Thunderdome CCLII: Your Cardboard Protagonist Was Here
This is some graffiti from the ceiling of Maeshowe, a Late Stone Age tomb in Orkney. Said ceiling is like four metres high. It's written in Old Norse, dating it to at least two thousand years later, and if you go get a ladder, a torch, and several years of specialist education you can read the words “Tholfir Kolbeinsson carved these runes high up”. Some things never change, and if you don't find that inherently hilarious, 'Domers, I don't know what to tell you.
I want stories of humanity's heritage defaced, characters in places you'd really think they wouldn't be, and at least one example of graffiti so help me God. Past, present, future: don't care.
Wordcount is 1500, but brave 'Domers can get an extra 500 if they sign up for a a flash rule which will be generated from words your ancestors scrawled on protected monuments. Do what you like with it.
No fanfic, erotica, etc.
Signups close: Saturday 9am BST (UTC +0100)
Submissions close: Monday 9am BST (UTC +0100)
- Entenzahn (“I wonder, O wall, that you have not yet collapsed, so many writers’ clichés do you bear.”)
- Twwezer Reprise (“Apollinaris, the doctor of the emperor Titus, shat well here.”)
- Fuubi ("Good luck on your resurrection.")
- Fleta McGurn (“These runes were carved by the man most skilled in runes in the western ocean”)
- flerp (“The one who screws a fire burns his penis.”)
- crabrock (“NOTICE: This wall is solely for use by students and does not necessarily portray the views of the University.”)
- QuoProQuid (“I, Daminius, did not want (to do it)”)#
- SurreptitiousMuffin ("You might as well try to dry a floor by throwing water on it, as try to end this war by fighting.")
- Jay W. Friks
Obliterati fucked around with this message at 10:25 on Jun 3, 2017
|# ? May 29, 2017 11:14|
|# ? Jan 16, 2021 06:17|
flash rule et cetera et cetera
|# ? May 29, 2017 12:50|
In with flash.
|# ? May 29, 2017 13:31|
Yeah in and flash please.
|# ? May 29, 2017 14:09|
|# ? May 29, 2017 14:24|
“I wonder, O wall, that you have not yet collapsed, so many writers’ clichés do you bear.”
Latin: In several places around Pompeii
In with flash.
“Apollinaris, the doctor of the emperor Titus, shat well here.”
Latin: outside a house in Herculaneum, Roman Empire
Yeah in and flash please.
"Good luck on your resurrection."
Ancient Greek: a Jewish tomb in Beit She'arim, modern Israel
American English: Babylon, Iraq
Obliterati fucked around with this message at 15:05 on May 29, 2017
|# ? May 29, 2017 14:55|
In, , flash but don't anyone dare conflate my glorious Greek and Egyptian ancestors with those...animals from Skyrim. jk mostly Welsh lol
|# ? May 29, 2017 18:16|
|# ? May 29, 2017 18:33|
in, flash, and to get 1 redemption before i write this story.
|# ? May 29, 2017 20:43|
In, , flash but don't anyone dare conflate my glorious Greek and Egyptian ancestors with those...animals from Skyrim. jk mostly Welsh lol
“These runes were carved by the man most skilled in runes in the western ocean”
Old Norse: Maeshowe, Orkney
“The one who screws a fire burns his penis.”
Latin: Public bathroom, Pompeii
in, flash, and to get 1 redemption before i write this story.
“NOTICE: This wall is solely for use by students and does not necessarily portray the views of the University.”
English: University of Pretoria 'graffiti wall' (2008)
|# ? May 29, 2017 21:15|
sure, okay. im in
|# ? Jun 3, 2017 01:46|
sure, okay. im in
“I, Daminius, did not want (to do it)”
Latin: inscription on Hadrian's Wall
|# ? Jun 3, 2017 02:26|
|# ? Jun 3, 2017 05:23|
In. Flash me big boy.
|# ? Jun 3, 2017 05:24|
|# ? Jun 3, 2017 05:24|
|# ? Jun 3, 2017 05:26|
|# ? Jun 3, 2017 05:56|
|# ? Jun 3, 2017 07:53|
In. Flash me big boy.
"You might as well try to dry a floor by throwing water on it, as try to end this war by fighting."
English: Richard Lewis Barry, conscientious objector prison at Richmond Castle, England, 1917
|# ? Jun 3, 2017 10:22|
Signups are closed. Get scrawlin', 'Domers.
|# ? Jun 3, 2017 10:23|
WEEK 250: EVERYTHING MEANS NOTHING ANYMORE, PART 1/2
“Forever, South Carolina” by Tweezer Reprise
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. I told you, dog! I warned you about comma splices!
Norman had founded Forever originally of himself and the handful of survivors he had befriended after the Wipe. This reads awkwardly, like it was translated from some other language.
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 bolded part should be part of the prior sentence, not the sentence about what Aman looked like at the time.
“I saw him again,” he offers, scratching the back of one hand with the nails of another.
To his credit, no one but Jeffery seemed to be suspicious of Patch Guy
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. Bravo. Why couldn’t the rest of the story be written like this?
Welcome to Thunderdome! You’re already showing a lot of improvement with your second story, so don’t take it too hard when I say that the prose in your debut is terrible. You always seem to structure your sentences wrong, or use the wrong word or wrong punctuation mark at the wrong time, not to mention the confusing, haphazardly switching between past and present tense. The post-apocalyptic Waco scenario you present here can’t help but fall flat because of these technical errors. If not for your last paragraph, which is perfectly constructed in comparison to the others and would have been devastating if the build-up had worked, I may have given this a DM.
“a literal story about a shaggy dog” by SurreptitiousMuffin
I want to dock this one points for the slapped-together blog feel of it, but that’s kind of the point and you do bring up an analogy that makes me empathize with the dog, even though the writer is still a weird sociopath who doesn’t know when to quit. Still, this minimal style is a turn-off. I gave you a high word limit with the expectation that you would make use of it, and you didn’t exactly do more with less.
BRB reading other stories now.
“Nihilism is My Kink” by Meinberg
Here’s something I’m personally familiar with: a decent technical execution of a bad idea. It hits the letter of my prompt while missing the spirit. In asking for stories of lives turned on their head and expectations being shattered, I hoped that submitters would try to shatter mine as well. I wanted some off-the-wall poo poo happening, and the events of this story are glued to the wall in a beige picture frame.
The main problem I have with the story, aside from that, is how cartoonishly sure Jacob is that everything in his life will turn out alright. I’m sure that there are people out there who think this way, though they’ve been on the decline ever since World War I, but do any of them picture it in such blunt, fate-tempting terms? This is basic, first-level faith-shaking. Most of us don’t need a tragedy like this to think that our life might be spiralling out of control, or that there is no big plan for everybody to follow. We have not, however, internalized the concept of a pointless universe; we can still lead a regular, daily life; we still have expectations of what will happen to us or could happen to us. The events of this story are normal for a society that’s been molded by the upheaval of the 20th century. I wanted something weirder than that.
“Girl, You’ll Be a Wolfman, Soon” by Thranguy
Now this is more like it. Cassie is a much more believable character; she’s glib without being annoying, and has some initiative in dealing with stuff like that pedophile and that jerk boyfriend. I also appreciate that this is a story about her finding an upside to the major life changes forced on her that doesn’t feel like a consolation prize. If I were to pick at something, it’s the premise that Cassie isn’t just telling this story to the reader, but to some witch or therapist she’s been talking to about her condition. This isn’t even apparent until the start of the third scene, and it’s not the smoothest transition. There might also be more depths to plump in the idea that the curse also forces Cassie’s physical sex to change, but this could also have been done so much worse. If you wanted to leave what you’ve got alone, I understand why, and you’d probably still be ahead of the curve.
“Satyric Humor” by ThirdEmperor
This is pretty much exactly what I wanted. It’s a situation that’s ridiculous when you look at it from the outside, but it’s pretty awful for poor Ambrose. One of my co-judges said that the story seemed a bit shallow for them, but it’s hard to notice with the imagery of satyrs invading a man’s space to the point where they’re in his toilet, and when his insecurities in wrestling with how other people perceive him overwhelm him over time. I’ve tried, but I can’t think of anything that would make this story better.
Solitair fucked around with this message at 03:51 on Jun 9, 2017
|# ? Jun 4, 2017 00:09|
Thanks for the crit!
|# ? Jun 4, 2017 00:47|
Those Statued Men with Acid Rain Habits
“That which is lost, is lost, is lost forever, within margin. The unavoidable, natural state of affairs is that the vast majority of objects are hitherto lost objects, and the vast majority of lost objects are utterly, profoundly unfindable, or at least will never practically be found. In addition, all that is revised, is lost. All that is misunderstood, is lost.”
—Letus, Affairs: Volume I
Dialifen sets his quill down. The candles that illuminate his workspace are diligent, and are of the highest quality in the known world, as are their brass crucibles. He would take care in telling you of their quality, but he would first tell you of his line of work. Directly after that, he would tell you of the prestige of his brother, the King of this land. He would tell you about how he gave up his place in his brother’s court, forfeiting the option of partaking in day-to-day jockeying for royal influence. He gave up countless gifts and pleasures, well beyond the fine mahogany desk on which he worked, and well beyond candles. He gave that all up, he would tell you, for the love of art.
Dialifen is a humble man of the classics. He is infatuated with these men that lived millennia before him, and how they constructed the foundation for how he and his peers lived their lives at present. He is just an effect of the cause of his predecessors; he would tell you that. Today, he nears the end of a grand project. At the top of this manuscript, this being the final draft, he has written his given name: Jehans. Underneath that in larger stroke, he has written the name he chose for himself, the one that he wishes to be actually printed. He should have the intrinsic right to be referred to by any name that he desired! In fact, that sentiment had just flown from his quill an hour previous.
Diafen had translated an ancient philosopher’s magnum opus, in eight magnificent volumes. He had taken care to learn and master the ancient language in which it was written, and as a result had become one of its few living speakers, if there were even any left other than himself. The old pages of the ancient tomes, themselves written down centuries after the original author had died, crumble and turn to chalky sawdust at the slightest of disturbances. Dialifen was sure that this was one of the last times anyone would have to gaze at these sad, tortured volumes, written in outdated, archaic script.
This was because he was going to burn them. He was going to be the hero of this story; he was going to be the sole possible savior of these ancient classics, and the sole possible lens through which to experience them. His name would be proudly displayed below that of the original author: Letus, who will now certainly become the esteemed head of a newly-rediscovered literary pantheon. In addition, this being only natural—he was going to update the works for the seventeenth century. He was going to improve and augment the works of Letus, for only he knew how to.
“Those that create and write are burdened with doubt at all moments, and must have the urge to continue to try and redeem themselves through an endless path of slow improvement. This is simply of their nature. Those statued men, with acid rain habits, they have an unsatable sadness inherently tied in with all their sympathetic properties.”
—Letus, Affairs: Volume VI
“Those that create, write, and of course publish—are burdened with countless valors, and the responsibility of maintaining and upkeeping the very reason for continued human existence, and they must continue to have the urge to create, despite having already expertly showcased their worth many times over.”
—Letus, Affairs: Volume VI; as translated by Dialifen (1609)
The flame crackles in place, lashing at and eating up the blackening parchment. Diafen steps out of his house, a well-manicured abode directly on the river, just upstream from the capital of the kingdom. He prefers not to be in the presence of smoke, neither from wood nor from hated tobacco; he considers it unbecoming, and therefore to be avoided at all costs. He supposes that it is an opportune moment to pay a visit to a friend, his very good friend—and more importantly, his publisher. Surely, it wouldn’t be too hasty to partake in a deserved evening out, in the week before the manuscripts were to be sent off to the typesetter.
And, how egregious their exploits were! The King would have no doubt gone utterly pale in the face if he could have seen the manner in which his younger brother had his way with the harlot that had been paid for. Alcohol was had, and then it was spilt, and lost. This grand effort had been seven years in the making for Diafen, and now the birthing process was virtually over. He had suffered significantly for his passion, he had decided, perhaps even more than a metaphorical woman in post-Eden labor.
After all is said and done, the two of them exit the publisher’s home, which was situated neatly in the center of town. It is now dark outside, and the publisher, named Pierre, holds a candle as he walks. “Speaking of Letus, have you spoken to Guillaume lately?” Guillaume was the man who had been tasked with teaching Diafen the ancient language, and the one who had originally deciphered it, as well.
“Not in seven years, I told you.”
Pierre seems flummoxed. “If you told me, it was years ago.”.
“My point stands.”
The pause lasts for too long to be comfortable, and then twice too long. “I thought that you two got along like a house on fire! You haven’t even written him in that long?”
Diafen twists up his face, as if he had been asked to operate a hoe, or something equally foreign and repulsive. “Not after his attempted treason, I haven’t.”
“Treason, what? What happened? Was he arrested?”
“Arrested, and taken care of. They had discovered a draft of his pledge of support to a rebellious duke, that was written in the old script, as to try and obfuscate it.” A beat. “Well, I did, anyway.” An accomplished grin can’t help but appear on his face.
“And this was how long ago?”
Guillaume would never understand Diafen’s approach to translation, and despite his aid, Diafen would err towards a sentiment of “good riddance”.
“What a damned shame.”
“I expected it from him. I came to know him very well, and God knows he wasn’t virtuous.” They walk in silence for a moment, it never occurring to Pierre to think of being suspicious, not of the brother of the King!
“I think that you should show me the manuscript of the third volume first. From what I’ve read in your letters, that seems like the one I’d have the most interest in reading! All those things about-”
“About the perils and pitfalls of man? Absolutely. You’ve always been attracted to the macabre, Pierre.”
“I can’t help but love a good tragedy.”
“You helpless cretin.” He’s joking, of course, but to the outside observer, it’s unclear whether he’s joking entirely, or only halfway. “Joy creates the only real enjoyment.” Pierre knows the delicately-translated passage already from the letters, and he mouths the idiom silently as his friend speaks. Diafen continues, as he always does. “I wonder if we’ll have to employ more than one horse and rider in order to carry the-” He suddenly pauses, at once digging his heels into the ground. It is at this moment that Pierre first notices the dark trail floating in the sky, in front of the stars—and that Diafen first notices the scent of smoke.
The unmonitored embers in Diafen’s fireplace, acting as agents of vengeance, had launched themselves onto a precariously-positioned rug. The flaming decor then caught the lacquered hardwood floor aflame, and then the curtains; the rest of Diafen’s estate followed in relatively short order. The mahogany table with the manuscripts on top merely served as a particularly dense thicket for the flames to chew through. At present, the charred remains of the decadent architecture smear across the wilted grass, like a commoner’s belabored, clumsy graffiti. What Jehans had willed gone was gone, and all of his worldly possessions had gone with it. And of course, what was revised was forever lost.
“Nothing scares Man more than his own nullification, and the most abundant and most prescient nullifier has always been, and will always be, fire.”
—Letus, Affairs: Volume III; as translated by Dialifen (1609)
|# ? Jun 4, 2017 23:13|
flash rule: The one who screws a fire burns his penis.
Start a Fire, Even if it’s for Yourself
flerp fucked around with this message at 21:15 on Oct 11, 2017
|# ? Jun 4, 2017 23:23|
"You might as well try to dry a floor by throwing water on it, as try to end this war by fighting."
It wasn’t a church any more -- the German artillery had seen to that. Monty Laws sat in a pew. He didn’t know how far he was from the front, but he could hear the distant thud-and-shriek of big guns. They fell silent, and Monty muttered a little prayer. The lads had come through this church on the way through, when it had a roof. They’d carved their names into one of the pews, and promised to meet back when the war was over.
He stared at that carving now. Five names: Stokes, Singh, Andrews, McClintock, Laws. Something had shattered the pew, and it lay in two distinct pieces; an arrowhead pointed downwards through the brick.
He reached for his prayer beads but they weren’t there, so he toyed with the German pistol. In the distance, the whistle came: the Canadians, probably, pushing uphill across no-man’s land, into hell.
If they caught him here, they’d tie him up, arms wide, feet a few inches off the ground so all the weight was on his wrists. The officers were meant to do it with rope, behind the front lines: so the soldier could get back into the trenches with minimal recovery. As the far dragged on with no end in sight, the officers had gone mad - so rubbed raw by suffering that they’d lost sight of what it meant. They would tie men with wire, and leave them in plain view of German snipers.
That’s how Stokes had died. Not from the bullets, mind, but the wire – his hands were purple-black below where they’d dug in. The medic said it was necessary to amputate the left. Stokes bit through his own tongue trying not to scream while the bonesaw dug in. After hours in the freezing rain, spreadeagled, his body couldn’t take it. Stokes died tied to a table, covered in mud. Monty took out his knife, and crossed off the first name.
Where to run? Ypres was near the coast sure, but then what? Take a ship to Britain, then be a fugitive in a foreign land? He put the pistol’s skinny barrel in his mouth. The cold steel against the top of his throat almost made him gag. He put his finger on the trigger, flexed it a few times, then took the gun out again.
“I wasn’t really going to do it,” he said. The words echoed through the empty church-ruin. Rifles and machineguns crackled in the distance.
Singh had died by bullet. One in the head during another push, and he fell. Not even clear it was meant for him, but it hardly mattered. Singh, who’d always been trying to get the white men onboard with his faith, and who never cheated at cards even when it was easy. Nevermind all his talk about the holy silver cord, one little piece of lead is all it took to push his soul all the damned way out of his body. Singh died well, as much as was possible. The other Indians took his body and did something special to it, with oils. They had to pull his turban down to his eyebrows, to cover the mess of bone above. Monty dragged the knife through the waterlogged wood, and crossed off Singh.
Monty imaged his father back home, asking why he’d run. It was all very simple for folks back home, no doubt: good men charged, bad men ran. Singh had charged. He’d been a good man.
Andrews had just died; he found some lonely part of the trench, and just curled up and died like an old cat. The medics were baffled. Andrews used to sing, in the early days. He’d sung on the troop-ship over, and he’d sung in the trenches, and he’d even sung while bullets whistled overhead. Eventually he stopped singing, then he stopped speaking, then he just stopped entirely. Monty’s knife stuck in some knot of wood for a moment. He grunted, and his blade broke through it. It tore away a small part of the pew, and left only REWS in the wood.
Monty put the gun down on the pew beside him, and did not look at it. A cold wind blew through the holes in the roof, and he shivered. He ran his thumb and forefinger over the blade of his knife, then ran the blade along his rest, parallel, not breaking the skin. The knife was dull, but he had no doubt he could open the vein if he really wanted to.
McClintock always ate too much. You had to keep your eye on your rations, or he’d be running off your beans. To his credit, the man was almost an artist with food; Monty had often wondered what the man could do with real ingredients. McClintock had died choking, struggling to find the straps for his gas mask. He came at the other men, fumbling, crying, spitting up blood but by the time they got to him, it was too late. McClintock died in a world bathed green-yellow, where the air itself was poison. The last things he tasted were chlorine, and his own guts coming up.
In the church-not-church, Monty Laws sat. He hesitated for a moment, then dragged his blade ever-so-gentle across McClintock’s name. The wood broke apart into a mush of little splinters, and that name too was gone.
One more to go.
Monty picked up the German gun. He held the knife in his left hand, and thought of Stokes and the wires. He leant in, and tapped his own name with the blade. The pistol sat heavy in his hand. The wind shrieked so loud through the shattered roof that he could no longer hear the sound of men dying in the distance.
He stabbed the knife deep into the pew, and dragged it across. The saturated wood tore apart, and came away -- there was little evidence his name had been there at all. Monty Laws put the barrel of the German gun into his mouth, and flexed his finger on the trigger. The steel tastes bitter and metallic, like blood.
He took the gun out of his mouth, and law it on the pew.
“I wasn’t really going to do it,” he said.
The words echoed through the empty church-ruin. The wind did not reply.
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 02:06|
The Big Dipper
“Mom!” Said Parker in his bright, needling voice. “Lucas keeps walking into me!”
The children followed Alexa across the parking lot, their footsteps seeming to echo through the half-empty rows. The gnarled silhouette of the Big Dipper, the park’s oldest ride, hung in the sky.
Lucas, not even bothering to deny the accusation, knocked his shoulder against his brother. “I’m just having fun!” He said. “We’re just playing around.”
“No, I’m not!” Parker’s voice wavered and grew heavy. Alexa could sense the oncoming torrent of tears. The sobbing. She looked up at the amusement park’s gaudy entrance. The mess of bannisters and trim reminded her of a haunted house. The blue paint, once vibrant, had faded to something thin and gauzy. A banner hung across the bottom. “CLOSING DAY! 75% OFF ADMISSION! THANKS FOR 127 YEARS OF FUN!”
What a waste, Alexa thought. This place was supposed to last forever and then they ran it into the goddamn ground. When she had heard about the park’s closure, there had been only one person she had wanted to tell. They had not talked in years, but she still had his old phone number. She had already planned out what she wanted to say, but the call never picked up.
That’s because he was…
“Lyle, stop.” Alexa said.
“My name’s not Lyle! Stop calling me that! You always call me that!” Lucas moaned. He waved his arms, hitting Parker in the chest.
“Moooom, tell Lucas that—.” Parker began. Alexa spun around, jerking hard on the arms of the two boys. Harder than she meant to. Parker let out a surprised yelp as he jerked forward. People aren’t supposed to grab their kids like that! He said with his wide, watery eyes.
Alexa loosened her grip, feeling a mixture of guilt and embarrassment wash over her. A minivan slowed down as it passed by them. They let it drive by in silence.
“Look, this place was just really important for me when I saw a kid,” she said in place of an apology. “If you two aren’t going to be nice to one another, we’re going to go back in the car and drive home. Do I make myself clear?”
She knew it was an idle threat, but the boys remained silent. Lucas looked down at his light-up Velcro shoes. He’s going to remember this, she thought, as the guilt grew hot inside her. When he’s in his 30s, he’s going to tell his therapist that he’s depressed because his mother attacked him when he was 11. She attacked him and it was all so he could see…
Alexa blocked the thought from her mind and pulled out three tickets. The computer paper had become crumpled and ragged in her purse. “Come on, do you want to go in or...
...do you wanna stay out here forever?” Called Lyle as he slammed his car door shut. It was the first sweltering day of what seemed like a short, formless summer. The parking lot teemed with life. A boombox belted out summer hits while screams drifted out of the park into the lot.
“I think I’m gonna stay here forever, actually,” Alex said, adjusting her ponytail. She had told Lyle that the only reason she had followed him to this dumb amusement park was because her boredom had finally overwhelmed her laziness. Well, that and her mom.
She watched a ratty man wander between the aisles of cars with a cooler of pops and beers that jangled behind him. “One dollar!” He shouted, except it sounded more like dollah than dollar. “Come on! Come on! Get a nice, ice-cold drink for just one dollar!”
Alex closed her eyes as the makeshift salesman disappeared behind a sedan. The air in Lyle’s car felt pleasant and heavy. She tried hard not to think about the end of summer, about the packed boxes stacked by the door, ready for college. She and Lyle had promised to stay together after graduation, but she could already feel the threads between them unravelling. Quiet moments felt incomplete. Every visit was a willful act that forced her to ignore the rough, disappointing edges of their conversations. She marveled at the amount of time they had wasted.
The Big Dipper, its wooden frame glittering in the sunlight, loomed over the park gates.
Lyle rapped his knuckles on the half-rolled window. “Excuse me ma’am, but are you aware that nine out of ten infant deaths occur in hot cars.” He forced his head through the window, dribbling his sweat onto her legs. “I just wanted to make sure you were aware of the many dangers facing—.”
Alex grabbed blindly for one of the beach towels in the back seat and threw it at his face.
“Oh, God!” Lyle shouted. Alex opened a narrow sliver of her eye. Lyle pressed the towel against his face and took a step backward in mock surprise. “It’s got me, Ripley!”
Alex got out of the car and pulled the towel from his leering face. “You’re so funny, Lyle, wow. Really incredible.”
He gave a huge laugh and leaned toward her. She gripped onto the hot metal of the car, ignoring the screaming of her nerves as he inched toward her face. Her heart raced. Then, as if a lightswitch had been flipped, he stopped. His face flushed red and he threw the towel through the open window.
“Well, it got you out of the car.” He mumbled. “Let’s get going.”
Alex studied her shoes as they walked towards the entrance. “So, uh, the gate is new.”
“Yeah, yeah. The park got bought by some rich dudes down in Kentucky and they really went all out on the remodel. I think they wanted to remind everyone that this thing’s been here since, like, the 1800s or whatever,” The words slid out of his mouth the way a fish slid out of a net. Lyle cleared his throat. “Y’know, besides that monstrosity of a gate, this place is pretty cool. The owners have been putting in a whole bunch of new rides ever since they took over.”
Alex rolled her eyes as they settled back into their normal groove. The moment in the parking lot had faded. She hoped it looked like she didn’t care. “I don’t need a history lesson. Can we just go in before they close?”
Lyle gave a smile that seemed to outshine even the hot summer sun. “Yeah, of course. We’ve gotta go on the Dragster and the Apollo and the...
...Head Spin is unfortunately closed.” The park attendant said. He was a pimply boy with a ragged mop of hair and he looked at Alexa and her children with a guilty expression. “Maintenance issues. Sorry.”
Alexa looked down at Lucas and Parker. Despite it being closing day, the park had been filled with a prenatural quiet. People shuffled from ride to ride, giving one another dark nods like guests at a funeral. The owners had already shut down large swathes of the park. Guess Your Weight machines stood unattended. River rapid rides baked in the dry heat. They had waited ten minutes to get cotton candy that the boys had devoured in five. Blue and pink stained Parker’s mouth.
She looked toward the wooden skeleton in the distance. “Is the Big Dipper still open?”
She knew the answer before he said it. The attendant bit his lip. “Yeah, I’m sorry. I think the old thing’s boarded up already, but I’m pretty sure the Thunderhawk is up and running all day. I can show you the way if you…”
Lucas tugged at his mother’s hand. “When are we gonna get to go on a ride? I’m boooored.”
Alexa scratched the top of her son’s head, but did not look down. There was a hard feeling in her throat. A strange heaviness. “Do you know what they’re gonna do to it?”
The attendant shifted weight from one leg to the other. He glanced down the dark, wooded trail that they had wandered down. Seeing no one, he turned back to her. “I hear they’re demolishing it the first chance they get. Half the park is a historic land site and they want to act before the historical society gets involved. Too expensive to maintain an empty park. Might as well raze it to the ground.”
Her heart dropped. I am never see this ride again. I wasted the whole day taking my kids to the decaying wreck of a park for no reason. I wasted my kids time. I wasted my time. I wasted that entire summer with Lyle. For nothing.
No. Lyle’s teenage voice boomed in her head. We’re going to do this thing.
She took a deep breath. “What if I paid you to get in? How much do...
...you want to sneak us in? It’ll only be a second. Promise.” Lyle said in a dark, oily tone.
Alex gasped and immediately hated herself for doing so.
The park attendant, an older man in a sagging polo eyed Alex and Lyle warily. The Big Dipper seemed to shimmer in the summer heat. Lyle and Alex had wormed their way through the park, riding everything from the carousel to the bumper cars. Now, only the rollercoaster remained. And, even if it was closed for maintenance, they were going to get inside it.
“Twenty bucks,” the man grunted. “And no drugs or sex stuff. You get caught and you’re on your own.”
Lyle struggled with his wallet as the man unlocked the fence leading into the ride. Holding Alex’s hand, he led her into the darkened pavilion. Devoid of people, the place had the feeling of a church. The two wandered around the wooded entryway, listening to the echoes of guests in the distance.
Alex pointed to a pole etched with different initials. “So, do we want to carve our names into this thing?”
It was only half a joke and they both knew it. Seconds ticked by.
“No, wait! That’s a great idea!” He looked at her with shimmering eyes. “This will be our thing. Our inside joke. We’ll come back here. Once you graduate, once I graduate, we’ll meet up and spend another day at the park. Just you and me.” Alex felt the desperation come off him in waves. “We’ll come right back here and we’ll laugh and remember all the summers we had together.”
Alex smiled so hard that her face seemed to crack. “You make it sound like this is final.” There was no joke attached to it. No sarcastic remark. The sentence hung in the air.
“Turn around. No peeking!” He knelt down in search of an empty section to carve.
Alex turned and wiped something from her face. “Just don’t write anything stupid, okay? No dumb references. No Latin. I just want...
...you in and out.” The pockmarked attendant pushed the gate open.
Alexa slapped a pair of bills into the boy’s hand and ushered her children up the stairs to the ride. Both seemed too shocked to resist, too surprised that their mother had bribed a guard, too surprised that they were sneaking up an abandoned rollercoaster.
“Will we get in trouble for this?” Whispered Lucas like someone entering a holy site. Parker said nothing.
“Hush,” said Alexa. With the two boys in hand, she traced her way back along the line that she and Lyle had carved years before. She walked, dream-like, to the place where they had spent some of their last moments together.
“Look,” she pointed to a neglected corner of the ride. Etched in the wood in a rough, angular scrawl were the words:
“Alexa Morgan and Lyle Stanley had one good day here in 1989.
And no matter how far they move apart
This ride will be a monument to what was.
(dum vivimus vivamus.)”
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 04:04|
The Letter X
“Twenty-six shall be our number come the day after.”
Byrhtferð pointed at each letter of the vellum banner strewn between the grated twin pillars of the Ramsey Abbey Commons. Jwls the Eunuch balanced on a chain as he painted over the number 3 with red wax.
“A through Z are jointly agreed upon by all attending monks. Those letters have thus been ascribed to the official banner for King Æthelreds war room. We are still shy of twenty-six however. Considering we have twenty-five letters left on the banner I must insist upon a final vote for which letter should stay.”
The twenty-five monks sitting upon the split logs running down the length of the commons stroked their en vogue frizzy beards and hmphed and grumbled for consensus.
Byrhtferð, the twenty-sixth monk waved at Jwls to get off from the pillar staked chain. He tumbled off in a nimble twirl using his crotch as the focal point of turning. Slvrd nudged his grumpy non-bearded brother Mlch and whispered,
“Look at Jwls. Ever since he had the honor of being taken as an emissary of the king he’s been waving around his new position. I’m getting tired of his acrobatic theatrics. I can’t wait for him to leave here with that accursed banner.”
Mlch pointed his oaken mug upside down and shook it sulkily. He growled at Wno the Belligerent to fetch another cask so he could,
“...sit through hours of hmm-hawing over a pointless symbol for the king to distract himself with.”
Wno muttered in a sound similar to rocks rolling in a cauldron mixed with teeth and waddled down to the catacombs.
Slvrd, “Didn’t you hear me Mlch? I said-”
“I heard what you said. Jwls new status doesn’t concern me. This whole argument does. “
Slvrd took a swing of his half full mug and burped, “What troubles you?”
“What troubles me is that-”
He huddled closer to Slvrd so Byrhtferð didn’t overhear,
“We spent all this time -together- raking through the Romans overtly verbose mess of an alphabet. We did so after all of us -together- were given the honored purpose of preparing a banner of the new English for the King. I don’t see a lot of -together- happening now my brother. Everyone else has had their ideas considered except me.”
He pointed at a man who could be mistaken for a walking gray bush considering his filthy oversized facial hair.
“Brother Yti still has that ugly ampersand up for consideration with the help of Byrhtferð and 12 other monks.”
He pointed out a youthful monk who had crossed his legs the entirety of the meeting and sweated continually like an island sow,
“And that youngling Cnut has that idiotic idea for that upside down e. We have no words that use that sound and he only got support from the rest by arguing in the dumbest way possible. That it would be nice to have a letter for future words.”
Wno poured a stream of catacomb cooled ale into Mlch’s mug. Mlch blessed him and drank the whole thing.
“My brother. You must relax. I don’t understand how your symbol works exactly.The ampersand is obviously going to be needed and we were all impressed with Cnut’s idea for the...uh I think it was called a schwa... No offense but what word would use an X exactly? I can think of none that start with it.”
Mlch slammed the bench with his fist,
”You nincompoop! You just said a word that could use it. X-actly! Or how about : X-ceptional. What about what a chicken lays? Exx’s, obviously!
“I liked Brother Cnut’s idea of Ecksceptional and Ecksactly. It seems too...simple to use X in place of Ecks. We want the King to be remembered as a complex man, not a simple minded one.”
Mlch was about to beat his brother to death with the empty mug as he had a primal flashback to Abel and Cain when Byrhtferð announced,
“Good news my brothers! We have settled on the ampersands after brother Bendict and brother Arnld decided to side against brother Cnut. “
The eunuch began painting the ampersands into the empty space of the alphabet. The black grease paint slopped around his bowl as he pulled himself back into the crotch killer position on the chain. He dabbed at the space with a bundle of horsehair as tears streamed down Mlch’s reddened cheeks.
Byrhtferð sent Wno back below into the cellar to fetch the remaining casks and bellowed to the monks, “Now, my brothers! The work is finished so let us drink and be merry!”
“HERE HERE!” the Abbey replied except for Mlch who threw his mug against the pillar.
The next morning Byrhtferð awoke from a dream where a crown of thorns dug into his temple. It turned out to be a hangover. He licked his lips and scratched his ample belly. Mlch was already awake and cleaning up the mugs and bowls of porridge and mutton left in piles around the room.
The others awoke shortly after. They took trips to the vineyard to water the grapes and then came back to help clean. When it was finished they gazed at the banner with the still slumbering eunuch below it. Byrhtferð narrowed his eyes and tried to recall the night before as he surveyed the letters. “Hmm.”
The congregation replied in turn. “Hmmmmm.”
Byrhtferð said, “I cannot remember what the final vote was...Please excuse me brother Mlch but how did you get us to reconsider X?”
Mlch covered his left palm to hide the bead of red wax on it and said humbly. “I gave a clearer argument after brother Slvrd advised me.”
“I did? I do not recall the advice the I gave you brother Mlch.”
Mlch chuckled nervously, “Now don’t make the others think me a liar Slvrd. Remember the words we discussed? X-ceptional? X-cited?”
Slvrd scratched his beard. He pulled an apple stem from it and remembered, “Ah! That’s right! I and brother Mlch figured that Eckseptional as it’s spelled is far too lengthy for the King to adopt into the new english. We needed something concise!”
“Right right!” Mlch said.
“We settled on E-x-ceptional and E-x-cited! Remember now brothers?”
Mlch began,“Wait. No, I-”
“That’s right!” Byrhtferð exclaimed.
“I remember we got the room to side with you after that rousing speech. Good job brother Mlch. It was a unique addition.” Byrhtferð said.
The monks raised their hands and agreed, "Here here!”
Brother Mlch rubbed the black grease remaining on his fingers and thought about the results he’d gotten his night of sobriety.
After a long sigh, he said, “Yes! I have the Lord to thank for giving me the humility to seek my brother’s advice.” Mlch declared.
He picked up a half full mug and drank it down.
Slvrd said, “You have an iron gut brother. I’d expect you couldn’t drink another drop after last night.”
Jay W. Friks fucked around with this message at 17:09 on Jun 5, 2017
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 04:51|
THIS IS NOT MY ENTRY THIS WEEK! THIS IS MY REDEMPTION FOR WEEK 245, IT'S ALL ABOUT ME, FUCKERS
STOP READING IT IF YOU ARE A JUDGE.
in, flash, and to get 1 redemption before i write this story.
pitch: a mountain in a relationship with a fungal colony that is expanding into its core, threatening to kill it but also they are in love
The mushroom never felt a part of anything even though he was the largest organism in the world. All it encountered seemed so small and insignificant compared to its massive bulk. It lived for a thousand years and other life forms flitted into and out of existence in the blink of an eye for the mushroom. The mushroom grew lonely, and so it abandoned its search for meaning on the surface and dug deep, deep into the earth. The more it dug into the mountain, the more hopeless life seemed. For all life ends, and it’s a pity to get to the end alone. But the mushroom found that it was not alone deep in the Earth, and it found something that it had not encountered before. Not a root, fossil, or gem, but a friend. A lover. The mountain and the mushroom lived in harmony for hundreds of years. The mushroom’s mycelium spread through little cracks in the rocks. Wherever there was space, the mushroom spread, and the mountain loved it. It felt nice to be completely needed. Trees only lived on the surface of the mountain, like parasites. The mushroom’s embrace of the mountain made it feel whole, like the mountain imagined a volcano must feel when it’s about to erupt. The mountain wished the mushroom could turn to rock and be with it forever. Instead the mushroom grew and engorged, pushing the rocks further apart. The mountain swelled with mushroomey gooeyness inside. But it hurt the mountain, to have the mushroom growing so pervasively. The mountain begged the mushroom to stop, lest it be destroyed. The mushroom didn’t understand. “Do you want me to die?” asked the mountain. “No, of course no, I love you,” said the mushroom. “Then you must stop growing within me. You may grow out on the surface, among the trees and bushes, and we will still be together. But if you keep pushing yourself into every crevasse, I shall no longer be.” It was their first fight. The mushroom stewed for a while on what the mountain had asked, but did not wholly understand. “If you are asking me to stop loving you, then I’m afraid I cannot.” The mountain cried with worry. “I am just asking not to die.” “But Mountain,” said the mushroom, “That’s what love is. Destruction through proximity. The only difference between a lover and an enemy is that you allow a lover to hurt you, and you like it while it’s happening. That’s what makes it easier to die, and everybody dies, even mountains.” The mountain rumbled with anger. “This whole time you only meant to kill me?” The mushroom scoffed in retort. “I just wanted somebody to spend the end of my days with, and you wanted the same.” For though they hadn’t realized it, both the mushroom and the mountain had grown quite old. Many seasons had passed on the surface without either of them noticing. The mountain stopped quaking and regarded the mushroom without the bias of their past life. The mushroom was desecated in most of its rhizomorphs, but the mountain’s rocks had been crumbling alongside them, and it had not noticed. The mushroom had a thick, rough exterior, almost like bark, not the soft, fleshy white that had bored its way into the mountain so many centuries earlier, but the mountain had not noticed because the pressure of the tectonic plates sliding over it had dulled its sense. The mountain realized it was dying. The mushroom had stayed inside of it for longer than necessary. “You came to see me to the end?” “No,” said the mushroom. “Do not abandon me now,” begged the mountain, “I cannot bear the thought of dying alone.” The mushroom laughed, and used the last of its energy to push through the final few layers of the mountain’s core. “I didn’t come to watch you die. I came to die with you.” The mountain and the mushroom were locked in embrace when the ground shook and the mountain crumpled beneath the weight of millennia.
crabrock fucked around with this message at 05:50 on Jun 5, 2017
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 05:33|
No poo poo, there I was - no, then I was, 1990, Desert Storming across Iraq with the 23rd Marine Division. We’d started - this was Lem, Patrick, Martin and me - on patrol riding herd over a squadron of Afghan soldiers in 2017, so you could say we’d gotten a little bit lost.
There’s two kinds of war stories. poo poo that never happened, and the poo poo that did. It’s tough to tell them apart, sometimes. Lem’s grandfather had two stories he’d tell given half the chance. One of them was about the time when his unit spent a week stranded on a Pacific Island with a healthy and aggressive population of Tyrannosaurus Rexes, and the other was about him juggling two beautiful mistresses in Okinawa. Only one of those stories had an ounce of truth to it. The man never once had eyes for any woman but Lem’s grandma. But Lem and I ran into him, shared a haunch of roast dinosaur massacred by their unit’s chef. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
Iraq. Now that was only three decades back, and Patrick was going on about just riding it out. Not trying to hit the next portal, just going home, finding some money and investing in tech stocks and get to 2017 the old fashioned way. I wasn’t about to do that; I had family back home. The others, not so much. None of us ranked anyone else, though. I was technically senior, but only by a few days so we’d been going on consensus.
The first couple of times we shifted we barely noticed the graffiti, but by now we were on the lookout for it. A couple of small symbols that kept showing up, usually with some kind of hint. This time the hint is just one word. ‘Texas’.
“Oh hell no,” said Martin. “I am not going to the god damned Alamo.”
“Why not?” asked Lem.
“Are you serious?” said Martin. “Look at me.” I could see his point. We’re not always exactly ourselves, when we’ve been in the past. We were all Greek when we marched with Alexander, all deeper black than Martin is normally when we fought in a huge war in Central Africa that history forgot to give a name. So it probably wouldn’t be a physical danger going through, but...
“Yeah?” said Lem.
“The Texans were fighting to expand slavery,” I said.
“Also,” said Patrick, “They lost. Famously, at that.”
We tried hashing it out, but we knew we didn’t really have much time. This war was going to be over in a day or so. Not much chance of another portal before we got shipped home. So that’s where we parted ways. Martin and Patrick shipped back, got to relive the nineties, and Lem and I passed through to the next war.
The Alamo was a short trip, thankfully. We barely had time to meet Davy Crockett and see his ratty-rear end coonskin cap before we found the next gate, to the Taiping revolution. That was a long slog, under the leadership of an utter loon, before we found the next marked wall and the next portal to the next conflict. There seemed to be no end of them.
We marched for and against Napoleon, went with the Roman Legions against Vercingetorix. Never did mean Caesar, though. The Alamo was nothing compared to the hot gates of Thermopylae. We got out of that one in one piece, at least. I took a pair of bullets in the thigh and shoulder at the Somme. Lem saved my life there, dragging me out of the crossfire and to the next gateway, to a field hospital in Korea to convalesce for a few weeks.
We didn’t always take the first way out we saw. Any sign that hinted of Germans or Confederates was a hard pass, no matter how bad the war we were in at the time was. Lem talked me out of going through Russian-sounding ones a few times, too.
We saw the elephant. The elephants, charging down towards the Roman lines at Trebia like a trumpeting grey avalanche. We met them with sword and javelin and courage alone, and lived to tell the tale.
And we saw the future along with the past. The future’s not much different that the present the past, at least what we saw of it. Maybe most of it has wars fought with drones or not at all, but in the parts of it where the matters are settled by boots on the ground, they’re settling it with guns and swords and the occasional artillery piece.
Lem took a deep cut in the Water Wars, out in the former United States somewhere in the Thirty-Second century. Nothing lasts forever, looks like. Not countries nor partnerships. It didn’t kill him. Despite fighting with swords and horse-cavalry the people then had good enough medicine to prevent death and infection. But not so much to fix the nerve damage.
“Ain’t going to ask you to stay with me,” he said. “I know you’ve got your boy and all. But I won’t be walking without a cane, looks like. Not fit to fight, that’s for sure.”
“What are you going to do?” I asked.
“I was talking with some of the rest of the guys here,” he said. “You know they’ve never heard of Star Wars or Harry Potter? Figure I can make my way as a bard off of all the pop culture poo poo filling up my head, and if that fails I’ve got my war stories.”
I went on, Alone now, and determined to make it home. But the signs I saw all pointed me towards the end instead. It wasn’t more than a few gates later that I landed in World War III.
I’m not going to say anything more about that one. I’ll take that story to my grave. You don’t need to know when, or who, or why.
The portal out of there lead to Armageddon. I was half-expecting the second coming of Jesus Christ almighty after seeing the sign pointing out that one. I almost didn’t go through, but I’d had plenty of time to think about the signs. Whoever wrote them had to have gone through each portal twice. Once to find out where it went, and a second time to actually scribble them down. So none of the portals could lead to a dead end. Worst case was I’d end up back somewhere I’d already been, but I had to hope there was a way home out there.
Armageddon didn’t mean Christ versus Satan, though. It meant Megiddo, the valley north of Israel where the word comes from. A lot of wars got fought there, and I had to go through most of them, past and future, picking up scars. Last one was the one in the Bible. I got to see the verse play out in front of me, saw Josiah take the arrow, and as we were routed I spotted the sign, with the only words on it ‘The End’. I went through.
None of the other portals ever took me off Earth before. This one did. I’m not sure where or when it was, but it wasn’t Earth. Lots of other grunts there, but nobody ever tells grunts anything important. The landscape was barren, moon-like, but there was air to breathe at least.
They led me to a room with a huge mirror and then there were two of me. And for a second, I mean that literally. I could feel both of my bodies, had the sensations of two pairs of eyes, two sets of fingers, two heartbeats, two throats. It only lasted a few seconds, then one of us swallowed or coughed slightly differently and we separated into two consciousnesses, and I was only one of them.
The Sergeant gave as much explanation as I ever got. “It’s the end of time, or near enough to it. Everything’s over, had its run. Except that there are a bunch of unfathomably alien sons of bitches from outside time that want to eat the whole thing, and by the whole thing I mean not just this little resort here but all of history, all the way back to the big bang. We’re going to stop them.”
The payment for service is that you get to go home. But you can’t go home and fight there at the same time, so they make a perfect copy. We talked about it a bit, which is mostly just like talking to yourself in your head at that point. As long as one of us made it back home, that would be enough. So we flipped for it. I guess I won.
There are two great walls in the boot camp at the end of time, more huge than anything you’ve likely imagined, like most things there. We write things on them. One is for the ones of us who say and fight, and it’s just names, in neat and orderly rows. Names, real and fake, call-signs and nicknames. About a hundred thousand John Kilroys at least. No dates. It’s not there to mark deaths, but rather to say ‘I lived. I made it. I was here.’
The other wall is for those of us who made it home, and we just scrawl out anything we feel like. It’s mostly crude drawings of dicks. I’m no artist, so I just wrote names on it, too. My son’s, my wife’s, my mother and dad, all inside a big old sappy heart.
Then I took the portal home. I woke up in a field hospital, after the docs pulled bits of bullet and shrapnel from the whole of human history out of my body. I could have told them about every piece, but they chose to believe it the work of some highly resourceful Taliban scrap scavenger. They said the rest of the squad was killed by the same explosive that sent me there, but I know they’re out there, their spirits or souls or whatever. Patrick and Martin starting to go grey while enjoying their wealth under different names. It wouldn’t kill them to look me up, but they haven’t yet. And Lem, waiting to live out his post-war years off in the rustic future.
And me, the other me, girding himself for the final battle, waiting for those moments when the rush of cosmic entities comes down on the last redoubt like an iridescent avalanche, ready to face them with sword and rifle and courage alone.
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 06:09|
When I open my eyes, I’m lying on the beach. Salt crusts my lips, burns my eyes, separates my hair into gluey clumps. I’m soaking wet, as if I’d just crawled out of the sea instead of awakening beside it.
I remember, and I look.
The house is still a house- four walls and something of a roof. The thatch looks patchy and bare, but the beams hold.
I remember, and I walk.
The boy and girl can’t be older than twelve or thirteen, and their childish behavior- yelling, running, teasing- irks me. When I was thirteen, I was married, and had no more chances for idle play.
“You won’t make it up there,” the girl says doubtfully.
“Watch me,” boasts the boy. He does look capable- brawny and tall, like Erik at that age.
“You’re going to fall!” The boy ignores her, hoisting himself up. The loose mortar of the stone walls crumbles under his fingers. The girl looks anxiously at the roof. “My father says these old houses are all rotten. The roof’s going to fall in.”
“No, it’s not,” he says dismissively, but I feel his energies ripple with nerves. You don’t have to do this. Turn around and go home, I tell him.
The girl turned suddenly. “What was that?”
“I thought I heard someone talking,” she says suspiciously, looking in my direction.
She cannot see me, not yet. On her forehead is the mark of Freyja, very faintly glowing. If she was two years older, she would have seen me standing by the old longhouse, but as yet she is only slightly aware. A sleeping cat’s ear twitches when a breeze blows past, but the cat does not awaken.
“No one’s here, Inge. Don’t be silly.” The boy is already scrabbling up the roof, dislodging hunks of ancient thatch. “Ugh, this smells worse than Old Asa’s privy.”
“My father told me these old houses are haunted, too,” Inge continued. She has her skirts gathered, clenched in her hand, as if getting ready to flee.
“Well, if I see a ghost, I’ll protect you,” says the boy. Inge rolls her eyes.
I follow her in. The darkness is alleviated only by the gaping doorway, and holes in the walls where rocks have fallen out. As Inge stops to let her eyes adjust, I slide past, standing protectively in front of the ladder.
When Erik boasted, it was better than any legend. We would nestle in the furs and he would tell me of his exploits, his talents, his shining ways. I thought his marvelous words could slake thirst, turn brackish water fresh, stop the day and bring on the night. When he told me he could do something, I believed him. I believed everything.
Erik helped build the longhouse, and I had followed him in just as I follow Inge now. I was older than her, and newly breeding. Erik and his brother Torunn built the frame by themselves, and the roof had been put up that day. The two men were laughing together, perched precariously on ladders and not a little affected by mead. It was twilight.
“I’m going to write my name,” Torunn said.
“You don’t know how to write,” Erik scoffed.
Torunn bristled. He never gave much weight to anything Erik said. “I know how to write my name, you rear end.”
“Fine, as you wish,” Erik said. “I’m going to write something a little grander.”
“Of course, you are.”
“Erik, don’t do anything that’ll get you in trouble,” I said. I didn’t really think he would, but I was tired and felt ill, and wanted to go back to our own longhouse. “Can we just go home? I’m hungry.”
“In a minute, love,” Erik said. Bracing himself against the wall, he started carving the fresh wood. “I’m going to write, ‘These runes were carved by the man most skilled in runes in the western ocean.’”
“Which you are not,” Torunn said.
Erik laughed, looked back at me, and winked. “But who will know? No one else is going to climb up here until the roof needs repairing, and they won’t have to replace the roof until long after I’m dead. The next person to see this will believe it.”
“Impress my future grandchildren if you want, Erik,” Torunn said. He had climbed down and was dusting off his hands. “Your wife is right. It’s time to eat, and I’m going home.”
“Go with him, Astrid.”
I had an uneasy feeling. “No, I want to wait for you.”
“I’ll be a while yet. Go on, get some food. I’ll see you soon.”
When I awoke alone the next morning, I knew what had happened. My family tried to keep me still as I wrenched, sobbing, from their grasping hands and ran half-mad towards the unfinished longhouse. Torunn caught me before I could see Erik. He was the one who had found his brother crumpled at the foot of the ladder, his neck twisted impossibly backwards. It was a strange way to die, the men all agreed. It seemed too dire an injury for such a short fall.
They would not bring me to him. They never did. I fought for almost an hour against their confining hands, their meaningless placations, before the spaekona came with her wand and herbs and silenced me. I woke a day later to find that my child had fallen away with its father. Then I fell into the sea myself.
Erik had surpassed even his original claim, and carved his falsehood down the entire length of the beam. The runes are covered in grime and hard to see in the dim light, and the children cannot read them. “This is old Viking writing,” Inge tells the boy. “Old Asa showed me once. She didn’t know how to read them, though.”
He squints. “I can’t see them from here. I’m going to climb up.”
“Harald, don’t you dare, that ladder is hundreds of years old!”
“It’s sturdy enough.” Harald kicks the ladder. “Look, it barely moved.”
Because I’m holding it.
“Don’t do it,” Inge warns. She eyes the old beam with suspicion. “It’s probably cursed. I bet if you read those words out loud, you’d die or something.”
Harald reaches for the ladder.
Inge’s eyes widen. The mark on her forehead grows brighter, and I smile. “Harald, don’t— “
I burst into corporeality.
My flesh grotesque, white and bloated and nibbled on by fish for so long. Half my face rotten, the other half perfectly preserved and beautiful. As the children scream, I, too, open my mouth and vomit long snakes of seaweed, foul with the stench of dead sailors and rotten animals. “LEAVE THIS PLACE!” I howl, pulling the fishy strands from my mouth. “LEAVE OR BE DEVOURED!”
Harald screams like a slaughtered pig and almost pushes Inge over in his desperation to get away. He runs. The girl just stares.
“GO, YOU FOOL, OR I SHALL DRAG YOU TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA!” I scream at her, pointing to the door with my skeletal hand. One of my fingers falls off, and she jumps.
“Hel,” she whispers.
This is taking too long. I pull a fish corpse out of the tatters of my dress and wave it at her. “THIS FISH IS MORE ALIVE THAN YOU WILL BE IF YOU DON’T GO NOW!”
Inge clasps her hands. “Hel, please don’t take me with you, please, I’ll do anything you want, I’m a good person, I help my mother, I help my brother--” She babbles at me.
Brave. A good candidate for spaekona, I think, as I hurl the spectral fish at her. This has the desired effect, and she escapes with a shriek.
Erik carved no curse, but his pride killed him after all. Much later, I found he had cut down a sacred tree to make that beam. That was bad enough, but carving his braggart’s lie into the wood was doubly blasphemous. The gods punished him with death. And me, with recurring death. With vigilance.
The next time someone entered the abandoned structure, I would wake up on the beach again, soaked and rotten. I would frighten them away, to keep them from touching the profaned beam and enraging the old gods. I could not have saved my husband, but I can save Torunn’s descendants, the people who would have been my own.
When the spaekona put me to sleep that day, she knew what would happen. She could not have prevented my fall. Her words of sleep were also words of binding, of servitude, that I could return and protect others from the same fate as Erik’s.
Until the beam falls back to the ground and becomes part of the earth again, I am bound to it, avowed to keeping others from death. This is my only task, and I will carry it out.
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 06:53|
“NOTICE: This wall is solely for use by students and does not necessarily portray the views of the University.”
The Wall of Rejected Classes
The glass catwalk between campus center and the lecture auditorium was so plastered with papers that Ronald couldn’t see outside, which was just as well, since he didn’t have time to enjoy the view anyway. Nobody stopped to read the fliers. Even if they had wanted to, it would have been nigh impossible, as people didn’t walk through the catwalk so much as they were carried by the current of bodies pushing into or out of the auditorium. Nevertheless, Ronald’s eye was drawn the fliers each time he walked through the catwalk, but he could only read in small bursts as he was ferried past them. They repeated every five feet or so, so that his experience went something like:
He’d only catch a glimpse of a word or two on each copy, never enough to digest an entire flier. They advertised roommates, study sessions, and struggling new courses.
In addition to the mundane, intro-level general elective courses promoted on the wall, there also classes of the esoteric, obtuse, and downright strange: Metaphysical Thoughts of the Unfertilized Ovum, Classical Compositions Arranged for the Keytar, and The Implied Kinematics of Stationary Objects. Classes so short lived they weren’t even added to the course catalog—a doomed pet project of some overly enthusiastic assistant professor. The only record of their existence was their brief blip on the wall of rejected classes, and then they were destined to be forgotten.
It was the first week of Ronald’s last semester of undergrad. He’d scheduled out his three-year college plan while he was still a sophomore in high school, and he hadn’t deviated from it once. It was designed to impress even the most jaded medical school admissions committee. He’d simultaneously completed a degree in Biology, Chemistry, and Biochemistry. And it’d worked; he had conditional acceptances to every school he’d applied to. All he had left was to finish the semester and graduate. He planned to keep his head down and stick to the schedule.
He was being pushed down the catwalk toward his Analytical Chemistry class reading the posters as he always did. He saw a new one he hadn’t seen before. He collected words from each successive poster. “Art Dept.” “Look.” “Enroll today!” Oops, must have missed a word. Ronald was scanning the walls for the next one when he bumped into somebody taping a flier on top of the already thick mat of papers. The slight boy fell to the ground, dropping his stack of papers.
“Oh no, sorry about that,” said Ronald. He offered his hand to the person on the ground.
“Thanks,” he said, standing up and brushing himself off. “I should have thought better than to try to hang something here during class switch.”
The two pressed into the wall to avoid being swept away.
The boy held out his hand for a proper introduction. “I’m Thomas,” he said. “And by the rules of rom-coms, I think we’re in love now.” Thomas laughed but held onto Ronald’s hand a little longer than strictly necessary.
Ronald blushed. “I, uh….” he stooped and picked up Thomas’s dropped fliers. “Here these are. What’s left of them anyway. The others are gone.” Ronald pointed to the flutter of fliers being kicked down the catwalk by an unrelenting mass of feet.
Thomas took them, then handed one back. “Maybe you should join the class? You look like the type of guy who could use a little fun.”
“I don’t know if fun is really necessary. What class is it?” Ronald looked at his flier. Look Up! The Art of Ceiling Graffiti. Ronald looked up. On the ceiling of the catwalk above him was a spray-painted flower.
“I did that freshman year,” said Thomas. “It was one of my firsts. I’m much better now.”
“You...spray painted the ceiling?”
Thomas laughed. “Yup. Three years ago. Think about how many times you’ve walked through this catwalk and never saw it.”
“All the times,” said Ronald. “Which makes me wonder why spray paint the ceiling at all, if nobody notices it.”
“That’s the point! Nobody ever comes and paints it over. Normal walls will get covered up by campus security same day, but ceiling graffiti last forever.” Thomas nodded, convinced of his own argument.
Ronald let his eyes wander up and down the ceiling. In addition to the flowers, there was a whole mural of hummingbirds darting between tree branches. It would have been at home on the side of a building for all to admire, but it seemed even more beautiful knowing it’d been there the whole time and he’d never looked up. The rest of his classmates continued their march toward the auditorium, looking straight ahead or down at their phones. None of them looked up.
“It’s nice, but why is that a class?” asked Ronald.
Thomas had an answer ready for this one too. “It’s a real pain in the rear end to paint the ceiling, cause you gotta tilt the bottle back just far enough to go up, but if you go too far back, only air comes out. Takes a while to learn. But the prof is real good, doesn’t start you with the full 90 degrees. He’ll start you off on a slight incline, say 15 percent or so. It’s a blast. You can keep that flier. It has my number on it.”
“Oh,” said Ronald, still blushing.
“Uh, cause I’m the TA I mean.”
“Yeah, no, I didn’t think…”
“But I woulda given it to you anyway,” said Thomas. He winked.
“No, my number. God, you suck at flirting. So, you interested?”
Ronald was not interested. His plan didn’t have an open slot for university-sanctioned delinquency. Furthermore, flirting and dating were clearly in year two of his medical school plan. If he deviated even slightly now, . If he deviated even slightly now, he would be lost. He’d never deviated from the plan before. He wanted to say no. He knew the correct answer was no. “Maybe,” he said instead.
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 06:57|
The floodlights still glow outside the garden dome and the tunnels, pushing darkness away from me. The lamps burn inside, always. According to the computer, their nuclear batteries will keep them alive long after I'm as dead as everyone else, so maybe someday a ship from Earth will pass by, see the light, and find what's left of the colony--the messages my people cut into the glass as they were dying.
Names and dates and verses glitter between me and the stars. My fingers trace the poet Henley's words: I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. I don't know who left them here; the plague made a lie of them anyway. It could have been my mother or my father, since their names are carved inside a heart just below. They wrote Jacqueline, too, because I was too little to do it, and they never expected me to survive.
There's a room in this place that's full of bones. I still dream about dragging bodies inside. I couldn't and I can't leave the habitat to give them a better grave.
Turning from the glass, I burrow into the dome's orchard to pick an apple and then sprawl between rows of cabbage to eat it, breathing in the green smells of the crops. It's about time to rotate them, probably. I want to try growing flowers again. So far I've only seen marigolds in the image archive, but if the computer can work out the proper soil treatment for all these vegetables, then surely--
Did something move outside the dome?
Hunkering down, I crawl toward the glass. It's been ages since I last convinced myself there could be a probe or rescue team out there. The flat, barren dust plain stretches on like always, except this time there is a figure standing on it, pale and way too thin to be wearing a space suit. The tendrils on its head might mean it's another girl, if they're hair, and if alien girls wear their hair long. An alien is all the creature could be.
It's staring at the dome, assuming those spheres that look like eyes are eyes. I crouch lower and try not to breathe. But the maybe-eyes find me, and neither of us blinks--does it need to blink?--until I can't stand not to, and the second I move, the alien vanishes. It drops into the ground, feet first.
"What was that?" I ask the words on the glass, though I know them all by heart and I know they don't have answers.
The next day, the alien is back again. And the next. The computer won't obey my LIGHTS OFF command, and I'm sort of glad. The alien could be an animal that just looks humanoid, but when our eyes meet I'm sure it's intelligent. It doesn't threaten me or do much of anything but stare, stare, stare at me and the dome, then disappear in that way that shouldn't be possible. At one point I wave to it--well, I wiggle my fingers a little--and it dives into the earth so fast then that it raises a column of dust.
A few hours later I go back to the garden. The ground outside is dry and barren, but it isn't flat anymore. Ridges flow into each other in a series of shapes I don't know at all. It's designed, though, I'm sure of that. It means something, if only I was here. Like a name cut into glass.
I grab a pencil and paper from my room, and once I finish my work with them I sit inside the dome until the alien reappears. Right away I hold up my drawn copy of the symbol. The alien does its staring act; its head tilts to one side, then to the other as I flip the paper over and start drawing again. My marigold is lopsided and honestly kind of ugly, but I show it to the alien anyway. The creature sinks out of sight. Then the soil humps up as I watch, like something below is pushing it, and a rough mirror of my sketch forms on the dirt.
That's the last I see of the alien for a few weeks. The exchange told it whatever it wanted to know. I'm more troubled by loneliness than I have been in years, because I've remembered there's an alternative. Only there isn't, is there? No messages come from Earth. The only people who talk to me do so in epitaphs.
The trembles start while I'm sleeping--I wake up to blaring alarms and the computer shouting EMERGENCY! so loud I think for a second the noise is what's making my walls shake. I run down the tunnel, into the garden, and see my trees shivering. A new shape covers the ground beyond the dome. It's so enormous that the quake hasn't destroyed it yet. This one I can almost read: a crack breaking a solid line. The alien's told me how I'm going to die.
I huddle by the glass beside my parents' names and my own, pressing my palm to their heart so I'll feel it until the end.
But a not-quite-human hand shoots out of the dirt just outside, followed by a face. It gestures frantically. The dome shudders; I hear a crack and leap up, running for the never-used, pressure-locked door out that's visibly jittering now. I yank the lever to release the lock. EMERGENCY! the computer yells. And the door flies open. I stumble out into the airless world.
The hand is waiting. It catches my ankle and pulls me down--through the ground that's coming apart. The alien wraps its arms around me and carries me along a tunnel that opens in front of it and closes behind it as it moves. I choke on dust. I black out, I think, not long after a monstrous crash vibrates along the rock around me.
Then I'm in an open space, slumped on my side and coughing. I struggle to kneel. The alien slaps my back a few times. When I inhale, I suck in air. A soft glow outlines the cave for me, coming from thick clumps of mushrooms on the walls. The alien pulls one free and offers it. It takes another for itself and bites down.
"Thank you," I say. The alien makes a noise I don't understand. Did it understand me? I think so, because it sits beside me as we eat the mushrooms. I wish mine were an apple.
I won't taste an apple again. I'll never grow a marigold. The colony is buried; the bones are in the ground. No one else will see its messages now. That's the thought that starts me crying, huge sobs I stifle with both hands. I don't think the alien understands that. It still stays with me while I bawl.
My past has finished dying, but I'm not alone anymore.
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 07:30|
It appeared in a dump in Mogadishu.
Few noticed the anomaly. Even in the era of mobile internet, the voice of Mogadishu’s poor was a whisper amidst all the collective screaming. But word spread, carried first by bony refugee children, and reached the ears of shopkeepers, who gossiped to college students. The students brought the rumor to Mogadishu University and the attention of Professor Jamilah Ashrath.
Jamilah's students crowded around her, breathless with excitement, and told her in staccato bursts of the strange apparition in the dump. She had to slow them down and ask them to backtrack several times before she got the whole story, but by the time she pieced it together, she was intrigued.
That evening, after classes were finished, Jamilah went to the dump. She kept her head down and hurried past the women and children picking for scrap. She felt evil, like a tourist. No, I’m not here to help. Just to gawk at a novelty.
She felt the hole before she saw it. It radiated a palpable sense of longing, but it was a recursive sensation, like deja vu. As she approached the anomaly, she had the curious sense that she was pacing the perimeter of a panopticon, and that some other iteration of herself was looking back at her from across an unknowable distance.
Her students had warned her that looking straight at the thing caused a terrible headache, but she looked anyway. The anomaly was a jagged smear that hung roughly three feet above the ground and made Jamilah want to blink and rub her eyes. Like someone had fogged up the window of the world with their breath. It was impossible to gauge the thing’s dimensions with any specificity; Jamilah could say for certain only that it was shorter than a one story building, but taller than a human being. Its width--or depth?--was unknowable.
She looked down at her feet and shuffled in the direction of the anomaly, trying to keep it out of her line of sight as long as possible to avoid the headache. The closer she got, the more intensely she felt the thick, mournful deja vu that emanated from the hole in syrupy waves. It was painful but intoxicating, and she found herself thinking just one more step, and I’ll feel it all the way.
Jamilah took one final step, then accordioned outward into a thousand iterations of herself. Jamilah watching Jamilah watch Jamilah watch Jamilah. The panopticon! they all screamed in horrified unison.
Then she compressed again. She was in absolute darkness--no, that wasn’t right. She could see her hands, belly, and feet when she looked down. The darkness around her had a tight, interior quality to it. Vast and expansive, yet womb-like. The air had a wet, organoid smell.
Something stirred nearby. Jamilah took a step backward, collided with a solid vertical plane. She whirled around. It was a wall. Like her, it was illuminated by some unseen light source. Its surface was fleshy, grey, and mottled, like the skin of a dead dolphin left in the sun. Someone had painstakingly carved elaborate, florid symbols into the firm, tissue-like substance. Her eyes traced the loops, curves, and curls of their own volition. It was so mesmerizing that she nearly forgot about the noise in the darkness behind her.
The shuffling sound came again. Then a grunt of effort, like some animal heaving itself to its feet. Jamilah looked from side to side, looking for a doorway or gap in the wall. It extended as far as her eye could see in both directions, unbroken.
She turned left and ran, hugging the wall. Her mind was empty except for don’t let the thing in the dark get me. In her periphery, the symbols on the wall danced and slithered beside her. The faster she ran, the more it seemed like a massive, abstract cartoon. Like the flipbook animations she’d draw in the corners of her notebooks when she was in primary school.
She stopped. Running headlong into dark infinity wasn’t any less terrifying than whatever had been shuffling around behind her. She took one glance out into the blackness to her left, then quickly turned and pressed her face against the wall. It was too much nothing. She needed to have something in front of her eyes.
Don’t let the thing in the dark get me.
Her nose was touching the cool, firm surface of the wall, so that one of the symbols was directly in front of her eyes. Up close, the carvings looked like scars; there was even what looked like raised, puckered flesh around the edges. But the longer she looked, the deeper and wider the scar seemed to become, until Jamilah felt as though she was staring down into a ravine. At the bottom of the ravine, something flickered--light, motion, life--and resolved itself into grainy semblance of some cityscape she didn’t recognize. Old fashioned-looking cars pulsed through intersections. Airplanes soared overhead. People thronged on the sidewalks. All of this happened silently, with Jamilah watching from a passive, bird’s eye view.
“You shouldn’t be here,” said a voice in Jamilah’s right ear.
She screamed and reeled away from the wall fast enough to throw herself off balance. She fell to the colorless floor.
The thing in the darkness was a person. They were ancient and androgynous, draped in a mold-speckled grey tabard and nothing else. Their eyes were sunken deep into the sockets, shaded by bushy grey eyebrows.
“I don’t want to be here,” Jamilah blurted out. The sound of her own voice in this place was nightmarish and profane.
“I was Jonah. I am Jonah,” said the ancient creature. “It threw me in its belly to make me forget. But I born to remember.” Jonah reached up and ran his hand over the symbols on the wall. “Carved the world into the belly of the beast--ha!”
Old, dormant habits stirred inside of Jamilah, remnants of life in her father’s house. “Are you alone here?” she said in her softest, most placating voice.
“It threw me in its belly to make me forget,” Jonah said again. He tapped his liver-spotted scalp. “But I was born to remember. All things are in my mind.”
“You must’ve been here a long time,” Jaminah said.
Jonah let out an animal bellow and threw himself against the wall. “It’s fading,” he wailed into the fleshy grey surface. “All those that live inside me will die, and I will forget them.”
“It’s a lot to ask of yourself, to hold all things in your mind,” Jamilah said in the tone she took with her students when they were being overly critical of themselves. She wanted Jonah calm.
“You don’t understand,” Jonah groaned. “I was a vessel. I was the life-bearer. If I can’t remember, I can’t finish. Swaths of history, dead. Like it never happened.”
He reached down and hauled Jamilah to her feet with ease, then led her by the arm down the length of the wall, back in the direction she had come from. The symbols flowed along beside them, until they abruptly stopped. Beyond that, the wall was smooth and grey for as far as Jamilah could see.
The place where the carvings ended felt...wrong. Evil. Like a headless corpse. Jamilah shook off Jonah’s grip and pressed her nose right up against the final symbol. The carving resolved into a scar, then a ravine, then flickering motion.
She looked down on a familiar cityscape. Her own Mogadishu. Nothing moved. There were no people on the sidewalk or cars on the road. Directly below her was the dump. She could see herself, frozen mid-step in exactly where she’d seen the anomaly.
Jamilah had, quite simply, come to the end.
She pulled away from the wall, shuddering.
“You see?” Jonah said. “If I don’t keep going, it all just stops. Terrible, terrible end. But I can’t keep going if I don’t remember.” He flashed an abrupt smile and chuckled, shaking his head ruefully. “A pleasing irony, to carve our existence into the belly of a world-eater. Such a shame.”
“Is this our whole history?” Jamilah breathed.
“No,” Jonah said, “but it is what I can remember.”
“So make up the rest.” She turned and forced herself look into his small, watery eyes. “Please don’t leave me there forever. At the end. Stuck. Alone.”
Jonah exhaled sharply. “I’m a scribe, not God.”
“But if not that, then what?” Jamilah gestured out at the blackness, though she still couldn’t bring herself to look out into it. “What is there for you here?”
Jonah looked at her for a long time. “I will not blaspheme. But…” He sighed. “What you do once I teach you the language of being, that is for you to reckon with.” Without waiting for Jamilah to reply, he pulled a yellowed bone knife out from under his tabard and scratched a shape on the wall.
“First is the symbol for earth…”
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 07:59|
Illumination (1,500 words)
Brother Quinn nursed his wrist as he went to see the dragon by the cemetery gate. Brother Fergus had found it while making the rounds, and reported his discovery to the others over breakfast. “A great and terrible beast,” he’d said, “Long and winding!” He swept his hand in a serpentine fashion, teeth-bared, his fingers bent inward like the talons of a bird.
Quinn stepped out into the sunlight, shielding his sullen, tired eyes with the sleeve of his robe. He turned the corner, and stood in congregation with his fellows in the presence of the monster – which proved considerably less terrifying than advertised. The stately gray walls of the monastery had been graced by the coils of a sneering, circuitous dragon sketched in white.
Fergus clasped Quinn on the shoulder. “Well that’s it then, isn’t it?” His eyes were distant, his expression grim. “We’ll have to evacuate now that a dragon’s come to roost.” He caught Quinn’s glance, and his practiced stoicism shattered into laughter.
Brother Conall shot the pair of them a deep and dismal look. “Do you think this funny, Brother Fergus? Do you think us fools, and this a playhouse?”
Fergus straightened up, still laughing. “Your pardon, Brother Conall. I thought it novel.”
Conall exhaled his disappointment. “This is a holy place, Brother Fergus; a house of reflection and solitude, and we its humble caretakers. I should think the Lord and Father Rowan alike would thank you not to deface its surface.”
“Oh no, no, no,” Fergus said, hand extended. “This weren’t my doing, Brother. I only thought to make sport of the announcement.”
Conall traced the shape of the creature with his finger. He rubbed his thumb and index together. “Chalk,” he said. “At least it can be cleaned. Brother Fergus, if you would be so kind.”
Fergus shut his eyes and bowed respectfully. “Of course.” He offered Conall a theatrical gesture, then disappeared to fetch a bucket. The other monks began to dissipate. Conall remained to study the wall, before turning to see Quinn still standing there.
“Something the matter, Brother Quinn?”
Quinn’s attentions had drifted to his perch in the scriptorium. Conall’s question forced him back into the daylight.
“Hmm? Ah, no Brother Conall, no, just…” He rotated his wrist to hide his hesitation. “I’ve a lot left to do with the current page.”
“Are you getting enough sleep, Brother?”
“As much as I need.”
Conall glanced from Quinn to the dragon and sighed. He walked off into the cemetery.
Quinn stared at the dragon. His dragon, the exact form and flow…only he hadn’t drawn it. Not here.
The scriptorium was a symphony of scratches. The familiar rhythm of quills against paper calmed Quinn’s temperament. At his desk, his work station of twenty years, a bundle of half-finished Latin manuscripts sat awaiting the touch of illumination. The perimeter was littered with ink bottles, each containing a different shade of God’s creation. Only a few were labeled, but that didn’t matter. Quinn knew which bottles were which.
He gathered the manuscripts together and began leafing through them. The hallowed pages gave way to rough sketches, collections of mistakes, and practice drawings. There, at the bottom, was the dragon – his dragon – coiled at the bottom of the page. He frowned and held it before a candle.
“A perfect copy…”
He rubbed his nose. The dragon he’d penned was currently being scrubbed off the walls by Brother Fergus. Someone had seen fit to reproduce it. Quinn’s discomfort at someone rifling through his work was overshadowed by his awe at their own ability to mimic his strokes.
He returned the picture to the bottom of the pile. He’d let Brother Conall worry about the vandal. He still had several pages to finish. He whet his pen on the tip of his tongue, dipped it in one of the bottles, and began tracing in ink what he’d already outlined on the page. Slowly, yet not as slow as he would’ve liked, an unpleasant tightness crept its way up through the veins in his wrist. His grip shifted. He recoiled from his work, cradling his drawing hand in his arm.
“No, no,” he whispered, “Not now. Not yet. Please. Please Lord.” It was not a sharp pain, but it pierced him deep within his soul. It felt as though a lock were being affixed to his hand at increasingly regular intervals. He released his wrist, grit his teeth, and forced himself to continue.
Quinn awoke to the sound of breaking glass. He’d fallen asleep at his desk. Rather than move him, someone had seen fit to provide him with a thick blanket instead. He might’ve recognized the pattern as one of Conall’s, but his eyes were drawn instead to the figure that withdrew before him, a wide-eyed child, a girl from the village.
A cool breeze from an open window pervaded the room.
The girl retreated in the direction of the night sky, but tripped on a wayward scrap of parchment. Quinn held out a hand in the darkness.
“Wait, wait!” he said, “Please wait.”
The girl had already reached the far desks. She turned at his words, her youthful face half-bathed in moonlight. She wore the garb of one of the peasant farmers whose property surrounded the monastery.
Quinn sat up in his chair.
“Are you…are you the one who drew the dragon on the wall? I’m not angry with you,” he added quickly as she began to turn at the accusation, “I just want to know. I want to know who copied my drawing.”
The girl stood still, her eyes sweeping the formerly-thought vacant room. The world was tinted a dark and comforting blue.
“Aye,” she said, at last. “That were me.”
Quinn lit one of the candles at his desk. The tide of blue retreated in the presence of that soft orange glow. The girl approached him, cautiously at first, then without fear. Quinn shuffled the papers at his desk. He produced the dragon before her. She acknowledged it with a nervous father.
“Didn’t mean no trouble, Father. Coming in here. I just like to look.”
Quinn wanted to ask how she got inside the compound, but instead said, “Did yourself a little more than looking the last time it seems.”
“…Aye. It were just such a,” she fished around for the word, “Fearsome thing!” She threw up her hands. “Felt it belonged there, guarding a castle, or something like it.” She lowered arms along with her gaze. “God ain’t…angry, is he?”
Quinn held back a chuckle. “I’m sure he isn’t, child, though I must inform you Brother Fergus has slain that particular dragon.” He considered her again, then the parchment in his hands. “I must admit I am surprised you could follow my lines so closely.”
She shrugged. “Were right at home in me mind, Father. Just came out that way.”
Quinn’s expression shifted between amusement and intrigue. He glanced down at the manuscripts in his hands. He pulled out one of the incomplete ones and placed it on his desk next to a crumpled piece of blank paper he’d yet to transcribe. The girl watched as he pointed to an incomplete drawing of Saint Peter, his outline traced in dots but lacking in color and definition. “What do you make of this then?”
“Not quite so fearsome as the dragon, Father.”
“Indeed, I should hope not. Do you think you could draw this man here?” He pointed at the blank page.
The girl looked long and hard at the nebulous form of the disciple. For a few minutes there was silence. She took the pen from his hands and began to trace the man’s form in the air. Quinn pointed her to the black ink. She dipped the tip and began to draw.
She was a natural. The feather moved briskly in her hands, charting out the worn yet welcoming face of the apostle. She made no sketches, no mistakes. She simply drew what he’d shown her.
Could this be a gift from God, Quinn thought.
By the time the candle had burnt down half its length, the image had been completed. It was still in need of painting, but the linework was exquisite.
“Dear me,” said Quinn, “You’ve managed something miraculous, girl.”
She sat back and smiled, arms crossed. “I draws what I sees.”
Quinn flexed his wrist under the desk. “Thank you…” He felt he should know her name.
“Ciara,” she filled in for him.
“Thank you Ciara. You can run along now, should you like.”
Ciara nodded, stood up, and bowed deeply. Then she turned and ran for the window.
”Ah, but,” Quinn said, “Should you come climbing in here again, I’d appreciate seeing some more of your gift.”
She held her position at the open window a moment, then vanished into the night.
At the far end of the room, Brother Conally silently shut the door. He sighed, and relaxed. He felt no reason to report this.
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 08:03|
Eagle, and Shark
The bald spot on the back of Russian Station Chief Eduardo Zagiev’s head glinted in the fluorescent light. The fan turned slowly overhead, making intricate eddies in the vape smoke from the infuser between his fingers. Finally he looked up.
“Interesting, Comrade Jim.” He tapped the photo he had been peering at. “This, this phallus is an image of, uh, cultural importance to you Americans?”
James Murkowski, Space Constable First Class, shook his head with a firm left, right. “Negative. It’s just a regular dick, and balls, sir.”
“Interesting,” the Chief said again, drawing the words out like he was tasting a new wine. “And this was… burnt onto the Eagle lander module, you say?”
“Yes, with a plasma cutter.” Zagiev was smirking, and Jim paused for a moment before biting out his next words. “It’s a historical monument, sir. I’m under orders to find who’s responsible and bring them to justice. Space justice.”
Zagiev had large bushy eyebrows and he was raising them high with telegraphed incredulity. “Really? Out the airlock, for a little graffiti? Anyway, thank you for attending me with news of this fearsome crime, and if its perpetrator comes to my attention I will be sure to hand him over to you for appropriate punishment.”
He was on his feet now, hand outstretched. Jim stood up and took it.
“I know you care about history, Chief. I read your book - what did you say, ‘we grow through error towards the truth’? I’m going to find the truth, I hope with your help but if not then it’s not going to stop me.”
Later that night Jim was in the bar, drink in front of him, flicking through sensor reports.
“Jim,” said a voice he knew. “I came as soon as I heard.”
Jim smiled at crack astrophysicist and good friend Maribelle Zelazny as she sat down beside him. “Thanks. It’s all about the satellite interval,” he said. “Establish which peeper had its eyes on when the crime went down and I can crack this wide open!”
“You think it’s the Russkies?”
“Naturally. Noone else would benefit from spreading mockery of our freedom. I dangled a line about history and the truth in front of Zagiev, and I have a trick up my sleeve to--”
Jim’s communicator beeped. “Aha,” he said and flicked it open. “Jim, is that you Louie? Yes? He did? Wait a minute, let me write that down.”
He scribbled down a number, then clicked the comm shut. “That was Frostrup, over in Base Comms. He called in a favour and tracked the first call Zagiev made after our meeting. Let’s go pay the Commissar a visit!”
“Coming,” said Maribelle as she grabbed a sheaf of the documents from the table. “I’ll run these orbital periods on my hand comp while we’re in the hopper.”
The short distance rocket transfer transporter - hopper, for short - was cold, with the burnt gunpowder smell of lunar dust.
“This is odd,” Maribelle said. “You said it happened around 2200 UTC, six days ago? Based on the state of the vacuum pitting?” She was strapped in, sitting crosslegged with the acceleration webbing wrapped tight around her as she paged through the satellite reports.
Jim grunted in the affirmative, feathering the attitude nozzles as he brought their hopper down to a soft landing on the Russian base pad.
“Well, it looks like that was right in the middle of a 32 minute satellite camera dead zone, when all the orbital periods aligned. There isn’t another dead zone like that for six months. This was planned, and very carefully.”
The rocket engine spat out one last gout of flame. It made a ticking sound as the frame cooled. Jim unclipped his harness and stood. “They must hate us a lot, Maribelle.”
The echoing steel corridors of the base were sparsely populated, just a few techs in their orange jumpsuits, talking in small groups. They eyed Jim and Maribelle and muttered to each other as the pair strode to the base comptroller’s window. The functionary, a weedy looking fellow with a greasy comb-over, looked up at them blandly as they approached.
“I require to speak with Commissar Akula,” snapped Jim. “Under the authority of Space Law 103.77 - damage to historical artefacts."
"But I am already here, Spaceman James. " The voice came from behind them. Jim whirled, muscles suddenly tense with fight or flight adrenaline. Vladimir Akula was there, a look of tolerant contempt on his fleshy face, notebook under his arm. "I understand you are seeking a criminal."
Jim nodded, eyes narrowed. "More like found one, Vladimir. I know it was you that defaced the Eagle Lunar Module with a picture of a penis and testicles. And I can prove it!"
Akula laughed, a deep rich sound. "I am a busy man, James. I have the ideological safety of the entire Moon under my sway. Why would I want to risk that to draw a little cartoon on your silly old spaceship?"
Jim raised a finger. "Station Chief Zagiev called you directly after I talked to him. And your name is on the request list for satellite data 72 times in the last two months, but not once since the crime took place."
Akula shrugged. "That's the best you have? That wouldn't convince a child."
"No," said Maribelle. "But this would!" With a quick jerk she plucked Akula's notebook from under his arm. He yelled, but she was too fast for his grab. "There!" Emblazoned on the inside back cover was a pen sketch of an erect dick and balls.
"Condemned by your own hand. It's always the back cover. You're under arrest, Akula," said Jim.
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 08:48|
Submissions are closed.
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 09:10|
Eagle, and Shark
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 10:10|
Graffiti Bros: Graffic Adventures with Julius Caesar
"What the gently caress," said Julius Caesar, and shot lasers from his eyes. "This sucks, where the gently caress am I."
He couldn’t see through the laser fire, but there was the distinct sound of blistering trees. A forest, Julius thought, before one of the trees fell on top of him and he died.
"What the gently caress," said Julius Caesar, no lasers this time. "Where the gently caress am I."
"You're in Antiquom," the fat boy said. He gestured towards a wall behind him, one of many remnants of the hidden forest outpost that had once been built in these woods, before it had been claimed by time, and overgrowth. The ruins were covered in bright, garish colors, sprayers having marked their territories in bold letters. The wall behind the boy had a giant Julius Caesar on it. There was a trail of washed-off color where lasers had obviously come out his eyes.
"Yeah the laser thing was not such a good idea," the boy said.
"Hey, that's me," Julius Caesar said, not very quick on the uptake.
“Sprayers have been fighting over these ruins for decades.” The boy turned theatrically and motioned towards the other ruined buildings, carrying faded graffiti of past summoned warriors. They were all Julius Caesars.
“Are these yours?”
The boy nodded solemnly.
“These are all… me.”
“Oh I get it, it’s a Roman ruin so it has to be a Julius Caesar, because you don’t know any other Romans.”
Suddenly and for no discernible reason, the boy’s voice rose to something he’d probably seen in lovely movies when it was time for the hero to hold a grand speech. “Together we will raise an army and march unto the enemy, with bravery in our hearts. And then we will finally defeat-- ,” he paused dramatically, “... we will finally defeat Artsy and his giant Torture Ares.”
“That’s his name.”
“Yeah. I’m Artso, by the way.”
Well that loving figured. “Anyway,” Julius Caesar said, “what is a Torture Ares?”
“It tortures you to death. That’s what happened to the other Julius Caesars. Over and over again. Until their graffiti faded.”
“Oh, okay, yeah. I am not actually cool with that.”
“To be fair, we other sprayers have been researching ways to defeat Torture Ares for years.” Somewhere in the distance, a laser went off and felled a burning tree. “Do you want the lasers back?”
“Gimme that,” Julius said, and tore the spraycan out the fat boy’s hand, which he somehow knew how to use. He startet to paint.
The smoldering corpse of Torture Ares poisoned the forest with steam and burnt stench. Next to it, Artsy, the mysterious master sprayer, knelt defeated. Bits of Jesus littered the ground around them.
“Genius idea, the exploding Jesuses,” Artso said.
“Everyone knows that a Jesus is not fazed by torture. Yes, cannot resist it. All I had to do was to make them remotely detonable, and then--”
“Hey,” a Jesus said, “can any of you torture me, I kinda need to suffer for the sins of humanity.” He exploded.
“Here’s your torture… to go,” Julius Caesar said and put on sunglasses.
“Haha, yeah,” Artso said.
“Shut up. You’re my slave now.”
“Yeah,” Julius said. And that was the end of that chapter.
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 10:12|
I would legitimately buy this comic.
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 10:51|
|# ? Jan 16, 2021 06:17|
THIS IS NOT MY ENTRY THIS WEEK! THIS IS MY REDEMPTION FOR WEEK 245, IT'S ALL ABOUT ME, FUCKERS
|# ? Jun 5, 2017 17:19|