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Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016


Got Out.


Grimey Drawer

I don't see it up here.(Nvm, I found it. Pic is changed.)

Jay W. Friks fucked around with this message at 04:47 on Sep 13, 2017

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Exmond
May 31, 2007

Writing is fun!


He picked it in this post

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


LATE SUBMISSION, (lost power Monday-Tuesday).

Hammond's New Clothes. 1030 words.

After years of sucking up to various bosses, Leonard Hammond was finally promoted to manager of the Mens Formal Wear department. He got a new ID badge, a bigger employee discount, and a shiny new key to the front door.

On Monday morning he woke up early intending to be the first to his department, ready to welcome the rest of his team and establish the new pecking order. He was absolutely thrilled to find a parking space on the ground floor of the lot across from the department store. After he double checked that he’d locked his car, he crossed the street taking care to avoid any puddles left from the early-morning street sweeper.

Of course, despite his best laid plans, he discovered that his shiny new key didn’t seem to work on the front door. The key fit, with a little needling, but it just wouldn’t turn.

He tried several times in vain, even running his spindly fingers over the ridges, like that might’ve improved things. His hands trembled from too much coffee as he flipped through the rest of his keys to make sure he wasn’t trying the wrong one, and that’s when he dropped his keyring.

That’s what must’ve drawn the vagrant over to him.

The old man shuffled along the sidewalk behind a shopping cart with one bad wheel, overflowing with trash bags. He wore a ratty army coat, beneath which a formerly white tee shirt draped over jeans held up by a phone cord. His face was a map of the city, wrinkles cut deep and long that all connected at a point between his eyebrows. The bottom half of his face hid behind a ratty beard that could’ve housed a family of mice.

“Did you try jiggling ‘em?” He croaked.

“Of course I did,” Hammond said, slowly but deliberately flinching from the man.

“Is that a new key? They never get it right.” The old man’s voice sounded and smelled like whiskey poured over an ashtray full of lit cigars. But the stench of his breath was second only to the man’s body odor, a foul pungent cloud that Hammond felt seeping into his new suit.

Hammond had a thing about personal space. Or, rather, he had a thing about people who ignored personal space.

“Could you back up a few steps please?”

The old man stepped back, taking with him the shopping cart which Hammond could now see also contained a tiny gray dog that could easily be used as a floor mop, if it hadn’t already.

Hammond reached into his sport coat retrieving a pair of wire-rim bifocals. Once in place he squinted at the key, making sure he’d been trying the correct one.

He pushed it into the lock again, but again, the key would not turn.

“Look,” the old man groaned. “As long as you’re out here, d’you suppose you could spare a buck for me and Cricket here? You know, so we can grab a bite to eat?”

Hammond regarded the man like he’d asked for a new car. “You do realize it’s illegal to panhandle along the sidewalk?”

“I’m just asking for enough to get a bite to eat, man.”

The streets were empty except for the two of them. Hammond could walk around the block to the other entrance, or he could use the delivery entrance. Either way, the old man would likely continue to dog him if he didn’t do something.

He fished his pockets and brought out two quarters.

“Here. That’s all I’ve got on me.”

The old man took the coins, stared at them pinched between his stubby fingers.

“And you know, you’d probably do better for yourself if you cleaned up.”

“Is that right?”

“Get rid of that mess on your face, let people see your smile.” Hammond elevated his chin, pulling the corners of his mouth wide.

“I should get rid of what now?”

“That. The beard. Looks like a rat in a rain storm. It can’t be healthy.”

The old man looked up and down the street, and Hammond felt his heartbeat pick up. He’d gone too far, offended the old man and now he was about to be shanked or shivved in broad daylight.

“I’m sorry.” Hammond’s voice dropped to a tiny peep. “Look, I didn’t mean anything, you look fine. Forget I said anything.”

“Ehh, well.” Pulling on his beard, the old man considered Hammond. “Tell me this,” he said, stroking his beard like a wise old man deep in thought. “How are you supposed to work in there with no shoes on?”

Hammond looked at his socks, where he expected his shoes to be. He couldn’t imagine that he’d forgotten them. But then again, in all the flurry of starting the new job, he’d obviously overlooked them. Odd, but, apparently possible.

“It’s nothing. I can pick some up inside once they let me in.” Hammond rapped his keys on the glass door, looking into the dimly lit store, wondering if the night watch had seen him outside yet. Surely they’d come let him in soon enough.

The old man chuckled, stroking his beard again. “How are they going to let you in when you’ve got your dog with you, hmm?”

Hammond lifted the small terrier in his arms. “Who, Cricket? I—that probably—there’s…” he wasn’t sure why he’d brought his pet with him into work. It made no sense, none at all. He checked through the glass doors again. The dog squirmed in his arms, so Hammond set him back into the shopping cart that he’d been pushing along the sidewalk.

The old man held out the two coins. “Looks like you could use these, for you and your dog.”

Taking the coins from the old man, Hammond touched two fingers to his forehead in a salute. “Thank you sir, any little bit helps.” He put the coins into his army coat, hearing them clink alongside the other coins he’d collected that morning.

His face itched. His wiry beard always poked him in his face in the mornings. He tugged at it, watching as the elderly man in a three piece crossed the street.

Moral: Never Mock a Wizards Beard

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


In.
Going for the obvious.

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe

Playing catch up! :toot:

Crits for week 250: Everything Means Nothing Anymore


My usual disclaimer her stands. I am not great at giving crits. I am much better suited to actually talk about stories directly with a person. Take these all with a grain of salt and if you'd like to hear from me further, find me on irc or shoot me a PM.

And let my shameful, delayed crits, be a lesson to everyone. Do crits right away goddammit. Someone recommended that I take my time with them so that I could offer some real insight after thinking about the stories. What actually happened, was these things faded from my scope of awareness and then they just never happened. So yeah, just do them.



Tweezer Reprise
Forevr, South Carolina


Your first paragraph is boring. Criminally so. There’s just a bunch of world building that doesn’t garner much in the way of interest whatsoever. Couple that with the fact this story uses A LOT of words and you’re basically telling the reader, from the jump, that this is going to be a slog. There needs to be some thrust, some action, in the first paragraph. Let me know why I should care about this or find it interesting.

The fact that by the third paragraph, we’re still learning about the setting is problematic in a very large way. If you want to keep on painting a picture of the environment do so through storytelling. But if you’re starting your third--very long paragraph--with “Forty people lived in Forever, and forty people exactly. There were twenty-three men, and seventeen women, who generally handled different sets of tasks, as was natural in any fledgling society.” You’ve got problems.

The telling of this story is flat and baggy. You could’ve accomplished a lot more with a lot less. Look how long it takes you to get to the dialogue. There’s also a problem with occasional flowery, and unecessary language “He pulls off his helmet, his dirty-blonde hair mottled and damp with sweat—that then drips down and emulsifies in his tired wrinkles.” Is such a bizzare sentence in the context of this story.

As a rule, I’d say that the excessive length of your story comes not from too many sentence, but from sentences that are too long. This “ Aman touches his scar, scratches it, and he nearly rips open the ugly scar tissue again, as he had a few times before, all times when he was particularly on edge.” can so easily become this “Aman engaged in his anxious habit of scratching at his scar.” It’s not golden prose or anything but it’s more efficient and arguably more effective since it would get to the point much faster.

Overall, this needs an edit but it’s by no means a discouraging first entry.


Muffin
A literal story about a shaggy dog


Ok, that’s a good opener.

Past that, I worry that this piece’s intent on being kinda stream-of-conscious and freeflow ends up hurting its impact. At a certain point if your piece becomes too hard to follow the reader will just become disinterested. I’m not given enough reasons to care about this, early on, to buy into the madness that follows and that’s a problem because I can just as easily disengage from a piece. That’s kinda how I approached this, your decision to keep it short saved you from a DM but if you had expanded the intro a little bit and got the audience to buy into what was going on this could've been more effective.


Meinberg
Nihilism is My Kink


You spend way too much time telling us how normal and ho-hum Jacob Johnson is. Honestly, the name is so perfect that it tells us much of that on its own. One paragraph would have been more than enough, but it stretched onto two.

I’m wondering why you didn’t start the story at the moment of the robbery. Like, sure, give us a little bit of how normal he is, but then, get on with the drat story. That’s where things got interesting and as a rule, waiting too long before the interesting thing is not a good idea.

The rest of the story… makes sense? But I don’t really care. It’s a sad, depressing little tale of how a person loses their disposition It’s just a bummer and I’m not sure what it’s trying to accomplish apart from painting a picture of disillusionment. There’s nothing that feels necessary about this story.


Thranguy
Girl, You’ll Be a Wolfman, Soon


As always, I’m generally drawn to your work. I think I read these in judgemode but I instantly was on board. The opener is great and sets an engaging voice for the piece while also having a great amount of STUFF happen. If I had one quibble it’s that the beats of the story are connected more by “And then” as opposed to “but/so then” things have a way of happening that don’t seem to be as interconnected as they could be, but overall this was a fun piece to read that kept my interest throughout.


Third Emperor
Satyric Humor


I was probably vulnerable to liking this story more than others due to its focus on mental health. I was happy to see that another judge liked it as much as I did and it confirmed that, overall, this was a very well told story. The tone of the piece is what won me over here the most. Dealing with sadness and struggle in a funny manner is a great choice if you have the chops to pull it off and you showed with your work here that you clearly do have those chops. The story got baggy in places but was enough of a joy to read that it carried through some of the less than interesting parts. Edit this up and tighten the focus and this could be a story that goes places.


Saddest Rhino
Bunnies, Dust



The other judges favored this more than I did. Upon a reread now, I like it a lot more and if I was the reason it didn’t HM that’s a goof on me. There’s a lot of good ideas in here and they’re presented sharply. It’s poignant in places and clever in many others. Reading this now, I don’t have much to say except that I’m kinda bummed that this was a thing that I read in the context of “I have to read a bunch of stories” because had I stumbled upon it on its own I think it would’ve kicked my rear end. When you’re at your best, your writing can pack a wallop and that’s what’s on display here.


The Cut of Your Jib
Anemic Structure



I was surprised this came from you. I didn’t quite understand why I should care about these characters. The story was, overall, a challenge to parse out and understand and I still can’t quite figure out what you were going for or trying to say. I’m not entirely sure if it’s worth me going through this story on a more specific pass as I’m guessing this just isn’t your best effort and you probably know better? At least, I hope? I don’t know, if you want more from me on this feel free to ask and I can give a bit more insight.


Fleta Mcgurn
The Girl in the Vlog



Boy, you sure do characters well. It’s been a pretty consistent thing I’ve noticed about your stories is that I’m always arsed to care about your characters. Good on you for that. Along with that, you consistently do well with voice, which I suppose in this case, is an extension your character. First person seems to be a good vehicle for you. This was a long story but there was enough in to keep it interesting. Apart form other stories that were this length this week, I couldn’t imagine you doing more with less. You needed the words you used and kept things fresh and engaging throughout. This was a strong entry.


Propaganda Machine
Tell me about your mother



I’ve been doing a lot of commenting on openings this week, and that’s for good reason. I have the attention span of a gnat. Thing is, a lot of discerning readers do to. Your opening wants to be good, but it falls short. You’re setting up SOMETHING, that much is clear, but you’ve gotta drop at least a breadcrumb to get your reader interested. All you’re really doing is to ask the reader, on nothing but good faith, to believe that SOMETHING happened. Why would I believe you? I’m not exactly sure how to dance around pigs flying, but then, this wasn’t my idea so it’s not my problem. If you can’t figure out a way to draw interest on this topic without entirely tipping your hand, it may not be the best idea.

As for the rest of the story… it’s fine? I don’t know, it like brushes with magical realism but only with a cliche and it doesn’t end up impacting all that much. I’m not sure why pigs needed to fly or why it helps get your meaning across.


Killer of Lawyers
Fragmented


Halfway through this story I was wondering why I should care about any of this. There can be some value to keeping things vague but like… who the people are in relation to one another? Probably not one of them. I don’t know why your protag is going up the mountain or who he’s talking to. Why should I care?

I don’t get the ending. Maybe I’m dumb, or maybe you are, or maybe we all are. I don’t know. Is he like Shepard from Mass Effect or something? Sebmojo gave me the advice to not try to be so smart and clever with a story and that’s among the best advice I’ve gotten in the dome so I’m going to pass that along with you. Tell dumber stories.

Chili fucked around with this message at 03:58 on Sep 14, 2017

Okua
Oct 30, 2016


I'm in

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe

Continuing my crit catch up journey.

WEEK 253

You can go read my insecure-fueled disclaimer in my last post. Here's the crits:

Flerp
Matter Cannot Be Destroyed


My note for this was “lovely little piece” and that’s exactly what this is. It deftly evokes ideas and feelings. The spare prose here did you a lot of favors. You dealt big topics and stuck your landing by keeping your language direct and simple. There are no wasted words in this story. This was a solid entry.


Sparksbloom
Bioluminescence


I saw all of this very clearly in my mind. You did a great job of painting a vivid picture of your scene. An odd criticism… your title hurts you. If you know what bioluminescence is, you kinda know how the story is going to end. It’s a surprise to your protag but not to the audience. So it kinda sucks that we don’t get to experience the magic of the moment with them. Maybe allude to it? But probably not even that. It’s the most important moment in the story so tipping your hand early isn’t ideal.


Chairchucker
Satellite of Love

I’m a sucker for stories that deal with big things like this told in a blase manner. I think I ended up enjoying this one more than the other judges. I do worry that, by the end of story, you haven’t really said much or shown much about these characters and what’s going here. I’m just guessing here, but is the whole story some kind of overextended metaphor? It feels like it kinda has to be, which I suppose is fine but I don’t know. By the end I’m kinda lost, but I enjoyed getting lost, so that was fine enough by me.


Solitair
Collapse Sonata


A lot of time gets spent here on describing one distressing event. You do a creditable job of painting a picture of what’s happening but for the most part, it feels somewhat distant. The somewhat flowery language is kind of distracting here from the sheer horror of what’s going in. I think that’s most noticeable in your last couple of paragraphs. Overall this was a decent entry that did do what the prompt asked.



Thranguy
Stakes


Not sure what happened here. Your story was compelling and fun but the proofing was off in places and it definitely hurt the outcome. That’s not a typical complaint I’ve had when I read your stories so yeah, just be more careful I guess. Anyway, it’s hard to bungle a poker/gambling story if you have even the most remote amount of skill. You did a good job for the most part of setting a fun, if not somewhat familiar concept, of wagering against the devil. It’s definitely tropey but you executed well. I did care about the outcome of the game, so that itself is a victory.


Jay W. Friks
Uncle Matthew


In my notes on this I expressed and complained about a lot of confusion and not really being able to follow much of this. It got better on a re-read but not by much. The typo in the first sentence is bad and gets your relationship with the reader off to a rocky start. It’s good to see you’ve got the formatting stuff hammered down, now just be a little more careful with your proofing, ESPECIALLY in your first couple of lines. Starting the story of with dialogue is also a questionable choice, especially dialogue that doesn’t really do too much to clue the reader in to what’s going on.

Overall the story is baggy and confusing and it’s difficult to parse out what’s going on at times. The italics and bolding don’t help you all that much here either. Focus on making the words the right words, not how they look.


Steeltoedsneakers
Call down the storm


It’s bad if I, of all people, am put off by proofing errors. There are too many in this one that it became a distraction especially when you’re going for flowery and stylish with your prose. If you’re going to be sloppy in your proofing than you should probably jump down in the spare prose gutter with the rest of us babbies. Anyway, the piece does get flashy and pretty in places but overall I’m not entirely sure what you’re trying to say or accomplish. Sentences like this: “A few hundred years ago, our emotions could only grow so much before dying along with their hosts - but as lifetimes stretched out, the potential to metastasize did too.” Are unclear and not a good way to start things off. A little focus and polish and this could be something better.


Hawklad
The Prompt

I didn’t have as much a problem with this as the other judges of the week, if memory serves correctly. But, I see their beef. My quick note on this is that you don’t really earn much in the way of impact with the twist. You don’t breadcrumb the skeeviness of the teacher enough. So, when it happens, it’s a twist that we couldn’t possibly see coming. A good twist allows for the possibility of the reader to catch it without really being obvious about it. Another approach to this would have been to have the teacher be an actual good person, who never had such issues and just felt trapped because the situation is hard and even though he’s a good dude, he feels up against the wall. The horror of a decent person being thrust into an impossible situation seems way more interesting to me, on its face, and I wonder if this story would’ve played better if the teacher were not a skeevy perv.



SurreptitiousMuffin
Some nights i wake and realise i am still meat it--


I hate things like this. I wanted to DM it. Obviously, I lost on that battle. I generally have a lot of contempt for things that ramble on about how we’re meat sacks. So, it was certainly hard for me to remain impartial. I’m gonna re-read this now, since it’s short, and see what I can come up with after setting my bias aside.

I still have problems with this piece and I can’t see how it HM’d. There are a fair bit of proofing errors here. And much like I said earlier to another entrant, if you’re counting on your prose to be pretty, it becomes a bigger issue. Especially since the piece is short, missing/clearly incorrect words are problematic. You spend half of your piece waxing existentialism and once you eventually get to your story not much changes. It’s mostly reflection that doesn’t seem coherent or necessary.


Dmboogie
i wanna blow a smoke ring at the moon so it can feel what it's like to be stuck in a circle, too


The prompt was about strong ideas, opening and closing with them and etc. That’s not really what happened here. This was a little-extended musing that didn’t seem to go anywhere. In order for there to be a strong beginning and ending, there needs to be a beginning and ending in the first place. Your last sentence brings us right back to where we were in the first place and it makes me wonder why I bothered to read any of this.

Meinberg
Restless



This piece fell into the common trap that many others seemed to this week of being largely focused on rambling/musing/picking apart minutia. There’s not much else to say about this except that there isn’t much interested cultivated early on to carry the reader’s attention. Flerp did the musing thing better than anyone else this week, that’s why he got the win. He made it personal. There’s nothing really personal about this, it’s just stuff that happens and it’s hard to care about the character that it’s happening to. What makes the narrator worth paying attention to here? Why should anyone care?


Boaz-Jachim
The Child of the Great Sky speaks to the Child of the Valley


Clean and effective. This piece was solid. One thing you nailed here that I don’t frequently notice in TD entries is texture. It was easy to feel the sense of touch in your stories and that focus carried the story even through some of the more complex ideas that were a little confusing to parse. You also did a good job with your beginning and end. You earn the slight contrast by giving it meaning throughout the bulk of the story. I did like this one, and I can’t quite remember why it didn’t HM, but I wish I had lobbied for it harder.


Fuschia tude
Extrinsic Behavior



Sheerly on the basis of “most stuff to happen” in the flash category, you deserved your HM this week. You told a story, not many others did. The ideas were relatively fresh and engaging and I wanted to learn more about character. This was definitely one of your stronger entries. I kinda wish this were the first chapter to a book that could dive more into the flesh of both the character and the world. May be worth considering chewing on this idea a bit more. As far as feedback goes. This is really just a preference thing but I see this story playing better as first person. You spend some time explaining her motivations, I’d kinda rather hear it from her. Also, when you’re doing a lot with a new world and new ideas it can be explained with more personal touch when we learn about the world directly through the eyes of the character. I did a similar story in a similar manner a while back and Tyrannosaurus pointed out what I’m pointing out to you now. He was right and when I reworked the story I found it to be much more effective. But again, it’s a preference thing.


Fleta McGurn
Part-Time Work


You had me until the ending. You kinda cheated. You showed the character as worried, but they clearly never were. I don’t know, maybe she believed it and then didn’t? It certainly seems like, at the time, there was genuine fear, but then if he’s just gonna call back again and do the same poo poo, she’s clearly used to it, and why would she buy it? It’s an odd quibble but it did bother me. Otherwise this was strong. Again, your character work is good. I can see both of these people in my mind. With very few words you manage to give us a character that has flaws that we still root for. That’s worth a pat on the back.


Fuubi
Cut Off



I don’t know why this thing is happening to him. It seems largely out of whack that he’s being executed for like… just not doing well? If that’s how you want to play it, then my interest goes to the order in the first place. Why is that how this place does things? Anyway, he’s told to go, and he does. What happens here that’s actually worth telling? Nevermind that there are fair amount of carless typos that would’ve been easily caught by even Word’s spell check. “Insyead”. You make it seem like throughout this whole story your protag is basically in control, he feigns horror multiple times and it’s clear that he has the high status. So what is there to keep us interested? If he pulled something out of his rear end at the last moment after he gotten beaten up in the conversation and backed up against the wall, wouldn’t that be better? Why is he hearing this news from someone who seems to like him? You’re giving him an out.

Imagine how this story would feel if people came to him with the executioner’s sword or whatever, they hated him, and wanted him dead. He kept trying to escape but they kept him from doing so. Now we’ve got a tense situation that you’ve gotta work your way out of. That’s something worth reading.


ThirdEmperor
Excelsion

I glossed over a couple of times as I read through it. It’s hard to find a reason to care about what Troy and Ada are doing. The first third of your story is them hiking and we don’t really know why they’re hiking. Then we learn about this monk guy, but we don’t know why we’re learning about this monk guy. Then they see the monk guy, he’s gross and covered in bugs. Your character have some kind of feelings but don’t really want to share their feelings because they aren’t big talkers.

Why should I care about any of this?


Sebmojo
Irreducible



Hard for me to say much about a story that feels like its miles above my head. So, I’ll comment on what I gathered. Good imagery and a genuine voice carried me through this. And perhaps the intention here is for there to be a string of moments that are only connected if you really squint at the piece. It seems like you want your reader to be challenged here and that’s not necessarily a bad thing but I’m also not a very good reader. OK, this crit is definitely becoming more about me than it is about you. So, um, whatever. You’re a good writer and a lovely person, write something dumber. You told me to do that once, so I’ll tell you to do that now. Go be a dumb guy.


Bad Seafood
One Credit Clear



Doof’s Gun a element in a story that seems to be necessary but ends up not being so. Unless I missed something, the “fun” never gets fired. It’s used to good effect though because it certainly colors how the reader takes in the different moments in the story. Just introducing a gun or something that puts some element of tension and danger can be effective enough. The story is easy enough to follow but in the end I’m not totally sure what you were trying to accomplish. Not all that much gets done.


Uranium Phoenix
Drifting


For one of the longer entries of the week, I kinda don’t have a lot to comment on here. It was good. Was in my top 3 and I don’t know why it didn’t HM. Fuschia did a lot with less than you did but at the same time, you didn’t waste time and your story wasn’t baggy or excessive. The action was slick and well blocked and your prose was spare and didn’t slow down the procession of the read. I liked this one a lot.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again



Lipstick Apathy

I will be IN

been a few years since i tried a 'dome

steeltoedsneakers
Jul 26, 2016







Chili posted:

Here's the crits:

Thanks, Chili

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!








heck same

Fuubi
Jan 18, 2015

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Chili posted:

Continuing my crit catch up journey.


Thx for the crits!

Burkion
May 10, 2012

Changeman! And Not A Moment Too Soon!


Ma! He’s Making Eyes At Me

1541 Words

Little Lilly breathed in slow and easy. Her Ma taught her the best way to nurture strong lungs was proper breathing. Since she was six her Ma encouraged her to practice every day, and that’s what she did. In, pause, out. Like her older sister before her, Lilly was quite confident in her ability to sing. A brilliant smile on her face, careful to keep her mouth closed, she hugged her Ma tight. Tonight was the night. This, she had been told so many times, was what she was born for.

Her Ma smiled at her, a faraway look in her eye. “You’ll make us so proud.”

Lilly laughed. “Like there’s any doubt Ma!” She liked to see her Ma smiling. She liked to be praised for what she could do. What she could do was sing, by God. She could sing with the best of them. Only Big Sis Sidney could sing better’n her, when she was around. Yet Lilly knew, between the two of them, Lilly had the most powerful set of lungs you ever did hear.

Lilly didn’t like thinking too much about Big Sis Sidney. Ma said that she had gone to her calling, and when she had left things were better for a time. Ma and Dad didn’t fight as much over the mail and they had more food on the table. Sometimes she even got ice cream for desert, but only if she was extra special good!

Lately though, Ma and Dad had started arguing over the mail again. Something about bills and the bank and it mostly went over her head. Her little head, as her ma would tell her. On stage, she wasn’t just Lilly, oh no. She was Little Lilly, the girl with the most powerful set of lungs you ever did hear!

Lilly wished she actually believed in herself as much as her Ma did. She wished she could go outside more, play with other kids. No need to be a little Debbie Downer! Like Big Sis Sidney always said, ‘Little Lilly, who do you think you’re gonna impress with your head hung so low?’

Lilly pulled her dress out of the closet, Ma helping her into it. It was the prettiest white you ever did see, at least that’s what her Ma would tell you.

“You’re going to be the winner tonight for sure,” her Ma looked down at her, hand on her shoulder comfortingly. Lilly gave her a toothy smile, not thinking, and couldn’t recoil in time.

Ma’s grip on her shoulder tightened. “Little Lilly, what did we tell you about smiling with your teeth?”

It was hurting. It always hurt when she forgot and did something Ma didn’t want her doing. “That no one wants to see a little girl with crooked teeth.” She had the words drilled into her head, tensed up for the slap or worse to follow.

“Good girl.” Lilly looked at her shoulder as the pressure released. She didn’t get hit? She did something wrong though, why didn’t she get hit? Ma must have seen her confusion. “Little Lilly, no one wants to see a little girl that’s been punished. That means they did something wrong. No one wants to see a little girl that’s done something wrong, do they?”

Lilly swallowed a lump in her throat. “No, Ma, no they don’t!” Lilly didn’t question her Ma. She loved her Ma very much, and loved her even more when Ma didn’t punish her. Big Sis Sidney got real good at listening to Ma and Dad, didn’t even get any punishment for a whole week ‘fore she went away!

Lilly was escorted out of their small home, finding a long, dark vehicle with pitch black windows waiting in the drive. Her Ma stepped up to her, taking Lilly by the hand. Two older men opened the doors, ushering Lilly and her Ma into the backseat. Lilly looked around the interior of the car, knowing it meant quality. It meant money.

Lilly knew she wasn’t as pretty as Big Sis Sidney, her teeth never did straighten and they never could take her to a dentist proper. Her hair wasn’t as glossy and her skin wasn’t as nice. Sometimes, not often, just every now and then she thought of how much better Big Sis Sidney could sing. Ma squeezed her hand, bringing her to the present. She can’t be comparing herself to Big Sis Sidney today!

Today belonged to Little Lilly! They had arrived at the studio. The same one Ma said Big Sis Sidney had been recruited from. The same one Little Lilly would make her name known! She put on her best smile, careful to keep her mouth closed, turning to the opened door. Politely accepting the larger gentleman’s hand to help her out of the back of the vehicle, she was ready to go inside.

She was ushered into the building through the side. There were other children there, kept separate from one another. Some were a few years older than her, some younger. Most had their parents with them, though Lilly noticed that some didn’t. None of the parents looked all too happy, Lilly figuring it was nerves. Lilly was brought further back stage and given her final preparation.

Finally, it was time. It was so dark, if she didn’t have the two nice gentlemen escorting her, Lilly believed she would get lost. Stepping onto the stage through the curtain, Little Lilly curtsied to the audience. It was a peculiar gathering, only ten adults in the seats, each with a spotlight over them. Lilly figured these must be the judges, but for the life of her, could not figure out the purpose of the spotlights.

Summoning all her courage, she stepped forward, grabbing hold of the microphone. “My name is Little Lilly, I am twelve years old and I have A- Blood Type!” She was never too sure why her Ma instructed her to include that. Never made much sense to her. Only told that it was important to know.

The moment the words left her mouth, three of the ten spotlights went out. One of the crowd stuck out to Little Lilly, a man bent forwards in a mechanical wheel chair, an oxygen machine attached to its back. He was eyeing her something fierce, the lower half of his face covered by a mask. He was known to Little Lilly. She had seen him, watching her, in previous auditions and competitions. She told her Ma. She told her, ‘Ma! He’s making eyes at me!’

Little Lilly put the man aside. She sang with all her heart and soul. She tried to ignore everything but her singing as more and more spotlights went out, blocking out the audience. She sang like this was her last night to live, like her Ma taught her to. She would be chosen like her Big Sis Sydney because she was Little Lilly and she had the most powerful set of lungs you ever did hear!

When she was done and barely able to stand, she saw a sea of black ahead of her with only one pillar of light. The man, staring her down, one hand raised in the air. His eyes were locked onto Lilly no matter how she fidgeted.

The speakers came to life, startling Lilly. “Con Conrad has selected the right to purchase Little Lilly.”

Lilly looked up at the dark ceiling where the voice was broadcasted, eyes wide. Purchase? She looked out into the audience, only for even the man’s light to be gone. She could hear his wheel chair, his breathing, but she could not see him. He was coming closer.

Lilly stumbled back, ready to run when both of her arms were grabbed by either one of the gentlemen that has brought her here. Behind her, the old man had arrived on stage, driving up a ramp. She screamed but could not stop the two men from hoisting her into the air.

Her Ma came through the curtain, Lilly’s spirit rising. “Ma! Please!”

Her Ma briskly moved past her, striding to the old man. She did not stop to acknowledge her daughter or even look back at her once. “Ma! I’m sorry!”

The old man, Con Conrad, gave her Ma an envelope. He nodded to her, tears flooding Lilly’s vision. “Ma! I’ll be better! Ma! I promise I won’t be bad no more, please! Ma!”

Her Ma never looked back at her. She left the stage and Little Lilly never saw her again. Con Conrad drove up to Little Lilly. Lilly screamed and shouted and cried and hollered. She struggled against the men holding her and pleaded and begged.

A sound quite like coughing, that she realized after a moment was laughter, brought her full attention to the man. “My, my, my, Little Lilly.” His eyes burned into her. She did not see any needle, but sure enough she felt one prick her neck. She screamed as poured its nasty medicine into her.

Her eyes grew heavy as her body went limp, the last thing she saw was Con Conrad watching her intently. “You have the most powerful set of lungs I ever did hear.”


derp
Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again



Lipstick Apathy

Love on the Rocks
1997 words


removed



derp fucked around with this message at 23:30 on Sep 21, 2017

Pippin
May 25, 2016


Thanks for the crit, Tyrano, as well as everyone else who's crit me over the past few weeks!

I'll be trying my hand at writing with this beauty, this week.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006



After The War
Apr 12, 2005

to all of my Architects
let me be traitor


This poo poo's :stonk: enough, I'm surprised no one picked it.



But since they haven't, I'll take it... somewhere.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


College Slice

Signups closed!

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







hey flerp can i have til tomorrow night to post my brawl? Work + recaps is going to make it a v tight squeeze otherwise. If that's ok with you then i would also ask if the extension could apply to my opponent.

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010


Stop reading - they’re watching

a thousand windows, like eyes limned in hazy electric
light stretching upward ten
stories twenty –
thirty/fifty into the sky into
Heaven

ten buildings twen
ty, even fifty, a
thousand -- more than you can
count or know or under
stand

city, city - alive
as I sit

at my desk at Hatcher & Smiths and punch numbers into a spreadsheet, and try not to notice that outside my window the city is very much alive; nobody else can see it because they’re not looking. The skyscrapers reach up like the grasping fingers of some withered old god -- they groan and twitch, febrile, in the autumn wind.

The belly of the beast is tarmac, and dollar signs. Today I put $128, 608 into the spreadsheet, across 76 different cells.

I do not want to look out the windows -- I do not want to see the city; let me tell you about my job. Some people own many buildings, and many people own no buildings. The people who own buildings charge money to the rest, to live in their buildings. If the rest cannot pay, I write down their debt, and I put it in a spreadsheet, and somebody goes to their building and takes all their things away. I do not see it: it is far away. This is my job. I perform this function, and the beast does not cast its million eyes on me.

the beast is Ishtar the beast is Kali the beast is Moloch
the beast is a breaker of spines and a blinder of eyes
the beast is absolutely and completely alive, lit with pan-
ic (like Pan, like the beast of the woods and electric fire)

The beast demands sacrifice: when a child catches pneumonia because their mother couldn’t pay the gas bill, when a man opens his wrists because a robot has eaten his job up, when the police-man is filled with pan-ic and empties his clip into a black man’s back -- when a man loses his hand in a factory fire, the beast smiles down with mile-wide concrete teeth like tombstones and segmented eyes like a million skyscraper windows.

There are a million men in this city, or more – I do not know. I do know there are 486, 214 renters in properties managed by Hatcher & Smiths. I know that last year, fifty-eight died and seven of them did not die of natural causes. I put 58 in one column, and 7 in another. It matters for the insurance.

I am filled with a sudden urge to shout, to topple my computer, to storm out of the building and never come back. It does not last - it never lasts. If I made a noise, the beast would see me, and crush me beneath its mighty concrete palms. If I stopped my worship for a moment --if I did not put in the numbers-- I would lose my house, and my car. I would freeze in winter (like Dis, like Niflheim, like the pit), and die with a bent back and an empty stomach.

A colleague sees me staring at nothing. There are bags under his eyes and his hair is falling out. I do not know his name. I do know he has been working in this office for twelve years, because he arrived one year and seven months after me.

I work late. I will not be compensated for it. I am allotted one 30-minute break per day and I take it at 9:09pm. I go to the roof, through a door I am not allowed to use. I lie on my back. There is a sky full of stars but I cannot see them – the lights of the city have eaten them. Sometimes I wish for a single star to change the texture of the night sky – a single puncture in the con-crete. The sky does not respond, or cannot respond --

as far as I know, the sky is indifferent. The city swarm somewhere below.

alone and crowded,
I am reduced to numbers.

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010


^^^ :siren: That is megabrawl round 2, for Flerp. Genre: Slice of Life/Cosmic Horror. 679 words. :siren: ^^^

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


[redacted]

Armack fucked around with this message at 01:28 on Oct 31, 2017

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Sitting Here posted:

hey flerp can i have til tomorrow night to post my brawl? Work is going to make it a v tight squeeze otherwise. If that's ok with you then i would also ask if the extension could apply to my opponent.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




After

563 Megabrawling Words

My daughter has grown a third eye on the back of her left hand. She tells me she sees people’s darkest desires acted out with it. I tell her to keep it fixed shut or covered, but she assures me that those do no good. I believe her. It is simply not realistic to think that the Uncreator would allow such mercy to exist.

Her vision is, these days, likely not much different from mine. Death is but fleeting peace at best since the great failure. Every steak and roast lives and feels pain, often showing them through eyes that sprout unwanted during tinner. The Uncreator has a great fondness for eyes. Those who eschew meat gain no reprieve, either. The dark lord has seen fit to give the fruit and grain mouths to scream and, yes, eyes to show fear. It is no surprise that many choose to emulate the crow, go straight for these eyes and savor the pain as they eat.

So cruelty abounds. The Traitor-Mage, who doomed us all in the last quest in exchange for absolute power, has found that nothing he does with that power satisfies, save cruelty, which he does in extremes.

Stella is not cruel, not at all. I try not to be, but it is so hard.

I still remember how things used to be, before. But even those memories seem changed, tainted. The Uncreator’s victory extends to eternity in both directions, it seems. I do not believe the war between the plains and forest people was caused by an insult concerning the forest queen’s eyelashes. The one who wears all crowns, who sits in all thrones, the child-tyrant set to rule by the Uncreator and the Traitor-Mage, is to blame, I think. His reign of pure caprice is overwriting those of all monarchs before him. Still, I have to wonder. Whatever originally started those wars-some border dispute or quarrel over water rights, no doubt, or something similarly mundane-does not seem much less absurd. That the nations fought while the Uncreator’s prison was failing and madmen struggled to break it open...

Madness is the Uncreator’s domain. He guards it jealously; nothing less than pure sanity is permitted to any of us. A child was born in our village last month. It emerged from the womb speaking the old philosopher's tongue fluently, describing the pains of childbirth and outlining the beginning of a new philosophy for a world without hope. It was taken to the collegium immediately.

I asked Stella what she saw in me with her hand-eye. Visions of murder, suffocation, drowning, death by fire. Are they my darkest desires? Perhaps, but they are also my dearest hopes. If only death could last, if she would not arise the next morning with however many suns should happen to rise, with no more gain than the memory of death, I would give anything to grant her that release.

I asked her why she does not despair, with no point to our existence other than to amuse the three who rule us by our suffering.

“There is a point, still,” she said.

“What, then?”

“Virtue. What is right, even without possibility of reward or relief, is still right. Is still what a person must do. Can still deny the Uncreator’s complete victory, forever if need be.”

I wish I had the strength to join her.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


flerp your magnificence, I am going to be a tiny lil bit late with my entry because i forgot I live in PST now and that means 12, not 3am. love u

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again



https://thunderdome.cc/brawls.php?story=517

Djeser fucked around with this message at 20:36 on Dec 28, 2017

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


megabrawl entry

We’ve all done bad things
2058 words

My grandfather, when he was young and not yet a colonel, was tasked with leading the injured artillery horses down to the Rio Cenepa to drown them. Bullets were hard to come by, and Illapa had been happy with the bloodshed so the rains made the river run full. The banks of the river had swelled with water so that both man and horse were knee deep in mud. The closer to the rushing water they got, the harder the horses tugged at their reins. My grandpa would pick up the nearest stick and push the horses until they stumbled into the river and were swept away by the current.

It was in this manner that he plucked a rifle from the mud. It was an ancient flintlock, rusted so thoroughly that nothing moved but the trigger. He brought it back to the camp to show his friends. When he pointed it a fellow soldier and pulled the trigger, the man dropped what he was doing, screamed, and fled into the jungle. It had the same effect on enemies, and my grandfather used the flintlock in lieu of his service rifle for the rest of the war.

***

They call themselves the Shining Path: a group of communists who started harassing some of the villages on the outskirts of the jungle. And by harassment, I mean the kind that involves suicide bombs. The government thought it a better use of my time to be conscripted to chase down terrorists than to finish my studies at university, so like my grandfather before me, I sit in a jungle waiting. I feel that I am more likely to die from mosquitoes than communist bullets.

I smack one on my fatigues, and it leaves a small brown stain.

“Awfully violent for a pacifist,” says Emiliano, sitting down next to me.

“Bugs don’t count as life.” Even as the words leave my mouth I know they’re a lie, but Emiliano doesn’t contradict me.

He bites into his empanada and holds it up to me. “Sure you don’t want some,” he says, his mouth full.

“Beans are fine.”

He shrugs and takes another bite. “Surprised the mosquitos even want to drink your thin blood.”

We sit in silence for a while, a luxury in Lima, but boring in Ayacucho. I’m afraid Emiliano is about to say something else when our lunch is interrupted by Major Partida. We stand and salute. Not because we want to, but because the only thing worse than the terrorists is an angry C.O.

He dismisses us with a wave of his hand. “Captain Alvarado, you have a minute?”

I look around, but yes, he’s definitely talking to me. Brass needing something from you is never good. I’ve been in this hellhole for three months without anybody noticing me, and I was hoping to keep it that way.

“All my time belongs to the Army now.”

The major sits beside me and pulls out a notebook. “I see you haven’t had a chance to lead a patrol yet.”

They think the men they pull from college have leadership potential. We don’t, but officer’s perks are worth keeping my doubts to myself.

“No sir, I seem to have bad luck.” gently caress. Patrol is a nice word for “advanced warning.” A patrol gets ambushed, and they send in the helicopters to clear the area. It’s preferable to fighting in the villages, because the only collateral damage is wearing a uniform, and that raises less of a stink back in Lima.

“Well today’s your lucky day, because Captain Villanueva didn’t report back. Time to get your feet wet with a command.” He circles stuff in his notebook, draws lines through an area I vaguely understand to be “the middle of nowhere,” and hands me my orders with a list of twelve names. “You head out in the morning, so get some sleep.”

Emiliano and I salute as he leaves. I finish it off with the middle finger as soon as he turns around.

“gently caress,” says Emiliano. “I’ll say something nice at your funeral. Wait, it won’t be vegetarian only at the wake, right?”

“Won’t matter to you, you’ve already got a reservation in hell,” I say, pointing to his name on the list.

We sit back down and go back to eating in silence.

“I knew him, Villanueva. We took biology together.”

“poo poo man, I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, well, I think we’ll see him soon enough.”

***

It doesn’t rain in the summer, the water just hangs in the air instead, taunting the ground. It gets us wet just the same. The men have to clean their weapons every few hours or else they’ll rust shut. I sit and watch them, my rifle already rusted as much as a weapon can rust. They glare back.

I’ve got twelve men but I only know Emiliano. He’s my go between, and he tells me the other men hate me. They say I’m a jerk. Good. Men don’t listen to somebody they think is nice. The military doesn’t just export fear, it also runs on it. I figure I can fake it until we get back home.

“Alright, wrap it up,” I say. “HQ says a shepherd from the town the Path hit last week saw some men near the river about two kilometers from here.”

“So we should go in the other direction,” says the one with the thick, black mustache. The others laugh.

“They want us to see if it’s Captain Villanueva’s team.”

“You know it’s not.”

“I have my orders.”

“Maybe you can just wave your toy at them.”

Emiliano smacks the man on the shoulder and shakes his head. The man stops laughing at throws his helmet on the ground.

Emiliano leads me away from the group. “They’re just nervous,” he says. “Cut them some slack.”

An outside observer might be mistaken as to who the real leader of this group is.

“They have five minutes.”

***

The shepherd’s intel left out an important detail. We are on our stomachs on a cliff overlooking the river with eyes on at least two hundred men.

Emiliano points at the pile of green Peruvian uniforms in a pile. “You don’t think they are just naked and cold somewhere, do you?”

“No, probably not.”

“Ok, let’s move back and call this in.”

We don’t even have the radio out yet when shots rip through the palm trees and drop several of my guys. The rest dive into the dirt for cover.

I take a knee and bring my grandfather’s rifle up to my cheek. I scan the jungle for muzzle flashes. I don’t know what the range or spread on my rifle is, but every time I see a flash, I pull the trigger and it stops. We take three more casualties before I’ve cleared out attackers or they retreat deeper into the woods.

The only thing I’m sure of is they’ll be back with the rest of their friends.

“Jesus, man,” says Señor Bigote, “I’m sorry I gave you a hard time earlier. You just killed that whole patrol.”

I shake my head. “It doesn’t kill them. Just makes them leave.”

“Just leave?”

I nod. “It’s against my religion to kill.”

He twirls his moustache as he considers this. The others pull themselves off the ground and survey the damage.

“We should get out of here,” I say. Get to a clearing where we can radio this in send the cavalry. That’s the mission now, get word back to base.”

Emiliano grabs the dog tags off the dead guys. “We can come back for them, but if we don’t move we’ll join them.”

Emiliano, the five who survive, and I make a run for the hill.

“If we’re lucky, we won’t have to walk back to base,” says Emiliano.

We all laugh.

“Why do the men leave?” asks mustache man. “After you shoot them.”

“My abuelo said it does something to their brain, I don’t know for sure.”

“Can you shoot me with it?”

“I don’t think that’s a wise move. Look, there’s a clearing up ahead.”

We break out into a sprint, but the short guy in my squad takes a bullet to the calf and falls. We scatter in all directions, and when the confusion clears I see that I’m alone.

The only sound is screaming, coming from my guy in the clearing. They won’t finish him off, not right away. We’re stupid, you see, we always try to help our injured. They’ll wait for somebody to run to him, that way they get two for the price of one.

If as on cue, Emiliano peeks out from his cover in the tree.

“You idiot, stay down,” I whisper to myself. It wouldn’t do any good even if he could hear me. He has that look in his eye I’ve seen a dozen times during my time in the Army. It’s always before somebody goes and earns themselves a posthumous medal.

“Ah gently caress.”

I don’t have time to think before I run out from my tree cover, waving my rifle in the air and screaming.

I’m greeted almost immediately by the crack of bullets. I’m back in the trees, but not too deep. They can still see me, but the trees provide some cover. Some. Splinters rain down overhead, and I keep running and screaming. I hear the crunching of leaves behind me, and take a quick peek back to see a trio of communist chasing me into the jungle.

I turn just enough to get a glimpse of the clearing. Emiliano has hoisted the injured man onto his shoulders, and is running in the opposite direction of us. He’ll get that radio signal out. I just have to get away from these guys and I can hunker down until the bombs take care of the rest.

The three men chase me deeper into the jungle, taking a few seconds to shoot at me. After about a minute, the firing stops. Patrols don’t usually carry much ammunition, but they’ll still have knives.

They’re gaining on me and I’m running out of steam anyway when I hit the other side of the treeline and almost run straight over the cliff into the rest of the terrorists.

I turn and raise my rifle, but I’m only able to take out one of them before the other two jump on me, knocking me to the ground. The thing about us college kids is, we’ve never really been in a fight, and I’m no use. They take my gun from me and smash my face in.

Blood is streaming down my face, and I’m on my knees. The two men are too out of breath to say anything. I don’t say anything either, but plan my next move. I know there’s nothing to say to extremists, but I figure that after they realize my gun doesn’t fire bullets, I can make a run for it.
I catch my breath and ready myself to run back into the jungle. If I can catch up to my men, the tables will turn. I probably don’t even need to make it all the way back. Once they realize they’ve got no guns and no chance of killing all of us, they’ll retreat.

The terrorist holds my gun up to his shoulder and aims at my heart.

I laugh at him. “Good luck with that.”

He pulls the trigger, and I understand how the gun works. The men I shot at, they didn’t just leave. They were confronted with their greatest regret. It overwhelmed them.

The men throw my gun at me in anger, and it flies over the cliff. I stand and turn around, watching the rifle land in the river. The men behind me unsheath their knives.

The men that had been at the other end of my rifle all this time were dead now. By rope or their own gun, it was the same as if I’d been firing bullets. Fathers ripped away from their children, sons making their mothers weep. It went against everything I stood for. I thought I could outsmart death. That I’d found a clever way to be above it all. Tears well in my eyes.

I take a step off the cliff before the men can cut my throat.

Exmond
May 31, 2007

Writing is fun!

Weekly prompt submission

Why did the bee hum?
1,749 words

Officer Jeremy surveyed the scene with his usual apathy. A new day meant a new horrific sight to see and this was no different just a part of the job. Jeremy sighed and looked at the mess that was his crime scene.

It was an impressive display of human cruelty. A man laid slump against a well with a bloody ice pick in his hand. Blood still dripped from what was left of his ear, hitting the ground with an almost hypnotic rhythm. Pitter patter, pitter patter. Shadows danced over the corpse as a lone lantern swung with the wind.

Shrill brass horns cut through the forest silence. Jeremy jumped and cursed, almost flinging his phone into the well. The call display showed a blonde woman while the ominous notes of the Imperial March played. Jeremy swore once more for emphasis and picked up the phone.

“Maggie, baby... Now is a bad ti-”

The woman's exasperated voice cut him off “You picked up the wrong Kelly-O's! They have gluten in them and Tommy is crying and..”

Jeremy's brow creased as he tried to remember picking up groceries. He didn't know there was a different kind of Kelly-Os. “Listen I'll stop by the grocery store after work and grab the right kind.”

“Honey I'm sorry it has just been a long day,” The woman's voice said as Jeremy looked at the dead corpse rolling his eyes. “You have to get it at Supa Square.”

Jeremy cursed. He never did like the fancy food store with the cashiers that looked down at him. They silently mocked him for not knowing the difference between Atkins diet and celiac diet. He was so drat tired. drat tired of gluten this, hi-fiber that. He silently wished his son could just be normal.

A small pop sound was heard and Jeremy watched with wide eyes as a honey bee hopped out of the man's ear, its normal yellow behind smeared with gore. It washed itself off with its arms and buzzed straight at the police officer. Jeremy managed to get a shot off before the bee buzzed into his ear.

A voice rang in his mind. “Be calm, sweet thing and listen to our buzzing. We elucidate, we educate, we ascend you! Listen to our honeyed words, our wisdom is so sweet.”

Jeremy frantically poked at his ear but the bee just burrowed in further into his ear canal. The bee buzzed and hummed a sweet tune that reverberated around Jeremy.

“Calm, sweet thing, calm. This bee isn't one to buzz around, we are oh so serious. You are full of stars! You need convincing that we are benign, that our intentions pure. We have so many stories, so many wisdoms.”

Jeremy fell to his knees, his body warm. The night sky whirled around him each star burning an image into his retina. His fingers tingled as the buzzing continued to grow louder. Jeremy lost consciousness to the buzzing as sounds of concerned yelling came from his phone.

***

Jeremy awoke in a completely dark room. A yellow honey bee sat on a stool, the only thing that was illuminated by a spotlight.

“Yes, you need convincing. Convincing that you are a star. This one has many tales. Shall we talk about the writer typing their dreams into ones and zeros, their meaning lost in the BuzzFeed? Or about the judge who sees words and wants to die? She cries herself to sleep in ink-stained sheets. She is immortal she cannot die.“ The bee jumped up and around, amping itself up for its performance.

“We are flying into your mind, our membranous wings cutting through flesh. We have tasted your temporal lobe and found a story to match you, Officer Jeremy. Our top stories for tonight is Little Richard. Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see. TRANSMIT – We speak in metaphors so your alien mind can understand us – RECEIVE – Crucified for his sins – WITNESS – Little Richard.“

From out of nowhere a curtain stage dropped. A few seconds later it opened, showing a scene of a loving mother and father in a hospital.


“All babies cry when they see the light, but not this one. We whispered sweet wisdom into his ear and told him 'You're gonna be a star Kid'. He doesn't need those limbs, they will get in the way of his shining! The baby sees the light and mistakes it for the sun. He reaches for it, but cannot get to it, for he lacks the appendage. The baby cries as the mother soothes her baby. The father looks away in shame”

The bee buzzed and the scene changed. The scene shifts and the baby turns into a kid sitting on a swing.

“Fast forward to education! Richard the strong, Richard the brave. All worthy names we bestow upon him. In high school he weeps, he can't even control where he goes. Bullies throw bee hives at him and as the nurse treats him we whisper 'You're gonna go far kid'. He wipes his eyes and we buzz sweet songs at him.”

The bee buzzed towards Jeremy, shoving itself right in the middle of his face. The bee continued to speak, its voice impossibly loud for the small frame it has.

“You have seen Richard before all weak and useless. Do not deny it for we are nestled in your brain.”

The figure of Richard turns to face Officer Jeremy. His own son Tommy, stared back at him.

Jeremy takes a step back in shock. “That thing isn't my son!”

“You see Little Richard as a freak. Abnormal just like your son. We shall prove you that they can ascend.”

The bee buzzed around and the scene changes once more. This time to high school where Richard is receiving a diploma.

“Richard wheels his way to a test, humming and singing to himself all the way. Lonely Richard they call him. We buzz to and whisper to him 'Stick with me, kid, we'll go places!' Our kid passes high school with flying colours. It's only the beginning of his ascension.“

The bee buzzes up high and multiplies. Suddenly hundreds of worker bees rush to a stage made from pure honey, where Little Richard sits on a stool, a microphone hovering in place above him.

“Little Richard on a whim sings our song. What is pure of soul attracts those with none. People listen to his song and they pay him money. People feel touched by his words and they give him power and control. Little Richard starts to like the taste of power over the taste of our wisdom.”

The worker bees bow their heads down to the ground and start a slow mournful buzz.

“To College now, to women, to procreate! Richard the Siren they call him. There are no women who can resist his voice. Little Richard sings and everyone bows to his whims. He still wishes he could walk, then he meets her. She calls herself Karin, though she has 17 other names.”

The worker bees shift on their feet. One of them angrily stabs their stinger into the ground and lets out its last breath.

“We buzz angrily but Little Richard fails to hear our song. She promises him mobility, she promises him legs. He accepts her offer and seals it with carnal acts. Gaia weeps as the star comes crashing down.“

A large blue bus rumbles up onto the stage. The bus is monstrous in design and decoration. The words 'Jesus Uses Me' is emblazoned on its blue exterior.

The next time we meet Little Richard he is traveling in a steel monstrosity emblazoned with faith. He sings our song, our sweet beautiful song. He corrupts it with faith, with human words, with politics sweet thing! He ruined it our beautiful song. But we cannot hate Little Richard. We grieve, he is our star and it's screaming down to earth.”

“Richard the afraid. Richard is alone now. No one listens to his song anymore. Karin left without a care, her merciless gaze fixed upon another to defile. We buzz around him, pleading for him to remember us. He is still our star! Mr Demille, I'm ready for my close-up!”

The curtains close and re-open. A TV news prompter is reading a story, their eyes as black as night. The story of the day is the death of Richard Miller.

“They came for him in the black of night. They are after our star and they rip it out of him. Stab, stab, stab they go in rhythm... Little Richard hums our song, the last thing he ever does.“

The scene shifts to a small house in the suburbs. In it, Officer Jeremy is playing with his son and wife.

“This is the story of Little Richard, our wisdom flows and tastes so sweet. Our journey is complete. We stand atop a throne of a broken mind. We speak in metaphors so your alien minds can understand us. We give you an offer you can't refuse!”

Jeremy looked at the image of the happy family sitting in the household. A perfect family something he always wanted. And it could be his, he just needed to focus his energy on that. But he was so tired. If he slept he would have more energy and when he awoke. He would have the perfect family.

The bee nestled on top of Officer Jeremy's police hat and said “It's too late for you and Maggie, oh so sorry. But Tommy, little Tommy, he is full of stars. With the right guidance, with the right protection, he could be the biggest star. What wouldn't you do for family?”

Jeremy slowly nodded and closed his eyes and gave into the darkness...

***

Jeremy woke up and picked himself up off the ground. He had to get home, had to protect his family. He staggered to his car and sat in the driver's seat. Was he forgetting something?

Ah yes, groceries! Young Tommy needed to get that special brand of cereal. Kelly-O's. The store would be closed Jeremy realized and frowned.

A small buzzing assured him it would be alright. What was a little broken glass between family? Just walk in, grab the Kelly-Os, and leave cash on the till. Jeremy started up the car and backed up, driving over someone's discarded cell phone.

Jeremy sighed and realized that the bee was right. You'd do anything for family.


Prompt



Aiming to improve punctuation in general
Aiming to improve dialogue tags

Okua
Oct 30, 2016


Hands and knees
1.574 words

I am lying on the floor.

Alone.

The lined-up bottles with their odd lines and colors throw my reflection mercilessly back at me. I am staring at my own eyes, wide and glassy like those of a dead fish, as I wheeze. My tongue is a swollen, limp thing in the back of my mouth. The convulsions have ceased for now, but the throbbing in my head remains, turning my hands into talons clawing at the carpet. I can hear - but not feel – my own feet twitching, stomping out an epilectic accompaniment to the rythm of the rap music still playing on the stereo. The trigger for it all is right beside me, thin syringe carelessly dropped, but despite it I feel a sudden sense of clarity.

I might die with my cheek covered in my own vomit after just one month of living alone.

I force a breath into my lungs and cough it out again. Now my eye fixes on the thin vein of light beneath the door. If I could only open it - if someone could only see or somehow sense that something’s broken inside me though even I don’t know what. If only the voices I can barely hear through these walls would stop talking about – what is it? TV? Games that I don’t know about? I need them to turn from that and come save me, but they won’t -

I am alone.

You can’t live alone." Mother had said it, voice soothing right by my ear last August, her left hand pressing our laptop shut. The list of dorm rooms and apartments blinked away. ”You won’t be able to take care of yourself. Doctor said you need to be careful with a brain like yours.”

Alone, I roll onto my stomach. Another shaking ripple runs through my flesh, and I drag myself forward on my elbows, towards the light that shines burning yellow like the sun in a bad dream. Something sharp pierces the fog in my head. Glass shards from a broken bottle, maybe, the one I was holding when the choking started…? It doesn’t matter what it was, now it’s nails dragging across my thigh.

Digging in.

Hurts.

Another burst of oxygen finds my brain; I wish I could savour it, but I see mother’s face in the stains on the wallpaper. She might have been right about me taking care of myself. I have been a sinner for a while, and this month, as soon as I had a place to call my own, as soon as I had left our house, her house – then I had built a regular Gomorrah. I keep waiting for that tell-tale sound of her feet – I pause, watching the fibres of the rug move under my breath. It's just a matter of time before she finds me. I've always known that, but if she finds me dead...

”I’ll always get you,” she said, her voice a warm, moist place to slide into after the jabs and loud leering at school. The car was safe when she picked me up, a little crucifix dangling from the rear-view mirror. If she was in a bad mood she’d talk until she was out of breath. No doubt she’d be choking too if she saw me now, after I left her so suddenly – though would it be from gasping and yelling or would it be crying, the wrecking sobs that hurt so much worse than anything else she could do?

I am not dead yet.

Another few inches. Glass piercing muscle, a sound escaping me like the mewl of a kicked cat. It’s a slow pain like the throbbing of knees after kneeling in the cat-piss corner of the washing room when I’d been bad as a small kid.

I feel like a big kid now, not an adult, curling in on myself so close to the door. The carpet is dusty, and even when I can catch a breath I feel all I’m getting into my bloodstream are these particles.

Forward forward forward, just enough air to whisper now.

”Hey! I need – ”

The medicines in the bag. Can’t convey that – suddenly my throat’s completely closed. Even the voices on the other side of the door sound fainter. Mother never liked the medicines none. Need her hands, the way she’d massage muscles back into place, pressure pressure pressure. Nobody can get to the medicine, nobody’s hands can get on him. Nobody can lay on hands like she could. Doctor said – I can’t remember his face, saw him only twice, was five years old and not allowed to look at the books in the waiting room. I should be so careful about anything that messed with blood and brain cells, but I made mistakes because I could lock the door. Broken or not, I can almost reach the door.

My reflection squirms past, jumping from bottle to bottle all in a row beside me. Matted hair changes color, label to label. Mother cut it with a sharp knife, and I used to brag I was the only one whose mother knew how to do that. She said we didn't need no hair stylist, didn't need anyone but each other and God.

Couldn’t have stayed. Shouldn’t have left.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Stop crawling.

Look down. Ah. The syringe, sticky with blood, scattered all over my thigh. Jagged pieces jutting out, and I am reaching for them with shaking hands, pulling them one by one away. Skin red and bloody beneath. Mothers knife could cut the pieces out real quick; my hands are not good enough. Little bean-shaped part of my brain can’t control the heart or lungs anymore, and all the other parts that still work can tell me is that I’m not dead yet.
I twist, falling, fingers brushing against the hard wood of the door.

I can see her face in the blackness crowding the ceiling. Black lipstick, The way you could see her tongue moving around when she took over a PTA meeting, clasping the table as if it was a pulpit. Clean teeth, since we didn’t need anything with white sugar in it, and abstained from meat and kept the fast and everything. The store had been so cool the first day I went down to buy food for this room; in the bright blue lights I must’ve looked normal at last buying soft milk chocolate and wine gummies in bags with cartoon characters smiling wide.

My thighs no longer feel like they’ve been stabbed. They don’t feel like anything at all.

The handle moves.

I gasp, trying to form the words not dead but I can’t push them out of me.

Mother told me the worst thing about Hell is that you’re stuffed in there with all the other sinners so tight none of you have any room to breathe at all, and you’re choking for eternity. That is all the time it took me to crawl from there to here, times a million, times a billion and still longer.

I can reach up, touch the lock so that it snaps to unlock the door, and with that, I collapse like a doll with the strings cut off. My breath is a dragging, rattling, wet sound. Fingernails scratch against the wood – mine or hers?

The door opens, sweeping me to the side.

Mother looks at me and I feel like burning.

"My boy,” she says, tall as the ceiling when seen from the floor.

She wraps all my convulsing, fragile lines and shapes up in her own, cradles me in her duvet jacket, carries me to bed. I want to ask her how she found me. She’ll probably say she has her ways. Maybe God led her here, or maybe she’s done to me what she’s done to Dad and somehow found traces she could print out from our computer. A phone number, an address crammed into her little purple purse. I don’t know. I don’t know much.

“You’re just a kid.” Her hand on my chest. Her God inside me, if she’s doing this right and fixing all that’s broken in me; but somehow her eyes don’t seem the same as last I saw them. Everything is growing dim and dark, but her eyes glow like the fires of Hell I’ve seen in my bad dreams. I wonder if her purse is big enough of a knife or if she might yet make me kneel on a cold hard floor until I’ve learned that I can not handle being alone.

Her hand is on my chest, and I reach for it. Sparks dance around her head, crowning her with dizzying stars, and somehow I pry her palm away. I placed the syringe beneath my skin on purpose, and her take her hand with purpose, too – her face contorts, her mouth moves. Don’t you want your mother? I can’t make her go away, but I can turn away from her, rolling onto my side.

I don’t know if she lays her hands on me afterwards. Maybe she did, in the dark, while I was passed out. She inhaled the smell of my vomit and sighed, yes, only to help her stupid sinner of a son anyway. Or maybe she has brought her knife along and clutches it in her hand only to turn away at the last second. Maybe she gives me medicine or says a prayer.



Either way, I wake up alone.




prompt

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




The Frogs Remain

2000 words

“She’s no good for you, you know.” That’s my brother Jake, who’s driving me out to the middle of nowhere, so late at night it might as well be morning.

“We’re happy,” I say. The Buick rolls down the unlit road, headlights catching the occasional frog crossing. Some jump aside in time.

“You think you’re happy,” he says. “Hell, maybe you are. But there’s lots more important than happy.”

“Like what?”

“Family, of course. Money. Purity.” Family was the problem, I was sure. Ma didn’t like Liz, and that’s all Jake needed. It was a shock, seeing her after all of these years. The introduction didn’t go well. Ma’s nearly paralyzed these days, from the stroke. When she saw Liz the few muscles in her face that could twitch went wild. Liz had to go wait in the car just to get her to calm down. I was stunned, seeing her. Jake had told me about the stroke on the phone, but the reality of it still hit hard. Not as hard as when I found out about Pa, though.

“Purity?” I ask.

“I’m going to tell you something you’re not going to believe,” says Jake. “But that don’t mean it ain’t true.” I keep quiet, and he goes on. “Patrick, ever since nineteen seventy-eight there pretty much hasn’t been a human woman left on Earth. ‘Cept for Ma and maybe a few other holdouts like her.”

I say “Seriously?” I know Jake believes what he says, isn’t telling some kind of joke. Jokes without pain aren’t his style. But I can’t think of anything else to say.

“Said you wouldn’t believe me. But Pa told me all about it, before-” Jake looks around, as if for hidden government agents inside the car, I guess. And I guess he’s not sure there aren’t any, because all he says is “Before.”

Pa’s dead. They didn’t tell me. They didn’t tell anyone. Jake and Ma have kept his body in a basement freezer for a year and a half, collecting his disability and social security. Ripping off The Man’s the family business. When I was growing up one of the former barns was converted to bunks, housing a dozen foster kids, fed gruel from the fields while Ma cashed the government checks. So I probably should have expected something like that when Pa went. I’d thought they’d trust me enough to let me in on it, though.

“That dumb little book got it exactly wrong,” Jake’s going on. “It’s the women who are from Mars. And they’re all after our, whatchacall, our essences. DNA, but more than that. They get that, they can control you.” Jake turns hard to the left, taking the Buick off-road, onto a wide dirt path.

Jake continues, talking about the Roswell crash, about another UFO crash in Alabama the next year. About the United Nations and Martian armies stationed in salt mines in Quebec. And ever again back to the plagues of drug and drink and pornography, all aligned to force men to spill their seed where the enemy could collect. “But I can tell you still don’t believe a word,” he said, pulling the car to a stop at the water’s edge. “So I reckon you’re going to have to see for yourself.”

We’re in a biker camp. It looks like it was active a few days ago. There’s a burnt-out field on the side of the clearing away from the water, probably pot, and small puddles nearer the pond red with blood, each surrounded by frogs drinking their fill. There are motorcycles still standing, bloodstained. There aren’t any bodies. “Had some trouble with the tools of the enemy last Sunday,” says Jake by way of explanation. “Nice private place, this is. Shame to let it go to waste.” He walks around to the trunk of the Buick. He’s attached his keychain’s to Pa’s old Bowie knife. He holds it while he unlocks the trunk.

Liz is in the trunk, sloppily trussed and gagged, bruised but awake, eyes flashing with fear and anger. Jake pulls her out. I think about rushing him. I’ve never beaten Jake in a fair fight, not once. Not in an unfair one neither. But I’ve had the best training the Marine Corp can give over these past nine years, and he’s just been mean and lonely. He did apparently take out at least five bikers recently. Alone, or did he have allies? If so, are they here, watching us now? I hold off. He’s got the knife in hand. Maybe I could take him, but not without killing him, and not without giving him the chance to kill Liz.

Jake pulls her out, stands her up against a tree. He cuts off the gag, lightly grazing her cheek. She flinches. “You ready to tell us the truth, girl?”

Liz looks to me, desperation in her eyes. Then she looks at Jake, and the his menacing knife. “Okay,” she says. “My real name isn’t Liz Meyers. It’s Charlotte Fields.” Jake starts laughing.

“Oh, that’s good,” he says.

I think back, to how we met. Literally bumping into each other, outside the campus bookstore, like something out of a movie. Was it real, or was she stalking me, planning something? Was any of the last month real? It had to be. But I knew that name, and after hearing it I recognized the face, underneath the blond hair (dyed? Or a wig?), aged out of childhood into an adult. I knew that name.

It was in the last weeks of the foster kids scam. I never had much to do with them, but Jake did. “Playing with them,” he said, and I knew what he meant. One day he played with one of the boys a bit too hard, and there was a world of trouble going down because. Pa beat him bloody, blackened an eye, and they left me with the boy’s big sister Charlotte, away from the rest.

“Keep an eye on her,” Ma had said. She begged me to let her go, let her make a run for it. She told me Jake had killed her brother Tommy and was going to kill her. She begged and begged and when I believed every word I opened the door, watched for the rest of the family, and let her go.

I was never in so much trouble in my life. Jake started twisting my arm. That was his favorite game, Uncle. Hold out long enough to impress him and he wouldn’t start a new round for a few hours. Jake had three years and twenty pounds of muscle on me. There was no way I’d ever out-wrestle him, ever even make him feel a thing if I tried to take my turn. It was a game I could never win. Except that day, I did. He kept pulling and twisting, but no matter how painful it was I didn’t say ‘uncle’, didn’t say a thing. It felt like crying out would mean more then, more than just saying Jake was bigger and meaner. So I kept quiet, right up until he dislocated my shoulder. I hollered a whole lot then, but not for mercy.

He had to get Pa to come, pop it back in. Pa cracked a smile. He didn’t usually get to hurt me. He and Jake had a deal. He’d take the beatings for us both, then pass mine along. But Jake didn’t know how to fix it and there was no way anyone was going to any hospital. Pa made it hurt as much as possible. Then he and Jake went out to hunt for Charlotte. They brought shotguns. They came home empty handed.

And the thing was, Tommy wasn’t even dead. I saw him, a few weeks later, in the back yard through my window at night, waving to me. After the family shut down the bunkhouse scam, all of the kids would come, on the rainy nights when the frogs out-sang the crickets, and wave. When lightning rolled in the clouds above to light up the yard, I could see their faces, each the color of charcoal ash.

Jake stops laughing when Liz- when Charlotte kicks him in the crotch. She’d managed to work her arms free, too. She runs, hopping on one of the motorcycles. She mutters a prayer and turns the key that’s still in the ignition. It starts. She drives off about fifty feet before Jake shoots her.

The bullet hits her left shoulder and she tumbles off the bike, onto the muddy ground. Jake’s bringing his left hand, pistol-holding, over to aim at where she’s fallen. I rush at him, body-checking him on that left side, knocking the gun away. He’s still got the knife in his right. I’ve got mine, too.

We fight. We’re both fast, making quick jabs that turn to deep cuts on arms or legs. He keeps looking shocked that I know how to fight, as if he’s forgotten that I’ve been to war and back. Each time I tag him he gets angrier. There’s bloody murder in his eyes when he lunges where I head-fake him, and I stab my big brother in the heart.

They say the way to tell who just won a knife-fight is to look for the guy who’s only slowly bleeding to death. Absolutely true here. I’m bleeding heavy as I fall down to my knees. Jake’s heart’s stopped, so he’s not gushing blood, just leaking. The frogs gather around him. They’re leaving me alone, for now.

Charlotte stands, and walks to me. “Thank god,” I say. “You’ve got to get us to the hospital. We need-” She spits in my face. “I let you g-”

“You could have done something one god-damned day earlier,” she says.

“But Tommy,” I say, “Tommy’s not-”

I don’t finish. Tommy’s head is rising out of the pond, more and more of him above water as he shambles toward the shore. His skin ash grey, water silently draining out his mouth as his lungs take in air. His eyes are pure white, empty, and I can’t finish what I’d been saying, can’t say this thing walking out of the pond isn’t dead. The other children are behind him, as are other men, Confederate-flag tattooed bikers taking up the rear. Charlotte turns and runs, clutching her wounded shoulder.

They don’t follow. They mill about, swaying. The frogs croak a storm. I turn my eyes to them. One crawls into Jake’s mouth. There’s a tearing sound, and I can only imagine something ripping through the roof of his mouth, crawling into his skull. His eyes open. He slowly stands, all color gone from his face. He cracks his neck, smiles, and points out toward the woods, in the direction that Charlotte ran. All of them, the frog-Jake thing and all the others, start off at a run, leaving me alone by the pond’s edge.

I don’t give up. I sacrifice my clothes to bandage as many of my wounds as I can, then crawl along the ground, looking for Jake’s knife. I find it and take the keychain off the hilt.

I don’t know who’ll win the chase, if Charlotte will get away, what will happen if she doesn’t. I know, without knowing why, that she’ll be heading for the old house, heading for where Ma is. Just like I know that’s where the others will wind up, catch her or not. I don’t know what either of them will do to her when they arrive. I don’t know if I can think of anything she wouldn’t have coming.

Survival’s my mission right now. Either I’ll make it to an emergency room, and deal with what’s happened after I’m on my feet, or I’ll pass out and wrap the Buick around a tree, in which case it won’t be my problem anymore, at least unless the blood-drinking frogs find me before the police.

I turn the ignition.



Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016


Got Out.


Grimey Drawer

(edited)

Jay W. Friks fucked around with this message at 04:11 on Jan 3, 2018

Captain_Indigo
Jul 29, 2007

"That’s cheating! You know the rules: once you sacrifice something here, you don’t get it back!"



The Lamb Feast
(1997)

The painting was oils on canvas, layered so thick it made you want to reach out and run your fingertips over it. It showed a clearing, or maybe a crater, full of lambs. Their fleeces were thick and bushy, their eyes little black beads. In the centre stood a small pack of wolves, blood dripping from their jaws and a corpse at their feet. They looked up at the deluge of sheep pouring into the crater with fear, their tails down and their ears flat.

“What do you think it's saying?” Donny asked with a sniff.

“Well, I don't know there, Donny. I think that it's probably supposed to show strength in numbers or something.”

“Are the wolves the devil?”

“Maybe the wolves are sin? I don't know.”

It was one of many paintings of a similar nature that lined the walls of The Divinity.

“Look at that one!” Donny suddenly laughed, pointing at the lower corner.

One of the sheep was standing at the edge of the corpses and had its feet and muzzle matted with blood. It was probably just a slip of the brush or artistic blur, but it looked as if it had taken part in the feast itself.

“This is going to be long,” I said with a shudder. “Let's go watch the loving flock roll in.”

We joined one of the Filipino chefs on the deck, looking out over the crowd bustling to get aboard. He grunted something as we came up beside him, then took a long drag from a wet cigarillo and threw it overboard.

“Look at them,” he spat. “loving Christians.”

“I thought you all were Christians,” Donny said.

“I'm a Catholic, motherfucker,” the chef grunted. “'S different. I wouldn't pay for this poo poo. You boys get a last drink?”

“Last drink?” I asked.

“Nobody told you? It's a dry cruise. Father Goodman s orders. All the booze locked up, boys. No alcohol for guests or staff for the next six weeks. Anchors away!”

He walked away, laughing until greasy tears poured down his weathered cheeks.
-*-

The Divinity had been called The Ventura up until a year ago. It was a discontinued cruise liner owned by one of the major companies. Father Goodman, television evangelist, multi-millionaire and saver of souls had bought it up and it was now a Christian themed retreat for the holy elite to travel the world.

They poured on to the deck as a mass of terrible haircuts and pasty white skin.

“Man, I shouldn't have quit the Disney liner,” Donny said grumpily, his hands hanging over the rail.

“You didn't quit, Donny. You were fired. I quit. Remember?”

He waved me off, then smiled.

“Up by the tour bus, big guy with his family. Kids all dressed the same.”

I scanned the crowd for his pick. We were playing a game where we tried to find the person who looked most like a sex offender.

“Nah Donny, I win that round.”

“Not him, check out his wife.”

The father wore a suit, the boys were dressed in matching red shirts with milky sweater vests. The lone daughter, a carbon-copy of her mother sans glasses, peered up at the ship and blinked at the sun. The mother was taller and broader than her husband, wrapped in a floral dress that I could imagine farmers burying their grandmas in. Her hair was a mass of frizz and her eyes blinked like a cartoon mole’s behind thick coke-bottle glasses.

“drat.”

I handed him back a crumpled dollar.

-*-

The cruise began exactly as planned. A giant ship full of weird, white, American Christians all singing and dining and praying together for hours and hours a day. There was something strange about them, the way they walked and talked and moved. They were zombies with blissful smiles. Donny and I stood in the kitchen and watched them when they said grace before eating, over half of them moved to tears in pure ecstasy. Father Goodman delivered his sermons three times a day and his leaders led courses and the rest of the time the blissful zombies shuffled about in their floral dresses and sweater vests and made small talk over shuffleboard and Holy Mojitos. They were the same as virgin mojitos, but on the second day Father Goodman had talked to the captain and now they were holy. On the Disney cruise, eventually all the guests had begun to merge together. On The Divinity, it had happened on the first day.

As we headed south into warmer climates, the sweater vests began to disappear and were replaced with baggy Hawaiian shirts and swimming shorts. The floral dresses never changed. Not once, did I see a woman in a bathing suit. I saw the family often, the sex offender in her dress, the man with his glasses, their identical children.

And then, as we passed into The Gulf of Mexico, there was an engine fire.

The ship shuddered and rocked, the fire grew high and a pillar of smoke rose into the air and then the crew were able to get it under control. But no engine meant no movement. We were stranded. More importantly, no engine meant no electricity. The captain sent a distress beacon and then all the lights went out. The boat shut down section by section with a low-pitched gurgle like a dying animal. Blissful zombies blinked stupidly up at flickering lights as the ship fell to sleep. They came to us, in groups, mewling in complaint, dragging their feet in long lumbering steps. “The lights are ouuuut! There’s no pooooooweeer! Nothings woooorkiiing!” After a few hours, Donny found me hiding somewhere on the deck. His hair was matted with sweat and his eyes were bloodshot.

“Man, I cannot stand this. What the gently caress is wrong with them all?”

“I know!” I said, slipping him a cigarette.

“They look at me like I’m a loving mechanic. I tell them ‘do these look like overalls to you?’”

“I know, man. Any word on when we’re getting picked up?”

He breathed a long line of smoke directly in to the air as the sun began to set behind us.

“I don’t know. But I can’t take much longer of this.”

After three days, we had not received any word of rescue. The zombies were getting restless. It didn’t take long for Father Goodman to turn our ordeal into a test from God. That satisfied the blissful zombies for a while. They closed their eyes and shuddered and spoke in tongues and babbled whilst the staff exchanged awkward glances around them. Goodman began to do five sermons a day instead of three. Then seven. His prophecies of rescue stepped back daily. If the guests could just remain faithful, if they could stay patient, then surely God would send rescue soon.

On the fourth day, a group of the men cornered the Father.

“Preacher, we need a word,” one of them told him.

“Thing is preacher, this whole thing is getting a little tiring. Me and some of the fellas have been talking. We think it’s time to bust open the alcohol.”

And just like that, on the fifth day, the Father told the captain to open the locked down booze and the mojitos were no longer holy. Just as the first warm beers were being handed out among the men to cheers and applause, every toilet on board began spewing rivers of filth. I turned and watched as a river of sewage and chemicals and rotting sanitary products pooled upon the deck. Donny stood, his eyes streaming and his cheeks turning green, as a river of foulness flowed up to his ankles and over the deck into the sea.

They were like animals. We watched, in shock, as they drank. The blissful zombies stopped going to sermons, so Goodman stopped doing them. Abandoned children wandered the boats in packs, their clothes filthy, completely unsure of what to do as their parents acted like pirates. They drank long into the night, passed out, woke again and started drinking. Their soiled clothes were stripped away and thrown into the ocean to float like shed skins.

“Oh Christ!” Donny said as he came into our cabin, slamming the door behind him. I had stopped going to work. We all had. “They’re loving up there. I just saw a sixty-year-old from Wisconsin with her ankles over her head. This is… this is scary, man.”

He was right. It wasn’t just strange. It was terrifying. Whether it was a panicked animal instinct to the claustrophobia or a release after years of restraint, the Divinity had become Sodom and Gomora.

“This isn’t right,” he said. “It’s…”

He was interrupted by a knock on the door that seemed to echo around our whole cramped little cabin.

“Captain wants everyone on deck,” someone barked. “Wants to address what’s happening here, stop things before they go too far.”

The crew assembled on the deck, alongside the children. They had grown feral in two days. Their faces were grubby, their hands and feet like monkey claws. Their eyes had seen far too much. They huddled around us, desperate for guidance. The deck was now part orgy, part fight club.

A woman on all fours with bloody face paint was being spit roasted by two guys who looked like off-season Santa Clauses. Two Minnesota housewives sixty-nined whilst onlookers masturbated. Meanwhile, a man in soiled white briefs swung a broken bottle at a man in black boxers clutching a wooden plank. Men and women alike limped or clutched at their stomachs. Many had broken glasses and black eyes. Others were bleeding from scratches and cuts down their sunburnt backs. They left footprints of poo poo around the deck with feet cut on broken glass.

The captain, in his full uniform, appeared on the stage flanked by five of his senior crew. Father Goodman was with them, his face cleaved with worry lines.

“Ladies and Gentlemen of The Divinity,” the captain bellowed. “May I have your attention please?”

To my surprise, the noise died down. There were still rough grunts of anal penetration from different parts of the deck, the sound of someone moaning in pain from where they had been fighting, but for the most part the guests were silent.

“Okay, folks. We’ve all had our vacation fun, now it’s time to get serious,” the Captain said. “It’s time to face the facts. A distress call was launched and rescue should arrive shortly, but we don’t know when that will be and with all our generators down, we just have to wait. Which brings me to my second point. It’s time to gather and ration the food we have on board. With the industrial refrigerators down, and sections of the larder behind electronic locks, we need to start being sensible with supplies.”

The crowd were looking back and forth at one another with animal eyes. They had left their human selves behind a few days ago.

“gently caress….gently caress…” Donny was whispering. His hand reached out and grabbed my wrist. “I think we should maybe head to our cabin…”

The guests approached the stage slowly, their blissful zombie smiles replaced with wide, genuine grins.

“My children,” Father Goodman yelled as loud as he could. “The captain is right! We must conserve to ensure return to land. Like Jesus himself declared….”

Hands grabbed him and pulled him from the stage. I turned and ran with Donny, leaving the children and our other crew members behind. I heard Goodman screaming. I turned and saw flashes of crimson as his flock tore him open like rotten fruit and dined on his raw body. The captain was screaming orders, but the guests ignored him and continued to advance on the stage. They had no desire to return to land. I saw the sex offender, now naked, leap on to him and sink her teeth into his face. The lambs turned on one another and feasted.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006



archived.

Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 22:05 on Oct 31, 2017

Pippin
May 25, 2016


Not gonna be able to finish this. Will enter with a :toxx: next time.

MockingQuantum
Jan 20, 2012





The Chalk Line
1868 words

Josiah ran, legs pumping, a smile slashed across his face. As he rounded the Greene Drug on the corner of Powell and First, his smile began to dwindle. He couldn't see Sammy anywhere. The younger boy was small, but quick, quicker than the last time Josiah had seen him. Now that he was ten, Sammy could run. Jo hadn't counted on that when he'd suggested they play cat and mouse around downtown.

The suggestion had been good, of course. Jo could see his cousin's face falling with every hour he spent in town. Sammy's mom was off on a business trip, a rare occurrence, but big enough to remind Sammy that his dad was just... gone.

Jo scanned the street, eyes jumping from storefront to storefront. Their rusted and rustic signs advertised a variety of wares, though truthfully only a couple of shops were still open. Jo walked up to the dirty pane of glass at the front of Weissman's Meats, looking for sign of his cousin. He tested the door, finding it locked and breathing a sigh of relief that Sammy couldn't have ducked through the ruined building.

Jogging down to the next intersection, Jo considered stepping into one of the inhabited stores and asking if they'd seen Sammy. But no one around here would know Sammy by sight, since he wasn't a local. And most of the locals didn't pay much attention to wayward kids, as long as they stayed away from the center of town.

A cold sweat broke out across Jo's body. The center of town. Sammy knew, didn't he? Everyone knew. No, that's not quite right, Jo thought. Everyone who grew up here knew, but Sammy had been whisked away to live across the state after his dad was gone. He was barely a year old at the time, and chances were slim that Aunt Mary had shared the stranger details of Uncle Neil's disappearance with her young son.

Sammy didn't know. And he was eager to find the best hiding place, to outlast Josiah and win the game when the clock on the town hall tolled five. Where better to hide than the thicket? Josiah pumped his legs harder, his heart beating like cannon-fire with every rapid step.

He took a quick turn around the carcass of a K-Mart and into Island Park. The stretch of tamed wilderness in the center of town was hardly out of place, but for locals it still felt eerie, given its well-guarded secret. Josiah grew cold again as he weaved between trees, looking for Sammy, still at full tilt.

As he rounded a tree, he nearly charged directly into a bright yellow sign with big block letters: PLEASE STAY OFF GRASS INSIDE CHALK LINE.

Why is this here? Josiah thought. It was never this close to the treeline, you had to come into the clearing proper to see the sign much less-- He caught up short, stopping so suddenly he almost slipped. He shot an arm out, grabbing the sign to steady himself. A bright red line blossomed on his hand where the metal of the sign had cut through the flesh of his palm.

A breath caught in his throat as he looked down at his left foot. It was mere inches over a bone-white chalk line. It wasn't chalk, strictly speaking. The city had changed over to using field paint years ago, same as the stuff they used on the high school football field. The paint described a generous oval, stretching off north and south of where Josiah stood.

He looked at the sole of his shoe to see speckles and flecks of the paint. They'd redone it, and recently. The thicket was growing. It always did, of course, like any other collection of plants. Nobody could get close enough to trim it back without putting themselves at a huge risk. The few attempts that had been made to prune some of the closest bushes or trees using cherry pickers or tree saws hadn't made much of a dent. Rumors were it had only made the thicket grow faster.

Josiah slowly began walking north, staying just outside the white line, watching closely. There was no obvious sign of Sammy, there among the thick buckthorn bushes and strangely twisted elms. He started to call Sammy's name, but stopped himself. There was a chance the sound would draw one of them.

Before long, he came to a tree that had been marked with a white X, meaning it was close enough that the city was going to start treating it as part of the thicket. It was safe now, though, lending Josiah some support as he hooked his hand around a thick limb in order to navigate a pile of loose rocks at the base of the tree.

His hand left a bright red smear on the limb. His hand. He'd cut it. No, no no, he thought. Not yet, not until I know whether he's in there. Maybe it's too far out, maybe they won't feel it or smell it or taste it or whatever it is they do.

As he rounded the tree, there was something new, about twenty feet away, just on the edge of the thicket. A man stood stock still, as if at attention. He was dressed all in white, with raven-black hair and a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. It was Josiah's third grade teacher, Mr. Morland.

Or at least, it looked like him. Or was wearing him, or something. No one in town was sure. They all looked like people from town, people who had gone missing. Mr. Morland was one of the few that had actually been seen wandering into the thicket one day, never to emerge. It happened four years ago.

Josiah looked at it, unsure how to proceed. Sometimes they talked, sometimes they just... watched. Though that wasn't quite right, was it? They never actually watched. Their eyes always rolled around in their heads, aimlessly, like they weren't sure how the little orbs worked. The rare times they actually managed eye contact, it... did something. Reports differed. Jo had never had it happen to him, though he'd seen them two or three other times.

He resolved to ignore the not-Morland, continuing around the circle. It didn't speak, and eventually dropped out of sight as he rounded the curve and put the thicket between him and it.

And yet there it was again, a few long strides ahead.

"Go away," Josiah said, though it came out more quietly than he'd intended. It turned its head toward him, its eyes never quite fixing on him. Its mouth slowly dropped open as if to speak, but instead it simply disappeared back into the thicket. "Thank loving god," Josiah muttered, continuing on.

He began to call Sammy's name. The things knew he was here now, there was no harm in it. The sun was setting quickly, and the idea of Sammy being somewhere in the park by himself after dark was not one he wanted to entertain.

Off in the distance, he could see into the main drag downtown. Shops were closing, people were getting into cars and driving off to their homes, which were no doubt as far from the park as the inhabitants could afford. More than one native of the town thought they could get much farther from the thicket in the dark.

Josiah heard a crunching sound from behind him, and whipped his head around fast enough to hurt his neck. There was another one, a different one, standing with his back to Jo. It was so close... If Jo stood right at the line, he could have reached out and touched this one. Not that he could ever be convinced of doing that. No one was sure what would happen.

The failing light made it hard to identify this one from where he was. Jo edged closer, not sure what it would do if he came within reach. So far, it hadn't stirred. Josiah pulled out his phone, switched on the light.

It was his uncle Neil.

The family had always suspected. Josiah was seven when Neil disappeared, and didn't remember him all that well, but he recognized him from family photos. He'd heard his parents whispering late some nights, talking about how Neil had always been too curious, too troubled by the town's secret. Jo's dad had even suggested that they took Neil, though that was probably meant to scare the young boy into not wandering around after dark.

As Josiah looked at that strange, lined face, it whispered. Jo couldn't make out what it said, but it probably didn't matter. They rarely made sense.

It whispered again. There was something insistent about its behavior, something more intentional than was normal. Jo edged closer, always keeping one eye on the white line, not wanting to lose track of it in the growing twilight.

"are you a friend?"

The words sent a shiver down Josiah's spine. Something about its voice felt wrong, the way they wormed into your ear. They spoke like they didn't understand what they were saying, like parrots just repeating speech they'd heard before.

"are you a friend?" it asked again. It turned to Josiah. He could have sworn it was looking for an answer.

"Maybe I'm a friend, yeah... I'm looking for someone," Josiah said. "A boy, he may have gone past. He looks like--" he stopped himself. He'd nearly said he looks like your son, though Jo wasn't certain why the words had risen, unbidden.

It looked him in the eye. "friends help friends."

"Yes, they do. Can you help me? I could be your friend," Josiah said, though the words gave him a deep, sickly feeling in his gut.

"between friends, there are no secrets. he is here. he is new. he could leave, if shown the way."

Josiah was speechless. He'd never heard one talk this much, or this coherently. "How? How do I show him the way?"

"i will show you the way first." It raised an arm, pointing back the way Josiah had come. A few strides back, the white line had changed. It had been an unbroken circle, Josiah was certain of that. But now it wasn't. A few strides back, the white circle was broken, and instead two long parallel lines led right up to the thicket, like a garden path. It was giving him a path in, a path to find Sammy.

Josiah looked out at the lights of downtown again, not wanting to enter. But if Sammy was in there, he had to get him out. Jo walked to the start of the path and turned to look, one final time, at the not-Neil. It nodded, then turned away once more.

Josiah walked down the path, feeling slightly faint. With a tentative hand, he reached out, brushed aside a springy limb, and stepped into the thicket. The foliage closed behind him like a solid verdant wall.

The not-Neil was not Neil anymore. "friends do not abandon their friends," it said in a younger voice, to no one at all, as it looked at the bright red line on the flesh of its palm.


SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010


Sonata

hi im not i any more

outta nowhere, a moment of cataplexy – a giving way and i am no longer who i am. this is not coherent, i apologise. we underwent the opposite of a schism and now we are 1. i will list, as best i can:

1) an ice bath
2) a kind man
3) an unkind man
4) needles and thread

two men enter, one leaves ahaha. it is a movie reference. i like movies but i cannot remember which of i likes movies. i am a beast of needles and thread, of flesh and bright smiling teeth.

one of us liked music. do you know the moonlight symphony? it was the only piece of sheet music on the old piano in our mother’s house and she would play it most days. it is beautiful – it is rich, complex, polyphonic. it has layers on layers of notes that crash together into a more complete whole.

the kind man gave me a drink and i drunk it. he cut pieces of me away and i screamed because i could not see his vision until he cut me open another eye. the unkind man lay strapped down next to me and also screamed. the kind man plucked out his eyes, to spare him the pain of seeing, but it only made him scream more until his throat broke and he tasted blood. i taste blood now, as I walk through his memory and it is my memory now

Cata, from the Greek kata for down. catastrophe, cataclysm, catamorph – new word new form sub form greater than sum. i am the moonlight

two eyes plus two eyes, plus one eye minus two eyes is a net loss of one eye but i always prefered quality over quantity haha

one of us had a wife and i ate her and she screamed. we were not meant to leave the lab but humans are so fragile. we broke the straps that held us down and we repayed kindness with kindness. the kind man screamed and i do not understand why – perhaps i did not add enough parts. i failed him and for that i am sorry. i took his needles and thread

the wife also screamed. we did not intend to hurt her but we sought to add her memories to our own and to add her person to our own and to add. her screams petered out into little trills and grace notes

her pain became our own and we sat with our arms wrapped around our knees while we remembered the music but we had too many arms and not enough knees so we picked ourselves up because there was more work to be done

down down down but we are beautiful now, yet incomplete

we are we were we will we would -- forgive me, the time signature is complex. tenses and cases and pronouns are notes on a page --in a crumbling house long ago where we could not afford to eat-- but they are not music

we found a house, and we added more. their pain hurt us too and they did not understand and they still scream even now that they are part of us. their mouths wrench open, their teeth gnash. like the unkind man they are blind to the great work the kind man began

my favourite movie is

i forget

i am not-
i am–

one of us liked movies and one of us liked to cook and one of us drank too much and watched the cars on tv to numb their mind, and we were lazy and selfish and slow and blind and now the sins are washed away in this bold new place but the little-us the catamorphs they writhe even though they are

as i grew older i came to realise my mother played the moonlight when she was sad. even when she could not afford to eat she did not sell the piano. she played as if the music would make her full, and complete. she cried while she played that night and i did not know what to do

the kind man was a composer and i am a song. i went from house to house and i added layers to myself, and they made their own songs of protest. their pain meant less and less to me – it added to the great work the kind man began

i found my mother in her house, across town. she did not recognise me; she had not seen me in years; she screamed i suppose because i had gotten fat. all the little catamorphs added a new layer to my song and as my mother sat in the corner with her eyes wide i played her the moonlight and she wept, and night fell

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P



All Things Are Now Empty
1954 words

Alice floated near the edge of consciousness. Her arm felt sore. There was a terrible pressure in her face and she could not tell whether her eyes were open or shut. She tried to blink and a strange palette of shapes skirted across her brain. She raised a hand to her face. There was a horrible sucking sound as she pulled something sharp and brittle from her—.

(Oh God.)

“Liam,” she grappled blindly in the car. Her wet fingers brushed against something rough protruding through the windshield. She thought it was a branch, but it was covered in a strange fuzz. Her hand followed the thing to its base. Glass crinkled. There was fur and something sticky.

(In her mind’s eye, Liam turned onto a country road. Despite the snow, the car glided through the night with such grace that Alice could not tell if they were moving. “This must be what space travel is like,” she said, her eyes watching the neon green of the speedometer. A fluorescent sign labelled “Briarwood Way” zoomed in and out of sight.

Liam grunted. His beady eyes moved back and forth across the darkness, searching the forest for movement. Snow buzzed through the darkness, collecting around the edges of the window where the wipers could not reach. She cradled the small bump beginning to form on her belly, feeling useless and pathetic.)


“Liam! Oh, Christ, Liam!” She shouted. The dullness in her brain was gone. Her seatbelt had remained tight, but her arm twisted in a strange, unnatural direction. Flashes of hot pain shot through her body. Her window had shattered into confetti of glass that crunched beneath her feet. Through the jagged opening, fat snowflakes fluttered and melted on her skin. It soaked into her sweater.

She slapped away the wetness. She would not think about her body.

She would not think about the small thing that had been growing inside her.

Above the whir of a distant highway, the radio crackled in thin, short bursts. “…Cold one tonight. Highs… mid-30s and lows… Blizzard conditions... Avoid…”

“Ally, baby?”

Alice’s hand shot out toward the voice. She fumbled around torn fabric and pressed herself against Liam’s meaty flesh. She told herself she wouldn’t cry, but instead heard her breathe become heavy and ragged. Incoherent syllables spilled out of her mouth.

“Hey, hey,” he said. “It’s gonna be alright. It’s gonna be…” He lifted her chin and recoiled. “Oh, Christ.”

Alice could hear Liam collecting himself and taking inventory of the situation. His hand skirted down past Alice’s own and toward his own chest. He patted something wet. “Oh, oh, Jesus!”

“I can’t see, Liam. Something’s wrong. Something’s wrong with my eyes.” She pressed her arm against Liam’s own and felt something wet and sticky. Thin ropes protruded from his belly. Alice frowned. It felt like a grocery bag that had been torn. It felt like—.

A scream pressed against the back of her throat. She would not think about...

(“Surprise!” Alice pushed her way into her parents’ foyer, presents cascading down her front. “Merry Christmas!”

Music wafted over the garland-covered bannister. Her brother, Ash, peaked out from an archway as her mother waddled down the stairs. “Ey!” He said. “Look who decided to show up!”

Her brother’s cheer calcified at the sight of Liam in the doorway. He approached, frustration coiled around his politeness, and clapped a hand on Liam’s back. His bitter cheer did not stop until Liam had disappeared into the living room with a small pile of presents.

“So,” Ash said, “you two still a thing or…”)


“Alice? Alice, I can’t move.” Liam’s bravado melted as he grappled her wrists, pulling on the damaged bone and cartilage with such force that Alice wanted to scream. She could feel parts of him leaking out. The smell of warm poo poo wafted through the car.

“Liam, I think. I—.”

“God, Ally, shut up for five goddamn seconds. Let me think. Just…” His voice turned into a giggle that made Alice’s skin crawl. “We’re gonna die in this car. We’re both gonna bleed to death or freeze or get eaten by some wolves or I don’t even know.”

Blood throbbed in her head. She tried to pull away from his grasp. “Liam.” She said.

A gust of snow blew into the car. She could hear the tendons in Liam’s neck twisting and stretching. He released his grip and could feel him twisting in his seat. “There’s a mailbox and a driveway not too far behind us. It's like 100 feet, but I can’t see the door and they’ve probably already gone to bed.” He was wheezing. “We could try screaming. We could try screaming and maybe they’ll hear us, but I don’t know. I can’t—. I don’t want to—.”

(Alice had not wanted to leave, but Liam had grabbed hold of her arm and would not let go. Her mother tottered in the driveway. Her brother slammed the door as he came out onto the porch. The music in the house, once so inviting, seemed harsh in the winter air.

“You poo poo! You loving piece of poo poo." Her brother was angrier than Alice had ever seen him. He took a step off the front door and slipped on a patch of ice. His face slammed into the concrete and blood welled between his teeth. Alice moved toward him, but Liam reeled her back. Alice’s mother skirted past. From the ground, Ash continued shouting. “Do you think I wanted my sister to end up as a supporting character in a lovely Lifetime Original movie, preggo with some loser’s sperm?”

For a moment, Alice was sure that Liam was going to walk over and punch Ash’s teeth out. Instead, he reared his head back and snapped. “Who the gently caress are you to tell her what to do? She can talk for herself and make her own drat decisions.”

He pulled her in tight. With her eyes to the snow, Alice muttered an unheard apology. It was the kind of cliché that her brother hated. They walked toward the car.

“You’ve ruined her life.” Ash shouted. “She could have been anything but instead…)


Alice whimpered and immediately hated herself for doing do. She fumbled with her good arm for his hand. “I can go.”

Silence whipped through the car.

“No, you can’t.” He said.

She tried to make her voice sound firm and confident. “I can still move. I can go get help.”

“But, Ally, Jesus, your face. Your eyes.” His fingers brushed against her hair. His hand drifted toward her belly. “Your…”

(Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it.)

“You can shout to me. It’ll be like Marco Polo.” She moved the muscles of her face in something resembling a smile. “Just don’t let me get lost.”

She had meant it to be a joke, but the words had come out numb in her mouth. They sat, shivering in silence. The broken wreckage of the radio descended into garbled static. Alice could not feel her ears or the tips of her fingers.

Liam reached across her. There was a wet plopping sound. His muscles tensed, but he pressed forward, pushing on Alice’s door. It opened with the delicate crinkle of glass. Liam grabbed something sharp and cut through her seatbelt, freeing her from the seat.

“Just a few steps, Ally,” he said. Despite his firmness, his breathing seemed shallow. “Just follow the road. I’ll shout if you’re moving in the wrong direction.”

She fumbled her legs over the edges of the car. As snow seeped into her ruined socks, she remembered a story she had read about a group of German tourists who had gotten lost in a cave in South America. Once they let go of the walls, they were unable to find them again. They burned through the lantern oil first, then the matches. Then, there had been nothing but darkness and uninterrupted open space.

“That’s it. Just a few steps. Just keep going in a straight line until you feel the road.” He shouted over the howling wind.

After several hours, the tourists had begun to hallucinate. The human brain abhors a vacuum and will conjure up feeling when none is available. One of the survivors remembered his father calling to him. Another felt thousands of spiders crawling on his skin.

Alice inched forward with her arms stretched out. In the night was absolutely nothing. Nothing after nothing spread before her.

“You should feel the road any second.” He said. “When you feel it, turn left. Turn left.”

(They were in the car. Alice’s mother house disappeared behind a wave of trees. Liam switched on the station to the sounds of Jingle Bells.

“It’s my fault.” Alice said. “I’m sorry. I should have—.”

“Don’t.” Liam said. His eyes stared straight ahead. They were dark and glassy.

“It’s just that—.”

“Holy poo poo, Alice. Shut up. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to have a heart-to-heart.” He breathed in. Alice watched his nostrils widen as air escaped. “Let’s just get home and we can talk about it then, okay?”

Jingle bells turned into Silent Night. Trees loomed over them as Liam turned onto a side road, their snow-covered claws piercing through the headlights. As a kid, her father had scared her with stories of ghosts who appeared in the snow and of the Melon Heads, who lurched through the darkness looking for children to eat. She would be a better parent.

Liam sighed. “Hey, Ally. I’m sorry I snapped. It’s just that I—.”

She never heard the rest of the apology because some dark creature had leapt into the road. Alice screamed as the thing raised its antlers and froze in the headlights. It was the last thing she would see. )


Asphalt and ice replaced the crunch of snow. She edged her way forward into the great empty as Liam’s voice grew distant behind her. If a car came down the road—.

(Don’t think about it.)

If there was a wolf or bear—.

(Don’t think about it.)

If she slipped. If she lost the road and tumbled downward into the forest, they would not find her body until the spring. People died in winter all the time. Old people slipped on their porches. Children played too far from home and froze in the snow. Skaters stepped onto thin patches of ice and disappeared beneath the surface. Their skates carried them down to the bottom of the lake, where no one would find them.

Her feet shifted from one surface to another. Concrete. She reached her hands out and felt something cold and wooden. Her fingers traced a series of frostbitten numbers. A mailbox.

“Liam, I made it!” She shouted. There was nothing but icy breeze. “Liam?”

She shivered in the cold, but pressed against the wind. Her footsteps echoed against the concrete. It was only a few more steps, she told herself. The doorstep would only be a few more steps. Then, everything would be okay again.

(The living room was a mess of wrapping paper. Alice finished stitching the last box with tape and stood up to admire her work. “You almost ready to go?” She shouted toward the bedroom.

Liam emerged from the back wearing the Christmas sweater that she had bought for him. The bright-eyed snowman mismatched Liam’s own dull expression. “Do we need to do this? Your family’s gonna freak.”

Alice ignored the doubt creeping inside her and moved to lay her head on his chest. “You feel that?” She said, pressing his hand against her stomach. “It’s all going to be okay.”)

After The War
Apr 12, 2005

to all of my Architects
let me be traitor


Man, am I going to regret putting so much time into the OP of the M*A*S*H thread today. :smith:

(No, I won't, it looks like it's going to be a fun thread.)

EDIT - Yeah, with three minutes to deadline, this ain't gonna happen. But I do have a beginning and an end, so at least I'll have something to build from for a future project.

As penance, I'll do line crits for anybody that wants them.

After The War fucked around with this message at 03:58 on Sep 18, 2017

FouRPlaY
May 5, 2010




Eden’s Island
1514 words.

Sarah looked around the beach and prayed she could make it through her first popular party. She nearly fell over when her sister Jennifer asked her to come. She and Jen hadn’t spoken much after their parents separated.

Kevin and Mike and started a fire and dragged some logs around it. Through in the large rocks that dotted the beach, and it was almost an enclosed space. Very intimate.

Kevin sat down next to her on the log, while Mike joined Jen across the fire. The roaring fire was large enough and cast enough smoke that her sister and her boyfriend could hardly be seen. Sarah hadn’t gone to a lot of these kinds of parties, but even she could figure out it was all deliberate for privacy.

Sarah looked at Kevin and tried her best smile. It worked well enough for him to smile back.

She knew him from around, but had never spoken with him before. Football player. Definitely handsome. Guess he was the loose end that Jen was tying up. Can’t be unprepared for a beach party.

Kevin looked into her eyes. Sarah wanted to meet his gaze with her own smoldering version, like she had seen on tv, but she was too shy and kept darting her eyes around.

Kevin smiled. “It’s great that you could come. I’ve been wanting to meet you for a while.”

A lump formed in Sarah’s throat and she started to sweat. “Yeah?” she finally managed. “I’d thought a boy like you wouldn’t notice a girl like me.”

“Hey, I’ve got to pass the library on the way to football practice. I’ve seen you. Plus Jen thinks the world of you. She talks about you all the time.”

Sarah crashed back down to reality -- there was no way her sister spoke anything about her, let alone something positive. It was a line. It was nice, but it was flat.

“Huh.” Sarah stared back coolly at him and changed the subject. “Isn’t this the island that weird guy owns? The one whose daughter died?”

Kevin sighed. “Yeah, I think.” He tried to pull himself together and try back at Sarah. “Let’s not think about them though. Let’s just think about us.” He moved closer to Sarah.

Sarah leaned away. “She died at the party thrown by the mayor's son, yeah?”

“Yeah.” Kevin said. “She drank too much and fell out a window. Look, what’s this got to do with anything?”

Sarah looked at him. His eyes were narrowing and his jaw was tightening. “I just think it’s interesting that she died at a party and here we are at a party. Well, of sorts.”

“It’s not interesting. It’s just a secluded spot. And she probably wouldn’t have died if she was trying to have fun like everyone else there.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, everyone else was having a good time, but she was trying to get away. If she’d just relax and have some fun, she’d probably be alive.”

“Good time? What’s that supposed to mean?”

Kevin’s eyes lit up and a sly smile crossed his face. “I thought you’d never ask.” He leaned in quickly, trying to kiss Sarah.

Sarah closed her eyes and pulled away, fearing she was too late, but the kiss never came. Instead, she just heard gasping coming from Kevin.

She opened her eyes to a horror scene. There was Kevin, with a shocked and pained look on his face, and a giant ax sticking out of his back. Holding the ax was a dark figure, dressed in a sweater, with long hair and dead eyes.

She let out a bloodcurdling scream. The figure spoke, a voice rumbling as if from beyond the grave: “Get off my island.”

Sarah bolted. Screaming the whole way. She was quickly joined by Jennifer and Mike and their terrified screaming as well.

Sarah turned onto a path leading into the woods, with Jennifer and Mike right behind. She had no idea where the path lead, only that it lead away from the killer. Blindly hauling rear end through the woods, they finally reached a clearing and stopped.

The trees stood around the clearing like a palisade wall. There was a rock at the center, almost ceremonially placed. More paths ventured off in different directions. One hopefully leading to escape.

“What the hell was that?” asked Mike.

“I don’t know!” said Sarah. “It just came out of nowhere when I had my eyes closed. Oh god, he killed Kevin.” Tears were coming to here yes now.

“Kevin’s dead?” asked Mike.

“Oh god,” Jennifer screamed.

“Keep your voice down.” said Mike as he shook Jennifer. “We don’t want to attract it’s attention.”

“I’m pretty sure it followed us up this path,” said Sarah. She was terrified. Her arms were shaking. “We’ve got to get out of here. We’ve got to get back to the boat.”

“Yeah,” said Mike. “This is a disaster. I can’t believe you've let this happen.“

“How is this my fault?” asked Sarah. “Is there something I could have done?”

“How could you not have warned Kevin? How could you could not have shouted for help? Clearly you did something to let Kevin die. He was my best friend!” Mike reached out and slapped Sarah so hard she hit the ground. “When we get out of this, you’re going to pay dearly!”

The dark figure burst from woods, swinging his ax. He went straight for Mike. Mike tried to run away, but the figure was too fast. He raised the ax above his head and drove it down in an arc, lopping off Mike’s head. Blood splattered everywhere. Sarah had now been hit with a second person’s blood.

“You’ll pay!” he screamed. “You’ll all pay!”

Sarah got off the ground and ran over to Jennifer. “Let’s get out of here!” She screamed. “This way!”

The two women took off running, back towards the beach. Sarah hoped they could reach the boat before the dark figure caught up with them. The boat was their only chance for survival.

They reached the beach, with it still burning fire. Kevin’s body was still slumped over, with a gigantic wound in his back.

“Where’s the boat, Sarah?” asked Jennifer.

“I don’t know. Maybe it drifted a bit.”

Jennifer shook Sarah at the shoulders. “You’ve got to get me out of here. You’ve got to find that boat.”

Sarah freed herself. What had gotten into her sister? “We’ll find the boat and we’ll both get out of here.”

“I have to get out of here and back to safety. You’re my sister -- you need to make sure I’m safe.”

Sarah gave a confused look. “Let’s look for the boat. I’ll check over here and you check down that way.”

Sarah jogged down the beach a ways. She heard a splash from behind her and turned to see her sister in the boat. “Jennifer!” she called. “I’m over here come get me!”

The boat was not far from the shore. Jennifer looked at her sister, grabbed an oar, and starting rowing away. Sarah was horrified. She kept her look of horror as the dark figure rose out of the water. He swung his ax, burying it in Jennifer’s exposed back.

“You’ll never leave this island alive!” the dark figure called.

Sarah ran back down the beach, away from the terror of her sister’s dead body and the dark stranger that ended her life. She spied a path back through the forest and followed it down.

She risked a glance over her shoulder. Standing at the mouth of the path was the stranger. She dug down and ran even harder. Finally, she emerged in a clearing.

There was something different about this clearing, something almost calming. In the center was a statue and grave stone. The statute was that of an angel, face cast towards Heaven, with a pose as if pleading for someone’s soul. The grave was badly kept and overgrown. It looked like no one had been here in quite some time.

Sarah went up to the grave and fell down on her knees. She was exhausted. She was terrified. She didn’t know how much longer she could run. And she didn't know if she ever could escape this madman who seemed hell bent on killing her.

Sarah reached out and cleared out the the brambles from around the grave stone's name. All it said was, “My Angel.” She began to clear away more and more of the vines and the leaves and the tangle of nature from the grave stone. Her hands hurt, and bled, but she kept going.

She worked as if she was possessed. But after a time, the site was clean. She had done it.

A ray of light shun over her shoulder, striking the grave stone.

She looked around. It was morning. The stranger, who was just on her heels, was gone.

Sarah walked back down to the beach. Her sister and Kevin were gone. The boat had managed to drift back to shore. She got in, and went back to the mainland.

RandomPauI
Nov 24, 2006




Grimey Drawer

I'm taking the loss. I saw this as a way to finish a Thunderdome and to tackle some of my own fears and terrifying experiences. But the more I tried to add details the more emotionally painful it got.

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Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Index Case
1984 words

The sheriff’s truck bounced and shuddered its way up a muddy track through the woods leading to the Cagley dairy farm.

“How much you wanna bet they’re cooking meth up here?” asked the sheriff.

Jack pulled at the knot in his tie. “I’d really rather not know,” he said. “All I care about is whether they’ve cremated their cattle stock properly, and that’s about it.”

“I bet it ain’t easy to convince folks to burn all that meat, plaguefly or not,” said the sheriff. “Ninety percent of these old dairy farms are cooking meth to make ends meet. Causes trouble sometimes. Anything goes sour here, you just keep your head down and let me do the talking.”

The track emerged from the woods onto a field, in the middle of which the farmhouse squatted in shambles. The northern corner of the house slumped like a dislocated shoulder, and the clapboard siding dangled from rusted nails, peeling away like birch bark. Warped plywood stairs, unfinished pine ashen and streaked with black water damage, climbed like a drunk walking uphill towards a screen door whose scant remnants of mesh fabric hung like Spanish moss.

Huge crickets clung motionless to the walls of the house as the sheriff killed the engine of the truck, dark red spiny legs splayed for purchase on the rotting wood. Red-eyed cicadas like bloated houseflies trailed long gossamer wings behind their round bodies like wedding trains, and fat white grubs, some as thick as baby’s arm, chewed on exposed wood, oblivious to the truck’s arrival. Jack’s thumb rested paralysed against the button of his click pen, his clipboard far away in his lap.

Something huge was moving in the dark behind the screen door, lumbering towards the sunlight. The door flew outwards on screeching hinges, revealing a mountain of a man barely contained by stained and motheaten onesie. Tufts of dark matted hair sprouted from the holes in the fabric like mold on cheese. Greasy wild hair drifted upwards from a dirt-caked dome of a skull, and his pink eyes hid behind swollen dark lids above a thick beard that glistened with trails of thick fluid. He held a rusted and dented shovel in a thick paw caked with dark red.

“Is that,” asked Jack, consulting his clipboard, “Joseph Cagley?”

“Nah, that’s Joe’s kid, Zeb,” said the sheriff. “He’s looking ragged, too. Stay in the truck, try not to spook him.”

The sheriff opened his door and stepped out into the drive. “Alright, Zeb, let’s hold up right there,” said the sheriff. “Your pappy around?”

Zeb shambled clumsily down the stairs, holding the shovel outstretched with the blade pointed at the sheriff. A choked bellow spilled from between yellow snaggled teeth, twisting upwards into a high pitched squeal. He lurched forward.

The sheriff slowly reached to his side and unclasped the leather band on his holster that secured his revolver. “Zeb, I asked you nice one time. We’re just here for a talk, no need for foolishness.”

Zeb pushed forward. A cloud of black flies erupted beneath his advance and coalesced in a bolus around the man’s head, filling the hot thick air with a furious buzzing. The fingernails on the hand that held the shovel were long and broken like splintered wood.

The gun was in the sheriff’s hands, black and oily, pointed squarely at the huge man’s chest. “Put the shovel down and get on your knees with your hands behind your head,” yelled the sheriff. His easy drawl had been replaced with the clear and sharply enunciated syllables of crisis, and Jack felt his skin go cold. “Do it now!”

The giant gripped the shovel with both hands, making the tool look like a child’s toy relative to his rippling bulk, and stumbled into a gallop towards the sheriff. Jack shrank into his seat, his heart hammering in his chest. A series of explosions came from the gun in quick succession like a shuddering thunderclap. Jack had never heard what gunfire sounds like before; it was far louder in real life than they made it seem in movies. The huge man faltered in his stride, eyes wide, dark black-red stains soaking the thin cotton of his onesie, and collapsed into the mud of the drive. The cloud of flies descended on his bulk.

The sheriff stepped quickly to the man’s side, the barrel of his gun still pointed at the darkness behind the door. “Jack!” he called out, “Bring me that little box from underneath your seat.”

Jack’s hands moved on autopilot. The box was small, black and plastic, heavy for its size. He stepped out of the truck and into the humid afternoon heat. Sweat beaded underneath his hair, and his starched white shirt felt tight and clingy. He felt like he was wading through molasses to reach the sheriff’s side, mud sucking at the soles of his leather shoes. The sheriff snatched the box from his hands, reloading the revolver with golden ammunition from the little black box and letting empty shells fall smoking into the mud.

A seepage of blood spread from underneath Zeb’s body, mixing with the dark silty mud. On the man’s neck, just behind his left ear, Jack saw an angry purple boil, the size of a baseball, with a small pencil-wide hole in its center that bubbled with a yellow-brown ooze. There was another one like it on the back of his neck, and another on his shoulder. Jack crouched for a closer look. His hands worked without him thinking, stretching a pair of latex gloves over his fingers and pulling a shiny pair of tweezers from a pouch that never left his pockets. He probed at the edge of the boil with the tweezers. It was firm to the touch. The hole in the center of the boil dribbled viscous brown syrup.

“Ugh,” said the sheriff. “The gently caress is that?”

“Some kind of larva,” said Jack, probing into the bubbling hole. “Looks like a plaguefly larva, but they don’t go for humans--”

A scream came from deep within the house, a woman’s scream, high pitched and warbling and ragged. The sheriff locked eyes with Jack.

“I’m going inside to secure the house,” said the sheriff, his matter-of-fact tone making it clear that this was not a topic for discussion. Jack nodded dumbly, and then the sheriff was gone, disappearing past the screen door into the dark murk of the house, like a stone sinking in a pond.

Jack could feel the larval body moving under his tweezer points, fat segments squirming and burrowing away from the surface. He tried to spread the points of the tweezers inside the boil wide enough to grasp ahold of the larva’s body. A fresh burst of brown fluid spilled up out of the hole, and Jack pinched down hard. In response, Zeb’s body thrashed like a fish and flopped over, a nonsense babble spilling out of his mouth. Jack threw himself backwards, sharp rocks in the drive digging into his elbows through his shirt. Zeb’s eyes fixated on him and his arm flopped weakly, while Jack struggled to push himself away by kicking at the ground with his heels, kicking up sprays of mud and pebbles. The huge man’s hand slammed against the ground, as though trying to push himself up, but then his eyes drifted separately in their sockets and he slumped back into the dirt, blood leaking in thick spouts from the holes in his torso.

The screen door slapped open, and the sheriff staggered out onto the steps with a handkerchief pressed up to his nose and mouth. “Gonna need your professional insight on what’s going on in here,” said the sheriff.

Jack pressed himself up and approached the door, knees wobbling below his hunched over torso. He pulled his tie loose from around his neck and undid his top shirt buttons, his lungs filling with hot wet air. The stink emanating from the house swarmed up through his sinuses, septic and oily. Inside the farmhouse, the walls crackled with the loose dry scurry of thousands of tiny legs and the scrape of sharp spines across dry carapace. Thick white grubs crawled over the remains of a couch in front of a smashed television, tiny mandibles working over the last scraps of foam clinging to the termite-ridden frame.

The woman sat in the wreckage of a lounge chair by the television. Her skin was pale, almost green, tissue paper over a net of dark veins like roots. Open necrotic sores like dead black flowers bloomed across her skin. There was barely a scrap of meat left on her bones, but her stomach was bloated and swollen like a starving child’s. The woman’s eyes were open, yellow under wet thin hair, and her pupils darted back and forth between Jack and the sheriff. Her thin lips were drawn back across teeth like cracked walnut shells. Something thick and ropy was moving under the skin of her stomach. Jack took a step towards the chair, and she screamed again.

“poo poo,” said the sheriff, looking back out through the ragged screen door. “They’re coming out of the woods.”

Jack spun and looked out the window. There were a dozen of them, maybe more, emerging from the forest and converging on the farm house. Their work clothes were torn and hanging in rags, and pendulous boils dangled in folds of skin.

“Back door. Now,” said the sheriff. “As soon as you get out, you run and you don’t stop until you find a place with a phone, and then you call for help.”

Jack started running, exoskeletons crunching wetly beneath him. The woman screamed again. The sheriff stepped through the door out into the sunlight, barking commands in an escalating tone. A thin hallway divided the house in two and led towards the back door, the cracks around the edges casting long dusty blades of sunlight into the dark house.

The rotten wooden floorboards split and crumbled underfoot, sending Jack caroming against the peeling walls. His arm pushed through the plasterboard like wet cardboard, his hand finding a squirming mass beyond it that moved across his skin like rushing water.

A shot rang out from outside, followed by two more.

Jack pulled his arm free of the wall, dark glistening bugs clinging to the fabric of his shirt, twisted, and put his foot through the floorboards.

Another shot, and then one more.

The floorboards crumbled into sodden pulp, plunging him downwards into a wet crawlspace beneath the house and leaving him half-submerged in a warm and wriggling cesspool. He fought to push his head above the surface, his limbs slipping through the writhing ooze, his nostrils filling with thick liquid. A stench like rotten mushrooms filled his skull from the inside out. He could feel tiny scraping mouthparts rasping at his skin, driven to frenzy as his blood started to flow. He could feel larger animals digging into his flesh, pinching mandibles piercing his skin, long stabbing ovipositors plunging deep between his muscles. He pushed himself to his knees, yowling in pain, and pulled himself back up into the house, dripping gooey sheets of black putrid waste.

He crawled on hands and knees towards the glowing back door of the house, and pushed it open. He heard one final gunshot from the front side of the house as he stumbled out into blinding sunlight. He could feel something warm hidden deep in his body from where the thing under the house had stabbed him. It no longer hurt, and now radiated a soothing numbness into his body. It was precious to him, this thing he carried. He felt drunk. He remembered what the sheriff had told him to do. He walked out into the overgrown pasture behind the house. He thought he could see another little farmhouse off in the distance. Maybe they’d have a phone.

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