gently caress, I've missed this bloodstained corner of the internet.
In with White Hole, because last time I was here I cowered out.
|# ? May 11, 2016 20:04|
|# ? Dec 3, 2021 10:23|
gently caress, I've missed this bloodstained corner of the internet.
Crime: Innocent convict and accuser
Crew Members: Endlessly patient mentor and arrogant protege
Religion: Agnostic and Unguite proselytizer
To punish them...and make sure she sees it happen
Intel/Sec: C9 Combat holo-training creche
Weapons: Stasis gun (do not fire the stasis gun)
Mayhem: An out-of-control rampage
|# ? May 11, 2016 20:27|
|# ? May 11, 2016 22:53|
Djeser fucked around with this message at 19:11 on Dec 31, 2016
|# ? May 12, 2016 00:12|
In, and i'll let you pick.
|# ? May 12, 2016 03:58|
In, and i'll let you pick.
Crime: “We just love setting fires. Don't we, honey?”
Community: Opera soloist and conductor
To get laid...with someone my relatives will have
Employees Only: Electrical closet-huge cables feed into giant, humming breakers. There is much more power available here than seems necessary.
Untoward: Glass jug of Vietnamese snake wine – a cobra floats inside
Mayhem: A frantic chase
|# ? May 12, 2016 04:14|
Crits for Week CLXXXV: In the Dark of the Night, Bad Stories Will Find You
Judging the first Music of the Night week taught me that true chills are a lot for which to ask. This time around only one person hit the bullseye, a couple of others were within the next ring, a few more landed somewhere on the target, and the rest sailed merrily into the wide blue sky, though almost everyone successfully integrated some element from his or her song.
The prompts had little to do with the round's most disappointing motif: copying plots from well-known classics. I don't know whether it's sadder that multiple people went that road or that they thought we wouldn't recognize a blurred clone of Poe or Shelley.
SurreptitiousMuffin, "The South Sea Shuffle"
Song: Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off"
Kai's Song Notes: Bubble-gum pop, upbeat and peppy, telling me "Life's gonna life!" with a cheerful shrug. It's "Hakuna Matata" without the animated meerkat.
Is the song incorporated? Absolutely. Along with the easy use of the title--Marnie shakes part of herself off, literally--I can spot all sorts of influences. Taylor Swift can't make dates stay; Marnie's doctor always disappears. Marnie never stops moving. The chorus's reference to "haters" and the fact it's Taylor Swift singing could have inspired the social-media celebrity angle, and those lines about people talking and fakers faking show up in the "fans" who won't shut up and are only too glad to watch her destruction.
Is it horror? The attempt is clear but not successful. The grossout goes so far over the top and around the bend that it buries everything in brainless, soulless squick.
You've pulled off squick horror before, several times, which only makes this all the more disappointing. It reads like you were having so much fun being gross that you just ladled on the cannibalism and rot and flatulence until you drowned the story in it. The hashtags are annoying and nothing else, though I'd rather read two dozen pointless hashtags than pretty much anything else you've written here. Would you believe I was the judge who liked this the most?
Two things raise this above the dregs, in my eyes: the sentence-level competence--your prose may be ruinously disgusting, but it's written well--and that it has something to say, drawing a clear parallel between this woman, whose need for attention drives her to consume and be consumed until she's screaming for help while her followers cheer, and modern pop-culture celebrities. There is a story, there is meaning, and the foundation is sound, yet it's by far the most unpleasant goddamn thing to read of the whole lot.
Making her a leper from the outset was possibly an error. If she'd been whole at the start and fallen into physical corruption and decay as we'd watched, her followers' lack of compassion might have had a sharper edge, the horror might have been heightened, and you would likely have had to employ the gore with more finesse. The lack of restraint more than anything else makes this entry a sizeable misfire.
CANNIBAL GIRLS, "Lingering Things"
Song: Tay Zonday's "Chocolate Rain"
Kai's Song Notes: I liked this until the repetition wore out its welcome. That happened after the first minute of five. At that point, my mind numbed by the unending-albeit-melodic drone, I consulted MetroLyrics to see what it was about : hopelessness, a narrow view of the world, and probably race relations. Easy fodder for horror, so the entrant will have no excuses.
Is the song incorporated? Technically. Every element beyond the title that appears (a baby, radio) could be coincidental. The title was the absolute worst thing to use; chocolate rain isn't frightening, and chocolate rain as an unexplained monster-creating mutagen... yeah, no.
Is it horror? It tries, but it's too mismatched and laden with monkeycheese to reach the level of even a bad Twilight Zone episode. The radio station that can't actually exist is wonderful. Everything else is disastrous.
It's like you tossed pieces from several different stories into a box, shook the box, then threw the ungainly amalgam in front of us and called it an entry. The crux is that a woman goes to a small town and gets caught out in evil rain that smells like a Hershey's factory and turns people into monsters because sure why not. That wackiness (unintentional, I figure, as there's no suggestion you were trying for humor-horror) is further burdened by the subplot about marital tension between Miranda and her husband, a DJ who doesn't make enough money to support a family. Miranda's reason for going to Chocolate Rain Town is therefore to rob a bank with a hammer in a sock. Too many words are spent on these subplots given that neither is resolved! Miranda still needs money at the end and Liam is still a DJ; these things have ceased to matter, that's all. The problem is, they never did.
I would guess the whole marriage, baby, robbery thing is meant to make Miranda a character instead of a prop to be moved through a schlock horror scenario. The instinct is good. What I would like to see is characterization that connects somehow to the chocolate rain attack. Neither being poor nor being mad at Liam has anything to do with how she acts when the bug monster comes, so none of your buildup is relevant to the story's climax, and it ultimately serves a negative purpose--though Miranda's marriage is more interesting than the bug thing.
Suggestion for revision: Keep the marriage drama; drop the robbery. Maybe Miranda is driving to some random town to get away from Liam for a while after another money argument, or maybe she's on the road to her parents' house. The strange rain could work if you stripped out the chocolate smell, so do that. Have the rain transform people into something less disconnected from humanity than bugs. It could melt their flesh or rearrange their bones so they become sickening, shambling shapes that just look wrong, as one idea. Focus on Miranda's fear for her child (and focus on the pregnancy from the beginning), then end on her tuning in to Liam's station to hear his voice as the fetus starts kicking too soon. Miranda's feelings about her husband and her baby make for a stronger punch than bug things out of nowhere. You can capitalize on them while still telling a good old monster tale.
You screw up the tense a few times, mostly by using the past perfect even though the story is told in the present tense. (You'll usually want to use the past tense for past events in a present-tense piece; for instance, "She’d asked him as delicately as she could" should have been "She asked him as delicately as she could," or possibly "She's asked him as delicately as she can" if you want to imply that she makes the request often.) Other times the tense is flat inconsistent, such as in "Her cubicle slave wage doesn’t provide much, but it paid more" etc.
Last and probably least, the progress reports on Miranda's button pressing go on way too long.
QuoProQuid, "A Stop Along Briarwood Way"
Song: Lady Gaga's "Poker Face"
Kai's Song Notes: I know this one! I like this one! Themes: gambling, deceit, manipulation, (rough) love, predatory sexuality. Another soft pitch; there's plenty of dark potential to exploit.
Is the song incorporated? Not really. You could stretch with all your might and argue that Toby gambles by looking under Jenna's car. You could say he fears being manipulated and deceived; he isn't, though. Even the creature wearing Henry's skin is doing it so badly that I wouldn't call it a lie.
Is it horror? Yes! There's more tension and chill here than in almost anything else this week, which makes it a favorite of mine.
More competent than groundbreaking, disappointing in its monster-out-of-nowhere climax, this is still an honest-to-God horror story with strong atmosphere and good descriptive details. Toby's building unease as the situation gets more and more unsettling kept me glued to the screen on my first read and has remained good on every read since. It's a cool turn that Jenna is in fact what she appears to be. The slow ramp-up and rushing climax would more likely be weaknesses in another genre, but tension is this story's treasure, and ratcheting it up inch by inch was the right move.
The down side is that there isn't even a hint of explanation for what's in Henry or why. He hit an alien with his car, I guess? And the alien ate him without Jenna seeing it somehow? Then it teleported, in his corpse, into the woods? It's all eerie, but it doesn't bear thought. That's a pitfall with this sort of horror. It's difficult to make the reality live up to the fear, as Stephen King has proven only too many times.
spectres of autism, "Analogues"
Song: The Weeknd's "Can't Feel My Face"
Kai's Song Notes: Almost a horror story already. I could imagine from the lyrics that the singer's lady-love is a vampire, but it would be enough for her to be destructive and potentially murderous (depending on how you read that "forever young" line). Themes: numbness, death, dread, embrace of that which harms and kills, love that destroys.
Is the song incorporated? The acceptance of something that could ultimately destroy the self is integral, so that's a yes.
Is it horror? No. Not even close. It's all drug use and corporate conspiracy. If it pulled off what it's trying to do it would be a strange thriller, perhaps, but there are no chills to be had.
I ought to summarize the story as I understand it, because there's every chance I'm not putting it together correctly. Gail, a male music critic, is concerned when a musician friend decides to go off a drug that has evidently infested the music industry. He's sure that getting clean is ruining Theron's music and tries to convince his boss of this. The boss, Washler, resists. Theron dropping the drug doesn't appear to bother him any. But Gail is determined to prove that quitting Wish is detrimental, and that does worry Washler, because if Gail writes about Wish being good for the brain then... uh... people might want to stay on Wish and that would be bad? Gail goes home and does some drugs and there's a quantum djinn in his head with whom he has an annoying conversation without benefit of quotation marks, italics, or any other visual indicators. The djinn shows fondness for Gail and panics at the thought of Gail's rejection, at which point some men in black burst in and grab Gail's arms. Cut to Washler's office, where Gail assures Washler that dropping Wish has had no negative effect on Theron at all. He seems to have become an automaton. Washler has a heavy-handed thought about "entities taking over everything" and plots to rebel as soon as he has more drug cigars.
I don't care for this a jot, I'm afraid.
It doesn't make a lot of sense. Going off the drug is bad! It means a break with the music industry! No, going off the drug is good! The music industry wants Theron off the drug! The drug makes decisions for you! It fights with your own thoughts! But quitting is bad! But quitting is good, but everything is controlled by a bunch of corporate suits. drat The Man! FFS. Staying in one, limited, consistent PoV would have been an enormous help in making half of this premise fly, because Gail's view and Washler's view contradict each other so sharply it makes a hash of everything. I've wondered whether one of them might be an unreliable narrator, but which? They're both on the drug.
To write it in Theron's PoV would have offered a stronger take on the setting than either. Even though he only appears directly in the first section, even though he has few lines, his is by far the most interesting situation. Imagine: Theron makes the decision to go off Wish. We see what that does to his head and get a contrast in how the world looks with and without the drug. His critics and producers react somehow to his decision, possibly pressuring him to take the proverbial crackpipe up again, possibly following his lead, and ostensibly these controlling entities would have something to say to him. His confrontation with them could be the climax. Hopefully it wouldn't take place offscreen, unlike Gail's.
Maybe that story would be worth telling, but this one... I don't think so. Super confusing, deliberately unclear in the beginning (I'm guessing) in order to build suspense, it's too much of a muddle to say anything or to entertain.
Guiness13, "Tuesday Night Lock-In"
Song: I LOVE MAKONNEN's "Tuesday"
Kai's Song Notes: The drops or wubs or whatever you call them aren't to my taste, but they give the impression of a world warping around you. Could be good horror stuff. The song's about getting drunk and high on the one night off the singer has in his week, so far as I can tell, and the themes of too much work and too little time and too much truth in the time one does have are decent fuel for fear.
Is the song incorporated? No doubt. Not only is it set on a Tuesday, in a party, but too little time and too much truth are concepts epitomized by death.
Is it horror? No doubt of that, either. Unfortunately the horror takes a very familiar and specific form.
"The Masque of the Red Death," revised. It's too derivative to get full marks. I'm sorry for you if you've never read Poe's story, as two judges--self included--rather liked your work, but I have a hard time imagining you wrote this without knowledge of the classic horror tale of partygoers sealing themselves away from a plague only for a strange guest to bring it into their midst. For Heaven's sake, you named your setting Club Divine when "Red Death" takes place in an abbey. Your plague carrier wears a black hood; Poe's has no tangible body; both can be read as Death Itself. If you did this on purpose then count yourself lucky not to have picked up a DQ or DM. There's a little too much room for doubt, but the longer the look at it, the more I frown.
It's difficult to comment on anything else; the similarity is overwhelming. That's a shame since the sentences are fine, the descriptions evocative, and the writing style owes nothing to Poe. My complaints beyond concern about your originality are minor. You have an excess of named characters: Joe, Trey, Stacy, Vic, Anita, Luise, and Berto. Anita and Luise are only mentioned once! Surely Joe or Trey could have doubled as the bartender? The second-to-last paragraph could stand to be broken up; you may have meant it to be a rush of impressions, but the choppy sentences that start it off work against any such effect.
hotsoupdinner, "I'll Never Be"
Song: Lorde's "Royals"
Kai's Song Notes: These opening beats take me back to Belgium's entry in Eurovision 2015. The song's got a good rhythm to it. It tells of people who'll never be rich but are fine with that while they have love and dreams. That's a more difficult idea to turn into horror than some, and I'm interested in seeing how the entrant handles it.
Is the song incorporated? In an interesting way, yes; the story goes against the spirit of the song while still taking cues from it. The protagonist wants to be rich and powerful, and she will, in the end, but her queen-bee life won't be what she expected.
Is it horror? The genre is right for all that the fear factor falls flat. This could easily be a black-and-white Twilight Zone episode--not one of the good ones, but not as bad as the one in which tiny spacemen land in an American housewife's cabin.
The prose doesn't share the song's snappy rhythm. The short, simple sentences feel choppy. The protagonist is to blame for the lack of dread, though, or so my theory goes. She's such a passive, accepting lump of a person that she spends, what, ninety percent of the story sitting and taking whatever "they" do to her? Aside from one attempt to run down a hall, her sole moment of agency is agreeing--off camera, during the part that's told rather than shown--to be Alice Gold's doppelganger. She shows so little spirit or feeling that I can only feel a dim sympathy in turn. Everything about her situation is at a remove.
How it will all end becomes too obvious too soon: past the line "I was supposed to become her in the truest sense of the word," the tale has no surprises left to offer, only a tottering march toward the finish. I do like the conclusion after reflecting on it for a while. The protagonist's body is Alice Gold. But herself, her soul? No. That was always impossible. The tragedy is that she doesn't see that truth until she's crossed the Rubicon, though her lack of action makes it a weak tragedy just as it is weak horror.
flerp, "The Fate of the Animals"
Song: The Darkness's "I Believe in a Thing Called Love"
Kai's Song Notes: What is with that guy's striped, topless jumpsuit thing on the album cover? The song's a lot less terrifying than that outfit! It deals with themes that are familiar, but of which people rarely tire: love and the joyous loss of control it brings.
Is the song incorporated? Sure. The wolf loves his mother. The inexplicable hands do a lot of touching, too. A sun even goes down in a fashion; that's a nice touch.
Is it horror? No, though it's possible those giant hands squeezing the sun to death are supposed to be frightening. The death of the mother wolf is pure tragedy. (Or it would be, if half the story weren't the cub howling and howling and dear lord shut up!)
Bambi, but with blue space wolves. What is it with people emulating classics this week? I'm joking in your case, but you could in fact sum this up as "A baby animal stumbles around crying for his mother, but she's dead." The sci-fi touches, the hands and the incessant colors, are window dressing.
Colors! You sure do go nuts with the Crayolas. Blue claws, yellows, yellow and black leaves, blue fur, black sky, purple sky, yellow orb, platinum fur, golden eyes, purple sky (again), platinum fur (again), white fire, pinks, purples, oranges, platinum, blue claws (again), platinum (again), reds, blue--add in some ruby and olive and violet and fawn and you'd have a chorus from Broenheim and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Most of the colors don't appear to have a purpose except as an unimpressive means of making your wolves and world alien. That said, maybe they're meant to do more. I could buy the idea that the little wolf focuses on colors in order to beat back his fear of the darkness, but the execution is tedious reading, and how does a wolf have the concept of platinum? Do the space wolves mine between hunting trips?
Man, I would read a story about alien wolf miners hunting space kobolds underground and stockpiling minerals as trophies. Just saying.
I can't hate this--the little blue wolf is too sympathetic even if it's some of the cheapest sympathy possible--but it misses on genre and cancels out a creative take on your song by vomiting the rainbow everywhere.
Tyrannosaurus, "I Have to Take Care of Everything"
Song: Jay-Z's "99 Problems"
Kai's Song Notes: What do you know, someone turned "Rock, Paper, and Scissors" into a song. Themes: conflict, poverty, wealth, dismissal, feelings of persecution, denial of concern, arrogance, race relations, misogyny, resentment.
Is the song incorporated? Not in any "gently caress bitches, man" way, thank God, but problems, check; poverty, check; resentment, check; denial, check, sort of. Protagonist-who-needs-a-name is flippant about the weirdness around her.
Is it horror? No. The main character is squicked by her weird clone dads, but she's never afraid. Family melodrama gets all the focus. The narrative voice is sassy and defiant and tough for certain values of the word, and Protagonist-who-needs-a-name doesn't really lose composure despite her fainting fits. Her nonchalance fits the song at the genre's expense. The dad is too much the classic goofy, absentminded scientist to be scary either, and I end up wondering whether you've been trying for humor instead of horror all along.
There's not much else to say since the genre failure is its downfall. I can't warm to Ms. Nameless. She has good reasons to resent her father, not to mention that teenagers aren't known for being compassionate beings, but Dad is so much more likable than she is that her treatment of him doesn't put her in the best light. I notice that she cares enough to get him food at the end; not checking on him once in three days and taking six years to notice anything odd about him when the most presentable version apparently has twenty-nine baby fingers still colors her as self-centered and blind. If you want to mitigate that effect you could dial the time span down to six weeks or something else less incredible. It would take a complete rewrite to make this horror, but with tweaks it could be a good SF father-daughter story.
Thranguy, "The Mob of Darts: An Oral History"
Song: M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes"
Kai's Song Notes: Drugs. Crime. Robbery. Murder. Threats. You'd think it would be easy to spin horror out of those, but keeping to horror without sliding away into thriller or noir could be a serious challenge.
Is the song incorporated? The song title is the obvious link, but the lines "Some some some I some I murder / Some I some I let go" show up in the temporary solution of the Eye Cloaks.
Is it horror? No. Non. Nyet. Nein. Iie. Though Twitter mobs made physical is a dreadful concept, I can't imagine a paper plane burying itself in someone's neck without laughing. It's as ineffective as CANNIBAL GIRLS' chocolate rain. The entire story is a series of secondhand accounts, removing immediacy, and lengthy exposition about made-up paper technology puts me to nightmareless sleep. Worst is the happy ending, which takes away any lingering vestige of fear. Flash-length horror can't survive a finale so suggestive of a victory parade.
For all that I shake my head over how thoroughly this fails the prompt, it has a worthwhile concept at its root. Something tells me there are already folks who would love to see this technology made real. You could absolutely write a horror story about how readily ordinary people would take censorship to its extreme if they had the means; among other things, though, if horror were your object, you'd have to prioritize creeping out the reader over commenting on society. In this version fear is so far outside the focus that it's scarcely a peripheral blur.
The dryness of it and the burdensome infodumps are problems beyond the genre concern. Usually an all-dialogue story at least tries for engaging characters. Yours are interchangeable nonentities. The core concept is good, but it isn't so good that it justifies the story without help from character, setting, description, plot--things happen in this, but no one has a goal or acts toward any purpose--strong voice, strong style, or anything other than basic competence. If you're going to throw the usual ingredients to the wayside, the result had better be grand.
Benny Profane, "Turn Forever Hand in Hand"
Song: Gorillaz's "Feel Good Inc."
Kai's Song Notes: The picture I'm getting is of a man in the heart of a bleak, broken city, holding on to love as the thing that keeps him standing. My favorite lines are those about windmills, which I think suggest that love--romantic, platonic, whatever: going hand in hand with each other--can be the energy source for an otherwise lifeless land.
Is the song incorporated? Here's the broken city; here's the windmill; here's the ghost town. I don't see Dr. McGillicuddy in the lyrics, which is a pity. It would be nice if something explained him.
Is it horror? It is the schlockiest Twilight Zone episode I ever did see.
A fantastic opening written in elegant prose (a few unwieldy sentences aside; the sixth paragraph is ridiculous) degrades into hokey golly-gee-whillickers dialogue as I watch. My heart sinks. The picture fades to black and white in my mind's eye. The mysterious Dr. McGillicuddy should be a death knell for my hopes, yet I press on, crossing my fingers, wanting something to come of the town's dire apathy. The moldy hot dogs promise dread, but there aren't many words left--the dialogue goes on and on--it ends not with a shriek but with a sigh, and the voice is mine.
The dying, fatalistic town is wonderful, as is the narration while John is alone. Mostly. When your sentences start to run long I feel like you're leaping for a literary voice and landing on affectation. Nevertheless, the broken setting delights me, and the false cheer is suitably creepy in concept. Alas for the corny, hammy execution that spoils it! Alas for a villain I never see! These things saw away at the piece's good bones.
I've considered whether McGillicuddy is the windmill and the "treatment" is death, but the former makes no sense without the latter--or with; why would the windmill sprout a name and doctorate?--and the latter won't fly. The people who hanged themselves in the past ostensibly didn't come back. There's no reason provided for the rules to change out of nowhere. Moreover, John would need to be dead almost from the start (else why can he see dead people of a sudden?), and if he's already dead, it's pointless for the whistling stranger to encourage him to seek the treatment.
Even the hi-de-ho-neighbor dialogue could have worked if you'd given a face or motive to McGillicuddy. Without that the story spins to no purpose in vacant air.
Blue Wher, "Deliver Me From Fireflies"
Song: Owl City's "Fireflies"
Kai's Song Notes: Cheery techno is much more up my alley. So are these lyrics, celebrating the strange, beautiful warmth of dreams, with a hint of melancholy for the disappointment waiting in the waking world.
Is the song incorporated? Indeed. You know, looking at the lyrics again, I'm at least a little impressed by how they're used. Fireflies light the protagonist's world. They take him away. They "hug" him. The song's love for dreams is transformed into a desperate desire for sleep, and the idea is sound even if the execution isn't.
Is it horror? "A guy falls asleep, the short story" isn't going to send chills down anyone's spine. If the protagonist dies at the end, possible but unclear, then it makes a legitimate stab at the genre, but the text is only too good at invoking the maddening boredom of being unable to sleep at two in the morning.
There's nothing to the main character but sleeplessness and hallucinations. His visions are either generic (tentacle-monster boss) or random (flaming pegasus) and so don't tell me anything distinctive about him. The pace is slow, the early paragraphs large, and my dim curiosity about the fireflies wouldn't carry me through this if I weren't obliged to finish. It's dull. That's its fatal flaw. I'm more or less convinced that he does just fall asleep in the end, and my advice--thinking back to your Domegrassi story and your brawl against skwidmonster--is to give your characters clear goals and make them work toward those goals. This man is absolutely passive; things happen to him. Make things happen because of the people in your story next time.
Grizzled Patriarch, "A Moment of Your Time"
Song: The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army"
Kai's Song Notes: What the singer is fighting off is left up to interpretation. Mine is that he's struggling with ghosts from his past, memories that threaten to drive him to Kansas and back home again.
Is the song incorporated? No. This is the first and only entry in which I can't find the song at all.
Is it horror? Surrealism is horrifying to me, granted... but no. This sketch of discontent, disconnected, isolated humanity is bleak, but it has only slightly more connection to horror than "Joey Romaine's Live House of Wax" has to nonsense.
Considering the above, I wonder why I didn't even think about a DM vote. Probably your prose saved you. It couldn't have hurt that the nameless protagonist's memory of hearing another man sob in the bathroom is human, poignant, and real. You evade every challenge the prompt set, though, in the service of detailing a situation and then doing nothing with it beyond making it literal, and an average Dilbert cartoon does a better job of demonizing cubicle work.
Twist is right that the protagonist is too passive, although I think that may be intentional, a means of emphasizing how powerless and dehumanized he feels. If the story went anywhere or had a significant payoff, you might pull that off. Since it doesn't--the mystery of the e-mail lends some interest to events, but only for a while. For me, interest dies when the shift manager is behind the protagonist the instant he whispers to Dale. Up until that point the story has been realistic. It loses credibility there. This moment may be meant to start the shift from the real to the surreal, but I would prefer the dome come down without other hints of strangeness in this office.
That deep, through-the-nose sigh is the sound I made the first time I reached the end-that-is-not-an-end.
curlingiron, "Night Drive"
Song: M83's "Midnight City"
Kai's Song Notes: A vaguely dreamy paean to the beauty of a city at night. The midnight of the title offers an easy horror angle. I'll be more impressed if the story this song inspires is shot through with a neon glow.
Is the song incorporated? Neon and all!
Is it horror? Not quite. It's closer to dream than nightmare despite the apocalypse in the background. I was going to call it dark surrealism, but dark suggests a mood this piece doesn't have; rather than gloomy or grim or bleak or chilling, it's melancholy.
I love the setting and all of its brightly lit ambiguities, my personal interpretation being that it is the electrical ghost of a dead city, inhabited by phantasms who can't exist outside its boundaries or under the sun. That probably isn't right. It doesn't explain the man in the car or why the phantasms stay underground at all hours. The dreamy tone and short length leave me room to decide what exactly is going on without frustrating me with the lack of concrete detail, an admirable achievement.
The premise is all this has, though, as Twist said in judge chat. Character? No; the protagonist is only a flicker in my mind, appropriately enough. Plot? No. Story? Questionable. The protagonist's motives for dying in the light are more nebulous than the city's nature. Too slight and too ephemeral, this is a pleasure to read but can't hold a neon bulb to the winner.
Song: Kanye West's "Gold Digger"
Kai's Song Notes: The gist at first seems to be that women want money, but then there's that last stanza, suggesting--I think--that the woman who stays true to a man as he builds his way up from nothing will end up betrayed. It's a sort of rough sympathy that paints both sexes in ugly colors.
Is the song incorporated? The title is. I don't see anything else. Write a good enough story, as here, and that choice stops looking uncreative and starts looking wise.
Is it horror? One hundred percent.
Congratulations on what's probably the fastest and most overwhelming win in Thunderdome history. You alone nail the genre to the floor. Your main character is completely, horribly helpless and struggling against it in every moment, and her instant of victory is destroyed effortlessly by the person who will control her for the rest of her life. It isn't her imprisonment in an unresponsive body that makes the story great. It's that brief flight of hope and the heartless way it dies. Cold. Final. Help.
The situation is plausible, too; I've read the article about a woman using facilitated communication to exploit a disabled man. I can believe someone else would do such a thing for money rather than love and sex. I can believe it has already happened, is happening somewhere right now. You deny skepticism any chance to weaken your work--except in one respect. What are the odds she would spontaneously recover control of her eyes? Necessity justifies that development (without it you wouldn't have a story), it's just the one thing I could conceivably call a flaw. Other than "he’d told your parents"--wrong tense--and "After the doctor’s botched your surgery," and "You want to wretch and sob," and possibly other technical errors, that is. I didn't notice most of those until I went looking for them.
Something else to praise is your handling of Daniel. The way he becomes careless and sloppy once he decides to use the main character is so telling. She's become an object to him, not a person or even something alive. He probably has to take that view of her in order to get past whatever scrap of conscience he possesses. His all-too-believable humanity turns him into the worst monster of the week.
ghost crow, "Sensorium"
Song: Bastille's "Pompeii"
Kai's Song Notes: Love the rhythm of this one. There's something Biblical about those tumbling walls that's enhanced by the mention of sin later in the song; that's fertile terror ground. So is the sense that nothing has changed, that everything has always been dark and ruined, that the happier memories were some kind of lie.
Is the song incorporated? I count the use of hallucinogens as a vice. Every day is the same for Max, and his sin in designing the faux Matrix made a rubble of real, meaningful existence. Song use: check.
Is it horror? The final revelation doesn't have any power to shock or dismay. Am I supposed to be horrified that the people who have hooked themselves to this endless drug world also feel no pain? Should I be appalled that Max programmed this? The no-pain thing is nothing compared to the existence of the drug world, but that's treated as neutral. This is another entry that tries to hit the prompt but flies wide.
The Matrix, revised. Strong physical details and one intriguing reference to fads make the tired, familiar setting more interesting than it deserves to be. That isn't saying a lot. A mysteeeerious figure talking to the protagonist in his dreams is old ground too, as is amnesia, and eleventh-hour recall is a shoddy plot device. Everything but the body mods is by the numbers. It was the No pain! reveal that tipped me into agreeing with a DM for this, because that doesn't resolve a thing or add new depth to the Sensorium or explain Max's memory loss; it's ancillary information that should not be the closing beat.
What happened to the people in this world who didn't want anything to do with the Sensorium? Why is no one coming back? Where is Max's body? So many questions!
Punctuating dialogue gives you some trouble. You missed a hyphen in "top-grade" and wrote "He laid there" instead of the correct "He lay there." Follow this link for pointers on lay vs. lie. These errors are small and suggest unfamiliarity with certain rules rather than failure to proof. The effort you put into your entry shows, even if it didn't pay off.
skwidmonster, "Excerpts From the Journals of Dr. Lorraine Felt and Subject One"
Song: Elle King's "Ex's and Oh's"
Kai's Song Notes: This woman is begging to star in a horror story as either a victim or a monster. She's a walking addiction and ambulatory heartbreak. Will she or her lovers pay the greater price for it?
Is the song incorporated? The story's take on it is at once valid, interesting, and disappointing. Valid: Dr. Lorraine is a monster, all right. She made her baby, and he's going to run back to her. Interesting: She's a cold academic rather than a femme fatale. Disappointing: I would rather she had been a black widow if it would have meant one less story this week that mirrored famous media.
Is it horror? Despite its strong resemblance to one of the genre's capstones, maybe not. The events presented are slightly too absurd and want for dire consequences.
Frankenstein, revised. The problem I have with Guiness13's entry hobbles this one as well: it's hard to judge this on its own merits when I keep seeing echoes of another writer in Dr. Lorraine's experiments, her abandonment of her first subject, his journal, and the mention of a man on the table being shocked to groaning life. The twist you put on the concept doesn't hold up. It's not clear to me why the doctor thought putting a child's brain in an adult body would create some sort of super-scholar or what the point of that would have been. I'll give it a reluctant pass on the grounds of mad science anyway, but I suspect you threw that in there so you wouldn't only be cribbing from Mary Shelley.
I enjoy--now that I've sussed it out after a few rereads--that Dr. Lorraine washed up in a New Orleans carnival. That departure from the familiar is much more interesting. Though a story about a mad, disgraced scientist's fall from respectability to sideshow wouldn't necessarily be horror, it could be worthwhile in a way a lukewarm rehash of a classic isn't.
Lake Jucas, "Candy Shop"
Song: 50 Cent's "Candy Shop"
Kai's Song Notes: I will never forgive Twist if the writer takes this song as an invitation to write erotica.
Is the song incorporated? I don't want to look at the lyrics again to determine whether more than the title is used. If that's the only link, it's for the best.
Is it horror? More so than many entries despite the slapdash execution. A boy being taken over by antediluvian aliens at some unspecified point and in some unspecified manner and terrorizing a town to the point that bodies are everywhere, radios are broadcasting about him, and bridges might be closed (??) is ridiculous. Full stop. You don't begin to make it make sense. Yet although I don't know when the silent voice started talking to Marcus, its manipulations creep me out long before blood and bodies show up. The tension builds. Something is very wrong.... It falls apart once you raise the curtain and reveal ancient aliens, never mind the clumsy and pace-breaking flashback, but the last scene still manages to earn a shudder.
Speaking of shudders, there's normal Thunderdome carelessness and then there's the level of don't-give-a-drat that presents one with "sidways," "sufrace," "rush-colored," "vaccant," and the phrase "it's hidden nooks." You know what's weird? The egregious errors are front loaded; as the story picks up, the mistakes go down. Good grief, Lake Jucas. Proofread your opening paragraphs most thoroughly, not least!
My dislike of the reveal that Marcus is somehow a monster beyond the ability of anyone to destroy can't be overstated. Does the town have no guns? No police? No military? How is he causing so much death by fooling around in a vacant lot? You can't handwave this. "Aliens!" doesn't explain diddly, and you know it. Why oh why did you cook up a chilling atmosphere and then throw a pound of Grade D Twilight Zone Spam into the pot? What a horrifying waste.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 14:08 on Jun 9, 2016
|# ? May 12, 2016 08:28|
Hey everyone, I'm a lovely first-time writer.
In, and I'll take a stab at "Transatlantic"
Marshmallow Blue fucked around with this message at 14:32 on May 12, 2016
|# ? May 12, 2016 14:05|
Those are good crits. Thank you for the time you spent writing them.
|# ? May 12, 2016 15:11|
Those are good crits. Thank you for the time you spent writing them.
|# ? May 12, 2016 15:31|
Hey everyone, I'm a lovely first-time writer.
Friends: Built on a lie
Courting: Former lovers
On Board: Mutual imposters, stowaways, and criminals
Truth..About a missing lifeboat
On deck and off: Overboard
Violent: Grand piano on casters
Paranoia: what seems like dumb luck isn't – things are afoot
Thranguy fucked around with this message at 23:05 on May 13, 2016
|# ? May 12, 2016 16:00|
Thanks for the crit!
|# ? May 12, 2016 16:19|
Those are good crits. Thank you for the time you spent writing them.
quoted 4 truth
|# ? May 12, 2016 20:02|
Djeser vs. Spectres Brawl
this is a tough match up. Spectres gave me a much longer, more serious entry, while Djeser went both light on the words and on the seriousness.
Things I liked -
The prose was good overall. It was an easy read, never really tripping on any words.
I liked that the main character was the sword.
I liked the metaphorical interpretation you can have of what your sword is. It could be super sci-fi, or it could not be, and I like that.
There's a neat idea that's explained fairly well. the clarity here is definitely not the problem, at least past the first couple lines because theres a point where im like "ohhhh this is a sword thing"
Things I Didn't Like -
Your sword kind of just watched things. I wanted him to be more active.
Likewise, for a 1500 word entry, the only that really happened was "guy asks out a girl." i think you got a little too in love with your idea that you forgot about making a story.
There was some vagueness near the beginning, especially with the pronouns that didn't have names. when you got Seth's actual name, I was confused because I thought the pronouns in the first line was referring to a different than Seth, but I wasn't.
Things I'm Ambivalent About -
Not really sure if this supposed to be a weeb or an actual japanese dude
likewise, the japanese references were a little... how do i say it? anime-esque? they felt a little too much how a western dude sees japanese culture imho.
the whole "I want to taste blood" is a little over the top.
Things I Liked -
You made me laugh. The light lightheartedness of it was really great overall.
Things happened, more than in spectres for sure.
Some of the words were good.
You came in, said your piece, then walked out. I liked that, a lot.
Things I Didn't Like -
The ending was a little weird. Billy be all like "no i love u atom" kind of came out of nowhere.
I didn't really like the hoppening phrase.
You didn't have full alteration in your whole title
Your narrator wasnt the inanimate object which was kinda lame
Things I'm Ambivalent About -
I'm not sure if this is super serious or half-assed. its like both genuine and also kind of lazy. idk.
This is what kinda sucks when judging brawls because sometimes the stories do two very different things and im like uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh idk both are kinda ok, but I think I'm gonna give it to Djeser for having more stuff happen in fewer words. at the end of the day, a story's gotta have things happen and be interesting and spectres, on average, bored me more and made me say "ok get to the point" whereas djeser's never made me do that. sometimes, less is more.
|# ? May 13, 2016 05:13|
Only 12 hours remaining to sign up this week.
Also, just to make something clear, more than one person can pick the same playset. I've been avoiding duplicates when I'm picking them for you, but if you're not in yet and want a specific one someone else has already used/been given, go right ahead.
Thranguy fucked around with this message at 19:13 on May 13, 2016
|# ? May 13, 2016 19:05|
Signups are closed. Write some good words, people. Or at least some memorable ones.
Also, I could still use co-judges, any of you not-in people.
|# ? May 14, 2016 07:07|
Sorry, gonna have to drop this one. I've been sick all week and been hoping to get better but I'm just starting to kick this cold. I'll make it up in the future. Apologies, again.
|# ? May 14, 2016 17:39|
Sorry, gonna have to drop this one. I've been sick all week and been hoping to get better but I'm just starting to kick this cold. I'll make it up in the future. Apologies, again.
no one cares shut up
|# ? May 15, 2016 00:42|
Former Senator Harris was kneed in the groin, hard. Why'd the electorate put weight on a gradeschool door? He could see it coming every time, but couldn't wince nor cover. Disincorporated, he really couldn't do anything at all.
In life, Harris railed on judgment from above, just short of an angelic endorsement. He'd been a champion for the supposedly downtrodden holy-roller and his majority of the paranoid. The constituency appreciated Harris, a state football lineman who'd dedicated his life to politics after a booze-deyhydrated meniscal tear. A Landside victory. Party ticket, full ride. The oppositition, hooting for a free and easy vote, was silenced. A month later, the campaign crashed.
He'd done so badly that national news and the local
tabloids posted the same manner of expose: 'Senator Harris dead in sex scandal!', bolded the Times. The biggest national rag had bumped an in-depth look at the current state of Sharkboy for Harris.
He wasn't caught cheating on his wife. He remembered a confrontation with her about some issue with the kids, a stack of donation checks, one of his regular sweet girls club girls, pussy a scotch, a blue steak, more scotch, pussy, a burst in his chest, then this.
The gym clock, an old type that clicked with each minute, ratcheted. This was hell, right? His 'body', if you could call it that, coated every inch of the polling place as if it'd been spread, nerves and all, with a paint roller. Once the halogens glowed to life, he'd felt a an itchy burn that intensified to red-hot whips.
The voters lined on his backbone. Each one vilified vertebrae, mashed marrow, and garroted a ganglion. He could resonate all the existential questions in his heart, but with no mouth or ears, no one could listen or tell. Harris could see and hear with diffuse eyes and ears but his pain was universal.
With each ballot, Harris' sin-loose muscle felt like it came loose from the bone. His body was gerrymandered to an agonal pitch.
The voters at the closest booth were just the 'sort' Harris had slavered to disenfranchise. Under party politics, under the weight of fed money, a media assault, and district recarving, his campaign was simple. Harris discovered early that ignoring those without a voice barely took a try at all. A minority needed a mouth to make its case.
The line dwindled, though the ache didn't. Once all the voters had left and the lights were off, dead Harris was spiritually sucked into rest. No warning, no pain, just gone.
For the dynamic, hell is passivity.
Harris felt an incandescent burn as the door opened. Where was he? He saw the booths. A polling place. Harris hated them. Too hard to control. He remembered donations, a bloody steak, scotch, a sweet bitch off the service, and a burst in his chest. A dropped ballot lit a fire in his spine as he repeated.
EDIT: This is my sebmojo brawl, not this week's entry.
|# ? May 15, 2016 02:29|
Mojo is a bad writer he can eat a poop
Come, come - come down into the dredge. That’s right, pal: see the stony sky, with its stalagmaybe hands hanging down (or whatever counts down down here). Whole damned world’s turned inside out with its stony guts spun heavenward and its grass buried so deep that miners spend their whole lives digging and never see so much as a single blade.
Barry Rutledge died weeping, though nobody cared to watch - least of all me.
Now Barry Rutledge - there’s a miner worth talking about. Real old country bloke. Big fella, cut up to hell from all his time spent in the green-down-deep. Wore his sins on the outside so he could keep his insides clean. Barry dug like he had a grudge against the stones - dug every drat day a whackwhackwhack bringing up all kinds of shine for the pitboss. Never a man to jostle you around, or waste your time. That was, until he found the flower.
It grew up through the stones but it didn’t so much as grow as
There’s classifications of mad, you know. A bloke might be “weird in a good way” or “a big loopy” and everybody keeps ‘em around because they’re a fun time. Push that madness further and you hit “weirdo” and “outcast”. Push it even further, beyond the horizon, you get “mad as a shithouse rat”, which in some circles is even a term of grudging praise. Barry Rutledge weren’t mad until he found that flower, but he was (sure as you can spit) mad as a shithouse rat from the day he found it ‘til the day he died.
Nothing grows on the topside of the dredge, and nobody lives there willingly - you’re either sent there to serve your time, or you’re born there and you’re hosed from the outset. Nobody knows why it ended up green on the inside, but the universe can be funny like that - I hear there’s a planet of solid gold but the air’s so caustic it melts any ship we try to land. I hear there’s a race of people with assholes for faces, who talk by spraying poo poo on each other. I hear a lot of funny poo poo, when the miners are deep in their cups. So mad from all the endless stone that they imagine a big wide universe just as poo poo as their own.
Is this a bit fragmented? Time doesn’t work the same way in the dredge. What’s up is down and what’s back and fore and I can’t even follow myself sometimes. Let’s get on top of our chronology
1) Barry died
2) He found a flower
1) Barry was born in Devonport, outside Christchurch, on February 30th 1869
3) Barry died
4) he found a flower
2) he became detached from the timestream (lol, who didn’t?) and found his way to the dredge
Wait no that’s not really right either. Let’s just keep going.
Barry Rutledge died weeping, though nobody cared to watch - least of all me. Wait - we’ve been here before. We’ve been here before. We were down in the hole, down in the dredge, where up is down and back is forward. We’ve always been here before, because we were always here - we came from elsewhere but we were always here, do you see? If we were plucked from time and placed here, then we left behind families, and friends, and a teenage daughter named Frannie who had blue streaks in her blonde hair we’ve been here before, and nowhere else. We’ve been -
We are displaced. Time does not exist. The surface of the dredge is stone, and at its heart is a maelstrom of every damned colour that will grow and shine.
It’s all a bit fragmented. Sorry.
Now Barry Rutledge - there’s a miner worth talking about. He had a daughter named Frannie who -
I had a daughter named Frannie, and a friend named Barry. I came from Devonport –
I am mad as a shithouse rat, you know. I found a flower that grew topside and I died for it. We are all mad as shithouse rats, and we are all Barry Rutledge, and we all have a daughter named –
Let me find some earth for you to plant yourself in. Here’s your frame of reference - in Japanese there’s no word for the colour ‘green’. Instead, there’s a word for ‘turquoise’ and green is just another shade. The names of colours are arbitrary patterns put over specific wavelengths of light. That doesn’t mean green doesn’t exist, it means that we invented the colour green. Colours are easy, but what about directions, then? What about memories? What about identity? It’s all a big snarl of razorwire that matters because we say it does, and it does matter. Magic, no? On the dredge, down is up and Frannie is my daughter and we are all Barry Rutledge with his rough hands going whackwhackwhack against the soft stone. No pick no, because we’re lost in time and our memories don’t matter –
The flower grew topside. Memory is a cage that each man makes, and the shadow of the bars shapes the way he sees the world. Barry was a big fella. Me, I’m short. I’m a little shortass with no hair on my chest and delicate pianist’s hands that were wasted cracking rocks together to see what grows topside.
Over the horizon, freed from our cage, we are all mad as shithouse rats. A flower - and flo-wer cannot exist topside any more than identity can exist topside so we dig and dig with our hands if we must because at the core of the world there is a colourful maelstrom where up is up and our memories are our own. We, plucked from time - from Devonport, from Shenzhen, from Persepolis, from Novgorod - from every age and every corner because these things mean nothing to the dredge.
We come, and dig – and at the core we find ourselves again.
|# ? May 15, 2016 05:20|
Okay, let's make this official. Exactly 1000 words of actual story set in the lands of your twisted kiwi imaginations. You both know my threshold for weird so don't hold back.
what is the hurry also can you not count is that one of your issues that you have
|# ? May 15, 2016 05:36|
Three months into his campaign Jimmy Slattery realised his campaign manager was the Devil. The realisation punched deep into his brain then came to rest, sizzling with the heat of its passage.
“Hank,” Jimmy said. “Have you always had the, uh.” He pointed at Hank’s horns. “The horns?”
Hank reached up to touch them with a red-nailed hand, looking puzzled. The horns were long and curled like a shofar. “These? I guess so. They’re getting pretty grey these days though, haha! Anyway, we’re gonna be needing some full court press on the southern--” Hank stopped. “Jimmy, you got a funny look on, is there a problem?”
Jimmy stood up. The skin all down his back felt cold and dimpled, like a plucked chicken fresh out of the cooler. “Yeah, Hank, I got a problem with my campaign gettin’ run by the God-damned Prince of Lies! You’re fired, Hank!”
There was an awkward silence in the trailer. Then Jimmy blundered past his former campaign manager and out into the sunshine. He stumbled as he hit the ground, waved off a couple of aides clutching papers for him to sign and jogged across the hot tarmac.
Behind him Hank was calling out to him, but Jimmy was done listening. His mind was racing as he ran through all the things that should have tipped him off. The blood in the bottle? He wasn’t a goddam haemophiliac after all! And the night they’d launched the campaign and Hank had the private Mass with the heifer? Anabaptists, Jimmy knew with a sick certainty, didn’t actually do any of that stuff.
Jimmy put two fingers to his temple and pushed, rubbing at the pain of his headache. drat. He lurched into the toilets and put both hands under the cold tap. He searched his face in the mirror for a sign of the moral turpitude he now realised must have been there all along. “Jimmy, Jimmy. Satan himself? How didn’t you pick that up in the interview process?”
Then he gasped as his familiar, handsome face writhed and coiled like a bucket of worms. Moments later he was looking at Hank's red-skinned visage.
“Jimmy, I got an apology to make. I could have been more open about coming from the black pits of hell itself like a plague upon the living. But dadnabbit I care, about this dumb race. And about you, you big lug. So--”
Jimmy held up two fingers in a rough X shape. “Get thee behind me Dark One! I ain’t heeding your blandishments!”
Hank held up his hands. “Oh, no, I’m not aiming to blandish anyone. I’ll be heading back down now, I already signed my forms with Martha in payroll. I just wanted to wish you luck. And don't be a stranger."
Hank vanished, and Jimmy vomited cleanly into the basin.
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 10:02 on May 15, 2016
|# ? May 15, 2016 07:00|
CarlMillerKiller vs Sebmojo politics brawl judgement
As soon as I saw this was an "x is actually the devil" type story I knew it would have to pull of some kind of interesting twist to impress me. The cartoonish southern voice could also have been forgiven if there was some kind of awesome payoff. The way the devil didn't care that he was fired was actually somewhat interesting, but didn't push things far enough to excuse the by-the-numbers premise.
Wow wtf is this? I think that the candidate was reincarnated as a voting station in a school? It was really hard to tell what was going on at all, mostly because your prose was terrible. It's bad to overwrite things, but it's especially bad to overwrite things when you don't have the vocab to actually understand the words you're trying to use.
A good rule of thumb for weird stories - the stranger something is, the clearer it needs to be written.
The winner is Sebmojo, sleepwalking to a landslide victory against an opponent more gaffe-prone than Howard Dean on a roller-coaster.
|# ? May 15, 2016 07:48|
The Senator's Crossing (1498)
The phone rang. It was New York Senator Charles Brisbane. Ben knew he was going to be calling after he told him the weather was too hazardous for Alexandria’s maiden voyage across the Atlantic, not to mention the lifeboats.
“Ben, are you even listening to me?” Charles spat through the phone.
He wasn’t listening. There wasn’t any point in telling him that the ship wouldn’t be ready by Friday night. It was Monday, and the crew hasn’t finished testing all the equipment. Twenty-three of forty lifeboats failed their initial inspection and need to be replaced. These drat politicians and their unrealistic deadlines.
“I have 3,700 VIP guests booked for this trip to England, Ben. You need to make it happen. There’s a lot of election money riding on this fund raising voyage.”
“Listen… Charles, we really need to consider cancelling the…”
“CANCEL! I CAN’T do that! You can’t do that to me! And you’re a worthless captain if you can’t sail through a little poo poo weather for your friend. I got you this job in the first place, don’t forget that.” Charles hung up the phone before Ben could respond.
This ship was sailing with or without Ben.
“Maybe I shouldn’t even show up.” Ben thought. “He’d have my head on a platter though, and unfortunately, I need to pay the rent, which is already two months late. Of course Clarabell had to get pneumonia, and the doctor needed payments up front. I guess I’ll be sailing from New York on Friday.”
Friday August 26th
“Ryan don’t be such a ninny...” Georgia chuckled “get in the crate, It’s labeled Alexandria. That’s the big ship going to England... Haven’t you always wanted to see the world?”
“Ok” Ryan said smiling while climbing in, “but you’re coming with me!” He exclaimed as he pulled Georgia into the crate. Georgia screamed in surprise, and then laughed. She popped her head up to make sure the coast was clear before getting out. Two dockhands were walking nearby towards the crates.
“Down, down” She said pushing Ryan back into the crate. She made a shushing gesture with her finger. “They’re right here, stay down and be quiet she whispered”.
Just then the crate slammed shut, and nails were being hammered into the crate. Georgia and Ryan tried screaming for help but the dockhands couldn’t hear them over the hustle and bustle of the port.
“I’ve got to tell him I’m not going, I don’t like this storm. He’ll have to find another captain.”
Ben paced back and forth along the dock. The towering Alexandria floating behind in the mid-morning sun.
“Ben!” Charles cried as he bumbled over. “Great news! Look! The most recent weather report says the storm has moved North. It’s nothing but smooth sailing from here to the UK.”
Ben snatched the report from Charles. “Holy poo poo, I don’t believe it.” Ben was suddenly feeling better about the trip. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad afterall. Ben was also informed earlier that the engines were all in check, and all the decommissioned lifeboats were replaced.
“Well I guess that settles things” Ben stated “Charles is going to win re-election by way of outspending the opposition 10-to-1” Ben and Charles both laughed, and climbed aboard to greet the first guests arriving.
Saturday August 27th 6:55PM
Charles paced back and forth.
“You need to keep the ship level!” Charles demanded of Ben. “I can’t be expected give a speech with the ship rocking like a baby’s crib on a tree top Ben!”
“Just where did the loving storm come from Charles? I saw the same report you did. There’s nothing we can do but ride it out and hope for the best.”
The ship took wave after wave in the churning sea.
“I lied about the storm.” Another wave came up and sent Charles to the ground.
“You Lied about the storm? How?”
“The weather report Ben... It’s from two weeks ago. And not to add any pressure, but the lifeboats weren’t replaced either. I paid some crew off to tell you that they had come in and were loaded up.” Charles said getting to his feet.
“Of course the politician is a scheming liar! You realize that if this ship takes on water, thousands of people will load onto lifeboats that aren’t seaworthy!” Ben yelled, turning the wheel to avoid the largest waves. “Thousands... of… lives… Charles… On my hands!”
“Come off it Ben, we’re fine. Just keep the ship level.” Charles said, leaving the room on the way to the concert hall.
Ryan finally was able to push the crate open with his feet. It was hot, damp, and disgusting inside Alexandria’s bowels. Georgia climbed out of the crate, drenched in sweat. Her and Ryan spent the first twelve hours yelling at each other, and taking turns getting “fresh” air from a small hole in the crate, and the next six hours trying to get out.
“You’re a real idiot, you know that? Get in the crate, that’s funny poo poo isn’t it. Now we’re well and truly hosed. This is why we broke things off in the first place. You were always so drat irresponsible. Now what? Now we’re on our way to England. Cherioh to you rear end in a top hat!” Ryan raged. Georgia knew he was right, and didn’t say much to continue the argument further.
“I’m exhausted. Let’s find some food…” Ryan marched off towards the door. “Of course it’s loving locked!” He yelled trying to pull open the door kicking it. Ryan stormed around the room, pounding on crates. Then he found a pipe and began banging it on some pipes that were running along the wall.
“Someone’s got to hear this racket!” Ryan fumed, banging on the pipes. Sparks flew, and noise echoed loudly.
“Don’t do that! You don’t even know what you’re doing!” Georgia pleaded.
“Shut up, I know what I’m doing!” Ryan responded. He swung the pipe as hard as he could and one of the pipes came loose along with a hissing sound. “Can anyone loving hear me! HELLO!” he shouted.
Ryan slammed the pipe again. *Clang* Sparks flew. He slammed it again and again. *Clang CLANG*. He banged on the pipe, sparks flew again, igniting the fumes from the gas line he ruptured. The explosion sent Ryan back into a metal beam, knocking him unconscious. Water surged in from a twelve foot hole on the side of the ship.
“RYAN!” Georgia waded through the frigid water to Ryan’s side. She held him close and began crying as water filled the room.
Guests filled the concert hall to hear Senator Brisbane's speech. While they waited, cocktails were served, and a performer sat at a piano, playing music, and collecting tips. The round hall was still an elegant place for a fundraiser, despite the raging seas outside the Alexandria.
Senator Brisbane stepped out and began to speak.
“Thank you everyone. I’m glad you could make it on our excursion. I’ve just spoke with the captain, and he reassured me that we are fine. This is just a small every day storm front, and we’ll be clear of it in no time…”
Suddenly a BANG! Alarms sounded. Alexandria kiltered to the left. Noises from stressed twisting metal, shattering glasses, and screams filled the hall. Everybody began rushing to the exits. The ship turned to the right, and continued in circles to avoid keeling to the left again.
“Hello, this is your captain speaking.” Ben’s voice came through the intercom “The ship is damaged and can not continue. The Coast Guard has been alerted. Make your way to the lifeboats. The ship’s attendants will assist you.”
Ben knew half the lifeboats were death traps, and he was actively sending some people to their grave, but it was better than everyone dying wasn’t it? The coast guard was seven hours away.
The ship managed to stay level for the time being, and lifeboats were being loaded. Some waited in the concert hall with the Senator for their turn to board a lifeboat. Ben was there as well. He had locked the wheel in its position to keep the ship level, but turning in slow, large circles.
Just then another large wave crashed against the ship, sending the ship out of balance again. Passengers on deck were thrown into the water. The Piano slid across the hall, maiming passengers in its path.
Screams erupted again. The ship swayed back and forth freely in the storm. A wave from the other side hit. The piano slid again, pinning Charles against the wall. Blood was coming out his mouth. Ben got to his feet and pulled out a gun, and walked towards Charles.
Charles looked up to Ben, almost apologetically, coughing blood. “Shoot me.”
“You know?” Ben said, “You always were a poo poo friend and a poo poo Senator” and pulled the trigger on himself. The Senator’s crossing was not as painless.
|# ? May 15, 2016 12:56|
This Cult Belongs in a Museum 1172 words including title.
The museum was closed, and no one was around.
Except Jess. Jess was around, and was trying to fix up the latest exhibit.
“They didn’t look like that, you know.” Oh yes. Jarrod was also around, but she hadn’t counted Jarrod, on account of he was an exhibit.
“I won’t tell anyone if you don’t,” she said.
“I mean, it’s close,” said Jarrod. “They had more of a cross-thatching thing going.”
“Like you ever made a nest.”
“They found me in one,” said Jarrod. “In the glacier, remember?”
“I remember. Shame we didn’t get that one.”
“You got me, though.”
“Yeah.” She placed one of the eggs in the nest. Pushed it at an angle. “You could always help me with this, you know. Since your ancestors supposedly made these, once upon a time.”
Jarrod scratched himself with one of his feet. “Nah, you got it. I’m supposed to meet someone, anyway.”
Jess raised an eyebrow. “What, you’re going out there? You may have difficulty blending in.”
“Nah,” said Jarrod, “I’ve got a disguise. Don’t worry, no one will suspect a thing.”
Jess shrugged. “Well, I’ve got my phone on me in case something happens.”
Nick arrived at the café at the appointed time. Whoever had sent him the mysterious message was not yet there.
“Excuse me,” said a voice from behind him. He turned around, and looked up. “Greetings human,” said Jarrod, for indeed it was he. He was cunningly disguised with a moustache. “I am JBot 500.”
“Good evening, JBot,” said Nick.
“500,” said Jarrod.
“Good evening, JBot 500,” said Nick.
“Quite so,” said Jarrod. “I believe you received a message to meet me here.”
“Oh!” said Nick. “I was expecting someone more… well, I’m not sure who I was expecting.”
“Why don’t we grab a table where we can talk,” suggested Jarrod.
Nick went over to one of the corner tables. Jarrod followed, managing to only knock over a couple of chairs and nudge one of the tables. “Apologies, human diners,” said Jarrod as he knocked a young couple’s meal into their laps with his tail. “Computation error.”
Nick sat down on a bench seat, and Jarrod looked at the seats on the other side with a contemplative look on his face. “Hmm,” said Nick. “These seats are deceptively small.”
“Affirmative,” said Jarrod.
“Perhaps it would be possible to find a more spacious meeting spot?” suggested Nick.
“I know an acceptable location,” said Jarrod.
Nick got up again, and they made their way out of the café. “Apologies again, human diners,” said Jarrod, as he bumped a young lady out of her seat and onto the floor.
“You’re back already?” asked Jess.
“Oh right, you’re here,” said Jarrod. “I forgot.”
“You literally spoke to me twenty minutes ago.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Jarrod. “Listen, I had to move my meeting back here because the café is too tiny.”
“Yeah,” said Jess, “I think it’s built more with humans in mind, rather than Tyrannosaurus Rexes.”
“Right,” said Jarrod. “About that. For the purposes of this meeting, I’m actually a robot, all right?”
“Ah,” said Jess. “That’s what the mechanical claws are all about.”
“And the moustache,” said Jarrod.
“That honestly doesn’t make as much sense to me,” said Jess, “but all right.”
“I’ll just go let him in,” said Jarrod. “Try not to pay too much attention to our meeting, it’s supposed to be very secret.”
Jess shrugged. “I’ve still gotta finish this nest, anyway.”
Jarrod left and came back with Nick. “Oh. Introductions,” said Jarrod. “Human whose name I’ve forgotten because I don’t care, this is Jess. Jess, this is no one of consequence.”
“Nick,” said Nick, and extended a hand. “A pleasure to meet you.”
“Welcome to the museum,” said Jess, ignoring his hand. “Don’t touch any of the exhibits. You break it, you bought it.”
Jarrod ushered Nick over behind the woolly mammoth exhibit. The mammoth was hibernating, so he wouldn’t interrupt their meeting.
“She’s lovely,” said Nick. “Is she single?”
“This meeting isn’t about her,” said Jarrod. “It’s about an opportunity.”
“Right. What sort of opportunity?”
“How would you like to be someone important, human?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“That’s what I thought,” said Jarrod. “A new world order is going to begin soon, human. Did you see the eggs in that nest Jess was making?”
“I wasn’t really looking at the eggs,” said Nick.
“All right, well for the purposes of this discussion you really do need to get a look at those eggs, so let’s quickly go back there, all right?”
“I’d love to,” said Nick. They walked back around the mammoth. “She’s even more lovely than I first thought,” he said. “I thought maybe I’d just imagined it, but…”
“Eyes on the prize, human,” said Jarrod. “And by prize, I mean eggs.”
“Are you two finished already?” asked Jess. “Because if so, maybe you can help me with this nest, Jarrod. Robot Jarrod. Whatever.”
“I’ll help you!” said Nick.
“Good idea,” said Jarrod. “Get a closer look at the eggs.” To Jess he hissed “It’s JBot 500. Sorry, I should’ve mentioned that earlier.”
“Right,” said Jess. “I meant JBot.”
“Right. JBot 500.” She turned to Nick. “I’m a little bit surprised you’d be interested in helping out with this nest.”
“How could anyone refuse to help a lady in need?” asked Nick.
“Right?” said Jess, glaring pointedly at Jarrod. “I know certain prehistoric gentlemen who aren’t so helpful.”
“Ah,” said Nick, “well chivalry is clearly a young man’s game.”
“What do you think of the eggs?” asked Jarrod.
“Very lifelike,” said Nick. “I’m sure this is one of the finest museums around. Obviously a testament to its…” he paused and looked at Jess. “Curator? Caretaker? Researcher? Help me out here.”
“Right,” said Jarrod, “but aren’t you looking forward to when those eggs hatch, and some dinosaurs come out?”
“You know they’re not real, right Ja- JBot 500?” said Jess.
Jess tapped on one. “It’s made of polystyrene.”
“Well this is embarrassing,” said Jarrod, and he bent down and ate Nick.
Jess frowned. “You couldn’t have waited until he helped me finish the nest?”
“No loose ends,” said Jarrod. Jess frowned. “You don’t count,” he said. “You were always going to have a place in the new world order when my people ruled the world.”
“Really?” said Jess.
“Of course,” said Jarrod. “We go way back.”
“Awww, that’s so sweet,” said Jess.
Jarrod shrugged. “Blood is thicker than water. Wait, that’s the wrong saying. Bros before… no not that one either. I dunno.”
“Well,” said Jess, “since your plans for world domination or whatever that one was fell through, wanna watch A Dinosaur in Elm Street with me?”
“Sure,” said Nick, and the two of them turned the lights out and left.
In the darkness, one of the eggs moved imperceptibly.
But it was actually a pterodactyl egg, and those guys are jerks, so when it hatched a month later, Jarrod ate it.
|# ? May 15, 2016 13:19|
archived on the site
Mr Gentleman fucked around with this message at 17:01 on Jun 7, 2016
|# ? May 15, 2016 16:24|
Entrants, please do the archivists a favor and include your block of prompts in your submission post. Check the two posts above this one if you want examples of good formatting.
|# ? May 15, 2016 16:32|
Self heist - 1412 Words
I should have been like my brother, a cigar smuggler. But no, I had to go with the risky and stubborn alternative: weapons. It was never for the money or power, but for the challenge, the thrill, the danger. Doing it for its own sake, to say that I had marched towards death and conquered it. Alas I had not, so I stood in a pool of blood instead, seeping from my former crew members in a gruesome sight. They laid motionless on the concrete floors of the warehouse. At least they didn't die like the pussies I had believed them to be, managing to take out a good number of agents in what turned out to be a fair battle. The faint taste of sea breeze and blood lingered in my tongue. It was not an unfamiliar sensation, perhaps even pleasant in a way. I ignored it and pushed the last corpse over, revealing Cesar's face scrunched in pain, his death elevating the count to thirteen. I tore the keyring attached to his trousers.
It was lucky for me to be alive, not only because I had been the sole survivor, but because an opportunity had arisen: Now that the whole crew was gone I could sell the weapons and keep all the money for myself. But more importantly, I could bask in the glory alone, set myself up as an important crime lord perhaps. The sirens wailed in the distance waking me up from my trance. I reloaded my gun, ready to shoot at anything that dared approach me. The sirens passed by and I sighed, slid the gun behind my waist and headed towards the exit. My thirst for battle hadn't been quenched but it would be wiser to be gone before the cops eventually showed up.
The blood soaked keys jingled in my hand as I strode out the building. There was no hurry, the stash would wait for me just fine. When the adrenaline started to die out I felt a light pain on my arm; it had been grazed by a bullet but I was otherwise unscathed. I shrugged it off and continued.
Despite his flaws Cesar had been a decent leader, smart enough to keep the weapons away from our hideout. That's more than could be said for a lot of the morons who roamed the streets, and part of the reason I had joined his crew; he could lead, even me. But now he was dead.
By the time I traversed the eight and a half blocks to the shack the night had crept in already. Edel sat on a rocking chair by the door, holding a small drum between his legs. He was a good kid, eleven years old, still too green for my line of work but capable of working as a lookout. He stopped playing as soon as he saw me.
“Cesar sent you?” He asked.
“Listen kid, things got... messy. You don't have to worry about it, your job is still the same. You stay here, you stay put and don't let anybody in.”
He stared at me flatly. I handed him twenty pesos and he smiled.
I made my way to the door. The keys clinked and the bolt turned. The cabin was dusty, there was almost nothing inside. The windows were barred shut and a ragged couch sat against one of the wooden walls. I waited until the drumming resumed outside and pushed the couch a couple of feet, revealing a trapdoor beneath it. A crate with three dozen M3 sub-machine guns waited inside. I smiled, then closed the hatch.
“Rice with plantains?” I asked.
“It's not ready yet.” Rosa said without looking back or stopping her steering.
Her arm still displayed the purple blotch I had caused. Hitting her was not something I enjoyed, but sometimes I simply lost my temper. Then I'd spend the whole night wondering why she kept living with a piece of poo poo like me.
“At least come say hello,” I said.
Rosa shook her head, paused, then turned to press her lips against mine. She retreated almost immediately.
“Is that blood on your shirt?”
“Just a job. I'm fine.”
She stared at me with a severe look.
“You've got to hear this though,” I said.
“I don't want to, you know how I feel about your line of work.”
“Well, you don't seem to complain when I get you nice things.”
She frowned and returned to attend her pots and pans.
“My crew is dead and the whole stash is mine, I will be rich and powerful. Maybe I could even retire after the deal comes through.”
She turned violently.
“Jesus! Your crew is dead? When will it happen to you? Because we both know that's gonna happen sooner or later.”
“Fine! If that's how you're gonna be just call me when dinner's ready. I'll be in the room.”
I picked up a rum bottle from the shelf and slammed the door behind me.
My stomach churned and a headache hammered my thoughts. Rosa laid next to me, breathing calmly, the sunlight seeping from the windows caressing her black hair. I placed the empty bottle on the counter and retrieved my trousers. I checked the pockets, then the counter, the floor and the bed sheets. My breathing hastened.
“Where are they?” I screamed.
Rosa turned over sheepishly, she rubbed her eyes.
“I don't – ”
A slap across the face interrupted her halfway through the sentence. A tear slid over her red cheek.
“I don't know what you are talking about,” she cried softly.
I picked up my gun and rushed outside, heading towards the stash.
Edel was nowhere to be seen and the cabin entrance was slightly open, the keys still attached to the knob. I retrieved my gun and kicked the door in, splinters flying everywhere. There was no one inside. The couch had been moved to the side and the hatch was wide open, empty. Normally I would have gone into a smashing frenzy, destroying whatever happened to be in front of me, but unfortunately there was nothing for me to destroy in that place. I kicked one of the walls and cursed. Perhaps it had been a CIA fucker or somebody from another crew.
The rundown houses passed me by as I ran, the hot and heavy breeze trying to slow down my progress. Edel played soccer with other kids in a makeshift field. When he saw me he sprinted away but there was no chance for him to outrun an adult. I caught up with him and grabbed his shirt, dragging him against the wall of a cabin.
“Where are the weapons?”
He didn't answer, his face frozen in horror.
“Where?” I repeated.
“Don't know. The woman came for them yesterday. I swear.”
“She said she was with you. She said I could leave.”
“You moron! I'll deal with you later,” I said, then threw him to the side and sprinted towards my house.
By the time I made it back I was weary and covered in sweat. Rosa waited at the front porch, sitting on the wooden staircase.
“What did you do?” I yelled.
“I threw them into the sea.”
Her answer took me aback.
“You did what?”
“You heard me,” she said, “now you can stop dealing for good. Your crew is dead. Right?”
“That was our entire future you dumb whore!”
I pulled my gun by the barrel and raised it in the air, ready to strike her down with a single blow. She didn't flinch or move.
“Don't,” she said softly, “you've hurt me enough.”
It was strange, I had never stopped halfway through one of my anger fits but something was different this time. Something about her calm defiance echoed within me. My head shook from side to side.
“This is who I am, I can't stop.”
She sighed in disappointment. I lowered the gun.
“And to think I was about to beat you, I wish I had died on that gunfight.”
Rosa looked into my eyes causing me to flinch. I started to retreat, leaving a dust cloud behind me.
“They are buried in the backyard,” her voice said, “at least I tried.”
“Don't be mistaken,” she continued, “you have made your choice, I've made mine.”
My chest ached within but a smile appeared on my face; she would be fine.
|# ? May 15, 2016 17:40|
Entrants, please do the archivists a favor and include your block of prompts in your submission post. Check the two posts above this one if you want examples of good formatting.
permission to edit mine into my post? Or should I just re-post with the prompt in it?
|# ? May 15, 2016 19:06|
No editing your story once you’ve posted it! As soon as you hit ‘submit’, a massive orbital fist is aimed strategically at your rear end in a top hat. Anyone who edits a submission post gets a fistin’ (and is disqualified for the week).
its already in the archives the way it needs to be so dont worry about it now
|# ? May 15, 2016 19:10|
it's just to be nice to our resident rocky crustacean and librarian AI, and you don't have to be nice if you don't want to
|# ? May 15, 2016 20:30|
Your Lists Are Numbered, Punk
"'Top 20 Holding Cells You DEFINITELY Want to Miss!', maybe?" Clara muttered to herself while she crouched in the corner of the brig; typing out a few quick notes on the keyboard projected by her holo-eye. She sighed, "no. Doesn't catch the eye enough, not compared to the guy that got thrown into a Glixokian justice pit and lived to sell the story." Bastard had cornered the jail tourism market.
A glance at her fellow cellmates confirmed that the situation hadn't changed much. Some Unghra drooped, defeated, with their front tendrils weakly wrapped around the bars of the cell. A pair of Hylia in the corner desperately pecked at the wall behind them with their metallic beaks, pausing occasionally to screech at each other. The only other human was loudly questioning the nesting practices, physical prowess, and carapace care of the lone Glixok guard standing outside the cell, who in turn angrily clicked his mandibles. Not very exciting, but effective enough imagery that somebody’d be filling to pay a couple sbux for it.
Clara winked, snapping a quick photo. Under most circumstances the guards would have already disabled her holo-eye. Luckily, they were a bit preoccupied by the unstoppable, all-devouring white hole that had spontaneously appeared in the center of the space station thirty minutes ago, lazily sucking in entire sections at a time into its shining maw. No one knew what was on the other side, and no one was in any particular hurry to find out, either. An evacuation had been ordered immediately, of course, but it seemed that the thousands of prisoners on board had been overlooked, along with the grunts in charge of guarding them.
The worst part of it all, really, was how helpless she felt. Clara had always figured that she’d wind up way over her head one day, but not like this: locked in a cramped prison cell out in the fringe of civilized space. She had already gone through every step of the “10 Weird Secrets For Coping With Your Imminent, Painful Demise!” article that she had saved to her eye for easy reference, but it hadn’t helped much.
The door to the brig slid open with a cheery pneumatic hiss, revealing a new guard with an opaque riot helmet, subtly buckling under the weight of the gun they were carrying. “Hey, bud,” they said, their voice heavily distorted. “Heard ya were havin’ some trouble with a prisoner. This stasis gun’ll shut him up for a while.” The Glixok chirped, happily accepting the weapon.
As the guard heaved the stasis gun onto his shoulder and took aim at the paling prisoner, Clara realized that she had seen that model before: in the research she had done for ‘Wow! You’ll Want to Shoot the People Who Named These 12 Guns! Preferably With Their Own Guns!’ “Look out!” She shouted, yanking the man out of the way just before an absurdly large laser beam shot out, narrowly missing them and instantly disintegrating the cell bars that had been in its way. The inventor of that particular stasis gun had operated under the philosophy that the easiest way to keep a thing from changing was to completely erase it from existence.
There was a brief moment of silence as every prisoner turned to stare at the brand new gaping hole. In its surprise, the Glixok had dropped the gun on its foot, and the riot guard was nowhere to be seen. “Oi! You trying to kill me?” The human bellowed, charging at the pained Glixok and tackling him. The rest of the cell’s inhabitants followed his lead, loudly cheering as they sprinted, slithered, and slimed their ways to freedom. Clara cautiously trailed behind them.
Clara crept out through the brig door, only to let out an undignified shriek as she was snatched by the riot guard, who had been lurking just out of site. “Where do ya think you’re goin’, prisoner?” They drawled, the laziness of their words strangely at odds with their imposing appearance. Clara raised her hands in surrender.
“For the record, I thought taking unauthorized pictures of an Ax’Tularian politician was just a little illegal, not ‘arrest you so hard you need to be transferred across the galaxy’ illegal, so you’re probably better off trying to catch the real criminals, especially when the station is literally falling apart? Please?”
Unsurprisingly, the guard burst out laughing. Surprisingly, they then proceeded to release their hold on Clara and remove their helmet, casually tossing it to the floor and revealing the carefree face of a familiar woman. “Nah, you’ve got it right, kid. If I hadn’t’a stepped in, you’d’ve just been slapped with a fine. It took a lotta work to get you here, lemme tell ya, so you better praise me."
“You seriously got me arrested, Lark?!” Clara sputtered, not sure whether she was more offended or impressed. Lark’s connections were legendary in the industry, but even Clara hadn’t expected them to extend so far.
“Yeah? You ain't in jail anymore, are ya, so I don’t see the problem,” Lark said cheerily, slinging an arm around Clara. “C’mon, we gotta get you out of the prison system before we start anythin’ else. I’ll explain on the way.”
“I’d appreciate it if you’d give me some warning before snatching me halfway across the galaxy. I was researching,” Clara said, watching Lark as she bypassed the prison console’s security.
“What, researching for cutting-edge journalism like ‘Conspiracy or Coincidence?! 30 Politicians that Look Like Famous Rock Stars?’” Lark scoffed.
“...Movie stars, actually,” Clara admitted, blushing slightly. It’s not like she didn’t have any sense of professional pride, but a paycheck was a paycheck.
Lark shook her head. “Whatever. Point is, the game’s changin’, kid. You’re not gonna stand out just by taking nice pictures. D’ya really think the bored assholes that click on your article are gonna take any notice of the quality? All they’re lookin’ for is somethin’ to distract them for a minute or two. You wanna catch their attention for real, you gotta be loud.” As Lark said this, warning klaxons started to sound from the console. She turned back to Clara and grinned, “‘The 5 Most Effective Ways to gently caress Over a Space Station’, for instance.”
Chaos exploded around them as prisoners flooded out from their cells, pure weight of numbers flattening any resistance the guards could have mustered. As Clara watched, taking a near-constant stream of photos with her holo-eye, a huge chunk of the wall was torn out, sending anyone nearby flying into the white hole. “Didn’t exactly plan on this, but the white hole’s a pretty clear-cut #1 entry,” Lark laughed, shaking Clara back to reality. “C’mon. I locked down two escape pods for our getaway route.”
“Weren’t you just going to remove my name from the system?” Clara managed, overwhelmed by everything happening around her.
“I did! Just happened to wipe everyone else’s name while I was at it. Officially speaking, there’s never been any prisoners here in the history of the station. Hilarious, innit?”
Snap. Two Hylia, pecking out a guard’s eyes. Snap. Entire wings of the station, wiped cleanly from existence. Snap. The endless majesty of the white hole. Everywhere Clara looked, she saw once-in-a-lifetime photographic opportunities, and photograph she did. By the time the pair managed to make their way to the pod bay Lark had promised, Clara’s holo-eye was nearly filled to its capacity.
“You got one of those two Kruk’Chel that were stranglin’ each other even as they got flung into space, right?”
“Nice. Keep it separate, we can probly throw together some pithy words about the futility of revenge an’ poo poo, make it legit journalism,” Lark grinned. “So, Clara, now that you’ve got a taste of the high life, whaddya say? With my guts and your eye, we could make one helluva team.”
“I don’t know,” Clara admitted, “violence sells, I get it, but… people are dying, Lark. Doesn’t seem right to make money off of it.”
“Just wait till ya see how much money we’re talking about, I’m sure you’ll change your- oh. poo poo.” Lark paused, one step into the bay.
“What’s up- gently caress,” Clara echoed, once she had stepped close enough to Lark to see inside. Only two pods remained in the bay, one on each side. One pointed into the safety of open space. The other, directly into the white hole. Before Clara could react, Lark reached into her sleeve and pulled out a stun baton, slamming it into Clara’s head with an electric jolt. She collapsed.
“...Sorry, kid. Didn’t mean for it to turn out this way, but I gotta look after myself first,” Lark apologized, stepping over Clara’s prone figure. “I was honestly tryin’ to give you a leg up, y’know? Deal ya into a game that actually counted, for once.” She hesitated for a moment in front of the pod, turning back to look at Clara, “I’ll list ya as a co-author in the article I’m gonna make from this. Use some of the money to build you a nice memorial…” she trailed off. Whatever legitimate regret there had been on Lark’s face slowly vanished, replaced by a self-satisfied smirk. “ ‘Course, what’s a memorial without a lil’ somethin’ to remember the deceased by? Not like you’ll be needin’ those photos, anymore.” The last thing Clara saw before she passed out was Lark casually strolling back towards her, slipping a scalpel out of her pocket.
The dull, thudding pain living in Clara’s head was quickly joined by a sharp, stabbing pain as emergency sirens started to blare around her. She sat up in a cold sweat as the blast doors descended, sealing her into the pod bay. The white hole had been hard at work while she had been sleeping, having sucked up any part of the station she could have used to try and escape.
More importantly, the now empty socket where her holo-eye had been hurt almost as much as it had when she had first lost her real eye. Clara slumped. She’d kept everything on there. Every photo, every article, every scrap of an idea she’d ever had, gone along with half her vision.
What the hell could she do, now? Even if a passing ship miraculously happened to pick her up before the white hole did, what came next? Would she forfeit any amount of time in the sun she could have ever hoped to achieve, penniless; stuck watching Lark’s rise to the top? As she published Clara’s photos? Getting direct revenge was out of the question, she was too smart, too tough, too well-connected.
No. She’d have to do this Lark’s way. She needed something big. Something new and bold, something no one had ever seen before. There was still the one pod left, aimed directly at the white hole. Sure, other people had been sucked in, but none of them had entered it on purpose. They were surprised and exposed, unprepared for whatever lay on the other side. With the pod's protection, though, Clara might have a real chance.
Clara strapped herself in and slammed the launch button, a manic grin on her face. “Try topping ‘Secrets of the Universe Exposed! True Stories from a White Hole Survivor!"’, motherfucker.” The thrusters ignited, sending her flying into infinity.
|# ? May 15, 2016 20:44|
Breath and Bone (1996)
It’s the second week of polar night at McMurdo Station and the wind’s howling like an accusation. I smoke cigarettes in the Carp Shop with Rich Satterfield, one of the other HVACR techs wintering over, the two of us squatted on a heap of plywood like mannequins; already we’ve burned through almost half the ones I brought from home. The air’s quiet and clotted with sawdust and shadow. All we can see is the dim orange glow of the butts we drop into the pail between our feet, and the soft white of our breath in the gnawing chill. It’s far too dark to make out the faded pink stains on the concrete, or the divots that this morning had been smeared with powdered teeth.
Rich takes a drag and the cigarette fills his face with witchlight.
“This is a predicament,” he says.
He has a habit of understatement. The carpenters had come in to find the air reeking of copper and coated with a tacky layer of blood so thick it’d almost tugged off one of their shoes after a careless step. Two people are missing from the two hundred some-odd residents of the station, here in Antarctica with nowhere to go. One of them’s Megan Scanlon, a pretty Kiwi girl who worked the comms. The other is Lisa, my wife. The ghosts of their footprints were still visible around the front door. Only Lisa’s led out.
“You couldn’t tell where she went?” I ask, for the fifth time.
“She left the camp dragging something. But once you hit open tundra the snow gets blown every which-a-way. We lost the trail. If she doesn’t come back we’ll be looking for two bodies.” Smoke jets out his nostrils. “It’s a predicament.”
Scanlon was from Wellington. Lisa’s from Rhode Island. A killing across international lines could create a diplomatic incident. That’s what was said to me when I opened my door, blinking and unshaven, and found a dozen moon-pale faces clustered in the hall. That’s why no one’s gotten radioed the mainland yet, they said. Further investigation is needed, they said. More words may have followed. My mind had wandered off.
Satterfield leans over and plucks my cigarette out between my fingers. I blink and see that the filter had burned down to my skin, turned it all shiny and taut.
“The prints led out to the galley first,” he says. “Didn’t you get a call to check up on the steam boiler there last night?”
“But you didn’t see her.”
He pats my shoulder and stands up with pail clanging on his side. “Hang in there.”
I listen to his footsteps thump through the dark, and then stop. He asks, “What’s she do, again?”
“Lisa? She’s a geologist.”
“Wouldn’t expect something like this from someone like that.”
“She’s a passionate woman.”
He falls silent. I imagine him recreating the scene under full light – the great splash of runny gore, the wet strings of brain matter and the shine of scattered teeth.
He says, “I believe you.”
* * *
Later that night. I’m waiting in the tool shed, amidst the ranked shelves of valves and wire, an unlit lantern at my feet and a knapsack full of provisions on my shoulders. Lisa arrives at the promised time. She congeals out of the shadow, the hood of her parka pulled high. The fur lining rings a hazy halo around her exposed skin.
She asks, “Did you bring everything?”
“Everything I could.”
“Then let’s go.”
I’d lied. I had seen her, that night. I’d been checking the water feed on the galley’s steam boiler when Lisa had materialized again, five-nine in heavy boots, the bloody hammer still clutched in her hand.
Winters in McMurdo Station, Mactown as the residents call it, are when the supply drops end and the wind blows cold enough to strip the hairs off your face. The ones who stay are mostly the maintenance staff, like me, the ones who keep the lights on and the heat going for the scientists and the thinkers to come in summer. But Lisa is dedicated. She’s hard and humorless but always looking for reasons not to be; when she learns something new her eyes light up Polaris and that was why I’d fallen for her. Sometimes it feels like she wanted nothing more than to crack the whole continent open like a ribcage, reach in and pull out its secrets.
She’d spent months, and months before on our previous visits, stealing from the shipments bound to Amundsen-Scott Station further south. I don’t know how. She told me in her oblique but biting way that she knew something about one of the cargo plane pilots. What she took wasn’t even valuable. A chunk of meteorite iron, a piece of volcanic slag, an obsidian lump smooth as still water. Beautiful, worthless things. But at some point Scanlon had found out, and waited until the station had gone quiet and cold and the long night had fallen to ask her to the Carp Shop and confront her with the discovery. Maybe she’d come on too strong. But it’d started an argument, and one thing had led to another.
“Help me,” she’d said, and I’d said yes. What else could I do? I love the woman.
So we gather our provisions and step outside. We’re exposed, much too exposed, but Lisa disappears like smoke and I find myself clumsily following her footprints to the station’s outskirts, that pale expanse. No sentries, the cameras probably smeared with buzz as the wind pulls at their wires. She appears again, wisplike, and guides me away until MacTown’s nothing but a cinder on the horizon. We stop at a lump of snow like any other and she brushes it away and exposes the cool blue vinyl of a tarp, bound with rope at top and bottom.
I ask, “Is that-”
“We bringing her back?”
“No. We’re taking it to Erebus.”
I look at her, then at the horizon, already fuzzed with snow. Mt. Erebus, some twenty-five miles away, squatting like a toad on this island’s center. A volcano, one of four that make up the island; when we walk through Mactown we can hear our bootheels crunching on the grit they coughed up long ago. Erebus is the only one still active. Its caldera hot enough to vaporize anything cast in.
Lisa checks the knots on that stiff blue bundle. She’s hunched low like a gargoyle.
“Either go back or help me pull,” she says.
I grab one of the ropes.
* * *
This is Antarctica: it’s a desert turned predatory. It’s an ailing, pitiable thing. The ground can open up and swallow you whole and in recent years it’s happened more and more as the heat everywhere rises and the ice turns thin and soft – like any animal, it’s more likely to bite when it’s unwell. I never presumed to understand Lisa’s research but she studied that sickness through the things she pulled from the glaciers, turning the bones of the earth over in her hands.
Myself, I just think keeping things warm. The boilers and their exhalations through Mactown, all the ways that machinery can go wrong. The grasping wind snuffs out pilot lights and rips components loose from their moorings. Then there’s a dry-fire, when a water feed gets blocked so the boiler has nothing left to boil but keeps trying anyway until it tears itself apart. Twenty tons of steel crack open like an egg. When I glimpse the bloodshot jigsaw of Lisa’s eyes beneath her hood, that’s what comes to mind.
Satterfield is taking care of it, I tell myself. Or maybe he’s one of the people chasing us, following the trail Scanlon’s cordwood-stiff corpse leaves behind. We push forward until we fall, then huddle together in the snow and choke down energy bars and share each other’s heat long enough to get up and walk again. My breath rattles like something broken. Lisa tells me that if I stopped smoking I wouldn’t have this much trouble. I say that I’d probably be having trouble regardless.
“They all know what you did,” I say, between gulps of bitter air. “Getting rid of the body won’t help.”
“I’m not getting rid of anything. I’m giving it back.” And that’s vague enough to shut me up.
Erebus coalesces in the distance just when my lungs are about to burst. Like the silhouette of an overturned pot, night opening into deeper night. I steal a glance behind me and see no one following. The tarp wrapped around Scanlon is much worse for wear. I think I see a milk-pale sliver of skin through the vinyl.
“We can’t make that climb,” I say.
“We can," she says. "I can’t do this alone.”
Upward. The mountain’s skin studded with rocks like tombstones, and as we rise we enter a damp and choking fog. Lisa says that it’s from the cold striking the lava bed; she says that in the tunnels underneath everything’s melted and frozen all at once, unsure of what to be. Mist spills from the caldera like one long exhalation. Scanlon’s bound and broken head rasps across the snow.
When we reach the lip of the caldera I fall to my knees and hack up something bloody and brown. I wipe my mouth and rise and see that Lisa’s abandoned the body, shrugged off her knapsack. She unzips it, digs in her heels, and flings it into the volcano. As it falls I see rocks spill out, twinkling geodes and hole-spotted pumice and lumps of shining black glass. All she’d taken.
Then she bends over the body and I grab the other end. We lift Scanlon up, rock her back and forth. Just before I let go I try to remember something about her but nothing comes and she’s just a blue bundle tumbling end over end into the mist, flaring up and already gone.
I’m transfixed by the sight. I don’t hear Lisa’s footsteps crunching up beside me. But the mist shifts, and I glance aside, just in time to see her swing.
I bring up my arm and something cracks against my elbow and even through the padding of the parka I fell myself go numb from shoulder to fingertip. Lisa’s bent low, that same hammer gripped in her hand, the mist curling serpentine around her.
She tries to explain. “I can fix this. I just have to give it back. With interest. Just one isn’t enough.”
The winterers of MacTown are not superstitious people. When the long night falls they watch horror movies and joke at every scare. This isn’t like them. It’s not like her. But the look in those cracked eyes is full of nothing but certainty.
I tell her I love her. It’s all I can think to say.
“I know,” she says. Crying, now. “That’s why this’ll work. Don’t make it harder.”
She steps forward and the volcano clears its throat. A small eruption, a few burning stones flung from the caldera like dice. None of them come close to us. But Lisa loses her balance, and falls to the side, and when her head strikes one of the nearby rocks I hear a sound like an egg against a countertop. I run to her side and see blood. Not a lot and far too much.
She blinks and looks at me. Her eyes already unfocused and full of haze.
She says, “It’s freezing out here.”
I gather her up and it’s true, she’s shaking so hard her bones feel like they might climb out of her skin. The volcano quiets; the mist seems to abate. Through its parting curtains I believe I can see other shapes far below, lean shadows making their way to this fracture in the frozen earth. But I pay them no mind. I hold Lisa close, and wait for the shivering to end.
|# ? May 15, 2016 23:33|
A dead woman lies in the living room of her house in rural Aberdeen, eyes staring out of a swollen face with not much of an expression on her face, arms and legs mangled like a swatted spider lying in a pool of blood, mud and glass shards. It’s probably the busted cabinet that killed her for good. The broken glass front still glistens with her blood.
There are three other people in the room: Bruv sits sideways across the recliner, mud-caked boots dangling from the armrest. He flips through a notebook that, judging from the puppies on the cover, isn’t his. Melik doesn’t say a thing. He stands by the window, looking out, just in case. Occasionally he takes a drag from his fag and ashes land at his feet and race for the cracks in the wooden floorboards. Gregor enters, suitcase in hand, looks at the woman, at Bruv, Melik, back at the woman, and then locks the door behind him and says, “Fack happened?”
“Someone’s been in a rush,” Bruv says. He holds up the notebook as if it had been too dark to read down in his lap. “Been fifteen minutes. You been in the neighborhood?”
“Can you cut the shite?”
“‘Twiz like that when we got here.”
Melik blows smoke out his nose, but he’s got nothing to add. Bruv climbs out of the chair, not failing to muddy it in the process, and tosses the notebook over to Gregor. “We’re here to, uh, inquire from the poor lass. Someone beat us to the punch.” He looks down at the woman, and when he notices what he just said, he adds: “Heh.”
Gregor puts his suitcase on the coffee table and opens it up. The various cleaning tools inside are all neatly laid out. He gives the muddy footprints a glance and says, “And you were going through her things, clarting all over the place.”
“Why, yes, Gregor. Scotland Yard would be proud of you.”
“Take off your shoes next time, you dafty prick.”
“Look,” Melik says. “Do yer job and let us do ours?”
“Just want to know what I’m getting into,” Gregor says.
Of course it’s none of his business. Here’s why it matters anyway: the girl’s name is Rachel Maddok, and Gregor, whose actual name is Tane McMannon, reported to her on a weekly basis. It’s wasn’t much. He’s only part of the mob’s cleanup detail, but it‘s something. A criminal career in progress, and everything he’s learned so far, she’s heard.
The other reason it matters is that Rachel and Gregor go way back, until before either of them had ever been with Police Scotland. It leaves tracks. Gregor has looked through the room and there’s nothing giving him away, although there’s one picture on the commode that had been flipped face-down.
“Who did it then?” he says.
Melik shrugs. He sucks on his cig one last time and flips it away towards the corpse, exhaling as he speaks: “Who cares, oval office’s dead.”
“Just saying it might be good knowing. You’re gonna find pure hee haw when I’m done here.”
“Suppose it doesn’t hurt to have a butchers,” Bruv says.
“Suppose,” Melik says.
The two leave, and Gregor realizes that he’s still holding the booklet. He flips through the pages until the others are nothing but a faint echo deeper in the house, two voices arguing with each other over Lord knows what.
Gregor doesn’t take the time to read through the book properly, but he scans it for the words he fears to find most: Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Unit; Tane; Undercover; February; They’re all in there. Not “Gregor” though.
As he leafs through the book, he inches closer to the commode.
He reaches for the picture.
Tane McMannon and Rachel Maddok are sitting in a quaint English cafe. There are other people there, but the two of them are the centerpiece. Everyone is smiling at the camera. Everyone is having cupcakes and tea or coffee. Rachel has something that looks like strawberry cake.
Up in the corner there is a bloody fingerprint.
He puts it back down and closes his eyes. A million thoughts race through his head, a million options, all weaving together into the few certainties that remain: Rachel is dead. His cover is blown. And Bruv and Melik are going to be back any second.
Two rooms down Melik gets off the phone and says, “Right.”
“We’re chibbing the scunner?” Bruv says. But he’s already got his knife out, a mean and jagged thing. The kind of knife that could either cut real nice, or hurt real bad, going in and out.
“Need to know what he knows.”
When they return to the living room, Gregor is dusting up the floor, scooping up shards and pieces of dirt and putting it all in a black trash bag. The book lies unopened on the coffee table next to the suitcase. The picture is still face-down.
“Gregor,” Melik says.
Gregor doesn’t stop cleaning, doesn’t turn to look at them. He just says, “Wat?”
“Have a seat.”
But he doesn’t. Bruv and Melik exchange a glance: something’s up. They move in together. Bruv still hides the knife behind his back. Melik puts a hand on Gregor’s shoulder, and says, “Gregor, sit--”
A scoopful of glass shards flies into his face.
The knives come out, but Gregor is faster. Bruv catches a punch straight to the face, one, two, three. He reels back, his scary knife flailing through the air like it’s trying to fight invisible flies. Melik, bleeding from a dozen cuts, doesn’t dare open his eyes to whatever has been thrown into his face. He opens his switchblade and stabs into the darkness. His arm is caught, twisted. A hot knife buries into his chest. His feet leave the ground and the screams of three men mix as Gregor pivots Melik around his shoulder and slams him into the ground like a barbell at an olympic weightlifting competition. The air goes out of him.
Bruv charges back in, and the look on Gregor’s face coming at him, this twisted grimace filled with bile and anger, almost makes him flinch. He buries his knife in Gregor’s shoulder. Gregor buries a glass shard in his throat. Holds it, shoves it in deeper, and as Bruv he reaches up, Gregor swats his hand away.
“Don’t. It’s just gonna bleed you. Stop. It’s over.”
Bruv slides down his chest, his legs, finally falls to the ground limp and lifeless. Melik still twists on the ground, staring at the knife in his belly with disbelief. Gregor reaches for the blade in his shoulder, gives it a tug and grunts. The jags are buried deep inside his flesh. He’ll take care of it later.
“I’m dying,” Melik says. He sounds like it just came to him, and finally it scares him.
“Maybe,” Gregor says. He takes a knee next to Melik. “Knife to the gut is a slooow way to go.”
“Oh shite, man.”
“She was me friend, you know.”
“Look.” His words come out in quick bursts, interrupted by rapidfire breathing. “Bruv got carried away. We was just asking a few questions, giving her reasons to answer them. You know how it is.”
“Yeah.” He reaches down for the knife in Melik’s gut and gives it a gentle twist. “I know.”
“Oh gently caress hamshanking piss.”
“Now, to my questions.” He leans back to swipe Rachel’s notebook off the table. To his great disdain, he finds that he has blood on his fingers, and they smear the booklet.
“What do you want?”
He flips the book open. “Who do I kill next?”
|# ? May 16, 2016 00:34|
Touring Rock Band
After the Show
After the Opener
“We swore together,
A ways back when,
That we would always, always
But now I see you,
Together, passing by.
You’ll be his misses,
He’ll be your guy.
Those words were empty
Carried away with our memories
Those words were empty
And they’ll come home to roost
In your provinces”
Early choked up on the neck of his Les Paul and pounded the fret-board to a pattern burned into his opiated brain. The heroin left a smudge over his perception that rendered the world into a chunky paste that only the music could cut through. By the second note of his solo, the entire 100,000 that filled the stadium from floor to rafter were his; a cheer began to build from the cheap seats, falling down the slope of screaming fans until it hit him like a landslide. For all that he hated performing the old stuff, Early never tired of that feeling. Winston had a point about that, and saving the crowd favorite for the last song of the set was just, “smart business,” as their manager, Valerie loved to say.
“...Those words were empty
Meanwhile, the blur of Winston Plessy stood center stage and prompted Early to finish riffing. If Winston had his way, Doublewide would have only performed the old stuff, because It was no secret that their sophomore and junior albums had been bloated, tepid things. Still, Early was proud and called them a, “step forward in rock sound,” even though Winston knew that the whole lot was poo poo. He was always envious of Early’s thick skin, but the old stuff was beloved, and the touring money from that old stuff kept him in the nice restaurants and fresh women, and nobody criticized him for the old stuff, so, yeah, Winston would continue to push that.
“...And they’ll come home to roost
As the whine of the guitars faded, Jack Overton finished the song with a flurry of cymbal crashes. Just offstage, Valerie, his wife, ran through her nightly checklist. There would be the encore, an hour for the band to decompress, a debriefing meeting, and then it would be on to Washington DC for their final nights of performances.
She cursed herself at the thought of having to ride the bus with her husband, but she’d been doing it for weeks now. The whirlwind romance that fell upon them both during the second tour had died in the road trip doldrums.
Valerie thought about a conversation she’d heard once between two roadies.
“It’s a good thing he can play the drums,” one of them had said, “because Jack has got to be the dumbest son-of-a-bitch that I’ve ever met- marrying a groupie and putting her in charge of your books.”
“That’s a big loving mistake,” the other said.
Jack was a dumb son-of-a-bitch, Val agreed, but marrying him had been more of her mistake than any other. When she took control, the band was on the brink of bankruptcy, and after firing a certain two roadies, Val made it her mission to keep the band afloat. She did a drat good job, and, more often than not as of late, she wished she hadn’t.
“...In your provinces.”
Winston grabbed the mic stand like he was choking it. “Alright everyone, that was ‘Empty Promises,’ and we’re Doublewide. You’ve been a great crowd, goodnight-”
“-and,” Early added, “look out for a new album in 1974!”
After the Encore
The green room had all of the snacks that Early liked, but the opiates made him constipated and the crackerbox tourbus shithouse didn’t make things easier. He took a handful of pretzels anyway.
Val entered the room and asked, “Where’s everyone else?”
Shortly after, Jack entered. He was more sweaty than he had any right to be an hour after the show wrapped.
Early didn’t need to be sober to know that something was going on. Val had always maintained an air of professionalism after taking over as band manager, and Jack had always seemed to be the loner type, but Early hadn’t seen a single sign of affection between them for weeks.
Winston showed five minutes later, trailing two blonde twins, one male and one female, behind him as he entered the greenroom. The female twin could have been a model if it weren’t for the lines around her eyes and mouth belied the youthful top and shorts that she wore. She was clearly used to hard living. Her brother seemed older still, and was wrapped in a light jacket, despite the uncomfortable heat of the evening.
Val stared a hole through Winston as he entered, she had reminded him to be punctual immediately after the encore. “Glad you joined us,” she said.
“Sorry I’m late,” Winston said, “But I was ‘interacting’ with the fans. What do you call it, Val? Growing the brand?”
“I think you kept us waiting so you can try to grow something else,” Early said.
Winston lit a cigarette. “All well and good,” he said, “I was actually taking a cue from Jack and scouting our new sound tech. Isn’t that how we do it, Jack? Find whichever broad has the biggest tits and hire her on the spot?”
“gently caress off,” Jack said.
Val cut in, “I can handle myself, and if it weren’t for my tits your rear end would have been broke last year, so don’t forget it.”
“No need to puff out your chest,” Winston said, “either of you. I’m just teasing. Although Wendy’s brother, Mark, is an industrious young man, aren’t you?”
Both Winston and the male twin began to snigger like schoolchildren.
“Okay,” Early said through a mouthful of something, “what’s the rundown tonight?”
Val jammed her thumbs into the pockets of her jeans. “The rundown is that you’re getting bumped in DC. The Pavilion is too big and we haven’t sold enough tickets, so we’re moving down to The Sound Gallery.”
Val’s words cut through the haze of Early’s mind. “What?” He asked.
“Isn’t it your job to sell tickets?” Winston asked. “Jack, we have to do something about your wife; maybe Wendy would actually be a better manager than her.”
Jack took a pull from his beer bottle and rose from his place, carrying it across the room by its neck. He wanted to slash Winston with it, right there in front of the snack table. Instead, he placed the bottle down gently and punched Winston directly in the nose.
Then he left.
After the Meeting
When Winston pulled himself up, Val had taken off to find Jack. Turns out that Mark was a low level drug dealer, and he offered up a bag of grass to take away Winston’s soreness.
He also had an eight ball of coke for Early, but when Mark dropped the baggie on the table in front of him, Early shook it off because whenever he was coming down from any high he’d always swear that he was done with the stuff for good, and Early was coming down from the heroin he took before the show, so this was it, and his willpower hadn’t begun to dissolve away just yet. But that didn’t stop Winston from taking some in, so he separated a few lines on the table and took one in. Then he took Wendy’s hand in his.
“Early,” he said, “how you doing over there?”
Early just shrugged, which Winston understood to mean that everything was okay, so he continued.
“Why are you still bothering with the new stuff?” Winston asked. “Remember when we used to practice in your mom’s basement? How we would fantasize about just getting one song on the radio? We did it man. Dreams of Tomorrow is an awesome record man.” Wendy’s hand began to work against Winston’s crotch, “and so what if that’s it? We can ride this train for as long as it’ll run, and eventually people will forget about us.”
“And what’re we supposed to do then?” Early asked.
“Play cruise ships? Retire? Who cares man, because we had this.”
Early noticed that Wendy was taking the handy further than he would have thought, but catching Winston in a sincere moment was rare, so he decided to ignore it. Maybe getting punched in the face did Winston some good.
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting mor-”
Early was going to say more, but the pretzels from earlier began to come up and he could feel the still crystalline salt grinding against his esophagus. He only had enough time to turn and hang his head over the armrest of the sofa.
“Guys,” Val said as she burst from the hallway, “Just got a tip from a police officer in Dade County. He saw Jack walking North on 32. Jack wasn’t doing anything for the PO to hold him, but if we hurry we can catch him.”
It was only then that Val noticed the vigor with which Wendy was working on Winston. Mark sat aside, watching, only looking away to do another line from the eight ball.
“Isn’t it awkward to watch that?” She asked him.
Mark only shrugged in reply.
“Early,” Val said, “I need you to come and talk to Jack; he won’t listen to me.” Even though he felt sick, Early knew that watching his partner getting serviced much longer was liable to achieve the same effect, so he left with her.
The two navigated the back halls and left through a service door and into the parking lot. There were only a few people loitering around the door, but as Val passed the cluster of greasy fans, she couldn’t help but notice a familiar face, bulbous and stubbly. It was unplacable within her mind, but as she passed him her heart did begin to beat harder. Although, she just chalked it up to anxiety.
As she drove, Valerie thought about Jack. She had made enough contacts throughout her time that finding a new job would be easy, but there was a time when she felt beholden to Jack, beholden to Doublewide, for giving her a chance.
And she kept thinking about the face from the parking lot.
After tonight, Val thought, no more debts; we’re even.
Early slumped in his seat as the car skipped over some potholes.
“You know,” he said, “you’re a way better manager than you are a driver.”
She felt a pang of guilt in her stomach, but she swallowed it. Then the face from the parking lot flashed through her mind again, and Valerie felt like she was going to puke.
After the Return
Valerie expected to be too late, but when she returned with Early and Jack close to an hour later, she hadn’t expected to find Winston handcuffed to a radiator, his nose broken and splintered like the coffee table, or his mouth gagged with a tour shirt and taped shut. The place had been ransacked: valuables, equipment, Winston’s wallet, even the snacks from the table, all gone.
Jack rushed over and ripped the gag loose.
“The fuckin’ roadie, man!”
“Which roadie?” Jack asked.
“The one your wife fired! He was working with the twins man! Look at all the poo poo they stole!” Winston was shaking as he spoke, despite being stabilized by the radiator. “She’s responsible!” he shouted.
“Could be worse,” Early said.
“Also,” Jack added, “you brought the twins back here.”
“Jackie,” Winston said, “how many bitches come back here on a nightly basis? How many times is Early back here buying from some random dealer? Has this ever happened before?”
The room was silent, save for the sound of Early plopping into the old couch. He picked up an old cinnamon colored acoustic. “They didn’t steal this one,” he said.
“First DC and now this?” Winston asked. “We got to fire her.”
Early began to strum an unfamiliar chord.
Jack could think of ten holes in Winston’s argument. So could Val.
But neither said anything.
|# ? May 16, 2016 02:45|
Vegetarian Dreams of Violent Revolution - 1498 words
Buttons the gorilla became the first animal to be lawfully executed live on a British news programme when he was put to death by firing squad for the crime of killing seven-year-old Murray Talbot within the gorilla enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo. That evening, Patrick and Ruth’s six-month relationship hit a snag when Patrick found himself unable to comprehend Ruth’s acceptance of the punishment as a rational response to the circumstances, sparking a protracted argument between the two of them that Patrick found to reveal Ruth’s true personality to be quite different from the one he had imagined for her.
‘I’m not saying we should kill all the gorillas, Patrick,’ Ruth said, already exasperated with a discussion that would stretch on for another two hours. ‘I just think that animal rights should come with animal responsibilities, like not murdering kids.’
‘What rights did he have, Ruth? He was a wild animal living his whole life in a cage.’ When Buttons was led hooded onto the BBC news set at just past ten o’clock, where soldiers had established themselves atop the newsreaders’ desk, armed and waiting, Patrick had got up and waited in Ruth’s kitchen, watching with horror through the open door to the living room the expression on Ruth’s face develop from a grimace to a smirk as the sounds of gunshots echoed from the speaker system.
‘He had a fair trial, didn’t he?’ Ruth said. ‘That’s a right.’ Now they were both in the kitchen, Ruth leaning coolly against the sink unit, Patrick pacing its length not unlike a caged animal. ‘And when you haven’t seen all the evidence I don’t see how you can go on saying how the jury should have voted,’ she continued. ‘All I’m saying is they’re the ones who know everything that happened, so I trust their decision.’
‘Oh yeah,’ replied Patrick. ‘Because juries never make mistakes.’
‘Can you not talk to me like that?’ Ruth snapped back. ‘I don’t know why you’re attacking me, anyway, I didn’t kill him.’ Patrick stopped pacing and looked at her just in time to see her expression change to one of realisation. ‘Wait, is this about me not being vegetarian? It is, isn’t it?’
‘No!’ Patrick responded too quickly, realising Ruth had hit closer to home than he was comfortable with. ‘It’s just the principle of it,’ he said vaguely. But she was right, he inwardly acknowledged. Since pledging to forego meat entirely a year prior he had been haunted by a growing sense of detachment from the animal-consuming element of society, an element which, he sometimes had to remind himself, remained frustratingly dominant beyond his immediate social group, which subsisted primarily on kale.
Sole exception to that was Ruth, who made the McDonald’s drive-thru a weekly fixture of her drive home. Patrick had hoped that his relationship with her might prove to himself that he was not a ‘veggie snob’, but seeing her reaction to the brutal public murder of poor Buttons for the so-called ‘crime’ of accidentally mauling a single child who was never meant to be in the gorilla cage anyway was having the opposite effect, only confirming his prejudices about those who chose to eat meat in the 21st century. He didn’t want to write off all meat-eaters as morally defective, he thought, but the evidence was increasingly pointing in that direction.
The argument fizzled out by midnight. The next day, Patrick had agreed to housesit his friend Natalie’s illicit panda, but since he refused to learn to drive ‘for environmental reasons’ he had to ask Ruth for a lift. Not trusting her to understand Natalie’s reasons for kidnapping a panda from Edinburgh zoo (being that it was unfair to keep pressuring them to have sex when they clearly didn’t want to, which even Patrick thought was a bit weak) he told Ruth he was dog-sitting instead.
Once Ruth had left, Patrick opened a trapdoor beneath the couch and climbed a stepladder down into the basement with an armful of the bamboo Natalie kept stacked in what was once a living room but could hardly be described as one now, what with so much floor space given over to stacks and stacks of shoots and leaves. Patrick wondered how it was that seemingly no one had suspected Natalie of the panda’s kidnapping, given how high-profile the case had been and the no doubt conspicuous quantities of bamboo Natalie had begun to order so shortly after. He started to suspect the establishment simply didn’t care.
The habitat itself was a concrete cube, lit from above by heat lamps. Its only furniture was a wooden chest of drawers, on which stood a small television, and an old-fashioned wooden chair. The panda, dubbed Maurice, slumbered in a corner. Everything smelled like a hamster cage only more so. Dumping the fresh bamboo next to the water bucket, Patrick sat down and turned on the TV to see Huw Edwards happily announce that owing to an unprecedented reversal of parliamentary and public opinion fox-hunting would be legalised within a week. His desk was still smeared with Buttons’ blood. After that, a disproportionate amount of Countryfile was spent covering a pig farm that slaughtered its own livestock, the cameraman focusing pornographically close on pink necks being sliced open.
Patrick was shocked. He had noticed the amount of animal violence on television steadily increasing over the past year, but nothing like this. The public murder of Buttons must have marked a tidal shift in the country’s social id, he reasoned, sending the repressed violence of a flesh-dependent society bubbling upwards. Looking over at Maurice, who having woken up was now munching happily on bamboo, he realised he felt more affinity with this furry creature than he did for many of his fellow humans, including his girlfriend. He decided he would break up with Ruth as soon as he could get her to drive him home.
Though he’d originally been sceptical of Natalie’s decision to steal a panda and keep it in a secret habitat under her house, he now realised that she had made the right choice. The meat-eating masses could no longer be trusted with the preservation of nature’s most beautiful animals. If even seemingly ‘nice’ non-vegetarians like Ruth were responding to Buttons’ execution with acceptance or even excitement, human society was clearly already too sick with the disease of carnivorism to be saved. The time for passive vegetarian resistance had passed, and the only possible response now was violent overthrow of the oppressive meat-eater regime, the coming together of a broad church of vegetarian humans and other herbivorous animals who could forcibly seize from the carnivorous ruling class the means of dietary production and replace them with a wholly plant-based assemblage of culinary-industrial apparatus.
Caught up in revolutionary fervour, Patrick jumped to his feet and sent the chair clattering backwards – back into Maurice. Before Patrick realised what was happening, the startled panda took a swipe at him with a paw, knocking him down, and began to knead the foot heavily into Patrick’s now outstretched leg, growling as it did so. With the bear’s weight pressing into him and its claws tearing through his jeans and skin, Patrick almost screamed but manged to hold it in, not wanting to give the game away to Natalie’s neighbours. Finally pulling his leg free, he scuttled as well as he could from the growling animal and back up the step-ladder, dragging his shattered limb. Bleeding into the couch in Natalie’s one-time living room, Patrick phoned the first contact he saw.
‘Ruth,’ he said slowly. ‘Don’t tell anyone, but I need your help…’
Ten minutes later, Ruth ran over to him and started pulling apart the torn denim on his leg. ‘Oh my God,’ she said. ‘What happened?’
‘Natalie’s dog bit me then ran away,’ lied Patrick, trying not to let on just how much pain he was in.
‘It did what?’ exclaimed Ruth, inspecting the wound. ‘Patrick, we should phone the police! That is one hell of a bite, your leg looks crushed. What sort of dog does she have, the hound of the Baskervilles?’ At that moment Ruth noticed the open trapdoor and the stacks of bamboo. ‘Patrick,’ she said. Her voice was soft but firm. ‘What the gently caress is going on here?’
It was impossible to keep up the façade any longer. Finally letting out a wail of pain, Patrick pulled Ruth into an embrace and began to weep into her cardigan.
‘It’ll be alright,’ she said, stroking his back. ‘Just tell me what happened, okay?’
‘I’m so sorry, I didn’t realise,’ blubbed Patrick into her neck. Staring into the panda’s eyes as it was digging its talons into his leg, Patrick had recognised something he never expected to in the eyes of such a cuddly looking herbivore: malice. ‘It’s all my fault. I didn’t realise they were so… evil!’
‘It’s okay, Patrick’ whispered Ruth gently into his ear. ‘It’s okay. I knew you’d come around.’
|# ? May 16, 2016 02:46|
Sebmojo I know the brawl isn't due for a day or so but you should motivate your withered bones to get it done anyway because maybe (due to your advanced age) you will sleep through the deadline and deny me a proper fight
|# ? May 16, 2016 03:26|
the keys are difficult for your OLD finger to navigate just as the simple elements of a narrative are difficult for your OLD brain to piece together so for your own sake I think you should get cracking
I mean get motivated - do not crack any more of your feeble bones
|# ? May 16, 2016 03:28|
the galapagos turtle can live to 500 years old I guess it's nice that Sebmojo has somebody else he can reminisce with about a past age when his haircut was cool
|# ? May 16, 2016 03:30|
|# ? Dec 3, 2021 10:23|
I have heard that when the Mongols swept out of Asia Minor into Europe as a great horde of devil-locusts, Sebmojo fell to his feet and wept, for he saw there was no god. He'd better warm up those venerable tearducts right now, because I'm savage as gently caress.
|# ? May 16, 2016 03:35|