Well poo poo. I have no electricity in my drat house.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 01:10|
|# ? Dec 8, 2021 15:33|
Well poo poo. I have no electricity in my drat house.
You have five and a half hours and thumbs.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 01:24|
Searching for the Bottom of the Sea
Darren sank into a stranger’s couch and willed himself to disappear through the faded floral fabric and crumb-laced foam. Past the broken wooden base, deeper and deeper until the light disappeared and he was alone in the quiet. Small dust-based life forms drifted past him as he hung in the darkness. The new porpoise tattoo on his forearm itched. It looked stupid, he knew. Less a representation of the confidence and freedom he wished he had and more will-do-backflips-for-fish. The vibrations of cars passing outside his borrowed house (you couldn’t steal a house after all) felt like the distant movement of waves on the ocean’s surface.
The ping of his cell phone made him sit bolt upright. Darren took a deep breath. His coat still smelled of the anxious-eyed dog he’d held tight to his chest earlier that day, when he saw it tied up, alone, outside some shops. He felt out of place in this nice house, where nice people lived comfortable lives.
He peered into the harsh glow, telling himself it could be anybody. But it wasn’t. It was Jessica, of course it was. Sharp-tongued and sharper-eyed, she’d caught him stealing from the gas station till. She didn’t know he’d been doing it just to make rent, and that, since she’d found out, he’d been kicked out of his lovely apartment anyway.
“If you keep ignoring me I’m going to tell the Police,” the message said.
Darren put the phone on silent and dropped it face down on the thick carpet. Jessica had been threatening to do that for weeks. At first he’d begged her not to, until he realised that was what she wanted. A friend of an acquaintance, Jessica had helped him - odd, antisocial, and unappealing to most employers - to get the job in the first place. He didn’t understand why she wanted to help him, why she wanted to weave herself into his crappy life. It made his skin crawl. So he’d quit. He hated pumping gas anyway, told himself he’d find some other way to make ends meet. He thought that would be the end of it, but like a cat with a half-dead mouse Jessica would neither let him go nor finish him off.
Slowing his breathing he drifted back into the dark ocean. He was searching for the bottom, for soft silt at the end of the black depths; a place where no-one could find him. But, like every night, there was nothing there, nowhere to rest. He swam and swam through the darkness, pushing himself to descend faster, to get further than he had the night before. But the ocean was infinitely deep.
The scritch-click of a key in a lock woke him. The sun was already well up. Darren rolled off the couch, grabbed his phone and ran, stooped over, down the hall to the jimmied-open back door. He heard someone calling out inside the house as he fled across the lawn and into the scrub at the back of the section. His feet hit empty air and he half-fell half-ran down the bank, branches scratching his flailing arms, and stumbled out onto the street below. Tires screeched and he windmilled his arms to stop himself careening into the side of a beat-up orange Suzuki.
Jessica leant out the driver’s side window, chaotic blond hair waving around her heavily made-up face. “Where have you been?” she said.
Darren waved his arms at the empty air. I’ve been around. He didn’t like talking.
Jessica looked him up and down, taking in his sweaty clothes and days-old stubble. She leant over and opened the passenger door. Like a whale opening its jaw and sucking in krill the open door created an irresistible current, a deadly whirlpool of expectation that swept him around the dented bumper and spat him into the passenger seat.
“Have you been sleeping outside? You smell like dog,” she said, and slammed the car into gear.
“No,” Darren replied. “I borrowed a house.” He gripped the sides of the seat as Jessica hurtled the little car up a steep and winding street.
The clutter inside Jessica’s one bedroom flat made Darren feel too big, like if he didn’t hold his long limbs tight against himself they’d swing out and break something. The coffee table overflowed with magazines and a collection of antique teddy bears stared glassy-eyed at him from the top of a piano, wedged unplayably behind the dining table.
Jessica made cups of tea and told him about all the things he should do. That he should ask for his job back (she’d vouch for him), see a therapist (she could recommend one), go look for a new apartment (she’d found some ads for him). Should, should, should, the weight of her expectations piled up until Darren felt he would suffocate.
“I don’t need your help,” he gasped at last.
Jessica rolled her eyes. “You can stay as long as you need,” she said.
That night, fed and showered, his freshly washed clothes drying by the heater, Darren lay bent-kneed on Jessica’s couch with all her shoulds swirling inside his head. She was right, of course. But he feared being pulled into Jessica’s gravitational orbit; slotted into place amongst her mismatched furniture like just another op-shop curio, fated to watch glassy-eyed as she directed his life.
In the darkness Darren’s breathing constricted. His porpoise tattoo twitched and slipped out from under its plastic bandage. It dove off his skin, its sleek form rippling in the red glow from the heater. Quickly, lest he lose sight of it, Darren pulled on his still-damp jeans and faded hoodie. He winced as the front door banged behind him. Then he was running, following the dolphin down and down, through layers of cold, salty water until the light from the surface was far behind him. Searching for the bottom, soft silt and silence, where nothing could touch him.
“Darren!” He blinked, surprised, at the sound of Jessica’s voice. He was in the harbour, knee deep in black water. She was leaning over the railing above him, dressing gown flapping and one arm reaching for him. Her eyes looked frightened without their usual coating of make-up.
Jessica’s face wavered as if Darren were looking up from deep underwater. Her voice sounded muffled and far away. In the depths the dolphin circled, waiting for him.
Suddenly Jessica was there. She stomped through the mucky water and wrapped her arms around him. Darren realised he was shivering.
“C’mon you big idiot,” she said. “It’s freezing.”
Darren felt soft silt ooze between his toes. He looked down into the murky depths, but there was nothing there. Jessica’s arms were warm around his waist.
Darren looked at her and waved his hand at the empty air. Thank you. With a last glance into black depths he turned and kicked towards the surface.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 01:27|
Hey berks. Remember to please post your plane when submitting along with your flashrule if you asked for one.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 01:32|
Before I am an idiot and fall asleep forgetting to post this:
Prompt: Elemental Plane of Air
Flash Rule: https://youtu.be/G6FRxUi0wl8
Last Breath, 897 words
With a spray of leaves, she leaps, breathless, from the seaside cliff, skimming across the ocean to churn up great waves and frolic in the salty froth of their breaking. She glides above the ocean, picking up a scrap of cloth set out by mortals to court her favor. She accompanies them out to sea, watching the sun rise and fall, again and again. Eventually, her fascination leaves her languishing in their sails, entranced by the heavens for days until their prayers and rituals rouse her from her slumber. It takes her time to wake, but soon she picks up speed, leaving them as she reaches the shoreline.
She finds trees and leaves again on this shore, the foliage trembling and trunks leaning with her passing, inspiring the forest to emulate the ocean in her wake. Then, trees give way to scrubby hills and valleys. She leaps from hilltop to hilltop and soars through the valleys, savoring the faint smell of smoke as she smears it across the sky from the chimneys that clog one of the valleys. Lost in the heady aroma, she glides up the mountainside before a new aroma captures her attention.
Sweat. Fear. Only a hint on her first pass, so she soars up the mountain, somersaulting off of the peak and drifting slowly down, circling until she finds the source. Men. Two of them. Well, two that matter. Dancing, back and forth along a mountain path, the edges lined with men that did not. She circles down, watching them dance, waiting for a break in which she could insert herself.
The break apart and she pounces, rushing down to press herself against the handsome one. Her hand grazes against his cheek, running through his hair, whipped up by the breeze. Her eyes, inches from him, stare intently, and his stare back, and through her, to his opponent. He reassumes his stance, whipping his sword through where she stands and facing the other man once more.
With a huff she swirls back together, kicking up dust on the path in her irritation. But she had never taken no for an answer before, and today is no exception. As they clash together once more, blades touching and dancing around each other, points cutting through the air and jabbing past, she is there. She swirls around steel, whipping around their heels as they dance.
She favors the handsome one, savoring his flowing movements and the way his long hair moves in the wind. The other is fine, but his shaved head and the men’s stripped torsos stand impassive and unmoved by her touch. His sword, though, entrances her, every movement sharp and precise, stirring currents in her heart as she dips and twirls beneath them.
Swords clash together, their edges binding for a moment, and the bald man shoves, throwing the other to the ground, followed quickly by the point of a sword. The one on the ground is too quick, however, rolling free and springing to his feet. The sword point catches him across the torso as he staggers back, sending a new fragrance splattering through the air to land on the path and drip down his heaving chest. Suddenly less steady on his feet, the man whips back his hair and resumes his stance, the circling beginning once again.
The fighters turn, watching as her presence blows the dust from the one who had fallen and picks up the droplets of sweat and blood that fall from him. The pretty one blinks first, lunging and attacking ferociously. The bald man merely backs up, retreating as his enemy churns the air, chasing him around the small arena.
He cannot retreat forever. As an errant lunge forces him to stumble into the crowd, he comes back with a counterattack, drawing his blade across his opponent’s forearm, and leaving a deep gash in the sword-arm in its wake. He uses the distraction to dart past, opening more distance between him and the wounded man.
There is a short pause, for just a moment, as they part, nothing moving but the wind swirling around them in excitement. Then a shout fills the air, and the blooded man charges, any pretense of finesse or subtlety abandoned. Swords crash together. Once. Again, this time the young man grabbing the other’s sword arm and pulling them together with desperate strength. They turn together in a deadly dance as they wrestle for control. Once again the man is thrown back, this time retaining his feet, but not enough composure to dodge the sword point that buries itself in his chest, withdrawing just as quickly.
He looks down, then up again, as if to resume the fight, but his legs fail him, and he tumbles to his knees, gasping for breath, then his side, rolling onto his back. As one, the crowd remove their hats, a gentle breeze running through the feathers and waving the corners of their coats. Even the bald man looks down solemnly, sword pointed to the ground.
She kneels behind the handsome one, pressing her lips to his and giving him one final lung-full of air with the kiss. His eyes shoot open, staring up at her in shock, the mortal seeing her at last. Then his chest rattles, the man exhaling slowly. For a moment his last breath lingers, before it is gone, lost in the wind.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 02:16|
Hey berks. Remember to please post your plane when submitting along with your flashrule if you asked for one.
Sorry berk. I had the Plane of Water (http://dungeonsdragons.wikia.com/wiki/Plane_of_Water), but no flashrule.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 03:02|
We were not meant to live, us visionaries. We were sent ahead, to locate our graves. Our descendents followed us in a ship, much slower than the one-way scout I left in. They waited for a signal from me or one of the others. A signal that we had found a new home.
I landed on not a planet but one of four planetoids orbiting each other, anchored by a large star. The stark beauty of our potential refuge was marred by the countdown in my periphery.
I had 60 days to decide whether or not to stake a claim. I had to be sure. At the end of the countdown was a quiet and painless death. And the hope that home was still waiting to be found.
I spent most of my first day on Planetoid One sliding and falling trying to get a footing. The surface of the planetoid bubbled and lurched, jutted and folded from volcanic activity. Level ground was a scarcity.
My first day was not filled with much hope.
I rolled over and dug my fingers in until they found purchase on a ledge. Propping myself up, I enabled the analysis HUD and scanned my surroundings.
Thin atmosphere. Unstable volcanic core. Variable gravity. Sparse vegetation. Water came in occasional spurts of mist that froze almost immediately.
And yet, the world was 48% habitable. Not worth signalling about, not yet. There were three other planetoids to take stock of. Gravity weakened, or so I thought. It was a clue that another planetoid was nearing. My HUD extrapolated its path. I guessed at a trajectory
Sometimes a leap of faith is the only way forward.
My inner ear struggled to accommodate the fuzzy gravity. My suit’s thrusters had brought me between the two planetoids. I could sense myself slipping backwards incrementally. I stared and reached out, eyes bugging in desperation.
My HUD flashed a warning before the impact. Something crashed into me and sent me spiralling down to the second planetoid. The suit graciously shut off my consciousness for the landing.
I woke later in a cave of sorts. Its hollow interior allowed me to slide around as down fluctuated.
Two chitinous creatures loomed over me. They tapped on the floor of the cave with thin, pointed front legs. A single hind leg gripped the rock with a glistening, sticky pseudopod. Their exoskeletons folded over their entire form with delicate interlocking scales which glimmered in the light.
I could not hold onto consciousness any longer. My mind rushed backwards to my training.
“Should you encounter any indigenous life forms, try to ingratiate yourself. Any life forms can be considered as stepping stones to actualization of our new home.”
There were questions: Life forms?
Well, do you know what’s out there?
Once they serve their purpose--our purpose--they will be removed.
The euphemism didn’t faze our ingrained dogma. The mission was all. We couldn’t live on the ship forever.
“52 Days” blinked teal in the corner of my vision. My hosts made me comfortable, compassionate in their ignorance of my mission. I resented them for helping me.
Their tapping was a form of communication. Over a few days we worked out a rudimentary language through signs and beats. They were ugly, but they picked it up fast.
Once a day they would leave. It seemed to be on a schedule. When I felt well I followed them. One kept pace with me and helped me cross the surface. Despite my scowl it patiently led me to a gathering of sorts.
A faint blip in my HUD informed me another planetoid was nearing. The creatures started to bustle around--haphazardly to my eyes. My companion tapped and signed one word: Exchange.
The creatures began to stack upon themselves, creating a dazzling pyramid of light gleaming from their bodies. I tracked the course of the approaching planetoid via HUD. As it neared I caught flashes of light from the same ritual, mirrored on the other planetoid.
Some at the top of the pyramid broke off, drifted to their neighbors’ home. The remainder flashed messages; news, births, deaths, achievements. One new arrival from offworld. Two creatures drifted from the other planetoid, warmly received into the pyramid. I couldn’t tell if they were first time visitors or merely returning home.
The uniqueness and intricacy of the ritual astonished me. A cultural exchange? They had celebrations? I stood agape long after daily life resumed.
Less than 30 days to make a decision. I became wrapped up in the day to day, first as an awestruck observer, eventually as a humble participating member. I began to see beauty in the motions of my hosts. Beauty in the mere fact of their existence.
Our mutual language developed into something capable of expressing abstract thought. Everyone I met seemed eager to pick up the half-pantomimed, half-tapped communication. We exchanged stories and histories. The residents were long lived. Excepting the very young, they had all spent numerous cycles on each of the other three planetoids. It was a necessary part of their culture, to gain different vantage points and perspectives.
I spent time on each planetoid. I envisioned how my people would adapt. With the help of the natives factored in, the planetoids’ habitability factor improved to 87%, barely into acceptable range. The general acceptance of my arrival made me hopeful the same would be extended to the rest of my people.
We could live here.
My last day.
I snuck away on a walkabout. In the last week of my survey I had seen the natives’ cultural center within the fourth planetoid. Its volcanic core had died millennia ago. The residents created a vast city within, full of baffling architecture. There were libraries and museums. I left wishing I had remained unaware.
Time ticked down closer to zero. A touch of thrust lifted me to orbit the planetoid in its last rung of gravity. I looked down on a mere black-gray rock. I could almost forget it was inhabited at all. Could forget that my signal would end it all.
A final burst of thrust and I was free of orbit. I closed my eyes and drifted away, my time left just a faint haze at the corner of my eye.
We would live, but not here.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 03:22|
Prompt: The Bleak Eternity of Gehenna
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 03:23|
The Trap Card
Prompt: Heroic Domains of Ysgard-- https://1d4chan.org/wiki/Ysgard
I lunge forward with my staff, and a beam of dark energy shoots towards the seraph floating above me, joined by Newt’s ray of telekinetic force--
--and then I’m falling, falling through the ground.
Before I can even make a sound of surprise, I hit the bottom of something, chest-first, wind squashed out of my lungs. I feel Newt’s presence beside me, and without looking, I know they’ve landed smoothly, on their feet. Newt is silent, which is how I know they’re thinking.
I stagger upright, holding my ribs, adjusting my purple cowl with my other hand. My staff is gone, and as I look around for it, I notice the old man sitting against the far wall.
“You don’t have to introduce yourselves,” says the old man, in a voice like stone grinding stone. “I know you perfectly well.”
My shoulders tense. Newt’s tail stiffens. We both delve into our psychic energy reservoirs, ready to attack. We both come up empty.
“Relax,” says the old man. “No need for that.”
As my eyes adjust to the torchlight, I notice the symbols on the walls. Numbers. Latin letters. Elemental symbols. Stars with all number of points, arrows that point in every direction. Water flows out from a hole in the far wall into a pool next to the old man’s throne.
Where are we? I hear Newt’s voice in my head.
“You,” says the old man as he adjusts his robes, “are exactly where I want you to be. You’re in the heart of this world.”
“The world is heartless,” I say, staring a hole through this man.
“Only you two would think that,” says the old man. His face wrinkles as he smiles. “You are...discontent.”
“We’re not--” I begin to say, and then I think of the battlefield, blood spilled without meaning, the ale that’s lost its potency, the color of dry dirt and worn-down barstool leather.
And I realize he’s right.
“So what?” I tell him. “Why did you bring us here?”
The old man sits up in his throne. “I am the Tapper. I control the energy of this world. The mana.”
“You mean Life Points,” I say.
I prefer the term “HP”, thinks Newt.
The old man bristles. “Semantics. It is irrelevant. Save such distinctions for people who care.”
No need to get all defense-mode about it, I think to myself. Newt doesn’t make a sound, but I can hear them chuckle.
“Anyway,” says the old man--the Tapper. He gestures to the pool beside him.
“Energy--mana--flows through the veins of this world, through the blood of the fallen...and makes its way down here. To me.” He grins.
I look away from his rotting teeth, at the water, and realize that it’s too thick and murky to be water. Disgust rises in my throat, and I force it back down. “Enough of this,” I say. “Why did you bring us here?”
“Like I said, you’re discontent.” The Tapper points a wizened finger in my direction. “You are a dark magician, a master of illusions.” He points at Newt. “Your psychic talent is unparalleled by any man or beast.” He points straight up, through the ceiling of the cavern. “Up there? A foolish game. An utter and complete waste of your abilities. How many times have you died?”
I stay silent. I don’t remember. It’s an unknowable number, a number that extends off into the horizon like dying sunlight.
“And the truth is, I’ve never killed you once,” he says.
I’m puzzled at what he could mean. “Say that again?”
“My traps. You’ve avoided them all.” He rests his chin on his palm. “No one else has.”
I look at him, impatient. “So what do you have for us?” I say. My hand reaches for the staff that isn’t there. I stuff it into the pocket of my purple robes.
He smiles again, and I want to retch. “An opportunity.”
The air shifts in front of us, and suddenly we’re each standing in front of a stone pedestal. At first I don’t see anything on the pedestal in front of me, but then I look closer.
A card. Like the playing cards they gamble with and set their drinks upon. Square in the center of the pedestal, face down.
All the torches blow out.
I stagger forward, grabbing the edge of the pedestal. I see the card clearly. White light gleams under its edges, the only light in the room.
The Tapper’s voice echoes through the cavern. “Choose. Turn over the card, activate your destiny, and you will become my apprentice. You will go from playing a game, to mastering a game. With a million playthings at your disposal.” He cackles, dry and harsh. “Choose. Now.”
The light under the card begins to dim.
I know, in my heart, the right choice. Above ground, I fight monsters. Below ground, I would become one. “Newt and I will pass, thanks,” I say into the void. “Right, Newt?”
More silence. I realize, with a pang of dread, that they’ve been thinking the whole time.
The card in front of me grows dimmer still. “Are you there, N--”
The voice knocks me back, smooth and solid as polished steel. “Newt? Wha--”
I remember how many times I died, thinks Newt.
I grip the edge of the pedestal tighter.
I remember every single one of them.
“Newt, you can’t be--”
I stop, mid-sentence.
The light is almost out.
I’m being pulled in two directions, between earth and sky.
I make my decision.
Sunlight forces my eyes open. I scramble to my feet, and there’s the seraph again, bow strung taut, arrow of light bearing down upon me.
I roll to the left--and the ground collapses under me.
Oh sh-- I have time to think, before my brains are dashed against the floor of the pit.
Sunlight forces my eyes open, and the seraph is gone. An orc stands in her place, his massive wooden club arcing through the air, towards my head. I jump back, the club shattering the air in front of my face.
The air--it’s like the air is gone.
Something is missing.
Something is wrong.
I take another step back, and I’m suddenly dangling upside-down, caught in the rope snare.
The orc almost pisses himself laughing, before swinging again. This time he doesn’t miss.
Sunlight forces my eyes open, and I’m alone, bare against the sun and the desert plains.
I don’t think, I just run, run until I’m doubled over and can no longer breathe.
Something is wrong. Something--
Newt is nowhere to be found.
Newt’s voice, like the sound of the wind in the desert air, ringing through my head, nudging me with his mind. Right. Left. Step there. Don’t step there. All gone now. My constant companion, I think as I gasp for breath, tiptoeing past all the traps, a hairless white-and purple cat on two legs.
Does that make me the mouse, now? I think, and I laugh, and I laugh and I laugh and I stand up and the wide shining blade springs to life and whizzes towards my throat and cuts my laugh in two.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 03:37|
The Nine Hells
I wish my dad had drank himself to death. Instead, whenever he got mad, he’d grip his thumb inside his palm and his breathing would get weird and tight. After years of barely-suppressed anger, patches of his cheeks and nose went the purple-red of good beetroot – a whisky rose minus the whisky. The coronary was the least surprising thing that ever happened to him: he’d been alone, sitting in his chair, watching the TV blare something about immigrant hordes. With nobody else to shout at – not me, not mum, not even old Ms Potts from next-door, who stayed far away from the fence – all his anger went inwards and popped his loving heart.
He insisted throughout his entire life that alcohol was the devil’s brew. He didn’t drink, or swear, or jerk off. I know good folks like that too, but dad wasn’t good folks. Dad shouted his way through life, and he shouted his way through two marriages, and he shouted his way to an early grave.
There’s this thing called learned helplessness. You put a puppy in a box that it can’t escape. It tries and tries to break out, but the box is just too big. The puppy turns into a dog and now it’s much bigger than the box but it still can’t leave: it knows it can’t, so it doesn’t try. I tried to stop dad from shouting when I was a kid. It always ended up with me on the floor, and him towering over me and shouting louder. One time, he’d been watching the rugby and trying to eat mashed potatoes. Some went down the wrong pipe and he started coughing, and I tried to hit him on the back like I’d seen on TV. He spanked me with his belt so badly that I couldn’t sit down properly for days. I was eight when he did that; I was twenty-five when he died.
I got him a copy of The Divine Comedy for his birthday once. Passive-aggressive, I know. I didn’t think he would read it. He did. He told me he loved Inferno. It was the happiest I'd ever seen him. He told me about Mr Wilkins from the bowls club, who was a fat gently caress; about young Ms Perkins who worked the desk, and how she was probably a whore; about the widowed Ms Potts from next-door who was a treasonous bitch and wouldn’t meet his eye at housie. Inferno had ‘em all, he told me. Each one slotted into their own hole where they’d be tortured until the Almighty had time to sort ‘em out. A circle for cowards and a circle for killers and a circle for little brown babies born to the wrong religion.
Dad never touched a drop but I know deep in my heart that if he had, it woulda loving killed him. He would’ve taken to the bottle like a drowning man clinging to a raft. I never met a man more in-need of a drink, and less inclined to take one. I wanted him to drink so he’d just stop holding it in. Maybe he’d have killed me and then mum and then himself, and maybe he’d have collapsed inwards and left a pile of clothes and skin on the kitchen’s vinyl floor. Either way, we’d have been rid of him. Instead, dad got so mad that he just loving died. I came home from uni to find him, bug-eyed and purple, clutching at his chest with one hand and reaching out to me with the other. He was still twitching. He might’ve been dead but it was hard to tell. I couldn’t bring myself to touch him. I sat and watched him die, or maybe I just sat. The man on the TV shouted about the Deep State and dad didn’t shout at all; he didn’t even make a sound.
I’d get up to call for help, then get close to him, then spin around and sit back down and chew another fingernail until it bled. I watched him until rigor mortis kicked in – his shoulders squared and his knees stiffened, and for the longest minute of my life I swore he was coming back from the dead to beat me until I couldn’t sit down. His empty eyes rolled. His purple skin was black and glossy. He was a giant again, a monster with a bulbous wagging tongue, and I was a kid staring him down. The change in position forced him up out of his chair and he staggered, then fell. I swear, as he fell, I heard him cussing me out. He couldn’t have, but the sound made it to my ears anyway.
He loved Inferno, but I’m still not sure he read it. The fifth circle is for the wrathful, and the seventh is for the violent; cowards don’t even get through the gate. They’re non impegnato, uncommitted, unable to act or leave. Dad died, and I did nothing. My punishment is the memory of him looking over me, all violence and whisky roses. I don't know if I'll ever shake it. There’s no place in hell for me, but there’s two for him so I think it shakes out.
Maybe he’s suffering somewhere. That makes two of us.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 03:46|
Prompt: The Quasi-Elemental Plane of Mineral
Flash Rule: https://youtu.be/wtXz3OlFwZA
This never should have happened at all, but at least it happened during dust season. Most of the staff here wear their respirators inside, and when I keep mine on through the foyer and the locker room, nobody notices. A month ago, not being acknowledged would have torn open my heart. Today, it's my weapon. I'm a nobody, and that's what's going to get me out of here alive.
The lab's quiet today. The senior researchers are spending dust season off-planet; it's just my peers and I, cogwheels turning in the RSK BioEng machine. I spend my workday running my assigned synthesis trials under the hepatic-cell hood, breathing silenced by my respirator and the hood's ventilation. Every breath is sandpaper in my lungs. I stare past my data readouts, imagining the viruses at work inside me: the silvery crystals taking form inside my alveoli, being released on every exhale, glittering in my respirator filter. I wonder if they're bloody. They weren't yesterday, but yesterday didn't hurt this much.
The first words anyone says to me all day are when Trinh, emerging from the renal culture room, asks me if I'm staying late. I force a chuckle, say I've got a few things in the incubator, and she nods and leaves me to it. Once she's gone, I spend an hour finalizing my reports, then power down the empty incubator. The hallways outside are dark.
The first step of my escape is to wipe my extracurricular work off the database. I don't have delete privileges, but a utility on my portable drive will handle that. It's designed for scorched-earth suicide runs, but I'm going for a fine touch -- a few files deleted, the data on new strain of the medicarbon production virus that was going to earn me a promotion. In a second of system churn, it's all gone. It's already wiped from my personal logs, all the samples incinerated and autoclaved, and I've never had the brain to memorize protocols. RSK couldn't pull it out of me with truth serum and a power drill.
The last trace of my masterpiece is in my lungs, doing its work in bloody froth and silver-grey carbon.
I shut my systems down and rummage through my desk, making sure it doesn't look thrown over; keeping this looking normal will buy me a few days before someone gets suspicious. I grab the fountain pen my father bought me as a graduation gift, anodized finish worn away by worried fingers, and my backup lab timer with its cheerful faceplate. It's funny, the things you realize you'll miss. Once they're in my pockets, I force myself to tidy and fiddle, make the surveillance feed look like I plan on coming back.
I'm in the locker room, putting away my lab gear, before the fear hits me. It's tiny crystalline nerve-jolts along my spine, playing my vertebrae like chimes. I leave out the back, swallowing down the jangling fear as I pass the darkened bioreactor room, with its upright coffins full of comatose subjects whose tissues culture rough medicarbon. Their faces always look peaceful. Sometimes that reassures me. Not today.
The train to the shuttleport is full of people in battered respirators and rubberized dust-season coats, and enough of them are coughing and wheezing that I can manage a few coughs myself, the sharp pain still better than the burning pressure of holding them in. I move with the crowd into the shuttleport, the careful dance of anonymity finally beginning to calm my nerves, and I split off to the private gates. The two-seater Trinmed shuttle is waiting, and the pilot helps me strap in. The fear is still a twinge in my gut, but it's growing quieter.
We take off. The clean recirculated air hits my face, and I take off my respirator. The filter is bloody, but the medicarbon crystals in my lung-froth still shine.
The problem with medicarbon production has always been the overhead. Years-long bioreactor contracts come with hefty payments attached, often to unproven subjects; very few people sign up for multiple bioreactor tours. No corporation likes unproven human capital. I thought the bounty for an overhead-reduction strategy would be substantial. Now I'll never know.
The medicarbon virus adapts well to culture in the lungs. The yield is much lower, but there's no need for the subjects to be unconscious; any sufficiently sedentary employee could be infected while maintaining their normal work duties. No dedicated bioreactor subjects. Increased profit per employee. Optimum use of RSK's human capital.
It was perfect on paper. And then I got infected.
Some days, the medicarbon growth in your lungs is sandpaper. Some days it's knives. Every day is a fresh torture as the virus adapts to the state of your tissues, maximizing production before the incapacitation threshold. It always takes exactly enough.
RSK BioEng is very good at "exactly enough." My parents were RSK clerks, and the company funded my education. We've always had exactly enough to get by, without a scrap more, and I can extrapolate. Any stipend paid to lung-reactors would be exactly enough to keep a struggling clerk or admin infected and producing, but never enough to make the pain worth it. Entire office blocks would be full of them, pushed to their tolerance limits, hives of human misery.
If I hadn't felt it myself, I might never have thought about it. But now I know, and it's a thing I can't abide, not even for a fat bounty and a private lab.
Trinmed doesn't know any of this. They just think they're headhunting an RSK scientist, and they're hungry enough that that's enough to get me an off-planet contract. It'll do.
Once we dock with the Trinmed orbital facility, two of their techs meet me in the bay. I've already taken off my coat and let my hair down. Less to deal with when we get to the bioreactor room.
The rep didn't blink when I asked for a year-long contract in a bioreactor coffin. Most of the headhunted want to disappear, and it's likely they'll have a new name and history for me once I'm out, just in case RSK comes calling. What they don't know about, though, is what I've got in my lungs. Infection with a generalized strain will wipe it out, kill the last trace of my awful little project. I could have done that much myself with hydrogen peroxide down a larynx tube, then a bolus of morphine or a bullet, but I've always been a coward.
Once we're in the bioreactor room, I undress, pack my things into a storage locker, and step into the coffin. The techs begin to connect tubes and prepare needles. A month ago, this would have been impossibly shameful. Today, they can do their worst.
The first shot, loaded with analgesic, is cool and tingling. The sedative drip starts, and soon I'm starting to float away. I imagine the medicarbon that'll spring from my soft tissues, growing to fist-sized crystals emerging from my skin. I'll never see them. I don't mind.
Former bioreactors say they spend their years in the coffin floating, dreamless. I hope it's true.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 03:55|
East and West and We're In Between OR: Stuck in the Middle With You
Pham Nuwen fucked around with this message at 22:32 on Aug 13, 2018
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 04:05|
*Series of small clicking noises*
Uranium Phoenix fucked around with this message at 16:18 on Dec 28, 2018
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 04:24|
Hide and Seek
Plane: The ever-changing chaos of Limbo
Flash Rule: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLduxBQ7_jo&index=22&list=FLNfj1NfBIzdr_wR3adPlWtQ&t=0s
I don't get it at first, don't notice the jagged edge in Mark’s voice. I start to ask 'Who?’ but the word dies in my throat as the alert pushes itself onto my screen.
'Report: Mimic outbreak in midtown Columbus’
We all do the drills, every month. How the augmented reality goggle interface works, safe handling and storage of suspect items, the contact numbers for the burn squads. And then we ignore it, assuming that the drones will do their job and we won't ever have to use it, that the city or town on the alert will be far away, Miami or Rio or Paris again. Then we remember why it won't ever be Paris again, let that loss fill us. Anything to distract from the fact that since landing day humanity is a prey animal.
I reach into my bag and grab my goggles. I check the charge. Nearly full. I put them on. Most of the advertisements that make them useless for anything but this are gone, too many replaced by emergency notices scrolling across my sensorium. I check the room.
There's no good way to detect a mimic. When they duplicate an object, it's down to a subquantum level. You can wait for it to change, but they're shy and patient. If they're copying something living and moving, there will be something off about it. That's how the drones identify them in bird shape. But if a mimic isn't moving, is copying an inanimate object, there's only one real difference.
If a thinking being touches a mimic, they die. Humans, and a few of the very smartest of our relatives. The mimic uses the macroscale quantum-entangled matter in the victim's brain to make a new mimic. The excess mass turns into goo.
Not very useful as a test. Hence, the goggles. Augmented reality that scans everything in the room and flags anything that can't be found in yesterday's data.
“Stay safe, Lynn,” says Mark. I'd forgotten he was still on the line.
“You too,” I say.
I make a quick call home, check in with Aubrey, our Au Pair. “Everything's fine, just like I told Mark,” she says. Then I get to work.
Most of the rooms are clean. Every laptop and stapler and pump of hand sanitizer matches up with the day before. There are a few boxes of tissues and abandoned leftover containers in the refrigerator that don't match up, that nobody is sure enough of to pick up. Hector, our mimic drill officer, gets out the tongs and starts gathering the suspect objects.
The tongs are two feet long and awkward as anything. Gloves won't stop a mimic from reaching into a cerebellum any more than skin does. Indirect contact, through a large enough object is what works. Hector hasn't drilled enough, or he's just clumsy. He squeezes too tightly on one of the tissue boxes and it collapses, slips out as he's swinging them around. It flies across the room and hits Hema in the arm.
Everyone holds their breath. Nothing happens. We shouldn't have expected it.The reports are still from miles away. We breathe out, then start to yell at Hector. I grab the tongs and finish up, putting the last few suspect objects into the secure waste bin, to wait for the fire squad.
It's obvious no real work is getting done today. We watch the news feeds, waiting for an evacuation notice. There isn't one, but there's no report of containment either. The news channels put ugly men with ugly thoughts on the air, men safe half a country away. “We know our checkpoints aren't perfect,” says the double-chinned man with a plaid suit. “The secondary outbreaks after Miami make that clear. We should be talking about the Paris protocol here.”
The interviewer points out that he’s suggesting firebombing a major American city, but she doesn't end the discussion.
I switch to another feed, watch the fire squads on the street. They're moving on a raccoon that isn't moving right. It could just be rabid, but that's not a chance to take today. They aim the nozzles of their flamethrowers. I look away.
Fire is the only way to kill a mimic. Extremely hot fire, crematorium hot, is the only way to disrupt the connection between gross matter and the quantum tangle that has complete control of it. We've gotten very clever at finding ways to bring that kind of heat.
I watch the news unfold. It isn't good. Every thirty minutes there's a new story of a reported incident on the wrong side of the containment line. I call to check on Aubrey and little Michael, for the fifth time today, ready for another exasperated response.
There's no answer.
I call Mark. He tries to be calm where I'm panicking, reasonable where I'm sounding insane, but I can tell there's a part of him that thinks I'm absolutely correct to be losing my mind and almost resents having to be the steady one. I tell him I'm on my way to the car, heading straight home, and he begs me to swing by his work to pick him up. It's on the way, maybe costing eight or nine minutes delay. I make the stop, cursing myself. Damning myself. I hide the resentment on my face as he throws his bag and self into the passenger seat.
The front window is broken. I fumble with the keys. They dig into my palm as I turn the lock. We rush in, let our goggles take things in and categorize the suspect objects. For a second I start to hope that this is an ordinary burglary or looting.
Then I reach the living room and see the pile of congealing goo mixed with Aubrey’s clothes and broken glass. Mark puts in the call for the fire squad. I start running for Michael's room. Mark isn't far behind.
My goggles take in the room and start reporting things as probable safe. The mobile of planets hanging from the roof. The shelf with Michael's favorite toys: the wind-up monkey with cymbals, the green stuffed elephant, the bright yellow plastic bulldozer, all cleared. I move forward. I lean over the cradle.
Michael is there, awake but restful. And beside him, less than an inch away, is the green stuffed elephant.
The goggles flag it as loudly as they can. I stagger backward, and bump into Mark. He handles the tongs, carefully lifts the thing out of the cradle, throws it to the corner of the room. He leans over the cradle again.
“Wait,” I say. “That may not, that may not be him.”
He turns to me as it sinks in. Michael is smaller than the outside range of mimic size. If, if it had happened there would be no leftover mass, no goo.
A thought crosses Mark’s face. “Mimics can't talk, not even a little.” It was true. They just weren't very smart. They didn't build the spaceship that landed six years ago. They just pretended to be something interesting, got pulled inside, and ate all of the crew. Mark leans back over the cradle. “Say ma-ma, Mikey,” he says. And again. And again.
There’s a sound. “See, Lynn,” says Mark. “He said ma-ma.” He reaches down.
Michael has spoken before. This sound isn't that. I want to leap up, rush forward, but my body just scrabbles back to the wall.
I see and hear tendrils of flesh rip off his body, hear bones snap and crumble, see his head implode. When I look back I see another Michael, cooing mildly in a puddle of frothing ooze.
The fire squad comes in later. Just one man, stretched thin as they are. When I explain, he shakes his head and says “Ah Jeez.”
As he turns his flamethrower on the two Michael-shaped things that stole the souls of my husband and son I want to turn away, but I know I don't deserve that mercy. I etch every sight and sound and smell into my memory.
We'll never be rid of them all. The ocean is full of them, all those big brains whales and dolphins had just made them mimic food. No way to be rid of them all without boiling the seas away. I almost wish some wiser alien species would come and do just that.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 04:26|
Week 307 Crits
1. Jay W. Friks – Ox
Phil has lost his will to mental illness, the drudgery of low-skilled labor, and societal norms themselves. Phil has such little control over his life that he doesn’t feel like a citizen, but rather a beast of burden. He overcomes obstacles to maintain what little will he has left. These obstacles include Phil’s own mind, societal pressure to work and ‘be normal,’ and a sister who apparently has Power of Attorney over him and thus the ability to force him into unwanted medical treatment. Ultimately, Phil reasons that the only way to get free of the yokes placed on him is to kill himself, something he’s wanted with increasing frequency since childhood.
- The prose and dialogue are pretty nice. Good job with that.
- The furlong influence shines through in the beast of burden field-plowing metaphor you set up. You succeed at making the metaphor powerful.
- You do a good job highlighting by implication that the various yokes constraining Phil aren’t all that independent from each other.
- You do a good job of showing, not telling.
- It’s unclear that suicide is the only way that Phil could have regained his will, but you do an adequate job of showing why Phil would think that it is.
-This story is overall pretty good. My only criticism is that Phil doesn’t really spend much time trying to piece his will back together per se; he is mostly just trying to avoid his will shattering further. I really wanted to see Phil plan and attempt to make positive gains, but he tends to grit through and hold himself together so things don’t get worse. That said, he does develop some agency at the end insofar as he’ll no longer be under anyone else’s thumb so-to-speak. But this ending would have been much stronger had Phil made some actual gains toward reclaiming his will, only to lose them tragically and then buckle under the yoke of his mental illness. There is also an off-putting self-pity in some of Phil’s last thoughts: “The body I never wanted will be gone…”It’s not at all a problem that the protag kills himself in the end, it’s more of a ‘this could have been framed a bit better’ thing. Still a good job though.
2. Chili – Wassail
Archie’s dad, Pa, abandoned the family. Not only is the family smaller, but so are the prized apples on which they depend. Archie blames Pa for the apples’ relative poor health. He tries singing to the trees, as Pa would, but it doesn’t work. Ultimately Archie has to accept that he can live with smaller apples as well as fatherlessness.
- Archie lost his will insofar as he’s feeling less agentic now that his father’s gone. Yep, that’s consistent with the prompt.
- The fortnight inspiration is evident in your story. Good.
-You’re occasionally a bit comma-heavy. The third sentence would be better rendered as “He’s his own person, after all, and I’m able to take care of Ma and the kids just fine.
- Unripe apples are hard. Might be difficult to kick them into exploding.
- It’s unclear what exactly sparked Archie’s epiphany that singing Pa’s song might work. Would be nice if his inspiration didn’t feel so random. His idea would have been set-up better if you had somehow foreshadowed it, or at least hinted at the train of thought that led him there during his convo with Ma.
- Ma seems pretty nonchalant compared to Archie. It made we wonder if apple-size was really that big of a deal, since she didn’t seem to care as much as him. That took some of the dramatic tension out of the story.
- The ‘low-hanging fruit’ metaphor really isn’t bad. It’s maybe a tad on-the-nose, especially with the last sentence being a straight-up “I wonder what the Jonagolds are telling me.” But it does work reasonably well.
- It’s cool how you explored the family’s pain without dwelling on the blow-by-blow details of the aftermath of Pa’s leaving. You show your readers in broad strokes how much Archie and (to a lesser extent) Ma are hurting. Less really was more here; great work being economical and effective in showing the emotional consequences of Pa’s abandonment.
- You recently mentioned in irc that your approach to the story was to portray the stages of grief. I didn’t exactly catch that until you said so, but I definitely noticed that there was appreciable character development.
- I may have found a few flaws to nitpick about, but overall this story is decent. Good job.
3. Thranguy – Then God Bless You
Tariq’s will was lost to him in a devastating Middle-Eastern War (I’m assuming Syria). He wants to get it back, but in order to survive long enough to do that he will need to find asylum in a safer country. So he buys his way into a group of people being smuggled across the border. There he meets Dozan, a man with much better prospects for survival provided he can make it to distant family in England. When Tariq and Dozan get the signal to run past a border checkpoint, they learn that theirs was a decoy group—the unlucky lot fated to draw enemy fire so that others may escape. Dozan gets shot, Tariq loots a coin and ID from his corpse. If Tariq can make it to England, he intends to survive by posing as Dozan.
- The influence of the farthing is clear. You have satisfied the prompt.
- It’s good that your protagonist is fairly well fleshed out as a character. He’s pious and fair yet determined and pragmatic.
- The story structure is good; there is sufficient dramatic tension. The ending is exciting. Not much to crit here. Well done.
4. Benny Profane – Midnight Sun
The narrator’s mom died prior to the story. Her death precipitated a radical personality change in the narrator’s dad, “Dad.” The narrator drew straws and got selected to travel to CA to check on Dad. Dad is less thrifty, less particular about things, and more religious than before. Then Dad reveals he’s discovered a loophole in conservative Jewish practice concerning prayer at sunset: move to Alaska so the sun doesn’t set all summer. This behavior seems to imply to the narrator that shades of Dad’s old personality are still extant. In any case, Dad’s reasoning about the loophole makes the narrator laugh and remember a time when Mom was alive and when they all laughed as a family, having averted disaster.
- Your story is heavy on exposition. Apart from that, the plot itself amounts to little more than “Dad’s being weird, is he okay? Yes, kinda? LOL.”
- It was hard to care about the narrator; they are really just a camera. Far less fleshed out than Dad. Had I cared about the narrator more, I would’ve cared about their relationship with Dad more and the story might’ve been more impactful.
- You satisfied the unit aspect of the prompt, but less so the shattered will aspect. Under the prompt, your story had to be about the protag trying to regain their will after having lost it prior to the story. Is a personality shift in and of itself a loss of will?
5. cptn_dr – A Little Fall of Snow
This is a story (or perhaps more accurately a vignette) about a dude having been injured during an arctic hike. His leg is broken, he’s freezing, and his will has been shattered by hopelessness in the face of how dire his predicament is. He internally debates giving up, but instead decides to work through the pain to crawl to his emergency kit with which he signals for help.
- Your protag has initially lost his will and you did convey a sense of distance consistent with your unit prompt.
- The protag isn’t quite as fleshed out in his characterization as I would have hoped for this week.
- There isn’t much as far as plot.
- Still, I found myself vicariously feeling the protag’s pain. There isn’t much to this story but somehow you did make me care. So there’s that.
6. Mercedes – Just One More Hit
Flynn, a one-time boxer turned paraplegic, seeks to reclaim his lost will by getting back into the ring. He announces to little fanfare that he’ll be defending his title. But in order to mount such a defense, he needs bodily tech modifications. Over the objections of his trainer, Frankie, Flynn risks seeking the modifications from a shady “Limb Shark.” Once in the ring, Flynn’s modifications prove insufficient to win him the title bout.
-There are several proofreading errors.
-Neural links, metal arms. I mean, in the present day we do have some rudimentary neural bypassing tech and we certainly have functioning metal arms, but the extent to which they function in this story seems like near-future sci-fi or cyberpunk. I’m not convinced that it’s plausible for current tech rapidly to get a paralyzed boxer fully fight-ready. It still seems like spec fic and is therefore against the prompt.
-Even if I’m wrong about this being near-futuristic, you still would DQ because you didn’t really use the unit prompt. Either you didn’t realize that your unit was “morpheme” and not “morphine” or you DID realize but decided to write a story inspired by the latter instead of the former. I was really looking for some clear way that base units of linguistic meaning inspired your story.
- The plot is reasonably interesting, the action is nice, and I did care about Flynn. So good job with all that.
7. Fuschia tude – Pain-Staking
Summary: Ferra lost her will to incarceration and the lovely jobs that followed. She was allowed to stay for a while with her Grace, her half-sister, who let the family estate fall in to disrepair. But conflict between the two proved insurmountable. Ferra becomes inspired by a symbol of her agency: a door that opens when she opens it. In accordance with such agency, Ferra enjoys being a ranch hand. She tracks a renegade mustang, flashbacks to the
- This story was not bad overall, but some of its threads hang too loosely together. I hope my summary above will have made that clear. There are also some parts that feel forced or ham-fisted like the symbolism of the door and also the flashback scene.
8. QuoProQuid – Take a Gander
Summary: Harry, A recent millennial college graduate, undergoes a soul crushing job search. His will has been lost to the realities of his economic circumstances. Then his annoying cousin Matteo tries to badger him into going outside and looking at geese together. Harry stalls him. When he comes up for air, he notices Matteo is missing. So, Harry blusters his way out the door and goes to park where he finds Matteo.
- The species is called “Canada goose” not “Canadian Goose.”
- The initial conflict doesn’t resolve one way or the other, or even progress very much at all.
- This story isn’t so much one about the protag trying to reconstitute his will, but rather one in which he gets interrupted from doing that because a more pressing conflict, a missing cousin, interrupts him.
- Dialogue between Harry and Matteo feels stilted to me.
- This is a classic problem of presenting an annoying character: when you succeed you fail. You may have done well at making Matteo annoy the reader…but you have annoyed the reader.
9. Kaishai – O My Daughter
Summary: The protag, Elodie, lost her will after a car accident maimed her and killed her adult daughter, Robin. Elodie now sits in isolation in her daughter’s house and routinely flashes back to the accident. Then Howard, Elodie’s ex, whom she apparently cheated on, bursts in on her. He says the house will soon be his and suggests that despite his resentment toward Elodie, he wants her to start living again—their daughter’s memory demands it. Elodie goes to Robin’s grave and bemoans that she can’t remember what used to make her smile. Then she remembers that Elodie had once wanted to go to Venice, so to Venice Elodie resolves to go. Once there, Elodie realizes she can’t enjoy this place her daughter wanted to go to without her daughter being there. She buys a “Wish You Were Here!” postcard, soon tears it up, sits at a gelateria and gets a bit terse with a waiter. Out of apparent sympathy, he gives Elodie a free dessert. It cheers her up, somewhat, and helps her picture Robin smiling. Then Elodie buys another postcard and sends it to Howard. Fin.
- I mark as positive your sense of humor insofar as Elodie has also “lost” her stake in the house as per Robin’s last “will” and testament.
- You were really economical with your language. Look at all that plot summary with only 1100 words! Nice.
- Excellent use of imagery in the beginning. I really had a clear picture of the opening scene. You efficiently make clear Elodie’s stark isolation after having lost her will. Your adherence to the prompt was spot-on.
- I did catch the Shakespeare reference. Nice touch, and nice use of the prompt.
- The imagery is more cursory in the latter part of the story but that’s almost certainly because you ran out of words.
- It’s very hard for me to articulate this point of criticism, but basically it feels to me like there is some kind of conceptual leap within the sequence: [Elodie needs to move on and start living again]-->[So Elodie goes to Venice because Robin would have liked it (i.e. the idea had made her smile)]-->[Elodie tries and fails to enjoy Venice as she would have had Robin been with her]. I guess the sequence hangs together in such a way that I’m missing how Elodie could have thought that attempting something like that would really have worked to ameliorate things.
- I’m tempted to end my suspension of disbelief that a Elodie might get a fine dessert gratuito in a touristy place like Venice, ma bisognerò resistere all'impulso.
- This story is well worthy of the HM. It’s a poignant depiction of a grieving mom.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 05:41|
Skulls and Beetles
Prompt: Quasi Elemental Plane of Radiance
They had been traveling for three days across the paradoxically desert-like swath of color beneath them. They were an odd collection of beings – some resembling humanity more than others, with the balance sporting pelts instead of flesh or holes where a cartilage nose normally roosted. Templeton rarely felt like an anomaly in the typical villages; humans were roaches across most planes of existence. Yet a restlessness inside a young man’s heart inspired him to seek the odd, the unlikely, and the uncommon. These three conditions usually overlapped with ‘will kill you if you stand still too long,’ and this realm was no exception.
The foreign land of riotous color embodied lethality merged with beauty– intense light caught on every radiant surface and charged the air with deadly heat. The distance to their destination should not have required three days, but a chromatic typhoon forced them to change course and take a meandering detour that epitomized mind-numbing boredom. Safe within the hull of their vehicle, the light cast prismatic against the walls, refracted through the one-way-mirror that formed the floor. Everyone pedaled – that was the rule onboard It was more rickshaw than ship but the driver insisted on being called ‘Captain,’ and the entire journey had a vaguely nautical feeling to it. If one could chart a course across the ocean in a pedal boat, it would be comparatively miserable. Except here the vessel rode an ocean of light and heat instead of water.
Templeton was a gambler by trade, thoughtfully packing his playing cards before embarking on this journey. The cards had been safely tucked within an allegedly magical case that had seemed so fortuitous when initially won. On the first night in the rickshaw pedal-boat, he had enthusiastically gathered the other pilgrims with an invitation a friendly game of ‘Skulls and Beetles.’ Upon opening the top of the case and upending it, only ashes fell into his palm. The exposure of the case to the radiance had been brief, but this plane purified everything with its glory. Now the hot metal bumped against his side, occasionally finding skin to sear as it made a mocking chink-chink-chink with every fresh push on the pedals.
A deep groan shook the walls as the driver turned the wheel to shift mirrored panels on each side of the hull. The currents of light caught them like a giant’s fist, hurling the rickshaw down some new noxious rainbow river. The force slammed Templeton into the creature pedaling beside him, an oil slick of sweat left in his former seat as he struggled to right himself against fur and guttural snarl. The head of a bipedal ox swam into view, just before a cloven hoof plowed into his chest. The Oxman shoved Templeton back into his seat with an indignant snort. In a different world, Templeton might have spit in contempt at the creature, but nobody was worth the saliva here.
Since the outset of their journey, he could not determine if Oxman was another traveler or perhaps some employee of the ship. Indubitably the creature worked the hardest, and when the rest of the pilgrims collected themselves at the end of the working day, he would retreat to some far corner and stare silently at the floor beneath his hooves. All Templeton knew was that every time the ship turned, Oxman waited with thinly veiled sadistic glee to shove Templeton back into his seat. Templeton had stretched his bounds of human ingenuity attempting (and failing) to fashion a seatbelt that would prevent the inevitable battery. Now his body bloomed with black and blue splotches from the consistent repositioning.
Bruised and irritable, he wheezed and pedaled while the ethereal existence of the world passed beneath him. Templeton had stopped trying to determine where blue skies bled into land or how the blurred edges of greens were supposed to knit together into something recognizable. His human eyes found the beauty of his surroundings incomprehensible and therefore disappointing. Even saturated by infinite possibilities of color, he could only see a paltry 7,000,000. From what the others said, the bugs possessed a higher capacity to appreciate the surroundings, which may explain their omnipresence.
The rattle of tiny wings and carapace bodies was a constant, dull thrum overlaying exotic screeches of other localized fauna that Templeton hoped to never encounter. Anything surviving in this world of disastrous beauty was hard edges and sharp angles. Templeton felt small and squishy in his fleshy pink body, a vulnerability pronounced by every new plug of blood-sucking probe or tiny mandible jaw the perpetually present pests bestowed on him. An aggravated swat caught one of them between his neck and his hand, a short-lived victory immediately regretted as metallic wings sliced through his palm. When he looked down, he couldn’t figure out if the blood smear came from popping the little bug or the new cuts acquired in doing so. The passing aggravation materialized into a plot his bored mind seized like a man driven desert-mad with a drop of water left in the skin.
The next time Templeton felt a pin prick, he stayed his hand from the reflexive slap and instead reached for the card case. With his dark eyes trained on the iridescent parasite chewing away an insect appetizer hunk of thigh, he thumbed the top off the now defunct card case and brought the rectangular box down quickly over the bug. Though it tried to escape, its metallic body hit the inside of the case with an enraged chiming quality like bee wings beating on glass. He neatly reinstalled the top, and returned to pedaling just as Oxman let out a guttural lowing noise. Templeton didn’t speak Bovine, but suspected it was something along the lines of, “Get back to work.”
The buzzing continued inside the little card case. The captive was deep blue, almost scarab-like in body, plump and perfect for the gambit Templeton had planned. The turns so recently dreaded now seemed impossibly far away, but Templeton was proficient in waiting. The buzzing joined with repetitive chink-chink-chink, measuring time with each pedal. Finally, the familiar groan of the wheel turning their course rattled the walls, and the deck beneath him tipped. As the sudden shove of heat and light caught them, he slid towards Oxman's waiting hoof. Except at first rattle, Templeton had neatly removed the lid of the card case with a pop of his thumb, and engulfed the entirety of the scarab in one chomp.
The glass wings burst apart between his teeth, the sound of chewing glass stabbing at his eardrums in the same painful burst as the metallic body sliced into the sides of his cheeks. The sudden wash of moisture from within the beetle flooded his mouth, drowning out the taste of his own blood, metal and mirrors. Now Oxman looked more puzzled than sadistic, but Templeton still careened towards him. When the hoof reflexively connected, Templeton spit a wad of glass guts and blood directly across the creature’s brutal, hairy face.
It was not the traditional way to play Skulls & Beetles, but a gambler knows how to improvise.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 05:59|
With Form, and Void
Plane: The Quasielemental Plane of Vacuum
Read it in the archive.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 19:09 on Jan 2, 2019
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 06:00|
Just Like Clockwork
cptn_dr fucked around with this message at 06:16 on Dec 31, 2018
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 06:03|
Living with Demons
Victor Rainbow Robertson was nine years old when his red race cars first spoke to him. They told him to do bad things, things that scared him, things that would hurt other people.
They said if he did those things, destroy the perfume, flush the hamster, there would be a reward, and everyone would be happy. He didn’t want to. He begged. He pleaded. But the cars wore him down, and eventually he gave in.
The perpetrator was quickly identified. Then came the fallout and enforced cleanup—Victor’s parents didn’t believe in punishment, just asked him to do most of the work and apologize—no, like you mean it—and think about his actions and their consequences, and how Mom and his little brother felt.
The next day, Father came home happy. He’d been promoted to station manager… in a new market. They would be moving to Billings.
The forest was a place where Victor felt safe. He went there when he needed to get away. His parents were used to him leaving for hours at a time, now. Sometimes overnight, when he felt overwhelmed.
They were OK with it.
He was working through some issues.
Maybe the stress of the move. Victor seemed excited about the new job at first, but…
Still, it was better that he was acting out in this way than anything violent. Nothing like the hamster incident, ever since the move.
Yes, it was good. This was healthy, probably.
I thought he’d be upset we left his box of toys.
—he always loved those toy cars. I thought he’d be sad they got left behind.
He is adapting well, though, don’t you think?
I do. I think.
Did you see what his sister did today…
The coat rack started to talk to Victor.
They had been in Montana for two years.
The rack burbled and cooed, pleading for a sacrifice of candy and gum to be wedged under the base. It grew incessant, cajoling. Victor hated it.
He had gotten rid of the race cars easily enough, “accidentally” losing them, pushed into a corner of a closet, overlooked in the hasty move.
But this coat rack was different. It was one of the few pieces of furniture they took from the old apartment. It couldn't just go missing.
Victor took to running outside whenever he couldn’t handle the voice any longer. It started keeping him up at night. He didn’t have a choice…
“Just make the gift, Victor.”
He put some chewed gum under there, and all was quiet, for a time. He got an A on his math test, and the teacher who irritated him went out on leave. But within a week, it started to talk again.
“It’s so exhausting. I just get so hungry down here, Victor. They never feed me.”
He asked about more gum.
“Not gum. I need more nutrition. I’m a growing tree. You can help me, Victor.”
He sighed and stepped up to the rack. It was ugly, dark wood, all angles and points. He whispered a question.
The rack went into details. How he would go into his sister’s room while she was sleeping and cut off a lock of her hair and burn it in a candle. And then, with that done, there would be happiness in their home.
Victor slipped in and out of her room without getting caught. She never moved as he made the cut, though the scissors shook in his hand, just beside her ear. He had a match stolen from Father’s den and a birthday candle from the party drawer set up on his bedside table.
He had just lit the candle when Mom pushed the door open, starting to say his name.
He jumped. The table rocked. The candle fell, and rolled down the bedsheet, and it was engulfed.
The fire was put out, but not before it had burnt half the room. After the firefighters left and the crazed energy in the house started to die down, everyone tried to get some sleep.
There was no word of punishment. Yet. But Victor couldn’t sleep. His bed wasn’t much more than a charred frame, so he lay in his sleeping bag at the foot of his sister’s, staring at her ceiling, listening to her soft breathing. Sometimes she moaned or sniffled in her sleep.
The next morning, with the kitchen ceiling still dripping, after Father had left for work without a word, Mom told Victor what she had tried to say before. They were having a new baby. His third little-brother-or-sister. And he knew then what he needed to do. How to ensure them the happiness they were promised.
He threw some clothes in his bag and walked out of his room, like it was every other day, like he was heading to school. Mother hardly noticed, keeping one eye on his brother and sister playing in the living room, the other eye on TV. He stepped outside, shut the door, walked down the street and through the park and kept going.
He wasn’t at school.
He always comes back.
It’s been a day.
It’s been two days.
It’s been three days, now.
It has, hasn’t it?
He’s working something out. Give him time.
What if something happened?
He can handle himself.
But what if…
Victor jerked awake. Newspapers fluttered around his face. He fidgeted on the park bench.
He couldn't get comfortable. He sat up, then searched frantically for Tommy. Finding his walking stick splayed under a broadsheet page, he relaxed. His eagle feather was still safely tucked into the hair behind his ear.
He had a routine. He bounced between shelters during the winter months, when the deep cold set in. He knew all their max stay times, what he needed to do to game their systems, to stay longer where he could. The nights were starting to get cold again, and soon he would need to do something about his stick. They didn’t let weapons inside, not even walking sticks.
Victor rubbed his months-long ragged beard. He might need to whittle his stick down to something manageable. Tommy had been useful. He only needed to touch a sympathetic arm with the stick, every so often, and in return, he always managed to find a little money when he needed it. Once, he found a tenner fluttering by a curb.
His feather had no name. But it whispered in his ear, told him who to avoid, whispered “run” and he did, even when he didn’t want to run. Just last week, it had had him move from the steps of an abandoned storefront, right before police moved through.
But as long as he kept it happy and neatly groomed, he found a new piece of clothing every so often, just abandoned on a fence or hanging from a tree or just whipping past on a gust of wind, unowned. He wrapped his second scarf around his neck, then stood up and started walking.
Tommy and the feather. These friends were all he needed. With them, Victor could live life as he chose.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 06:17|
Week 307 Crits
Thanks Armack and Sitting Here!
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 06:20|
Thanks for the crits, Armack!
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 06:20|
failures are scum
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 06:59|
Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 10:14 on Dec 30, 2018
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 06:59|
And Submissions are closed. Judges are working it out now.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 07:00|
Prompt: Demiplane of Darksphere
The pain in his head dulled again but it was all Jim could do not to focus on it. The dull roar of the crowd made it hard to think. One raised voice cut through the din of jeers:
“Pick it up.”
Jim looked down at the small dark object glinting in the sand - a crude rusted dagger lay inches from where he knelt, it’s dark metal reflecting the flickering of the bonfire. He gritted his teeth and acquiesced, picking it up in a hand he had not realised was shaking until he tried to grip the handle. He looked up and around him, his tired eyes settling on the only other figure that stood apart from the crowd that surrounded them. It took him a moment to wade through his foggy, drowsy thoughts until he recognised it was Hobb, the cook. The older man stood opposite him, his tall and large figure illuminated by the fire that crackled within the circle of dark figures. His face was bowed, shrouding it in shadow. Jim blinked, trying to place the other shadowed faces - in the dark of the night he could only see a flash of teeth or a reflecting glint of sweat causing an outline in the tropical heat.
Suddenly arms gripped him from behind and hauled him to his feet, holding him for a moment as he tried to find some footing in the sand. He wobbled as the arms released him, taking a stunted step forward to steady himself and feeling the damp cloth of his trousers chafe where he had pissed himself earlier. He kept blinking, thinking it would focus the swimming blur of figures around him but all he could see was Hobb and the fire. A moaning, roiling hum of noise from the crowd seemed to urge him on, even if he couldn’t interpret their cries. Hobb had taken a step towards him but now Jim could see his face. Jim had never seen the steely determination that now gripped Hobb, nor even his frowning, set jaw. Hobb had always been so jovial and carefree. Never serious. Never possessed like this. Hobb opened his mouth to speak but his words were drowned by the crowd. Jim took another shaky step forward and cried out to other man.
His mouth was dry and he tasted vomit as he spoke so the word came out hoarse and strangled but Hobb seemed to hear him and spoke again:
“I’m sorry lad. But I don’t see another way out of this. I’ll… I’ll make it quick, I promise.”
Though Jim heard him, Hobb’s words didn’t make any sense. He tried to parse them out but then the throbbing pain in his head returned - sharp and insistent. Jim was sure he knew where he was and why, but the answers had swum away from him until he saw the glint in Hobb’s hand. A dagger. A dagger like the one he held. He met Hobb’s eyes and understood, again. He had refused before - that’s why they had beat him. Hobb shook his head and quickened his pace, coming straight at him, dagger raised.
Jim stumbled back, away from the advancing man and into the mass of shouting figures. As he came into contact with the stinking, boisterous mass and was almost immediately shoved back he managed to make out some of the murmuring. They were taking bets. He spun again in the sand to find the old cook towering over him. He looked up into Hobb’s black eyes and saw none of his promised sympathy. Hobb lashed out with his dagger, catching Jim across the arm as he belatedly tried to dodge out of the way. Jim was sluggish, reacting too slow. The slash on his arm stung but it hardly compared to the pounding in his head. He staggered towards the fire but Hobb followed. Jim tried to dodge again but was still too slow. Hobb caught him with a meaty hand, holding Jim’s arm as he raised his dagger to strike. Jim tried to shrug the painful grip away and to his surprise, Hobb recoiled - crying out. Sticking out of Hobb’s upper arm was the dagger Jim had been holding - had he done that?
Hobb left the dagger in his arm and came at Jim again, his stern gaze now alight with anger. The crowd egged him on, eager for more blood. Disarmed, Jim couldn’t do much but stumble back and then be caught by the neck - a fat hand crushing his throat. It was only then, as he struggled for oxygen that the haze began to clear. The sheer rising panic of being slowly choked of breath gave rise to a desperate mania. Jim didn’t want to die, not here, not like this. Why had he refused to fight? Suddenly his quibbles seemed so inconsequential and the path to life so clear. He had clawed and kicked but not released Hobb’s grip as those were just the feeble, involuntary thrashes of an addled, dying mind. As his vision began to fade and the haze began to creep over him again, paradoxically, everything was finally clear. Jim ignored the dull pain of the dagger suddenly thrust into his ribs - it was nothing, had to be nothing if he was to survive. He knew he only had a few precious seconds of energy, of clarity before he faded and so he grabbed the hilt of his dagger still stuck in Hobb’s arm and pulled it out and then straight and hard into the jutting, quivering side of Hobb’s neck. He drove it in as deep as his strength would allow, fingers slipping as the hot blood poured out.
Hobb met Jim’s eyes, blinking as tears began to well up. He looked dumbstruck, mouth held agape in surprise as he gurgled, blood draining from of his neck. Jim spluttered as Hobb released him, trying to fill his lungs as Hobb swayed, unsteady. He tried to pull the dagger from Hobb’s neck but only sent the large, dying man teetering down over him, sending Jim sprawling into the cold sand, Hobb’s body crushing down on top of him. If the crowd was making any noise, Jim didn’t hear it. He could only hear the gentle flowing sound of blood gushing, drenching him. He gagged, retching.
Eventually, Hobb’s dead body was heaved off of him and with hands slipping over his blood-drenched torso, Jim was brought to his feet. One of the figures around him grabbed his arm and raised it into the air. The crowd cheered. Someone wiped the blood from his eyes. He blinked, the foggy pain returning. He made out a dimpled smile of someone in front of him. The smile moved, words forming.
“Welcome to the crew, lad.”
Jim retched again.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 07:03|
Tending to a sick dog with newborns took up all my time this week. As penance for my failures, I'm gonna doing crits for Planes week by 7/10.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 07:05|
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 23:29 on Jan 1, 2019
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 07:08|
Even though late stories will not be in for the week, I shall crit them.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 07:10|
Where the Desert Meets the Sea (718 words)
Dm's choice. You get the Tarterian Depths of Carceri http://www.rilmani.org/timaresh/Carceri
The barber had only just begun her work when the youth burst in with a rifle in his hands. The shop was empty, save for the three: the youth, the barber, and her client in the chair.
He was a mousy youth, scrawny, and tanned with sandy-hair. The rifle looked almost too big for his hands.
“Irving...” The boy shook. “I’ll kill you...I swear!”
Irving sat still in the barber’s chair, his hands together in his lap. His revolver, in its holster, had been neatly collected and placed at the front desk next to the cash register. A thin beard of shaving cream obscured his mouth, but his eyes were dull and distant and dreaming.
“I’ll kill you,” said the boy. He raised the rifle. At this distance, it wasn’t even a question. He couldn’t miss. Even with tears in his eyes.
The barber in the crisp clean smock with the whalebone razor stepped back, but not away, her expression tense and wary.
“You won’t,” said Irving.
The boy hesitated. He lowered the rifle. “What?”
“You won’t kill me,” said Irving. “Barber, continue.” He shut his eyes, crossed his boots.
“I...I will!” said the boy. Again he raised the rifle to his shoulder. “You killed dad. You killed my father!”
“I kill a lot of people.”
“He did nothing wrong!”
“You think that makes a difference?”
Irving leaned forward. The chair creaked. The boy stepped back. He brushed against the bottles on the shelf behind him, and shuddered.
Irving’s eyes glazed over the boy, his gun - his father’s gun - and out the door. It was the height of summer and the sun was beating down. The desert had become an ocean, this town an island, and the tears on the boy’s cheeks were indistinguishable from the sweat on his brow.
“You’re not going to kill me.” Irving leaned back in his chair. He snapped his fingers at the barber. “Continue.”
The boy’s expression wavered between fear and frustration. He blinked, and clutched the rifle to his side. Like a teddy bear. “How can you know that?”
“Because you’re not like me. You’re not like us killers.”
Irving held his hand aloft, finger extended. Not at the boy, but a point in space.
“When I killed your father I didn’t say anything, because there’s nothing that needs been said. Violence is an honest relationship. The most honest there is. You’re full of bluster kid, but you can’t commit. If you wanted to kill me, you’d have shot me already. You’d have shot me the minute you saw me. The minute you had the chance.”
“I’m not like you!”
“...You are correct.”
“How do you know I still won’t?” The boy realigned the weapon, clumsily. He grit his teeth.
“Because you’re not ready to be a murderer. Your whole body betrays your discomfort. You’re not relaxed at all.”
The boy unknit his brow. He lowered the gun, slowly this time, and stared at his enemy.
“I’m an unarmed man,” said Irving. “Practically naked. You’re not a killer, but even if you were, you’re still not a murderer. You can’t take me like this. Couldn’t avenge your father, like this.” He looked the boy in the eyes for the first time. “And besides, if you shot me here, you might hit this little lady tending to me, and what’s she got to do with it?”
The barber shot Irving a sideways glance.
“Now get out of here,” Irving commanded.
The boy swallowed. He held the rifle close to his chest. “I will kill you. I will kill you one day.”
“Not today, you won’t,” said Irving, only this time he smiled. “But tell you what. You go on home and practice. Grow up, get some experience, and if we meet again, we’ll settle this. So long as you’re alive, I promise I won’t be killed by anybody but you.”
The boy made for the exit. He shot one last look at Irving full of fire and venom and fear, and was gone.
Irving sighed. “Kids.” He sat back in the barber’s chair and shut his eyes. The barber approached, razor in hand.
“Weren’t nice to lie to him like that,” she said.
“I didn’t,” he said.
She held the razor to his throat.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 07:15|
It's me I'm scum
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 07:51|
Week 308 Results: Codex Coda
Some good lore this week cutters. I'm proud of all who entered and relegate those who didn't post to the deepest parts of the demiplane of filth.
Bad news first: Dm's are Yoruichi's "Searching for the Bottom of the Sea", a story that could contain no water at all and be the same illogical mess without, Dm for Pham Nuwen's "East and West and We're in-between-" which had plenty of potholes in the world building that I don't think it'll stand much more than a gust of a proofread.
The Loss goes to Twists "The Trap Card", this didn't make me think Ysgard, it made me think bad Meta-Magic the gathering fanfiction with every fantasy cliche outside of rescuing the princess.
A DQ to Fuchia tude for Living with Demons, I actually loved this story, but it's not Elysium. I don't know where you think any part of this emerges from a plane of idealized good.
Zee good news
HM's, one to Kaishai for "With Form, and Void", a story of a living vacuum who deals with superstitious paranoia but ultimately finds sanctuary with people as quiet as himself, lovely, just lovely. HM for Uraniumphoenix's "The Realm of Forgetting", you took Hades as your plane and made it come alive. The essence of what death and loss can teach is contained wholly within your darling tale.
Also, an hm to Benny Profane. While your story didn't do much that was wholly unique, it did everything I wanted to see in this week and pulled it off good enough that I read the whole thing and gave it a mental thumbs up.
Our winner is "Canto III" story that took the Nine Hells, a planer expy of the Inferno, squeezed inspiration out into a fine mist and sprayed a purified form of what hell is and what it bodes for the living.
The Lady of Pain grants you entry to Sigil Muffin: congratulations.
Jay W. Friks fucked around with this message at 08:06 on Jul 2, 2018
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 08:00|
Week 309: He & She
There comes a point in every 'domers life when they've basically run out of prompts, and go "hey I like this band a lot, please just write about the band I like." We're doing that this week, but with a twist. There are two musicians: one male and one female. I've chosen one song by each of them. When you sign up, include He or She in your signup post and I'll DM you the song. If you don't have forum DMs, please come find me in the #thunderdome IRC (see the bottom of the OP for instructions). Anybody who spoils it will be disqualified. Why all the cloak and dagger? Because it pleases me and this week, I am God.
When the signup period closes, I'll post in public about each of the musicians and the chosen songs.
Your story must be inspired by the song, though I'm willing to be very flexible about what 'inspired by' means. I don't even need to see how you got to your story, to be honest – if it's good and you started from the prompt, I'm happy. If you need more instruction, hit me up for a flash rule and I'll give you a genre, a mandatory line of dialogue, and/or a song by a different artist.
While we're Muffin-pandering, here's an unordered list of poo poo I like: mushrooms, dysfunctional families, LGBT stuff, bizarre visions of the apocalypse, and dogs being good. None of this is required: it's just stuff I find cool.
Maximum word count: 1500
Signup Deadline: Midnight, Friday the 6th PST
Submission Deadline: Midnight, Sunday the 8th PST
The midnights at the end of the day, not the start – more time means better stories. I hope, at least.
SurreptitiousMuffin fucked around with this message at 08:56 on Jul 6, 2018
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 08:24|
That's what she said.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 08:31|
MAVERICK MODE: If you want to play it like a crazy rebel, you can also ask that I don't give you the song and you only find out after the signup deadline. There's no extra word bounty or anything for this – I just wanna see if anybody wants to ride the pain train.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 08:32|
She in, she flash.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 08:40|
I'm a maverick. A loose cannon. A renegade.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 08:46|
In with Him!
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 08:48|
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 08:52|
Damnit, I'm IN with SHE against my better judgement this week, and for my shameful failure last week.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 09:10|
|# ? Dec 8, 2021 15:33|
Week 308 Results: Codex Coda
Well poop. If anyone wants to do an effort-crit swapsie I'd be keen for one for this week.
|# ? Jul 2, 2018 09:42|