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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe
In. Number 75, Can't Anyone Unleash Us?

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Djeser posted:

Thunderdome Week 215: El sueño de la razón produce el Thunderdome

To enter this week, you will go here and pick one of Goya's Los caprichos. Then, you will post in, and post the number of the print you chose. Here is an example:

You may interpret your caprice in any way you like, but your stories should be unsettling. They don't need to be outright horror, but Los caprichos are grotesque, dreadful, and surreal. Make use of that mood in your story.

You have 1100 words.

Entries close at 11 PM Pacific on Friday.
Submissions close at 11 PM Pacific on Sunday.

Capricho No. 60: Trials

Capricho No. 11: Lads making ready

Quoting this for the new page, because I know the difference between edit and quote unlike some bodily-fluid members-of-royalty

Feb 25, 2014
i literally cannot not be in w/ this av

in no. 43, the sleep of reason produces monsters :)

e: :toxx:

flerp fucked around with this message at 06:21 on Sep 14, 2016

Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.
In, #3 Here comes the bogeyman

Mar 21, 2010
:siren: MEGABRAWL RESULTS :siren:

Ladies and gentlemen, it is done: the greatest brawl of all time. Many lie dead on the wayside. Before we get onto our results, let us remember the fallen:

Carl Killer Miller
Morning Bell
Doc Klocktopussy

May their blood fertilise the fields, and great stories spring anew. Take a moment of silence for their fallen heroes - their graves will forever read "they were pretty good but idk not good enough I guess lol".

Of course, it ended where it began: with two duellists in the sun, staring each other down. PALE SPECTRES, who wrote a strange and unsettling fantasy piece that maybe didn't hit the prompt as well as it could've, but was gorgeous to read. Across from him in the baking sun was Thranguy, who took the picture pretty much literally and wrote something beautiful but a little confusing.

Only one can survive. Who is the greatest brawler of them all?

SPECTRES by a country mile

Sailor Viy
Aug 4, 2013

And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan's country, or shot over the edge of the world into some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.

random crits of music + country stories

A Time to Sing, a Time to Talk, a Time to Dance
I admire the way you use the third-person narrative voice in this story. You manage to move it along through a long period of time without getting bogged down, yet you still give some images and details to spice it up. There were a few passages where I felt like it was a little bit too much “tell” and not enough “show”.
You did a good job of making the culture feel real and vivid. I don’t know much about Moroccan culture so I don’t know how “authentic” it really was, but you wrote about it with a sense of authority. The only thing it was lacking was that I couldn’t tell when the story was meant to take place.
The ending was... ok, but not too satisfying. I wasn’t sure if she was committing suicide or just leaving, until I went and googled “can you swim from Morocco to Spain” and it seems you can. So I guess it just meant that she was unhappy with her marriage so she left? I didn’t get a clear idea of why she was unhappy.
Actually, now I think about it, I didn’t get much idea of any of her feelings. I don’t know why she wanted to marry him and I don’t know why she wanted to leave him.

An Aquarian Expedition
I was momentarily confused by the line “One line in a Rolling Stone writeup eight years ago that the man's been nursing ever since.” Before that, I had assumed we were in third person. That, combined with the change in tense, made it a little jarring. It made sense eventually but it could have been smoother.
After that I didn’t really find anything else to criticise. I really like the laid-back pace of the story, and the way you incorporated exposition into the dialogue.

Jean and Milan
– The first few paragraphs are too heavily loaded with exposition.
– “It will be an honour to meet him and bribe him” is a bizarre phrase that seems to reflect a bizarre plot point. I guess it’s fine if Jean is just crazy but I’m finding it hard to believe the narrator would go along with him.
– “I make a noise. I think you could call it a whimper. He does it again. That time I make a yelp.” You should cut sentences like these.
OK, so I was wondering why you were so keen on this dumb idea that they would bribe him with coke, and sure enough it turned out to be the lynchpin of your dumb ending. Sorry, it’s just not in any way believable that Milan couldn’t very easily get cocaine for himself.
That said, I did quite enjoy Jean as a character and he kept me more or less engaged until the end.

Wolf Honeymoon
I didn’t find even a trace of rap opera in this. Maybe there was some very clever reference to it that went over my head?
I didn’t understand what the narrator was doing with Ye Aung’s body.
I didn’t understand what the characters’ situation was exactly. I guess they were on the losing side of the battle so they were just waiting to be killed? But then I don’t understand why they said “even if it’s our own side, they’ll shoot us to be safe”.
Basically there was a lot going on that I couldn’t understand. But your writing is so vivid and atmospheric that I still found the story a pleasure to read. I wasn’t thinking “ugh, what the gently caress is that supposed to mean?” it was more like “oh, that’s weird, whatever”. I think it worked because you had a good handle on the characters’ relationships and their situation and you wrote them very confidently, so the plot holes just seemed like minor details.

“Liberian Police Used Deadly Force on Peaceful Protest, Acquitted”
– There’s a few obvious errors here, e.g. “All the neural connections are are firing as expected”. I know you got in just before the deadline though so whatever.
– “Forcibly manipulated the air” – so he has psychic powers as well as kung fu? That came out of nowhere.
– This action sequence is long and not that interesting to me because your protagonist is an invincible ninja. It would have been more interesting if he still had elite skills but he had to work around the limitations of using an old man’s body.
The ending didn’t work for me and just came off as silly. A homeless man from Liberia is obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons? Yeah right. Also the phrase “27th edition” sounds like something out of Douglas Adams and doesn’t jive with the relatively realistic tone of the rest of the piece.
I didn’t really understand how their plan was supposed to work. Seven cyber ninjas killing a bunch of corrupt cops is good, I guess, but I don’t see how it would ensure a fair election. It feels like you just threw that bit in there to assure us that these were the ‘good guys’ even though it didn’t make much sense.
Last but not least... as a fan of vapourwave I was disappointed to find none of it in your story. Actually I barely found anything of ‘Liberia’ either. You might as well have not been writing to a prompt at all.

Time Writes No Wrinkles On The Bay
This was nice. I’m really impressed with how you managed to fit a complete story into such a small space. The concept wasn’t particularly original (I was immediately reminded of The Enigma of Amigara Fault) but it was executed well. The line about the ribcage was my favourite.
I’m going to start sounding like a broken record with these crits but where was the nintendocore? I just didn’t see it (unless maybe the Sea Brain was meant to be a very oblique reference to Metroid?). I’m still new to thunderdome so maybe there is an unwritten rule that it’s okay to interpret the prompts very loosely. But from my perspective y’all are cheating.

my cat is norris
Mar 11, 2010


In with No. 72, "You Will Not Escape."

As promised with my last sign-up, consider this a :toxx:.

Let's hope I can get under that word count this time.

Mar 21, 2010
Hit me with #52, judgeman. Inburger.

Jul 22, 2007
In with No. 59.

Jul 25, 2016

In with No. 64, Bon Voyage.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Capricho No. 53: ¡Que pico de oro! (What a golden beak!)

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
In with #21 (How They Pluck Her)

Sep 4, 2011
In with #12.

Jul 26, 2012

In with No. 50: Los Chinchillas.

Sep 2, 2016

In with Capricho No. 63: ¡Miren que graves! (Look how solemn they are!)

Dec 11, 2013

by Pragmatica
IN: With Capricho No. 2: El sí pronuncian y la mano alargan al primero que llega (They say yes and give their hand to the first comer)

Jul 10, 2001
some obscure reference
In with 28

almost there
Sep 13, 2016

In with No.18 "and the house is on fire"

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Fourteen hours remain for signups.

There are many prints left to claim, such as Sitting Here Doesn't Understand Chairs:

Or Dr. Donkey, M.D.:

Or finally, A Crone Making A Kid Fart On A Torch:

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007

Djeser posted:

Or finally, A Crone Making A Kid Fart On A Torch:

lol gently caress it, in with this one, though i'm too lazy to look up which it is

Jan 12, 2012

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

In with Capricho No. 74: No grites, tonta (Don't scream, stupid)

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Entries have closed.

Feb 25, 2014
100% fail rate :(

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Okay, sign-ups are closed. Submissions are still open.

If you'd like me to clear up any further semantic ambiguity then .i .e'o ko livycru mi bu'u le bavla'i ke nunde'a tcana.

Sep 4, 2011
Prompt: Capricho No. 12

Tooth Fairy
790 Words

From the front the shop seems enticing, even at night. There’s a friendly looking door, an expensive pine counter in the front, a gracious and smiling assistant with an unctuous voice who waves when I come inside. If you’re not aware of how dentures are made it must seem terribly charming.

The back room smells of rot and dead things, it seeps out from the wood. Half finished dentures sit on the workbenches. I hike my dress away from the tar black floor as I walk across. A man is sitting on his old wooden chair, the man I need to see. Waiting for me is a mocking smile, a leering glance, and greedy little gestures.

The Tooth Fairy, that’s what he likes people to call him. His suit is shabby, his thinning hair greasy, and he knows he has power over me.

We both know I’m desperate for money, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. He takes pleasure in the pretense of civility, the flourish of showmanship. ‘I’m overjoyed to welcome you to this honorable enterprise miss’ he says, ‘Glad to have another esteemed colleague’ he says.

I start to grind my teeth.

The charade ends almost instantly. I’m sent out with tools and bag, out to the Lumburn gallows. ‘To reap the harvest’ says the Tooth Fairy. I’m ushered back out the front door as quickly as possible. He wants his treasure quickly.

Cobbled streets echo with my footsteps. I lose track of how long I’ve been walking. I wonder if anyone is watching me, from a window maybe, or from a deep shadow lamplight can’t remove.

There’s a howl in the wind’s voice tonight.

There’s Lumburn square in front of me, the gallows at its heart. A corpse still hangs from a noose. This is tonight’s work, the treasure that my employer seeks. The foul harvest begins.

I’ve seen hanged men all my life. I’ve never had to put my hand in a hanged man’s mouth.

I work myself up to it, squeezing my right hand tightly again and again. I force myself to do it, pushing past the corpse’s swollen tongue to check the teeth.

My body heaves. I force the bile back down. My throat burns.

The hanged man is missing two molars. Two less for the Tooth Fairy, and four less coins for me.

I take my pliers. With my other hand I hold the hanged man in place by the mouth. I set the pliers around a molar. I pull, and I pull, and I pull. Out the tooth comes, the blood around its roots dark.

I heave again. My body holds its nerve.

I take out the next tooth. It’s just as reluctant to be harvested, and just as bloody.

The wind howls loudly. I imagine the remaining teeth biting down on my hand. I hate the Tooth Fairy more than I’ve ever hated anyone in my life.

One by one the teeth all come. Some are pearly, others cankerous. None of them come easily.

I finally finish.

Dark blood starts dribbling from the corners of the empty mouth. I leave to the sound of blood dripping onto wood.

I try to ignore teeth rattling in their bag, the sound makes my own mouth twinge.

The wind chases me back to the shop.

I throw open the door, slam it behind me. The assistant gives me exactly the same smile as before, exactly the same wave as I pass him by.

The Tooth Fairy is still in his chair. He leaps up when he sees the bag I’m carrying. ‘Not everyone manages to stomach their first harvest’ he says. His approval is genuine. It still takes all my strength not to smash his skull in with my pliers.

He takes the bag from me. Out come the teeth, spilling onto one of his workbenches. He looks at them like they’re precious gems.

Each is cleaned and carefully examined, down to the last cavity and imperfection. A dentist would be embarrassed at the care and attention so lavished. ‘A good haul’ he says at last.

Thirty teeth nets me sixty coins. He slips me five extra. ‘Consider it a bonus’ he says. He regards me as an investment now. His limited generosity is to keep me sweet. It’ll never amount to anything. If he paid me too well I’d simply stop working for him. But that’s still five more coins I wouldn’t have otherwise..

Besides. The money excites me. I hate that he’s able to make me feel like that, but it’s the truth.

Even so, I loathe the prospect of tomorrow night, of doing this all over again to some other thief’s corpse. But I already know I’ll stomach it.

I have to.

my cat is norris
Mar 11, 2010


Prompt: Capricho No. 72

Claudia and the Black Wood
1000 Words

Their voices called to her from the heart of the Black Wood.

"Never go to the Black Wood," everyone said. The warning was oft concluded in a terse whisper, as if the speaker meant to avoid attracting attention. "They'll find you, and They'll keep you."

The tiny village where Claudia lived was planted close to the Black Wood, yet not close enough to provoke whatever dangers had founded the grim mantra. That was what everyone believed, anyway. The voices proved otherwise.

Who were They, anyway? No one could provide a horrible enough definition to diminish Claudia's curiosity, so when the voices began, she didn't know why she should be afraid. She was only a little girl, after all; no more than six years old. What danger could these voices present to someone so small?

Mother's reaction was more frightening than the voices, really. Claudia asked about what she was hearing, and Mother, spurred to hysterics, tried to beat the hearing from her daughter. Father's intervention saved Claudia's life, but neither Father's love nor Mother's fear could end Their whispering. At least the assault had given Claudia a good reason to fear the voices. If Mother had reacted thus, what might someone else do?

The village priest was the first to declare Claudia damned. He came to her home at Father's behest. His holy Word and droning prayers brought comfort, at first, but as They began to understand his intentions, Their sibilant whispers ascended into a shrieking din of howling violence. Claudia could not bear the sound. It tore at her as easily as a wolf's claws would sunder the priest's soft flesh. Made afraid by what he saw in Claudia, the priest forgot his vows to heal the suffering, and -- cursing their souls to the deepest Hells -- abandoned her and her family to their Godless fates. None of them were permitted to attend services after that.

Claudia's teacher was the next to turn. Ten years old and so hounded by Their words that sleep became impossible, she'd often drift off in the midst of her lessons. Her teacher tried to shame Claudia into wakefulness, and then tried the lash, but neither tactic could surmount Claudia's exhaustion. Claudia was soon after banished from classes.

The look on her teacher's face was no less cruel than the priest's cutting words. It was an expression Claudia was coming to recognize. No matter how kind and well-mannered she behaved, she was given hatred in return. The market man shunned her from his store. The seamstress refused to spin any wool Claudia touched. Even the simple-minded goat-herder stopped speaking to Claudia, and turned his back to her when she walked past his field.

When they started throwing more than just insults at Claudia's back, Father forbade her from leaving home. She would be safer at home, he claimed, even if it meant she would have no distraction from Their voices.

It was no better at home. Mother had no tolerance for the difficulties imposed by Claudia's condition. One day, she packed her belongings in a cart, and left for Grandmother's house three villages to the east. Father was rendered distraught, and he spoke little to Claudia thereafter. His silence was terrible. In the void left behind by Father's spoiled love, Their voices found a new route into Claudia's soul and mind, and Their voices became louder than ever before.

Their whispers burrowed through her like maggots through meat.

At fifteen years old and isolated from any kind of mercy or compassion, Claudia began to understand Their words.

Come to us.

They spoke of the inimitable beauty of the Black Wood. They recited poems describing dark nights and deep peace. More than that, They sang to her a lullaby of comfort and companionship, promising to replace the aching loneliness of her life with the endless eternity of Their love.

For the first time since she was a very little girl, Claudia's curiosity about Them stirred anew.

Father -- seated at the house table, his head in his hands -- stirred enough to watch Claudia leave their small home, though not enough to try and stop her leaving. The last she saw of him was the hard shape of his weary frown lit by flickering candlelight. The image of him vanished behind the front door as it closed behind Claudia.

The ground was cool and damp beneath her bare feet. Twigs, pebbles, and cobblestones should have made her journey inelegant and painful, yet she traveled immune to any obstacle no matter how large, as if Their voices wrapped her body in unassailable armor. She drifted through the dark village, seeing but not caring for the landmarks of her life. The school. The shop. The church. The cart that had taken Mother away. She'd so badly wanted to be accepted by the life the village promised.

The spurning and hatred she'd gotten instead no longer seemed so painful.

No one stopped her on the road; everyone was asleep. Nothing blocked her path; Their promises kept it clear. The Black Wood loomed before her, and, unafraid, Claudia stepped into its midst, surrendering to the great darkness that awaited.

She felt Their wings stir the wind. They surrounded her, Their claws tugging at her hands and the skirt of her nightgown, pulling her along with the impatient excitement of children. Their fat, furred bodies created detestable shadows between the trees, but she felt no disgust toward Them, and no repulsion at Their pursing lips and flaring nostrils. Their voices were beautiful, Their darkness comforting, and Their love more real than anything she had ever experienced.

They invited her to dance, and Claudia -- dizzied and euphoric -- began to twirl with a grace she didn't know she possessed.

Claudia never did appear in the village again, though late at night, beneath the light of the fullest moon, if one listened closely enough, her joyful whispers could be heard beckoning all who could hear to the heart of the Black Wood.

Jul 25, 2016

Capricho No. 64: Buen viaje (Bon voyage)

607 words

A small duke on a small throne fancied himself a king.

Not a king crowned by the meaningless titles and finery of man, but a true ruler who could usher his people beyond their potential. Duke Urien ordered the assassinations of other rulers, but not so their kingdoms would weaken. He needed the methods long nights of study revealed to him, and he needed the remains of those greater than he brought to his table.

Apprehension infected Urien’s subjects when the gates were shut and barred, but while commerce dried up and crops grew rotten, he plucked the eyes and broke the bones and sucked the marrow of distant kings, and his mind grew with every morsel. He saw charters and war maps; tactics and diplomacies; secret quarrels and fleeting trysts; everything the minds of his meals held, but all of it too human, too base. His people deserved better.

A bloated king on a cracked throne fancied himself a lord.

Days contorted into weeks. None were permitted to leave or enter the duchy, and none were permitted to know why their ruler went unseen. A few fought with outraged fists, but not enough for Urien’s trained soldiers to break. The unfortunate foolishness of the few fed his growth, while the many who lived would eventually witness their metamorphosis.

Knowledge shared with the dead meant nothing to Urien. Knowledge shared with the living was invaluable. Scholars and priests piled dead onto his table, but his subjects would have to be fully aware when he grabbed them in talons growing desiccated and tossed them in a maw that now split wider than a serpent’s. Urien saw untold wisdom and piety, yet was blind to secret rumblings of fear and dissent that festered in the people of the duchy and threatened to burst.

A twisted and greedy lord could not be satisfied by a throne; he must become a god.

While Urien gulped down the corpses of angels and demons summoned and slaughtered like cattle, the spark of sedition grew into a blazing inferno. Cries of rage no longer bound by fear reached his shuttered window. Shouts of his soldiers sputtered free, then were abruptly silenced. The people drove through the streets with a singular thought; if they were to wither and die from their ruler’s negligence, then they would not go quietly.

A brick shattered the glass of Urien’s chamber, and a torch followed quickly behind. Fine rugs soaked with aged blood and viscera embraced and spread the flame. A thousand voices shrieked in unison from a single mouth, and the mob fell into silent apprehension.

Their duke tumbled from the window of his high chamber. Feathered and membraneous wings flapped pitifully, laced with flame. Arms upon fingers scrambled for the palace’s wall, tearing masonry to pieces. Milky eyes darted to see nothing and no one. Segmented legs kicked and spasmed. A degenerate larva crashed to the cobbled streets, torn too early from its burning cocoon.

Robed in putrid smoke and flickering embers, Urien welcomed his subjects despite their terror. Many hands swept up many bodies and piled them into his maw. He ground them between his teeth, heedless of the blood and scraps splattering to the earth, heedless of limbs choked upon and vomited free. All he needed to do to save them from their ignorance was to swallow.

Boils rose along his back, bursting to reveal the faces of each townsman Urien devoured. Everything one knew, they all knew. Everything one felt, they all felt. Every insignificant moment was knowledge given unrestrained, and as their lord took them to the sky in wild euphoria, they screamed.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Prompt: Capricho No. 21: ¡Cual la descañonan! (How they pluck her!)

Twenty Questions and a Door Slammed Shut

1095 Words

I. Lieutenant Driver, 11/11/16

So you're up on the roof when Malik comes out of the stairwell, Mr. Carr's blood all over his clothes. That much we know for sure. What we need to know is what happened next. Can you help us?

Kid, if the Pope came up and told me water was wet I wouldn't believe him without checking it out first. It's my job not to believe people. Of course I'm not going to believe you. But can you tell me anyway?

Wait, are we talking like a giant bat, or some kind of bird?

And you're saying he just flew away?

Just out of curiosity, what how big were these wings exactly?

See, I used to fly remote control planes when I was a kid. Learned a bit about flight. And one thing that I know is that that kind of wing-span on something that weighs as much as a teenage kid just doesn't work. Even if I were to buy the premise here, what you'd get once he jumps off the roof is a splattered mess on the pavement outside. And since we didn't find any such thing, with or without giant wings, let's try again. What really happened when he got to the roof?

Okay, let's set that aside for now and go back to a little earlier in the day. During lunch, two hours before your friend stabbed Mr. Carr-

In my experience, there's no such thing as someone incapable of violence. Or at least there's no way to tell ahead of time.

We know for sure they were alone in that office when it happened. You think Mr. Carr shoved two sharpened #2 pencils through his own eyes, is that it?

Where were we? Lunch. Several of the other students say that Malik came up to you and whispered something in your ear then. What was it? Did he tell you what he was going to do?

Then what?

The secret of the universe, huh? Care to let me in on it?

Listen, kid. The less you cooperate, the worse this is going to go for you. Malik is a wanted fugitive, and we need to know exactly how he got off that roof and where he went, and anything he say to you might help us find him. So are you going to start telling me the truth?

II. Dr. Poliver, 11/30/16

I think we've made good progress in the past few sessions. Are you ready to start to directly address your experience?

That's not a word I use, Megan.

I believe you experienced it. You've said that the first thing you saw Malik do was to take of his shirt. Is there a sexual side to what happened that afternoon?

But you and Malik were a couple, correct? You were sexually active?

But you did do everything but, no?

Can you tell me what kind of bird the wings looked like?


Angels are traditionally white-feathered, but your subconscious chose that instead. I think it's significant that the male peacock displays those feathers as a mating ritual.

III. Brother Thurgen, 12/18/16

Good morning, Megan. Your parents are interested in transferring you to a considerably more pleasant facility, but I will need to ask you a few questions first. To make certain that you are in fact a suitable candidate.

On the contrary. I believe that what you saw was real and that you have been completely truthful in your interviews. Well, almost completely truthful. With a single exception.

When you told your therapist that you and Malik had never, ah, 'went all the way.' Do people still say that?

You've been at this facility for more than a month, but have not once asked the nurses for any feminine hygiene products. You carry his child. I won't insult you by suggesting you might have had other partners.

An angel? Hmf. No, not that.

Do you know what the root of Lucifer's sin was?

No, rebellion is sin. The two are the same. The root of his fall was pride, his belief that he knew better than his Creator.

Now? Well, if you make a full and frank confession, we will baptize you, and all that is unholy will be washed from the child. You will carry it in comfort at our facility and, in consultation with your parents decide whether to put it up for adoption or not.

It must be a true and sincere confession. Back in the old days, before the mother church lost its way, such a confession required giving information on one's partners in sin. In your case, it will require an answer. Exactly what was the so-called 'secret of the universe' that the devil whispered in your ear?

He can be quite persuasive. That is part of his nature. I've reviewed the evidence in the police's case against him, and it's quite clear that Malik was standing on the other side of the room when Mr. Carr so vividly took his own life. No doubt on a simple suggestion from the devil's silver tongue. For someone who already belonged to Hell as strongly as that teacher-

My organization has done due research. I won't trouble you with the details, but it is likely exactly as bad as you are now imagining. For such a sinner, his commands would be irresistible. But you are not the same. You are still master of your soul, with the free will to make this choice.

I'd hoped not to have to tell you this, but since you insist, if you do not confess, if you are not born again in faith, I fear things will go quite poorly for you. Your doctors will be persuaded to declare you a danger to yourself and others, and you will spend your term restrained and mildly sedated. The birth of a devil-spawn is never kind to the mother in body or mind, especially one so young: to be frank, you will be dead, catatonic, or raving mad. We will take the child and baptize it immediately. Perhaps we are mistaken, and it will be a purely mortal infant. Perhaps the consecrated water will not melt it's skull like concentrated acid this time.

It is unpleasant, yes. Not entirely by our doing, and what we do is for the greater good. But the good news is that it all can be avoided. All you need to do is to tell me what lie Malik told, and all will be well. Can you do that?

I see. Very well.

Feb 25, 2014
Capricho No. 43: El sueño de la razón produce monstruos (The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters)

1100 words

The Owl

flerp fucked around with this message at 20:48 on Oct 13, 2016

Jul 26, 2012

Capricho No. 50: Los Chinchillas (The Chinchillas)

The World Goes Dark, and I Am Afraid
Word Count:


The world goes dark, and I am afraid. Fear underscores the dry Mexican heat as sensation returns to me. The weight of my rifle a forgotten anchor as I attempt to stand. I regain my sight, though I see little. The streets of Saltillo drown in dust and black powder smoke as my fellow revolutionaries pass between clouds.

“What are you doing, Panadero?” one of them yells. “Stand up and fight!”

Viscera tears through his civilian clothing as Spanish Royalist bullets rip him apart. Pink mist lingers in the fog of battle.

“Hidalgo has been taken!” a Spaniard yells between rounds. “You have no one to lead you!”

I force my stagger into a pathetic run. My eyes blur. My head is light. The ringing of my ears drown out the screams and gunshots. Sweat pours down my face as my heart pounds its way through my chest. My rifle is missing, yet I know not for how long. The world goes dark again, but only for a second. I force myself to stay conscious, straining to keep my eyes open. The gunshots fade. The screams cease. I fear I have gone deaf until the dull echo of a woman’s voice passes from behind the clouds.

Turning to face its source, I find instead a lone Royalist solider. Unarmed. Unthreatening. Blank eyes locked on mine as my body tenses. Hope suggests he won’t know I’m a rebel. I wear no uniform, and now carry no gun. But his stares pierce the dense fog that swallows us, even as the battle quiets.

“Can you help me?” I ask, forcing myself to speak. “I need to find my way home.”

He says nothing. He makes no movement. Not even to blink.

“Do you understand me? I need to go home!”

Still nothing. The air chills. A few rain drop touch my skin. Lightly at first. Building momentum as my limbs cramp. Dizziness turns my stomach, shaking me from the ground below. I focus my last strength on holding my head up and my feet flat. The same woman’s voice passes through the air again. I ignore it.

“Are you a deserter? It’s alright. I won’t tell anyone. I won’t even remember I saw you. Just point me in the right direction, and I will walk away. You just need to point.”

Roars of thunder crack the silence as rain turns to storm. Harsh winds crashing waves of freezing moisture upon the two of us. The Royalist doesn’t flinch. Doesn’t even squint as the ice cold spray batters him where he stands. I clutch myself for warmth with rapidly numbing arms. I can barely stand, but I sacrifice my footing to approach the frozen Royalist.

“For the love of God! Please just tell me how to get home!”

“It’s for your own good, Señor Panadero,” the female voice says as ice water fills my lungs.

Two large men garbed in white pull my freezing body from an ice bath. A nun holds her hands together in solemnity, muttering a quiet prayer as I emerge out of the steel tub. I want to lash out, but my body simply can’t. A straight jacket keeps my arms in place, and my unbound legs dare not unclasp, in fear of losing the vaguest idea of warmth.

“You were out of control, Señor Panadero,” the nun tells me. “It was necessary to calm you.”

The men carry me down a brick hall of iron barred cells. The prisoners behind them either screaming or cowering in their own private hells. In one of these cages, I find a familiar face. His eyes still locked on mine. His expression still never changing. Though he wears no uniform and sits on the stone floor of this asylum, I recognize him as the Royalist.

“Help me get home,” instinct compels me to say, but I only produce a slurred mess. My tongue sits like a dead fish laying beneath numb lips. Chattering teeth butchering my vain attempts to enunciate.

The men unceremoniously drop me in my cell. My vision fades, the the walls blurring as the iron door clangs. What little moonlight the outside window allows in dims as I feel my brief lucidity passing from me. In the last aware moments before the illusions retake me, I pray these will be visions of peace.

Jul 10, 2001
some obscure reference
Capricho No. 28: Hush

960 words

‘Too cold’ she said to herself as she grabbed her shawl, black of course, and whipped it around. Too cold already in November. She wished that hell would finally open up and pour fire and brimstone from the wound it tears into the city. They deserved it. They all deserved it.

Did she deserve it too? Nonsense. Of course not. But she would bask in it none the less. A long life, a strong life and she had no regrets. None at all. None for herself anyway. A great many for others, but those were their own problems. Not hers. But if they all burned she would burn with them for the chance to see it, to feel it, to know that judgment was good and right and finished.

She didn’t lock the door to her apartment. She never did. The key to unlock it was too fiddly for her gnarled hands with their bulged knuckles. Her hands were still strong, still strong as ever but the dexterity had faded away. If someone wanted to rob her, they were welcome to open the door and try. She grinned, as she always did, at the thought of some bumbling thief walking into her apartment looking for an easy way of it.

Even colder outside. The shawl wrapped more tightly and the bitter wind bit her face, pinching it as she cursed. It was only a block to the bakery. She was grateful to live so close. There were few bakeries any more. Were people so different now as to not need bread? She wondered how they survived without it. A man in a suit walked by her with a cup of coffee steaming in his hand. An evil man. Through and through. Hated his children and spoiled them. She gazed at him as he walked by but he ignored her. Of course. Evil men always tried to ignore her. But sometimes, sometimes they couldn’t.

There were no customers in the bakery. Well enough. She didn’t like customers. The boy behind the counter smiled and took her order. Three small loaves. No sickly sweet pastries or pies as they had on display. Disgusting and obscene. Three small loaves and she paid with coins. They didn’t like it when she paid with coins but she had always paid with coins. Coins had value. The paper she saw trade hands was worthless and filthy. The boy took her coins. He was not an evil man but there was time still for him.

Although she wondered how they lived without bread, this bread was not for her. This bread was for the pigeons. The only people that she liked in this foul city. They were too stupid for evil. Unlike the two sitting on her bench.

“My bench.” She said, shooing them off with a gesture.

The man looked at her with brow furrowed. “What?” His arm was still around the lady.

“My bench.” She shooed again. “Sickness and death, cancer and famine.” She said. Her voice grated harsher than the bite of the wind.

“Go on somewhere.” He said, still seated.

She got closer and closer still until the man had to lean back. “My bench.”

“Let’s go.” The lady tugged at his arm. “Come on. She looks crazy.”

They left and she sat down on her bench and got out bread and the pigeons came. She found her favorites. The ones that tried to get a piece of bread but were always too late or too slow. These she tried to give bigger pieces to. Sometimes they landed in just the right spot for her friends to snatch them up, sometimes they were still outwitted by the other pigeons.

She smiled. It would have been hard for someone watching her to tell that she smiled because her face was past wrinkled and old and she didn’t have much practice at smiling and it turned her face sour more than anything but she did smile. She always smiled when she fed the pigeons. If she were an evil woman she would know that was why she fed them, but she was good and good women did things that were good for their own sake.

She did not feel him approach. She didn’t hear him either, but she would have felt him before she heard him. Dressed all in black, he was not a city man. She hadn’t seen him before. He approached slowly and smoothly with no shuffle in his step and no want in his eyes.

She wanted to curse him. To shout at him to leave her alone. This was her bench. But he didn’t scare the pigeons away. They took no notice of him and continued wandering around pecking at the ground because she had stopped throwing bread. No curses came to her. She had no evil to wish upon him and saw nothing in his heart to tug on.

A stillness overcame her body and he drew nearer and nearer but her mind exploded with lights and sound and smells. Faces and voices she had long forgotten whispered and shouted. Food and drink she loved and hated were consumed and spat out again over and over. Acts of courage and compassion and moments of weakness and retribution played again and again. Love was feared and then found and then lost and then hated. Regrets she never had before bubbled up and soaked her through and through and she thought she would drown.

It was too much to take and she began to tremble, unable to contain it all. Then the man was upon her. Close enough to touch but she couldn’t move. And he leaned in, one finger pushed to his lips in a gentle expression.


And it ended.

almost there
Sep 13, 2016


And the House is On Fire
1098 Words

Her hair was always electric blue. When they had first met she was young, maybe 12. He never thought she’d get any older. He remembers when they used to play games. She’d always want to play hide and seek and hide some place in his dream she knew he didn’t want to go. He’d always find her anyways, and he’d always take that courage back with him. Today she’s older and grazing his cock with her open palm in that obvious but casual way she could always deny if he asked. He doesn’t ask because he’s happy to see her finally grow up, but he can’t help but wonder what it means about him.

They do what they both came here to do and stare at the things by the wayside today. Not far off from where they start they see a fridge on its side between two trees that stick out sorely in a field so open. As they get closer they notice the fridge is laying down in a pool of gears, springs, circuitry, batteries and other electrical refuse that pour out obscenely from its wide open door. Blue stares at it in silence before saying that it reminded her of her dad.

Further down the path, but on the opposite side, they approach a shopping cart turned upside down on a little boy raptly staring into the cathode tube screen of a tiny television tuned to a scrambled channel. From the path they could only see the back of the boy’s head. Blue would walk around the cart to get a better view but when she came back she would say that the boy’s face always seemed turned away regardless of the angle she peered in from, and that she had also seen the boy clutching a dead finch in between his hands.

He’s certain that Blue loves him. He’s certain that she doesn’t judge him for his morbid obesity, his rank smell, or his torn clothes. She sees the abused child inside the broken man, even if he doesn’t.


1:32 PM

Pirtz wakes up feeling more tired than he was in the dream. The middle of his forehead aches as the lush greens of the field resolve into the tattered concrete greys and sickly yellows of his studio apartment. He’s surrounded by litter. Pirtz’s bed sits like a solitary island in a sea of mouldy disposable coffee cups, plates caked with the hardened crusts of leftover food, and 2L empty soda pop bottles that squeak like party balloons when he wades through them. Pirtz affectionately refers to his apartment as ‘The Swamp’, and himself as ‘The Swamp Thing’.

On a desk on the other side of Pirtz’s room is his computer. Pirtz begins to rock back and forth in his bed in order to build enough momentum to slingshot himself out of bed and toward the chair carefully still turned toward the bed from the night before. The simplest tasks become daily triumphs when one weighed as much as Pirtz did. Pirtz has, since losing his mobility, knocked his bruised hips and toes against every possible corner, edge, bevel, leg and piece of furniture that made up everything he owned. In the past, these instances would spark some desire to change but, inevitably, Pirtz wouldn’t follow through. Now Pirtz finds himself enjoying the pain, he finds it comforting to know that it’s what he’s earned for himself. This time he makes it out of the bed and into the catcher’s mitt of his chair without incident.

Attached to his monitor is a tiny orange post-it note with “kill urself :3” written in a peppy hand. He tears it off and throws it behind him into The Swamp before reaching for the pack of cigs and half-empty bottle of Teachers left on his desk from last night’s consumption. Pirtz cycles through opening several matchbooks strewn about his desk before finding one with a match.

Pirtz taps the mouse and the computer’s monitor hums back into life to reveal that he never logged off the cam site from last night. He sees BlueberrySlut95 has a green circle beside her name that indicates that she’s in the middle of a show. He clicks on it.

When he gets in to the chatroom he sees that she’s not naked yet. She’s laying flat on her stomach on her bed. He PMs her,
“hey bluetiful <3 want to play again? I got credits enough for a private dance.”

He watches as she look up from the screen, brushes a wayward streak of soft blue hair snugly behind her ear and begin to type. His speakers ding when he sees her finish typing. She replies,
“heyyy sexii, I couldnt stop thinking of u last night. Cant wait till u see me naked again ;) let me freshen up b4 we 1o1, xoxo -Blue.”

He watches her blow a kiss before walking off cam. Pirtz takes the opportunity to strike his match against the matchbook’s emery board. Pirtz lights his cig and then watches the fire dance on the stick until he feels his eyes begin to burn and tighten. The pain gets him hard. He’s still holding the lit match when she comes back on cam. She’s wearing a lacy blue corset and matching frilled panties. She waves and blows the camera a kiss. He’s the only one in the chatroom now.


If you were to ask Pirtz what happened to that match he might tell you that, instead of letting the match tip out of mindless fingers clumsy with lard and into The Swamp still-lit, that he could swear on everything he loved that he put that match out and waited until it cooled before throwing it into The Swamp like the countless matches before it. That you know the former to be true says a lot about momentum. Perhaps, as the fires turned his waste into kindle and the temperature increased and the heat bit into his ankles he only became more aroused. Maybe he would have reached a point where he knew the apartment was on fire, but didn’t care. As if Pirtz had resigned himself to his life’s miserable but welcome conclusion. Yet, despite what we know about Pirtz, the animal in him would run, as its liable to do, and, in its panic, he’d miss his slingshot and slam his toe against the door jamb before falling helplessly face-first into the flame.

That you know the former to be true says a lot about momentum.

Jan 12, 2012

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

Capricho No. 74: No grites, tonta (Don't scream, stupid)

Dinner with the Parents
1000 words

Henry and Astrid had been dating for three months when she asked him to meet her mother over dinner.

“You ready?” She said, removing a long dagger from her purse. A goat, bleating and desperate, yanked against the chain at the center of a large pentagram. Flickering candles reflected in its eyes.

Henry gulped and gripped the St. Anthony medallion around his neck. He opened his mouth, but Astrid did not wait to hear what he had to say. Her hand jerked across the animal’s throat, spilling blood across Astrid’s mud room. The goat shrieked as its legs buckled. Dark red gushed over Astrid’s shoes and the hem of her dress.

“Oh jeeze,” said Henry, taking a step backward. But Astrid, distracted from the mess, stood up from the blood-soaked floor and turned to face him. She bit her lip.

“Henry, I know it might be hard, but I need you to promise that you won't scream," she spoke like a doctor about to deliver a shot. “I know it might be hard but I really need you not to freak out.”

Henry looked from Astrid to the pentagram.

“Freak out!” He said, voice cracking. The air tasted heavy and acrid. The space above the pentagram seemed somehow thin, like an old rag or fraying tablecloth. “Why would I freak out?”

Astrid gave him a brief, pleading look. Her usual coolness had evaporated. Despite her dyed hair and heavy make-up, she seemed suddenly small in the candle-lit room. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other.

Henry looked at the door and debated his options.

Despite the streaks of setting sun, the room felt cold and lifeless. The thin place above the pentagram had grown and Henry could see something shifting inside it. He sensed a dark and odious creature awakening, slouching towards the hole that they had opened in time and space.

He gave one last look at Astrid. “I promise.”

And with that, the world unraveled.

“Astrid!” Boomed a great voice as something unnatural splatted out onto the mud room floor. Henry shut his eyes. When he opened them again, the thing had become an old woman. She jumped across the room to her daughter. Blood and hot wax sailed through the air. “My little wunderkind! How are you?”

Astrid blushed as the thing embraced her in its arms. The appendages seemed almost too long, as though they had been made by someone with only a vague idea of what arms were supposed to look like. As it lifted Astrid into the air in an embrace, Henry saw something small and shrunken stuck between the folds of its dress. A man. Astrid’s father.

“Mom…” Astrid said, gently pushing against her mother. “You’re embarrassing me.”

Sheepishly, the thing set its daughter onto the ground. Its smile faded and then, without warning, its eyes swiveled towards Henry. He willed himself not to scream for Astrid’s sake, but there was nothing inviting in the woman’s expression. Something resembling hunger flashed across its face.

Henry felt his hand reach back up towards his medallion.

“Henry,” Astrid said, her voice loud in warning, “is my boyfriend.” She let the word sit in the air for emphasis. “We go to the same school.”

Henry cleared his throat and rubbed his sweaty hand against his khakis. The dull-eyed man in the thing’s back opened and shut its mouth as if trying to speak. Unshaven whiskers curled around its chin.

“It’s… very nice to meet you.” Henry said. Astrid shot him an encouraging smile. He extended his hand. “Astrid has told me so much about you.”

The thing’s expression shifted from hunger to bemusement as it took his hand in its own. He ignored the unnatural texture and the overpowering stench of rotting meat.

“Oh, how lovely.” The thing said. “It’s a great pleasure to meet you Henry.” She reached around (too far) and patted the little man on her back. The near-corpse shuddered. “I remember when I met Astrid’s father.”

“Oh really?” Henry squeaked. “Really?” He repeated, forcing himself to speak in a low voice that reminded him of his father. A few days after they had started dating, he had invited Astrid to the same kind of dinner at his house. He wondered if her sense of terror and foreboding then was at all comparable to what he was experiencing now. She had excused herself to the bathroom during prayer, but he didn’t remember her voice cracking like a warped record. And she certainly hadn’t freaked out during game night.

He had worried so much about her opinion.

The thing laughed. “Oh, don’t worry, child. Astrid has brought home plenty of friends. I wouldn’t dream of harming a hair on your head. Your mind though…” She rested a long arm around her daughter’s shoulder and winked. “That might be a different story.”

“Oh my gods, Mom!” Astrid turned a dark shade similar to that of goat’s blood.

“What! I’m kidding! I’m kidding!” The thing threw its arms up with almost human frustration. “The boy knows I’m kidding! Don’t you?”

Henry smiled despite himself. He remembered his own embarrassment and his own desire to shield Astrid from his parents. He had been mortified by his dad’s bad jokes and his mother’s probing questions. He had been so sure that Astrid would break up with him after meeting his family. He had been trying to think of some excuse or explanation as he walked her home afterward, but, instead, she had stopped him under a streetlamp and kissed him.

If Astrid could deal with his parents, he could deal with her mother.

From down the hall, the doorbell rang. Astrid looked towards the noise. Relief spread across her face. “Oh, that must be the pizza! I’ll go get it.”

As she disappeared into the darkness, Henry almost forgot that he was standing in a blood-soaked room next to a dead goat and a being beyond comprehension.

Tonight, he decided, would be a good night.

Jul 22, 2007

Oxxidation fucked around with this message at 18:32 on Oct 22, 2016

Mar 21, 2010
removed for publishing stuff

SurreptitiousMuffin fucked around with this message at 11:18 on Nov 26, 2016

Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.
The Guest 1,062 words

Johnny had just snagged his first fish on the line when he saw the man across the river. Despite the late-August heat, the man wore a long coat and hat. Shadows hid his face. Johnny froze, the line tugging the rod. Then he shook his head and began reeling it in. Moments later, he hauled a tiny fish out of the water. He sighed, pried the hook from the thing’s jaw, and dropped it back into the river.

When he looked up, the man was gone. He scanned the riverbank in both directions and found nothing. A slow, creeping sensation, like a crawling spider, ran up his spine. A five mile trek separated him from home, with half of it through the woods. He knew there was no bridge across for two miles in either direction, but he packed up his rod and bait anyway.

Half an hour later, he emerged from the forest where the trail hit Hawthorn Street. He darted a look left and right. Mr. Earling was walking his dog across the street, but otherwise it was empty. Johnny waved, Mr. Earling nodded, and Johnny turned left toward home.

He turned onto Main two blocks later, and the man was there. He leaned on the wall of Ed’s Ice Cream. The dark coat fluttered. The man’s head was turned to watch the corner. Johnny felt his eyes on him. He took a deep breath and forced himself to walk. The man’s head swivelled to watch. Halfway down the block, Mr. Hewitt stepped out of his hardware store.

“Mr. Hewitt!” Johnny rushed toward him, the rod swinging wildly. He dropped the bait box on the sidewalk as he reached the old man. “Who is that across the street?”

Mr. Hewitt’s face scrunched up as he turned to look.

“Who you talkin’ about, son?”

The man was gone. No sign of him in either direction.

“I...he was there. Right in front of Ed’s.”

Mr. Hewitt looked a Johnny a long moment. Thin lines crinkled in the corners of his eyes.

“Well, he ain’t there now. Best you be gettin’ home.”

Johnny stared up at him with his mouth agape as the old man turned and stepped back into his shop. The door slammed with a sharp clack.

On the other side of town, Main turned into a long dirt road known only as Rt. 3. There were no intersections or driveways for a mile, just a line of unbroken scrub brush and trees blocking the sight of endless acres of corn. At the end of that mile was Johnny’s driveway. He managed fifty yards, turning every couple feet to check the road behind him, before mounting dread filled his feet and he began to run. He still glanced behind him every few steps, each time expecting the dark figure to step out from behind a tree, or to just be there, inches behind him and reaching. His foot caught on a rock and he tumbled to the dirt. Sharp pain bloomed in his knee, and the rod broke with a harsh snap. Something trickled down his calf, and a dark red stain seeped into his jeans. Johnny flung to shattered rod into the brush, hesitated, and kicked the bait box after it. When he looked back up the road, the man stood there, ten yards back. The shadows still hid his eyes, but Johnny could see his mouth. It pulled back in a grin, lips this white strips bordering yellowed teeth. He had pale, grey skin with no sign of stubble.

“Where are you going, boy?” The voice rasped, like a snake sliding over sandpaper.

Jonny hobbled back a step, then turned and broke into a lurching run. The man’s gritted laughter followed behind.

He reached his driveway and raced toward the house. His lungs burned. Each step brought new fire in his legs. Sweat ran into his eyes.

When he was halfway down the driveway, his mother stepped out on to the porch. Johnny forced himself to move faster, leaping up the porch steps and into her arms.

“My god, Johnny, what’s the matter?” She held him back and looked him up and down. “What happened to your leg?”

“The man...” Johnny gasped for air, trying to force the words out between gulps. “...followed me...saw him at the stream...right behind me.” He turned and pointed back up the driveway. No one was there. They both stood there for a long moment, waiting. No one turned in. An old, rusted out pickup drove by, leaving a trail of dust.

“Well, whoever he was, he must be gone now. We’ve got company coming, you get upstairs and clean up. Make sure you clean out the cut on your knee, and don’t you get blood on the carpet!” She ushered him inside and toward the stairs.

He stripped down and took a shower, wincing whenever the water touched his shredded knee. After, he wiped the torn skin with peroxide and covered as much of the was skin as he could with bandages. Back in his room, he put on fresh clothes and stared out the door, then stopped. He looked back, toward his window. Part of him wanted to go to it, to look outside. His room looked over the backyard. Maybe the man circled through the corn. Maybe he was out there right now. He reached toward the door handle, grasped it, and paused. He let it go and crossed the room. Each step brought his heart a little higher in his chest.

The yard was empty. The swings moved in the breeze, like ghost children, but there was nothing else.

“Johnny!” His mother’s voice came up from the stairs. “Our guest is here! Come on down!”

Relief surged through his chest and he hurried down the stairs. He hit the bottom, turned to the living room, and screamed. The man sat on the couch, still wearing the coat, but his hat was gone. Johnny’s mother sat across from him in a worn armchair. She grinned wide, but her eyes were glassy and blank. The man turned to him. Lank, greasy hair hung loose across his pale face. He had no eyebrows. No hair on his face at all. His eyes were mottled orange, and he grinned when he saw Johnny.

“Come on, son. Take a seat.”

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Three hours and thirty minutes remain to submit. No one is getting toxx-banned tonight.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
Prompt: Capricho No. 69: Sopla (Gust the wind)

1090 words

Duncan was eleven when human beings stopped aging. Twenty-two years later, Duncan was eleven-plus-twenty-two. He practiced calculus while eating Fruit Loops and buttered toast, courtesy of Mom. Duncan wanted to maybe study theoretical physics or become an astronaut, but it was slow going.

His brain didn’t like new stuff, but he found he could carefully stack old ideas together in a way that helped him suss out an approximation of new ones. Math was easiest because as long as you could grope your way through the rules, the numbers usually cooperated.

Duncan didn’t want to be a leech. That was a word that showed up in maybe year ten of the post-aging world. He wanted to be a helper, one of those wiz kids you saw on Jimmy Fallon or the Daily Show. The scientists said that people under twelve weren’t fit for any adult roles in society, but some folks thought that two decades of life ought to make anyone an adult, except for the infants and toddlers.

“You’re a very smart little boy,” Duncan’s mom told him one day, after she’d served him his Fruit Loops. “It’s just--Unless something changes around here, you and I are going to live this life forever.”

Duncan stared at her, uncomprehending. He was pretty sure Mom hadn’t ever talked like that before.

“There’s a place in Alaska that found a loophole in the laws. You could get some real-life work experience and study in the afternoons. It would only be for a few months, and…”

Duncan understood, and cried.

“I can’t live like this anymore and I don’t know what else to do.” Mom’s voice was raw, may as well have belonged to someone else.

Duncan stopped crying, got up from the table, and went to his room.

Duncan wanted to be a helper, not a leech.

He reminded himself of this again and again on the airplane, and on the bus to Camp Cayden, because if he stopped reminding himself he would forget what the heck he was doing and start to cry.

When he got sick of repeating his purpose inside his brain, he re-read the camp literature. Founded in honor of Cayden Jaworski, who’d taken over his father’s manufacturing company at the age of ten-plus-nineteen years, the camp was billed as a place for particularly brilliant kids who wanted to “practice” adult jobs, which they were otherwise forbidden from doing.

Cayden probably never cried, Duncan told himself.

At first, Duncan thought they’d arrived at the camp. He peered out the bus window and saw kids and tents and fire pits and some men. Everything was muddy and there were lots of tree stumps between the messy campsites.

But the bus didn’t stop there. It rolled on up to a big iron gate set in a tall cement wall, and waited. Duncan pressed himself against the window and tilted his head so he could look back at the kids outside. Lots of them wore rags, or nothing at all. Some of them sat on the laps of the men, and the men held on tightly with their big hands.

Then the iron gate opened, and the bus trundled into a walled community full of low, brown buildings. On the far side of the compound was the factory, which loomed, mountain-like, over the tidy little grid.

The main thing Duncan had to remember was to look at the signs, which were everywhere, because the signs told you the Rules and Standards, and following the Rules and Standards meant you didn’t get ejected. Kids who were ejected had to wait outside for their parents, except parents didn’t usually come, and outside was where the lechers lived.

The signs helped Duncan and the other camp kids remember:

Ejection is for leeches, and leeches are for lechers.

Playtime is over, let’s get to work!

Ten hours of work a day keeps the ejection man away.

Good grades = You can stay

And so on. In the factory, simply-worded signs at each workstation reminded the kids how to assemble everything from T-shirts to cheap cell phones. In evening class, they mostly practiced mnemonic devices to help them remember how to have a good work ethic.

“The world is changing, and you’re going to be very important to the new economy,” the teachers would remind them each night.

The fire crept through the factory like the rising tide, and then all at once it was on them.

Duncan and the other kids pressed toward the exit, and soon he was out in the fresh air, following the kids in front of him who were following the kids in front of them.

Behind him, there was a splintery crash! and a belch of heat from the mouth of the factory. Duncan turned around at the sound of screaming from inside. Those who’d been unlucky enough to be just a little slower than Duncan were trapped behind a burning mound of collapsed ceiling.

Sirens wailed in the distance; someone had alerted the fire department in the nearby town of Willow, but they were still a few miles off.

Duncan wanted to be a helper, not a leech.

He charged into the collapsed entryway and kicked at the wall of smoldering debris with his work boots, trying to bludgeon a path through the fire. Screams road the smoke like banshees in a storm. Dozens of blistered little hands reached through the flames. Duncan chose a hand at random, grabbed on to the other child’s bubbling arm, and pulled.

Skin sloughed off like a lady’s long glove. Duncan fell backward onto his bottom, stared at the limp tube of flesh in his hand without comprehension. Then, with a long groan of resignation, the whole factory folded in on itself.

The fire spread to the neat rows of little houses, and the surviving children were forced beyond the walls of Camp Cayden. Firefighters rushed past them into the compound. The teachers and foremen had vanished. The fire would attract national attention, and there was no way in hell they wanted to be under that lens.

The kids wandered between filthy tents and greasy-haired men. Even if they’d had phones, calls back home would’ve gone unanswered. The age of moms and dads, they were beginning to understand, was over.

The lechers understood completely. The lechers were kind. They herded the children away from the remains of the camp, murmuring there, there, little leeches. There, there. We’ve got uses for you yet.


Sep 2, 2016

llamagucci: Capricho No. 63: ¡Miren que graves! (Look how solemn they are!)


Word Count: 1,100

They murdered the family of five and rode off, solemnly, on the decrepit mules toward Harlington.

They’d only wanted the steads. And food. And maybe a little water preserves if the family had any easily accessible in the store house on the far side of the property. But the boy, a petite lad of ten, scrawny, with blonde hair the color of the hay he slept in, had been guarding the stables. Or more, he’d been asleep in the stable, cradling a shot gun, far too large a weapon for him to hold, let alone use. Then again, Dr. Henry, not a hunter himself who only kept the gun he’d inherited from his late father as a precautionary measure, had never thought little James would ever have to fire on anything, let alone any one.

There had been some townsfolk runts, not any older than the boy himself, who’d been sneaking out and about on the country roads a few nights prior. They’d been making mischief of one kind or another on every farm they’d passed, mostly startling chickens out of their coops, tipping cows and letting lose the Tanner’s horses, which were recovered trampling the wife of the major’s flowerbeds the following morn. The Tanner’s only lived a quarter mile up the road so the father of the Henry household decided to leave his young son out in the stable over night to scare off any of his peers and maybe catch a glimpse of the offenders’ faces. Rumors circled there’d be a stick of gun and a chocolate bar in it for any lad or lass that bore witness to the school yard authorities and identified the menaces. Since none of the boys yet been caught in the act for the third night in a row, the headmistress was eager to land a blow of the belt on anyone the least bit suspicious.

When they approached the stable they were drunk and not the least bit quiet. The farmhouse, after all, was quiet a length from the stable and the men figured they’d make off with whatever fine steads they could mount before any one was the wiser. They hadn’t expected to stumble into the sight of little James, glowing in the light of a child-sized lantern, shakily pointing a shotgun in their general direction.

The boy called out, his voice sobering them on the spot. They could see his terror, exaggerated in the lantern’s light. To James, they resembled monsters as they advanced upon him. James panicked, twisting the gun from one shadow to the other, struggling to pull the trigger. The monster on the right kicked his lantern over. The one on the left grabbed him.

The boy screamed.

The shotgun sounded.

A light in the farmhouse shone.

James lay still, his features forever frozen.

And the stable was ablaze.

They’d never killed a boy before, or set a stable on fire. The leader of the two instructed the other to rope the horses and was dismayed when the other returned with only two old mules shuffling along. They would have to do. The leader ordered the mules to be tied to a fence-post near the road and then to barricade all the windows and doors of the stable from the outside. The lesser protested and was flung to the ground. A kick to the ribs spurred him to action and he left to complete the woeful task.

The leader took stock of the flames rising around him, his senses heightened by the guttural sounds the pigs emitted. Their pen was nearly consumed in the fire. He could smell the hairs on their fatty backs burning off first, one by one, adding a blackened hue to the cloud of grey smoke swelling in the suffocating stable air. He turned his attention back to the family. James! James! The mother was wailing more insistently every time her son did not respond. Grab the pails, all of you! The father stoically commanded, as though a fire of this magnitude could be put out by pails carried by the arms of a doctor, his near faint wife and two small daughters, struggling forward in their nightgowns, sloshing a bit out with every step.

When they reached the stable he was ready, tucked away behind the door so he could peer through the crack and watch their tragedy until the final fated second. He stole a glance back at his partner. The moonlight illuminated his idiotic frame, large, bumbling, already mounted on his pitiful stead. His shoulders were heaving. The leader wondered if he was crying.

When he turned back the mother was crying, clutching the mangled body of her murdered son. The youngest sister, maybe three at most, dropped her pail, spilling what little water was left into the hay. She attempted to pick it up, a sopping wet mess, and put it back. The middle child, a more reasonable age of six, dumped her pail and that of her mother’s on the inflamed carcass of the closest pig. Its blackened body dropped beside her and was trampled by another, still burning orange, it’s eyes frenzied, snarling viciously through the fencing. She fell on her hunches, onto the saturated ground, and wet herself.

The father was still yelling. He was yelling at his daughters to run. He was yelling at his wife to save the girls. He was carrying a newborn lamb under one arm, a hen with missing feathers in the other. The hen had clawed his clothes to red ribbons and dug holes into his arms and chest with its desperate pecking. He seemed not to notice.

He did, however, notice, the monster, the man, through the haze as he swung the door of the stable shut, trapping them inside. His yelling turned to pleading, as his cries mingled with the remaining exertions of his family as they began to burn alive. The leader stood on the other side of the stable door, his palm flat on the panel to feel the heat and the vibrations as the father flung his body against it time and time again in a desperate attempt to save his family. The vibrations stopped before the heat was too much to bear.

When at last he joined his partner on the road he saw he had indeed been crying. Now, now. The leader soothed. We’ll find some real horses in the next town and then we can kill these wretched things.

They turned their backs on the murdered the family of five and rode off, solemnly, on the decrepit mules toward Harlington.

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