Surely you mean
|# ? Aug 31, 2017 20:21|
|# ? Jun 26, 2022 17:42|
I'm in with Prince* Tardigrade for two reasons:
Good for you. Keep writing.
Prince Tardigrade is good name. Write good words.
|# ? Aug 31, 2017 20:26|
- SittingHere's podcast about everybody's writing. I didn't know that was a thing, I just went and listened to your very very long in-depth dissection of my story. Holy poo poo. A thousand thanks for poking holes in our work. PS, the air is bad. You heard me.
Our pleasure (well, my pleasure and possibly Kaishai's constant dismay), thanks for submitting!
in with Tennyson Squid.
|# ? Aug 31, 2017 22:11|
Our pleasure (well, my pleasure and possibly Kaishai's constant dismay), thanks for submitting!
Lurker here, is there a link to the podcast?
|# ? Aug 31, 2017 23:03|
|# ? Aug 31, 2017 23:40|
I just dissected that story and posted it as its own thread, as a post mortem, (so I don't hijack this thread). I want to get better. Help me.
Post-mortem on a Dishonorable Mention from Thunderdome
|# ? Aug 31, 2017 23:48|
you probably have to enter now, fyi
|# ? Sep 1, 2017 00:03|
yeah you should probably enter now that you've posted in the thread
edit: so should you, additional lurker who is reading this. you don't get better at writing by just thinking about writing.
|# ? Sep 1, 2017 00:04|
you don't get better at writing by just thinking about writing.
|# ? Sep 1, 2017 00:19|
yeah you should probably enter now that you've posted in the thread
Uhhhh.. Im terrible writer so please accept my homoerotic fanfiction.
Ill join up, when is it due?
Edit: Im sorry for editing my post but I have thunderdome 101 questions
1) So the current prompt is get a name and make a character around it?
2) I submit my terrible words in a new post
3) Due by Friday, September 8th?
Exmond fucked around with this message at 04:06 on Sep 1, 2017
|# ? Sep 1, 2017 03:35|
The current prompt is to write a story featuring a character whose name is half an artist's name and half an animal's name.
Yes, you will write a story and post it in this thread. Possibly even with a title. Be sure not to exceed the word count for the week.
You have until Friday night, September 1 to say you're in. You have until Sunday night, September 3 to post your story, or else nothing happens and a couple of goons posture about how you didn't write a story. After Sunday, a kiwi and a theropod will judge your story and you may very well get a new avatar if it's
|# ? Sep 1, 2017 04:36|
Uhhhh.. Im terrible writer so please accept my homoerotic fanfiction.
Try not to make it erotic or fanficiton.
|# ? Sep 1, 2017 06:26|
no erotic, no fanfiction
|# ? Sep 1, 2017 07:06|
get in irc if you want to chat about it, synirc, #thunderdome
|# ? Sep 1, 2017 08:26|
Im in with Billy Kid
|# ? Sep 1, 2017 15:17|
In with Boris Manul.
|# ? Sep 1, 2017 22:47|
Sign ups are closed. Stories are due Sunday at midnight EST. Much like the word limit, that is a hard deadline. Write good words.
|# ? Sep 2, 2017 13:54|
Echoes and Nemeses
Thranguy fucked around with this message at 02:08 on Dec 7, 2017
|# ? Sep 3, 2017 07:57|
You’d expect someone named Tennyson Squid to be either very good or very bad. An explorer, maybe, or a comically evil politician from a bygone era. Something with more gravitas than, for instance, the foley sound guy for an obscure group of pornographers who specialize in filming faux-voyeuristic toilet scenes. Frankly, I expected more from myself, too.
It’s the name. I’ve always stood in its awkward-yet-kind-of-majestic shadow, wondering when exactly I was going to live up to the hype. I forgoed--forwent?--all the usual opportunities granted to young men of upper-middle class, holding out for the day when I might finally, truly, become Tennyson Squid. I was going to be a poet, a criminal, a sea captain, a singer-songwriter.
Presently, I am sitting on a toilet in a public restroom. My knees are drawn up to my chest so that my feet aren’t visible from outside my stall. The bathroom door opens and there is the clipped sound of hard-soled shoes moving urgently toward the stall farthest from the door.
Our viewers expect certain things from their fake bathroom voyeur films. The angle has to be believable. Lola, our producer, told me that she’s actually received complaints from fans when the camera’s view isn’t impeded by, for example, the grating of a vent or the branches of a tree. Conversely, the sound quality of each film is expected to be cinema perfect.
I hear the rattle of a closing stall door. The rustle of pressed trousers crumpling around the man’s ankles. I hold my breath, go absolutely still so that I can study the character of the sounds that come next.
I know what you’re thinking and, no, I’m not here for recording or personal gratification. This is strictly research. It’s the fans, you see. They crave a certain organicness in the scenes. Which precludes having a bunch of sound equipment crammed into a public restroom stall. The sweet spot for these viewers is rough, grainy video and true-to-life, hi-fi audio.
That’s where I come in: Tennyson Squid, poop sound guy. That’s right. Roll those syllables around in your noggin. I create realism when reality fails to deliver. Over the years, I’ve transformed my garage into a soundstage. There are tarps, buckets of mud, slabs of clay, and an array of condiments, yogurts, and soft fruits--anything that might goosh or plorp or brap! or tinkle--plus my recording equipment, which is top notch, left over from a time when I thought I had the wit and skill to produce an internet radio drama.
A soft grunt issues from the man in the stall at the end. I strain my ears. This could be bad. If it’s diarrhea, this whole stakeout will have been pointless. I mouth a silent prayer that this guy’s been eating his fiber.
I have this ongoing argument with Keith, one of the camera technicians. See, Keith says that a firm, healthy turd makes a very distinct splush when it hits the toilet water. I maintain that the sound is more of a smooth, inquisitive-sounding bloop? than a generic splush. Like, I mean, I don’t want to impugn Keith’s years of experience--he’s been filming this stuff since the eighties--but a splush is easy. That’s half a ripe, peeled banana dropped into a bucket of water from six inches up, with a little reverb added in post. But the elusive bloop? is, so far, impossible to recreate artificially. And the fans are starting to notice.
If my dharma in this world is to be Tennyson Squid, poop sound guy, then I want to be the Dick Dale of poop sound guys. I want there to be a Wikipedia page about my innovations, my custom setup, my industry-changing techniques. I want to be a name that hipsters drop in conversations to make themselves sound quirky.
The straining and groaning from the other stall rises in pitch and intensity. This can’t be diarhea, I decide. These are the noises of a man struggling with something harder than he is.
“Please,” the man moans softly. “Please not this, not today.”
Is he talking to his anus?
“Just come out,” he pleads. His voice is muffled by plastic, which tells me he’s resting his head on the side of the stall. The whole row shudders as he pounds the wall with his fist. And then he does it again. And again.
“No.” The pounding stops. “Clench, release. Clench, release. Relax. Just like Doctor Bradley said. Relax,” the man says under his breath. “No one out there is judging you. They respect you. Release. Relax.” Another grunt as the man presumably bears down.
I’m on the edge of my seat, and one of my legs is tingling from sitting scrunched up for so long. I’m listening so intently to the struggle unfolding in the stall at the end that I neglect to notice my foot slowly slipping over the porcelain edge of the toilet sleep.
Slap! The sound of my flip-flop sandal hitting the tiled floor.
Ring. The sound of the abrupt silence from the stall at the end.
I draw my knees back up to my chest as quietly as I can, but the damage is done. A moment later, there comes the rustle of those crisp trousers being pulled up, the slight clink of a belt being buckled. The jingle of keys in a pocket. Then the ker-chick! of the stall door being unlocked, and the clipped sound of hard-soled shoes moving urgently away from the stall farthest from the door.
A surprising wave of sadness washes over me. That man has a medical problem, and he’s not getting the help he needs. And here I am, lurking in the bathroom, embodying the worst fears of the chronically constipated and the poop-shy. I sit there for a moment on the toilet, contemplating the overall trajectory of Tennyson Squid.
Then the bathroom door opens again and a new set of shoes taps across the floor. By reflex, I pull my knees up to my chest. The wave of sadness crests, crashes down, and recedes, replaced almost instantly by the familiar burble of excited curiosity. I remind myself that I am a scientist, a pioneer. Setbacks will happen, and only by moving past them will I ever distinguish myself.
The man bypasses the urinals, enters the stall directly next to mine. This bodes well. There are all the usual settling in type noises, but then a phone rings. Loudly. I clench my teeth.
“Hey babe,” the man says over the sounds of waste sliding efficiently from man to toilet. A beat of silence, then: “Naw, I’m never too busy to talk to you. I’m about to have lunch with the guys from the office. You should see Ken today, seems like he’s got a bigger stick up his rear end than usual.” Another beat of silence. “You know Ken. He was the one who took off for an hour during the Christmas party last year. Yeah. The weird old guy.”
He leaves without flushing the toilet, still chatting to his girlfriend. I slouch against the side of the stall. If it’s lunch time, that means I’ll be stuck here for a while. I’m not strictly supposed to be in this office building, after all, and there’s no sense in trying to get out when everyone is up from their desks.
Part of me hopes that someone is somehow filming through the vents, and that, at the very least, they’re getting a laugh out of it.
|# ? Sep 3, 2017 19:41|
1231 word count
With a loud ding the bell signaled it was time to move tables I picked up my name-tag and threw it to the oak table beside me, thrusting all the frustration this night had caused into the action, It was becoming apparently I wasn't going to find true love here. The name tag skittered on the table and fell off the table. The woman at the table looked at the name tag and lifted one eyebrow inquisitively at me through her black bangs.
“It's been a bad night. Don't even know why I came to this stupid speed dating night.” I explained.
The woman put her elbow onto the table and rested her face on it. “Usually people are here because they are looking for a fun time or scared of dying alone” The woman mused at me. “Which one are you?”
I dropped myself in my seat and leaned back. Having had enough of this debacle I bleat out my response “I'm only here because my therapist said I needed a distraction from my job. Something about pent up anger over family issues. So sign me up for fun. ” The women shifted and looked uncomfortably at me in her seat. I continued to ruin the conversation by opening up my mouth “Listen, I have about fifty problems on the go right now and chances are I will die alone by the end of the week. If I had time to care I'd apologize for ruining your night. Goodbye.”
I got up from the table and started to leave the river-side pub. I got outside to the empty road and was about to call a taxi when an angry yell demanded my attention. I looked up just in time for something plastic and hard to smash against my forehead and flip off into the distance. I shook my head and look around dazed when suddenly the woman was in front of me.
“Get over yourself!” She angrily yelled, with every word she beat me with her left arm, using it as a baton to add emphasis to her argument. “Poor baby has a hard job and needs to take his frustrations out on others. Maybe stop being so self absorbed and realize that others have it just as hard as you!” It was at this time I realized she was beating me with the stump of her left arm. A loud thump was heard behind me as her prosthetic arm landed behind me. I tried to choke out an apology but it got drowned out by the well-deserved chastisement I was receiving “So you have problems, all of us do! We still manage to live pleasant lives and not be a complete rear end in a top hat every chance we get!”
I looked around and noticed her prosthetic arm lying in the middle of the bridge walkway. Perfect, just perfect, not only did I act like a complete rear end I had to get thwacked by a prosthetic arm to knock me to my senses. I moved to go grab the arm, hoping futility that at least that small action would redeem me.
“I don't need a babysitter, I can get my own god-drat arm” The woman snarled at me, her red dress swishing in the wind haughtily.
I had to do something to make amends and my mouth moved before I could even think. “Listen, I was an rear end in a top hat. Let me at least grab your arm...” My mind clued in and I gave a lame smile to accompany the idiotic thing I said. I jogged towards the arm making a hasty retreat.
“Listen here Mr rear end in a top hat!”
A large rumbling stopped her retort and we both paused. I looked around and saw the river below us , swore and froze. Had I stepped onto a bridge? I turn around and tried to run off the bridge but it was too late. A massive shadow loomed over and me and I gulped and turned around. The creature was made out of rocks and stood a good 5 feet above me. It's massive maw curved upwards to form a cruel smile. Someone nearby may have screamed but I was too taken shaken to notice. The troll leered at me and hefted a semi-truck sized club in its arm.
“And finally the youngest trip traps over my bridge. You are all alone, nobody to save you now!”
Fear crept over me and threatened to take control. Memories of my father, his body broken but spirit still high, flashed in my mind. I remembered my oath and stepped forward towards the troll, reigning in the fear. The troll let out a large boisterous laugh from deep within its grotesque rocky belly.
Large goblets of troll spit splattered around the bridge as the Troll spoke. “All alone and I know all of your tricks!” It's voice sounded rough like rocks breaking bones.
“My brother and father might not be around. But I still brought help” I yelled to the troll and pulled out a large baseball bat from my travel bag. I hoped the troll wouldn't notice that my hand was shaking.
“Time for this gruff to go to work”
And with that I stepped forward and got to my job, dealing with the monsters and other things that go bump in the night.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I sat in the taxi, my face a mix of shock and humiliation as the woman stuck her face out of the window and howled her victory to the world. The taxi driver took it with amazing grace and channeling his inner human apathy ignored us.
A large gob of troll spit dropped from my hair onto the car seat as I recounted the battle. My first “real” fight with a troll had lasted ten seconds. The troll had rushed towards me and with one fist had grabbed me before I could react. I was about to be swallowed when the troll tripped on the woman's prosthetic arm and teetered close to the end of the bridge. Then the women roared and pushed the troll off the bridge.
I turned to her and saw her face reflected in the moonlight. She smiled like a wolf and what constituted for her left arm pumped up and down in celebration. Slow realization crept upon my face. This was what a troll hunter looked like. No bad rear end remarks, no emotional hbaggage weighing you down. I sighed and realized I still had a lot to learn, a lot of growing up to do and a lot to be forgiven for. I put my face in my hands trying futilely to wipe the troll spit off my face.
“I'm sorry for everything. Why don't we start over from the beginning.” I did my best to wipe the troll spit off of my hand and offered her my hand “I'm Billy Kid, youngest and last of the Billygoats Gruff. Pleased to meet you.”
She smiled and took my hand. “Ruelle Loup. I was out looking for fun and I think I've found it.”
|# ? Sep 3, 2017 19:58|
Summer jobs and summer relationships create a monotony of the soul that people seem to forget when they are older. By day, June through August, I took tickets at The Terrorgig. By night, since breaking up with Marcus 61 days ago, I had done nothing but dream about it. It was a tower of metal and flashing lights that swung an eight-legged mechanical limb lined with caged seats. It was a thrilling four minutes and twenty seconds of being thrown around and spun, and it was there that I met John William Wildcat.
A Police era Sting dressed like Lost Boys era Keither Sutherland. A gigantic soda cup in one hand, a joint in the other. A vicious, hungry smile.
“You work here?” he asked.
“Over summer, I do.”
“You like the job?”
“It helps pay for school.”
“Ah, a scholar,” he said theatrically.
I rolled my eyes.
“How old are you?” I asked.
“You wouldn't believe me,” he said. “How do I pay?””
“The tickets you got when you came into the park.”
“I didn't get tickets. I jumped the fence,” he said with a boyish grin.
I gave him a look. The fence was fifteen feet of anti-climb paint, metal spikes, and barbed wire.
“I saw you from across the street, wanted to talk to you. Come on, what do you say? Give me a freebie?”
I sighed and, despite myself, smiled. He was kind of skeezy, but his attitude was infectious. Standing there in the blazing sun, unsweating in a black leather jacket, hair flowing and eyes bright, he contained a glimpse of the freedom that my summer job was costing.
“Sure,” I said. “This is our secret.”
“You mind if I jump in ahead of you?” he purred to the couple at the front of the line. He noted my surprise as they stepped back. “People like to make me happy.”
That evening, John met me at the end of my shift and we walked along the seafront in the orange glow of the setting sun. Gulls barked and the crashing waves cloaked us in a thin film of salt.
We ate at the nice place by the beach. It was full of older couples in fancy clothes and families splashing out because they were on vacation. Over dinner, I again felt that sense of excitement in John. It wasn't until somebody yelled the word 'slut' across the restaurant that I considered perhaps part of me had wanted Marcus to see me on a date.
He was sat at the bar with three other guys, chicken wings and pitchers spread before them. I ignored them, so they shouted again. This time, people turned to look. My cheeks glowed as I stared into my sea bass.
“The guys watching basketball, you know them?” John asked, forking fish into his mouth.
“They're from the park,” I muttered. “I had a brief… thing with the short haired one at the start of summer. He's an rear end in a top hat. I was bored, I guess.”
“They hassle you a lot?”
“Sometimes. I don't know.”
John wiped his hands, then stood and crossed the restaurant. I watched him go in horror, unsure whether or not to follow. Marcus and his friends got up and closed around him but John didn't flinch. His posture was calm and when he smiled, they laughed. A few minutes later he returned to our table, sat down and continued picking at his food.
“Marcus asked me to apologise for him,” he said.
“What the hell was that?” I hissed.
“I told them to leave you alone.”
“I don't believe you,” I said. “I told you, he's an rear end in a top hat, he would have gone loving crazy.”
“And I told you,” he smiled. “People like to make me happy.”
When we had sex on the beach that night, it wasn't because of Marcus. I just wanted to feel free. Afterwards, we lay on our backs and stared up into the night together.
“When the first men saw the stars, they thought they were animals looking down at them,” he said.
“Oh yeah?” I replied, kissing his shoulder.
“Everything they couldn't explain was an animal. When animals were pleased, good things happened. When disasters happened, it was because they had angered the beasts. It's like cave paintings.”
“How?” I asked. I started to dress. The ocean wind was cold.
“You think those people were too simple to paint accurately, but they understood symbolism better than you'd think. When they painted a little group of people, they understood that more than five just meant lots, you know?”
“Okay,” I said.
“So what if, when they painted some crude four legged thing, they weren't showing an actual animal? It was a symbol for lots of animals. When they were worshipping animals, maybe they were praying to concepts rather than actual creatures. The concept of big angry beast, silent hunting beast, slithering beast, flying beast...”
“Can you zip me up?” I asked.
That night, I dreamed of John descending onyx steps from stormy skies. He carried a ball of burning fire in his hands, searing his naked flesh. I stood at the base of the stairs, surrounded by tanned figures in animal furs and we watched giant hands reaching for John from beyond the stairs.
John returned to The Terrorgig three days later.
“Come with me,” he said.
“Where? I can't, I'm working,” I laughed.
“No, no, no. Come with me forever,” he said, taking my hands.
“I go back to school in a week!”
“I'm not used to being told no,” he replied with an edge that sent a shiver down my spine.
“I can't, John,” I said. “You know I can't.”
“Please don't make me make you,” he whispered pleadingly, his face sad.
“You can't make me come with you, John,” I said firmly.
“Come with me,” he replied, and his voice was different. It was syrup and perfume and darkness.
His brow wrinkled in confusion. He silently walked towards the fence and scaled it effortlessly. He flowed over it like liquid, harmlessly picking through the spikes and barbed wire to crawl head-first down the opposite side.
“How did you do that?” I called after him.
He ignored me and approached a waiting taxi.
“Hey buddy, you mind if I borrow your car?”
The driver stepped out wordlessly and walked towards the beach with a dazed smile.
John looked back and, for just one instant, I saw inside him. Pointed ears, wild eyes, sharp teeth, thick haunches, padded feet, muscular legs, a swishing tail. A beast that was cat and hyena and coyote, shadows and smoke, gave me a smile that was vicious and hungry. Then John stepped into the cab and was gone.
Behind me, there came a terrified scream. I turned to see the woman hanging from a cage of The Terrorgig, her legs kicking as she spun around. I froze in panic, as the ride threw her one way, then another. Then she fell, flailing for fifty feet, and landed in a broken heap. Above her, another cage opened and a fat man was spiked like a football directly into the ground. I heard the crunch as he bounced on the concrete. One by one, the cages opened and people fell like dead leaves, twisting and turning like ragdolls, begging and clutching for safety. The Terrorgig rolled around and struck a flailing teenager the length of the park.
Bodies rained from the sky.
|# ? Sep 3, 2017 23:14|
1241 godawful words.
“Daddy, tell me a story,” Little Junior says. The boy creeps nervously along unlit storefronts, hurrying home to his sick mother. Clutched in one hand, he carries the medicine that could buy her a little more time.
“Sure.” Daddy says, his left hand holding the boy’s, his right tucked into his pocket.
He thinks a few moments and then begins.
“There’s this boy, just like you.” He pats Little Junior on the head. “This boy doesn’t fear the shadows. He knows the night is safe as long as Prince Tardigrade protects the city with his army of microscopic water bears, ready to spring into action in a moments notice.”
“All it takes to summon the Prince’s army are a few drops of water.” He squeezes the boy’s hand and chuckles. “Actually, it takes a couple of hours to allow the organisms to re-hydrate. See, in the absence of any water, the tards can dry out and slow their metabolism to almost nothing.”
“Don’t call them tards daddy.”
“Oh it’s okay in this case. These aren’t like your sister Trudy. It’s okay to call them tards.” They stop walking. Daddy squeezes his hand and says “Can I finish my story now?”
Little Junior shrugs. “Go ahead.”
“They’re able to live dried up like that for decades, just waiting to be summoned. And then poof," he snaps his fingers, "give or take a couple hours, his water bears are ready for action.”
“That’s the nickname for these tiny creatures: Water Bears.”
“You seem to know a lot about these—”
Daddy cuts him off. “Even if the boy was in space, he’d still be safe because the tards are the only animal that can survive the hardships up there.” He laughs. “Except, well, they’d need some protection from ultraviolet rays. Sure, they can live in the unrelenting hardship of sub-zero space, but you hit them with a little ultraviolet light from the sun and all of a sudden they’re fragile.”
They stop at a red light, even though the streets are empty.
“This kid could be out there in trouble, and just shout 'Help me Prince Tardigrade!' and the Prince would show up with millions of his water bears and—I don’t know—a couple tubes of Hawaiian Tropic or something. But you get it. The kid’s not afraid because somewhere out there, watching over his city, there’s the Prince.”
The light changes.
“How do you know so much about Tardigrades?”
When he doesn’t answer his question, Little Junior asks, “So, does the kid actually end up in space?”
“No,” Daddy says. “And, honestly King Tardigrade could've probably handled the whole sun-screen problem better, but the King was killed by Zero Cel, the only super villain capable of freezing things to absolute zero. As you know, tardigrades can survive in cold, down to ALMOST absolute zero. But,” Daddy sighs, “just like any superhero, they’ve got to have that one stupid weakness. The Royal Tardigrades have two weak spots: absolute zero, and UV rays in space.”
Little Junior laughs and says “At least it’s not something stupid like the color yellow.”
“I know right?” Now Daddy’s laughing too.
Little Junior stops, pulling Daddy to a stop as well. “But how is any of this a story daddy? All you’ve told me is that there’s a Prince Tardigrade with super powers while we’re walking down the street. I don’t care about the kid, don’t care about this Prince.” He kicks a pebble into the shadows. It hits a tin can somewhere in the dark.
“Well, son. Sometimes you don’t have to care about the characters, not right away. But don’t be fooled. There’s definitely a limited amount of time before readers get bored if there’s nothing going on.”
They walk another block in silence, and then a brick hits the father on the head. He grunts, drops to one knee, clutching his scalp.
“What the hell was that?” The kid asks.
Daddy rubs his head. “It’s called an inciting event, boy. Sometimes it makes no sense but it’ll kick start your characters into action.”
“Instead of just talking about mindless poo poo?”
“Exactly. But you can’t say poo poo, you’re just a kid,” Daddy says.
“Wait. Do you mean I shouldn’t say the word poo poo, or I shouldn’t say anything because you don’t think I could do much better?”
Dad shrugs. “Little of both I guess.”
The boy searches the sky, looking for any reason the brick could have hit his father’s head. Daddy checks his hand, and sees fingertips are sticky with blood. “We should get going.”
They walk a little faster down the street, Daddy pulling the kid by the hand. To keep him distracted, Daddy goes on.
“Tonight, this little boy shouldn’t fear any foes except time. In less than an hour his mom will start having withdrawals, where she hates the color of sound coming from the television, and the apartment is too cold, no wait, it’s too hot, who keeps loving with the thermostat”
“I bet the kid would rather avoid that nightmare again,” Little Junior says and they both laugh nervously.
They walk in silence a few more blocks, the kid checking over his shoulder occasionally for whatever the hell threw the brick, thinking that, sadly, the brick did little to improve the story.
But then the kid thinks, Hang on, the brick wasn’t part of the story, that actually happened to us.
With their high rise just a block away, Daddy asks, “You know what’s worse than Zero Cel and Space Captain Ultraviolet combined?”
“Mommy going through withdrawals?”
“Close,” Daddy says. “But no. It’s the Distraction Demon.”
“That’s not a real thing Daddy.”
Daddy’s eyes are on something behind the kid.
“Prince Tardigrade is no match for the master of failed best intentions. Little Junior could have picked up the meds sooner but instead he took his time researching the best path to take. He put a lot of thought into what he’d say if anybody stopped to ask him what the hell an 8 year old boy is doing out on the streets after hours with a baggie full of methadone. So now the boy finds that even a man in tights armed with a million water bears, some sunblock and a water bottle are no match against the Distraction Demon.”
Behind the boy, the giant demon’s leathery wings open. In one hand, it holds another brick. In the other, between long filthy claws, an old iPad, displying a youtube video.
The kid starts to scream, “Help me Prince Tar—hey is that the video of cats that are afraid of pickles?”
The Demon says "No" in a voice so low the ground rumbles. “Cucumbers. They're afraid of cucumbers.”
Miles away, Prince Tardigrade noodles on his guitar, fumbling the opening notes of Stairway to Heaven. For a moment, he thinks he hears his name carried on the breeze through his open window. He pauses, then goes back to the guitar to take a turn at playing Dream On. He always botches that fourth chord.
And the Distraction Demon laughs.
The opening notes of Yakety Sax on the iPad are loud enough that Little Junior doesn’t hear his mom begging for somebody to loving open a window and crank the goddamn heat.
The kid laughs as one of the cats drat near shits the linoleum.
|# ? Sep 3, 2017 23:14|
A goat head screamed next to the title: “Kids’ Letters to Kid Kid”
Frank ripped the monochrome article from its monochrome magazine. With practiced movements, he crumpled it, set down his beer, and tossed the ball between his hands. He looked towards Dick, that impish man with greying hair firm beneath a captain’s hat, who blocked the wastebin like a silent dalmatian considering a rare choice ‘tween two meals. Frank nodded. Dick squatted. His legs were wider than three his thin form, in what Frank thought was the near stupidest outline he’d ever seen the cartoonist create.
Frank laughed, focus lost. “I’m going to miss this job,” he said. “Ever wonder if we’d done things differently?”
Dick thumbed his wedding ring. “Like what?”
“Like if we’d gone for your dumb idea of a character,” Frank said. He prepared again, craning for an angle Dick didn’t guard.
“Hey, leave my beautiful Bat Boy out of this.”
Frank laughed again and scratched his yellow hair. “God drat it, even the name. Bat Boy.”
Dick raised his hands as he bounced from side to side. “I think he’d have saved us. You could see it in eyes, that glimmer of hope that all people could relate to. Who relates to a goat?”
Forearm steady, Frank was opportune. He said, “Kid Kid’s dad.”
Dick laughed. Frank scored.
“You’re a cheater,” said Dick. He walked sideways to the magazine and ripped out another page.
“Like you aren’t trying for the same with your crab routine.” Frank wagged his finger with the full force of a million tisking mothers. “You can’t be trusted, you little old sociopath…”
Frank felt tired. He felt it all at once, like he’d— like—
Like he’d slammed his head.
Frank tiptoed through the garden of pain to open his eyes. The office was the same. The carpet had a flowery scent, but tasted of crusted rear end. The baby was crying. The only things missing were the wastebin and Dick. Frank tried to stand once, yet couldn’t get up; twice, yet cheated with the wall; six times before he could hold the floor with his feet instead other places or body parts. It was in that moment of his grandest masculinity that he remembered the office didn’t own a baby.
He checked himself with a sharp pinch. No luck, he thought. The baby was wrapped in a cocoon of blankets, bugging from barely a walk away. He wasn’t sure how to pick it up, so he settled on freeing it from what he hoped was the head-end and not the end-end.
The kid, glassy-eyed, stared up at him. “Baa, baa,” it bleated mechanically.
His own laughter cleared him of pain, fear, tension. It let him think. Doll with a goat’s head, brilliant. Best of Dick’s pranks yet. What a Dick move.
“Alright buddy, you got me. I wouldn’t call it fair, but I’ll pay the drinks for the party,” he said.
The doll’s continued bleating was the only response. Even the oft-talkative break room ice machine was silent. Frank figured that Dick was concealed in some form, so he’d go find him, because what was some hide-and-seek between buds? He wandered down halls, searched under desks, and listened for breaths. The office was empty, silent.
Frank meandered back, thinking he’d go through the exit and and find Dick outside, probably looking into a camera he’d hidden to record Frank’s embarrassment. What a dick move. The party wasn’t for another week, plenty of time to turn things around despite his promise. When he returned to the main room, he was stopped by a terrible noise.
“Baa,” it said.
The bleat was like a trumpet blaring through brimstone. A massive beast, with black suit and goat head, approached as though Frank was the beast and it would hunt him for sport. Behind the hunter laid its last kill.
Dick stained the carpet.
Frank turned, trying to escape. He ran down halls. He hid beneath a desk. He held his breath. Bleats filled the office, short whispered extended screams in random order.
Silence eventually returned.
Frank crawled from under the desk, prepared to run immediately if the monster was there, but it wasn’t. His plan was to sneak his way down the halls as far as he could, then sprint the rest of the way to the exit. Dick was the only obstacle.
Lightly stepping into the hall, Frank checked both ways for any reckless drivers. The beast wasn’t there, either. Although, plastered over the walls were page after page of the Weekly World News. They were all magazine covers or pages about Kid Kid. Each displayed the same black and white photo of the screaming goat head.
“Kid Kid found on West Virginia Mountain!”
“Kid Kid escapes!”
“FBI captures Kid Kid!”
Just his own breath.
“Kid Kid on the Loose!”
“‘I Will Hunt Down Kid Kid and Kill Him!’”
“Kid Kid Still on the Lam!”
He didn’t laugh.
"Dynamic Duo! Kid Kid Lobbying Hard for Kerry's No. 2 Spot."
“Terrorists Kidnap Kid Kid!”
“Kid Saving Up for Plastic Surgery—to Look Like Kid Kid!”
"Candidate Visits Kid Kid's Home! Romney Promises to Protect Climbers from Monsters"
"Kids' Letters to Kid Kid"
The unfurled article was drawn over with a caricature of Frank kissing Kid Kid’s snout, blood lines pouring down. A heart was drawn below them. Frank felt repulsed, but kept staring, wondering what kind of monster would taunt with love.
His sprint ended two steps in as he tripped over the doll. He shouted and kicked it into the wall. Again. Again. Again and again, until it was implanted there.
Hellish bleating returned. Frank shot up and ran. He was out of the halls. He went over Dick’s head. He was almost to the exit. He thought, come on—
It stepped in his way.
“No!” shouted Frank. If that was his fate, he would embrace his inner beast. He lowered his head as he charged faster, prepared to ram his goatly foe in his final display of animalistic defiance, where dying felt best while loving or fighting.
It stepped out his way.
Frank concussed against the exit and fell. The floor welcomed him back with comfort, though now its scent was red. Nothing about him could move, which was fine because the world moved plenty. Through blurred vision, he watched the monster approach.
“Baa,” it, “ha”, laughed, “ha,” as it loomed over him.
He struggled to remain awake as his pain melted into dreams. The monster squatted, its snout nearly close enough to strike. His jellied limbs didn’t matter. He refused to end like Dick.
“I’m sorry, Kid Kid!” Frank squealed, “I didn’t know you were real!”
It snarled, “You aren’t.” It snapped, “You did.” It swore and sang and sobbed and snorted, “Why, dad?”
‘Kid Kid’ stood and removed the sweaty goat head containing his short yellow hair. The tall teen sighed at the unconscious man.
Dick, continuing to stain the floor, walked over to them. Prosthetic guts were still dangling from his artificial wounds. He asked, “Well? How was your ‘real’ dad?”
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 01:21|
The client requested that he respond to the name “Vincent van Cock.” He was to arrive at 10:25 PM and park his car across the street. He should “not worry about the dogs next door because they always barked,” but “take care not to set off the motion sensor lights by the garage.” Also, he ought to “expect to have a basic familiarity with impressionism.”
Vincent was glad to finally put his bachelor’s degree to use. He would have to brag to his mother.
He parked the car beneath an elm tree and walked across darkly illuminated street. It was not the weirdest request he had received. Once, a client had asked him to roleplay as Shakespeare and he had spent the evening speaking in tortured iambic pentameter.
(“Would my dearest come up with me to bed?”)
The client opened the door before he could ring the doorbell. She was tall and wearing a dark dress. Not unattractive, he noted, trying to figure out his strategy for the evening, but not doing great. She smelled like a campfire doused in perfume and had been tugging at her wedding band for so long that Vincent could see a red line of irritated skin around her finger.
He peered around her and caught a shadow of her life. Family portraits trailed like breadcrumbs upstairs. In the kitchen, he spotted a counter lined with casseroles and a half-empty glass of wine. Several bundles of flowers lay on the floor. Darkness seeped through the other rooms.
The woman forced a smile, but it was one formed more out of courtesy than real joy.
“Hey,” he said, trying to mirror the woman’s smile. Vincent had always been told that he worked well around others, that he was a natural leader, but most interactions left him feeling hollow. He sometimes wondered if other people felt like this, or if an imbalance of chemicals had left him psychologically sterile.
Without saying a word, she stepped away from the door. When he had kicked off his shoes, she sealed the door behind him like the entrance to a tomb.
After the post-graduation job applications fell through (preservationist, archivist), he had spent his free time applying to random gigs on Craigslist. The ads had blurred together in his memory and now he only remembered fragments. High-paying, low-time-commitment! Weekdays and weekends! Discretion required! Eventually, he had moved onto seedier parts of the site. If you could order a person for groceries and housework, was companionship any different?
The woman stepped around him as he kicked off his shoes and walked into the kitchen. She took a swig from the wine glass and pressed her palms against the counter as if she were about to perform a gymnastic routine.
“I don’t normally do this,” she said.
Vincent nodded with what he hoped was an understanding expression. When he had first started, he had found the clichés amusing, then they had become infuriating. Now, he felt nothing but a great vastness inside him.
“Do you want something to drink? I…” She asked. She looked at her glass. “This wine is probably terrible. I’ve been drinking it all day.”
White lilies brushed against his leg as he crossed the room. Vincent shrugged. “I’d settle for drinkable.”
She gave a half-hearted smile and set down the glass. Soon after his first job, he learned that he should never make the first move. He was to follow and respond, speak as infrequently as possible and rely on predictable maneuvers that moved the plot forward. He looped his arm around her waist and pressed his weight against her. His heat radiated into her back. It was a mechanical movement that made him feel like a broken marionette.
She shrugged him off and disappeared into a nearby closet. The kitchen smelled putrid, a mixture of stale food, flowers, and alcohol.
“My husband always bought the wine. I don’t really know… I’m sorry.” She reappeared, carrying two bottles and looked at him. “I’m sorry.”
Vincent knew he should be concerned, but instead he felt slow and numb. Neurons sparked sporadically within his brain. He moved to embrace her again and felt the taut muscles beneath her pale skin.
“I was just trying to be funny. Don’t worry,” he said, trying to both comfort and bridge the liminal state between introductions and business. “You don’t need to serve me anything,”
“You’re right.” She said before staring into the solid darkness of the wine closet. Vincent followed her gaze. He half-expected something to stir in the darkness but saw nothing. “You’re right.”
They followed the trail of photographs up the stairs. The client clutched his hand tight and led him forward, as if she was afraid he might drift away. As they passed by a wedding photo, the woman smiling in radiant white, Vincent wondered if he should have asked for her name.
As if reading his mind, the client said, “Do you want to know about the name?”
Vincent said something that passed for yes. There was a barren space of wall of photographs. He wondered what had been there.
“It was a joke between us. Me. My husband,” she said, reaching the landing without turning on the light. They were pulled, as if by gravity, toward a closed door at the end of a hall. Even her sentences seemed to be pulled into tight phrases. “I was a tour guide. In the museum, we had his self-portrait. Van Gogh’s.”
Vincent remained silent.
“As part of my script, I was supposed to say something like, ‘van Gogh is considered one of the most important artists, blah blah blah, but most people pronounce his name incorrectly.” She stopped, transfixed by something in the dark. “A closer pronunciation is van GOFF, like off.’”
He stopped, aware now that his client was crying. Her fingers wrapped around the door handle.
“And, one day, I heard him shout, ‘Actually, it’s more like KHOCK as in cock.’” She giggled and wiped a tear from her face. “It became our joke. Who is at the door? ‘Look, it’s Vincent van Cock!’ Who is calling? ‘Vincent van Cock again!’”
Vincent cleared his throat, feeling something bitter behind his eyes. The woman turned and looked at him surprised.
“I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea. I just miss…”
Vincent did not hear the rest of the sentence as he cradled the woman in his arms. They swayed in the darkness, listening to the woman’s heavy, phlegm-filled chokes. He ran his fingers through her hair, trying his best to approximate companionship.
Vincent shut the front door behind him, avoiding his reflection in the glass as he did so. There had been no work, no grand moment of revelation. Instead, he had tucked the woman into her bed, still sobbing, and tried his best to arrange the house into something decent. Stale casseroles piled themselves into the fridge and trash before he knew what had happened.
He had wanted to leave the woman a comforting note, but found his inspiration evaporate when he finally found a pen in the kitchen. Instead, he had written, “It doesn’t go away, but it does get easier” in childlike letters.
Looking in the car mirror, Vincent felt sure that something physical had shifted inside him. Instead of investigating further, he pulled his car into the street and drove off into the night.
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 01:30|
There’s a gun pointed at my chest. Again. I’ve almost gotten used to the sensation by now. It’s happened a hell of a lot since I stole that pendant from Don Danil. You can’t blame me for it. We get paid just enough to scrape by, working underneath him. The guy’s got an absolute mountain of trinkets and jewellery; I figured he wouldn’t miss just one little thing. Wasn’t any way for me to know it belonged to his late mother, was there?
I can hear the gentle sound of pool water lapping against tiles behind me. The Hotel Nuvola wouldn’t be a bad place to die. Quiet, attractive, out of the way. Could at least say I got one of Danil’s fancy properties all dirty before I kicked the bucket. Maybe some other day, though. Right now, I'm planning on seeing at least one more sunrise.
I can’t tell who the guy holding me at gunpoint is under his balaclava, but he obviously hasn’t attempted to kill me before. Otherwise he wouldn’t have made a big song and dance of it, wanting to show off about being the one to finally take me down, luring me out here alone to leave my body floating in the water.
“All right, Diamondback, time’s up. Do me a favour and die gracefully.”
I just about manage to avoid rolling my eyes at that, and instead shut them tightly, focusing on nothing but the pair of dull green eyes peeking out from the balaclava, until I hear the click of the safety. Then I open my eyes to see nothing but piercing white. A second passes, and then I see myself staggering backwards, blood dripping between my fingers as I clutch at my chest. drat it. I thought I’d timed that better. I hate watching myself die.
I look away until I hear the splash of the body hitting the water, then I stride over to the edge of the pool. The corpse bobs back up to the surface, the body now that of the 45-year-old receptionist who I’d stolen it from in the first place. I can just about make out the name ‘Linda’ on her name tag. Sorry, Linda. I needed somebody to jump into, yesterday, and you were the first person I laid eyes on.
There’s a pistol in my right hand, now, but aside from that, I’m exactly how I looked a moment ago. All one-hundred-percent of Dryden Diamondback, in the flesh, no bullet holes or anything. I daren’t stick around here any longer. No doubt Danil’s expecting a phone call right about now to let him know whether I’m finally dead or not. I walk out of the pool, down along the silent corridors, shadows dancing in the evening sun, out through reception and back to my car.
As I’m driving along the winding, gravel road that leads away from the Hotel Nuvola, my mind starts thinking about the assassin whose body I stole. Not for the first time, not by a long shot. I wonder where he is right now. Is he just drifting around in the air, pissed off about someone stealing his body and waiting for them to give it back? Maybe it’s more like sleeping until your body’s new host jumps out of it. After a few more moments thought, I decide it doesn’t matter. It’s saved my hide more times than I can count. That’s the most important thing.
As soon as I’ve parked my car outside my apartment, I head downtown to find someone else’s body to steal. It’s too risky to stay in this one for too long. If another of Danil’s lackeys come for my head, then I’ll just be switching one assassin for another. There’s a cinema on the corner of Honeydew Street, and as I pass by it, I see a bored looking teenager sweeping the floors inside. Alone. I walk down the rest of the block, duck into a side alley, clamber into a dumpster, and shut the lid. I squeeze my eyes shut, think of him, and one burst of bright light later, I’m inside the cinema lobby, a cheap wooden broom in my hands, scrawny teenager nowhere to be seen, and a no-doubt baffled assassin sitting in a pile of Styrofoam boxes and apple cores. Simple. I’ve got this down like clockwork.
Time for the final part of what is now my daily routine. I push the double doors of the cinema open, and take a stroll towards the underground parking lot on Cradle Road, breathing in the crisp night air. The moon shines down upon me like a lucky quarter, and I check my watch as I head down the ramp into the lot. Seven minutes late. Damien’s there already, standing in space 54E, arms folded, foot tapping impatiently.
“It happen again?” he asks, before I can even get out a ‘hey’ or a ‘hi’. I can only nod, and watch as his brow furrows and he chews his lip.
“Knew it. This isn’t gonna end any time soon, is it? He’s just gonna throw more and more assassins at you until you… until you…”
“Yeah. You know what he’s like. He’ll turn the whole city against me if he has to.”
Damien looks down at the ground, and runs a hand through his hair. Then, of all things, a smile appears on his face. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out two folded up pieces of paper.
“Guess we’d better leave before that happens, then, huh?”
“What are those?”
I stare at the two little slips of paper in his hand, mouth hanging ajar.
“Damien, how the hell did you afford those?”
He lets out his warm, soft chuckle.
“I’ve been saving up ever since I started this job. Figured I’d be able to afford a nice long vacation in Vienna like I’ve always wanted, but I guess your safety is kinda important as well.”
Now it’s my turn to grin at him.
“You’re way too loving good for me, y’know that, right?”
“None of that, now. Come on, let’s get a move on.”
We make it to the base of the ramp leading up to the street before a shadow falls upon us. Don Danil looks down at us, bathed in moonlight, expressionless and still.
“I guess the old saying is true,” he says, voice like a falling oak tree. “If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.”
He reaches into his jacket pocket and I quickly close my eyes.
“Ah, I wouldn’t do that, Diamondback.”
There’s an edge to his voice that forces me to listen. I wipe Danil’s face from my mind, and slowly open my eyes. The gun’s in his hand, finger on the trigger, safety off. It’s pointed straight at Damien.
“I know about your little trick, Dryden,” Danil says. “And I know about your little meetup with Mako here as well. Try and jump to me, and I will pull the trigger.”
There’s a pause. The air is still. No-one moves.
I don’t know what to do.
I don’t know what to do I don’t know what to do, I don’t want Damien to die but I’m so scared of what will happen to me and oh god he’s moving the gun towards me and I don’t know what to do and
I look at Damien but think of Danil.
“I’m sorry,” I mouth, as I screw my eyes shut.
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 02:20|
The Hard Edge
Hammersley’s feet pound against the loose gravel alongside the paved mixed-use path around the lake. His head, a square block of bone solidly mounted on a short wide neck, glows red. Sheets of warm sweat that roll down his body like a water feature in a corporate lobby, soaking the polyester fibres of his sleeveless running top. His quick drying nylon shorts cling to his upper thigh, crawling and bunching their way up behind his genitals, which are tightly bound in position by a technical jockstrap. His earbuds play his running playlist, which features only songs with four-four time signatures, tempos between 110 and 120 beats per minute. His shoes feel just slightly too tight, but this is his last lap around the lake and his heart rate monitor shows that he is in the peak cardiovascular exercise zone, and the mild discomfort in his feet is not worth risking leaving the zone. The steely grey sky is just beginning to turn blue with the glow of sunrise peeking over the horizon, and Hammersley no longer needs the light from the headlamp on his forehead to see the path in front of him.
Hammersley passes the bench where they’d found that dead homeless guy before the end of “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash, which means that this morning’s run will be one of his best times this month. The final song on his playlist is Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”. This is his favorite song to run to, cliches be damned, and every time it comes on he feels a surge of energy in his legs and a lightness in his bones. The cold air crackles like cellophane in his lungs, and his spit is dry and sandy clinging to the roof of his mouth. His fluorescent feet keep time with the music, a gravelly plodding snare drum deep. He imagines himself at the Open Ironman in September, approaching the finish line, a huge crowd cheering Hammerhead! Hammerhead! as he flies past them all. He is miles in front of his closest competitor. The crowd adores him.
He rounds the last copse of trees, and can see the finish line ahead of him: his car, parked alongside a scattered few others, in the parking lot by the kiosk that won’t open for business for another four hours. A goose honks from the other side of the lake and receives no reply. He closes his eyes, hearing the roar of the crowd in his mind, his lips stretching back into a broad toothy grin as he soaks up their praise. His stride lengthens, his legs burn, there’s no point in leaving any gas in the tank. He crosses the finish line, his arms held out to his sides, palms facing upwards, briefly taking a moment to accept his triumph before stopping the clock on his heart monitor and noting his time. A few seconds shy of his personal best, which isn’t bad considering that the temperature this morning was a few degrees colder than optimal.
An old man sits on the bench by the parking lot. His cheeks are freshly shaven, and he wears a rough grey wool hat with a small brim that looks very much like the one Hammersley’s father had worn. This man has a light blue scarf wrapped around his neck and tucked cleanly back on itself; Hammersley’s father had preferred neutral earthy tones. Hammersley catches his breath, gulping the warming morning air into grateful lungs.
“Good run?” asks the man. He wears leather gloves on his hands and holds a magazine in his lap, folded over once. His face is friendly, with a well worn smile and a right eye that blinks twice as often as the left. Hammersley is wary of being drawn into conversation. The numbers on his heart rate monitor are slowly descending, and his wet shirt has begun to feel clammy against his skin. His training regimen calls for twenty minutes of light stretching in a warm environment and a high protein recovery beverage for optimal performance. He had started what his now ex-wife had called his “triathlon phase” shortly after they’d made the decision to move his father into Tranquil Oaks. The two events had been linked in his father’s mind, and as such he had refused to attend any of Hammersley’s races out of spite.
“Personal best, actually,” lies Hammersley, without even thinking about it. He’s not sure why. He’s still imagining crowds of cheering onlookers at the finish line, and perhaps he just wants to see something like admiration on a stranger’s face. If the old man is impressed, he is subtle about it: he nods and pulls his lower lip up, but offers no further congratulations, as if he has carefully assessed the notability of this event and metered out a precise and appropriate modicum of acknowledgment. Hammersley’s father was the same way towards the end. Maybe this is just what happens to old men.
Hammersley fishes in his zippered pocket for his car keys, but the old man reaches out for him with a shaky gloved hand. “Stick around a minute, sun’s about to come up.”
An image floats in Hammersley’s mind. A small room, beige wallpaper with thin sage green stripes running vertically, low summer sun filtering through gauzy blinds, an old TV perched up in the corner near the ceiling like an owl, the volume off but showing a panel of people talking and making their points with elaborate and forceful hand gestures in washed-out, fuzzy detail. Food in trays, colorful polygons of mush separated by hard boundaries. Every moment he spent in that room, Hammersley had ached to be elsewhere. There were too many questions for which he had no answers, too many requests he could not, would not fulfil. Forms to sign, whispered conversations with nurses, parking tickets to stamp, endless circles with no finish line in sight, around and around, weekend in and weekend out. And when the finish line finally did come, it snuck up quickly and without any fanfare. It was just over.
“I can’t,” says Hammersley, glancing at the plummeting numbers on his heart rate monitor. “I have to --”
“Suit yourself,” says the old man, waving Hammersley away.
Hammersley takes a few steps towards his car and stops. He turns around, walks back to the bench, and sits down next to the old man. The old man continues looking out over the lake as though Hammersley were not there, and Hammersley is grateful for the silence. He watches as the sky turns pink and orange over the roofs of the houses on the hill, rays of sunlight refracted through a thousand windows like slow motion camera flashes, the horizon a hard edge against the glow until the sun begins to rise above it, washing the surface of the lake with a thin layer of gold.
“Something you don’t see every day,” says the old man, addressing no-one in particular. He leans forward to stand up on wobbling legs, tucks his magazine under his armpit, and begins to walk along the path around the lake. A squadron of geese raise a cacophonous honking as they paddle out into the middle of the water, long rippling wakes dragging dark streaks through the reflected sky like a knife through paint.
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 03:51|
The Fail Boris Zhdanova and Rise of Boris Manul
Near the border of Mongolia, in eastern Siberia, a scrawny zoology professor Boris Zhdanova stepped out of the SUV, about to take up his new post in conservation in the nature preserve. He had been sentenced out to the trivial research project for seducing one of his students, an heiress. He was plump, soft, and not used to any work that was harder than dictating research papers and seduction. He bore little resemblance to his distant ancestor, Genghis Khan.
“Why all the way out here, supervising the reintroduction of horses this god-forsaken gulag of a national park?” he soliloquized upon seeing his new humbler station.
Six months after his arrival, the former professor was all alone in the middle of the preserve, radio tracking the small population of newly introduced wild horses when the sky suddenly darkened. Even though it was winter, the temperature dropped perceptively. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a Pallas’s Cat or Manul coming out of its burrow. Despite its appearance as a larger, grey, longhaired housecat, the feline had the ferocity of its much larger orange and black striped cousin. He turned to face it, fearing his life the entire time.
“Nice kitty, go find a nice marmoset elsewhere. You don’t want to eat me, I’m all fatty” he pleaded and coaxed. Still the feline stared with its yellow eyes at him. After what seemed like eternity, the predator sniffed at the scholar, marked him, and galloped off in search of more sensible prey. Relieved, the researcher turned back to his aging vehicle. He drove back to the camp that had become his home.
“Was that a second Tunguska? Or did God finally get annoyed by some celebrity and cause Armageddon?” Boris asked his fellow researches as he wandered into the research hut.
“Do you understand Mongolian, as that’s all we’re getting on the radio. Seems something terrible happened based on their voices” was the reply.
“Can you contact our superiors outside of this hellhole?”
“All lines seem to be tied up. Not even a dial tone.”
Suddenly the radio broadcast changed into something more intelligible
“Every city that has more than 1 million population and any military instillation with the capability of operation outside the country has been destroyed. The worst fears of the Cold War have become a reality. Stay away from any such areas and expect that life will be very different from now on.”
The first year was hard, made easier by the fuel stocked up in case of a more usual emergency. The Trans-Siberian Railway had been destroyed, never to be repaired. The radio had made several broadcasts in Russian, but for the most part the transmissions were only in Mongolian. The canned food still held out, but preparations were made to start farming if possible. No one farther out than fifty kilometers had visited the remote research outpost. The sky was still dim and the temperature was still colder.
At the start of the second year, the diesel had all been consumed. No more would the workhorse vehicles of the outpost run. By mid-year, airplanes, which were normally rare, ceased to pass overhead. The first attempt at farming had failed and had used up most of the small stock of seeds. Even though they would be hunting amid a sanctuary, it was the only way to get food. The desperate researchers drew straws to determine who would be sent out. Boris drew the shortest one.
He started out to find any signs of prey. The distinct prints of the Mongolian antelope made a visible path through the heavy snow. He followed them, alone on the windswept steppes. Climbing over a ridge he spotted the herd. It was nearly sunset, and he faced the setting sun. He took aim at the middle of the herd, trying to maximize the killing potential. The shot rang out, scattering most of the animals, but in the center, one antelope lay dead. It was the first time Boris had ever killed.
When he went over to collect his prize, a grey, fur-covered creature hustled in to sniff at the dead animal. It was a Pallas’s Cat again, the exact same one that had marked him on the day the world as he had known it had ended. The predator looked at him again, sniffed the slain antelope, and took a bite out of it.
“Why, why are you tormenting me.” Boris lamented. “I may starve to death if you eat it all.”
Without care, the feline ran off again.
At the end of the third year, all the stores of heating fuel had run out. Boris turned over his research papers and books to the fire gladly. It was still not yet as warm as it had been before. The remaining researchers had started to wear pelts; all pre-war clothing had worn out. The radio broadcasts had stopped, even in Mongolian. Even if they had continued, the radio would no longer work. No one had come around in months.
By then end of the fourth year, the original conservation team had dwindled to five. Illness and despair took most, saving the rest from starvation. Bows and arrows and spears were the only weapons left for hunting. Boris became an endurance hunter, chasing prey until it had run itself to death. Eventually, he came up with the idea of taming one of the wild horses that he was sent out here to introduce to the wild. Previously, that had been thought of a sacrilege, taming the untamed beast in exact opposite of previous orders. The head of the research team that had passed down that piece of dogma had died of hypothermia the night before. It was the perfect time to profane the original purpose of the team.
Returning to the ridge that he had made his first kill, Boris held onto his spear, a large net and some rope. He spotted a herd of horses and in it several foals. He hurled the net at one of them and manage to capture it. He tied the rope around its neck, and was about to lead it back to the research station when he spotted the yellow eyes, watching. For the third time, he had been watched by the same Manul.
He had succeeded in bringing the first foal back to the research camp, along with enough for the rest of the researches to eventually be mounted. When the day came to finally ride, he made a declaration.
“My name is Boris Manul, and I will become the next Khan of Khans!”
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 03:59|
That's it. Submissions are closed.
I don't know where sebmojo is, though. If you post before I talk with him your story might still count. Maybe.
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 04:04|
The Story of Psy Duck
word count: 840
You want to know the story behind my name? OK, but I should warn you. It's not a very interesting story. Just the same, sit quietly until I finish.
To begin, my father's name is Mr. Duck. My mother named me Psy. Psy Duck. Like the pokèmon.
Yeah, it's a silly name. Ha ha, I heard them all before, so don't even try it.
My father went to Korea in his youth and brought my mother with him home. There were some fuzz with her parents not being thrilled about the whole thing, but that's part of my next story.
Anyway, she was quick enough to get pregnant, and before long, I was born.
Now, my mom was always a bit reserved. I guess that's unavoidable if you escape your family and your country, and you're not very comfortable speaking English. So it came as a bit of a surprise for my father when she vehemently argued to name me Psy.
He refused, of course. No son of his would be named after a k-pop singer. It was absurd. So she killed him.
She loved my father. She did. But as she told him that night when she let his blood flow, "The power comes from the name!"
Ah, that piqued your interest, didn't it?
Power. Even the word itself has the power to attract people. There's social, political, economical, and many other types of power, and most people strive to gain some. Futilely, most of the time.
On my mother's side of the family, power is something more direct. They can do many tbings, from astral projection, to telepathy. Maybe they have a range of genes that others don't, or maybe their brains are wired differently. I'm not sure of the details, and frankly, I don't care. All I know is that I have it too.
For me, I'm actually not sure if its psychic, or merely psychological. I don't have telekinesis, pyrokinesis, or any other -kinesis, I think. I do have some ability with psychometry though. That is how I learned how my mother killed my father before I was even born.
No, my power lies in suggestion. I can tell a person to do something, and it will come as the most natural thing in the world for them to do. They won't even realize they are doing something wrong.
Let me give you an example.
You, in the striped shirt with that god-awful tie. Take out your gun and shoot the guy with the weird hair over there in the corner.
See? Nothing to it. And that was completely normal. No need to panic. Good.
Where was I? Oh, yeah.
After my mother killed my father by slashing his throat, she ran off to give birth in some cabin in the woods. That's where I lived for the first three or so years of my life. Then the assassins came.
We ran. I wasn't old enough at that time to understand my powers, but my mother, who had some telekinetic powers, got us through most scrapes unharmed.
We traveled through the country haphazardly, never stopping long, and never with a plan. We just chose our next destination randomly. I guess that's the smartest thing to do when you're trying to avoid psychic assassins.
My mom survived long enough to see me master my powers. Then she took a knife in the back. Holding her as she died not only taught me her and her family's history through psychometry, but also that empathy was for losers.
I also learned that anyone named Psy in her family gained tremendous power. It has something to do with the Chinese characters used or something, honestly, I don't know.
I guess I went full-blown psychopath at that point. So far that has suited me well. It's so much easier to deal with life when other people don't matter. You should try it out sometime.
I sent my mother's killers back to the family in Korea with the suggestion that there are a few too many of them. I haven't heard from them since.
These days I just travel around the world, meeting people, suggesting things. I can do whatever I want, eat wherever I want. gently caress whoever I want...
Frankly, life is quite boring.
That's why I requested this meeting. You are all the best in your field. Detectives, assassins, crime lords, politicians. General scum of the Earth. And I have an offer for you.
I want you to sit here until, say, noon tomorrow. Then the hunt is on.
Come at me. Find me. Try to kill me. Make my life interesting again. Use all your knowledge. All your resources. You will not sleep. You will not eat. You will only think of me, and how to find me.
...actually, do eat and sleep when you need to. This would end way too fast otherwise.
So, are we all in agreement? Say 'Aye!'
Good! Then I will see you around. Feel free to talk amongst yourself and share any embarrassing stories and deep, dark, secrets you may have.
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 04:26|
That's it. Submissions are closed.
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 05:01|
Bacchus Lite (#1249) (Prompt: Ozzy Bee)
Inside the temple of booze, alcoholics drenched themselves in their favorite brandy, wine and beer. The manner in which they reached this Mecca was that they drown themselves in liquor. This ritual was done so that their souls would fall through the murky liquor and after a time spent floating along the ocean floor of booze, they would rise again. Through the rejuvenating hops to slide out of the ever flowing sacred vats.
The Saint of this Temple and it's founder was Ozzy Bee. He looked down upon all his liquor soaked retirees from the vantage point of his VIP skybox. He lounged in a red and white hammock, hooked across two huge plastic bananas from a long forgotten gas station promotional display. Sometimes he’d demand a price for the continued consumption of the endless booze of his private dimension.
Ozzy spied them all from beneath his half-stitched straw hat. A rowdy group of young ladies had joined up. One of the young women chugged from an upside down keg. Her white t-shirt soaked up falling foam and made her ample breasts stick out like sore thumbs on an umpire.
She’d been a mother of two and gotten tired of her wheedling family.
She besmirched her traitorous body which punished her with ever-increasing amounts of hangover pains. When she heard of the temple from a night out with a peculiar group of bachelors, she decided to give it a go. She was already black out drunk so committing to the drowning wasn’t that big of a deal at the time.
Now that she had embraced her new sanctum, her stomach had a permanent purple blotch decorating it. It was a blessing of Ozzy so that her new form could ingest booze without the hangover symptoms the next morning. Ozzy picked up a plastic conch shell microphone and said,
“Yo! Brenda number threeeee!”
The keg tap was pulled from her suckling mouth like a pacifier by the other woman. Brenda blinked one eye than the other. She yelled back at Ozzy with obvious irritation,
“Whatisit?! I’matryingto have fuuuun.”
Ozzy said, “C’mon up here girllllll. We gotta talk about yo membership.”
Brenda smacked her lips loudly and ignored the patron saint.
Something coursed inside her belly and all the pleasant vibes of stage 1 thru 10 drunkdom went away. She’d become dead sober.
Brenda grabbed her head as the pounding bass that had been barely noticeable became a jackhammer. She screamed,
“Ahhhhgh! The gently caress!”
Ozzy didn’t take no from his guests. “Alrighty. Get up here girly. We gotta talk dues and I don’t want no sass. I’m sure you’d like to skip this headache riiiiight?”
Brenda clamped a grip on the rails leading up through the spire of vats and champagne fountains to the top. She nearly flew into the easy chair in Ozzy’s skybox when she entered. Sweat poured out her forehead like faucets were left on in her brain. Her wet t-shirts smell now fully hit her. It smelled like sour fruit and compost.
She hadn’t changed the shirt since she died. She wished she’d gotten a new set of clothes along with the new body because the smell was making her want to-
She puked for a good three minutes onto Ozzy’s floor. Ozzy picked his sandals off ground just in time and stowed them in the hammock.
He tilted up his hat, his grizzled reddened skin was a sharp contrast to his dark green eyes. They were the eyes belonging to a Saint of Thought. Ozzy scratched at his armpit, a section of his Hawaiian shirt was chafing it. He said,
“Brenda three. Baby cakes, I need you to do favor fo’ me. Fact is, drowning yerself in booze is step one of entry, now we’s got to take care of step two. The fee.”
He eyed her rocking breasts.
Brenda wiped her mouth and then unceremoniously wiped her hand on the easy chair. She said,
“Dying wasn’t enough? I gotta gently caress you too?”
Ozzy was struck dumb by her words but then he realized that’s probably what she guessed he wanted.
He said, “Oh no girl. I was checking out your assets because of they might be good fo’ sales. I don’t pro’cate with mortals. Tends to split their ecto’ plism in half.”
He pulled a screen down from behind him. The fluorescent lights went off and a movie played on the white screen. There was a young man tending a bar. He served drinks like a pro, doing fancy mixing tricks and sniping glasses with a seltzer bottle.
Despite his likeability at the local bar, this young man didn't touch a drop of liquor. He dreamed of being an astronaut and could only do so if he stayed on the right track. Ozzy stopped the movie with a snap of his fingers,
“Sooo as you can see, this ‘tender is representing m’ temple but not buying the scripture. I need you to go in there and seduce him into giving in to the booze he juggles on a nightly bas’s.”
Brenda narrowed her eyes, partly from the lights turning on but also from suspicion. She said,
Ozzy threw a stack of books into the pool of vomit. They were hustler magazines, all with a similar type of lady on them.
Ozzy said, “He likes a certain type of lady as you can see. Older with a bit more oomph in the bust. My best bet is if you smooze up to him, you’d have the best chance to get him to party down! Woooh!”
Ozzy took out a party favor and popped it letting out a bang of confetti. Brenda’s vision doubled as the sound reverberated throughout the skybox. She said,
“Ohhhh. poo poo, no more loud noises.”
Ozzy replied, “Then get me that atheist. You gotta conv’t him or you’ll never get your drunk-on again. I’ll haves you detoxing the rest of your stay in my temple if you refuse.”
Brenda said, “Okay okay! I’ll be your dealer and get this guy. Can I at least drink while I’m top side? I can’t be putting on the charm if my head feels like a split melon.”
After a moment of consideration on his smartphone Ozzy said, “Alrights. I’ll give you up to stage 4 drunkdom. After that you go dead sober. Get him hooked and you get back to party time faster than l’ter.”
Ozzy snapped his fingers and a red dress spiraled around Brenda, concealing her old clothes smells and stains. With another snap Brenda turned into a pool of foam reminiscent of aphrodite blacking out.
Brend showed up one-day diving into a bubbling pond of Guinness. Her red dress was frayed and stained worse off than the white shirt ever was.
Ozzy cast a glance around the soft lit chamber of his temple for her prey. Sure enough, the same young man swam after her. His left arm was gone for some reason. He floated after her as she laughed and kicked dark water into his face.
Ozzy turned on his feed, curious how he lost his arm. Two years from the day Brenda entered his life and subsequently left is when it happened. He was wearing a cardboard astronaut helmet and leapt into a watery gorge with a gaggle of red necks. He misjudged the depth of the water.
Laughing, Ozzy took a picture and sent it to his friends Chad and Hell-Mary. He captioned it,
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 06:59|
Isn't submissions supposed to be over by 3am pst? I converted the time from 12am est to pst and that's what I got.
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 07:00|
Isn't submissions supposed to be over by 3am pst? I converted the time from 12am est to pst and that's what I got.
Hey I just met you.
And this is crazy
But PST is 3 hours behind EST
So post at 9pm PST maybe?
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 07:37|
That's the opposite of how time zones work. Time zones to the east of you are further on in the day. 3 AM PST is 6 AM EST.
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 07:38|
You're all like half a day behind me and that's why the judging is slow and bad
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 08:28|
Hey I just met you.
Add to OP plz
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 17:03|
Hey I just met you.
Thanks Hindsight Man!
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 19:01|
Add to OP plz
why would you put it somewhere no one would read it?
also flerp post the crits
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 19:17|
Week #264 - Dystopia With A View CRITS
I thought this was a really interesting prompt, because every dystopian fiction piece that I can recall is from the point of view of the oppressed of society. The idea of looking at the benefactors of the society—while still making clear this was a dystopian society—promised to be an interesting fresh take, and had what I thought was enormous potential.
Naturally, I forgot to take into account that most thunderdomers are illiterate barf-worms who squirm around in puddles of ineptitude and ruin everything. Almost every story ignored the prompt and just wrote from the loser’s perspective. This led to a lot of stories being boring trash.
This was confusing throughout, and it was so enraptured in its own gimmick tech that it forgot to be about anything meaningful. This is one of many stories that also failed the prompt in multiple ways (thinking in language is still language, and this guy definitely didn’t come off as a winner in society). I will give that this flash rule was the hardest flash rule to do well. The overabundance of figurative language is probably intentional in order to go with the communication through colored emotions and art, but its difficult to track a lot of things; most importantly, why the protagonist follows the murder-girl after witnessing his close friend’s death/killing her/whatever and then why the girl is going around killing people.
This also fails the prompt because it has animals (people, striders) and also doesn’t seem to be about the winners of society. I liked the idea of a world covered in algae, an extension of one possible aspect of climate change, and mutant people trying to get by in what they view as normal. It wasn’t clear to me what surrogates were, why Errol was so repulsed he’d kill--I mean, on a plot level I get it, but the story didn’t sell me his motivations. If the slugs are supposed to be sympathetic, they need to be painted that way; currently, they’re marked with danger buoys and people who see them recoil in horror. I think what adds to that is first he wants to kill Denson, then he decides not to, then he gets shot and escapes, then somehow knows other striders will end up killing Denson whether he lives or dies. I also didn’t know why the guy showed Errol the slug-facility in the first place. He apparently knows it’s a necessary evil, so why show it off? Overall, this story didn’t do much for me. I never really cared about the characters or who won.
“Robots learn to feel” is a cliché bit, and it even has the “beep boop I do not understand these human emotions.” “Somebot” as a pronoun was a nice touch, but there’s some instances where “it” would be a lot less jarring than “bot.” There’s instances where it’s hard to tell who’s speaking. I guess there’s some symbolism here: bots who try to love and the love doesn’t work out are irreparably harmed, in this world, in a literal sense. You have the two main characters demonstrate sex for robots; in this section it felt hard to follow when things were happening. I also was confused as to just how frowned upon the emotion chips were. The resolution—that both robots love each other—is technically solid and follows from the set-up that protagonist is struggling with whether or not NB is reciprocating its feelings. However, I think the relationship needs more than the performance they do to feel solid enough that the ending is satisfying. In summary, revise for clarity and creating a stronger relationship between the two bots. This was also one of the few stories that actually fulfilled the prompt.
The Unclean Animal Not Suitable for Sacrifice
A war between literalists and surrealists is certainly something I haven’t seen before, but I also don’t feel like it really says anything. I think you wanted to do your own thing, because there’s no real connection between “everything is automated” and your actual dystopia. If the connection between these two things is important, you need to clarify how they’re connected, because it’s not obvious. This literal war over, I guess, what kind of art people like, seems like it would do best with a humorous take (which you have occasionally, such as “For an instant, the dog had been wearing a hat. And dogs did not wear hats.”), but mostly the story seems to take itself very seriously, what with the body horror and man turned into a lobster. I don’t know why they turned him into a lobster. I don’t know what you’re trying to say with the story, either. It seems like the story might be about how limiting a literal interpretation of the world is, but it doesn’t go there, it just shows us that surrealists are apparently nasty horrible people who torture and traumatize people. No character changes their mind or grows, no ideas are meaningfully discussed, and the resolution is unsatisfying (the society and terrorists remaining undealt with), so the reader just has to shrug and move on. I would also argue that this story did not fulfil the prompt; the narrator is too low on the societal totem pole, and dystopia largely ignores its flash rule.
The one moment I like in the story is the tension set up just prior to the mom getting shot, because the reader knows exactly that it’s about to happen. The rest of the story just doesn’t have a lot going for it. “People do bad thing to get views and therefore money!” is not exactly a particularly revelatory message. And there’s no resolution. What happens next? Does Diana change at all? What does the man do? This is more the beginning of something; as it stands, the story is empty except for a single moment, and for the entire first half of the story, Diana is as boring as she fears. This story mostly fulfilled the prompt, since it looks at a celebrity, though you don’t show us much of the dystopian aspects.
First, thanks for prefacing how bad your story was. Really helpful.
This has a lot wrong with it. One is the bad poetry that made me wince while reading it. It also had subpar prose peppered with formatting and grammar errors, which kicked me out of the already lackluster story. The chief sin, though, was that nothing happens. A dude gets stoned for not being starving. “Everyone knew what came next,” the story says. Yeah. It was predictable, and went down exactly as I thought, and that made it boring. The end. I cared about no one and nothing. The only thing that could have saved this story was if it sold the scene and moment in a visceral, emotional way, but the story utterly fails to do that. I’ll also contend it failed the prompt; arguably these are the “winners” of society stoning a dude, which tells you just how bad society is, but if that’s the case this is less dystopian and more a post-apocalyptic hellscape that has no winners because everyone’s gonna die.
Like the Old, Dead Fairytales
This story was highly functional; it quickly set the stakes and set up the moment, has its protagonist at their low point, then brings them to a high point of awe and wonder. The moment is done well, and the story ends. There’s not a lot else to say; one flaw I think is that this story and setting isn’t very ambitious. The world is stereotypically dystopian, but not in an interesting way. Otherwise, the prose is good and the story flows well. Nice work.
Day of the Dog
This took its flash rule completely literally and absolutely failed the prompt. The story is from the perspective of a slave, not the winners of society, and this is not dystopian fiction. I can’t tell you how hard I rolled my eyes when the grand nemesis of the dog-people was… ready for this shocker? Cats. Holy cow, who could see that coming? The story was full of clichés, boring, and predictable.
To live without
I disliked this story for a variety of reasons. One, I don’t need a short story explaining to me what happens in Romeo and Juliet. I think you can assume your reader knows it. Setting up love as a literal poison felt like a lame twist, and you did intentionally set it up as a twist (spoilering the flash rule, not mentioning it all until the end, having them ignore the lesson on what purple means). I don’t know that having emotions be a colored light on the forehead really added anything. The characters discuss pretty much nothing but Shakespeare, so to me their relationship felt empty. I think they need a relationship that is somehow connected to the world they’re living in. A world with no love sounds pretty bad! But that world is not really shown to us. The ending takes time to explain what happened, but I think the story is weaker in that Elspeth doesn’t chose love over survival; it happened on accident. The question the story leaves us with is empty because the story doesn’t attempt to answer it: We aren’t shown the true ramifications of a world without love (everyone seems to be doing fine for the most part). I guess there’s the symbolism of the narrator being infected with love and needing to either report and (maybe) get cured or die of it. It seems to me they’ll chose to die, though, because of all the R&J references, so it wasn’t much of a question left up to the reader. I think this story has potential to go deeper and maybe say something meaningful about love, but isn’t quite there yet.
This was one of my favorite prompts, and you tackled it in the least interesting way possible. You utterly failed the prompt (again, about the winners of society, not the losers), and I’ll contend a single tiny boat is not a dystopian society. Your story, like your protagonists, simply goes through the motions to no point and purpose. To emphasize: The majority of your story is the interrogation, but it turns out the two dudes literally already knew everything she was going to say. They know if they kill themselves in the ocean they’ll get resurrected, and yet they deny Anna that same opportunity by murdering her in such a way she won’t be, which also makes your main characters assholes. In the end, your story is a bunch of worldbuilding exposition that forgets to tell an actual story, or have any meaningful moments.
This reminds me a bit of Equilibrium in that you have a society that has largely forsaken emotion, except its less a dystopia and more a bunch of autistic people cleaning up after all the petulant emotion-havers who ruined the planet (which I think is fun). It of course puts most readers in a position of discomfort in that they are framed as an atypical person, which has potential as commentary about how mental illness—or differences—are treated in our own society. Certainly, the detainee in the story is a sort of caricature of today’s person who is ignorant of how people on the spectrum’s minds work. Ultimately, the only argument the detainee can make is an emotional one, which predictably fails mostly due to his ignorance. This story did well in embracing the prompt. It does read like a bit of a primer on how people with autism act, and probably needs to spend more time with the primary conflict/questions I see in it: should emotion or logic govern our society? How much deviation should be tolerated? How much should the mistakes of previous generations affect how the current ones are treated? Either revision or expansion could be used to take the story more into the questions it raises.
Another story that failed the prompt and was clearly about the oppressed of society. Since this story is about lawns being banned, it really needs to be funny, but is not funny. I think the only thing worse than a story lecturing me about the plot of a famous Shakespeare play is a story that lectures me on lawns. The story knows this lecture is bad enough that a character in the story wants to die after hearing it; hanging a lampshade here does not save it. It’s full of a lot more superfluous words, and by no means needed to go above the world limit. Ultimately, writing good humor is difficult and I can’t do it so I’m not going to give advice on how. I think cutting down the text significantly will help, because as it is there’s too many characters, too much exposition, and sections that don’t progress plot or character.
The story quickly establishes its setting and characters with a strong opening. I like that the dystopian society is less an authoritarian or corporate extension of today’s society and more its own thing; consensus taken to the extreme, and a society that has become enraptured mostly with work for its own sake (though that’s not revealed until the end). It’s a strong setting. As for flaws, I wasn’t sure what to make of the Joyous and their purpose. The story could possibly use some clarity there. The “duty is to compile all of recorded history,” part is only dropped at the end, so the revelation that they completed their duty a long time ago is rather empty. This story did the best job of hitting the prompt and doing something interesting.
I, For One
Well, this didn’t need to end with a rickroll, which you obviously know weakened the story. I liked the idea of a parasitic sentient creature taking a ride on multidimensional species that is different enough it doesn’t concern itself with any form of communication with us. Most of this story is worldbuilding. I also think the core question of the story—if a societal advance (such as no wars and no irony) is based on lies, will people reject it if the lie is revealed?—has good potential, but isn’t meaningfully addressed at this point. Julius also is fine, with his personality established. The narrator is a bit weaker. There are a couple ways you could take this story; expand it to give it more depth, perhaps showing us the plight of humanity as its ocean dies up to the reaction when they find out that their revisions to society have been built on a deception, or change the ending to be more about the beginnings of the reception of the news the sub delivered. The reveal about the aliens also doesn’t have as much impact as it needs because that bit is only briefly touched on in the beginning. Finally, as with most of the stories, this isn’t really a dystopia written from the perspective of the winners (and so fails the prompt), though in this case I don’t think it should be.
The fact that people are using bitcoins in this future made me laugh. After that… ugh. Basically, you set up a bunch of long, boring backstory about how this guy smuggles goods. Then you have a golem take a long time to lecture him about backing off his lost shipment. Then Xin kills the bronze dude. Then he leaves. Nothing is resolved, so the story is unsatisfying and feels pointless. Step one to fixing this is getting rid of the bloat. You can establish Xin’s profession and the intrigue around it with many fewer words. This then gives you more room to do one of two things to improve the story: option 1: make the story about Xin as a character. This would necessitate him changing in some way or growing; it would also mean making him an interesting character the reader can buy into. Rogues like Han Solo are favorites in many stories, but it takes good writing to make the audience attach to them. If this is the case, Xin abandoning his contacts and refusing to engage with the plot could still be made to work. Option 2: make the story about the intrigue itself. If this is the case, you need to change the ending; Rae should not be merely abandoned and the intrigue plot left unresolved as Xin skips the planet, because that’s a lame story. Finally, as with most stories this week, this isn’t a dystopia written from the perspective of the winners.
The Adding Assistant
Well, as usual you have a strength in the description and prose of this story. I know only enough about Arthurian legend to know its being clearly referenced here and a few of the connections. The story is obviously retelling Arthurian legend in the context of what I’m going to call electro-fairy-punk with punch-card computers and you can’t stop me. It also completely reverses Arthur as a proactive hero and makes him dependent on Elaine, who it can be inferred will be the secret power behind whatever he end sup doing. The setting here can do a lot to carry the story. Arthur is set up as a truly abhorrent person, so concerned about personal gain that he dismisses mass death and suffering that for him is out of sight. As it is though, it feels like a bit of a fragment, since Morgan is set up as a villain but not actually confronted. I also felt like I didn’t truly understand the Adder. Right now, the story hops form Arthur to the Court too the situation in the mundane world to Arthur being heralded as king, and the story doesn’t feel smooth yet. I think it hit dystopia fine, but I don’t know if its about the winners of it.
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 22:13|
|# ? Jun 26, 2022 17:42|
Week 265 Judgment
Maybe you all thought that everyone else was going to write crazy stories and that you'd be oh so clever by writing me something mundane. You weren't clever. You made a dumb choice. What a disappointing week. I asked you to write good words and I received a bunch of boring ones. What a goddamn waste of a good prompt.
Benny Profane wins.
Captain Indigo hms.
Maigus and Exmond dm.
|# ? Sep 4, 2017 23:27|