philadelphia Legend
Fly Eagles Fly



I got that yeah-i'll-listen-to-sittinghere-because-she-knows-what-she's-doing attitude

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:


Git-drat.

Missed the entry by like a day. New to the thread, is there a set time when the next one comes around?

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

It depends on when the judges announce the results, but sometime between Monday evening and Tuesday night is the norm.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

KING OF BLOOD

Upon what meat doth this
our Caesar feed that he is grown so great?


What Knights Do
969 words

--see archive--

Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 15:05 on Jan 2, 2017

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

The Interview 999 words

He met me in the lobby with a warm smile and a brisk handshake.

“Mark Rigle,” he said. “You’ll be meeting with me and Mr. Hempstead.”

The elevator doors whisked open with a puff of cool, recycled air and we stepped inside. Faint music played overhead. I took a breath and clasped my hands to keep them still. Mark pressed a button and the doors swept shut.

“So, do you prefer Jeff or Jeffery?” he said.

#

I opened my eyes. Two men sat across a polished, cherry-colored table. One of them looked familiar, something in his grin. The other, I had no idea. He was squat and bearded with thick glasses. He did not smile.

“From everything we’ve seen, you’re exactly what we’re looking for.” The smiling guy, (Mark?), stood and stuck out his hand. I forced a smile onto my face and rose to shake it. The other guy sat there, staring at me with his arms crossed.

“That’s great,” I said. My hands shook. Mark walked me out, saying something about calling me after they finished interviews. I thanked him, and we waited for the elevator in silence.

The doors opened to a muted bell. I stepped in, gave a last smile to Mark, and hit “1”. The doors shut. I was alone with the music. Something tingled in the back of my mind.

#

“Well, I’m glad it went well, honey. I know it’s been rough on you.”

I froze. I stood in my bedroom in my shirt and slacks, the suit jacket and tie slung on the bed. I had my phone pressed to my ear, and my mother’s voice spoke in my ear.

“Jeffrey? Did I lose you?”

“No, mom,” I said. “Train of thought just derailed. Look, can I call you back?” My throat felt tight, and a cold sweat streamed down my sides.

“Of course. I suppose you should call your father, too. I’ll talk to you later. Love you!” She hung up before I could say anything else.

My knees buckled and I collapsed onto my bed. The phone slipped from my hand and fell to the floor.

“What the gently caress?”

I still sat there an hour later when the phone buzzed at my feet. I ducked and scooped it up and answered without looking at the display.

“Mr. Wilkins?” A mild, female voice I didn’t know. “Hold for Mr. Rigle, please.”

A click on the line, and then music. It seemed familiar...

#

The hot water died and I jumped out of the freezing spray. Pink water swirled the drain. My hands looked rusted. I scrubbed them and the pink deepened to red.

I got out, dried off, paced through my apartment trying to focus. My breath came in heaving gasps. My phone buzzed on the table, and I jumped. I didn’t answer, just let it rattle its way to voice mail. I turned on the TV, hoping to distract myself, and watched the news in horror.

The anchor went on and on, but the words just washed over me. I focused on the image. The image of me, pushing through a cordon of men in black suits and jamming a knife into the governor’s neck. Chaos erupted in a swarm of panicked and flailing bodies. Black suits swarmed the place I’d been. The fact I was home said I’d gotten away, but I couldn’t see how. The phone buzzed to life again, and I screamed. This time, the number was restricted. I remembered the start of the last call, and hurled it against the wall. It shattered, the battery flying one way, the broken remains another. I gripped the edge of the table to keep my balance.

I kept searching for some memory of why, and came up with nothing. The day passed in staccato images. I found the answer in the gaps. The first of which happened at my interview.

#

The building looked dark from the street, but the lobby door pushed open without a problem. I crept through the shadows to the elevators and hit the button. The arrow lit up bright in the gloom. When the doors whisked open, I stepped inside.

And paused with my finger hovering over the floor button. I stepped off and found the fire stairs.

I reached the tenth floor and caught my breath. The reception area was dark. I went down a hall, past the conference room, and found a large open area with offices lining the walls. A light burned at the far end. I made my way around and went in.

The second man from my interview sat behind a stout desk with his feet propped up on the blotter. His lips curled into a smile as I entered, but his eyes were grim.

“I thought you’d show up,” he said.

“What the hell did you do to me?”

“Take a seat.” He gestured to an empty chair. I didn’t move. He chuckled and sat up straight.

“Alright, then. Today is not the first time you’ve been here. We recruited you a year ago. You’ve been...conditioned. Today was your final test.” He grinned. “You passed.”

“Test? I killed someone!” I flexed my hands, trying to catch my breath. My head buzzed.

“Not just someone. The governor. Surrounded by security. And here you stand!”

Some connection broke in my mind. Before I knew it, I’d circled his desk, hauling up a heavy lamp as I went. He never flinched. As I brought it high over my head, he flicked something under his desk and his speakers crackled to life.

#

The engine roared and my seat bucked under me. Something was strapped to my back. A heavyset man staggered over and spoke in a thick accent.

“You are awake, yes? We are at your drop zone.”

He hauled me up and pushed me to an open door, latched a cord to a metal rod on the ceiling, and pushed me out into nothingness. In my helmet, my radio hissed to life.

Entenzahn
Nov 15, 2012

What will you say when
your child asks:
why did you fail Thunderdome?


ill be judge #3 but only if i get to be judge #2 and flerp is judge #3 instead

Meis
Sep 2, 2011



Armadillo
(999 words)

"What's taking them so drat long?" said Gildathrae. She was seated on her throne in the middle of the command centre aboard the Aetherblade, flagship of the Valnorn Empire's fleet.

"Well, they weren't really expecting us for another hour or so were they, my love?" her wife replied from her side.

"I know. I hate delaying these things though. Those folks from the Unity are so slow to start anything. All words, no action. The frustration is probably what drove my dear old mother to an early grave." She looked out at the Unity's flagship, Antonin's Kiss. A ridiculous name. She knew its opulent halls were lined with artefacts from a thousand worlds, and visitors from far and wide flocked to visit. The flagship of one of the galaxy's greatest factions should be a spectacle of military power, not a flying tourist attraction. "If they don't answer soon I'll-" she started to mutter, but was interrupted by the ship's captain.

"High Countess D'Allura is ready now, my queen," she said.

"Good, put her through." The countess's face appeared on the main viewer.

"It is a pleasure to see you again, Knight-Queen Gildathrae Starsnuffer," she said, addressing Gildathrae by her full title.

"Likewise, High Countess Lucette D'Allura of Starsea," she replied, returning the respect shown to her. "My place or yours?" she grinned.

Lucette smiled back, appreciating the joke. "It would be an honour to be your guest this time, Queen." Gildathrae was glad. Another respectful gesture. To join someone else on their ship was a sign of trust. She had obviously put in the effort to learn of the Valnorn's ways, and if Gildathrae was honest that put her aback slightly. She didn't know very much about Unity custom.

"I'm glad, Countess. I look forward to our talk," she lied. Lucette was a nice enough woman, but the way the Unity did things always annoyed her. They were just so boring.

----------

The meeting went well, for a little while. Lucette was in the middle of recounting what had happened at a particularly interesting party when the Valnorn captain approached, looking very uneasy. She leaned in close to Gildathrae and spoke softly into her ear.

Gildathrae did not look pleased. "What the gently caress are you doing, Countess?"

"Excuse me?"

"That flying art gallery out there," she gestured towards the hall's vast windows, where Antonin's Kiss floated peacefully, "is suddenly bristling with guns, armed, and pointed right at us. Give me one reason why I shouldn't blast it to the void right now."

Lucette's heart sank. She had no idea what was going on. "Why would my fleet attack, with me onboard? There must be a mistake-"

"Valnorn do not make mistakes! Not like this! We are not incompetent! Do not treat me like an idiot!"

"A mistake made by my people," Lucette explained, fighting to stay calm. "Let me contact my ship. Something is not right here, this is not how the Unity does things!"

"By all means," Gildathrae said. She gestured at the window and a segment of it dissolved to form a viewscreen. "Prove yourself to me." Lucette hailed her ship. The face of Grand Admiral Springflower appeared, and he looked very distressed.

"High Countess," he said, "let me explain!"

"It had better be a good explanation."

"Something... Something got loose in engineering. It damaged our systems, locked our main cannons. We have it cornered, but..."

"But what?"

"It is proving difficult to capture."

"Let us scan the ship," Gildathrae said, "so we can find out whether you are lying or not."

"Certainly," Lucette replied. Gildathrae nodded to her captain.

"It's true," the captain said. "There's some kind of alien in their engineering section. Our scanners can't tell what it is."

Gildathrae looked at Lucette with a wild grin on her face. "Time for a hunt."

----------

A small group of Valnorn warriors joined the Antonin's Kiss security team, led by the Knight-Queen herself, to hunt down the mysterious alien. It didn't take them long. After only a few minutes, Gildathrae emerged from a vent, triumphantly holding up the smoking corpse of a small, hairy brown creature by its tail.

"I've no idea what this is," she said, "but it was pathetic. How could the greatest ship in the Unity of Far Reaches' fleet by brought to its knees by this ridiculous creature?" Lucette chose to ignore the insult. She was far too concerned with what the creature was. She recognised it very well.

"That's my Adrianna!!" a voice shrieked from the gathered crowd. It was her son, Chadwick. "You killed her!" he pointed dramatically at Gildathrae, who looked back at him, bemused.

"Your what?"

"She's an armadillo! A rare animal from ancient Terra, worth more than anything money can buy! And you murdered her! You'll pay for this!"

Gildathrae just laughed at him. "Is that a challenge?"

"Chadwick-" Lucette started to say but he cut her off.

"drat right it is." Lucette groaned. Her idiot son was about to get himself killed.

"I accept!" Gildathrae said, her eyes gleaming.

----------

Lucette felt oddly unfazed, having just witnessed her eldest child die right before her eyes. The duel hadn't lasted very long. Maybe she'd known how it would end before it had even started. Gildathrae approached her.

"I never knew you Unity folks had this much spirit in you," she said. "Willing to give up your life for something you love, despite its relative lack of importance. I can't help but admire that." She gave Lucette a strange look. "Maybe this alliance is a good idea after all. We have more in common than I'd previously thought." Lucette wanted to laugh, but didn't. Usually killing a High Countess's son would destroy an alliance, not form one. She could just say no. It was her son after all. But was she really ready to throw away a thousand years of progress? Would the course of history be decided by the antics of one stupid little armadillo?

"Maybe, Knight-Queen, you are right."

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


Chomper
935 words

Not for the first time that night, Seth woke up in a cold sweat, hyperventilating.

“Nightmares again?” a sympathetic voice called. Seth peered over at the cage where Chomper, his pet timber rattlesnake, lay in a coil. “If you want to talk, I’m here,” Chomper said.

Seth rolled over, burrowing his face in his pillow.

#

Seth was varnishing an end table when his brother DJ arrived, wearing a beat-up backpack and carrying a box under one arm. DJ had taken a job as a sous chef at some fancy steakhouse in Atlanta, and Seth had offered him a place to stay until he found something more permanent.

“How you doin’, man?” Seth asked, channelling an energy he didn’t feel.

DJ threw his backpack down on the couch. “I’m okay. This was on your doorstep,” he said, handing over the package.

Seth ripped off the tape. Inside the box were the supplements he’d ordered – the melatonin, Valerian root, and chamomile. They smelled like perfumed feet.

“Got a pharmacy going?” DJ asked.

“I haven’t been sleeping well,” Seth said. He yawned, and his vision blurred.

“You okay?”

Seth stared at table he’d been working on. He’d sell that, and he’d pay bills for another month, but then there’d be another month full of sleepless nights, uncertainty, and a snake that wouldn’t stop talking.

“Seth?”

“I’m fine.”

#

Even chemically aided, the dreams still came. The dreams where half of a head came zooming under the tent flap like some hellish catering service. The dreams where the ground shook and the screaming and the moaning blended together in an unearthly chord.

He snapped awake again.

“Tell me about your mother,” Chomper said. “I’ve heard it helps.”

“I’m not talking to you,” Seth said, grabbing his sheet and hoisting it over his head.

“Oh, but you should talk to someone. Join a list at the VA. Or talk to DJ. He seems nice. I like him.”

Seth squeezed his eyes shut tight.

“Maybe talking isn’t for you. I get it. But you know, there’s lots of other things out there. Drugs. Not internet drugs – did you really think those would work? – no, you know, the industrial stuff.”

Seth watched the smoke alarm’s light through his sheet’s fabric, a red blotch fading in and out of view.

#

The next morning Seth stumbled downstairs and flopped on the couch. DJ was at work making breakfast, whistling, opening and closing cabinets, while Seth lay staring at the ceiling. “Good morning,” DJ said. “Why are there mice in the freezer?”

“They’re for my rattlesnake.”

“Why do you have a pet rattlesnake?” DJ asked, as he cracked a couple of eggs. “I didn’t think they made good pets.”

“He was my buddy’s. Didn’t make it back. Figured I owed it to him to take care of his pet.” Seth yawned, and craned his neck to catch DJ with a bag of frozen peas. “You’re not putting any rabbit food in my breakfast, are you?”

“Fine, no peas in your omelet. How about snake food?”

“I’m good.”

#

Seth retrieved the dripping baggie from the lukewarm water and cut it open, then lowered the soggy mouse into the cage with the feeding tongs. Chomper shook his rattler.

“Did you know my venom isn’t like regular rattlesnake venom?”

Seth rubbed his eyes with his sleeve. “What?”

“It’s true. Regular antivenin doesn’t work. Kills you even quicker, actually. You’ve got to shock it out. Fry your whole bloodstream.”

Chomper got in position to strike at the dead mouse.

“But actually,” Chomper said, “that might help you with your other problem. Fry the bad stuff out. I’ll bite you if you want.”

“No thanks,” Seth said. “Eat your dinner.”

“I’m just saying,” Chomper said, “nobody has to know the real reason you’re shocking yourself.”

He struck.

#

L I V U U U O

Seth frowned at his Scrabble letters. He scanned the board for an open E -- to play “OLIVE,” or at least “LOVE” -- but the only one available would give DJ an easy triple word score. DJ smirked. “Any day now,” DJ said.

There was a time where he’d be able to find some secret seven-letter play, even with this kind of bad draw, but with his lack of sleep he couldn’t think of anything better than “OILY.” He started laying the letters down -- without even a double-letter bonus! -- but as he was putting down the “L,” he felt a sharp pain in his ankle.

He looked down and met Chomper’s mean eyes. DJ followed Seth’s gaze, yelped, and stood up on his chair.

“Go to your car, attach a spark plug, and get your brother to shock you,” Chomper said. “Or you’ll die.”

“I won’t,” Seth said, “that doesn’t even make sense.”

DJ took a sharp intake of breath. “What doesn’t make sense? Oh wow, you’re bleeding. Um, okay. I’m going to call an ambulance.” Chomper crawled up the chair leg, and seeing this, DJ leapt off and ran across the living room into the kitchen.

“It’s the only way to really purify yourself. The doctors might make you think you’re better. But really, you’ll still be sick. You’ll still have my venom inside you. Lying in wait,” Chomper said.

DJ came running back, a cleaver in his right hand. Chomper, seeing him coming, made to move under the living room sofa, but Seth, having had enough, stepped on Chomper’s rattler with his good ankle. DJ brought down the cleaver on his head.

"Let's get you some help," DJ said.

"Yeah," Seth said, "I think it's time. Start the car. I'll get the spark plugs."

quote:

MEDICINE: This prize is awarded in two parts. First, to Patient X, formerly of the US Marine Corps, valiant victim of a venomous bite from his pet rattlesnake, for his determined use of electroshock therapy -- at his own insistence, automobile sparkplug wires were attached to his lip, and the car engine revved to 3000 rpm for five minutes. Second, to Dr. Richard C. Dart of the Rocky Mountain Poison Center and Dr. Richard A. Gustafson of The University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, for their well-grounded medical report: "Failure of Electric Shock Treatment for Rattlesnake Envenomation." [Published in Annals of Emergency Medicine, vol. 20, no. 6, June 1991, pp. 659-61.]

anime was right
Jun 27, 2008

death is certain
keep yr cool


I Really Gotta Pee! (996 words)

I am standing here like an idiot with my dick out. My bodyweight rests on my hand as I lean in front of the urinal. Nothing comes out. The leaky faucet drips for the three hundredth time.

Despite trying thousands of times, I cannot piss anywhere but in my own bathroom.

I walk out into the office. Coworkers cheer as cake is brought out, the lights are low and the candles are bright. Like an idiot, I drink beer after beer after beer. I sing loud and show my best smile. Everything drunkenly blurs, it is dark out, and I need to get home. I try the bathroom one more time. My bladder aches. It is full and supple and filled with liquid like a ripe melon. Another sixty drips of the sink and I still cannot piss.

Everyone is gone and I pull out my phone to call an Uber. I punch in my passcode, the battery icon is red. The phone goes black. I want to scream into the air. I caught a glimpse of my last text. My roommate has a date tonight.

I waddle towards the train station like a fat duck.

There is a man in front of me buying a ticket. He opens his wallet quickly and closes it just as fast. He walks away like he is lost, he mumbles something about the wrong train station as he nervously laughs.

I buy my ticket and board the train moments later. It is fifty-nine seconds late.

At this point I wonder if it is possible to die from not peeing. I stand, thinking it will make me want to pee less. The pressure is too intense, so I sit, maybe that will help. I tighten my knees inward and clutch my fingernails into my palms. I am sure everyone is quietly thanking me for doing the opposite of manspreading.

The train stops and power shuts off. Neon city colors barely peek through the thick train. Passengers turn their cheeks in odd directions, looking for the source of inconvenience. My eyes adjust to the darkness. Many passengers sigh, others roll their eyes, they whisper and text and call.

I am currently in piss-hell and this train has no bathroom.

We are suspended several stories into the air above moving cars. People look up at us from the streets below. I can hear honking, yelling, and idle noises of a living city. No one is helping.

There’s an old man impatiently clutching his cane looking especially nervous. I think I hear sirens in the distance, maybe we shall soon be saved.

But the pain is too much, and I am three blocks away from home.

I walk towards the back of the train and I trip over the man’s cane. His sunglasses fall down his face and he glares at me. His money drops from the upturned hat in his lap as I race away and apologize. He drops to his knees and begins to gather the loose pile of money. I exit through the back.

Adrenaline rushes through me so powerfully that when I open the door I expect chilling winds to whip through my hair. Instead I am met with a calm and boring night. People watch me from below. I look at the tracks and where the train lays on them. I feel it. No matter how much the pangs hit me, I must get home to complete the deed.

There is a maintenance ladder that leads down to the streets. I jump towards it and shimmy along the side of the tracks, avoiding contacting anything that looks dangerous. People point their cameras and fingers at me. As I am halfway down the climb. I see people looking out of the train as well.

“What are you, crazy?!” a man yells.

“No, I just really have to pee!” I respond.

I jump from the last rung onto the sidewalk. People tell me where the closest restroom is, but I shove and I push and I elbow and I shoulder until they are behind me. Almost home.

When I see my apartment building, the pressure grows immense inside me like there’s a bowling ball sitting within my crotch. The fact that I have not pissed my pants by now is both miracle and curse. My kidneys are boiling. My feet are weak rubber.

With my hand between my legs I crabwalk my way inside. I turn the key to the front door and I run upstairs like a tiny, stupid dog. My hands shake as I push my apartment door open.

I hear the shower.

My roommate is getting ready for his date. The bathroom door is locked.

“Let me in, I really have to pee! Seriously, I’m gonna die if you don’t let me in!” I yell.

“Dude, I’m getting ready, just wait 10 goddamn minutes,” responds my roommate.

He is notorious for taking hideously long showers.

I kick the door in but it will not budge. My roommate screams obscenities at me.

It’s too much now.

Closest to the sink is my roommate’s chair, the one he always sits in when he drinks his coffee. I drag it and pull out the three dishes inside. They crash. My roommate yells something inaudible. I stand on the wooden seat and unzip my slacks. My bladder feels as if it is being twisted between heaven and hell. This is the greatest pleasure I have ever felt, and I am also in unmistakable agony. I turn my head and see a woman sitting on the far couch. She watches in horror.

It is two weeks from that night. I am at my job and pissing joyously into the urinal. The fire trucks rescued everyone from the broken train an hour after I had left. I am over my stupid little problem. But now my roommate rarely speaks to me and, when he does, he calls me Sinkpisser.


---

MEDICINE: Dr. Arvid Vatle of Stord, Norway, for carefully collecting, classifying, and contemplating which kinds of containers his patients chose when submitting urine samples. (REFERENCE: "Unyttig om urinprøver," Arvid Vatle, Tidsskift for Den norske laegeforening [The Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association], no. 8, March 20, 1999, p. 1178.)

a new study bible!
Feb 1, 2009



BIG DICK NICK
A Philadelphia Legend
Fly Eagles Fly



-

a new study bible! fucked around with this message at 04:49 on Jan 1, 2017

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010


writers should not be afraid of thunderdome
THUNDERDOME SHOULD BE AFRAID OF WRITERS


No poo poo

1000 Words

BIOLOGY: W. Brian Sweeney, Brian Krafte-Jacobs, Jeffrey W. Britton, and Wayne Hansen, for their breakthrough study, "The Constipated Serviceman: Prevalence Among Deployed US Troops," and especially for their numerical analysis of bowel movement frequency. [Published in "Military Medicine," vol. 158, August, 1993, pp. 346-348.]

Terry was not happy, which meant that none of us were happy. What's more, the reason Sgt. Terrance wasn't happy was that he was stopped up, constipated, unable to properly move his bowels, which meant that one of us was going to die, soon.

-

It started right after we reached Huế. A couple nights running Terry was in the latrine, grunting and groaning for hours before coming out less happy than he came in. Then we went out on patrol and we got ambushed and Texas Eddie takes a bullet to the head, depriving poker night of its resident chump. That evening, Terry was in the latrine making sounds so pleased we'd have thought he was getting laid in there but for the occasional bratts and plops of him doing his business.

We wouldn't have thought much of It if it didn't happen again the next week. Terry got blocked, Airhead got blown to bits checking out a booby-trapped Charlie corpse and nobody had to listen to him going on about model planes again. After that, Terry's intestines worked just fine.

The pattern held up a third time, with Ugly Garber, who didn't actually get turned down by the local whores. He did have to pay double most of the time though. Then a fourth time as Two-Beers McGee got himself shot by a VC who couldn't have been older than twelve, and by then we all knew the score. I'm not usually superstitious, but I could see a pattern when it just about smacked me in the face.

Only us poor saps under Terry's command counted. We had a visit from the Platoon's new lieutenant, fresh out of the academy, and even though Terry was right as rain in the gut at the time he managed to let a sniper see his stripes and take the shot

The next time Terry's plumbing got clogged we all got cautious. I mean, really cautious. And it worked. We stayed alive, and Terry's distress grew and grew and grew.

Now Terry wasn't the sort who'd check himself into a field hospital so long as his arms, legs, head, and cock were all still attached. So he kept going through the pain. On that third day, while we're trying to advance another block through that damned city, Terry yelled “Sniper!” just before I heard a shot and Eyeball was bleeding out in the middle of the street. Eyeball was the squad fuckup, strung out on heroin most days, more likely to shoot a civilian than an actual enemy soldier, just plain unreliable without constant supervision. We spent the rest of the day getting into position to recover his body without taking fire, but it turned out the sniper was already long gone.

That put the squad down to just five, counting Terry. All long-timers. I was on my third tour. Was going to just do one and out when I got drafted and get back home to my girl and our two black Labs, but a month before I was supposed to go home I find out she's left me for the veterinarian and taken both my dogs with her, so with nothing to go back to I stayed in the service. People called me Two-Dogs, which meant I got to bring out the old Indian Name gag whenever we got new recruits. Jersey Eddie got disowned when he volunteered, Turner thought his special girl in the cathouse was going to marry him at the end of the war, and Smokes actually believed in the justice of the cause, stopping godless Communism for Nixon, General Motors, and the red, white and blue.

The next time Terry stopped being able to answer nature's call, he tried to hide it, but we were all completely attuned to his digestive tract as part of our survival skills. We knew the score. We kept extra vigilant while Terry pushed us to move faster. Again, three days into his blockage we were out on the streets and Terry yelled “Sniper!”, but this time I didn't look to the possible nests across the street but back at Terry, and I saw him aim his rifle at Jersey Eddie and shoot the guy right in the head. I was stunned, and barely managed to get my head down fast enough when Charlie showed up and started an actual firefight right then and there.

I told the others what I'd seen. They eventually believed me, even Smokes, but we all knew that nobody outside the squad would, not for a second. Terry had juice, had all the right friends and even though we were understaffed and losing men we were taking streets and blocks faster than some squads at full numbers. Nobody up the chain was going to believe any story where the motivation depended on Terry's prophetic bunged-up bunghole. Wasn't long before we learned that Terry'd stopped making GBS threads once again.

-

So there we were, Terry not happy and someone about to die. We did what had to be done. On day two of the latest bout of constipation, Turner was the one who called out a nonexistent sniper and when Terry turned around, I shot him right in the back of the neck.

Most people know these days that when a person dies, they usually poo poo themselves, piss themselves too. Not Terry. Whatever was keeping it all inside didn't let up just because he died. And as it happens, the three of us all made it through the end of our tours and went home. We're all still alive. Smokes is in prison these days, probably will be for the rest of his life, and Turner's been fighting bone cancer for the last two years, but we're all still kicking for now. Which I figure means that whatever pit of Hell Terry's in right now, he still hasn't been able to take a poo poo in getting on up to fifty years now, and that suits me just fine.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012



A Work of Unparalleled Genius

Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 21:37 on Dec 31, 2016

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QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


The Third Rule
1000 words

The first rule of the Resistance is not to get caught. The second rule is that, if you do get caught, to put a bullet in your brain before the government can squeeze you for information.

I know that I’ve broken the first rule when I stop receiving broadcasts from the device implanted near my eardrum. I realize that I’ve broken the second when I’m approached by two baby-faced agents in my own restaurant, poo poo-eating grins plastered all over their faces.

“Mr. Lopez, my name is Agent Laswell and this is my partner, Agent Simon.” Says the smaller one, bundled up in an oversized coat like a kid playing dress-up. “We’re from the Department for the Restoration of American Dignity and we’d like to have a few words with you.”

I lift my arms, half-welcoming, half shrugging. “Of course, gentlemen, of course. Nothing serious I hope?” I give a light push to the girls on either side of me. They stiffen at my touch. “Why don’t you girls go freshen up?”

They free themselves from the booth and stumble towards the bathroom, where I’m sure they’ll do a line of coke to make things bearable. I’m jealous.

“I see you got your admirers, Mr. Lopez,” sneers Simon. I give him my best smirk. The kind that one only perfects in mugshots and sleazy tabloids.

Yes, I’m an unpleasant man. But I’m the kind of unpleasant man that despots and tyrants like to keep around. My flamboyance is what keeps official misdeeds out of the headlines. Robert Lopez Divorces Third Wife. Robert Lopez Assaults Reporter. For last week’s terrorist bombing, see Page D5. I pretend to be a nasty sonuvabitch and the censors loosen their grip on the press. I’m the suckerfish to their shark. A parasite that keeps the papers clean.

And I’m so tired of this act.

Simon slides into the booth next to me, so close I can feel the tape recorder on his belt jamming into my flab. A recorder probably full of reports on my movements. Laswell slaps a manila envelope on the table and sits across from me. As I leaf through the folder, I realize that my protection only goes so far. There’s some indiscretions that can’t be ignored.

“Tsk, tsk, Mr. Lopez,” Laswell says, giving me his best Humphrey Bogart impression. “Seems you’ve had your hands full lately. Theft of sensitive government documents. Aiding and abetting terrorists. Degrading American dignity.”

I’d like to brain him, but I’m too startled by the sudden buzzing in my ear. The bug’s been turned on.

“What can I say? I like to spread my wealth around.” I laugh, listening to radio static. If the Resistance is gonna get me out of here, I need to stall. I need some distraction for these goose-stepping punks. “You know, the DAILY’s got some of their journalists here. I’d really hate to interrupt them. Don’t think they came here for a work lunch.”

I continue, channeling some long-dead mobster. “I’m sure your bosses would love the extra work of cleaning my arrest from the papers.”

For the first time, Laswell’s grin slides off his face. He’s supposed to take me in, but he knows how the game is played. Do what you want with the rats, but don’t leave a mess. I see his eyes dart back and forth, but before he can say anything the broadcast in my ear gives a single command.

“Take cover.”

One of my girls is walking back from the bathroom, a device in her hand and something wrapped around her waist. Laswell jumps up and starts towards her. I’m able to give her a single uncomprehending look and duck before she pulls the trigger.

***

There’s buzzing in my ear, but it’s not radio static. It’s a high-pitched ringing that reminds me of air raid sirens. I blink and realize I’m laid out on my back. The restaurant is filled with dust and smoke. I blink again. There’s arms. Legs. I scream, but it comes out as a distant wail. Like an old picture being developed. Simon is propped up against the wall and he’s pulling wood out of his face like a magician pulls a scarf out of his sleeve.

As sound returns, my ears are filled again with static.

“Thank you for your patience, Mr. Lopez.” The woman in my brain speaks with a secretarial voice. Cool and crisp. “Unfortunately, we have very little time. I need you to grab the recorder. Quickly.”

I’m still dazed, but I manage to stumble over to Simon. He stares, his mouth moving in unnatural shapes, as I try to unclasp the cracked recorder from his belt. Any chance of getting back into the government’s good graces vanished the moment the bomb went off. If I had any second thoughts, they’re gone now.

“I’ve got it!” I slur, recorder in my hand.

When I look up, there’s men with rifles pushing their way through the rubble-strewn entrance. A woman, some Governor’s mistress, waves her hands. “Help, help, over here!” They fire a round into her chest. And another into her head. These men are not friends. They’re here to make sure there’s no witnesses.

“Thank you, Robert. Now, would you kindly make your way through the back kitchen door? We have a car waiting for you.”

I’m not built for running. I’m not even sure if I still have all my body parts attached. But I make a dash towards the kitchen. I’m ducking through pots and pans, bowling over my own cowering chefs before I make it into the alley. It’s empty.

Then someone unloads an entire magazine into me. The shots ripple through my chest and I crumple into a heap. As I lay against the door, blood seeping into my lungs, I hear a woman’s voice again. Someone reaches into my pocket, taking the recorder.

“I’m sorry, Robert, but you know the rules. Never leave loose ends.”

ENTOMOLOGY: Robert A. Lopez of Westport, NY, valiant veterinarian and friend of all creatures great and small, for his series of experiments in obtaining ear mites from cats, inserting them into his own ear, and carefully observing and analyzing the results. [Published as "Of Mites and Man," The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, vol. 203, no. 5, Sept. 1, 1993, pp. 606-7.]

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