I'll take one. I'll do one of yours if you want.
I'll take it, and would also be willing to do one of yours.
My crits have been claimed. Expect them sometime after the codeine wears off. No need to crit back - I haven't written anything in a while.
|# ? Jan 29, 2017 19:13|
|# ? May 23, 2022 18:29|
Small Dog 1342 words
I woke up in the middle of the night. This had been a common occurrence for the past week or so, but this time it wasn’t just because of the empty space beside me where Kath no longer was. It had more to do with the UFO outside my house that was in the process of abducting Joan of Bark.
Joan had been Kath’s dog. I’d never really liked her, but I still wasn’t about to let some aliens take away a reminder of Kath.
Joan didn’t seem to take kindly to being abducted, and was squirming around and yapping as she slowly, gently, levitated towards the hatch at the bottom of the UFO. The neighbours’ dogs joined in, and there was a harmony of barking.
“Dad?” Tony was calling from downstairs. “What’s happening outside?”
“Tony,” I said, “I want you to grab the ladder from under the stairs and bring it up to the roof.”
“Aren’t I not supposed to walk on the roof?”
“Yes,” I said, “normally that’s true. But this once, we have to go out there, all right?”
“Good to know the rules can be broken under certain circumstances, Dad.”
I shook my head. This wasn’t an argument I could deal with right now. “Just get it up here!”
He arrived in my room with the ladder, and we both walked out onto the roof. “Ah,” he said as he saw the UFO.
“Yep,” I said. I took the ladder from him and leaned it against the UFO. “Hold this steady.”
“This looks dangerous,” he said, but he held it steady.
“They’re not taking Joan of Bark,” I said.
“You didn’t even like her.”
I started climbing. “She was Mum’s. They’re not taking her.” He didn’t reply and I kept climbing until I reached the top and stepped onto the UFO. I turned and peered over the edge at him. “Just because I’m busy saving Joan from aliens doesn’t mean you can stay up late, by the way,” I called.
He cupped his hand to his ear and seemed to mouth something like, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.” I shook my head and looked for an entrance.
From the top of the UFO, it was more obvious what its general shape was; it was basically a disc. In the centre of the disc was a hatch, which I walked to, open, and climbed into. There were two corridors leading from where I was, and nothing in particular to recommend one over the other. So I just picked one and followed it.
I reached a corner and peered around it. Here, the corridor reached a door. I went to the door, opened it, and looked inside. Inside the room there was a table, around which three men sat and talked.
Not aliens. Men.
“Are you sure this is the right one?” asked one.
The one in the middle, who appeared to be the boss, said, “Absolutely. Everything is as the portents foretold. Our time is night.”
There was a pause, and the third man said, “Are you sure you don’t mean ‘nigh’?”
“What?” asked the boss.
“Nigh. Our time is nigh.”
“That’s what I said.”
“No,” said the first man, “you said ‘night’. I thought maybe you meant that the night time was the right time for us to be - for us to do our thing.”
“I think I know what I said,” said the boss.
“I definitely heard ‘night’,” said the third man. The boss slapped him, and the third man said, “Ow.”
“Right,” said the boss. “Ian, you go and bring our guest to us, all right?”
The first man, the one who wasn’t the boss and also hadn’t been slapped, saluted the boss and left the room via the opposite doorway.
“That was totally unnecessary,” said the man who was now rubbing his face. “You know these bodies bruise easily.”
“Quit your whingeing,” said the boss. “We probably won’t be in them for long, anyway.”
The two of them sat and did nothing much for a few minutes, and I glanced around to see if there was anything solid I could use to beat them senseless with. My glancings proved fruitless, and eventually Ian returned with a squirming, yapping, Joan.
“It definitely doesn’t look like the chosen one,” said the slapped man.
“She,” said the boss. “And have some respect.”
Ian put Joan on the table and pulled a small device from one of his pockets. He twiddled a dial and pointed the device at Joan.
“What do you want?” asked Joan. “I’ll go you. Come over here and say that mate, I’ll take you.”
So, that was weird. Joan of Bark had never spoken before, and we’d had her for seven years.
“I meant no disrespect,” said Ian. “But you’re the chosen one.”
“Chosen what?” asked Joan. “Nah forget it. I’ll bite you, mate. Come over here. I’ll bite your face. I’ll bite you. Fight me.”
“Um,” said the slapped one. “How specific were these portents?”
“You wanna go too?” asked Joan. “I’ll go all of you. Bring it mate, you and me and him and him, let’s go, let’s do this.”
“We must’ve misread the portents,” said the boss. “She is not the chosen one after all. Ian, please destroy her.
It was at this point that I decided to intervene. A couple of quick strides put me directly behind the boss and his slapped minion, and I belted the already slapped head of his minion, while Joan latched onto Ian’s ankle. I pulled the chair out from the collapsing body of the minion, and beat the boss around the head with it.
“Yeah, that’s it, my mate’s here, youse blokes are stuffed now,” said Joan.
His ankle released, Ian turned and tried to kick her, but she was surprisingly agile and dodged out of the way.
“Come and have a go. Oi, oi mate, have a go. I’ll bite your face,” said Joan. She didn’t, though, because while Ian was trying to kick her, I knocked him out with the chair. She jumped into my arms and licked my face. “Hey. Hey mate what’s up. Good one, we took those pricks, ey? They won’t mess with us again.”
“No,” I said. “Also, I didn’t know you could talk.”
“Neither,” she said. “Feels weird. I wanna widdle on ‘em.”
I let her down and she widdled all over them. When she widdled over Ian’s gadget, though, it sparked and set fire to the table. “Think we’d better leave,” I said, and bent down with my hands out to Joan.
“Yap,” she yapped, then cocked her head to one side in confusion, and yapped a bunch more times.
With Joan in my arms, I ran back to the hatch and climbed on top of the UFO again. I tucked Joan down the front of my pyjamas, and quickly climbed down the ladder. As I turned to look at the UFO, the lights on the side went haywire, and the UFO started to behave erratically. It flew straight up, and then did an immediate right turn, changed directions again and flew straight into the oak tree in the back yard, then burst into flames.
“I guess we’d better call the fire department,” I said to Joan, who yapped in agreement, then wriggled out of my top and landed on the roof, then scampered over to my window and back inside the house.
After we’d called the fire department, firemen had come to put out the fire, and then a group of men had come in a fleet of pink ice cream vans to sanitise the area. Tony and Joan and I had to live across the city for a few weeks while they sorted everything out, but I felt like everything was going to be all right.
“I though you didn’t like Joan of Bark,” Tony once mentioned, as I’d been playing with and petting and talking to Joan more often.
I shrugged. “She was Mum’s. Besides, she’s growing on me.”
|# ? Jan 29, 2017 19:20|
I'll do a line by line if someone wants it, too - either for this week or for one of the two weeks I judged recently (ineptitude/cursed yearking).
|# ? Jan 29, 2017 19:24|
I'll do a line by line if someone wants it, too - either for this week or for one of the two weeks I judged recently (ineptitude/cursed yearking).
|# ? Jan 29, 2017 19:48|
I said I'd crit the first five stories posted, so here we go:
Some Crits of Week 234: Binging on Bad Words
Crit of The Resurrection Men by The Cut of Your Jib
My first impression was that this was part of a longer story. The ethical conundrum the characters are in doesn’t seem very powerful, but it does help define two distinct characters.
On my second readthrough, we have the goal and motivation established pretty quickly (get the body back for study). Early on you have Bell thinking “he knew this was necessary”, and Clay is established pretty quickly as willing to get his hands dirty for his practice. The tension with the rings is fine, and does a good job differentiating the characters. However, I think a bit too much time is spent developing their slight differences, especially when words are at such a premium. For example ““Don’t get pouty, Bell. I’m not going to come back and steal the old woman’s jewelry.” / “The greater good doesn’t feel very good. You don’t have to be so cavalier about it. That isn’t helping.”” could easily be cut. We have rising action with the lanterns and rifle shot, the climax is about dealing with Clay’s wound. The first names part seems unnecessary. We get a resolution with Bell’s hope the other doctor survives. Technically, the conclusion is trying to show Bell growing as a character, now willing to do what is necessary, even when difficult. However, this character growth is undermined by the fact that it felt like you’d already established he was willing to do that early on. I think the primary thing you need to do is increase Bell’s reluctance early on, be brutal on trimming superfluous dialogue or actions (once it’s established they’re graverobbing, take shortcuts on the process, unless it’s say, Bell’s reluctance to take the feet of a dead woman), then work on the tension and inner thoughts of Bell so that he’s willing to change only because he now realizes he’ll lose a friend otherwise, and the concrete situation has forced him to act rather than consider abstractions. I think the reason I initially felt the story was a fragment was because it didn’t actually feel like Bell changed, but the story hinges on his growth as a character. Overall, the dialogue and descriptions are fine, and I think a few small changes will strengthen what you already have.
Crit of The Job by Twiggymouse
My first impression was that nothing happened. We have the start of a job, and we don’t even know what the job is, only that our stereotypically reluctant curmudgeon came out of retirement for it. Even if the flash rule can be considered part of the story, I can’t figure out where the murder is, what they’re sleuthing, and the only mystery is what the plot is.
Going through it again, the story definitely spends too much time on Jameson being reluctant. With 1400 words, you don’t have 765 words to have him bickering with his old friend, especially since it establishes nothing but the fact that he’s reluctant, reads, and is in the rear end-end of nowhere. It doesn’t even establish the setting very well. I don’t know the time-period we’re in. It’s presumably somewhere in the US where cowboys were a thing, but it also threw off my sense of the genre. I thought I was going to be reading a western of sorts. Normally, I would specify what the motivation of the character is and what the hook is, but I still don’t know that. There’s no rising action because there’s no conflict yet (Jameson deciding he is bored after all and wants to do things is not a conflict). Why is there such a huge crowd in this hotel? Clearly, Jameson couldn’t have been too far in the rear end-end of nowhere. Then, as John and Jo (pilot) are introduced, it feels like maybe the genre is actually a heist. It also threw me, because, again, I’d been assuming this was a western and that generally doesn’t include planes. At this point, the story is over, and I still don’t feel like there was ever any conflict. The story is not character driven, because Jameson hasn’t really changed. We don’t know what the job he’s doing is. I don’t even know what the hell he’s so good at. This is not a story yet. The writing is technically fine, like, it’s grammatical and your dialogue is okay for differentiating characters, and descriptors like “he was assaulted by a thick cloud of smoke and whiskey” are good for establishing a room. It’s possible I’m missing something you think is obvious, but a reader shouldn’t have to work hard to find the story. I don’t care about the characters, I can’t find the plot, and I don’t even know what genre I’m supposed to be in.
Crit of Ears by Veomous
My first impression was it felt a bit flowery and, like the previous story, I was confused as to what the actual job was. There was too much dialogue, and maybe fewer lines need to do more heavy lifting. It felt like the main character was trying to save the other from something, but what exactly that was felt too vague.
On my second read through, I noted you spend the first section of the story establishing the characters through their interpretation of art. The closest we get to establishing a motivation or precipitating event is “I’m just here to make sure you don’t gently caress things up.” gently caress what things up? It seems like Ricky wants to try to touch or steal the Mona Lisa (or anything), but that’s not the plot. The narrator keeps referencing their other job and that Interpol is after them. He keeps suggesting they’re being watched right now, even though they’re in the middle of a noisy crowd that no listening device could penetrate. Okay, so maybe he’s paranoid. Also “shut up the walls have ears” is way more suspicious than “yeah I went to prison once.” Are they on the run? Wanted felons? Who the gently caress knows.
Midway through the story, the narrator decides he needs to save Ricky from a life of crime, even though he’s already been to prison for grand theft auto. Then, he’s willing to tank their job (we still don’t know what the job is) for the chance to get Ricky on a train to another country. But why? Does this solve anything? What the gently caress is Ricky going to do in Austria or wherever when he has no food, job, house, etc.? Why is he totally fine with that? Then he kills himself because… why. I have no loving idea. And, again, I’m at a loss for any sort of plot. It’s supposed to be a character-driven story, but the only motivation I see is that the narrator doesn’t want his partner in crime to follow his criminal path. But why not? The story is missing concrete details. It’s too vague. Even in a character-driven story, you need a plot that helps the characters develop and change. We also need reasons. And it doesn’t feel like “put guy on train, kill self” solves even the single conundrum faced by the narrator. The grammar is fine, the use of language to establish Terry and Ricky is fine (Terry seems a bit overdone, and I have no idea anything about accents), so you’ve got that. But the story itself needs a lot of work.
Crit of The missing ingredient by Chernabog
My first impression was that excitement was indeed the missing ingredient. Presumably the vomiting scene is where the viewers are getting their thrills, but the reader never has a chance to worry about the character because they already know it’s fake. Also I don’t care if their show gets canceled because they’re bad people.
On my second read through, I immediately started picking out things that need work. Don’t tell me that they have a bird. What kind of bird? A macaw? Cuckoo? Is this the Amazon rainforest? Or are we in Cameron? Madagascar? Indonesia? You have a chance to establish a much more concrete setting with a few details, like what kind of bird or who the locals are. Google is your friend here. The hook is weak, but you at least establish the conflict early (will they get canceled or not?) and the main character as fake early on. It seems like the conflict is then immediately resolved: “We’ll mix it up!” and then he proceeds to do exactly that, but with some filler inbetween. Also, again, don’t have Wayne pull “weeds and plants.” Give us something concrete like “a wavy edged leaf with ominous yellow spots” or “a plant with a thick, white snaking root.” Do these plants exist? Who the gently caress knows, no one here is a rainforest botanist. Anyways, the climax is him vomiting, but I’ve already said it has no tension because we know it’s fake. I guess the thing you have going for you is that it’s meta-commentary on how life is boring and stories need to have lots of things real life doesn’t, and also reality tv is far removed from reality. This commentary is successful because the story is boring and lacks tension. “Let’s hope you get away with this.” (Note: He got away with it. Now he has guests, uh, join him in whatever forest he’s in.). I don’t really know what to do with this story.
Crit of Small Dog by Chairchucker
My first impression was this was a funny and good story. It clearly communicates the humorous intent and (cultural? genre?) signalers, so the nonchalance towards the aliens and the stereotypical UFO stuff is appropriate and works. The character interactions and dialogue are funny, and the title is perfect.
The precipitating event is the UFO, and you set up the hook quickly, both making us care about the character and his motivation (mentioning Kath) and introducing the conflict (UFO). The main character’s goal is quickly stated (get dog back), and by using the line “and was squirming around and yapping as she slowly, gently, levitated towards the hatch at the bottom of the UFO” you’ve signaled clearly that you’re not doing anything special with UFOs, so you can let the reader’s knowledge of the ‘genre’ (there’s another word I’m looking for but I think you know what I mean) do the heavy lifting. The humorous exchange between the dad and son further cements the story as humor, so it leaves the reader safe to focus on the jokes. The rising action is literal as the Dad goes on the roof, then the climactic fight begins with Ian telling his mooks to kill the dog. Since the dog is a symbolic of the Dad’s memory of his wife, the conflict has importance. The goal is attained, and the story is wrapped up quickly because, again, we all know the intelligence services of the country can clean up the technical mess (whatever Australia’s equivalent of the FBI is). You give us a solid emotional conclusion.
To recap, you’ve done a good job establishing the genre and letting it do work for you, you’ve attached emotional significance to the objective and made us care about the Dad and dog, the arc is solid and we get a resolution, and I thought the humor was well done. The weaknesses of the story are mostly nitpicky. I would use more exclamation marks and dialogue tags besides “said” for Joan of Bark to really communicate the ridiculous fury small dog’s have. For example ““Yeah, that’s it, my mate’s here, youse blokes are stuffed now,” said Joan.” I might change to “Yeah! That’s it! My mate’s here, youse blocks are stuffed now!” she yipped, dancing back and forth on the floor, peeing slightly as she did.” Get us more action with the dialogue. I don’t think you can really overdo it, because the point is that small dogs already overdo it. That’s just one idea, but what do I know I’m a sentient piece of trash. Basically, I think an editing pass with increasing humor and action could bring more of the strengths out. It’s a good story though.
Wow. That was some words. Well, hopefully we all learned something. I guess the lesson here is "make sure your story has a plot, because plots are good and even character-driven stories need them so we can learn about the character through their actions and not just have them think about a nebulous past that doesn't matter for the story." Or maybe we learned another lesson. Who knows! Enjoy the crits.
|# ? Jan 29, 2017 21:18|
thx for the speedy crit thoughts
|# ? Jan 29, 2017 21:38|
Cool, will post once judgment is up.
|# ? Jan 29, 2017 23:38|
Driverless 785 words.
“Aright,” Naomi said, buckling her seat bealt firmly and watching to see if he was taking note that she had. “We’re in a graveyard. Tell me why.”
“So I can practice and not be worried about killing somebody. Since they’re all dead already,” what’s-her-name, Briana, responded. Naomi idly fantasized about shoving her out of the car and driving off into the sunset.
“Close. We’re here to minimize the odds of you running into someone or something. People come here all the time, cars and pedestrians both, and you should always be watching for them. Deer too. You’re behind the wheel of a one and a half ton box of metal that can accelerate to 60 miles an hour in seven seconds. There’s never a time when you should be zoning out or not watching.”
“Isn’t this like, a Toyota Camry?” God, she could hear the eye-roll in that sentence.
“That’s all true, though.” Naomi sighed. “Okay, take us away. I want you to drive down this ring road and go around the entire cemetery first, then I’ll give you some turns.”
The lesson was uneventful, the kid got dropped off back at instruction, and she sat for a minute by herself just staring in front of her. She tried to think but just kept hearing a faint whine in her head, getting louder and softer as she paid attention to it. The headrest to her right all of a sudden became the embodiment of everything she hated and she punched it with righteous fury. All that gained her was some bruised knuckles.
Next lesson. Pull up in front of agency, walk in, pick up client, escort them to car.
“When will I get license?” Julia asked, her voice heavy with cabbage and winter gloom. Which was interesting, Naomi thought, as it was 85 degrees outside. Some people just had that effect.
“Well it’s hard to say Julia, it’s your second lesson,” the rote response rolling off her tongue. Older students always viewed knowing how to drive as an inconvenience and blamed her for not signing off on their forms and immediately sending them to the DMV. “We want you to pass the test the first time so we need you to have everything down cold.”
“I could take test,” Julia insisted, spinning the wheel and heading straight for a weeping angel. Naomi slammed on her brakes but wondered if she was even doing the thing a favor. It might want to die.
“Well you could take it but I don’t think you’re ready to pass it yet. We’ve got some work to do.”
“I could take test!” Julia said. “I know all signs.”
“Well you do,” Naomi said. (She didn’t.) “Yet you haven’t nailed down which pedal is the brake and which is the acceleration.” She regretted that the second it came out of her mouth. Julia’s face shrivelled inwards and she just knew there was a complaint coming. She’d get written up for ‘creating an atmosphere unconducive to learning” and wouldn’t get fired, because god knows no one wanted this job, but she probably wouldn’t be getting a raise.
Finish lesson, jamming on passenger side brakes the entire way. Return client and car. Head to bar conveniently located two blocks from bus stop on way home. Stare at wall and pound back first shot and beer. Order second beer and sip on it while the buzz hits.
The bartenders didn’t talk much here, which was another point in its favor. The fog took a bit to break but when it did she found herself staring at the nightly news. Nothing big. Couple shootings, protests. Weather. She felt it all rushing past her and tried to grab one to care about as it went by, wound up getting emotionally invested in the dedication of a new bike lane for a troublesome couple of seconds.
Three beers in and she’d crossed over from foggy to empty which she felt was a moderate improvement. She tipped the bartender and left. Early evening in a quiet neighborhood and she soaked up as much of the quiet as she could. Couldn’t even stand to look at the door to her apartment and impulsively walked on, wound up heading about fifteen blocks north before she came to her senses and turned around.
Turned her key in the lock, went inside. Him sitting on the couch and staring at the ceiling. They had a brief moment of quiet which was almost nice. Then he gestured to the chair across from him and croaked “Let’s talk,” and she could see how the rest of the night would unfold to a t.
But she still walked inside, sat down, and started to talk.
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 01:27|
The snow crackles beneath Margrette's cloth boots as she runs. Her lungs burn but she doesn't stop because everyone is running, a great desperate herd, trying to find where it went down.
She'd stepped out the back door with her boss, Robb, to smoke a cigarette when they saw the light fall from the sky. Heading right for them this time, instead of the usual lazy arc to the north, towards open water. This time it stayed in place, burning brighter and brighter, birthing black shadows against the walls of the tavern.
Then a roar of thunder as it screamed down and impacted the frozen ground no more than a kilometer away. Towards the Northern Road.
"Jesus!" Robb exclaimed. "That's close."
The people inside the tavern heard it also. They spilled out, maybe two dozen total, drawing coats around themselves, jabbering, pointing at the sky. Flashlights pierced the darkness as they struck out across the frozen ground. Walking, at first, excited murmurs and frosty breath rising above them.
Then a few at the front began to run, and now everyone is trying to keep up.
Margrette keeps one arm across the bulge in her belly and runs the best she can, but slips towards the back of the group. Her breath is short and her legs cramp. She stops for a moment, hands on her knees, and looks up. The moon is only half full, but gives enough light to reflect off the Belt, stretching from horizon to horizon. The megastructure encircles the planet like a noose, visible day and night. Looming above, lazily rotating counter to the Earth's spin, a steady reminder that humans no longer control their destiny.
Margrette pushes on. Broken trucks and ice boats litter the empty tundra as she crunches towards the mob ahead. They've stopped, their shouts of discovery echoing across the barren field. As she approaches she sees they are circled around a silver orb half buried in the ground. Its irridescent skin steams in the dim light. Everyone stays back a few paces. As Margrette joins she can feel the heat coming from the alien object.
Like all children, Margrette had heard the stories of when the skies exploded and the land burned. How only a few survived. The great alien ships with their particle beams and antimatter bombs slicing through the sky like glittering death. The winter lasting over a half millennium without reprieve. How the atmosphere finally cleared to reveal the Belt, the vast orbital structure that now ensnared the frozen Earth. And always the lights in the sky streaking down to the north, delivering their payload into the radioactive oceans. And there they bred, the once green Earth now a toxic nursery for the aliens they called the Othuum.
She hates them. She hates how they've made humanity an afterthought.
She hates this world her child must inherit.
Crack! Robb's shovel comes down hard on top of the sphere, piercing the shimmering skin and splitting it open. He jumps back, shovel out in defense.
The mob goes silent. Margrette's heart punches at her chest. Metal taste in her mouth.
The crack in the orb begins to grow, extending the split that Robb's shovel had started. The two sides of the orb splay open wetly to reveal a blackened mass within.
"Holy poo poo," someone whispers. The mass pulses once, twice, then disgorges a tentacled creature onto the snow, no larger than a loaf of bread. Pale grey with two black eyes centered on its oblong body. It quivers on the snowpack, one tentacle raised, waving it about, as if tasting the air.
Othuum. Margrette's baby kicks violently and a contraction grips her.
A massive shiver ripples through the alien larva and it begins to screech.
Margrette's mouth opens to answer just as Robb's shovel comes down again, this time the blade smashing the alien's soft body. Its wailing stops. It shivers under the flashlights.
"Kill it!" someone shouts.
Robb's face twists in disgust. Again he brings the shovel down, driving the alien into the snow. Margrette's baby kicks and claws at her from inside. Her head spins with pain and fear and she drops to her knees.
Not now. Not ever.
One final blow from the shovel and Robb steps back, panting. The alien's movement stops. Black fluids leak into the snow.
Her baby grows quiet. Thank God.
The mob closes in, a whirlwind of pent-up energy, kicking the empty sphere and stomping the alien carcass. Robb scoops what's left of it in his shovel and with a great cheer the crowd treks back towards the tavern, bearing the broken corpse before them like a battered talisman.
Robb puts the dead larva on the shelf behind the bar. The crowd is rowdy now, drunk on rage and desperation and alcohol, and Robb loudly declares that drinks are on the Othuum tonight. The room erupts. The fire is stoked and the liquor and the people flow around the tavern in a giddy dance. After a time the alien is passed through the crowd, its deflated body held high and then tossed back and forth among the throng. Many gallons of rough liquor are consumed as the crowd celebrates this small victory over their distant masters.
It is sunrise before the last drunk stumbles out the door, and Margrette is tired. She draws her mop absently across the broken glass and vomit and spilled drinks. There have been no more contractions and her baby has been quiet. Robb passed out hours ago, leaving her alone in the tavern. Her arms are rubber and her head is beginning to pound from the liquor. Tired fingers slip and the mop handle drops to the floor. Sighing, she bends down and that's when she sees it.
Battered and flattened, the alien larva sits in a puddle of its own fluids underneath the table. For the first time Margrette smells it: a swampy punch of brine and decay that stings her nostrils. It smells unsettlingly familiar. Her baby smells it too, it seems, for it lurches awake with a kick.
She reaches under the table with the mop and slides the corpse towards her. A trail of ochre slime follows. One of its eyes has been gouged out. The other stares blankly up at her.
The empty tavern is still.
She stares into its one eye.
Her baby kicks again, hard, like it wants escape. A painful contraction squeezes her gut. Panic rises but she fights it as she staggers backwards, its blinking eye playing over and over in her head.
Her baby is rolling, kicking, punching. Desperate. Margrette pulls a cloth off the table behind her. Glass shatters on the floor. She throws it over the dead carcass.
For a minute she stares, expecting it to move. But it doesn't. The Othuum larva is dead. Has been for hours.
Bundling it in the cloth she carries it over to the trash behind the bar. But she can't bring herself to drop it in. Grief for her unborn child, but also despair for this broken thing wrapped in cloth. Tears double her vision as she puts a hand on the bar to steady herself. Her other hand holds the alien bundle against her swollen belly.
And that's when she feels it move.
The liquid mass under the cloth shifts, changes shape to flatten itself against her abdomen. Panic rising, she pulls it off, but it resists, as if held there by a magnet. It takes all her strength to pry it off.
Her baby pounds the walls of her womb. She drops the cloth and the alien corpse spills onto the ground. Robb's shovel is right there. She grabs it and chops down hard again and again with the blade. The corpse cleaves, its fluids spraying her legs as she chops down. She screams in pain as a massive contraction grips her gut and then a rush of liquid on her legs as her own water breaks, her baby's amniotic fluids mixing with the alien juices on the floor of the tavern.
She collapses to the floor.
"Margrette! Are you okay?" The door bangs open, Robb calling her. He rounds the bar and sees her lyng there, clutching her belly.
"It's time," she whispers. "It has arrived."
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 01:56|
Prompt: "Her life's been anything but happy, but vengeance keeps her going... and she's closer to it than she knows."
Leo had never jumped off of a moving train before, but he had never rescued his big sister from a depraved vampire king before either, and though he was terrified of both things, he found himself hanging precariously off the back of a train in front of the vampire king’s castle. So, he tucked his glasses in his coat pocket and, after taking in a big gulp of air and shutting his eyes tightly, hurled himself gracelessly into the mud. Unsurprisingly, his glasses didn’t survive the fall. Leo did survive, however, so he picked himself up and began the trek upwards to the vampire king’s lair.
As Leo climbed the hill, he tried his best not to look up at the large castle which loomed ahead of him. He didn’t need more of a reason for his legs to shake in his now mud-covered boots. Instead, he retrieved the note he had received from his sister yesterday from his pants pocket and carefully unfolded it. He squinted at the words, but he couldn’t make them out without his glasses. Folding the paper back gingerly, he sighed. It didn’t matter much; he had memorized the words anyway:
I tried to kill Von Kreet once and for all, but I failed. I’m being held captive in his dungeons until our wedding day. Please hurry.
Trembling, he felt around in his other pants pocket for the silver knife she had given him two weeks ago for his sixteenth birthday. Thinking back on it now, she had all but warned him this would happen:
“The nightmares are back. I can feel it - he's coming for me again,” Esmeralda said, sitting on the edge of her bed, facing Leo’s.
“Essie, it was six years ago. You were just a girl then. How many times do I have to say it? It's over. Let it go!” Leo slammed his fists on his bed and threw himself back onto it.
“But he took our parents! I need… I need to make things right. I need to make him pay,” Esmerelda reached under her pillow, and produced a carefully wrapped box with a deep red ribbon.
“I got you something, Leo,” She placed it next to him on the bed, “In case I’m not here to protect you.”
Leo turned to look at her. With his glasses off, he couldn’t quite make out the tears in her eyes, which is why he said, “Fine. Go. But I won’t help you. I don’t need your protection anymore,” and rolled over and blew out his candle.
Leo clenched his fists when he remembered how stupid and selfish he had been. He was inside the dark, dusty castle now, and though every fiber of his being wanted to scream and run away, he forced himself to stay perfectly quiet and press onward, down a winding staircase.
Leo reached the doorway of the dungeon and froze, trembling in front of it. His palms sweat, and his heart pounded. He heard from inside a sound that made his entire body go cold: the deep, velvet voice of Von Kreet, the vampire king.
“My sweet Esmerelda, I wish you would stop fighting so. You will make a lovely queen, I assure you.”
“I won’t be your queen!” The sound of his sister’s voice made Leo’s knees buckle, and he had to brace himself against the wall to stop from tumbling into the room.
“Of course you'll be my queen! Darling, I’ve been planning our marriage since the first time I captured you. Ha, do you remember that wondrous night? The only human to ever escape me, and you were a mere child. Of course, I did get your parents in exchange…” Von Kreet’s voice trailed off as if he was remembering the taste of fine wine, “But, I knew then that I had to have you. We’ll dance, we’ll say our vows, and then, my delicious queen, for our wedding night –“
“Let go of her!” Leo burst through the door. Candles filled the center of the room and trailed backward to an ornate four post bed covered in black lace. In the middle of the room stood Von Kreet’s dominating form hunched over his sister, who was tied to a wooden chair and wearing a tightly-fitted wedding dress.
Von Kreet laughed slowly and deeply, “My dear boy, we’ve been engaged for six years now. I assure you,” he twisted his head to look at Leo and bared his shining fangs, “that is the last thing I will do.”
“Leo!” Esmerelda gasped.
“Oh, this is your dear little brother!” In a flash Von Kreet was upon Leo, grabbing him by his upper arms and lifting him like a rag doll. Leo twisted and squirmed, but to no avail. He reached for the knife in his back pocket, but Von Kreet clenched his arms tightly.
“I’m so glad you could make it for the special occasion,” just as playfully as Von Kreet had picked Leo up, he dropped him onto the stone floor in front of Esmerelda’s chair. Leo tried to prop himself up on his arms, but Von Kreet swept over him and pinned him to the floor. His face was inches from Leo’s, and Leo could smell the iron in his breath. Shaking, Leo stared into Von Kreet’s cat-like pupils. Behind him, he could see Esmerelda’s terrified face and the ominous bed that awaited her.
“Let’s make sure you stay long enough to see your big sister become a woman,” Von Kreet slowly rose and backed away from Leo, towards Esmerelda. He turned his head to the darkest corner of the room and in a soft, sing-song voice, said, “Oh, pet, I’ve got a toy for you.”
Before Leo saw her, he could hear her. The sound of a thousand snakes filled the room, overpowering Esmerelda’s cries for him to shut his eyes. Medusa slinked out from the shadowy corner, and before he could shield himself, Leo’s body froze in position. Esmerelda screamed, but it was barely audible over the fervent snakes. Medusa cackled as she turned her gaze away from him, towards Von Kreet.
“Very well done, my pet,” Von Kreet said in a sultry tone. The snakes from Medusa’s head lovingly reached out to caress his bald dome. “Now, be gone!”
“Yessssss, massssster,” Medusa said as the snakes slowly unraveled themselves from Von Kreet’s bone white head and dropped down her back. She slithered out of the room, and Von Kreet turned back to face Esmeralda, his slitted pupils fixed on her neck, an eerie smile spread across his long face. Esmerelda could barely see Leo’s frozen body behind Kreet, who was swiftly approaching. She cried out for her baby brother, tears streaming down her cheeks and past her jaw. As they dripped down her neck, she shut her eyes tightly.
She felt the cold stroke of Von Kreet’s tongue on her jugular, but she couldn’t twist away anymore. Esmerelda the Relentless, who had battled him for six long years, had finally lost to the vampire king.
But Leo, who had scarcely started to grow facial hair, had not. He grabbed the silver knife out of his pocket and stabbed hard into the back of Von Kreet’s bent form. The vampire king’s long spine arched backward and convulsed, and his whole body began to smoke and shrink. His large white head shriveled up, and his long fingers shrunk down to tiny toothpicks. The fearsome vampire king disappeared under the smoldering pile of a three-piece suit.
Leo rushed to Esmerelda’s chair and hastily untied the ropes, still shaking and breathless from the adrenaline.
“Leo, I thought you were –“
“I know,” he said as he loosened the last rope. Esmerelda jumped out of the chair and began tearing off the gruesome wedding dress.
“But how did you –“
“Essie, you forget,” he grinned as he pulled his shattered glasses out of his coat pocket, “I’m blind as a bat.”
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 02:07|
Thanks for the crit. And the previous ones as well.
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 02:34|
Home Office (1098 words)
Prompt: "No wife, no kids and he works out of his garage. But he has plenty of misery to keep him company."
At 4:50 AM on Monday morning, James Verne’s phone screamed an alarm at him. “Turn it off.” he mumbled, and after finding no reply reached out and dismissed it with as much aggression as he could channel into a finger swipe.
At 4:55 AM, James dismissed another alarm and drifted back to half dreams.
At 5:00 AM, James awoke alone, pulled up the clock app to turn off the other three alarms he’d set, realized his mistake, and conceded checkmate to his past self. He was awake.
He was downstairs a minute later, used mug in hand. He’d walked silently past the doors upstairs. He needn’t worry about waking Amanda or Ethan, not anymore, but old habits died hard. He put on the kettle, pulled a fresh mug out of the cupboard, set it next to his stained one and spooned out an equal measure of instant coffee, sugar and powdered creamer into both.
He resolved to watch the kettle and get his morning coffee out of the way, but instead found himself on the sofa with a bowl of dry cornflakes. He’d realized the lack of milk mid-pour. He made a mental note to gather up some of the laundry he’d scattered around down here, and promptly forgot it, filling that mental space with the early morning news.
At 8:00 AM, James woke to a ringing doorbell. He signed for the package, went upstairs for clothes that could survive the scrutiny of the sidewalk, and collected the mail. Bills, catalogues, and a stiff envelope from Harmony Mutual. The catalogues he dumped, the bills he took into his office and placed in the little in-tray he’d picked up for five bucks. A nice little place to remind him they existed.
The stiff envelope, however, he took back into the kitchen. He placed it on the counter and stared at it as he hit the switch on the electric kettle. He chuckled briefly at the notion that he might have burned the house down with a stovetop kettle, before the envelope reasserted the silence.
He poured the two coffees before realizing his mistake. Amanda was gone. She wasn’t coming back. At least, he didn’t think she would. Not for a while, at least.. He didn’t blame her, they’d tried counseling, but nothing in heaven or earth is going to unkill a child.
He took his coffee into the office and sat behind his desk. He checked his dry erase calendar board. Two projects leftover from last week. He checked his email. An inquiry for a quote, and confirmation of payment from two more clients. He marked them down in blue. Not urgent, but sooner was better than later.
James puttered about, checked his facebook, and otherwise avoided responsibility til around noon. He ordered delivery from a chinese chain franchise, as opposed to the mom and pop place he liked. Amanda had always been the one to order anyways, she was particular like that.
After lunch, James sat down to do some work. He cleared his drafting table and began to sketch out thumbnails. He was fairly confident in the compositions, and after refining them and iterating a few times, he began to get into a groove.
The color scheme for his little mock marketing materials, however, was subject to a bit more experimentation. He made color swatches in marker, and just as he’d done a hundred times, he looked over his shoulder to her corner and opened his mouth to ask for input.
It was like she’d just taken her laptop into the living room. Her desk was still covered in knick knacks, her chair still had a sweater draped over it. She hadn’t abandoned her belongings in the house, but she hadn’t exactly packed thoroughly either. Hell, he’d helped the illusion, she had a cup of joe waiting for her in the kitchen, after all.
The interruption was brief, but the momentum was gone. He tried working to music. He put on the news. After a while, he threw up his hands and called it an early day. At some point he nuked Amanda’s coffee for himself . It’d be a shame to waste it, after all.
Tuesday was much of the same. A half dozen alarms where before he’d had the convenience of sharing a bed with a light sleeper (and a morning routine with an enthusiastic jogger). He went to the supermarket, picked up sandwich fixings and forgot the milk.
On Wednesday he caught a matinee to get out of the house, then spent some time with an old college buddy who was in town.
On Thursday James sat down to work, threw up his arms and went on a cleaning spree. All the poo poo he’d been leaving around the house went in the hamper, the garbage, or in the closet for all he’d care. All Amanda’s stuff in the office got packed away into a cardboard box which he labeled in sharpie and put away overhead in the hall closet. He vacuumed, he mopped, hell, he dusted.
James took Friday off. He had good relationships with the two clients he was technically ducking, so he was confident they would grant an extension. He took a short drive across the state line and spent the weekend at his brother’s house.
James expected Monday to be productive. It wasn’t. He wasn’t a superstitious man, but if he’d ever imagined himself haunted, he would have expected the perpetrator to be dead. Instead, he was dogged at every corner by routine and habit. It surprising, per se, but he’d never realized the extent to which he had relied on Amanda like an extension of his own mind, not til she was gone and everything he did probed at her absence like a missing tooth. She was ingrained into his entire process. The entire house had spaces reserved for her.
He called her. They made chitchat. She was doing well. She wasn’t sure if she’d be coming back, and if she would, she definitely wasn’t ready.
She missed him too.
James said his goodbye and flung his phone half an inch into the drywall.
He needed space, so he moved the car out of the garage, onto the driveway, left it subject to all the elements, and took anything of Amanda’s and what little they had left of Ethan’s in boxes and threw them in the office, now a glorified storage space.
The drafting table he dragged into the garage, which he filled with some manner of noise. He sat at the table and got to work.
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 03:38|
One Too Many
Word Count: 1399
“Back up!” Walt O’Hearn barked at the gathering crowd on the police perimeter. “Get back!”
Behind him, the struggle to maintain control of the inferno continued. Putting the fire out had taken on a secondary importance to maintaining containment. Teams charged in and out, trying to clear a path as best they could in the hope of securing and evacuating survivors. Gouts of flame escaped through the windows previously shattered by the initial blast, and smoke billowed into the night sky.
As Walt marshalled the spectators straining against the police tape in an effort to keep them from getting any closer, shadows danced through the illumination on the edge of his vision. Flames and emergency lights melding and darkening. The first time Walt had worked crowd control at a fire like this, he felt like panic had been given its own color just for the occasion.
The firefighters were working as diligently as they could, but this was a small town with a volunteer force. There was only so much that could be done about a gas explosion in a four-story apartment building with no manpower and a shoestring budget.
A few feet away, the line buckled, as some teenager with a cellphone in the air pushed forward.
“Steve! Control your section!”
Walt’s admonition was as unnecessary as it was habitual, as Steve Mitchell, his partner for the past six years, was already moving to push the kid back. Some stinging words flew out on the edge of Walt’s earshot, something about confiscating the phone as evidence, and both the device and its owner were gone as fast as they came. Steve gave the older man a knowing look.
“I’m starting to hate cell phones,” Steve remarked to his partner.
“I’ve never liked ‘em.”
“I know,” Steve responded, “but then, you think progress peaked with the microwave… Step back please, for your own safety!”
Walt nodded approvingly at the command in his partner’s tone. Steve had been foisted on him straight out of the academy, and even now the mentor in Walt occasionally reared up. Steve hadn’t noticed the older man’s response, too engrossed in maintaining his zone. The two got on well, in their way, but Steve tended to get touchy if he felt Walt was lapsing too far into his old habits as a training officer.
The throng in front of them continued to demand complete focus. Everything was voices and sirens and ominous crackling, and Walt knew he had to be able to keep the crowd’s attention on him and off the scene unfurling in the distance. He moved along the line, switching between glares and calming glances with experienced precision.
His beat, his people, he had to keep them calm. Walt had spent so many years in uniform that the responsibility of the job had become a part of his psyche.
Somehow, a young woman slipped under the tape and started running for the burning building. Steve went after her, but Walt was faster, still exceedingly fit despite his advancing years. He reached her, wrapping his arms around her to halt her progress. Steve got there a second later and made to usher her behind the line, but Walt gave him a warning glance.
The woman was shaking.
“My mom, my daughter,” she choked out, sobs starting to follow.
“They’re inside? Where?” Walt asked, trying not to sound alarmed.
“Third floor… my mom was babysitting, I had a date…”
Walt’s eyes met Steve’s. The fire had started on the third floor. Steve shook his head sadly as, in Walt’s arms, the woman’s sobbing turned to a broken wail. Walt itched in the regard of the crowd. He knew he should get the woman away, behind the cordon. That’s what Steve would do. The smart thing, by the book.
All Walt could do was hold her and think of his grandchild.
Walt raised a hand towards the barman, then pointed towards the glass he’d just drained. The barman pursed his lips disapprovingly, but still grabbed the bottle of Irish whiskey and refilled Walt’s drink regardless. It was a cop bar, and it was rare that anyone stepped out of line, so everyone there knew when to cut someone off and when to keep quiet and let things go.
The barman faded away, leaving Walt alone with his first binge in over a year. He looked at the contents of the glass, swirling the liquid and inhaling the scent, as if attempting to delude himself into believing he was here to enjoy and savor the drink. The grim resolve with which he swallowed half of the contents put the lie to that.
Walt didn’t notice the door to the bar opening behind him, though he wasn’t surprised when Steve slid onto the adjacent stool. They held their silence for a time as Steve waved off the barman and Walt drained most of his drink.
“Well, we haven’t done this in a while,” Steve mused.
Walt stared at his glass, and nodded. “Fourteen months.” Walt’s words came out with the practiced carefulness of a man trying to avoid slurring.
“Marla called, you know,” Steve continued, keeping the same careful tone. “I told her not to worry, that I’d bring you home.”
Walt squeezed his eyes shut. He knew when he walked into the bar that he was breaking the promise he’d made to his wife, but he couldn’t stop himself. He let out a low sigh and asked, “how pissed was she?”
Steve shrugged. He knew, of course, just how close Walt and Marla had come to separating before, partners always know. “On a scale of one to ten? About an eight when I answered the phone.” Steve finally turned his head to look at Walt directly, understanding in his eyes. “I told her about last night. Now she’s just worried.”
Walt nodded, but said nothing else. It was the closest to a thanks that Steve was going to get. Walt took a long drink, emptying the glass again. His arm started to raise, but he saw Steve cocking an eyebrow at him and lowered it again.
Walt hadn’t wanted to know anything more about the previous night, it was why the TV in the bar was switched off. Now, however, he couldn’t help himself. “What was the final score?” he muttered in Steve’s direction.
“Eleven dead,” Steve replied clinically, “twice as many again in the hospital. Maybe five who won’t make it. I don’t think they’ve finished clearing the scene, though.”
“And the family..?” Walt trailed off. He didn’t need to specify. Steve just looked at him and shook his head.
Walt pushed himself off the stool and immediately staggered as his legs betrayed him. He grabbed the bar for balance, but Steve was there in a flash, holding him to help him stay upright. Once again, the barman started towards them, but Steve held a hand up to calm him, then fished quickly in his coat pocket for a card to pay Walt’s tab.
“Sorry,” mumbled Walt, catching Steve by surprise. Walt had never apologised to him before. “Sorry, Steve… I think I’ve had one too many.”
“More than one, is my guess,” Steve responded, as he started ushering Walt towards the door. “I thought I was done with dragging you out of this place.”
Walt shook his head, slowly. “Not the booze, Steve. All of it. All of this, I just… I can’t anymore.”
Steve ground to a halt. “What are you talking about, Walt? I know last night was bad, but we’ve seen worse.”
“That’s what I mean. Between the Marines and the force, I’ve been seeing dead bodies and crying families for thirty years.” Walt paused, collecting his thoughts. “Last night… that was it for me. I’ll take my leave time, sit at a desk until I hit my twenty, then call it a day. You can move on, get a detective shield and get out of uniform… it’s for the best.”
Steve shook his head. This idea was absurd. “It’s the alcohol, Walt. Sleep on it, you’ll feel better tomorrow.”
Walt said nothing as Steve helped him out of the bar. He didn’t have to. He knew in his heart that there were only two ways he could keep going. Drink the pain away, or walk away from the pain.
After years of doing one, it was time to try the other.
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 04:26|
Elanor was driving down the road for more wine when she got the text. 1 message, the screen said on top of the She blinked at it. “Leon,” she said.
Leon was lying in the back of the car, stretched out on the bench seat like a lanky foal. “Don’t text and drive man,” he said without opening his eyes. “Cops will take you away for that. They have a special prison.”
The lights turned green, the Dodge Journey behind her honked petulantly and Elanor picked up her phone between thumb and forefinger and skimmed it over her shoulder like a smooth stone into a river. Leon huffed out a surprised breath as it landed on his belly. “See who it’s from and if it’s Banner wanting more weed tell him he’s a lazy stoner.” She smiled at him in the rear view mirror, pleased at the way the light drifted across his face.
Leon sat up and squinted at the phone. “It’s your mom. She says your dad is worried, can you call, umm, some stuff about the clinic.” He leaned forward and slid the phone back into the pocket on her lumberjack shirt. “Have you been sick?”
Elanor shook her head. “I’m having a baby.” She swung the wheel hard right and took the ramp to the liquor store carpark with a bump, then slid her car into the handicapped slot, yanked the handbrake and clambered out of the car, grabbing her keys as an afterthought.
Leon caught up with her inside. She was running her index finger over the bottles of Pinot Grigio, tink tink tink tink. “That’s good? News? It’s news, anyway! Who’s the, uh, who’s? When?”
Elanor picked up a bottle of Mission Valley and looked at the label. “They say it doesn’t have sulphites like it’s a good thing, but why? Maybe sulphites are great. Maybe sulphites are all we need?”
Leon pushed his chin forward. “I'm real confused right now. I don't think I need sulphites for that."
Elanor looked at him and nodded. "Nope. You're right." She grabbed two bottles. "Onwards!"
Leon pulled out his card. "I was going to buy them, I mean it's my turn, and, um, you shouldn't be drinking? I mean you're driving too, so, I guess." He grasped at the bottles that Elanor thrust at him, took them to the counter, paid. Elanor was humming.
Outside it was raining, and they ran to the car. Elanor turned the key as Leon fumbled with his seatbelt. She started the engine and rested her hand on the handbrake as fat drops of water blattered on the windscreen.
"I can't do it," she said. "I haven't got enough space. There's barely enough me for me, I can't spread myself that thin."
Leon put the bottles down between his feet.
"Ok," he said.
She was tapping the steering wheel with the palm of her hand. "loving loving loving. Dicks and cunts and loving gently caress. Noone asks to have a body, do they?"
Leon rubbed his palms on his knees. "I guess not? Who was the guy?"
"Are you going to ... go through with it? I mean what do you want to do?"
Elanor let off the handbrake and reversed out of the park. "I want to drink this wine, then tomorrow I want to wake up, and the day after that I want to do the same. Little fucker down there can come along with me if he likes, or she, or who gives a poo poo."
Leon said "Buy the ticket, take the ride?"
Elanor mashed the pedal and slammed them both back in their seats as the car fishtailed down the road. "Shantih."
Leon thought he could hear a deeper voice behind her as she talked, like someone was talking with her.
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 04:55|
Harold Jerin Blood checked his bank account online for the third time that day. Though he was lucky to have found the lucrative package delivery job, he hadn’t had a new delivery in over a month. The fifty percent deal on the collector’s tea set he wanted would only last until tomorrow. Harold clicked over to his email. His contact had said to only the message if it was an emergency, and Harold definitely thought this counted. He typed out a simple email, ‘I need a package job’, and hit send. It was only after that he realized he forgot to say please, thank you, or sign the email. Harold hoped they wouldn’t hold it against him.
To his surprise, it only took ten minutes for a response. It listed the pick-up and drop-off locations, which Harold noted were each in less than ideal parts of the city. He hoped nobody would accost him, but was confident in his ability to run away if it came to that. The tea set was too enticing. Harold put on his tie and coat – professionalism never hurt, and it was a bit chilly outside – and journeyed from his apartment.
Meanwhile, in the headquarters for the local mafia, sat the Job Man. When the email came in from Mr. Blood, his heart nearly exploded. Wasn’t this the guy who obliterated a rival group just to deliver a few cases of money? Even with the money, they couldn’t have bought enough explosives to do what he did. The email was insistent. Was this monster looking for more violence?
Every other gang and lowlife group in the city had threatened to band together against the mafia if they ever used Mr. Blood’s services again. The Boss was quick to agree at the time, but the Job Man remembered a specific warning, “Getting on Mr. Blood’s bad side would be worse than ten times what those punks could muster. If there’s ever a choice to make, bet on Blood.” The Boss had said to only give another job if it was an emergency, and the Job Man definitely thought this counted.
The Job Man typed out the details and hit send, hoping the time he had taken to panic didn’t insult Mr. Blood.
Harold’s stroll to the pick-up location was pleasant, if a bit odd. He tried to wave and smile at a couple walking the opposite way, but they began whispering frantically and detoured into an alleyway before he could wish them a fine day. Harold wondered if they simply hadn’t seen him, as they looked to be in an awful hurry.
Busy strangers aside, Harold had a tea set to earn. The location was inside of an abandoned building which really needed an unsafe zone sign. There was only one package this time, a backpack, and it wasn’t too heavy. He put it on and crept out, just in time to watch the building collapse in on itself. Too close! “Someone ought to report that,” he said aloud to himself, deciding he’d do it himself after finishing his job.
“Jack” and “Jill” were out scouting when they spotted Mr. Blood casually walking down the street. They discussed this apocalypse as they moved to cover in a nearby alleyway.
“We need to tell our gang,” Jack whispered.
“We need to tell every gang!” Jill responded.
“Wait, let’s not panic. You saw how he smiled at us, maybe he’s here by coincidence?”
“You mean that bloodthirsty smile? No, no no! We need to report this!”
The two gangsters peeked from the alleyway when they saw Mr. Blood enter an abandoned building. They shuffled to its side and listened. They only heard the creaking of floorboards. When Mr. Blood exited, they saw the backpack. “poo poo,” Jack muttered, right before a two-by-four fell from the now collapsing building and shattered his left arm. His screams were only kept back by Jill covering his mouth.
“Someone ought to report that,” they heard Mr. Blood darkly intone.
Jill shivered. “He knew we were here, and he wants to fight the gangs? God, I think the only reason we’re alive is because of that.”
Jack whimpered in agreement.
“Let’s pool our resources, hire the best hit squad money can buy, and roast that sunnavabitch!” The newly elected leader of the Gangsters Against Blood Alliance declared, earning much applause.
Behind every pair of clapping hands, was a powerful criminal afraid for their life, scheming how they sabotage the hit to garner favor with Mr. Blood.
When Harold was halfway through his route, there came the moment he feared; a group of frightening looking men accosted him in a circle.
“Mr. Blood?” One asked.
Harold placed a foot behind himself, prepared to run through them if he had to. “Yes?”
“Some dangerous men are after you.”
Harold presumed they were talking about themselves in the third person, for some reason. How did they know his name, though? “That’s nice, but could those dangerous men leave me alone? I’m very busy, you see,” he tried.
The men looked at one another, then back to Harold. “Of course. We’d hate it if you were delayed.”
Harold stopped his preparation to book it. That worked? Ha, he had always known that politeness was key to living well! All his mother’s warnings about what a dangerous world it was simply didn’t apply if you stated everything kindly, yet firmly. “I’ll be going, then. You lads have fun.”
As Harold walked away, he swore he could hear those men say something about him being amazing. Harold nodded and picked up his pace in joy.
The Bloody Defenders, as they had been dubbed, were charged with guarding Mr. Blood from the hit squad. When they found him, he was already being targeted by three snipers. His nonchalant attitude when they moved in to protect and warn him was baffling. Though they had heard the rumors, no man could shrug off bullets. Could he?
Yet even after he left their circle of safety by his own instance, there were no gunshots. They checked the snipers’ locations again, only to notice that each was already decommissioned via a slit throat.
“How did he do it?”
“He really didn’t need us.”
“That man is amazing.”
Discovering and covertly murdering every member of the hit squad was child’s play for its own members. The internal schism arose between those who always put the job first, and those who worshiped Mr. Blood as a living god. That man could kill anyone, even them if they tried, so the logic went that they may as well save him some work while they saved their own skin. The International Hit Organization was quickly taken over by these rebels, renaming it to International Blood Organization.
The actual delivery was just a pleasant exchange with a distinguished looking old man.
“I’m glad you asked to deliver this,” the man said.
“It’s nothing. I did it for what matters,” Harold replied.
“Oh? What matters to you?” The old man politely asked.
Harold thought about his response for a bit, “It’s good to relax, you know? I enjoy fine tea on a cold day.” Harold laughed.
The old man laughed with him. “The world needs more men like you,” he complimented.
Before Harold left, he tried another joke, “I think any man can be like me, most just don’t want to.” It must have been a bad joke, because the old man only frowned.
Three days later, the local mafia disbanded its chapter, the Boss citing that he had a revelation as to what it takes to really be involved in the criminal life, and he didn’t like it. Mr. Blood had told him, killing was like relaxing. It was then the Boss had realized he could never be happy with blood. Like Blood.
Most agreed and followed the Boss into retirement. Those that didn’t, joined the International Blood Organization.
Three days later, Harold’s tea set arrived in the mail. It was actually cheaply made, and damaged during delivery. “Cheap crap,” Harold said, before kicking himself for cursing. Not all deliveries were perfect, and it was important to look at things in a positive light.
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 05:00|
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 22:06 on Oct 31, 2017
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 05:03|
A Little Medicine (1080 words)
His daughter was a whore - Niles knew - but said nothing. His daughter was a whore; Niles knew, but did nothing. There could be no secrets between them. Their world was too small.
Niles stared up at the ceiling, his gaze glassy and unfocused in the light of a dull lantern. There were words. His daughter's, then the doctor's.
"Thank you so much for coming."
"Weren't no trouble at all. Had you in a fright, did he? He just needs more rest. More rest and more medicine."
Niles heard the clink of a bottle by his bedside. He shut his eyes. Tightly. He'd been a strong man, once. The strongest. The biggest and the strongest. Now he was simply big, and a burden. He couldn't be moved, and behind the doctor's pleasant demeanor lurked a man who charged extra when summoned from his clinic. A man who insisted he make monthly checkups. A man he'd tired of seeing long ago.
"Well, I suppose I'll be going then." The doctor collected his things. "Plenty more patients to attend to, you know."
"Ah, well, let me get the door for you."
"Ha ha, my, but what good service."
The door swung wide, out into the hall. Niles blinked and looked down, his eyes peeled, his vision fixed on the doctor's back. A moment of clarity bought by an inconvenient choice of words. He saw the doctor scribble something on a piece of paper and hand it to his daughter. The doctor tipped his hat and disappeared.
He heard the softest click as his daughter shut the door. His daughter, Audrey. The angel, the whore.
She'd been born in this room, her and her sister. Audrey and Alexis, with six years between. It'd always been cramped, but still, it was home. Niles remembered cradling them in his arms, their heads held up by kind, calloused hands. They'd pull on his beard. He'd howl in feigned pain. Their mother laughed, before she left. A military man would whisk her away.
"Does it hurt, daddy?" Alexis asked. Audrey's ears perked up. She listened for his answer.
"A little, a little."
Alexis stopped pulling on his beard thereafter. Audrey started tidying up.
Niles' own father had taken every excuse to turn to the drink. Niles wasn't like him. He couldn't be, wouldn't be. He worked every day to provide for his girls. In the mines, in the fields, in the forests. He had no time for vices or distractions. He had no time to find religion. He had the girls to think of, and that drove away his need to grieve. Audrey, old enough to remember the before times, made sure to include little kindnesses for him in her daily routine. Alexis, who wasn't, understood very little, and said even less.
In this way, their family approached what might've been an approximation of happiness. Until the accident. It took three men to drag him upstairs, to lay him down.
"He'll never walk again," the surgeon said. He took off his glasses and wiped them with a cloth. "And the pain, well, there's a remedy for that."
Niles had worked hard to provide for his daughters. They'd need to work harder still. Cooking and cleaning only brought in so much. Alexis, at least, had a head for numbers. Audrey did not. Alexis found work as a bookkeeper. Audrey found work at a brothel. Alexis worked days. Audrey worked nights.
Their room, once intimate, grew claustrophobic. Niles watched from his bed as his daughters went about their business, preparing for the day or detoxing after. In the corner of the room, obscured by little more than a ragged curtain, sat an old tin washtub. Audrey bathed every evening before she left, and every morning when she returned. Her morning baths were always longer. She return with a weary smile, turn, and disrobe. She'd returned one day with clothes that were much nicer than anything they could afford. She hung them with care and stepped into the tub. Sometimes there were marks on her back. Sometimes there were bruises.
The medicine Niles took dulled his reactions, but in his heart he cried out.
Audrey sighed. It was getting on in the evening. Soon Alexis would return. She clapped her hands to her face. She turned to her father and smiled. "Sis'll be home soon, then I'll be off." Opposite the washtub was some shelving. Audrey bent down and retrieved a certain book. She rifled through its pages until she found the one she needed. She took the paper the doctor had given her and placed it in the margin. Niles knew when Alexis returned, she would turn to that page. She would do the numbers. She would suffer in silence.
"Ah! Father!" She flew to his side, her finger to his lip. "You mustn't speak. You need to preserve your strength."
Niles' breathing grew harsh, then softened. "I have no strength. I've become a terrible chain 'round your necks. You and your sister...you work so hard. Too hard."
"Not nearly as hard as you, father."
"No. Harder. Much harder." Niles sighed. He raised his hand up to his daughter's face. He caressed her cheek. Her eyes were tired, but her smile was real. Niles closed his eyes. "Your sister will be here any minute now. Before she comes..."
He raised his hand and gestured at the far wall where an old hunting knife hung beneath a picture. Audrey followed his finger, then recoiled.
"What are you saying!"
"You're both still young. Too young to live like this. Take-"
Audrey slapped his hand down. Niles' hand was large, but he offered no resistance. His eyes betrayed confusion.
"I won't. And don't you dare pull this on Alexis. She won't either."
"Don't you want to leave?"
"If we'd wanted to leave, we would have!"
"Don't you want to...be free?"
"We are free." She took his hand. "And this is what we wanted."
"You're only staying because you feel guilty. You feel guilty your mother left."
"I'm staying because I love you!"
She buried her head in his chest, his wild and untamed beard. She held him close, held him tight. Niles hesitated, then put his arms around her. Slowly.
"I don't know if it helps to know this," she said, "But it's the truth."
Niles shut his eyes and shuddered. "It helps," he said.
"It does?" She looked at him.
He smiled. "A little, a little."
Flashrule: "Even when he's upright, he can't walk in a straight line, so his kids have to make their own way in the world."
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 05:13|
Fuschia tude fucked around with this message at 06:11 on Sep 29, 2017
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 05:22|
Hey submissions are closed please and thank you
(except less than half of you submitted so if you still want to submit tonight that's ok I guess)
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 06:03|
wtf more than half failure rate, I am appalled and disappointed. The blood god is not pleased, do you guys really want an angry blood god on your hands
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 09:33|
I'll (maybe) have a redemption up by next submission deadline.
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 09:57|
I'll have a redemption done before the end of week 235.
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 12:17|
I'm 80% done. I WILL submit late rather than slink into the shadows over and over. Do I submit my too-late story here or is there a special place for late-subs?
Hey submissions are closed please and thank you
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 13:33|
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 13:48|
wtf more than half failure rate, I am appalled and disappointed. The blood god is not pleased, do you guys really want an angry blood god on your hands
but what about the failure god ever think about that
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 16:52|
but what about the failure god ever think about that
we don't practice your foul religion around here
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 17:03|
fowl religions are just fine, all hail the EGG
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 17:05|
No Good Answers
flerp fucked around with this message at 05:28 on Mar 14, 2017
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 18:12|
Crits are noted and appreciated. Cheers.
|# ? Jan 30, 2017 23:37|
Late but done dammit.
LUCIOUS: 1370 words.
Prompt at end of story.
Lucious Pratt rips into the man’s neck, pulling tendons and muscle with his teeth. The man drops to the ground and Lucious checks for any other survivors before continuing down the path, his gait impeded by the shotgun blast to the knees minutes earlier.
He needs brains fast; his health is dropping.
To his left, a zombie stops lurching, and Lucious hears, “I’m going for more sodas, want one?”
“Two Dr. Peppers, and make sure they’re cold this time.”
Marvin’s lawn chair scrapes the basement floor so loudly when he gets up, Lucious can hear it over his headphones.
Lucious cradles the game controller, fingers driving the device from muscle memory in a room so dark he couldn’t see the buttons if he wanted to. His face, lit only by the television, is motionless except for his left eye, rapidly scanning the tv screen for movement.
His right eye, hand-painted medical-grade acrylic, never moves.
Marvin walks to the kitchen still wearing his VR goggles, carrying his controller, so he’s able to keep up with the other two zombies.
Both Chet and Marvin have VR goggles. Googles like that are useless to Lucious and his one good eye.
He doesn’t let it bother him.
The three boys don’t really need to be in the same room, what with the internet connection, but Lucious’ mom had told the other boys it was fine to come over anytime. She keeps the fridge stocked, and these two boys mooch without so much as a thanks.
But he doesn’t let it bother him. Not much.
At least he still has the one good eye for whatever that’s worth.
Doctors told him that—with practice—he’d be able to move the fake one just like his left eye so it’d be barely noticable.
But that never happened, and that’s how he ended up with that lovely nickname.
Another couple of doctors said he’d be back on the field in a few months. That was June. He got the zombie game at Christmas and it just about saved him from suicide.
Marvin and Chet weren’t the friends he’d had before the accident, but with his poo poo knee and fake eye, it’s a wonder he has friends at all.
“You have any extra health packs Chet? I’m low.”
“Sure, here.” Chet’s voice, clear and cheery, lisping and squeaky.
The zombie to his right drops two white and red boxes. “I need more than just two.”
“That’s all I have, sorry.”
Lucious picks up the packs and says, “Cut through these yards, see what’s across the street—”
“Hey, Cy,” Marvin’s voice, simultaneously over the headphones and right behind him. “Here’s your drink. Take it, I’m gotta go pee.”
Lucious doesn’t know what he hates more, his real name or the nickname these idiots gave him.
But he tries not to let it bother him.
Lucious wedges the can between his knees and pops it open with one hand. Then, with the can in one hand, controller in the other, he walks his zombie through back yards while he knocks back half the drink.
He burps loudly into his headset and puts the can on the edge of his dresser, knocking over a soccer trophy from two years ago.
With just one good eye, it’s no longer easy to tell what’s close and what’s far, and Lucious grits his teeth at the sound of the trophy hitting the floor.
“Dammit.” He finally looks away from the tv, still pressing his zombie ahead of the other two in the game. The room is too dark to see the soccer trophy, and when he looks up again, the terrain in the game had changed. In the evening light, the homes look less post-apocalyptic, more kept up. Generic back yards of generic ranch homes in a generic subdivision, except…
“Hey that’s just like your house, innit?” Chet says.
“Kind of, sure.” Lucious has his focus back in the game, the trophy can wait.
They cut through the yard to the back of the house, a generic mid-70s ranch with two garbage cans on a concrete slab patio. The bulb over the back door is out, just like his, just like half the homes in this collapsing Detroit suburb.
And just like any mid-sixties ranch, the sliding glass door opens to a kitchen-breakfast room-living room layout.
All the lights are off in the house.
They’re searching for weapons or health, and in this particular game health comes in the form of brains, at least when playing the game as zombies instead of humans.
In the headphones, noise to the left, coming from down the hall.
Light spills from a door, a toilet flushing and Lucious is on the human, clawing with superhuman strength, tearing flesh and cracking open the skull, pulling at the white and red goop, his health meter returning to full.
There’s two more doors in the hallway, one closed, the other flickering a dull light.
And before he realizes it, there’s just the two of them playing, Marvin’s zombie is no longer following down the hall.
And he knows what’s happened before he knows what’s happening.
On the TV screen, he bounds into the room, sees himself in the chair on the right, the empty chair in the middle and the green ratty lawn chair on the left. Chet’s in it, but he’s getting up.
Lucious watches the screen, watching the momentary infinite video loop of the TV, in the TV, in the TV, his mind not quite putting the game and reality together yet.
He pushes the X button repeatedly, burrowing into Chet’s neck on the screen.
The sounds overlap between game and reality; screaming and then gurgling, and then a loud crunch when Lucious bites into the mic on Chet’s headphones.
Chet is down on his knees, clutching his throat.
Lucious sets the controller, carefully, on the dresser. He’s bumped that controller too many times on accident, murdering teammates just because he nudged the X button with a soda can.
When he finally removes the headphones, he can hear the sound of Chet’s exposed torn esophagus, slurping at air through bubbles of blood. Chet’s looking at him but not — can’t — say anything.
His zombie, eight feet tall, stands over Chet, shoulders hitching, head occaionally snapping left and right. It’s a magnificent beast, skin peeled back from the forehead, a gaping hole in one cheek, its teeth exposed. Skinless neck, just veins, tendons and muscle pulsing and impossibly twisting tentacles keeping the head from lolling to the side.
The zombie looks at Lucious, and on the TV screen, Lucious is looking away, looking at the television. A hand waves, it’s his hand, he’s waving. He points, swings his arm in a slow arc.
He hears Chet collapse, has to turn his head to see Chet take one or two last gasps.
Lucious picks up the controller, careful to keep his thumb away from the X button. He has to look at the TV—the zombie’s point of view—to back the zombie into the hall.
He sets the controller on his chair like he’s setting down an ice cream cake with the candles lit.
The soda’s gone flat, or maybe it was flat all along. He empties the can in as few gulps as possible. He’s sweating, and it takes a couple tries to wipe the sweat from his eye because his hands won’t stop shaking.
He crushes the can in his hands, the aluminum clacking and then scraping when he tries to twist the can apart. The monster doesn’t react.
He throws one half of the torn can at the feet of the zombie, ready to kick the door shut if anything happens. It doesn’t move.
He throws the other half of the can at the zombie’s head, but misses because his sense of depth is for poo poo.
From the front door, he hears “Everything all right in here?”
Not sure, but it sounds like the old grouch who lives across the street.
Luscious takes the controls, settles into his chair, walks his zombie down the hall to the front door, his thumb, hovering over the X.
he won the lottery ticket— he’s a shmuck trying to right his wrongs - , he’s got a lot of work to do.
|# ? Jan 31, 2017 04:24|
WEEK 234: JUDGEMENT
Idk what to say guys, there was a lot of bad this week. I wanted to gorge on your characters, but the lot of them left me feeling empty, like you'd feel after eating your mom's tuna casserole for the fourth time in a week.
There were four DMs this week. Metrofreak for a story that failed to go anywhere at all; Benagain, for much of the same; Twiggymouse, for lacking any real nuance in the main character, and for fumbling its character development arc; and Venomous: for a thousand jizzms couldn't save your muddled character moments or your freak and abrupt ending.
Our loser this week is UraniumPhoenix. The prose was okay, probably the best of the lows, but it wasn't enough to save a story featuring a literal flesh python. In a non character-focused week, this probably wouldn't have lost, but your characters were flat and uninteresting and your plot didn't do you any favors.
We have two HMs -- both were stories that, at least on some level, were able to stick with us. Bad Seafood, for a story with good atmosphere and a good, well-described protagonist, and Fuschia tude, because we could feel for the boy and jesus I just wanted to feel anything at all this week was that too much to ask of ye my goons??
The winner this week is Tyrannosaurus. Your story was fully-realized, there are some good moments that add nuance to the protagonist as opposed to characterizing him, and there's a development arc in there that worked and that you made the judges care about. Congrats!
GenJoe fucked around with this message at 06:54 on Jan 31, 2017
|# ? Jan 31, 2017 06:50|
*I didn't win*
no guys it's cool take ur time
|# ? Jan 31, 2017 07:02|
Uranium Phoenix: The Eyes of Eris
Unattributed dialog is not a good way to open a story. Looks like the speaker is not identified for another five lines, and their context (some kind of space opera setting) isn’t established until around the same time. Not good.
That’s the wrong “it’s” there.
We are being cute with the prompt, I see. Also introducing the actual story fairly late. Ah, extremely cute with the prompt.
And an undermotivated hyperviolent ending, oh joy. Including a pointless/stupid double-cross and the kind of retaliation that will probably burn more bridges than wanted.
The Cut of Your Jib’s The Resurrection Men
Good opening, economical use of detail quickly sets a scene.
“You’re in the hurry” is a bit clunky as dialog. As is “The subterfuge isn’t right”.
Midway, I’m having two problems. First, these two people are having this conversation for the first time right now? Seems unlikely. And second, there doesn’t seem to be much story here, with it being fairly late to introduce one. Ah, there it comes.
I’m not at all clear who was shooting at them or why they didn’t stick around to finish the job, given that their targets were unarmed and such.
Probably Middle group here.
Twiggymouse’s The Job
There’s something sort of, well, off about the entire opening. In the right hands, this could be intentional and to interesting effect. But not here, the rest of the story settles into some normalish prose.
The problem here is that it’s a big pile of nothing, a ‘story’ that stops just before something interesting threatens to happen, with ill-defined and boring characters. The one thing that does happen, Jameson changing his mind, happens offstage and we’re given no insight as to why.
Low, maybe low middle? Not actively offensive at least, but certainly not good.
More unattributed dialog to open a story. At least the dialog (not that line, but onward) is well done here.
Probably one of the better-written entries so far. My main problem with it is the ending. Listen, I know all 1st person dialog doesn’t have to be completely digetic, but it still should be anchored to a plausible moment in a character’s life, and there’s no case in which “and then I died” isn’t going to be a cheat ending. Well, unless much of the story takes place in the afterlife. In my first read I thought that the narrator was being cut off by his employers as a loose end, but on reread it looks more like a suicide, which is even worse. Cutting the last section would have made this a much better story. I liked this story far better than the other judges: having two characters with similar strong dialect come across as distinct individuals is a difficult writing task, and you managed it fairly well.
Chernabog’s The missing ingredient
In titles, capitalize all words other than articles or prepositions, or have a good reason for breaking this rule. Laziness isn’t a good reason.
The hook is interesting, but doesn’t really pay off. You really need to do more to sell the exotic nature of the bird. Really, this whole story is a nothingburger. And the epilog doesn’t work at all in prose. Maybe if something interesting had happened in it, something with a connection to the story.
Also, if your prompt had been about Hannibal someone at Netflix would have needed to suffer, badly, but I’m assured that it wasn’t.
Middle in this pack.
Chairchucker’s Small Dog
A very interesting hook.
All of the pieces of a good story are present here. There’s some humor, some emotional bite, stakes, action. But they don’t really come together properly. I think that the decision to give the dog a speaking part was a mistake, that the version that played the UFO people’s mistake completely straight could have been a lot stronger. There’s a point where the action gets a bit too cartoony to work, and usually that point is when you get the talking dog. Also, minor prompt fail for having the most interesting character not be human.
In the opening paragraph you spell ‘belt’ wrong and have a character swap gender between sentences. Not a good sign. The opener has potential, but you waste the setup with a fairly pedestrian answer to the question.
In the end, this isn’t a story. The ‘ending’, such as it is, comes out of nowhere, the scenes don’t really build on each other, and we’re left with a sketch of a not particularly interesting character.
In short fiction with supernatural elements, it’s always important to introduce them early and strikingly. The opposite of this, dropping them in a paragraph full of exposition seven paragraphs in, is what you do and it doesn’t work at all.
It’s also not a good idea to leave a key element of the world even further in, in paragraph nine, when you reveal that this story takes place thousands of years in the future. Which isn’t really believable, given how normal thing seem to be.
Thousands of years, with aliens presumably keeping human industry down to a level that won’t damage their oceans. But we have cigarettes (implying a functioning economy where fields can be devoted to cash crops rather than food, and also implying paper being cheap enough that people don’t use pipes) and flashlights (so batteries still being made, and enough metallurgy for filaments at least.) Which doesn’t seem to hold water, even without the kind of cultural shifts that that much time would have to see.
And this in another story that ends just before the something interesting happens, before what has happened or why it hasn’t happened before in thousands of years can be made clear.
Low, DM or possible loss. (I liked this a lot less than the other judges, but I do see that the problems were mostly high-level, idea-scale problems and the prose itself was fine.)
katdicks’ The Bride-to-Be
Good opening, although a little bit much for a single sentence.
The story is mostly harmless, I guess. A pile of uninterrogated problematic victoriana cliches with a slightly too-clever ending. Competently executed for the most part, but lacking in originality to a fault.
Metrofreak’s Home Office
The opening doesn’t really do enough for how much the structure stretches things out.
In the end, you have a character sketch, again with very little story around it, and of a fairly unsympathetic character who doesn’t seem to feel anything for his dead child other than in that that fact has caused him to lose his wife, which he misses more as routine and dayplanner than as a human being. It would be nice to see some actual grief for the kid in there somewhere, even if deeply repressed.
Low middle at best.
Kenfucius’s One Too Many
I think you could have a stronger hook if you managed to mention the fire in the opening sentence, but otherwise reasonably strong here.
‘marshalled’ is probably not the right word.
‘Walt itched in the regard of the crowd.’ What?
Overall, though, I like this one. Good character, a solid story behind it. My favorite among the early stories.
sebmojo’s May contain:
See above on title capitalization. Also, missing at least one word at the end of the first line. Inauspicious.
This seems like an aggressive response to the recappers’ take on the drug ghost story a few weeks back. I disagree with the premise here, still think that someone willfully risking the health of a child they expect to deliver is fairly awful as a human being, but this is at least a well-executed ‘message’ story, with the character seeming human and not just a mouthpiece.
Middle/high middle maybe.
jon joe’s Mr. Blood
Another missing word in a first paragraph.
Takes an interesting turn in the second section.
In the end, this is well-written and interesting, but I’m finding it unsatisfying, without enough revealed about why this guy has become a human jinx in the first place. The sniper deaths are explained, but the collapsing building stands out as a huge coincidence and the explosions in the backstory stand out even moreso, so it seems like there’s probably a long chain of coincidences fueling this farce.
Tyranosaurus’s The Outlaw Josey Graves
PREVIEW AND PROOF YOUR OPENING PARAGRAPHS AT LEAST!
Other than that, the opening is okay. I could ask for more specifics on the peril in that opening, though. But you’re determined to vague it through the entire first section, a decision I’m not sure I can get behind.
Okay, I’m still not sure I agree with that. But overall, this is head and shoulders above the rest of the week. Strong characters (A bit more tell-y than I’d like regarding Aarush, but that’s a point of view thing here), good story, good ending. This covers some themes you’ve visited before maybe a few too many times but it’s probably the best example of that td sub-subgenre so far (at least since I’ve been here) so I’ll forgive that.
My win pick
Bad Seafood’s A Little Medicine
Strong, but bitter and harsh opening. Let’s see where you go with it. Punctuating the same structure differently doesn’t really do much here.
Ah, so literal. That helps to recover sympathy a little. Dialog-driven stories like this are hard to pull off, but this one works for the most part. Another strong late story for this week. High, HM Candidate.
Fuschia tude’s It’s Not Something You Can Leave Behind
Strong opening. Good dialog in the first section. Probably should be Razorblades’ (singular noun sports teams exist, but are rare and probably wouldn’t be with that one.)
Another good one. I sort of think that it’s a bit late and understated when you reveal/imply that it was the entire team that died in the crash, that something like that would warp a school’s routines to the point where a slightly witchy girl with an on-the-nose name and a large-hat-wearing kid wouldn’t even be a litte out of the ordinary, though.
HM Candidate, Top group.
--- <- the deadline
flerp’s No Good Answers
Interesting opening. Not sure how breaths can be honest, but it’s an original turn of phrase at least.
Nameless characters, I knew there was something I don’t like missing from this week. And the namelessness of the protagonist is just part of the problem with him: we don’t get any details at all about him, and that means that the entire story is colored in completely different ways if the reader assumes he is the same age as Cindy and if the reader takes him as much older.
Another nothing sandwich of a story, if it hadn’t dqed for lateness it would be right at the edge of the DM/no mention boundary for me.
This was an okay hook, but with just a little tweaking it could be much better. Replace ‘the man’ with something more specific: the soldier, the clerk, the barrista. Weakened by the reveal a bit, although a zombie-pov story would have been tough. As would a successful zombie-pov game, for that matter.
Turning potentially sympathetic characters into psychopaths/sociopaths seems to be a thing this week. Another likely DM had it been on time.
|# ? Jan 31, 2017 07:08|
Prompt: "The greater an object's value, the more vulnerable it is to theft. And the world's most celebrated art is no exception."
On character: Although it felt like it relied on cliche a tiny bit, I actually had a pretty good idea of the main character/narrator - but Ricky felt a bit all over the show and didn’t crystallise until the last few hundred words. Better to tell me more about him earlier.
On motive: OK here’s the thing - this is my biggest issue with your story. Two dudes stand in the Louvre. Then one leaves a phone message, won’t take the callback and jumps in the river. There’s no clarity around the job, who might be pursuing them, why the narrator feels at 35 he’s so far gone that the best thing to do is jump in a grotty river.
Best thing I read - and thanks to Muffin for telling me about this - was Dan Harmon’s story circle. This link has pretty good coverage of the idea. But really, give your character a motivation - what do they want? What’s stopping them getting it? You jumped right to the change without the rest - and therefore the ending probably wasn’t as satisfying as you wanted it to be. Earn the blissful annihilation.
On swearing: You spent 26 of your words on “gently caress”, and 5 on “poo poo”. Tell me that every single one of those 30 words is vital to your story. Every loving one? Really? Use it as flavour. Also loving thirty-five would be better as thirty-loving-five. The swearing is in character, but in flash fiction it's always at the expense of something else - I think you could bring it down to 15-20 and still keep the character you'd written.
On sentences: Finish ‘em. The whole interruption thing works well a couple of times, but I'd lost some patience for it toward the end (where, ironically, you used it to better effect). I’d rather you spent some of your swear words finishing those sentences.
|# ? Jan 31, 2017 07:39|
|# ? Jan 31, 2017 07:42|
Goddammit. I hate a crit that gets it all wrong until I think about it some more. Great feedback with good suggestions. Thanks.
|# ? Jan 31, 2017 13:41|
Here are my crits. I actually liked this week better than our lead judges. There were about seven stories or so that I enjoyed reading. Anyway, here's my thoughts.
Not read in judge mode, that way I know who is esteemed and I do not get egg on my face when I say someone who is good wrote a bad story.
Just kidding, you’re all bad and horrible.
As always, happy to discuss anyone’s stories on IRC.
The Eyes of Eris – Uranium Phallics
Notes: Oooo I really hope that your character that we get to know is AI. That’s a really brilliant idea. Wait. Who is Cythea?
I’m so confused.
“Ah yes. Diplomacy. That thing I’m best at.”
Dialogue: not the thing you’re best at.
There’s too many adjectives peppered throughout this, “most genuine smile” “happy chime” “jaunty tune”, eh just use better nouns.
Also there’s too many little things happening here and this story is really tricky to follow.
Welp, I have found the best thing that will ever come out of thunderdome everyone. : Alecta compressed her body structure and squeezed through the hole like a fleshy python.
Overall : I had a bitch of time following the action of this story. I also couldn’t find my way to care about Alecta. I was far more interested in your AI character and would have enjoyed the story if it were told from its POV more.
The Resurrection Man – The Cut of your Corpse
Notes: Mister Bell? Clay? Is this The Wire fanfiction. Good god I hope it’s The Wire fan fiction.
About halfway through now, and I’m digging this. These characters contrast each other nicely and they both sound different. Good control.
Finished the rest, rather quickly.
Overall: Solid entry. Clear action, good relationships, characters do things that make sense based on who they are and what we’ve learned about them. I also didn’t want to see Clay die and I think you accomplished that by referring to him as Bell’s patient right after he’s wounded. It mattered to both of them that he survived. You managed to insert some give-a-fucks into your story. Good.
The Job – Laggymouse
Notes: Your story is taking forever to get started. There’s a job that needs to be done, and a guy doesn’t want to do it. That’s fine for like… 50 words, but you’re going into the hundreds and I have no idea who these people are, or what this job is, so why should I care?
“furrowed his brow” pet peeve, but I hate this
Yeah, you’re whole first segment just doesn’t do anything. This is a pretty standard “I’ve hung up my guns” type of deal you didn’t need to spend forever and a day getting there. It’s not as though Jameson won’t do the job, what the hell else could happen?
Yeah 2nd beat starts and sure enough that’s where he is. You gotta go bigger or different if you’re gonna make us wait that long.
You’ve just joined the “genuine smile” club for this week.
He fought his way up to the counter and tried to force a smile at the woman behind it.
“Jameson O’Connell, here for Michael Redfern.”
This is 133 words that are pretty much unnecessary. They don’t accomplish anything for your story and we’ve already been made to wait a whole hell of a lot before we learn anything about this job that the title promises.
Oh fuuuuuuuuccccckkk that ending.
Overall: This is like reverse Reservoir Dogs and it sucks butts. I get what you’re trying to do, tell a story that leads up to the job. That’s fine, but something interesting has to happen. Ask yourself what about this story could any given reader not predict. Nothing happens, I don’t care, there are no stakes and now I’m so upset that I’m going to demand that the next story I read get a DM.
Ears – Venomous
Notes: Oh dear, is that a typo or is your character stroking out?
Oh good, Italian jizz.
Alright, so you’re doing an accent. I thought your keyboard was broken. Here’s the deal, I don’t know how read this and make it sound the way you intend. I checked in IRC and it seems like it’s generally not considered a great idea to write out the phonetics of an accent. Why? Cos most of the time, like now, your reader will be a big dumb and will not know how to pronounce it. /rant, back to the story.
“I’m about to sigh a relief, but then the biggest lightbulb ever made explodes in Ricky’s head and he gasps at me.” Don’t love “ever made”. This is weak prose and you can probably do better.
One thing I’m noticing. We don’t know when this is happening. I’m guessing night? In which case they’ve already managed to break into the Louvre and they’re being quite flippant and casual about it. Or they’re in there during the day and you’re not telling us anything about the crowd. Kinda problematic either way.
Oh, cool “"Well, okay, that one’s small and there isn’t bulletproof glass around it, but do you really want to go through with this in broad daylight?" So now we know, but we should have known sooner cos, ideally, I wouldn’t have had that question for so long.
The repeating seminal references are… odd. I think you were going for funny, but it’s not quite landing and it’s just getting weird.
Alright, this is just tons of talking with occasionally soliloquizing and nothing is happening. Also, you sometimes end paragraphs
Like that, and it doesn’t look right. I get that you’re trying to show an interruption of though but a dash might work here, or maybe ellipses. I don’t know, ask someone smarter than me.
UMMM WHAT THAT ENDING??
Overall: You didn’t tell a story so much as two guys and one guy remembering better stories than the one he is currently in. Well not currently, anymore because you threw him into the Seine… for reasons?
I didn’t really care that he died, and I certainly couldn’t quite tell you why. My best guess is that he’s suffered from PTSD or something and hasn’t gotten help. But I can’t be sure and I’m wondering why, of the one thing to happen in your story, you chose to go with a suicide.
The missing ingredient – Chernabog
Notes: Welcome to the genuine smile club, we needed a vice president! Got some missing commas, like in “aye captain”.
Anyway read most of the rest of this fairly quickly. It’s not bad.
Overall: It’s a story. Your character wants something. We see him try and get it, and it works. That’s more than most have offered thus far. The story, in content feels like it’s supposed to be funny, but none of it really made me laugh and the moments that seemed like jokes, didn’t quite land.
Smalldog – Chairchucker
Notes – Fun hook, I’m on board. We also learn a great deal about this character in a minimal amount of time. This is good story telling.
I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories, where characters have mundane conversations while treating the threat like a nuisance. Feeling like this’ll be a story I go to the matt for.
This dog is the best.
Ok, read the rest quickly.
Overall—Dog stories are risky. Feel like they’re easy to land on the top or bottom piles. Forutnatley, this is a top piler for me. Good humor, some nice growth in there too for the dad. I would say that, that his characterization is a little weak, but that’s made up for because we get to know the dog a widdle.
Anyway, the story got me to care; it also got me to laugh. I liked this a lot.
Driverless – Benagain
Notes: First couple of paragraphs are a little clunky. I’m finding the POV confusing. Looks like you’re going for some kinda middle ground between an all knowing narrator and the character as well. I’ve seen that done well before, but it’s not quite clicking here.
This is really messy and it’s hard to tell if it’s purposeful? I’m inclined to think that it’s not for the most part. It seems like your character has an accent or something, but I’m not sure how that helps you or why it’s good for your character to speak with broken English. But then there’s sentences like this: “Finish lesson, jamming on passenger side brakes the entire way.” And I’m not quite sure what you’re going for?
And I’m lost. I don’t know what’s happening and I don’t care.
Overall: This was a hard to follow mess, that seemed, like many stories this week, to go for humor and not quite get there. I’m not sure who these people are, and I can’t sort out their motivations or even tell why they are in the places they are in.
Arrival – Hawklad
Starting off this is a bit messy and tricky to follow. I’ve had to go back and re-read some things. Also, I haven’t seen the movie, but I’m just guessing that this has something to do with the recent film of the same name?
Yeah this is just one of those types of stories that can’t seem to hold my attention. I’m not sure what is going on with the alien things and why people care. I’m just kinda lost going through this.
Overall – The parallels with the pregnancy and the alien are… fine? It’s not really subtle but then, it was one of the few things I could wrap my head around in this story. I’d be interested to see sort of a flo-chart of events for this. You did do some work on making these characters believable, in a sense, but I’m not getting much else out of this.
The Bride-to-Be – Katdicks
Notes: That’s a pretty hefty opening line. Could’ve been punchier. The paragraph itself has a couple of adverbs you don’t need, if you ditched precariously and unsurprisingly, the meaning is still all there and it’ll feel less cumbersome.
I really liked the letter into the next pargraph where he reveals the knife. I wish it stopped there and we didn’t get a flashback. It’s cool that the gift of a silver dagger is essentially a warning and letting the readers imagine that for themselves would be more effective. I get that you’re explaining how she got taken, but I’m not sure how much it matters.
Overusing trembling. We know that Leo is a trembler by now. And now his knees buckles… it’s a bit much. You’re showing, which is good, but it’s getting distracting.
Yeah, see, now through exposition we’re learning how she got caught anyway from Von Kreet. I would definitely ditch the flashback. You’d get to the action faster and would build some intrigue along the way.
OOOOOKKK, I actually kinda like that ending.
Overall: I always get annoyed with potential binary endings. Either he’ll win, or he’ll lose. There needs to be more to make it special. You accomplished that by earning the victory through a loophole. So that’s good. In a way this feels coming-of-agey which is a tough thing to accomplish in such a short period of time. This needs tightening. A snappier opener, and get rid of the flashback and this has some potential. It’s good otherwise.
Home Office – Metrofreak
Starting a story with a character waking up is usually a harbinger of a bad time. I hope that isn’t the case here.
OK, so we’ve got a problem:
He was downstairs a minute later, used mug in hand. He’d walked silently past the doors upstairs. He needn’t worry about waking Amanda or Ethan, not anymore, but old habits died hard. He put on the kettle, pulled a fresh mug out of the cupboard, set it next to his stained one and spooned out an equal measure of instant coffee, sugar and powdered creamer into both.
Look at how all of these sentences start. This is a mistake that gets corrected if you do the thing that nobody wants to do… read your story out loud. You’ll catch how crappy these sentences sound when you string them all together like that HE HE HE HE HE HE HE HE HE
Anyway, all that aside, we’re a couple hundred words in so far and this dude is boring as piss. He’s woken up, watched the new and got his mail. Why should anyone care about this boring boring dude?
Oh, OK, a girl left him. That’s… something at least, but I wish you had gotten here sooner. I think it’s Ebeef who always says that you’ve gotta pretty much get all of the information you can into your first 100 words. We needed to learn about Amanda in like… the first paragraph, maybe the second.
Jeeez… this is just… why does this matter? It’s a guy just doing things in his house. Come oooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.
And now I’m wondering why in the world we needed the story to open with Times. You’ve wholesale abandoned that halfway through.
Overall: This isn’t a story. You took the prompt to mean “let’s get inside a guys head and see what he sees” which is fine, but there’s nothing about this that’s compelling or engaging to read. These are essentially journal entries. And now, I don’t know who James is. I can’t tell you anything about him. Why? Because you didn’t challenge him. He had a breakup sure, but you got throw something at him so we can see how he handles a situation on the fly. You gotta go bigger than this. You also seemed far too concerned with your flashrule. Genjoe said over and over again that writers were encouraged to expand upon their flashes as much as they like, so there wasn’t necessarily a reason to adhere so tightly to it.
One Too Many – Kenfucius
Good opening. Nice scene setting and opening on a fire gives some immediate stakes.
This is not a good sentence. And the rest of that paragraph is a little heavy on the exposition.
Walt nodded approvingly at the command in his partner’s tone.
You’re starting to lose me a bit at the bar. You’re getting away from action and just straight up telling us how your character is feeling. And then you do it again with the relationship between the partners in that they “always know”
Overall: Not much of a story. A thing happens, a guy gets drunk, decides to quit his job. Those are the beats and they’re fairly predictable and lack much in the way of interest or punch. I respect that you really went for the prompt. In fact, you may have made gone the most directly towards the “human character” bit, which is nice, but before that your story needs to have something else that makes it worth reading. We hear about a fire, we never see them interact with it. We hear about this relationship that these partners have, but we don’t see much of in practice. There’s good elements here, you just need to tease them out a bit more.
May contain: - sebmojo
Notes: I’m sure you’ve caught your glaring typo in the first line of the story by now. But allow me to echo what I’m hoping you’ve been hearing from others: shame on you.
Honked petulantly? There’s a couple of reasons why that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Elanor shook her head. “I’m having a baby.” She swung the wheel hard right and took the ramp to the liquor store carpark with a bump, then slid her car into the handicapped slot, yanked the handbrake and clambered out of the car, grabbing her keys as an afterthought.
Good ending as well.
Overall: The length of the story did you a lot of favors because not a whole lot happened but we did get a nice little glimpse into someone’s heart. There were some clever things in there too like not having space and what not, I saw what you were doing there.
Not bad, but definitely could have done with more. As it happens, there ain’t much going on in the story and I think more time with these characters doing something challenging or having to deal with something together would’ve been interesting.
Mr. Blood – jon joe
Notes: Blee a missing word in your opener. What are you taking lessons from sebmojo?
Your first paragraph in the second beat is a mess.
Third beat starts with you telling us that something is odd. Don’t do that. If it’s odd, show us. You probably are planning doing that anyway, but don’t waste time stating it outright.
Oh… so this is a farce? You got stones. Let’s hope it works.
Overall: Hey, it kinda works!
There are some difficult to parse out bits, especially because we don’t know what’s happening when and we basically can’t know until we read the next beat what the current beat is, but that’s true of most farces that aren’t perfect. There are some that accomplish perfect clarity throughout with confusion that only the characters see and not the reader, but that’s the gold standard and really tricky to pull off.
Otherwise, this is a pretty good effort. Not sure how well it addressed the human character element of the prompt, but it works.
The Outlaw Josey Graves – Tyrannosaurus
Notes: Opener is solid. I like the character already and the humor lands.
Halfway through and realizing that I haven’t commented on anything yet because I’m too busy enjoying the story. So that’s good.
Well OK you just threw in an unnecessary brow furrowing. So that takes you down a bit.
Yaaaayyy, I liked this story!!
Overall: Probably my favorite so far. Good coming of age. I believed in your character’s transformation. This worked on just about every level and even the little bits of “level up” humor were nice and kept the story light and springy without diminishing the stakes.
A Little Medicine Bad Seafood
Notes: Strong opening
I’m finding the repetitive nature of the prose somewhat tiring. I get that it’s purposeful, and likely done for effect, but it’s just not clicking. I think once or twice with “Niles couldn’t do that, he never could do that” type of thing can be helpful and productive in telling a good story, but you’re leaning on it a bit too much and it’s losing a lot of punch.
Overall: Well this is a sweet little moment between father and daughter, but I’m having a hard time with the opening now. He’s sitting on a lot of things that make him upset, so it almost seems like he’s asking to die because he’s bummed and not a burden? The things in this story that are good, are really good. Audrey mannerisms, for example, and how she comes home from work…. All handled very well. But I’m a little lost for what the story is and how things have changed because of the events in the story.
I liked reading it, but I guess it didn’t leave me satisfied.
It’s Not Something You Can Leave Behind – Fuschia tude
Notes: good opening. We get information quickly and you don’t waste time.
Ok, read the rest pretty quickly.
Overall : A sad story, but handled decently. The nature of grief is a tricky one to deal with in a short story but you did a nice job. I also dig that you just kinda went for it and put in some magical poo poo. Good times, and not enough people took that route this week, so good on you for that. When we think about a character wanting something and seeing them get it or not, it’s usually important for there to be something at the end to speak to the nature of the journey and you did a nice job of encapsulating the journey. I liked
|# ? Jan 31, 2017 13:47|
As always, great crits and they are much appreciated!
|# ? Jan 31, 2017 15:17|
*bows to the crits*
|# ? Jan 31, 2017 15:27|
|# ? May 23, 2022 18:29|
I vow to do significantly better next time.
|# ? Jan 31, 2017 15:48|