Also, in, please flash me a song because it's been so drat long since I was into REM and Emphysema doesn't have lyrics.
e: Looks like I failed on my last entry back in August so here's my .
Maugrim fucked around with this message at 12:35 on Apr 6, 2016
|# ? Apr 6, 2016 11:59|
|# ? Jan 18, 2021 05:22|
Also, in, please flash me a song because it's been so drat long since I was into REM and Emphysema doesn't have lyrics.
The Flowers of Guatemala
|# ? Apr 6, 2016 12:53|
Green - good dialogue
|# ? Apr 6, 2016 16:14|
skwidmonster here's a crit for your week 190 entry
|# ? Apr 6, 2016 21:09|
In. With, I Took Your Name.
|# ? Apr 6, 2016 23:38|
I'm really wishing I put a piece in for last week's prompt... : ( kicking myself right now!
Edit: reading some of them currently and brain is like: why didn't we think of THAT!?
|# ? Apr 7, 2016 00:21|
holy poo poo nobody cares stop posting if it isnt "in," your entry, or crits
|# ? Apr 7, 2016 00:35|
im gonna commit hara kiri rite after i press post
Dragon Godhead EX! Universe Crusher
He was skin and bones but his fingers dug into my nerves like knives. And for a second I was asleep again.
Dreaming of terrible, twisting shapes that fought each other, devoured each other, and stayed with me into waking life, in my peripheries, when I closed my eyes, shadows behind my eyelids.
So despite the pain my eyes snapped open, and also because my brain needed to understand what was happening. He was half my weight and almost hunched over, a bowl cut and thick glasses. And I was paralyzed, my brain screaming that I’d been poisoned. I was dying.
“Let go,” I said, but it was almost a whisper. His smile, sharply turned..
He did. “Forces beyond your comprehension,” he sneered. Then he was walking back towards the academy, and I was left there, clutching my wrist, wondering how I had lost, how it hadn’t even been a fight.
I’m no strangers to fights. Usually, I’ve found, they’re the fastest way to solve problems. A week ago, a rival school kidnapped my girlfriend. After smashing in fifty faces with my fists and objects conveniently left lying around, I finally realized that what I needed wasn’t a girlfriend. It was to work on myself, understand the world and how I fit into it.
So I had. I realized that what I needed to do was train. Train to become the best fighter in the universe. And I thought I was getting there. Until Kagawa Ssekien, the nerdiest kid in the academy had shown me death. And death wasn’t honourable. Death was fear. It made you question everything.
Standing in the schoolyard, autumn leaves swirling around me, I felt reality begin to break.
My grandfather ran a game store in Naragawa-Cho. When you walk in, you see games from all over the world, games you’ve never heard of. But the first thing your eye is drawn to are the go sets. He hand carves the pebbles himself so that each one has perfect balance and heft. When he does this I don’t know. I’ve never seen him, even on lazy Saturdays when I’ve hung out at the store all day, watching all the people who come in, about a 96 percent ratio of guys to girls.
But he always has about a thousand sets around ready to go.
He’s handing one to me now, and I’m still thinking about that nerd. He looks like an insect, I think, like he’d feel at home in an ant colony. I’m picturing him with antennae waving around, but then I see him with drooling fangs. Like he’s only pretending to be an ant so he can eat their young.
Drool falls from one fang and I drop the go set.
Grandpa is already moving. Not to catch the set (he boasts that they’re indestructible) but to slam the back of my head with his palm. As he does stars explode in front of my eyes, and I see something, one of the monsters. It’s a dragon, huge, scaled a forbidding black. It’s eyes are twin fires and as I stare at it it stares back. I can’t feel the ground under my feet, and soon, I think, I’ll fall, down into the abyss, where the monsters live. And I know that this one is their king.
I look up at my grandpa, constellations dancing around him. He’s shaking his hand back and forth, and he looks at me, deep into my eyes. His features are grim. Then, like magic, he waves his hand and the stars disappear. The pain, more than you’d think would come from a septuagenarian slap, is gone too.
Like magic, I think. Blood magic.
He sighs. “Tsutsumi,” he says, “if you were man enough, you wouldn’t need me to tell you.”
Chastened, I follow him into the back, where a pot of tea is already steeping.
“This world,” my grandpa says, gesturing outward, “is not real. There is only one thing that is real. Blood.”
I think of my countless battles, of broken noses and black eyes and everything splashed with scarlet. I nod.
“If you were to boil reality,” Grandpa says, “like this tea, boil away the falsehood, the deception, the echoes and mirrors, you’d be left with a network. Some sort of… blood network . We all, he says, share the same blood. Deep underneath. In the true reality.”
I look at my hands. They seem so solid. I clench my fist. It feels firm.
Grandpa shakes his head. Then his hand darts out.
Before I can react he's peeled my hand open with spider webbed fingers. With his other arm he steadily pulls a cup of tea to his lips. Drinks it.
“In this world,” he says sagely, “an interaction between two people is a duel. To get what you want, you must take your opponent's blood for yourself. It may feel like you are confident, dominant, aggressive in body language. But you are actually taking their blood, which is why the situation will resolve in your favour.”
Kagawa, I think. He figured it out. That’s why he was stronger than me. He literally took my blood for his own.
“Grandpa,” I say, “I see monsters in my dreams. Do they have anything to do with this… “blood network”?
“Those are souls,” he says. “We are not what we appear to be.”
The second the bell chimes, I make my way to the schoolyard. It’s slow going. I’m careful not to bump into anyone. All I can think of is the fear I see on my classmates’ faces. The fear I’ve just casually accepted.
I’ve been taking their blood, I think. This whole time.
If I focus I can see their souls. They’re monsters, but they’re all small, only slightly bigger than the students. They look more like stuffed animals you’d find in a claw game than the bringers of death and destruction that haunt my dreams.
But when I get outside I see it. It casts a shadow over half the schoolyard.
Kagawa’s soul is a giant spider. If it’s even a spider. Not even a spider has that many legs. But the fangs, those are spider like. Jagged, serrated, drool splashing down in front of him. He’s terrorizing some other kids. I squint. He’s taking their lunch.
They don’t know, I realize, the power of their own souls. Fear rules over them so completely that it doesn’t matter what their “reality” is.
And I shouldn’t know what mine is.
Except l saw my soul in a dream. I have awakened. I am growing stronger.
As he looks at me his eyebrows raise. The spider is still salivating.
“Your dragon has finally matured,” he says, “into adult form. But my Arachnoretha is a full ultimate death type. This duel will be over in seconds.”
I look to see if anyone else heard that, but nobody’s reacted in any way other than cowering in front of him. What do they think, I wonder. That he hacked the school computers and can give them all F’s?
I stop speculating on possible realities. The only thing that matters, I remember, is blood.
In one reality I stare at him confidently. In another my dragon attacks.
I feel the rush of air as scaled wings beat past. It’s warm air, the dragon radiating body heat, constantly generating more. It slams into the giant spider at the speed of a fighter jet.
But instead of tackling it to the ground it keeps flying. I stare in horror as it wings around towards me. The spider has its fangs buried deep in its neck, a separation between two plates.
“You should have waited,” the nerd gloats. “You should have trained harder. That soul is in my database. It’s the Dragon Godhead. It’s one of the most powerful soul monsters, but you can’t reach that form with Arachnoretha’s chelicerae embedded in your neck.”
I can almost feel it. Poison in my veins. I waver back and forth.
“Think I’ll leave you traumatized,” the Kagawa says. “Something for your adult years when you can’t even get a date. Drinking alone, remembering the time I kicked your butt.”
I’m not there anymore.
“You can take anything,” my grandpa says as he pours another cup of tea. “The trick is not to. That’s what makes you stronger. That will always make you stronger.”
“I’d like some-” and then I catch myself. See his approving eye.
“May I have some tea, please?” I say, hitting all the politeness notes.
“Certainly,” he says, and pours the rest of the kettle into a fresh cup.
On the schoolyard, I bow. It’s a stiff bow, a perfect ninety degree angle. It’s a perfect execution. I feel the poison spreading through me.
The dragon’s wings enfold the giant spider, cocooning him in mid-flight. But they don’t fall. They hang there.
Rays of darkness explode out from the contorting shape. Everything goes black.
Have all my blood, I think. I fall, shielding my body with my arms.
I can’t hear anything but his laughing. But I force my head up. Just enough to see our souls.
His is gone. The Dragon Godhead fills my sight. Great and terrible. Four wings, all razored and torn. Horns that form a full crescent above his head. Four blood red eyes.
“I’m God!” The nerd’s yelling. “I can do anything! I can kill you all and get away with it! I can control the universe! I’ll destroy the whole country!”
I hear rushing footsteps. School security.
“I’ll kill you all!” He shouts.
No matter what reality is, I think, you can’t get away with violent threats in school.
Then I’m gone.
The school nurses tell me my blood sugar levels are low. Eat a chocolate bar once in while, they say. I thank them politely and leave.
School is over. I walk home. A leaf falls into my hair and casually I shake it off. And then, for a second, I stare at it as it floats to the ground.
We share our blood like we share everything else. I think of the Dragon Godhead, more terrible than I could ever have imagined.
Maybe there’s a bit of us, I think, that we shouldn’t give away.
|# ? Apr 7, 2016 00:53|
|# ? Apr 7, 2016 00:53|
The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
|# ? Apr 7, 2016 00:56|
Wanna fight about it, Flerp!?
|# ? Apr 7, 2016 01:02|
|# ? Apr 7, 2016 01:49|
Week 190 Crits Pt. 1 of 2
Khris Kruel - KK Short story 59
I'll give you props for opening with some action and establishing stakes right away, even if your first two lines are basically saying the same thing. Ellipses and exclamation points are a hard sell in dialogue - it usually feels forced at best, and really hammy at worst, which is what happened here.
This story pretty much hits the whole "time travel flash fiction" checklist: Guy travels through time to rescue girl, ends up meeting a villainous version of himself, existential crisis, ends in violence. I'm guessing you just wanted to try it out, which is totally understandable and a good learning experience. Almost everyone tries it eventually, and it's very hard to pull off, just because using time travel as a basic story conceit involves so much setup and explanation that you never really have time to tell an actual story. Most of them feel like cliches as a result.
The characters feel pretty thin, and I only know their motivations because you just come out and tell them to me. Even then, I can't quite get a read on Moira. She just meets this guy and wants to spend the rest of her life with him in an instant, then he disappears, and afterward she's kinda blase about everything? Then you get into a big exposition dump in the third part, where the evil-timeline narrator explains everything, including things that the narrator already knows (this is a common trap people fall into, especially with fantasy and sci-fi, and it never works. Just trust the reader to figure things out from context instead of having someone do the "As you know..." thing.)I'm gonna go ahead and say that all-caps dialogue is almost never appropriate outside of some fringe cases like deliberate satire or giant booming robot overlords, etc., and even then, it's questionable.
Basically this took the loss because it's too thin on actual story and characterization, and it follows the same beats as 99% of the time travel flash fiction I've seen in the dome (which, to be fair, is something you only figure out through trial and error).
ExtraNoise - Small Tragedies Take No Blame
This was a tough piece to judge. I really liked the first part, and while the second was kind of meandering, it had a distinctive voice, which is one of those things that you don't see often in the dome and which I always appreciate. But the third part just fell flat - it takes the emotional subtlety of your first portion and ramps it up so far that it starts to feel kinda oversentimental and cheesy, a bit soap opera-y.
These are always my least favorite stories to crit, because I don't have a ton of constructive feedback. You've got a solid hook, some well-realized characters, strong prose, and a narrative arc that exists as much in the negative space as in what's on the page, which I think is one of the most important elements of flash fiction. I think one of the judges had this in their high pile, and the other two had it in the upper middle. It isn't bad, and honestly stories with one or two good sections and one section that just drags it down is basically this week's theme, but at the end of the day this just didn't stand out above the rest of the upper pile.
Sitting Here - To End All Promises
This was another odd one to judge. The prose is very solid, and there are some great details / bits of characterization throughout. This was also one of many stories where each section felt a little weaker than the preceding one.
Braden and Kyle feel a little like they stepped out of a rom-com, but you breathe enough life into them that they avoid feeling two-dimensional. I feel like Braden got the lion's share of the depth when it comes to motivation, which is probably why the beginning was my favorite part. Kyle's motivations make sense, but there isn't enough room in such a short section to distinguish him from the prototypical "nice guy."
Omaya's section was the one I was most interested in, but her friend ends up stealing a bit too much of the spotlight, and the result is that I didn't really get enough of a look into her interior thoughts to fully understand how she feels about what has happened. The scheming stuff ends up undercutting the emotional weight of the situation for me, I think.
Also as an aside, this felt pretty different for you - not in a bad way or anything, but it was a surprise when I turned off judgemode for reasons I can't quite put my thumb on.
sparksbloom - Ethnomedicine
This was one of the few stories that really took some chances by jumping around with settings, and I thought that was pretty cool. I like the premise a lot, though it almost feels like a bit too much time is devoted to the setup. You do a good job of making the exposition feel organic, so it isn't as noticeable, though I'm kinda torn on the first section. It does a good job of setting the stage, but the murder / suicide at the end is so sudden and so brutal that it ratchets up the stakes and tension in a way that the next sections can't really match.
The middle section is easily my favorite, and I appreciated how much of a tonal and even stylistic change there was going into it. The two sections together have a neat way of creating this whole world in broad strokes, which is definitely something I was hoping for this week.
The third section felt like it just ran out of steam, though. Miyako has interesting and sympathetic motivations, and I like that your instinct was to subvert expectations by presenting two options and then running with a third that still made thematic sense. It just felt like it needed more room to breathe - the ending feels a little unsatisfying, like it's trying to wrap things up more neatly than they should be. I had this in my upper middle pile.
OneWhiteWhisker - Doors Locked and Windows Painted Shut
Another story with really strong voice. This had a cool triptych feeling, where all the pieces contribute to one another and form a cohesive whole. I will admit that I wasn't quite sure what was going on the first time I read it - on the second read it was a lot more clear, so I'm not sure if that means there's a clarity issue or if I just missed something the first time. Hopefully another judge will weigh in on that!
The first two sections here are strong - I think I might slightly prefer the first, just because it works better on its own, while the second requires more context. The third isn't bad, but it was one of many victims of the "sentimental in a way that feels a little forced" endings this week. It relies pretty heavily on exposition, and while disguising that as an internal monologue was a smart call, the end result is still more telling vs. showing, and it leans on some stock tropes that make him feel less "real" than the other characters.
I don't have a whole lot else to criticize here - the mood and voice here are really effective, but so much of the actual story / action happens off-screen that it was difficult to see these characters get to inhabit themselves, if that makes sense.
Thranguy - Afterimage
This was a fun spin on the prompt - having a single object tie all three pieces together was clever, and there's a lot of energy in this story. The language in the first section (especially "What the Devil?") had me confused on the time period for a moment - it feels weirdly artificial. But the back and forth is fun, and things just keep escalating.
Your sestina is the real gem here, and the section that netted you the HM. I was hoping someone would experiment with form and that definitely fit the bill. It's really well-done, too, which couldn't have been easy. All of the judges were impressed by it, and it took some balls to even attempt something like that.
The third section is a little hit-or-miss for me. The beginning feels like it's just beating around the bush until the action plays out, and the dialogue is the weak link there, again. It's obvious from the beginning how this is going to play out, but you do a good job of leaning into that element of inevitability instead of playing coy with it, which works to your advantage. It lacks the energy of the first two sections, but it's still a satisfying way to tie things up.
Guiness13 - Jack
Really creepy and neat concept. I will say that the very beginning feels a little muddled; I think you need to establish who Jack is and why he's suddenly worried about him a little earlier, because the first section is almost over by the time it makes sense. The image of the little boy sitting in front of this black stone is effective, and I was surprised things went south so quickly, since usually that would be a set-up for a slower burn. That's not a bad thing - I think doing the unexpected is kinda necessary with horror.
The second section flows naturally from the first, and the choice of narrator was a good one, I think. Immediately juxtaposing the murder with a little snippet of parental drama is a clever little bit of tonal whiplash. The way this ended felt a tad underwhelming - the rock surrounded by animal skulls and the image she sees of her husband are well done, but the actual murder almost feels mundane afterward, this time around. It's tough to go back to the same well when you're doing a circular narrative like this, because you have to keep subverting expectations or it loses impact.
The third section kinda fizzles out for that reason. We already know what it coming because it's happened twice, and then it plays out exactly that way again. I like the concept here, but it's hard to think of a way to sustain that tension / sense of dread without radically changing the outcome each time. It also seems a little foolish of Jack to give Roy the stone in an attempt to set up a future murder, given what he knows about it so far.
flerp - The Three
This was kind of a contentious story. All of the judges liked something about it, but all of those things were different, as I recall. This was definitely one of the most ambitious stories of the week - the shift in scale and tone from piece to piece is very bold, and I like that. The individual sections are also more loosely associated than most of the other entries this week, which gave you room to play around with layering themes moreso than strict narrative.
The beginning feels like a legit creation myth, and I also knew immediately who wrote this story once I saw the dog. There's actually a decent amount of pathos in this section, which is pretty impressive given how dry and distant that sort of mythology can feel. The second section was my personal favorite; I think you took this character and made them feel very human. Their motivations aren't always 100% logical, but that's how it is in real life, too, and it works because you make me believe them. The final section has this very cold, rational tone that is kinda depressing and comforting at the same time, somehow.
I dunno, not a whole lot else to say about this one. Everyone had a different thing they liked about it, but everyone liked it.
3.141592653 - Timeless Possessions
The biggest issue here is that you devote so many of your words to establishing setting and details, and it ends up choking the actual narrative. It's very common when starting out to overuse adjectives in order to "paint a picture," but it's also very easy to go overboard, to the point where all the details become a little overwhelming and you start to lose sight of what is actually happening. I think in this case you could have dialed it back and let context clues do the heavy lifting, but word economy is something that really takes some time and practice to get the hang of.
The story that is here is bittersweet, but some of your stronger details do a good job of creating this warm, comforting mood that gives the piece an "everything will be alright" feeling that is always nice to come across in the usual sea of doom and gloom.
The letter is a good example of exposition, which you generally want to avoid. You're using it to tell the reader what has happened off-screen in a direct way that gets around having to actually show things happening and how people react and change during those events, which you want to avoid because that's exactly where the actual meat of drama and characterization are going to occur in any given story. I think giving us a more immediate look at things through the husband's eyes would have been more interesting - it would give you the opportunity to show us what happens to him and what is going through his mind, which would be a lot more powerful than the letter.
I will have Part 2 up early tomorrow afternoon!
|# ? Apr 7, 2016 03:11|
holy poo poo nobody cares stop posting if it isnt "in," your entry, or crits
Or shitposting, flerp, you loving mongoloid.
|# ? Apr 7, 2016 03:12|
Or shitposting, flerp, you loving mongoloid.
all my posts are gold
|# ? Apr 7, 2016 03:24|
Thanks for the crit!
|# ? Apr 7, 2016 04:32|
Butts Butts Glub Butts
crabrock fucked around with this message at 06:10 on Apr 7, 2016
|# ? Apr 7, 2016 04:49|
Butts Butts Glub Butts
|# ? Apr 7, 2016 14:41|
holy poo poo nobody cares stop posting if it isnt "in," your entry, or crits
or proper examples of kayfabe:
|# ? Apr 8, 2016 01:39|
In, flash me with a song
|# ? Apr 8, 2016 03:04|
In, flash me with a song
|# ? Apr 8, 2016 03:06|
Week 190 Crits Pt. 2 of 2
Entenzahn - LEGO
This one made me smile. Partly because I was imagining Chairchucker reading it, but still. Your first section is my favorite - the voice is strong, and there's this dryly amused tone that really works to balance and highlight the absurdity of the situation. It's funny, but I also feel bad for the guy, which means you did a good job of making him feel like an actual person.
The second section feels kinda perfunctory, like it's just there to set up the conflict and justify the logic of the narrative. The characters have less depth here, and towards the end it gets into slightly sappy territory - the father and son reconnecting over an old childhood hobby angle - and even with Lego, specifically - has been pretty heavily mined, which makes it tough to do anything that feels fresh.
The third section is fun and creative and has a lot of energy. It's silly, and it lacks the nuance of your first section, which balanced the goofiness and pathos more gracefully, but it's hard not to like it, even still. You actually did a pretty good job of bringing this dystopian future to life in very few words. My biggest issue with this section is that thematically, it feels like it's re-treading your second section a bit, which takes some of the shine off. Still a fun read, and a welcome addition to this week.
Carl Killer Miller - Royal Blood
There's a neat story here, but it gets kinda buried underneath biographical / historical information and the dry tone. This is primarily an issue of aesthetic distance - the reader is kept at arm's length from characters' actions and interior thoughts, and the result is that it becomes almost impossible to get invested in what is happening. You've got a bunch of characters ripe for interesting drama, but we only get to hear about it in terms of a historical record, after it's all happened.
Trying to create that sense of distance is something a lot of people experiment with, but it's very hard to pull off in the constrained space that flash fiction offers (I've tried it myself, and usually crabrock or flerp yells at me for it). Essentially, this feels like an "ideas" story where you've got this sprawling world and all these interpersonal dynamics in mind, but that's all less interesting / compelling to a reader than the characters and how they react to the obstacles in their way. You've got to zoom that camera in and let us see what they are going through and how they feel about it in a more personal and immediate sense - this is why, say, reading a history textbook can be really interesting and informative, but it's usually not a very good story.
I will say that outside of a couple really minor, nitpicky grammar errors, you've got some nice, mechanically strong prose, and there are a few vivid images that stick out. This is good news, because it means you've cleared probably the biggest hurdle most newer writers face, and now it's just a matter of refining the actual storytelling process, which comes mostly from reading and writing a whole bunch.
Tyrannosaurus - Everything Comes from the Ocean; Three Stories of Expression
This was an odd one, and I'm still not totally sure how I feel about it. The first section was divisive - I thought it was a neat idea, and a creative setting, and the character motivations are clear and sympathetic, but the atmosphere is so brutal and oppressive that it almost wraps around and turns the tragedy into parody. I still liked it, but it feels like it probably didn't have the intended effect. Though this could totally just be me having a weird reaction to it, because one of the other judges like the first section the most.
The second section was the weakest for me. I feel bad for the narrator, and there's some good characterization / detail early on, but it kinda loses the thread a little and falls back on some well-worn tropes. The father is just a little too thinly sketched and the narrator's desires just a little too clean and obvious for me to really get into this part as much as I would like to.
The third section is my favorite. It was one of the few sections this week that really put me in the room with these characters, because you just nail the mood and the details and the way little things become big things. There's a lot of humanity in this piece, and the ending is great. This was one of like two or three stories this week that had a really strong, punchy finish.
skwidmonster - Niloticus
I like the way this story approached the prompt - everything is tied together in a way that is concrete and abstract at the same time, which helps the passage of time in the story feel more real. The first section drags a bit, but I can't quite put my finger on why. I think it just takes too long to lay out the stakes and the narrator's motivation, so that by the time we figure out what is going on, it's already over. Some of the prose here feels a little overwrought, too: "So far he seemed quite enamored with my sinless persona" is a good example.
The second section was my favorite. You did a good job of bringing this rainforest to life, and your use of detail sets up a really ancient, peaceful mood that compliments it well. Using an animal perspective as a way to frame the sections that bookend it just has a neat overall effect, like an interlude that is still compelling.
The third section hits this much more energetic, noirish vibe, and the gator-skin shoes acting almost as another character was an interesting idea that mostly works well. The issue here is that the shoes kinda steal the spotlight from the actual narrator - we only ever get a sense of what he's thinking / feeling filtered through his footwear, which ends up sapping some of his agency. I almost wish you'd gone all-in with the concept and just made the shoes the narrator.
Ironic Twist - Three Left in Omaha
Lots of great imagery and strong prose, unsurprisingly. It actually feels like you went a little overboard in some places - there are a few dense pockets of metaphor / simile that are on the verge of obscuring what is going on. I liked the first section the most - there's a really effective blend of sadness and anger that rings true, and you take it in some interesting directions.
The second section was my least favorite, mostly because, like a good 75% of the stories this week, it falls into that sorta cheesy / overly sentimental territory. It's a hard thing to judge because those feelings can definitely be real, but they also don't have enough depth to make them particularly compelling in a work of fiction. I absolutely love the image of the "terrified worm eye" on the mug fragment, though. It creates this very sudden, effective burst of absurd dread that really works.
I liked the third section. Nice characterization, some really solid, spare prose, and the dreamy, sorta wistful atmosphere is great. The very end felt a little tacked on, for some reason. It just comes across as too neat, like a way to end things that sounds poignant but doesn't really feel emotionally connected to the moment that precedes it, if that makes sense.
Loaded Up and Tucked Away
All three judges had this as their win pick, so there wasn't a whole lot to talk about. The beginning does a great job of evoking those feelings of childhood, and you have a good eye for details that seem unimportant but end up revealing a lot about the characters without needing to come right out and say it. You also know when to hint at things and when to hold back, which makes a few moments that could easily feel schmaltzy have some genuine impact instead.
The way everything unfolds across all three sections is maybe a little predictable, but you get us invested in the characters so that we want to see it play out that way. All of the characters have clear motivations and distinctive voices, and you end it at just the right time when most people would probably try to keep it going and push it over the edge. I dunno, I don't have a whole lot of constructive feedback with this one.
kurona_bright - Caught Breath
There are some neat ideas here, and some solid action, but the biggest issue is clarity. None of the judges were completely sure what was going on in this story, and we basically had to hash it out in irc. The other problem I had with it is that the dialogue all feels like it's just there to advance the plot - it's all very cookie-cutter and doesn't quite feel realistic, and we never get a really good feel for the characters as a result.
I kinda wish you'd jumped around a bit more with the perspectives, since a lot of the story is contextualized by stuff that is happening off-screen. You've got a good feel for the pacing and because you keep things flowing it didn't really bother me, but I think it would have solved some of the clarity issues.
Still, you've got solid prose, good pacing, and a decent narrative arc. The ending is a little disappointing because it just sorta trails off, but I can live with it.
newtestleper - Punakaiki - the Value of Staying Silent
I like the first section - you do a good job of putting the reader in the scene, though the very beginning could maybe be cut down a little so you've got a stronger hook. There's a nice, building sense of dread and mystery which makes me want to keep reading.
The second section was probably my favorite. Solid hook, and coming off the back of the first section, there is already a sense of unease that compliments this part. This is another good example of holding back just enough information to make the situation compelling without being confusing, and you are able to turn up the tension pretty effectively in a very short span.
The beginning of the third section is maaaaybe edging in on exposition via dialogue, but it feels natural enough that I can let it slide. I like the way this all ties together - it's not a clean resolution, and that works. The whole piece does a good job of evoking a kinda cold, isolated, off-beat atmosphere that makes even mundane stuff seem sinister. I know you were rushing to finish this and it's maybe not quite as polished as it could be, but it was still an enjoyable read.
|# ? Apr 8, 2016 04:49|
Dialogue Crit: Google Doc
|# ? Apr 8, 2016 05:15|
ty 4 the crit
|# ? Apr 8, 2016 19:58|
hello thunderduds this is a recrap
The recap machine begrudgingly rumbles on. First up, we go back to middle school! Myself, Kaishai, Djeser, Twist, and special recurring guest Bad Seafood take a look at week 182 (Domegrassi week). In addition to talking about the DMs and loss, we took a special look at the stories we weren't able to read during the week 182 livecrits (PM me or see me on IRC for a link).
BUT THEN we take a look at week 183 (Apocalypse week), with slightly less special guest Crabrock! Featuring a stunning and evocative reading of YFDHippo's The Devil's Grin.
Sorry in advance for the various audio and technical hiccups as usual. These recaps are exactly as polished as your stories.
Week 182 Recap
Thank you, as always, for listening.
More recaps (thanks Kaishai!):
Episode Recappers Week 156: LET'S GET hosed UP ON LOVE Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Djeser Week 157: BOW BEFORE THE BUZZSAW OF PROGRESS Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 158: LIKE NO ONE EVER WAS Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Djeser Week 159: SINNERS ORGY Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 160: Spin the wheel! Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 161: Negative Exponents Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 36: Polishing Turds -- A retrospective special! Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, Kaishai, and The Saddest Rhino Week 162: The best of the worst and the worst of the best Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, Kaishai, and The Saddest Rhino Week 163: YOUR STUPID poo poo BELONGS IN A MUSEUM Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 164: I Shouldn't Have Eaten That Souvlaki Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 165: Back to School Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 166: Comings and Goings Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 167: Black Sunshine Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 168: She Stole My Wallet and My Heart Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 169: Thunderdome o' Bedlam Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 170: Cities & Kaiju Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and Kaishai Week 171: The Honorable THUNDERDOME CLXXI Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 172: Thunderdome Startup Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 173: Pilgrim's Progress Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 174: Ladles and Jellyspoons Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Kaishai, and Djeser Week 175: Speels of Magic Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 176: Florida Man and/or Woman Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and Kaishai Week 125: Thunderdome is Coming to Town -- Our sparkly past! SH, Ironic Twist, Kaishai, Djeser, Grizzled Patriarch, and Bad Seafood Week 177: Sparkly Mermen 2: Electric Merman Boogaloo SH, Ironic Twist, Kaishai, Djeser, Grizzled Patriarch, and Bad Seafood Week 178: I'm not mad, just disappointed Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Kaishai, and Djeser Week 179: Strange Logs Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Kaishai, and Djeser Week 180: Maybe I'm a Maze Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Kaishai, and Djeser Week 181: We like bloodsports and we don't care who knows! Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Kaishai, and Djeser
|# ? Apr 9, 2016 00:38|
signups are closed
if you're looking for inspiration, I recommend snarky critic Matthew Perpetua, who critiques every R.E.M. song on his blog
(although Ceighk is out of luck, as he didn't get to Collapse Into Now)
|# ? Apr 9, 2016 05:38|
Any volunteers for the last judge slot?
|# ? Apr 9, 2016 20:59|
Any volunteers for the last judge slot?
someone take this as you're almost certainly too bad to get it any other way judgeland is a magical place
|# ? Apr 10, 2016 00:17|
If That’s What It Takes
I Took Your Name
I want you to listen to me real good, now. I’m going to roll this cigarette—Goddamn it, you always loved when I rolled my own cigarettes—and I’m going to sit on this fiberglass hood and you’re going to listen to every word I have to say.
This place was never good for you.
I’m not talking about this dead world we find ourselves now, the sun setting behind the mesas and scrub grass. I’m talking about success. Fame. Fortune. It did you wrong. You were not the same man I met in college twenty years ago. I remember that man and his ambitions and desires and dreams. He put words to paper because he loved folding prose like an origami master loves tackling a virgin sheet of foil.
And where did he go when he retreated to his study after that first book deal? After the prose-folder became the novelist? A year after the first novel, you told me that it was pressure to come up with something just as good (better, even!) than your first book that drove you to the bottle. It wasn’t until after I took your name that you revealed that I was your problem. The anti-muse. That somehow I was a curse to your words. What possessed you to ask for my hand, then? What could you have been thinking?
Alex, you have to know that I would be anything for you. I didn’t just meet you in the middle, I always came all the way for you. I never wanted to sacrifice my ambitions and desires and dreams—but if that’s what it takes, hey.
This tobacco we got in Sedona is really wonderful. I’d offer you some, but your smoking days are over. Your drinking days are too for that matter, I guess. But you’d love this tobacco, I guarantee you, it has all your favorite flavors in the blend. I might have to get some more on the way back through town. A souvenir for tonight.
Do you remember our first date? It was before the champagne flutes and the Porsche roadsters and the anxiety of spending an evening with only ourselves as company. We met in a creative writing class and had to critique each other’s work. You hated my poetry, saying that you didn’t understand the imagery it was trying to convey. I said I hated your short story for essentially the same reason. I don’t even remember what it was about now; some sterile classwork that probably had something to do with a girl dying of cancer and meeting a boy too late in her life. You always loved that tripe and it showed in your work. You took emotion with your words too far, Alex, going past sappy and into manipulative.
Anyway, we spent almost an hour arguing the merits of our own work, trying to get the other to budge. The conversation even continued after class, and we warmed up to each other even when we refused to warm up to each other’s pieces. We got dinner that evening. And then for pretty much every evening after.
In case you don’t get it, what I’m trying to say is that I was always at odds with your stories. This wasn’t a new thing. And when you accused me of trying to sabotage your career a year ago, you had to know that you were crossing a line. You stormed through the elevator doors into our condo and—with those emotionally manipulative words you were so skilled at—laid waste to what was left of our marriage. I was at odds with your stories, but never at odds with you. I would never sabotage you.
I love you.
Listen, Alex. Listen to me. Who’s to blame? Who’s to blame for the way our marriage fell apart? Is there some confusion? I did everything you wanted me to do. Everything except love your stories.
… It’s almost sundown. I need to get going.
The walk back to town is going to be cold. You can just hang out here, if it’s all the same to you. Some local or passerby will find your body soon enough, though I’d hate to be here when they do. This bitch of a car is going to get pretty hot inside during the day. Your swollen purple corpse will be unrecognizable, I think. And the smell—Jesus—the smell. Still, they’ll be able to figure out who you are from your teeth. If they find you soon enough, they might even be able to get your ID from your wallet before it breaks down in the slurry as you decompose.
That really was some wonderful tobacco. I really need to get some more before I leave Sedona.
So think what you want, Alex. But just remember, if I wanted to sabotage your career, would I have murdered you? No! Think of the sales! Everyone loves a dead artist. Your signed books are going to quadruple in value on eBay. You should be thanking me for putting a bullet under your chin. This is the best career move you’ve ever made.
So, who’s to blame?
|# ? Apr 10, 2016 20:36|
Disturbance at the Heron House
“Ready for your first day in the salt mines?” The brown-haired woman asked as she handed me a cup of warm, but not hot, coffee.
“I hope so,” I smiled and took it. It tasted terrible, but then almost everything on this moon did.
She took her seat in the small circle of strangers that I’d been invited into almost as soon as I’d walked into the small diner cum cafe.
“It’s not salt, it’s ore.” One of the men rubbed a hand over his face.
“And it’s too early to be so loving pedantic.” Another woman elbowed him in the ribs.
He smiled wearily and drained his coffee. “Anyone need a refill?” He asked as he stood. A few hands went up and he walked over to the small counter at the back of the place.
I’d only been on the moon for a week, and figured going to the same dingy cafe everyone else did before the early morning shift at the ore-processing plant was as good a place as any to meet people. The rest of the patrons were bundled up and bleary-eyed, drinking tepid coffee in small groups like this one. The second sun hadn’t risen yet but the place was packed.
“Sorry about Mr. I-got-an-engineering-degree-downwell. I’m Toma, by the way.” The woman who’d elbowed him reached across the table to shake my hand.
I took it gladly. “Sam. Nice to meet you all.”
The rest introduced themselves. From what I gathered they were all friends, or at the very least co-workers at the plant.
“You don’t seem local,” a man named Vitya said, “Sam isn’t a very common name around here.”
“I’m new in town.” I said before taking a sip of my coffee.
Vitya was about to speak again when Toma cut him off. “You’re from Pallas, aren’t you?”
I didn’t respond but after a moment she nodded, convinced by my lack of a response.
“What the hell did you come here for?”
Things between Pallas and Medusa, the larger of its two moons, were less than ideal. The planet had been fully terraformed for nearly a century while the moon’s colonies were barely on their feet, and the Commonwealth-mandated shipments upwell were expensive enough that Palladians were starting to complain, citing their own infrastructure issues. The recent unrest in the outer-belt mining operations wasn’t helping matters either.
“Are you a criminal?” The brown-haired woman, Sindiwe was staring at me, far too excited at the prospect.
“No, but I might have been if I’d stayed. Things aren’t as great down there as people here seem to think.” I looked back to Toma. “How could you tell?”
She folded her arms and sat back in her chair. “You drink your coffee like Ed does. He says he picked it up while he was in school downwell.”
I fumbled the cup in my hands before setting it down on the table. I didn’t even want to touch it if something so simple gave me away.
“What the hell?” Vitya said, half-standing as he turned toward the back counter.
I followed his gaze and saw Louis and a crush of other patrons in a heated debate, several gesturing toward the restaurant’s small radio. A server finally went over and turned the volume up. A wave of silence fell over the cafe starting at the counter until we could hear the radio despite being on the opposite end of the room.
“Everest-Moore has been assassinated, according to an official statement from the Commonwealth High Council. Further trade agreements between Pallas and its dependent moon Medusa will be delayed. A spokesperson from the Council went on to say–”
“Is this a joke?” Sindiwe whispered.
Toma shook her head slightly and turned toward the window, frowning. “No.”
People were spilling into the square that had been nearly empty just a few minutes before. There was no real direction to their movement and patrons from the bar began leaving to join the growing crowd outside.
Louis had made his way back to the table, coffees entirely forgotten. “Did you hear that?” He said, breathless. “That Duke who was supposed to be heading up the trade talks. Shot right in the middle of the Palace of Light.”
“He deserves it, the bastard.” Toma was glaring at the window now.
I knew who Duke Everest-Moore was, of course. He was one of the elected officials for my Charter, on top of being titled. A few years ago he’d married a Medusan woman named Collette in what was supposed to be an act of solidarity with the moon, but people on both sides saw it as pandering, and at worst, traitorous.
“We should leave,” Vitya was shifting from foot to foot, nervously watching through the window as the restaurant emptied.
The noise of the crowd outside was rising, movement growing more chaotic. It looked light fights were starting to break out in pockets.
“I think we’re better off staying in here.” Toma said, finally getting up to take a few steps away from the window.
Louis was about to speak when something — probably a cobble from the square outside — crashed through the window, sending glass shards skittering across the table and floor of the cafe.
We all jumped back just as a press of people followed the rock and fell through the shattered window.
There were fists and blood everywhere. I nearly fell as someone grabbed the back of my coat, pulling me away from the window and deeper into the cafe. I turned, ready to defend myself from someone who I imagined had seen me holding my coffee the wrong way. But it was Sindiwe, dragging me to the back counter where the rest of the group was already taking shelter.
She pushed me behind the counter and into a puddle of spilled coffee.
“This is a riot.” Louis said flatly. He was already sitting, his knees drawn up to his chest.
“Just keep low. We don’t wanna be out there when the Militsiya shows up.” Toma sat down next to him, Vitya and Sindiwe crowded in behind her.
We jumped as another window shattered, but the mob didn’t seem to press in much farther other than a single looter who took a few half-empty bottles of liquor from behind the counter as we watched her.
The Militsiya did show up, much sooner than expected. Gunfire cracked through the square for several minutes until the noise of the crowd had died down almost completely.
Even then, we stayed behind the counter for about half an hour until Sindiwe finally poked her head around the counter.
“Everyone’s gone,” she relayed to us, “just a few-” she paused and took a breath, “injured people outside on the ground.”
Toma was the first to stand. “Yeah, it’s over.” She looked down at me with a dry smile and offered a hand to help me up. “Welcome to Medusa.”
|# ? Apr 10, 2016 22:16|
Pulse. Pulse. Pulse. Pulse. The bass thumped through Sophia like a hydraulic hammer. She’d taken out her hearing aids and this, free of the distraction of higher-frequency noise and lyrical screaming, this was purity. Lights strobed, sweating people bobbed and gyrated, and the deep hum and pulse of the music submerged everything.
She resurfaced when someone grabbed her shoulder. Oh yes – him. He’d latched onto her pretty fast after she came in alone. Cute and clueless. She grinned at him as she whipped her hair to and fro.
Drink? He mimed.
Thumbs up: yeah, sure. Why not. They were the same, here in the club. Mimes, mouthing like goldfish.
As he weaved away, she found herself watching the other group again. A perfect circle of bodies turned inwards amidst the writhing mass at the edge of the dance floor. They danced like grass, swaying to the music, but their hands performed a different dance. Less rhythmic, more purposeful. She felt drawn to it.
They’re like me, aren’t they? They get it. We’re all defective together. She glanced over to the bar, where her gallant was failing to make himself understood. Frustration already? You’d need more patience than that, my dear. And a beard trim, so I can see your pretty lips make the words. Demanding, aren’t I?
She edged through the crowd towards the group. Hands fluttered incomprehensibly – person by person, rarely two at once. Effortless understanding. Laughter.
A couple of them glanced at her as she approached. She smiled, hovered, watched. A girl flashed a few signs to a boy facing away from her. He turned, his prepared look of irritation softening when he saw her. It helped to be beautiful, sometimes.
Can I help you? he mouthed. He was quite good-looking.
She shrugged. Deaf, she said. Pointed at her ear, then at her lips and his. Lip reader.
He looked puzzled, then spread his hands. OK. He turned back to the group, but shifted to the side, so there was room for her to join if she wanted. She stepped into the gap.
It was hopeless. They carried on chatting as if she weren’t there, and lip reading alone couldn’t cut it – they spoke with a strange exaggerated sort of accent. Occasionally the boy who’d let her in tried to include her, but she was lost and could only smile and nod or shrug. One of the girls kept giving her sympathetic looks. She couldn’t tell if they were genuine or not.
Eventually she caught sight of her cocktail-laden suitor scanning the crowd for her. She left the group without a farewell.
Before she reached him, someone caught her elbow. The boy who’d let her in – and then ignored her – gave her a chagrined sorry.
He really was quite good-looking.
There were communication issues, but less than Sophia had feared. His accent wasn’t bad. He was bilingual, he explained. Sign language syntax wasn’t much like English – a revelation to her – but he’d grown up knowing both. He started to teach her to sign.
Hello. Goodbye. Wednesday. How are you? Your name what? My name S – O – P – H – I – A. My name J – O – N – A – T – H – A – N. You how old? You want food? Cute cat. My cat name Charcoal. I like. Sign K – I – S – S how? Kiss. Kiss me.
I like you.
“I always wondered what it would be like to date someone else who was deaf. Being understanding and really understanding aren’t the same thing.”
He nodded. “Hearing people are dumb.”
“I wouldn’t go that far. I mean, we lack something most people have. We’re deficient. Not being able to understand because you don’t have the same experiences isn’t dumb, it’s just... human.”
No. He’d been watching her lips. Now he looked aside, finding words. “We’re not deficient. We’re just our own kind of person. Not better or worse. They talk with sound.” We talk with sign.
“I can’t hear or sign.” I can’t hear or sign.
“You’re learning fast.” You’re learning fast.
“But I’ll never be a natural at it like you. I’ll just be deficient in both.”
His look of sympathy hurt. “When you’ve barely heard a sound in your life it’s just part of your being. The Deaf community is its own culture, as much as the... Sikh or Chinese communities. Why feel you’re missing something when you’re no different from everyone you interact with?”
Then he grinned. “You have plenty of assets to make up for it.” The accompanying sign was unmistakable. She rolled her eyes, but accepted the kiss and all that followed.
The music blanketed everything. The same group was there – maybe a couple more. The circle parted smoothly to accommodate them. This time she could understand them – sometimes. She watched the expressions, caught some signs. She essayed a couple of slow sentences herself, earning neither praise nor contempt. Acceptance?
Occasionally people broke away to dance in pairs. Jonathan danced with her. Then another girl seized his hand and he followed with an apologetic glance. The others ignored her. She stuck it out for a while and then looked around. There was no sign of him.
She found them settled on a couch in the corner. Not kissing – talking. She watched from a distance. She could tell the signs for big-D Deaf and small-d deaf and was beginning to understand what the difference meant. She’s not one of us, the girl was saying. K loves you. Earnest. Jonathan looked uncomfortable. The music eddied around them.
I’m not one of you, am I? I thought deafness was a shared illness, but I’m the only one missing something. And I’ll never have it.
She took her hearing aids out. The raucous music faded to the steady grind and pulse of the bass.
But this experience - this peace is my own and no-one else’s.
The music covered everything. She let it thrum through her and whipped her hair to the rhythm. When Jonathan came to her, she held his hands and they thrashed and gyred together.
|# ? Apr 10, 2016 23:11|
Four and a half hours remaining! Get those sweet, sweet stories in to entertain my eyes
|# ? Apr 10, 2016 23:21|
Ain’t No Girl Like Me (1127 words) The Wrong Child
I haven’t said a word to her, but everything feels alright when I stand next to Annie. The music is oppressive, the chords jarring, and Zach’s voice stings in the ear. It’s too loud to talk over.
Rat Hole is the sort of venue you can judge entirely by its name. I’m leaning beneath graffiti and we’re arm’s length away between two disparate sofas. My thigh is against the corduroy one with a torn up cushion, it’s orange and out of place even here. Annie’s next to a sleek leather one, brand new, but it smells a little off; I don’t know where they got it, some rich person probably dumped it on the street. The light above me flickers, signaling imminent demise, but I admire its refusal to go out.
When I was a kid, I’d look outside my window and watch Zach and his now bandmates play at the swings. They teased me because of my short hair and they left me bruised and sometimes bloodied, but it was the names they called me that hurt the most. When I told Mom, she said I should be like the other girls. On those days, I’d bury my face into my pillow and cried until it was damp.
Their set ends and Annie walks up to them, converging with my neighbors-turned-bandmates. She’s loud and animated, her hands moving like leaves on a windy day. She’s made posters for them, brought them cold sodas, and almost-danced to their music in my cul-de-sac. She’s naïve to their nature and it makes me want to sing until my lungs deflate.
Annie begins to leave and the band follows. Zach glares at me. The back-turned welcome sign flaps as they slam the door.
I sit on the leather couch, close one eye, and look into my near-empty beer bottle and ride out my buzz. My set is next.
When I sing, I feel as if everyone looks right through me.
I’m minding my own business in the chip aisle of the 7-Eleven. There’s a Twix bar, alone and discarded. I pick it up. I didn’t want chips anyway. I cough into my hand and eye the lozenges, but I walk right by them.
Zach walks through the door. Even from behind the aisle I can tell it’s him from his meticulous hair. I walk opposite of him until I get to the counter. I pay for the Twix and just as I turn to leave I feel a tap on my shoulder.
The finger is so heavy I swear my boots sink into the floor. My head whips around instinctively, a natural reflex I despise. I look up into Zach’s eyes and he downwardly returns the favor. I step back and slip out. The night is illuminated only through glass windows. The rest of the band is here, all three of them. They’re skyscrapers and their eyes are exit signs the size of billboards.
“Weirdo,” says Ryan.
“Queer,” says Andre.
“Queerdo,” says Zach from behind. His voice like a knife tickling at my neck.
“Leave me the gently caress alone,” I say. My throat is still sore.
Zach shoves my shoulder as he walks by me, causing me to drop my Twix. They get in the car and hit the high beams into my face and I barely hear them laugh underneath the revving of the engine. They’re gone.
I pick up my dropped Twix and rip the wrapper. One of the bars inside is broken.
Mom said I was wrong. Not because I lied, but rather she really wished I had. Our argument ended when I slammed the front door and tossed on my bomber jacket.
It’s that calm sort of autumn night where the trees whisper at the hint of breeze and the leaves crackle at faint suggestions. It’s rudely interrupted by guitar wailing from Zach’s garage. As I walk to 7-Eleven I see Annie hanging out with them again.
I turn. I stop. The band stops.
“Hey loser, where’s your ticket?” says Zach.
“Where’s yours? Noise pollution is a fineable offense”, I say.
“I’d say ‘gently caress you’ to that but I ain’t no girl,” says Zach.
I look at Annie and smile.
“I wouldn’t even if you were,” I say to Zach. “Hey. I got a proposal for you. Lemme try out for your band, backup singer. It’ll be fun.”
I mean really, what’s another trip to the emergency room?
Zach and friends place their aural assault weapons down. Annie leans against a wooden picket fence and her eyes skirt between me and Zach.
I inhale as I walk into familiar chaos. The air is crisp and smells of smoke and cider.
The next few minutes are a blur. A series of photographs ingrained in my head forever. Every time I blink there’s a fist or an elbow. Their faces become one and many, twisted caricatures of teeth and eyes dancing between mocking and madness. There are fingers on my skull and they’re heavier than ever before. Zach’s fingernails pierce my scalp and I squirm.
But it stops when Annie screams profanity from her gut and through the filter of her soul. Her finger is a dagger-like, she points it accusatorily at Zach and the band.
I’ve got a bloodied nose and a twisted ankle and my heart is on fire and I cry and I cry and I cry not because my face hurts but because I’m in goddamn love.
A soft hand wraps around my wrist. She lifts me up. I wrap my arm around her shoulder as I beam bloody. I can’t wait for mom to argue with the insurance company about this one.
Annie brings out two cans of Sprite from her kitchen and sits next to me on her comfortable beige sofa. She presses blotched up paper towels against my face and asks me how long they’ve been like that. I tell her all but the words they call me, and why my mom wishes I wasn’t an only child. We talk about music, coffee, and life. She laughs and promises never to hang out with Zach again. I’m so happy that I sing her a song with my rattled voice, and when I do, I feel as if she looks right through me. I think she knows something. I have to say it.
For a minute it’s like we’re alone in the universe until the crickets decide to wake up.
The words spill out of me wet and weepy. She puts her palm on my knuckles and takes in a deep breath.
It doesn’t hurt when Annie says, in that one way, she doesn’t like me.
But what really matters is she still does.
|# ? Apr 10, 2016 23:41|
The Beat That's In Every Blast
flerp fucked around with this message at 00:42 on May 30, 2016
|# ? Apr 11, 2016 00:08|
"Pappa, could tell me a story?" Gerald, Jerry to his fellow kindergartners, turned from the window of their Greyhound toward Pap.
Jerry was Pappa's favorite. The boy showed a preternatural compassion and the captain wouldn't be around forever.
"How about a story about birds?"
Jerry wrinkled his nose, but Pap continued.
"Once, Jerry, there were two kingdoms of birds. They fought with their claws and beaks whenever they met and the stakes were very high." Pap said this while looking into the back of the seat ahead of him, but now he turned to Jerry.
Jerry nodded, then Pap wove an allegory of the kind that only doting grandfathers can.
Captain Gerald Murphy planted a foot on his B-17 baby's wheel, all chocked, and watched his men load the bird. Adolf was on the run and his boys had been commanded someplace real specific. An industrial town called Dresden, a hundred and twenty-plus unspoiled factories right inside the Nazi armpit.
Stein, his executive officer, called to him from across the airfield: "Cap! Am I hearing right? A hundred fifty factories packed with Nazis, softened up by the Brits, all their backup down to Berlin, and not a mom or baby in the bunch?"
Murphy had no idea at all, especially about the last point. "Yeah." Then, louder, "and the faster our boys load, the sooner we can go!" The captain punctuated the statement and ended the conversation by ashing his smoke on the tarmac. That was the standard line. His men loaded heavy munitions as the Captain thought about his perfect operation.
Pap had paused at this point in his allegory. Jerry spoke up, seeing an opening. "So, some of the birds were ready to attack a nest?" Pap almost spoke up in his own defense before righting himself. Just a story. "Well, Jerry, not a nest. More like a place where birds learn to fly." Jerry spoke up after a moment. "Pap, you can't learn to fly alone. Mom doesn't let me go past the end of the street alone."
The boy wanted desperately to wrap his head around this yarn of his grandfather's. Pap had taken most of his life after the ink was dry in 1945 to piece together his emotions and choices at Dresden.
"Let me tell you some more about the birds, Jerry. Maybe then, you'll understand."
Captain Murphy's beautiful B-17, Frieda, took a hard right onto the runway in mid-March, 1945. A babe modelled after Bombardier Stein's wife, a pinup in a red bikini dancing with grey wings let everyone know just who was taking off.
Murphy's hackles were up: the British had laid into the town the day before but only lost three aircraft. The reports had bled in that the downed bombers had been hit by bombs dropping from higher-flying allies. That wasn't the approach, ratio, or result from an industrial center.
Frieda coasted toward Dresden as Murphy tensed. His tags thumped against his chest with each lift and drop. He could only see a horizon of fire without a single eruption of bullets from below. Any air raid siren with power was beseeching the inhabitants of the ruin to hit the ground.
Through the cockpit window, it wasn't right. The buildings burning were homes, rowhouses and cottages, all ash and cinder. There were a few factories, sure, but the blurs scurrying on the ground weren't uniformed. They had bright dresses and crisp white schoolboy shirts. Stein looked to him and Captain Murphy responded in a tone that didn't brook questions.
"Stein, prepare the bays and the boys. We're bombing."
His speech was broken momentarily by Jerry. "The big birds saw little ones on the ground? They wanted to eat them?"
Pap had become lost in his allegory, his memory of lighting Dresden aflame and roasting chicks and hens burning in his cheeks. "Jerry, you're right. Something was wrong."
He brought Jerry in close. "Don't tell your mom", he began, "but I learned that someone telling you to do something isn't always a good reason to do it."
Jerry thought on this point with as much intensity as Pap, Captain Murphy, had convinced himself at the time of the purity of following orders.
"Let's see. I think our hero bird had just made a very dangerous decision."
The skies over the city went dark with a cloud of wings. Stein stared into Captain Murphy as he called an order over the aircraft PA: "Boys, open all bays and commence." His eyes could track the first bomb in a flurry from his own craft, though it sooned joined a wave of others.
The munitions turned the air over a residential block into pure heat. As he passed over an ancient clock tower, the blazing miasma touched down. He saw the schoolboys simply vanish.
Any industrial town, any war engine needed homes and lives and people. The blunt realization and its obviousness hit Captain Murphy all at once in the wake of Frieda's bombs. Their bomber wheeled slowly over the city, dispensing the rest of its payload under orders from her captain. Stein, the only other man with enough rank to pause and be shocked, was motionless.
They hadn't brushed a single factory, by Murphy's count. Their bombing path was scheduled over homes, families, schools, parks, and every in-between that makes up life in a city. This couldn't even be called collateral damage, as it was in past missions; he couldn't grasp a technical term for what he and the Frieda had just done.
Stein piloted back to base over a roasted husk of humanity.
"I don't understand, Pap. The good birds wanted to make sure the bad ones couldn't hurt."
Captain Murphy smiled as his grandson realized what had taken him twenty-odd years of piloting.
"And what we talked about doesn't sound like a very fine way to do that, does it?"
He couldn't gift the boy the knowledge in his old soldier's heart; he couldn't bring him into the fold. He could teach him lessons, though. Lessons he'd need after Cap Pap was long gone.
"I think we'd just had one of our heroes notice that the 'evil enemy' his flock had been pecking and clawing were just babies." Before Jerry could interject, Pap continued. "When that leader bird came back to the nest, he had a lot of thinking to do. He thought about living and how an uncontrolled blaze would eat it all."
Jerry kept silent. Pap's grandson was usually full of questions, until he peaked on understanding.
That was an awful lot of lessons in a short amount of time. Jerry thought while looking out the window for the rest of the ride.
Pap sat back, closed his eyes, and felt his dogtags thump on his chest with every bump in the asphalt.
|# ? Apr 11, 2016 01:16|
Men Over Mission
E-Bow The Letter
Edited for posterity. Seek it in the Archive.
docbeard fucked around with this message at 17:29 on Jan 2, 2017
|# ? Apr 11, 2016 02:47|
Miracle - 921 words
Song - New Test Leper
If there ever was a such thing as a miracle, Ezra has never seen it. But he figures he could sure use one right now. He is not a very religious man, but he’s always believed that a true miracle comes at the time of greatest need.
Ash falls like snow and blankets the pockmarked field. A battle was fought here. Could be a thousand years ago. Could be last night. Impossible to tell with the ash. Ezra marvels at the total efficiency and capability with which people can obliterate others.
The sky is on fire. As far as Ezra can see. He coughs. The ash has already taken hold of his lungs. Swirls of blood marble his sputum.
Each painful step brings Ezra closer to his miracle. He knows the Walled City is ahead of him as long as he can persevere. If he can make it there, if he can make it past its guardians and inside its gate, he can survive.
He looks back as sees that every footprint he leaves in the white ash is the rust of blood.
Rust, he thinks, is the chemical reaction of corrosive oxygen slowly infiltrating and destroying a mineral. He knows that what is happening to him is something akin to rust. Particles he can’t see are invading his body, getting into his very cells and changing their chemical makeup. The result is killing him from the inside out. His skin is cracked and sloughs off in places. He can only imagine what is happening internally.
He passes through a ruined city. Once he knew its name. Some pieces of Ezra’s memory are empty. He has trouble remembering what things are called. He comforts himself by asking if something can retain its name when it’s been changed so utterly from what it once was? Maybe he cannot recall names of things which have no names to recall.
He needs sustenance. It has been a long time since his last drink and longer still since his last bite. While there are pockets of water to be found hiding in pipes and puddles, Ezra knows better than to trust food and water in the wild. Water out here will not slake his thirst, but bring him closer to death.
Ezra collapses against a few standing bricks, the sad memorial of what once was a building’s outer wall. He coughs until he is hoarse and his vision grows thin at the edges.
Ezra wakes next to a warm light. Three grotesque figures loom over him. It takes Ezra a moment to recognize the tubes and protrusions of a breathing apparatus and the heavy folds of a hazard suit.
“It seems we found you just in time, brother,” One of the figures says. He introduces himself as Nehemiah. The other two figures remain silent and nameless.
Nehemiah tosses Ezra a bottle of water. Ezra breaks the seal and drinks deeply. He tries to conserve it, but the water is gone in moments.
“Where are you from, friend?” Nehemiah asks.
Ezra talks of his town. The words gush out of him. Details that were mundane and forgotten next to ones that he holds close to his heart.
“I’ve watched my crops wither and die before my eyes. I’ve watched my cattle cry out in pain, then cry out no more.” This is a sample of what Ezra says.
And Nehemiah listens to it all. “You’ve come a long way. You are fortunate we came across you when we did.”
He’s quiet for a long moment. Erza doesn’t know what to make of this. Then Nehemiah says, “We head to the Walled City. Will you travel with us a while?”
Now Ezra recognizes that Nehemiah and his cohorts. He knows them to be dangerous men. They are the guardians of the Walled City and their mandate is to protect its borders from all who would try to enter.
Ezra knows his miracle has not come.
Nehemiah reads this in Ezra. “Many people try to enter the Walled City. They bring with them disease and pestilence and decay. We cannot allow those who have been corrupted by the world to enter paradise.”
Ezra feels anger grow within him. He is just a simple man, he thinks. He inherited this world, was born into it. Did not choose it. When the world dies, he dies with it. He doesn’t see the justice in that.
Ezra registers it when the man to Nehemiah’s left grabs him, but he doesn’t react. Not at first. The anger grows within him.
He thinks of what he has lost. He thinks of his family, their faces already lost to time. He mourns for the things he can remember and the things he has forgotten. He looks at his hands as they ball into bloody fists.
Nehemiah watches in shock as Ezra beats the silent man. Frozen by the sheer audacity. Never before has he seen a man so close to death move like that. He’s almost impressed by the violence. When he gathers his wits, it is too late to stop Ezra.
He looks at the men to his feet and he knows the change within him is complete. The rot of the world that had invaded his cells had mutated him into something else. He tries to remember the name of the dead man, but it’s just another hole in his memory.
He pulls a hazard suit on over his clothes. He cannot continue to trust in miracles. He must make his own way.
|# ? Apr 11, 2016 02:48|
The Free Radical
When the gunshots started ringing out, Dominic got out of the car, blatantly ignoring the Captain’s orders to stay out of trouble. He turned a knob on his wrist-mounted computer, LECTRO, and the readings from the warehouse electronics filled his conscience. The idle hum of a garage door. The nervous buzzing of an alarm system, signals running through the warehouse like ants racing up and down his spine. The faint impulses of racing hearts, beating against his chest like they were his own.
And something else. Raw, furious energy. It tasted off. Too… rich. An empty warehouse didn’t taste like that. It was too much.
He twiddled with LECTRO’s controls as he moved closer to the garage door. The control box’s charge prickled on his tongue. As a kid he’d taken singing lessons, learned how to shift his resonance to different parts of his body. It was mostly a mental thing. His gift worked similarly. It was a ghost muscle, reaching out of his mind and folding ions into place.
The electric flow in the control box shifted. The garage door screeched open.
Might as well have smashed the car into it.
The men that came out hid their guns well. They were hard to see from around the corner, but they wore the black and blue ribbons of NWO troopers on their sleeves.
Something else came out with them. Dominic’s senses were flooded by a new reading. Supercharged. Chaos. A haystack of buzzing ions. Pollution. Magnetism. LECTRO’s readings oscillated off the screen in multiple directions. It was raw impact. It was a mouthful of salt. It punched him in the face and pushed him underwater. He took deep breaths, and adjusted his wrist module’s setting until he could think clear again.
The doomsday device. They’d been looking for it ever since the rumors had first come up.
Okay, the Guardians had been looking for it. Dominic just rode along. They wouldn’t have him, but they also wouldn’t let him run loose. He had powers. They just didn’t trust him with them.
He slipped round back, running his fingers along the building, reaching into the alarm system, a complicated tangle of currents and dependencies. Sorting through a spider’s web. He pushed against the current, rerouted, searched and then he found the alarm box at the back end of the warehouse, and he told it to hush, and be quiet. He opened the door.
Waves of static washed over him. The device was close by. Primed. Ready. Surging, surging. Devouring. Hungry. About to erupt. Dominic had to recover from the impact. Catch his breath. It was ready. If it really was the doomsday device… he had to find the Captain.
The ringing in his hears subsided. There were faint voices, and he followed them into the main hall, where the Captain stood in an open space littered with cables, radios, consoles, still alive, hands raised, surrounded by maybe seven soldiers.
Dominic felt silly. The Captain had this well under control.
He was talking to one of the soldiers, a man with an informal posture that made him seem important. “We have already hacked into the device,” the Captain said, and the man laughed. Because the device couldn’t be hacked. That’s what the Captain was doing: find out just how the device worked, and how it could be deactivated.
There was nothing Dominic could do here. Maybe he could take another look at the device instead. He moved through the shadows, and got caught in the wiring. He didn’t trip. But his movement was just quick and loud enough for guns and flashlights to turn his way.
Many things happened at once: the NWO commander shouted something; the Captain began to move; soldiers crooked their fingers; and Dominic pulled on the charge in his wristband computer.
The hair on his head stood up like it was trying to leave his body, just out, anywhere. Without thinking, he willed LECTRO’s charge into shape, inversed it, re-inversed it, ad nauseum, like fluttering his eyelashes, but faster, faster, until the magnetism exploded outwards, until it could be folded, blown up, a ghost bubble forming around him, and then the guns went off and the room drowned in sound and lightning and the cries of guns and men and deflected bullets going haywire, and time was gone, and it might have been seconds or minutes or hours or days, but he held on, grit his teeth and held on to the bubble, because the guns couldn’t hurt him here.
Something slammed into him.
Outside his forcefield, the warehouse air felt fresh. The Captain took a cursory glance at him and then moved back into the room. Dead men lay on the floor all around, riddled with bullets, and some still only dying, gurgling, drowning on their own blood.
“How do we turn it off?” the Captain asked. He got no reply.
“Captain, are you hurt?” Dominic said.
“We have to call the other Guardians,” the Captain said over his shoulder.
“I’m sorry. I think I screwed up.”
“You tried to help.” It didn’t sound very sincere, but then the Captain probably had other things on his mind.
“I don’t know if there’s enough time. I’ve been back there. It’s hard to describe, but it feels… ready. Done.”
“All the same.”
Never had Dominic felt so useless. He overlooked the carnage he’d created. There would not be enough time to stop the device. There just wouldn’t.
He waited until the Captain had left for the car.
The energy trail led all the way to the back of the building. There was a lead box, static charge pushing against its doors from within like a caged monster. Dominic forced the magnetic doors open, and light and noise and pain flooded into him.
He locked the door from within.
The doomsday device was a nondescript iron block, about as tall and wide as multiple book shelves next to each other. The static load was so thick that every hair on his body tried to pierce through his clothes. It was like rain, pattering against the inside of his head, a constant barrage of signals, information, noise. He tried to adjust LECTRO. It took him a while to realize that he was staring at a blown-out display.
Something slammed against the doors. The Captain tried to break through, yelling something fierce. But his voice didn't reach.
Dominic only had ears for the static now.
Truth was, he couldn’t handle this kind of load. He acknowledged that. But he could disturb it. At the very least he’d short-circuit the machine.
Beneath the surface, there was raw energy, wires full of want, veins, spines, information running up and down and left and right, setting states, saving, loading, adding and detracting, requesting, delivering. Dominic slipped his broken LECTRO off. He breathed in through his nostrils. There was a pattern in the rain. A tic-toc, a rise and fall of energy, a soft hum.
If he listened to it long enough, it made sense. Actually, it was music.
The Captain still tried to break down the door. Dominic turned around to salute.
He put both hands on the device.
|# ? Apr 11, 2016 03:01|
Mother in the Radio
"What's the Frequency, Kenneth?"
Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at 23:37 on May 12, 2016
|# ? Apr 11, 2016 03:06|
|# ? Jan 18, 2021 05:22|
Everybody says I have my father's eyes. It's true. And every time I look at them in the mirror I wish I had the guts to gouge them out.
“Peter?” says Gloria, shading her eyes from the streetlight to look in my direction. I'm standing in front of the 24-Hour Eagle, shut down for the night in defiance of name and signage both, a dark void instead of the usual gold-and-white neon glare.
“Here,” I say, guiding her to the side of the building, where I've set up the ladder.
“You know,” she says, climbing up those steps, “A month ago I wouldn't have been caught dead talking to you. It's funny, isn't it?”
“No, I guess not.”
I pull the ladder up when we're both on the roof. It's a cold, dry night. The stars burn down on us without glimmer or twinkle.
“It's not too late to change your mind,” I say.
“Do you know why I came to you?”
“Because you know I could do it?” I say. “Because it's in my blood?” When I was five years old, my father got laid off from his job, drove himself home, and murdered my sisters and brother, Mom managed to hide me before he got to her, and she somehow survived what he did when he couldn't find me. Everybody in town knows all about it. It's not the kind of thing that can be kept secret.
“No,” she says. “At least not just that. It's the other thing.” I look blankly at her. “Why you wear long sleeves even on the hottest days of summer.” I don't say anything. “Can I- can I see them?”
I roll up my left sleeve, revealing the parallel hesitation scars like blank sheet music for an unwritten waltz. She touches them, traces them with her finger.
“You know what it's like,” she says, “To want to, but not be able to.” Something else I share with dad, that excessive instinct for self-preservation. Most people who do the kind of thing he did kill themselves, or at least get the police to do it. Not him. He came in quietly and went to prison, where he was just the kind of monster the Aryans wanted. He's risen high in their ranks, I hear.
“It took a while, but I stopped,” I say. “It's only been a month since-”
“Nothing's going to change,” she says. Her hand moves from mine to my face. “If you want, we can, you know, have sex. Before, I mean.”
I pull back like a startled field mouse. “No,” I say, “I mean, I'm, I'm not, I don't-”
“It's okay,” she says. “I just thought.” She drops her hands to her side. “Wow, now you're the one afraid of me. It's almost funny. Or I guess it's not-”
“No,” I say. “It is.” I try to find a smile that doesn't have pain or sarcasm or predatory hunger directly underneath. I don't know if I succeed. We stand in silence for long minutes. “Are you ready?”
“Why do you think I'm doing this?” she asks.
“Most people would say you're grieving over your best friend's accident,” I say.
“Most people,” she says, “Not you, though.”
“After the way I spiraled out that first week most people were saying 'lover' rather than 'best friend'”
“But they were wrong,” I say.
“Wrong about everything. We were never that way, and that cow wasn't even my friend any more. I didn't give a drat about what happened to her- no, I was glad she died. Still am.”
“But the people in the other car,” I say.
She nods. “How long have you known?”
“Just since yesterday, after we talked,” I say. “And not known, just suspected. How did you do it?”
“Nothing fancy, just put a little E in her mineral water. Well, a lot.” She looks down at the rooftop. “I expected her to drive into a ditch or a tree, not-”
“You could confess-”
“What good would that do?” she says. “It wouldn't make it any easier to live with. Just put the families through everything again, and make mine have to live with knowing that...” She trails off. “Sorry-”
“It's okay,” I say. Things have been difficult between my mother and I since around when I turned fourteen, when I started to look so much like dad she couldn't look me in the face without flinching. I tried bleaching my hair white and dying it blue and cutting it all off, but nothing helped. It was the eyes, always the eyes.
“I'm,” she says, “I'm ready. If it looks like I've changed my mind, though-”
“I'll stop,” I say.
“No!” she says. “Don't stop. No matter what, don't stop.”
I nod. She lies down on the slick rooftop. I straddle her, put my hands around her throat, and squeeze.
I'd been looking for someone like Gloria for months, since I reached eighteen. Not someone so willing, I hadn't dared hope for that. But someone who deserved it, someone who just plain needed killing. I knew I needed to kill. Not from whatever genetic monstrosity I carry-well, not just from that. Mostly for my plan, the road map for the rest of my life.
I'm not going to get away with this. Even the incompetents running the police here will be able to put things together. I'll cover my tracks just enough to rule out an insanity plea. Dad's not in the kind of prison you can get into by shoplifting or bar fighting or jaywalking. The cover charge there is murder in the first. That's the plan. Get inside, get close, and then either get even or get dead. Dad's getting old. I might even have a chance.
“Thank you,” I whisper as Gloria's eyes stop screaming.
|# ? Apr 11, 2016 03:18|