Solitair, I didn't ask for a flash before, but can I have one? Also, what the hell
|# ? May 17, 2017 05:17|
|# ? Sep 22, 2023 08:34|
Killer-of-Lawyers fucked around with this message at 05:31 on May 17, 2017
|# ? May 17, 2017 05:29|
Why am I doing this
This is a terrible idea
|# ? May 17, 2017 05:55|
Crits from the thing I judged a couple weeks ago, mostly from what I put in the judgechat admittedly.
The Butterfly Whisperer
The conflict was too unclear for a lot of the story and I felt it took too long to get to the point. I didn't have much of a feel for what was happening or why, or much of the setting at all. The main character, of sorts, is basically sentient Google Glass gone rogue? But it can mind control her? I liked the basic idea that it was desperately trying to protect its owner from something emotionally devastating/possible trouble, but the "AI takes its instructions too literally and goes off the rails" thing is so cliche that pointing out it is cliche is ALSO cliche. Making the AI protagonist make a self-aware remark about it does not make that better. I personally liked the prose, 'cause I'm a sucker for pretty writing, but I can see how it feels purple.
No Swiping Required
This one felt a bit Black Mirror-y, and I felt like "oh, the gadget didn't work and the real love was inside you" is a) way too overdone and b) dodging around the prompt and trying to be clever. I can relate to the search for love, feeling unlovable, etc. but I also didn't really feel connected to anybody beyond that. This wasn't the worst story of the week by any means, but I remember it felt kind of bare-bones and it doesn't really do anything with the implications of this device. I felt like it introduced a conflict, flirted with the prompt a little, then went "nope".
There's some interesting stuff here, but it would have to be chiselled out a good bit. For one, the megacorp is so cartoonishly evil I'd be surprised if its CEO weren't a literal Captain Planet villain, and their presence kind of drags down the whole story - as antagonists they're just boring. UP and I felt like the real story would probably have been better focussing on the question of the nature of Splits, the loss of humanity and identity, the Split version of the protagonist trying to reconnect with the life she lost, etc. whereas the direction it goes in feels really contrived and a bit overdone. Evil megacorps and AI rebellions and "thing you thought was good is actually bad" can be good stories but here I felt almost like they were there because they were expected, not to say something new.
I'm a sucker for film noir, but this one... eeeeeeeh. I liked the core idea and some of the worldbuilding but robot cops is a bit done, and it was way too bogged down in exposition. I didn't feel like any of these people were, you know, people, and I wanted to learn more but there wasn't much given to us to sink our teeth into. Robot Karl Marx sounded cool? And then right as it looks like something interesting is going to happen it smash cuts to the end. The end really felt more like "welp, story's over now" and then it abruptly stops. Also, a) I didn't like the fourth wall break, b) it felt like you were setting up for some "the robot PI was dead all along" twist and then you left that gun on the mantle. I didn't like this one as much as UP did but we both agreed it worked well enough, and was one of very few standouts this week, so it got the nod.
I gave you some thoughts on this in private and my comments here will probably follow mostly along those lines. I feel like this format would have worked better as a short film or the like rather than prose, but I liked the attempt to do something new and some of the philosophical issues tangled with. The characters played off each other well, and I liked the buildup to this dude tricking the aliens at the end. However, I hate the "major religious/historical figures are actually aliens" stuff whenever I see it, so I automatically dinged it some points when that showed up. Overall, though, you tried to shake things up and the judges appreciated it.
Makes You Think
Interesting premise and format, I thought the cliches bogged it down but not bad overall. I thought the "Makes You Think" comment literally showing up in the story was a bit too cheeky though.
Murder on the Ockient
Not much of a story. The ock joke was unfunny, and while there was a bit of a potential hook here the story cuts off before it gets to the actual STORY part. Frankly, if you're gonna ock, at least make it amusing or interesting; I remember getting really annoyed because I felt like you were deliberately wasting our time with this one, which is why I picked it for loss.
Any story that mixes up it's/its is an automatic loss/DM pick for me. :P I feel like this made poor use of my favourite of the prompts; as someone who is extremely terrified of death, the ageing cure has a lot of appeal for me, and I don't feel like this does the trick. So going in on that prompt I already expected a lot, and I feel like maybe that also weighed down my overall response to the story. The story was overall a big nonsensical mess where nothing seemed to be happening for an actual reason, all the worse because I thought there was some actual potential there.
10^123 or The List of Undecidable Problems
"Professor romances one of his students" cliche, pass. Also, literally nothing happened in this story! It wasn't even really a story at all! It was a bunch of quasi-philosophical musing about weird stuff, with a token intro and outro, and if there was an actual plot it got completely lost in the word vomit.
This story has a few issues with labouring the point, and getting to said points. The bit with going to East Palo Alto for example, that initial bit could be way condensed. It's a bit of a weak opener, too, I would punch it up some. Story slows itself down with random infodumps here and there. I like the concept, though, definitely provokes empathy from me and feels very relevant to the current day. There's a kernel of a really good story here but it takes a few too easy shots, and I feel doesn't make the ready-made conflict really resonate. You don't so much work with the theme as just kind of bluntly say it and leave it on the table - we get it, America is bad. Do something more with it. Breaking Bad didn't just have Walter White stare into the camera and say "America is evil because health care is only for the rich here", it wove that in with the larger story. UP and I felt like this joined Marshes and Split in boiling its antagonists down too far into the moustache-twirler category.
Good opening line I think. I don't feel like it did much with the prompt. There's some possible interestingness here but that doesn't come through very well in its current state. I would suggest revising and using elsewhere, because I feel like the story needs some overall fleshing out and remodeling.
|# ? May 17, 2017 16:00|
So tell me, conspirators: does SUPR actually stand for anything?
Rho-Man Issue #099: Turnus, the Final Confrontation by Deltasquid
Strong opening, bringing a little class with some Virgil. Claimed collaboration words, and made me wonder if I’m going to get a lot of superheroes of antiquity or a massively sprawling historical legacy epic, either one of which would be cool.
Less pleased with the post-prolog opening line, ‘relished’ doesn’t quite work that way and the narration choice is risky, we’ll see if you pull it off. Mostly you do, but mostly by backing out of the strongly present narrator until the end. Overall, this is pretty good. Not great; there’s not enough substance to it to let it be more than what’s on the surface, but the surface is some well-described action.
6/10, high middle
Artificial Selection by Quo Pro Quid
Sort of flat opening line. Spelling out an acronym on first use is only a rule in journalistic prose, but it’s a fairly good idea in general, especially when you’re already doing naked exposition to start with. Although if the whole gag was ‘this doesn’t stand for anything’ I guess there’s no choice here, and if every story had spelled it out that might have gotten tiresome too.
This one suffers a lot from trying to put too much into the small wordcount. There’s a lot of exposition, which is delivered in a direct and not particularly interesting manner. And not enough character. Marco doesn’t get enough development to let you care about him that much, Pat barely exists other than as an excuse for Marco not to be talking to himself, and that leaves the piece’s villain, Malcolm, who doesn’t really get enough motivation either. The plot, as well, such as it is, feels rushed: I really can’t believe that security would be so unbelievably lax in this situation. And the ending...well, it needs more to work, even if it’s just answer the question of whether there’s enough reception in the garage for the phone’s camera to be uploading directly to the cloud...
First person would probably have helped this story a lot, and not just in ruling out ending the story that way. It’s basically a one-character show, and first person or a might tighter third person point of view would have helped a lot in giving that character enough personality to carry it.
Having read the entire week, I feel like this story/author should have done whatever they could to have posted much later in the day. If it could reliably have been read last, it could have trimmed some of the exposition and put those words to better use, and would work better as the ending to the SUPR cycle than it does as something that turns everything else into a flashback.
3/10, on my DM list
Children of Rho-Man, Issue #300 - The Dissolution by Fleta McGurn
Nice, so it’s both more antiquity and some legacy epic. We start with a purely classic invocation, and then the prolog shifts into Star Wars scroll text, which is an okay model to set up a story fast.
The prose of this one works better than the first part, but the story is a bit of a muddle. Why does Mars think Minerva is dead, and why is Venus assisting the deception? And when you set up expectations for a scene with Mercury, you either need to deliver or at least show a reason for not delivering it, because otherwise all of those words are just wasted.
The ending seems a bit excessively clever: you actually have a fairly decent ending, as these things go, which makes framing it as a cliffhanger not quite work.
Maybe Next Time Just Do a Divorce Like a Normal Person, Okay by The Saddest Rhino
I see that the theme this week is ‘very long titles’. I don’t disapprove, as such.
The opening is a bit trite, but has some punch to it.
I like the prose in this piece. Peppy.
(re)morse code is probably a bit too cute.
I thought that when you killed Rosie off you’d lose me, but you managed to steer into the curve, hitting the Letterman point where repetition becomes funny again.
9/10, Strong HM pick, but the one-joke-ness of it all, (think too much about it and it falls apart) really hurt it in the final analysis.
The Return of the Merman Hero, Moustache by flerp
Okay opening, doubling up ‘sinister’ does some harm though.
This is a very silly story. And not in a good way. I don’t think you can really pull off the ‘Lex Luthor stole forty cakes. That's four tens. And that’s terrible.’/ Spidey Super Stories kind of vibe and still have your hero behave this immorally, it just doesn’t work. Which is a shame, because if you’d gone fully into that kind of weird but simple morality, you might have done a lot better. (You spend too much time with the hero apparently motivated only by the wax, so the whole ‘might lose powers and fail to save the world’ business comes across as too much of an afterthought or self-serving justification.)
Dirk Bigly and His Hands of Destiny by Hawklad
I hope this isn’t just a Trump joke coming.
I’m finding it difficult to believe that college ball is a powered free-for-all without drug tests for SUPR and the pro game isn’t. The opening is okay. Present tense is an interesting choice. (And you slip out of it a few times.) But the persuasion happens too fast, without enough resistance to really be believed.
‘like a microdactyl’s wet dream’ is a simile so on-the-nose that it’s barely a figure of speech at all. (Also, is softness really part of this equation? Do microdactyls have wet dreams about being able to properly masturbate, is that what you’re saying? Why wouldn’t they just dream about sex? If I just killed a joke by explaining it, it was a mercy killing.)
That’s a whole lot of words you’ve used not giving your story an ending, not even making it remotely clear what the two options he’s considering are. Depending on what those options are, this might in fact be the one thing I forbade this week, an origin story. (The most obvious interpretation is that, deciding whether to go on being a bum or to try his hand (as it were) at street-level vigilantism.)
1/10, my loss pick.
Jack-in-the-Box by Jay W Friks
The logistics of the opening stop me dead. Why is the sports car parked inside the building? How does it get out? You don’t describe any glass breakage, and revolving doors have too must non-glass to drive through. Then we have some extremely cavalier death
Past that, I’m left wondering how supervillainy is viable in this shared setting. I mean, this guy is doing it, but he just barely is getting his supplies at all, and you’ve established that there are other villains out there. How do they get their constant supplies of SUPR?
“lab rat’s” should just be lab rats.
And then we have the ending, which, just doesn’t work as an ending. As an ending, this scene is just having a previously unhinted-at stranger appear and solve the character’s problem for them. It’s not a horrible scene, but maybe it should be the beginning, with the earlier stuff showing up in flashback or not at all, and the rest of the story dealing with the more interesting action that it sets up.
3/10, On my DM list.
Overthinking It by Solitair
Hm. Yes, maybe. Four long paragraphs before the narrator says that the actual story is about to begin is too much. Still, while the prose so far has a few awkward moments, the concept is compelling enough. What I’d want to do here is probably cut those four paragraphs in half. (the Niven reference should be the very first thing on the chopping block) Then split what’s left in half again, and move what you can to later on, after the action has started. I’d also consider working a moment of the action directly into the opening line.
Okay, I like this. I like this a lot. There’s a bit of awkward prose, and your one line of dialog has a nasty garden path in it that made it take several reads to understand, but it has an actual story, actual characters, an ending, and heart.
The collaboration part seems a bit weak: the superpowers don’t appear to work like everyone else’s, so you’re left with a mention of Rho-man. (I’m not sure if Downcount was a reference to an unwritten story intended for this week. It works fine as a piece of quick worldbuilding if it isn’t.)
And thinking about the situation, you’ve probably made your character a bit too overpowered. As you have it, the only way anything bad can ever happen to his team or city is if he slips up, if the danger is completely inevitable, or if the brainstorming session encounters a mental block. At some point, every would-be villain of note’s plans will start with ‘Step 1: Kill this guy’, especially if we’re taking him as deliberately explaining this to someone not likely to keep it secret...
10/10, win pick.
Supply And Demand by Bad Seafood
Pretty strong opening here.
I’m getting a strong Venture Bros vibe here. Well-executed, though. But there’s a lack of substance that hurts the story. (Why is this employee, unlike every other one of the Iron Mandrill, not subject to being fired for delivering bad news? I feel like that question is where the story might find something more interesting to be about, in text or subtext.)
7/10, on the HM borderline
Power of Suggestion by The Cut of Your Jib
This is cute. The opening does what it has to and not much more.
Like I mentioned on Artifical Suggestion, I feel like everyone hurt themselves more than a little by not trying to coordinate posting times, that this should have been the first Olympus/SUPR story and the one that was posted first ought to have been the final one. This one establishes SUPR better than most of them, and establishes that natural powers exist but are rare, that sort of thing.
Takes a little long to introduce the actual main character, though. And there’s a typo in the very last line that hurts the story a lot. (either the ‘or’ should go away or a word is missing, maybe ‘SLAP’?) So I’m left wondering if you’re saying, at the end, that Kid Chyron’s pills are actually real SUPR and that he’s stopped taking them and therefore the swear marks aren’t appearing after he just swore, or if you’re saying that his mother isn’t verbally or physically abusing him. Ambiguous endings can be okay, but when the ambiguity is clearly unintentional, not so much, and it doesn’t help that both of the options are fairly weak as endings go. It’s always tough to end a story on ‘something doesn’t happen’
8/10, above the HM borderline
|# ? May 18, 2017 06:21|
Forever, South Carolina
Aman lugs forward two chipped buckets, with fresh water sloshing around inside both of them. On Pawley’s Island, a ways south from former Myrtle Beach, former South Carolina—he had created something for himself, with his peers. They had appropriated the houses, the small houses, the ones that stand on poles on the sloping beachfront property. They had created a community with these houses as the core tenements, with human muscle and human kindness as the ancillary assets. This particular settlement had attracted a certain kind of individual, of which the specificity was somewhat surprising, for the total population of the former state of South Carolina was now just under thirty thousand, at the most optimistic.
The first year had gone swimmingly, all things considered. Aman, along with most everyone else who lived in Forever, alternated strictly and fraternally with the needed tasks: who carried water from the nearby creek, and who gathered firewood and collected beeswax, who cooked, and who tended the makeshift farm that had provided an adequate harvest. When something broke, and someone could fix it, it was fixed. The walk isn’t strenuous for Aman, as he’s young; he was only seventeen when the Wipe eviscerated the world, and he had planted nearly no personal tendrils of his own, the biggest loss that he had incurred was that of his parents. He was lucky in that regard, and when Forever was founded, a year and change after the events of the Wipe, everybody remaining was still freshly scarred—all mourning their respective networks of life that had been lost, each grizzled veteran repeatedly recoiling at each new horrendous event that had been perpetrated afterward by previously civilized human beings; none dared to speak of their own story in detail.
Forty people lived in Forever, and forty people exactly. There were twenty-three men, and seventeen women, who generally handled different sets of tasks, as was natural in any fledgling society. Aman had happened to become close to a few of them, in particular. He had actually lived in Myrtle Beach proper; but others had come from a few noted locations across the South, one particularly restless woman had hitchhiked all the way from Tallahassee, and his best friend Jeffery had come a decently long way, as well—he was from Columbia. Jeffery was a lithe, lanky black man, a few years older than Aman, and both of their accents had been worn to nothing by television and the Internet, to the befuddlement of their respective families. The founder of Forever was Norman Willis, a man with hairy legs, a woven hat, sunglasses, a broad smile despite it all, and relentless cargo shorts. He had an eternal beer belly that seemed to have persisted, even through particularly hunger-stricken months. He was the only one with an altered schedule, a relaxed one, partially due to his status, and partially due to his age.
Norman had founded Forever originally of himself and the handful of survivors he had befriended after the Wipe. Since then, new stragglers had been admitted, under various circumstances, ranging from coincidental and amicable, to dire and near-disastrous. Those of a particularly off-putting or greedy nature were deposited back over the fence, with inexact but clear imperatives discouraging their return. Aman was one of the first draftees, and he and Norman had met under the knife. In the adjoining swamp that stretched laterally, hugging the coast, the young man had visible ribs, two fresh, bleeding slash wounds, gleaned from a man that was ultimately after his organs, and an acute case of mortal terror. The old man had a shotgun. Little humanity had been observed by Aman before he was snatched from death’s jaws by Norman, and with bandages, and a desperately-needed meal, Forever had taken on its youngest member, in an expedited fashion.
Aman sets down one bucket, waving to Jeffery, who had stepped out of his cabin, and was now calling him over. He then sets down the other, both on the grass, next to the gravel path, outside the front door of the kitchen. Dinner wouldn’t be for another hour. Jeffery had already finished with his duties for the day, and the two men sat quietly in rickety, failing wooden chairs, in front of an unlit fireplace, darkness creeping in from the corners.
“I saw him again.” he offers; scratching the back of one hand with the nails of another.
“You saw the guy with the patch?”
The both of them had held conference on Patch Guy several times before today. Patch Guy seemed to wander into town on foot, and if intercepted, was always looking for Norman. They would then speak for a bit, twenty minutes maximum, and then Patch Guy would leave as suddenly as he came, not fraternizing with any other Foreverite. This would happen maybe thrice in a month, and had been going on since either Aman or Jeffery could remember. Norman, when questioned, and he had been questioned several times, would always offer the same explanation, that the grizzled, sad-looking man was a friend that hadn’t opted to join the commune.
To his credit, no one seemed to be suspicious of Patch Guy, but Jeffery. Most of the inhabitants bought everything that Norman had offered to them. They had no reason not to, he seemed to be the most authentic thing that they had, and he bound them all together. Peace this, simple living that—not that simple living was a choice, but Norman made it sound almost appealing. Peace in particular was extremely palatable for a group of people that had been traumatized, time after time, up until stumbling upon salvation. Norman offered protection; he was one of the few around that still had ammo for firearms, having owned a gun dealership in his former life, and his people with him at the helm folded into something that would protect them all snugly. Some sort of structure actually mattered, for the first time in Forever.
Aman fidgeted, tracing his fingertips down the scar that stretched from the bony part of his wrist down to his elbow. “I think you’re worrying about nothing.”
“The old man’s not telling us something. He had a jar of coffee on him.”
Coffee? Aman hadn’t had coffee since the Wipe. The swamp wasn’t exactly proper growing climate for it, and reserves are ephemeral. This revelation silenced Aman properly, but only temporarily. He had no rebuttal for Norman obviously being paid for…something.
“He’s stealing from us, you think?”
“Maybe. It was definitely coffee, I know it was. I could smell it from over here.” He points to the doorway.
“We ought to talk to him about it, goddamn. I want some coffee.”
“Maybe.” he repeated. “I ain’t doing it if you ain’t coming with me. Dude kind of skeeves me out, sometimes.”
Aman had gumption. “How about this? We’ll go after dinner, Jeff. I’ll talk to him about the coffee. Maybe he does mean to share it with us.”
And so, it was decided. After a few more idle moments inside, devoid of speaking, they both stepped out, eyes landing on the gift shop, slightly-faded lettering on the side still alluding to such a previous nature, that had since become the kitchen, and dining hall. They pass through its doors. It was Norman’s day to set out the plates and things, and it would only be diplomatic for them to try and scratch his back before they demanded his dark, caffeinated secrets from him.
“Hello, boys!” Norman’s drawly accent was notably uneroded, for contrast, and his tone was wide and cheery, as it always was. “We’re having stew, tonight.”
Around fifteen miles inland, the headlights of a motorcycle cut through the hot, humid summer evening. Cutting the engine, and dismounting from the beaten vehicle, Bernard proceeds to swat off an unsatisfactory fraction of the cloud of gnats that had since started to assault him, when he had slowed down enough for them to catch up. He pulls off his helmet, his dirty-blonde hair mottled and damp with sweat—that then drips down and emulsifies in his tired wrinkles. He clomps up the stairs noisily, and throws open the door of Lee’s Southern Diner. He didn’t think to knock, and passwords were irrelevant in a world now without need for locks. Laws were the only locks, and there were laws no longer. Fifteen months ago, Bernard had learned of Forever. Fifteen months less two days ago, Bernard had had Mr. Willis against the wall, forearm sandwiching his throat to the wall, pistol barrel pressed into his gut.
At least, the establishment had once been called Lee’s Southern Diner. Now, it was a place where Bernard and those in his employ could hold congress, without any gnats, and without any disturbance. Bernard fumbles in his pocket, the side of his hand brushing against his holster as he grasps the key to the former employee’s-only section of the building. Behind that door, next to a deprecated three-compartment sink, across from the rack that once held pots and pans, seven men were sitting. They then got to work. First, they reiterated what they all already knew, and each kept copies of the particular fraction they had agreed upon, and then was written down. The thing that most daftly stood out in the warm candlelight was the dirty blue scrap of fabric rubber-banded to Patch Guy’s shoulder.
It was now dinner time. Aman touches his scar, scratches it, and he nearly rips open the ugly scar tissue again, as he had a few times before, all times when he was particularly on edge. He and Jeffery stand with their backs to the side of the building, foreheads vaguely damp with their sweat. Upon their request to speak to Norman, they were asked to wait outside, if they didn’t mind, and he would join them once everyone was served. In the back of the coasting dump truck, four men sit cross-legged, all the gear in their grasp.
Katie, like many Foreverites, was rather dedicated to the idea that one should strive to get more in touch with their body, its wants and needs, the things that please and upset it. It should come naturally then, that she was the first to point out the faint, artificial odor. Before she had the chance to amend her statement, another woman pointed out the distinct brown color that the corners of the room had taken on. Katie opened her mouth after a fit of choking, as if she were going to try and scream. Then, she dropped to the floor. It was at this point that the engine noise that had grown louder outside stopped, and the people in the dining hall at once noticed the men at the doors, with guns.
The clatter of ransacked discount-store porcelain echoed off the walls, and the hiss of the gas canisters rang in Bernard’s ears, as he watched from afar. A few spirited attempts at pointless fussing and fighting were made at both sets of doors. In the most successful instance, a particularly nimble Foreverite had managed to throw himself on top of one of the armed men, trying in earnest to break his face, Patch Guy frantically scuttling back on his feet, knees sharply bent, the desperate assailant managing to get him caught with one of the bullets that was meant for his attacker, it having ripped through them both, from the other side of the hall. They both fell to the ground, the amber-colored gas spilling out over them, into open air, dispersing over the tumultuous ocean. The weaker ones had already dropped, including Norman. Out of the forty Foreverites, fifteen were dead; twenty-three were successfully smoked out, and incapacitated, then bound, and hauled into the back of the rusted dump truck, stacked like cord wood. Two were unaccounted for.
If Mr. Willis had thought that his being on a meager bean-and-intimidation-based payroll had implied his salvation from his own betrayal, he was wrong. He had served his purpose, and like the others, his body was slung over the side of the truck, the living pressed up against the dead. His nose was bloodied, his skull fractured, and his breathing scant—and then another warm body was slammed down on top of him. It seems that he would no doubt be better suited for feeding the dogs, as was already outlined for him and others of his advanced age. He thought that his service was merely betrayal, but it turned out to be even merer—stability.
The slave market was unfortunately extremely low-frequency, there being little trade contemporarily on a commodity that had a reasonably lengthy life-cycle. When a special client, who was likely at this point the most powerful individual in the former Carolinas, required twenty warm bodies to replace twenty cold bodies that had tried to escape, the operation was scheduled, and then carried out. Bernard’s brigade didn’t require much thought to clean out Forever, and in exchange for its population, easily obtain enough diesel fuel to keep the dump truck running for ten years, and enough ammunition to easily carry out thirty similar operations. Scum is multiplicative, and unfortunately, peace isn’t forever.
Aman is quite weighed down now; his athletic shorts are now coated in foul-smelling greenish mud and greasy, polluted swamp water. Free-flowing blood runs down a primary channel, with several thick auxiliary streams, down over his right hip, and coats the back of his thigh, then proceeding to pool in his shoe. He breathes heavily; his arms feel as if they are on fire. Jeffery had suffered at least two glancing bullets in either side of his abdomen, one of which had also torn a hole clean through Aman’s t-shirt, nicking him near the armpit. The trail the two had left was rather apparent.
He hadn’t even been able to make it three miles, and he knew that his friend was dying. Pulling Jeffery down off of his shoulder, Aman lets him land with an unfortunate, crooked thud on a tree stump, the beach still visible—and still reliably pulsing—from the point that Aman had managed to retreat into, in the thin forest strip. It’s only now that he sees the third bullet hole, which sliced through Jeffery’s right pectoral, at an angle that clearly cut through at least one lung, and at least one heart. He was already gone.
Everything had been obliterated. Aman had been tricked cruelly, and he had been tricked for the last time. When Bernard’s goon finally came around, up to this point only having had to follow the obvious trail left by the sole escapees, Aman hopped out from behind a tree, gesturing to his blood-soaked shirt, and to his dead friend. Whether or not the armed man could translate Aman’s furious, sobby shouting, which amounted to an informal request to shoot, just shoot, please just loving shoot him already, he was only so happy to oblige.
|# ? May 19, 2017 17:00|
And thx all critters and recappers.
|# ? May 20, 2017 01:05|
|# ? May 20, 2017 03:12|
Signups for this week close in three hours.
|# ? May 20, 2017 05:00|
Signups are now closed.
But I'm still missing a judge so if you want to sign up for that that's cool.
|# ? May 20, 2017 08:19|
I'll do it again if nobody comes forwards but someone else should probably get a turn in the seat since I've judged like half of the past few weeks.
|# ? May 20, 2017 09:12|
I'll be the third if Solitair wants.
|# ? May 20, 2017 09:41|
I'll be the third if Solitair wants.
Judge signups are now closed.
|# ? May 20, 2017 17:52|
a literal story about a shaggy dog
So I guess my dog can talk now.
I say ‘talk’ but mostly he just screams. Remember puberty? I mean yeah the bubbling hormones and poo poo but also that mental switch from childrens’ books to a wide and terrifying world devoid of meaning. Imagine waking up one morning and BLAMMO all that poo poo’s in your head and that’s your new reality now; no gentle ease-in, just 0 to void in the space between heartbeats.
TIL: do not endow your pets with sentience.
Things my dog has done today: screamed, rolled around on the floor.
Dear Diary: you know what? gently caress this.
My dad was a carpenter and his hands were covered in calluses. When I tried to carpent, I got all scraped up to poo poo and he laughed at me and said they’d develop, but they never did. You wanna carpent, you gotta develop calluses, you wanna develop calluses, you gotta carpent.
Is that even a verb? Who loving cares.
Look like, cynicism is –
It’s like, calluses for the soul. The word rubs you raw so your skin gets a little thicker and you look down at your shoes and make jokes and misuse the word ‘irony’ while you try to hide from the fact that emotions hurt.
My dog did not have that luxury. I wanted a friend so I did a bunch of poo poo with wires and formaldehyde and now my dog has tried to build a house without developing the calluses first.
You know what? gently caress this.
My big shaggy dog cannot stop screaming. He’s full of world-splinters. I should probably kill him: it’s pretty much my responsibility at this point.
Bing search: what is a good way to kill a dog
Haha yeah my dog is screaming for those reasons. Maybe I’m an idiot and all this endless circular pontification has turned me into an rear end in a top hat who’s out of touch with the beauty of the world, and yeah maybe I’m just a lovely surgeon and human brains don’t belong in dogs.
But nah I’m pretty sure it’s the callus thing.
Brb gotta go kill my dog.
|# ? May 22, 2017 01:24|
Nihilism is My Kink
Jacob Johnson lived in the city and worked at the corner bank. He put in his nine-to-five every day and saved where he could, living beneath his means. He went to church every Sunday, but didn’t preach to his neighbors or co-workers. He always returned the things he borrowed, on time and in pristine condition. Jacob Johnson thought he was a virtuous person, and worked to make that virtue apparent in his word and deed. He helped his friends move and made sure to give the best presents that he could afford.
He believed that the world would return the favor, sooner or later. He knew, with all of his conviction, that good people would have good things done unto them, and bad people would have bad things done unto them. The world had to make sense. There had to be an order and a just reckoning to life. Certainly, he read the news and saw the senseless pain done unto the innocent. But he figured these victims were flawed in some way, that the evils done unto them were a natural response to their own hidden wickedness.
On one morning, with the sky clear and cloudless and spring in full bloom, Jacob Johnson walked to work. In his mind, the ability to do so was one advantage of living in the city. He rejoiced in the pure air and the pollen on the breeze and the chirping of sweet little birds, and he walked with a song on his lips. When he arrived, his co-workers greeted him warmly. Pauline, whose office was next to his, met him for coffee in the break room. He had considered asking her out sometime, but the opportunity never arrived. Just being friends, though, offered contentment enough.
Pauline waved with a smile that verged on the flirtatious, and he responded in kind. “How’s the savings going?” she said.
“Oh, just fine and dandy,” he said. “I should be able to move out in about a year. Been looking at some branches out in the burbs, so I have less of a commute.”
“I really don’t know why you want to move away,” she said. “Anything worth doing happens in the city.”
“It’s nice and all,” he said. “But there’s just something more free about living out there, away from all the smog and pollution.”
Jacob returned then to his office and went about his work. He helped folks with their leases and their loans, set up savings plans and portfolios. He guided people through retirement funds and never lost a smile as he made sure everyone got the plan that served them best. But eventually his day came to an end and the sun had begun to set. As he finished putting together his papers, shouts rang through the building. He emerged into the lobby to see a young man pointing a pistol at one of the tellers and shouting for money. Jacob gathered up his courage and strode in towards the would-be robber.
“Young man, whatever is going on with your life, I’m sure there’re other ways of getting money,” Jacob said.
Whatever else might have been said was lost when the robber pointed the pistol at Jacob and pulled the trigger. Screams echoed with the gun-shot as the bullet launched behind him, then ricocheted off of the wall. It angled around and cut into his back, sending him sprawling to the ground. Sirens screamed to life outside and more voices joined into a common choir as Jacob slipped from consciousness.
Jacob awoke in a hospital bed, hooked up to all kinds of monitors. A haze settled over him, the pleasant warmth of morphine dripping in his veins. White sterility surrounded him, infused into every surface and every fabric. It shone faint in the feeble morning light streaming in from the windows. He allowed himself to settle deeper into that numbness, wrapping it around himself like a blanket. He barely noticed the door creaking open and the doctor stepping on inside. “Good to see you awake, Mister Johnson,” she said.
“Good to be awake, ma’am,” he said. A smile spread over his lips. Of course he had survived. He was a good man, no way that he would die like that.
“I’ve been looking over your charts,” the doctor said. “And I do have some bad news for you.”
Jacob blinked a couple times and tried to sit further up, but found no strength in his legs to help him. “The bullet severed your spinal chord between the L2 and L3 vertebrae. You’re going to be paralyzed from the waist down…”
The rest of her words faded into a deafening drone that ringed in his ears.
Jacob refused to give up. He had been injured doing what was right. Surely things would be made right. Surely things would work out in the end. So he threw himself into physical training, building back the strength of his arms and trying to get his legs to move. For weeks, he toiled every waking hour to get his body to work the way it used to. The way he thought it was supposed to. He sweated and he struggled, until finally his labors came to an end.
Jacob’s insurance ran out. If he wanted further medical assistance, it would be coming directly out of his pocket. After a discussion with the finance people of the hospital, he realized that if he did continue physical therapy, it would cost him any hope of getting his dream house. And there had been no sign of improvement. He could navigate well enough in his chair now, but he would never walk or stand again.
That night, Jacob arranged for a van to pick him up and take him home, which he had pay for out of pocket, but at least he was able to push himself up the ramp into the back of the van. Being back in his apartment only reminded Jacob of how much he wanted to get out of the city. It smelled of unwashed dishes and laundry and there was no room to maneuver around his furniture. He called up his friends, the ones he had helped move, but they were all too busy to help him that night, and made vague assurances of future assistance. Assurances that would never come to life. So he crawled onto his couch, the only place he could reach, and slept there. Sleep came unsteadily - his back hurt, and the morphine withdrawals sent aches throughout his body. He hadn’t had a chance to eat yet.
The next morning, he tried to reach for the coffee and cereal, but they were on shelves too high to reach. He crawled into his bathroom and lay on the floor of his tub, attempting to get himself clean, though he had trouble reaching his feet. He forced himself to get dressed, deciding to skip socks and just put on slippers. He then made his way down to a local cafe for breakfast. They lacked a ramp to get inside, but he was able to get a seat in the open air. He watched the people as they walked by on the streets, and he resolved himself not to give into despair. He could still do his job, he could still save money, and he could still make his dream of life in the suburbs a reality.
He made his way to the bank then for the first time since his hospital stay, smiling to all of his co-workers as he made his entry. He greeted and waved, though he could tell that their eyes were only on his chair. Then at once, everyone rose from their seats and begin to applaud for him. He shrank into himself and hurried into the break room.
Pauline was there and offered him a cup of coffee. “How are you feeling?”
“Oh, not too bad, not too bad,” Jacob said. “Getting used to everything is all.”
“That’s good.” Pauline’s words had a distant air to them, concern etched into her features.
“Hey,” he said. “Why don’t we go out for coffee sometime?”
Any potential response was cut off when their boss stepped into the break room. He asked for Jacob to see him in his office and Jacob reluctantly followed. His boss did not mince words. Jacob was let go.
The official reason was some filing discrepancies that had somehow appeared in his backlog, but Jacob knew the real reason. Even though his chair in no way prevented him from doing his job, his boss no longer saw him as a viable employee. In the eyes of his now former boss, and the rest of society, he had become lesser. He had become Other. Still, he refused to make a scene and boxed up his things before leaving in silence.
Jacob returned to his home to find a message waiting for him on his answering machine. “Mr Johnson,” the message began, “we’d like for you to come down to the courthouse tomorrow. We’re preparing a case to nail the man who shot you, and we’d like for you to testify.”
The next morning, Jacob struggled with his slacks and socks, but managed with a lot of sweat, before coming to speak to the prosecutors. The shooter hadn’t been masked, and several people already identified him. But Jacob’s testimony could help win over the jury.
And soon the day for his testimony came. Medicaid had kicked in by that point, and so he had the help of a nurse to get dressed and make breakfast, and to navigate the space up to the witness stand. There, he told the jury how much he just wanted to help. How he had offered a hand in comfort to the shooter, only to receive violence in return for the rest of his life in response. At the prosecutor’s insistence, and against Jacob’s wishes, he then went into detail about the trials and rigors of his day to day, about how he now required a catheter and help bathing. How he couldn’t even get out of bed anymore without help. The prosecutor assured Jacob that his story would engender pity in the jury and swing things.
The jury soon sequestered themselves, and Jacob waited tensely for the moment of the sentencing. Clearly, the shooter deserved to be punished for wickedness, and surely the jury would see the need for that. That certainty sustained him, even as his health began to decay further from the complications of surgery.
Then the verdict returned innocent. The prosecutor would later explain that the shooter’s father was a prominent politician, and had pulled some strings to get his son off of the hook. With that, the case was closed and the shooter was free to go.
After the trial, Jacob’s pain levels continued to worsen, to the point where he soon needed constant medication, and nurses to help him with activities that the medication prevented him from handling. Fortunately, his Medicaid covered those expenses. Unfortunately, his nursing requirements and the state’s policy forced him to move into a nursing home. But at least it was a nice nursing home, out in the suburbs, where he could rest assured that he’d be taken care of until the day he died. He saw now that nothing truly mattered, that justice was a human concept, not an universal one. And there, his concerns disappeared into the haze of medication, into the steadiness of the days. Time slipped from his fingers. All the while, none of old friends or co-workers came to visit. Pauline called once, but even that was strained and awkward
He would be forgotten, just another face, just another duty for his caretakers. Surely, he had achieved his reward for all of his good deeds.
|# ? May 22, 2017 01:28|
Girl, You’ll Be a Wolfman, Soon
When I told my boyfriend about the lycanthropy thing, he said “So you turn into a monster three days out of the month? How does that make you different from any other woman?” So when I transformed a few minutes later, I ate him. Well, only a little. Only a couple fingers. So I don’t have a boyfriend any more. And, to answer your question, yes, technically, I have tasted human flesh.
So I guess that means no cure for me, right? Well, I guess that means that I’ll be paying your psychiatrist rates rather than your witch rates. Which one’s higher? Wait, no, don’t tell me. Hardly seems fair, but ancient curses aren’t known for being fair. You want to know what the capper is? When the moon is full or nearly full, what I turn into is a wolf-man. Emphasis on the -man part. Complete with a pretty darned impressive wolf cock. It’s erect most of the time and there’s nothing I can think of to do with it. Claws aren’t exactly made for rubbing one out, and when I’m wolfing it’s all about blood lust rather than the regular kind. Anything that moves I’d rather try to kill and eat than gently caress. So what’s left? Humping the furniture?
Don’t get me wrong. I mean, I’m not killing or eating everything I see. Not anyone so far, knock wood. But that’s what the wolf inside is always pushing for. I’ve thought about going online, looking for someone whose fetish is getting taken by a werewolf, but I’m sure half of those would completely freak out if they found out it was possible, and the other half are probably Buffy Van Helsing wannabees ready to turn around and start swinging a silver dagger.
I wonder why it’s only the vampire hunters who are famous, and not anyone who makes a career of fighting werewolves. Or maybe not. We’re our own worst enemies. Which is a cheery thought to end the session on.
It only took three months for me to be sure that urban werewolfing was not for me. The first time, well, the first time I was too terrified to get into much trouble. I spent each night running and hiding, worried too much about running into the police to even notice the hunger and bloodlust.
The second time was the whole thing with Keith, and after he hosed off to the hospital I bolted. I didn’t know if he would call the police or the loonie bin, or, I don’t know, animal control, so I had to get out of the apartment. He didn’t, he just sent one of his friends a week later to pick up his stuff, but I didn’t know that.
So I spend the entire weekend prowling about, sort of worried but calm enough to start noticing the hunger. It really is like those old cartoons, where you see every person you meet as a walking roast turkey or steak. And every stray cat looks like a fresh-out-of-the-microwave Hot Pocket, objectively disgusting but ever so tempting.
The worst part is that this is the kind of city where a person could go around in wolf form and everyone would assume you’re just cosplaying or filming a movie or something and leave you alone. Except, well, you know. Except for that constant way past the call-your-doctor phase erection that wouldn’t be part of any costume anyone would take out in public. So it’s still hide, try not to eat anybody, try not to eat any stray cats. Exhausting, and then you wake up naked and hope nobody found your clothes and keys where you left them during the night.
The next month I tried staying in. I bought six roasted chickens, locked all the doors, made sure nobody was coming by, and tried to wait out the nights.
I’m never going to see a dime of my deposit on that place. Also, not going to do that again. On the third night the drat TV got stuck on some channel showing a Baywatch marathon, and I couldn’t work the remote with my claws.
So from here on out, it’s camping, the more remote the better. I never really thought of myself as an outdoors girl, but there are lots of things I never thought of myself as. Carnivore. Potential cannibal. Part-time penis-haver. So there’s been a lot of adjustment.
= = =
I’ve been doing research on my condition. Sorry, Theresa. It’s not that I don’t trust you, but it never hurts to get a second opinion, so I found another witch to help me find out how this happened in the first place. Hector’s more of a curse expert anyhow. He agreed that there’s no reversing it now, but he could tell me a bit more about how it happened in the first place.
It’s an old curse, sort of free-floating for centuries. It’s triggered by massacres, war crimes, that kind of thing. A warrior becomes an outlaw, so they lose their outward humanity to match their souls, and if they survive it passes down to their descendants, some of the time. Hector wasn’t clear on what else it takes to trigger it.
So I got on a plane and went home. I’d been meaning to tell mom about the whole thing for a while, and I hadn’t been back home in years anyhow. After I had my luggage up in the guest room but before she started cooking dinner, I asked her. “Do you know anything about what Dad did in the war?”
“What? Oh. Well, it was a war. Horrible things, I imagine.” She narrowed her eyes. “Why do you ask?”
“Well,” I said, “Do you remember how he’d disappear for a few days every month?”
“Oh,” she said. Then she looked at me again. “Oh dear. Cassie, who did you kill?”
She knew about the curse, knew even more than you or Hector. We had a long talk. Dad never told the whole story, but there used to be a village called Balusil and now there isn’t. He’d have nightmares, night terrors about it. “Now maybe he was drunk and maybe he was sober when he hit that tree,” she said, “But either way, in his head I’m sure it was that night catching up to him.”
And she knew what should have triggered the curse in me. That I must have killed someone. “Well, I haven’t,” I said. “I think I would know.”
“It doesn’t need to have been recently,” she said. “It comes in your mid-twenties no matter when you-” She stopped, then turned to and continued almost in a whisper. “Did you have an abortion?”
“What?” I said. “No. Wait, would that even-”
“Not in my book,” she said. “But you know, ancient curses...”
Aren’t known for being particularly woke. The whole punishing me for stuff my dad did should have been a clue, there. But no, I hadn’t. I had no idea who I was supposed to have killed.
= = =
I lied to you.
I did have one idea. But it was a crazy idea. Although these days, I’m not sure what’s not crazy for me. I had to check it out. make sure before I said anything.
Funny, you’ve never asked me about my dreams. Different kind of therapy, I guess. But I do have the one nightmare, not every night but more often than I’d like. And when I’m in that nightmare I think that it’s a thing that happened. I always just thought that was the way dreams are. Like when you keep having that dream of walking across campus wearing only a t-shirt, and in the dream you remember it happening dozens of times before. Then you wake up and are glad it was just a dream this time, and it takes you all morning to realize that those memories were also a part of the dream and you never actually did that in the waking world. That kind of thing.
I’m on my school trip up in Colonial Williamsburg. I’m twelve I guess, and a group of us are in the real town trying to get some real food and I get separated from the group. Then there’s an old man with a blurry face pulling me by the arm, dragging me into a house. Touching me in places I still don’t really like to be touched. There are stairs to a basement. I jerk my arm loose. He’s off balance. I shove. He falls. I turn and run. That’s the way I remember it, inside the nightmare. But usually it plays out differently, worse. Not being able to break free, getting dragged step by struggling step into an infinitely deep basement.
It had been a while, but after that conversation with Mom I started having the dream again, and one cold-sweat morning I got up and did the research. About that time the local police did find Charles Zeska, fifty year old creep, at the bottom of his basement stairs, with a broken neck and a stash of kiddie porn. He was in ‘an advanced state of decomposition’, so they probably didn’t find him until well after we were all back home, and probably the police either assumed he tripped or didn’t care who might have pushed him.
I sat there staring at the computer screen for about an hour. Almost called you for an emergency session right then. But the more I thought about it the more okay I got with what twelve-year-old me must have done. Even if it means a lifetime of being a wolfman three nights a month.
And even that’s not been so bad, lately. I’ve met someone. It was on one of those monthly camps. We both had our eyes on the same site, and it turns out it was for the same reason. We ran into each other as werewolves that night, and mostly growled suspiciously at each other for a while. Then we got together and had a chat the next morning. Her name is Karla Vikkers. She’s got a completely different kind of werewolf curse - she doesn’t even really think of it as a curse, just a sort of thing that runs in her family - and when she transforms, it’s into a wolfwoman.
Well, we hit it off, and so now I’m some kind of weird lesbian I guess? Except we don’t do anything more than hug in human form. But she’s just this incredibly cool person. It’s not just the intense werewolf sex. I mean, just the other day we were watching this documentary show about professional boar hunters, and she said “Hey, we could do that.” Which isn’t that unusual. But she’s actually doing it. We’re actually doing it, heading down to Alabama to eat the wild pigs that try to ruin a poor farmer’s way of life. How cool is that?
So this may be our last session, for a while. Unless...wait, can you do this over Skype?
Great! I can tell that there’s a lot more work to be done. But I’m ready to stop worrying about not being things that I thought that I was, and start figuring out what I actually want to be.
|# ? May 22, 2017 03:25|
ThirdEmperor fucked around with this message at 14:53 on Dec 25, 2017
|# ? May 22, 2017 04:39|
The Saddest Rhino fucked around with this message at 02:24 on Dec 28, 2017
|# ? May 22, 2017 04:52|
Week 250 Submission
“No answer. He’s not coming,” said Lissa.
“I warned you about him. And ‘we’ve failed the Bechdel Test’, said Veronica to Betty.” Jane Blatz, recently self-christened Rowan Whitefeather, lounged with her legs draped over the arm of the couch. She held the remote between her thumb and index, and the bored pendulum grazed the frayed carpet.
Police are on high alert after a second victim is found in the trash compactor behind the 49th Street Mission this morning. EMTs responded to a call this morning when a mission volunteer discovered a gruesome scene behind the mission. Investigators say the man’s throat was slit in an apparent execution. The second body was discovered shortly after. Police have not released the victims’ names, but say they were regulars at the mission. . . .
“Can you believe they’re showing footage of the crime scene?” said Rowan, incensed. “Sensationalist assholes.” She wheeled her feet to the floor and leaned in until she saw the pixels. “Not a whole lot of blood for slit throats. Gives me the creeps.”
Lissa flipped through her phone, hoping there was a missed message. She hadn’t listened to Rowan or the TV.
“Aaaand speaking of creeps. Hey, Liz, hey!” Rowan finally got her to look up. She continued, twenty decibels more than necessary. “I said, ‘speaking of creeps,’ let’s go find your deadbeat boyfriend.”
Bang. Bang. Bang.
Larkin Hodge finally pried one sticky eyelid open and as he felt he sun through the blinds he immediately clamped it shut.
Bang bang bang. And again. Louder, more insistent. A thin tendril of coherent thought wound its way through the soup. It was the door.
From outside: “Hey, idiot. Open up.” It was Jane. Roman Featherbottom.
“Honey? Lark? Are you in there?” Oh, poo poo. That was Rissa, a light, concerned counterpoint to the basso profundo of her roommate’s thumping knock.
He rolled off the bed, taking the comforter tangled around his feet with him. Holy mackerel, the light. Larkin clawed at the blinds until he found the string (that plastic schtwing grated his nerves) and drew them tight. What time was it? He took a deep breath and held it, trying to still his racing heart. After five in the PM. Dammit. Lissa’s Mom and Dad’s anniversary dinner. He was supposed to meet her then go to the restaurant.
He dragged himself to the short hallway of his studio apartment and braced himself against both walls until he considered himself standing. His heart pounded. If he moved any faster, he might slip on the puddles of sweat he thought pooled on the cheap linoleum. But he managed his wobbly hand on the deadbolt The door swung in and Rowan barged through.
“What the hell, dude? And Jeezus, put some clothes on. I don’t want to see that.” She dropped to the fold-out couch, elbows on knees, fingertips steepled and tapping in rhythm. The wasn’t an accusation, she waited for the sorry explanation. “It stinks in here,” was all she offered as bad cop.
Rissa stood in the hallway. Larkin clung, open-palmed to the wall and sucked a ragged breath. “Riz,” he creaked.
“Oh, baby, are you OK?” Rissa grabbed him around the waist, and he saw the sweat soak into her thin cardigan where she touched him. “Let’s get you back to bed.”
She hobbled him back to his thin mattress and he collapsed, face down. He struggled out the words, but they came, “I can get up, just let me sit for a—”
“What’s that on your neck?” Rowan hovered over him and crinkled her nose. “It looks like a bite mark.”
His memory was twisted, trapped in a music video. Brett dragged him to the party. No. He wanted to go. So many bodies bounced, arms flailed. Lasers flashed through that fog that smells like cologne. He remembered that well enough. Then he hit the bathroom. Some dude in an impeccable suit and manicured beard. Larkin gripped the bridge of his nose, but all he really remembered was the pattern of Suit’s pocket square. His smile, messed up smile.
A woman. A woman. A woman. Oh, no. He wasn’t sure she was wearing anything at all. What did he take? Molly? LSD? Didn’t feel like the comedown for either of those. Some designer drug, maybe. He didn’t remember taking anything at all. But that woman. She hopped up, piggyback, gangly arms and legs en-spidering him, and he felt the small presses of flesh in his back. And he liked it.
Then she bit him. “Psycho, get off me,” he twirled. But she only laughed, and her smile was that big, messed up smile in the bathroom mirror between the graffiti.
“What the hell happened; where the hell were you?” Rowan’s inquiry pierced, needles in his head.
“I dunno—it was some warehouse party. A rave. Corner of 49th and Oak. Something weird.” Larkin dropped back onto the sweat-soaked pillow and passed into oblivion.
Rowan watched the shitstain beep and bloop in his hospital bed. Liz came back with the playing card coffee cups, quote ‘fresh’ from the machine.
“Do you see that?” asked Rowan.
“Whuddouyoumean what? Look at it—that sonuvabitch Larkin’s neck.”
“He got bit by a vampire. Look at the marks. Two bloody wounds coming through the gauze.”
“What? That could be anything.”
“What’s wrong with him? You know it. It’s anemia. His blood is all hosed up. You think that’s a coincidence?”
“Rowan, I don’t know. This whole thing is so messed up.”
His beeps get a little faster. Maybe he knew what’s going on. But he’s saved—mercy of the night nurse. Made them head home for the night.
Of course, Rowan woke up first. Liz dragged herself out of bed, and found her roommate in a sea of occult books.
Before she could have her coffee, Rowan was pointing out passages in her black magic catalogues and demonic encyclopedias. If Larkin was a vampire, no 90s alt-rock was going to save him.
“He’s not, you know,” said Liz as she poured her cup.
“You heard him, 49th Street? You know that’s where those homeless guys were killed. Murdered. He was right there. Wake up, Liz. He did it.”
“Oh, so what? He wanted their blood?”
“Yes. Of course.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Think about it. How does that even work?”
“The crime scene. DIdn’t you see how little blood was around? Mutherfucker drank it.”
Liz shook her head, and she wasn’t sure if it was to puke. “He didn’t drink blood.”
Rowan leaned into the generic. floral pattern of the chair pulled from their lobby, “We’ll see.”
“What the hell are you doing to me,” asked Liz. “You’re dead set on killing Lark.”
“drat straight, I am.”
“Rowan, Jane. Please. Don’t.”
“He’s a monster, Liz. Not a metaphorical monster, a real one. You can’t see it? Dirtbag is a freaking Nosferatu. He’s gone, lost. Part of their world, not ours. Do we fail the Bechdel Test if we’re talking about a literal monster?”
“For real, though, I love you, babe. I think I probably always loved you.”
“I can’t stand by while what the gently caress his name is, Larkin, just treats you like an rear end in a top hat.”
“Rowan. Just—head home. Please.
Rowan did, reluctantly. She went home, lit a black wax candle, but her mind was already made up. The licorice smell pissed her off. Larkin would die.
The eleven o’clock news only confirmed her position.
Life doesn’t care about the little guy, or the big guy who has a load of tasty, tasty, blood. So long as that big guy won’t be missed. Turns out that the news drew a little more attention to frikkin’ vampire behavior than they wanted. So much attention it was obvious.
Liz came back to the apartment and crashed on her bed. Rowan hovered over her until Liz turned over and stared her square in the incense tinted eyes.
“For Chrissakes, what?”
“Just call the hospital,” said Rowan. “I have a feeling.”
“Go to sleep,” retorted Liz, and she dozed off.
“Liz, wake up. DId you see that news anchor’s arms? Mocha latte hoochie mama. Holy poo poo.”
“I’m getting real sick of you saying that.These dinks are still doing sports. But you know what I’m waking you for, yeah? Larkin is gone. Left the hospital.”
Liz scrambled to as awake as she could muster. “What?”
“Told you,” said Rowan. “I’m sick of you saying that. The end is here.”
Larkin Hodge was missing. Disappeared from the hospital like everyone who was Rowan expected. Like anyone who was anyone expected. Slipped out without any notice.
Billy from under the bridge sat in the alley behind the mission sorting aluminum cans when Lark came around the corner and sat down beside him.
“Oh, oh don’t. They’re mine,” said Billy.
“I just want to help you,” said Larkin. He dropped a can or two into the bin for Billy. The sun crested over the alley behind the 49th Street Mission and the little glance of light sent Lark reeling. He spun around the corner, and hugged the giant marble blocks that made the buildings look older than they were.
He whispered from around the corner, to the old man comfortably set in the middle of the alley, “It’s not right. I’m not right.”
The old man just laughed. “I’m not right, friend.”
Larkin didn’t laugh back. He felt sick, that he was in the same spot that someone just like him was murdered—more than murdered, killed with impunity.
Lark turned the corner and god, he felt good. Liz was standing there, with a literal torch in her hand. Rowan huddled under the light she cast.
“What the—” Lark didn’t know what else to say.
I let you do it. Larkin let you do it. He just stood there and all the homeless guys stood there when you speared him with fire-hardened steak that slid through his chest like a hot skewer through a souffle. Fuckin’ Rowan. If I want to be happy, I have to leave it to you. Is that what you wanted? Is that what I wanted? I might have hosed up. I might have hosed up.
|# ? May 22, 2017 05:36|
[b]The Girl in the Vlog[/i]
My friend Leo actually found the video. He sent it to me with the caption “Biggest internet trainwreck ever.” The title- “Sailor Venus and Naruto Debate! Who’s More Orange?”- didn’t really arouse my interest. Leo had a knack for finding the worst things online, but what he considered screamingly funny I often found mystifying at best. Not expecting to endure more than a few seconds, I clicked play.
The debate between Sailor Venus (an obese woman with an oversized bow headband and scraggly blond hair) and Naruto (an equally-doughy man whose screechy voice didn’t match his bulk) consisted mainly of accusations in half-assed Japanese about who was more “baka” and “urusai,” and hitting each other with anime plushies. Pure monkeycheese. I lasted less than a minute before I paused the video and went to write Leo a derisive reply.
As I clicked “pause,” something about the flopping “Venus” caught my eye, and I looked more carefully at the frozen image.
She had at least ten years and a hundred pounds on me, but the resemblance was remarkable. We had the same long, slightly hooked nose, and a distinct similarity around the eyes. She had thick eyebrows like me, although hers had been inexpertly bleached to a brassy blondish color.
I had an inexplicable, creepy feeling, and it got worse the longer I looked. This woman didn’t just look like me- she looked like my mother. A lot like her, actually.
I closed the window, erased my browser history, and blinked at my desktop. Then I immediately opened my browser again and started nervously surfing around Facebook, looking up all my maternal family. I waded through various second and third cousins, the ex-husbands of my two aunts, and a dubious-looking NASCAR fan page run by my cousin’s former stepbrother. I didn’t see the woman from the video anywhere.
This is your imagination, I told myself. Sometimes, people just look alike. You should be more worried about Leo telling everyone that the freak in the video is you, as a joke.
No matter what I told myself, I couldn’t shake the creepy feeling. I had no idea why, but I felt instinctively that this girl and I were somehow connected. My brain kept running through a million possibilities. Maybe she was just a very distant cousin? That wouldn’t be too bad, although the thought of some cheesy-smelling weeaboo freak at my family reunion made me cringe.
I became obsessed with her, watching all of her videos in a single weekend. She went by Venus, or V-chan, and called her vlog…the V-Log. Most of her uploads were typical fangirl bullshit, yammering about Pocky and which characters were sexy. Things like that. The more I watched her material, the more I worried.
When I finally broached the subject to my parents, they didn’t say anything for a long time. My dad looked at my mom. My mom looked down.
She had been a college student. The father wasn’t her boyfriend. She met him once, on vacation in Florida, and by the time she knew she was pregnant, she’d forgotten the guy’s name. My mother had the baby, a girl, and put her up for adoption.
“My own mother was dead, and your grandfather and I weren’t very close,” she told me as I stood, stunned, in the kitchen. “He wouldn’t have accepted the situation. I didn’t have any money, Mandy, what else could I have done? I was heartbroken, but it was the best option I had.”
Even though I’d been suspicious for a full week, even though I had mentally prepared for this exact situation, my chest still stung like it was full of bees. I couldn’t think of anything as I stared at her, my face prickling with heat.
“Honey, say something, please.”
I shook my head, pressing my lips together hard, before walking away and locking myself in my room. As I lay on my bed, shuddering tears into my pillow, I could hear them yelling at each other.
For the next week, I walked around in a cranky daze. I don’t think I handed in a single sheet of homework. Friends would say something to me and I’d barely respond, sunk too deep in my anger and feelings of betrayal. It’s not that I really cared about my mom having had another kid and giving it up, but why hadn’t she told me before? Why hadn’t anyone mentioned this missing sister? I had always thought my parents trusted me, maybe even respected me, but this situation completely decimated that idea. For the first time, I faced the fact that my parents not only had a past, but a whole life that didn’t include me. I didn’t like it.
As angry as I was, I knew I couldn’t show Venus’s videos to my mom- they were too pathetic. Mom deserved to be punished for a lie this huge, but I knew she would be crushed to see what a mess this girl was.
Venus loved to overshare. Along with showing viewers how she was growing thick dark hairs on her chin and a hideous rendition of some anime song on the ukulele, she also shared her general location. Not her exact address, but the neighborhood she lived in, and the name of a Japanese restaurant she frequented. Luckily for me, she lived in the same metropolitan area as my family, so spying on her wouldn’t be difficult at all.
I had only told my best friend about my family’s sudden secret shame. Chelsea had been shocked, even more so after watching a few of Venus’s videos, but she immediately agreed that the weird girl looked like me and my mother. We planned a quiet reconnaissance mission to the ersatz Sailor Scout’s neighborhood.
“So, what happens if you actually run into her?” Chelsea asked as we drove up to Venus’s part of town.
I kept my eyes on the road. “Honestly? I have no idea.”
“Do you think we should try to talk to her?”
“What am I going to say? ‘Oh, I’ve seen you on the internet and I think you’re lame, by the way I might be your sister, good luck with scream-crying for attention because somebody said you’re too fat to cosplay’?”
“I mean, you could start with ‘hi.’”
I thought for a moment. “What if she doesn’t know she’s adopted?”
Chelsea snorted. “Come on, who doesn’t know they’re adopted? Also, she’s old. Like, not old, but in her thirties. Even if she didn’t know, for some reason, she could probably deal.”
I turned onto a side street and started looking for somewhere to park. “She doesn’t act like she’s in her thirties. I mean, maybe she’s actually crazy. If I come up to her with all this stuff, she might Hulk out and attack me.”
“I promise if she does that, I’ll get in the car and lock the doors to protect myself.”
We found the restaurant easily enough, a small, neat storefront with a moon-shaped sign. They had just opened, and the place was empty. Our waitress didn’t even bat an eye when we asked for a table in the back. Chelsea and I settled in, ordered drinks, and waited. I knew from her vlog that Venus went to this restaurant every Wednesday, so it was just a matter of time before she appeared. Chelsea and I figured she’d get takeout, unless she arrived with one of her equally tragic friends. If the former scenario occurred, Chelsea would hold the table while I followed Venus out. Otherwise, we’d simply move to a closer table or eavesdrop, depending on which seemed easier.
After we’d had two bowls of edamame and three beers between us, Chelsea suddenly pointed to something above my head. “Holy poo poo.”
“What?” I turned to look. It was a small blackboard displaying the day’s specials. At the bottom, in pink chalk, it read, “Fans of Venus-Chan get 20% off!”
“Holy poo poo,” I echoed.
Just then, Venus walked in.
She was short and seemed rather shy in person. She also didn’t look quite as greasy as she did on camera. Granted, she was wearing a Naruto t-shirt, but other than that she seemed pretty normal.
The waitress greeted her, “Hey, Mikayla.”
“Konbanwa,” she responded, with a bow.
The waitress just smiled. “The usual?”
“Hai..” Venus/Mikayla sat down at the bar and began playing with her phone.
Chelsea waved at me, and I suddenly realized I’d been staring with my mouth hanging open. What’re you gonna do? she mouthed at me.
I don’t know! I mouthed back, throwing my hands up emphatically.
One of the cooks emerged from the back, carrying a white plastic bag stuffed with food. He greeted Venus patiently as she spoke to him in what sounded like baby Japanese, then handed over the bag. She gave him a wad of cash, slid off the stool, and left the restaurant.
“I’m gonna do it,” I whispered to Chelsea.
The second Venus was out of sight, I made for the door. I heard Chelsea say something as I pushed it open and stepped out onto the sidewalk, looking from side to side. Venus was just turning the corner when I spotted her.
I had no idea what the gently caress I was going to do. All I could feel was a sort of urgency, a pressure in my upper chest and throat. Now, I was thinking, now. I didn’t know what answers I was hoping to find, but I knew I had to talk to this girl.
I followed her for a bit, deafened by nerves, until I finally forced myself to speed up and call out in a light, strained voice, “Venus! Uhhh, excuse me, are you Venus-chan?”
She turned around. Face to face, I could see even more similarities between us- the hairline. Freckles around the eyes. I stopped walking and opened my mouth to say absolutely nothing. There were so many feelings, so many different things I wanted to ask her, that I simply couldn’t say anything at all.
Venus gave me a tired smile. In real life, maybe because of the natural light, she didn’t look quite as busted as she did in her videos. “Hi,” she said politely, “Yes, it’s me.”
“I, um, I saw your videos,” I stammered.
“I figured. So, you want an autograph or a selfie or something? I’m about to eat, so maybe— “
“I think I’m your sister,” I blurted out.
Venus blinked, then took a step back. She gave a little laugh. “Is this an otherkin thing?”
“No, I know you’re adopted and I think I’m your sister,” I said in a rush. Then I gave a little gasp of mixed surprise and relief that I had said it outright.
Venus just stared at me for a moment. “What the gently caress is wrong with you?”
I hadn’t expected that response. “I…just…my mom had a baby in college and she gave it up, and we look alike, so I thought…”
“You thought what, that you’d come find me and freak me out with some weird story? What, you want money or something?”
“I just wanted to see if you maybe were my sister,” I half-mumbled.
“Uh-huh, right,” she said. “You hate my videos and you’re not content with trolling on YouTube, so you decided to track me down and gently caress with me.”
“What? No, I— “
“Look, you loving psycho.” She stepped up to me and looked me right in the eyes. “I don’t care if you think I’m fat, or pathetic, or whatever. I make those videos as a goofy thing with my friends, and if you don’t like them, you can gently caress OFF!” She shrieked the last two words, startling a nearby bird. “I’m SICK of being followed by you trolls everywhere! Leave me the gently caress alone! If you show up again, I’ll call the loving cops.”
Before I could say anything else, she was walking away briskly, almost running. I watched her frizzy curls bounce as she rushed around another corner and was lost from sight. She didn’t look back.
When I got back to the restaurant, Chelsea was practically vibrating with anticipation. “Did you talk to her? What happened? Was she weird? Did she show you her chin hairs again?”
I sat, numb.
“I ordered a bunch of sushi and stuff. What the hell happened?”
The waitress came over with a plate of cucumber rolls. “You guys watch Mikayla's videos, huh?” she asked. “We love her here!”
“Really?” asked Chelsea.
“Oh, yeah. She started coming in right after we opened and talked us up on her blog. She’s kind of weird, but she always tips a lot, and she actually brings in customers.” The waitress pointed to the special board. “You get a 20% discount here if you found us on her blog.”
“Awesome, thanks!” Chelsea said, just as I said, “No, thank you.”
“What the hell, Mandy?”
“We’re not fans,” I said, too loudly. “Definitely not.”
“Um…” The waitress looked from me to Chelsea. “Okay, then.”
When the waitress walked away, Chelsea hissed, “What the gently caress, dude? Why did you do that? What happened with Sailor Sad?”
“Nothing.” I cleared my throat. “Nothing, I just decided…to follow her. See where she went. But, uh, I lost track of her.”
Chelsea groaned in disappointment. “We’ll have to come back next week,” she said, breaking apart her chopsticks and diving into the sushi. “And I want that discount next time.”
When I got home that night, my parents were out, and I was glad. It had been almost four hours since my encounter with Venus. I went to her YouTube channel, knowing what I would find.
That night’s vlog consisted of her loudly and messily consuming her takeout, naming and describing each dish with a flourish of bad Japanese pronunciation. Even though her lip-smacking and nomming was incredibly painful to hear, I sat there and forced myself to endure every moist chomp. She did advertise the restaurant- “Tsuki no gohan wa oishii desu! It’s on Orchard Street across from Rite Aid! Mention V-chan and you get twenty percent off your bill!”
Finally, upon finishing her meal, Venus stared straight at the camera and said, “And now, it’s time for a rant.”
“You know, I’m aware that some of you…maybe don’t like my videos? And, hey! That’s fine! I don’t expect everyone in the world to like my stuff. But something happened today, and I’m not gonna get into details, but let’s just say I’m totally sick of being followed by stalkers everywhere.” She paused for a moment, nodding sagely. “Yeah, you heard me- I’ve got a stalker. And let me tell you guys, whatever you think of me? There’s nothing sadder than this person who threatened me today. Someone who actually tried to follow me home so they could mess with me, and that’s hosed up.”
I started feeling those hot face prickles again.
“I am comfortable with myself and the stuff I do,” she continued, thumping her chest assertively. Rather like a gorilla. “I have a lot of people who love me- I have a family who loves me- so, strange girl with the huuuuge eyebrows who came after me today, guess what? I’m not loving adopted, and your coming up to me and telling me that I am is not only totally stupid, but I know it’s fake!” She held up a ragged photo of a sonogram. “This is me. If I’m adopted, how come I have this? Huh? Bitch.”
I shut down the video before she finished.
After sitting and staring blankly at my monitor for a few minutes, wondering what to do next, I heard my phone beep. Of course, it was Chelsea. I let it ring. We’d talk about the latest vlog later, when I didn’t feel so confused. And guilty. And stupid.
|# ? May 22, 2017 05:45|
tell me about your mother
< 1100 words
Everybody remembers that day. Perhaps it’s more that nobody dares to forget it.
My messenger bag was on my shoulder, padded by a hoodie. I’d been raised with a stalwart distrust of springtime weather. As I walked to my bus stop, my heart was in my throat. Today was the day for college acceptance decisions.
I chatted with the other kids waiting for the bus. The other seniors were nervous as hell. The cute sophomore girl was nervous on my behalf. She followed me onto the bus and gave me supportive chit-chat, but I couldn’t keep my eyes away from the top of her shirt (or, rather, where the top of her shirt should have been).
I’ll have you know, I like the way I bounced at the back of the school bus. It felt like being at Six Flags, and on that morning I got to share the joy with a blossoming young lady.
Just as I was appreciating my day’s wardrobe—loose-cut jeans—the bus took a swerve. Something big had hit the roof. Everybody heard the thud, and everybody saw the dent in the ceiling. It was right in the middle, about a foot deep and a yard long. Amidst the commotion, our driver raised his voice for the first time ever.
“Would you keep it down back there? I HAPPEN to have a HANGOVER.”
We pulled into school. I swung by my locker and went to class as usual. I was preoccupied by the college entrance emails to come, but my lack of sleep was catching up to me. I took a seat towards the back for first period to compensate. My notes from that hour looked like spaghetti, but it’s impossible to forget what I saw.
At some point I smacked myself awake. I shook my head, but as my glance went outside it saw the largest, strangest bird I’d ever seen.
Eventually, class ended. Second period was my free period for the day, so the plan was anxious email-checking. With coffee in hand, I slid into a cafeteria table to open my laptop up.
My body seized. Every movement I made, even simple clicking to open tabs, was laborious and somehow difficult. Somehow, I managed. I opened my email inbox and forced my eyes to read coherently.
There it was.
I got in.
I got into loving Harvard.
I was an unremarkably good student with a GPA of 3.8, junior varsity soccer, and Model UN under my belt. I never thought this was possible. I only even applied to Harvard to mess with my parents. They laughed when I mentioned applying to Chicago, so I applied to Harvard instead.
When pigs fly, my dad had said.
I didn’t put two and two together until school ended.
For the way home, the bus driver always played NPR. Today, for a record-breakingly large 9-figure Powerball jackpot, over a million people had already submitted winning tickets to claim the prize. Many people who submitted not-quite-winning tickets stood to win more than the actual winners, given that there were so many of them.
Somewhat baffled, I returned home to find my father weeping on the dining room table. It wasn’t what I’d planned for my afternoon, but it seemed that trying to talk to Dad was the Right Thing to Do. I sat at his corner and asked if he was okay.
“Your… your mother…”
“You…you know our handyman.” “Steve, yeah.”
“Well, your mother and I, we-“
For a second I was afraid he was choking. Finally, he sighed.
“We used to argue. I didn’t know what to say sometimes, so I-“ Again with the choking, “I’d just run her up and down, talking about how she was looking at our handyman while she was supervising him. And she always … She always said that she would never, only if-“
I interrupted. I’m a bad kid, but my dad’s head snapped up as soon as he heard it. They were strange words to take from his mouth.
Without another word, I got up from the table, went to the den, and turned the TV on. This was the day. Pigs were in the air that day. I had to know what else had happened to peoples’ dreams and curses.
The world’s sarcasm seemed to be a blessing. Trade summits had already been scheduled in Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo for the following week. The Demilitarized Zone in Korea had been demilitarized. China had recognized the sovereignty of Tibet and Taiwan.
The global capital markets, however, were in utter chaos. All of the major stock exchanges had been closed for hours, yet they were all fluctuating. It almost seemed like each flippant comment was being processed in order.
I wasn’t half done catching up on what I was looking for when a sudden thud and shatter startled me upright.
“What the gently caress?!”
I ran up next to my dad to find a winged pig on its side shuffling its legs impotently into the air. Its head was bleeding in several places, and a few large shards of glass were still lodged in its flesh. It seemed to be about halfway between piglet and hog, so I managed to cradle it in my arms and get it to the bathroom so I could clean it off.
Do not discount the strength of a pig. The hydrogen peroxide clearly wasn’t fun for it, and as a result it was much less fun for me. The wings flapped upon reaction as well; I’m convinced that there’s a small feather lodged beneath my right eyeball, and I will never be able to retrieve it.
Eventually, with its wounds dressed, the pig acquiesced to a makeshift bed made of my mother’s garments. For reasons I hope never to understand, my father took great joy at the sight. He gave me the tightest hug I’ve ever felt and wished me a good night.
When I awoke the next morning, the pig was gone.
It had simply vanished. There were no traces of movement, no disturbances to the doors or windows.
I checked the internet. The markets were still in flux. Myriad small, dictatorial nations expressed resolve and hope in the upcoming summits.
My mother never came home. I haven’t seen or heard from her in years.
But the pigs never did make the news.
|# ? May 22, 2017 07:52|
Killer-of-Lawyers fucked around with this message at 04:59 on Jan 3, 2018
|# ? May 22, 2017 07:53|
SUBMISSIONS ARE CLOSED
|# ? May 22, 2017 08:28|
Interprompt: WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING ON THE FLOOR, 100 words
|# ? May 22, 2017 13:05|
|# ? May 22, 2017 15:33|
A King Among Cats - 100 words
Yea I say I am the best of cats, and slayer of dragons.
Teeth snapped and fiery breath caught the hedgerows alight, but in the low grass I lost the beast and caught it by its tail. Miles of scale thrashed and swatted me against the ground, but I clung on, and climbed.
The battle was fought and finally won at the throat, which I tore into landslides of blood. For seven days I worked to haul the beast home for the praise of my god.
And he declared, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING ON THE FLOOR?
|# ? May 22, 2017 15:39|
"You know what?" Formica said, still wet. "I'm tired of you walking all over me."
"Wipe it out," I said. "All the work I've done, putting a roof over our heads-"
"Don't you dare mention her in this house!"
She slips me. I come crashing down, and, just for a moment, my lips brush her. I roll onto my back and I finally say it.
"I want a difloorce."
|# ? May 22, 2017 16:16|
Maybe It's Puke
Janet was scraping something lumpy and greyish off her foot with a ruler when I walked in. “Look at what your loving cat did!” she bellowed, waving her foot at me accusingly. “Do you even know what this is? Is it poo poo?”
It was then that I realized she and I had no future.
“If you can’t tell the difference between poo poo and a hairball,” I said carefully, “You can get the gently caress out of my house.”
When Janet left, I held the cat in my lap. “Thank you for giving me an excuse,” I whispered to him.
|# ? May 23, 2017 01:08|
Week #248: A Vision of the Future – CRITS
I’ve mostly just talked about what struck me most about the story, usually focusing on the flaws. That’s always the part I want to know about my story. As a note, one should always consider that every reader has their bias. Mine here is a focus on the ideas. Exploring different ways society might change or technology might influence our lives is really interesting to me, so I was looking a lot for that (hence the prompt). Also, I’m coming at this from the position of someone who’s read/watched a decent bit of sci-fi. Something that might feel new to someone not familiar with the genre might be cliché to those that read it. Several stories this week "included" the prompt, but didn't really engage with it. Others used a sci-fi setting, but had difficulty connecting their plot to the technology and its implications.
This has almost nothing to do with Augmented Reality and everything to do with the whole "AI trying to minimize harm does something it's not supposed to do" problem seen in a lot of sci-fi, which is derivative (imo) of the "wish that backfires with unintended consequences" story dating back to ancient times.
The prose is painfully purple, and the pretentious narrator gets old—really old, considering there’s little else. There’s some places where word choice really threw me off, such as a “wireframe monolith” (monoliths are giant lone rocks, usually). The setting is unclear, actions are unclear, plot is unclear. The core of the story was confusing and annoying. I couldn’t figure out what the narrator was trying to protect the character from, nor the significance of the incident with the sister, and I looked for it. I appreciate a story that makes the reader work, but there's a fine line between subtle and muddled and this is unfortunately the latter. Ultimately, the story is very wordy, and needs massive cuts to superfluous bits. It also needs to work on the conflict and the characters. Too much is unclear even at the end of the story.
Low, and misses one prompt to tackle a different one
No Swiping Required
This has a conflict and arc, some okay descriptions, but ultimately is kinda boring and doesn't grab me. The idea behind the story is that new tech that’s supposed to help people find love instead blinds them to a potential relationship. This is commentary, perhaps, on ‘love at first sight’ being bogus, and that love takes work and attention. The thing is, the technology is never actually used, so the implications of the technology are not explored in the slightest. It would have been more interesting if the device did anything at all. Also, as a side note, the “slut/romantic” part the protagonist is worried about feels very American. I’m under the impression, from the little I know, that Parisian culture is much better about not shaming people for their sexuality, so to me it felt out of place.
Medium, and misses the spirit of the prompt entirely
This story really has potential, but it runs into several major problems. It has the evil megacorp cliche and basically lifts part of the plot of Moon, except with more mustache twirling. There’s a lot of things that feel really contrived or problematic. The corporation is over-the-top evil; yes, I know corporations are bad irl, but in a story, there needs to be some nuance. Next, Earth’s Moon is in a tidally locked orbit, so any base on the moon actually takes around 28 days to alternate between day and night; basically, a moon base either needs nuclear reactors or a shitload of batteries, so the lunar eclipse plot point doesn’t work for me. I realize this is nitpicky, but it’s a hazard of sci-fi and as a reader stuff like this makes me put books down.
I think the real potential in the story is the nature of a Split and the loss of humanity, and the more interesting story would be perhaps her trying to reconnect with herself ands after her contract, maybe without the evil megacorp plot or the prejudice and confinement to virtual hell that made me roll my eyes really hard. I also think a technology like that wouldn’t be confined to one corporation or job, nor would people’s minds be confined to a robot in humanoid shape. There’s a ton to explore there, but instead we got a cliché.
Medium, but hits the prompt
This piece does a great job establishing a setting and intertwining two genres together. It’s basically noir with sci-fi elements. I knew very quickly it was both a mystery and would be exploring the nature of digilects, and the plot allows both to intertwine. Digilects are a nice flavor of AI that balance positive and negative traits, but also human enough that they say something about the human condition. It drops technology language (like genetic algorithms) to make the technology plausible.
It goes into rights and racism, but isn't too heavy handed. There’s commentary on Hollywood’s racist casting practices, segregation, “passing,” and then also class struggle and human rights (symbolized by digilect rights) in general. All of it is a key part of the story, and it’s clear that different characters have different ideas about it all, so it works.
The characters are interesting because they have personality and clearly have their own experiences and motivation. This was especially true for the narrator and Robert. I liked the idea of AIs essentially living through a narrative in the literal sense, and then having them need to deal with their own cognitive biases (such as retroactively justifying their actions) through that.
The story was really solid right up until the end, which I feel didn't stick. There are a few reasons. One, we don’t learn enough about Robert’s movement and his methods. We don’t know that he’s a violent revolutionary. We also don’t know about Otto until the end, so we don’t know why he needs to be taken down until it’s already done. Something about the state of digilect affairs, perhaps what the Lassen group is doing—we need the group motivations and movements in the background threaded in with the rest before an ending like that can feel satisfying or even make much sense. It’s clear we’re not supposed to like the Lassen group or Otto because they’re basically enslaving digilects on one level, but on the other level the noir genre often has the bad guys win, and the way Robert’s group ends the story feels something like that. Also, really show us the narrator about to enter the meeting with Otto—it should feel tense, but here it doesn’t. There’s time to show who Otto is as a person, even if it’s the narrator’s research into him. The climax comes too fast and is over too quickly to be a peak in the story. In summary, in order to tweak the ending, you need some additions in the rest of the story. I’d also working the climax.
High, with the potential to be higher and plays 100 quick games of Go with the prompt and wins almost all of them
I dislike the "secret tech/thing is the reason for all the important things in history!" it's contrived, annoying, ahistorical, and overdone. The story’s hook is purely from it’s non-traditional formatting, which is risky. You might consider introducing the protagonist getting sucked into the weird-post-humans dimension in a more traditional prose style, then swapping to the documentation style, but a second style shift might be too jarring.
The story has an alright interface between two different ideologies, though they are mismatched in a sense--individual/family vs. altrusitic interference in general for a greater good. I didn’t feel like the story really explored either of those ideas in any real depth, though, and certainly not in a specific way. I think one way to improve it would be to give us more about the imprisoned protagonist prior to his escape, his thoughts and dreams, and also more from the post-humans (who seemed a bit cheesy; I think they need more depth to them). The conflict is currently established quite late in the story, which again, is risky. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to care about until mid-way though. I do like that the escape is facilitated by the post-humans’ flaws that are still very human (like greed). There’s an okay full circle. The story relies heavily on its non-traditional formatting to carry it; take that away, and there’s a lot of underpinnings that need work. However, solidify those and the rest of the story benefits.
Medium-high, and hits the prompt head on
Makes You Think: An Oral History
First, please never name anything “Operation Icarus.” “Here’s this risky program that shoots for the stars! What should we call it? Operation Icarus, obviously,” said no one ever. “Oh no, it went wrong! Who could have seen that coming?” *stares directly at forth wall* “Absolutely no one.”
Okay, got that out of my system.
Props for trying a difficult format. The story creates a strong setting and its own voice (through the format) and sticks with it well. It’s interesting enough alternate history it had me hooked as I read, with the most interesting parks generally in the middle. It is hard to follow so many characters given that they're talking heads (sort of have to be), but does a decent job of developing them through the oral history. There are some clichés (“time will tell if we have created gods, or monsters” mad scientist, no one listens to kids, the secret psychopath villain) but acceptable.
The story clearly plans out its arc, foreshadows events. They retelling is sparse but hits on important descriptors that give a sense of each scene. The story lacks immediacy and tension, but I think that’s almost inevitable with the format (World War Z had the same problem). A strength of the story is that it’s very rooted in looking at modern problems and society, but says it through the lens of the story and from the perspective of the characters. It also comments on people by having each one reach for their goals based on their new ability, however massive (end world hunger, stop wars) or petty (power fantasies) they may be. In terms of exploring implications, I think smart-pills was a difficult one (since it’s a technology that can lead to other technologies), and the story did a great job with the prompt.
The biggest point that stuck out was the ending. It’s clear that Rafael was set up to have a cult from the beginning (and the idea of eugenics/racial superiority symbolically defeated), so the ending is clearly planned, and a resolution needs to deal with him and his ideas. However, the ending itself is the narrators’ getting a bit snarky and then it’s over. The ending (and possibly title) need changes. That said, I’m not entirely sure what the best way to end it is. Let me know if you want me to expand on any of these comments.
High, with potential to be higher, and explores interesting ideas through the prompt
Murder on the Ockient Express
This story makes no sense. It has apathetic characters who also are talking heads. Your setting is a space elevator, but if I didn’t know that from the prompt, I would have never known. After you drop a brief (if vague) description of the setting, you never touch it again. Somehow, you made a murder on a space elevator boring. The story is so disengaging even your protagonist hates it. It felt to me like you went in knowing you were going to Ock, and compared to the other Ock stories I've read it’s not even funny. Ends prematurely. Feels like low effort crap, so I’ve got nothing more to say about it.
Very low, and touches the prompt lightly then runs away really fast
In the Marshes of Lerna a Young Man Drowns
The story goes from pills that make people immortal to “supervirus that will kill everyone like a bad Bond-villain and restart humanity” and I have no idea why. It just sort of ~has~ huge things in it, like the supervirus technology, like a cabal of illuminati-style secret world leaders. Like the weird sexual stuff that I couldn’t find the purpose for in the story. The things that are assumed that pass without commentary… perhaps shouldn’t be. If a secret cabal of dudes are running things, then aren’t they responsible for the mess humanity’s in? Instead, they murder everyone. Why does the son press the “murder everyone button.” Obviously he becomes depressed afterward and kills himself, but that’s not a very interesting end to the story. I’m left wondering what the hell the point of the story was. It clearly wants to say something, but I don’t know what. It also has large superfluous chunks, like the introduction section. Ultimately, this is such a mess of things I don’t know what the core of it is supposed to be, or how to fix it.
Very low, and it has an embarrassing teen erection over the prompt
10^123 or The List of Undecidable Problems
Basically, nothing happens in this story. It’s philosophical musings with a bit of "here's an article I read about how the universe might be weird!" I’ve read those articles. If I wanted to read them again, I saved the links. The idea that organisms use quantum phenomena is interesting as hell. The idea that the universe is holographic is interesting. Both of those could easily be the inspiration for a novel, if not a series. Again, though, I read those articles online already. This is a story, and it needs story parts. All you’ve done is go “this might be the case! or might not!” So the only thing that might be a story is a character story about the professor or the professor/student relationship, but that’s never explored either. You need a lot of things, but primarily, you need a conflict. Finally, I don’t think this story actually does anything to explore what quantum computers might be able to do or the implications it might have on society since the story ends before anything at all happens.
Low, and dodge-rolls away from the prompt
This story needs some work to reach its potential. The core of the story is a father doing anything to save his son, with commentary on how the for-profit medical system in the US is horrific and corporations are bad. I’m sympathetic to the story and the message, so it’s the delivery that needs work. The other characters all seem a bit mustache-twirly. I didn't really feel connected to the characters. I felt a bit bad for the Dad, but I think I needed to see more of the emotional impact of such a medical condition. Have him go home and talk with his wife about it, try to talk to his son about it, let us see those moments that lead him to taking such drastic action. Next, make the antagonists… not sympathetic, but human. They’re one-dimensional cutouts at the moment. People justify all sorts of horrible things they do, but they do justify them. Have them making excuses, or talking about why it’s necessary, or the greater good or whatever, but make the antagonists’ motivations apparent and real to us.
Medium, and bops the prompt in the nose
The core of this story is a mystery. Political oligarch makes questionable decision but the selectively-chosen-to-be-docile populace produces a protagonist who exposes his thing. The story itself has a fine arc where we get hook, problem, rising action, climax, resolution. The story needs work fitting into the sci-fi genre. Basically, it doesn’t really matter what star you park your spaceship by. They’re all going to produce more than enough energy, so I wasn’t sold on the premise. Also, iirc red dwarves are going to produce less energetic wavelengths than, say, a blue supergiant. You can adjust your technobabble slightly for that, maybe they find a stream of x-rays emanating from a black hole instead, or explain the solar panels work best with some optimal wavelength I guess. Then you have mention of no communication past the radio shell, but that’s an expanding wave of radio waves traveling at light speed and it’s unclear why the past communications from Earth have anything to do with present communication. Also, kids need to be raised with personal attachments to a caregiver or they will be seriously hosed up. Essentially, you have little informational problems that break my immersion in the story. I’m also unclear on the setting. Is faster than light travel possible? If not, how is interstellar trade working with multi-year journeys that need generations of colonists?
Since the hook of the story is the mystery, you also run into a problem when you basically reveal the mystery in the very next session. There’s no wondering who sabotaged the drone or why; we already know. If you’re going to have a conspiracy unearthed, that needs to come later. I think focusing more on Trace and her perspective might make the story more engaging. There’s other things to talk about, but I think the broad strokes of setting and perspective hit at the core of the problems I have with the story.
Medium with potential, relevant to prompt
The Beautiful World
This story is about people living in their own realities and hiding in fantasies, literally now that the technology exists. It is commentary on how society focuses on looks and how our media create an expectation of perfection, which is of course impossible. All of this is very explicitly spelled out without any sort of subtlety. This is a fine premise that is what the prompt is looking for, but ultimately the story itself is just not very interesting. It spends most of its time explaining the setting and technology, but it seems little is at stake with the two character’s relationship, and I don’t think an ambiguous ending really does anything here except make me roll my eyes. There’s no real conflict, tension, or reason to care about these characters.
|# ? May 23, 2017 01:14|
The doors opened with a ding. "What the hell is that thing on the floor!?"
"No, not the--the thing on top of the carpet!"
"The dead body?"
"Yes the dead body!"
"Well if you knew it was a dead body, why'd you ask?"
"What's it doing there?"
"Lying prone, mostly. Don't think it'll finish any time soon, so you might want to find a different floor."
"Did you... dear god, you killed a man just to make an elevator pun."
"Well not just to make an eleva--wait!"
|# ? May 23, 2017 01:31|
Week #248: A Vision of the Future – CRITS
|# ? May 23, 2017 05:03|
Judgment for Week 250
Ah, the big bisesquecentennial or whatever the gently caress you want to call it. Who better to mark the occasion than someone who's been here for barely two months? Only a small bunch of people were brave enough to risk my wrath, and none of them reached my wildest expectations. The best of them found other ways to make me happy instead. The worst were at least varied in their methods of disappointment.
The DMs go to Meinberb's "Nihilism Is My Kink" for having the most pedestrian, predictable, boring interpretation of a prompt that was supposed to encourage balls-craziness; and Killer-of-Lawyers' Fragmented for mistaking vagueness and pointless obfuscation for atmosphere and intrigue.
Neither of those stories was as obnoxious as the loser, with its obnoxious meta moments, obnoxious attitude, and obnoxious failure to understand my prompt even the tiniest bit. For "Anemic Structure," I declare The Cut of Your Jib the biggest loser!
The HMs go to Thranguy's "Girl, You'll be a Wolfman, Soon," for making me feel the most for any given character this week and telling a heartwarming story when I didn't expect it; and Fleta Mcgurn's "The Girl in the Vlog" for hitting uncomfortably close to home and surprising me with a pretty good twist.
This week's winner is the story that came closest to what I originally envisioned when I came up with this prompt. It has a problem or two, but it captures the madcap, absurdist-yet-pessimistic spirit I wanted from all of you. It's "Satyric Humor!" I bequeath unto ThirdEmperor the meager responsibility of PROOOOOMPT and FJGJ.
Solitair fucked around with this message at 18:10 on May 23, 2017
|# ? May 23, 2017 06:13|
|# ? May 23, 2017 08:46|
uhh actually it's ephebocentennial thank s you very much
|# ? May 23, 2017 09:43|
Thunderdome Week 251: We're Grammarpunk Now
So here we are. After spending so long shouting idiot fjgj posts at the blood monarchy, I have become a lackey of the system and a tyrant of small authority. It's fuckin great!
Your prompt this week is, besides generally trying to please my inconsistent whims, is to go Write a story about being a lovely punk youth in a fantastic world. Rebel against your parents, rebel against your clothes, find something new and interesting for your characters to hate. Steampunk is banned. Cyberpunk is allowed, if a little pedestrian. Maybe try magicpunk.
And to help you all get in the mindset of suffering under unjust authority, the poster above you will provide a flashrule. Flashrules must be in the form of IN A WORLD WITH [THING] or IN A WORLD WITHOUT [THING] and should be kept short, please leave one in your signup post for the next signup to enjoy, just as the punks of today become the irresponsible adults of tomorrow.
Wordcount is 1500 words maximum.
Signups due Friday 12 a.m. Mountain Time
Submissions due Sunday 12 a.m. Mountain Time
First flashtyranny is - IN A WORLD WITH GHOST OVERPOPULATION.
ThirdEmperor fucked around with this message at 14:19 on May 23, 2017
|# ? May 23, 2017 14:05|
IN A WORLD WITHOUT AUTOTROPHS
|# ? May 23, 2017 15:53|
IN A WORLD WHERE HUMANITY IS NO LONGER AT THE TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN
|# ? May 23, 2017 16:06|
IN A WORLD WHERE HUMANITY IS NO LONGER AT THE TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN
In a world without land
|# ? May 23, 2017 17:00|
e: IN A WORLD WHERE ONE CLUMSY FOOL FUCKS EVERYTHING UP FOR EVERYONE
Tweezer Reprise fucked around with this message at 18:19 on May 23, 2017
|# ? May 23, 2017 17:02|
|# ? Sep 22, 2023 08:34|
IN A WORLD WHERE PEOPLE CAN'T FOLLOW THE SIMPLEST OF INSTRUCTIONS
(e: I'm taking no land)
|# ? May 23, 2017 17:06|