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  • Locked thread
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!







but why are you posting when it doesnt say in or isnt a crit/story

:toxx:

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Deltasquid
Apr 10, 2013

awww...
you guys made me ink!


THUNDERDOME


Crits!

Scores on stories are on a scale ot 1-5 though my co-judges might not always have agreed with the specific number. We changed our minds a lot as we went over them together, because the whole week was kind of weak.

Sourdough


Thoughts as I went through: The first few sentences are rambled in a way that might be deliberate, considering delirious musings at 3:30 am are rarely coherent.

Lol oh boy you took my flash rule quite literally and set it in Leuven specifically. Nothing wrong with that, but I think the idea of going to get a bread from a bread machine at 3:30 is maybe a bit contrived. You’re allowed to stray from the prompt a bit and give it a twist, especially a flash rule, but it’s fine if you want to play it literally.

A lot of your sentences have the same structure, where the subject is at the very beginning. Look at the first word of every paragraph. Don’t be afraid to switch it up for variety because this has a certain cadence that isn’t working for me.

I don’t know anything about baking bread, but the things you describe in the kitchen sound accurate to me, a lay man. Good job with your research, which I assume you did because you lay it on a bit thick with “It’s the poolish, a thick flour paste left to ferment overnight, the starter culture transforming simple flour and water into a magical substance, full of flavour, that will form the foundation of the day’s bread. “ I know it feels like a waste to research things and then not tell the reader about it, but the act of doing research by itself adds authenticity to a story without you needing to tell me all about it. You could have worded this more elegantly.

“A little puff of pure umami” is not… How I’d describe sourdough, I think. I think “sour” or maybe “salty”? But probably not umami.

Wow she’s having a bad trip all right. But then the baker comes in and she’s all right again. What a strange sequence of events.

Hmm. Okay, yeah, fair enough ending. I’d say you must do something about the repetition and maybe re-think with every paragraph “what does this add to my story/character/atmosphere?” but ultimately this had an arc of sorts, and a wise old Flemish baker.

I’d say a… 3 or so.

Overall: This starts off slowly, but once I forced myself to the part where she meets the old baker, it got better. Still not particularly interesting as a story, but I did like the touches of trying to tie the events in with her family and her failing marriage. Now that I've slept on the story twice, I can definitely find things to appreciate about the story, although your prose is monotonous and the beginning is fairly rocky.

Light of Other Days


Thoughts as I went through:Interesting start; I’m rather curious why this guy wants to end his life.
The bar’s name is very authentic. It might even be a real one, but I’m too lazy to google it. Cellars converted into bars are an authentic Belgian experience, and the perfect amount of seedy for bizarre characters to lounge around.

“He smelled faintly of cinnamon” huh, did he eat a lot of speculoos that day or what.

You miss a few commas here and there, like with “You’re from out of town aren’t you?”

Otherwise, your prose was pretty good. I think you could trim some excess fat off the story’s edges left and right, because I felt like you were hammering the point home that this object stores memories.

I get what you mean with the final sentence but it’s a bit clunky to say you closed your eyes but your eyes opened. Maybe substitute the first one with “eyelids” or somesuch to prevent repetition.

Otherwise I enjoyed this. I’d say a 4, maybe a 5 if the rest of the competition is disappointing.

Overall: Having slept on the stories, yeah, this is a 5 relative to the rest. I liked your descriptions at the very beginning but I think it starts meandering a bit at the middle. Give me more of that interesting time travel stuff! You got extra points for coming across as an authentic Belgium rather than a Hollywood version of it.

A meaty deal

Thoughts as I went through:You lack capitalization in your title. Also I dread we’re going for meat jokes here.

Hmm, rather interesting take to have the “gentlemen thieves” be actual Victorians who steal stuff for life. Unfortunately not interesting enough to really draw me into these two cliché-ish characters.

Did you literally submit half a day before deadline and not proofread to see if you finished every sentence with a punctuation mark? wtf my dude

Ok, ok, I get that referring to snacks and burgers as “meat” was funny but I think it might kinda sorta clash with your tone. It’s a bit too… surrealist and too much of a meme. Lay down on the in-jokes

Christ would a faux-victorian really describe a thing as “epic”, unless it were a Greek or Sumerian legend?

Hmh. I don’t think these two people, nor their conversation, were interesting enough to carry the story. Nor was your prose (or lack of it, specifically.) The constant lack of punctuation combined with the meat jokes might push this into DM territory for me, although there’s a solid idea lurking beneath this mess. Re-think the characters and their dynamics, think really long and hard about the ramifications of this demon-thing that hands out life years, and write me a story that might get published, some day.

Also check punctuation jfc

1-2.

Overall: Not much to add to this I didn't say in IRC. I think you tripped over yourself trying to have too many things happening at once, so it definitely feels like there's loose threads here and there.

The City of Crust

Thoughts as I went through:This is a lot of words for not a lot of things happening. The story also jumps all over the place wrt time, with frequent flashbacks that actually don’t do much for me. You also make frequent mistakes like “their had been” or “Thea father” which could have easily been spotted during proofreading.

I’m not sure I buy the idea that humans wouldn’t just routinely off these drones in droves after apparently losing a war and being subjugated. Especially if the drones gently caress up swathes of the earth and carry disease that turns humans into more drones.

Actually a grotesque description of people turning into drones. Yuck. I suppose you should be proud of making me feel a sort of revulsion?

The last few paragraphs are some dark humor.

Ultimately I did not care much about the protagonist. His wife isn’t even named, I think. All about him screams “normal average guy” and he sits around being upset in a train carriage between the drones. Maybe you could have written me a cooler story by removing the flashbacks and having him actually communicate with the drones? I don’t know. Make him be special stand out somehow.

2. Maybe a 3.

Overall: Don't have much to say about this but Fuschia actually said what I couldn't quite put into words. This moves from exposition to flashback and then back again and every feels impactless. But you did get me to feel revulsion so good job I guess?

The Devil’s Kittens:

Thoughts as I went through:Good prose with an idea that makes a surprising amount of sense. The witch has a strong voice, so it’s unfortunate that most of the story is telling flasback stuff rather than an actual story. Would have elevated it from a 4 to a 5 for me.

Ironically, one of the few stories that didn’t sin at some point this week, which is a miracle.

Overall: This one contended for the win because Fuschia liked it that much, but I went with Obliterati's story because this one is a bit too much description for me. Not bad by any means but I was hoping the witch would actually do something in the present day at some point. I didn't HM it because there weren't that many entries to begin with, and there was a holy trinity of this story, the winner and the HM that kept rotating around the winner seat in our heads as we talked about it.

Include me out

I get pretty much that same reaction when eating at EXKi.

Uhh usually people, even in Belgium, speak the same language with each other, especially if they date. Arnaud and Margaux would have agreed upon some language within their day of meeting for the first time and stuck to it, even if one has to do an extra effort for it.

Lmao what is this Romeo and Juliet-rear end story.

What a strange way to ruin a date’s mood. By talking in detail about that time her gramps shot your gramps.

Man this story has weird vibes. Everyone’s yelling “as you know” stuff at each other to get us up to speed. And I guess they keep a revolver around that shot gramps?

«So you say we should set aside our differences and trust one another?» Who talks like thiiiiis

“He’s been a big help with my art; I think my output’s doubled since I started going out with him.” I’m literally lol’ing at this because it’s the most stunted, awkward way of complimenting your boyfriend while also forcing in some “did you know she’s an artist” in there. Or did she start massively putting out? Was she meant to look like a massive weirdo? I feel like I’m not sure what to think about these people. Also be more specific in your writing: what vague “art” does she output?

Okay this story was a weird rip-off of Romeo and Juliet (I don’t like Romeo and Juliet very much to begin with) but it had this thin veneer of Belgian-ness that clung to everything and made it feel weird and inauthentic. Like an uncanny valley of Belgian-ness. It’s difficult to explain.

Props to you for trying so hard to get the setting right but I don’t think it worked very well.

2, bordering on 3 with serious rework. Unfortunately romance is ill-suited for TD because I don't care about characters enough after 1500 words to see them kiss.

Overall: Not much to add after sleeping on it. EXKi namedrop hit me like a truck but it also fits, so good on you for trying so hard to make an authentic Belgian story. The greatest sin this story makes, is it kind of leaves me uninterested in the "will they or won't they" aspect of romance, mostly because the characters seem to be talking to each other about things they probably already know? And it wasn't clear to me what the significance was of the part before the line break. Did he steal the gun? Break it? Tell his dad about Margaux? For a second I genuinely believed there was some twist of Arnaud shooting one of his relatives.

The Long War

Thoughts as I went through:“it was blissful and I felt the strength of my faith redoubled upon every quaff.” hell yeah son that sounds like a good trappist, I want in.

I don’t have much to say about this one. I found it a genuinely interesting story and it’s well-written. A 4 or 5, HM candidate to me. Maybe winner depending on the rest.

Overall: I slept on this and talking with Fusch did make me re-evaluate the story. Her complaints about the lack of explanation is valid, but it didn't bother me that the spice merchant never returned. However I did come around to agreeing that it is pretty unclear why the soldier would recognize the monk. With this in mind I'd settle on a solid 4.

You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Chains

Thoughts as I went through:“Detective Delacroix-491” I’m losing my poo poo here. I never knew I wanted The Caves of Steel, except Belgian as hell, but here we are.

This is pretty good. I would give it a solid 4 or 5. You played it a bit fast and loose with the flash rule but you were below the 1750 standard words so it doesn’t matter.

My only peeve with the story is that 491 is the real star of the show. Baudoin is just kind of along for the ride, mostly.

Overall: Having slept on the story I did eventually give this the win, but it was a hard choice. In retrospect I think the Tchantches puppet -> 491 robo-cop-buddy leap wasn't a huge on to make and I kind of like it. But now I'm a bit sad there are no robo-Tchantchès cop buddy stories out there written by a person who's deep into the Tchantchès canon and lore.

A Good Dog

Thoughts as I went through:“Ali wasn’t really up on pop culture so didn’t really understand what a sweet pun that was” I’m afraid it went over my head as well.

I share your distaste of Monopoly.

This was an okay story. I don’t have much to say about it because I’m not a dog person, but you hit the tone pretty well. Marie and Mr. Stubbins are kind of boring though.

3.

Overall: Cute story but yeah the stakes are low. I guess you could rewrite this as a childrens' story somehow? It's got that kind of tone to it.

Trappist again

Thoughts as I went through:I think you forgot a comma in your first sentence. This is distracting to me. Otherwise, good description of the abbot in this beginning.

I like the sleaziness of Van Hecke but I’d be hard pressed to find a Belgian abbot yell “loving” like that. The Anglosphere is already a lot more into cursing than the rest of the world, and even a bad priest wouldn’t be caught with that kind of vile language.

What the gently caress was this ending. What are these names even? Van Hecke is authentic Flemish, 100% on the spot, but then Krasimir is some weird Russian thing (possible) and Voorkek is just nonsense, and did you have a stroke when you came up with Mooerklat?

Thanks for ending my week on a piss joke. I lost interest around halfway through the story, solely due to the names. I'd DM you almost for that alone.

Overall: I slept on this and this is the only story that actually got me hating it more than before going to sleep. It's slow, it plods on, it ends on a piss joke, you didn't even go through the token effort of googling Belgian-sounding names. DocKloc and I ended up agreeing that this was worse than boring, this was actively working against us, the readers.

P.S. When I decided to hand you the loss I didn't realize it'd be your first lmao. It's okay, every writer has their ups and downs. If anything that just reinforces my idea that you should know better than to make up names. Nobody else did that. Not even the new guys.

Do you think my culture is some sort of game?

I'll do the latecomers' crits later.

Xelkelvos
Dec 19, 2012


I'm planning on moving out of my apartment this Saturday and driving to Florida over the weekend, but gently caress it, I'm In.

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


In. :toxx:

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy

ty delta!!

The Sean
Apr 16, 2005

Am I handsome now?




Deltasquid posted:

I like the sleaziness of Van Hecke but I’d be hard pressed to find a Belgian abbot yell “loving” like that. The Anglosphere is already a lot more into cursing than the rest of the world, and even a bad priest wouldn’t be caught with that kind of vile language.

Your statement is still accurate but the earliest recorded usage of variations of "gently caress" was a monk scrawling in his notes "fuckin Abbot" and broadly described monks, etc. as going around "fuckin" without having to get married and generally breaking their vow of celibacy.

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.


a new study bible! posted:

I'll give it a try

Newton's Third Law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Fuubi posted:

OK, I'm in!

Campbell's Law postulates that the act of using a metric to define political policy immediately corrupts its value as a tool of analysis.

The Sean posted:

I'm still In.

John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory models human online behaviour in the form Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Fuckwad .


The Pygmalion Effect is the relationship where higher expectations lead to increased performance.

Kaiju15 posted:

I'm in and I'll :toxx: for shaming Belgium last week.

The Higgs Boson is the last particle of the Standard Model to be discovered and is responsible for the generation of mass.


Alzheimer's Disease is a chronic degenerative condition of the brain.

Jan posted:

that prompt is too amazing to pass on.

The Coriolis Effect is a manifestation of inertia in a rotating reference frame.

Fumblemouse posted:

Incy wincy spider

Munchausen Syndrome is a mental health disorder that manifests as knowingly false claims of physical ailment.

flerp posted:

but why are you posting when it doesnt say in or isnt a crit/story

:toxx:

Maxwell's Equations form the basis of electromagnetism.

Xelkelvos posted:

gently caress it, I'm In.

Capgras Delusion is the belief that an individual close to the sufferer has been replaced by a perfect impostor.


The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias where people without competence in a topic overestimate their knowledge of abilities.

The Sean
Apr 16, 2005

Am I handsome now?




Obliterati posted:

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias where people without competence in a topic overestimate their knowledge of abilities.

This has been one of my favorite studies since learning about it in college. I hope the story comes out well.

curlingiron
Dec 15, 2006

Come fight terrifying creatures in the THUNDERDOME!


Okay, I have Friday off and I haven't witten anything in way too long. Let's go in with a :toxx: :getin:

Maigius
Jun 29, 2013




This prompt is cool. IN

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.


curlingiron posted:

Okay, I have Friday off and I haven't witten anything in way too long. Let's go in with a :toxx: :getin:

Archimede's Principle is the foundation of fluid mechanics and the origin of that whole 'Eureka' business.

Maigius posted:

This prompt is cool. IN

The Armstrong Limit is the altitude above the Earth where air pressure is so low that human blood boils at 37C: human body temperature.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


The Sean posted:

This has been one of my favorite studies since learning about it in college. I hope the story comes out well.

i would write the best story with that prompt.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


I'd like to encourage participants this week to submit as soon as their stories are written and proofread. Speaking just for myself, it will make my judging and critting faster if we don't get 30+ stories submitted last minute.

Have Blue
Mar 27, 2013


Panther Like a Panther


In gimme gimme

DreamingofRoses
Jun 27, 2013


Nap Ghost

[quote="“Jitzu_the_Monk”" post="“477281019”"]
I’d like to encourage participants this week to submit as soon as their stories are written and proofread. Speaking just for myself, it will make my judging and critting faster if we don’t get 30+ stories submitted last minute.
[/quote]

It's actually going to be one less because I forgot that the last half of this week and the next four weeks were specifically designed to crush my soul. I have to withdraw from this prompt.

Lampsacus
Oct 21, 2008



in

Exmond
May 31, 2007

Writing is fun!

Jitzu_the_Monk posted:

I'm willing to co-judge if that would be agreeable to you, Obliterati.

Do you need another judge Obliterati?

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.


Have Blue posted:

In gimme gimme

Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion reliably predict the movement of the planets.


The Copernican Principle, building from the fact that the Earth is not the centre of the Solar System, concludes that the Solar System (and, by extension, humanity) has no privileged place in the Universe.

Exmond posted:

Do you need another judge Obliterati?

Yes!

Exmond
May 31, 2007

Writing is fun!


You have my knowledge of anime tropes and basic grasp of grammar, I shall judge this week if you will allow it!

Entenzahn
Nov 15, 2012

What will you say when
your child asks:
why did you fail Thunderdome?


in

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.



The Schwarzchild Radius is the sphere around an object where, if the object's mass is entirely within the sphere, the object's gravitational force is stronger than the speed of light.

BabyRyoga
May 21, 2001

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


I did one of these once a long time ago. In again to surpass mediocrity

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Hawklad - Alzheimer's Disease
Fumblemouse - Munchausen Syndrome
Xelkelvos - Capgras Delusion

I'm bored at work so I'm going to annoy the judges by pointing out that none of the above are scientific or sociological theories, and I invite them to anticipate my poorly-disguised House fan-fiction.

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.


BabyRyoga posted:

I did one of these once a long time ago. In again to surpass mediocrity

St. Elmo's Fire is a meteorological phenomenon noticed by ancient sailors.

Fumblemouse posted:

I'm bored at work

I can only assume that you're being so wrong because you want a :siren:FLASH RULE:siren:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXypyrutq_M

Obliterati fucked around with this message at 18:11 on Oct 13, 2017

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy

that is a lot of entrants :o is this the most popular prompt in thunderdome? if not what is? just curious

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.


derp posted:

that is a lot of entrants :o is this the most popular prompt in thunderdome? if not what is? just curious

With about thirty entries, this isn't even in the top twenty.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


the last week to actually surpass 30 entries was January 2017. People will probably fail this week (oh poo poo i have to write a story...) and put it back in the mid 20s, which is good-average.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







crabrock posted:

the last week to actually surpass 30 entries was January 2017. People will probably fail this week (oh poo poo i have to write a story...) and put it back in the mid 20s, which is good-average.

thunderdome is always dying, and always being born again a little stinkier than before

AllNewJonasSalk
Apr 22, 2017

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Yo, I let my life slide out of warp by picking up numerous drug habits (turns out, sometimes having a better job with more money is bad!).

I am in. Help me be a better person by focusing on that first addiction of mine that got me chasing away at all the other dragons.

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.



The Mandelbrot Set is one of the best-known examples of fractals.

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.


Signups are closed.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy

Obliterati posted:

The Mandelbrot Set is one of the best-known examples of fractals.

oh man, the only one ive seen yet that might be better (for me) than the one i got.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




sebmojo posted:

thunderdome is always dying, and always being born again a little stinkier than before

As a stupid newbie I resent the implication that my arrival has made thunderdome stinkier

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







:suicide: megabrawl entry 440 words gently caress this whole prompt :suicide:


There is a Shrine

in the corner of her bedroom. It’s small but dense, heavy enough to make her floor sag like fabric, like a universe bowing under the weight of a black hole. At night, her bed tilts downward and she feels herself slipping across sweat-salted sheets, drawn into the shrine's gravity well. She falls across the landscape of her room, soaring over tomorrow’s laundry and yesterday’s empty wine bottles.

Part of her flings her arms out. She remembers her dad telling her that if she ever found herself tumbling down a steep mountain face, she should spread her arms and legs like a starfish. The trick, he explained, is to create so much friction that gravity gives up.

Part of her curls up like a cannonball. She tries to make herself as dense and heavy as the shrine. She wants to fall fast, so fast that her other half’s splayed limbs catch on fire from the friction.

The shrine is a small bookcase filled with velvety red magic, moss-green dreams, gods of limpid gold, cosmic-blue wizards, and elfin creatures who braid strings of LEDs into their hair. As she draws near, the bookcase grows and grows, stretches the world around itself until her bedroom is little more than a thin, transparent skin drawn taut around the shrine. Like a condom. She laughs at herself for thinking something so banal and irreverent when her arms and legs are burning like wings.

Now the shrine is as big as a cathedral, as big as a mountain, as big as life. Wizards dance in the air above it, firing playful arcs of magic at each other. She passes beneath the brief, glowing lattices formed by their game, and they pause to wave at her. The elves emerge from between the moss-green trunks of dreams, their hair shimmering for the electric halos on their heads. They use silver lassos to draw her gently out of the air, down onto their shelf. They lead her into their grove, and although she walks between dreams, she’s not dreaming.

The world of Hi How Are You? and rent checks and freeway overpasses is still very much there, still infuriatingly, luridly present. Except now that world is stretched thin enough to be fragile, gossamer, and beautiful. Things she told herself it could never be.

The elves brush her hair, wreathe her head in lights, and say, “It must be nice, to live way up there in the constellations.”

“Sometimes,” she says, not wanting to contradict them in their own grove. Sitting there, among the dreams, she almost believes it.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy

prompt: Heisenberg uncertainty principle

Dealing with Certainty
1911 words

removed

derp fucked around with this message at 18:43 on Oct 24, 2017

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006



archived.

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

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010


Megabrawlin'

Moloch

He sees the towers rise into the sky and wonders if he was once a god or a king or a man with two gold dollars to rub together. In a life before life, was he locked in his sar-coughing as a bus rolls by and he inhales the stale gasoline air and wonders whether–

There was once a gold top atop the grand pyramid; now there is only stone. We stand amongst wonders of stone and steel, and marvel at the delicate tyranny of the open sky while old Mo-loch watches on with an open mouth and a perfect smile. In times of old we stand clad in gold and we wondered whether–

There’s a Cairo, Illinois, where the Mississippi carves its way between three States. There’s a Cairo, Georgia, just north of Calvary. Their pyramids are nothing but memory, their Niles are crowned in tarmac and stone. The men of Cairo sleep fitful, dreaming of temples that rise up in defiance of an empty sky; they wake amongst TV dishes and cell towers, and choke their way to work along roads that wrap around the land and wonder

Where is Moloch now? We can see him no more than fish can see the sea. His teeth are chrome and glass, his heart beats with the brittle tick of a monstrous clock. His eyes are LCDs that hum and glow in the dead of night. Moloch, eater of children; taker of teeth; monger of dreams. We sit in tombs of gold and wonder whether–

Aman sleeps on the street with his old coat wrapped around him, and dreams of a life he never lived. In Cairo in Cairo in Cairo men work until their hands break while the pharaoh sits in silence, in robes of gold while Moloch watches on with eyes wide and unblinking while we wonder whether–

On the river, on the interstate, in the valley of kings: the gods are silent.

subprompt: Pyramids of Giza
words: 299

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Prompt: Kranzberg’s first law of technology, “Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral,” suddenly and inexplicably stops applying.

Fire City
1417 words


We are huddled like animals in front of the fire listening to the air raid sirens wail when the bomb hits our house. I am slammed bodily against the floor, my wife ripped from my arms. Cloying dust fills the air. I stumble to my feet, cutting my hands on the broken glass that litters the floor as I push myself up. The walls, the new curtains that took us so long to choose, the carpet, everything is on fire. Where is Sara?! I cast desperately around, see her lying unconscious against the far wall, fire encroaching from every direction.

“Sara!” I scream, frantic. Coughing and stumbling I plunge through the flames towards her, half blinded by smoke. The fire licks at my dirty clothes, I can feel my skin start to burn. The flames have reached her too, her body twitches as her beautiful long hair catches alight. I lunge towards her, catch my feet on the legs of the overturned coffee table and fall flat, outstretched arms almost close enough to touch her hand.

And then, suddenly, I can breathe. My skin is no longer burning, the fire in Sara’s hair has gone out. She moans and opens her eyes. She sits up, eyes widen as she takes in the devastation around us. The house is still on fire, but we are in a bubble of cool, safe air. The flames and smoke roil away from us like thick kelp tugged back by the retreating tide.

I grab Sara’s hand, shout over the roar and crackle of burning timber, “let’s get out of here!” We crouch under the thick smoke, arms up to protect our faces, but the flames won't touch us, bowing out of our way like loyal servants as we approach. We make it across our devastated lounge and out into the street, a blast of hot air chasing us out of the front door as the ceiling collapses inwards.

We stand in the cold street, arms clasped tight around one another. Sara is crying, sobbing with shock. My chest is heaving. How are we both alive? Looking back at our house I can see where the bomb came in through the roof over the kitchen. We had been in the lounge trying to heat up tins of beans in our small fireplace for some sort of dinner. Since the war invaded our city and the power grid went down we’ve been relying on our little fire for warmth, food and light. Our modern gadgets are useless compared to this ancient technology, man’s earliest and most essential invention. I guess it saved our lives tonight too.

The conflagration is spreading quickly down our row of terraced houses, flames leaping from windows spitting sparks at the night sky. Most of the houses are empty; unlike us, still clinging to our precious home, most of our neighbours have fled the city for theoretically safer places. But there is screaming coming from James and Marie’s house, already well alight.

The front door bursts open and James appears, dragging something burning, flames leaping from the doorway around him. I run forward to help, then stop, realising with horror what it is he’s holding. It’s Marie, burning, dead. James is untouched. The flames curl around his body like an adulterous lover, desperate to caress him but not daring to touch his skin while others are watching.

“James!” I yell, running towards him. He looks at me, face taut with anguish, when the first bullet hits him in the chest. I spin towards the sound of the gunshot. Three soldiers approach us from the end of the street, flickering red light reflected in their eyes, guns raised. “Don’t..!” I start to shout, but they shoot anyway. James crumples to the ground.

The gun barrels swing towards me. Time slows, all I can hear is my racing heartbeat. The first soldier pulls the trigger and his gun explodes, but not how it was designed to. A ball of fire engulfs the soldier. He drops his gun, frantic to put out the flames that are racing through his clothes, prying their way up under his helmet. His comrades turn to help him but there is nothing they can do. Long fingers of flame reach out to snatch onto their clothing as well. Their screams follow us as I grab Sara’s hand and we run away into the dark.

“What the gently caress just happened?” Sara pants, gasping for breath. We have stopped in the park at the top of the rise that marks the edge of our neighbourhood, collapsing on the cool earth under a stand of trees. We can hear the booming of more bombs falling, but which of the many sides in this hideous conflict is dropping them we don't know.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” I stammer, holding her close. From the edge of the park we hear the rattle of gunfire and the sound of men screaming. I pull Sara to her feet and we stagger away up the hill, our way lit by dancing orange light.

For the second time that night I am slammed into the ground, this time by someone sprinting through the darkness under the trees. We hit the ground together, roll, tussling. I get a grip on his shoulders and hold him away from me. He’s young, face shining with sweat, eyes wide with panic. He’s jabbering at me in a thick northern accent - one of the rebels? - something about a fire they couldn’t put out, everyone dying except him. “Mate calm down,” I start to say, but he pushes me away, scrambles to his feet and sprints away from us.

“C’mon,” Sara says, helping me up, “let’s see if we can see what’s happening.” From the top of the park we can see over the surrounding suburbs towards the high rises of the central city. There are fires everywhere, the stars blotted out by a thick blanket of smoke. We see a trio of fat bellied bombers approaching, bay doors opening like the jaws of a shark closing in on its prey. The bombs glitter with reflected firelight as they fall, beautiful like fireworks.

They explode far too early, well before they hit the ground, the sound wave punching us in the chest a moment later. The fireball reaches up, grabbing the planes out of the air and swallowing them whole. Fire spreads out across the sky like an owl opening its wings wide to drift on the air while it searches for prey. Target spotted, it dives down, talons outstretched to pierce the buildings and people below, setting everything alight.

Sara and I stand hand in hand, faces warmed by the glow of the burning city. There is no chance of escape, but there was never anywhere else for us to go, anyway.

“Let’s go home,” Sara says, looking up at me. I open my mouth to argue, but her tear-streaked face is so earnest that all I can do is nod. I have no better ideas in any case.

The familiar route from the park back to our house is unrecognisable, quaint Victorian terraces replaced with blackened bricks and empty windows belching smoke. Some of the older facades have collapsed, burning debris spilling across the street. The flames beckon, waving us forward, an honour guard lighting our way home.

Only the shell of our house remains, flames lovingly caressing the empty brick walls. The bodies in the street have been reduced to ash, guns melted into the asphalt. Sara squeezes my hand. “Let’s go home,” she says again, as we walk back inside across the burning threshold.

***

Years later we are still here, surviving. The fires never went out, they are impossible to extinguish. I don’t know what happened to the war, but there has never been any fighting in our city again. There are other people here too - sometimes we catch glimpses of them, moving in and through the fire like we do.

The flames come and go as they please. Sometimes they die down to a smoldering glow, ash drifting through the lazy white smoke like softly falling snow. Other times they leap up, roaring at the sky and conjuring up a hot wind full of sparks.

It's raining today, a cold grey downpour. But we're lucky, the flames are dancing hot and bright in the air where our roof used to be, making the raindrops sizzle off them as steam, while we huddle like animals underneath.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


lol whoops i had it written down as oct 16th. welp, gently caress me.

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sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







crabrock posted:

lol whoops i had it written down as oct 16th. welp, gently caress me.

your a shallow echo of a human being

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