I forgot about this and will miss the deadline sorry!!
Thanks for letting me know. By the way I'm working late tomorrow night so I won't be home for dinner. Cya later xoxo.
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 04:23|
|# ? Nov 29, 2021 11:34|
The Sharing Economy
Ren knows that there are a few tricks to creating a welcoming environment. Obviously, keeping the space clean and organized is the most important thing for rider comfort, but Ren’s perfected other little touches that set her apart from other hosts. There’s a little glass decanter in her glove compartment, a room spray, but not the cheap kind that comes in a plastic bottle with a trigger. She pumps the bulb once and wafts her hands across the air. The scent is delicate and floral, and it will linger in the air after the rider drops in.
The display reads 7:00 PM. Saint Patrick’s Day is on a Friday this year, and Washington DC is in the middle of the warmest March it’s had in a decade. The streets are swarming in shamrock green and Ren’s painted a tiny clover on her cheekbone, a flourish against her simple beauty.
Ren checks her phone; one minute remains in the auction. The app is set to only allow for only four or five star riders to bid, and the surge pricing of a major social holiday means that she’ll easily make at least a thousand for a night of hosting, which is good, since her rent is due next weekend.
The auction timer hits zero and the phone vibrates. The winner is a woman from Omaha who’s paid two grand for an eight hour drive. Her name is Marlene Heller. Then, somewhere under Ren’s skull, the neural synthetic webbing tells her body that it’s time to go to sleep.
When someone else is driving, the world is drawn and colored in a dreamy haze, like frost covering a windshield. Ren feels her shoulders slump up and down, making little circles as Marlene reacts to the drop in. Marlene adjusts the rearview mirror to get a look at her new, temporary face. Ren never uses much makeup, typically a little lip stain and a touch of the basics but nothing more. Marlene puckers her lips and smiles at Ren’s reflection before opening the car door and stepping into the evening.
Ren’s riding shotgun in her body for the rest of the night while Marlene sips and socializes and does all the things that a woman who’s spent her entire life in a cornfield would never have had the chance to do. For the first forty five minutes, Marlene flirts with the younger men dressed in silly hats and Kiss Me, I’m Irish buttons. Of course, she never actually kisses them; that would mean a TOS violation and immediate forfeiture of the ride fee. The highly rated drivers know the rules.
Canceling a ride is like waking up from a nightmare. Ren’s done it a few times, as most hosts have- the feeling of breathlessness, the piercing light, the headaches- it’s a last resort. Not to mention the fact that some drivers, those who feel that their rides were canceled unfairly, will seek arbitration from the Cohabit company. Still, Ren knows to expect some flirting, that’s what a host signs up for on a night like this.
Before hitting the next bar, Marlene steps into the bathroom and trifles through Ren’s purse. She tries to unlock the phone inside, forgetting that it doesn’t belong to her. Instead, she checks the time.
“I just need to touch up my lips,” Marlene announces to the empty room as she stares into the mirror. A courtesy to Ren.
Ren doesn’t answer because Marlene wouldn’t hear her if she did.
Marlene draws a circle, a perfect O, on the back of her hand with the lip stain. “I love this color,” she says before dabbing the wand across her mouth. Soon, Marlene’s on the street and hailing a cab.
“Corner of Euclid and 12th,” Marlene says.
Ren wonders if she’s ever been out that way before.
Marlene steps out of the cab and rounds the corner of another bar, and Ren can see a man camped out against the wall while idly browsing his phone.
“Tommy?” Marlene calls. The man turns. Ren’s never had a driver use her in a meetup with someone else, but she knows it’s happened before.
Marlene closes her eyes as she continues to approach the figure. At first Ren assumes that Marlene must just be tired, but then she keeps her eyes shut so Ren can’t get a good look. Marlene reveals the back of her hand to Tom while she walks, showing him the circle that she drew.
“Marlene?” Tom asks. “You don’t sound at all like you did on the phone, but, wait, nevermind, I’m dumb-”
Marlene laughs, even though Ren doesn’t get the joke. Her giggles are like big swamp bubbles, emanating from deep in her stomach.
“Well you sound just like you always do during our chats,” Marlene says, “now, put your hood on so the dumb bitch can’t see.” Marlene’s beginning to use a drawl in her voice; Ren’s muscles, the ones in her tongue and her mouth that Marlene now control, are flopping and lolling like someone from Missouri rather than Nebraska.
“Okay,” Tom says, “We’re good.”
Marlene opens Ren’s eyes. Tom’s in a full facemask.
“So here’s the deal, girlie,” Marlene says. “Tommy here is going to help you help me live out a little fantasy or two tonight. I think it would be best if you just accept that this is going to happen. Tonight, I’m your customer and the customer is always right. Tommy’s not a nice guy, but we get along. If you cut my time short, the time I paid you for, Tommy’s gonna see to it that you don’t get the most welcome greeting when you take over.”
Alarm bells ring in Ren’s mind as Tom reveals a small, sharp, knife.
“We’ve got a few hours left on the clock,” Marlene says, “so we need to get moving. There’s a tattoo shop around the corner- you know, I always wanted to get a tattoo, just never had the gut to commit to anything. That’s permanent you know?”
“I got a few,” Tom says.
“Well Tommy,” Marlene says, “maybe if you do a good job tonight you can show me them later.”
Marlene takes Ren’s bird-boned fingers to the edge of Tom’s mask and rolls it over his lips, then she presses her mouth to his.
As they walk towards the shop, Tom snakes his hand into the waistband of Ren’s leggings. His fingers are heavy, callused things, and they play with the frill on Ren’s underwear.
“Tommy,” Marlene says, “you got to control yourself.”
Ren can feel something cool and heavy palmed between Tom’s hand and the swell of her back. His thumb digs into and across her skin, pulling at the blade until it’s freed from the sheath and the cool metal presses against her.
“What’re you getting into back there?” Marlene says.
“Just reminding lil’ Whatsername that you’re in charge.”
They’re at the door to the parlor and Tom pushes Marlene through.
“Ladies first,” he says.
As they enter, Ren can hear Tom sliding the wooly facemask up and over his head. Marlene takes care to stay in front of him and only face the bearded man at the register. He has a bald head and huge brown eyes that Ren stares into as Marlene began to speak. Over in the corner of the man’s eye Ren can make out the vaguest hint of the reflection of the man behind her.
“I called earlier,” Marlene says to man at the register, “about the rat tattoo.”
“Oh yeah,” he says, “the pet one.”
Marlene claps Ren’s hands together “Yes, I had a little dumbo rattie as a girl. They’re the ones with ears on the sides of their heads-” As Marlene continues on, Ren considers ending the ride and dropping back into her own skin. After all, if Tom is going to stab her he’ll have to do it in front of witnesses here. Yet as she considers the thought, Ren feels the knife pressing into her again, into her side this time. Tom drags the blade down the line of her waist like a razorblade.
“Well, come on back, I’ll be doing your art tonight,” the clerk says.
“My boyfriend’s gonna come watch,” Marlene says.
“Whatever makes you happy.”
Ren’s face is pressed into a massage chair while the clerk finishes applying the tracing paper to Ren’s skin.
“Check it out,” the clerk says.
Marlene cranes her neck and glances at the tracing in the mirror. The lines depict a dumbo rat following a girl playing the flute. More importantly, however, staring back at her own eyes, Ren’s eyes and not Marlene’s, was Tom’s unremarkable, crooked, pockmarked face.
He looked like nobody to be scared of.
“It’s perfect,” Marlene says before pressing her face back into the chair.
“Then we’ll begin,” the clerk says.
Maybe it’s the humming of the tattoo pen. Maybe it’s the firm grip Tom has on her shoulder. Maybe it’s the pressing of needle to flesh, the subdermal stabbing, but Ren realizes upon the first stroke that she must act.
She cancels the ride and drops back in.
“Tommy,” Marlene says.
Usually the drop is preceded by a languid stupor, a heaviness of the eyes, but it’s hard for Marlene to get sleepy with the needle pricking into her skin. The warning period passes unnoticed.
Then she’s gone.
In seconds Ren is calling the shots again. She could see the process out and be marked like property, walk out with Tom and sneak away into the dark to file a police report for one stolen body. Instead-
“Tommy,” Ren calls in her best Marlene impersonation.
Tom’s phone begins ringing in his pocket, but Ren swipes behind her back, yanking the tattoo pen from the hand of the artist with huge brown eyes. In one motion, she’s pressing the throttle deep into the palm of her hand like a crucifixion nail until the pen is buzzing and pumping madly. She plunges it into Tom’s neck. She does it again and again, until the thing gets tangled somewhere in his tendons.
She stumbles up and away from the chair, removing her phone from her bag.
Ren’s speaking with the Cohabit Company when the police arrive. The host service specialist runs a lookup for clients named Marlene Heller, and while she finds the account, the woman says it hasn’t been used in weeks.
“The only thing I can do from here is escalate this issue to the floor manager,” she says, “but he’ll probably need a police report if what you are saying is true.” It’s no problem; Ren knows that she’ll be riding with the cops soon anyway.
“In the meantime,” the woman adds, “we’ll have to hold disbursing that payment for your last ride until the internal cancellation audit is complete. It usually only takes about two weeks.”
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 04:40|
Post-Contest Edit: I'm gonna try and do stuff with this story since apparently is was okay and stuff, so now "The Arena" is here.
Uranium Phoenix fucked around with this message at 02:33 on Mar 14, 2017
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 04:54|
Deity of Scars
God of War
"Follow me, Polack!"
The SS officer, his soft turnip face bursting out of his collar, shakes his revolver at me.
I roll off my cot, zip up my winter suit and don my hat and mitts. The officer has an elaborate fur wrapped around his uniform and a pair of leathery earmuffs to ward off the Arctic cold. Together we tramp outside the hut and into the snow and the chaos.
The blare of the klaxons and men shouting reverberate around the base. Officers, enlisted soldiers, and laborers are running every which way, carrying weapons and supplies and radios as they move into defensive positions.
Schatzgraber base was supposed to be top secret. Tucked away on an island at the top of the world, the last thing we would expect is an Allied attack. But this entire operation has been nothing but a series of surprises and setbacks since we made landfall a year ago.
The officer leads me to a munitions hut, where inside he directs me to pile explosives onto a sled. As a laborer I have only limited contact with the upper echelon of SS officers that run Schatzgraber, but I see on his lapel this man is Major Kuttner. I am familiar with this name. Anytime it is mentioned in the mess hall it is always with a hushed and fearful tone. What does he have planned for me? The sled full of dynamite is certainly not a good sign, but I resolve myself.
I will not die in a suicide mission to protect the Nazis. Not after they turned my proud country into a bleak and bloody prison. Not after what they did to my family.
When the sled can bear no more dynamite, under his impatient command I drag it outside. He tosses a pair of snowshoes at me and has me tie the sled straps around my waist.
"Let's go!" He shouts about the din, waving his revolver. "There's no time."
To my surprise we head inland, away from the harbor and the Allied ships. We barely make it out of the encampment when the first shells fall. Crump! I feel a blast of heat at my neck as an explosion rips through a hut at the far end of the base. Kuttner's puffy face turns and in the flash I see panic, but his small eyes fix onto me.
"Hurry up Polack! We don't have time for your laziness!"
I clench my fists but hurry my pace. A year of slave labor and I hardly notice the slur. I used to seethe and resist my Nazi captors but the frequent lashes and time in solitary seems to have dulled my resistance.
We are moving away from the base, towards the center of the island. We soon arrive at the foot of the ice dome that dominates the western portion of the peninsula. A well-trodden path zigzags up the mountain of ice. We laborers call it the Lod Wulkan — 'Ice Volcano' in the mother tongue — as every night its peak glows with torches and artificial lights. Some of us have even been there, but only to haul up carefully sealed crates of heavy equipment, and only in the daytime when it is quiet.
No trees grow this far north so I have a clear view of the battle erupting around Schatzgraber as we switchback up the ice mountain. Many more shells have fallen and it seems half the base is on fire. Dense plumes of black smoke billow upwards into the pre-dawn sky. I count at least a dozen Allied ships dotting the Arctic sea just past the harbor, beyond the reach of machine gun encampments on the beachhead. The enlisted men have finished setting up the long-range mortars and answering fire begins splashing down in the seas around the Allied ships.
The sled is heavy and the trail steep. I see hear Major Kuttner's breath rasping ahead of me, and his pace has slowed. He still holds his revolver in one gloved hand, and like me steals occasional glances back towards the devastation at the base. We are halfway up Lod Wulkan when I finally dare speak.
"Why are we climbing this mountain? Shouldn't we be helping defend?" I say in my rough German.
He stops and turns, and raises his revolver at me. His eyes are two emotionless slits in his soft, ruddy face. I fear he is going to shoot me.
"Your job is to pull the sled, not ask questions!" he barks. He does not shoot. Instead he pulls his fur more tightly around himself and spins back around. We continue our trek.
Questions. Questions have been my only real possession since they plucked me out of Treblinka and shipped me up here. Why this remote, seemingly purposeless base on this tiny Arctic island? U-boats would often dock at night, after curfew, and offload crates of equipment that enlisted men haul up to the summit of the ice dome. The strange noises and lights coming from the summit of the mountain fuel crazy speculation and wild rumors among us laborers. Snatches of overheard conversations are dissected and analyzed as we lay in our bunks, exhausted from each days work, trying to stay warm under our thin blankets. I don't believe much of what I hear. Some think they are creating a super-weapon, that Himmler's obsession with the occult has borne fruit on this desolate island. Others speculate they have uncovered evidence of the ancient Aryan race the Nazis believe had sunk beneath the waves aeons ago. Or maybe it's a vast buried treasure under the ice dome, or a base to launch rockets at the Americans straight over the North Pole. The base's name, Schatzgraber — German for "treasure-hunter" — does little to dampen my coworkers wild fantasies.
Me, I don't pretend to understand what the Nazis are doing. I know what they are. Relentless, ruthless, and inhuman. I have smelled the acrid smoke from their death camps that lies heavy across the forests of my homeland.
Now I just try to stay alive so I may someday return to what little is left of my family. Stay alive, and stay warm.
The Arctic wind pierces the cheap fabric of my snowsuit as we climb onward. My hands and feet are numb. The summit is close. I look back and see the Allied ships have disgorged troop carriers that now plow through the harbor towards the base. The distant chatter of machine gun fire echoes up from the beachhead between the heavy thumps of the artillery.
The slope finally lessens and the path straightens before us. We have reached the summit. A sharp gust of wind sweeps pellets of razor snow across my face. I bury my head and pull the reluctant sled up the ice path towards a dark structure ahead. A short break in the snow reveals a metal building bristling with communications antennae and compact radar dishes.
Kuttner pushes a door open and ducks inside, leaving me out in the cold. The battle has fallen out of view beneath the curve of the ice dome, and now I am alone—a strange and unfamiliar feeling. I should run, but where would I go? I imagine dumping the explosives and riding the sled down the ice mountain into the waiting arms of the Allied conquerors. Would they rescue me or shoot me? I have no idea.
The door to the hut bangs open.
"Polack, pull that in here!" Kuttner shouts above the wind. He holds the door as I awkwardly navigate the sled through the doorway. The tarp I hastily tied over the explosives catches on a hinge and pulls away, threatening to spill the explosives, but I manage to wrestle it inside safely.
Crates and equipment boxes litter the inside of the hut. In the center a giant hole has been cut into the ice floor. A large mechanical winch is centered above it, from which drops a heavy metal chain. It disappears down into the depths of the hole. Deep into the heart of Lod Wulkan.
"Something is wrong," Kuttner mutters. He is holding the receiver of a field telephone to his ear, furiously turning the crank. A sturdy wire drops from the back of the telephone box down into the hole.
He tosses the receiver aside in disgust and turns to me. With effort, he forces his expression to soften. The effect is unsettling.
"What is your name, Polack?" he asks, almost gently.
"Pawel Skrzynecki," I say.
He pauses, as if digesting this information. "Pawel, we have an important mission ahead of us. A directive straight from Himmler and the Ahnenerbe. We’ve done important work here, all of us. Now it’s up to you and I to complete it."
I nod, not sure what to say.
"This work, it can’t fall into the hands of the Jews and their friends. It is...too powerful." Kuttner gazes into the hole. "Someone has betrayed us, Pawel. Given up our location and now Schatzgraber has been overrun by the Jewish rats. You saw their fleet. You know what they will do to us. They are like animals." He spits down into the hole
I think of my family, my sister and mother torn from my grasp at Malkinia station, pushed into rail cars under the dead eyes of the Sonderkommando, their wails and screams swallowed by the writhing mass of desperate humanity. I can only look away.
"Pawel," his voice is a pleading whisper now. "You must help me destroy this so they cannot use it against us."
I say nothing. I cannot.
But I know I must act.
I lunge at him, eyes fixed on the revolver in his hand.
The icy floor of the hut betrays me. As I leap my foot slips just a little, enough to give him time to spin away from my reach. I land awkwardly against a crate and crumple to the floor. This is the end. I brace for the impact of the bullet.
None comes. I look up, and Kuttner is standing there, his face twisted, looking down at me. The revolver is pointed at my head.
"Pawel, tsk tsk. I still need you. We will do this together." His voice is gentle, as if admonishing an unruly child. "Roll onto your belly."
What can I do? All is lost. He pulls a set of cuffs from his belt and ties my hands behind my back.
I watch Kuttner switch on a generator and press a button on the winch assembly. The shed shudders as the winch pulls the chain up for several minutes. From the depths a metal platform appears. It has a cage build on top of it, an elevator large enough to hold several men. Kuttner shuts it off, pulls it to the edge of the hole, opens a door on the side of the cage and with much effort shoves the explosives sled onto it. Then I am roughly shoved in as well. Kuttner reverses the winch and climbs inside, pointing the revolver at my head as together we drop into the dark depths of Lod Wulkan.
Despair and fear grip me. As we descend it becomes eerily quiet, the noise of the generator replaced by the creak of the frozen chain. The walls of the hole turn from ice to rock.
The chill seeps into my bones and I realize that I will never be warm again.
The light of electric lamps appears from below. The elevator drops into an open cavern and lurches to a halt on the rock floor. Kuttner opens the cage and beckons me to come out. More crates and boxes litter the room. An iron door is inset into the rock wall. It looks thick, like the door to a bank vault.
Kuttner double checks his service revolver and then undoes my cuffs and points the gun to my head.
"Open the door," he commands. Nervously, I grab the cold metal and spin the latch. It gives a solid click, and then I am able to push it open into the room beyond.
"Forward!" Kuttner says, but his voice is rough, nervous.
The room ahead is lit with the same cold electric light. It’s some sort of laboratory. There are steel tables piled with flasks, beakers and assorted medical equipment, a bank of large machines across one wall and hydraulic pipes and pumps that run haphazardly across the ceiling and floor.
An enormous cage is in the center, its metal bars twisted, jagged.
And there's the blood.
It covers everything. Globules of it drip from the pipes and pool on the floor along with other dark and viscous fluids. Body parts are strewn about like broken toys.
"Mein Gott—" Kuttner whispers behind me.
I take an involuntary step backwards and turn around. A shadow flits across the wall. Kuttner is frozen is shock, blocking the doorway.
Then it's on us.
It seizes me and tosses me aside. It rises up before Kuttner, all sinew and black skin and enormous leather wings spread wide.
The door slams shut and Kuttner's revolver makes a feeble clicking and the beast slaps it aside. I see panic in his eyes. He stumbles, draws his saber and swings at the creature but the blade just shatters against its ochre hide.
The beast raises one clawed finger, and pushes it deep into Kuttner's abdomen. Tears stream from his eyes and he gurgles wetly. Delicately, gently, the creature draws his finger upward, splitting Kuttner's chest in a gout of blood. His ruined body hangs from the claw for a moment, suspended, then drops to the floor.
I can't breathe, can't make a sound. My muscles stop working.
The creature turns to me, it's great horned head dips down to examine me. Eyes like obsidian ore bore through my skull, and then it's inside me.
I can feel it in my brain, moving around, crawling, searching. Tendrils squirm down passageways within my skull, unearthing emotions and memories that burst forth with savage intensity. Pain and euphoria and crushing sadness, then I am laughing, sobbing, screaming, a cacophony of memory and experiences set my mind awash like a flood tide through a shattered dam. I am ripped open under the creature's gaze, and then it is all stripped away but for the pain. All the pain I have ever felt in my life boils inside me, and I am crippled by it, helpless, shattered. My mother, sister, father, friends, all gone, all that I have ever cared for taken from me and destroyed, burned, gone forever. The pain breaks me. The shame, the guilt, the despair, and especially the rage. More rage than my body can contain. The pain hardens and I realize it's no longer pain at all, it has become something else. Something greater.
The beast stares at me and I stare back at myself through its leaden eyes. And I realize I am not alone with this pain.
We have become bound to this rage, this rage born of our suffering. It ties us together. Makes us one.
We become each other.
And then we are flying, up the cold tunnel towards the world above, bursting up through the roof of the shed and into the icy air of the Arctic dawn. The mountain shakes beneath us as our great wings flap. We land at the edge of the summit of Lod Wulkan and gaze down at the battle below. The Nazis flee their overrun base like desperate rats as the Allied troops pour in. A group of SS officers and enlisted men scrabble up the slopes of the ice mountain towards us, desperate to escape the bombardment.
With a great cry we leap into the air and swoop towards them. We feel the rage coursing through our body like blood, giving life to who we have become.
They see us and scream in fear, but it is too late as their flesh transforms into a writhing mass of pestilent worms under our gaze. We do not stop to watch them fall apart under their uniforms and furs.
We turn sharply to the south.
I am still Pawel. I am a man inside.
But I am also now part something greater.
We are Apollo. We are the God of Pestilence and Vengeance.
And it’s our mission to kill all Nazi scum.
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 05:01|
More Week 233 Crits
12. Favor Fortune – Kaishai
Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.
Structure: It’s great, nothing to critique.
- Mmm I could go for some monkfish right about now.
- The language is elegant and the images work, I can picture the disguised lord and the monkfish particularly well.
- Your refrains are good. I notice the tenor of their use doesn’t change much throughout the poem. That’s perfectly okay, of course, but some other pieces this week got bonus points for the way their refrains evolved.
- The poem is clear; it has a concrete message. These are big plusses.
- It’s a worthy effort overall, there’s a lot to like here. But without a sharper hook or more emotional salience, the poem doesn’t stick long with the reader.
13. The Red Line Reed Warbler & her chick - Tyrannosaurus
Does it adhere to the prompt?: In part. But the first line of each stanza is supposed to rhyme with the first line of each other stanza. The prompt’s exemption applied only to the second line of each stanza.
Structure: Other than the rhyme scheme issue, my structural gripe is that the meter seems to scan with a bit of clunk.
-The content is superb. Had it more strictly hewed to the prompt and flowed a touch better, this poem may have won.
- The “worse somehow worse” line is a bit rough.
- The refrains are strong, their significance evolves nicely over the course of the poem.
- The concept is interesting. My interpretation is that the mom was unfaithful to her husband, having slept with a linguistic genius (the professor?). The affair produced a brilliant daughter, who evokes complicated emotions for the mom. The girl is special, but in the mom’s mind her gift forever is intertwined with the infidelity that produced it. The poem is novel and emotionally resonant.
14. Last Request -Fuschia tude
Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.
Structure: Just fine.
- It’s clear the poem is about death, but other than that it’s vague. You leave the reader wondering “What’s up with the six centuries worth of work?” and “What exactly is the selfish affair?” It seems that the death is somehow preventable, and that the narrator’s “heir” may hold the power to prevent it. But the reader has no good indication of what’s really happening or why.
- The language is a bit dull. It leaves the reader wanting a more novel phrasing or peppier verbiage.
- If (and this is a big if) your poem describes a leprosy that will wipe out the entire human race, then you’d deserve props for including an evolving meaning of “end of the race” over the course of your poem. Not sure if that was your intention, but without more clarity there is no way for this to really come across to the reader.
- The poem feels a bit forced. Like maybe you knew it was unclear but felt compelled to write it this way because of the rhyme scheme. The structure is fine, but the death theme visits ground tread so often it can be challenging to make a unique impression.
15. Bora - Julias
Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.
Structure: I like it. You took full advantage of the lack of strict syllable-count rules in villanelle.
- Your language is sharp and most of your images are crisp.
- I notice the tone shift in the fourth stanza. Suddenly the pleasing images surrounding wanderlust and autumn gust become repulsive. This helps to evolve the context that surrounds the repetition of your refrains, and that’s good. But within the world of the poem itself, I’m not sure what prompts the tone shift or what’s significant about it. All the reader can tell is that a pleasant wandering becomes a disturbing one. The twist raises the questions “How?” and “Why?”. If the reader had a better sense of those questions, the poem’s significance might be more apparent.
16. Parting Words Between Old Friends - Metrofreak
Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.
- My interpretation is that two former friends fought and wounded each other. There seems to be contradictory lines when it comes to the question of whether the wounds are mortal. “I shall not let you ring the bell [i.e., die]” doesn’t seem to cohere with “On mercy, you should not depend.”
- The poem suffers from a lack of clarity. It’s unclear why the men are fighting or how their friendship became poisoned with wrath.
- There is a kind of dullness to the poem, which is odd considering its topic is something that ought to be dramatic. The dullness seems to stem from the detached, matter-of-fact way in which the narrator is dictating the circumstances to his “closest friend” and thus to the audience.
17. Slippers and a Bathrobe -katdicks
Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.
Structure: One gripe I have is that all that punctuation makes for a jarring start-stop kind of flow.
- My interpretation is that the narrator is guilty of the arson—revenge against the uncaring neighbors. Why else would you have written this? If the narrator didn’t do it, then nothing happens in this poem. Just there’s a fire and it’s like “oh okay” *shrugs*.
- If my interpretation is correct, the context that surrounds the refrains does evolve over the course of the poem (after line 11 hints at his/her guilt). So the poem has that going for it.
- Adverbs can be just as problematic in poetry as in prose.
- The significance of the fire isn’t clear enough to have a big impact.
18. Aurelia - Hawklad
Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.
- The images are stark. I can picture the jellyfish, the bleached bones, the toxic sand spilling, the black rain.
- Your language is good, you’ve got strong verbs and adjectives that do the heavy lifting for you.
- It wasn’t a requirement for the meaning of the refrains to evolve over the course of the poem, but it was certainly nice when participants this week chose to make that happen. Yours don’t change all that much, but I did notice a shift in the meaning of “mankind’s fall” once we learn that there are still “desperate men” who have to endure this climate dystopia.
- Your poem is topical and hard hitting. It strikes an emotional cord and creates a strong atmosphere. Good job.
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 05:09|
What’s up. Yes, I’m three feet tall and I make candy for a living. What else do you want to know. Take a seat.
That’s the chair I use when I need to spread the peanut brittle before it cools, or make sure that the pillow mints extrude evenly, or basically do anything that requires me to see over the counter.
You want some, by the way? Pillow mints? There’s only so many hotels in this city looking for their stock from small businesses. I always have extra left over, no matter how carefully I set up the numbers.
Ah, well, that’s fine. They’re still in a dish over by the magazines. Just grab some if you want.
What about my cousin?
Alright, well. I’m glad she’s still alive. You think I can tell her what to do, either?
Sit down. I know you’re already sitting down. Sit on the floor. Come down to my level. If I’m going to tell you this story, I’m going to tell it to your face, and not your crotch.
‘K, here we go. There’s this...condition. It’s hereditary, runs through the women in my family. ‘S why I don’t have any kids, I’m not taking the chance of passing it down to someone else. We all have our own personal names for it, because there’s no official one. Mine is “Crystallization”.
It first happened to me when Marie and I were both six years old, and both of us were six feet and six inches tall. We--no, don’t interrupt. Let me finish the story, and then you can ask questions.
We were at her mother’s house, playing around and making a lot of noise like six-year-olds are supposed to, our feet gliding over the polished wooden floors, toetips barely touching the ground, when Marie--there was this candy dish on top of her mother’s glass coffee table, and the dish was filled with all of this handspun glass candy, the kind you pick up at flea markets six-for-three dollars, right? So Marie held it up to the sunlight because she loved the way the light shone through it and onto the living room wall, and the whole thing slipped out of her hands, down towards the glass coffee table, bam, went through the coffee table, smashed against the floor, and left both of us standing in a giant pool of shattered glass.
Marie’s mother, my aunt, storms in, all three-foot-nine of her, sees the sun sparkling off all the shattered glass where her coffee table used to be, sees her daughter crying in the middle of it all, sees me standing off to the side still in shock, and she’s startled and has a head full of steam, and what does she do?
She charges towards the both of us, but at the last moment turns towards me, clambers up onto this ratty leather ottoman so she’s at my eye level, and smacks me across the face. Hard enough to knock me down, onto the bits of glass.
And that’s when it happened. I was young, so I didn’t remember much of it, still don’t, but the way I heard Marie tell it, I--well, I exploded. She described it like fireworks, like a lightbulb busting open, and then I reappeared a day later, lying on their living room couch in the dark, and in the morning Marie’s mother drove me home, radio off, not saying nothing. She never told my mother what happened, but my mom was smart, she put two and two together once she measured me and saw that I was an inch shorter.
I think that whole thing scarred Marie more than it scarred me, to be honest. That probably wasn’t what her mother intended, but parents don’t make good decisions, because people don’t make good decisions. That was what I learned that day, that first time.
I’ve only talked to Marie once since then. Up until last week I’d just heard about her offhand. Rumors exaggerate things, you know--the homeschooling, the required reading, the cultishness, the Great Escape from the Clutches of the Family Fortress--but you’ve seen her, flying over the Hudson river, arms as long as kite-ribbons. She looks perfectly happy to me. Tell you the truth, I was too focused on myself to care about her. I wasn’t happy, not for a long time. If you asked her, I doubt she’d be jealous of all the men in my life. Used to say that each one of them took more inches from me than they ever gave me, ha. Don’t make that face, dear. When you are your own metaphor in the mirror each morning, you stop being a romantic real quick.
There are plenty of men that work in the kitchen with me, but they never see me, they only hear my voice telling them to move this or that pan to this or that oven, and I’m fine with that type of relationship. I ask for help every now and then when one of them forgets and puts something away on a too-high shelf, but I run this place pretty well.
Oh. Why I call it “Crystallization”?
Well, it’s a candy-making term. When the sugar syrup cooks too long in the pan, it gets these tiny crystals in the middle, turns it from smooth and clear to filmy and grainy, something that less people want to eat. Fills it with flaws. It’s a process that’s all about knowing exactly when to stop. You live, and life kicks your rear end, and you shatter, and you get more solid every time you Humpty Dumpty yourself back together, and it’s all about not ending up a burnt mess that can’t even be scraped off the pan.
That was what I was doing the night she came, trying to cook up some sourballs. I heard this clatter coming from the roof, and I turned off the burner, let the syrup simmer in the pan, knowing that if I left it for too long, it would be ruined, but I went anyway, my feet stamp-stamp-stamping against the metal stairs.
She was beautiful. Long flowing limbs, eyes like sugared flame, hair that seemed like it would sway in a windless sky. She was trying to say something, but she was floating far above the rooftop, too far away to hear. Like candy that collected dust in an old lady’s parlor room, forever too pretty to eat. I was terrified of her. I turned away from her. Looking at her was like looking directly at an eclipse. I had nothing to say to her that would make sense for us. Part of me just wanted to kiss her on the cheek, hold her close and tell her that she didn’t need to run anymore, and part of me wondered if she was strong enough to carry me off and never let me go.
I walked away, towards the stairs on the edge of the roof, and when I turned back, she was gone. I missed it. There was only a thin cloud of light, like the trails of brightness left from the shattered glass on the wooden living-room floor against the white wall, and then that disappeared, too.
So, no, I don’t know where she is now. I guess I’m just glad that she...is? And I don’t think I’ll see her again. I think I missed my chance. Even I don’t make good decisions, right? Sometimes I think I only have so many good decisions left in me, anyway.
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 05:13|
Aaaaaaand, it's gone!
Chili fucked around with this message at 11:39 on Jan 2, 2018
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 06:54|
The Moon in Capricorn
The dame is a Virgo. I can tell these things, see. Call it a seventh sense. She sits in my office, crying. It's an old story. Her son is missing.
I shuffle some papers and put on my special thinking face. He's an Ares. Ain't no magic in knowing that: boy was due for the draft. My gut says he's gone to ground in Mexico, but my gut doesn't pay the bills around here and ten bucks a day plus expenses can.
“Was he keen for the draft, Mrs. Anderson?” I exhale, and smoke pours out. The charms in the cigar turn it to water, but it sure makes the right impression.
She looks at me like I'm mud on a lost shoe. “My boy ain't no shitlicker, detective. Bartholemeius is an Ares and a patriot proud to send them Japs to hell, just like his old man.”
“And where's Mr. Anderson at?”
“The war, fella. You served, Mr. Jones?”
“I'm Libra. I'm busy keeping the balance.”
“They do got a Libra Volunteer Corps, y'know.”
“And on balance, I didn't volunteer.”
She sighs. “Barty'd never cut and run. Wanted to be officer corps.”
I make a note. “He packing magic, then?”
“A little. Enough. Been practising at the Kabbalah Club downtown since he was sixteen.”
“That's a rough joint. He got friends there?”
She shrugs. “You can never tell with boys his age.”
“I'll drop by.” I stub out the stogie and stand up. “I'll be in touch when I've got something.”
“Find him,” she says. “He's wanted to stick it to them drat death-worshippers for years.” I'll bet.
After I usher her out my office, I sit back down and put a call through to my old friend Sergeant Miller. She's a golem, and a drat good cop.
“Yo, Rocky. You heard anything about the missing Anderson kid?”
“I have not stop. An Ares stop?”
(A drat good cop, if you can get past her magic word being 'telegram'.)
“Yeah. How's you guess?”
“Spate of Ares disappearances stop.”
“Huh. Apparently this one spent a lot of time down the Kabbalah. Let me know if you hear anything, hey?”
“Of course stop. Always happy to help stop. Still owe you from last time stop.”
“Bring the monkey paw.”
“Like hell I will.”
“Also, fella stop. Black Rose been seen in area stop. You... take care stop.”
“Magic-free muckraker like me don't get her attention anyhow. Cheers, Sergeant.” Like this week's costumed vigilante is anything other than competition. I grab the Weldingsson instead and walk out into the city.
The Kabbalah Club is on the corner of Thirty-First and Maine. Downtown is mighty quiet these days, what with all the troublemakers dodging hexes in Guam. Without Ares muscle, the big Pisces swim a lot slower. The street is almost silent, like it's holding its breath. I reach into a pocket gummed with fluff and paper and pull out a photograph. Bartholomeius Anderson Jr. A pretty clean name for this dirty town. I take one last gasp of clean-ish air and step through the swinging doors of the Kabbalah Club.
The stench of sweat and curdled magic drips like wet paint. I walk past boys in the ring throwing spells they plucked out a catalogue as coaches call their shots. Mostly Ares kids burning time 'til their number gets called, fulla spunk and not much else. I stroll over to the desk.
“You run this place?”
The old man looks up from his paper. His face is already bright red from the effort. “Who's asking?”
I flash him my licence and the picture. “Today, I'm Missing Persons. This kid trained here?”
He looks me dead in the eye. “Never seen him in my life.”
“If that's how you want to play it, fella. I'll just start asking people 'til I find him, I guess. Or any of the other kids gone missing lately.” It's then that I feel a meaty paw land on my shoulder.
The old man grins. “You magical, detective? What element are you? Fire? Water? Earth?”
I grimace. “Street.”
The hand squeezes, and it feels like my arm's going to pop out the socket. “Wise guy like you,” he says, “ought to stick to what he can handle.” His magically strong goon heaves me over his shoulder like a sack of old potatoes.
You never get used to getting thrown out a place. If you're lucky, you get to go out the door. Today I hit the ground with a glittering crunch of glass. I curse, but it's just a word. The big guy climbs through the broken window. He raises a fist turned clear and rippling. Water. I roll back, dripping wet, and stand.
“Muckraker,” he says. His whole body is transformed now. The street lights refract through him, casting shimmering patterns on the walls. “I'm going to drown you.”
“In talk, maybe.”
He charges, soaking the ground as he comes. He pulls back an arm and I hit him with the Weldingsson & Co. Subdermal Electrical Applicator (Do Not Use If Wet). The volts rush through him and that's that. He slumps, his body already losing its shape. I pocket the fried Weldingsson. This is going on my expenses.
His water sinks into the pavement. I'm told it hurts like the devil to ooze back out of concrete. His clothes lie in a pile, dripping. I slip a hand through the pockets and come up with a little notebook. Smart fella went and had it waterproofed. I slip it into a pocket and beat it.
When I get back to the office, the Black Rose is already there. How do I know it's her? Goddamned vigilantes. Who else wears a mask with a black rose on it? The whole point of wearing a mask is so fellas don't know who you are.
I pull my revolver. “I don't know what you're packing,” I say, “but it'll be some real hefty magic stops a Smith & Wesson at five paces. If you had that, you wouldn't be bothering mooks like me.”
She opens her mouth as if to speak, then shakes her head. In the twinkle of an eye, the Black Rose pufts out of existence. Real hefty magic, that. I need this case sorted before any more costumed nutjobs want to help.
I find a telegram on my desk. It's from Miller.
ANDERSON BARTHOLOMEIUS NOT IN RECORDS STOP NO INFORMATION STOP MISSING PERSONS CASE CLOSED STOP ADVISE NEW CASE STOP
Golems must love telegrams. We all talk like them there. But I can read the subtext. She's been warned off. Now she's warning me off. Her concern is always cute, but I don't make ten bucks a day plus expenses for playing it safe.
I flip open the Kabbalah thug's book. Mostly, it's numbers. Real crime is all in the numbers, and this fella's boss has got plenty of 'em. Goods stored... goods tested, rejected... goods moved? The whole thing culminates in one address. It's a dockyard warehouse. It's always a dockyard warehouse.
I crouch beneath the desk and unlock my emergency safe. I leave the cash. Instead I pick out the six silver bullets I had custom made, and that drat monkey paw, one digit still unfurled. They'll be expecting me. When you don't know a hex from a pentagram, you gotta use what you got.
Warehouses all blur together after a while. You see enough, and you stop caring whether the prickling feeling beneath your skin is fear, prophecy, or ticks. They're all bad news. The air around here is rancid with it. The magic swirls on the wind like something rotten. It all smells that way; Iwo Jima must smell like a charnel house by now.
I load my revolver with the six silver bullets and spin the chambers closed. I'd pray, but I'm carrying nothing blessable. It's just a warehouse on the seafront. I take a breath. Hell of a way to make ten bucks a day plus expenses.
It's the screaming that tells me I'm too late. The six fellas with shotguns only confirm it. They're Ares. I can tell these things, see. Their boss is an Ares too, in a suit sharp enough to shave with. I think I know the face.
“You're too late,” he says.
“That's a matter of perspective, Mr. Anderson,” I say. “Looks to me like you got caught red-handed. Multiple kidnappings.”
He waves an arm across the warehouse. I didn't mean it literally. But all the pentagrams and screaming suggest his hands are pretty drat red. “If only that were the least of our crimes,” he says.
“I preferred it when people denied everything. Going to sacrifice me too?”
He sighs. “You're no Ares, and you have no magic. You wouldn't understand,” he says. “You haven't served, I can tell. You weren't there. But here, with this, we finally have the weapon to end all war-”
I don't much care for speeches. I go for the revolver, but then the ceiling caves in.
It's the Black Rose, because of course it is. All these magic types flock together. She floats above us, Air. I do a double-take. “Mil-”
“NOT NOW STOP.”
Anderson raises a hand. “Excuse me, my dear, are we supposed to stop or to not?”
She raises a fist crackling with electricity. “YOU ARE ABOUT TO FIND OUT STOP.”
He turns to his men. “Fire!” I duck, and it all kicks off.
I can feel the screams through the floor. It is shifting. More voices join it, jostling for space, until it's a roar of ten thousand voices. Anderson's son is one of them, I guess. I crawl on all fours behind a crate, lost in the chaos.
I don't know how Officer Miller managed to hide her magic, but boy is she good. She waves a hand and a wall comes crashing down on a few shooters. She dodges gunfire and hexes like they're moving through soup.
But the screaming is still rising. The floor collapses and I grab onto a drainpipe. The pit is deep. Inside, something hungers. It breathes, low and rumbling, and a gale sweeps up from the depths and slams me into the wall.
The vigilante is down, wrapped around a pole. Real crime ain't like in the comics. Anderson's still standing, clinging to a patch of remaining floor. “First, Tokyo!” he shouts over the wind. “Then it'll all be over!”
I look down into its impossible maw. Big enough to swallow a truck, lined with teeth, ever pulsing. I wonder if the kid knew what his old man had in store for him. Wonder if that's what he wanted. Them drat death-worshippers were going to get it now, alright, yes siree.
I wonder. Will they quit? Or will they tell us to go to hell, too?
I take a hand off the pipe and the air lifts me like a flag in January. I fumble through my pockets until I find it. The drat monkey paw. When I first got it, it had one careful owner and barely any tragedies. Now there's only one wish left.
I curse. Hell of a way to make ten bucks a day plus expenses. “Stop this,” I whisper, and I pull the last finger closed. The building itself screams, metal twisting to breaking, and what's left of it falls down in fragments, streams of rubble colliding and combining, until the whole drat thing is dust and I'm running and the screams are getting fainter, as if choking, and it sounds like nothing so much as a million men bleeding out from gunshot wounds all at once, spluttering and alone.
I leave Officer Miller, or whatever she calls herself, to do the cleanup job. My work's done. I step out onto the shoreline, light a cigarette, and take a breath of salt and smoke. I turn on my heel and walk away down the dunes. I'll pay my price someday, we all know that. But so long as it doesn't cost more than ten bucks a day plus expenses, I'll make out fine.
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 07:16|
The judge looked down at me. “Mrs. Jones, do you understand the charges against you?”
I considered spitting, that’d probably add contempt. “It’s Ms. Jones, your honor. And yes, though really, if you’re gonna call a crowbar a deadly weapon, I don’t see-”
“That’s enough, Ms. Jones.”
“Alright, alright.” I folded my arms.
“The prosecution may call the first witness.”
“The prosecution calls Deputy Robert Carson to the stand.” The bald sweaty local tv damages lawyer gently caress, Walter Something-or-other, took the floor, waddling around like he was but some simple country lawyer.
Bob tipped his hat and took the stand.
Walter fuckhead was already sweating in his suit. “Deputy, could you in your own words recount the events of Saturday afternoon for us?”
“Well, I received a call from dispatch at 3:25. We’d gotten a disturbance call from the neighbors. I was the nearest car.”
Piggy pushed up his tiny glasses and continued. “And what did you find at the scene?”
Bob smiled. “I got there around 3:31, and I saw Ally” he waved. I smiled back at him. Walter glared. “Sorry, the defendant wailin on that corrugated steel shed she has by the water tank, screamin’ something fierce.”
Piggy was scowling, he’d soured on his witness the second he waved at me. Like it was my fault I know my local law enforcement. “And what happened next?”
“Well, I said hi to Ally there and got her calmed down. She told me some folk had come onto her land, she’d warned em off, they wouldn’t listen, so she got a crowbar and chased em off, ‘cept they weren’t exactly the smartest cookies, and they hid in the shed instead of getting outta dodge.”
“And who was in the shed, Deputy?”
“Some kids from the university, I think they were doing some kinda geology survey.”
“You said Ms. Jones was yelling at the students, could you repeat what she said for the court?”
“Honestly sir, I don’t remember. Don’t even think it was words.”
“Would you describe it as intimidation, Deputy?”
“I suppose you could describe it that way.”
“No further questions, your honor.” Piggy looked smug.
The judge rubbed at a temple with one finger. “Does the defence have any questions?”
“Bob, wh-” I began
“That’s Deputy Carson, Mrs. Jones.” Mr. TV lawyer interjected.
“Walter, you do not give orders in my courtroom.” The judge stared, his brow furrowed. Piggy opened his mouth, the judge raised a finger. “I’m sorry, Ms. Jones, please continue.”
“Thank you, your honor. Anyways, Bob, I was gonna ask: How long have you been deputy round here?”
“Summer of 94, over 20 years.”
“And how long have I lived down on Mason Street?” I asked.
“Ten years, I think?”
“And what does the sign at the front of my property say?”
“No trespassers, for entry call…. I can’t remember your number off the top of my head, but…” he trailed off.
I pulled out my iPhone and scrolled to the logs for Saturday. “Your honor, I received no calls before 6 that day, believe me I’d know, I use this thing to listen to music while I’m out of the house, if they’d called, I woulda known. If you don’t believe this, I get the bill at the end of the month. Doorbell don’t reach everywhere on the property. They were trespassing. I was chasing them off my property”
“That won’t be necessary.” The judge motioned for the phone. I handed it to the bailiff. The judge pulled out a pair of reading glasses, squinted for a moment, and then handed it back. “Ok, so that’s somewhat justifiable, Ms. Jones. However, the verbal intimidation would escalate this beyond a reasonable defence of your property.”
“I have one more question for Deputy Carson.” I took my phone back. “Bob, would you recognize what you heard on Saturday if you heard it again?”
“I reckon I might.”
“Please tell me you do not intend to start screaming in my courtroom, Ms. Jones.” The judge pinched his brow.
I pulled up the music app, turned the volume up to max, and played Thunderstruck. “Did it sound anything like this?”
Bob started laughing.
Judge threw the case out.
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 07:26|
“Where are you from—how do you say your name, again?”
“Mahkah. Like moccasin. I’m from South Dakota. Near Rapid City.” He stood next to Roger Walden, CEO of Sierra Continental Lumber, at the window of his corner office in the company headquarters in Fort Collins.
“Huh. We used to have a field office in Rapid City. That’s where I started, when my dad was still running the company. I Pioneered many of our most efficient deforestation techniques up there.”
Mahkah’s eyes flashed, and he fingered the long braid at the back of his skull. He didn’t respond, though, just continued to stare out at the Roosevelt National Forest, a carpet of regal pines and stately firs stretching from the foot of the building all the way to the lower reaches of the Rocky Mountains.
“You’ve been here for 10 years now, right? My managers tell me you do excellent work. That you are personally responsible for most of the code on the drone project.” Mr. Walden clapped him on the shoulder, and Mahkah gave him a quick smile and a curt nod, then returned to his silence and his staring. Mr. Walden gave him a curious look, then checked his watch. “Everything is set to go for the demonstration?”
“Yes, sir. Checked it all myself.”
“Good. Let’s go show them the future.”
“Mama, what will we do without the forest?” Mahkah stood on the porch of his family’s log house, his mother next to him. They watched the stream of trucks roll by, SIERRA CONTINENTAL LUMBER emblazoned on the side. Two weeks ago, he had celebrated his 8th birthday, and had been beyond excited when the first truck rolled past—it was the first he’d ever seen. Now, Sierra Continental’s intentions were obvious: clear the forest, as fast as possible.
“I don’t know, my sweet,” his mother said, clutching him to her side. Mahkah could hear the tears in her voice. “I don’t know. But our people survive. We will survive.” Even at eight, he could tell she didn’t believe it. Six months later, he was sure she didn’t.
“Sierra Continental has long been at the forefront of innovation in the lumber industry,” Mr. Walden said, his deep voice filling the corners of the conference room. Seated before him was a large audience comprised of employees, shareholders, dignitaries, and members of the press. “My great-great-grandfather helped develop the original motorized chainsaw. My grandfather helped to push forward the use of electricity in sawmill technology. My father led the push for the computerization of the industry.”
Roger gestured to Mahkah, and suddenly the screen behind Roger was filled with an overhead image of an expanse of pines. “Ladies and gentlemen, I am about to show you the future of the lumber industry.” Mahkah hit another key. For a few seconds, nothing happened. Then, the first wave of drones appeared on the edge of the screen. They were safety orange and moved in unison. Jutting out from each was an industrial chainsaw.
The audience buzzed, as realization passed from person to person, and questions began to form on their lips. Roger gestured again, and Mahkah hit enter. The drones descended, and the audience went silent. Everyone knew what was happening now. Trees began to fall, one by one. When one began to tilt, a group of drones would dart above the treeline, watch it fall, then dart back in and return to their work. It was mesmerizing, and terrifying. Within minutes, an acre of old pines had fallen, and more were being felled each minute.
“Witness, ladies and gentlemen, the awesome power of technology, and of Sierra Continental.”
“Mahkah, I found something weird.” A laptop dropped onto Mahkah’s desk, and next to it the face of one of the junior project engineers. This one was relatively new to the team, but he was an excellent coder. Mahkah looked at him expectantly.
“I wouldn't think much of it, but we're two weeks out from the demo. Here, in one of the drone auto-pilot subroutines. There is a function I don’t recognize, and I can’t figure out what it’s for or when it gets called.” Mahkah looked where he was pointing on the screen, to a section of code defining the function ai.ReturnToHand. “I think it’s a GPS redirect? It takes a set of coordinates as parameters and then calls a few other functions I don’t recognize. I can’t find any documentation on it, though, or any mention of it in the project notes. Any ideas?”
Mahkah, his expression blank, looked at the code, then at the engineer. “You’re right, it’s a guidance override. Don’t worry about it—I put it in myself.” Mahkah turned back to his computer, and resumed his work. The junior engineer stared at him for a few seconds, his eyes narrowed, but then he shrugged his shoulders and walked off.
Writers scribbled furiously on their notepads, employees chattered excitedly, shareholders beamed and shook hands with everyone around them. Roger stood grinning at the edge of the stage, soaking in the glory. Mahkah, stone faced, entered a few commands into his laptop and then hit enter.
Drones filtered off the screen, first one at a time, then in bunches. Soon, the screen was filled only with the downed trunks of pine trees.
Mr. Walden heard it first. It was a soft hum, no match for the pervasive thrum of the crowd, but it was there. It continued to grow, and Mr. Walden looked around the room for the source. The noise grew and grew, and the crowd joined him in the search, confusion on their faces.
“Sir!” The doors at the end of the room burst open, and an employee ran in wildly. The hum had increased to a roar. “It’s the drones! They—”
He was drowned out by a sudden howling of blade against metal, and every head in the room turned to watch as a drone tried to cut down the brass statue of Charles Walden, Founder. Beyond, through the floor-to-ceiling windows, they could see an army of bright orange drones tearing into everything they could find—tractors, wood piles, milling equipment, the building itself.
“Mahkah! Do something!” he screeched. Mr. Walden looked to the side of the stage, where the Mahkah had been sitting. He was gone, along with his computer. Mr. Walden ran over to the table. On it was an old newspaper clipping from the Teepee Gulch Tribune. The headline read: SCL LOGGING OPERATION WIPES OUT LOCAL ECOSYSTEM, ECONOMY
Mr. Walden stood, shocked, staring in horror at the scene in front of him. The crowd panicked and scrambled in every direction, looking for a safe way out and finding none. Mr. Walden shouldered his way toward the back, and soon stood at the door watching the drones outside. As they finished their ruthlessly efficient and monstrously destructive work, they began to crash into each other. The area looked like a warzone.
“The shareholders are not going to like this.”
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 07:46|
The boy Nicholas had arrived by way of the No. 4 bus some twenty minutes late. Kaufman checked his pocket watch. Twenty-two. Still, no matter.
"Must be Nicholas, then," he said. He was an enormous man, Kaufman, all dressed in black. Beady-eyed with a hawk-like nose, he reminded the boy of an overfed vulture. His voice provided the antidote to his appearance: in silence he was terrifying, but his voice betrayed a deep yet comforting drawl.
Nicholas stood motionless, his right hand gripping a weather-beaten suitcase. A mousy boy with sharp eyes, he glanced to the left and right, then answered.
"Look a mite stringy. Had yourself some breakfast?"
"Hmm, well, let's not piss away the daylight." He tilted his head down the street. "Yonder’s a diner should fix us up." He reached for the boy's suitcase. The boy held it tight. Kaufman considered the boy's face, frowned, then shrugged. "Suit yourself."
The diner was a cozy little establishment, scarcely big enough to serve a dozen people. Kaufman secured them a booth by the window. Confined in this space, he seemed even larger. A smiling waitress brought him a plate of chicken and waffles, with some pancakes for the boy. A jukebox in the corner played the same track on repeat. There were no words, or they might've unplugged it.
Kaufman cut into his meal with surgical precision, not a cell of butter and syrup disrupted. Delicate work for a man with his hands. Nicholas watched him for a spell, his own hunger growing in the pit of his stomach. At last he snatched up his knife and fork. Despite his stature, he made short work of his pancakes.
"Hmph," Kaufman said, his smile obscured by his napkin, "There's our human being. Had me thinking I'd picked up a robot."
Nicholas met his gaze, then looked away. "Sorry."
"Nothing for it." Kaufman stacked the plates. "Been through a lot, I understand. Be through more before this is over."
Nicholas looked out the window. Across the way stood a family in front of a toy shop. A young girl, hand-in-hand with both her parents. Nicholas rubbed his hands together under the table.
The waitress swung by. "Will that be all, boys? Could pack you some muffins for the road."
Kaufman's face hardened, but his tone remained charitable. "No, thank you." He waved her off. "Muffins," he whispered, shuddering. He shook his head. "Is there anything more disappointing?"
Nicholas cocked his head, confused.
Kaufman paid for their breakfast and led the boy a ways. Nicholas kept in step. It was a small town, yet decently sprawling. Aside from a few aparment buildings, an old factory, and an out-of-place cathedral, few buildings dared to encroach upon the sky. The streets were sparsely populated. Most people were at school or work, the boy surmised. A car passed by. He watched it disappear around the corner. The length of their walk began to weigh on his mind.
"Don't you own a car?"
"For emergencies. Walking's a better use of your legs, 'specially for the peckish."
The two turned the corner and emerged upon a field. Nicholas' eyes widened at the sight. It was a large, lush field fenced in by imperial-looking iron latticework, dotted with trees, divided into rows and columns of tombstones. Barring entrance was a foreboding gate. Kaufman fished a key out of his pocket.
"This is where you live?"
"Aye. Bit forlorn in the winter, perhaps, but it's lovely in the spring, or just after a war." He pushed the door open, paused, then burst out laughing. "Ha ha, gotcha. Nah, I've an apartment up the way. Work here though. Need a stop. Mind?"
Nicholas hesitated. He shook his head.
"I'm sure this ain't a place you're partial to but it's what I do. If it gets to ya you've a cousin three-" Kaufman counted on his fingers "-four states over."
Beyond the graves stood an old sandstone building whose majesty was evident even after all these years. Kaufman stepped through the garden, up the steps, and disappeared inside. Nicholas remained among the tombs. Things were still and quiet here, as though they’d entered another world entirely. Beyond the bars were cars and people and animals and radios, but they all seemed so far away. A bird flew in, a foreign invader, and landed on a tree branch, chittering.
There were some newer graves, but the vast majority were old and overgrown, covered in grass and leafs and flowers. Nicholas bent down to examine the site closest to him. Bright red poppies had sprung forth. He reached to pluck one, only to stop himself. He remembered a voice that once caused him pain, only now – only here – felt distant yet calming.
“A flower in a jar lives on borrowed time. Better to leave them as they are.”
Nicholas sat down among the graves, cross-legged, and opened his suitcase. Among his things, his clothes, was a small notebook and pencil held together with a rubber band. Retrieving them, he shut the suitcase and began to draw. He didn’t notice Kaufman looking out the front door for him, nor retreating into the darkness of the building moment’s later. For an hour he sat there, absorbed in the flowers.
“Sorry for the wait,” Kaufman said, his voice snapping Nicholas back to Earth. Nicholas turned and scrambled to his feet. He dusted off his pants.
“Sorry, sorry,” said the boy, his notebook in his hands. “I suppose we’ll be off then.”
“Somewhere more comfortable for sitting, I’ll wager.”
Nicholas turned and headed for the entrance. Kaufman looked down and saw the boy’s suitcase left among the graves. He picked it up and followed after.
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 07:59|
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 21:25 on Jan 8, 2018
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 08:00|
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 08:01|
Not Gone West
Every moment is somebody’s end of the world. Most folk only see it coming just a second or two before it happens. Others never see it, then it’s over. The worst, though, is when that moment happened a while ago, and they just keep scrabbling around, not having noticed. That slow decay that tricks them into thinking if they move just a little bit faster, work a little harder, they’ll stave off the inevitable.
It’s easy enough to think a little dust is manageable. Just water the corn a little more, put some bedsheets over the windows and make a go. Then the dust comes tomorrow, and the day after. And every day for a year. Then two. That second year—the plants sprout, and it looked so cute when when they finally popped out of the ground, a couple weeks late. But they were stunted, tiny little things. A few struggled under the weight of half-sized ears, before they gave up and tipped sideways like little soldiers too weak to hold their rifles. Killed on the march, in rows, before they even made it to the great battle they hoped would define them.
Then the water runs out. There’s barely enough for a family to drink, let alone try and resuscitate a field..I don’t have anything else. Stuck here, on one corner of a field that hasn’t seen rain in a year, and the man, Ryan Kelly, comes out of his clapboard house and stumbles around every day, uselessly trying to make something happen. Mostly he just sits in the dirt and prays. The crows have given up on it, given up on the world, as far as I can see it. Being useless is far worse than being forgotten. I don’t have any choice, sit and guard nothing.
There was a time when Ryan Kelly’s little children would bounce around through green rows. Little bundles of chaos flitting in and out of uniform rows, taller than they. I remember those days. They grew, slower than corn, but they’d show up again after the snows stopped and be a little bigger. Then again, and a little bigger. But in that third year of desolation, the man, Ryan Kelly, came up to me and whispered. There was no one else around, but he whispered just the same.
“I wish I could bury you, instead. Little Meg was only six. The stuffing of your innards is older than her. How do you still stand? Through all the dust and wind, you’re still stuck on that pole, like nothing. You might as well be my first child. I remember when Fiona and I made our way out here. Goddamn Nebraska.
“I had my father’s suit, and before the house was even built, I made you. A farmer doesn’t need a suit like that, Fiona said. So we stuffed it up with straw and I stuck you on the corner of our land. A homestead, we called it then. Everybody called them homesteads. There’s something hopeful in that word. It’s rolled up in a coat of prosperity and dreams. Home and future resting on my back. What I do matters.
“For a while, I suppose, things were good. The dream paid dividends. So why didn’t you warn me? Tell me to go south before it all turned? It’s too late now. We’ll never make it to Oklahoma—or Missouri, maybe—to Sixty-Six. We should have pressed on for California a long time ago and left you to the crows.
“But you had to sit there, year after year, and grin like an idiot. I should have realized that unchanging idiot grin was a trick. Your face is a lie, scarecrow. Done up in darning wool and buttons. My father’s buttons. I should have known. Fiona should have known. There’s no time for superstition and old wives’ tales when there’s a hard days work to be done.
“Ma never crossed the Atlantic. Dad rode in an automobile once, before he died. New York City. That was a big trick of hope, too. You get stunned by the size of it. If you’re not already above it, then you get ground up and plowed under the moment you step foot ashore. This was supposed to be our escape. But it’s all the same. Maybe I should try China. Half the world doesn’t want me. Us. Maybe the other half will.
“Old scarecrow. You know that’s never going to happen. It’s time to get Fiona and figure out where we’re going to bury her. It’s not right that you should get to look after her. Figure out the rest too. Dig five plots at once.”
Ryan Kelly walked towards the little house he built. Fiona stood on the little porch, and two little specks clung to her. Behind them, the horizon stopped looking like hope and dreams or whatever made people come to Nebraska. It was a wall of dust and dirt and misery. Any minute now, it would be close enough to block out the sun. Ryan Kelly saw it the entire time he made his slow march back, and somewhere in the middle he turned back and yelled, “Maybe I won’t have to dig any at all.” He laughed as he turned back towards his house and his little family saw him laugh.
The two little specks smiled and waved to him, mistaking his laughter for anything but what it was. Fiona, too, waved, but her movement was a little slower. Still, for a moment, she might have found a little of that hope that Ryan Kelly was so determined to bury with his daughter.
As the dust storm blocked the sun, for a moment the ground went an eerie blue. Then the wind started and the beauty of the calm was forgotten. He walked, just kept walking. And I watched.
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 08:02|
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 08:08|
i'll promtpt you're rear end
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 08:12|
Sebmod's gone mad with power!
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 08:15|
Okay, time to Bar the Door and close submissions.
If there's any toxxes out you've got until 9AM pacific time tomorrow to post something and avoid the axe (not sure why I bother, nobody ever does) Same deadine for any normal failures to be assured of getting a crit from me.
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 08:17|
i'll promtpt you're rear end
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 08:36|
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 08:47|
Does anyone have thoughts on good qualities of judging
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 08:50|
Does anyone have thoughts on good qualities of judging
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 08:57|
These are my cards, kai
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 09:23|
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 09:34|
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 09:41|
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 09:46|
drat, another failure. Stupid video games.
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 10:01|
Those are great
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 14:19|
video games are bad
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 15:21|
Lots of things are bad.
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 16:37|
There are more bad things than good things.
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 16:37|
ur a good thing
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 17:26|
in this thread
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 17:28|
For example, currently there is a lot of not judgment
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 17:32|
mod challenge judge quickly
cmon it'll be fun
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 18:23|
mod challenge judge quickly
i knew sa was gettin bad but dang man, they're stoopin' pretty low
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 18:32|
Mod challenge more like mod-challenged (bc mojo is dumb)
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 18:39|
not my mod
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 19:38|
mod more like dumb
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 19:38|
|# ? Nov 29, 2021 11:34|
|# ? Feb 13, 2017 19:44|