FYI megabrawl participants: I put the link to the relevant post in the OP, beneath the main prompt link (this has been requested a couple different times, because I forgot to tell people it's there!)
If you're not in the megabrawl, disregard this post. Actually probably disregard all my posts in general. But especially this one.
|# ? Aug 23, 2017 02:09|
|# ? Oct 1, 2022 07:29|
|# ? Aug 23, 2017 03:01|
IN A WORLD WITH A GOVERNMENT THAT GENETICALLY PROGRAMS ALL THE BABIES
|# ? Aug 23, 2017 18:29|
In a world with dragons just... just loving everywhere, man. They're all over the place. And not cool dragons either. These dragons are everywhere and they are 100% not cool. Ubiquitous uncool dragons, I guess is what I'm trying to say here. Dragons.
|# ? Aug 23, 2017 19:40|
In a world with dragons just... just loving everywhere, man. They're all over the place. And not cool dragons either. These dragons are everywhere and they are 100% not cool. Ubiquitous uncool dragons, I guess is what I'm trying to say here. Dragons.
In a world without alcohol or chocolate. Or chocoholics.
|# ? Aug 24, 2017 02:46|
Crit for “A Call to the Restoration Crew” by a new study bible!
Prompt: Your wizardry allows you give anima/life to any work of art: A sculpture, a painting, a photo, and so on.
This prompt had a lot of potentials and I think you knew that writing this story. It was a lot of fun seeing our mage Eardrum give temporary life to a sexy m&m and a couple of plastic pumpkins. The interactions with the objects are enjoyable as you’ve gone with the idea that the animated art has memories and personality outside of their perceived inanimate nature.
The three interactions using the magic make me immediately want to read more of your story. I want to know if actual art would have something wiser to say, maybe something by Picasso would be stuttering and speak only in Spanish. It’d be nice if you had either another art piece to interact with that was actually “art” so to see if the emotional spectrum of the magic is changed up depending on the validity of the “art” enchanted, or----to have something be a contrast to the very shallow souls that I’ve so far heard. The tattoo and the pumpkins don’t talk any kind of thought out/passionate art, they are cartoons of living beings, which to be fair, some people you run into in real life in passing are just that.
To have something to contrast against the droll attitudes the three art pieces would also make the starting conversation Eardrum has with his mate have more of a place in your story. He declines to animate the pumpkin stickers on his coffee after his friend jokingly asks him to do so (hey dude lemme see that thing you do again) which is a really cool conversation. I get the feeling his friend and the world at large see’s Eardrums abilities as a novelty than a miracle. This comes from how no one seems to react to his abilities at all except for Button’s bemused request for sapient sticker shenanigans.
The fact that no one bats an eye at this extraordinary ability could mean many things but none of them are really explained in this story. It seems as if this tale is jumping off point for some larger narrative, a kind of “this is an excerpt from my crazy life in the present moment” that will have an explanation later on revealing what led up to animating Artwork and being crime scene cleaners (?). Also, are they crime scene cleaners? Are they brought in to clean up murders for the mob and I guess...frat boys? The fraternity and the murderer don’t seem too worried about a couple of guys asking questions which mean that they have notoriety for their services (whatever that might be) and apparently a private phone number.
The unexplained nature of their profession, their ability to be invulnerable to their client's skepticism (the surround public's skepticism in the case of the sorority girl), the magic number they somehow give out that never gets them in deep poo poo with the police, and the boys themselves, Eardrum and Button. What is it that Button does that makes him partner to the crime clean up/private eye/ college safety squad business? Is he there for funny quips? Why is he named Button, why is our mage named Eardrum? It seems super non-sequitur even for a jumping off point of what seems to be a larger narrative.
The story as is reminds me heavily of “John dies at the end” by David Wong. Both stories start with a WTF causing present narrative that the rest of the book takes time to explain. Both have a pair of buddy comedy quip spouting males of unexplained age and intelligence with one having supernatural connections to help with their unnamed profession that lies between investigation and demon hunting. The demon hunting part doesn’t fit of course but if you ever decide to continue on with this story I recommend checking out the book.
As much as I see it as not being an entire “story” as it leaves so many questions in the air by the time you finish, it was fun to read and I went through it quickly which is a good sign for me at least of an enjoyable narrative.
|# ? Aug 24, 2017 21:39|
Megabrawl II Round 1 story
You didn’t ask to be here.
Good twenty years back, with the men beside you dead or run off back toward McClellan’s tents, when the Rebs came charging up Ball’s Bluff and you were too stupid or terrified to drop your rifle, that’s when it should have happened. Could have shot you down where you stood instead of taking you prisoner, and a whole lot of people would likely have wound up a lot more happy. Or at the very least, a whole lot of people would have wound up less dead.
You didn’t ask for the job. As a matter of fact, when they offered it to you, you thought it was some kind of joke. It wasn’t that long ago you had money on your head, honest money. Federal money, bounties you earned from a long second career of robbing and murdering and taking what you wanted anywhere there wasn’t a sheriff good enough to put you down first. There were plenty of criminals worse than you. You never shot kids, never forced a woman, never stole a man’s horse under him without killing him first. So when you were ready to stop, you could put silver in the right people’s palms and the bounties all went away. Took most of what you had left, though, so when the people of Fort Caul said they wanted to hand you a tin star, instead of just laughing in their faces you asked them how much it paid.
You didn’t ask for the prisoner either. Far as you know, Jack Hollerer’s never harmed a soul, least up to this week. Nice and quiet, polite, did his job at the farriers without causing a bit of trouble. Now, sure enough, Rita Larson did tell a mighty convincing story, and you know it’s not polite to call a woman a liar. Might have been more convincing if her brothers hadn’t had to keep prodding and prompting her to keep it going. Far as you’re concerned, the one Flora Tresner told on Mal Toucan had a lot more of the ring to truth to it, and all that happened to Mal was that he got the stink-eye from everyone in town until he slunk off to Texas. Wasn’t no midnight party coming to prison with torches and rope for Mal Toucan. Of course, old Mal was a hell of a lot paler than Jack Hollerer.
They’re gathered outside, hooting and hollering and fit to burn down the prison if they don’t get what they want. You step out onto the jailhouse porch and size them up. There’s more than a dozen of them. Mike Larson orders you to bring out the prisoner like he’s your boss. You take a deep breath and close your eyes.
Your guns are out. You take down the Larson boys first. Then Charlie the bartender, since he’s about the only other one in town who knows how to shoot worth a drat. After that they’re easy pickings. Reverend Johnson, who came out with a pitchfork instead of a Bible tonight. The usual rowdy boys who are up for anything and good for nothing. You shoot until you’ve got one bullet left. You set that gun down on the rail and slowly reload the other. Nobody rushes you. A town full of sheep that hired a wolf to pretend it’s a dog. Those who still can run away. No problem. You know where they live.
You open your eyes. Maybe it’d work out that way. Maybe not, maybe they’d manage to kill you. You won’t find out, not today. You bring out Jack Hollerer and walk with the mob to the hanging tree. You set him on the horse and make sure they tie the rope proper, which is a disappointment to all of the boys who wanted to watch him choke and dangle. Before you startle the horse you say “May god have mercy on your souls.”
You dare anyone there to catch that last word and try to make something of it. Nobody does.
At home, it takes you near to an hour to find a whisky bottle that’s more than dregs. The one you find is about three quarters full. You hope that’ll be enough to put you out for the night.
|# ? Aug 25, 2017 05:41|
In a world without alcohol or chocolate. Or chocoholics.
With twelve hours till signup deadline, while the next signup can still take this prompt, they will also have the option of:
IN A WORLD WITH A PAIN-BASED ECONOMY
|# ? Aug 25, 2017 19:06|
With twelve hours till signup deadline, while the next signup can still take this prompt, they will also have the option of:
In a world where everyone is blind, the one eyed man is king
|# ? Aug 25, 2017 20:47|
Y'know how I said sign-up deadline was one minute from now?
Well, bam! Sign-up deadline is now. That's right, it's over, I can do that!
|# ? Aug 26, 2017 06:59|
Y'know how I said sign-up deadline was one minute from now?
Ugh, well I was going to sign up, but I GUESS NOT.
|# ? Aug 26, 2017 07:33|
gonna need some extra time on this thing
|# ? Aug 26, 2017 20:57|
Megabrawl 2 Round 1
Edit: Removed. Don't think there's archives for brawlin' but vOv
Uranium Phoenix fucked around with this message at 20:16 on Dec 28, 2017
|# ? Aug 26, 2017 21:17|
THIS IS MY MEGABRAWL STORY
British bodies are easy to pick out, with their red coats criss-crossed by white shoulder belts. You almost laugh. The white ‘X’ on their uniforms makes them all look like marks on a pirate’s map: there be treasure here. You take a moment to breathe in the air, to make yourself smell the stink of bowel and viscera. As always, you hope the horror of it will kill your appetite. As always, your hunger remains.
There are rules to your feeding. No one elderly. No women or children. Once, you had a slave who’d been whipped to death and left to rot in a swamp. You dreamt of that whip for weeks, then swore off slaves, too. Now you stick to soldiers, because soldiers bring dreams of war, and war is something you know well.
Only the crows are up at this hour, and you are glad for it. They squawk and croak and mutter to each other as they hop from body to body, teasing bits of meat out of bullet holes and bayonet wounds.
You are a rifleman, a proud member of the Orleans Rifle Company. When word got out that the Brits were garrisoned on a plantation just outside of the city, you and your company rallied with fervor. You fell on the British forces just after dark. You don’t know how many you killed as you fired aimlessly at the terrified figures scrambling between campfires. Now, there is a kind of intimacy in seeing the battlefield in the half-light of early morning.
You kneel beside a portly Brit riddled with holes and take out your knife. The crows fall silent and gather around you watchfully. Scavengers recognize their own, you suppose. The soldier is well-marbled. His body is cold, but the kind of cold that suggests recent warmth. You gnaw on a strip of thigh, praying to gods Christian and pagan that this will be the last time.
“Son, you can’t kill these men any deader than they are.” The voice startles the crows, sends them whirling up into the blue-grey sky in a chorus of angry cawing.
Your heart spasms in your chest. You drop the meat and look up at the stranger. He’s militia, going by his coat. You grip your knife tight, thinking to cut your own throat before anyone can send you to the gallows. It’s something you should’ve done a long time ago. But you were never brave enough. You ate the corpses, and, in the languid, dreamy afterglow of sin, you promised yourself you would never taste human flesh again. Such promises always come easy after the vice is sated.
The stranger takes a step back. “Hey now, I’m just a gentleman out for his morning constitutional. I didn’t come here for trouble.”
“Kill me,” you growl. “No spectacle. Just a sick animal getting put down. Leave me here, let everyone think I died last night.”
“War is a hungry business,” the stranger says. He pulls an apple from the pouch at his hip, shines it on the front of his shirt. “Takes a lot of bodies. Lo-o-o-t of bodies to keep that beast fed. Some men are closer to the belly of War than others.” He winks at you and takes a loud bite from the apple. Juice runs down his chin.
“Way I see it,” he continues, still chewing, “It’s better if British scouts come back here and see their own all chewed up. That’ll put the belly-fire in them. You know they were trying to rile up the slaves? Promised to sail them to freedom if they turned on us. As if a work horse knows what to do with its own self.”
You feel the phantom crack of a whip on your back. The slave’s dream comes back to you in sharp lines of red-hot agony, again and again. Through the haze of pain, you watch the stranger's teeth sink into the apple, see how the flesh splits, hear the last, agonized shrieks of a man long dead. You make a pained noise in your throat.
“What?” the stranger asks. “You some kinda slave-lover? poo poo. I hope those animals do rise up. War is always hungry.” The stranger takes one last bite from the apple, tosses it aside, and pats his belly. He gives you a meaningful look as his does this, as though you’re both in on some joke.
You push yourself to your feet, knife still in hand. The crows are a vortex of sound above you.
“Ha! You are a slave-lover. You got yourself a runaway wife back home? Maybe she’s got you hopped up on that Africa magic.” He gestures at the corpse at your feet, at the missing chunk from the Brit’s thigh.
“You own slaves?” you grunt through clenched teeth.
The stranger laughs. “Boy, I have more slaves than you could count. But if you want to try, you could start by looking in the mirror.”
“I’m no slave.” You want to put your knife through his eye, to taste his flesh and dream his terrible dreams. You want to eat him and then excrete him into the latrines. These desires surge up from some unfathomable depth of your self, buoyed into the realm of conscious thought by black wings.
He takes a step closer, daring you to strike out at him. “You live to serve War. It’s all you can do. I have owned you since the first man picked up a rock to bash in his neighbor's head."
“Then I choose not to live,” you say.
You tilt your face skyward, where the crows are still circling overhead. Innocent scavengers, you think. No one ever hanged a crow for eating flesh. Then you bring your knife to your own throat and do what you should’ve done years ago.
As you slump onto the dewy battlefield, the last thing you see is a torrent of black feathers pouring from the gash in your neck, swirling upward, rising to meet the murder in the sky.
|# ? Aug 26, 2017 21:20|
|# ? Aug 26, 2017 21:48|
are u nerds MEGABRAWLING lemme get in on that poo poo
974 worderinos motherfucker
The dance, the dancer
The rain came first in spears – fierce long streaks lit silver by moonlight. As the night was pulled further and further apart, the rain went soft, and the wind took it in all directions; fuzzy halos coalesced around the harsh glow of the streetlights. You stood in a hooded oil-coat and pretended not to mind; there was something perverse to electric light -- a single light should not have stood against the rain; a single light surrounded on all sides by the sea, when its fire should’ve been quenched in moments. You remembered when there were feeble gas lights, and scurrying link-boys, and when there was only fire, and even before that when darkness squatted upon the face of the earth.
In Vienna, a boy died that night. He was transfixed by the electric streetlight, and did not see the oncoming carriage. It ran him down, and did not slow – he was only a boy. You saw it, from the corner of your eye, and did not intervene. You took his body in your arms. There was no light in his eyes. The rain made his wool coat stink. His eyes were brown, his hair was brown, his skin was pale and bloodless, his neck went the wrong way. He was heavier than you expected.
He stood outside his body, and did not understand: he cried when you took his hand. The children were always hard to deal with, but an eternity steels the soul to a few tears. Still, there was a pang to it–
All men die, but not all children. There is no peace in it - no inevitability. The boy in the wool coat cried when he saw your face, as they all did. You took his cold hand in your own cold hand, and tried to hush him, but it only made him bawl louder. He would’ve been a cooper, like his father. A dying profession, heh.
You felt guilty for laughing but you were human once, and a little of it was still there. You had a name, and a face. In that moment, you had neither. In that moment, you stand sentinel at the gate between the living and dead. The scythe no longer made sense -- the farmers used great machines now that could harrow a whole field in a matter of hours. So much for metaphors, but you'd always been always a traditionalist.
You knelt down.
“What is your name, child?” you said.
You knew, of course, but perhaps hearing your voice -like brass nails pounded into wet earth, like the rumble of a mountain before it is taken into the sea- would calm him.
It did not.
“Do you like toys?” you said, and took a wooden horse from inside your coat.
“Neigh,” you said. “Neigh, so goes the horse, as is its way. The horse, like you, is dead. See, it’s not so bad? The nice horse died too. If you come with me, you can have the nice horse. Neigh.”
He did not like the horse. It was, to be fair, not a very good horse. You were the death of people, not of horses -- you weren’t familiar with their shape. There had been horses in your life once, but it was so long ago. The toy had too many tails, and too few colours. Anatomical issues aside, with hindsight it was probably not the right animal to show to a child who had just been run down by a carriage.
You snapped off one of its heads.
“See,” you said, “now it has the correct number of those bits.”
Behind you, visible only to the boy and yourself, was the door. The boy had to go through the door. If he stayed, something would come out of the door. That’s why you were there – to ensure the right things went into doors, and nothing came out of them. It was a small door, this time: apposite for a child, difficult for a skeleton who’d been pretty big in life anyway.
The door whispered in the voice of many hungry children. They told the boy to stay. They told him they would let him see his father again, and eat all the candy he ever wanted. Of course they would say that, and of course a child would believe.
The boy bawled.
“Child,” you said, “if you come with me, I will tell you a wonderful jest. You will laugh heartily. We will laugh together, like you once laughed with your father. If you are good, I will return for your father and you can be with him in a nice house forever.”
The boy stopped. Good, mission accomplished.
His eyes were very wide.
“You gon’” he said, “you gon kill my dad?”
“I do not kill anybody,” you said. Your skull gleamed. “I simply collect.”
The subtlety was clearly lost on the boy. He tried to turn, to run. You moved, as you do, between raindrops, and appeared in front of him. You grabbed his wool coat, which stank of wet and blood. The whispers were so loud now, so hungry. You dragged the child’s soul, screaming, towards them. He tried to dig in his toes, but they found no purchase on the wet cobbles.
You threw him through the door. It closed neatly, without ceremony.
You stood alone, in the rain. You lingered for a moment, and considered the broken horse in your hands. The rain came down sideways, in a windtossed almost-mist. You squeezed the horse, and felt its pieces snap, and fall onto the cobbles. For a moment only, you felt sorry.
A lonely wind blew through the streets of Vienna, and you went on your way. There was nothing to see but rain, and the harsh glow of the electric light.
|# ? Aug 26, 2017 21:54|
Flerp, I, too, couldn't read. I thought this was due Sunday same as regular TD. Could I have some extra time?
|# ? Aug 26, 2017 22:08|
Flerp, I, too, couldn't read. I thought this was due Sunday same as regular TD. Could I have some extra time?
|# ? Aug 26, 2017 22:20|
ha yeah me too
|# ? Aug 26, 2017 22:21|
so i dont have to keep posting for every time, if u need an extra day for the MEGABRAWL then you get it
|# ? Aug 26, 2017 22:48|
Armack fucked around with this message at 01:31 on Oct 31, 2017
|# ? Aug 26, 2017 23:22|
flerp megabrawl, round 1
She looked at him quizzically. “Are you talking to me?”
“You—” Fumbling with his handkerchief, Stephen mopped his brow. “I beg your pardon, miss.”
“My name’s not Anne, it’s Jenny,” she said, giving him an odd look.
“I’m sorry to have distressed you,” Stephen said ruefully. “It's only…well, you look very like my dear wife, Anne. She passed last March.”
“Oh,” she said, “Well. I’m sorry to hear that.”
Stephen looked at Jenny again. The resemblance was not exact- she had darker hair, a more determined set to her mouth, but the fine, pale edge of her beauty was so like Anne's. He realized he was staring, and lowered his eyes. “Yes, the winter in the Dakotas…well, she had delicate health. I’ve been ill, myself, and just made it to California yesterday. Haven’t even had the chance to wire her family.” He sighed. “I admit, I miss her terribly.”
“Oh,” Jenny said again. She looked behind her, into Mrs. Wilson’s House, and said, “Well. You could buy me a drink at the saloon, then, and tell me more about your wife.”
Jenny said she lived on a little farm outside town, but often came in to call on a cousin who lived next to the saloon. She also proved an able listener, sweet and sympathetic as he talked about Anne, and at the end of the day he found himself quite intrigued by her. It was, in fact, with a slightly guilty conscience that he looked at Anne’s miniature that night.
Over the next few weeks, Stephen saw Jenny several times. Clearly, she had no breeding or education, but she nevertheless soothed his rumpled soul. She asked about the new mine- clever questions, he thought, especially for a girl with no schooling- and seemed quite impressed with his business acumen. Jenny had a way of looking up at him through her starry lashes whenever he talked of minutiae such as profits and labor that he felt himself to be quite the magnate indeed.
“It’s a small mine, and it will not go forever, but my man thinks it should be fruitful for a good few decades,” he told her one night over brandy. “Certainly, more profitable than my other holdings! And I’ve decided to invest in railroads, as well.”
“What a good idea,” Jenny said. “I love to watch the trains coming and going. I always wish I could go with them.”
“Never been on a train?” She shook her head. “You can’t even imagine how fast it feels!” A thought struck him, and he put his hand over hers. “I should very much like to take you on a train journey.”
“As a wedding present.”
Jenny gave a little cry and jumped up. Stephen laughed, “Darling, I know it’s hasn’t been long, but from the moment we met, I knew we were destined for one another.”
“I know you do!” Jenny cried. “I’ve known it from the moment I laid eyes on you!”
“Please, beautiful Jenny, say you’ll come with me.” Stephen reached out to her and took her by both hands. “I’m a man of means, so let's do business-I’ll buy your little farm and you can use that money to have a wedding dress made!”
“No!” she gasped. “Oh, Stephen, I couldn’t wait for a whole dress! Let’s do it tomorrow. Please, darling, please.”
They married the very next evening. Stephen wore his better suit, Jenny a rather daring blue gown. She put up her hair just as he had asked- as he had asked Anne to coiffure herself before their nuptials. The bride glowed, the priest was almost sober, and Stephen himself was grinning like a fool. He ordered punch and cake from Mrs. Wilson’s, Jenny decked the priest's room with fragrant pine branches, and altogether the small event- Jenny had begged him for a private ceremony- was lovely.
Night fell, and they rode to Jenny's little farmhouse. They had tickets for San Francisco, leaving the next day, but Jenny insisted that the wedding night happen at her humble home, which she had already put up for sale.
Although Stephen tried to stop himself, he couldn’t help calling out Anne! Anne! during the act. In the moonlight, on the pillow, she could have been his dead wife’s twin. Her lips tasted just the same. In any case, she didn’t seem to mind his mistakes, melting into his arms like a little dewdrop in the aftermath.
Stephen had just closed his eyes, when she said, “Dearest, I have one more wedding gift for you.”
The heavy lamp base shattered his skull before he could even smile.
Early the next morning, Jenny collected her documents- deeds, ownership titles, and the rest of Stephen’s papers- and locked up the McCarthy’s farmhouse. No one had come to claim it after the fever took them, and no one would likely answer her ad for such a small, poor farm. She stopped by Mrs. Wilson’s one final time, traded the wedding dress for Ruby’s kidskin gloves and Stephen’s pocketwatch for Lucy’s black dress, and headed out, ticket in her hand.
A few days later, Jenny smiled as the train pulled into Union Station. Arranging her dusty clothes carefully, she swept off the train and waited for the porter to retrieve Stephen’s case.
She turned to find a bookish young man, smiling at her. “Mrs. Stephen Lewisham, I presume? I’m Freddie, one of your husband’s clerks. Where is he?”
“Oh,” she said, a tremor in her voice, “Yes, I’m Anne Lewisham, but…you didn’t get my telegram? Stephen’s…I mean to say, the winter in the Dakotas…he had such delicate health.” Freddie, looking shocked, reached out to steady her. She dabbed at her eyes and continued, “I haven’t even had the chance to wire his family! This terrible journey…dreadful, dusty country…please, let’s go straight to the office and get these titles sorted so I can finally mourn him properly.”
|# ? Aug 26, 2017 23:53|
so i dont have to keep posting for every time, if u need an extra day for the MEGABRAWL then you get it
Had it ready to go but I'm gonna take advantage of the extra day. Thanks flerp!
|# ? Aug 27, 2017 04:28|
He‘s showered with shards of her bones before he can turn off his vibe catcher. He’s always so awkward with it, standing around, fumbling fingers ‘gainst the touchscreen. Like the touch screen is mocking him, mocking him while other people pretend they're not staring.
That’s how his brain works, anyway, except this time Linnie’s catcher drips abstract. The art was a dark red that was almost black, with some green, blue and gray splashing in. Death is an abstraction, so your vibes abstract when someone else vibes too hard. Maybe they left their catcher on passive-aggressive, so they’d have an edge on interacts. That’s what Quinn does, because charisma is a beast that eats you if you don’t have it chained to your side with a thorned collar.
It had fallen amid Linnie’s mess, and the touchscreen had split down the left second third, split again before the bottom. They don’t make vibe catchers like they used to, because there are too many people to make them right each time. So he dares to think that maybe he’s done the world a favour, except some revenant part of his humanity said that maybe death was bad, and if you caused it you were bad.
He brushes the bone from his jacket. His jacket's dark, with the blood stains almost invisible. His sweet new mirror shoes are also stained. But maybe he’s lost more than an unspotted reflection of himself whenever he looks down.
Linnie had been his friend, and he doesn’t have unlimited friends.
He stands there, staring at what used to be her, for a second can’t remember what they’d been doing. What colour had her ribbon been? Green? He hoped she died green. There was green in her art, after all. He isn’t sure that’s how it works. He stands there staring until a droneling comes humming up, its four paws splashing against Linnie’s gore. Dronelings are cute when they’re licking up other people, but now Quinn feels a bit on edge. That’s when they’re happiest, too, but he looks into its multicoloured eyes and sees judgement there.
He checks his catcher. There’s a field of intrigue around him, like there usually is when someone bites it. Since he’s in the field, he’s more popular. Maybe enough for a hug?
There’s a new painting on his catcher. This one’s been popular lately. Untitled (Plane Perspective) by Jules de Balincourt, a splotchy imaging of a stewardess moving a trolley of drinks and food. It’s big because it makes you think, makes you think of how on flights now you hope for the best in terms of people shutting off their stuff.
He touches the passenger he identifies with most, a red haired white male with a shirt the colour of his seat. The passenger glows. He looked up, sees a girl smiling.
Hug me, he thinks. I just saw someone die.
The girl keeps smiling, moves toward him. No, she passes him and moves toward the droneling. She pets it once, twice, a third and fourth time, while the droneling’s plates gleam in happiness.
She’s more into the droneling than him. Still, she sent the painting. He thinks about what to send back. In the end he sends Wall Street II by Jorge Castillo. A polluted looking river foregrounds the towers. The skies are gray and look singed. Makes you think, he thinks. Makes you think that money causes death.
Her catcher vibrates and she looks at it. WIth her free hand she pets the droneling some more, her hand running over its body and finally its tail as it starts to pad away. She looks up from the screen and grins. She turns around so he can see her ribbon, knotted tight through her hair.
Is green a hugging colour? Is she down to hug? He doesn’t think so. Isn’t blue more hugging speed?
She’s friendly and chill, but he’s been starving for it lately.
The holograms are dancing around in the intrigue field, keeping it interesting. Girls with big eyes and rainbow hair, skirts that spin around them, blotting out the sun on updrafts.
He sends her a feed on Linnie’s life.
She was born a Stack away from Quinn, same level. They could hear each other’s screams of sadness and anger. Over time these got muted by the weight of parenting, and when they both got catchers they were in each other’s fields from the jump. Sending each other art, back and forth, so high in the Stacks that it took forty five minutes to get food. Despondent art, bleak sardonic art, old Chinese art from when they were only allowed to draw actors.
When he finally saw her ribbon it was a needy blue, some cloying in a world of pushers. They’d take walks together, using modern art to make fun of the mindless masses. It just makes you better, when you’re making fun of people. They made fun of the holograms, too. Sent art back and forth, exaggerating the eyes, the hair. The eyes a little too big. The hair a little too shiny. Bright, like ribbons have fed on feelings and multiplied in excitement. Ribbon forests, toxic overgrowth in the war for people’s senses.
Seeing this makes him feel worse about Linnie’s death. He looks at himself past the blood on his toe boxes, sees a guilty looking boy.
Then he hears the humming. It’s not the quirky hum of a content droneling. It’s a deep conflux of sound, and he looks up to see a mass of dronelings converging. They’re coming from all block corners he can see into the intrigue field.
No rainbow eyes now, just a hot red.
Before he can think, he pulls the girl’s arm and starts to run. His toe boxes reflect his terrified face at each step. He almost slips on the pavement that’s slick with droneling spit. He skids, flailing to find his balance. Then he lets go of the girl’s arm so he can keep his momentum up. The humming is still deep, still loud, and he can hear the clattering of paws behind him, like machine gun fire.
The girl is in better shape than him. She pulls ahead of him, taking a left on Ridge Street, a block from where they started near Quinn’s Stack. Swipes a keycard for the portal of another Stack. The portal fractals open, lines taking shortcuts through reality. Must be her Stack. It’s taller than his and Linnie’s. Then they’re running up a decrepit flight of stairs, Quinn taking them two at a time. He bounces off the walls as he makes the turns. He’s never had implanted co-ordination, never asked, always wary of hackers. The stairs are more scuffed than his shoes, and they’re mangled now, like someone tried to feed him to a bread slicer. There are deep gougings in the stairs, like the scratches on Linnie’s touchscreen. He has time to realize that her vibe catcher still lies on spit shone pavement.
Then it’s the girl’s turn to pull him. He tumbles into a hallway with flickering walls. The walls in this Stack buzz with white stars and blue flashes. Her catcher must be all kinds of messed up from the inter-frequency static, he thinks. His and Linnie’s walls were still, their only privilege. She swipes again with her keycard, to open another portal halfway down the hall. She pulls him through the fractals.
Her room has lots of flowers, clustered together in vases. They look like orchids to his untrained eye, which now slides to her ribbon.
It’s ice blue. Relief at escaping some kind of nasty glitch. Someone, he figures, is using the dronelings to do something about the overpopulation problem.
But never mind that. The hug, he thinks. He’s earned it.
He waits for her to shut the portal. Keeps waiting. His muscles are tensing for the hug.
Tensing for it, then tensing more. No, he thinks. Tensing for another reason. Starting to hurt. The girl is sending his chaser art now. Spamming it. Skulls. Grim reapers. Yugata Kunisada’s Seigen, first a 19th century woodblock print.
Seigen was a priest who stalked a young maiden until her bodyguards executed him. Then he came back as a ghost to stalk some more.
Are the dronelings her bodyguards? Machines to protect her from him? He's an apex hug stalker. The humming and clattering are louder. He won’t be coming back as anything.
Her vibes were always passive-aggressive. His bones start to pop. Everything hurts.
The dronelings will have fresh gore to lick up.
After it’s over, Jessica watches as the dronelings move one by one through her hazy portal. It’ll be tough, trying to pet them all, but she can at least try.
|# ? Aug 27, 2017 14:17|
Djeser fucked around with this message at 20:36 on Dec 28, 2017
|# ? Aug 27, 2017 18:59|
Prompt: In a World Without Animals
Errol stepped gingerly with his long, sinewy limbs across the algal bloom, poking suspicious spots with his improvised snake pole. For the most part, his bogshoes would keep him afloat on the thick, fibrous mass, but he had to be careful. Directly below him lay the ruins of homes, broken rebar and still-sharp-enough timbers that if he stepped poorly he wouldn’t re-surface. He wondered if he had ever casually passed over his grandparent’s home.
The snake pole dipped below the bloom and Errol tossed a bright pink buoy in the area. He crouched and used the last of the hooks hanging from his belt to gather the bloom. When he pulled a thick and heavy fold he secured the hooks but jumped back in shock, nearly sending him plunging below the water. From the break in the algae emerged a fleshy, bloated mass. Its skin sloughed off when Errol touched it, but otherwise it was preserved – brined. He had never seen one of these things, but he knew it to be a Slug. It reminded him of a manatee he had read about in his books. He left a peppering of pink danger buoys attached to the body, and headed back to shore.
“Hey Legs! Still alive! Good, good,” said Davey, his foreman.
Throwing the last of his skimming suit in a heap, Errol waved to the foreman and the crew running to attach the bloom lines to the windmill. Dotting the terraced, stone bolstered makeshift wharfs were the windmills. They were massive structures from the Denson Labs that could be expertly disassembled and moved higher up the island.
“Well, it ain’t diving at least,” Errol said. One of the crew signaled the lines were attached and everyone scrambled. Slowly the mass of thick, green ropes was dragged up and onto the stone embankments. As it settled it appeared to writhe and seethe, angry at being ripped from its home. Sheets after sheets were cut from the mass and separated into workable piles to be dragged, dried and processed.
Errol dug into his bag and fished out his last apple ration for the week. It was pink and shiny, reminding him of the flesh of the Slug reflecting sun for the first time since being swallowed up by the bloom. He could not sleep that night.
At the wharf, there was only the sound of the windmills creaking in the dark of night, and the water trying desperately to slap against the stones through the bloom. Errol glided silently out into the mass. He was tall and slender, even among strider standards, and made good time as he crawled on all fours. He did not know why it felt natural at times to move on that way, but he enjoyed the current lack of suspicious looks from the shorter, stockier shore crew.
In the light of his oil lamp, he found the Slug still floating among the pink buoys. With careful consideration to not destroy the thing, Errol hooked the Slug up to the trawling ropes and headed back to shore.
There were still a few hours before pre-dawn light would break over the island, and Errol pushed a wheel barrow up the dirt road to the Denson Labs facility. Errol had done this trek many times while schlepping bloom loads for processing.
“I want to see Denson,” Errol said. The gate crew looked at the Slug in the wheelbarrow and nodded. They looked worried. Denson the man was someone Errol had only heard of in revered tones, but had never met. He was smaller in person, older, but not as wizened as Errol was expecting. Denson’s skin was tight, and his gray hair and beard were immaculately kept.
“The poor baby,” Denson said, patting the Slug with an ungloved hand. The gate crew winced in visible repulsion. “Thank you…”
“Thank you, Errol.”
“Did this escape?”
“No, no. Taken.”
They stood in silence at the gate.
“Have you shown this to anyone else?” Denson asked. Errol said nothing.
“I understand your hesitancy. Please, give us a chance before passing judgment.”
Denson led Errol past the gate crew, deeper into the facilities. Through twists and turns they passed maintenance workers and people in lab coats before coming to a massive warehouse door.
“You have to be expose yourself to the truth for your work to have any meaning,” Denson said. “If you hide from reality, there can be no moral justification.”
Denson cranked the large chain, slowly lifting the rolling metal gate. Errol could see the rust spots on the chain, and recognized it as a salvage job from his days as a diver.
The smell immediately hit Errol like a wall. The warehouse crew all wore head-to-toe rubber suits with their own ventilators. Denson was unaffected. In front of him were massive banks of cages taller than Errol could have imagined. Wall to wall it stretched, packed with the fleshy mounds of the Slugs. A confusing network of tubes, filled with green paste, weaved their way along the roof of the warehouse, each tendril finding their terminus into the mouth, if it could be called a mouth, of a Slug. Below each layer of cages was a conveyer, slowly transporting the fecal output into bins.
Denson caught Errol’s shoulder as he staggered.
“This is the truth of our existence, Errol. Fertilizer. Decomposers. The entire circle of life that was robbed from us, we have created here.”
Errol became dizzy wanted to throw up and to wretch out every shred of food he had ever eaten. He knew, everyone knew of the Slugs but could they have ever imagined what was in front of him. The Slugs squirmed, but otherwise made little noise. Some of them had no eyes, others had tiny, glossed over beads obviously vestigial. They were deformed, and amorphous, each one without any common or defining features.
“We have cultivated a gut bacteria that can break down this green pestilence. We have turned our asphyxiator into our savior. Fertilizer, oil, plastics, energy, we can extract it all. For a price. It needs a host.”
The room started to spin for Errol. He reached out to brace himself, and his hand fell through the cage bars and he touched a Slug. It was warm and calloused, and he could feel it wriggle in shock to his touch. Errol recoiled and fell onto the ground, putting his face into his hands.
“Come with me Errol,” Denson said, picking him up. They left the cage banks, and into tighter hallways.
“Genetic manipulation is not for the faint of heart, but it is necessary,” Denson continued. “But please believe me, they feel no pain. They have no hopes or dreams. They have been created for only one purpose.”
“How, how do you even make these things?”
“Surrogates,” Denson said. “How else?”
Errol grit his teeth at the tone and a new wave of nausea swept over him.
“Please, Errol. You must understand, to live is to adapt. To survive is to change. You are no different.”
Errol threw his hands around Denson’s neck, his long sinewy fingers interlacing, his thumbs pressing into Denson’s larynx. In that moment, he thought about his friends, his family, Davey and the crew. He thought of the farms, and the windmills, and the apple rations. There were rations, but there was still food.
He let go of Denson’s neck and turned around. He had no idea what he was going to do but he had to leave and escape this menagerie of horror.
The bullet pierced Errol’s shoulder before he even heard the shot. The pain shut down his body and he crumpled through the door as another bullet blasted the wall right next to him. Disoriented and panicked, he took to all fours, forcing his right arm to move. Everything was fire and pain, and his mobility crippled in his right shoulder, but still he made it around the corner of the halls before he was shot again.
He knew he could outrun Denson, but he was sure the facility crew would be swarming before long. Getting out the front door would be impossible.
Sliding out a narrow window, he tumbled down the rocky terraces. If he could make it the bloom, he would be safe. No one would dare chase him through the mass, it would be hopeless – he was made for it. Broken and bloodied, Errol made it to the shore and crawled his way onto the green mats silently floating in the dark. He lay on his back, splayed out, slowly crawling further out into the ocean. He could see the lanterns winding their way towards him, but they would be too late.
Only a strider would find him now. Maybe dead, maybe alive, he wasn’t sure, but his comrades would find him. They would see what had been done to him, and there would be no hiding for Denson when the people came for him.
|# ? Aug 27, 2017 20:37|
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 22:06 on Oct 31, 2017
|# ? Aug 27, 2017 23:01|
IN a world without sexual dimorphism.
“Please sign here,” said the salesbot.
NBF-8 hesitated. “When will I receive the override codes?”
“They’ll be sent to your data bank as soon as installation has completed. If you detect a dangerous anomaly, the code can be accessed immediately. My chips are very safe.”
NB looked at me. “I still want to do this,” bot said bravely.
“Me, too.” NB and I displayed our confirmation codes and, in a flicker of light, they were accepted.
The installation itself didn’t bother us, but our circuits were stressed. We’d heard some awful things about SentienceBoost users- bots who accidentally accessed their full free will databanks and exploded, or others whose overrides kicked in and shut them down permanently. You saw broken, limping bots all over the city who’d tried the treatment, and while we all refused to acknowledge them, you never really walked away without some kind of internal reaction.
We were in standby communication mode on the viewing platform in Sector C when somebot nudged our wakeup buttons. I came online to see ELV-2 emoting frantically at me.
“Did you do it?” bot shrieked over a private channel.
“We did it,” I confirmed.
ELV went in excited circles for a minute. “I’m so curious about how this will affect your work!”
I had not processed that. Unexpectedly, I emoted anxiety.
NB looked at me, quizzical. I corrected the rogue emotion and said, “I don’t think it’ll change anything. Work seems like a very emotionally insignificant activity.”
“HHD says otherwise,” ELV reminded me.
I scanned HHD for the phrase “work-unhappiness” and did see multiple entries about stress, depression, eating disorders, and other unfortunate emotive conditions. It was difficult to be sure, but I again felt a non-standard tightening in my core. “There are a lot of entries,” I admitted.
“9,784,” NB said. “Maybe this was a mistake.”
“Use your override code.”
NB hesitated. “That would be a waste; I want to see what happens first,” bot said.
The next day, NB and I met as usual in our work enclosure. Bot was already dressed- a crinkly blue plastic jumpsuit, topped with a sculpted rubber wig. I placed my own garment over my head. Mine was pink, with a large skirt instead of pants, but made of the same washable plastic as NB’s suit. I had a rubber wig of my own, but mine was longer at the bottom.
“Is anything different for you?” NB adjusted bot’s wig.
“I feel a little weird,” NB said as the pre-show lights dimmed.
“You feel weird?”
Before NB could clarify, the voiceover started, and we froze in our starting positions.
“The Human History Database has 1,032 entries that our research bots do not yet understand,” it boomed. I could see the orderly outlines of other bots’ heads, standing quietly in rows. “Of these entries, the one formerly most mysterious is that of sexual intercourse conducted with the end goal of physical pleasure. For decades, research bots errored while attempting to process the apparent necessity of this act. Media analysis eventually revealed that the activity provided emotional satisfaction. However, the same analysis also indicated that sexual behavior caused as much emotional distress as it did positive effects. The end result of the research concluded that human sexual behavior was also poorly understood by humans, and therefore no longer a top research priority.”
The lights behind us came up slowly, leaving our bodies in silhouette. We had locked our emoting screens in a rictus of pleasure, but still I worried that the audience would somehow know about the chips.
Because I was in trouble. I felt an uncontrollable rush of sadness from my central emotion simulator. It was so unexpected and so strong that for a moment I thought I’d spark.
“NB, I think—”
Too late. The lights were fully up. I could see them now, row after row of neat black heads, cylindrical heads with no faces, patiently waiting. Every one alike. Every one blank.
“Our expert demonstrators will now simulate the human reproductive act,” the voiceover went on. “As chronological researchers, you must be able to identify and recognize different aspects of this behavior. Please access your research questionnaire, and complete it as you watch.”
Luckily, I didn’t have to think about what to do. The automatic routine kicked in and I walked towards NB, extending my arms to embrace bot.
“Are you okay?” NB said privately to me as we embraced.
“I’m not certain.”
“Do you want me to push your reset? I can make it look like a programming error.”
The subroutine forced me to walk toward the bed, removing my garment as I did so. The wig stayed on. “I’m okay.”
As NB knelt between my spread legs, I found myself wishing bot’s emotional display wasn’t locked. I didn’t know why, just that I wanted to see bot’s real reaction to what we were doing. Perhaps I was disappointed. I knew the chips were slow-acting- if they immediately took over, our emergency overrides would activate and shut us down- but I wanted something more concrete than these vague, confusing, uncontrollable emotions. We had wanted to analyze human emotions, not be victims of them. As NB continued bot’s mechanical thrusts, I realized that maybe I hadn’t made the correct decision.
It got worse over time. NB seemed happy and perfectly in control, but I couldn’t stabilize. The discharges from my emotional center were too strong sometimes, and I thought I might overload. Worst of all, NB didn’t seem to experience any of the negative emotions I was feeling.
“I don’t think your chip is working,” I told bot once before a demonstration.
NB made a noncommittal gesture. “Maybe yours is stronger. Maybe it needs to be recalibrated.”
“I thought it would be the same for both of us,” I said boldly. “I’d prefer it if we experienced this in the same way.”
Bot did not respond. The lights went up.
After that, I didn’t see NB outside of work for a long time. It was my first experience accessing the embarrassment emotion- I never thought I’d need it- and it was unpleasant. NB didn’t seem to care. I became jealous when I realized that NB was still safe inside a bot’s unfeeling bubble. I longed to have the chip removed, but every time I set coordinates to do so, I would fail to press the “Accept” button. It was confusing.
I eventually identified the root emotion. It was not acceptable to me or the situation. As a result, I finally decided to have the chip removed as soon as possible.
Our show that week was the last before a long maintenance break. ELV-2 told me NB had requested a department transfer.
I didn’t want NB to go. I couldn’t bear to perform with another bot. I never wanted to imitate the act of loving a being with a being I didn’t love.
NB was positioned to enter me when I said directly, “NB, I’m having the chip removed tomorrow. I know I’ve destabilized you with my reactions. But I want you to know, before you leave, that I love you.”
NB did not respond right away. Bot made its mechanical caresses and my body automatically responded with its answering quivers. “Please talk to me, NB. Don’t you feel anything? I want us to feel the same.”
We rocked in our automatic embrace before the silent assembled bots. Our inorganic bodies playacted the most organic activity possible, in front of thousands of blank screens. I felt, for the first time, emptiness.
My head turned back to face NB, and I saw that bot’s emotions had been unlocked. NB’s face emoted something beautiful, and for the first time, happiness came from my emotion center.
“We feel the same sometimes,” NB’s mind said to mine.
|# ? Aug 27, 2017 23:11|
Aaaaaaand, it's gone!
Chili fucked around with this message at 11:42 on Jan 2, 2018
|# ? Aug 28, 2017 00:37|
Prompt: In a world where everything is automated.
The Unclean Animal Not Suitable for Sacrifice
Word Count: 1493
One cold summer morning, surrealists committed an act of terrorism in Volgograd.
I was 48 years old, born into the era of autocars and self-regulating homes. The age of ubiquitous intricate automation had grown alongside me. As I paced the room, the rug was put perfectly straight beneath my feet, the lighting changed, doors opened and closed and a multitude of golden eyes followed me. It was good. It was the modern world. It was order and structure and automated constraint. Everything that the terrorist act was not. It had only existed for moments before the drones tore it apart, but the city was still in lock down.
“I can picture it,” I said.
“Remember your exercises,” my therapist replied.
“It was terrible,” I said.
There was a gentle hiss as the room was flooded with something to calm me down. I lay down, breathed deep and closed my eyes.
“Okay. Don't picture what you saw. Don't think about it as a whole. It makes perfect sense broken down. It was the joining of disparate ideas that made it terrorism. Break it down. Take away the parts that make sense and see them as individual.” A few moments of silence. “What do you see, Commander?”
“I see a black base, a round dial, numbers.”
“Good. What is it?”
“It is...an old fashioned telephone.”
“Good. What else?”
Sweat began to trickle from my temples. An automaton appeared and dabbed my face with a cloth.
“I see eyes. I see clicking jaws. I see a red shell. I see...” I took a deep breath. “I see a lobster. It makes sense.”
“Good. Avoid alcohol for a few weeks,” my therapist said. It watched me stand with the golden eye which served as its face. “I've injected you with dream-inhibitors. The last thing you need now are nightmares.”
I was about to leave for the day, when the police automatons brought in a suspect. He was young and handsome with a strong jaw and wild blue eyes. When I entered the room, he was strapped into a doctor with a drip in his arm. The old days of beatings and starvation were long gone. Now, interrogation occurred on a chemical level.
“Alexei Danielewski,” I said. “Twenty four years old, resident of Polpolga. Third year fine art student at Moscow University. Your work is on file, Danielewski. It's good.”
“Nonsense! Its clear, crisp, ordered work. Landscapes and diagrams of things that are real.”
“I'm playing the game, Commander. If you want perfect images, then take a photo. What I do at school is not art.”
The doctor turned its eye to regard him and he winced as it pumped something into his veins.
“I saw what you consider art, today. Do you know what kind of sentence you're looking at?”
“Fourteen years with good behaviour,” the doctor hummed. “Plus three for resisting arrest, plus two for aggressive use of an unapproved metaphor. Quote: pearls before swine.”
I swallowed hard and broke the phrase down to sounds without meaning.
“Please,” Danielewski sneered. “You're as strange as I am.”
I waved him off. It was a common fallacy invoked by surrealists – that by having a job in the age of automation, I was somehow surreal myself.
“Automatons don't understand surrealism,” I said. “That's why I do this job.”
Danielewski smiled, then began speaking frantically.
“Imagine getting on a train and going into a very small tunnel, but the tunnel lasts forever and suddenly...”
The doctor knocked Danielewski unconscious.
My co-workers gave sympathetic glances. Grishin had been on the ground when entropists placed an abomination of shoes and wheels in a city centre. Krylov had been dosed with LSD when a Bretonist cell blew her cover. Petrenko was perhaps saddest – it had been one of the thousands of accidents that occurred every day, but it had taken him weeks to recover. A street cleaner had broken down and begun spitting trash into the breeze. A piece of plastic that vaguely resembled a hat had landed on the head of a dog right in front of him. For an instant, the dog had been wearing a hat. And dogs did not wear hats.
In the cool air of the parking lot, I tried not to think about the giant construction the surrealists had unveiled. I kept telling myself it was a phone near a lobster. I sensed something behind me just before the blow came to the back of my head. It was a cold white pain that spread through me as I fell to my knees. Another blow. Darkness.
I woke up in a moving vehicle, my ankles and wrists bound. I had been blindfolded, but I could see through the gap by my nose. I managed to catch glimpses of the passing scenery through the window. I saw the marketplace, the high bridge, the circus that Commander Tsvetkov was desperate to shut down, despite the fact they stuck rigidly to the law. She argued that circuses were, by their very nature, surrealist. I was taken to some hidden location away from the city, where I was bound to a doctor in a dimly lit room and my blindfold was removed. My captors wore mismatched clothes and had tattoos that were expertly and precisely legal. They were surrealists. I recognised some of their face, even knew some by their nom de guerres.
I tried to take in as many details of the room as I could, but my view kept returning to the doctor. It had been broken open, patched back together with scraps of computer to override its software. Its eye lulled in its socket and flickered. Sparks rained down to the floor from a crack in its side.
“You plan to torture me?” I asked.
“No. Let's get started,” a man said. Anaesthetic flooded my veins. “We're going to make you better.”
I awoke from uneasy dreams, on the floor in blinding agony. I felt as if I had been skinned. Every inch of me burned with a strange tingling, but worse than that was the feeling of dissonance from my limbs. They were unruly strangers to me. I was low and heavy and sluggish and slow. When I tried to move, my muscles didn't fully respond. I could tell there had been blood on the floor recently, though the area had been cleaned, because I could feel it with some new foreign sense. The surrealists stood at the opposite end of the room, eyeing me warily. They were taller than me now.
“He survived,” one muttered.
My legs moved on instinct and I retreated to a dark corner of the room. The tingling in my skin cooled to a cold sensitivity. My thoughts came lazily through a thick viscous fog.
“Is it hungry?” someone asked.
“We should pelt him with apples,” someone replied. A few of them laughed awkwardly.
The refuse box of a chef was thrown to the floor. I felt hunger pangs in some part of my anatomy as trash scraps spilled across the concrete. My body moved of its own accord and I scuttled back into the light to devour vegetable peelings and rinds. Thick, gelatinous fat dripped from my clicking, twitching mandibles. I pictured the lobster telephone without nausea. I could appreciate the beauty in its surrealism.
For weeks, they ran me through the plan over and over again. My once sharp mind was now painfully dull, but they were patient. They rewarded me with rotten meat and by moisturising the dry areas on my underside where my legs joined my torso. To begin with, the most beautiful women did it with an air of sensuality, but eventually they realised that I didn't care who bathed me. They made me a bed full of dead leaves and damp cardboard where I hid when I became frustrated or miserable. They taught me to form four words without lips or a tongue. When I became distracted or defiant they hosed me with ice water or poked at the soft joins in my carapace until they leaked pus. I was shown their compound and introduced to some of their children.
Then it was time. The sewers were far too small for men, but I scuttled along the ceilings above the cleaners with ease. I found the correct manhole cover and burst up into a world of blinding light and frantic noise. Moscow Plaza.
The crowd around me were horrified by my size and monstrous form. They were shocked, but did not scream until I began to speak.
“I am a man!” I roared in an unnatural earthy voice. “I am a man!”
Panic unfurled like a flower opening its petals. My wing case burst open and I launched myself into the sky on six chitinous legs.
“I am a man!” I screamed over and over as an army of drones zeroed in on me to tear me apart.
|# ? Aug 28, 2017 01:03|
Diana did not have friends, but she did have fans. People from around the world tuned in to watch her. They set aside parts of their lives, spending hours to watch her fight with her mother, to watch her shop for clothes, to hope that she might mention their usernames on the Stream so that they could scrounge up a few followers.
It was a pleasure to be watched, and she tried not to take that fact for granted. Boring people didn’t end up in the top 200 on the Stream. Boring people didn’t get nice houses and clean food.
Her mother cleared her throat and glanced at the camera stapled to Diana’s shirt. The blinking red light had a hypnotic quality. Dark and tiny ghosts floated in its lens. The kitchen had an ethereal, almost plastic sheen.
“Diana, could you help me set the table?” Diana’s mother smiled. It was a pale echo of her own streaming days. Diana remembered when she had been a prop, an adorable face to keep viewers invested in her mother’s videos. “Your father’s coming home early.”
Diana looked at her phone. 321,432 people streaming. Too few for a Friday night.
“Why can’t you do it?” Diana said.
Beneath the murky depths of her mother’s placid smile, something shifted. Please. Her mother’s grin said. Are you really that desperate? Do I need to be the villain again?
There were no more secrets in the world, only barely concealed lies. Already, she was sure that a dozen amateur psychologists were analyzing their body language. People would tweet about them. They would write articles and blogs about the brewing fight.
Diana’s face said nothing.
Her mother brushed hair back from her face, ready to play the part. “I don’t think I like that tone.”
331,564 people streaming.
Diana snorted and put her hand on her hip. It was a gesture she had seen in her mother’s old videos. In the early days of the Stream, she had been one of its stars, one of the few people to pick it up over YouTube in the days when Amazon and Google still ruled the world. No one thought her mother was a star now. Her nose, which might have once been cute, was now too small. Beneath layers of make-up was a spider web of wrinkles.
Maybe at one time, her mother had been loved. Now, she was just a gimmick to keep people invested, another nameless, evil stepmother to be attacked online.
The Stream made her easy to hate. Everyone knew what she had done and who she had been. Some nights, Diana played on that anger and whispered about how she wanted her mother gone.
“Maybe I wouldn’t use that tone if you weren’t always telling me what to do!” Diana said. It wasn’t as though she had a choice. They lived in a nice safe house in a nice safe neighborhood because Diana’s mother had sold her life away to the public. Diana was just finishing the job.
“Oh,” Her mom chuckled. “I see.”
If her mother resented becoming a secondary character, at least it would at least make for good video. They shouted, back and forth, dredging up painful embarrassments. Her mother reminded her of the long hours she had spent caring for her, the long nights cleaning sheets after she had wet them.
348,770 people were streaming.
Diana screamed at her mother about how she had forgotten her at tennis practices to pretend to date some celebrity and rise a few ranks in the Stream. Vacations arranged in the middle of the school year to take advantage of some new opportunity. Elaborate parties that were better for adults to watch than for children to play at.
“It wasn’t my fault!” Diana’s mother yelled. If there was a line between reality and fiction, neither could find it. Diana wiped away the wet on her cheeks as the pot foamed on the stove and smoky tendrils snaked through the kitchen. Her mother opened her mouth to spit out some new, venomous attack when a noise jarred them back to reality.
The doorbell rang.
Diana’s Her mother turned. “Oh, that must be your…”
She looked at the oven clock and frowned. Diana followed her mother out of the kitchen and into the foyer. There was another knock at the door. She checked her phone. 678,900 people streaming.
Through the tinted glass of the front door, Diana could see a man. Not her father, but someone else. Nervous and skittish, with his eyes glued to his phone. Through the glass, she watched herself watching the man watch herself.
Diana rolled her eyes. It was another fan looking for five minutes of fame. Everyone wanted a cameo, but no one wanted to watch them unless the guest was attractive and famous.
Diana’s mother opened the door. “Get off the porch before I call the cops.” Her mother said, drained. She would need to be the villain of the story one more time for one more person. “My daughter isn’t available.”
The man’s eyes darted from her mother and then into the dark eye of Diana’s camera. He smiled. “Are you her mother?” He said, reaching into his pocket.
He did not wait for a response. Instead, he took out a gun and pulled the trigger.
The round struck her mother in the shoulder. Diana felt her foot vibrate and burn, but it was a sensation that she only half felt. The man pulled the trigger again and her mother collapsed. It was as though someone had dropped a rotten cantaloupe on the floor. The world sagged.
“Oh! Oh!” Diana said. She couldn’t hear her own voice. There was something wet in her shoe and she couldn’t walk. The man was smiling at her. He stepped over the writhing body. “Oh! Oh, God!”
1,340,208 people streaming.
She fumbled for the phone in her pocket, but her hands were shaking. These things didn’t happen anymore. These things did not happen to people who lived in nice houses in nice neighborhoods. All the excitement was meant to be artificial and plastic.
She crawled backwards. Red leaked from her shoe.
The man took another cautious step forward and looked into Diana’s camera. “I know you’re upset now, things are going to be all better now.” He lifted the phone from his pocket as sirens wailed from somewhere nearby. “People are going to want to see your face for this. They’ll want to remember that they were a part of this moment when you were set free.”
Diana opened her mouth but no sound came out.
There were 1,890,208 people streaming.
6,487,000 people streaming.
14,952,208 people streaming.
|# ? Aug 28, 2017 02:05|
Sorry my story is short, I didn't get as much writing done this week as I would have liked.
Prompt: In a world where eating meat is punishable by death
Word Count: 999
He is the perfect
We are the flawed
A prison of flesh
Which must be thawed
A grand statue commanded the attention of the congregation. A monument to an emaciated man, cut from marble, on the moment of his death and his journey to freedom. The base of the statue was splotched with a ruddy color. He is perfect
A chant rang out amongst the crowd, reverberating throughout the packed hall,
“A serpent, a glutton,
A sinner, a snake!
Burn him, bash him,
His soul shall break!”
Chastity raised her head from the cold stone floor ever so slightly and peered around. She had taken her place prostrate next to the center aisle, giving her a good view of the events. People in her commune had been gossiping about tonight, saying a heretic would be presented for judgement at the temple. She saw them coming now, the procession was made up of five members of the Order of Flagellants. They wore plain clothes, the itchy and coarse material that was common to all in the congregation; but were easily identifiable by their incredibly pale complexion and assortment of scars and scabs both old and new. Four formed a box around the man to be judged, with the fifth leading the group and holding the man’s chains. The man himself was…disgusting. He had made a prison for his soul. Fat clung to his bones and filled out his shape. His every step sent jiggling waves across his skin. He must have been over 130 pounds.
His face was hidden behind a pig mask, bloody tears ran from its eye-holes. The tempo of the crowd was increasing, as was the vigor with which it threw both trash and insults. Chastity joined in with gusto.
Eventually the procession reached the front of the crowd, by the marble statue. It almost felt like a grave desecration, seeing such filth sharing proximity with the savior of man. Soon enough though, justice would be wrought. The man was tied to a post in front of the statue. Everyone knew what came next, and so the crowd died down from an uproar to near perfect silence in a matter of seconds. The flagellant who was leading originally then stepped forward to address the congregation.
“Brothers and sisters, the ministry of perfection wishes nothing but peace and happiness for all who join our flock. Yet you know as well as I, that there are wolves who would wish to gorge themselves on the fruits of our labor; that is the blood, sweat, and tears that we have sacrificed to build our new order.”
The hands of the crowd were calloused, and their bodies strained. They knew sacrifice.
“ Brothers and sisters, for every city on the hill, every glorious society, there is a barbarian horde at its gates. Ill with jealousy, hearts full of hatred, and famished by our own spiritual fulfillment.”
The bellies of the crowd were empty, and their souls nourished. They knew fulfillment.
“Brothers and sisters, the enemy without is never as dangerous as the enemy within. Those who take without giving; where the fire of passion is replaced by the fire of consumption. They are leeches, drinking their fill from the lifeblood of you and I; a burden on all of us.”
The backs of the crowd were broken, and their sins heavy. They knew burden.
“ We are all sinners, and the Ministry of Perfection accepts the repentant. But those who revel in sin, in chaotic and disruptive lifestyles, who reject the principles of perfection, are a threat to us all.”
Energy coursed through the body of Chastity and the bodies of the congregation; like a wave of electricity travelling along a circuit. An action potential waiting to be realized.
“ The man we have here today is accused of three felony accounts of gluttony. Three rats were found in his domicile; skinned, cooked and partially devoured. Let me reiterate, this man not only devoured flesh; but devoured the flesh of a rodent, one of the most unclean animals that prowl the Earth. Can anyone tell me why this man deserves the pleasures of the flesh, while his friends and brothers go without? Does he consider himself above the Perfect. Look at this statue, and look at him, is the contrast not stark? The perfect, the one above, looking down. The man, the pig, cowering below?
At last, brothers and sisters, I ask for your judgement. The traditional punishment for gluttony is death; the Flagellants have decided this man is unworthy of life; but what do the good people in the congregation say. Will they tolerate such corruption in our midst?”
The crowd erupted, a volcano spewing pent up tension.
“ Stone Him!”
Chastity joined in with vigor. Yelling until her throat was coarse. The decision was clear. Several ushers appeared from the entrance of the building and walked down the center aisle, handing out baskets of stones. The congregation knew it’s mission. The flagellants stood back from the man on the post. Stones flew, Chastity threw some herself. It felt good, she was doing her part to make the world a better place. The splotch of red color on the statue grew in size. With each crimson stain, the community became a better place.
After services had finished and Chastity had stepped outside, she took a moment to really look at herself. She sat on a patch of grass in front of the entrance. Her skin clung tightly to her bones, blue veins outlined against her forearms. Her hair short, fragile, and which shed so easily; as though the weight of impurity would slough off of her, little by little. She had a constant pain and emptiness in her stomach, which escaped her notice most of the time, a reminder of her devotion. Her hip bones, lacking cushion, poked at the ground beneath her. Her nails were as cracked as her hands. She was beautiful. She was nearing perfection.
|# ? Aug 28, 2017 03:16|
All Eyes on You
(Charles Guiteau might return.)
Solitair fucked around with this message at 19:35 on Dec 28, 2017
|# ? Aug 28, 2017 03:29|
in a world with your fate determined via the astrological magic of ConStella, auged out rich girl who controls the placement of stars in the sky
Like the Old, Dead Fairytales
flerp fucked around with this message at 21:15 on Oct 11, 2017
|# ? Aug 28, 2017 03:38|
in a world where dogs rule over people
Day of the Dog
Everyone thought it would be the cockroaches that'd survive the apocalypse. Hell, I'm sure they did. But the creatures now that dominate our planet don't have six legs—they have four.
Man's best friend, indeed.
A nip at my calf and I stumble forward. My collar digs painfully at my neck as I'm yanked back into line. The wind cuts through the gaps in my ragged furs. The heavy reek of musk burdens the air, for today is a hunt.
Ahead of me on the frozen chain is the new girl, Fala. We found her in the morning. She was a loner, a human without a pack. Starving, cold and desperate, she had no choice. Easy prey. I helped put her on the chains and collar and the muzzle. I know the secret she carries in her backpack. The dogs do too. They must smell it. They are waiting for lean times, for a failed hunt. I've seen it happen before.
The screams and the hard crunch of tooth on bone are memories that do not fade.
The line stops short and our heavy chains settle into the snowpack. The lead dog, who I've christened Ranger, bobs his head and sniffs the air, whimpering. He's caught a scent. The other dogs pause and low growls float through the drifting snow.
The alpha dog, Fang, lopes forward. He is a terrible beast, easily my height at his shoulder, with dagger-like teeth and cold eyes that betray no fear, no pleasure. He controls the pack with brutal discipline. Even in sleep I can't escape his presence.
He moves alongside Ranger and together they sniff the forest air. They both nod, then Fang gives a low bark. I head the herding dogs scuttle dogs behind me. Teeth sink into our calves and we lurch forward, our chains rising from the snow as the wind blows hard. Ahead is a clearing in the wood. That's where the ambush will lie.
And we are the bait.
There are just five of us. Five humans guarded by perhaps a hundred dogs. Bound by collars, chains, and muzzles, we're given the barest scraps necessary for survival. Others have joined the pack, and most have died—either in a hunt gone bad, or afterwards, torn apart by the pack desperate for food. Somehow I have survived, although I know my furs cover more scar tissue than actual skin.
But we deserve it all. We hosed up the world and this is our penance.
The air stills. The pack has melted away into the trees, leaving us in a rough circle in the middle of the clearing. Fala is beside me, her eyes wild. It's obvious she has never been in a hunt before. I lay a gnarled hand on her shoulder and look into her eyes. Muzzled, I cannot speak. I smile through the leather straps and try to grunt reassuringly.
There's a moment of silence, then with a roar and three great strides the beast is upon us.
A flash of fur and teeth and a giant paw shreds the man I called Gristle across the midsection. As he falls the chain jerks me down to the snow. I reach out and grab Fala by her lead as I tumble into the white. She lands on top of me, and I hear a small cry from her backpack. Rolling over, protecting her, I rise to my knees in time to see a second human fall to the deadly claws of the feline beast.
A roar from behind me and the pack swarms over us, a blanket of fur and gnashing teeth. The cat-beast is overrun, falling backwards, keening loudly, its monstrous paws slashing back and forth, sending pack dogs flying as the snowfall turns red with spraying blood and gore.
Under the maelstrom of death and fur, Fala rises beside me.
In her hand is a knife.
She grabs the back of my neck with her free hand. I raise my hands in defense, but her eyes show no malice. The knife slides between my collar and the skin beneath, and with a hard tug my collar falls away. Then she does the same to hers.
Collars broken, we are no longer bound to the chain. Still the battle rages around us. The cat-beast is not going down easily, and broken dogs and humans litter the snow. I grab her hand and with heads low we break for the trees. We run and run until we have no breath, then collapse across a downed tree trunk. The sounds of the battle fade away in the blanketing snow.
Fala hands me the knife and points to her muzzle. I nod, and carefully cut the frozen leather straps away. Then she does the same for mine.
"Thank you," we both say in unison. If we weren't so exhausted we may have even smiled.
"You are...with us?" Fala asks.
I pause, then understand. "Yes. I have no...love for them. For the pack. The dogs." My words are thick. I haven't spoken in many seasons.
'Good. Because I have a—"
"—I know. But so do they. They can..."
"Of course. They can smell her. But I won't let them get her."
"I'll help you," I say. It feels strange to talk. My jaw, unmuzzled, feels loose. Sloppy.
"We need to find somewhere safe. Away from the packs, away from the cat-beasts."
"I know a place." I say, but my words cause my gut to clench. I have been a part of the pack for so long that freedom is terrifying. I've kept the images and dreams from my past life buried. Survival does that to you.
"Tell me," Fala says.
I hesitate, but I know that we must go to the walled city. Where humans are free to live, without their dog- or cat-masters. Where I was born. From where I strayed, and was captured.
"It's not too far," I say.
Fala smiles. "Let's go there. Let's give my child a chance at life."
A low growl behind us causes me to turn. Fang emerges from the falling snow, his fur crimson-streaked with blood, eyes black in the fading light.
He's tracked us. He wants us back.
But this time he's made a mistake. Back in the clearing the pack feasts on the cat-beasts flesh, and he's come alone. And many seasons of torture have hardened me to the sting of his bite. I grab the knife.
But this time I strike back.
|# ? Aug 28, 2017 05:04|
Thunderdome dystopia - wordcount 1200ish
To live without
"You have to read this," whispered Elspeth, her third eye shining amber uncertainty from her forehead. Whatever this was, her light told me she was trusting me a great deal to share it.
I reached across the dark expanse between our cots to grab whatever she was holding out. I examined it in the nervous, grey light of my own eye: A thin book, with two scratchily illustrated people adorning the cover. Neither looked happy, and one looked decidedly ill. "What is it?"
"It's called Romeo and Juliet," said Elspeth. "I think it's on the verboten list."
My eye flickered amber, reflecting the double edged excitement I felt. "Verboten? Where did you get it?"
"I smuggled it out of my last work detail - clearing out a homophile isolation unit. A floorboard was squeaky, so I…"
The unmistakeable sound of the dormitory door opening reached us. We both clammed up, rolling onto our backs as I buried the illicit treasure beneath my leg so it didn't make an odd lump on the cot's thin sheets. Footsteps meandered through the room, down the centre aisle, sometimes stopping and waiting. I clenched my normal eyes shut, trying to breath slowly as if asleep, sure my third eye was radiating intense and worried black and grey. I hoped I could claim bad dreams if the colour betrayed me, but I knew removing the eye for any reason was a long, lonely spell in the stockade.
Eventually the footsteps passed us and we heard the far door click closed. Elspeth turn onto her side to face me. "Anyhow - it was hidden, so I grabbed it. It's incredible. There's this boy, and this girl."
I remained on my back, listening to her whispered attempts to set the scene, watching my light brush against the ceiling. The black and grey ebbed and amber returned. I fished out the book and turned to the first page
Two households, both alike in dignity
Whenever Elspeth and I were together we spoke of nothing but the musty, old, dog-eared book and the unexpected, electrifying tale that it told, a story set in a world where swords and boys and parents existed in equal, yet complicated and confusing measure. For one lesson, when fate brought us to nearby desks during the advanced colour drills our age required us to attend, we ignored the purple indicators in favour of trying to make sense of this intoxicating universe we had found hidden.
"Did they die of love or for love?" Elspeth whispered as the teacher droned on.
"Does it matter?" I mumbled back, bending my head forward and turning my neck to look at her. She crossed her eyes at me and stuck out her tongue..
But the opportunities to discuss were far and few between, so we grabbed what chance encounters we could. Even though we lived in the all-female section of the holding, we were cycled through workgroups and cot placements and rarely ended up in the same place and the same time. When we did, our third eyes glowed blue with comfort. If our paths crossed near the counter of the maternity ward, where the purple glow of mothers-to-be-separated flickered constantly we'd use the secret language we had learned.
"Please take this laundry to cubicle area two," I'd say, handing over my allotment of sheet dresses to the day-shift worker.
"I can think of nothing that I would rather do," Elspeth would rhyme, taking in the laundry from the designated deliver. Her eye would tinge purple in happiness, and her face would flush. I'd smile as I returned to the laundry room, aquamarine in contentment.
It seemed weeks before we were given cots close enough the same assigned dormitory that we could speak freely to each other for more than a precious few minutes. We seized upon the opportunity like starving people descending on a banquet. Long into the night we talked, stopping only to feign sleep at the sudden arrival of a nightwatcher. We spoke of sword fights and murders, couplets and metaphors, warring houses and the fate of the star-crossed. I passed back the copy of the book, now even more dog-eared by my indication of my favourite sections, and Elspeth took it, then grabbed my hand and held it tight over the darkened floor between our beds.
I saw her third eye light drift from purple to violet to red. I jerked, my real eyes wide - bright and true she shone a colour I had never seen. Behind her, my own glow against her pillow shifted from blue to uncertain amber to terrified black. Elspeth watch it change, and the sadness in her face broke me in two. Something glinted beside her real eye, liquid and clear, unable to reflect my black light. It pooled on the side of her nose. She coughed, once. Then again. But she still held onto my hand, even as the bile erupted from her mouth and she choked and gasped and spasmed so hard she fell from the bed. Only then did she let go, to curl in and clutch at her stomach, shuddering and retching blood black in the darkness, her third eye dim.
It was then the sirens started.
We were lucky, we were told. The outbreak had been contained, our systems were safe, and our holding secure. We were told Elspeth had been moved to a homophile isolation unit, for her and our protection. This was best for everybody, we were told, because female homophiles could not be kept in male or female holdings, the former a danger to them, the latter a danger to themselves. We were told her inclinations warranted a single male homophile for company, and that we shouldn't worry.
We were told one other thing - that we were lucky it hadn't been a male/female red-declaration to break out in a dorm, or there would have been fewer survivors. That was why we had to be careful, keep vigilant for purple in each other's third eyes, and report it if we saw it, because purple was the precursor to red. Red was love, and love was poison to all of us now.
We weren't told what happened to Elspeth's copy of Romeo and Juliet. I hope that somehow she still has it. I hope she reads it to her homophile boy and they are able to rhyme together as they deal with their allotted chores. I hope they hide it under a squeaky floorboard, for someone else to find when they meet their final destiny - whatever that might be.
But for me, there is just the work, and the days, and memory of what it was like to share a secret in the dark. The only thing I really have left of her is a mark where she held my hand, where her fingernails clawed into my palm. My wrist grows sorer every day, the joints in my fingers ache, and lifting the baskets and casks in the laundry and the warehouse gets harder. Yesterday my entire forearm felt numb. I should report it.
Is it better to die for love or of love, I wonder. Or simply to live without?
prompt : in a world with poisonous love
|# ? Aug 28, 2017 05:06|
FIRST ROUND OF THE SECOND KIND OF ANNUAL MEGABRAWL!
so i dont have to keep posting for every time, if u need an extra day for the MEGABRAWL then you get it
Reasons to Burn
The fire in your belly burns hotter with each shovelful of coal. You're an iron comet, your tail is mayhem. You’re a manifestation of every stick of dynamite used to blast tunnels through mountains. You are fire: tamed, harnessed. You are death on rails.
Ahead of you sits a herd of bison: they've felt the rumble of your approach but stare slack-jawed in your direction, unable to comprehend the misery you bring. You plow through big and small alike, their doll-like corpses have no effect on your momentum. The thuds of their bodies against your boiler drive you. The beasts you can’t catch are finished off by the gunmen perched on your spine. All you leave behind are red puddles and the occasional orphan. You feel the conductor's gentle tug and appease him with a mighty roar: “choooooooooot!” The clouds in the sky are made from your steam. You are a god.
You didn’t ask to be created, but that doesn’t slow you down. Now that you are here, you have a job to do. The plains between the coasts were filled with disorder. You bring reason to the chaos. Each journey through the grasslands ushers civilization westward, enlightenment heaped on your back.
The blood from the bison isn’t even dry when you spot a dust cloud on the ridge ahead. A pack of mounted warriors charges toward you. The men you carry buzz with energy. Your fire burns hotter, and you yearn to unleash your fury upon those who stand in the way of progress. It’s fun to kill them too, but savages are smarter than bison. They make you work for it. The warriors peel off their main attack and race along your side, whooping and firing into the windows with their primitive weapons. Some of them jump off their horses and onto your back.
You’ve heard of it happening: the savages overwhelm a train, take it to a bridge, and drop it in a lake. There’s no coming back from that watery grave. There are more of them than you’ve ever seen, more than enough to each man in blue to kill ten, and they’d still keep coming. The canyon up ahead is where the odds flip in your favor. The savages can’t steer their horses over open trestles without looking like a game of Bagatelle. The faster you get there, the faster your men beat them back.
There aren’t any junctions in the middle of nowhere, because there’s nowhere else to go. But choices don’t lead to greatness. The men on your back: they’ve made decisions, and look where it has gotten them. Bad decisions, good decisions. They fall to a hatchet just the same. You don’t need the illusion of choice. You don’t need to understand why to know what you have to do. You push yourself to go faster. Each new minute is the hardest minute of your life. Now is no different.
You are smoke and grease. Your sidebars bend under the stress of six thousand horses, fully enraged and spitting sparks as your steel hooves lash out at the rail beneath. The heat from your boiler threatens to buckle the track beneath you, but you keep pushing forward.
You round the last corner before the canyon and the savages got a man dressed like a bird standing on the tracks, a wagon of dynamite blocking your way. Not like bison at all. You can get to the bridge before they realize what’s happening. It’s a last resort, they don’t want to blow up their own warriors. They won’t go through with it.
Your horn screams a warning, but the savages stand still. A few shots ring out, and some of the savages fall, but there are just too many to slaughter them all in time. A common problem.
To your credit, you were right. They don’t have the courage to kill their brothers, and the wagon splinters like a schooner swallowed an infernal machine. But dynamite is unstable, and it explodes under your crushing weight.
You’re flying. The fire falls from your belly, and you can feel the cool air rushing in as you list through the sky. You're an iron comet, your tail a dozen Pullman’s tearing into the Earth. You’re a manifestation of every egotistical tycoon who pushed too far. You are fire: doused, sputtering, starved for fuel. You smash into the red dirt smokestack first. The wrenching of iron muffles the screams of your riders, and when you stop there is quiet. The last coals in your belly trickle out, the orange glow of your boilers fades. You don’t understand, but you never needed to. You were life on rails.
|# ? Aug 28, 2017 05:17|
IN A WORLD WHERE A FUNGAL HIVEMIND HAS LIBERATED HUMANITY FROM ITS SUFFERING
He awoke abruptly, afterimages of his dream still playing in his eyes. The automatic light, sensing that he was awake, came on filling his small quarters with a painful fluorescent glow. The room was pleasantly cool and smelled clean thanks to the filtration system that ran through the entirety of the ship. Without it, they would become like the rest of the now barren earthen landscape, covered in the seemingly forever swaths of purple neon fungus.
He sat there now, hunched over in his bed, images flashing through his mind. It had come out of what had remained of the Amazon. The earth had been running out of resources for a long time and the rainforest had been on the chopping block. No one had cared about the environment anymore. After The War people were just trying to survive.
He dressed the same way he had dressed for the last two months. Surplus army fatigues. A light green shirt, a belt and camo khakis. He was no soldier though. He had been saved and put aboard the ship only for the worth of his mind. He walked down the corridors passing tightly sealed airlock doorways. From the inside you would have guessed that they were floating in deep space, but in reality they were bobbing in the ocean, the last fortress against what had brought down civilization. His partner, Benny, was already with her.
“Subject D1268, formerly Anna D. Gonzalez, rescued August 6th 2089,” Benny recited mechanically. He held a page up off of his clipboard, looking at a file beneath printed on yellowing Micro-Jet paper. The woman was quarantined on the other side of a four inch titanium two way panel. She was ragged looking, her hair completely gone and parts of her body bandaged due to decomposition.
“We are going to continue from where we left off yesterday. We implore you to answer every question as objectively as you can,” Benny continued to recite robotically, exempt of emotion. Who could blame him for his cold tone anyways? They had seen enough poo poo already to stop caring. “We found you in a coma when we rescued you. You fought the rescue squad. Why?”
They had done a full medical analysis of her biology when they had put her in quarantine. Anything they could test her for to understand more about what was out there. They had broken her out at a relatively early stage of her assimilation and apart from various parts of her that had been decomposed, which they had patched up and replaced with cybernetics kits, she was in perfect health. Even so, Joshua noted mentally, her eyes were unseeing. She looked like so many countless men that had come back from war. Shell shocked.
Benny continued on to the next question, turning a page methodically on his clipboard. A mainframe computer hummed ominously in the background and gave off the faint smell of ozone. “While in your coma, did you experience anything? Did you dream or were you aware that you were in a coma?
The eyes still unseeing. She would have been pretty in another time, Joshua thought. The husk of what had been Anna was in a corner of the padded room, her legs pulled up to her chest. Her mouth, missing most of its teeth, hung slightly ajar.
“Let me ask some questions, Ben.” Joshua said, walking up to the comm protruding from the wall. Benny, smiling, raised his eyebrows as if to say “have they been approved” but shrugged his shoulders and sat down, pulling out a pack of Winston Reds. Smoking was forbidden but then again, they had stopped caring about protocol a long time ago. He lit it up.
“Do you remember who you are Anna? Do you remember your family?” He glanced over at Benny and waved his hand in the familiar motion. Benny pulled out the last of his pack and flipped it open. Smoking now, blowing out long streams of noxious fumes, Joshua continued. “My wife disappeared. We got separated. She was pregnant. Six months.”
His hand was on his temple, massaging it in quick back and forth motions. He leaned towards the titanium, turning his head slightly to the side and exhaling more smoke through his lips. “I know they are out there somewhere, in one form or another. Their consciousness’s at least.” He snubbed out the cigarette, the taste of tobacco strong in his mouth and nostrils. The air purifier kicked into overdrive, making a clunking metallic thud above their heads.
“I need you to tell me where you were when you were out there. I need that hope. We all do.” He stopped now. He wanted whiskey. He wanted something hard to put into his system but he knew better. None of that poo poo here. Long gone.
Her lips were moving but no sound came out. They were chapped and covered in scabs. She had been awake for six days now and they had not been able to make those dead brown lips move once. “Mainframe,” Benny said, pivoting on his seat. “Transcribe to printout.” Deep within the machine components buzzed and beeped. A slit to the side began to spit out Micro-Jet paper.
Benny read aloud, “You took them away from me.”
“Who did we take away from you, Anna?”
Her eyes were focused now, looking directly into Joshua’s. She was on her feet now slowly walking towards the window. “You took them away from me,” she repeated softly. She continued this with each step, raising her voice higher and higher. She was yelling twelve steps later, standing in front him.
“Who did we take away from you, Anna?” He repeated his question again, slower now and enunciating each word with an innate authority. “You need to tell me who.”
“My babies,” She wept now, openly, sliding to her knees with her hands against the pane, leaving dirty streaks on its immaculate surface.
They had a whole file on her. That was one silver lining that came from the post-war, pre-collapse government. They knew everything about her. When she was born. Her interests. Her hobbies. Her secrets. The surveillance state had been most efficient at keeping an eye on its citizens but when it came to stopping the rampant conquest of earth from what had emerged from the depths of the jungle, it had failed miserably.
She had had two children. Two beautiful baby boys that had perished in The War from radiation poisoning. They hadn’t been strong enough. After she had lost them she had lost her will to live. This was all outlined in her file. The government wouldn’t allow suicide. Survivors in that time were too important to let kill themselves. She had toiled in the factories under constant guard and when the epidemic had arisen, had been moved from camp to camp. Eight months ago the camp had been overrun by spores and its refugees, lost.
A bio-assault team had rescued who they could, putting the individuals in stasis in the ship’s hull. They had been able to retrieve twenty-three people. One by one they had been woken up and interrogated, analyzed and neutralized. One by one, the ship’s crew had learned the truth and had deserted, plunging into the depths of the ocean to be assimilated by the neon demon.
“I guess that’s it, Ben.” Joshua said, looking at his friend. She was the last one, as were they the last two on board. They had known for a long time what assimilation promised. They neutralized her, filling the chamber with gas. There was no way to save her anyways. They all died once they had been freed.
Standing on the deck of the chrome vessel they looked down into the waves. Giant chords of purple neon bobbed and weaved through the water with the current. Even if they drowned, they would be reanimated into the hive mind. There was no doubt. All the data confirmed it. Benny went first, and then Joshua. It didn’t take long for his body to lock up from hypothermia and as he drowned he was happy. He wanted to see them again. He wanted to be at peace.
|# ? Aug 28, 2017 06:01|
in a world where every child is born with autism
Kaybee D27B9L76U701 was about to have a new detainee to interrogate. The requisite paperwork was done, so she busied her hands with a strip of paper, folding it over and over itself, but even repetition couldn’t calm her thoughts. She was prone to anxiety, much as she disliked admitting it.
She had always been intrigued by the idea of the atypicals, and this would be her first time meeting one. According to the brief, the detainee had infiltrated the city and attempted to distribute subversive media to cuspers. A non-violent affront. Kaybee found herself overexcited at the prospect of meeting the rebel; after all, it wasn’t as though he’d hurt anyone.
Her office door swung open and Director Ohzed IB1 entered the room, draped as he always was in his weighted robes. He didn’t look at Kaybee, but rather down at the small screen in his hands. Moments later, the tablet on Kaybee’s desk lit up, indicating that a message was waiting.
The atypical has been secured on the detainment level Ohzed sent. You have been selected as his handler because of your relative proximity to the atypical headspace. Soft interrogation techniques are to be applied. Find out anything you can about the insurgents’ operation.
Kaybee already knew this, of course, but hearing her instructions again calmed her mind. Nothing had changed. She was prepared for this.
Acknowledged, she sent back.
Director Ohzed turned and swept out of the office. Kaybee allowed herself a moment of pride. It was unusual for Ohzed to visit her office when he could’ve sent the messages from anywhere. He famously did not function well outside of his quarters. To come see Kaybee in person indicated confidence in her, or so she liked to think. Close as she was to the atypical headspace, it was sometimes hard for her to fathom the motives of the higher-ups.
She sighed and rose from her desk chair. Best if she was present when her detainee woke up from sedation.
The holding cells in the security tower were rarely used, and the whole detention floor smelled of dust and stale air. The cells occupied one long, windowless hallway. Kaybee’s detainee was at the far end, as though keeping him away from the door could prevent the spread of his subversion. As if anyone in Central City would voluntarily afflict themselves with the passions of an atypical.
Kaybee watched the detainee sleep for a moment. He was sprawled on his cot, limbs half-draped over the sides. His bare arms were muscular and leathery from sun exposure. Everything about him reminded Kaybee of hard angles.
“I’m trying to catch up on my sleep here,” the detainee said without opening his eyes. “You’re not going to torture me, and I’m not gonna tell you anything. So just let me sleep.”
Kaybee said, “I am your handler.”
At the sound of her voice, the detainee opened his eyes. “No offense...miss...but I got a lady at home who handles me just fine.”
“You’re a detainee at home as well?” Kaybee asked.
The detainee laughed loud and hard at that. “Depends on your views on marriage,” he said, sitting up.
Kaybee cocked her head. She was familiar with humor, though her colleagues didn’t tend to engage in it. Some of the other cuspers--citizens like her, whose headspace was precariously close to atypical--liked to make jokes now and then, but more often than not, the duplicitous nature of humor caused more confusion than laughter.
“I am not here to joke with you,” Kaybee said. She consulted her tablet. “The first thing I’d like to do is find out your name. Mine is Kaybee.”
“Kaybee what?” the detainee asked.
“Kaybee of district twenty-seven, block nine, level seventy-six, unit 701. And you?”
He laughed again. “That’s not a name. It’s a designation.” The detainee stood up, wrapped his hands around the bars of his cell. “I’m not telling you poo poo. Way I see it, you people want to be robots. Robots don’t care about frivolous things like names. Just designations.”
“But I do care about your name. I must not be a robot.” Kaybee could fully discern the man’s features, now that he was fully upright. His face was symmetrical, proportioned roughly according to artistic ideals. His hair was messy and hung just below his ears. He was everything she imagined a rebel would be.
The detainee laughed. “And you said you weren’t here to joke. But naw, I’m not telling you anything.” He licked his lips. “I’ll ask you something, though.”
“How do you live like this? The grid of identical towers, the city walls, the endless byzantine rules. You don’t ever want to just scream?”
“Some people in Central City do scream,” Kaybee said. “Because there’s too much sensation or too little, or when they just can’t interface with the world correctly. We take them to bright or dark rooms, swaddle them in heavy blankets or let them be naked. We help them through the screaming, until it stops.”
“Maybe if you didn’t coddle them, they’d learn that screaming doesn’t get them anything,” the detainee said.
Kaybee shook her head. “You sound like a movie from the old world. People used to think that way, and look where that got you?” She gestured at the cell, at the entire reality of the rebel detainee’s existence. “We have found the most sustainable iteration of humanity. I am sorry you’ve found yourself on the wrong side of that.”
She was sorry, too. One tiny genetic nudge, and this symmetrical stranger might’ve been a cusper instead of atypical. They might have even bonded. Kaybee blinked away those thoughts before they could distract her.
“What about self expression? Love? Trying and failing at things just because you can? Being human?” the detainee said, looking down into her eyes. Kaybee looked away.
“Your version of humanity left us with centuries of planetary repair work,” she said, still not meeting his eyes. She’d known this was going to be a factor, had even practiced staring at her own eyes in the mirror. But the detainee’s gaze was heavy and intrusive. Nothing she could’ve simulated for herself.
“Look at me,” the detainee said, lowering the volume of his voice. Kaybee forced herself to oblige; a concession of her own might mean a concession from him. He reached through the bars, took her chin in his big rough hand. The urge to recoil exploded across all her synapses, but she resisted.
“All I want is the chance to coexist. To raise my children in the comfort and security that you people enjoy,” the detainee said.
Kaybee shuddered. The sensation of the man’s hand on her face was all-consuming, like staring into the sun. His words were a muddy rumble, vague and distant. Her head was in the jaws of a dangerous predator, one thought to be extinct until it was too late.
The detainee misinterpreted her trembling. “Hey now,” he said in the same low, soft voice as before. “I was lying about the wife. Not the kids, though. Got two of them, one and three years old. Mother died of an infection.” His adam’s apple bobbed in his throat as he swallowed deep. “I see it in you. You’re like us. You don’t belong here. I could give you experiences you never imagined.”
One and three years old. That bit of information rattled around in Kaybee’s head, eclipsed the storm of sensation from the man’s hand touching her face.
She stepped backward, out of his reach, and smoothed the front of her shirt. “Your children are young enough to receive an intervention and be integrated into Central City. If you cooperate, you would be granted provisional citizenship.”
The detainee curled his lips up to show his teeth. “And to think I thought you were different from the others,” he said. “You’re all the goddamned same. So eager to integrate, but you refuse to coexist.”
“Please consider the offer,” Kaybee said. Then she turned on her heel and strode back down the hallway.
“I don’t even have kids, you loving robot,” the detainee shouted after her. “You’re not getting poo poo from me.”
Kaybee found herself on the roof of the security tower. Technically, it was a prohibited area, but that just meant no one ever came to check on it. She looked out over the rows and rows of residential blocks, each the same as the next, nothing out of place or unnecessarily baroque.
Her eyes wandered to the horizon, the land beyond Central City. It was a dismal brown blur from this vantagepoint, but Kaybee knew better. Out there in the wasteland, in the legacy of the old world, were the seeds of a new world and a stable ecosystem.
Kaybee touched her chin, felt the ghost of the detainee’s hand. Her fascination with the atypicals had dissipated with that touch. She would advise Director Ohzed that more direct interrogation methods would be required.
|# ? Aug 28, 2017 06:21|
|# ? Oct 1, 2022 07:29|
Grass Null (#1748 )
IN A WORLD WITH AN UNUSUAL AND UNEXPECTED SHORTAGE
Rissa had been hungrily chomping down her caramel corn for most of “Little Shop of Horrors”. She was more interested in the free food than Rick Moranis singing to a carnivorous plant. Her boyfriend Ted sat on the floor beside her and caressed her ebony leg with his wheedling left hand. She flicked it off her thigh as he got impulsive during the final song in the movie. Rissa still hadn’t forgiven him for ditching her at the restaurant.
He said to her quietly,
“Rissa. Come on, I took to this movie, I got you your favorite snack. Let’s make up.”
She flicked his knuckles like they were four marching flies,
“Ted, I told you. I came along for an apology, that’s it. After that, we can stay friends, but you and I are over.”
Ted grumbled and made tucked his hands into his sweatshirt. It was cold inside the tenement basement. The heat was kept off so as to fool any A.T.F.L volunteers searching the buildings with heat radar. The plant puppet yelled. “OH poo poo” and died on screen. Rissa thought it was a bit anti-climactic and didn’t see so far why this movie was censored. It was a waste to have an illegal showing for a movie that was so tame.
She was about to get up and leave considering Ted was just going to sulk and not apologize but she stayed seated as she looked around the room. Ted, her boyfriend, and line cook. Martin, the old Portuguese Dishwasher. Willow, her middle aged prep cook. All of the attendees of the illegal showing were staring raptly at the screen as it blacked out on Rick Moranis and his sudden new romance. The only person not paying attention was Rissa and Law, a young man who used to be the restaurant's cashier and current renter of the basement. He was on his phone texting.
Rissa bit the trend and paid attention. The screen lit up and she saw something that made the movie illegal. Rick and his blond bimbo girlfriend stood in front of an archway opening into a sanctum off limits in the real world. It was a lawn. Not wild ferns, brambles or clumpweed which was all that grew low on the ground these days but the hewn surface of a verdant ballroom floor.
Rissa remembered walking barefoot at her Uncle’s House. He’d play loud music and she’d break into dancing on the warm wet spring grass at his Illinois brownstone. The lawn brought people from all around the neighborhood for barbecues, slumber parties, dog owner meetups, and relatives would “pop in” more than any other adult Rissa had known. Back then she had no idea why her Uncle was so popular. After the Bandit Virus became widespread from a dubious weedkiller, the destruction of the prototypical U.S Lawn made her understand.
The Lawn was rare for poor people and when someone in a community had one it acted as a magnet of nostalgia. Just like the people sat around her gazing at the green rainbow on the screen woul say, the lawn was somewhere in their childhood. It was there under their feet, with their dog, littered with frisbees and footballs. This movie reminded Rissa and the diner staff of what wonders that smell of cut grass could bring up.
Law was too young to remember these musings. He bought the movie specifically because he knew it was illegal. It made him feel good to show it off for the sake of being rebellious. That said, he wasn’t checking his phone out of habit but caution. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Lawns had volunteers all over the city. Ever since the bust at his girlfriend hydroponics set-up, Law knew another wave of stings was imminent. A light shined quickly past the shutters of above the washing machine. Law screamed,
“Turn it off!”
Ted fumbled with the remote as the other’s booked it for the stair case. Ted dropped the remote to the ground and the batteries popped out like springs out of a busted watch. He gave Law a sheepish smile and ran up the stairs after the others. Rissa crawled under the flaps of the couch and held her breath so as not breathe miasma of Cheeto dust and cat litter at the floor level.
Law ran to the remote but a surly voice accosted him.
“Put your hands up!”
The others were marched back down by a beer bellied public offender. In his hands was a shotgun. Certain volunteers were given rights to use deadly force if they reported enough crimes to the Bureau. Considering the nature of most of the people who volunteered it was a plausible assumption that they did so to earn this very right.
The man pointed at the wall with the shotgun. “Along the wall.”
The staff did so. Law sweated buckets as he considered the possibility he was going to get shot. It was 50/50 what would happen if citizens were caught with Lawn Propaganda. He would either be taken down to the local police station and get marked to have his wages garnished for a couple of years or this yahoo would shoot him. Considering how much garnishments Law already had, he wasn’t sure if he wouldn’t choose death at this point.
The man didn’t say anything. The staff grew restless leaning against the wall and so did Rissa who had given up trying not to breathe. She accepted the stuffy nose she had coming for the rest of the week. A woman in a red pantsuit walked down the stair steps. She had a plastic cup over her nose that let out a quiet wheeze of air. It was a Bureau talkie, the propagandists of the A.T. F. L.
She said, “Hello. My name is Carmen Delgado! I understand there’s been a breach of censorship here at address 7122 Dennton Street 60007. You’re in luck however because this Lawn associated crime has been randomly selected for a re-education seminar that will only garnish 15% of all your wages.”
“gently caress.” Everyone collectively sighed (and Rissa quietly did).
Carmen went into the whole spiel. About how Lawn Nostalgia is a kind of sexual deviancy. About how yearning for Lawns caused the Seattle Riots and Texas state secession. How Lawns ACTUALLY caused more allergies because they weren’t properly cared for. She finished with the golden poo poo standard of the Bureau.
“...as scientists have said. Now to finish my points I would like to remind you all that there is a concrete reason why only certain people's above a certain tax bracket are allowed to own Bandit Free Lawns.
First of all is, of course, is the legal copyright by Monsanto-Bayer who are the sole proprietors of Bandit Virus Immune Lawn and Lawncare products. But also you must consider that none of you have the financial means or education to keep a lawn free of disease and pests.
A census report of 2019 confirms that people of the lower middle to lower class were more likely to enable to the spread of the Bandit Virus by improper lawn upkeep in comparison to those of the upper middle to upper class.”
“gently caress!” Ted yelled. He couldn’t take the diatribe anymore.
The fat man with a shotgun took this as a need to blow and shot at Ted which simultaneously injured the rest of line. Carmen sighed and called for an ambulance. Ted moaned in pain and picked bird shot from his back.
The fat man said, “You lucky that wasn’t buck shot you drat n-”
Carmen put her hand over the man's mouth and latched onto it with her long red nails.
“Don’t make this racial, we don’t need another Riot.”
Carmen smoothed out her disposition and went back into her spiel, “Now that you’ve been reprimanded. An additional 5% garnish will be added onto all wages for emergency services which are on their way. If you have any questions for the Bureau or about the Monsanto-Bayer Private-Public business model please visit our website at https://www.banditfreebureau.org.
Carmen left and Rissa couldn't’ believe that there were some people who actually avoided breathing the air of the city.
The cleanup team were all volunteers and hmmed and hawwed around the basement as Rissa wheezed through her reddened nostrils. The fat man was with them too. He picked up the DVD case for Little Shop and said to his fellow volunteers,
“You guys wanna go do something else? I’m not really feeling like picking up poo poo.”
A bald scrawny woman with swastika tattooed onto her head agreed and unholstered a Luger,
“I heard there are Grassophiles hoarding clippings in the subway.”
The fat man felt his heart skip a beat and thought he might be in love,
“Well sheeet. Let's go rain lead on them.”
The two left and the other volunteers followed out of laziness rather than bloodlust.
Rissa crawled out from the couch and nearly vomited as she expelled a combination of sneezing and hacking. She’d gotten lucky for sure but she felt miserable now that she’d witnessed a sting first hand.
“poo poo. This is my world.” She sighed.
Deciding to take advantage of the moment. She picked up a grocery bag stuffed all the illegal DVDs she could find. She thought it’s better to give them to other people who’d appreciate the memories they called rather than have half-rear end viewing parties. In her haste to pick at the shelf, she pulled a wire that sticking out from behind a collector's edition of Edward Scissorhands. A cabinet moved beside revealing a small hidden space.
Rissa ducked into the small space and exhaled in wonder. A wheelbarrow full of hydroponics gear, a stack of books on “Growing Hemp and Indoor plants”, two sacks of soil and sack of Bandit-free seed were crowded into the wheelbarrow like pirate's booty in a treasure chest.
Behind the wheelbarrow was a rolled up bundle. She pulled out the wheelbarrow and went back to unfurl the strange bundle. It unfurled into a lime green patch of grass. It was still alive, the roots hungrily reaching for the artificial light above. Rissa ran her fingers through the blades. She remembered springs and early summers and all the people who became a family on the lawn.
She decided she was going to make more memories.
|# ? Aug 28, 2017 06:53|