Prompt: Benford's Law observes that, in most collections of data, numerical values are far more likely to begin with a 1 than a 9.
On the shores of a changed world a man scours the wreckage the tide brings for a relic that might save his mother’s life. The dark froth of the waves hits him gently in the legs as he navigates through the floating wood, plastic, and the bones of those who died when the old world ceased to be.
The sea became the container of that which did not go with the earth when the latter changed sizes. Skyscrapers, having lost their foundations, tumbled down in what would have been an awesome spectacle for those who saw it were they not also falling towards an impossible sea. The man, one of the lucky few whose feet did not disappear from under him when the Change occurred, has burned in his memory images from the news reports of that day. An helicopter had taken to the sky to see for itself whether reports that the boundaries of the world had changed were true, and indeed they were. Where once there stood a city where millions thrived now was a beautiful ocean the color of wine, its waves carrying the concrete slabs of broken buildings, the corpses of those cars that managed to float, and the bodies of those who had lived there. The man couldn’t tell whether those bodies where of people dead, or dying.
The sun was close to setting when he decided to start the walk back to his house on top of the hill. He hadn’t been able to find what he was looking for, but he was hopeful. His mother’s respirator would likely continue to function for another two weeks with the batteries it had, but he didn’t want to cut into his reserves when the time came to switch them.
He’d found the house he now lived in by chance, one of his few lucky breaks since the Change. He didn’t know whoever used to live there, and why they left was an even bigger mystery, be he was glad he’d found it. It stood on top of a difficult hill to climb and there was at its back a dense forest from where the man gathered logs for heat and light. Game was abundant, and the few traps he’d created were quick in replenishing themselves. There was a creek not too deep into the woods he gathered clear water.
Why someone had left an house such as that one unattended was a mystery indeed, but it was the perfect place to hide from a changed world whose survivors hunted the bones of his mother for good fortune.
The Stretch happened a week after the Change. By that time the world already had an idea of why the worlds’ borders had been reshaped. Benford’s Law had, without notice or explanation, ceased to be part of the mathematical description of reality. No longer had the areas of the two hundred or so countries of the world be such that their first leading digits had to obey a certain pattern. Now they were free to change, to rearrange themselves into whatever size they wanted to be. Some countries got bigger, such as tiny Monaco who expanded to become as large as France, but most got tinier, and what had once been sovereign land became the frosty sea.
The man had been part of the team that had figured out what had happened. He was a distinguished engineer back then, working on the rockets that would one day lift mankind to the stars. But he’d made a mistake. He failed to account that Benford’s law being no longer valid did not imply no other set of measurements would ever follow that law. He only realized his mistake when a young lady expanded in size right in front of him.
Benford’s Law was only valid for measurements that ranged between orders of magnitudes, which was why the areas of countries had changed, for their area could encompass the low hundreds to the hundreds of thousands of kilometers squared. But now that Benford’s Law was no more, that meant measurements that did not obey it before were now free to do so, and it was so that the distribution of human heights from all over the world changed as from a flip of the switch.
He can still see in his mind’s eye the playback of when the lady grew to become 3 meters in height, dying from the grotesque process. The remaining few who’d survived both catastrophes later called that day the Stretch.
The man enters his house and undresses. Before going out he had left in a chair near the door a fresh change of clothes, and he changes into them. He walks towards the back of the house where, in an expansive room that had previously been the living room, his mother lays resting on top of four mattresses stitched together, tubes rising from her nose to a beeping machine nearby. The man approaches and kisses her on the forehead.
“I’m back mom.”
She doesn’t respond. She hasn’t spoken for some time, having fallen into a coma after catching a fever not long after arriving at the house. The man lights the fireplace, the night bringing with it the cold winds from the sea. In the kitchen he mashes some potatoes he gathered from the backyard, adding some water to turn it liquid, as well as few bits of smoked game meat. He sits by his mother’s side and feeds it to her.
The man makes a similar meal to himself, though he has no need to add water. His stomach full, the man goes sit in a leather chair near to the front of the house and picks a book up from the nearby table. Whoever had lived there before hadn’t been a voracious reader, but the books he’d left behind provided more than enough material to sate the man’s need of the written word. It was the third time the man was reading that book since arriving there, but he enjoyed it nonetheless.
He is dozing off when the door explodes inwards with a loud cracking sound. Two armed men storm inside. The one in the lead. a full gut to him and a mean looking shotgun, shouts something but the man doesn’t hear it as he tries to wrest free from beneath the leather chair the pistol he’d stashed there. Before he is able to get a grip on it, the fat man rushes forward and hits him straight in the nose with the stock of the shotgun. Blood streams from the man’s face.
“Not so fast my man, not so fast” the fat man says, pointing the shotgun towards him. “Rafa, go take a look at that whatever’s over there beeping.”
Rafa is smaller, likely no more than sixteen years on him, but he wields two handpieces like someone who knows what they’re capable of. He wears a dirty poncho with pristine playing cards stitched to it. At the bottom of the poncho little dice are hanging by a tread. They’re Gamblers, the man notes, and he sees that the fat man also wears his playing cards though their grime blends them in with the jacket. He wears no dice the man can see.
Rafa treads carefully towards back of the room and stops dead in his tracks as his eyes adjust to the light. After a moment of silence, the fat man looks over to Rafa and sees him standing transfixed, as if watching something holy.
“What is it kid?”
“It’s… It’s one of the Stretched, Ganzo. One of the Stretched. Alive.”
Ganzo moves towards Rafa but never forgets where the shotgun is pointed at.
“Well, well, well, just look what we’ve found here little Rafa. Our very own Stretched.” He turns to the man. “I was expecting something nice when I saw this nice little house in the middle of nowhere. I was thinking maybe a young lady, maybe even two, one for both. But never, in my wildest dreams, did I imagine I’d find my very own Streched, living and breathing.” He pauses for a moment. “Little Rafa, we’ve been blessed. Prepare the knives. We’ve got some butchering to do.”
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” the man asks. This is the only chance he’ll get to save his mother. “You haven’t won the Game yet. Her bones won’t give you their power unless you do.”
Ganzo’s enraged eyes bore through the man as if he is of a mind to pick up the shotgun and blow the man’s head clean from the neck. He would too, but he’s just been reminded that he can’t. Not yet anyway.
“He’s right Ganzo. You have to win it. No one’ll buy those bones if you don’t.” little Rafa says.
“Fine, let’s play this quick and be done with it so we can go on with the butchering. Rafa, throw me your dice”
Rafa throws Ganzo a brown leather bag and Ganzo sits near a table put between himself and the man.
“You remember the rules?” the man asks
“Of course, of course” Ganzo says a little more earnestly than required. A silence settles in.
“You only win if you three of the ten faces of the dies show up one.” Rafa says
“I know that Rafa. Let’s get this over then shall we.”
Ganzo picks up the bag, pinching at the top so that the dice don’t all fall when he turns it over. He eases his pinch a little, and four dice tumble out.
1 4 5 2
Two more ones and Ganzo and Rafa will become richer than they are even capable of imagining. Their string of bad fortune finally over. Ganzo eases his pinch once more.
6 2 4 1
Both Gamblers have a smile plastered in their faces. Soon the Stretched’s bones will be theirs.
Only one dice left. Sweat beads stream down Ganzo’s face.
Ganzo throws the table upward, scattering the dice across the room. The man, not expecting the reaction, jumps from his chair.
“The hell with this, we’re getting those bones anyway.” He walks towards his shotgun and picks it up. He is aiming at the man when Rafa speaks up.
“No way Ganzo, you can’t. You lost the game, you know what that means. Those bones won’t work now. Let’s just get out of here.”
“What, and wait for the next time we find ourselves a Stretched? Like that’ll ever happen. No, this is our chance little Rafa. No one’ll ever know they don’t work. We’ll dump them quickly and when they figure those bones don’t give them their promised luck we’ll be too far already for them to do something about it. Ge the knives ready, let me just tie this loose end here.”
Before Ganzo has time to pull the trigger there’s a bullet lodged in the side of his head. The sharp sound reverberates the room, and when the man is finally able to open his eyes against the sting in his hears he sees Rafa standing by him.
“The rules are the rules, couldn’t let him disrespect them like that. I’m not even sure he believed in the Gamble if you ask me, and the Gamble is everything I believe. Well, sorry to have bothered sir, I’ll be leaving now.”
Rafa goes out towards the night, leaving the bloodied corpse of the fat man behind. The man, still dazed from what’s happened, goes to the front window to see whether Rafa has truly left, and sees that he has. The man stumbles onto his bedroom and picks up his hunting rifle. It would be too risky to leave someone who knows about his mother walking around freely with that knowledge. Besides, he has a feeling that, with his luck, he won’t miss the shot.
|# ? Oct 15, 2017 08:04|
|# ? Aug 12, 2022 06:59|
MEGABRAWL PROMPT 3
the things i’ve lost and the things i’ve found could balance out a scale. each time the universe provides it takes away, no matter how i feel. i found a penny, shiny and new, and put it in a box. my dog ran away the very next day, i forgot to do the lock. that was just the first time, i don’t know what will be the last. My box was filled with my most specialist things, all represented the past. there was a feather i found at my grandma’s house, before it burned to the ground. a rock that’s green and silky smooth i traded a finger for. there’s a bouncy ball, three jacks, and my favorite sticker, they cost me a quite a lot: my only shoes, a picture of my mom, and my childhood dinosaur. it sounds quite grim, even morose, when i list them in a row, but i didn’t have much, so what i had seemed like an awful lot. i carried my box with me from home to home, until i was on my own. i looked at my stuff and remembered the deal, and i was thankful for so much to trade away. i threw the penny in a well, and landed myself a job. the feather found me a little apartment, just enough to rest my head. an education took my rock, smashed into little bits, met my wife when my ball bounced away, a jack each for my kids. I stuck my sticker on a loan application, then we moved into our house. after that my box was empty, all my favorite things were gone. but i do not complain, nor want for more, i wouldn’t ever risk it. as i see it, i’ve cheated the cosmos, i have far more than allowed.
|# ? Oct 15, 2017 08:41|
|# ? Oct 15, 2017 08:43|
|# ? Oct 15, 2017 08:43|
|# ? Oct 15, 2017 08:44|
that's easy for you to say
|# ? Oct 15, 2017 09:05|
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 22:05 on Oct 31, 2017
|# ? Oct 15, 2017 19:25|
the Pythagorean Theorem stops applying
Ely wakes up seeing demons and knows it’s time to see Mother Drora. Mother Drora, the witch of Babylon.
You know, God doesn’t punish individual sinners with demons. When He breaks there’ll be demons from lower dimensions and angels from higher dimensions. But they’ll be fighting each other, not laughing at you.
Mother Drora talks like that. She also keeps the herbs that keep the demons away. They are laughing, it’s true, with wide open mouths, decaying teeth and spittle like rainfall.
Ely is a street kid, and the dirt of Babylon is his pillow. His ear is gritted up, so he can barely hear street conversation. Has to clean it out before he hears all the voices, mixed in with the demon’s laughter in a chaotic blend. They talk most about life and love, but sometimes he hears them condemn or praise Irshushin, and the tower that stretches to the sky, orbed by paths like a woman is orbed by admirers.
The demons are sitting on people’s shoulders, crouching on rooftops, playing with each other in the street. As he moves past one, it clings to his leg and shouts about pestilence and famine and war. It’s all coming, it’ll be here soon. Hell is coming to earth. God has no time for heretics who build towers, spire them high and won’t stop spiring.
The demon on his leg says, you get to the top of the tower, you look down, see the city beneath you and feel like God yourself. Try it.
Ely makes his way through the alleys of the marketplace. The walls are whitish-gray stone, the footpaths brown with dirt. He soon finds Mother Drora’s space. Moves through the clay archway into the shadows of the domed area. She’s asleep. He can see her body rise and fall with her breath. He moves to her, pulls up her blanket.
He needs help now, not whenever she wakes up.
“You, boy,” she says. She grabs him by the throat. “Give me some space.” He coughs, gags, pushes her off. Collapses to the floor, pluming dust around both of them.
He lies there, staring at the blank roof.
“I need herbs,” he says, “for my head problems.”
“No reason to interrupt my beauty sleep,” Drora says, “if you know they’re not real.” She moves to the corner where she keeps her herb jars. Unscrews the cap of one, smells it. “This should work,” she says. She takes a pinch.
Ely gets to his feet. He stretches his arm out, watches the pinch fall to it. It floats down like petals in a breeze. He palms his mouth and swallows.
That’s when the screaming starts.
A loud wailing echoes through Drora’s space, slams against his ears, reverberates in his brain.
“That’ll be God’s wrath,” Drora says.
“God’s what,” Ely says.
“What an old lady is always talking about,” Drora says. “Be a dear and check on it for me.”
“Or what?” Ely says.
“There’s always more where your demons came from,” Drora says. “Sooner or later, you always need my help.”
Ely trips outside, rubbing his head. Looks around. The market is in chaos.
A locust explodes out of a market-goer’s throat. It’s about the size of a clenched fist. Its beating wings drip blood that falls in an abstract pattern on the market’s grit.
It doesn’t fully free itself from the man’s throat. Instead, it drags him along, stumbling, the man making retching noises.
Drora’s stuff isn’t working today, he thinks. But he’s never seen anything like this before. He looks around. All over the market, locusts are wrenching themselves from human skin and pulling bodies around like rag dolls.
He ducks back into Mother Drora’s.
“There’s uh,” he says, “some kind of nightmare out there. I’m still seeing things.”
Mother Drora smiles. “God is cursing everyone who didn’t start out cursed. People should read the texts more. He’s a vengeful sort.”
“Start out cursed?” he says.
“You have your head problem,” Drora says. “That’s not important. Math has collapsed. The lower spaces have been breached. We need to breach the higher dimensions.”
Ely can hear the screams of a thousand voices over the buzzing of millions of wingtips.
“How?” he says.
“You have to pick your way through whatever’s going on out there,” Drora says, “climb the tower, and then pray, I suppose.”
“My demon wanted me to do that,” Ely says, “before he went away.”
Drora nods. “Demons have good ideas, sometimes.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Ely says. “None of it matters, because I’m not going out there.”
Drora gestures to her jar of herbs. “You owe me. You’d be facing twice as many monsters if not for me. Do it for your fellow Assyrians.”
Her hands move under her robe. Come out with a blade, gleaming, black handled.
“Carve your way through God’s wrath,” she says, “and when you see demons again, they’ll be saying nice things.”
He has a sudden vision of the universe as a machine, moving parts around just so he has no choice but to confront nightmares.
You could still just be seeing things.
“I’ll go,” he says, “but I’m leaving that blade.”
He breathes deep, grits his teeth, and charges outside. A man swings his locust covered arm at his face, mandibles tearing the air. He dodges low, sidesteps, starts running towards the tower.
Everyone’s shouting words he doesn’t know. He hears harsh, guttural sounds, the spaces between indrawn breaths. A locust man is stumbling into his path, the locust pulling him by knotted gut rope. He goes low, crashing into the man’s knees, both of them tumbling to the ground. Ely picks himself up with the locust snapping at his ankles.
Then he’s dashing, top speed, thinking about how weird he must look if he is still seeing things. Seeing and hearing things, the urgent wail of the locust stricken. A crazy kid running around, hallucinating the end of the world.
If he’s hallucinating this, did he hallucinate the conversation with Mother Drora?
Maybe she was always asleep. Maybe he never woke her. His head could do that. It’s done everything else.
Is he hallucinating the two men that step into his path, deliberate, snarling as the locusts sprouting from their wrists latch to his neck and pull him down to earth? Is he hallucinating the world spinning as he falls, his knee slamming into the ground, sending shockwaves of pain up through his legs? Is he hallucinating the pain, or is he really falling with the locusts snapping at his neck, mandibles grazing his jugular? Both knees now, the ground coming up.
Mother Drora, I could use that blade now.
He doesn’t have time to think. He snaps his head down, his jaws level with the locusts, and bites, feeling the crunch, the splash through. One man screams. Ely rips the locust apart and snaps at the next one. The pressure on his arms relaxes. He fights his way to his feet, the two men trying to hold him down, weakening as he bites through. Then he’s shoving them away, because they shouldn’t even exist, much less hold him down and eat him with something out of nightmares. They’re slumping to the ground, faces to the sky, eyes wide. He can see something in them, beyond fear, midway to sorrow.
Climbing the tower is exhausting.
It’s not the physical effort, though that drains him, his muscles feeling like lead. As he walks the orbed path, he sees the same view over and over.
A revolving view of Babylon, the people dropping from sight. He should feel relief, but he doesn’t. Instead, he’s lonely. Will he ever talk to anyone again?
Will he even talk to Mother Drora? Is she still alive, down in the city? He has a sudden vision of her, set upon by locust men, the herb jar shattered by a wild arm, the herbs ground into the dirt by the frenzy. Will his head ever be normal again? Or is this it for Babylon, God’s final judgement on those who dared to reach?
It’s not much, to spare me, if I lose my head anyway.
Ely sees a man’s back at the tower’s peak.
His robe, what Ely can see, is grimed with murk and blood. But he looks locust free.
“Hey,” Ely says. “Can you tell me if what I saw down there is real?”
The man turns around, his face vacant, like Ely caught him doing math.
“It’s my fault,” he says.
“Irshushin,” Ely says.
“Our God is a vengeful sort,” Irshushin says, echoing Mother Drora. “I just wanted to talk, you know? Just wanted to check in.”
Ely follows the train of thought in his head. “Of course, you could be a hallucination, so it doesn’t really mean anything.”
“Like hell,” Irshushin says.
“I came up here to pray,” Ely says. “We need to breach the higher dimensions, let the angels loose. So I’m told.”
Beyond Irshushin the sky is dark, angry clouds blotting out the sun.
“God doesn’t listen to prayer,” Irshushin says. “I used to pray, every day. I wanted the ocean of doom that sludged through my head to dry up. It never did. Now it’s worse than ever, knowing I caused it.”
“You’re supposed to take herbs,” Ely says, “for head problems.”
“Herbs, build a tower to God,” Irshushin says. “It all seemed the same.” He reaches into his robe, digs around. Brings something out.
A blade. An echo of the one Mother Drora offered Ely. The same black handle. The same gleam, though now it’s stained with the darkness of the cloudlight.
“Use me,” Irshushin says, “as an offering. My flesh to atone for this. My blood, to stain my tower. Then the angels will fly. My punishment will be that I don’t see them.”
“I didn’t come here to kill,” Ely says. But his train of thought still rolls on. Our God is a vengeful sort.
Before Ely can think about it Irshushin grabs his hand, quick as any of the locust men. Ely feels his fingers, bony, spindle thin, and the tips pressing the blade to his palm. Then Irshushin straightens his arm, twists it, grunts as the blade takes him.
Ely stares for beats.
Irshushin’s body slumps to earth. His body coils, writhes, as Ely sees the blade, now bloodened.
Ely hears rumbling. The clouds break open. He sees angels.
Lithe, pale bodies. Wingspans twenty feet across, feathers bristling. But it’s the eyes that mark them. Most have more than two. On some Ely counts ten, fifteen, twenty. Many eyed things descending from the higher dimensions.
It’s not that Irshushin made Ely a murderer. It’s that it worked out for God.
Our God is a vengeful sort. The clouds are red. Lightning scorches the earth. Ely can see fire. God’s host descends with flame, flaming swords, flaming wings.
Ely drops to a crouch, sits. Clasps his knees with one arm. Holds the blade in front of him with the other. Stares at it, past it to Irshushin’s body, at the blade again.
It’s not that it’s a similar blade. It’s the same blade. He left it behind but used it anyway. As wrath rains below, Ely sits and thinks of Drora. Her herb jar is empty, but not because it was smashed open. No one touched her. She ate her herbs. Her head is safe. Her thoughts are pure. They’re clear like water.
|# ? Oct 15, 2017 21:57|
Like Kings and Queens
Prompt:The Pareto Principle is the formal name of the 80/20 rule, originally observed in connection with population and wealth
Maury Sark and Rachel West’s wedding was the first one after the Box came to Ringgold, and they went all out. The flower girl threw rubies over her shoulder along with the rose petals along the red velvet carpet that was spread across the father of the groom's back lawn. At the reception guests and participants gorged on butter-poached lobster and seven-year whiskey-all Box made, but when even the coastal hipster foodies couldn't tell the difference, nobody was fool enough to insist there was one. After, in closets and guestrooms and in the back of cars, groomsmen and bridesmaids tore tailor-fit silk off each other's bodies, letting ivory buttons and threaded pearls clatter on the floor beneath them. Everything- the muddied velvet, the piles of uneaten beluga caviar, the tattered suits and gowns- it all went back into the Box the next morning. Along with the remains of the maid of honor, Eileen West, and the murder weapon and the rest of the evidence of the crime, all disassembled into anonymous atoms, feedstock for the next week's worth of fancy underwear and barbeque dinners.
That's what I assume, anyhow. What we call the theory of the crime. It makes a lot more sense than the only other theory on offer, that Eileen rented a ride out of town in the middle of the night and lit out to homestead some empty swampland in Florida, leaving no record, contacting no friends or relatives, and perfectly dropped off of the grid. No. Maybe some of the Sarks and Wests believe it, but everything in me tells me it's a lie. Eileen West is dead, four years gone.
“Darren Bly,” says Granny West. She's in the hospital, dying slowly. Gave the station a call. “Eileen was carrying on with him, but we all knew it would end badly. Not that badly, but...”
It makes sense. There's about a half dozen more people gone missing, Wests and Sarks and Blys. Plenty of people actually have gone full self-sufficient, lugging a Box to some patch of land or sea away from the crowds,but most keep in touch or at least leave a note. Take the ones who don't and a good detective is going to see a pattern, a pattern called 'blood feud’, those five in the two years after the wedding.
“Why cover it up?” I ask. “Why not-”
“Go to the police?” she finishes. It's not as dumb a question as it sounds. Back then, four long years, when we meant something. When we could do more than jack squat about a crime that wasn't watched in real time by a dozen cameras and cooperating eyewitnesses. “Maury’s blood was up, and he knew how well protected Bly house was. Drones, mines, turrets. If you’d come it would have been a massacre.”
The Box wasn't supposed to do weapons of any kind. But parts a three year old could put together, that it will do. Not supposed to do gunpowder either, or drugs stronger than hooch. But clever people worked around that too, designing suitcase-sized disposable chemical plants.
“Why did it stop?”
“Now that's a better question,” she says, smiling. “Wish I knew. Darren’s still sitting in Bly house. Still breathing.”
An interesting question, just what the last real detective needs in a place where every crime either solves itself or can't be solved. I start looking into it, checking the records,looking for anything that changed after the last feud killing, after Aaron West 'went to Florida’. I don’t find much. Rent strikes and demonstrations in the cities while the banks and government were still figuring out how to get Basic Income and rent numbers to work, a bunch of cases of people getting seriously sick mishandling waste products from Boxes, wars in all of the usual places. I burn my eyes out staring at screens between working bar fights and domestic disputes. I drop idle questions on lawyers during recesses after court appearances. It gets me nowhere, until it doesn’t. Until I get a phone call.
“Speaking,” I say, trying to place the voice.
“Darren Bly. I hear you’ve been asking questions.”
“Do you have answers?”
“Some,” he says. “Not the ones you’d like to hear, I’d wager. But come by the house and let’s talk.”
Bly House is something to see. Like a castle, or a shopping mall. It was a mansion before, for all the decay of decades of neglect. Now, it was almost alive, gleaming, still growing as the acres behind it turned into a deep shale quarry feeding the Boxes that build the walls. I hear a buzzing sound, and check on my readouts. As I expect, it’s my microcams dying, shot down by the swarming defense drones. I don’t expect anything less, never counted on any more record of this talk than my memories.
“I didn’t, you know,” he says without preamble, once we’ve sat down, waiting for some young Bly to pour lemonade. The inside is even more opulent than the out. Now, my own apartment has everything a person could want in it, sure. But there’s a certain something about big, wide open architectural spaces, about high ceilings and balconies, wide stairs and rooms big enough to echo.
“Excuse me?” I say.
“Kill Eileen,” he says.
“Did I say you did?”
“Everyone does. Even my own family, these days. But she was alive and well when I left the wedding. Smile on her face. We made a bet, before I left, and she thought she would win it. All she had to do was seduce the groom on his wedding night.”
“I see,” I say.
“We were never big on being exclusive,” he continues. “And Maury chased after Eileen like a lost puppy for three years before he started noticing her little sister Rachel. Was a damned fool bet to make.”
“So you think Rachel caught them?”
“Her or their mother, never been sure. One of them. Didn’t burst in, just followed her and confronted her alone. Hell, maybe it was an accident, even. But Maury went off the handle, found my little brother, and things were locked in for a while there. Until we figured out how to stop.” Darren glances out the back window, towards a toolshed sized more like an old house or barn. His armory, I’m thinking.
“So you think I should look into the Wests,” I say.
Darren grabs my arm. His grip is strong. “I’m saying you should leave things alone. The bleeding’s done. Don’t go picking at the scab.”
I don’t, though. I keep researching, trying to figure out why the last killing was the last one. Back to the same screens, again and again, until it hits me, when I realize what the waste product from the Box is and why it made people sick. And then I realize why the news reports didn’t spell that out.
Mine’s never been anything but empty. Makes sense. The Box breaks things down into atoms, recycles them to make new things. So there shouldn’t be any waste at all.
Except for the atoms it’s designed to have nothing to do with. Except for uranium, and this part of the country’s filled with mountains of shale with uranium trace. So the Box accidentally turned out to be a way to purify out the stuff, and it can certainly make centrifuges and all the other precision tools required. The feud stopped when both sides acquired a nuclear deterrent. Mutually assured destruction, which, sure, works. It works until it doesn’t.
Some people say the person who invented the Box could have been a trillionaire, could have built it to charge people for patents and copyrights and trademarks and such, could have limited the feedstocks to only work with pre-packaged cups like those old expensive office coffee machines. Make it follow more laws. I figure they could have, but if they did the next guy would still have been able to use it to put together the Box we have today. People are clever that way, clever when being dim would make everyone better off.
I used to daydream about homesteading, about hauling a Box out to the wilderness. I usually thought more about deserts than Florida swamps. I can’t stand the wet. These days, though, it’s caves. Deep caves. I doubt I’ll ever go, though. Too lonely. My job, I have to deal with good people on their worst days and bad people having an average one, but at least that’s human contact.
I go and visit Granny West, when the doctors say she’s about to pass. We talk for hours, in the pre-dawn hours, waiting for her relatives show up. I’ll quietly take my leave when they do. We talk about the old days, and about how strange the next generation will be without anyone who even experienced material want. I’m less sure there’s going to be a next generation than I’ve ever been, but I don’t tell her that. I don’t tell her any of the things I’ve learned. She deserves that much.
|# ? Oct 15, 2017 23:36|
sparksbloom fucked around with this message at 03:38 on Nov 27, 2017
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 00:38|
The Heart is an Ancient Organ
flerp fucked around with this message at 04:46 on Dec 7, 2017
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 01:57|
Sometimes the recap crew comes across a story that's so special (for certain values of the word) that Sitting Here and I decide you guys would enjoy Ironic Twist's unspoiled reaction--or at least that we would. And what do you know! Our coverage of Week 265: KEITH APE and Week 266: J. Walter Weatherman and Friends gives you two chances to revel in Twist's suffering as we read Exmond's "Butting Heads" and magnificent7's "Prince Tardigrade" aloud. The moral of the story: do not detach your progenitive organs in the first few minutes of recording.
“Oh it’s okay in this case. These aren’t like your sister Trudy. It’s okay to call them tards.”
Week 267: The Horror....the horror belies its name as we examine its macabre high points: icy eyes and murder ghosts steal the spotlight for a time, though eventually, inevitably, our eyes and our voices drift to the quadruple amputee playing piano in the corner of Exmond's "Why did the bee hum?"
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?
Episodes past can be found here!
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 02:34|
Magic number seven, give or take.
It started slowly, like big things do. Nobody saw it, because what was there to see? Who hears the voice missing from a crowd? Who feels the line missing from a palm? Who tastes the grain of rice that fell on the floor?
"That fucker! That orange FUCKER!" Amber yelled at her screen as the USA decapitated itself. And across the state, Devin breathed a sigh of relief that the nation had kept its head. They would spend hours that night locked in 140-character combat, each giving no quarter until the other admitted to pulling or trying to pull the guillotine's lever. But it wasn't a decapitation; it was just another fallen hair.
"You didn't... have to... do that...." a bleeding mouth moaned horizontally. The riots were getting worse along with the world. On the spur of the moment, an army could mob the streets for any big enough cause, driven by a common desperation. Common sense says that common conditions should pull people together, not drive them apart. The armies might have been themselves united, but what small armies, and how many of them!
The wall pressed, and the holes opposite obligingly swallowed and spat. People were thinking only of themselves. Smart people were thinking only of themselves. Who was surprised to see the Gateway Arch scoop the river?
Thoughts flashed thick and fast, clouding in swarms that swirled into countless points. This was talk, this was news. This was enough, at last. It had been disturbed, but every disturbance eventually settles. This was progress.
Jera wandered down the sidewalk, her head abuzz with thoughts, her screen abuzz with thoughts. It was nice to be able to go for a walk again. The dirty bird above the awning she saw, and so did her friends and followers. It was just like the bird she saw above ~scarykrishna's street, a street that in its own way was just like the one ~serif23 probably lived on. What a world, what a web of a world.
Nazis were dead. Again. People barely knew what a Nazi even could be. Could there be a more meaningless category? And what even was a Communist? What was anything or anybody anymore? Who did you know was right? And why were all the others wrong?
The ocean was higher, as it had always been or hadn't.
~snatchbandicunt 7 minutes ago
can you even blieve this poo poo
~snatchbandicunt 5 minutes ago
another loving democrat
~snatchbandicunt 5 minutes ago
who is even voting for thse people serious q i dont know anyone who dindt put down a right in
The scalp was beginning to get a distinct bald spot.
Somewhere, a number probably dropped from seven to six.
Much later, much more bickering.
The ocean was definitely too high.
Rice all over the floor.
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 04:00|
My entry is untitled, by the way; the spoiler is my prompt. You'd think I could have included the actual name of the law involved (Miller's), but then I probably would have been smart enough to write a story that wasn't that one.
ed: also probably smart enough to remember that the deadline is tomorrow morning holy poo poo
Sham bam bamina! fucked around with this message at 04:19 on Oct 16, 2017
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 04:16|
Week #286 Redemption
Reunion is now archived.
Uranium Phoenix fucked around with this message at 05:45 on Dec 7, 2017
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 05:05|
Deus ex Atomicus
Daniel was sitting in a non-descript corporate office. This was confusing for a number of reasons, not least of which was the fact that a fraction of a second ago he was in his lab attempting to isolate and capture a Higgs Boson. Sure they’d been able to observe the existence of this wonderful little particle for quite some time now, but to actually freeze one in stasis for permanent observation would change the face of science forever. Career-defining work to be sure.
However, this wasn’t the lab. He was sitting in a worn office chair that squeaked gently as he shifted his weight. In front of him was the sort of cheaply mass-produced desk that one would expect to find in the office of a corporate middle-manager. Behind the desk was a paunchy, balding man with a tired frown quietly perusing a stapled packet of papers. Daniel looked down and noticed that he was wearing red footy pajamas. The man cleared his throat.
Daniel tried several times to ask the man. After a few attempts, he realized that he didn’t know what he was trying to ask, so he decided to shut up.
“Now that you’ve had a moment to collect yourself, we can discuss why we’re here. I suppose you would like an explanation?”
“Well so would everyone else!” the man said, tossing the packet aside. “What the gently caress were you thinking?”
“I- I’m not sure what you mean. Is this about the experiment?”
“Experiment!? Oh! Well! It was just an experiment! Thank God it was just a test run or something!” The man threw his hands up. “If the test run erases all of existence, what was the real deal supposed to accomplish?”
Daniel took a few confused looks around the room. Erased all existence? That couldn’t be right. He’d probably just slowed the decay of one particle. He reached up and touched his face. Same two day stubble he’d had this morning. He was here, he had a face and he could think about his face. Descartes would argue that he existed. He was. “If existence has been erased, how am I here?”
“There is no here, and quit pawing at yourself, ape,” the man snapped. “No, the material plane ceased to exist as you know it the moment you did whatever you did. Try not to think of this too hard. This is the third time I’ve had to reset you so that we could have this conversation. If it helps, think of this as sort of a virtualization. A scenario to make you feel more comfortable.”
Daniel couldn’t help it. He started to think about it. He began to get that coppery taste in his mouth. His vision blurred. The man slapped him. He looked down and saw that he’d dug bloody chunks out of his own forearm. The man waved his hands disdainfully. The bloody gouges disappeared. So did his fingers. It hurt. He screamed. The man slapped him again. He stopped screaming.
“Let’s get back to it,” the man said with a smile. “You performed an experiment that ended all of Creation. Why?”
“Who are you? How did you do this?” Daniel waved his stumps.
“You don’t get to ask questions. I’m an angel of the Lord, and I can torture you for infinity if I so choose. Answer the question.”
“We wanted to increase our understanding of the very building blocks of existence.” He couldn’t hide the pride in his voice. “Did you say you were an angel? I’m afraid I was a bit of an… atheist in life.”
The angel barked a laugh. “Who gives a gently caress what you believe! Some of you dipshits honestly believed that your planet was flat,” his face hardened. “So you utterly destroyed Creation for the sake of knowledge?! You know there’s a story you might be familiar with despite that whole atheist thing. The one with the snake, the naked chick, and the fruit of knowledge that she was absolutely under no circumstances allowed to eat. It’s ironic that you would do something so similar. How did this particular fruit taste, I wonder?”
In an instant, Daniel’s mouth filled with ash and cinder. His lips and tongue burned. He gurgled a scream. In another instant, the fire and pain was gone.
“Was there anything special that you were going to do with that knowledge? What was the next step I wonder?”
There wasn’t one. Daniel looked down at his feet. The pajamas had little dog faces on the toes.
“Knowledge just for the sake of it? Could it at least have gotten you laid? You know you had an entire planet full of people to gently caress and things to eat, and you decided to throw it all away for knowledge you didn’t have a use for? Did you at least get some good loving in while you could?”
Daniel continued looking at the little dog faces. They seemed to be mocking his academic-minded celibacy at this point. When he looked back up, the angel’s face was white hot fury. Literally. It burned his face.
“Some of us had a purpose, you know. Not you vermin. You just got to wandering around enjoying things and we had work to do. Now there’s nothing and it’s your fault. I have to deal with the horsemen after I’m done with you. They trained for millennia and didn’t get a chance to ride. Conquest was an annoying sonofabitch before all this what with people calling him Pestilence, but now that he’s been denied his purpose… That’s not a bad idea actually.” The angel stood up from behind the desk and began pacing about the office. He was wearing a weathered, gray business suit and scuffed dress shoes. “You get to have a purpose! Since you wanted more knowledge of the God Particle, you get to be the new one. You get to put each and every particle in the entire universe back where it was.” The angel strolled to the office door. “A word of advice before you go: That whole six days of Creation thing was a bit of a metaphor. I anticipate that this will take a while. Ciao!”
The door opened. Daniel, or rather the consciousness formerly known as Daniel was pitched into a black nothingness. Maybe in a millennium there would be somethingness.
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 05:18|
its the pills.
the pills are dry and dull and stick in my throat and then they are gone. she is gone too, but I don't know where. my feet are big, clumsy, not attached, they make a loud noise on the stairs as I come down and there she is, below me, sitting on the couch looking at a letter. i should check the mail, i think, but that's outside and i don't see the door. maybe i should look for it but
but then her hand is on my shoulder, "come and sit with me," she says, and leads me down to the couch. light comes in the window and the shaft is filled with dust. i jerk my arm away from the light. music is coming from the tv and it sounds like country and western, twangy and squashed and from a great distance, and then
and then i'm in the backyard and mother is there, too, she's throwing a ball at me and i catch it in my new mitt, shiny leather with its rich smell, and the sun is shining and beaming and my mother is also beaming, bright and pure not like the pills that stick in my throat dry and bitter and
and she is talking and showing me a book with photographs of faded faces and i am drifting along to the gentle rhythm of the pages, flip, flip, flip, the smell of cellophane and ashes, flip, flip, her words murmur softly and then i see a face i know. its the face from the bathroom, the one i see before she covers the window with a blanket because i shout and scream "get out get out get out" at it but the face would just shout those words right back at me. flip and that face is gone, replaced with others and i start to drift again then i see the woman in the dress and my heart clenches
my heart clenches and i can't breathe. it's her. a name bubbles up from inside me, from my chest not my head, i can feel my tongue curl around the shape of it. air hisses from my lungs, but my throat clenches like choking on the bitter dusty pills and then the thought is gone and i can't chase it because it is gone, like trying to find a drop of water in a flowing river that rushes past me washes over me and then
and then I'm beside the river, fishing pole in hand, and he is there. I smell the whiskey and coffee on his breath as my father reaches around me and shows me how to hold it, how to flick my wrist and send the lure spinning out over the crystal water and i've got a fish in my hand, so beautiful, and he hands me a sharp rock and shows me where to bash its head. i draw a line between the eyes and just behind i strike the fish and it flexes hard but its not dead so i hit it again, again, again until its muscles stop. i hear him laugh but i cry as the eggs spill from the belly i didn't know she had babies how could i have known and i cry harder and then
then she spoons the broth into my mouth as the pages flip, flip, murmuring in my ear but i no i will not. no i grab the thought of that fish and hold it and i fight just as hard as that goddamned fish fought. i fight. i know it will win, it will slip back into the water and disappear like they always do and here comes another spoonful so i open my mouth and feel the river washing over me and carrying me away but then i remember
i remember her name is Lucy.
I look up from the pages of the photo album and I look at her. Lucy.
She's focused on the pages, talking about her long-dead Uncle Raymond (the drunk one), and she hasn't noticed my gaze.
The spastic twitches of my body settle and she looks up at me. Her voice falters. In her eyes I see not a river but a pool, calm and still and inviting.
The memories flood in and I can't breathe as emotions wash over me. My world is rebuilt with sadness and joy and hurt and laughter and pain and wonder and all I can do is laugh. Is this the one last trick of this loving disease, to give back to me everything it has stolen, just before the end? For a moment I am terrified, that this is all a trick? but Lucy?
Lucy is here. Her hair is not red anymore but a soft silver and her hand shakes as she holds the spoonful of broth, She is here for me. She always has been. She's my wife. Her eyes meet mine, and I smile because I know.
I have her back. I have it all back, and I will never let it go.
Prompt - Alzheimer's Disease
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 05:35|
The Armstrong Limit
On Olympus Mons
“This is basically a road trip through less pretty or interesting France. Hard to believe that we’re trying to be the first to reach the summit of Olympus Mons,” my husband, Claude said. “It’s been two weeks in a space camper, the tallest point in Kansas was more interesting.”
“We have climbed every other major peak on Earth and we’re still richer than Sealand. Scaling Olympus Mons gets us real fame, not just the fifteen we got after being the sole winner of the largest lottery jackpot ever. We bought that ticket so we could afford to climb Mount Everest,” I said.
“All this mountaineering is getting boring. When we get back to Earth, can we take easy for a while?” said Claude.
“Sure, but can you quiet for a bit, the terrain is getting rough.” I said.
A snow storm started to blow, and it was too dangerous to go farther. The ice was a big part of why it was taking so long drive up Olympus Mons. We were also far from the main settlements on Mars, lengthening the trip. At 20,00 meters, the atmosphere’s pressure was so little that it would kill us if we we left the pressurized cabin without protective suits. Even though Mars is terraformed, oxygen was needed outside the space camper 15,000 vertical meters ago.
The storm was letting up when Claude said, “Hey, Julius, I’m going to drive for a while. It will help me to get my mind off of how boring this is.”
“Go ahead. I’m going to check out our route by the satellite data.” I said.
I had just figured we were going to be driving for another three days until we got to the summit, when Claude hit some ice. We skidded for a while, and then suddenly the ground dropped from underneath the space camper. Sinkholes have been a problem on Mars since liquid water came back. After being dry for long, the ground had a tendency to crack if too much weight was put on it. As Olympus Mons is a shield volcano, there are underground magma tubes underneath the surface.
We hit the ground hard, and I heard a hissing noise once once I regained consciousness. The space camper had been dented, and was apparently losing atmosphere. I was in the back and put on my pressure suit. I also grabbed Claude’s suit and went to the cockpit to see how he was doing.
“Holy poo poo, Julius! Do you see what’s in front of us? Those look like bodies in front of us, alien bodies.” Claude said.
“Are you sure you have enough oxygen? How about you put on your suit and let’s take a closer look,” I said.
After Claude put on his suit, we left the camper to investigate the damage and to see our landing site. The entrance hole was at least 10 meters up and the camper’s front axle was cracked. We were probably completely hosed. In order to pass the time before we eventually died, we went to look for the bodies that Claude saw.
Twelve meters in front of camper, there were signs of a building. Three, one-meter long, ash-covered bodies were around what appeared to be the entrance. They had big heads and thin limbs. They reminded me of the Greys from 20th century conspiracy theories. We went into the building, and there were more of bodies. We were in the equivalent of Martian Pompeii.
“Well, Native Martians exist. Too bad we’re screwed” I said.
“Maybe we’ll find their spaceship. Look at this thingy I found. I brushed the ash off and it’s shiny.” Claude said, passing the vase-like object to me.
Unfortunately, I dropped it and I became unbearably hot, and not in the way I do in my deepest fantasies. Without thinking, I pulled off my helmet. I should have died due to my alveolar liquid boiling, the low pressure of the air lowing the boiling point to body temperature.
“I guess the ancient Martians have figured out how to break the Armstrong limit. This is really going to help space travel. Man, this trip has been great,” said Claude.
“We’ll be the modern day Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter. Too bad we’re not going to get out of here that easily. Let’s explore some more.”
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 05:45|
ThirdEmperor fucked around with this message at 13:56 on Dec 25, 2017
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 05:55|
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 21:24 on Jan 8, 2018
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 05:55|
curlingiron fucked around with this message at 04:50 on Dec 29, 2017
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 07:01|
flashrule: small or far away
The Object of the Exercise
My office, where I have practised the noble art of medicine these past thirty years, had its venerable, ordered calm disrupted when the other side of its door was slammed into by a person unknown. The glazed window, emblazoned with san-serif legend 'yorztiF .rD', vibrated against its putty, and the handle rattled as it twisted the wrong way.
The hallway discord both outraged and intrigued me. “Come in! It’s not locked - just a bit sticky.” But the door had already been flung open and the carpet was lurched upon in a manner befitting the furnishings of the mortally wounded.
It was a business suit, containing an awful pink shirt, and with last season’s tie and an oil stain on the lapel. Inside it was a man with so calamitous a demeanor that my seat almost relinquished me in order to assist him. But the hand that was not clutched white-knuckled to his chest flagged away such consideration. The leather bound and absurdly comfortable chair opposite me was grabbed so desperately that it needed to be wrestled back a little on its oiled castors. Still, it soon sat a conventional distance from my mahogany desk, containing the dolorous patient.
My eyes absorbed the man's appearance. His hair was shock white, ragged and spiked like a profusion of stalagmites. The 'whites' of his eyes were red around the pupils, bloodshot near to the point of glowing, and the pupils themselves were dilated to tiny pinpoints. Rosacea flared pink on his face and a multitude of subcutaneous lumps disfigured his hands. One finger was missing at the lower knuckle, the resulting stump long healed but still with a silvery scar.
A moment was all the time this observation took me, but further diagnosis was prevented by the door admitting the formidable Nurse Hutchings. Her expression read both anger and frustration. "He wouldn't stop at reception...".
A shushing was in order. "Shhh, Nurse! This man clearly needs my help." My hand waved her away. The muscles in the man's face relaxed in the minor way that only the most supremely discomfited can manage. "That will be all, Nurse Hutchings."
Her immediate departure was, amazingly, not immediate. "Dr Fitzroy. You don’t understand. This man is on the list!”
My spectacles barely contained the glare I leveled at Nurse Hutchings. They traveled down to the tip of my nose at my hands behest whereupon my eyes peered over the top of them. Bereft of lenticular mitigation, my glare increased tenfold. “Of course he's on the list. That will be all.”
Her upper uniform pulsated in exasperation, and her skull barely contained her rolling eyes. "Yes, Doctor.”
The door closed behind her with the merest hint of a slam, and my full attention was again directed toward the patient. “I do apologise for Nurse Hutchings. A fine practitioner, but time, tide and one’s health emergencies wait for no one, as she sometimes forgets.”
“Thank you for seeing me, Doctor.”
"Indeed,” I said, “And you are…?”
“Tamsworth, Doctor, Julian Tamsworth.”
“And I am to take it that you are not a patient here, but are well known throughout the medical fraternity in these parts?”
Julian's shoes became fascinating to him. They were hidden by my desk and so their precise nature was opaque to me. Julian's chapped lips burbled something vaguely affirmative.
“So I surmised,” I said. “The list our ever-so direct Nurse Hutchings refers to is the Munchausen List, circulated by necessity among physicians of repute, whereby those whose psychological profile tends towards self-inflicted malodies can be easily identified. Now let me see. Julian Tamsworth….J...u...l” The fabulously up-to-the-minute computer in front of me felt each tippety-tap on its keyboard, until the final 'click' of the enter key. With a resplendant 'ping' the screen displayed its hard won results. “Seventeen doctors visits in the greater area over the past two months. You outdo yourself, Mr Tamsworth.”
Julian's teeth permitted an inaudible mumble to escape.
“What was that?” I asked.
“I said, it’s true – but you still have help me. I’m very sick.”
My lungs admitted a large breath of air, to be slowly let out as a gentle sigh. “Go on,” I said.
“I admit, I’ve been less than truthful in the past,” he said, his face contorted by shame. One by one, the decrepit evidences of his condition were displayed to me. The backs of his hands, misshapen and lumpy. “I’ve injected talcum powder under my skin.” His left lower eyelid pulled down to display a vicious conjunctivitis. “I’ve rubbed faecal matter into my own face.” The sewn up stump of his finger exhibited at close range. “I’ve chopped off my own finger with a machete, all so I could have a few hours being the centre of attention, and sit in a nice, clean office like this, and have someone listen to me. It felt so right, but now...it's just wrong.”
“I am somewhat surprised by your summation of your condition,” I said, my eyelids blinking. "To be so honest and upfront condition shows considerable developmental change.” The 'list’ had contained no mention of any such embryonic self-awareness. “This is news indeed.”
“Is it?” A tear trickled down Julian's pockmarked, crusty face. "It just feels like I'm sick to the bone." A tissue erupted from the box on my desk and mucous flowed loudly through Julian's nose into it. "I've realised how ill I actually am. I suppose I always knew. I thought it was just a small thing, but really I was keeping it so far away from myself that I never noticed how bad it had become. I was so busy trying to be sick - I didn't even see how sick I was."
His lumpy hand was companionably touched by mine across some old Lancet photocopies. "You have come to the right place," I said. The lumps felt spongy to the touch. "Now the real healing can begin."
"So, what happens next? Therapy?"
"My dear fellow. Therapy won't help you. You've come to a fascinating realisation about yourself. But you must believe you can be good as new again! First, please twist your earlobe. The left one."
Befuddlement and Julian became intimately involved.
"Just like this, please," I said, my fingers miming the required motion.
Julian's hand paused mid-journey as he looked to me for reassurance. My neck bent my head in a nod, my lips smiled reassuringly.
The earlobe twisted with his hand, and Julian's faceplate swung open at the invisible hinge. His ocular rotormotors hummed as his eyeballs swivelled to and fro, freed from their restraints, surveying the elaborate circuitry within from unanticipated angles, reading the serial number behind his faceplate. MHS-3435-JT
"I'm a robot!" said Julian, LEDs lighting his face in astonishment.
"Well, yes," I said. "Technically a simulacrum, but you weren't to know that. Not to worry - the necessary repairs shouldn't take very long at all. We'll have you fully back to your regular Munchhausen protocol any moment. After all - without you 3435s, what would we robot physicians have to practice on?"
A nanodrill emerged from my right index finger and crept towards the patient's amygdala circuits. "It's probably an over-functioning awareness loop. Nothing to worry about. Now - this won't hurt…"
The nanodrill plunged into the depths of his consciousness modules. My aural cavities were filled with his screams as his layers of self-awareness were scraped away. Real humans would never make such a fuss, I thought. Perhaps I would even get to meet one someday.
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 07:04|
Prompt: St. Elmo's Fire
She Worships the Wrong Saint
The dull sound of bronze on bronze resonated through the ever-fermenting costal haze with a persistent clang, promptly as the Clarendon was set to cast off for a brief excursion into the Atlantic. Nevertheless, the ship's numerous patrons, representing a diverse multitude of backgrounds, were completely unfazed; through various rubrics, being aboard the ship was comparable to being in a distant place where the hash sounds of the bell's signal were mere echoes in one's memory. For most, the oceanic atmosphere had an inherent tranquility to which the ringing merely seasoned with appropriate flavor. Ashley was a different matter, taken in by an entirely different mindset.
"Thank god for LTE," she thought to herself, completely enthralled by the dim glow of her mobile phone. "I'm not sure if I could possibly withstand an entire weekend, severed from the luxuries of modern society."
A wrinkled hand clapped softly against her shoulder. "Put that damned thing away," a much older male voice called out frustratingly from behind her. "Don't you know that you are missing out on the natural beauty of the world, staring at that screen all day?"
She rolled her eyes and sighed softly, holding the phone out a little bit further in front of her, and began to swipe through a series of different images bearing a familiar seascape. "I'm well aware of what the ocean looks like, Grandpa. I've seen it many times before, see?", she glanced back over her shoulder for a brief moment, as if seeking approval.
"You're joking, right?", the man said, chuckling a little, until his laughs were shut down by the realization that his grievances could in fact, be substantiated on the spot. "You mean to say that you can, with a straight face, tell me that actually seeing it in person with your own eyes is no different to you than looking at a picture?" he asked, quizingly.
She turned around, trying not to smile. "I don't see what the big deal is, that's all." She was clearly enjoying herself, in spite of her mocking remarks.
Her grandfather smiled back, ruffling her blond hair lightly. "Just try to enjoy the scenery a little. Think of it as a once in a lifetime opportunity."
"Ok, Grandpa" she said, obediently, as her eyes shifted right back to the phone as if they had never left.
He shook his head softly and muttered to himself as he strayed off to examine the amenities available to the passengers, and left her to her own devices. The skies that stretched over the vast waters ahead seemed to ramp up in temperamentally as the docks disappeared further behind the ship. A delightful gloom brushed the clouds overhead, painting them with an array of troubled, yet stable light and moderate grey that enveloped the evening sunset.
Ashley shuffled across the deck of the ship aimlessly, or even obliviously. She would briefly peel her eyes away from her phone at random intervals to peek around at her surroundings, however her real focus was on a flurry of mixed net interactions ranging from upvotes and downvotes, to likes and swipes. When it seemed as though she had, through dedication and resolve, plateaued for the time being, she began to focus more on the scenery around her. While she was more interested in remotely interacting within her own social sphere rather than with the dismissingly uninteresting passengers around her, there was a certain charm about the air that had pierced through to her. She gazed over the waters distractedly for a brief moment, drawn in by it's alluring sparkle. Just as she was reaching towards her pockets to finally sheath her phone, she heard a faint buzzing sound somewhere behind her.
"Electrici..?", was her first thought, as her head swung from side to side with curiosity, and finally upwards towards the masts.
High above was a writhing mass of darkness, not quite ready to spew its load back down upon the ocean, but ripe with static charge. Lightning flickered off in the distance silently with the crash of thunder soon to follow. The flash and crash served as little distraction however, from the notably audible sparks of plasma that had began to faintly materialize overhead, accompanied by a smooth voltaic crackle that sounded almost like the flames of a camp fire. Ashley's eyes met with the soft violet luminescence as it rapidly engulfed more and more of the ship's masts, erupting tendrils of tiny lightning from the pointed tips like microscopic streams of water spouting from a needle-sized piercing in a garden hose. Almost immediately, she lifted her right arm, phone in hand, to her face as if by reflex and began snapping. Everything between her and the clouds was ablaze, and it was her first instinct to capture it, as she so conveniently had the means required to do so right at her fingertips.
Minutes of zooming and clicking raced by as she focused on the screen of her phone, intent on taking the best possible shots that she could. The wisps that lit up the sales and masts were precursor to the coming storm, which came billowing down in a rush as another thunderous boom filled the skies. The captivating buzz had been overtaken by the tumultuous sound of droplets splashing against the wood at feet, and the tiny tendrils that once danced around the masts were obscured by the growing tempest. Snapping out of the trance she had been in just seconds before, she quickly followed the last of the passengers down to the lower deck. Before she even reached the bottom of the stairs leading below, her eyes were already once again fixated on the screen of her phone. Excitement was welling up within her, more so now than during the spectacle that she had just witnessed first hand. The realization had hit her:
"I did it. I got it all. I don't know what it was, but it's here!" It was all she could think about, as she searched through her digital photos with a sense of accomplishment.
She swiped on increasingly faster, as a feeling of dread began to creep up her spine. There was indeed an assortment of image captured on her phone, however they were little more than a mass blurry clouds and splotches of color. What she had seen on her screen before, and to a lesser extent with her own eyes, had been reduced to the photographic equivalent of sewage.
"Mayfair.. no .. Amaro? ..No good. Not even Valencia..." A single tear slithered down Ashley's cheeks.
None of Systrom's filters could mend the damage that was done.
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 08:18|
oh god who set my brain on mawkish sentimentality/emo crap? I want to burn this but I literally couldn't come up with anything better all weekend, so this is what you get. Sorry! Feel free to crucify me in crits.
Prompt: Kepler's Laws
As Sure as The Sun
I met her at dawn, in a little donut place off Fifth. It was one of those kitschy relics from the 60s, covered with clouded chrome and worn red pleather in a misguided attempt to ape an ancient future. The donuts themselves were alright, but I came for the coffee. It was hot and black and bitter, with a scalding bite that ran up and down your throat. Outside was one of those Northeastern mornings where the frost cracks and runs and refreezes, leaving a slick layer of ice over everything. On mornings like that you tread carefully and still end up more skating than striding. It wasn’t far from my car to the door but I still almost broke my neck twice getting there. Three times technically, but the last time I was near the entrance and turned the lurch into a lunge, wrenching open the door. The hot air from streamed out and steamed on my glasses, leaving me half blind. I stumbled inside and there she was, sitting in a booth, mug cupped in her hands. I still remember the touch of those hands: they were burning, almost feverish, scalding me as they ran up and down.
Then came all the lazy afternoons lying on plush spring grass. I’d ask her stupid questions and always she’d just laugh and say the same thing: “As sure as the sun will rise!”. I’d start easy: “You think the Sox’ll win this year?”. “As sure as the sun will rise!” she’d say. “You think we’re gonna have another lovely winter?” “As sure as the sun will rise.” she deadpans, rolling her eyes. “What about us? Are we going to stay together?” I prod. “… As sure as the sun” comes the answer, slow and serious. The words drag at me, pulling me into her orbit.
The last time I saw her was at dusk, in a hospital room crowded with machines. They bleeped and squawked and whirred; she wheezed. I wheezed too, my heart in my throat. Doctors, friends, prayers, and machines had all done all that they could. I hadn’t though. I walk to her side and take her hand, so cold now, asking one last question: “You’ll get through this, right? … right?”. “As sure as the sun will rise.” comes the whispered reply. She must’ve known it was a lie, but it was a lie I needed to hear.
It’s night now. It’s been night ever since she died. I’m standing on the beach, watching the waves. The moon is out, then it’s in. The tides writhe, thrashing up and down the shore in a spray of foam. The water reaches higher and higher, rushing from knees to neck to nose. It’s over my head now and I sink into the darkness. She is gone, and so am I, spiraling away from the Earth into the black.
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 08:31|
"Evolution is cleverer than you are."
On the morning of the change, Linnie rolled over in bed and asked Bruce, “You too?”
Bruce nodded. “I think it was all of us.”
Linnie reached across the crumpled sheets and clutched his wrist, her palm clammy with sweat. “Don’t. Change. Swear you won’t. Not the tiniest thing.”
“I feel--it feels--” Bruce stammered.
“Loose?” Linnie offered, clenching her teeth against the sensation that her cells might start rolling around like spilled marbles.
“Loose,” Bruce agreed.
“Loose Bruce,” Linnie said, and that made them both laugh, even though it was stupid.
Outside, someone screamed. The scream quickly descended into a bestial gargle. Then silence. Other voices punctured the morning quiet, some panicked, some elated. Everyone in the neighborhood was awake despite the early hour. All of humanity had awoken as one, bereft of something they’d never noticed having.
“Linnie. Hey. Linnie.” Bruce’s voice brought her back to herself.
Linnie blinked a few times. The sensation of looseness had worsened in those few moments of rumination. For a moment, her consciousness floated like a soda can on the tumultuous ocean of her biology.
“Don’t. Change,” Bruce said, mimicking her tone from before. He reached over to run a finger across her cheek. Linnie pressed her face into his hand, took refuge in the solidity of it.
“We’re going to have to be very careful,” she said a few moments later, after she’d recovered enough to think. The looseness was still there, but manageable.
“How did this--”
“No?” Bruce raised an eyebrow.
“No thinking about what it is or how it happened. No talking about it.”
Bruce nodded, cleared his throat. “So, what now?”
“We get up. We make breakfast. We talk about stupid movies. Or something.” Linnie sat up, swung her feet over the side of the bed. She made herself focus on the feeling of her toes splayed out on the cool wooden floor. She exhaled sharply. “We can do this.”
They made eggs and toast. They talked about things that had seemed meaningful the day before. They took refuge in banal conversation, mundane tasks like loading the dishwasher or folding laundry. Outside, the screaming continued in bursts. Sometimes there were other sounds, animal sounds. Linnie and Bruce, by silent agreement, left their phones and computers off. No TV, no Twitter.
In the early afternoon, Bruce emerged from the bathroom and said, “We’re out of toilet paper.”
Linnie looked up from a crossword puzzle. “We could...just use the shower to clean up?”
“We can’t go out there.”
A wordless cry rang out from somewhere nearby, as though the sufferer was corroborating Linnie’s fears.
“Lin, if this is all really happening, we can’t stay here. We should get out, go somewhere remote. Live like monks on some mountain top, you know?”
Linnie stared into the middle distance. She heard Bruce’s words, but wasn’t really absorbing them. Never going to work again, she thought. Never having another neighborhood barbeque. Never gonna wait in rush hour traffic. The ‘looseness’ had come with a whole set of towering, monstrous implications, and she was only just beginning to grasp them.
“The neighbor’s house,” she said faintly. “If they’re dead, we can take their toilet paper.” Focusing on a small, immediate problem gave her momentary respite from the unthinkable.
“That’s not going to fix things forever,” Bruce snapped. He braced himself against the table, took a couple deep, hitching breaths. Faint whorls and ripples pulsed across his skin, subtle enough to be an illusion if Linnie hadn't known better.
“Hey,” she barked. “If I can do this, you can do it. Keep it together, Loose Bruce.”
Bruce gave her a strained smile. A bead of sweat perched on his upper lip, a testament to the effort it took to stay whole and unaltered, but after a moment, the distortions in his flesh subsided.
“Okay,” he said hoarsely. “Okay, you’re right. We should scope out the neighborhood, stock up on supplies, then make our move.”
“Toilet paper first,” Linnie said. “One thing at a time.”
It was sunny when Linnie and Bruce stepped outside. The spring air was cool but carried the promise of warmer days to come. The narrow suburban street was coated by a glistening slurry of brown, grey, blood-red, and pus-yellow. Directly across from Bruce and Linnie’s house, something writhed on a manicured green lawn, a living, man-sized sausage caught in a useless tangle of clothing. An orifice opened on one end of its body and emitted a sound like boiling mud.
Bruce turned away, pressed his forehead against the siding of the house. “Jesus Christ, that’s gonna be us,” he moaned.
Linnie gripped his shoulder hard. “Focus. We get the toilet paper. We go home. One thing at a time. Nothing else matters.”
They hobbled together to the house next door, keeping their heads down, ignoring the things that wiggled and burbled in their periphery. Linnie could feel every molecule in her body, a staticky haze made of infinite potentialities. Her grasp on her own humanity was limp, tentative at best. Her cells maintained their integrity out of habit and not much else. The very stuff of her genes thrummed excitedly, as though eager to be told what to do.
They made it to the neighbor’s house, found the front door partly open. They didn’t think about the pile of chunks on the front porch, simply edged around it and went inside.
Linnie motioned to Bruce that they should be silent as possible. Get the toilet paper and go. He seemed to understand. On the first floor was an ultra-immaculate guest bathroom with a trove of toilet paper stacked neatly in a quaint wooden basket. Linnie grabbed their prize without hesitation, and they retreated back to the front door.
Linnie rounded the corner that lead to the foyer and froze. A child--or something child-sized--stood between her and the door. Instead of arms, it had two clusters of long tentacles that nearly touched the floor. The sinuous limbs were in constant motion, braiding in and out of each other, making living knots of themselves. Its skin was dolphin-smooth, mottled steel grey and coral pink. The eyes were huge and expressive, painfully blue and utterly human. It looked up at Linnie with unmistakable hope and trust, and she resisted the urge to fall to her knees and throw her arms around it.
“You didn’t go goosh,” it said, waving its tentacles in way that suggested splashing. “Mom and dad went blarghoosh! I tried to keep them, but I could only get parts.”
Linnie and Bruce looked at each other, then back at the child-thing.
“Jayden,” Linnie said. “You’re name’s Jayden Matthews, right?” She’d heard his mother call for him enough times over the years.
The child-thing tucked his tentacles behind its back and turned its huge blue saucer eyes to the floor. “I hate Jayden. I want to be Squid Man.”
Linnie knelt down so she was at eye level with the creature. “And you’re mom and dad are…?”
“Blarghoosh!” Jayden repeated. “But then I scooped some of them up and made p-a-a-arts.” He wiggled his tentacles again as if for emphasis.
“He made his parents into arm calamari,” Bruce said, and there was a kind of hysterical mirth to his voice. Linnie glanced at him over her shoulder, saw that his skin had taken on a translucent yellow quality.
“Loose Bruce!” she roared. “Keep it together.”
“How come you don’t just tell your parts what they should be?” Jayden asked, eyeing Bruce. “They’re all listening now.”
“Jayden,” Linnie said, looking him right in his huge blue eyes. “What exactly are you doing to--to keep from falling apart? How are you controlling whatever’s happening?”
“I woke up and thought I wanted to see better and climb good,” he said. “And then I could. And then I went and found mom and dad and they were all over the bed and floor and I scooped some of them up.”
“He’s a loving kid,” Bruce said. His voice was distorted, like he was talking through a swollen throat. “Probably doesn’t have to think about it, just does it.”
“You can come back with us,” Linnie said to Jayden. “We just came over to borrow some toilet paper, but I think it’s better if we all stick together.”
“Lin,” Bruce groaned. He fell against the nearest wall, slumped down to the floor. His skin was still sickly and yellow, but now blood oozed from him in droplets, as though he’d been pricked in a hundred places. Something milky and viscous seeped out from under his closed eyelids.
Linnie scrambled over to him. “Bruce! Hey! Bruce!” She took his hand, then let go when she felt how wet and pliable it was under her grip. “You’ve had this same body for thirty goddamn years. You know this shape. You can hold it together.”
“He’s too scrambled,” Jayden said in a flat voice. “His parts are--” he paused, searching for the words “--they’re not close enough to each other anymore. They’re wandering off.”
“Jayden,” Linnie said, “what are my parts doing that his aren’t? Why am I not falling apart.”
Outside, something roared. Other animal sounds answered it, and Linnie had a brief vision of packs of altered children with claws and tentacles and teeth as long as her middle finger.
“I don’t know how to say,” Jayden said, and there were tears in his voice.
Bruce groaned, seemed to crumple in on himself a little.
“You said you ‘scooped up’ your parents and made them part of you. Could you tell me how to do that? Even if you think you don’t know the words. Just--try?”
“I don’t know,” Jayden said, now crying in earnest. His tentacles made frantic knots at his sides. “I touched the goo and I just felt them and knew I could take them.”
A pool was forming under Bruce, and a bitter, meaty smell filled the foyer. Linnie made an agonized sound and laid her hands on his bare forearm. It was wet and yielding, like warm clay. His skin broke under her touch and blood seeped up between her fingers. She closed her eyes, willed her attention out of her flesh and into Bruce’s and--
Oh, she thought. Oh my.
A new sense unfolded across her awareness, effortless as sight or sound. She saw herself as a supercluster of information galaxies, a universe of living data. And there, at the edge of her, was Bruce. Where her galaxies were stable and bright, his had all but lost their shape. He was dimming, becoming a useless collection of disparate stars.
With a thought, she tugged at the fabric of his universe, drew the stars out of him and added them to her own galaxies. Distantly, she felt her body swelling and changing, adapting to the increase in molecular variables now under her direct control. She wasn’t afraid anymore, not of the looseness, not of losing Bruce, not of anything.
Now she understood. Humanity was on its own. Whatever forces had directed their development previously had either abandoned or released them.
Two creatures stepped into the pleasant afternoon sun. One of them was child-sized, with clumps of tentacles for arms. One was chimera-like, with powerful feline hindquarters and four big, gorilla arms. Together, the pair made their way down viscera-slickened streets, to make what they could of their strange new world.
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 08:57|
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 11:10|
FURTHERMORE, NERDS, I am livecritting here:
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 12:53|
Sad I failed to submit this week, proud my godawful writing made it into the review.
Edit: you know... when I hear it out loud, it's really godawful. Wow.
magnificent7 fucked around with this message at 15:19 on Oct 16, 2017
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 14:02|
Thanks for the critique Obliterati. Even if devastating, it's the first I've ever gotten and it means a lot as I do want to get better.
I don't understand what you mean by this.
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 14:59|
Thanks for the critique Obliterati. Even if devastating, it's the first I've ever gotten and it means a lot as I do want to get better.
I read your story and you took the prompt and then had it affect something (Countries growing larger) and then threw it out for THE STRETCHING!!!! THE STRETCHED ARE COMING!
It was odd and seemed like you used the prompt as an excuse to write about stretchy people.
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 15:18|
I guess beyond failing by including too much exposition, that exposition also sucked.
I had the prompt affect the world in two different was: The Change and the Stretch. In the Change the map of the world was redrawn since, as I said in so many useless words, they no longer had to obey Benford's Law. However, it didn't stop there. One week later, the distribution of human height started obeying Benford's Law. This is a liberal interpretation of the prompt, in that I basically reasoned that since Benford's Law only applies to things that follow x, then, when Benford's law stops, things that do not follow x might suddenly start following it. Hence, the Stretch. The Stretched are basically those few that were affected by the Stretch but didn't die from suddenly growing to become twice, thrice, four times their original size.
I added a bit of fantasy to it, made their bones give magic luck only if the person who kills the Stretched was able to draw three ones from a bag of 10 dice (again, Benford's law) before doing it, created two man who roam a post apocalyptic land, one very religious (a new religion based on luck or whatever), and one who isn't, or not anymore, and that was that.
Anyway, the story sucks, I can see that, but I had fun envisioning the world.
Simbyotic fucked around with this message at 16:00 on Oct 16, 2017
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 15:54|
if you have questions about crits ask in irc #thunderdome or the fiction advice thread
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 16:20|
Wow, this is awesome. You guys are awesome.
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 16:35|
hey thnx for the crit, obliterati. getting there.
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 17:56|
Quick hot take:
[19:24] <Obliterati> tdbot what are your hopes for the final stretch of stories
[19:24] <%TDbot> So bad. | Brand New Morning by Benny the Snake - https://thunderdome.cc/?story=2834
[19:24] <Obliterati> thanks buddy
Obliterati fucked around with this message at 18:30 on Oct 16, 2017
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 18:27|
That was difficult, and expectations were low. Gotta start from somewhere
Thanks for the crit!
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 19:20|
ty obliterati, what an effort. :o
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 19:32|
Did I miss it in here?
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 19:37|
Yuup shits bad. Thanks for the crit obliterati
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 19:47|
|# ? Aug 12, 2022 06:59|
FURTHERMORE, NERDS, I am livecritting here:
BUT... the Asimov character is named Susan Calvin. Susan Calman is someone else.
Sham bam bamina! fucked around with this message at 20:39 on Oct 16, 2017
|# ? Oct 16, 2017 20:37|