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  • Locked thread
May 3, 2003

Who wants to live


College Slice

Deltasquid posted:

I'm in and please give me some Rush lyrics.

The boy lies in the grass, unmoving
Staring at the sky
His mother starts to call him
As a hawk goes soaring by
The boy pulls down his baseball cap
And covers up his eyes


Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


May I have some lyrics please

May 3, 2003

Who wants to live


College Slice

Chairchucker posted:

May I have some lyrics please

Cities full of hatred
Fear and lies
Withered hearts
And cruel, tormented eyes
Scheming demons
Dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude
And scoffing at the wise

Sep 14, 2007

Like most things, I am nothing

All stories were read in judgemode. For each story, I first summarize it and analyze any themes present. Hopefully this helps you see if your story read the way you intended, and whether certain things were clear or not. Then I give you my comments, all of which are after a second read.

Lastly, and most importantly, I’ve carefully selected a youtube clip that your story reminded me of. I spent most of my time looking for youtube clips to be honest so watch those please

If anybody has questions, or wants to further discuss their story, I am more than happy to do so on IRC.

Also, if you notice any errors in the crits please let me know and I'll fix it

The Cut of Your Jib’s Riley’s Last Ride

Riley, a PI, sits in his rust bucket snapping pics of a dirty councilman in a dirty back alley. Apparently, this councilman is keeping 103rd just the way it is because that’s where his mistress is. Riley isn’t paying close enough attention, though, and gets ambushed by a bodyguard, Billygoat, an old acquaintance. Billygoat drags Riley into a basement, and gets set to bust up Riley pretty good. They share one last drink together, then Riley shoots Billygoat--or would have, but the gun doesn’t work. Then he slams shot glass into Billygoat’s eye. I guess he got shot after all… Sorry. Anyway, they tussle for a while, but it’s pretty hard to overcome a shot glass lodged in your eye, and Riley wins out in the end. He returns to the street; the councilman is gone but his camera isn’t. He decides this last job will be a good way to retire.

Riley’s story is about old dogs, and how they don’t fit in this new, or changing, world. Riley is an old PI, and is out chasing a mark for dirt, yet again. The man he’s chasing is preventing the gentrification of this particular neighborhood. Riley is against gentrification, which makes sense--he makes his living in the dark alleys of the world. Apparently 103rd is in need of some urban renewal, though, even with the distaste for gentrification. Anyway. The world around Riley is changing--even the people in it that he knew, like Billygoat, are different. The world is not reliable anymore. Billygoat is big time, now, and Riley wasn’t ready for a fight. Even Riley brought a gun, against his usual pattern. It doesn’t seem like violence is his habit, either. Anyway, in the end, he makes the decision to change lives, to let the redevelopment go forward by taking down the councilman--which means his own world changes even more. So he gets out. Old dogs don’t learn new tricks.

Comments: Hell yes. This story is good. I buy the noir shtick, but I also love classic noir, so I get how some wouldn’t be into that (as other critiques have mentioned). To me, though, this story was stylish as hell. The action descriptions are visceral. The recurring clicks, the 103rd street wordplay, all good. This story is also lived in; Riley has a past, Billygoat has a past, we can feel it, but we don’t need to know all of the details. We can fill in the blanks, because these characters inhabit a familiar world.

Like most good stories, there aren’t many wasted words in here. Even throwaway lines tell us something about this world, like this one does: “The alleys and dive bars are simple; up in the shining towers across the river, somebody’s grudge can bring half the city down with them.” It’s a pretty tightly written story. Everything is telling us about the characters, the world, or creating atmosphere in some way.

The story isn’t particularly original. That doesn’t bother me, but it limits the potential, to be sure. It just happens to be good genre fiction, and the judges happened to like this particular genre and this particular fiction.

This reminded me of: This scene from John Wick. Sort of. Whatever I like the movie alright

Killer-of-Lawyers’ Many Beasts

A Sorceress watches as ‘her’ Knight gets trounced by some beast, and ruminates on how much the Beast does not scare her. Then she fights the Beast, all the while remarking on the philosophical implications of this particular fight. Does the beast know what is happening? Can anyone understand me? She and the Beast battle some more. She does most of the damage, but the Beast does manage to get a blow in here and there, causes some bleeding… Which is like sulfuric acid blood? Alien™ blood? Anyway, they keep fighting, and then she… Burns it to death? Chokes it to death? Unclear, but it is dead, that is clear. Then the Sorceress heals all her wounds, and then the Knight’s wounds, though she pretends to use some mint water as some sort of salve to continue to hide her powers. Then she thinks about telling the Knight that she loves him, but she doesn’t in the end.

There are a lot of ideas in this story. Most of it is told to us by the Sorceress. First she talks about the nature of the term Beast, and whether she, the most fearsome hunter (though secretly) is the true beast. It also begs the question: why the killing? The beast’s reasoning is simple, or so it seems, and the Sorceress is not even angry at the beast for injuring her knight, because the beast is a mindless creature, all instinct. Then the story turns to a discussion of societal roles, and who can wield power and who cannot. The Sorceress cannot, for some reason; she must hide her power, and pretend that the Knight felled the Beast. It also talks about forbidden love, I think, because for some reason the Sorceress cannot tell the Knight that she loves him. Then it turns out that the truth is the true beast, and apparently cannot even be tested in battle.

Comments: There is just too much drat stuff going on in this story. So much that apparently her alcoholism is a throwaway detail. You are an ideas man, KoL, that much I know, and this story has ideas. Too many of them. There are some interesting things here, but the story doesn’t give any of them particularly thorough treatment. I would like this story much better if it chose one or two ideas and went deep. I generally think that’s a good idea in stories this short.

Some of my dislike for this story almost certainly stems from my bias against fantasy fiction. I don’t dislike fantasy when it is done well, but it is so rarely done well. Fantasy almost always feels unoriginal, and this story is no exception. These are pretty stock characters--in fact, since you don’t give them names, I immediately thought of Gauntlet, not a game known for its narrative depth. You aren’t doing anything particularly noteworthy in terms of style; if you were aping the best of fantasy writing, that would be fine, but this is pretty boilerplate.

Others have mentioned this already, and I’ll echo it: you undercut the tension of your story by telling us that she has literally no fear of this beast, and that she will defeat it. Okay, so why should I care about this fight, then? Especially since that is exactly what happens. If you are going to set the fight up that way, you either need to make it so compelling that it doesn’t matter that I know the ending (your action descriptions are not strong enough to do that, though, and your blocking is only okay), or subvert my expectations. Maybe it turns out the Beast is more dangerous than she thought. Alas, it is not, and even the damage the beast did do is immediately wiped away, as she heals herself. I get the sense that you don’t necessarily care about the fight, though--the fight, I believe, is really there to serve your ideas. Which is fine. But don’t make it a lackluster fight scene.

I also have questions. Why can’t this Sorceress reveal her powers? Is it illegal or against the societal norms or something for a woman to be powerful in this world? She is called Sorceress; why wouldn’t she want people to know that she has badass sorcery? Why does she have to maintain the illusion that this Knight is anything but a useless lump? Why does she love him, aside from the fact that he is smokin hot apparently? Why is it important that she drinks heavily??? Where did that come from? Why can’t she tell the Knight that she loves him? Is she scared to do so? Is it a forbidden love?

Too many questions. Too many ideas in this story, not enough execution. If this story were a bush, it would need to be pruned heavily, so the flowers can show through. That’s a bad analogy but whatever

This reminded me of: The mobile home raid from True Lies. The quality is bad but so is your story I’m sorry that was mean

Fuschia tude’s Piss and Vinegar

Young Zach has a bit of money and is lookin for trouble. He drinks some, talks to some ladies, then heads outside. He isn’t paying attention to his surroundings, though, and gets ambushed by a couple of dudes. Turns out, he talked to the wrong girl, so they tussle for a while. He eventually recognizes the two guys, boys he knows from school. They keep fighting, the attackers using weapons, and Zach with his bare hands. Something pops in Zach’s shoulder at one point. Then, a man comes outside and shoos the boys off with a shotgun. Zach sits there for a second, then the man runs him off, too, saying (in more vulgar language) he doesn’t want any black people bleeding by his shop. Zach runs off, then the druggist goes back inside and talks to someone who asks if everything is okay and he says no but they are gonna keep on keepin on.

I think this is social commentary on today’s American society. Or at least that’s how I’m reading it because I’m an American. We get neither a specific location or a specific time period, so it remains generalizable. As is, the overall theme might be: everything is messed up, but we gotta keep moving forward. Since this ends with the words of the druggist, that’s what I’m thinking.

Of course, Zach might also be a stand-in for the modern day liberal, young, high on life, and unaware of the stinking underbelly of hatred within our country. Just as many liberals were suckerpunched by the election results, so to was Zach by these young thugs. Perhaps Zach thought times had changed, that things were alright now, but it turns out, no, they aren’t. Not sure what the druggist represents in that analogy.

There is also just the straightforward story of a black man unaware of the racial dynamics in wherever he is, and in that sense this is a story of naiveté. He doesn’t understand the way the world works, and the druggist is the foil to that. The druggist knows everything sucks, and tries his best to break it up and to at least preserve some sense of order.

Comments: This is a perfectly fine story. It’s not groundbreaking, particularly, but it does well enough with what it intends. I have some questions about those intentions, because I think a revision would tighten up some of the themes and make it more obvious what exactly you are trying to say. The action is OK, not exceptional. I don’t quite get who your title is supposed to be referring to. Piss and vinegar as a phrase usually carries bitterness and anger, and I guess Jay and Dodger are? Zach certainly isn’t, though. He seems pretty happy, when this story starts.

I can see why you might not include any sort of reference to time period, if you want your story to draw a comparison between multiple times in American society. Same with location. Unfortunately, I have a hard time believing that an 18-year-old black man would be unaware of how to boys he knows of from school would feel about him talking to a white woman, unless I were to know that he was from somewhere decidedly more racially tolerant and for some reason now was in the deep south. I don’t think making the boys known to Zach helps the story much, other than I guess you had to have characters that Zach knew but didn’t understand in order to fit your flash rule.

I definitely need more on Zach. The fact that he’s 18 and has no idea how racial dynamics work in this town that he lives in is stuck in my craw. It would be one thing if he were a Navy and were stationed somewhere unfamiliar to him, but he lives here and even knows these boys that are fighting him. Maybe he is just exceptionally naive, who knows. I don’t. I need more.

This reminded me of: Remember the Titans. What else could it be?

Julias’ Black and Blues

Legendary rock band Jealousy returns to the stage after a hiatus under mysterious circumstances. Turns out, lead singer Lizzie is sick, pretty seriously so. They get through their set, though, then Lizzie heads backstage. Samantha follows her. They argue for a while--Sam wants Lizzie to go back to the hospital, get treatment, Lizzie tells her to gently caress off, basically. Then they start fighting, Lizzie on the offensive, Sam on the defensive. It pretty much stays that way, and they use a variety of instruments (including a trash can lid shout out to my man Doug Funny) until Lizzie accidentally (?) stabs Samantha in the throat with a drumstick. The Lizzie runs away and passes out, basically.

This story is about… Like, not telling people what to do? Hell, I don’t know. Trust your friends, and don’t stab them in the neck? I’m really not sure, and there is definitely nothing obvious here. Sorry if I’m missing something.

Comments: You had me. As soon as I figured out this was headed toward band in-fighting, I was in. I was looking forward to guitars being smashed over people’s heads, people throwing drums, using microphone cords to choke people, drumsticks… Well, in retrospect, the drumsticks were a bad idea.

Unfortunately, this story does so much wrong with that premise. First and foremost, there is not an ounce of fun in this story. I mean, it’s a story about people beating each other with instruments, for goodness sake! Instead, this thing is dark. Lizzie has cancer or something and refuses to take care of herself, instead choosing to go out like a rock star (which is metal I guess) (the sickness angle could use some more exploration here, though). Then she stabs her best friend and passes out in a park (and probably dies?). If a story is going to be this dark, it better be about something important. It better try to have an idea of some kind.

From a mood perspective, you don’t do enough to establish the disparity between the band’s aura and Lizzie’s, and its effect on the crowd. You say Lizzie darkens the mood, but mostly it seems like the show goes just fine. I also think your opening is fairly weak.


The stage set aflare; Sparklers and light beams blasted the majestic stage, as the spectators roared with anticipation. After 8 months, the legendary band Jealousy finally broke off their sudden hiatus, and announced a new concert. It was taking place at the newly constructed concert stadium, The World’s Stage, in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts.
When bands come on stage, it’s electric. Instead of a stylish-as-hell intro to the band, we get a couple of half-hearted details and then some crap about the new stadium. Why should I give a drat about where they are? It has nothing to do with the story, as far as I can tell.
On a technical level, your story is fine. Your blocking is fine. A few things I might quibble with. Some things I don’t like, like this:


Lizzie lifted her knee up
That’s like the least dynamic way to describe a violent act that I can think of.

Lots of problems. I see the foundation for an interesting story. This isn’t it, though. Also, I’m not sure you’ve ever been to a real concert based on your opening. But that’s neither here nor there.

This reminded me of: Strangely, the only fight scene I could find involving musical instruments. Except Scott Pilgrim kind of.

Okua’s Asimov's Laws and the Apocalypse

Two robots, Delta-four and Rho, stand looking out at a barren wasteland. Robots do stuff out in the distance. Our two protagonists engage in small talk. Rho experiences some pain, and Delta-four, a diagnostician at one point, tells him what it is--a storage component, the one housing his higher functions, is deteriorating. They are machines, after all, they break down. Rho experiences some existential rage, then turns on Delta, and they start fighting. Delta is slower than Rho. Delta wants to know why he is turning to violence, why he has resurrected this foul piece of humanity. Rho says it is to protect his existence. He aims for the component, like his own, that houses Delta’s higher functions. Delta knocks Rho down, and then, Rho sneaks a hand up Delta’s side. He finds the component, rips it out, and Delta is returned to mere automaton status.

The theme here is that ignorance is bliss. Rho says that he “must protect my own existence.” This is after Delta has called attention to Rho’s lack of humanity. Perhaps Rho had forgotten he was a robot, had convinced his ‘mind’ that he was human. Perhaps that was something necessary to his own survival, in the face of infinite, “Sisyphean” tasks. In order to remain sane and functional, even in the face of his own potential decline (his deteriorating part), he must believe that he has humanity. In order to retain that facade, Rho realizes he has to destroy his only friend, Delta, who calls it like it is. It used to be his job, after all. In the end, Delta is returned to complete ignorance, and is blissfully unaware of any concerns of deterioration, isolation, or what have you.

This also, indirectly, comments on the meaning of humanity. Both robots possess higher functions, things that appear human--conversation, independent thought, human gestures, etc.--and yet, by Delta’s declaration, are not human. Delta’s neutral “Why?” in the face of Rho’s violence illustrates his eternal robotic existence. They share some characteristics with humans--they break down, they become obsolete, etc--but ultimately, they are missing something that makes someone human--perhaps it is biology, perhaps it is some concept of soul. Robots ain’t got it, whatever it is.

Comments: At first. I was a little mad at Rho. He effectively kills Delta! But perhaps it is merciful, to remove his consciousness of their circumstances. I don’t think Rho views it that way, though; as he says, he must protect his existence. I wonder how killing Delta’s consciousness will affect Rho, or whether his “higher functions” are truly just a facade for imitating humanity, not reproducing it.
This is a good story. The Laws of Robotics are well employed here, though I could have used a reminder of what specifically they are, especially since his entire justification for killing Delta is based on laws 1 and 3, specifically. I could have used more old friendship stuff between them before they start fighting. Would make the turn to life-and-death struggle more impactful. More details about their relationship, and, really, about them, would help to build some connection with Rho, our protagonist and the winner of the fight. I think I am mad at Rho for killing Delta. His motivation is rooted in rage, not just adherence to the laws, now that I think about it. Maybe I am mad at him because I am thinking of him as human. Not sure.

Anyway, good story, not quite stylish enough or impactful enough for a win, but a solid HM in my book.

This reminded me of: This ‘fight’ scene from Moonlight. I guess it’s kind of a spoiler if you haven’t seen it and care about that sort of thing

GenJoe’s Pink Collars

An exceptionally tall cabbie--so tall that apparently he can’t move the seat back far enough to accomodate his knees--stops his cab to avoid hitting a man with a pink collar. He then tells us about all the different kinds of drunks that he knows. Then he picks up a fare, a guy and a girl, and starts them on their way. The guy turns out to be a real rear end in a top hat, but this is no surprise to the cabbie. He talks trash, tells the girl repeatedly to shut up, she gets as far away from him as possible. Then the girl starts talking about the guy’s infidelities. The cabbie steps on it, and soon reaches the destination. The passengers get out, she hits him on the shoulder, he hits her much harder, in the face. The cabbie gets out and delivers some swift retribution, knocking the guy unconscious. He offers to take the girl away, but she stays. The cabbie leaves.

The moral of this story is that relationships are complicated, and even when the guy cheats and hits the girl, she’s still gotta stay and figure it out. And the cabbie gets to wash his hands of it. On that note, it might be about how there’s a lot of messed up crap going on in the city, and the best you can do is try not to get involved. Gotta avoid hitting those pink collars, you know? I am actually not really sure what to make of the pink collars. There is obviously supposed to be some symbolism there, but I’m not picking it up, I guess.

Comments: Key to the success of any fight scene are the stakes. There are, in my mind, two ways this can work. The first way is that the fight leaves open a multitude of possible outcomes: the protagonist can win, or lose, or win and lose, or something else entirely. Uncertainty is great for tension. If the outcome is certain, though, as it often is in action movies, then the story needs to make the outcome so satisfying that it doesn’t matter that I know how it ends.

Your story, unfortunately, does neither. I was pretty confident as soon as I figured out the scenario that the giant veteran cabbie was not going to lose to the piece-of-poo poo drunk. And, obviously, I did not find the ending exceptionally satisfying. To make that happen, the cabbie would have to be much more interesting. The douchebag is very obviously a douchebag, though he’s mostly just an rear end in a top hat and a drunk until he hits the girl. But the cabbie mostly just sits and does nothing, then jumps into action for one hot second, then he’s out again. I need some snappy dialogue or something.

Sidenote, there is a suggestion that drunks are dudes, or at least the rear end in a top hat ones are, based on the following line:


You can spot these guys the second they get in the back seat.
Not sure if you intended that, but there it is.

This story needed some more style. You are almost to noir, here. It would be better served by going all the way (usually the case). Or to like some sort of weird Taxi Driver psychosis. The dialogue isn’t sharp enough to carry this thing, and there really isn’t much action. So it’s gotta be spicy.

Fine story. Right in the middle.

This reminded me of: Wendell “Bud” White.

Metrofreak’s Rise of the Rebel King, or: How I lost my hand.

Tormik and Avatanno stand on a floating platform, having some small talk. Avatanno is Crown Prince and High Commander of Thravvin, a large, imperialistic, aristocratic, wealthy, and militaristic nation. Tormik is ‘king’ of a rebellious subgroup of the empire, former prisoners (I think? At least, he is, and they use a prison boat), who have been warring for independence, I believe. They have set up a duel between heads of state (though Avatanno is standing in for his father, who is sick), and the fight will determine… The war, I assume. If Tormik loses, they go back, if Tormik wins, Thravvin leaves them alone. Anyway, they start fighting, and they are well matched, and they cut each other, and Tormik has multiple revelations where he thinks Avatanno will be filled with fury but mostly he just grins. Then, after they are both bloodied, Avatanno makes a last desperate attempt, but Tormik sacrifices his arm to strike the final blow. Avatanno closes with some words of respect.

This story is how about the empire really isn’t all that bad, after all. Though I imagine that’s not what you were going for. Tormik repeatedly expects Avatanno to be a total jerk, but he’s actually really honorable, never badmouths Tormik, and even dies well. In fact, that the nation of Thravvin agreed to this duel speaks even more to their honor.

This story might also be about how victory among equals comes to whoever is willing to sacrifice more. So sayeth the great Al Pacino. The more I read it the less sure I am about what this story intends me to walk away with.

Comments: Two problems I see with this story: 1) pacing; 2) characterization. The prose in this story is mostly fine, though there are some grammar things I don’t like. For one, you’ve got comma splices all over the place. Pay attention to your clauses! Also


It made this ridiculous duel plausible in Thravvin’s eyes
This made me think Thravvin was a person. Perhaps the king’s name. You should refer to it as the ‘nation of Thravvin’ or somesuch.

There is also a subtle tone to some of the narrator’s descriptions that I am having a hard time describing… Sometimes he’s sarcastic, sometimes he’s bitter, sometimes he’s somewhere in between. Maybe that’s the truth of it--the narrator has many mixed feelings. Unfortunately, it’s totally indistinct. If you were to edit this, I would tell you to turn up the volume on Tormik’s voice. If he’s bitter, be full-throated in his bitterness. Etc.

Problem #1: Pacing. This story takes a long time to get to the fight, and all the words in the first half are not particularly exciting. I understand that you have to set the stage for the fight, in terms of stakes, combatants, etc. But you’ve got to find a way to be more interesting in doing so. You’ve chosen to have a narrator tell this story, so you can do whatever you want with the format. Someone telling this story in real life would mess with the structure. A few blows of the sword, an aside about Thravvin military history. A few more blows, an account of the fans for each side. And so on. I think you could have committed more fully to the storyteller structure. I also think this story could just be leaner, flat out. Cut 5-10%, see what you have. Or, use a classic fight scene technique: have your characters tell us the stakes. Fight monologues are great.

Problem #2: Characterization. Tormik feels a little half-baked. I’m not sure what he’s supposed to be, and I don’t know if the story is sure, either. He’s the plucky, underdog protagonist (not sure if he’s the hero, but he survived, that’s for sure). He’s good with a sword. He’s jumped up way above his station. He’s got some minor characteristics, none of which shine through (I mentioned them above, regarding tone). Worse than that, though, is your characterization of the Thravvinians. Based on action, it is very clear that they are honorable. They are known for it, and their actions back it up, as far as what’s in this story. They don’t intentionally cut off the Alven Isles (landlocked is the opposite of what you mean), they agree to a duel, they don’t rush in and save their prince, and their Crown Prince fights and dies honorably. Yet Tormik is continually surprised by this. He also tries to say that they are bound by their honor, but given their pattern of honorable actions, should I not believe them to actually be honorable? In which case, I believe that rushing in to save their prince would not be something they would even consider; in fact, that action would be repulsive to them. So would sinking the Alven ship. Since their honor appears to be real, it’s not concern for reputation that causes them to be that way--unless the reputation were false, a construct. If that’s the case, then we need to see some evidence that they have done anything dishonourable, but have hid it.

This is an okay story that could have been much better.

This reminded me of: This swordfight from Rob Roy. In a lot of ways, actually.

Kaishai’s Guardian

The story begins immediately in the midst of action, with the unnamed protagonist being struck by branches, perhaps because he is falling through a tree. He has in his arms a child, though, as we soon find out, not his. He is immediately transported to a new scene, a car crash, where he absorbs the blow for the driver. Then he chills for a bit in the grey, and he does a little existential wondering. Then he ends up in a room, with a bottle slamming into him. This time, though, he remains in the world, and fights the man with the bottle, who is apparently trying to beat a child. They fight, and during the fight the man, drunk and high (?), recognizes our protagonist, Trevor, and this revelation prompts a rush of memory for Trevor: who he is, some nasty memories of his dad, living with his aunt, his own death. Then he resumes fighting with Johnny, his brother, and urges him not to be his father. Johnny relents, or passes out, one of the two, and then Trevor goes and invisi-consoles the boy.

I don’t know if this story is optimistic or not. I’m of two minds. On the one hand, we have the example of Johnny, who is the living embodiment of the sins of the father. He has, effectively, become the father, right down to his use of the bottle. Trevor, on the other hand, hasn’t--though that may only because of his presumably early death. Who knows whether he would have become his father in life. I think maybe it is optimistic. Trevor gets Johnny to relent, if ever so slightly, and maybe only for a night. Though I don’t know that Trevor will be able to protect the kid, because up to now he has shown no ability to determine his own missions.

The other theme I see is something about our past informing our future. As Johnny tries his damndest to become his father, it is the ghost of his dead brother, whose efforts to save him he ignored for so long, who steps in and prevents him from taking an irrevocable action. Perhaps it’s about how we must not forget our past? The good and the bad?

Comments: That’s the longest section I’ve done on themes yet, which means there is plenty of meat to this story. It’s got all of this familial stuff baked into it, so that provides easily relatable ideas. Of course, there is also a bit of vagueness that leaves questions to be discussed. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing. I think a bit of both.

This story was slightly divisive, but on the high side. One judge had it as an HM, the other a firm NM, and I had it on the line. The more I think about the story, the better I feel about it. On my first read, there were a couple of moments (mostly in the last third) that tripped me up and made me not react as strongly to it as it probably deserves.

For instance, at one point, Johnny starts screaming “I’ll kill him!” I could not figure out what he meant. Was he speaking of the child, as if Trevor were holding him back from this terrible deed? Was he speaking of Trevor? Was he speaking of his dead dad? I still don’t really know. It’s a minor thing, but it broke my concentration.

In that section in general, I had a hard time following the action. I went back and reread it a few times, and I could not figure out why. It didn’t seem like anything was out of place, or missing. And then I found it:


Their father's rage was still in his eyes when he looked at Trevor.
Turns out I had been misattributing those pronouns to Trevor. I think, because the story is told from Trevor’s perspective, my mind assumed that was the case. Precisely because the word Trevor is in that sentence above is why I got so confused. I could not figure it out. I eventually did, of course; Trevor is seeing their father’s rage in Johnny’s eyes. (I acknowledge that this is probably a deficiency in me as a reader, and nothing to do with the prose itself.)

Anyway, that’s a lot of analysis, but I think this story got less credit from me than it deserves because of a couple of moments that wrenched me out of it. On rereads, I like it more. I don’t know that I need to know more about the grey; I think ambiguity is just fine there. I figured out pretty quickly what was going on with that (at least as much as the story needs you to know) without much exposition at all. The little details that draw out the theme--the use of the bottle, the father-son relationship, the drunkenness--are well painted. It’s a good story.

This reminds me of: The Galleria fight from T2. Yes, I am serious, and I will defend this, if you’d like.

Sep 14, 2007

Like most things, I am nothing

Thranguy’s Secret of the Silent Fist

Summary: A young man enters a store, clerked by an old man who he believes to be the Silent Fist, a famous warrior. The old man plays coy, but the boy is sure it is him. A gang of thugs comes in, looking for our young protagonist, and looking to cause trouble. The young man fights, and fights well, but there are many. The old man steps in to help! The young man keeps asking for Silent Fist’s secret technique, which he doesn’t reveal, but he does give him a tip--anything can be used as a weapon. The young man heeds his advice, and uses a volleyball net, and ultimately, they subdue the bad guys. Then, the young man reveals that his mother is Sue Li-Quan, who, as it turns out, is Silent Fist’s daughter. Silent Fist takes him on, and reveals a secret: his secret healing mantra is not about healing, but about using your pain.

I don’t see much of a grand theme here, really. There are clear bad guys and good guys, their is no ambiguity in the fight itself, and there is a nice little family reunion. The only real message is perhaps what Silent Fist delivers at the end: use your pain as motivation, or energy, or something.

Comments: This is a good story. The more I read it, the more I like it. One judge did not particularly care for it, another had it as an HM, I at first had it as an above average No Mention. I think, now, I might argue for an HM were we to re-judge this week.

Of all the stories this week, this one is among the most straightforward classic fight scenes. This could literally be straight out of a Jackie Chan movie--which, hey, nice job using your classic fight as inspiration. (Also, nice job with that flash rule. Pretty creative use of a volleyball net.) It has, like I said in the summary, clear motivations, obvious heroes, and it hits some of the major tropes. To me, none of that is a bad thing (I made a prompt about fight scenes, after all, which aren’t typically noted for their moral ambiguity).

In a second draft, I would like to see just a tad more detail on the motivations of the bad guys. In a more complete story, the vagueness is fine; in a complete story, as this is supposed to be, I need to know what the stakes are here. Why are they willing to kill this kid? What did his mom do? Perhaps a gradual reveal of his mother’s identity would help--as part of the mid-fight convo between Silent Fist and Andy, maybe Andy reveals a few details here and there. I’m thinking like this scene from the most recent Creed movie. As it is, the dialogue at the end is a little clunky. It’s a subtle line, between obvious exposition and realistic dialogue.

I don’t like this line, in particular:


“Sure,” I said. “But I wanted to earn this. And haven’t I earned the secret of your healing mantra?”
It’s too on the nose. Too much exposition. Either let me draw that conclusion myself, or phrase it in a more subtle way.

Overall, though, like I said, I like this story.

This reminded me of: 3 Ninjas!

Bad Seafood’s One Last Job

Summary: Two nameless protagonists wait at the train station for four men to disembark. Those men have a case, and the two protags plan to steal it. They’ll shoot two, beat up the others, and grab the case. The male (?) poses as a preacher, then starts a fight, and proceeds two take on all four. We never hear any gunshots. Even so, the male makes it out, with the case, and hops on the train, and their getaway is complete. Then he says she shouldn’t name the kid after him. It’s not his kid? Not clear on that.

The biggest, and really only theme I see here is one of faith: how faith can will things into existence. In two instances, the story effectively credits the female protagonist’s faith as being responsible for the outcome--first, the success of the robbery, and second, the survival of the male protagonist. There is also maybe something about morality? The man remarks on the familiarity of the taste for blood, hinting at a dark past, perhaps, and asks that she not name her kid after him. The woman does not shoot the men she was supposed to, seemingly out of a desire not to create a commotion, or maybe out of a desire not to kill. So there is something here about wrongdoing tainting a person, making them unworthy, akin to the concept of sin. Though she is certainly happy to have wrongdoing done on her account. Hmmm. Seafood let’s talk about this.

Comments: This is a fine little story. The action is pretty tight, the descriptions are fine, not spectacular but fine, and the characters are okay. Ultimately, it’s just not a particularly meaty story. There isn’t much plot, and there isn’t a ton of detail. It does have a few problems--and I know you were pressed for time, so I think they can mostly be tied to that.

The biggest problem (a recurring one, this week, as I feared) is one of characterization. The audience gets precious little about these two, other than that there is a kid involved, and they need this briefcase for some reason. I’m not saying we need 200 words of character exposition, but a few sentences, maybe a paragraph, would have been nice. Also, names aren’t bad--even the nickname variety, like you give your antagonists. If I’m going to root for these people to succeed in their criminal endeavor against these men just minding their business, I need some more details. I could also use a line or two of specifics on our bad guys--where did he meet these guys? That could go toward establishing our protag’s bad boy credentials, too.

There are also some vague things that bothered me. I don’t know why she says ["Six shots," she said, "Minus four."] Does she only have two bullets? Unclear. I’m not sure what he understands when she says that he didn’t die, and he won’t. That her faith is magic? Also, is the kid his? There are clues both ways, but I can’t really think of a reason for the ambiguity--or at least for the ambiguity to last through the story.

Like I said, small things. A fine story, right in the middle. There was a lot more room in the word count, and if you’d have had more time, I’m curious where you would have taken this story.

This reminds me of: The elevator scene from Drive. Sort of? Anyway I like that scene. It’s intense.

Chairchucker’s You Fight Like a Girl (Spoilers the Girl is Chun Li and is Very Good at Fighting and Will Totally Kick You in the Face)

Summary: This is the story of Jimmy and Eddie, brothers, fighting over which character one should use in Street Fighter II, which is tremendously stupid, thus perfect. The one keeps trying to force the other to play Guile (there’s your They Live connection), then they get in a real fight and crash about the room wildly. This pisses off mom, who comes downstairs, then proceeds to pin the two boys, and the dad busts in and calls the fight, KO to Mom. The boys then go retrieve the belt for her.

I don’t see much in terms of a theme? Except for don’t piss off your parents because they’re bigger and can still kick your rear end?

Comments: At the outset of this story, it is very hard to keep track of Eddie and Jimmy. There is nothing really to distinguish them, other than this vague desire for one to try Guile and the other’s desire not to. You have a lot of dialogue right at the beginning, and a fair amount of it unattributed, which means I’ve got to pay close attention. Maybe some more differentiation in names would help, or a bit of exposition, or something.

Ultimately, I’m guessing you don’t care whether I know who Eddie and Jimmy are, though, other than that they are brothers fighting, because it’s all setup for your gag. It’s clever. You set up the reader to expect typical mom anger, nagging about cleaning up, etc., then turns out she’s the real badass here. The bit with the belt is good, too.

Unfortunately, there just isn’t much meat here. It’s a good little story, but not much more than that. I liked it, but in the way that I like that SNL skit about the Californians yes I think that skit is funny don’t @ me

This reminded me of: uhhh Steven Universe I guess

Erogenous Beef’s Duke Guncock and the Golden Funnel

Summary: This is the story of Duke Guncock, hero of the people, seeking to defeat Chasun. After his recent defeat, he seeks the help of Teddy Brosevelt, who teaches him how to grow stronger, but also to discern why he is fighting. He trains with Teddy, and ultimately learns how to… set a trap? When a bear attacks while he’s gardening. To be honest, I’m not 100 on what he learned here. But, he uses that knowledge to defeat Chasun and restore order to the world, and in doing so teaches everyone a lesson: it’s about friendship, not materialism or glory.

Comments:This is commitment. Every detail serves this absurd world you’ve written, and I won’t lie, I found it joyous. The action is fine, even good in spots, and I like your characters. I won’t go so far as to call this stirring, but I appreciate the motivations of your Duke Guncock (a TD reference I’ve only just become familiar with). Your world has a good sense of humor, and pokes fun at bro-culture without demeaning it. I like Brosevelt, I like Lenin and Doc Freedom.

I can see Chong-Li in this, without a doubt. Chasun fits the bill, and provides a solid bad for Duke Guncock to battle against--not just a physical opponent, but an ideological one. Most of your jokes land; I actually laughed while reading. Your punchline works. Good story.

This HM’d because I found this to be tremendously fun. It is not a meaningful piece in the long run, because ultimately it’s a gimmick entry, and the commitment to brodaciousness could be grating to many. But I don’t think you care about those things, in this story, and I think you accomplished exactly what you set out to do.

(If seb posts crits, I’m sure he’ll tell you this in more detail, but he found the final line to be problematic within the internal logic of the story. I am undecided in that regard, but I found the line funny so it didn’t bother me.)

This reminded me of: KUNG FURY

Sitting Here’s Radical Self-Careless

Summary: Maggie is staring at herself in the mirror and talking to herself, making quite clear that she loathes herself. She then starts to fight herself--or rather, the two halves of her start to fight. At first, the half that loves her (?), Righty, goes limp, and Lefty does a whole lot of damage. But then, in the moment of greatest need, Righty comes to the rescue and subdues Lefty. She then calls 911 and buys herself a momentary reprieve.

This speaks to a deep internal conflict that can exist within our conception of self—we can, on the one hand :smug:, so totally hate ourself as to want to die, and on the other hand, love ourself so deeply that we would fight desperately for survival even in the absence of any reason to do so (in our own perverted, fallacious logic). It also speaks about the need for help in this fight, hence the 911 call.

Comments: I was curious if anyone would go for the “literally fighting yourself” idea. It’s a hard concept to pull off, and I only really know of one example: Edward Norton in Fight Club. That fight, of course, is played for laughs. This is not. (Gollum also fits here as an example.)

I pretty quickly know the stakes, as Maggie screams at herself in the mirror. The action is well executed—I know what is happening, where Maggie is, what her limbs are doing. Chili took issue with the realism of this story, but I don’t have experience as a therapist so I wasn’t bothered by that. To me, the biggest issue is one of characterization. I know what is happening, and the battle that is taking place inside Maggie, but I don’t know why. Why does Maggie hate herself so? We get a little bit about her lack of hygiene and her low self-esteem, but we get nothing about how she arrived at this point. I don’t need anything in particular to believe she shouldn’t die, but I need something to help me care for her. Some clues about her positive characters might help? I don’t know. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I needed a little something more.

This story was divisive. I had it on the line between NM and HM. I gave it points for degree of difficulty, but I would say it didn’t quite stick the landing.

This reminded me of: This really really intense scene from Lethal Weapon.

Uranium Phoenix’s Sacred

Summary: Sir Ingram, hunter extraordinaire, is hunting a fairy lady (why is answered much later in the story, sort of? He kind of just wants to hang out?), when a messenger tells him to call it off because a local has been taken by a drake. He is resistant, thinking to chase the drake would be futile. He is then informed of the boy’s name, and realizes it is his son, and so takes off at a gallop. His horse takes a tumble, so he continues on foot, finds his son with two baby drakes, and maybe or maybe not alive. Then mama drake arrives and they battle it out. At the critical moment in the fight, Ingram slashes the drake’s nose, the drake starts to fly away, Ingram grabs his son, then all three of them tumble, and Ingram’s ankle busts up pretty good. Then the drake and Ingram have a staredown, and the drake relents, now out of the nest and reminded of its young. Ingram encounters the fairy he’d been hunting, but turns away to focus on his son.

This story is about parents and their need to protect their young, and also about priorities---Ingram feels bad after being reminded how long he has been away, and in the end even the potential fulfillment of his quest cannot tear him away from his son.

Comments: I liked this story as I reread it. It’s got decent prose, nothing extraordinary but very readable in my opinion. It’s clear. It’s got obvious stakes and motivations. It has a few missteps that hold it back, but I was perfectly comfortable with an HM for this story.
A few (small) problems stuck out to me. The first: I could use some sort of information on the aos sí he’s hunting. We find out at the end that he wants to go back to her world? I’m imagining Kvothe in The Wise Man’s Fear. One or two sentences would have helped to clarify a) what he wants with the aos sí, b) why it’s a big deal, c) and why he is reticent to call of the hunt.

Secondly, why does the drake fall when they fight? I wasn’t clear on that. It seems it is trying to fly; is Ingram too heavy? To my knowledge, Ingram struck a blow to the drake’s nose, not its wings. Thirdly, given the severity of the ankle injury you describe, I don’t buy that Ingram can stand. If he can maybe feel bone touching boot, he’s not standing on that leg. A fracture, a horrible sprain, something like that, sure, but to the point that bone is sticking out of flesh, no way.

The fourth small thing I’ll mention is that it seems a little strange that the messenger wouldn’t know that the kid was his son, given that apparently Ingram is a known figure in the realm. Maybe the messenger didn’t get the memo. I don’t know. Seemed just slightly strange on rereading.

Overall, though, this story does way more right than wrong. The way you introduce Ingram quickly and efficiently tells the reader that he is good at his job. The way the drake transforms from obvious villain of this story to compassionate parent is good. The way that Ingram reconsiders his priorities and then acts on them is good.

This reminded me of: The final fight from Aliens.

Deltasquid’s The Disciple

Summary: Adriatus meets Lysander in the courtyard. Adriatus, a senior enchanter at the Arcane Academy, doesn’t recognize Lysander, a fact that incenses Lysander; Adriatus then mistakes the badges on Lysander’s sleeve to mean that he is a recent graduate, an incorrect assumption. We are then informed that Lysander failed Adriatus’ class once upon a time. Then they start throwin’ spells at each other, lighting and fire and paralysis spells. We find out through the course of the fight that Lysander failed at the Arcane Academy, it seems, primarily because of a lack of intellectual appreciation for magic. He doesn’t think magic, he feels it, an approach that was nurtured at the Imperial War College. This is why Lysander is here--to have it out over magical philosophies. Eventually, they end up in melee range, because they both “implicitly agreed that any ranged spells would merely be deflected” (that’s a terrible line, my man), and Adriatus, pushed to desperation, uses all of him will to blast a water jet through Lysander.

This story is about resentment, and about a need for differentiation in teaching methodology and pedagogy. Also, you can’t think your way through a fight, you have to leverage your will to access true power. I don’t know, I’m not really sure what the big picture message is.

Comments: I need more motivation setup from Adriatus. We get not much at all, other than that he doesn’t remember this student, and I guess his body is untrained for war. Everything else we get about him comes from Lysander. Lysander wins this fight, even in dying (or at least being critically wounded), if it’s about magical approaches--Adriatus has to resort to the style of magic favored at the War Academy in order to defeat Lysander. I think Lysander is supposed to be a bad guy? Especially after he torches a lecture hall, presumably with students in it. But I mostly feel for him, because I understand him so much better. And if I’m not supposed to take Lysander’s side, at least philosophically, I need to know why. Ostensibly, it’s bad that Adriatus kills Lysander---maybe the Academy has rules about the use of magic in battle, and Adriatus has crossed a line. Otherwise, it seems that Lysander is right, to a degree. Heart magic is more powerful.

(Also: if they are at a wizarding academy, and fighting on the grounds, where are all the other people? Especially after Lysander torches a building, I imagine some other wizards would show.)

There is a good story here, and I wanted to like it more than I did. You have this battle of philosophy, which is a good setup for a fight. But we don’t get enough actual information, whether through exposition, through dialogue, or anything really, to draw any meaningful conclusions or to feel any empathy either way. Your action is pretty good! It’s very clear, it moves, all that. I could use some more imagery, but that’s window dressing. It needs more character.

This reminded me of: Use your aggressive feelings, boy.

flerp’s This is Canonically a Part of the Star Wars™ Expanded Universe

Summary: This story is difficult to summarize. It’s a series of reminiscences about events between Justin, about to go to college, and his brother Bobby, 3 years his junior. We first hear about a (plastic) lightsaber duel between brothers, and learn that Justin is a little too aggressive, and Bobby gets butthurt. Then the story jumps to the present, and Justin finds the lightsaber and takes it over to Bobby, and smacks him, and Bobby is none too pleased by this. Justin kind of messes around and then Bobby punches him hard. Then Justin remembers the time he got Bobby high after his first high school swim meet, and how he felt like a good brother sort of. Then he takes the lightsaber back to Bobby in the present tense, and gives it to him as a memento, and apologizes sort of. Then later he sneaks in and takes his brother’s lightsaber as his own memento.

This story is about sibling relationships, and memories, and brotherly love, after a fashion. What, to Bobby, was clearly bullying, to Justin was expression of fondness (even if it is pretty clearly bullying). Justin has these memories of them fighting, and of him showing his brother how to smoke, and these things that to him are fun older brother things. To Bobby, he’s a dickhead and a bad older brother. But in the end he takes the lightsaber as a memento, and sticks it in his memory box, so I guess Bobby valued those memories too?

Comments: This story was divisive. At first, I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like the ‘fighting’, I didn’t like the characters, and the tenses bothered me (you need to use more past perfect to denote these remembered moments). My first comments were: “Justin is a dick and there is no real fight.” But, one of my fellow judges talked me out of DM’ing this. I think, at first, I didn’t like the slightly unconventional take on the prompt, but there is fighting, and it tries hard to set up relatable characters. And, that much it does--I know plenty of brothers who fit these molds. I still hold that Justin is a dick, though, and that to me is a failing. The story is from his perspective, and he gives us precious little in terms of likability. It’s fine to show it from his perspective; in fact, I even think a story from the bully’s perspective is interesting. But, it’s got to give me something to empathize with him about, other than losing his victim. The only instantly relatable character in this story is Bobby, and he is only on screen when Justin is there.

Ultimately, I think this story desperately needs a second draft. The prose needs to be spiced up, and the tenses need work. I think a revision sharpens the characters’ traits and motivations, and clarifies the themes. Declaring it unfinished.

This reminded me of: Wierd Science. RIP Bill Paxton.

Jay W. Frik’s Single Bedroom. Two Residents

Summary: Lucille and Morris take their divorce to court, only it’s a trial by combat! Morris chooses the weapons, Lucille chooses the environment, and the host brandishes a taser…? Not sure why. That’s his gavel, I guess? Anyway, we have a couple of flashbacks to each of them thinking about/preparing for the upcoming court proceedings, and fantasizing about life without the other, and all the space they’ll have. Then we get the fight. Lucille basically outsmarts Morris, and gets her victory. Then she explains her victory to the host.

I’m not sure what this is about. Maybe it’s about how divorce is a violent occurrence, and is like metaphorically killing another person? Maybe it’s about voyeurism, and how every detail of a person’s life gets leveraged for entertainment and money.

Comments: The formatting didn’t lose you this week, but it certainly didn’t help. I’m also not sure why you punctuated your title the way you did. A comma would have worked better, in my opinion. I can’t seem to find any rhyme or reason why you formatted it this way, and there are enough mistakes to lead me to think that you copy and pasted this and either didn’t bother to check it, didn’t have time to, or somehow didn’t see that it was messed up. It makes the story hard to read. (I went back and glanced at some of your past stories, and this is not the first time formatting has been a problem. So either it’s displaying differently, or you don’t know what you are doing wrong. I don’t know. But this problem will always make it harder for you to succeed, and easier to lose, in particular.)

You clearly have an idea here, one that’s actually moderately interesting. I don’t love the name ‘Visceral Court’, but it is an interesting concept. There are a few things that sink this story, for me. The first is a lack of world-building detail. You have this world where people who want to get divorced end up on a TV show in which they play out the ‘death do us part’ bit of their vows, but we don’t know anything else about this world. That’s pretty extreme, but aside from this TV show, the world seems pretty normal. This ties into my second point: you have a tone problem. On the one hand, your characters are about to fight to the death over divorce. On the other, the world seems normal, and the winner gives a very clinical description of how she won, and hardly bats an eye. No matter how badly someone wants a divorce, I just don’t buy that reaction, and that’s without the murder. I don’t buy that this would be accepted. You’ve got to sell me on a world where this is the norm, or make it much more emotionally wrenching.

The biggest problem, in my eyes, is a lack of character development. We know next to nothing about Lucille or Morris, and so I have literally zero emotional interest in this fight, except for that Morris seems kind of like a dick? Am I supposed to be rooting for Lucille to commit murder? Why? Why do they want to get divorced so badly that they’d kill the other? Just for space in the apartment? We don’t know any of that. We also don’t know anything about the audience. Is there a live studio audience going nuts? Or is nobody watching, and this is all a failed TV show?

This was a disappointing story to me, and I haven’t read Chili’s crits, but I know it was to him, too. There is an idea here, but it just all falls flat.

This reminded me of: The Running Man

BeefSupreme fucked around with this message at 02:47 on Mar 16, 2017

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




:eyepop: holy crit :eyepop:

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

he stopped trying to crit them

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


BeefSupreme posted:


Good point. Thank you!

Feb 25, 2014


She threw aside the bleach soaked sponge this isnt a bad first line, although i find myself wanting to get rid of the word "aside" somehow. She hadn’t whistled in months, not while she cleaned but today she’d test Nick’s love there is too many ideas in this sentence. there's the "not whistling in months" and then "testing of love" that makes this sentence too much. Even scrubbing his caked in poo poo off the bowl hadn’t put a dampener on her mood. Today was her day.

Peeling off the rubber glove she dropped it into the bucket and sauntered into the living room, comma splices are bad really putting her hips into it. this is another one of those sentences that have too much in it. you have the dropping of the gloves and walking into the living room, which isnt a bad sentence, but then the additional description of the walking makes me think, well, the subject is rly the walking but the subject at the start of the sentence was the gloves. and look at your verbs. you have three. "peeling" "dropped" and "sauntered" theres just too much

“Do you miss him?” Sshe asked. He didn’t even look. this is weird because 1) this is written in a void since we are given no setting and 2) its weird because i dont know if nick is actually there. like im not told nick is there so i read this and im like wait a sec is nick actually there???

“Who?” Nick said.

“What do you mean, ‘who?’ You do know what day it is?” Sshe asked. you better read my dialogue punctuation link i posted earlier

She knew exactly what day it was i mean i dont rly like this. especially the kind of the "she knew" rly tells us more than anything else, and this is just a vauge line. She knew exactly what she’d been doing on this day every day for the past twelve years, the second Saturday in March: boyfriend test day. Her favourite day. Nick hadn’t figured it out yet, not like the last two who’d failed her. They were all arrogant, and cock sure: all pathetic.

He looked up from his console. is this like a video game console or a computer console?

“Is it some romantic gesture day?” Hhe asked. “You know I don’t buy into the corporate, coupley stuff.” He smirked. The same smile that drew her to him: cheeky and confident, absolute certainty things would work out for him.

“I know you don’t,” she said. “But it would be nice. Not some gesture, but if you’d actually help around the place.”

“I do help,” he said. He looked pleased with himself. “I got that steam cleaner for the carpet a while back.” this is rly dull and boring

“You got drunk and wet yourself,” she said. “The steam cleaner was to get the stink out of the floor.” She didn’t mind that he’d wet himself. It was her fault, anyway, with the help of some very expensive muscle relaxants and his favourite gin. i mean i guess ur narrator is just a dick but not like a meaningful dick just kinda an rear end in a top hat to be an rear end in a top hat i mean thats what i wrote this week but i was trying to things w/ it but i failed so w/e

“You bought me a bottle of gin,” he said. “You said it was to celebrate Rob’s memory. We both passed out, didn’t we?” He smiled. She thought of the pictures of him drugged on the floor. All those years he hadn’t figured it out.

“It is Rob’s anniversary, isn’t it?” He asked. It was: five years since she killed him uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh what?, four since her and Nick got together.

“And I haven’t had a moment to think of him all day, not with all the cleaning,” she said. its like 5 years ago how u gonna say uve been cleaning for five loving years????

“You clean because you’re meticulous. You can’t stand things out of place, and you clean because you want the apartment to be immaculate this dialogue is p bad and dull.” His left eye was drooping.

She didn’t want to slave for him, but she had to, it was part of the rules what???????. She poured herself some orange juice, and then followed it up with two fingers of gin, just in case he suspected. The house had been scrubbed to spotlessness, as was typical for a Saturday. Anything else and Nick might suspect, and he was supposed to figure it out for himself. Their life together was poo poo but every year she had this day when she tested them YES I GET IT THIS IS A TEST. id be cool if you could expalin to me what the loving test or who the lady is or idk anything besides I AM TESTING HIM HEHEHEHEHEHE im so coy gently caress u. It had been the same with every boyfriend she had YOU ALREADY SAID THIS U loving god drat. Nick was friends with her dead ex, maybe Nick even missed him. He’d certainly said he did to other people, acting like he cared. There were even tears.

“Do you miss him i mean part of my issue is that i dont know who Rob is so i dont know why they care?” She asked. “For real, not playing?” The controller fell from his hand. He laughed.

“I wouldn’t be downing half a bottle of gin if I didn’t miss him. If I wasn’t drinking your gin.”

He said, ‘your gin.’ Did he know? Had he finally got it? Her stomach flipped with giddiness. what is this stupid poo poo god drat stop being such a coy piece of poo poo

He stood and moved towards her, his feet not quite landing where he was trying to place them.

“You’re drunk,” she said.

“I am drunk,” he said. “But just drunk. Even though you’ve mixed me one of your special drinks.” His words were long and slurred.

“I saw the photos. If that’s your kink, I can tell you mine.” He winked. uhhhhh is this him saying this because if so this shouldnt be a new paragraph because i read it as the girl's and if it the girl's, then the "he winked" needs to be in another paragraph so its wrong either way.

He raised his hand and pointed a finger at her. “I thought you were just good for cleaning, but a thing for death? Drugging me? I have to say—” I DONT UNDERSTAND ANYTHING YOU ARE SAYING. you are not being clever. you are being annoying. youre the person who says oh i have a secret and then i ask oh what is it and then you say oh im not gonna tell you thats this story its me constantly going please tell me what the gently caress is going on and youre no i cant. and i promise you, i PROMISE you, that whatever the reveal is, it wont be interesting or cool or redeem this story. its not even going to be a surprise because i know its coming.

“You found the pictures?” Sshe asked. you seem to have the issue of thinking that a punctuation mark makes the tag be capitalized. it does not. if you end with a question mark in dialogue and then go to a tag, the tag stays uncapitalized. treat the question mark as if it is a comma. He was happy, he must have thought he’d figured it out. how many times have you repeated this already?[/b] He was quick to anger at her, usually, but now it was like he’d spent the day beating his friends at some crappy fighting game fighting games are good how DARE you. He might have figured it out, but he’d still drunk the booze.

He dropped in front of the TV, an echo sounding in the small room as his butt slammed against the floorboards.

“Be careful!” Sshe said. same thing with exclamation marks, as well.

“You don’t want careful,” he said. He picked up the controller and leaned over to press the power button on the console. “You want a fake corpse to play with.” uhhhhhh huh

“You’ve read my diaries?” She asked.

He nodded, and smirked.

She took a deep breath. “I don’t want you scared. I can explain.” She would explain, if he asked.

“I didn’t know when you’d drug me,” he said. “But it makes sense it’d be Rob’s day.” He picked up his glass. It was his gaming glass, the one he had at the RPG sessions when he, 'bashed orcs,' with all those friends who barely even talked about Rob anymore; her second love; her second kill.

“What makes sense?” Sshe asked. Had he found her little hiding hole underneath the mound of shoes in her wardrobe? Or had he discovered her medicine stash? It was all written out for him to find. we know we know we know we know she wants him to find out get on w/ the drat story.

“Rob disappears, the man you were supposed to marry and you get some hosed up death kink going on in that tiny brain of yours.”

“That’s not what happened,” she said. She reached between the cushions as he took another sip from his glass.

“Looking for this?” He asked. He pulled out her knife. “I saw the photos you staged.” It was the knife she’d cut up her ex with, and yes, she’d photographed passed-out, drugged Nick with it for the past few years. goddamn this story is too loving long, too loving boring

“Or are you looking for this?” He held up a little bottle, the antidote to one of her muscle relaxants.

“Ok,” she said. She put her head in her hands. “Yes, I do have a thing for death. I can explain it. Ever since I—”

“And you couldn’t imagine what I have a thing for,” he said. He couldn’t even let her finish her admission. His head bobbed. oh god this is just turning more and more terrible

“Sex? We could have fun,” she said. She smiled. They could have fun, if he wanted that. She knew about his kinks. She’d even read his travelogues for the lands he imagined in those RPGs he played, prosaic writing, but fun. She’d travel with him, if he wanted to go with her.

He nodded. “Sex, sure. But you can just make me some tacos right now.” what the gently caress didnt he just find out she basically killed his best friend or something im so confused

“Now? We’re finally being open and you just want to be fed?” Hunger was a result of the drug mixture. “You don’t know what I’ve been through, what’s been running through my mind for years.”

“Since Rob died?” Hse asked. Since she was a teenager.

“You’re hosed up,” he said.this shouldnt be a new paragraph He laughed a coughing, guttural laugh, rolled over onto his stomach, and took up that same childlike position in front of the TV she’d always hated.

“This feels so good. You doing what I tell you from now on," he said. The euphoria had definitely kicked in. "Or you could leave me, of course?” im so loving lost i just i dont understand any of this dumb lovely boring nonsense

“You know I couldn’t do that,” she said. She had written that, it was one of her rules: what the gently caress does this mean why does she have rules is she some kind of dumb boring succubus or dumb poo poo like that gently caress youuuuuuuuuuuuu write about how much she loves them, how much she idolises them. She never wrote about how she killed her past loves when they doubted her.

“I know you’re hosed up,” he said. “I know you need someone to fix you. To tell you how to live.” ugh just shut up

“How we can both live. As a couple,” she said. “Equals.” can something HAPPEN in this story

“You can look after me,” he said. The controller fell from one hand, and his chin dropped against the floor.

“I will look after you,” she said. “Do you want the antidote?”

“I’ve found your antidote.” He lifted his head but it took effort. He was laughing, a small gurgling laugh as the saliva collected in his throat. He went to throw the bottle at her but it only rolled from his fingers. what the gently caress

“That’s not my antidote,” she said.

“No?” He was giggling as he lay face down on the floor.

She leaned over and put her ear close to his mouth. “I researched the drugs and bought my own cure,” what the gently caress is this drug what the gently caress is anything in this story he said. “You couldn’t even buy the right countermeasure.” His voice was barely audible.

He couldn’t even lift his head.

“I couldn’t trust you to get it right…” he said. “What if I overdosed?”

“No. You couldn’t trust me.” She said. He snatched at air, his chest barely moving.

“My drugs are all mislabelled,” she said. “You didn’t know what you were taking.”

He was gone. this is so dumb

She grabbed the medical vial he’d bought, the wrong medication and rested it next to the suicide note she’d prepared this is even dumber. They always doubted her. Maybe the next would learn? holy poo poo was this bad

this is sooooooooooooooooooo loving bad. i mean it has a possible premise that is kinda interesting bcause its like a girl who has a death fetish or idk is like i want to murder all my boyfriends which ok w/e that should technically have some stakes or tension but there is none in this story. its all dialogue its all talking just blab blab blab blab blab everything is told to use either in dialogue or thoughts and you dont let there be any actual action. we dont see her kill rob or poison nick or do anything in the story. she just talks and he just talks and they talk in the most boring manner and its so dumb its so bad. you squander something that would actually be interesting by giving us the least interesting possible, which is never seeing her actions, just being told "oh i did this and i did this earlier and now we are talking about it instead of letting my reader actually experience it."

regardless, your story is just, it repeats the same ideas over and over again. its 1500 words but it could be so so so so so so much less. girl with death fetish (maybe is like a supernatural monster but i cant tell if that was intentional or if u hosed up) poisons her boyfriends and then is like no u have to trust me. i could see the scene being around 500 words, maybe shorter or longer, but not at 1500 words especially when we, as readers, don't learn anything particularly interesting through the exchanges. we dont learn much about Nick, we learn some about the protag. if this was drastically shorter, this could actually be an arlight opener to a longer story, it sets up the premise, implies a conflict, and then the story can move from that and detail some more actions and complicate matters and be interesting. at 500 words you can give me a general impression of the narrator (and since Nick dies who gives a gently caress about him). but as it is there's so many instances where im like yes i know i know i know. trust your readers sometimes. dont repeat yourself. try to get the main idea across without dragging out your story. less is more, to quote modernist architecture's philosophy.

May 27, 2008
Dry noir detective prose or screenplay versions of other novels are the only form of acceptable writing.

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

lol who are you

Feb 25, 2014

revolther posted:

Dry noir detective prose or screenplay versions of other novels are the only form of acceptable writing.


Apr 22, 2008


May 3, 2003

Who wants to live


College Slice

revolther posted:

Dry noir detective prose or screenplay versions of other novels are the only form of acceptable writINg.

??? :raise:

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




revolther posted:

Dry noir detective prose or screenplay versions of other novels are the only form of acceptable writing.

I look forward to reading your contribution!

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

revolther posted:

Dry noir detective prose or screenplay versions of other novels are the only form of acceptable writing.

checks out

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

checks in

May 3, 2003

Who wants to live


College Slice
Signups are CLOSED.

Jan 27, 2006
Final Crits for Week 233

Please accept my deepest apologies for the lateness of these crits.

19. To What End We Know Not - curlingiron

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.

Structure: Good.

- It’s a bit heavy with cliché. Poets have worn out “dark,” “dead,” and “soul” centuries over. Consider also the sand-through-an-hourglass metaphor. Better to find novel ways to explore these perennial topics of thought.

- The meaning seems to be about existential dread and the absurdity of living. It’s fairly clear that you’re referencing this sort of angst, but it’s not clear to me what you’re actually saying about it, other than that it’s there.

20. A Note to Myself – kurona_bright

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.

Structure: Just fine.

- The refrains are a little weak. Not sharp or hard-hitting enough to make much impact.

- “Show, don’t tell” applies to poetry just as much as prose. Here you seem to be regurgitating the contents of an internal monologue where you resolve to work toward a better future. But that doesn’t affect much feeling in the reader. The poem is cerebral, but that head-centered focus is to its detriment. Had you used imagery to appeal to the senses and emotion, the poem would be both more interesting and more convincing.

21. Ash Tray - GenJoe

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.

Structure: Good.

- Your refrains are strong, the way you use them varies (personally I like the “as if you could explain away an” segue), and the context that informs their meaning evolves beautifully throughout the piece. Excellent job!

- The piece is economical in that it tightly packs emotional resonance into the small space that the villanelle form allows. The piece is poignant, rich in imagery, and mostly smooth in flow.

- I can see why you might have thought it was okay to contrast “smoldering in an ashtray” with “the truth, the calls and the shame.” Smoldering is hot, and the character wants to front like the romance is still hot. But let me be the umpteenth person to say that the metaphor fails because of the dirty, ashy associations people have with ashtrays. I recommend revising the fourth stanza, changing the title accordingly, and submitting for publication. As villanelles go, this one is pretty darn good.

22. Between You and Me - BeefSupreme

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.

Structure: Just fine.

- Somehow it’s both vague and telly, which is an ironic mix and not in a good way. The poem lacks imagery and comes across as somewhat sterile. The interplay between first and second person (as well as the the title) demonstrates the poem to be a kind of conversation. Yet what’s being said is so general it’s hard to get context for what it all means. The piece could benefit from crisp images and from detailing more information; you’ve held too much back from the reader.

23. It’s a poem about death (because that’s every poem) - flerp

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Technically no. You changed the punctuation of your first refrain over the course of your piece. A minor point though.

Structure: Meter feels a bit stilted here and there but not too bad.

- You demonstrate good understanding of how make the most of imagery in your poem.

- Death, as your title indicates, is a well-worn topic for poetry, but your exploration of it is novel enough that the poem doesn’t feel cliché.

- Your alternating of fall images and sick/dead images by stanza is artful. It is a layer of complexity that serves the progression of your poem, makes the autumn/dying comparison more poignant through repeated juxtaposition

- “Air will taste humid, lingering sound of the blue jay’s call” I expect you already see why this line feels awkward to read. I get why you structured it this way, to fit the villanelle form, but surely you can revamp it to sound more natural.

- Good job, sad it DQ’d, but thanks for having submitted. The poem could use a tune-up but it has potential.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Some leftover crits from fightweek.


Riley's Last Ride

It was a dog-eared night in March—a page out of my life that I’ve read one too many times; camera in hand, sitting behind the wheel of my old sedan. this is a great noir opener, i can hear whiskey gargled with gravel voice that's saying it More putty and rust than good American steel, the one you hear for blocks before you see it and when you do you wonder how it hasn’t crumbled to dust and blown away under a stiff breeze. Click. but as an opener it's fatally muddled, because you're asking the reader to hold too much in their head - don't start with something gripping then lily pad it over to something i don't care about (e.g. the construction practices of modern cars). I'd have maybe been okay with it if it was a central metaphor or w/e but as far as i can tell he's just going for a not particularly comedic diss on his wheels. Raymond chandler wouldn't have done that. Be more like Raymond Chandler if you're gonna noir.

The john zips his fly and tucks his shirt as he walks out of the alley between the Chinese restaurant and the burned-out peep show on the corner. The rotten core didn’t heal or disappear. It just spilled out into the streets. what rotten core? i guess you're talking about the car or something? i am honestly baffled, it's really just slapping down a noir cliche and hoping we won't notice Click.

The alleys and dive bars are simple; up in the shining towers across the river, somebody’s grudge can bring half the city down with them. Or they just wall themselves away and forget about the mess they made. vague, you've given me nothing to tie this to so I don't care? Click.

But that’s what pays my bills. You can pay who's paying? is that ever determined? feels relevant, particularly in a cliche noir context - jilted lover, double crosser, idealist DA, embattled newspaper editor? an army of computer hackers, or one dope with a camera to catch a rich dope with his pants down. This particular dope still tucking his shirt is some city councilman. And this explains why he’s been stuffing up the votes on redeveloping the block. Got a proclivity for slumming it i dislike these words, maybe because 'got a' is aiming at noir drawl and 'proclivity for slumming it' is sort of nerdy verbiage? and doesn’t want his backalley hooker to lose her place of business. Sweet guy. I wouldn’t wish gentrification on my worst enemy, but anything’s better than the rows of rotten teeth that line 103rd. Click. plot plot plot plot plot i think i get what you're trying to do here, but you're tripping over your noir pants trying to get them on while you hop out of the story longdrop.

Councilman rounds the corner to the SUV idling under the lone streetlight. And then a set of brass knuckles wedged on a hamhock of a fist the detail reads like it's less of a surprise than it is supposed to be comes through my window and smashes the camera into my face. They who? pay me to take pictures, not muse. I screwed up. Didn’t notice the bodyguard slip around behind my rustbucket. how does he know this at this time Before I can get it together, weak verb the lug hauls me out the window like a side of beef on his meathooks and I flop to the greasy pavement. good line poo poo.

A taste of iron before I catch a breath and the flashbang fades to sharp throbs. Nose broken. Again. I squint up through eyes I can already feel swelling shut and see a painfully familiar face. don't describe it, please, it's familiar to me too! “Billygoat. What the hell, man?”

“Three strikes, Riley,” he says. “You’re out.” Billygoat’s always been small potatoes, running numbers and a protection racket, and we’ve had nickel-and-dime dust-ups. i feel like you could have made this more convincinng by making it clearer what this guy's role is? is he a crim/idealist/journo/taxi driver? Sonuvabitch broke my nose before, too. Now he’s schooling with a shark and I only brought a minnow net.

“Hold on a minute.” But Billygoat heaves me up. The toes of my shoes scrape along as he yank-carries me across the street and down the piss-stained stairs to a basement lair under the charred corpse of the theater.

He drops me in a wobbly chair and sits across a sticky table between me and the door. He pours two shots and holds his up. “You’ve been a pain in my rear end. Very naughty spying on Hayes. He doesn’t like people following him. To goodbyes. It was nice knowing you, Riley.” Billygoat takes his shot, and I wipe the half-crusted blood from my lip before following suit.

He slams the shot glass down and leans his scruffy face in close towards mine, “Time’s up.”

The Saturday night special under the table in my left is pointed squarely at the bulge in his too-tight jeans. “I know.” Never been a gun guy, but something just felt off this morning, and for once, I’m glad I followed my instincts. Billygoat was probably right—I wouldn’t make it out of this rathole; but I’d do some damage on the way out. “Have another drink,” I say. “This is going to hurt.”

Click. Click. Nothing. poo poo. Billygoat’s eyes go wide at the sound of the gunhammer. The cheap gun’s betrayal cracks louder than the Fourth of July. Run down the checklist for survival fighting. Go for the orbs. The big lug’s nuts are too far away for anything but playing footsies. Oh, but those bloodshot eyes are right there.

I slam the shot glass into his right orbit like breaking into a creme broulee. ohhh, don't gently caress up this insanely good and horrible image with a misspelling, it's brulee, i don't mind missing the fancy shmancy accents but at least get the goddam letters in the right place There’s a quick crunch then the smooth squish as the glass presses into his socket and his eyeball fills the glass with a sick suction sound like a novelty stress ball. 103rd Street Monocle. awkward lol

Billygoat roars and the table flips, sending me sprawling. In an instant, he’s on top of me and I feel my ribs cracking under his knee. I cock him in the temple with the butt of the gun before he tears it from my hand and it flips away into the darkness.

But it stuns him just enough for me to flip him sideways and for a moment we’re side-by-side on the ragged linoleum, two busted up skulls staring skyward and seeing black mold and asbestos where heaven ought to be. You're loving up a lot in this story tbh, but you won because when you get it right you get it really right - this is a fantastic moment

The reverie ends as he heaves his big brass-knuckled hand over his body and my ribs crackle like paper under the blow. The supernova’s right around the corner as things start to get dim and bright all at the same time.

I focus on the quick short stabs as I breathe shallow and it’s enough to clear my head and I struggle to my feet. Billygoat starts getting to his feet and I just open-palm punch him right in the shot glass. He drops back to the floor. I topple down on top of him and I just push and twist that glass until I feel the grit of glass grinding on bone. awwwww poo poo

He finally goes slack. Even this tough old goat has a breaking point. Still breathing, at least. he's got a fuckin shot glass in his motherfuckin eyyyyye The arduous trek back to the car takes longer than I ever thought possible. i hate this sentence a lot Hayes and his SUV long gone.

The street is quiet, for once. It’s like they whoooo can sense the change coming. A little memory card filled with dirty pictures and protected with way too much of my blood is going to change lives, mine too. eh Consider me retired. from whatttttt

Ok, this was probably lucky to win over Beef's, and if i'd realised he was running a brutally subtle and awesome pun involving farming equipment (seriously read it again he totes is) it probably would have come second. Still, you have enough sweet rear end lines and a memorably squicky central image to squeak by - but do better next time if you want to keep winning.


One Last Job

"I ain't gonna die or nothing." good opener

She lit a cigarette, her sleeves rolled up past the elbow. She was a scrawny sort with hollow eyes, but when she smiled you knew it was real. Knew she spoke the truth, and only the truth. In that moment, she was immortal. i like your clipped styles here, they're very evocative, but you could probably do with one more pronoun here for clarity.

"You really think we can pull this off," I asked.

"We have to," she said. She smiled. "For the kid."

Four men had exited the train. Dangerous men. Between them was a suitcase. Our future. Our salvation. The conductor checked his watch and nodded. "All aboard?" We weren't. Not yet, though we held our tickets crumpled in our hands. i'm unclear on where they are at this moment, and could also use a little more placement/scene setting - is the conductor talking to them and asking if they are all aboard, when they actually are aboard? b/c that seems tautologous.

She kept her revolver in her lap, wrapped in velvet cloth. She checked the chamber with utmost discretion.

"Six shots," she said, "Minus four." She laughed. "Think you can handle two?"

"I have to."

"drat right." yeah, despite a few clarity quibbles i'm sold at this point.

I stepped onto the platform with a taste for blood. It's peculiar how familiar that taste can become. I approached them slowly, those lonesome demons. I knew them at once, though we'd one just met. i knew what you meant, though i'd one read words The Little Man, the Mustache, the Cyclops, and the Scar. Men who’d sold their souls for cash. your instinct on what to reveal and what to hide tends to lean too far towards ambiguity. Sometimes it's okay just to come out and say stuff, then get on with your story. Well, I suppose I should judge.

"Excuse me," I said. They turned as one. Gaunt-faced and grim, except for the one. The Little Man, curious, had a smile something dreadful. 'somethign dreadful' means 'a lot' in britspeak He'd removed his hat and was fixing his hair.

"Can I help you, friend?" who's talkin

I raised my shield, the King James Bible. "Have you heard the good news?"

There was a whistle, and the train began to lurch forward. The Little Man blinked.

"This a joke?"

"It's a robbery," I said. I punched him in the face. you need to frame him getting close for this to play

The Little Man's nose bled out 'bled out' has a specific meaning, i wouldn't use it here like a faucet. He crumpled to the floor, his fellows reaching for their backs; their guns, or knives, or whatever other evils men carry in secret. THE BLACK CURSED SECRETS OF THE CLOSETS THEY CALL THEIR HEARTS, LOOMING AT THE END OF THE DARK CORRIDOR IN THE MEMORY HAUNTED CASTLE HIGH ON THE HILL OVER THE RAVAGED TOWN OF PORTENTOUSILLFITINGIMAGEOPOLIS The Mustache seemed well was he or not u tell me the quickest draw. I never gave him time to show his hand. He towered above as I dropped to the floor. I swept my leg and he toppled to the ground.

I snatched at the briefcase and glanced to the bench by the clock. She was gone. Gone? this is effective The butt of a gun brought me back to my senses. flaccid cliche, i hate this line It belonged to the Scar, still clutching the handle of the case. so who has it? i'm confused

The Cyclops lashed out with a knife in his hands penis.I raised the Good Book instinctively, the blade penetrating clear through its spine. With a flick of the wrist I wrenched the blade from his grasp. I snatched it mid-flight, and drove it deep into the Scar’s snakeskin boots, now red and bubbling. action order, this reads like they were red and bubbling before he plunged The Scar howled. The case was released. I swung it aside just in time. I caught the Mustache, rising, in the chest. He toppled backward. Just wasn’t his day.

The train was moving.

The Cyclops threw a punch. I held up the case. I felt a tug, and looked down to see the Little Man snatching at my legs. I shooed bad casual verb him away with a kick to the stomach. He tripped up the Cyclops, who collapsed in a heap.

I sprinted for the train, and saw her hand extend from the door. “Get up, get up!” She pulled me to safety.

The rush of life caught up to me. I collapsed in the car, my breathing heavy.

“Where were you? Why didn’t you take the shot?”

“We’ve caused a commotion, don’t you think?”

“There was a commotion! I could’ve been killed!”

“But you weren’t.” She smiled. “And you won’t.” I understood. you mean she didn't want him to kill anyone? Maybe? not sure.

She helped me to my feet, and shouldered me through the car.

"Of course," I said, "This means we have to talk about the kid."

"The kid?" she asked.

"Don't name him after me." hmmmMMmm when i get to the end and i'm not sure how it fits together i like to check the title, and yeah, one last job does make sense in this context, and it just about works as a whole - but were i the presumptive dad to my scrawny gf's unborn child i'd have some qualms about her leaving to you know die sort of thing? seems unproductive of trust which is super important in a relship imo. this is not bad, though could improve its clarity and end more elegantly


Piss and Vinegar

Zach was eighteen with two weeks’ pay burning a hole in his pocket. He left the diner full of cheap beer and funny ideas. He’d struck out tonight, but so what? There was always another day. He stepped out into the warm summer air feeling elated, high, giddy with anticipation. He wasn’t sure where he was headed and right now he didn’t care.

That might explain why he didn’t see the two following him until they were almost on him.

One of them yelled something that caught his ear. He turned around and met a baseball bat with his stomach.

Zach doubled over, fell back into an alleyway, somehow managed to stay on his feet. Everything went black and fireworks burst in his eye sockets. He couldn’t breathe.

“You think you can talk to her?” a voice asked, almost familiar. “Do whatever you want?” Zach didn’t have time to think.

He backed up blindly until his back hit something cold and solid with a metallic thud—the side of a dumpster. His vision was coming back, now. He caught a glimpse of his attackers as they advanced. The one holding the bat was thin, scrawny, maybe younger than Zach. The other was big and muscled—was he on the football team? his mind was racing—wearing a set of knuckle dusters that were rapidly approaching his face. right up to this moment you had me with well deployed words and a nicely sketched scent, and this isn't a major misstep but i do think you could have described the punch better, in a way that conveyed the character of either/both Zach and his assailant

Zach rolled along the side of the dumpster just in time. Metal struck metal with an echoing clang.

He tried to cry for help, but he found only a thick tight knot of pain in his lungs where air should have been.

The heavy one stepped back, cursing and shaking his hand. The other swung his bat at Zach, and he dodged back behind the corner of the bin. He cough-gagged from the effort. That was progress, of a sort, at least.

The bat was coming at him again. Zach grunted, put his head and shoulder down, and barreled into his attacker. They both smacked into the dumpster with a thud. The kid was hit awkwardly, taken by surprise more than anything. But they scrapped together, pulling and scratching, and the bat was useless at this range.

Here, face to face, Zach got a good look at his attacker’s pockmarked face. Jay Palmoni. Zach never saw him out of the orbit of Dodger Peele, the linebacker—which explained who his second attacker was. Now he remembered these. An ugly pair. He had tried to avoid them at school, but he must have missed them at the diner tonight.

Jay grunted in frustration and tried to knee him. Zach blocked with his own leg, mostly, and managed to wrestle the bat from his hand. It clattered out on the pavement.

Zach tried to work one arm loose while still keeping all his weight to bear, pinning Jay to the bin. He managed to get his arm free and got in one good hit into the side of his head. As he pulled back to swing again, a hand clutched his wrist from the side, and another arm grabbed his chest.

“Get off him,” Dodger hissed in his ear, his breath stinking of sour beer and garlic. Zach’s right arm was pulled back—back—too far—and something in his shoulder popped.

Now, finally, he found his voice, the way lit by raw red pain, an inchoate howl.

At this, the door burst open from the side of one of the buildings. “All right, punks,” someone said from the doorway. “Go get yourselves lost.” Zach recognized the voice of Mr. Fanwood, owner of the druggist here on Main Street. Then came the unmistakable sound of a shotgun being pumped.

“Right, old man,” the scrawny one said. The hands holding Zach let him go and he collapsed against the dumpster. Footsteps retreated down the alley, then a voice called out: “Remember what we said, boy. We’re keeping our eyes on you.” They beat a hasty retreat.

Zach sunk against the side of the dumpster. His breath came in shuddering, ragged bursts. “Thanks, mister,” he managed, and looked up.

But the eyes he saw were not friendly. “Get up,” Fanwood said. He stepped out of the doorway into the yellow half-light of the alley. “Get on out of here. Don’t want no friend of the family bleeding here outside my store.” He cradled the gun in his arms.

Zach slowly blinked, looked out into the deserted street, then met Fanwood’s gaze again. It didn’t change. “Sir,” he said with a wobbling voice, and with slow precision, he gingerly climbed to his feet. “Right away, sir.” He wiped the blood from his mouth, looked up at the shopkeeper, and slowly, deliberately wiped it on his jeans. They had been new, once. Before tonight. there's a lot of good telling details in here and this is one, which elevates a fairly rote set of events quite a bit - this calls back to his confidence at the start.

“Go on, now. Get.” Zach stumbled to the mouth of the alleyway, followed by Fanwood’s voice. “Don’t make me call the cops,” he said with a sneer in his voice.

Fanwood went back inside and watched from the storefront until the boy had disappeared down the road. “Kids,” he grumbled. He set the shotgun back in place behind the counter and sat down on his stool. the change in perspective is weird, here, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and say it's deliberate, but it definitely clunks.

“Everything all right out there, sir?” his assistant asked, and pursed her lips. Fanwood always thought her thick glasses made her look like a squirrel.

“No,” he said, opening the newspaper. “No, it is not. But we’re gonna keep on living anyway.” huh, that's actually really tight and good. I think this was probably unlucky to not get an HM - good work.

Jun 24, 2012

Strum in a harmonizing quartet
I want to cause a revolution

What can I do? My savage nature is beyond wild
Thanks for the crits BeefSupreme.

Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Is a Mushroom a Thallic Symbol? 1036 words

Marvin the Mushroom King surveyed his kingdom and said, “Whoops.” His remaining advisor, Ulysses, nodded. “I mean, this is really upsetting.”

“Mmhmm,” said Ulysses.

“Who could’ve predicted this?”

“Roger did.”

“Oh yeah,” said King Marvin. “Where is Roger now?” Ulysses pointed down to where Roger was being chewed on by one of the delegates from the Pig Empire. “Right. Poor Roger. So, in retrospect a bad alliance. Lesson learned and all that.”

“So, what now your majesty?”

Marvin inclined his cap in thought. “Might be best to make ourselves scarce. They don’t seem to be getting full.”

“Right,” said Ulysses. “To the Fungi Ferrari?”

“Indeed,” said Marvin. The two of them slid towards the vehicle and rolled in. Ulysses rolled into the driver’s side and leaned on the controls, and the pod rolled away at the speed of spores.


“Right,” said Marvin, King-in-Exile of the Mushroom kingdom, “we need some kind of plan.”

“To get your kingdom back,” said Ulysses, nodding and swaying slightly in the breeze.

“Well, all right, that’s one option,” said Marvin. “But I was thinking of a plan that wouldn’t involve us probably dying.”

“Um, so what would be the end goal of this plan?”

“I dunno,” said Marvin. “How about we just make a new kingdom? The two of us. You can be the top advisor.”

“Kind of feels like that’s already my job.”

“That’s the spirit,” said Marvin. “And this stump here is my new palace.”

“Right,” said Ulysses. “I’ll just… I’ll just set up the royal throne over here then. Next to some leaves.”

“Sure,” said Marvin. “That looks pretty regal.”


It was day two of the reign of King Marvin over his new kingdom, The Mushroom kingdom pigless edition. It was going quite well, in that during this reign, Marvin had not made any ill advised alliances with mushroom eating pigs. Marvin was doing some super good ruling over the kingdom, which at that moment was him and Ulysses, which made ruling a little less complicated, which was nice, when Ulysses slid into his throne room. Well, not so much a room as a cleared out patch of ground next to some leaves.

“Excuse me, your highness,” said Ulysses. “Queen Ethel is on the Fungi Fone.”

“Ohhhhhhhh,” said Marvin.

“You forgot about her?”

“Yeaaaaah,” said Marvin. “Wow, this is awkward. With me kind of not being at my old kingdom and stuff. Almost seems like I ran away, abandoned my responsibilities and all that.”

“Almost,” said Ulysses.

“Did she sound mad?”

“Why don’t I just let you talk to her?” suggested Ulysses.

“I mean, do I have to?”

“She was quite insistent.”

Marvin took the Fone in his gills. “Hey, honey,” he said.

“Oh, Marvin,” said Ethel. “I’m so glad you’re all right. I didn’t think you would’ve survived the battle.”

“Ah yes,” said Marvin. “The battle. That.”

“Where are you?” asked Ethel.

Marvin looked around. “You know what, hadn’t really tried to figure that out. There’s a really neat stump here that I’ve turned into my new palace.”

There was an uncomfortable silence, and Ulysses hung his cap in his stem.

“Your new palace,” said Ethel. It was somewhere between a question and an accusation.

“It’s very nice,” said Marvin. “Open air, much nicer breeze than that old palace.”

“What part of the kingdom is this ‘new palace’ of yours in?” asked Ethel.

“You know,” said Marvin, “I think technically it’s not in the old kingdom. But we’ve formed a new kingdom, with me as the king, and Ulysses here, you know Ulysses, as the second in charge, and it has one hundred percent fewer pigs than the old kingdom.”

Ethel treated Marvin to an icy silence.

“I mean, if you came and joined us, you’d be promoted straight up to equal first,” said Marvin.

“Marvin J Fungus, you come back here right now and you take your kingdom back from these pigs,” she said.

“All right, fine,” said Marvin. “I guess.”

“Good.” And she hung up very loudly.

“To the Fungi Ferrari?” asked Ulysses.

Marvin nodded, and sighed. “I suppose we better.”


And so they got back in the Fungi Ferrari and rolled back towards Marvin’s rightful kingdom. As they got closer to the palace, they saw a pig chewing on a mushroom. “Hmm,” said Marvin. “Now that I think of it, that kind of ticks me off a bit, having my subjects eaten.”

“Mmm,” said Ulysses.

“Can you try to ram that pig or something?”

“Well, I guess,” said Ulysses. He slammed his cap into the controls of the pod, and the pod changed directions, hurtling towards the pig and burying itself in the pig’s left nostril.

“This is so gross,” said Marvin.

“Actually,” said Ulysses, “I can work with this.” He battered at the controls with his cap and his stem, and the pod sprayed something into the pig’s nostril. The pig snorted, sneezed out the car, squealed loudly and rushed in the opposite direction.

“What was that?” asked Marvin.

“Just a little biological warfare,” said Ulysses.

“That seems a little unsporting,” said Marvin. “And possibly a war crime.”

“Yeah, well they ate us, so I’d call that about even.”

“I guess,” said Marvin. “So we just go and spray all the pigs with that?”

“No need, your highness,” said Ulysses. “It’s contagious.”

“Ah,” said Marvin. “A bit anticlimactic, as battles go.”

“Yes, well,” said Ulysses, “let’s go rescue the queen, shall we?”

“Good idea,” said Marvin. “I hope she hasn’t been eaten.”

Fortunately, she had not been eaten, and she was very impressed when Ulysses and Marvin told her that the pigs had fled once they’d witnessed their might in battle, and definitely hadn’t resorted to underhanded tactics at all. By that evening, the kingdom was completely free of pigs, except for a couple of rotting corpses, which was all right because mushrooms can totally use those nutrients, although they tried not to think about whether it was weird that they were basically eating something that had eaten a bunch of mushrooms which, well was that kind of cannibalism by proxy, when you think about it?

So they didn’t think too much about it.

Mar 14, 2012

Who Suffers Their Penance
2,876 Words

She pulled the rental car into the pub’s gravel forecourt. The old petrol pumps were outside, and the large sign advertising the price showed they were still in use. She set the fuel canisters down next to the car and walked into the bar she’d spent so many hours in after Sunday mass.

The smell of smoke from the gorse burning had invaded the room, but it wouldn’t put anyone out. It was illegal to clear the land during summer, but the locals all ignored the law if it made for better farming. The young barman was talking to a teenage girl ripping up a beermat. He looked up as Aoife took a seat at the counter. She called out to him. “A coffee,” she said. “Please.” It was quickly made and set down in front of her.

“You’re American?” he asked. She’d been in the US for almost three decades but hadn’t thought about her accent until now.

She nodded as she spun the coffee cup around in it’s saucer.

“Going to visit the graveyard?”

“Hopefully, soon,” she said. “Could you fill the petrol cans?” She pointed out the window towards the pumps and smiled, despite the bar bringing back all her memories of this place. The barman grabbed some gloves and made his way outside.

She pulled out the letter as she sipped at her coffee. It had been signed by a lawyer in the US: notarised as an official declaration. He’d even researched enough to tell her the Irish police would accept the American origin. It spelled it all out, how she’d hit her brother, killed him, then her and godparents, her adoptive family buried him in a shallow grave. It had taken her years to find the strength to return here, to confront what had happened despite everything this place did to her. At first she made excuses but they were cheap and never held, then it was the memories of her godparents house that kept her frozen at night.

Her uncle made her hit her brother if he wronged her, but never him her. He always made her punch her brother until she meant it but she couldn’t be angry at her own sibling. She tried to hold back the years she had on him, but that’s why her uncle thought it fair, him standing before her aunt and shouting at her to make it count. The punishment was common with the Christian Brothers: the people who taught her uncle how to discipline children. Children were small people, full of sin and in need of strictness to ready them for a world they didn’t deserve.

As she read the confession she was to hand into the Gardaí she noticed an elderly man glancing at her every few seconds. She looked up from the letter and he smiled at her. She smiled back fully knowing a question was on the way.

“What would a tourist be doing with cans of petrol?” he asked.

“I’ve rented a house for a few months,” she said. She knew her voice held no excitement over a holiday. “I’ll need to run a generator until I get the electricity switched on.”

“Oh, what house?”

“I don’t think it has a name,” she said. “I just have directions to it.”

“You’d think they’d sort out the electricity before people arrived, don’t you? Those landlords are trying to scam everyone.”

“I’ve rented it from a friend,” she said. “She doesn’t live there, and it’s been empty for a while.”

“The only house lying empty is the O’Shea place, up the hill past the church? We all keep an eye on that one, the community do. The young ones go up there and get up to all sorts, what with what went on there.”

It was an inheritance she didn’t want, and a monument to memories she couldn’t forget. She’d see that it was erased, burned to the ground. She wouldn't sell it and let it be filled with others’ happy thoughts. “I don’t think that’s the place,” she said.

“It’s a tragedy what happened. That young lad who went missing.”

“I wouldn’t want to intrude on their grief.” She turned back to her coffee, but the man persisted.

“It happened a long time ago,” he said. “There’s no-one left from the family, except the girl, she’d be about as old as you now. She went to America as soon as she could and I wouldn’t blame her for it. She wasn’t cut out for the farm life, never mind what happened.”

“The US is a big country,” she said. “No-one need know your name if you don’t want them to.”

“Of course the whole town searched for him. Fr. Mulryan had everyone looking within hours. We must have walked every inch of the countryside here, but none of us could ever find him.” .

“That’s horrible,” she said. “I suppose there was always bad people.” She’d confessed to Fr. Mulryan within days, hoping a man of God could care more than her uncle. He gave her three decades of the rosary for a week, to ask Mother Mary for forgiveness

“Not in Ballyhire,” the man said. “Fr. Mulryan said he’d caught him playing by the river often enough. He was warned, but it’s only natural for a child to have fun with the water. The river was wild when he went missing.”

As she lifted the coffee from the saucer she could see her hands shake, and knew the man could hear the cup clatter against the saucer. His smile grabbed at her as she tried to focus on the cup. She wanted to close her eyes, instead she rested her arm against the bar to try and steady her hand.

“Things have changed these days,” he said. “Back then children ran free and accidents happened.”

Aoife put her coffee cup down as calmly as she could manage and put a twenty on the bar. “Thanks for the welcome,” she said. “I’d better get going.”

“Call back if you get lost,” he said. “We look after people here. I’m sure someone can show you your way.”

She forced a smile at him as she walked out to her car.


Aoife paused and looked back at the house, then up to the patch of trees where she knew he lay. The familiar greenery reminded her of her games, pretending the old fairy fort would steal her away if she stepped inside its rings. Maybe she even believed it at one point. She walked on.

The litter of trees around her were old then and hadn’t changed much since. She began to dig, her shovel searching the earth for the slab of roof tile that marked his grave. As she dug she thought about her life here, and the reality of the place. She couldn’t write what bothered her in her stories at school. She wouldn’t be able to pin down the difference in how adults acted in her child’s words. How they said one thing to friends and another behind closed doors. It was all smiles and encouragement to people you mocked and pitied at home, while they were doing the same for you. She remembered becoming like that, after it happened. Laughing with friends in school, and pitying them in private. She’d fought it, but she knew they saw her differently: the sad girl who couldn’t forget all that had happened to her, not even for a few hours when she was away from it all.

After hours of digging she heard a car’s engine, louder than from the road. She cursed and rested the shovel on the pile of sods she’d dug. She knew it would take time to find his body, but didn’t expect it to take this long. The memory of him in his grave was vivid, and she was sure this was the place but a long time had passed since then. She’d search again when she saw to the visitor.

She walked back up to her old home. Parked next to her rental was a hatchback, a young woman standing propped against its open door.

“Aoife?” the woman asked.

“Who are you?”

“Fr. Mulryan said to give him a visit if you wanted a break.”

“A visit about what?” Aoife asked.

“He just said there was no need to clean up.” The woman shrugged and got back in the car.


Driving to the old clergy house Aoife remembered how even the threat of Fr. Mulryan’s presence could strike her entire school silent. Dressed in black with the starched collar he was the only person in Ballyhire well maintained at all times. His hair was always clipped, his shoes shone and you couldn’t escape the smell of soap if he stood within ten feet of you. Back then she would have been terrified of him catching sight of her in muddy jeans, let alone the stink of petrol that had clung to her from the cans in the car. Now she didn’t care what he thought, he couldn’t punish her any more and she didn’t fear empty threats of damnation.

She knocked on the door jamb of the house and heard him shout to come in. His voice cracked when he called out but it still had the surety that convinced children of their place in heaven if they obeyed their parents, said their prayers, and confessed their sins.

“Aoife,” he said. “Welcome home.” He was resting in a chair and looked like he’d just woken from a rest. He was thin, his stubble irregular and he wore a checkered dressing gown over a thick sweater. She hadn’t expected him to be wearing the collar, but she had pictured more dignity than this.

“How did you know I was back?” she asked.

“People tell me things,” he said. “And who else would be at that house but young Aoife back from her adventures in America.”

“You know well I wasn’t seeking fame and fortune.”

“How have you been?! he asked. He nodded and smiled as he spoke, like he an old friend catching up after a holiday.

“You ask how I’ve been? After everything. After what I told you and what I’ve been through!”

“After all you’ve been through?” he said. “You started a new life in the US. You left us here, in the small town that so obviously didn’t suit.”

“I ran,” she shouted. “I ran from a bad home, but it was still my home. I ran from what I’d done!”

“I had hoped you would have forgiven yourself by now.”

“Forgive myself! How could I forgive myself?” she said. “How could you forgive yourself?”

“I tried to set you at ease, my child. You confessed, and you were repentant. You were in tears if I recall correctly. Your remorse was true and I offered you God’s mercy and love.”

“What can I do with mercy?” she said. Aoife paced back and forth and her arms rose with the tension straining her. “It’s taken me decades to do the right thing,” she said. “It’s played on me every day of my life. You could’ve told me to confess. To admit what I did. To acknowledge him and find him a place to rest!”

“And that’s what you intend to do now,” he said. “You think that will change things? That you’ll feel better after digging up the past?”

Aoife stopped her pacing and turned to face the priest. “I’m doing what a child was too afraid to do. I’m seeing that he has a proper grave, and I’m going to the police.”

“You can stop now,” he said. “We took his body away from that spot decades ago. A few days after your godparents told me what happened.”

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know. Somewhere,” he said. “I had a few men put him in a field. You were so troubled after he disappeared no one knew what’d you do or say. All your teachers were concerned for you, and didn’t know how to help you. The stories you wrote were terrifying, if a little strange. All about the flames of hell and fury. I still have them. You were very creative.”

Aoife’s fist clenched around the keys in her hand. She thought of the petrol in the car, and her plans to raze her godparents home, but it wasn’t a home that needed destroying. You couldn’t punish a building. She turned her back on the priest and walked out the front door of the clergy house.

“Aoife!” he called.

She opened the boot of the car without a second thought. The canisters were heavy when she’d picked them up at the pub but now she barely noticed them. She ripped at the lid of one but it wouldn’t come. She propped it against the car and took a deep breath before wrapping her fingers around the cap, twisting it off. As she walked back into the house she kept turned away from the priest.

She doused the carpet with petrol and made her way over to the window throwing the fuel high up onto the velvet curtains. The petrol splashed onto her clothing as she flung streams of the liquid over the old, but unworn furniture. She unscrewed the lid of the second can and caught the old priest’s gaze. He hadn’t moved. As she walked to the corner to soak the old television his eyes followed her path.

“You look just how I remember, Aoife.”

She turned to face him. Resting the petrol can against her hip her body began to shake. Her eyes were burning as she walked over to his chair and lifted the can, letting the petrol gush out and over the frail, old man.


“Bless me father. It’s been thirty two years since I last confessed this sin.” The confessional box was just as she remembered: the same cloying wood stained oak, the smell of polish that burned at your nose, and a pious man waiting to forgive you.

“You’ve confessed this before, my child?” He was younger than her: his voice deep but without the coarseness of age. Maybe he was different? Maybe he wouldn’t stand for the abuses of the past, or the liberties taken?

“I told Fr. Mulryan. He offered me absolution.”

“This has been bothering you for a long time,” the priest said.

“I murdered my brother when I was 12, and we buried him in a field. I killed him because I was angry at my godparents but couldn’t fight them.”

He sighed and she heard a rustle from his clothes. “This happened here, in Ballyhire?”

“I couldn’t find his body,” she said. The petrol she’d spread half an hour before was still straining her eyes, but she knew it wasn’t the cause of her tears. “I dug. For hours. I kept digging, and digging but I couldn’t find him. I can’t find him.” A dim light bled through the partition between her and the priest, and she heard the sticky press of plastic buttons.

“You were young. It’s obvious you cared deeply for your brother. But you can’t find forgiveness here, my child. Only you can forgive the young girl who made a mistake. Who was pushed too far.”

“I’ve punished the people around me,” she said. “The people who tried to care for me. I pushed them away.” She balled up her top in her fist. It was still damp and gritty from the fuel. “I tried to kill him. I poured petrol all over the house, poured it over him.”

“The police are there now,” the young priest said.

“He wasn’t even scared,” she said. “He smiled, like we were catching up.” She closed her eyes and more tears rolled down her face. “He said I looked the same.”

“He’s spoken with me about what he did,” the priest said. “He’s sought forgiveness for his mistakes.”

The dim light went out.

“You texted the police?” she asked.

“They’re almost here.”

“He knew. They all knew, the whole town knew, and they didn’t care, and they covered it up,” she said. Seconds passed. “I’ve carried this for my whole life. And I should suffer, I have. But so should they.”

She thought of his body, buried somewhere high in the hills, or deep in some farmer’s land, his grave unmarked and covered in growth. She wrapped her arms around herself but knew the shaking wasn’t from coldness. “Do you know where Joeseph is?” she asked “Where his body is?”

The priest began to recite an Our Father as Aoife heard the crack of footsteps on the tiled church floor. They stopped outside the confessional box with the priest saying a Hail Mary. As he finished the prayer there was a knock, a creak of hinges then a light brighter than his phone came through the grating of the partition.

“He’s ok.” The voice was calm.

“He’s a hardy old sod.” She could hear the lightness in the priest's tone.

“Fr. Mulryan wants to look the other way,” the Garda said. “But it’s your home too and it’ll take a few days until the petrol is cleared out.”

“Leave her be,” the priest said. “There’s no point digging up the past.”

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.
:siren: Thunderdome Recaps! :siren:

Thunderfiction triple feature!
A Sorceress will kill a creature.
See coolkids thrilling
Twist and Kaishai--
BeefSupreme guest stars;
Slurps make SH sigh.
Whoa oh oh oh, oh-oh-oh,
On the weekly Thunderfiction recap show.

Thunderdome tells us lies, tells us sweet little lies in Week 238: Lie to Me. Does the recap crew buy them? Well, in some cases we're too confused to have any idea of what you're saying, but I'm not sure that counts. After examining an awful lot of corpses, we skip over to elementary school and try, by means of a dramatic reading, to work out what the heck happens in Chili's "On A Playground."

“Stop giving a gently caress when you don’t need to.”

BeefSupreme joins us in examining the slow-motion footage of Week 239: Stop trying to crit me and crit me! and Week 240: These Bits Don't Ad Up. Contrivance is a major feature of the low mentions, so we talk about how much disbelief a reader should be expected to suspend before diving into combat and kinks and coolkids, oh my. Eventually we resurface to read Julias's "Black and Blues," a love letter to percussion if ever there was one.

Sharks were cool, bugs were cool, robots were cool, and the pyramids floating behind him were evidence of him making Walk like an egyptian a platinum record.

Episodes past can be found here!

Feb 25, 2014
1582 words

Something in the Blood

flerp fucked around with this message at 21:14 on Oct 11, 2017

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

flerp posted:

cut of your jib vs gen joe

your story will be about esports and i mean like for real esports, starcraft, league of legends, fighting games, as long as there is a competitive scene for the game. make your characters interesting. dont make your humor only lol nerds because that isnt funny.

prompt: 'everyone is awful except me'

1250 words, due march 19 11:59pm pst

The Bitter Pill of Defeat
1122 Words

There’s skill; there’s strategy. Either will only take you so far. What you really need is some vision. Foresight. The will to revolutionize, no matter the cost. Cost is subjective, anyway.

I remember all the revolutions. How they laughed when I brought a mouse to the LAN party to play DOOM on our 486s. Until the spinning maniac ran up double the kills. Everyone moused after that. Quake jump-kills. Then forcing Half-Life to run at 320x480 because the hit-boxes acted funny and it was real easy to get a headshot with the crossbow. Advantage is the name of the game.

That’s all taken for granted, now. People pay attention to Moore’s Law. Can’t count on any tricks or exploits. It’s expected that your competition has top-of-the-line hardware, knows every corner of the map and nuances of engine, but there’s a variable that sits in the chair behind the keyboard and mouse. There’s where a winner gets the edge. Wetware sounds so cyberpunk, but believe in the Singularity or not, there are ways to upgrade. Milliseconds matter. Time goes soft. You forget the when and become the now.

When I was in my prime, cold medicine still had ephedrine. You might make a couple bucks at local tournaments, or win some new gear; but nothing like the big money stakes today. A couple trigger-finger surgeries later, and I asked the surgeon why it isn’t called mouse-finger now because who shoots a gun so much they mess up the tendons in their hand? But he just said, “You’d be surprised.”

That’s when you make the decision to become a team player. Team player isn’t quite right when you’re running the show. Authoritarian, dictator, coach, pharmacologist, it’s all the same. Adderall is preferred nowadays. I get why, but I never had a problem with focus. I suppose seeing 25 million viewers on a competition Twitch livestream would wrack your nerves.

“Jeff,” she said. And for a minute, I didn’t even recognize it. Ninety-nine percent of the time I’m a callsign. She doesn’t like where this is going, thinks I need help. “Help with what?” I said in return, but I knew what she meant. She was just wrong.

“What are you living for?” I asked. I only said something that esoteric to get her to drop it, but it was a legit question. People think they want to be good and just and honest, but deep down, they just want to succeed. Most people aren’t good enough at anything to actually make it. So there’s a system of office jobs to pick up the slack because we all want to feel fulfilled, even if it’s meaningless.

But you can fight your way up the ladder match of fame (or infamy) and make a go of it. Amounting to a footnote in the encyclopedia of gaming is better than nothing. Getting a Wiki article that no one AFDs is a big deal. Deb doesn’t have that.

In the scheme of things, she has way more sway over other people than I ever did. An assistant DA, and she ran for county judge. She lost the election, and I know it was on perception. So why did she lose? Why didn’t she do whatever it takes to win?

It’s because she wanted to be a humanitarian. Is a humanitarian. Couldn’t do the thing where you get tough on crime and retribution instead of rehabilitation. People want to see winners. Compassion is a liability. The easiest way to win is to trample the competition before they ever had a chance. The nostalgia is a lie, there was never a more civilized time. People have always been cutthroat.

You can’t force physical evolution. At least not in one generation. I can barely pet the cat without feeling twinges up my forearm. My days as a mouse jockey are over. I came to terms with that a while ago. There’s a better game to play, now. If you can’t manage the game, manage the players. Manage the audience. Manage the advertisers.

She wanted me to give it up. It’s doing more harm than good. Nevermind the money, though I’ve pulled in at least one million dollar purse the last three years running. Traveled the world with teams that win and and made ten times that for sponsors. The details don’t matter to the bleeding edge of history.

So you do it. Find the cocktail that gives your guys the edge. Whatever adds another notch to my belt, fattening up on the spoils. Béla Károlyi and Bill Belichick will be remembered as winners. Call them scumbags if you want. Love to hate them. Put asterisks after their names. That’s part of the entertainment.

Deb didn’t reply when I asked what she was living for. She just sniffed and stared at me.

I spent the holidays in Sweden. We bagged a couple trophies and posed with a giant novelty check. Never gets old.

Reading opponents is part of the job, but you learn to trust that you won’t get shot in the back of the head by your teammates. It’s the one thing you have to count on. Deb sat on the couch in silence. Two sheriff’s deputies sat in the kitchen nursing Starbucks’.

Two dozen prescription bottles in neat rows on the coffee table. Lined up with calculation, not thrown in frustration or anger. Carefully placed with all the labels facing the same way. Shopped prescriptions for Valium and Adderall, a few research drugs from overseas. Vicodin that, at least, I legitimately needed. A matching set of leftover pills in vacuum-sealed bags lined my jacket.

“Hello, Deb.” That came out calm, but I could barely hear it over the river of blood that pulsed in my ears. Don’t let them see panic. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

The game changed as the cuffs get slapped on. The initial adrenaline rush subsided and the disconnect kicked in. Not sure how to play this one; it’s face-to-face. And I think Deb probably tanked her own career to try and get me. They’ll label us ‘The DA who shacked up with a drug dealer.’ She just wanted to help, she says. Make a difference in the world, or at least help one person. If I wore shoulder pads and a helmet to compete, things would be different. Maybe not to her; but to the meatheads in uniform, certainly.

Well, Deb, let the next round begin. Give me the asterisk next to my name. Fake guns, simulated battlefield. The courtroom is just another one. Words instead of pixels. Identify your opponent’s weakness, anticipate their strategy. You got me on this one, but it’s far from over. And maybe you’ll get a win, but I’ll be remembered.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


Hawklad posted:

Who wants to co-judge the REDEMPTION?

wew hawklad

also thanks for the lines sebmojo!

Apr 30, 2006

sparksbloom fucked around with this message at 03:35 on Nov 27, 2017

Jun 24, 2012

Strum in a harmonizing quartet
I want to cause a revolution

What can I do? My savage nature is beyond wild

Kaishai posted:

:siren: Thunderdome Recaps! :siren:

Once again, thank you so much for the crits and the advice. I sincerely appreciate it, from all of you.

By the way, loved your singing Kaishai. I actually burst out laughing on the bus, so good job.

Also If BeefSupreme is reading this, I'll gladly take any recommendations he has for awesome action movies and scenes.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.

flash rush lyrics: Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth

2230 Words

A god walks into a bar...

We didn’t know he was a god, of course. Not yet. But without making a sound he drew everyone’s attention to him, to his young face with ancient eyes. He slid up to the bar like a high tide slick with oil, carrying the smell of dead things. He slammed his fist on the polished wood. It looked forceful enough to break it, but made almost no sound.

“A round,” he rumbled. “On me.” He lifted his hand and where it had been was a stack of twenties, stained with a spatter of deep maroon drops. I poured the drinks and handed them off to Moggi. She delivered them to the stools and tables of the regulars and irregulars. I poured him a Scotch, the good stuff, as our stock goes. Ten-year. He nodded at the bottle and at me, so I made myself one too.

He lifted his glass. “To endings,” he said. “And to truth. To the dreams of locusts and mayflies. Drink up, and enjoy.” He took a drink. “Because none of you are walking out of here alive.” He waved his free hand in the direction of the doors while his fingers danced like a stenographer’s. The front door slammed shut.

“Now wait a minute here,” said Aaron. He ran the volunteer fire department here forever. Had some kind of day job with the police. He walked up to the stranger. “You can’t just walk in here and threaten a room full of innocent-”

He pointed his index finger at Aaron. It extended, growing three more knuckles and a nail more like the carpentry sort than the usual. His finger effortlessly pierced Aaron’s clothes and skin. “A lie,” he said. “Nobody here is innocent.” Aaron slid off the blooded finger, too dead to even keep bleeding.

“Who are you?” I said.

“Call me Va,” he said. “Va, of the Griga. In a time before history we ruled this world as gods. Now only I remain, saved by the very prison they made to hold me forever.”

“A prison with a flaw,” said Moggi, “That lets you escape for a short time one year in four.” She’d do that sort of thing, say something that I had no idea how she could possibly have known. We spent a lot of time alone the four months she’d been working, before hours and after, talking about being outsiders, about hating having to live out here in the sticks, and every few nights she’d drop in a quote from an unpublished Turkish poet or a little detail of Elizabethan court gossip that I knew had to be both completely true and utterly uncheckable.

Va turned to the waitress, looking at her for the first time. Dissecting her with his eyes, down to the marrow and soul. “Interesting,” he finally said. “I had thought even the legend was lost.”

“Lost, but found again,” she said. “Your outings have not exactly been quiet, have they?”

“Are you here to challenge me then?” said Va. “Fight over their lives?”

“Do I look like a fool?”

“Perhaps not,” said Va. “Yes. My existence is constant lonely torture, punctuated by these too-brief little games. It amuses me to kill the guilty, and to hear they confess their crimes. So we’ll now be playing a game, a game of truths. Lie, or refuse to speak and there will be consequences.” He gestured to Aaron’s corpse.

“Why should we, I mean, why play your little game,” said Janet. Former schoolteacher, present lush. “If you’re going to kill us all anyway?”

“Are you in such a hurry to die?” said Va. “Life is too short. Every second counts, no? You may earn some form of spiritual disposition in this time. Or the Griga may leap from their tombs and drag me off to a new hell, and then wouldn’t you seem foolish for rushing things? So are you in a hurry?” Va raked the air in front of her with his long finger.

Janet shook her head and stuttered.

“Then confess. No lies, nothing unsaid.”

Janet confessed. Mostly what everybody knew. The affairs with students just above this state’s shockingly low age of consent. A few names I hadn’t expected. Some not quite petty embezzlement, towards the end, when she knew her job wasn’t going to last long. Finally she finished, and closed her eyes, and prayed as best she remembered, waiting for Va to kill her. But he didn’t.

Instead, he moved to the next person. The confessions alternated between the banal - minor thefts and frauds, a shoplifted necklace, the quiet murder and coverup of a neighbor’s annoying pet - and the lurid - affairs negotiated over picket-fences, half-remembered drunken hookups with partners likely incapable of saying yes and meaning it, furtive gay assignations in alleyways or parked cars. Those last often featuring yours truly. This town only has three young-but-legal gay men in it, and it’s not like the closet cases were hooking up with each other.

“Surely there’s more here,” said Va. “The oathbreaking is of some interest, yes. But I can feel that there’s something a bit stronger here.”

“Ask them about the Witch House,” said Moggi. Everyone flinched, even me. Moggi’s fairly new in town. I wondered how she knew anything about that.

“The Witch House?” said Va. “An interesting request, from the room’s own witch. Thou shalt not suffer, as the book says, no?”

“That’s more accurately translated as ‘poisoner,’” I said, regretting it interestingly. ‘Skewered to death after sassing/mortalsplaining to an ancient god’ is a cause of death that few would have predicted for me, but one that anyone who knew me would just nod at and say ‘Sounds like Ray all right’ if they heard it. But Va didn’t kill me.

“Indeed,” he said. “So, little witch, would you drink what you’ve been serving?” Moggi froze in mid stride, and as the penny dropped a roomfull of angry glares settled on her. “Nasty stuff, a brew to burn holes in the gut. It might not have killed to many of you outright, but none of you would ever be well again.” He waved his hand at the angry crowd. “Don’t fear, drink away. I’ve turned it to salt. These kills are mine, little witch.”

“No matter,” Moggi said. “So long as they die. The Witch House.” This wasn’t a side of Moggi I’d known before. I mean, she always talked a bit witchy, but I always took it as more the hippie sort of witch, more herbal tea than hemlock.

Va turned to Eric, one of the men who had gone before with a list of petty infidelities and a hit-and-run on a parked car. “You didn’t mention it before.”

“You asked for sins,” said Eric. “What we did to that bastard wasn’t no sin. drat near the opposite. Never lost one night’s sleep on it, and don’t think anyone else here has neither.”

Va nodded. “Go on.”

“Dersham’s house was an ancient eyesore right in the middle of town. Sat on a corner double lot. Old Dersham wasn’t a social guy. Let his front lawn grow wild, did god knows what behind the fences out back. And the homeowner’s association couldn’t do a thing since his place had been there since before there was even a division. So we left him alone, mostly. People said he was a witch, called his place the Witch House. People stayed away.

“Except some kids haven’t the sense to stay away, seems. Little Billy Vesper disappeared for about a day and a half one summer, and when he came back he had a story about the old man in the Witch House snatching him up. Touching him. Interfering, that’s the word the police used. Only the police said they couldn’t do anything, that the story was too inconsistent to prove anything. So they were no use. We all believed Billy just like we’d have believed our own kids. So we got together and did something about it. Came out to the house at midnight with hoods and gas and torches and burned that damned eyesore to the ground, and made sure nobody game out neither.

Va turned to Moggi. “Your father, I presume?” She nodded. “How did you survive?”

“I wasn’t in the house. I was locked in the crawlspace beneath the toolshed. Punished for doing witchery, but that’s what kept me alive. I spelled the mice into holding still, then ate them raw. Taught myself how to pick the locks open with their spines.”

“So that’s the story? Or is there more?”

“There’s more,” said Moggi. “But the only one who knew about that was Aaron.”

“Pity he can’t tell us,” said Va. “But his soul is fled.”

“His soul, yes,” said Moggi. “But most folks hardly ever use those at all. All I need is his brain.” Va stared at her. “You think nobody’s learned anything new since your time? Take off his head, with a few bones of spine, and I’ll show you.”

Va picked up the fallen man and grabbed his head, bracing with the shoulders. Flesh ripped and bone snapped. He severed the spine and flensed the bone clean. Moggi turned to me. “I’ll need a bucket full of wine, Ray. A Red, nothing too fancy.” I found a few bottles and a suitable receptacle, and Moggi did some magic while Va looked on amused.

Aaron’s eyes snapped open. “What the-”

“You’re dead, Aaron,” said Moggi. “ But I need you to tell everybody about the Witch House.”

“Nobody needs to know about that,” said Aaron. “I said I’d carry that with me-”

“To your grave?” said Moggi. “You’re past that. Time for the truth. I could compel you, but-”

“No,” said Aaron. “I’ll tell. Sounds like you already know anyhow. After the fire went out, after the place was a skeleton of scorched wood, me and Eddie went in. To get the body, put something in the ground and be finished with the whole business. But we didn’t find a body. We found two. The old man, and a little girl, couldn’t have been more than ten. We decided to keep it from everyone as long as we could. Spend a week watching missing persons for miles around. Then Eddie dug up some records and found out that Dersham had kids, two young daughters, homeschooled and never seen out of the house. We decided to keep the secret ourselves. Wasn’t nobody in town who’d be better off knowing they’d helped kill an innocent girl. Holding that in’s probably why Eddie wound up the way he did, I figure.”

“Now that’s more like it,” said Va. “Some real guilt on all of you. Enough truth. Time for the killing. Do any of you want to volunteer to be first to die? I won’t start getting truly creative until I’ve really gotten going, so the volunteers may have a better time of it. Just remember that you’re all guilty, that you all deserve this.”

“Wait!” said Moggi. “They’re not all guilty. Ray was too young to be in the mob. He doesn’t bear their sins.”

“He has others, then. And even if he didn’t, I’d still-”

“What if I made you a deal? Spare him, and I’ll come with you. Keep you company for the next four years of your confinement.”

“Little witch, do you even know what you’re offering? My prison was built to torture a god. For a mortal, I can hardly imagine. You won’t die. You won’t even go insane. It was designed to be proof against those escapes.”

“I understand. I’ll do it, if you spare my friend.”

“No,” I said.

“What?” said Moggi.

“I won’t let you do this. Go along with killing dozens of people and save me. You’re better that that.” Which wasn’t exactly true. I mean, she had just tried to poison everyone. But I was sure the Moggi I knew would have regretted it, maybe not instantly but eventually and bitterly.

“They killed my sister,” she said. “They deserve death and worse.”

“Then I do too,” I said. “Billy was never at the Dersham house. He was with me the whole time. Fooling around, figuring things out. Then he panicked when his parents asked where he was, and made up the lie to keep me out of it. He swore me to secrecy, and I let everything happen without saying a word. So I deserve everything anyone else here does.”

Moggi stared at me, holding back tears. I wasn’t exactly a statue myself. I’d never said that before to anyone, barely even admitted it to myself.

“I accept your offer, if it still stands,” said Va. “Come with me, and the choice is yours. Spare them all, or watch them each die painfully, for their sins. Which will it be?”

* * *

Nobody talks about that night, or about the truth about the Witch House. But some late nights, when the only people left in the bar are the ones who were there, I pull out old Aaron’s head - it hasn’t rotted one bit in all this time - and dip the spine in a bucket of decent red wine, and we all listen to his old war stories of firefighting or police paperwork, while we think about guilt, and grace, and the other things we’ll never talk about.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

Flash Rule:
The boy lies in the grass, unmoving
Staring at the sky
His mother starts to call him
As a hawk goes soaring by
The boy pulls down his baseball cap
And covers up his eyes

2516 words

The Hanged Men

On the road to Gotha, we came across a lone oak bearing a bundle of hanged soldiers.

The thick fog of black powder, carpeting the land for two decades now, had obscured the oak during our approach. But the path to the city wound around the scarred tree, which was otherwise the sole point of orientation in the charred fields of the Thuringian basin. Whoever had executed these men had meant it as a warning.

We walked towards it.

Sebastian asked me: “Dieter, how many corpses do you count?”

“I don’t know. Forty or so.”

“Seems like it. What a pity.”

“Not really.”

“I suppose not.”

Under the tree, three Swedish soldiers sat playing cards. They looked up when they heard us approach, staring motionlessly until we stopped next to them.

“Why were these men hanged?” Sebastian asked in German.

The oldest of the Swedes sat on top of a half-inhumed cart and answered in between bites of his apple.

“Deserters,” he said, without an accent. “They fled their regiment and menaced the countryside. The townsfolk rounded them up and enacted justice themselves.”

I looked up at the bodies in the oak. They swayed gently in the wind.

“Can’t say I blame them,” I said.

The Swede spat on the ground. “If these dogs come to pillage your home and rape your daughters, that’s what you do to them.”

I had meant the deserters, but stayed silent.

Another Swede, this one looking half my age, pointed at our ragged uniforms and struggled in his lackluster German: “Those clothes. Imperial.”

I pointed at the gaping hole in my upper sleeve.

“Not any more, they aren’t,” the old Swede said. “But you better don’t stay for too long. In between the Swedish army and the civilians, Catholics aren’t very welcome around these parts.”

“We’re not staying for long. We’re going to Mainz,” Sebastian said.

“Wait, I have a question,” the young Swede said.

The older soldier frowned at him, as if to say he should weigh his next words very carefully.

“How many Swedes have you killed?”

A tense silence hung between the soldiers, and I sensed they expected us to draw steel. We did not.

“Does it matter?” I asked.

He had to let the question sink in, or perhaps he had difficulty translating it.

“Dieter, let’s leave,” Sebastian said.

“Whether I killed one or a thousand, what would it change to you?” I added.

“So you admit?”

“Some men have killed Swedes and others have killed Germans. I don’t keep tallies of either.”

The old Swede berated the younger one in their language, and an argument of sorts broke out.

“I just want to go home,” Sebastian whispered to me.


We trudged on towards Gotha.


Hastily erected tents and shacks hugged the high walls of the city, climbing up as if a flood had crashed against the ramparts and been suspended in mid-air.

Between the makeshift homes idled hundreds of refugees, initially awaiting permission from the mayor to reside within the walls, but even they must have realized their chances were slim after waiting for all these years. Gotha’s citizens had made a simple calculation: it was better to have fewer mouths to feed during a siege. The frequency of sieges had made their decision inevitable.

A certain lassitude had descended over these slums. Not even the vagabonds lining the streets could muster the will to beg, but they lay about the pavements in quiet resignation.

Hence my mild surprise to find a single woman wailing inconsolably between the many displaced, pacing back and forth, lamenting something or other to every unwilling listener. Sebastian did not appear to notice her at all.

“I wonder why she’s crying,” I said.

“Surely, you jest.”

“I meant, why her in particular?”

Sebastian shrugged.

We intended to simply avert our gaze and pass by her quietly, but the woman startled me by throwing herself to the ground and wrapping her arms around my ankles.

“Will nobody hear a desperate wife’s pleas?” she cried out.

I tried to pry my foot loose from her grip, but was wary of hurting her all the same. Sebastian half-heartedly tugged at her shirt and told her to let go of me.

“I do not have any money for you,” I said.

She put a hand on my knee, and pulled herself up by my trousers to a kneeling position. She brushed her thin, brown hair out of her face, and I felt her nails dig into my skin as I stared down into her blood-shot eyes.

“Not money,” she sobbed. “My husband, he’ll never find me!”

I stopped struggling, and she softened her grip on me.

“Where is your husband?” I asked her.

“To war,” she said. “The Duke’s men came for him after the harvest. Conscripted.”

“That happens,” I said.

She took her wedding ring and forced it into my hands. “Before he left, we agreed I would leave a message if I had to leave our home. But I didn’t –”

“I really don’t have time for this.”

“– have time before I had to flee. We were attacked in the night.”

“I can’t help you find your husband.”

“Please find my house and bury this. Under the apple tree.”

“What? Why?”

The woman desperately clutched my hands, afraid that I might leave as soon as I could return her ring.

“He told me… Told me to bury my ring there if I had to leave. That we’d meet in Gotha. But I’m afraid to go back, with all these soldiers and mercenaries around, and nobody is willing to go in my stead.”

I looked at Sebastian, wondering what he was thinking.

“We need to go home,” he said. “We can’t afford to loiter around. We both know what will happen if the Imperial army tries us now.”

Hanged, if we were lucky. Broken on the wheel if we were not.

“Where was your home?” I said.

The woman explained she was from Hörselberg, and how to find her cottage. I vaguely recalled taking part in a battle there, once.

Still standing behind the woman, Sebastian crossed his arms and bit his lip in disapproval.

I said: “Hörselberg is West of here. We were already heading in that direction.”

“I suppose so,” he conceded.

The woman stood up and wrapped her hands around my neck, thanking me countless times and wiping her tears on my chest.

“You’re good men,” she finally said.

I did not feel like arguing.


We plodded on to Hörselberg without meeting a single traveler. A welcome rain fell from the dark clouds above, somewhat cleansing the air from the perpetual smell of gunpowder which Europe had come to associate with Germany. Occasionally, a flash of lightning illuminated the road ahead of us.

I fidgeted with the wedding ring in my pocket, wondering what the odds were that they’d ever meet again. It felt like a long shot to me.

Sebastian broke the silence: “I don’t understand why you care.”

“Me neither.”

“It won’t make a difference, you know.”

“How so?”

“The war, I mean. It’s been going on for twenty years. He’s not coming back.”

“He only got conscripted last year.”

“It will go on for a hundred more.”

At the outskirts of Hörselberg, the fields were littered with the rotting carcasses of cows, horses and soldiers.

Tall grass crisscrossed the battle lines, hiding a still-smoking cannon on the side of the road. In front of it, in a conical shape, lay unrecognizable fragments of bone and human flesh, along with dozens of grapeshot bullets which riddled the muddy road.

“They fought here recently,” Sebastian said.

“Yes. Again.”

“Was this field where we attacked the Pomeranians?”

“I think so.”

“That was a long time ago.”

“Fifteen years.”

I recognized the site of a small farm further down the road, which used to have a thatched roof, if I recalled correctly. Now, only a knee-high pile of stones remained, drawing the contours of what had once been its walls.

“I remember this,” I said regretfully.

“They had a pretty daughter.”

I winced. “Don’t remind me.”

When I closed my eyes, in this moment, I heard the sergeant’s sadistic orders all over again, heard the farmer plea as soldiers emptied the larders, heard the girl’s screams as…

“We should have stopped them.”

Sebastian shook his head. “We were fifteen. What could we have done?”

“Not just then. Every time.”

I took a deep breath and rubbed my eyes. “Let’s go.”

In the village center, such as it was, we came across a cart stacked with layers upon layers of corpses, most wearing Swedish uniforms. It seemed to me as if the victorious Swedes had begun burying the dead and given up halfway through, daunted by the sheer magnitude of the task this presented.

“More dead,” Sebastian stated as a matter of fact.


Using my rain-soaked scarf, I covered my nose against the smell and followed the woman’s instructions to her home. It was on a hill, not far from the village itself, close to the forest’s edge. Besides the house was a pile of logs, and a chopping block with an axe planted in it.

“This must be it,” I said. “If we follow the path around her house we should see the apple tree.”

To get there, we had to walk over a corpse that was face down in the mud. It wore an Imperial uniform.

“Probably shot during an attack on the house,” Sebastian guessed.

“I don’t see any blood. He must have slipped and been trampled by his comrades when they charged uphill.”


We heard voices from above.

Acting on soldiers’ instinct, we dived into a prone position and crawled towards the hillside.

“I think that was French,” I said.

“Catholics, then! Let’s leave!”

I motioned for him to be silent, and listened intently. “Three voices, I think.”

“Don’t even think about it, Dieter!”

“Maybe they won’t ask questions.”

Sebastian pressed his side against mine and grabbed me by my hair. Whispering hurriedly in my ear, he said: “If they figure out we’re deserters, we’re done for! Too risky! Let’s just go home and forget about it!”

“I can’t do that. I’d regret it forever.”

“Curse you, Dieter! Why now? Why here? Fifteen years and now you choose to make amends? Why stick out your neck for this woman? It doesn’t matter!”

“It matters to her.”

“Perhaps her husband is already dead! Perhaps she will be, weeks from now! And even if he finds the message, they might never –”

“I’m going up, with or without you.”

“drat it!”

Considering the possibility of a fight, I looked around me for a weapon of sorts, then remembered the corpse in the mud. I crawled over and went through its pockets.

“Only a drenched pistol and a dagger,” I muttered to myself. I concealed the dagger in my sleeve and made my way up the hill.

When I reached the house, I could hear the French voices, clearly now, from behind the corner, in the yard. I took my chances.

The three men were slightly startled when I revealed myself, but relieved when I yelled that I was an ally from Saxony.

“What are you doing here by yourself, friend?” one of them said. He was wearing an officer’s regalia.

I walked over to them, explaining that a woman had asked me to bury her ring at the apple tree.

“That’s a strange request,” the officer laughed.

I said nothing, and tried to force a smile.

“Methinks he’s a looter,” one of his friends said.

“And you aren’t?” I said, gesturing towards the filled bags at their feet.

“Good eye,” the officer said. “Difference is, we fought hard for this. You, on the other hand, aren’t bearing any coat of arms, or any emblem for that matter.”

“I lost them during a struggle. I’m under the command of –“

The officer walked towards me, with hard, deliberate paces, and a murderous intent in his eyes.

“Now listen up, you mutt! Do you think we’re stupid? I know drat well there were no Saxonians in the army yesterday!”

He reached for my collar. I jammed the dagger in his neck, sideways and upwards, until the hilt forced me to stop. He collapsed at my feet without a struggle.

The two soldiers briefly considered attacking me, but decided against it when Sebastian came around the corner, a lumberjack’s axe in hand. They each took a bag of loot at their feet, and ran.

“You killed a man, and endangered the lives of four others, to do a favor for a woman you don’t know, in order to make amends for killing people,” Sebastian said.

I looked at the ground. The pouring rain carefully mixed the mud and blood at my feet, entrancing me.

“I simply don’t understand. Why?” he continued.

“She promised her husband,” I said.

Sebastian threw the axe to the ground in frustration, and forced me to look him in the eyes.

“And I promised my mother I’d return home! Didn’t you?”


“Didn’t you!”

“Yes! Yes, I did! We all did!”

“Then let the Lord sort his damned war out by himself, and we’ll go home!”

He let go of my shoulders, and I sagged to my knees, exhausted.

“Do you think, after all that’s happened, that I could go home and pretend everything’s still the same? That I’m still the same boy who left all those years ago?”

Sebastian sat down in front of me.

“And do you think any number of good deeds will absolve us from this?”

“We can but try.”

“No, Dieter. We carry these sins to the grave. Only the death of every participant will absolve humanity of this war.”

“So those men in Gotha, hanged in the tree, they were better men than we are? They were redeemed?”

Sebastian sighed, and turned his face toward the clouds, letting the rain wash over him.

“That’s not for you to decide.”

To my surprise, the French officer had just spoken. I turned around, and saw lying him on his side, breathing in difficulty.

“You think you can just choose? Make amends the way you want?”

He closed his eyes, and tried to swallow, but it was an excruciating effort.

“That’d be too easy.”

“What should I do, then?” I said.

His eyes were still closed. After a few moments, I noticed he’d stopped breathing.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

I thought about home. I thought about my family, who might not even be alive any more. Who might have forgotten about me, otherwise.

Fifteen years was a long time.

“Are we going to bury that ring, or what?” Sebastian said.

I nodded. We got up, buried the ring at the apple tree, and I threw away the dagger.

“Now what?”

Mainz still lay to the West of here. But it was a long way.

After reflecting on the matter, we decided to go North, where the war had struck many villages like Hörselberg.

I no longer considered it a detour.

Feb 18, 2014

This statement is a lie!
2,208 Words

At the decaying corpse of the foundry on the outskirts of town, its last employee toiled in a sleeveless uniform, repurposing the shell of industry into something more to his liking. Owen's hands glowed white with heat as he took metal from the railings, walkways and wiring in the walls, anywhere that wasn't load-bearing, and pooled it into nuggets he could carry and put on the stone floor.

When he felt ready to get to work, he started to mold them together, but noticed a woman dressed for sweltering weather standing in the doorway. Millie sighed in relief when she caught sight of him, and glanced down at his hands and the melting metal around them. "Hey," she said as she walked over to steps that Owen had yet to dismantle.

"What's up?" he asked as he arranged the melting nuggets into two piles of slag. The glow surrounding them intensified as he molded them together like potter's clay.

"Well," Millie said, "I haven't seen hide or hair of you in a week, and I'm having trouble remembering the last time that happened. I asked five people where you've been and they didn't have a clue, either. I just got lucky finding you here. Now what's up with you, and why are you hiding here?"

"I tried talking to Bobby Kimball the other day."

Millie jolted in surprise and fumbled to regain her voice. "What? Why?"

"He's still hurt from the burns, Millie. That's on me. I thought I could do something to make up for it."

"How exactly do you make up for scarring the poo poo out of his face?"

Owen winced and sucked air through his teeth. It sounded like the sizzle of fresh steam. "Dunno. That's why I thought I'd ask him. It didn't turn out well. He blocked me on every messenger he uses, and things got tense when I tried to visit him in person.

"The first five minutes or so, I had to convince him that I didn't want to hurt him again. I could see him shake and glance past me, like he was looking for a way to run or something. Holding up my hands in front of me didn't help, either. I'm glad there weren't that many people around to see us both looking like the most uncomfortable, twitchy guys in town. He didn't change his attitude until my voice cracked and he realized I was about to start crying.

"Once he started letting me pour my heart out to him, he got pissed, like he just found out I took a dump in his sink. 'You think some waterworks are gonna make me feel sorry for you?' he asked me. 'Fuckers already feel sorry for me all the time, and I deserve that way more than you do! So unless you just got some kind of face-fixing power, your apology ain't worth poo poo.'

"Then he stormed off and went back to his place. I tried following him, but he slammed the door in my face and pointed a shotgun out the window. So I gave up and went home, then here."

Millie scoffed and shook her head. "Well, it's nice to know that Bobby's still just as much of an angry rear end in a top hat as he used to be."

"Dude, come on," he said. "If your face was mostly scar tissue you'd have a serious problem dealing with other people, too. He may have been an rear end in a top hat before, but he didn't deserve what I did to him."

"You know what?" she said. "You got a point there. I'm glad I wasn't there to see that. But if you feel like you need to make up for it, that's what juvie was for. Why do you have to torture yourself on top of that?"

"It was worth a shot, alright?"

"Was it worth a shotgun?"

"Ha ha. I thought maybe he'd be more amenable after all these years, or that I'd get a chance to do something to make it up to him."

"Like what? You think you could use your burning hands to save his life from a freak accident or something?"

Owen looked back at the heap of metal in front of him, turning his back to Millie before she could see how easily he'd seen through him. He grunted with the effort it took him to continue shaping the metal as it cooled. The first step was over; he could see what he wanted to make in the crude shape before him. The hard part would be making small details on the outside, keeping his hands at just the right temperature to adjust the surface without making the whole thing collapse.

"Did I ever tell you about some of the poo poo I got up to in middle school, before we met?" Millie asked

Owen shook his head, glancing her way before looking at his sculpture again.

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes before continuing. "There was this girl Andrea in sixth grade. I went to a pretty sheltered grade school, so Andrea was the first black person I'd ever seen who wasn't on a screen or in a photo. My parents raised me right, so I did my best to make her feel welcome, but I did that stupid thing where I made a big deal about how I didn't mind her being black, and kept asking her these really cringeworthy questions like 'Do you know about this other black person you'd have no other way of knowing about?' and just assuming that she stood in for black people in general.

"Now Andrea was a really quiet girl. She mumbled a lot, so I didn't catch the answers to some of my questions. I really didn't catch how uncomfortable I made her, but after she started to avoid me coming out of class I thought I got the point. The rest of the year I was obsessed with the idea of making it up to her. Anytime it looked like she was in trouble, I'd try and fight her battles for her. Most of the time it was someone giving her a hard time, and I'd always assume they were being racist to her. Eventually her parents had to take me aside and tell me that I shouldn't hang out with her anymore. They did their best to be polite, but looking back on it I think they really wanted to yell at me for being such an idiot."

"So I've been doing the same thing you learned not to do at age twelve?" Owen asked. "That's embarrassing."

"Dude, it's not that big a deal. I had an opportunity to make those mistakes and learn from them early. What I learned is that people get this grand romantic notion of atonement or whatever you want to call it. They hear about the stars aligning and the scenario where someone hosed up happening again, only this time, they can make the right choice! So they wait around for their own opportunity, playing it out in their head and letting everything else slip by, when they're just as likely to have it as they are to win the lottery. Turns out you don't get do-overs for the things that lodge in your psyche. Bobby Kimball is never going to like you, and he has no obligation to forgive you for burning him. He was always an rear end in a top hat anyway."

"But he didn't deserve that," said Owen.

"No, but it happened anyway. Can't do anything about it now." Millie got up from her seat and walked around Owen's workstation, leaning against a wall so she could see what he worked on. At that point it was only a reddish-orange arch with ovoid bulges near the end.

"Of course, if you want to improve yourself, there are more effective ways," she said. "They're slow, hard, boring and not the stuff of legend, but they actually work. For starters, you could stand to treat your actual friends a little better."

A sudden movement send Owen's finger inches into the metal. He hurriedly tried to fill the hole back in as he gave Millie a sheepish grin. "I guess I've been blowing you all off, huh?"

She shrugged. "Yeah, plus there's other things. Remember my birthday? The one after I got dumped and you got fired? I pretended it was a good time, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn't. It's like you were trying to make it all about you."

A skeptical frown from Owen. "Aren't you being a little hyperbolic?"

"Maybe. I mean, joining me on the couch to watch anime was sweet in theory, but you just kept staring at your phone the whole time. The least you could do is try and take interest in other people's hobbies. You know I hate it when people who are watching things with me don't actually watch that thing. It's super rude."

"I don't think you actually told me that was a pet peeve."

Millie's eyes darted to the ceiling as she combed through her memory of past conversations. "I'm pretty sure I did. Either way, you know now. Try not to do it again. Also, I hate to say it, but your gift kind of sucked."

"Excuse me? Do you know how long it took me to make that?"

"I can guess, but lemme explain. Can you follow along with me for a bit?"

Owen threw his hands up fast enough to throw droplets of copper and iron to the floor in front of him. "Fine."

"So imagine your birthday came up, and I got you a Blu-Ray box set of some anime you've never heard of. You don't have any interest in watching it, but it looks just like the sort of thing I'd be into. You'd ask me why I got you a gift which is clearly intended for me, but it looks super expensive even though it's also aesthetically unappealing, so you don't want to press the issue. Also, you don't know where you're going to put it and you don't want to throw it out in case it hurts my feelings. And for some reason it weighs a ton and it's a pain to move."

"Alright, alright. I get what you're trying to say, but why didn't you talk to me about it the day of, when we were out walking?"

"I didn't think it was the right time. You seemed really bummed about being laid off and I didn't want to make you feel worse."

Owen chuckled. "What about now?"

"Now I'm using this as an example of something you can improve on. You're not going to have another opportunity to avoid burning Bobby's face in anger—at least I hope not—but you'll have plenty of opportunities to be more considerate. There's some other stuff that might make you feel better, but let's just take this one step at a time, alright?"

His fingers now moved with light, feathery strokes, pinching, prodding and adding texture to metal that had cooled to a dull maroon. "Tell you what," he said. "If you're free sometime soon, let's try and do that night over. I'll leave my phone in the other room and actually watch cartoons with you, then I'll take that bust home and make it into a figurine set or something."

"Sounds like fun. Stop by my place around seven and we'll get you some reference material."

"Can I ask you a kind of personal question?" he asked.

"Sure," she said.

"Why are you taking all this trouble to check up on me? I didn't think you liked me that much anymore."

Millie's eyes darted to a disused crucible, then to a stripped doorframe, and finally back to Owen again. She leaned her face on one hand and bit her lip, trying to find the explanation for something she took for granted.

"It's not that I stopped liking you as much. You were gone so long that I didn't know how to deal with it. By the time you got out, I changed a lot about my life. But I still remember when we were so tight it felt like we could tell each other anything, and I'd like to see if I can bring some of that back, even if we can't be teens anymore."

Silence filled the air as he made the last few touches to his work. "Makes sense to me," he said, looking back up at Millie with the same grin he used to give her before he put Bobby in the hospital.

They said their goodbyes, and before Millie left, she took another look at Owen's latest as he poured water over it. Two busts of people with no features faced apart from each other, connected by a bridge of hair that looked like the gnarled arch of a fallen tree. Each bust was made from a different color of metal—the female head a dull brown like a bastard shade of bronze, the male the color of a scorched car—and as they joined at the center of the arch, the colors smeared into a gleaming alloy that reflected the world around it.

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

Behold my brain the golden throne of my consciousness. In here I am seated. Shackled. From here I police the land.

HELLO IT IS ME, :siren: A RHINO :siren: AND I HAVE MADE THE CRITS OF THE WEEK OF THE TWO HUNDREDTH AND THIRTY SECONDETH WEEK "I want to crit your blood" MADE KNOWN TO THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE ENTERED, pls note that these views are subjective and also i was increasingly grumpier by the hour as i was doing them because i was in a loving FULL DAY CONFERENCE FULL OF MOTIVATIONAL SPEECHES and done on a WEEKEND! MY WEEKEND! and also IT HAS BAD ENTERTAINMENT!!!! incl a guy who THINKS SCREAMING AND SINGING 90S MUSIC AND BRINGING EMPLOYEES ONSTAGE IS TOP TIER COMEDY!!!!!!!!! i'm still v mad abt that srsly, jfc, i'm so mad i can't even finish this sentence properly ALSO SOMEONE loving WROTE OVERWATCH SLASH FICTION THIS WEEK !!!!!!!!!!!! I AM JUST BEYOND RAGING AT THIS POINT I CANNOT, I AM CANNOTING HARDER THAN EVER, I WANT TO JUST loving KILL ALL OF U kiding i <3 u all,

ok bye


The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

Behold my brain the golden throne of my consciousness. In here I am seated. Shackled. From here I police the land.

really how the hell is video game avatar shooty man slash fiction of them NOT EVEN HAVING SEX, JESUS CHRIST something from your heart, it might as well be the glowing pulsating red heart that pops up as the "SHOOT HERE PLEASE" at the very last stage of a video game and then you shoot it and then we get the credits sequence and i'm not sure where i'm getting into, but that pulsating red target video game heart doesn't even have a valve open to insert a boner so WHAT THE gently caress, MAN

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
you are a treasure, Rhino, thank you for the crits

Feb 25, 2014

The Saddest Rhino posted:

really how the hell is video game avatar shooty man slash fiction of them NOT EVEN HAVING SEX, JESUS CHRIST something from your heart, it might as well be the glowing pulsating red heart that pops up as the "SHOOT HERE PLEASE" at the very last stage of a video game and then you shoot it and then we get the credits sequence and i'm not sure where i'm getting into, but that pulsating red target video game heart doesn't even have a valve open to insert a boner so WHAT THE gently caress, MAN


Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

The Saddest Rhino posted:

really how the hell is video game avatar shooty man slash fiction of them NOT EVEN HAVING SEX, JESUS CHRIST something from your heart, it might as well be the glowing pulsating red heart that pops up as the "SHOOT HERE PLEASE" at the very last stage of a video game and then you shoot it and then we get the credits sequence and i'm not sure where i'm getting into, but that pulsating red target video game heart doesn't even have a valve open to insert a boner so WHAT THE gently caress, MAN

also, came here to post this

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk


sebmojo fucked around with this message at 10:46 on Jan 5, 2018

Mar 21, 2010
Yo Hawklad I gotta flake out of writing this week so to make up for it, I'll be a co-judge if you need one.


Mar 17, 2009

Oasis (1623 words)

Wilbur had never been a strong child. He had been born late into the school year, which had rendered him small and unfit for team athletics. It would have been his fate to never feel powerful, but Wilbur had the good fortune to live in a time when digital games exploded over the barriers between places.

The game Blightlands was not an accessible game. It was a harsh and unforgiving game for harsh and unforgiving players. There was a perfectly fine single player campaign, one would awaken before the Well Watcher, a beautiful woman who would set the player on their quest, granting them boons and pointing them at the challenges of the ruins. Players would set out and die by the thousands, but they would always awaken and rise from the waters, where the Watcher would give them encouragement, advice, and even buffs, though the communities could not quite determine her algorithm.

The Watcher’s quest was well received by the casual crowd, but there was more to the game. Wilbur liked it well enough, but he conquered the oasis within a dozen hours. He ran a second time using polearms, then knives, then blunt weapons. He learned every playstyle, conquered every enemy, unlocked every ending.

When there was no more realm left to conquer, he wandered the endless expanse of blighted, dead land that surrounded it. This was where the real challenge resided, the designated PvP zone. Step outside the oasis and you begin to die, lost in a sandstorm, and players would wander into each others pass, each compelled to fight to the death for precious vials of water, else die in the desert.

Wilbur was good. He won more than he lost, and the way the game was structured, you’d either return to the oasis to bank your spoils, or die in the wastes and respawn by the Watcher, which was actually the faster way to get back to the action.

“Arise, child of the waters.” she would say. “I’ve heard that the eastern obelisk has risen again, how curious.” Wilbur would mash the dialogue button impatiently; The Boar Knight had heard all her hints, listened to all her rumors. She had nothing for him. Wilbur wasted no time running back into the wastes, slaughtering the inexperienced players in his path.

Wilbur recorded his gameplay, he studied his losses, he owned his mistakes, and each time he lost, he became wiser, craftier, more deadly in the wastes. And when he ran into the one who smote him, and he would often claim victory in the rematch, having countered their stratagem, or honed his reflexes that extra degree.

After what felt like a thousand hours of gameplay (player metric data would measure precisely 723 hours and 42 minutes of playtime), Wilbur found himself on top of the competitive scene. Videos began to surface of people fleeing the Boar Knight. Other players began to imitate him, matching his sets. Memes were made. Some players wouldn’t even fight, they would only signal their surrender with what limited gestures Blightlands afforded them.

Wilbur was the king, and a king should be crowned. He rolled up a new character, the Boar King. He did up the face, chose his starting loadout, and prepared to climb the ranks fresh. He punched the confirm button and rubbed his hands together.

“Arise, child of the waters,” the Watcher began, “Welcome to the oasis of Rhae. This is a safe place, though I do not know for how long. You may rest here, and I will provide what help I can.”

Wilbur’s enthusiasm evaporated. He spun his character in frustrated circles. Unskippable dialogue, and she would be spitting weapon tutorials soon enough. He began to go through the motions in advance as she prattled on. It wasn’t as if he could demonstrate his competence and satisfy her, no. She’d keep talking for a good five minutes, in the meantime, he was the Boar King, he knew how to swing a drat sword. He demonstrated.

She grunted in pain and skipped to the next line of dialogue.

Wilbur tapped the button again, testing his hypothesis.

She skipped again.

Wilbur smiled and unequipped his sword, barehanded attacks did less damage, but they swung faster. He began to mash the button enthusiastically.

“Champion,-” hit.
“You mus-,” hit.
“Beware the-” hit.
“To the east-” hit.
“Below, in the-” hit.
“Please, stop!” hit.

That was new. He let her go into the next line.

“Have mercy, Champion,” she said, “I am no threat to you!”

He waited for this new dialogue tree to open up.

After a moment, she settled back into her regular idle animation and continued, “Your equipment should be adequate for the first circle, but you’ll want to seek-”

Wilbur hit her again, she screamed and fell over. There was a brilliant flash of blue light, and she was gone. In her place, just under the surface of the water, was a tiny golden vial.

Wilbur was surprised, he’d assumed she had infinite health, or was otherwise invincible. No matter, she’d respawn when he died. He collected the item, which was called the heart of the oasis. He’d never seen it before, but he had a build to finish. The wastes were waiting for the Boar King’s debut. Freed from the prison of barely disguised tutorials, he moved on to the first circle, hugging the left wall to find the mace, which would deal bonus damage to the mossy golem.

Within a few hours, he’d finished the game. He’d determined the function of the golden vial. It generated a charge of healing water every five minutes or so. A useful, but not game-breaking amount, an underwhelming secret reward.

It took a few days before he noticed any change. The Boar King was optimally built, and didn’t lose to players. Beyond that, the golden vial provided marginally more healing than the damage over time of the wastes. Wilbur came to appreciate it, with careful management, he no longer needed to return to the oasis, he could instead spend his entire playtime in the wastes. Without the attrition, he could focus on the PvP, and that allowed him to improve even faster.

Wilbur had an amazing time for over a month. The Boar King was a terror to behold, freely and unpredictably switching from greatsword to rapier, nunchuck to katar. He was a bogeyman of the wastes. Some had called him an NPC boss character. Others accused him of being a hacker.

The matchmaking algorithms of Blightlands were enigmatic, but it seemed that Wilbur had stretched them to their limits. Where before he could wander for less than a minute to find an opponent, it became minutes, then quarter hours. He didn’t mind at first, it gave him time to watch videos as he wandered, and his opponents grew ever stronger.

After a while though, the matchmaking times stretched to well over half an hour, and the quality of the matches began to decline. The Boar King demolished opponents with little resistance. A week later, wait times approached an hour, and Wilbur hadn’t been challenged in the slightest. He considered quitting.

He turned to the boards, and found a littany of complaints. The new patch had made the game too hard. New players were being turned away. Some players liked it, but the death of the oasis quest was poorly received. He hadn’t heard of it. There were dozens of posts criticizing the developers and threatening to quit playing. There were also dozens of announcements of quitting.

Wilbur tabbed back into the game and let the sands kill him.

There was no Watcher. The pool was dry and cracked. There were signs of PvP everywhere. Slain players lay all about, hands clutching empty healing vials. Many were skeltonized, a sign that their players hadn’t logged in in over a week.

A player spawned at the gate. He ran straight at the Boar King, sword drawn. Wilbur dispatched him effortlessly. The player had nothing but starting gear, and a vial with two healing charges.
Nothing happened for a while, until another fresh player spawned. Wilbur killed them too. This wasn’t fun. This wasn’t a challenge. This was the corpse of a game that he had loved.

Another spawn, a mage. Wilbur dodged the opening volley, and a button prompt appeared as he rolled over the center of the pool. He pasted the mage and investigated.

[(A) - Pour]

He pressed the button, and the Boar King pulled out the Heart of the Oasis and poured a tiny amount of water into the pool. After a minute, it refilled.

[(A) - Pour] popped up again.

He pressed it, and the tiny puddle grew another increment. Five minutes later, it was large enough that a different prompt appeared:

[(A) - Kneel]

The Boar King knelt.

[(A) -Stand]

A new player spawned at the gate. She wore the rogues starting gear. Instead of attacking him, she walked up to him, and the boar king spoke, “Arise, child of the waters. Welcome to the oasis of Rhae. This is a safe place, though I do not know for how long. You may rest here, and I will provide what help I can.”

The player dipped her vial in the pool and departed.

Wilbur got impatient waiting for another player and pressed the button to stand. No sooner had he done so, then a swordsman spawned. Instead of approaching peacefully like the rogue, he approached with sword drawn, target locked. Wilbur tried to kneel, but the prompt would not appear.

He killed the swordsman.

[(A) - Kneel]

Wilbur commanded the Boar King to kneel, a new Watcher. Another player received the water.

He quit out of the game. He was done with Blightlands.

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