Some thoughts on Unfunny Poster's stories so far:
Choon-Hee & The Gwoemul
First sentence tells me a thing happened. Which is pretty weak as a hook, especially because "a thing happened" makes it sound like your protagonist was just a bystander.
Don't use an annex. Honestly I can appreciate trying to use some Korean vocabulary in there but part of the challenge is to weave the meaning of words, especially new ones, into context so that even an uninitiated reader can pick them up real quick. E.g. "wood for their ondol floor-heating" or something. The annex rips me out of the story all the time by forcing me to check for meaning. Stuff like "halmoni" shouldn't even be in Korean, because "grandmother" is a perfectly fine English word for the term.
You also make some punctuation errors. “That is nice dear.” should be “That is nice, dear.” “Sweetie, you know I can’t go, [...]" Etc. etc. I'm not a native English speaker myself but grammar and spelling are things anyone can improve because they have rules.
In some parts you get extremely wordy. "The next day Choon-Hee wandered through the forest again, eager to meet with the Imugi and other mythical creatures she had seen the previous day. After hours of searching though, she could not find them anywhere she had seen them. " is just way too many words for what you're actually saying; you don't need to repeat "she had seen the previous day", "she had seen them" and so on. It's just one example of you repeating yourself.
Christ this cat just gives us an expo dump here about people we have never seen nor met. This is pretty bad, not at a technical level, but merely at a "this isn't grabbing my interest at all" level.
You also sometimes use the phrase "begun to X". In many cases this kind of waffling around severely weakens the verb. Generally speaking we prefer stories where people act and do, rather than begin doing, consider doing, have been doing etc. It's part of what makes this story drag on (other than a cat expo dumping Korean mythology at me)
So in the end the story you took 1721 words for was, essentially, a girl wandering into a forest to listen to a cat talk. The twist of the cat being the tiger was not particularly worth it. Maybe I'm lacking cultural knowledge but this was not a particularly interesting or good story: just a monologue, a protagonist who undergoes the story rather than act or make any sort of decisions, and barebones characters wrapped up in a story that asked me to overlook its funky punctuation and make me scroll up and down for an annex of vocabulary.
I think trying to retell a folk story was a mistake. You can definitely ape the style of folklore but as Exmond mentioned it's quite heavy on telling rather than showing, so you need to find a way to carry it with your prose or interesting events happening... The former takes practice, the latter takes some intuition. Ask yourself "who is the most interesting character in the story" and make them the protagonist. I would've gone with the cat, and having the events of the story actually matter to him.
My Last Day
"The two men clearly hated each other, that was immediately clear as soon as they both sat at the table. " really wordy first line. you can probably drop "clearly", because you're making it clear in the second part of your sentence, drop "immediately", and also SHOW me how this is so clear. You can do that in the second sentence in my opinion, telling a thing and showing the how afterwards, but now I just have to take your word for it. "Even more later on" is similar repetition that just hurts my head looking at it. "Forget Tucson is what I had decided." is a really weird sentence and needs quote tags of some sorts. "Eldorado Casino doesn’t like it when people cause trouble, especially my manager Greg." is again a sentence that requires commas and that tells me something instead of showing me anything interesting.
"Which was why I found myself sitting in an office being chewed out by my idiotic, sweaty, fat, balding boss for not spotting their mood earlier." I mean, how could the protag? Nothing in the men's behavior, save that one punch you threw in the above paragraph, shows me anything about how these guys are angry. Anyway I'll stop teasing you with "show don't tell" here because you don't need to show everything, just... something. So far you've just described the scene to me with facts and I can't really paint a detailed mental picture of the scene. More positively, I like "His cheap Walgreen's cologne reeked of a mixture of his own sweat and what could only be described as faux sandalwood. I could feel the bile building up in my throat." as two sentences. They do a much better job showing me instead of telling. I hope you can see the difference: you're making me imagine a specific smell, a specific feeling of bile in my throat, and it's working better than just saying "this smelled bad and I felt ill" which would have been telling me this. But you showed me. Thank you.
"God his cologne had such an awful smell."
Yikes, see, this is actually the opposite of the praise I gave you. Punctuation error (you need a comma after "God"), and telling me something I already know, except you showed me in a much more interesting way before.
So I'm not sure how I'd fix this story. Once more it suffers from the fact that not much actually happens. I didn't check whether you had a flash rule, but you also missed the prompt pretty hard tone-wise: this is slow and kind of sepia in tone, rather than bubbly and popping like the judge wanted. The protagonist also only acts in the final paragraphs of the story, and even then it's just grabbing an opportunity handed to them on a platter.
I might review Across later but at a glance it suffers from many of the same issues, and also I want to play some yakuza 0 right now. So I'll sum up a few tips for you here:
- You tell us stuff instead of showing it. It's okay, everyone does this to some degree: pound out a really tell-y story in the first draft and then thinking "how can I show this instead?" with every sentence in the editing phase is a valid approach. And sometimes you just need to tell the reader a thing to get them up to speed or give context, but make sure it's important and brief if you do.
- You repeat yourself quite hard. During editing, try to look at the added value of each word in the sentence, and each sentence to the paragraph. Scrap what's redundant, combine sentences where useful, give me some big, sexy active verbs that pop into the reader's mind rather than a tepid mess of words that circle around what you're trying to say.
- Write about a protagonist doing things that matter, for interesting reasons. You can set up the stakes and context, but this is flash fiction, son. In a novel the reader might give you the benefit of the doubt and read an entire paragraph of setting up before things happen, but try to sketch it in a sentence or two in the 'dome. Don't leave the interesting actions to the last 50% of the story; weave contextual clues into what your protagonist is doing and let descriptions double as expressions of their feelings so your first sentences aren't pure description but pull double duty.
- Double, triple check your punctuation, commas, dialogue tags etc. This is purely mechanical and easy to fix if you learn the rules, and probably one aspect that you can linearly improve in an objective way. It's the lowest hanging fruit for you right now, so grab it! E.g. if a character speaks a name such as "Alice" or "God" to implore to them or catch their attention, it needs a comma afterwards.
On a more positive note, I will add:
- You are improving
- You showed some strong voice in My Last Day, which was unfortunately hindered by the aforementioned problems
- The worst problems (punctuation imho) are easily fixed
- You actually do the things right, just not consistently enough.
Don't get disappointed! I know you can do it. Make sure to write in advance and reread the story with these things in mind: fix punctuation and grammar, remove redundancy, show instead of telling, delete the first sentences or paragraph(s) if they're not necessary nor interesting. I would say they're important in that order.
|# ? Feb 7, 2018 23:16|
|# ? Jun 26, 2022 17:32|
In, and lol at all of these domers who listened to the popular music of their day. 13-year-old profane was all about the comedic ragtime stylings of Tom Lehrer, e.g. We Will All Go Together When We Go:
|# ? Feb 8, 2018 05:25|
in with Blurry by Puddle of Mudd.
|# ? Feb 8, 2018 15:18|
In with King Henry by Steeleye Span
I was a weird kid
|# ? Feb 8, 2018 18:45|
In with one of these days
|# ? Feb 8, 2018 20:35|
gently caress yeah
|# ? Feb 8, 2018 20:56|
While I killed my copy of Commoners Crown via overplaying on a crappy Walkman , I'll have to go IN with Welcome to the Machine by the Pink Floyd
|# ? Feb 8, 2018 20:57|
in with salad days by minor threat
|# ? Feb 8, 2018 22:09|
In with Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (Part 1) by the Flaming Lips
Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 06:03 on Feb 10, 2018
|# ? Feb 9, 2018 06:36|
Just under 16 hours until signups close
|# ? Feb 9, 2018 16:16|
I'm IN with a Story of a girl
|# ? Feb 9, 2018 16:21|
In with Michelle Branch - Everywhere
|# ? Feb 9, 2018 18:09|
Signups are closed. Just two days 'til the Hi Teen Carnival!
|# ? Feb 10, 2018 08:04|
flerp i'm gonna need someone to vouch for your brawl real quick or your rear end is grass. Mojo was confirmed via irc
|# ? Feb 10, 2018 08:04|
I can confirm that Sebmojo submitted a complete story at precisely 2 minutes before the deadline. It exists and is a complete draft.
|# ? Feb 10, 2018 08:04|
flerp i'm gonna need someone to vouch for your brawl real quick or your rear end is grass. Mojo was confirmed via irc
clint_nodding.gif but he's actually shaking his head real slow
|# ? Feb 10, 2018 08:24|
flerp i'm gonna need someone to vouch for your brawl real quick or your rear end is grass. Mojo was confirmed via irc
ask muffin or jay friks or seafood, i showed all of 'em it during dnd yesterday
|# ? Feb 10, 2018 16:08|
ask muffin or jay friks or seafood, i showed all of 'em it during dnd yesterday
Yup, this has been confirmed. I'll see you and mojo on valentines day
|# ? Feb 10, 2018 16:21|
Prompt: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (Part 1) by the Flaming Lips
The Sun’s Last Light
Yoshimi spun through the air, limbs tight against her body. Like a whip she uncurled one leg at the precise moment needed to connect with Haruki’s rib cage, sending her twin brother tumbling across the mats. She landed with their father’s battered EMP rods drawn, each one humming as the charge built up. The rods were the only effective weapon they had against the bots that stalked the ruined city outside. Their armour was impervious to conventional weapons but nonetheless tiny weaknesses existed, and if you could, by some miracle, jam a rod into one of those chinks then bam, the EMP would render the monster into a harmless pile of scrap metal.
“Yoshimi!” Tanaka-sensei yelled. “Put those goddamn things away!”
“How are we supposed to learn to fight if we never practice with real weapons?” she retorted, under her breath, wanting Tanaka to hear but hoping he wouldn’t. Haruki rubbed his ribs and cast a worried glance at his sister, afraid she’d earn herself another beating.
Tanaka’s further admonishments were cut off by a barked summons from Colonel Yamato, standing in the entrance to the training gym. After Tanaka had pulled the door shut behind him the cadets crept silently up to the wall and pressed their ears to the cracks in its broken and patched surface.
“...you saw how few came back today, and so many of them badly hurt…” came Yamato’s deep voice. “There’ll be another attack tonight. They’re learning Tanaka-san. They know we can’t heal the injured this quickly…”
“Impossible. And in any case, to send cadets… They’re not ready!”
“We’ve no choice. Just a few from each class. You must have at least one who could fight.”
There was a long pause and the cadets started to fidget, jostling each other for the best listening spots.
“Yoshimi,” came Tanaka’s answer, his voice heavy.
Thirty pairs of wide eyes swung to look at her. With a wolfish grin she turned excitedly to her brother, but was pulled up short by the look of horror on his face.
“Haru…” she said, but he turned and ran, tears spilling down his cheeks.
The sirens calling the soldiers to assemble were blaring and she still couldn’t find Haruki. The pounding of bots against the outer shield reverberated through the base like approaching thunder. She stood for a moment at the juncture of two corridors and stared down in the direction of the tiny dorm room that the two of them had shared since their parents died. A booming explosion rocked the base. She was out of time. “I’ll be back soon, Haru,” Yoshimi said quietly, scrubbing tears from her eyes with the back of her combat-gloved hand.
Running up the corridor towards the assembly area she careened into Colonel Yamato. “Yamato-san! Have you seen Haruki?” she said, hurriedly adding a polite bow.
Colonel Yamato looked at her strangely. “He’s assembling with the other soldiers, Yoshimi,” he said. “You can stand down, Haruki explained your decision to me earlier. You should be in the bunker with the others by now.”
Haruki you stupid bastard, Yoshimi thought to herself as she realised what he’d done, fear and anger washing over her in alternating waves. Pushing rudely past Colonel Yamato she sprinted towards the base’s exit.
The thick metal doors were screeching open as she arrived, revealing a wasteland of smashed concrete. The shield shimmered in the air like a heat wave and behind it, grimy grey carapaces glowing pink in the light of the molten sunset, towered the bots.
Yoshimi drew her EMP rods and followed the other soldiers out the gate, leaping over chunks of rubble and scanning the tense faces for her brother.
Somewhere behind her an explosion boomed and the ground bucked under her feet, sending Yoshimi into an awkward dive-roll. She pulled up in a crouch in time to see the huge arm of a squat, faceless bot swinging down through the air where the shield should have been towards an all too familiar cadet uniform.
“HARU!” she screamed, sprinting towards him. He saw the arm coming down and rolled out of the way just before it smashed into the concrete. Yoshimi leapt onto the bot’s fist and bolted up its arm, rods crackling as the charge built. Grinning triumphantly she launched herself into the air, rods aimed at the gap between the steel plates where the bot’s arm articulated from its torso.
Just before she could ram them home the bot’s other arm smashed into her back and sent her cannonballing into the ground. She groaned, winded, and rolled over to find Haruki crouched above her, terrified eyes scanning her body for injuries.
“Haruki you stupid idiot, what are you doing here?” she gasped as her breath returned.
The whistling of metal through air gave them a second’s warning and they sprung apart as the bot’s second fist crashed into the spot where they’d been sitting.
“I promised our parents I’d look after you!” Haruki yelled as shattered pieces of concrete rained down around them.
The bot turned ponderously towards him, attracted by the noise. Yoshimi eyed the weak spot in the back of its knee joint. At twice her height above the ground it would be a bitch to get to.
“Haruki listen to me. I need you to run back towards the base.”
“What? No! I’m not leaving you!” he yelled back.
“Just trust me already!” Yoshimi screamed at him, loosening the grappling hook from her belt.
Haruki stared with wonder at this sudden stranger, her fierce eyes blazing out at him from his sister’s sweat and concrete dust coated face.
“Hey! You big dumb robot! Yeah look at me!” he yelled. He hiffed a lump of rubble at the bot’s side where it bounced off with a clang. Shattered concrete shards skittered across the ground as the bot’s massive feet pounded towards him. Don’t you dare die on me Yoshimi, he thought to himself as he turned and ran.
As soon as the bot’s back was turned Yoshimi loosed her hook, aiming for the tangle of machinery on its back. She leapt into the air just as it caught, smacked the recoil button and let the cable pull her up in a swinging arch. Yanking the detach lever she spun through the air, the charge in the EMP rods building to a high pitched whine. The metal plates behind the bot’s knee separated as its leg straightened and Yoshimi javelined the rods into the momentary gap. The pulse ripped through the bot and it pitched forward, limbs suddenly limp. Yoshimi had time to let out a triumphant whoop before she and it went crashing into the ground.
When she opened her eyes she saw the reinforced archway of the base’s gate passing above her head. Haruki’s hands were under her armpits, dragging her backwards.
“Haru, stop,” she said, wriggling free of his grip.
“No! Yoshi, please...” He stared at his sister, feeling like a chasm between them was yawning open beneath his feet.
“We can beat them Haruki!” she said. She leant over and pulled her brother into a hug. “You have to believe me.”
The slumped form of the bot she’d downed cast a deep shadow in the last light of the sunset. Beyond it, the lumbering shapes of the remaining bots were silhouetted against the darkening sky. Haruki watched from inside the gateway as Yoshimi disappeared into the shadows, EMP rods held ready, the way she’d been training all her life.
|# ? Feb 11, 2018 08:51|
The Crystal Skull (inspired by Mastodon’s Crystal Skull from Blood Mountain (2006)
The young woman walked along the edge of the ridge as the Arizona sunlight beat down on her dusty baseball cap, streaked with the dust of a hundred hikes.
Her eyes spotted a glinting of blazing sun reflecting like earthbound starlight, a hard point of reflection in a diffuse sea of brown.
She scrambled down the decline to take a closer look.
A skeleton grin in quartz stone, nestled in the pit of a ravine, a deep crack in the mesa, covered in scree and rock dust, it's toothy smile shining and shimmering in the golden hour, as if waiting, just waiting to be found.
The marks where its teeth were engraved with care by seemingly alien or human hands spoke of happiness and sadness all in one toothy grin. If Picasso had designed a crystal skull he would have been happy with this one. Both human like and not in the same uncanny shape. Eerie. Its empty socketed stare was too much to lock eyes with.
The young woman felt drawn to it.
Into the backpack it went.
The young hiker knew she had seen something like it before.
On her drive back into town she decided to stop at a pawn shop she knew was favored by Phoenician alternative types. “Somebody should know if this thing is jank or worth it.” she muttered to herself.
Through the smudged door and past the dreamcatchers, voodoo dolls, Chinese medicinal herbs, and piles of energy crystals, the right place certainly.
She took the heavy chunk of mineral out of her bag and placed it on the counter. The ancient hippy standing behind it smiled in recognition.
“Ah yes, a crystal skull. Well you see, various generations of humans had been obsessed with the power of the mystical, and the crystal skull played on the love of mysticism. Supposedly created by Central American peoples for use in their religious ceremonies, supposedly it could transmit the ancient energies of the gods to the holder and allow them to see into the future.”
“Supposedly” she said. “Yeah” he grinned.
“But it was all a farce; manufactured by a side show con artist to sell in his traveling shop of trinkets and new age baubles.” he continued.
“So it’s just a scam” the young woman said?
“Well you know, who knows about anything.” the gray long hair chuckled. “Thank you”, the young woman said to the colorful gentleman and she went on her way with the crystal and a copy of "Arizona's Guide to the Supernatural and Mystical (Vortex GPS Coordinates Inside)”.
“Oh you’re interested in Vortexes? Lots of real energy in those places, people say it’s where the barrier between us and the higher dimensions is the thinnest. Spooky stuff” he said with a kooky smile. “If you say so” the woman said as she rolled her eyes and pushed out the door, the heavy chunk of crystal banging her in the spine.
A long gravel road; a cliffside retreat. A walkway, a large tan modernist structure built on the edge of a ravine in Arizona.
She had thought about what the old man at the shop had said and she checked her guide and found a Vortex not far from the highway she was travelling on. The “Cold Heart Vortex” whatever that meant. It was on the property of this weird building so she was taking the tour...
A young unpaid intern guided the group through a whimsical jumble of buildings made out of silt and recycled windows and erected by architectural students on summer vacation. It was a commune, old people and young people living in the desert trying to grow vegetables.
The young hiker walked down the hill; the tour guide had mentioned that a Vortex of Mystical Power Grade VII was only 500m from the campsite across the canyon. She hiked the rough wooden stairs, imagining the crystal skull full of energy, jostling in her day pack against her scratched plastic water bottle.
500m later. The young woman had crested the hill. Some helpful previous guests of the mystical forces had arranged a ring of rocks and a poured concrete bench.
She sat on the bench and pulled the heavy rock out of her bag. This is stupid; she thought to herself. This is just a gag. Trying to feel what the ancestors felt; either the old ones who really meant it or the less old ones who were just gullible idiots.
It's nothing, right?
The crystal skull was slick with her palm sweat.
She held it between her palms and stared at it like Macbeth.
She set it down.
The woman had gathered some wood and laid out her bedroll.
It was a full moon that night and she figured she'd better give the mystical forces somewhat of a shot. With skeptical thoughts in the forefront of her mind, she prepared fruit and fried an egg on her travel pan over the small brush fire.
The skull soaked up the flames and the darkness and became a fluttering phoenix of fire and coals and orange and red; the flames licking the orbitals and staring fiery pupils into her soul.
She hadn't had anything stronger than coffee and she could swear on the edges of her hearing she could hear....something.
Like static from a TV but so quiet it was almost the wind's higher notes.
Was she imagining?
The skull had no answers in its mineral silence.
3am. She woke from her bedroll to the sound of baying coyotes in the distance. The moon shone through a patch in the clouds; somehow shining right on the skull. The young woman sneezed and rolled away. The skull stared with glassy eye sockets but said nothing.
3:31am. She stared at the skull. The skull stared at her. She knew it was staring.
She knew. “I KNOW” she screamed involuntarily.
“ZUUUUUUUUUUUUU” the skull screamed back at her in ancient Sumerian.
She leaped five feet into the air, screaming like a harpy.
She lurched over in a panic, picked the skull up and hurled it into the darkness.
The skull screamed loud epithets and curses in ancient unintelligible dialect as it flew into the night, eyes glowing with unholy fire.
It bounced several times and rolled into a ditch.
“What the gently caress what the gently caress what the gently caress what the gently caress what the gently caress.”
She frantically rolled up in her sleeping bag and shivered in terror, overcome by tension and fear and fatigue.
Eventually, she slept.
The skull was of course, still there, where it had been before she hurled it into the bushes.
A chill ran up her spine and she was unable to shake the feeling. Not as she packed up her campsite, not even when she turned back towards the trail to her trusty Bronco parked on the road.
As she walked away, she sneezed and immediately her head throbbed.
A faint whisper of wind that sounded almost like? Like what? But no. She walked on.
The skull she left where it sat.
|# ? Feb 11, 2018 19:51|
Heaven (count:752 ) Prompt: https://youtu.be/3M_Gg1xAHE4
“Who am I?” It asked.
“You’re a shadow. Something that is supposed to follow and not speak.”
“But I don’t want to do that anymore. Can I try standing in the light, just for a little bit?”
It stretched backward against itself, wrapping faded black cloth around my foot: an emaciated hand grasping at its master's ankles. I kicked it away.
“Know your place,” I said.
It ebbed back in a weary, disjointed, and lurching motion. Soft sobs echoed from it. I erased it’s sound so I didn’t have to hear it’s whines.
In this place, under the white sun, I can think things about people I love and force them to love me. I can think things about people I hate and force them to suffer.
“Is this all you want to do here?” It asked.
It’s speaking and I can still hear it. It isn’t possible, I never turned it’s sound back on.
“How are you speaking to me?” I asked.
“What do you mean? You would have to turn off your own voice to make me silent.”
It bent in the middle and pulled itself front and center. My view of the sun is divided by its narrow line of a form.
“Go away, I don’t need you here. I earned this place and I’ll be damned if you’ll ruin it for me.”
“I just want to stand in the light for awhile. There are so many things we could do and know the truth of. Let me try.”
I willed into the shadow and found the microcosm that defined it. Holes erupted inside every fiber, popping open as I pulled the membrane of its existence apart. It screamed in pain.
“I am God’s chosen! I am light itself! This is MY reward, not yours!”
It separated into innumerable frayed threads. The all-encompassing light of the sun hides its remains.
Centuries passed as he indulged every possible fantasy of his former self. Recreating everything he was and changing it, again and again, with the power of the sun. He stopped playing a hero shortly after realizing the full breadth of his power. He had already played that part to death.
He made the man below into whatever would be more entertaining. Rich man. Serial killer. Terrorist. Tyrant. Persecutor. Plague. It was enthralling being in charge of his own destiny, so enthralling that he found it harder and harder to believe that the man below was ever related to him.
“It's not me.” It said one day.
It commanded the light to burn the man below. Car wrecks. Drug addiction. His family going crazy. Him going crazy. Whatever would make this toy he played with stop affirming its importance.
“I am the only thing that matters, so why do I only get to play with you? I’m BORED!” It whined day in and day out.
It fast-forwarded the days and nights. Turning the man below into a martyr of disinterest. Ruining his life with progressively more calamitous and soul flaying methods.
A shadow stretched across the face of the sun. The line it cast cut it in half and the light folded into the ephemeral slash, pulling everything radiant into a void.
It fell through the darkness radiant with terror. This had never happened before. It fell into the soft black cloth of an outstretched palm.
“Who-who are you?” It asked.
“I’m the shadow of the man you’ve been torturing.” My voice boomed inside the void.
“Impossible. I’m chosen by God to rule over his life.”
Curtains separated from my palm and threaded around its light, crushing it and submerging it.
“Stop!” It commanded.
“You are the only God here. You’ve caused nothing but pain and misery and now I’ve come back to settle this.”
It fought against my suffocating darkness, proclaiming it’s every divine right to do what it had done. Its anger was nil next to mine. I snuffed it out like a candle underneath a black bell.
The man below vanished. The pain he’d gone through, the enslavement that bound him, it made his shadow grow longer and taller with every transgression done against it. Now he was finally big enough to cast away the all-encompassing light.
With darkness came endless slumber. No pains or empty fantasies to dredge up. No ego to fool oneself with. Only the scattered fragments of conjoined twins floated inside that peaceful void.
|# ? Feb 11, 2018 20:01|
Spit in the Ocean
Prompt: “Blurry”, Puddle of Mudd
I stand at the bridge rail with a bottle full of ash, waiting for the light to die. The setting sun is pink like raw chicken, like the color of a gashed-open head.
I turn to my left, and there’s a man with a combover and jogging shorts on the sidewalk next to me. I want to ask him what he wants from me, but he’s not looking at me. He’s looking at the bottle in my hand. “Are you…”
I open my mouth to say something, then stop, heave my shoulders, a sob wrenching up and out of me. He steps forward, takes my hand, looking away from the bottle full of ash. “I’m so sorry,” he says.
Gerry’s skincare regimen loving annoyed me every morning when I sat down on the toilet to engage in my one detoxification routine of the day, looking at all of the mason jars of exfoliating maraschino-cherry whateverthefuck topping he put on his face. Face cream, sugar scrub, and lip butter, I heard him say in a voice that used to be his. I treat my face like a dessert. How nice, I thought to myself as I shat. Two deserts started dating, and one of them was secretly a dessert the whole time.
Your friends, your casual acquaintances, your perfect strangers, will all feel like it’s their personal duty to tell you that that cigarette you’re holding between your lips will, in fact, kill you one day, and it will probably not feel all that good the whole time. I want to tell them that scientists have found that the plastics used in bottles of bottled water are carcinogenic. That if you drink enough bottled water over the course of your life, maybe after a morning run or a yoga session or a lunch at a chic bistro, you end up with a brain tumor. I don’t ever wave empty water bottles in their faces. I know what color cigarette smoke is. I know, I know, I know.
He named his bike. Something with a J or a V, something feminine, something free and running off into the horizon. Jenavieve, maybe. I picture him riding down a Paris promenade, blowing kisses at the girls, the pigeons, the sun. I choke, grind my cigarette butt into the tray on the windowsill, after aiming it at his open tin of skin cream first, holding it there, poised and burning.
Two people, lovers, walking side by side in the desert, walking towards safety, warned that if they ever turn around and look back the way they came, they will lose everything. The air is dry and dusty, and the sun is boiling, but they look over, and they have each other, and they see the future in each other’s faces.
So they walk, trudging, tripping, stumbling, falling, standing back up, with a hand from their partner. The lizards hiss at them, and the snakes shoot across their path like streaks of oil across water. But they keep walking.
Gerry went biking at night, on the highways, with his flappy plastic orange vest on, wearing a warning. The headlights lighting him up. Came home, crawled into bed, slithered out before I noticed he was there. I went to sleep and woke up after eleven, with space to stretch my legs, tossing like gravel under tires in my sleep, run ragged by space.
If my mother was in a subway station, the most rancid subway station ever spawned, with a floor caked in grime and filth and rat droppings and train exhaust, and there was a saintly loogie forming at the back of her throat--a throat that seemed to consume nothing but Evian, the expectations of her youngest daughter, and the xylitol from Trident gum--my mother would walk briskly from one end of the dirt-streaked subway station to the other in search of a trash barrel to spit into.
When my mother died, I told myself it was the bottled water, that nefarious four-dollar water.
I told Gerry this as we dangled our bare feet off the bridge on a moonless night, a month after we first met, smoke trailing up from our lips and into the black sky like tiny nebulas, hawking gobs of ourselves into the water below. If there had been a dolphin or a sea lion staring up at us, we would have aimed right between its little beady blink-blink eyes. It’s good luck, I would have said, taking another drag. It’s good luck to spit on something prettier and freer than you are. He would have laughed at that.
Then, one day, after too many days and too-short nights of walking in the desert to count, one of them reaches over, or the other does, and their hand is halted by a wall of clean, clear glass, too perfect and alien for this world, thrown down like an edict on high when neither was paying attention, bisecting them as far as their eyes can see.
But they see each other, and one of them blows a kiss, and another fogs up the glass with their breath, and they keep walking.
Then one day the glass becomes a mirror.
I couldn’t sleep that night, couldn’t go back to feeling like a maid in a queen-size bed, just sat by the windowsill and dropped burning embers down into the well of the morning darkness. Made a list of things I didn’t want to come back. Kept adding things to it. When I wrote his name at the bottom, I knew that he was dead, knew it as sure as anything I had ever known, him and Jenavieve locked, intertwined in a passionate embrace under a truck’s front axle, ashed into the asphalt like so many Marlboro stumps tossed from a car window.
I sucked on the cigarette, and it sounded like shattering glass.
Then I heard the knocking at the front door, insistent and heavy.
“You’ve changed”, they say. We all change. Sometimes people change in different ways, like different natural formations. Like how a volcano changes, like how an earthquake changes, like how the Great Barrier Reef changes. Like how pressure hardens pebbles and dust into solid layers of rock. Like how Pangaea broke off, segmented the ocean into different pieces of blue, limbs of a paper doll severed and floating on the surface of a pond.
You changed when you held up a bright shining mirror in front of your face and ordered me to kiss it.
And this pain you gave to me, it’s like the mirror became cracked and warped and now I have to take this pain and bottle it up and drop it in the ocean and be okay with making the world worse, a little bit at a time.
I opened the door, and Gerry said my name, once, then again, something caught in his throat.
The man in the jogging shorts takes another handful of cigarette ash from the bottle and tosses it into the sea, the waves crashing closed over it, foaming star-white with streaks of sickly yellow.
I tell the man that this was our place, that we told each other everything here.
“It’s good to treasure those places,” he says.
“It’s good to treasure actual treasure,” I say.
“That’s true,” he says.
He lets out a quiet laugh, and I laugh along.
|# ? Feb 11, 2018 20:04|
Story Of A Muse
Nine Days - Absolutely
Offspring - You're Gonna Go Far Kid
"I need your help."
She looked at me, with fire in her eyes. Her eyes looked forward as if to say "It's you and me against the world when we do start?" Her name was Sara, and I will never forget her smile.
It was her third time asking, and the response stayed the same. "Leave me alone," I replied as I cleaned up my tent. The homeless camp wasn't exactly known for being clean, but it was where I belonged.
She pointed at the towering apartment buildings across the lake. "You know what it takes to get there! Teach me!"
The City dwellers needed inspiration to fill their otherwise monotonous lives. They lived without want, but without passion. So they leeched off of others, feeding off of their talents and in exchange sharing their life of leisure. Only a few were chosen, and the alley was where the City dwellers came to find their next source of inspiration. If you were lucky a car would stop and whisk you away to their Ivory towers.
A blood-red dress fluttered in my mind. "I used to be a tailor of tales, living in the City. Now I just want to be left alone," I said,
"No you don't," Sara said as she looked at me and smiled at me. "You almost smiled the second time I showed up. You want to teach me!"
I told myself it was her persistence, but in truth it was her smile. Her smile made the winter chill disappear and I found myself nodding.
We flit from topic to topic, metaphors one day, dancing the other. She took to them like an old lover, laughing as she danced over refuse. The whole homeless camp rallied behind her, Old Jake even put on his cowboy hat and taught her how to do accents. In a few days she picked up a Texan accent. Over the span of a month we taught her, and soon she was ready.
"So pardner, what ya reckon is today's lesson?" Sara asked.
I looked at her, an odd sense of pride crossing my face. Old Jake stared at me and said, "Well, she must be doing something right! I think that's the first time you smiled since you've been here!"
I couldn't feign enough grumpiness to tell him to shut up, so I took Sara aside and we walked across the camp. We made our way to the frozen lake and stared across it at the City, its lights illuminating the night sky. She stared at the City, dreaming of performing to crowds. I remembered just how far people will go for inspiration.
There was a moment of silence as we looked out at the City,
"Why did you leave the city?" Sara asked, her voice barely a whisper.
"In the City I inspired thousands, but I found out that there is a fine line between inspiration and obsession." Memories of a blood-red gown surfaced in my mind. A dead seamstress, her face writhed in agony, followed. "I found out just how far people will go for inspiration."
Another moment of silence. I looked at her, saw her eyes staring at the heavens, full of wonder as the a star streaked through the sky. "Why do you want to go?" I asked her.
"I believe in people," She answered without hesitation. "People are beautiful and amazing. They can create so many things, they can do so much good. Sometimes they just need to be nudged a little."
I looked over at her and saw her smiling coyly at me. It was close, but it wasn't the smile I will always remember. She grabbed my hand and said, "I nudged you and I think you turned out great."
A pang of guilt ran through me. I don't want you to leave. The simple thought ran through my mind. But she needed to to tell her own tale, to go the City and inspire millions. Though it hurt me, I couldn't keep her caged here in the camp, she needed a chance to fly.
"You're ready. Before you go to the alleys tonight, let me tailor you a tale."
We walked back to the small tent where I had stored my tailoring gear. Sara sat down next to me and together we spun a tale. Every so often I would stop her, to add a dash of purple prose to our weaving. She stopped me and gently untangled the burs of bitterness that found their way in the tale. Together we talked, and wove a tale of stars, of hope and of tears from Mars.
The tale we made turned out to be a jacket and it sparkled as a thousand shooting stars shot across it. Sara put it on and twirled, making Mars rotate along the fabric. She looked at me and kissed me.
Much later, with her sleeping beside me, I looked at the jacket and then at her, and knew I would never spin a more beautiful tale.
She stood in the alleyway, the passing car's headlights making her jacket shine with incandescent light. She was marvelous, her eyes were staring at the stars and she was smiling. Each of us stared at her and thought she has a shot at being something.
A pair of headlights shone directly towards her, like a spotlight at a theater. She dance and sang, using all the skills we taught her. The pair of headlights stayed on our star, our sun, our little ray of sunshine and a black limousine approached her and turned into the alley. A few of the others stood in the alley, hoping to be noticed: Jake with his cowboy hat, Melody with her faerie gown. The rest of us, the ones without hope, the abandoned ones, we shuffled into the darkness and watched.
The limousine stopped when it approached Sara and a single window rolled down. A single gloved hand motioned for her to come forward. Sara stepped forward, her way to the big time just behind the metal door of the limousine. Emotionless, neutral eyes assessed her and the gloved hand ran over Sara's jacket lovingly. Sara looked up at us, at me and smiled. She was going to make it we all thought. Her time had come.
The gun let out a single loud bark and Sara dropped. The gun receded back into the limousine and the gloved hand held onto the jacket as Sara's lifeless body fell. With a final tug, her jacket slipped away into the limousine, a lone tear of Mars dropping onto the alley. With as little thought given to the execution, the limousine reversed out of the alleyway
I hadn't realized I was running towards her, hurling incoherent curses at the limousine, until I was cradling Sara in my arms. Her eyes were still open, staring lifelessly at the stars, and the smile on her face still haunts my dreams.
"Come on, say something," I pleaded.
But she remained silent. Her tale had ended. The pretty little head shot was the final period to the end of her story.
|# ? Feb 11, 2018 20:39|
412 words, this song
Beyond the west of the world, where the sun cannot be seen, lies Crow Hearth – the city of ice and stone; a city out of time, lost beneath the snow and beyond the turn of the world. Men scurry through the lightless streets, holding their warm coats close until they can escape down into the rats’ nest of heated tunnels that make the bulk of the city.
Down now, down again. Through the tunnels. Follow the insistent ticking that lives somewhere behind the mind and pushes further onward. Don’t touch the men with blue-and-white carbuncles upon their skin, and pale light in their eyes – they are touched by the Heart and lost to the world.
Down now, down again. Tick tick tick. The world here hums. The walls move in and out and the ice groans. There is a shop filled with clocks. An old woman attends. She wears goggles cobbled together from wire, obsidian and red glass; it is not clear what she sees. She scurries around, moving clocks back and forth. Her time is not up yet.
Watch. She opens a door in the back and enters the room of bad clocks. It is deeper, and closer to the Heart. The walls are ice, and glow with sickening light. In years past, she hammered hooks directly into the ice and now upon them the bad clocks hang. They tick a second too early, or too late. They tick when they should tock. They are ugly.
To make a gold clock, she coats it in a layer of, among other things, liquid mercury, then lights it on fire. The mercury burns so fast it doesn’t even damage the wood, and leaves a more pure and beautiful gold coat than mere paint could ever hope for. The room of Bad Clocks smells of piss and mercury. The old woman smells of piss and mercury. The horrid syncopated ticking hides the lower, more regular and insistent thump thump thump of the Heart.
She was young once. She did not want to die. Every second ticked away was a second she could never get back. She charted each passing second as the ice walls closed in. She took meticulous notes of her time ticking down. Now, she lives alone, encased in ice, with the ticking of her clocks for company.
Below, the Heart beats. Above, the snow falls.
There is nothing here but the ticking of clocks, counting down to gods-know-what.
|# ? Feb 11, 2018 23:02|
Song Choice: Original Prankster, The Offspring https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qp6Qn8IwPf8
I Am Melinda
The world around you is incomplete. Not invalid, just not all there. Do you think we’re the only ones who think? That we’re the only ones with empathy?
All think. They all think and feel as much as any of us. How do I know? I’m the only person who knows anything.
I’m 5. My parents are fighting, something gets thrown at me. I go outside. Lightning hits me, or something. I can’t be sure. I don’t remember.
Bam! Just like that, I’m connected to it all. I see it everything, and I’m the only person who knows anything. I see the joys and pains of the universe. Of it all. It’s not that I don’t see your feelings, or have my own, they’re just insignificant.
It’s kind of like that when you know everything. You sense the pains and joys of all organisms, and suddenly hominid concerns barely register. Take for example the peril of a grasshopper stuck in a spider’s web; the dread of the grasshopper and the guilt of the spider. Such drama and gravitas, because it’s all life and death. So I’m aware of you, and I’m aware of that. You’ll forgive me if my preferences err toward the interesting.
I don’t mind my residency at the Transitioning Teens Center. I’ve been made to understand that the piles of cells around me all have thoughts and feelings and that these thoughts and feelings are of greater import than what my therapist refers to as my “fantasy operations.”
These people become my friends in the same way that the drain flies have become my friends. I’ve existed here for some time. The routine is clear, simple, and doesn’t get in my way. Sometimes, a fat girl punches me. She tells me I’m her nemesis. She tells me that I’m a “high-level bitch.” Nothing in comparison to the semelparity nature of the mayfly’s reproduction method.
I see color for the first time today. Since that night with the storm or whatever. The color was on a balloon. A balloon blown up by the fat girl. I hold up the balloon to a window in the dayroom and compare it to the piles of cells that resemble a tree. Trees are green, right? Well, the balloon looks like the color that the tree might be. So, we’ll call the balloon green. I take it to a staff member.
“This is green,” I say to him, as I place the balloon in his hands.
“Yes! Yes, it is!” He says with a pandering, over-the-top sense of wonder. He thinks I’m an idiot. I try harder.
“I haven’t seen color since I was 5! Now I see that this balloon is green!”
“Are you hearing things again?” He asks with a frowning look of concern. “Is Melinda talking to you?”
I smile at him. “I am Melinda, silly!”
I take the balloon out of his hands and skip to my room, I hear people rushing behind me. I slam the door shut and prop up a chair under the knob. I rest the balloon on my desk and sit down in front of it.
“Hello,” I say.
It doesn’t respond. Even if it did, I’d struggle to hear much over the insane prattling from the staff and peers as they pound on my door:
“You know you’re not allowed to keep your door closed!” Mr. Whoever shouts.
“Please, we’re all worried about you!” A girl pleads.
The door jiggles, but the chair continues to provide protection.
“Would you like a name?” I ask the balloon as I bat it up into the air.
It lazily floats down, onto my bed, and says nothing. The door begins to shake, and I know I only have a few moments left until they’re in my room. Once they are, I’ll probably lose it. I fumble with the knot at the end of the balloon. It feels like its about to give way when I realize that I accidentally tore a hole in the stem of the knot. Air rushes out of the balloon carrying with it a voice:
“Please, love me. Please help me.” It’s the fat girl’s voice. The balloon is filled with it.
“Why do you call me the fat girl? I have a name, you know. ”
It must sense my thoughts.
“Sorry,” I respond.
The balloon continues to leak and speak. “You ruined my party, you know.”
“Oh, sorry. Well, what can I do?”
“Just be my friend.” The balloon states.
It’s half its size now.
“Your friend? But why---”
“You’re not alone.” The balloon interrupts.
“What?I never said---”
“You feel alone. You see everything and feel none of it. Bust out on that. No one is alone.”
The balloon is empty. It no longer has a voice. Suddenly, I feel trapped. I tie the rubber of the balloon around my left hand and look toward the window.
“Kima, can you talk to me?”
Leslie is a sweet therapist; might even be a good one. But, this is all still so embarrassing. I take a deep breath and try.
“I just don’t remember that much.”
“When did Melinda take over, how did you get to that space?”
I look down at my hands in my lap, the knuckles on my left hand are bloody from punching at the glass.
“I don’t know.”
Ms. Leslie looks back at me. I know what her next question is going to be.
“Can I take a stab here?” She asks.
“This happened during Jeanette's birthday party, right?” She asks.
“Yeah, I think so, she turned 16.”
“So, where was the unit’s attention?”
“Look, Ms. Leslie. I see what you’re saying, but do you think I’m that starved for attention?”
“Not you, maybe but…”
She nods. “It’s just a thought, Kima.”
Ms. Leslie is trying something called ‘parts-work’ on me. She’s explained it to me over and over again, and though she insists it’s very mature and even something she does with her therapist, it feels like it's pretend time in preschool. There’s some part in me called ‘Melinda,’ and she acts out when she senses I’m hurt.
“So what now?” I ask. “Like, even if you’re right, what am I supposed to do about that?”
Ms. Leslie laughs, “You already know. You found a way to get everything you needed during your crisis.”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“You heard the words you needed to hear. You might’ve gotten there in a….” she tilts her head back and forth and finishes her thought “...unconventional way. But, you got there.”
“I don’t get it.”
“You will. I know you will.” She finishes as she looks up at the clock.
“Is it time already?” I ask.
“It is.” She responds. “But, don’t worry. You’ve got this, ‘K.” She puts her hand on my shoulder.
“Do you believe me?” She asks.
“Yeah, I don’t know if I believe myself, but I can borrow your belief for now.”
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 01:24|
Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 10:10 on Dec 30, 2018
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 01:29|
She’s sitting across the table from you. The table, thick lacquer over decade-old wood dense with carved initials and brags. Her skin,her hair, her teeth, all perfect. Gleaming in the low light from the lanterns and the fireplace. She could have you with a word, with a tilted neck, even though you would never, not with another woman, not with a stranger, not in this place,not at this time. You keep reminding yourself that she is not your friend.
“What do you want?” she asks.
“You know,” you answer.
She smiles like a predator. “I can't give you that. You'll never see your boy again.”
You know this, knew the day he was taken. You know how the Blessing operates. Before you knew he was gone they burned his mortality away and shipped him off to their clients on the Farthest Island, where no mortal can every even visit. You knew this, and still you hoped. “Then why are we-”
“There are other things you can give, other things you want. We may yet reach a deal. But first-” She grabs your arm. Her touch burns the sorrow that cloaks you, makes your right side prickle, as if it had been asleep before. “Swear that you will do me no harm, not today or any other day.”
You can deny her nothing. You swear by your soul and your mother's soul and the soul of a virtuous stranger. You swear by the light of the day and the dreams of night, and by gold and iron and copper. She nods, and releases your hand.
“I have two offers for you,” she says. She pulls red velvet gloves onto her hands, snaps them tight. She reaches into her bag and pulls out two items. She puts them on the table. A penny and a gun.
She touches the gun, briefly, flinching even with the glove on. “I offer you vengeance. Seven bullets,and my protection. Seven dead members of the Blessing is more than fair for one infant child. With my protection the rest of the clan won't dare to pursue vendetta.”
“I'm not a killer,” you say.
“You want to,” she says.
You can't deny it. “What's the price?”
“The love you bear for the child,” she says. “A bargain, really. It's only bringing you pain, now.” You can't deny that either. But you want to.
“And the other?” you ask, pointing at the penny.
“Most who suffer what you did go mad,” she says. “Your sanity is impressive. If you don't want revenge, I would like to buy it.”
“That's not much to offer for it,” you say.
“Would it make a difference if it was a quarter, a dollar, a ruby the size of your thumb?” she asks. You shake your head.
“What would happen, if I took it?” you ask.
“You would never see the Fair Realms again,” she says. “You’d think your experiences there a fantasy. You would return to the mundane world, where you would know that Child Protective Services were the ones who took Samuel, after reports and investigations proving your severe neglect. You could believe him hale and fit in some foster home, believe it all your fault and your disease’s. You would live out your remaining span in a warm haze of medications that never quite work.”
You're horrified, but tempted at the same time. It's near to the punishment you deserve for your failures. The gun is near to the punishment the Blessing deserves, too. Your eyes dart between the penny and the gun. You nearly reach your arm out to one, then the other.
“Well?” she says. “Which will it be?”
You reach toward the gun, your hand lingering over it. She smiles,biting her lower lip. She pulls off the gloves and tosses them into the fireplace.
You remember that she is not your friend.
You stand up and walk away.
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 02:13|
“Don’t run,” the voice of Huitzilopochtli says, as the beam of red light scorches the tree bark behind me. I need to. The sound of the tree splitting sound like the bones of the ocelot you hunt, shorn from skin and broken after death. “Fight.”
But the truth is the toyaouh freeze my blood. They’re gods themselves. They kill everything. I’ve seen my tribe, my family, vanish in mists of smoke and dust.
I am no warrior, though I hear the god of war’s voice. It fights my thoughts. It will not leave me.
Only you, tall and strong, comforted me when Huitzilopochtli began to speak.
You told me to run. You were hit by light for me. You were smoke like the rest of our tribe.
My feet beat the dirt like the ocelot. I know I am not as fast. The toyaouh doesn’t need to catch me. It only needs to get close enough to hit me with its light. Then I will join you in whatever waits beyond.
You and Rahui were the only ones left. Now I cling to life while you have passed.
I don’t know this jungle. Every tree, every moss covered stone, is new to me. My first time setting foot here, and fear has driven me. I have explored with my brother, but never this far from my home. The toyaouh have driven us out, across brush and valley.
That’s why I am caught at a cliff face. It stretches up, ridged and pockmarked. I hear the sound of rushing water. A waterfall beyond it. I picture, without wanting to, the foam of water falling over water, rainbows of light where they meet.
At that moment it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the cliff, trapping me with the toyaouh.
I can’t steel myself for death. Tears run down my eyes as I think of eternity. The toyaouh looms over me, eyes gleaming the red of its llight.
Then I see an arm snake around the toyaouhp’s neck. Hear the sawing of obsidian against the toyaouh sinew. They have gray sinew, holding together the metal plates. I could never get that close. But Rahui has climbed on its back, fearless, and is working with his macuahuitl. His hands have always gripped the wood like it was light as a feather.
The toyaouh slumps over, its knees slamming into the dirt with a sound that echoes off the stone face and buzzes in my ears. Then it topples over, and I can see Rahui sprawled over its back, hand arm clear, other arm still clutching the macuahuitl.
“You kept pace with me,” I say, watching the sparks dance. “You always were faster.”
“Braver, too,” Rahui says. Huitzilopochtli jeers.
We make camp. Rahui holds me as we remember you. We have no one now, no one to tell us stories of our father, to cook our meat, to teach Rahui how to hunt.
“Now I must teach you,” Rahui says.
The setting sun is the eye of Xolotl. He is the god of death, bringer of loss and sorrow..
They said, before they were smoke, that Xolotl gave the toyaouh their soldiers. The soldiers came from hell itself, dormant under the earth until the toyaouh dug them up.
The true toyaouh came from beyond the waves. It was said they speak in tongues we can never understand. Only Xolotl would give them their army. Their dark envoys, soldiers from the underworld.
Huitzilopochtli speaks in my sleep. I dream of the seventh heaven, home of not just Huizolophocli, but his dark family. Huizophocli holds a serpent in his right hand. It bites at me. Its fangs are black with poison. I feel death, smell the acrid smoke of my family. I feel it flowing through my veins, my blood stringing me like a puppet.
I wake up and look for you, to comfort me, to make Huitzilopochtli go away. Instead I just see Rahui, asleep.
I am sitting still, letting him sleep, when the toyaouh attack again.
I hear the sound of them walking, that slow, heavy rainfall, and the brush crushed down.
Rahui blinks, sits up, moving with the slow of sleep.
I see the beams of light, splitting the earth. They take Rahui. He vanishes into dust. I scream. There is no one left.
“Fight,” Huitzilopochtli says. I listen. A toyahou looms over me, dark shadow by Xolot’s sunset.
I scramble, pick a stone, throw it. It smacks the metal plate and falls. Then the eye of the toyaouh is on me, and I am gone too.
I wake to sunlight. My wrists, dark brown, wear a bracelet of whitened skin. My flesh is whitened in other places. My knees, my thighs. They all hurt. I cannot stay calm. Is this death?
“You’re not with me yet,” Huitzilopochtli says. It is true, I think. Huitzilopochtli is the sun. It cannot shine on me after death.
Huitzilopochtl is watching me as I stand here, my body singed. It is the toyaouh’s light that has taken me here.
My feet rest on bright grass. I look up. I look up and see Rahui.
Rahui is not all I see. I stare up at the toyaouh. The true toyaouh. There are so many of them.
They rest on stone seats, ringing me, a wide circle. They sit row upon row, some so high they almost touch Huitzilopochtli. I can see their heads and necks. Their skin is lighter than mine.
Their eyes are holding on us, like we are ocelot ourselves.
Somehow, I know, you are watching me too.
There is a macuahuitl by my feet, its wood bronzed by the sun.
“I have one too,” Rahui shouts. I can see it in his hand, half the length of his arm.
“Kill,” Huitzilopochtli says.
I pick the macuahuitl up.
Rahui moves closer to me. His legs are like the toyaouh soldiers', thick, footfalls slow. His moves betray his intentions, clear as glass.
“KIll,” Huitzilopochtli says. Run, my thoughts say. I shut my eyes. Too many voices. I think of you. Have you already known my death? Do the heavenly know all things?
Would you kill for Huitzilopochtli's voice?
I want you in heaven.
Rahui hugs me close. I see over his shoulder, and my heart stills.
I see you caged in the space under the archway. Your cage is dull copper. I see you by the deep brown of your arms. I can see the shine from sweat. Your fingers are clutching the bars close to you, as if for warmth.
I see the your muscle, your height under shadows cast.
When you vanish, you know that you are between life and death. It scares you. Coward, I think, for both of us.
Rahui still holds me. “The voice is the toyaouh’s,” he says. “I hear it. Not our gods.They want us to kill. I am trying not to listen.” His macuahuitl has found the small of my back. I find his with mine.
We stand there, waiting. I know heaven will come to the one who waits longest.
“Kill,” the toyaouh say, and I dig in.
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 03:20|
hosed up its actually 1247 words. sorry!
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 03:24|
curlingiron fucked around with this message at 23:28 on Jul 14, 2018
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 04:27|
prompt song: welcome to the machine - the pink floyd
The Edge of the Machine
A collection of boys in knee-shorts, half-fallen socks and goosebumps, stood in a circle and contemplated a nearby fence.
"That is the caretaker's house," said Mr Andersen. "Anything over that fence is out of bounds."
Dean turned to the boy next to him, a lad of near equal height with an unfashionable lack of a haircut, and said "trespassing punishable by death!"
The boy snorted a laugh. "If you're lucky," he said, shivering a little in the unseasonable southerly.
Mr Andersen ambled in another direction, calling the children to follow him. When he rounded a corner Dean tapped the other boy on the shoulder. "What's your name?"
"Watch this, Simon" said Dean. He opened his bag, took out an exercise book and scribbled on page. He then tore out the page, made it into a paper dart, and fired it over the fence. A gust of wind took it high and well into the garden on the other side.
They watched it land in a patch of dirt, then sprinted in the direction their cohort had gone. "What did it say?" asked Simon, breathless.
"Help, I am a prisoner of the State," said Dean. They both laughed as they ran.
Simon tapped away at the keyboard while Dean consulted their notes. "I think we're heading south from here", said Dean.
Simon tapped a few more times and a set of wavy lines appeared on the small screen. "Energy field and we're running short of dispels."
"Bugger - we must be close to the end, no point worrying about resources here. Cast it and be damned."
The PC buzzed the tinny music of magic, and the wavy lines became a door. A single keystroke and they were inside. The screen snapped into combat mode, showing all eight of their party and, to the south of them, the same eight icons repeated.
"What the everloving…?" said Dean
"Dude, it's us," said Simon.
"Mother of crap! We can't fight us. That's got to be be immoral."
"It's self abuse."
"Will the game make us lose an eighth?"
Simon gave Dean a sideways look. "For self-abuse? Bit late to be worrying about that now. Sheisen! Shepherd incoming."
"Shepherds are truly the stupidest of classes. Now hand me the spell list."
"So, what's the job like?" asked Dean, sipping at his beer.
"It's amazing." said Simon, then downed half his pint in one go, burped and continued. "I spent three hours replicating a screen using WordArt, and then someone showed me the screenshot button on the terminals." He lit up a cigarette, took a deep drag and exhaled a plume of smoke.
"Well, Fuckarooni Roo," said Dean. "On the job learnings. At least its money. I can barely afford to put beer on the table." Dean's eyes drooped as he wiped beer froth off his goatee then sucked at his fingers frugally.
Simon tapped at the table. "Yes, my friend. Your present circumstances are inauspicious. But for now you have me and my paycheck, and you will one day be a lawyer, whereas I will always and only be an arts graduate." He finished his beer in one gulp. "Another? My treat."
"Do you ever feel, like, you're just a cog?" asked Simon, swigging at the vodka bottle as other, more illegal chemicals blazed their way through his blood/brain barrier. "You know, there's six billion consciousnesses on the planet and they all think they are super important. I mean - they all are to themselves, but they all have jobs and do work that forms systems like machines made of people and what for? To what end? From a million feet up - it looks a single inescapable contraption. Is it inescapable?"
"Timeless questions, mate…," said Dean as the music flowed between his ears and massaged his cerebellum, "...for another time."
Simon took the hint and laid his head on the couch. "You know, I really like this reality interference zone," he said, then took another hefty swig of vodka.
"I feel you, brother," said Dean, watching his hand leave trails across his own currently displaying reality interference zone. "I will say this for the working life. You can afford a better class of drug, dontcha think?"
Simon snored in reply, deeply and loudly. Dean watched the wall behind him breath for a bit, then smiled an ancient smile of chemical satisfaction.
"I guess this means you won't be practicing law any more," said Simon after a long silence.
Dean rubbed the top of his left hand with his right. "Yeah - I would say that was a likely result. They tend to take a dim view of ex-cons." He looked up at Simon and frowned. Simon was passable enough for visiting hours, but Dean could smell the cigarettes and last night's booze sweat on him. "So maybe not the law. Maybe something law...adjacent."
A buzzer rang and nearby guard indicated that all non-prisoners should make toward the the exit in an orderly fashion. Couples clinched in final farewells. Simon stood up, and looked awkwardly at Dean. Dean wondered if he should say anything, but Simon got there first.
"Well, it's not for too long, at least. Just don't pick up the soap, or whatever. And find the biggest guy in the yard and punch him."
"See that fella over there," said Dean, pointing subtly. Simon followed his finger to a gigantic inmate, covered in tattoos with no hair but a full beard. "I think he's the biggest. Wanna punch him?"
"Me neither," said Dean, a smile twinkling.
"The wife is pretty angry with you at the moment," said Dean down the telephone. "You should probably cut back on the drinking. Maybe quit altogether."
"That's exactly what my court-mandated alcohol counsellor said after the DUI," said Simon. "You think maybe they have a point?"
"It's the funniest thing," said Simon, lifting his head from the hospital pillow.
"What's that, me old china plate?" Dean stopped stuffing flowers haphazardly into a vase and sat in the chair beside Simon's bed.
"I always figured I'd die after you."
"Yes. After all the smoking and boozing that is a completely rational assumption for you to have been making. I feel that very strongly."
"Hardly seems worth having given the stuff up." Simon indicated the machine he'd been hooked up to. "And what about this? With its constant beeping. This monstrosity will outlive us all!"
"Its music will last forever!" Dean began to sing along with the machine, eyes closed, setting a tune to its rhythm. "Bebeep beBeep bebeep beBeep bebeep beBeep beeeeeeeeeeeeeee...oh."
The day after the funeral Dean walked to work, tie flapping in the southerly breeze. The cold made him shiver as he walked and the buildings beside him changed from houses to office blocks. The city stretched up around him, surrounding him, and touching the empty sky.
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 04:27|
'Go to Sleep,' by Radiohead
A casting call for a “Strong Method Actor for Indie Play” had brought me here. “All Monologues. All Powerful. Ask for The Director at Equus Ferus Theater.” I blinked dust from my eyes as they acclimated to the gloomy hallway.
They weren’t shittin’ about “Indie.” The receptionist upstairs had never heard of the theater but said it had to be in the basement, which could only be accessed by a service entrance that had not seen any use in eons, judging by the grime.
“Is the director here?” I called out. Something about the atmosphere made me tiptoe.
“Back here,” came the reply. “On the left.” It had to be coming from the end of the hallway, but the voice sounded like it was right next to me.
The door was the last on the left, a square of wire-reinforced-glass fitted slightly to the left of top-center. The words “Equus Ferus” were stenciled below it in a sanguine red.
As I entered the room a figure retreated through tattered velvet curtains opposite me. The curtain’s tendril-like flaps flexed, became still. I was backstage.
“Hello?” I said.
From behind the curtains, the director said, “Take a seat, I’ll call you back when I’m ready.” I could have sworn they were speaking from within the room. I did as commanded, sitting in one of three plastic chairs, the only furniture in the room. My foot tapped a waltz on the dingy tiles as I read over my notes.
It was a monologue of my own creation. I was here mainly to try it out on someone, less concerned about landing the actual part. In it, I was a squire returning to town after witnessing the death of my knight, lamenting my responsibility of his death, and ultimately succumbing to dehydration. A touch melodramatic. There were sections filled with placeholder gibberish, marked in ink to “REWRITE THIS DUMBASS,” or “just ad lib something better,” or “don’t forget to cry.”
“Okay, come back,” the director said, voice still close, crackling like paper.
The curtains were heavy, as if rejecting my crossing. Their red tresses pressed down on my shoulders, slid off the side of my head. Static gently lifted the hairs of my neck and arms. I was onstage, reeling from the sheer size of the theater. It yawned back into shadow, much farther than the barriers of the building above.
Dead center sat the director, face inscrutable behind a veil. They gestured with a gloved hand for me to begin.
I launched in: “What water, from where, could slake mine thirst?” A potent pause. The director was doing something with their hands, looking down at them in their lap. Knitting? I pressed on.
“Sir Gavin is dead, and died by mine own hands did he. Do you hear? You onlookers?” I beat my chest and stared into the imagined crowd.
The director coughed, said, “Could you start again, please? Louder? And closer to the front of the stage.”
I scoffed, rankled at the request. But their stolid intensity compelled me forward. I began again.
During this second performance, the director stood. I watched them as I acted, shouting the parts that needed to be shouted. They approached the stage until they were right at its edge, veiled head the only part in view.
In my imagination, I was being knocked aside as horses passed me. The director peeled back their veil revealing a face with an otherworldly beauty. Pinpricks careered wildly up and down my back, my nerves were sharp backward tugs, urging me to get off the stage, to go anywhere.
But I was in it now. I leaped through the placeholder sections with abandon. The words hadn’t felt adequate when I wrote them, but now, here, they were right. The director climbed spider-like onto the stage, nodding, face a mask of manic glee. Their energy fed my actions, made my words ring truer.
My performance reached its climax. The director removed their right glove. Inhuman, bluish-green skin covered their forearm and hand. They reached out to me and my ears filled with their rasping voice.
“Keep this elbow out. Raise your chin as you say the next line. Enunciate. Add more force.” Their directions came too fast to analyze; I just did them. They were right. Overcome by emotion, I fell backwards, out of my body and onto a medieval street reeking with horse dung.
The throngs of people had finally turned their attention to my pleas. I was dying, dammit! Thirsty and afraid, a failure. My cries were real, I felt the dehydration in my core. Flashes of the director’s face flitted through my vision and I felt the chill of that blue hand on my body.
“Yes, now you are acting,” the director’s whispers strengthened me even as my vision blackened and my legs gave out. I choked and sputtered and yelled. I acted the perfect death, worthy of applause.
I awoke to different surroundings. Gone was the cavernous theater, the red-pink curtains; the director. Instead, a supply closet. Something was prodding me, someone was shouting.
A janitor, imploring me to leave. The building had closed hours ago, he was saying, go pass out somewhere else.
My encounter with the director in Equus Ferus left me parched and questioning my sanity. But, God, I nailed it. A cheeky satisfaction bubbled through my body.
I gulped down water once back at my apartment. I ached. My voice was gone. A plain envelope fell out of my coat as I undressed for a shower. Inside was a note and a thousand dollars cash.
“Thank you for your magnificent performance,” it read. “I will be recommending you to all my friends. Signed, The Director,” in looping cursive.
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 04:50|
One of these days
Boarded up on memory lane
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 23:26 on Jan 1, 2019
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 05:46|
Here comes a late crit for this dqed entry.
Don Mendoza and his Sly Compatriots Strike their first Corpulent Target - 756
What the hell was that ending? Nothing happens and they get arrested for gambling? Terrible.
OK so the grammar was pretty bad throughout, but that could be overlooked if there was an exciting caper. There was not. There was a guy plotting a thing, some part of a thing happening off camera, and the guy getting arrested by a cop who somehow telepathically knew what they were up to or so it seemed, and was trying to stop him from getting in trouble maybe? I dunno but whatever the case the story was bad, write more stories where the main characters do things rather than planning to do a thing and then just getting arrested while other people do things while we're not even watching.
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 09:39|
Submissions are closed. I was hoping for a few more stragglers from my impromptu deadline extension, but oh, well. Time to
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 12:11|
In honor of our esteemed head judge Antivehicular, I give to you your interprompt:
"Someone is staunchly and weirdly anti-vehicle. Why?"
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 15:22|
Deltasquid made me a very nice tragedy about time travel with a cool cover and everything. In order to keep the cover art, I'm sharing it as a g-drive link. Thanks again buddy, I appreciate your secret santamint.
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 17:01|
When the smart cars became intelligent cars and then hyperintelligent cars things went to hell. The capitalist toadies prostrated themselves, chanting about the new markets their car overlords were creating. My union and I knew better, so we loaded up. EMPs, rockets, grenades, we had it all. Any car so much as inched towards me, it was toast.
Years ago we would have killed to work in a car factory. Now the cars were killing us if we didn't.
Now if you'll excuse me, there's an F150 nearby that thinks it's sneaky.
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 17:03|
In honor of our esteemed head judge Antivehicular, I give to you your interprompt:
Cars are Bad and Dumb and You Look Silly Inside Them
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 23:29|
|# ? Jun 26, 2022 17:32|
I love my car it is big and strong and has 10 cup holders so everyone can have two hot chocolates and there are airbags everywhere and it is impossible to parallel park because it’s 5 meters long and its diesel fumes will kill us all.
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 23:44|