Bucking the status quo already. Tut tut.
For failure to follow instructions, I'm ejecting you from the normal queue and handing down the flash rule IN A WORLD WHERE PARENTS ARE KILLER ROBOTS.
|# ? May 23, 2017 16:35|
|# ? Oct 2, 2022 09:03|
In a world where The Americas "discovered" and colonized Europe instead
|# ? May 23, 2017 17:37|
In a world where baked goods have been weaponized & subsequently banned
|# ? May 23, 2017 19:19|
in a world where all dogs are not good but actually bad
|# ? May 23, 2017 19:31|
In a world where the bomb was never dropped and Russia conquers Japan.
|# ? May 24, 2017 01:35|
In a world with vast underground complexes designed by wizards and stocked with murderous beasts.
|# ? May 24, 2017 01:57|
In a world where dissidents are 'blanked' via electric lobotomy
In a world with vast underground complexes designed by wizards and stocked with murderous beasts.
|# ? May 24, 2017 02:01|
in a world where only underground exists and there is no such thing as sky
|# ? May 24, 2017 02:24|
In a world with no night
|# ? May 24, 2017 02:31|
In a world where everyone's a rebel.
|# ? May 24, 2017 03:09|
In a world where everyone's a rebel.
In a world without a magnetosphere.
|# ? May 24, 2017 04:01|
In a world without a magnetosphere.
In a world where aligning structures to cosmic bodies grants them power...
|# ? May 24, 2017 05:39|
In a world where aligning structures to cosmic bodies grants them power...
In a world where people can no longer read the alphabet...
|# ? May 24, 2017 18:40|
In a world with intelligent, telepathic owls
|# ? May 24, 2017 20:30|
In a world where all high-fashion clothing is woven from human hair.
|# ? May 25, 2017 01:33|
Signups are closed. And have been for a while, woops.
|# ? May 27, 2017 14:09|
The Four Rs: Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmetic, and...
It’s one in the morning. There is darkness in constant flow, washing over the streets, and around the buildings. There is the dim, icy glow of the cyan light-tubes embedded in the sidewalks, set to fade away gradually in a matter of hours, to show their deference to the all-encompassing rays of the Sun. The two parent-kept brats plot, their faces made ghostly by the ethereal neon, one with a lit cigarette between two fingers, in a manner that she surely believes to be massively impressive. Their unintelligible slangy dialect slurs and disrupts the peace of the night.
There would be no peace for Jessie tonight. Ezekiel kept shaking him awake by the nearest shoulder; the flashlight in his other hand was focusing its cold-white beam onto a stained, curled page of a spiral notebook. There were tablets that gave off their own light, of course, but they were locked away for the night. Zeke, Jessie, and Sandra were sitting on his bed. The youngest child whines, and ineffectively bats the mattress he was sitting on in weak protest, with an open palm. The construction of the bed was…fine, everything physically there was fine.
The institution, of which this particular building was a branch, at some point housed the children of upwards of seven-eighths of the taxpayers in the State. Some only stayed for a summer, some for a year or two. Some parents even opted out entirely, those with this profound gall being taxed accordingly. Those children without parents or those whose parents were deemed ineffective would stay here until adulthood, the boundary of which was determined case-by-case, for each child. The staff on hand certainly had the resources to dedicate to the testing required for this determination.
Was it like boot camp? Perhaps it had a different flavor, but there was a likeness, certainly. The schedules assigned were absolutely strict, and the punishments dealt were absolutely just. In the intervening years since introduction, crime rates had plummeted, and that was enough for the powers that be to cry success. The experience certainly toughened the children who made it through the program, and that was the overarching goal. What was also intended was literacy, and Jessie’s was a more than a bit shaky. When he first went to class and was tasked with learning to write, his letters were all wrong. Some were backwards, and some even came out upside-down. When he got to type instead, it seemed as if he never had a firm grasp on what the words that left his trembling fingers actually meant.
The writing exam was now tomorrow, technically today, after having loomed over Jessie’s head for practically his entire life. He had to pass, if just by scraping by. His friends didn’t want to see him transferred to the adolescents’ campus in the boonies, where he would be prepared for more laborious and hopeless jobs, jobs meant for those who didn’t have all the gears oiled upstairs. He wouldn’t get out of there until he was twenty-two, at least according to all the reports from those with slow siblings, and with slow friends.
And, so they pushed him, and did all that they could to help him prepare. Zeke and Sandra had already passed two years ago, the latter with flying colors. The past month had been severe crunch-time. Zeke had rubber-banded stacks of index cards, and sheets upon sheets of loose-leaf paper that Jessie’s pen had practiced on. He shakes him again. “Come on. One paragraph, about flowers. How they smell, maybe? Please, Jess.” The boy hesitates, and puts the tip of pen to paper.
The result was…not passable. Not even close. The prose meandered and went astray in the space of four sentences, and remarked exactly once on flowers’…buttery scent? At least Zeke could fake that he knew what flowers smelled like. It’s not like Jessie couldn’t think straight, but it became increasingly clear to him that he was not going to pass this test save for divine intervention. Zeke sighs, and flicks off his flashlight, and motions for Sandra to do the same.
The sun gleams and reflects off the surface of the desk. Jessie had not slept well, and at two in the afternoon, which is when the test was scheduled to start, he was still waking up. This was yet another one of the forces working against him; perhaps the latest incident of late-night cramming had actually just made his chances that much more fleeting. He had already had his hour of recess, which he spent groggily on the sidewalk outside the building, facing the bookstore that he was scarcely allowed to enter, and he had always felt crushed when he couldn’t seem to enjoy nor grok the simplest of printed words therein. He had felt miserable, as his feet dragged on the scratched-up light-tube panels.
Exactly on time, as always, Miss Electra makes her entrance into the claustrophobic, two-person classroom. Miss Electra was Jessie’s teacher in the classroom, and his substitute-parent outside of it. “Well, today’s the big day! Are you ready?”
Her voice is shrill, and oscillates unpleasantly, inherently emotionless. It’s nearly enough to make the uninitiated queasy. Jessie was never happy to see her, of course. He hated all the staff here, and he was only twelve. The kids that were pushing eighteen were practically ready to put a hole in the wall, when a robotic substitute-parent combed the corridor, walked up to their bunk, and asked how they were doing, almost unintentionally mocking them with their hollow, predictable subroutine. The organic staff members were few and far between, but they were also the hardest to defy. Jessie almost wasn’t used to interacting with adult humans. Yet, he craved their attention, desperately. He had always gone out of his way to try to talk to actual adults. He had managed to do that today during recess, in fact, this having been the sole high point of what he was prepared to have be the worst day of his life so far.
“No, I’m not.” he scowls. She doesn’t seem to understand his response as anything but an enthusiastic “Yes, ma’am!”, however. “Wonderful!” she chirps, clutching the papers to her flat, polygonal chest. “We’ll start now, okay?”
Zeke and Sandra are on their recess. They lay with their backs up against the wall, next to the window inside which Jessie is surely sweating bullets. The plan was almost certainly going to fail, though its premise was simplistic. All the robots here were primitive in certain ways, but Miss Electra in particular had issues with her peripheral vision, due to some sort of recent miscalibration. The children were able to pick up on this, and exploit it, of course. Sandra had snatched an extra cupcake from the kitchen, when Electra was looking to the side, just last week. This was their ultimate Hail Mary. If caught, all three of them would be rather in for it. “This is really stupid.” she admits.
“I know.” Zeke stumbles to his feet, his heart racing. He looks inside, to see Electra, and Jessie, pencil twirling, face contorted. He arches a finger next to the glass, about to attempt the slightest of taps on the window. This had a significant risk of tipping off Electra, whose auditory faculties were also shoddy and exploitable, but slightly more passable. Before he can, a voice booms across the field. “Hey!” Zeke freezes! Sandra instantly jumps to her feet, heavily startled, and trips over herself trying to dash away. They had gotten a HUMAN staff member tipped off? How did this happen?
Will looks up casually from his phone, tongue lodged firmly in his cheek. Late-teens peach fuzz is splattered across his face, a modest entry-level lightning bolt tattoo straddles his cheek. This kid’s hair was all weird, and it definitely wouldn’t be allowed in here. “Hey, uh. Don’t you want her COMPLETELY deactivated before you two go and do something loving stupid?” The trail of smoke emanating from his girlfriend’s cigarette seems eternal, and she seems anxious to be somewhere else.
“Do I gotta be here for this?” she breathily inquires, and when informed that no, she didn’t, she hoots, and quickly turns tail, skipping off, grappling and hopping effortlessly over the fence, and off into the streets.
“Chicks, man.” He snickers at the two wide-eyed kids, and points to the window. “Hey, check it out.” Will taps his phone’s screen, and all the light at once disappeared from Electra’s eyes, her front slumping over into her lap. “These things are so loving trash, yeah? Totally open on every port, too.”
As Jessie handed his newly-rebooted teacher his finished test across the desk, which clearly appeared to be entirely in Zeke’s neat handwriting to any reasonable organic comparator, he smiled for the first time in a month. Soon, he would be able to write his new bad influence that he met during recess a thank-you letter. He was sure of it.
|# ? May 27, 2017 23:39|
I'm out. Had some hardware issues and ended up not being able to do a bunch of work I'm behind on, so I gotta catch up. Good luck to everyone else, hopefully see you next week.
|# ? May 28, 2017 13:51|
Same, I can see that I'm not gonna make it. Sorry
|# ? May 28, 2017 14:49|
Obliterati fucked around with this message at 15:01 on Dec 7, 2017
|# ? May 28, 2017 22:01|
QuoProQuid fucked around with this message at 02:49 on Jan 1, 2018
|# ? May 29, 2017 03:52|
Like an Arrow
In a world where the bomb was never dropped and Russia conquers Japan.
I’ve made a mistake. The rogue agent has the drop on me, a gun to my back. The bar’s in a bad part of Manilla, but it’s probably still not a place where he can just shoot me in the middle of the crowd. If I’d recognized him sooner I wouldn’t be in this mess, and I should have recognized him sooner. The years changed his face plenty, but he still has his mother’s eyes. “Hello, Dad” he says. He’s been stewing over our last argument for about twenty years. For me, it’s been less than a month.
When people used to talk about time travel, back when it was all hypothetical, the most obvious idea everyone had was going back in time and shooting Hitler as a baby. Which always struck me as unnecessarily violent. I mean, you can have the same effect with a lot less trouble if you just cock-block Hitler’s dad, so I figured this was mostly people who wanted to shoot babies- well, who wanted to philosophically justify shooting hypothetical babies- to get their edginess on. But it turns out that your actual time machines have a pretty strict limit as to how much mass can be sent back how many years, and right around that turn of the century target zone what we’re talking about is something bullet-sized. Turns out, if you’ve got a gun that fires bullets back in time, every problem starts looking like a baby.
He walks me into a back room, and I start to worry. A couple of guards give him quick salutes with their fists. They help tie me to a chair, then leave.
Of course, we’re not going into our own history. What we’re doing is taking one of the nigh-infinite number of parallel universes that is indistinguishable from our own and making it diverge, hopefully into something useful. In this one, Ernest Lawrence got the bullet and as a result the Manhattan Project wasted months trying to refine Uranium the wrong way. The changes ripple through the timeline several years a day, and as it they get closer to the present the barrier gets weaker. Plan was we’d send an agent of influence in around 1972 or so to try and shepherd history. But Andrew Junior weighs a lot less than our agent. Weighed, that is. These days not so much. He stole my keys and passcard and fired up the device a week earlier. That killed the portal for weeks, as far as sending anything human-sized through. So the agency sent me as soon as they could, local 1985 to clean up my own mess.
“Last time we spoke,” I say, “You said you wanted to help the people here out. How’s that been working out for you?”
He decks me. He’s done this before, knows how to brace the chair with his legs before throwing the punch. Looks like he can learn after all, when properly motivated. “I’ll ask the questions,” he says. “Whose idea was this one? What were they trying to accomplish?”
“Jarvis.” I say. No need to lie at this point. “He got tired of watching nuclear wars, I think.” Andrew laughed, bitter and short. I’ve did a little research before coming in here. A proper agent would have brought a transponder, sent back information about everything that’s happened. but Junior wasn’t that cooperative, so I had to rely on textbooks. Without the atom bomb World War II drags on a few years longer, with the Soviets being the ones who ended up taking Japan. Which they kept. So the US kept the Philippines, made them the fifty-second state right alongside Puerto Rico, and the whole decolonization movement failed to get much steam.
Then the late fifties saw a war between the Soviets and China, which went nuclear in a one-sided way. A few more bombs fell a couple years later in Algeria, and another batch in the Middle East happened before people started to realize how badly they’d hosed the environment. Jarvis should have known better. The one thing we’ve learned running timelines is that we our own history was insanely lucky. Nuclear weapons being invented during an ongoing world conflict that’s already mostly settled, by the side that’s already winning, that’s the only time they can be invented without leading to a first nuclear conflict big enough to mostly wreck the world. Back when we we first starting, didn’t have the aim down pat, we found out that when you shoot a bullet into the air in baby Hitler’s general vicinity (or baby Stalin’s, or whomever), ninety nine times out of a hundred you end up with a nuclear wasteland.
“World’s dying in slow motion,” says Andrew. “Between nuclear winter and the fallout nobody can farm worth a drat north of the tropic. So, yeah, your kind of place.”
When the agency sends a person downtime, it’s a two edged sword. On the one hand, I’m going to have to live decades longer to have any chance of coming home when the change reaches local present and unlimited two-way travel can happen. On the other hand, this way I get to live those decades, which is more than anyone else will if the agency’s plan doesn’t work. World’s circling the drain, and there’s not much left in the bowl.
“Tell me, son,” I say. “What do you think my kind of place is?”
“One where the strong exploit the weak. You’re trying to extract resources and technology from the multiverse, put it into heading off to space.”
It’s my turn to laugh. I got in a few before he hits me again. “You really still believe the space program happy horseshit?” You really are your mother’s child, aren’t you?”
He balls fists, talks through teeth. “What about her?”
“She never had the guts to do what had to be done either.” I tap a code with my tongue into the transponder inside my front teeth. At a year a day things are moving too fast for my human handlers to keep up full time, but the computers can manage just fine. “You should have shot me when you had the chance.”
When you’ve got a gun that fires bullets back in time, every problem looks like a baby.
He was right, though. Didn’t know why, but this world is exactly the kind we’re looking for. Heading straight towards a full-on north-south war. A no-holds barred fight over lands with the world’s nastiest disease reservoirs. Just the thing to produce some seriously sophisticated plagues.
We can send a bullet back a bit more than a century. A few virus particles can go even further, right to where the first age of colonialism can spread them everywhere. Once we’ve mixed a potent enough cocktail we can start making worlds with perfectly pristine environments and no local humans at all.
Some of the scientists say that we’re not actually making new timelines with those first changes. That what we’re effectively doing is taking a timeline where a bullet, or whatever, spontaneously materialized out of the quantum foam, a timeline like that that already existed somewhere in the multiversal phase space and we’re just moving it close enough that we can interact with.
I’ve always considered that idea some weak-rear end self-serving rationalization. The way I see it, there’s us, and there’s them, and I’ll pick us every time.
I knock over the chair and root through my dead boy’s pockets blindly with the fingers of the hands tied behind my back, looking for something to cut the rope with. Sure enough, he still kept the boy scout knife I bought him. No way I’m going to get the rope off, blind, without bleeding a little. I start cutting. I won’t be able to pull the bullet trick for weeks, and have to talk or fight my way out of this little dilettante-revolutionary den. It hurts, but I don’t feel it. I don’t have the time.
|# ? May 29, 2017 04:16|
IN A WORLD WITHOUT AUTOTROPHS
I lay in my bunk and listen to the poo poo hit the fan in the next room. Literally.
Yeah my parents are fighting again, and I can hear the yelling through the walls of our cube, but that's not what I mean. Our little cube is right next to Waste Recycling, so thousands of gallons of poo poo flow past and into the turbines that start the process of turning it back into a gray paste. Or as the Council calls it: nutritious food!
Everything gets recycled here. And I mean everything.
We weren't supposed to wake up until about a year out from Alpha Centauri. But twenty years from Earth a fungal infection wiped out the algae pools, the computer freaked out and pulled everyone out of cryosleep early. So now here we are, two centuries away from Alpha Centauri, and now we have to craft some kind of society on this stripped out shithole of an arkship.
No food. No plan. Nowhere to go.
How do you suppose that's worked out? We screwed it up even further. Of loving course. Martial law, an autocratic quasi-religious leadership, and no freedom or creativity or hope or freaking humanity. Good job, everyone.
It's time. I get up and exit our cube the usual way: though the floor duct, wriggling and then dropping into an empty maintenance tunnel. Flynn is just around the corner, waiting.
"Liselle. You look beautiful." He always says this.
I roll my eyes but I pull him towards me. He's brought a blanket and things progress quickly. Afterwards, we both lay on our backs and look up at the jumble of conduit and pipes. I try not to think about the endlessly cycling fluids pushing through them.
"They're adjusting the recipe again," he says. "Current one has been using too much vitamin D." Flynn's a few years older than me. Works in food reclamation.
"They going to make it taste any better?"
"Of course not. You know that's not how it works." He doesn't realize I'm joking. "poo poo's got to last two more centuries."
So true. I roll away and start gathering my clothes. "Of course. Why change what works?"
He looked at me curiously. "Right. See you tomorrow?"
"I'll be here."
I make my way out of the tunnels and back towards our cube. Flynn isn't my Chosen, so our trysts have to be secret. I'm not on schedule for ten more years. If my father found out I was violating Protocol he'd probably try to airlock me.
Later, at the dreaded dinner table, my father stops eating, puts down his fork and looks at me. The cryosleep has prematurely aged him—he looks like an old man. Gray and pasty, much like what's on my plate.
"How was your calculus test today, Liselle?" he asks.
"Who cares?" I drag my spoon through the sludge. "Doesn't matter."
He sighs, folds his napkin neatly on the table, and tents his fingers. His dark eyes regard me. I know this look, know what's coming.
"Liselle, we've been over this so many times. Your education is important. It's the key—"
"The key to what, Dad? So I can waste all day watching holosims like the rest of the zombies on this loving can? Do I need integrals for that?"
"I know this is hard. It's not ideal."
I laugh. It tastes bitter. "Yeah, I loving know."
My mother reaches across the table. "Honey, please. Respect your father. The language."
I ignore her. I've got him in my sights now.
"Which sermon are you giving tomorrow? How we all need to band together for the glory of the Mission? Maybe the one about the weak link in the chain bringing everyone down, or the ship as a loving metaphor for the human soul? You're lucky nobody listens. They might catch that you're recycling the same poo poo year after year.
"Just like this whole loving place."
I storm off to my bunk. I'm still hungry, but I don't care, because it doesn't matter. Nothing does. The lights will flick on in the morning and we'll do this all over again. There's nothing new under the glare of the ultraviolet. We're placeholders, doing the minimum needed for survival. Anything more and we'll run out of resources and have nothing to pass to the generations that follow us. And what a lovely gift to give: an empty and pointless life. Human society pared down to essentials, everything meticulously engineered from birth till death. It's no life at all. I hate it.
What little meaning people get in their lives comes from either the Church or the holosims. The drugs ran out long ago.
I look closer at the test strip. Still negative. Try again tomorrow.
I sigh and wait for the lights to shut off.
I skip class the next day and head down to the tunnels. Petr and Orrin are there already, and they've got a jar of rusty liquid they pass back and forth between them.
"Shouldn't drink coolant," I say. "Remember what it did to Karl."
They smirk. We all know Karl had much bigger issues than sipping coolant. He offed himself last year. Took one for the team.
I sit down and grab the jar. We used to meet down here and talk politics, complain about our parents, but mostly to create. Art, music, words—Karl would stitch together sculptures out of scrap metal and salvaged parts. I even tried to write poetry, but everything I wrote was painfully embarrassing. We called ourselves The Creatives—I know, right?—and for a while our little secret drove away the monotony.
Now we mostly pass the jar around.
Which is why I have a raging headache as I head back through the tunnels towards home. It's bad enough that I consider canceling on Flynn, but I remember the jar of test strips I nicked from the pharmacy last week and decide to meet him anyway. I catch a short nap in my bunk before slipping back down to the tunnels to meet him. But he's not there. Instead it's my father, along with two Church Elders who glower at me from under their hoods.
"Liselle," my father says. "What the hell are you thinking? You know Flynn isn't your Chosen. This is against our teachings. You're much too young."
"Did you follow me? Or did Flynn tell you?"
He shakes his head. "Don't be naive. Do you really think there are places you can hide on this ship? That you can hide from me?"
"We're just friends," I say. Which is a lie. I only use Flynn for one reason.
He exhales and his face softens. "Look, I know you think I haven't been there for you. And you're probably right. When we awoke, and there was so much to do, panicked people with nowhere to go and nothing to look forward to but all this—" he sweeps his arms around in the cramped corridor. "I wish it wasn't like this. We should be preparing to land in our new home. But sometimes life isn't what you expect."
"Great sermon. You should use it next week." I'm suddenly very tired. I want him to go away. "Maybe they'll be stupid enough to believe it."
His voice lowers. "You are lucky that you're my daughter. If we caught anyone else violating Protocol in this manner..."
"Tell me, father." The word is acid on my tongue. "What would you do? Give them a show trial before you airlock them? Or just do it quietly?
"Don't worry Liselle. I'll keep it quiet." He motions the Elders forward. "You've embarrassed our family enough."
He doesn't throw me out the airlock. Instead I get five days in the brig, which is even more mind-numbingly boring than my regular life. At least it's farther from Waste Recycling and I don't have to listen to recycled poo poo flowing through the pipes all night.
I serve my time, but I'm not rehabilitated. If anything it strengthens my resolve.
Mother worries over me when I get back, cooing and clucking, but I ignore her. I head straight to my bunk. It's tidy. The test strips and my coolant stash are both gone.
I lie on my bed and put both hands over my belly. I'm not going to stop meeting Flynn. Or anyone else. I'm not going to stop trying to create.
It's the only thing I can do.
|# ? May 29, 2017 04:39|
IN A WORLD WITHOUT NIGHT
Word count: 737
This is where I draw my line in the sand. I'm about to change the world, and this is my manifesto. I am writing this to tell you about my world, and my reasons for this rebellion.
If you haven't lived under a stone for the last two years, you already know what I am about to say. This is for the future. For those who will grow up in the world I am about to shape.
The scientists were the first to lose it; the mathematicians, the engineers, and most others who relied too much on a logical mind, were soon to follow. They would stare up at the sky, baffled, not able to comprehend the situation. They would do their measurements, their math, make their hypotheses, and at every step it would fail.
As weeks passed, first a few, then many more, would get that look in their eye. That almost glassy look that told you they had clocked out. The "lights were on, but no one's home" look that only pure and utter defeat of everything you held dear could accomplish.
Some of them would take the easy way out, while others would bunker down in their basements, or find a deep, dark, cave to hole up in and not set foot under the sun again.
Those who remained, those who would keep on trying to find a solution, would lose it more and more. They would either go stark raving mad, or find their peace in the illogical, like divine intervention or magic.
The sun. The sun is the problem. It used to rise and set. We used to have wonderful, dark, scary nights. But now, the sun is in its zenith. Or should I say, in everyone's zenith. It is directly above our heads, frozen and unmoving. And that is impossible. You would think it would be night on the other side of the planet, but no, everywhere you went it is high noon. For everyone. At the same time.
The animals don't seem to mind. They are staying on their regular cycle, not caring that the sun won't move. Maybe for them it still does, who knows.
The weather's the same, too. There's no blight, the sea isn't boiling from overheating, and the deserts are not covering the entire planet by now. It, too, is unaffected by the sun standing still.
So, yeah, most illogical.
My mother was a scientist. She was one of those who sound some deep, dark, hole in the ground to live in. I see her once a month when she braves the light to resupply and pay our bills. She used to be one of the greatest minds of our time. Now she collects spores, molds, and fungus.
Dad and I are trying to cope. He drinks a lot, more than he used to, and I play video games.
School's been out for a few weeks now. All the teachers just up and left out of the blue one day, and there's been no replacements.
Everyone's lost it to some degree. You, whoever you are reading this. Look at yourself! Look at the people around you. You have given up! You have lost your drive, your focus! You have lost your humanity! You wake up in the morning, well, noon, you have your breakfast, and you go about your day as normal. But inside you are dead. When was the last time you told someone you loved them? When was the last time you stopped to chat with your neighbors? When was the last time you smiled?
I liked it better at the start of all this, when you were raging, rioting, wrecking everything around you. When you showed your passion, and a will to fight and live! Then you were human. Now I don’t know what to call you anymore.
Hell, I feel like I'm the only sane person left on this mud ball.
I'm not going to bore you with my personal details. You don't need to know who I am to understand my message. I’m just a nobody, fed up with how this world is turning to apathy. So I'm going to do something about it. I'm going to make a statement.
Gary hesitated for a moment. Then he clicked on post, and turned off his computer. He grabbed the bag by his bed and walked out.
And then he changed the world.
|# ? May 29, 2017 04:55|
In a world where baked goods have been weaponized & subsequently banned
Snacks for Two
flerp fucked around with this message at 21:15 on Oct 11, 2017
|# ? May 29, 2017 05:27|
The Quality of Mercy
Flash rule: In a world with intelligent, telepathic owls.
Until she met the owl, Rill took her rage out on the forest. She broke uncountable deadwood branches against trunks, scoring her own palms with mold and filth but leaving little mark on the trees. They stood unyielding and merciless, and when she leaned against them, their knobs pressed into the bruises her mother's belt had made. The snapped-off blades of years' worth of her penknives rusted in knotholes. Those wooden eyes watched all she did with paternal indifference.
Blood stained the back of Rill's shirt on the evening she tore a living bough loose. Her shoulders on fire, she still slammed the branch against its parent tree with force; her scream drowned out the snaps of twigs. She brought the weapon around again.
Now that's a step too far.
Claws seized the branch and stole it from her. Wings scraped the air by her ear, there and gone too fast for her wild slap to land. The bough hit the dirt in front of Rill, and the owl thief perched where she could see it in full measure. Yellow eyes sat in a round, grey face, half framed by white parentheses. Brown feathers mottled its body. Rill's eyes went to the talons--large, cruel things, even at rest.
Break pieces off your own property, the owl said in her head, not mine. The voice was hollow, resonant, and feminine.
"You own this tree?"
They're all mine if I say they are. You aren't up to fighting my claim.
Rill stooped and grabbed the branch. But she only held it, her knuckles white.
The owl hooted. Right. You'd like to fight something, though, wouldn't you? So would I. We could tear chunks out of each other. Her talons dug into wood. Flecks of bark showered down. Or we could be partners in the arena.
"The arena," Rill repeated, and as she did, pictures bloomed inside her mind courtesy of another mind entirely: rough stadium seats under dim light; sawdust; sweat; two owls and two humans in the center of it all, fists and claws drawing blood. One human-owl team stood proud in the end, green bills showering them like confetti.
Money. A person could go a long way, with money. The alternative, to stay, was unthinkable.
Rill said, "Show me how to get there."
Of course the fights were illegal. Laws weren't made to benefit those who needed to brawl as much as to breathe. The stadium had been the basement of a lumber mill, once, and the old wreck of a building still creaked above ground, covering up the screeches and cheers below.
Popular teams got their own rooms a little distance from the main chamber. After three weeks in the arena, Rill and Uyat--her owl; her partner--had plenty of fans to howl their names, and all of Rill's new bruises had been earned on the floor.
Rill didn't recognize the pair they were fighting next. Uyat said, It doesn't matter. Look at that pale-faced idiot! I'll shred his wings and then his human, so just keep the man busy.
"You know I can do better than that," Rill said.
The announcer shouted to the crowd, "Place your bets! Last chance! It's Rill and Uyat, Ezric and Oowan, blood in the dust, here we go!" The eagle owl on his shoulder cried out mentally and physically, and Rill ran at that signal, crossing the sawdust-softened ground toward a man with a chain in his hands. The audience roared approval.
Uyat shared her aerial view of Oowan flying up to meet her, so Rill didn't worry about him. Only that chain. And she didn't need Uyat's help to dodge its lash, catching and fouling the end with her quarterstaff instead of her body. She wheeled at the hip, dragging Ezric off balance, and kicked his leg hard. He stumbled, almost fell. She slapped the staff against his chest; the chain came loose, and she jogged back with her weapon free.
Oowan's wings blurred Uyat's sight, but the owl still noticed a glint in Ezric's boot cuff. Rill struck for his hand as he pulled the knife, but she missed. The blade darted toward her arm and cut a new line in her skin. Uyat shrieked--but in triumph, not fear.
A tan body hit the floor to Rill's right. Then a grey one slammed into Ezric, its claws ripping his right ear, and Uyat screamed, Kill the owl! Kill!
The barn owl Oowan stared up at the ceiling, still alive, twitching. One blow to his keel bone would fix that. But he was harmless, already out of the fight.
Rill battered Ezric's knee instead, taking him down, and the announcer called, "Win to Uyat and Rill!"
Some of the money thrown to them landed in blood. The medics allowed Rill to gather the spoils before they herded her and her opponents away.
Weak, Uyat hissed in her mind. Fool! Never hesitate again.
Rill's dreams that night were full of shattering bones, but she was the barn owl on the floor, and the woman who brought the staff down had her mother's face and Uyat's.
Two weeks later, in a match against a horned owl and a woman with brass knuckles, Rill called to Uyat for help. But the owl didn't answer. Rill saw the woman's throat torn open through Uyat's eyes as talons raked across her own, and a claw pierced the left one so suddenly it almost didn't hurt; and some time after she collapsed, her hands covering the ruined socket, Uyat knocked the horned owl away to claim a victory.
The crowd cheered more loudly than ever.
"Maybe the right one can still see," a medic told Rill. "Won't know 'til the bandages can come off. He got your lid good, but--maybe. I don't expect you'll be fighting again for a long while either way."
"Can't," Rill mumbled, drowsy on painkillers. "No partner."
Uyat's thoughts hadn't touched hers once since the match had ended.
The medic patted her shoulder. "Rest now, and I'll see about scrounging up a glass eye. It'll be on the house, when you've healed enough."
Rill said into the darkness, "He's almost kind."
Yes, he is. I think he likes it that you didn't kill me.
One more time an image slid into her head, the view from someone else's eyes: herself in a bed, stitched and bound up, as seen from a few feet to her right. The mind that provided it wasn't familiar, but given what it had said--
Oowan, yes. I've been in this room ever since. Uyat broke some important bones.
"Then you won't be fighting again soon either."
Or ever. What about you?
Rill reached up to touch the edges of the bandages on her face--saw herself do it through his sight, how pathetic she looked, and she laughed. She laughed until each sound was a croaking hiccup. "It doesn't look like it."
I have a suggestion, then, Oowan thought quietly. You spared my life. I'll be your eyes, once we can leave this place. No more fights. We'll find somewhere safe to be. Could you be happy?
Happy without violence? With a companion? Happy, leaving Uyat and her parents all healthy and well behind her?
"Yes, please," Rill said to his question and to hers. "As long as it's far from here."
|# ? May 29, 2017 05:40|
In a world where dissidents are 'blanked' via electric lobotomy
“I will not have another loving baby.”
Mom’s shriek was audible from outside the house. Rebecca was sitting on the back porch. She put down the copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets she’d been reading and walked in a straight line toward the forest at the edge of the property. Dad hadn’t finished putting up the barbed wire fence yet, so Rebecca could still get to her spot by the pond.
She sat down on the mossy forest floor beside the pond and hugged her knees into her chest. Once, she heard a twig break behind her and looked over her shoulder, expecting to see her older brother there. He wasn’t. She turned back to the water and watched the reflection of the sky. It turned from blue to purple to indigo in what felt to Rebecca like no time at all.
Her father called her name. She left the pond and went back home.
Dinner was on the table when she walked into the kitchen. Trout, corn, and small, hard potatoes. No salt. Half a cup of filtered water. The family ate in silence. Light from three mismatched candles played restlessly across their faces.
After a while, Dad said, “Do you miss having a brother, Becca?”
“I have a brother,” Rebecca replied.
“No.” Dad brought his fist down on the table hard enough to rattle the dishes. He took a deep breath. “We can’t think of him like he’s alive. He’s gone.”
Rebecca shrugged and prodded at her potato with her fork. She didn’t look at Mom. There weren’t any eating sounds from Mom’s side of the table.
“Don’t you miss it being the four of us, though?” Dad persisted.
Rebecca shrugged again. Mom’s stillness was palpable, a prickling absence to Rebecca’s left.
Suddenly, Mom said, “Just let it go, Ryan. It’s all done. No more kids in this place.”
“I’m talking to our daughter,” Dad said. He smiled, but it was a tight smile that made his lips thin and pale. “Becca, doesn’t it make you sad to think about all the empty schools and houses and towns?”
“There’s still some people out there,” Rebecca said. She raised her chin. “Jared is still out there.”
Mom reached across the table and took Rebecca’s hand in hers, gave it a squeeze.
Dad made a disgusted noise, pushed his chair back from the table, and disappeared into the darkness beyond the kitchen. Rebecca and Mom listened to him climb the stairs and shuffle down the hall to the bedroom. There was the creak of bedsprings. Then silence.
Rebecca squeezed Mom’s hand back. They blew out all but one candle, which they took to Rebecca’s room. Mother and daughter squeezed into Rebecca’s narrow twin size bed.
“Does Dad really think we can make enough people to bring the world back?” Rebecca asked.
Mom was quiet for a while. Then, “He thinks we should try.”
“But I don’t know any boys,” Rebecca said.
Dad left at dawn. The crackle of tires on gravel was so out of place that it jolted Rebecca out of her sleep. She leaned over Mom’s sleeping body to look out the window. The car hummed down the long driveway in manual drive mode with Dad at the wheel.
“I hope he doesn’t come back,” she said softly.
Mom made a little sound in her throat, then said in her groggy voice, “He will.”
Rebecca dressed in a hurry and went to her pond.
Dad was back by the time Rebecca felt hungry enough to venture back to the house. She lingered at the edge of the woods, watching. Wind sighed across the long grass between the forest and the porch. No sounds came from the house. Rebecca went to the back porch, peered in through the kitchen window. There was no one there.
She let herself in. As soon as the screen door clattered shut behind her, Dad called, “Stay in the kitchen, sweetie!”
But Rebecca had already crossed the small kitchen and was standing in the doorway that opened onto the living room.
Mom was strapped to a wooden chair, bound by rope and velcro. Her head lolled back. A cephalopodian mess of wires and electrodes were attached to her temples and forehead. A small box with a glowing LED screen and several buttons sat in her lap. All of the wires were connected to the box.
“Mom needed help,” Dad said. It took Rebecca several seconds to realize that he was pointing a gun at her. “Go to your room.”
Mom made a low, gargling noise in the back of her throat. Her left hand clenched and unclenched on the arm of the chair. Her right hand was curled into a claw.
“Go to your loving room,” Dad roared.
Rebecca backed up the stairs, down the dark hallway, into her room, and shut the door.
Dad relocated Mom to the bedroom, explaining that she needed time to recover. He’d gone into the old city, he told Rebecca over dinner, and found a gadget that doctors had once used on their very upset and sad patients to calm them down.
“So when will she get better?” Rebecca asked.
“Soon,” said Dad. “Eat your potatoes.”
“They taste like dirt.”
“They grow in the dirt,” Dad countered.
“I don’t want them.”
“Then you can go to bed hungry.”
Rebecca did. She felt her way up the stairs in the dark, groped down the hall until she found her door, and curled up on top of her blankets. A little while later, she heard Dad come upstairs, too, and go into the other bedroom. Where Mom was.
There were rhythmic creaks, squeaking bedsprings. Rebecca didn’t fall asleep until they stopped, then started again, then finally stopped altogether in the early hours of the morning.
Mom wasn’t better the next morning, but Dad was all smiles as he made Rebecca a bowl of oatmeal with mealy apple slices.
“I need to go into the city again, see if I can find some more things to help your mom. She...she has trouble choosing when to go to the bathroom right now,” he said. “I need you to stay in your room while I’m gone.”
Rebecca looked at the gun tucked into his waistband, then his face.
“Okay,” she said.
She finished breakfast, then went straight to her room and closed the door. A few minutes later, there was the sound of furniture dragging across the floor. Something jiggled her doorknob. Then came the sound of Dad’s footsteps walking down the stairs and out the front door. The scrape of tires on gravel, the faint hum of an electric engine.
Rebecca tried the door. It was blocked from the other side. She went to the window, which looked out onto a narrow slope of roof and, below that, the back yard. She opened the window, slipped out onto the roof, and edged around the side of the house to Mom and Dad’s window. She pressed her face to the glass and cupped her hands around her eyes.
There was Mom on the bed, propped up against some pillows. Her hands were limp by her side and her legs were spread wide. Her head lolled back at that same dystonic angle that Rebecca had seen in the living room. She wasn’t wearing any underwear.
Rebecca tried the window, found it unlocked. There hadn’t been a reason to lock windows or doors in a long time. She climbed into the bedroom, wrinkled her nose at the thick, bodily smells there.
“Mom?” she said when Mom didn’t respond to her presence. She crawled onto the bed, kneeled over Mom so she could look down into her eyes. They were open and empty and did not respond to Rebecca’s movement. Rebecca snapped her fingers in Mom’s face, gave Mom’s cheeks a couple firm pats.
“I’m gonna go, Mom. I’m gonna go find Jared.” She hesitated. “I’m really going. I’m not coming back.”
There was a small gushing sound and a rank odor. Rebecca looked down, saw a patch of wetness spreading from Mom’s groin onto the sheets. Rebecca retched and scrambled off the bed.
She went down the stairs, grabbed her old school backpack from a closet, and filled it with every edible thing she could find in the kitchen. She took as much of the filtered water as she could fit. And then she ran, and ran, in no particular direction, as far away from home as her legs would carry her.
|# ? May 29, 2017 05:55|
In a world with vast underground complexes designed by wizards and stocked with murderous beasts.
1000 words on the fuckin' nose
Wending down through stone, and loam
lies land where men may find a home --
we wind our way through tunnels tight
and do not stray up-to the Light.
William left his level.
He moved through the old stone corridors, eyes wide, ears attentive to the sound of beasts. Everybody knew if you walked up into the Light Level, you got et. No ceremony to it, no songs -- just crunched up and et like a crumb of biscuit: buh-bye idiot.
That’s what made it so exciting. Everybody talked about how Light was dangerous and Light would burn you. His dad especially had told him that the Light was where the most dangerous monsters got borned out of. Things with too many legs and great big torsos, and hair all over ‘em like an uncle from the low-low you don’t talk to any more.
"I'm scared of no demons!" he said, very quietly. He was ten and a half, which was too big to be scared of demons.
William went – up-and-up through the big dark. It hurt his eyes up this high. There was no Light but it was subtly brighter, and his eyes wasn’t made for that kinda bright. Mankind was borned in the lowest of low after all -- far below the gods on the surface, beneath the angels who lived only a level down, beneath the monsters and demons what lived all the ways in between where Light was found. Man’s eyes weren’t not made for Light, which is what made William wanna see it so bad.
His pastor’s words echoed in his head, and his dad’s, and his teachers’, and his mum’s especially -- Man was made in the low-low and he belonged in the low-low only.
He’d lost count of the level, but he hadn’t seen any demons yet so it was okay. He sat down and had a drink of water, and et a biscuit. Munch munch munch his teeth went, and the biscuit was all gone. He looked around for monsters, but didn’t see even a single beastly hair. They all said there would be monsters. What a crooked con. He picked up a handful of dirt, and let it run between his fingers. It mixed with the biscuit crumbs, and the two become the same. They pattered against the ground, and it was as if he’d done nothing at all.
Somebody coughed. It weren't really a human cough, except it was just a little bit.
"Hello?" he said.
The cough coughed at him.
"Are you a monster?" he said.
The cough coughed in the negative, and he understood.
The hallway lay ahead of him, long and empty. He strained his eyes, and saw a closed stone door. He stood up, brushed the dirt-crumbs off himself, and wandered over. He touched the old door. It was rough-hewn, and it hurt his eyes to look at.
"Are you a demon?" he said. "You gotta tell me if you are. The pastor said so."
There was no response, but the hairs on his arms wen' all goosepimpley. His daddy would whoop him hard if he saw any of this, but that's what made it all so exciting. This was an old place, from when things got made and not just lived-on-in. Nobody made things no more, because that's how things like Light got made. You lived and then you stopped living, or kept on living but somewhere that nobody could see you any more -- the stories weren't clear on that.
William's head went round-and-round, and he stumbled for a moment. The soft dirt of the tunnel floor came up at him. Falling didn't hurt, but he was very embarrassed. He pushed himself up and glared at the door.
"Hey!" he said. "Hey idiot! F-"
He stopped to make sure his dad or the pastor weren't listening.
"gently caress you!" he said.
It felt good to say. He half expected the door to tell him off, but it didn't even cough. He punched it just a little bit, and it hurt his fingers but also felt pretty good.
"Yeah," he said. "You big idiot door. You fuckface shittyboy. I bet you don't even open."
The door opened.
It was Dark in there. Not dark mind, but Dark -- a low-low kinda dark like inside the mouth of a great beast. A blast of foetid air made William gag. He'd smelled that smell before in the pantry, when you didn't eat the biscuits and they went bad. They had a carrot in the pantry once, and nobody wanted to eat it because it was the wrong colour, so it went bad and black and it smelled kinda like the Dark but also not really. William knew this was a Bad Room where he was not meant to go.
He went in.
It took a moment for his eyes to adjust. There were white things buried in the dirt, giving off the weird glow that white things do in total darkness. Vast white things that were maybe bones, but bones too big to come from a man. They were the off-white-yellow of bones picked clean and left for too long. They hurt his eyes to look at. There were great big tooth marks in some of 'em, but only the ones close to the big skull -- like the demon had et itself up.
He knew he wasn't allowed to touch the bones. He touched the bones.
His head went round-round again, but he didn't fall. Something washed over him, and he saw darkness, and hunger, and a thousand years locked in a cage waiting to be set free until even he magic sustaining him wore off, and the hunger gnawed at him, and he bit deeply into himself and felt the rich iron-wash of his own blood and--
It was done. There was nothing in the room but William, and the bones. He thought about crying for a moment, then sucked in a big ole breath.
"I'm scared of no demons," he said, very quietly.
The Dark did not respond.
William sat, and did not know where to go. After a time, he picked up his things, and wandered off up, and through the dark.
|# ? May 29, 2017 05:57|
Mara's Private Diary: Do Not Read (ESPECIALLY YOU, MOM)
Oooooooooh I can understand what the owls are thinking, so cool. No. Owls are loving boring. You read books and they make it look all cool, and I bet if anyone found out, they’d be like “you have a little owl friend, so neat,” but let me make one thing clear: Owls aren’t loving friends. They are owls.
Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at 21:26 on Jan 1, 2018
|# ? May 29, 2017 05:59|
The Revolution Continues
The whip split the air. It just nicked Jorgen between his shoulder blades, but his back burned like it was on fire, and his vision blurred. He gritted his teeth and pressed on. This particular driver did not believe in spoken words. Any sound would have meant further punishment.
Others caught its full force and fell instantly, paralyzed or seizing. The rest were ordered to carry the immobilized until they could walk again, and the group trudged on.
The jungle path unwound like twine under the hazy sky as the crowd staggered towards the Red Mountain, penal camp for the government’s worst criminals. Most saw it as certain death. The disturbance at dawn had come as they realized their destination. To Jorgen, it was salvation.
He had infiltrated a work troop, full of worn, dirty people. The colectivos kept them in line by force, despite being outnumbered twenty-five to one: some by electro-whip; others with pre-war firearms. A few looked rusted and inoperable, but no one wanted to test them. If you guessed wrong, if they were maintained and loaded with viable antique ammunition, they would kill you just as dead as any modern method.
Colectivos reported to no one, at least not officially, but served the local economia. Bands of colectivos provided resources and goods to local civilians, at exorbitant prices—they were thin fronts for the global fruit and mining conglomerates to get what they wanted here.
The road was mostly empty, save for the odd peasant on foot. When a military unit clattered by, a convoy of several dozen tall, gaunt boys in fatigues clinging onto ramblers, they peered down at Jorgen’s work troop like hawks, with pitying faces. They knew its destination.
Before noon, the troop broke, pulling back into the shade to rest. The heat of the afternoon made travel untenable. Even the colectivos knew there was no value in killing workers before they arrived.
Jorgen attempted to engage his neighbors. He tried the basics: name? hometown? family patron?
He got only one-word answers in response, and only when the colectivos weren’t looking. Apparently these people were rebelling against spoken language, or the concept of communication entirely. The revolution continues in every man.
He spotted an old compatriot on the other side of troop, who offered him only a quick grimace. She must have seen his attempt and knew its futility. They’d find little help here.
The colectivos handed out food. It was some kind of individually wrapped dry, flaky bar. It looked like cardboard and tasted worse. Jorgen didn’t trust it, but he had no choice; he’d need all his energy for this grueling travel. He had been searched, of course, after allowing himself to be captured, and they used personal scanners. He could never have smuggled in his own materials.
It was an hour later when a captive tried to escape. Jorgen sat up and tried see the cause of the commotion without sticking his head out and risking getting shot. The road was briefly obscured in a cloud of dust until a crack shattered the scene. The dust dissipated, revealing a body, face down on the red soil of the path. The jungle went eerily quiet.
As the sun dipped in the sky, the colectivos prodded their captives to get moving again. Sometimes literally. Jorgen wondered how they kept their tools charged. He had seen no solar panels, and no one wore the bulky pack signifying a portable fission reactor. Maybe they were even more rag-tag than they seemed, each risking running dry at any moment. Best not to make assumptions, he decided.
The next day was the final ascent to the mountain. There, Jorgen knew, he would find his father.
The revolution of the Sud was a revolution of hard work and struggle. Everyone had work assigned to them, to make a living by their own hands. No one relied on machines, unlike the rich, lazy people of the Norte. At least, that was the government’s line. Everyone was encouraged to rebel in their own way, every day, a quixotic attempt at conformity through aberration, unity through discord.
But people whispered about the masked man, the Wildcat, how he followed just behind work crews putting up new statues and signs celebrating the regime. How he climbed like a cat, bounding from wall to ledge to Bolivar’s outstretched arm, to deface them, to change words, to replace the President’s face with something friendlier. How he never got caught, though his works were visible for all to see.
But Jorgen knew the truth. He had been caught, and had not been heard from since. Only by Jorgen’s source in the Presidential Guard had he learned that the Wildcat had been tried and condemned to the Red Mines. No one sent there had ever come out alive.
The darkness was bleak, penetrating, but worse was the growing heat as the group descended. The old lift clanked and shuddered as it rumbled down its steep angle into the depths.
The guards didn’t point their guns or threaten talkers. There was no need. The new miners were resigned to their fate.
But Jorgen was not. He had positioned himself by one of the guards near the far end of the lift. As a line of dim light broke below, at the ceiling of the entry chamber, he struck.
He jumped and bodyslammed the guard, grabbing hold of his electro-whip with one had and his torso with the other, to brace for the fall. They turned in the air and landed with a thud. The colectivo was knocked cold.
Shots rang out from the funicular above as the other colectivos reacted, but Jorgen was already off running. Here, he would rely on his knowledge of the structure of these mines in which he had never set foot. But he had rebelled against entropy and the vagaries of memory. He had trained eideticism and had spent months running through sims of this complex prepared by the underground forces.
He ran through the corridors, lit mainly by the electro-whip wrapped into a coil around his hand. He ran past most guards too quickly for them to fire, let alone aim. Coming to a shaft, he took a running leap and slalomed off the sides, kicking off of struts and support beams like a giant spiral staircase. He landed on the new floor in a roll to avoid any dangerous attention as he got his bearings.
At last, he reached the active work field. The tunnels zigzagged off in every direction, following the red seams. Two armed guards watched the workers, apparently unaware of his arrival, thanks to the din of the kinetic extractors. A few quick whip strokes left them unconscious. The nearby workers glanced over, then resumed working.
He went to the nearest miner: a woman, near-skeletal, coated in flecks of stone, and dusted brown with ash. The ionized air was thick with smoke. The extractor and its power pack she wore on her back was nearly as big as her.
“Stop this,” he said.
She ignored him and kept mining.
Jorgen snapped the connecting line from her pack. She frowned as her extractor sputtered and died.
“Where is the masked one, the Wildcat?” he asked, to no avail.
He was met with more blank stares as he continued down the line of miners.
Then he reached a man older than his father, still somewhat cogent, who pointed down a dark path.
It was a corridor lined with dark metal doors, each ventilated with a barred window. The stench here was thick and ripe. The purpose was clear: these held the workers sent here to die.
In the fourth cell down, he found his father, lying on the bare floor of his small cell, emaciated, dotted with flies, muttering incoherently. His unshaven beard was patchy and sparse. His eyes rolled around the room.
“Father,” Jorgen said, crouching over the man. Then, more quietly, “Papa.”
At this, the bony, thin face softened, and the eyes shut in anguish. There were no tears left.
“Come with us,” Jorgen said softly. His accomplices from the assault had finally fought their way down from the surface, thanks to the diversion of his initial attack. They crowded around, leaning forward to hear. “We can get you to safety, get you treated.” He reached down. The old man was light, far too light, in his hands.
“No,” came the reply, barely a whisper. “I never believed this regime would outlive a man. And look—”
More pushed in now, some armed with firearms wrested away from guards, some with tools repurposed and bloodied for the first time, a few old friends and compatriots, all straining to hear the Wildcat’s last words.
“—here today, I’ve seen it breathe its last breath.”
The underground had seized the Red Mountain, the old symbol of oppression. They had new weapons, a plan, and a leader.
“The revolution continues in every man,” he whispered.
He held his breath.
In a world where everyone's a rebel.
|# ? May 29, 2017 05:59|
A sunstorm was forecast for Tuesday, which meant yet another day the population would be kept bottled up in the city like so many rats in a vast metal catacomb. People always complained as soon as they heard the news in their neurocievers, moaning about the good ‘ol days when the atmosphere was thicker and there were birds and flowers in the wild, as if they’d been alive for any of that. And hell, if they wanted it so bad, that was what virtual reality was for. It’s not like any of this poo poo matters. We’re just another bunch of gibbering animals trying to find meaning in a vast uncaring cosmos.
That’s what I figured, at least. Lyia figured differently, which I guess is why she died.
We were in history with Ms. Lorethen when the evacuation order came. The whole class went silent and everyone’s “download” light next to their left ear blinked red. Ms. Lorethen smiled, the kind of smile adults get when there’s a huge disaster but they don’t want kids to panic. Maybe that would have worked with little kids, but at our age, everyone knew what it meant when you were ordered to the Seventy-Ninth Core Tower. There was no point moving a city’s worth of people several miles below the planet’s crust unless there was a good reason.
I sat next to Lyia on the evacuation train, because that’s what best friends do. She was wearing a shirt that looked like it was made from iridescent fish scales. Me, I was wearing black, because clothing shouldn’t define you.
“Isn’t it funny,” she said. “We’re learning about the events that led to the end of the planet’s magnetosphere, and a storm made dangerous only by the lack of the magnetic field prevents us from even hearing about it!”
“Yeah, hilarious,” I agreed dryly.
“Oh come on, Aidia. At least it was an interesting lesson. Ms. Lorethen’s way better than a download.”
I glanced over. Ms. Lorethen was standing in the middle of the aisle, reassuring one of the boys who was sobbing that things were okay. “She’s alright. You know, for someone who willingly oversees the indoctrination of the youth.”
Lyia rolled her eyes, but didn’t say anything. We put up with each other like that.
I looked out the holoscreen window. The sky was brightening as the washed-out aurora intensified.
“Let’s see it,” I whispered. I don’t know why the idea slipped into my head, but once it was there I liked it.
“What? Yeah, of course I’m going to watch.”
“No, I mean, not from the holoscreens or in VR. In person.”
Lyia looked at me. “You know that will kill us, right?”
“Sure, but then our memories will be uploaded by our neurocievers, we’ll get new bodies in a few days, and we’ll have seen something in person no one else will have seen.”
I don’t know why she agreed. See, me, I never gave a poo poo, I figured it didn’t matter because we had all come from stardust and were going to be stardust again in the end. To Lyia, everything mattered.
The evacuation train was stopping by every station to pick up people, so on the next-to-last stop, we just slipped out. I hacked a console to a surface gate, nabbed a few emergency respirators, and we were out. We found an old tower, the kind of building made back when people built towards the sky instead of away from it. The glass was slag, but steel was just scoured by centuries of charged particles.
We watched, lying on our backs. The sky grew bands of colors, like the ocean at sunset, but it was bands of green, blue, and violet coruscating from horizon to horizon. They danced and swirled, and the sky rained streaks of white light. Old buildings sparked and glimmered.
Then we were interrupted.
“Lyia. Aidia.” I jumped and scrambled up. Ms. Lorethen was standing just behind us, wearing an emergency protection suit. The opalescent visor covering her face obscured most of her, but there was no mistaking the voice or the way she stood. “Come with me. Now.”
“Ms. Lorethen! We—”
“Don’t bother explaining. We need to go.”
“We’re just going to upload,” I told her, façade of calm back in place.
“No you won’t. Even if the storm doesn’t destroy your neurocievers, it will interfere with any upload attempt.”
“You mean we might actually die?” I asked.
“Yes. Unless we move now.”
Down the concrete steps and across broken roads. The sky was still beautiful, radiant bands roiling, but it hurt. The light was burning our skin, and the darts of light that streaked through the sky seared our skin. A sensor tower near the emergency hatch we’d come from crackled, then let out an earsplitting hum-roar as it spat out a ten-meter long arc of electricity.
Ms. Lorethen swore loudly, which was something of a shock even under a burning sky. “Console’s fried. And the power supply on this suit is not going to last. I’m going to open the door manually. It’s designed to fail in the closed position, though, so you’ll need to hurry.”
We crowded by the door. With a grunt, Ms. Lorethen dug the suit’s fingers into the door and pulled, the actuators of the suit grinding with the strain. “Go!”
Lyia scrambled through first, with me close behind. I turned, just in time to see the sensor tower produce another crackling line of electricity. It arced to Ms. Lorethen’s suit, which collapsed into a heap. The door slammed shut.
“No!” Lyia cried.
We stood, stunned. Eventually, I spoke. “We should… go. Get back to the station, and down to safety.”
“No,” Lyia said. “She’s dead if we do that.”
“She’s probably dead now.”
“Everyone’s already dead to you! I’m so sick of your nihilistic bullshit. Yeah, we all die someday. But what we do matters.” Lyia ran over to a pair of lockers. One was already open, and empty. “Override the lock here. Come on, Aidia!”
It took me a moment to get moving, then I ran over. The hack didn’t take long. The other locker opened, revealing another emergency protection suit. Lyia put it on, then headed for the door. She strained, and shoved the door back open just long enough to get out. Beyond, I saw the sky radiant with turquoise fire, the world glowing. Then it slammed shut again.
“Lyia!” I called. I waited, but as the minutes ticked by, I realized the door wasn’t opening. Why wasn’t it opening? I need to get them help.
I sprinted down to the station. There were no more trains coming, so I jumped down onto the mag track and ran. The Seventy-Ninth Core Tower was only two miles away. In the tunnel, the holoscreens were all dead, and the place was mostly shadows broken only by the faint red glow of emergency lights.
I made it to the elevator. “Wait!” I told an evacuation worker. “There’s… there’s two more coming.”
He glanced at a readout on his holovisor, and shook his head. “We can’t wait.” The elevator doors closed, and we descended into the crust.
They found Lyria and Ms. Lorethen after the storm. Lyria had carried her all the way to the Core Tower, somehow. Ms. Lorethen had survived, covered only by horrific burns. Lyria had received the same burns, and died from them. He brain was carbonized. The upload had failed. Nothing to save.
They resurrected her consciousness from a year-old backup. We fell out, after that. A year of missing memories and… well, she learned what her first self had done. And me, I couldn’t look at her and not remember, not feel guilty. But even now, I owe her the world.
|# ? May 29, 2017 06:08|
Submissions are closed.
|# ? May 29, 2017 06:22|
The Judgement of Week 251
I told you to write stories about lovely youths. Some of you decided to rebel and write stories about emotionally-sensitive, conflicted youths instead, and those are the writers who earn a gold star this week. First we have to talk about the less good, who mostly rebelled against good writing and the patience of the judges.
Something New by Hawklad earns our first demerit, by being kind of painfully slow and none too new. The main character just came off as confused, presenting endless reasons not to do what she was headed for, and while that's certainly true to life, gud story needs to dig deeper and find reason. I came away wondering if she wasn't supposed have some of her parents' dogmatic thinking, but the story simply didn't carry that through.
Next, a demerit to Fuschia Tude for The Revolution Continues. It was rebellion, yes, but far too literal, and nothing about the broader world of senseless conflict and meaningless revolutions rung true as absurdist. Everything washes off the main character and I'm left without any feel for him.
The good stories this week were delicious potato chips, they left us wanting more.
In handing out the gold stars, we first honor Up and Up and Up by SurreptitiousMuffin. Kind of a stupid story, it pounded all its weird stupid ideas into our heads until they made sense, and carried one of the younger protagonists of the day in a style that felt real. The weird wobbly dialect going from 'foetid' to 'et' rang true in particular to how a smart child speaks.
Next, Hunger by QuoProQuid. This story was full of weird and evocative things, sweat and Juicy Fruit and rotting leaves. Grey pains. It managed to describe itself in a broad language that resonated both with me and my memories of childhood. For the first half. The second half took a hard turn into cinematic cliches of wet smiles and 'hard twinkles'. It captured the tone of the Twilight Zone, but the ending simply failed to land.
The story we liked most was kinda fluffy and very much a YA tale, but those aren't bad things, and it came at the heart of punk's idiot emotions - the raw horror of disappointing your parents' completely unreasonable expectations. Most importantly, both judges just wanted the story to keep going, and so we present the mantle of least-suckitude to Obliterati and Salt the Earth.
We close on a sad note, and a dunce crown upon the head of Fuubi for High Noon. This story was just... ehhh? Not a stooory maybe? We think it was maybe tongue in cheek with the protagonist's arrogant voice and conviction that the adults are just dumb-dumbs, but it just didn't work, and the the fact it might not have been parody hung over it in a quantum unlikeability.
ThirdEmperor fucked around with this message at 08:11 on May 29, 2017
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|# ? May 29, 2017 08:05|
gently caress, this was some new record in fjgj, I bet.
Third told me to post this anyway so here goes. DQ'd.
Prompt: In a world where aligning structures to cosmic bodies grants them power...
The Dragon’s Disqualification
It’s not that I enjoyed being an agitator. Far from it. I was born in a respectable family, as the son of a magistrate, and my parents had taught me to respect my elders and my peers. I was raised to be polite and considerate of others, even when they lacked such virtue themselves.
And yet, the circumstances at Liangtiao set me on a collision course with many of its disciples and mentors.
The academy had been built according to the latest understandings of wind and water. It was designed in such a way that powerful qi crystals suspended the campus far above the Eightfold Lake, where it rotated on its axis to constantly orient the administrative facilities and the classrooms to the Constellation of the Dragon, ensuring its auspices blessed the academy to its fullest extent, no matter the season.
Liangtiao could only be accessed via airship ferry. It was aboard such an airship, on the day of my arrival, that I met Fa-Xiao.
I was lost in thought on the starboard side of the deck, admiring the lake and swans below, when Fa-Xiao approached me.
“What is your birth sign?” he said.
I turned to face him. “Greetings. I believe we haven’t met. My name is Mi-Yun.”
“That is not what I asked,” he said. “Your birth sign?”
I considered the possible motives behind his question, and concluded that he himself was probably born under the Dragon. Only those of high rank would risk comparing birth signs with complete strangers.
“Dog,” I answered honestly.
With a “Hmph,” he turned to another young man standing close to us. “And you?”
The other man was taken aback by this, and it took him several seconds to muster a timid “Snake.”
“Hmph!” Fa-Xiao stormed off, presumably to torment other passengers with similarly invasive questions.
The man next to me sighed, staring towards the distance again. We stood side by side for a good amount of time until I introduced myself properly. His name was Ti-Hou.
“That guy cared a lot about our birth signs,” he said.
“I thought he was mostly interested in his own birth sign, to be honest.”
“Do you think everyone at Liangtiao will be like that?”
I hoped not.
We debarked at the academy, stowed our belongings at the residences and headed towards the lecture building for our introductory classes.
In a stroke of brilliance, Liangtiao’s architect had even sculpted a series of holes, overpasses and corridors in the academy’s red and gold buildings. The result was a finely-crafted series of wind tunnels which shielded the interior courtyards from outside gales, yet allowed an occasional breeze to gently sway the reed around the artificial ponds.
The classrooms, too, were oriented in a fashion that maximized the latent qi. I could not help but notice the students were designated a seat according to their date of birth, an objective criterium which just so happened to seat Dragons and Tigers where the qi was strongest, and Snakes and Rats at the back, where it was weakest.
Ti-Hou and I were severely disappointed when Fa-Xiao’s name was called early on, and he paraded towards a front seat. When he passed by my desk, he glanced at me and said: “This Academy isn’t what it used to be.”
I tired of this. I said: “You know, you really are quite rude.”
There was a heavy silence in the classroom. Frustratingly, the only reaction came from our instructor, Yueng: “Silence. Please do not interrupt me to disrespect your upperclassmen.”
Fa-Xiao grinned at me.
Under my desk, I clenched a fist.
“I don’t see why they get such a leg-up on us,” Ti-Hou complained over dinner.
“The Dragon and the constellations around it are strongest,” I told him between bites of beef bowl. “We erect structures to benefit from their auspices, and in turn the constellations gain power from our worship. So, those born in winter have stronger qi.”
“Exactly! Shouldn’t those born under a weaker birth sign get the more powerful spots to balance it out?”
“Such is the natural order, I suppose.”
“Well, it ain’t fair.”
I considered this as I finished my bowl. “Perhaps,” I concluded, “We ought to remind Liangtiao of some other natural truths.”
Ti-Hou leaned forward as if I had just invited him to a conspiracy to depose the Emperor himself. “Go on?”
“Next week, we’ll have preliminary exams to ascertain our skills. I don’t think Fa-Xiao will prepare very hard. We, on the other hand, could work together, and show Liangtiao what a Dog and a Snake can do together.”
Several exams had passed without much notice. Ti-Hou excelled in calligraphy, but Fa-Xiao ended near the top of the class himself, so it did little good to our cause. Our collective study sessions bore fruit for the philosophy recitals and tea ceremonies, where Fa-Xiao performed exceptionally lackluster for a Dragon.
We achieved our first major victory during the preliminary exam for reasoning and debating.
“For this exercise, we will simulate a discussion where you try to convince a provincial governor to construct a bridge at the location that was assigned to you. Your opponent will try to convince the governor to erect the bridge at another location, also assigned to him. Special attention will be paid to the hierarchy and authority of your cited ancestors.”
My opponent was Fa-Xiao. He cited a few classic authors on the subject of engineering, though failed to address several of my arguments. Having heard my own father discuss this at the dinner table for years, I raised the point that several of my authors were certainly of lower rank and authority than Fa-Xiao’s, but nevertheless their combined rank outstripped these classics. This was not a novel argument, but one that was a bit unusual, and Fa-Xiao did not know any of the ancestral rebuttals to it.
His grade suffered severely, to my delight.
That lunch period, we crammed military maxims for the final exam in the afternoon. “We did pretty well,” Ti-Hou told me with a smile.
I leaned back in my chair and stretched my arms. “It wasn’t a very strong argument, but Fa-Xiao had no rebuttals from actual philosophers, so it held.”
“Was it really that simple? It seemed like a strong argument to me. If a thousand Oxes, Dogs and Rats disagree with a single Dragon or Tiger, he’s probably wrong, and they are right.”
I gave him a wry smile. “You’d think so, but a philosopher four hundred years ago thought differently, so we’re wrong. Anyway,” I said, turning my attention to the general’s compilations before me, “If you defeat two players during the wargames this afternoon, you’ll even get a higher overall grade than Fa-Xiao. How’s that for a message?”
“Delightful,” Ti-Hou said gleefully.
In a simulation based on the Heavenly Wars, four students assumed control of one of the Empire’s provinces and tried to subdue the others. Ti-Hou and I chose two adjacent provinces and forged a secret alliance, intending to strike Fa-Xiao when he had ground his forces into the fourth player’s defenses.
The hypothetical bloodshed was catastrophic. Fa-Xiao spent nearly all of his tokens raising levies and cavalry, expecting to tie down as many forts as possible with his infantry while the horsemen routed field armies. When our Snake-Dog coalition positioned its forces to strike him from the South, Fa-Xiao sacrificed a large part of his troops to knock out the fourth player sooner rather than later.
When Ti-Hou occupied his capital, Fa-Xiao punched the table and said: “What the gently caress is this? Mi-Yun is letting him win.”
I shrugged innocently.
“Accept your defeat with grace,” Instructor Yueng said while taking notes. “Your next move, Mi-Yun?”
“I concede, sir.”
Yueng peered over his desk. “Why?”
I suppressed the urge to raise an eyebrow.
“Um. Because I see no possibility of victory, and would rather avoid unnecessary bloodshed, sir?”
“You may yet win. Go on.”
I sighed in resignation, and made several intentional blunders to let Ti-Hue capture my King in a few turns.
“Hm, I see.” Yueng said. He jotted down some notes and ended with: “For going against the spirit of the exam, Mi-Yun and Ti-Hou score zero points. You are dismissed.”
There was silence as instructor Yueng left the examination room.
As soon as the door shut, Ti-Hou threw his King in a far corner of the room, stood up and barged out. I followed him to the pond.
“All things considered, this was still a great victory,” I reassured him.
“Yeah? Explain how, ‘cause our grades just tanked!”
I put my hand on his shoulder to calm him down. “Fa-Xiao won on a technicality, and everybody knows it. Not only did we beat him, but the rest of our class witnessed hypocrisy they can’t ignore. We need to keep fighting until everybody at Liangitao sees that.”
Ti-Hou took deep, controlled breaths as he watched the reed sway. A storm was brewing in the distance.
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|# ? May 29, 2017 08:36|
the truly punk response to this is to not post the prompt
|# ? May 29, 2017 09:36|
|# ? Oct 2, 2022 09:03|
the truly punk response to this is to not post the prompt
gently caress YOU YOU'RE NOT MY DAD
|# ? May 29, 2017 11:14|