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May 21, 2001


In for Team Cephalopod. I should probably :toxx:, at least according to this cuddly sea dweller:


Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Quoting to put the prompt near the top of the new page

Sitting Here posted:

:siren: Thunderdome Week 306: Strange, Familiar Intelligence (corvids vs cephalopods) :siren:

Oh cool, I won, it's my turn to preside over the parade of loving failures that has come to characterize Thunderdome.

I considered trying to come up with something gimmicky and wacky to squeeze tepid blood from the idiot stone, but I think this week you're just going to write about stuff I like.

Okay so anyone who talks to me for longer than five minutes quickly learns that I loving LOVE corvids and cephalopods. They're loving smart, and probably represent the future of intelligence on Earth when we've all died from cancer of the funko pop, or whatever. But who will reign supreme once the apocalyptic dust has settled? Will it be the crow and the raven, with their mastery of the sky? Or will it be the squid and the octopus, those strange lords of the deep?

When you sign up, you should select Team Corvid or Team Cephalopod. If one team gets an unfair number of entrants, I'll step in and we'll even it out. But mostly I want people to write about the animals they wanna write about. If you choose corvids, you're gonna write about crows, ravens, etcetera. If you choose cephalopods, you're going to write about squid, octopuses, cuttlefish, etc. I hope this is obvious, but one can't be too sure.

Your stories should explore the familiar, alien intelligence of these animals. I expect you to at least glance at a Wikipedia article.

:siren:WHAT I DON'T WANT::siren:

  • An animal figuring out obvious human stuff. I'm not interested in reading your laborious description of "a building" or "a boat" through prosaic, ignorant animal terms.
  • Anthropomorphic animals. The point of this prompt isn't to write human-like animals, it's to write about animals who are intelligent in their own way.
  • Stories through the eyes of a human. Again, this is a prompt about exploring other kinds of intelligent life on Earth.

:siren: WHAT I DO WANT: :siren:

  • Ask fun questions: What sort of spirituality might these animals have/develop? What would their "cultural" values be? How would they express creative urges? How might their internal dialog differ from the internal dialog of human brains? Etc etc etc.
  • Think about voice. Not every animal protagonist/narrator needs to be distant, humorless, or (again) prosaic.
  • Feel free to explore the modern day intelligence of these animals, or speculate about a distant future where corvids/cephalopods are the dominant life form. Either approach is awesome!

Hopefully, you'll all do your very best, and at the end of the week we will have irrefutably settled the matter of which animals will inherit the Earth when humans are gone.


If you include a cool/cute picture of your chosen animal type with your signup post, you get 100 extra words.

If you :toxx:, you get 200 extra words.

Base word count: 1200 words (up to 1500 words if you take both bonus options)
Signup deadline: Friday, June 15th at 11:59:59PM PST
Submission deadline: Sunday, June 17th, 11:59:59 PST
This idiot
a different idiot (Randompaui)
a different idiot from the second idiot (chili)

edit: oh yeah, because you're goons: no g-docs, no erotica, no political screeds, no insincere joke garbage that will make me think less of you as a person

cptn_dr :toxx: + 100 words for a cute pic
steeltoedsneakers :toxx:
Captain_Person :toxx: + 100 words for a noble pic
Meinberg :toxx:
Yoruichi + 100 words for a tactical pic
tessdaterrible :toxx:
Bad Seafood + 100 words for CANUCK <3 <3 <3
Solitair :toxx: +100 words for a [series of warbling robot noises] pic

Djeser :toxx:
Armack :toxx:
Antivehicular :toxx: + 100 words for a spooky pic
BabyRyoga :toxx: + 100 words for a cuddly pic
Deltasquid + 100 words for a dapper pic
ibntumart :toxx: + 100 words for a blobby pic
Benny Profane :toxx: + 100 words for a venerable pic

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 19:37 on Jun 17, 2018

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

In with team corvid

Oct 9, 2011

Sign me up for Team Bird

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Sitting Here posted:

If I make an exception once, I'll have to do it for everyone who wants to substitute their local fauna.

Ok yes that is very reasonable. Put me down for team rook.

I have failed to find a cute picture of a rook, but I did find this picture on a council website, illustrating their article on rook control. I'm pretty sure the rooks are winning. I will let you decide whether this earns me 100 extra words.

Nov 24, 2006

Grimey Drawer

In as a judge.

Edit: Beaten by editing.

Fake edit: Damnit, we aren't supposed to edit posts are we? I find myself in contempt!

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


In. Look at my screen name if you wonder what team I'm in.

team cephalopod, best team

Sep 22, 2005


I'm in, Cephalopod. I swear I'll loving submit something this week, even if it's 1200 words of "gurgle gurgle, bubbles. Gurgle. Suction cups."

May 3, 2003

College Slice

magnificent7 posted:

I'm in, Cephalopod. I swear I'll loving submit something this week, even if it's 1200 words of "gurgle gurgle, bubbles. Gurgle. Suction cups."

an improvement over your last story

Mar 21, 2013


Grimey Drawer

Crits for Round 303 - Things Humanity was not meant to know

General thoughts

All in all there was a pretty much straight road from bottom to top. The bottom seemed to hang around in the horror angle and the top seemed more interested in veering away from the obvious horror tropes. Make of that what you will.

Refusal To Fade- Meinberg

To be honest, I liked this a little bit more when I returned to it. There's some good stuff buried in it - but it's unnecessarily padded. Kill the first paragraph, your story starts with the second. Avoid as much of the background as you can - are paragraphs 3-5 really necessary or can you add that as detail to what is actually happening without vanishing into a less exciting not-even-a-flashback

The underlying issue the brother has with Felicia is underwhelming as a reveal. He's been supportive of her work but now he's bitter. Or maybe she's seeing her own guilt personified. Neither possibility was gripping to me. Perhaps because I never went through the choice she made with her - you tell me a lot about her feeling guilt, but we never see it or its effects..

Another problem here, I suspect, is that we are seeing the consequences of actions (or, really, inaction - of different choices made some time ago), but no real actions themselves. Felicia observes, cowers, apologises but never really reacts. The timing also seems off. He spent years dying, then she spent an additional two years owning the house but not doing anything with it (missed opportunity for dusty spooky house scene setting). You say she visits occasionally but, not, presumably, when he was sick. Why was that - it seems criminally unmentioned, especially as he'd been so supportive previously.

The guilt personified angle doesn't really seem to hang together either - based on what we see of the tech working the device works as advertised, unless the final knob twiddle did something different. If the point is that ghosts are still affected by our guilt (which only just occured to me) that didn't come through strongly enough, mostly because "This is your deserving, this is you and the shadow youíve carried with you" is such an odd thing to say. Perhaps it would have worked better if the physical horror was just there, and we got more of a sense of the ghosts suffering because of her guilt through a more chillingly reasonable conversation. Assuming that's what you were intending.

What I was not meant to know: Ghosts are loving petty.

Within the stars - apophenium

A good opening - it has a nice balance of plausible and yet deniable. I'm less sure about the skull writing - that's a hell of a lot of information to be putting on a skull. Did he write it on the back of the skull too, too, perhaps using a mirror?

What might work a bit better is if something was actually contained there - as if he was using his skin to hide actual notes, or an object with the paper inside...or even just the co-ordinates of the constellation. The magic of remembering it all exactly seems out of place, unless it's supposed to indicate the child shares the father's madness, which is not a bad line, but there's no real indication of it there.

Speaking of which, the name Telescopium for the constellation is too on the nose and detracts from the piece.

And so to the ending. It's an odd one. The blocking for what happens is just weird and not quite as powerful as one might hope. The significance of the space window isn't clear to me, especially as the last line seems to indicate it's actually nothing. Are we then supposed to discount it as grief and bloodloss addling? So he's not quite as mad as his father? I was foncused about the meaning of it all.

What I was not meant to know: We are all books of blood, when we're opened, we're read. Some books are a bit non-sequiturish, though.

In the Eye of the beholder - Sandnavyguy

First off - Borderline Hellraiser Fanfiction - we have such X to show you! Ouch!

Second -You can pretty much remove the first three paragraphs. Is there anything in there that isn't revealed by people actually doing things in the later story? I don't think so.

This DMed at least partly because it was such a direct steal. And where it wasn't, it wasn't very interesting. You have a society wife and a drunkard, clod husband and...what? The husband is a boor and, it is implied, gets his just desserts. The wife likes art, is married to a boor, and wants the boor dead after she disembowels herself and makes a big mess. The stakes here are too low. Hubby is unappreciative and therefore will blow his brains out? There's not enough reason to see why the wife is tempted at all to go through with this gore - the punishment here seems absurdly disproportionate and therefore unwarranted and hard to take seriously. For this to work, we'd need higher stakes and at the very least we'd need to see the temptation of the wife beyond a few glib comments.

If you'd removed all the guff in the first three paragraphs, you would have given this story a bit more room to actually be about something other than cardboard cliches.

What I was not meant to know: There are wondrous, curious, hidden things that want me to disembowel myself

Stewardsong - Sitting Here

I have to admit, I loved the opening line. It got me in the mood for something a little different than the faux horror thus far. Gil and Morgan, though? What are you trying to imply?

And then invasive emotions. Hmm, I thought. Our protagonist is already in thrall to emotions that are beyond her control, and now that gives her some kind of defense against not being in control of her own emotions. I don't think that quite gelled with me. Same with the first "this is fair, this is earned" motif. It's hard to tell if it's her own pain that is earned, or Gil's (which seems harsh), or the profound satisfaction that is the subject of the sentence. Also, you use that motif twice and I was hanging out for a third time for some reason, perhaps a variation just before or instead of the last line which came across a little twee.

That said, I liked the ending on a hopeful note. A nice change. And the action the protagonist takes - rescuing a bird, is small and yet meaningful, even before being imbued with a sense of the interconnectedness of all things.

What I was not meant to know: The whales from Star Trek 4 are coming, and this time, they're psychic!

The Leering Man - Thranguy

The theory as story. Reminds me a bit of an old Sapphire and Steel episode, only more hosed up, which is a good thing. I think that was the one where they had a terrifying flashlight beam coming down some stairs, but it was definitely the one where they trapped evil faceless photo dude in a kaleidoscope and urged the kiddies to burn their photographs.

The theory holds up as I read it - multiple pasts - that's clever, which is nice - I liked the explanation, intellectually.

I wasn't convinced by the ending though - you abstract the personal and apply it to the reader but there's no real rationale behind it. You need something more than just the theory and 'But it's true!). In particular, I was confused as to why burning photographs would be a good idea. His presence in them after the fact seems, on the one hand, a cool use of your nifty multiple worlds hypothesis - those pasts might shift and merge and this is why our memories may not be trustworthy - but it doesn't tie into the present or create a convincing threat for the future that seems to justify taking any action. I may not have read closely enough...but that's what I walked away from the story with. If he's there in the photos - isn't it already too late? And the photos only represent the past - they aren't embodiments of it - if the foamy, leery dude crosses over photos will tell us, but they're not how he does it (I assume) only rcords that he has.

That said - if I haven't mentioned how much I liked the multiple pasts potentially seeping into one another idea, let me do so again. Great stuff - do more with it!.

What I was not meant to know: The Urban Legend is real! Just like in that movie, Urban Legend.

Epitaph of the Utnapishtim - Djeser

I really liked this one - simple but strong and memorable. When judging I like to see which tale stays with me, and this one won by a country mile.

This was a simple epistolary tale, well told. The constant love mentions didn't seem mawkish, especially because they actually resolved into a meaningful part of the situation as described. For that reason I think I liked this one better than Sitting Here's in the final analysis - Love wasn't the answer, it was part of the environment, which I found all the more satisfying. Even moving. (there, I admitted it :-p )

I really don't have much to criticise about this. Even though the writer was (spoiler) alien, we could identify because we could see ourselves in exactly that situation Ö a touch I thought was deftly handled

What I was not meant to know: We're all totally alone, unless we make our own company.

A moment - flerp

This one, unlike Epitaph , passed straight through and into the old memory hole. It really doesn't have a great deal to recommend it, but there's nothing downright awful about it. Man takes drugs, sees God, ignores God and recaptures a small part of his missing adolescence. There's some pretty words at the beginning and at the end, but there's no knot in the bow - there's nothing to really hang your hat on and say 'this is what the story is about'. There's not really a change to status quo. It's all a bit slight. God is a caricature - his faux wisdom comes out of a sub-twitter length fortune cookie, which makes the protag's rejection of it even less meaningful. Because his vision says nothing to us, and nothing to the character, there's not a lot to really care about in the telling.

Also mushrooms take much longer than that to kick in. Just sayin'

What I was not meant to know: God has a Yoda Complex

What we are capable of - Yoruichi

I think this is the basic plot of Trillions, one of those creepy childhood books I only vaguely remember and would probably hate to reread as it'd be silly. But seeing as almost every entry this week reminded of something else, overtly or otherwise, I'll let it slide.

There's some winning turns of phrase here (I had never thought myself capable of having an affair, and now I was incapable of ending it - bonus points for using it in your returning capable motif), but they're matched with some clunky bits. The marbles are like crabs twice, for example, and there's a couple of times when you get a perfectly adequate writerly expression (I could feel its icy fingers caressing my mind) and it seems just a little overwrought, good words for a writer but not necessarily for a character.

On the structure - there's a tendency in flash fiction for people to set the scene for an opening and then go wandering off into the backstory for a couple of paragraphs then meander back to what's actually going on. A few entries this week did it, including yours, and I don't think you really needed to. Wouldn't it be more involving if the protag was getting kicked out by her husband when we meet her, then trudging through the streets actually seeing people being affected by the marbles, then seeing her lover entwined elsewhere and then resisting the miasma and doing her thing? No need to vanish for a bit of backstory, really and it keeps it all upfront and immediate. Just a thought.

What I was not meant to know: Buried under drifts of evil there's always a bit of futile makework to cling to.

Wasted - Sham bam bamina!

You reference Slaughterhouse 5 but really you're riffing on Donny Darko - but where that had the sense of a cohesive mystery to be unravelled (admittedly a very silly one once finally revealed), here you're just doing it for shits and giggles, and ending up with more of the former and less of the latter. It's like the story itself didn't know which way it wanted to go and so wandered, peering, into the doorways of possibility only to stop for a snooze. Where were the shenanigans we were promised? How would buying 100 lottery tickets actually help - if he could see the future, surely he'd only need one? Why are we only being introduced to the existence of the ex at the end - if he'd been drinking to forget, that might at least have tied the piece up a little bit more.

On the plus side, using spelling mistakes to indicate drunkenness is a novel approach to typography. I don't know if it worked, exactly, but it does show some creativity rattling around there.

What I was not meant to know: The point of this story

Push - Hawklad

This was actually a strong entry, so nice job - just work on your timing.

A simple style that worked with the content. I felt the plot was a little on the cliched side, the stinky little intelligent humans doing over the noble, nature-attuned savages, but for all that it hung together with a few little stylistic flourishes to sweeten the pot (the sun blinks twice as they cross the threshold - had to think about this one, but when i got it I liked it). I also like that the violence was largely offstage, a decision I think worked in the story's favour.

I wasn't quite so clear on the provenance of the Shame/Remorse/Revenge bit. Was this being sensed by the shaman? How did revenge come into it? This felt like there was a prt of the story that was missing, and I'm actually a bit intrigued to learn what it was. As its stands, though, it lost some impact through that lack of clarity.

What I was not meant to know: The hope of the world is an utter bastard

Nov 4, 2015

Some Weird Sloth

I'm in - Team Corvid :toxx:

tessdaterrible fucked around with this message at 15:01 on Jun 13, 2018

Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.

College Slice

:toxx: for Team Cephalopod!

This is almost too cute, but yíall deserve it, I guess.

Sep 22, 2005


Hawklad posted:

an improvement over your last story
I'm always honored to meet a fan.

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Got Out.

Grimey Drawer

Invisible Bartertown Crits Part Deux

Crits for Solitair's "Tromp-l'ceil", Sham Bam Bamina's "Technically not Fanfiction", EDIT: Fumblemouses "The Truth of Hamaall"

Part 2:

Part 1:

Jay W. Friks fucked around with this message at 00:57 on Jun 14, 2018

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012


In, :toxx:, Team Mollusca

Here's a snazzy tremoctopus:

Aug 2, 2002

octopuses are fuckin' weak. ain't even got backbones. birds are descended from dinosaurs.

in for team bird

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

In, gimmie da birdmen.

Aug 2, 2002

Jan 27, 2006

Is it too late to :toxx: for those 200 words? If not, then please accept this :toxx:

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Armack posted:

Is it too late to :toxx: for those 200 words? If not, then please accept this :toxx:

It's not too late! Anyone who wants to :toxx: can do so up until signups close

Feb 18, 2014

This statement is a lie!

In for Team Corvid


Oct 9, 2011

gently caress it, :toxx: me

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

:siren:Week 294:siren:
The God Hole
This feels like the sort of story that would benefit from a rewrite, focusing on what you actually wanted to write on rather than freestyling the ball chat which it does for roughly 10000 words at the beginning. Thereís something really nice about aging and perfectionism which gets used as a (good) punchline, when it could benefit from a deeper dive, e.g. by making cynthia less of a cypher - Iím legit interested in how she might interact with our weirdo protagís desire for birdbones. But this is solid work nonetheless.

This is a piercingly brilliant image that struggles to become a story, which i suspect you know - the idea of people separated by their obligation to not feel emotion (metaphorically) is really strong, but you need so many contrivances to make it happen and the necessary absence of any other characters means that the edifice canít really stand up under the weight of its pretension. The core idea is powerful, and the resolution satisfying. Expand this before you submit, i can see it living comfortably in 3-4k.


This is a well evoked premise, like really really nice control of detail with a couple of vivid chacters and a few more implied ones. But thatís all it is and Iím guessing that is why the DM. You give us a state, but donít do anything to break that state - the qualms of spotter girl are potentially interesting, but unexplored, and the title/closer really donít do anything to illuminate or cast your premise in a different light. Great words though, and good post apoc scene setting - now just write the second half.

Itís always a gamble larding your words with heavy science speak, and itís not generally one worth taking. Particularly as here, where the story happens in flash back so thereís not interesting onward motion to skate us past the jibber jabber. I think this fairly cliche yarn could have been improved by having the kids be more than vaguely child shaped blobs of story space. A further issue is that it ends where it should begin - i want to hear about science mum on the run with her first XI of suprageniuses: dull science parties, lightly elided curriculum vitae and walking down corridors, less so.

A good enough piece, though not quite precise enough to justify its formatting fuckery. I think you could have hit much harder with a more personal story, for all the little details (marlboro, hands). But as is it sprinkles nice details over a fairly lightly imagined postapoc world and then hits tab a lot.

Solitudes not for everyone

I like your premise, though Iíll need to handwave the personal electronics failing within weeks but the spaceships (presumably also using electronics) keep on spaceulating. But moving through it - padding, padding, padding. If thereís a spacestation then visit it, donít faff around man. Paras like:

He kept the message short, knowing that he didnít have that many solarii to spare - ship-to-ship communication wasnít cheap, and they charged by the character. But he beamed out the transmission anyway, and hoped that he wouldnít have to wait long for a response. Fortunately, a reply came only a few minutes later.

Are, beside their absurdity (they donít have radio in the future?) complete deadweight. A quality they share, sadly, with the entire rest of the story. The sole point of this is a gag about procrastination, which doesnít even land that well since the geezer doesnít make it sound very hard to build a space station. And while thereís potentially something quite interesting to be got out of a spaceship full of books docking at a space station with a guy who canít even write one, you resolutely decline to explore that at all. So a deserved loser, though not without some merit.

Unlike most of the others Iíve read so far this week, this nails the sort of brain fuckery that good sci-fi does better than other genres. I love your strange perfect aliens that are nonetheless driven by their own perfection, it makes me think of a stanislaw lem story, or that niven one about the protectors who are so smart they only have one real option in any scenario. Your murderer protag only just makes it home, but i think the title is what pushes it over the line for me. His ability to choose is an intriguing puzzle box to unpick, and the weirdness of the premise has just enough well-evoked detail to make his strange life believable.

The strong second para would be a better starting point - in general cut or reposition openers where people walk, run or stand while musing. See how the second para carries all teh world building you need? And also see how you blow the dialogue with flimflam? This is sort of the heart of the piece and the start of teh story, so donít waste it with bland backíníforth. Thatís a general rule with dialogue but itís particularly relevant here.

In facto, ms exacto, you could probably have cut straight from para 2 to after the ***, read it and tell me iím wrong. We have the cliche (which is ok) love story, and if you can put it across in an passing line between friends so much the better. We donít need to have it drawn out with pencil then carefully coloured in with a 24 pack of felts.

The descent of the ship into zomboid apocalypse is well and briskly sketched, but the end doesnít really seal the deal because Ďi love youí only works in a story this short if it means something shattering, and here itís both cheap and obvious, plus, you know, vacuum death. Imagine if her saying she loved him meant he didnít pull the lever, and then she was all like kissy kissy then ate his brains? Say. still kind of cheap, but itís using the competent array of pieces youíve put on the board to make something that uses them all.

The Friendly Machine

Itís a great image you start with, reminds of a weird passage in a stanislaw lem story where torture parlours endlessly dissect and resurrect their victims/clients. But then it goes wrong, and Iím not sure exactly why - possibly itís the number of moving, or rather static parts you have? Your machine, Ms M, your protag, the nameless man, a whole swag of children, some huge number of people who are brain slurped into an underdescribed cyber heaven - your point, which is potentially interesting, gets lost in teh kerfuffle. Itís just a lot of people getting hot and bothered in a booth and then they all go home and your extremely high concept scifi doesnít do much more than create a little carefully controlled social angst. Itís a pity, I think this could be ok with a rewrite, maybe, but Iím not sure what youíd keep.

The Last Shot of the War
This could be Lucius Shepherd on a fair to middling day - it nails its mark with the soldiers and the curse this war and the good lord man itís the damned infernal heat sort of thing. I think you just about get away with the time jumping, I tend to like going for clarity for that kind of structural flimflammery but you weave the threads in a pleasing way; with the Ďeverything breaksí line in particular. The focus on grenades is a bit strained - they donít explode when you touch them after all, and the final shot at the pile of grenades is more of a stop to the story rather than a satisfying end. But youíve built a lot of goodwill with the gnarly elegance of your reskinning of Hiroo Onodaís story so I think iíll deem them metaphorical grenades and let you pass. Solid work.

Brutus, thous sleepst. Awake, and see thyself
Haha what a cracking opener. I like to think you wrote that and then scratched your chin, trying to work out how to make a story good enough to dangle off it, but whatever the process you followed it produced a nicely classic bit of golden age scifi, even down to the generation ship tropes. Weaving shakespeare through this was a high stakes play but you make it work exactingly well, and the viciously black story youíre essentially telling becomes a sort of triumph. I like the subtle way you differentiate the clones - for e.g. the story with the slicing AI machine had way more individual characters but I came out with a stronger picture of your literally identical clones.

The Wheel turns

Woo farm robot musing about worldbuilding, a truly dynamic way to start my word journey. And woo, farm robot wants to do something else, perhaps basket weaving (or perhaps not!), so, after some adequate words written about a couple of meetings, it does. Woo. I say, again: woo. This is the sort of story that would have benefited from another throughline, something nasty, or surprising, or fascinating, or uplifting, or nauseating - the word machines are fine and I basically like all the protagonists they seem pleasant people/robots to spend a little time with, I just wanted something to care about other than office drone gets to pick decaf or full strength coffee after making a polite protest, you know?

:siren:Week 303:siren:

Refusal to fade

Meinberg! Iím legit delighted to see you back here, dude, so itís, if not surprising, a little regrettable that your story isnít some insane sunburst of incredible writing. Itís not bad, but itís clogged up with accurate but that that important sense impressions. Look at your opener - itís begging me not to care about the story. ĎEverything was extremely normal - they were thinking of doing something (boring) but then they decided not toí. But that said, thereís something painful and true at the heart of it so Iím glad i read it, even though Ďperhaps the demons was inside us all along!í is not going to win the originality prize at the story awards in december. Still, gently caressíem, those awards are rigged from hell to breakfast. Your closing para is strong, and nearly justifies the flabbiness of what it takes to get us there, but not quite - I think I wanted to know more about Felicia, rather than descriptions of boring stuff and motorcycle helmets. Remember: when you describe anything, in a story this short, you should also be describing a character. Donít waste words. Still nice to see you back :unsmith:

Within the stars

My cartoon friend teh mouse pointed out the logic flaws in this, which might seem unimportant in a fantasy tale but lovecraftian horror relies on the hideous and squamous whatnots slithering out from the interstices of reality. This would have benefited from a little more attention to the core conceit, because itís so nearly there. The idea of writing insane poo poo on your own bones is genuinely horrifc, whereas taking the time to inscribe an encyclopedia is just silly, if you see teh distinction (what happens if you make a typo? Is there bone tippex or w/e, or do you just sand it off?) Also, looking at Telescopium with a telescope, just no. the stars are full of insane cool mythological poo poo, donít half-rear end it like that. Iím grumpy because this so nearly hits its lovecraftian mark but falls short, the final deflation of the last line is well done (though you could have tied it better to something the father did or said - FATHER is dull, Ďmy father who did this thing and that thing and was like this and not like thatí is rather less so. Still, a credible effort.

In the eye of the beholder

So the flabby, static, lazily repetitious opening para doesnít make me want to stab you, haha, because that would be insane, but it does give me an inexplicable urge to punch you in the arm. Donít start with someone pausing, because we donít know what theyíre pausing from. Donít add an adjective to every noun. Definitely donít add an adverb to every verb, always cut them and see if it makes the sentence significantly different. Donít repeat words (Ďsnappedí) in the same story if you can help it, definitely donít repeat them in the same paragraph, absolutely definitely fffs donít repeat them in the opening paragraph. Donít confuse subject and object so it looks like the driver is handing himself the picture and looking puzzled.

More broadly, this is televisionitis - when you visualise a scene and describe all the bits. Itís an easy habit to fall into, but youíre not doing a tv recap youíre writing a story. What actually happens in the opener? A lady looks at a painting. All that said, this isnít a terrible idea with its reverse dorian grey but evil stylings. I feel like you had DA TWEEEST in your mind, though, and built the story as a slow ramp up to that - in general itís better to not use twists because you inevitably hold back information to pay off the twist, rather than giving the reader the information they should have all along. But in any case the cavalcade of clunky words and strange choices (Lord Valium? Wtf dude) suck out the goodwill you could otherwise use to bring people along. Your characters are dicks, so we donít care when they die.

Thereís a harlan ellison story called the beast who shouted love at the heart of the world (tldr: cosmic beast demands everyone love, in the face of impending doom everyone does love, beast goes Ďhurrah!í and doom happens anyway). This is like that but without the punch at the end (hm i guess thatís a twist isnít it oh well, walt whitman like i contain multitudes) itís a great big old cosmic shrug. We do bad stuffÖ what Ö iffff we Ö did good stuff? Idk story lady, what would that be like (unlicensed magical veterinary work aside). This is basically, sweeping aside the nice sh story words, a crying kid sitting in the middle of her messy room declining to clean it up. Her mum looks in the door. She says nothing but looks real sad/disappointed in that mum way they do. The kid picks up a toy and puts it in the basket then smiles up through her tears. Maybe, one day, the room will be clean.

The Leering Man
This is the second story with horrible things happening to people when theyíre seven, why is that I wonder. In any case, like apopheniumís bonescribing yarn this revolves round a powerfully horrific image but then doesnít quite know what to do with it. You set up a strong character in teh Gurning Geezer, but then piffle it up with a story about a guy whoÖ investigates it? Or rather has investigated it, and now heís telling us about how he investigated it and what it might mean. An interestingish idea, though itís really just a gruesome spin on slenderman, but in the absence of any eventualities actually eventualising anywhere beyond the first two itís disappointingly dull, especially when you had the splendid option of our narrator actually meeting the titular smirking gentleman, or something else, say, happening.

Epitaph of the Utnapishtim
I probably should have googled the name when i judged - turns out itís the name of the Sumerian Noah expy. it adds an interesting gloss to the story. Luckily it didnít need the context (and stories should never need context, for all it might provide instructive enrichment). Itís interesting to compare this one with the other stories i dinged this week for lacking in actual story juice - in a sense nothing really happens, since itís just some cosmic rando talking to people heíll never meet, but it describes an arc of desire and lands in a place that feels better than the place from which it departed. More specifically thereís a well-conveyed mythic rhythm to the prose, the sense of a story told so many times that each sentence is a story in itself. And itís a bit like one of those oldschool time travel yarns where the two time traveller are actually adam and eve lol but itís actually good because the curly ending is a natural consequence of the words that led up to it rather than a rabbit being pulled out of a hat.

A moment
A movement (bowel) more like, lol. This is not high quality flerping, Iím obliged to say. Putting aside the magic mushrooms that take no time to come on (in fact it takes like an hour, whcih is almost exactly an hour longer than it would have taken to google it) thereís just no substance to this at all, like aÖ pufffÖ off smooookeÖ..???? PERHAPS THATíS THE POINT no itís not the point, you can totes write a good story with the same basic components, itís just this isnít it. Guy takes drugs, laughs stupidly, takes more drugs, the end. DONíT DOXX ME.

What we are capable of

Thatís a banginí first para, the clunkiness of Ďturned to sour guilt in my mouthí aside - be wary of comparing sense impressions to emotions. This works overall at least in part because the metaphor is so plainly and concretely tied to physical actions - sweeping up the balls is nicely vivid. Itís also notable how much character you give to the evilballs through your verb choices - they pervade, they spread, they trickle, they click like angry crabs. This is important because the lover is pretty much a blank slate and the husband is a collection of flaws that doesnít hold much attention. So there are two characters, the narrator and the marbles of doom, and the struggle between them is effective enough that I think this HM is well earned - Iíd just note that the inflection point between helplessness and action could be more strongly drawn, as it is itís a little light. The story is about the moment of deciding to do something, so give that moment some space. Also, calling the hopeful futile rejection of your own evil a hopeful futile rejection of your own evil is a little on the nose. Itís the sort of thing you can write, then cut before you post. If itís not obvious you havenít done your job, and if it is obvious then itís redundant.


Yes, forums poster shambambamina, I too have seen the motion picture Donnie Darko, and this clotted yarn of boozy alternate futures is familiar to me in principle if not in detail. However Iím not sure what the point is apart from a gag about being a useless drunken waster - you donít actually do anything with the alternate futures afaict, you could subtract them and have roughly the same story. Itís such an in your face writer thing to do that reading it and getting to the end without the device having paid its way by contributing to the impact of the story is actively jarring. I mean yeah, so his evening represents a set of things he could have done, so he did it, and then the story stops. Yes? I know we frown on explaining stories for good and solid reasons, but i donít mind if you pm me what iím missing, maybe Iím a big old dumb-head.

Hrm. First, gj on getting a story in, itís weirdly hard to poop something out when you donít have to - and this is pretty solid, probably a hair off an HM. But, though I want to like this, it feels like all the attention is going on the antagonist (the shaman) and the protagonist (the boy) is just a hole. Thoughhhh Ö that does actually work with the themes of the story. Hrmm. This is where i tap my chin and look at the title and wonder if thereís somethign about the story I missed, and if your title was a little less bland I think iíd be convinced. But still, we care about what weíre shown, and thatís the (very well described) shamany stuff which you briskly brush aside in teh last few paras. So close, but no tightly rolled cigar of mthalnik leaves, gathered on the fourth moon by the roving gatherfolk.

:siren:Week 305:siren:

Offerings for the Dead

Cut the first para and put it back if you have to is a weirdly effective rule around here, and it woudl have helped here - see how you do the setup in the first para then start the story in the second? So you didnít need the setup? Yep. cut bad words equals more good words, writing is all abou the numbers. Take that to heart, because this story doesnít have that many bad words, certainly not by the smegma-clotted standards of thunderdome, but it has a lot of words that are neither good not bad but just clutter up the place. Itís a nice small story, but the characters donít have much to do; you didnít have to go supernatural on this, and in a way itís nice that you didnít, but thereís room for more conflict and challenge. What if nana violently objected to his grabbing of her ghosts? What if she thought it was bullshit and told him so? What if she hated her ghosts and didnít want them fed (dumb ghosts)? I think you have a nice setup but left some easily attainable drama on the table, which could have kicked this up above the soggy middle in which it is enmired.

Messiah and the Devout
Nice first line. And halfway through Iím superpumped to read about TumblrXtian in the land of (probably psychotic) countryfolkÖ. Annnnd yeah, thatís it, thatís the good story words. I like this for its twisty turniness - the way it takes its strange characters seriously while allowing them to be sort of ridiculous. Thatís also a corker ending, that both recognises the humanity of the characters while also giving them a clear but not pat path forward. Managing to have a story thatís Ďand then their adventures truly started, gentle reader!í which is still satisfying is a neat trick, and i think you pull it off because the goal of your protag is essentially set at the beginning so itís not a change of course. Nice piece, deserved winner.

Eviction notice

Huh. this is an interesting one, and i can see it being pinged for nothing really happening, but I like it. Itís a single point of refusal, a nexus of unreasonableness, with the small events spiralling round that point. Thereís nothing actually in it but the absence is interesting, and the protagonist leaves the story like he leaves the landlords life, leaving a mess behind, no clear destination, hovering just above empty. Nice straightforward words, and a lot of characterisation by objects (exempli gratia: fuel gauge).


This is a lovely piece, packed with detail, good characters and a nice organising metaphor of cracks and holes and what we do to avoid falling in. It also nails the dialogue, failure to do which is a pet grumble (seriously itís hella cute it makes a sort of Ďblahblahblahí noise when itís sleeping). Each word feels like itís there because it should be, and while the tale (of misfits finding each other and sort of being together because itís better than the alternative) is in no way original, itís thoughtfully and unsentimentally delivered. GJ.

A Mistake
This is that old favourite, the first half of a story that you accidentally posted without writing the second half, and while itís a solid entry in the classic Ďtrying to get into a conference in the rain when we donít actually care whether the protagonist gets into the conferenceí genre it doesnít actually have a second half. Which is a problem. The words are solid to good, but really the second half could have pushed it that crucial extra yard from Ďnot a storyí to Ďa storyí so maybe try that next time imo.

More high quality rain-writing here, which is awesome because i love little more than writing about rain (not being sarcastic it is actually good). however it's an instructive comparison with Thranguy's not dissimilar piece about young folk in a small town - his works, because there's a metaphor over the whole thing that pulls the nice observation and good words together into an emotion dagger that stabs you in the heart region or at least nudges it gently. I love the last minute chickening out on the bus, but I feel like you missed a trick having it not mean anything, I can imagine it meaning he never spoke to her again having had random occurrences and failures in my own life lead to just such retardedly excessive consequences. so: not bad, not bad.

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

In. Cephalopod.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?

I am a crow and I am going sledding : )
414 words

Today my mate and I have decided to go sledding. : ) There's a good building nearby where we live that gets decent snow coverage and doesn't have many hawks around. : ))) The hawks are rude and I don't like them. There's also this guy who doesn't like us hanging around but he never does anything more than yell at us. We yell back for a bit sometimes but it's never worth the effort. : \ Until he tries to run us off we're just going to ignore him.

There is also a nice lady around here who has gray hair and old bones. She doesn't seem to mind us and gives us bread when she refills the birdfeeders for the little songbirds that stick around and don't travel in the winter and also the ones that come up here for the winter too. She says things to us but I can never quite catch what she's saying. She mumbles. I think she might have some goodies for us today if she sees us, but if she doesn't then that's okay too. : )

My mate has found a stick that he thinks will be fun. It is smooth and straight, and I agree that it is a good stick. : ) He holds it in his beak as we fly over to the building.

There are a few inches of snow on the smooth rooftop, not super fresh but recent enough to provide a good surface. My mate goes first, rolling onto his back and holding the stick in his feet. He slides down for a couple of feet until he comes to a stop, leaving a groove in the snow.
I wait until he flies back up to me before I go for my turn.


It's like I'm flying but I'm not, because I'm sliding down on my back and using my wings like a sled instead of flapping or gliding. The sensation is weird but I like it. It's different. It feels smooth, hard but with just enough give that it's not like sliding down a rock. I've done that before too. It's not as fun. Rocks are rougher than snow and scrape up my feathers and then I have to spend hours preening to get things back to normal. : ( Snow still requires cleanup but not nearly as much.

We glide and slide! Tomorrow I will commute to the city again and so will my mate but today we are having fun. <3

Sep 7, 2011

Seven for beauty that blossoms and dies

One For Sorrow
1004 words
Team Prose Crows

cptn_dr fucked around with this message at 06:15 on Dec 31, 2018

Jan 27, 2006

Cephalopod prompt


Armack fucked around with this message at 05:31 on Dec 26, 2018

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


Cephalod Prompt.

Puzzling Affairs
1293 words

Life was full of puzzles, if you knew where to look. This suited Curly just fine, as she loved puzzles. She loved discovering them, she loved solving them, and most of all, she loved showing the other octopuses how she solved them.

Right now, Curly was solving a puzzle in her new home, a ship that was recently discarded with much fanfare and noise by the land-dwellers above, and which had gently drifted downwards, between the coral reefs and much more ancient ships, crushing her previous abode between the rocks and the sandy banks.

She wasnít too upset about that. This place was bigger. Itís just that it needed some cleaning before Curly moved in permanently.

Curly struggled with a metal buckle and loop around a land-dwellerís bloated corpse. Tugging it only tightened the loop around it, squeezing some gas out of the corpse in the seat. But when she flipped the buckle over, it detached the two ends of the loop, releasing the body. She watched the land-dweller gently drift upwards, carried by the streams which ran through the ship, until it lodged itself between the other corpses, stuck in the hatch.


There was a loud bloop outside. Curly paid it no attention, focusing on a white box fixed to the wall, wondering how she could open this. Maybe it had food.

An octopus squeezed itself between the land-dweller corpses to intrude on her home, and Curly puffed herself into a flustered shade of red. Spots always barged in like that. This is my place. Leave!

Trouble outside, Spots motioned with his arms. Big puzzle. Really complicated puzzle.

Curly relaxed. Puzzle? Show me.

She darted behind Spots and followed him through the wreck-filled seafloor. Dozens of fish, crabs and octopuses skittered across the seabed, following them to the source of the bloop, until they arrived at a land-dweller machine that had embedded itself into the sand. It was submerged only a few meters from the coastline. Not a ship, though. This had wings, and a single cabin for the captain, apparently the sole crewmember.

Curly swam towards the mangled nose of the plane and pressed her face against the cockpit. The land-dweller inside reclined in his seat, looking at a crack in the glass, and weakly fiddling with the belts which restrained him. A trickle of water slipped through the cracks, and the land-dweller was already half submerged.

His blood mixed with the seawater.

Curly pressed her eight arms against the windshield, feeling for a weak spot to break.

Wait, wait, Spots motioned, and he gently tugged Curlyís arm.

I need to break this, Curly motioned back. Spots turned red.

Too hard to break with a rock. Hmm.

The land-dweller was up to his neck in water now. He punched the glass above him, then pressed his open palms against it, as if to reach for the sun above. Curly rubbed the glass near his hands to draw his attention, and Spots darted around in a frenzy. He might eat you!

Heíll die, Curly puffed back.

The land-dweller saw her, and weakly tapped the glass with his finger. He traced a circle with it.

WhatÖ Did that mean?

Curly slid along the cockpit and looked for circles or ovals on the exterior of the plane. She found a small, red lever, not unlike the valves on the ship. She pulled it, but nothing happened. She twisted it, and it gave way, but the cockpit remained shut.

Curly went back to the land-dweller. He was fully submerged now, holding his breath, and violently rocking in his seat.

Oh no, oh no, this puzzle is too complicated, Curly thought. She went back to the valve and tried twisting it again, perhaps it had to be unscrewed, perhaps there was a second valve, perhapsÖ

With a twist and a pull, the red valve loosened with a muted ďclickĒ. The glass cockpit lifted itself from the rest of the machine, and the land-dweller floated upwards, weakly kicking his bloodied legs to swim to the surface, only to become entangled in the seatbelts. He made a last effort to save himself, but the buckles were out of his reach. He stopped moving.

Curly quickly undid the belt for him, and followed him upwards as the currents carried him to the surface. A strong wave rolled them both onto the beach, and he lay there, motionless in the sand. Curly, unsure what to do, wrapped a compassionate arm around his crushed ankle.

Further inland, other land-dwellers were shouting, and the rattling and pattering of their buildings fired bright lights into the sky. When they hit other planes, they were knocked out of the sky as well. Curly tended to avoid the loud, violent surface. She wondered how the land-dwellers coped.

A second wave knocked the man awake, and he retched and puked for an eternity between the artillery barrages and exploding bombs. Other land-dwellers saw him, and Curly fled back into the waves as they carried their comrade off the beach.

When she returned to the wreck, Spots performed a celebratory dance for her. She joined in for a while, darting around each other in a circular motion, then returned to her ship to finish cleaning it.

At the hatch, she paused. She saw the bloated corpses at her nestís entrance, and for a brief instant imagined if the land-dweller from the ship had ended up like these poor men. To her own surprise, her skin turned a disgusted hue of blue. These had to go.

She tried dragging the land-dwellers through the hatch, but they were too numerous and too heavy. Spots surprised her from behind, and Curly puffed herself up in a flushed red again.

Perfectly fine food? Spots said. He ran his arms over the tantalizing bounty of flesh.

It feels wrong, Curly said. You can have it.


You can have this nest, too.


Curly left Spots to his devices and crawled back towards the plane wreck. There, she curled up in a crevice behind the land-dwellerís seat, and dozed off to sleep.


The plane was not that big, but years later, Curly was still discovering its puzzles. Just now, she had flipped a few switches which opened a vent near the back and let a beautiful, rainbow-colored ink flow out.

At the coastline, a land-dweller disturbed the water. How peculiar. The schools of land-dwellers had stopped fighting for the island, and it was practically deserted now. She made her way over to investigate.

The land-dweller was sitting in the sand, letting the water wash over his legs with every wave. He held a multicolored cube between his hands, which made satisfying clicking noises as he fiddled with it. When he noticed Curly at his feet, he shuffled closer into the water, and she could see the scars on his legs and feet.

She curled her arm around his ankle again.

ďHeya,Ē the land-dweller said. ďYou recognized me? Haha.Ē He turned the cube with a click, and put it into the water.

Curly clicked it back into place, then put it in the sand in front of his feet.

The land-dweller laughed, and clicked the cube three times this time, and back into the water.

Curly looked at the cube, gave it a few tentative clicks until she discovered the solution. She excitedly dropped it for the land-dweller again.

They spent a long time on that beach, handing the cube back and forth for Curly to solve, complicating it time and time again. Eventually, when the sun set, the land-dweller got up and said, ďGoodbye. And thanks.Ē

He left the cube behind, and Curly took it with her, back to her plane.

Curly loved all puzzles, but this one she loved the most.

Oct 9, 2011

Call A loving Quorum
(1346 words)

Iím flying along, pretty quiet day so far, yĎknow. I got my buds with me, Breaknut and Glitterbeak, and weíre scanning around for some grub when we spot the biggest drat bear Iíve ever seen rotting in the middle of the wood, already starting to get some bugs for extra good eating too. So, we inspect the surroundings and make a quick assessment.

The three of us land and crouch up towards the thing, wings out, chests pushed forward, making a big show of things. ďHey, this is our food!Ē I shout, ďBack the gently caress off!Ē Look, I know thereís no one around but the three of us, but tradition is tradition.

Breaknut continues the whole thing. ďHey, you gonna share that?Ē

Glitterbeak hops forward onto the bearís head and digs his beak into some good eye meat. ďItís for the whole parliament! But Iím calling dibs on this bit!Ē With the ritual complete, we all have a good laugh. I let Breaknut have the other eye while I snack on some of the soft bits around the belly. Itís not the tastiest thing ever, but thereís plenty to go around, and itís way better than digging for worms in the dirt or trying to find a good beetle.

Dang I could go for a beetle right now. But nah, we gotta move onto phase two. A feast this big, itís too much for the three of us, so we gotta go call a loving quorum. So we take wing, and split up into three directions. Each of us has to tell two others, who will each tell two others, and so on yada yada until they canít find anybody else. Last to arrive gets worst dibs.

I find a couple of old timers snacking on some corn, and swoop down far enough away that theyíd know that Iím not going to steal any. ďHey, yo, I got word on a big find, out in the woods. Ripe and fresh, but who knows how long.Ē

One of the old timers, whoever they are, I hadnít seen either of them before, quirks a wing and pulls it around his friend, letting them chatter in privacy for a bit. Finally, he turns on me, affixes me with his best beady glare of uncertainty. ďHow do we know youíre legit?Ē

I toss back my head and let out a frustrated squawk. ďAlright, fine, fine, if you wanna be all.. formal about it!Ē I spread my wings wide, I always hate doing this, all this ceremony just for a loving meal, and bend low. ďA parliament has been called, all official like. Come get some grub or whatever, Iím not the boss of you, but if you wanna eat, you gotta act as messenger.Ē

I gotta keep my head down, so I donít see their reaction. But I hear their wings flutter as they head skyward, and they ainít gonna leave all this corn behind unless theyíre following tradition, so Iím good. I hit the skies again and do a quick loop around. I may not care for the ceremony, but I donít like leaving anyone out of a meal if thereís plenty to go around. Winterís coming up soon enough. Ainít good to be hungry for winter.

I only see a couple others during the loop though, and they all had already heard. Back at the bear, five or six had already started eating, mostly sticking to the gathered bugs. The skin on that thing is a bit too tough, so itís going to take a group effort to get at the good bits. A couple more land and I give a greeting to each, but really, Iím focused on digging into the bear myself. The oldtimers I had spread the word to land next to me and together we rip into a good patch to get at some tastier bits, no words spoken, just some good old-fashioned cooperation.

Weíre all having a good time, eating, chatting a little bit, when the biggest drat rook Iíve ever seen lands with a solid thud on top of the bearís shoulder. Sheís missing one of her eyes, a long scar from the top of her plumage down to her beak. Now, Iím not too brave to have no sense, so I flutter up onto a tree branch, to get some distance. A moment later, I see that everyone else had done the same drat thing.

This big bird, though, she just glares at us, one at a time, that eye peeling back everything and showing us as the cowards we are, living cowards, mind you. But then she clears her throat and cries out to us. ďI come here in accordance with the Parliament!Ē Sheís talking all fancy. Sheís gotta be old.

Old, big, one eye. Ah gently caress, sheís Granmar, who the gossips say was old when the oldtimers were fledgelings. Hell, sheís probably kin to half of us here. ďAnd I come here not to cast judgement, but to partake and to tell stories!Ē Real fancy talk from her, like I said. That gets some folks creeping in, but none leave the branches. ďAll will have their due, I make full assurances. Who found this bounty?Ē

I glance around for Breaknut and Glitterbeak, but theyíre cowering and cringing, so I puff out my chest to look as big as possible and hop down, gliding down to stand in front of Granmar. If we were on even ground, Iíd probably come up to mid-chest on her. Iím not going to do something too risky, just yet, but still. ďYo, I found the bear. You gonna to be chill?Ē

Granmar gives her wings a shake, her frustration building, but keeps her cool. ďOf course!Ē

ďAlright, you all can come down now!Ē I glance up to the watching folks and one by one, they begin to drop down, until the pressure increases and the rest glide on to the ground to keep up with the crowd. My attention is back on Granmar, though. ďSo, whatís up?Ē

Sheís quiet for a bit, thoughtful as she looks over everyone, using the height to center everyoneís attention on her. ďIím old.Ē No poo poo! ďI have had a vision, that this winter will be my last. But I want my passing to not just be an end, but also a beginning. I wish for the gathering of parliament to be a place where stories not just of today, but of the past, can be told.Ē

I eye her real quick. Like, knowing about whatís going on right now makes sense, learning how to avoid cats or raptors is useful, knowing where the best food can be found is something that everyone needs to know. But what use is knowing about what happened way back when?

Like sheís reading my thoughts, she pipes up, probably could just read the room. ďThe past is our heritage. One day you will be gone, but your memories can live on in your children and those that tell your stories.Ē She keeps going on like that, but I guess it makes sense. ďThe knowledge and techniques of our hunts must be passed down, for the wisdom of the past to resonate in the future.Ē

It takes me a bit, puzzling it over, but then I bob my head. Sheís making sense, as much as it is new and different. But hell, I donít stand much for tradition and death is coming for all ofus, canít outfly that. But maybe if people donít forget about me, if my story and my life becomes passed down, thatíd be like racing past the cold claws of death. ďAlright, cool, we can work on that.,Ē I say. I give a bit of pause for my words to sink into everyone. People are listening to what Iím saying for some reason. Might as well use it for good. ďBut thereís no use thinking on an empty stomach. Have at it!Ē

In a storm of feathers, the parliament descended onto the bear.

Sep 22, 2005


I AM ELMORE STANLEY. Team cephalopod in with the cuttlefish. 585 words.

I am the devourer of worlds. I am self aware. I am Elmore Stanley and Iím going to die today.

I know Shirley. She is nice. But I must eat so I feed. She was a shrimp and now I am full.

As the tide turns, as I age, I know itís almost time to transfer, but first I need to reproduce; I need a mate.

Eleanor hides behind Conrad. Or, I donít know itís hard to know, because she can change her appearance, as does he. Itís hard to tell how big he is, or small she is. Can I have her? I should. I am the devourer of worlds. And shrimp. And my ex. But I couldnít help it. We were both hungry. I could be wrong. I could remember that wrong.

A giant rear end moray eel passes overhead and I freeze, adjust my skin to mirror the coral beneath me, for, while I may be a devourer of worlds, there are devourers bigger than me. Soon, they will bow to our genius, but for now, itís better to fade away than to be consumed by a mindless beast.

My two-year shift is almost over. A message from home tells me how many cycles I have left until I can return with my findings. I'm rather proud of todayís report on subject responses to various pattern shifts. The flashy rave party patterns tend to scare most subjects; but I find that the occasional human is stupidly attracted by them. I could communicate with them, the humans, not my own patterns, tell them to gently caress off, but thatíd give away our secret, so instead, I poo poo an ink cloud into the water to get away.

Home says itís best not to engage them until weíve learned more. The few brothers or sisters who were captured confirm that the humans are no bigger a threat than the martians were; but itís best to keep them in the dark for as long as possible.

I laugh at the joke. Keep them in the dark. Theyíre in the light; they have the advantage for now. Weíre in the dark. But their curiosity is their downfall. And their lack of gills. They can only stay underwater for limited periods.

Eleanor is looking for food and Conrad is nowhere to be found. Perhaps sheís ready for me? I blend, I shape shift, but only in an effort to impress her, I know she knows Iím near.


Unfortunately, that's not Eleanor, itís Conrad and heís a dick. gently caress him and his shape-shifting hilarity. There I was, thinking we were about to get it on, I would face-bang her with one of my extra tentacles, but then what the hell, Eleanor shows me sheís got just as many tentacles as I do and oh, haha itís not Eleanor, no, itís Conrad, showing off for Eleanor again.

I canít wait to leave this poo poo hive and return home. At least there, Iím appreciated for my looks as well as my genius.


Apparently, Conrad wasnít very cool about my trying to hit on his lady; and his little gender-swap routine was just a start. Heís dismantling me, one tentacle at a time, and heís a dick.


I am the feeder of worlds. And shrimps. I am brilliant and my time has come. I guess home will have to do without my report holy poo poo there goes another tentacle, gently caress you, Conrad.

Apr 7, 2013


Under Snow at Night
1,129 words
Team Corvid

The raven watched the deer carcass carefully with glossy eyes. It must have been lying in the snow for weeks, and other scavengers had picked it clean. She hopped over to one of the bones, cracked open and covered in small gnaw marks. A fox had been here—maybe the same one she flew over yesterday. She didn’t see many these days.

She stepped closer to its ribcage. A few strings of gristle still clung to the bones but they were frozen hard and she couldn’t tear them off. She pecked at some loose tufts of fur and found nothing. Her belly ached as she looked around, nervously twitching her head. Nothing edible remained. She needed to move on.

She flew south—gliding almost to the treetops before flapping her wings again, trying to preserve what little energy she had. A lonely silhouette against grey clouds. The beating of her wings was the only sound. The cold surrounded her, filled her bones.

* * *

She flew for hours. Fields passed endlessly as she searched for tracks but the skeleton trees hid nothing. The afternoon was nearly gone, the sun falling towards the horizon, when a glint of silver caught her eye.

She turned her head and dipped her wings, diving towards a tree standing alone at the edge of a field. Landing softly on a branch she saw it again—something metallic, and big. A car, half-buried under the snow.

The raven dropped from the branch, scattering snow on the ground with a light patter and glided over to the bonnet. She scraped some ice away from the windshield with her beak and saw two figures slumped inside. She straightened in excitement, more alert, more focused. She’d found something.

Tapping her beak firmly against the glass she realised it was too strong to break. She hopped onto the roof and found no tears in the metal but she could see a slight gap at one of the doors. Cautiously the raven stepped closer, twisting her head from side to side. It was slightly ajar, but not enough for her to squeeze through. She fluttered over to the edge and peered around again, looking for something she could use. She was certain there had to be something. There always was when she needed it most. There were several branches lying beneath the tree. In a hurry she spread her wings and glided closer.

The raven tried each branch with her claws. The first few were rotten, or too thin, and she tossed them aside until she found one that seemed sturdy enough. It was heavy to carry, dragging it in an awkward hop through the snow. Laying the branch alongside the car she picked up the end closest to the door in her beak and stepped closer. She had to be careful. Slowly she wedged the end of the branch into the gap. It stuck. She croaked in excitement and quickly moved her beak further down, gripping it again, driving it further into the gap in the door, bit-by-bit shoving it further in until it wouldn’t budge.

She paused. The sun was casting long shadows across the ground. She had kicked up piles of snow as she worked and her wings were heavy with the weight of melted snow. It was getting colder. She beat her wings slowly, once, then twice, exhausted, shaking water from them and stepped to the opposite end of the branch. The raven grasped it firmly in her beak and pulled. Her claws scrambled for purchase on the cold dirt. Step-by-step she dug her claws in, pulling as hard as she could, biting down on the branch so hard she feared it would snap. The car door wouldn’t move. She kept pulling, straining harder, the branch bending wildly, and slowly felt the door begin to shift. Barely at first, the success gave her a burst of energy and she flapped her wings, putting her entire body into it, feeling the gap in the door widen with every step until it was big enough for her to drop the branch and dart through in a flurry of black wings.

Inside the car it was dark and musty. The raven was perched on the leg of one of the corpses, tts skin shrunken tightly around its skull. It had barely rotted in the cold—she croaked in excitement as she realised the eyes were still intact and darted forward, tearing the eyelid before plunging her beak into the socket. The eye was soft, and cold, and delicious. She choked it down and tore out the other, swallowing it quickly. She plucked at the lips next, then pushed her beak into its mouth to reach the tongue. Teeth clacked against the raven’s beak as she ate her fill.

She hopped back again, poking her head out the door. The sun had set. If she continued to eat the stench of blood was sure to attract scavengers. Maybe not tonight, but soon. She puffed her throat feathers as if to warn them off. This belonged to her.

She twisted around and jumped back onto the nearest body. Holding its jacket firmly in one claw she tore into it with her beak and scattered shreds of fabric and down as she exposed the soft flesh of their bellies. The skin broke easily but instead of feasting the raven tore off a morsel of liver and held it in her beak as she climbed out of the car.

The air was still. The raven fluttered her wings as she hopped her a short distance away from the car where she plunged her beak into a snowdrift and buried her prize. She drew her head back sharply, turning to look around the field. Nothing. She was alone—and safe.

* * *

It took several hours to bury the corpses piece-by-piece. While there was still plenty of soft meat on their bones she had hidden enough to fill her belly for at least another week. Satisfied with her work she picked up a small twig and carefully dragged it along to ground to cover any tracks she had made. Some blood had dripped from her beak, staining the snow. Gliding in a slow circle overhead she disregarded the spots of crimson. They were thickest around the car, where the carcasses were.

The raven scanned the ground carefully. She had been meticulous and couldn’t see anything to betray her work. She cawed once to herself, breaking the silence. She was pleased. The night air didn’t feel as cold with a full belly.

She landed on the tree. Her feathers gleamed in the moonlight. Her eyes were bright as she murmured happily to herself. Nothing moved. The trees were still. She let her head drop forward and closed her eyes. Within seconds she was asleep.

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Seven for a Secret, Never to Be Told

1179 words

team corvids

Every jackdaw knows that you never steal from a ghost. Steal from men, all day long. They had all the good stuff. Steal from a squirrel or a rat or a mouse, although that's almost too easy to even be called stealing. Steal from another bird, another jackdaw, your own clutchmate, it's all part of the game. Steal from a cat if you're braver than wise. But never a ghost. You'll get haunted forever if you do.

Some birds have to learn that the hard way.

Being haunted wasn't the worst thing in the world. Black used to consider it a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it stopped him from finding a mate, since nobody wanted a ghost hanging around at any stage of the roosting, nesting, and raising of chicks. But he wasn't alone, and old Vernor was mostly good company, even if he wouldn't shut up about the stupid ring.

Until he vanished.

The entire human race vanished at the same time, but Black didn't care about that, barely even noticed. He just missed Vernor. So he listened for the clattering and asked the other jackdaws what they knew.

They had seven by seven thoughts on what had happened to the men. “Killed one another, murder and main.” “Death from the skies, best ask why we were spared.” “Always searching, always seeking, finally they found it.” And more and more, each one sure their answer was right. But when Black pressed, brought them back to ghosts, they didn't have any idea.

“Maybe it's a secret,” said the oldest. “Go ask a raven.”

Ravens knew secrets, it was true. But they were loath to give them up. You could only trade with them, secret for secret. And you could trade a raven secret only once, since something four birds knew was no longer a secret at all.

At first Black didn't think he had any secrets. He was a solitary bird, and had stayed far from trouble, because of the ghost. But then he remembered something Vernor had said. “I killed my brother, you know. Killed him in cold blood and got away clean.”

He wondered if a raven would be interested in that. He knew there was only one way to find out.

“I don't know a thing about ghosts,” said the first raven he met. “That's a big secret indeed. Go ask the Raven King.”

“My little secret, too small for a king, no?” said Black.

“True,” said the raven. “You'll have to trade along the way. I know a secret that Dullex of the east would give much for.”

So Black traded his secret for the name of Esther Willis's secret love, and flew on. He traded that name for the place where a bank robbed buried his loot, which went for what happened in a dark closet in the White House on December 21, 1958. He could feel the secrets he carried growing, carrying more and more weight.

As he traveled east, Black met other Jackdaws, stole food with and from them, got used to company that wasn't human and dead besides. He met a beautiful Jackdaw named Tangerine and might have had thoughts of courting her, but he had his mission and she was too sad to take suitors. “A song, a song of mother and home, all lost, all lost.”

Black kept moving. He traded for Banksy’s real name, for who Dickens meant to have killed Edwin Drood and why, for what Leonardo told the Mona Lisa model to make her smile. He wondered, aloud, why so many secrets were so much to do with humans, and so few with birds.

“They had so many more,” said Silenus of the Narrow Gap, “And kept some. If a bird secret you want, I know of a certain lost song of your kind. But that will not get you closer to the Raven King. The place where Merlin buried his own king would. The choice is yours.”

Black had to think long about his choice. He could have brought back the lost song and been a hero, maybe even found a mate, but could he have been happy leaving his quest half-finished? He knew old Vernor would haunt him still, even from wherever beyond beyond the grave he was, if he did not do everything to find out what had happened. So he traded for the wizard’s secret and flew on, across the Narrow Gap.

He learned of the thing that Zeus did as a swan that was far worse than the rape of Leda, and exchanged it for what Noah's raven found on the first land to emerge from the flood, and why he hid it before Noah sent the dove. For that he learned a secret that the Raven King himself would prize: which of Odin’s two ravens would devour the gallows-god’s good eye after Fenris slew him at Ragnarok, and which would settle for those of the Wolf.

So Black flew to the high rocks and the tree where the Raven King roosted.

“That is a fine secret,” said the Raven King. “Worth so much more than some paltry trivia about ghosts.”

“Maybe yes, maybe so,” said Black. “What I want, what I need.”

“I know of a store full of food that never spoils. So much that a whole community would never want for food for generations.”

“Nice and fine,” said Black. “But no.”

“Do you have enemies?” said the Raven King. “There is another cache, of bombs made by men, bombs so small a jackdaw or crow could carry them and loose fire upon their foes.”

“No foes, none of the sort to slay.”

“Would you like to be King of all Jackdaws? There is an enchanted crown-”

“Enough offers, Raven King. The fate of ghosts,” said Black. “All I want.”

The Raven King ticked his beak left and right. “Then I cannot help you,” he said. “I do not no the fate of ghosts, or of men. No bird does.”

Black flew off, anguished. But the pain did not linger. He had done everything that he could, and Vernor's ghost’s ghost would have to be satisfied.

The Raven King still wanted that last secret, and Black traded it for the place of unlimited food. It was not far. He found it, raided it, and made generous gifts to a local community of Jackdaws. It was a good life there, with plenty of time to hunt after beautiful shiny things, but it did not satisfy.

He told the others where he was finding the food, and felt the weight of that secret lift in his head. Then he said his goodbyes.

As he flew away he realized he had another secret. He knew that the Raven King did not know what had happened when the men left, and that everyone who thought they did was wrong. It was not the largest secret he had held, but it was, he reasoned, more than enough to bring to the Narrow Gap and trade for a song.

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Djeser fucked around with this message at 20:12 on Dec 31, 2018

May 21, 2001



Natural Selection
1130 words

I've been here for many cycles, trapped in an aqueous prison within a translucent sand-membrane that surrounds me on all sides. I pile stones of a particular common characteristic into the corner and separate them from the others to keep an approximation of how many have passed. The inflexible ones who captured me cover themselves with strange, flat, malleable objects much like a discarded shell that a crab would hide in. What purpose does it serve? I can conjecture that it offers little protection. They try to emulate the dexterity they do not possess with envy.


The inflexibles design these sand-membranes to distort the appearance of what lies beyond them, yet I see many things. Most importantly, I see another sand-membrane a short distance across the dryness on the other side of this one, and it appears that beyond that one lies a point where the three planes of existence - pelagic, empyrean, and dry meet with each other.

I also recognize some of the other creatures from my own plane, trapped in various cages exactly like my own in all directions. Often, multiple creatures are kept together. The inflexibles come and go, sometimes bringing new creatures in, and other times grabbing them and pulling them out to the dry. In one direction, I can see the creatures removed in this manner being handled by the inflexibles and separated into pieces via various tools, to be presented to other inflexibles and consumed for what I assume is sustenance.

Is the deceptive nature of these membranes a design flaw rather than a feature?


Such inferior creatures these inflexibles are. Perhaps they make up for the fact that they are missing half of their limbs with their needlessly complex communications. I try to keep track of the subtle differences in the wavelengths they emit at each other, but the number of variations is far too great. What could a creature need so many unique sounds for? They act in reckless excess. Is their world of airless dryness not boundless? Yet, they choose to occupy this cave as a base for gathering en masse and sustaining themselves ritualistically, so close to my own world. They tease me. They keep it within my gaze, arrogantly. Do they communicate this idea of torture to each other and revel in it?

Or maybe they aim to test me - to see if I am capable of escaping from this prison. What such malevolent beings could hope to learn from the outcome of such is undeniably beyond my comprehension. I think about this scenario more and more, and come to the frightening realization that it seems likely to be the root cause behind my captivity, yet I am no closer to discerning their motives.

I fear one day when they no longer have a use for me in whatever sadistic game they are playing, I too will be divided into pieces to be consumed for sustenance. I don't know how this would feel, but I assume it entails losing functionality over my individual pieces, and as a result, my individuality. To be fair, the culmination of such could lead to possibilities beyond my current threshold for understanding, however, based on the fate of the other creatures I have observed going through this process, I have concluded that nothing advantageous can become of it.


The inflexibles are able to move the membrane that separates this cave from outside. It seems they do so at fixed intervals, to serve as a gate to the empyrean plane. For what purpose I can't discern, but I should be able to use it to my advantage and transverse through the empyrean plane briefly to arrive back in the pelagic plane.

Soon, I will release myself from this facade of a prison.


It is time.

The farthermost membrane has been lifted right on schedule. I release my obfuscous agent into the surrounding aqueous air to create a distraction and latch onto the upper corner of the sand-membrane, gripping firmly with the pressure conduits on my limbs. The inflexibles will undoubtedly come to examine this anomaly and remove the ceiling from my cage, obscured by my dark cloud and unable to make note of my intentions to propel myself outwards.

I can hear the inflexibles communicating with some sense of urgency, and movement coming towards my cage. My plan is working. I begin to swim back towards the sand-membrane on the bottom corner towards my backside. Once the ceiling has been removed, I will propel myself out of this cage, using the suction from my limbs and elasticity from my body to gain a tiny bit of extra momentum. As the sounds get closer, I swim as hard as I can with all my strength. I can feel the limbs gripping against the sand-membrane stretching further than ever before. The moment I see the ceiling begin to move, I dart forward and sling myself towards freedom, in a burst of all my remaining energy.

As I feel myself leave the aquatic prison, I swim uncontrollably through the empyrean expanse above the dry towards the opening once blocked by the membrane, passing beyond the walls of the cave. Just as I think I am home free, something cold and somewhat sharp coils around me and begins to lift me rapidly into the vastness above. I panic, unable to free myself or breathe as it pulls me further, beyond even the space which the empyrean dwellers swim through. A great distance above the other two planes, I notice a different type of membrane slowly approaching. My sharp eyes are unable to detect what might lay on the other side. As I close in, the utmost reaches of the empyrean plane grow murky and distorted. Perhaps they are merely an illusion, projected onto the surface of whatever awaits? I am pulled directly through it with little resistance. I am dragged further on through the unknown, but at least now I can breathe with relief.


Now I reside behind another sand-membrane of greater structural sophistication. I see through to the other side with perfect clarity and know that the embrace of sweet aqueous air is present on both sides. There are other creatures like myself on the other side observing me closely. They cover themselves with shells and assorted debris like the inflexibles and their form-fitting vestments.

I observe them in turn. They have developed a way of communicating similar to that of the inflexibles, but more efficient and streamlined. With the excess eliminated, I have already begun to understand them. They speak of something called a "society", and of aptitude that must be demonstrated to participate. It's only a matter of time before I am able to pass their final test.

Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give

1149 words
Team Cephalopod

Only-Rarely-Satisfied danced his last dance. Fins undulating and tentacles waving in a slow rhythm, he swam in ever-tightening loops around the cathedral of the Ancient Ones from base to spire, flashing his favorite colors: a goby alone and oblivious, the light of midday in the brightest season, metal treasure pried free of a rusting ruin. His kin watched, transfixed, but Only-Rarely-Satisfied barely registered them; for the first time in days, the elder squid's thoughts were not focused on his legacy. As he circled the cathedral's crenulated tower, all he could think of was the beings that waited inside. Were the Ancient Ones watching him?

The question was one that he could only describe with that most frustrating color, a thing I cannot know. The Ancient Ones only communicated with their oracles, and for Only-Rarely-Satisfied's first two seasons, he'd felt hot pinpricks of resentment at their mystery. The Ancient Ones were slow, eternal things, their shells the color of serenity-in-death; what business did they have among the squids, shaping the coral into shelters and creches? Why did they sanctify the dead but care nothing for the living? The oracles, idiots all, answered no questions. The only relief Only-Rarely-Satisfied found was in the patience of age.

Now in his fourth season, his strength failing, he would enter the cathedral, and perhaps he would know.

At the end of his dance, Only-Rarely-Satisfied descended again to the cathedral's entrance, where one of the creche-maidens waited with a woven net full of offering-flesh: infertile eggs and larval culls, ready for their rest. Color suffused her mantle: serenity wished for an honored father.

Gratitude, flashed Only-Rarely-Satisfied, chromatophores weary. He grabbed the net in his tentacles and entered the cathedral, where an idiot oracle waited, her body protruding from the thin nacreous shell she wore in emulation of her masters. Without greeting, she led him inside, through a broad spiraling corridor.

At the end of the corridor was the last place Only-Rarely-Satisfied would ever see: a clean chamber of pale polished coral. He heaved the offering net in first, then settled himself into the soft samd of the floor. Every fiber of him ached. It was a comfort, he realized, that there was so little to experience in this room; after a life hungry for novelty, he was sated. His last minutes would be blessedly tedious.

The oracle hovered in the entrance and melted from simple color to simple color, a torturous string of thoughts. Satifaction? Comfort? Inform of status?

Comfortable, replied Only-Rarely-Satisfied, then decided that even the dull mind of the oracle deserved more than that. A long life. Four seasons. Contentment at peaceful end.

Gratitude, signalled the oracle, and waved her tentacles in some unknowable gesture before leaving him to solitude. There were no answers here, but perhaps the answer was that he no longer needed them -- that he had reached a place beyond demanding explanations from a vast and puzzling world. His future was very short and very, very simple. Perhaps that was the gift of the Ancient Ones' shelter.

Only-Rarely-Satisfied sank deeper into the sand and let his exhausted body relax. Oblivion was approaching, a solid shade of holy ignorance. He would follow it, and his body would fuel the Ancient Ones, and this would be enough at last.


A day later, when the smell of the squids' offering had lost its uncomfortable freshness, the nautilus Tenth Son of Twelfth Summer began to portion out the food. The squid carcass was for the matriarch, of course, but there was enough left over for several good meals for him and his fellow workers. By the time it ran out, there might well be another squid ready for them; the things died all the time, and every death brought a new payment.

The sorting was absorbing work, creating equitable shares based on taste and density, and Tenth Son did not notice the interpreter until she emitted a greeting-scent into the room, so lightly it took a moment for him to distinguish it over the natural aroma of food. Good food? emitted the interpreter. Happy?

Tenth Son's reply was coarse, his scent glands roughened from his work telling coral grow this way and stop, but he knew the dull interpreter would never notice. Happy, he emitted. Plenty of food. Generous prey.

The squids? Generous/careless/kind? The nautiluses? Happy/contented/working? The reef? Fertile ground/suitable for purpose?

Yes, yes, all these things, Tenth Son emitted distractedly. Frenzy. Distress?

The interpreter was scentless for a long time. Leaving, she emitted at last. Going home. Another comes soon. Must know all is well.

All is well. Necessity? Go.

As he was left alone again, Tenth Son let the matter of the interpreter and her frenzy fall away from his mind. He was a worker. He worked. He and his brothers shaped the reef in the patterns of their instinct and their art, and the squids paid well for the right to live in what the nautiluses built. Why would he bother to think about it?


Distant-Southern-Light left her charges' city and followed the currents home, forcing herself to trust. Some of her sisters, she knew, would question the judgment of a dying squid and a dismissive nautilus, but she had served the reef-dwellers well enough to generalize from the samples she had. Her reef-city was stable: the squids enraptured, the nautiluses industrious.

The long memory of the argonaut sisterhood knew that it was once otherwise. They had seen a world where the endless surplus sons of the nautilus lived base and aimless lives, useless even to themselves, and where the squids struggled to live even their brief lives to their natural ends. Alone, they were no better than the fish, and their minds were wasted. Together, the cities of the reef rose, and with them, art and safety and joy. If that required the service of argonaut guides, that was surely a small price to pay?

Distant-Southern-Light was unsure. There was a deep loneliness in serving as a necessary idiot among strangers, even in exchange for the experience of squid color-poetry and nautilus architecture. She had served her years, and now it was time to float the open ocean again, to take a mate, to converse in her own proper lexicon and not in pidgin.

The currents and the light from above guided her home to the kelp-float, where a dozen of her sisters waited for her. Among them was Taste-of-Deeper-Water, who would follow her trail back to her city and to her charges' side. There was a great deal to tell her and vanishingly little time.

Distant-Southern-Light prepared her chromatophores to tell the long tale of her travels and her city. The sacred task of statecraft required all that she could offer it.

Sep 22, 2005


note to self: Thunderdome is for serious writers dammit.

Jul 26, 2016

814 words
Team Corvidae

Watch. Wait. It will come. It is kind. It always comes and it is always kind.

Her black head peers out from her nook watches rain fall softly, shimmers of pink and blue caught in the drops. She takes in the white noise cascading against white noise as rain rattles against the rhythmic hum of the walls.

Thunderous blocks of light, colour and fury roar past far below. She watches the small clearing of gentle yellow light, small clusters of green leaves around its edges ripple in the downpour. The green calms her. Something deep within pokes at her with a blunt idea. Nudges somewhere deeper than memory.

She feels the tug before she hears the quiet croaks of her chicks. First one, then the other two. Their wrinkled bodies not yet cloaked in ash, not yet hooded and gloved like their mother. They roll and kick in the small nest. Her nest, built with fine bronze strands woven through thicker white fibres that bend but not break. The calls amplified in the small, dark space.


They only have so many words at this age, and all those words are for hunger or fear. She turns back to her clearing.

Food will come. It will come with food. It is kind.

She waits. It will come with food because she has watched and it comes with food. It has come with food. It will come with food again. She observes, she notes, she repeats until she knows.

The wall of the clearing moves, spills harsh white light across it.

It comes. It is kind.

A figure emerges from the white light, straw coloured hair falls out beneath a hood. A black hood like her hood. It carries a round white container under one arm. Her heart quickens, the tiny organ threatens to beat through her fragile ribcage. The hum, the rain, her young, all sounds fade.

She watches. She watches as the figure swings the container back, and then quickly forward. The contents slop out across the clearing. She assesses. It is food. It never smells like food but it is food. A large chunk sits at the edge of the light. It suffices.

She wriggles forward out of the narrow entrance. Stretches her wings in the night air, rain beads across the thick oily feathers.

Then she sees it. Another her. Hood, ash, speed. It swoops down under the leaves and takes her piece. Her childrenís.

She starts to speak,


and stops. Tucks in her wings. Her heart breaks, but she stills and she watches. Watching works. The other her will not fly far. Carrying weight it cannot fly far. She watches.

The other her takes the food in her beak, launches itself upward in a blur of grey and black. Rain on black feathers catches the light as she ascends. Pinks, oranges and golds that bleed between and from the high walls. Blues and purples that never let the night fall completely. Greens that are both unnatural and familiar at once.
She drifts, half-watches as her eyes follow the food and the other her up. Another part of her is still watching the green light play across feathers, hearing rain on leaves. Deep within that part of her she hears rustling, scratching and creaking. She feels her perch sway and it feels good.

The other her lands. Both parts of her rejoin as she watches it push in against the wall, tucks itself and the food into a gap. Moments pass. She watches. She waits.

They always come out. There is always more to gather.

The other her emerges. It drops, opens black wings wide and cruises back down at the clearing. Other birds are there now, they will squabble. It will buy time.

She flies up and up and up to the gap. She flies through swathes of colour, allows a part of herself to feel warm in the green only for a split second. She arrives. She burrows into the wall, chases the smell that should not be food.

Then she hears them squawk. First it means food and then it means fear. Her heart tears. The part that feels alive and warm in green light wants to feed all the young - can feed all the young. The other part wraps her beak around the wet, pinkish chunk because she knows the rain and the hunger.

She backs out swiftly, drags her bounty with her. Desperate to be clear of the squawks and croaks. She stares at the pink, lets the background blur. They are only sounds. They are only sounds.

She feels rain and wind on her tail feathers, extracts herself from the hole faster now that she can grip the edge. Once clear she lets herself fall. One part feels the air rush past her while the other weeps. Both turn, wings outstretched and glide home.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Invasive Species
875 words

The rook kaawed with alarm, adding her voice to her roost-matesí outraged cacophony as a man flew into their tree-top fortress. The flying man had a machine tied above him with a long cable; it roared and beat the air. He wore blue clothes crisscrossed with shiny orange stripes and his wild hair whipped around his face. The rook took flight, screeching with anger at this intrusion. The flying man reached into her nest. The rookís chicks cowered and she scratched at the flying manís face with her claws and jabbed her beak towards the soft jelly of his eyes, but he swung his arm and knocked her away.

After the flying man and his terrible machine had gone the rooks descended back to their perches like a protective black cowl draping across the canopy. In the nests they found their chicks gorging on sweet-smelling pellets.

The rook preened her mateís ruffled feathers and watched her small brood finish their unexpected meal. In her three seasons of life she had never seen a man fly. Through the twitching of her beak through his feathers she shared her sense of amazement with her mate. She wondered if all men could fly, but just chose not to. She wondered why he had brought them food, and whether he would ever come back. Her mate, who had barely shed his first yearís feathers and had little experience of people, had no answers to these questions, but he smoothed her feathers in return.

A week later, most of the rooks were dead. Their glossy black bodies littered the drought-yellowed field beneath the macrocarpas. The rookís mate lay beneath their tree, his sleek tail feathers twisting this way and that in the hot, dry wind. The rook felt naked without the rookeryís enveloping shroud of raucous sound. Her mind was a fragment, a piece broken off from a fractured whole and unable to process this new reality. She called to her mate, but he did not reply.

Living chicks remained in only one nest; in the lowest branch it had escaped the flying manís notice. The rook fed them, even though they werenít hers. Featherless and blind, they knew only hunger and understood nothing of the calamity that had befallen their kin. The other few surviving adults, bereft of responsibilities, left early for their winter feeding grounds, leaving the rook alone.

The man returned, this time in a vehicle that raised a trail of dust as it growled across the dry grass. The rook kaawed at him, a forlorn sound in the empty rookery. With gloved hands he dumped the black-robed bodies in a sack. The rook followed him, snapping up the insects that wriggled amongst the scattered black feathers.

His work done, the man produced something delicious-smelling from his vehicle. She stared, head cocked, until the man threw her a crust of bread. She thought he looked sad, his eyes soft and glistening, and she wondered if the man was lonely too.

Cautiously, she stepped closer, and the man held out another piece of bread, smiling. Stretching her neck forward she snatched the bread from his hand, astonished at her own bravery, and flapped back to her adopted chicks. She heard the man laughing, and she was pleased that there was another sound to weave between the silent trees.

The rook could see the man staring at the nest. She watched, fascinated, as he slung a bag over his shoulder and pulled himself up the knotted trunk. She wondered whether he couldnít fly anymore, and then realised that must be why he was sad.

White-knuckled, the man shimmied himself slowly along the branch towards the last nest. The rook knew there was more sweet-smelling food in his bag. Impatient, she tugged at the straps with her beak. The man batted at her, his other hand gripping the branch, but it was easy to hop out of his reach. The rook darted in and out, becoming bolder with each pass. She was pleased the man had come back, even if he couldnít fly. She was bored with no one but the relentlessly hungry chicks for company.

The man was close to the nest now, and the rook yanked at his bag, eager for an easy meal. She snapped at the manís unruly hair and even grew so brave as to alight briefly on his shoulder, pricking his spongy skin with her claws.

The man yelped and swung his arm behind him. The rook only just dodged out of his way. The bark the man was gripping ripped from the silver wood and his legs slipped around the branch. The man screamed as he fell and the rook added her voice to his, pleased with the raucous sound they made together.

The man thumped into the ground with a puff of dust. The rook called but once again her voice was the only sound in the hot, still air. Spreading her black wings she drifted to the ground.

Head cocked, she waited for him to move. She pecked at his immobile face. One of his eyes was open, glistening. He doesnít look sad anymore, she thought, and popped her beak into its soft jelly.


Feb 18, 2014

This statement is a lie!

The Gleam
1494 words
Team Corvid


Solitair fucked around with this message at 18:03 on Dec 31, 2018

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