, gimme a second card.
|# ? Aug 11, 2018 05:27|
|# ? Feb 9, 2023 09:08|
There once was a man who saw a mountain. It was surrounded by thousands of valleys and ridges. From around the world, people came to climb it. Planes circled it like gyre, gazing longingly at the top, but it’s peak sliced through the belly of the sky, and pierced into the stars. They had to be content to drop their passengers as high as they could, and wish them luck. Others started from the ridges, walking the trails with confident strides.
This man started from the bottom.
The very bottom.
The bottom, where the peak rose beyond sight, where the trails crumbled and rocks slid. Down below, the paths were more treacherous. By all rights, he should have given up. Around him, others did. A single fall was enough; they shook their heads and walked away. Others persevered for a time, but a sixth fall, a seventh—how much can a person bear? Cut and wounded, they gave up.
Not this man.
He started at the bottom.
He meant to climb.
Up cragged cliffs, up mud-washed trails, higher and higher, despite the wounds, despite the falls, he climbed. Never once a word of rage, never once a word of pity for himself. What kind of strength does that take?
For some, the trails were easy. But this mountain—it has a different path for everyone. This man’s trail was never easy. But he never slowed his stride, never failed to pick himself back up.
One day, he looked around and realized he was high up on the mountain. The peak still glimmered above, its untouchable glamour mocked so many yearning hands. Below him, masses trekked and crawled, swarming the mountain. There were climbers above him, of course, but there always are. Most were below, looking up with envy.
On that day, the man stopped. He could have climbed higher, but he decided to rest. He closed his eyes, and sat until he became a part of the mountain. One hopes he found peace.
|# ? Aug 11, 2018 16:18|
What are you doing here
Black Jesus rolled his cigar to the other side of his mouth as his eyes flicked back and forth from the resume to the man. “Flippin impressive,” he grunted.
“Thank you sir,” the man responded.
The Son of Man crumpled the sheet and and tossed it over his shoulder. “Can you handle a gun?”
“Call me sir again, and I’m gonna flick you in the nose.”
Black Jesus threw his head back and roared in laughter.
“I don’t need a gun, I can write. I can create.”
Black Jesus brushed a tear from his eye, and composed himself. “Create, huh?” he mused, “Like summoning and conjuring?”
“More or less.”
Black Jesus eyed the man for a moment. He then leaned forward and produced a large calligraphy pen with a flourish like a magician with a bouquet of flowers. “I’ll be the first to admit, your abilities give off a weeaboo vibe, but no doubt it would be useful.” He set the pen down and sighed.
The man grabbed the pen and his transformation was instantaneous. Bright purple hair, impossibly coiffed. Eyes large and sparkling, and his jaw sharp and perfect.
“Welcome to the team. Did you want to take a new name?”
“No, I’m alright,” he said, striking a pose as rays of light shot out from behind him in a very dramatic fashion. “I’ll stick with Andre.”
|# ? Aug 11, 2018 17:15|
A crit of Yoruichi's I Wish I Was an Otter
A were-otter uses his transformation as a crutch or an escape to avoid confronting grief over the death of a loved one. He is often harassed by a local vampire. He comes to think he should try to be an otter all the time, to sidestep his grief. There's a possibility of this happening if he is drained near to death by a vampire while in his otter form. He tries to get the aforementioned vampire to do this, but the vampire is kinda weirded out by that. So he ends up spilling the beans, saying he wants to be an otter full time and why. The next full moon they have a heart to heart over some whisky. After deciding he definitely wanted to be an otter full time our protagonist remembers Sarah, his dead lover or wife and does not want to forget her, so he flees.
I think the story largely works. You're back with grief as a big theme after week 312. I think this speaks to grief a bit better. We see a person stumbling through grief, someone who lost perhaps the only person in their life they could talk to about heavy things. Someone who really needs to feel less alone. The otter stuff is sort of like an addiction. Short term gratification without the chance of changing things in the long run. The protagonist's yearning for his otter self is such that he hangs around the river when he's not an otter and also runs water over himself to feel like he's in the river. He's a deeply hurting person and I think this comes through well enough.
So first person perspective works perfectly here, but I dislike the format feeling like journal entries. I understand you had to delineate time based on the transformations and stuff, but it was a tad clunky, with shifts in tense.
I hope the protagonist's perspective shift at the end lasts and that maybe he'll reach out to Darius or others to really work through his grief.
|# ? Aug 11, 2018 23:01|
Critique for Week CCC: In Memoriam
Jay W. Friks, "Jack Schnaff is (still) missing"
Okay, Jay. Obviously there's even more of a question of the point in writing this crit than is usual in Thunderdome, where you can bet on some of the writers wandering off, tra-la tra-lee, never to see your efforts even when you don't take three months to post them. Two arguments can be made in favor: one, it's my belief that you may be able to read this post, if you care to. Should I predecease crabrock I figure I'll be whispering Updaaaate the Archiiiiiive in his ear forever, so who knows? Maybe you're beside me right now asking where your Voidmart III critique is already. I'd like to think so. Two, critiques aren't only useful for the original writer. It's possible someone else could learn something by looking at your story and considering where it succeeds and fails; if I can help with that, great, and I'm as sure as I can be that you would want that to be the case. You wrote eighty-six crits in your time. They provided us with thoughtful, useful feedback, even if we couldn't always read your handwriting.
So: a critique. An honest critique, since I think you'd prefer it that way.
This story is a frickin' mess.
You have two moods and tones working directly against each other almost from the outset. A would-be-chef dad putting blindfolds on the cockatrices he's buying for dinner is funny, and you mean for it to be. So far, so good? Not for long, though: the parents' fight is tense, ugly, and strangely topical. The debate about marijuana is completely out of place in this context. What the dad yells in all caps, likewise. The argument--though you try to make it absurd with the rolling around in the aisles and the penguins and whatnot--demands to be taken seriously. This becomes a problem when the rest of Jack's tale is a goofball romp in the not-quite-Voidmart basement, where Captain Beefheart waits to recruit him into her eternal struggle with the noon-shift Vikings. All that stuff is fluffy and light, but I can't enjoy the ride when I keep thinking about Jack's home life, you know?
If you'd had more words (though you overran the limit by about a hundred, making the ending even more of a travesty--more on that in a minute), maybe you could have turned this into a The Pagemaster sort of deal where a kid goes on crazy fantasy adventures and then comes home better able to face the problems in his normal life. You didn't have the words, though, and you paced this abominably, spending much more time on the shouting, the weed shop, etc. than they needed! Cutting the entire fight would have bought two harpy breasts with one credit card, giving you more words to use on the pirate fun times and negating the mood problem. Why shouldn't Jack get lost in the weird store and fall into the basement on his own? The piece as it stands now doesn't say anything about strained marriages, doesn't do anything with the tension it introduces. It would need to be expanded a great deal to address those issues. Removing that thread would be the easiest way to salvage the humor angle, though you'd lose whatever you wanted to accomplish with the parents--assuming you had anything in particular in mind with them. I'm not sure you did, and that's not a good thing.
Odds are good that "Vambraces at Sea" is to blame for the family conflict being there at all, with Jack's mother and father standing in for the murderous siblings; you have pirates, of course, and weird accessories, so you get full marks on honoring your flash rule. Voidmart itself doesn't fare as well: you wiffed that part of the prompt, which is kind of amazing. Voidmart's whole schtick is being an unfathomable, eldritch box store! Except here it's a shopping mall, I guess? Everything about this piece points to you not knowing where to go with it.
That brings me to the coup de grace. The author's note. Oh, Jay. For all the entry's flaws, it didn't have to lose. The weirdness of Voidmall is at least interesting, and who doesn't want to read about pirates vs. Vikings underneath a shopping center? The lighthearted bits have a touch of real fun; hell, the fight scene is as bad as it is because it's credibly awful. Those points would have been enough to get you past the finish line ahead of Hawklad if it hadn't been for your declaration of surrender at the end. We couldn't ask ourselves whether you'd thought the cheering pirates were a suitable ending (they weren't) or grant you any benefit of the doubt. It was there to see: you'd given up. In the face of that, any other choice was almost impossible.
One other thing I'll say in your favor, though, is that until that point, I didn't doubt you were trying to tell a story someone would want to read. Even at that point, you probably were. I wish you'd fallen on the DQ or Redemption sword and taken the time to finish this, one way or the other, so if nothing else I'd have a better idea of what you wanted to do.
You wrote some clunkers, Jay W. Friks. This was one. But your personal Thunderdome story is the most inspiring of any the threads have seen. Through all the negative results, you kept writing. You listened to feedback; you struggled to incorporate it. To improve, when it cost you more effort than most of us will ever understand. Each of your stories had a spark of something: they were never boring, and I wish I could look forward to more of your ideas. Your work wasn't finished.
Whose is, though, when the time comes?
May God bless and keep you. Your friends will remember you, with gratitude and smiles.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 16:55 on Aug 12, 2018
|# ? Aug 12, 2018 05:24|
The Legend of Don Quixote de la Mancha
Not so long ago, five unlikely souls saved the world.
There was Terzia, the wizard who always wanted to do what was right, but was also willing to make a few extra coins along the way.
There was Quincy, the charismatic rogue who wouldn’t leave a single dead man’s pocket unpicked.
There was Dave, the bard interested more in dogs and playing the flute than saving the world.
And there was Taps, the monk who just wanted to punch people and drink wine.
Then, of course, there was Don Quixote de la Mancha. Out of all the rest, he was most like the heroes in the storybooks. He was brave, honest, willing to stand for justice. Even when his righteous path would lead him down danger, Don was never afraid. No matter where he went, he had his ideals, his goddess Dulcinea, his trusted steed Rosinate, and, of course, his friends.
Together, they slayed the horrible necromancer Calvino, ridding the world of one corrupt individual. In that fight, though, Don was thought dead, fallen from an airship. The friends grieved for the loss of a great hero, and an even greater friend. However, a more deadly threat loomed above the world, one that threatened to turn the world to glass. The party pressed on without him, to save the world that Don thought was so worth protecting.
It was tough for the four heroes. The loss of Don weighed heavy on their hearts, and they felt unsure if they could truly save the world. They were, after all, just a group of nobodies banded together through a series of coincidences, and completely in over their heads.
And when almost all their hope was lost, they found Don again. They hugged him, and told him how much they missed him. But they couldn’t stop for long.
There was a world to save.
Reunited with Don, the party was whole again. Don was there to slay the forces of evil, heal them, and inspire them. However, his greatest powers was outside of combat. He was able to make everyone around him feel like heroes. Everything to Don was a fight to save the world, a fight to bring peace and justice to a land that was sorely needing it. He was a hero, maybe not the kind of hero you’d imagine, but a hero nonetheless.
And, eventually, Terzia, Quincy, Dave, Taps all became heroes too. They saved the world, and they all went off on their own paths. Don disappeared into the snow, and while the four still see each other from time to time and reminiscence about their grand adventure, they don’t know where Don ended up. However, they’re not worried about their “Grandpa”. Because wherever he might’ve gone, they know he brought honor, justice, and laughter with him.
|# ? Aug 12, 2018 05:55|
While It Lasts
you find someone
who sees the same unusual colors in the world
that you do
so you reach out your hand
and hold theirs
and you walk together for a while.
things are good
and you laugh and paint pictures
on the sky
with your stories
and play games together
and both of you are happy.
you might falter
and think you can’t keep up,
but this person holds you
and helps you
and the way doesn’t seem so hard
it is dark
and neither of you can see
where you are going
and both of you are frightened.
will lose their grip
and fall away
alone in darkness.
In that darkness, please remember
you held on
and guided one another
and were kind to one another
and even if they are gone
it still means something
that you loved them while they were here.
curlingiron fucked around with this message at 08:07 on Aug 12, 2018
|# ? Aug 12, 2018 06:22|
For the memorial interprompt.
The Resting Place (447 words)
The old man sat beneath the baobab tree while the children tended to the water's edge. The surface of the water was clean and clear and stretched indefinitely toward the horizon. Here and there, should one take care, the bodies of the sleepers could be seen underneath.
The old man watched the children stir the surface of the sea. Seven bright-eyed youths who never made a sound. In the old man's lap was a bottle of wine, with glasses for two in the shade of the tree.
A woman appeared from behind the trunk.
"Have you waited long?" she asked.
The old man looked on. "I wish it were longer."
One of the children, a girl with blond hair, directed her siblings to a ripple on the surface. The seven gathered ‘round as a figure emerged, coughing and spitting and floundering for air. An elderly knight, the very image of a hero, stood in sight of the sun and the shore.
The old man smiled. He took the bottle and uncorked it, and filled the pair of glasses. He rose from his seat and stumbled toward his guest. The woman hung back by the tree and watched.
The children escorted the knight to the shore. He shook them loose, and coughed up more water. "Where am I? What is this place?"
Then he looked and saw the old man. The old man seemed happy and sad all at once.
He offered the knight a glass of wine. "You're home," he said, "Our guest of honor."
The knight accepted the glass with trembling hands. "So this is it, then? This is...the end?"
The old man chuckled and shook his head. He placed his hand across the knight's shoulder. "You're a legend now. This part lasts forever."
"I see," said the knight. He gave the glass a cursory glance. "Well then," he said, and downed the wine. A sweet and pleasant taste, like a dream distilled. "I say now, old friend, this stuff is quite good!"
"It's the best there is," the old man agreed.
A hearty laugh burst from between the knight's lips. Then he saw her in the distance, the woman by the tree. His one, his only, his dear Dulcinea.
He dropped the cup that was in his hands. The old man caught it with a knowing smile. The knight stepped forward, trembling once more. Dulcinea nodded. She extended her hand.
She looked him in the eyes. "Of course it was," she said and smiled.
The old man laughed and looked up at the clouds. The knight took her hand and the two were gone.
Matthew 11: 28 posted:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
|# ? Aug 12, 2018 07:30|
Poison and Honey
Read it at the archive.
Staggy fucked around with this message at 21:27 on Jan 3, 2019
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 00:06|
On his sixty-first birthday, Mac Leonard sat on a grassy hillock that overlooked the surf. Steel-grey waves rolled in. A pack of kids played footy on the wet sand. The sky was that peculiar grey-gold color, like every molten metal all mixed together at once.
Celebrating his own birthday felt meaningless–offensive even–when Luke wasn’t ever going to have a fourteenth. And even though they were his best friends, his whanau, his family in all but blood, the last thing he wanted to do was spend the evening mingling with the Mangawhai Heads Surf Lifesaving Club. Not now.
Mac was famously level-headed, but he felt his grip was slipping. The club would go on, even though they’d lost one of their own, but how could he?
How could he ever face them again? Why were they even celebrating?
Hunger finally forced him into the lions’ den of the clubhouse. Sixty-one. That was maybe the age a man oughta start cutting down on the pizza. He held himself to a single slice of pepperoni and cheese.
“Mac, it’s good to see you.” He knew that too-smooth, too-sympathetic voice anywhere.
“Willis, hey.” He toasted the man with his slice in lieu of a beer.
“I hope you’ve been well, all things considered?” Willis Belkin was, as always, immaculate. Today he wore a salmon dress shirt and slacks that probably cost more than Mac made in a week.
All things considered, you Ponsonby gently caress, Mac wanted to say. All things considered we’re throwing a birthday party two weeks after a teenager drowned on our watch. Doesn’t that seem screwball to you?
“Holding up all right,” he lied, licking cheese off his thumb.
“That’s the way,” said Willis.
“That’s the way,” Mac agreed.
Everyone wanted to know how he’d been keeping. Everyone was concerned. But behind that concern, Mac knew what they really wanted to know: when are you going to step down and give this club to someone who can do the job right, you broken old man?
A small blond clone of Willis appeared.. This one’s shirt was deep indigo rather than salmon.
“Hey Mac.” He smiled gently, like Mac was a child. “Happy birthday.”
The smaller Belkin was Archie, one of Mac’s senior surfers. He was still about half Mac’s age, but older than the kids. Were he up to dealing with the fallout it would cause, Mac might have asked them both why they were even present. His personal birthday shindig didn’t give them any opportunity to show off how much they donated. Nobody from the newsletter was snapping photos.
gently caress it, Mac grabbed another slice of pizza and crammed in his mouth before he said anything stupid.
“Hey, Mac, you got a second?” Archie hovered at his side, an awkward tagalong.
“Maybe in a minute,” said Mac. “I gotta go take a leak.”
“All… right.” Archie’s eyebrows furrowed some, but he kept quiet.
Mac munched his pizza and strolled off in the opposite direction of the bathrooms.
Bobbing like a cork, Mac floated on his back. He hung out in the soup, foam all around his shoulders, watching as some kids belly-boarded around in the ankle busters close to shore.
To be that young again. Mac barely surfed these days. His center of gravity was all off. Too much pizza.
Sighing, he unfurled his arms and backstroked into the gentle swell. It felt good to smell the sea, to let the sun bake his skin. The sea was strange like that–the thing that killed Luke, the thing that broke his club’s spine and spirit and heart all in one go–it was still somehow a source of calm.
Someone hollered over the sound of crashing surf and the obnoxious caw of gulls. It sounded like they were calling his name. But a lot of things sounded like Mac when yelled from far off, and he was in the mood to ignore anyone who needed him. Luke had needed him. He’d hosed that up. Someone else could deal with whatever it was.
It occurred to Mac that he couldn’t hear the people on the beach anymore.
Lifting his head, he peeked up over the rolling water. The shore was further away than he anticipated.
A lot further.
Rolling onto his stomach, Mac transitioned into breaststroke. He swam hard, thick legs scissoring through the water, yet he could feel the current dragging at him. He huffed hard and dug his head down, swimming parallel to the shore. If he cut east along the shoreline, he’d make it into calmer water sooner or later.
Something in his shoulder twinged. He grit his teeth. A few more strokes and the twinge transformed into a dull, deep pain that seemed to eat at him from as deep as his bones.
The same bum shoulder that gave out when he was bent over Luke, forcing air into his mouth, palms hard and rhythmic on his chest.
He’d torn his rotator cuff playing golf of all things. Golf. A foolish old man’s game. He thought the surgery went well, but it failed him when he needed it most.
Luke had needed it more than he needed it now.
Mac powered through. He swam til everything burned, til each breath was a harsh salty gust. He switched out strokes, adjusting his front crawl into an Ocean Walker, then finally he rolled onto his back and frog-legged haphazardly in the direction of land.
Minute by minute, movement came harder. His limbs felt heavy. He was tiring and he knew it.
As his kicking feet faltered and his body sagged with exhaustion, a thought danced across the surface of his mind:
Had he done this on purpose? Or at least halfway on purpose?
Something sloshed in the water beside him. He barely heard it over the slow thrum of his own pulse in his ears.
“Hold up there, Mac. I got you.”
A skinny but strong arm heaved him up by the chest. He was pressed against another body, a strangely warm presence in the cool seawater.
“Archie? The gently caress are you doing here…”
He wanted to be angry. He wanted to be irritated. But he just didn't have the energy.
Back on shore, Mac sat his rear end in the hot, gritty sand and tried to come up with an excuse.
Archie Belkin stood over him, wiping damp bangs out of his eyes. He looked concerned. Could Mac detect what might have been a hint of disappointment lurking behind that concern?
“Just take it easy,” Archie said.
It was easy to take it easy back on dry land. His shoulder throbbed, but the sun was baking all that salt water away, and despite how sore and short of breath he was, Mac felt fresh. He felt clean.
“Happens to all of us at least once,” Archie said, absolving Mac of the need to explain himself.
The kid was smarter than Mac had given him credit for. Smarter than his vapid father. Mac held his eyes and an unspoken understanding passed between them.
He never meant for any of it to happen. Never meant to lose Luke, never meant to spiral into such an unhealthy place, never meant to let himself drift out that far.
Or maybe he just wanted to feel like he had no control. Like everything was beyond his reach. Because then he wouldn't have to grab a hold of himself and find the balls to do what had to be done.
Mac turned his head and spat into the sand.
“Thanks, kid,” he grumbled. Apparently Archie paid more attention in training than he'd thought.
After thirty-four years, Mac Leonard resigned as president of the Mangawhai Heads Surf Lifesaving Club.
He only ever lost one surfer on his watch.
A record worth admiring, no matter what he thinks.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 01:58|
Like Oil and Water
Pham Nuwen fucked around with this message at 01:04 on Sep 11, 2018
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 02:13|
A gentle reminder to you all that submissions close in less than two hours
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 02:18|
Removed. Check archives.
QuoProQuid fucked around with this message at 03:19 on Jan 1, 2019
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 02:40|
Politely requesting an extra two hours to finish my submission, supreme prompt overlord Tyrannosaurus!
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 02:56|
The Wren and the Small Gilded Fly
“Have you been to a shaming before?”. My client was standing transfixed before the stage, shaking her head. The woman, Estella, strapped to the chair, gagged and blindfolded. The man, Harvey, suspended upside down by his ankles, naked and moaning, not quite loudly enough to drown out the crimes and verdicts.
There's only one verdict, again and again. But what always seems like an infinite number of crimes for that single act of transgression. Betrayal. Pride, in putting individual desire over societal need. Corruption, for having such unauthorized desires in the first place. Selfishly risking inbreeding and other dysgenic horrors. High crimes against equality. The deceits required before, during, and after. As the verdicts were read, the gathered audience jeered. Then the hooded bailiff took the stage, and the boos turned to cheers as he wielded his razor and shaved both heads bald.
“Please,” said the client, Virginia, choking back tears, or bile, or phlegm. She tugged at my hand, and I let myself be dragged away from the spectacle.
“What,” she asked, once we reached a quieter side of the park, “Is going to, I mean-”
“To happen to them?” I said. She nodded. “The fetus will be extracted immediately and terminated. They'll be sent for re-education, then resettled in different cities and assigned new spouses, as if they were widowed or fresh from the crèche.” The shaming was hard sell enough. This is you, in one month or two could go unsaid.
“What do I need to do?” she asked. I handed her a scrap of paper.
“Collect these, from your house fab. Be subtle about it, not all at once.” Small tools, screws and bolts and needles. Sweeteners, pepper, diamonds and ink. Portable luxuries the Reserve fabs were locked out of. She read it quickly, nodded, and hurried off.
I usually deal with couples. Nature of the business, really. Virginia was going alone, her lover dead, fallen from a great height. Carelessness, she charitably assumed. I wasn't sure. Fewer potential clients kill themselves than the tales the powers tell would have. Far more often a spurned spouse finds a way to slip the all-seeing eyes and take deadly revenge. I'm used to crossing under the walls as a group of three, six eyes and six ears to watch out for trouble is an asset even when all but mine are untrained. I'm making excuses: I should have been able to avoid the ambush.
Seven of them, too many to think of fighting even if they hadn't been better armed. In the tunnel dark I couldn't tell who they were. There were many possibilities, none good. Reserve criminals out to steal the passage-gifts or freelance enforcers of city morality would have been a disaster. “Who's there?” I said, just under a shout.
“Is that you, Alexander?” came the response. A man stepped forward. I recognized him, and was halfway relieved. “These are still our tunnels,” said Max, speaker of the Serpents. “If you want to pass, you'll need to pay the toll. A tale, or-”
“A tale, yes,” I said. “I have a story.”
“It had better be a good one,” said one of the Serpents.
Stories, real stories, not the tailored, sanitized, memetically engineered word mounds the powers push in the city, are one of the few things worth stealing at knifepoint when a fab can make anything you want. I tried to keep a few in reserve.
“Once there was a fisherman, who chanced to net a salmon who spoke with a voice like an angel, and begged-”
“His youngest friend ends up having died in a war,” said Max. “A fresh story, not one we all heard two days in to the city.”
I started again. “The overlord of all wasps was in want of a-”
“The cat swallows him whole,” said Max with a sigh. “One more chance, or we'll move on to other means of payment.”
I had another story, one that had not been told for centuries and not this way ever. I smiled and began to tell the tale of Camelot, of Arthur and Guinevere and Lancelot. Changed, to fit the modern day. Even our outlaws value equality enough that they could never sympathize with a king. Easy enough to change the version we found in ancient forbidden books, to make her marriage a prison of obligation, to make Lancelot a blessed release, to make the fall of shining mighty Camelot a sweet and happy ending. The Serpents stood and sat lost in the tale, and when it ended Max made some subtle gesture and the Serpents backed away into darkness.
“You understand that you will need to live by our rules, here?” asked Azif. Virginia nodded. “The child will be birthed in the natural way, as a cat with kittens, but of course only the one, God willing. The danger is much less than you may have been taught, but the pain will be significant.”
“Will my child be, I mean, one of you?” she asked.
“They will be a neighbor. As will you. But there is no compulsion in religion. The child will be educated in the faith, but it will ultimately be their decision.”
Azif collected our bag of goods and sent Virginia along to the the women in charge of moving her in to her new home. He turned to me. “Company in the journey back?” He made the opposite trip, bringing handmade things the fabs refuse to make, mostly weapons. I nodded.
“I gave our Guinevere to the Serpents,” I said.
“Excellent,” he said. “One more story against the world the powers made, spreading like fire.” It was working. Every year there were more shamings, and more who crossed over. “Shall we celebrate?”
I opened my mouth to say 'yes.’ He covered it with his, his beard against my stubbled chin. Our love was forbidden both in his Reserve and my city, but here, now, in this subterranean place between, it thrived.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 03:02|
My momma left my world as a fish.
It rained hard the day before she went. She was always worried about everything, scared that the creek would overflow and roll down the street and flood her basement. I tried to tell her not to be worried, but she insisted we should go check and make sure the creek wasn’t gonna overflow.
“Better to know than to not know,” she said, always.
It was still gray as sin when we left. She still had her bathrobe on. She didn’t go to sleep that night, just stared at the window and the rain. The moment the rain stopped, she knocked on my old bedroom door. There were still little hints of pink on the white door, from when she painted over the room after I moved out.
“Come with me,” she said. “Gotta make sure we’re okay.”
“Alright momma,” I said, got changed fast, and walked out into the early morning. The smell of asphalt and rain filled the air and water cascaded like waterfalls into the storm drains. Momma didn’t stop walking, her flip flops squeaking in the cold.
“I’m sure it’s no problem,” I said, trying to keep pace with her.
“They always say that. ‘It ain’t a thing, no need to be worried.’ And next thing ya know, the whole neighborhood’s underwater and you’re trapped with no food.”
“Momma, that ain’t gonna happen,” I said as she turned around the corner.
“Your pa was always like that, too. Came home short of breath every once in a while and he say, ‘don’t worry, it ain’t a thing.’ Then his heart gives out and then what, huh?”
“Momma,” I said.
She didn’t break her stride, but she said, “You’re right. Shouldn’t have brought up your pa.”
She didn’t say anything after that. Just kept moving forward, walking faster than I ever seen her walk.
After however many blocks, we ended up at the creek. It was down a little ditch off the side of the road, hidden behind some bushes. We couldn’t see it, but we could hear the roar of water. She looked back at me, as if she proved her point.
“Momma, it’s nowhere close to your house.”
“Not yet,” she said. Then she stepped through the bushes and down the path. Her flip flops sank into the wet mud, and I followed after her.
The creek was flooded up a few dozen feet from the base, the water overlapping some bushes. Momma stood staring at it, her eyes moving up and down the brown water.
“Sarah,” she said. “Did you check today’s weather?”
“Momma,” I said. “It looks kinda beautiful.”
But Momma didn’t look back at me. She kept her eyes right on the churning waters, her hands balled up in her robe.
“What if it rains today? Or tomorrow?” she said.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“We gotta pack up.”
“Momma, stop worryin’.”
“They always say that,” she said. “And then, like that.” She snaps her fingers for effect. “You can’t do anything about it.”
“Momma, I love ‘ya,” I said. I walked up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry. The house’ll be safe. There ain’t nothing to worry about”
She looked back at me, but she didn’t smile. She opened her mouth to say something, but then she didn’t.
“Make sure you grab the photos on the dresser. Those are the most important.”
“Momma, ain’t nothing gonna happen.”
“I don’t know,” she said. “Your Papa always said that, and I believed him. But now, I just don’t know.” She looked up at the gray sky, opened her mouth like she was tasting the air for more rain to come. “He’d probably say what you’re saying right now. And I’d believe him.”
“Momma,” I said.
“But I don’t know anymore.”
And then, like that, she was a fish. And my momma was a Christian lady, and she tried her hardest to make me a Christian lady too. So she always said, “God’ll reap what you sow.” And so He didn’t turn her into one of those pretty clown fish, or even a trout. Nah, she was a catfish with big ol’ whiskers, and she sank into the creek and swam downstream.
I didn’t know what to do. Momma just up and went, and I was standing with my shoes sinking in mud. So, I did all I could. I went back to her home, told the police Momma went missing, and then grabbed the photos on the dresser. They were all of Papa. Some in black and white, with my grandma and grandpa. I couldn’t recognize his young face, the way his eyes seemed so bright even without color. There were others, of when he was older. His big gut, his grey bread I never remember being black in person. I couldn’t help but stare at where his heart would be at, at the little organ that would day putter out and stop.
I wondered what part in Momma made her a fish.
Maybe, this is what she always wanted. Maybe she kneeled at the foot of her bed every day after Papa was gone, asking for God to make her a fish. Or maybe, she just wanted to swim away from the house. I don’t know. I can’t ask Momma anything anymore.
I don’t know where Momma went. Probably in the bottom of the lake twenty or so miles downstream, with all the other fish. I just hope she ain’t worried about the house, or the photos, or me, anymore. I took ‘em with me on the flight home, and they’re on the nightstand next to my bed. I put some up of Momma too, right next to Papa. They’re both smiling whenever I look at them.
And every now and then, I check Google Maps, just to make sure her house didn’t get flooded over.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 03:04|
Bingo Line: (Bottom left to top right diagonal)
Word Count: 896
New York was lost to the ocean. California was shaking apart. The Midwest had turned to dust between the heat wave and rampant tornados, and another hurricane was days away from Louisiana. Someone’s cannonball into the pool splashed Mary’s toes with water as she flipped from disaster to disaster.
“George?” Mary squeaked. George grunted, awoken from his light slumber. He sat himself up on his lounge chair. He blocked the tropical sun with his hand while he reached for his sunglasses. He nested them in the last remaining tufts of wispy white hair behind his ears.
“George,” Mary said again. “Do you think there’s anything else on? It’s all so dreary.”
He grunted again. “It’s all the same, don’t bother.”
Mary brought up the TV guide. It listed out hundreds of thousands of channels, each one monitoring one part of the world. They could watch Mississippi River as its flooding acid bath ate plants and homes alike, or maybe the whirlwind blizzards in North Dakota, now onto its sixth month. Anywhere they wanted, there was a drone watching: autonomous, leaving sympathy to the viewer.
The television caused George to regain a meanness that Mary thought had been lost to time. No, she thought, maybe meanness was too strong a word. It described him like that once, but she didn’t know how to describe how he acted now. The best example was when their old neighbors, the Fitzgeralds, weren’t able to make the cut for a spot in Last Paradise. When they had found out, all George could muster was that he hadn’t liked how they cut their lawn.
Mary would have to miss them enough for both of them.
“It’s all the same,” George said. He flapped his hand at the floating monitor as the list scrolled by. They had ended up at Drone 228969, with no normal channels in sight.
“We still have TiVo, don’t we?” Mary asked.
“We left the box at home,” George said.
“What about Lucy? Don’t you remember watching the candy episode together?”
“They probably cancelled the reruns.”
“Don’t you think we should ask?”
“Who cares?” He asked. Mary frowned. She didn’t have to watch television. She was in Hawaii, for God’s sake, but as she started to run down her mental checklist again, she’d realized that the list was even shorter than the last time she’d gone through it. The beaches were closed indefinitely due to the acidity of the water. The parks were all barren, and they weren’t exactly doing tours of Pearl Harbor anymore now that there wasn’t a government to fund them. She’d read all her books multiple times, and had seen the nightly shows enough to become familiar with the performers. Even if she hadn’t, she didn’t want to leave George to sulk.
“I’m just sick of seeing people in peril all the time,” Mary said. “I want something easy to watch. Something entertaining.”
George looked at her. “You don’t think this is entertainment?”
The channel flipped to a shot of Chicago. The city was burning. The Sears Tower had toppled down Adams street. Mary could remember walking down that street when she was in college. She walked from the train station forty minutes to reach school, and every day she’d walk past it. She would crane her neck as far back as it could go just to see the top. It seemed to touch the sky.
Now, as the drone drifted through the wreckage, it was hardly recognizable. She could see shattered pieces of the puzzle within the desolation. It flew past the channel. Mary remembered when they would dye the river green for St. Patrick's day. Now, it was tarnished with a layer of soot and ash, which made it look more like a molten river of lava.
The drone continued out into the suburbs. The world was one gigantic sea of flame. The camera panned until it reached a small subdivision, somehow spared from the rampant cataclysm around them. Not for long. The flames were enclosing on them, like a sinking island. The surviving area was partially comprised of an industrial zone. It had square, flat, uniform offices like the one George owned.
His business, building and repairing steel cutters, was his pride and joy. He told Mary once that it was the only thing that he felt like he had ever actually earned. It started with just him, then a second employee, then a third. Eventually it was a company a dozen strong, and they had bought the shop next door so they wouldn’t have to grind in the offices anymore. For a time, they were in paradise.
The camera hovered down to one of the windows, and inside, there was a woman. It was a rarity to see anyone still persevering. She turned into the windowed room. She saw the flames outside, but then looked at the camera. The woman yelled, her voice lost to the whirling of the drone’s propellers. She banged her fists on the window. The glass was starting to melt from the heat. She stumbled, and made one last pound on the glass before collapsing out of view. Then, the drone moved on, and all the while, George watched with a crooked smile. It was the only time he would.
She tossed the remote into George’s lap. “Fine, you choose. I’m going to relax in the pool.”
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 03:12|
In case the card doesn't load: Time Fuckery, Platonic Friendship Central To The Plot, A Happy Ending, Innocence Lost, Old Houses
Every Childhood Home Is A Time Machine (But Some More Literally Than Others)
I've almost forgotten about Samantha Arnold before I see her sitting on the floor of my childhood bedroom, across from my past self, playing with plastic horses. My HUD tells me this is October 1995; we're newly-minted second-graders. "Mom says I can have a sleepover for my birthday," my past self says, galloping a palomino across its carpeted field. "Can you come?"
In the few weeks I've spent watching my past, I've realized how much I forgot, but this much I remember: I didn't have a sleepover for my eighth birthday. I didn't have enough friends to justify it, not after Samantha said...
"I have to have my own stuff if I stay over," Samantha says. She tucks the appaloosa in her hand back into its stall. "My mom says we'll bring germs home if I don't."
I remember what happens next with painful clarity. My past self will run to beg my mother to buy Samantha a set of sleepover gear, as part of my birthday gift, and she'll go through her purse and reject me. In those years, with Dad finishing up his degree and Mom still at the city library, there's no way we have the money. I'll return to my bedroom; Samantha will have put up the horses and pulled down my Sorry! set. We'll play quietly. I don't need to watch this.
I shut off the playback and let my eyes readjust to the present. The walls of my childhood home crawl with prototype time-portal circuitry, copper wire creeping like ivy over decaying plaster. So far in this pilot program, I've limited myself to observation, but interference within the walls of the house is possible -- not advisable, my advisor has warned me, but possible.
I can't stop thinking about Samantha Arnold. That second-grade year was the last good year of the friendship; she started to drift away from me in third grade, when her parents' divorce got messy, and we were strangers when she moved away after fifth grade. I've gone decades without thinking about her, but if there's one thing this time portal does well, it's rekindle old pain.
There's so much about my life I can't change. So many of the things I regret take place outside of these walls, where the prototype can't reach. This is my kingdom, though, and maybe I can spare my younger self a little bit of disappointment.
It takes a few days for my order for non-anachronistic money to come in, and the premium is more than I'd hoped, but soon I'm ready to meddle in my past. I switch the time portal to two-way and step through to the foyer, the night before that failed party invitation. I'm translucent, not much more than unrealized potential; when I press a hand against my parents' closed bedroom door, it doesn't surprise me that I phase through. Inside, my mother's purse is open on the nightstand. I slip $100 in old-style twenties inside, knowing she won't question it, and phase home to switch to the next day.
I watch my past self ask my mother for sleepover things, and this time when my mother opens her purse, she finds a windfall. "Sure," she says. "Go get Samantha."
I watch the three of us leave, and new memories filter in: a trip to the mall slides into the place in my past where the Sorry! game used to be. I remember that slumber party, a new reality that makes the old one seem like a faint dream: the sleeping bags on the floor and Aladdin on our basement TV. I laughed so hard at the Genie that I started coughing, and that made Samantha laugh, which she never did much.
My advisor says that the urge to interfere in the past is our discipline's greatest weakness. I'm not sure about that.
I try to keep things subtle. After the slumber party, Samantha visits more than my old-timeline memories suggest, and I do my best to keep my mother's snack fund alive. I search thrift stores to find children's self-help books of the era, and I slip them onto our bookshelves. There's a day I look back on, in the August before third grade, when Samantha sits in my living room and reads Let's Talk About Divorce cover to cover.
When I'm not observing, I spend my time trying to track my memories and the evolving timeline. In this one, the drift starts in fifth grade, and then she's gone. I can't keep her forever, even if I want to.
And I do want to. I want more years of playing horses and castles, of wandering through the playground telling each other stories, where I build the plots and she does the poetic counterpoint. She's laughing more, too. It's not selfish to want to hold onto that, is it?
Maybe it's selfish, but success breeds boldness. I write a note to my past self, trying to ignore how little I know about what's going to go wrong for Samantha; "things will be hard," I write, "so try and be a good friend." I sign it "The Ghost." My past self in this new timeline believes in house ghosts, because she's got one.
After I leave the note on her desk, I feel the woozy disassociation of my memories reshuffling. A date and time slip into my mind: September 13, 1998, 1:08 AM. The beginning of Samantha's last year.
I dial it in on the control panel and I watch.
It's just the two of us, lying in our sleeping bags, in my darkened bedroom in our quiet house. Samantha is sobbing. "My dad," she squeaks out. "My dad."
My past self scoots closer, and the new-timeline memory floods in; I'm remembering the words even as I hear them from Samantha for the first time. "My dad touches me," she wails. "Mom says I'm lying. She says... says I have to go over there when the judge says..."
I remember lying helpless, paralyzed with grief and indecision; I watch myself, and the same grief and indecision crash over me, fresh and new. What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to say? My past self tries to hug Samantha, and she pushes her away, but takes her hand and squeezes hard.
"It's not your fault," my past self says. "It's not you." I mouth the words along with her. "What can I do?"
"I, I, I want to call my grandma."
"Okay," my past self says. "In the morning. It'll be okay."
A new timeline plays itself out in my head. Samantha calls her grandma from our phone that next morning. She stays with us on and off for the next few months, in the whirl of her family and CPS and the courts, and for the last two weeks before her flight to Ohio and her grandma's house. I remember the years after, the long nights of chat on AIM and Neopets, the college applications that we planned together. I remember standing up at Samantha's wedding, toasting my oldest friend.
My phone buzzes.
I snap back to the present and check it. There are two unread texts from Samantha, one from twenty minutes ago, the last brand new:
Hey! I'm at the luggage check. You here yet?
You caught in traffic? Or at work? Just let me know before I buy a Cinnabon LOL
The last piece snaps into place: it's her turn to fly out for the visit this summer. Her plane touched down 45 minutes ago. I text back sorry, work, OMW and power off the machine. There's going to be a hell of a thesis in this, but for now, I'm leaving the past behind.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 03:18|
Brawl with Armack Patience in the face of Misery
In N' Out
Death? Death don’t scare me none. It ain’t a brag, it’s just the kinda mindset that made sense to me when I realized I’d never be a free man. Death will be the first and last choice I’ll make since they threw my rear end in here. Death will be both an expression of my freedom and the beginning of it.
I’m in solitary now. Christ knows why. Some reason or another about bumping into a guard. I didn’t do it, but deserve ain’t got nothing to do with how poo poo is in here. So, I’m here now, eating and making GBS threads and not much else. You know that whole tallying the walls thing? Yeah, that poo poo don’t happen, putting anything on the walls in solitary is a great way to make sure you stay in solitary.
Solitary don’t bother me much. I do here what I do in genpop: I talk. Sometimes to myself, sometimes to the guards. The evening slop is about to come in, and it’s gonna be the highlight of my day. I hope it’s Ed on patrol tonight. Ed talks back. Talking back is nice.
I hear the squeak of the shoes heading down the hall and I know it ain’t Ed. Ed’s shoes are worn and silent. He’s a poor man, what money he’s got goes to his nephew, he’s got cancer or some poo poo.
The transfer door slides open “Eat up, shitbird.”
gently caress, it’s Jasper. I won’t be able to shake more than a four letter word out of him, but I’ll be damned if I don’t take my shot.
“Why thank you, my good man.” I state in a British accent. Nothing else has worked. May as well try something out there.
I hear him laugh. That’s something. I continue.
“Good heavens, me! Is this a prime cut of Porterhouse? I daresay, you spoil me!”
“What’s your game, Stone?”
He calls me by name. Another something.
“Might I trouble you for some Grey Poupon?”
I hear him laugh. His shoes squeak away. The white walls on my room fill with color. Can’t say how or why that poo poo happens. But they were white, now they’re blue.
The squeak returns. The transfer door opens. Some crayons and paper slide through.
I’ve been drawing and writing non-stop since then. The days turned to weeks, but it don’t matter. Jasper’s comes around every day. I slide what I’ve done out and fresh paper and new crayons appear.
I don’t know what he does with them, but sure as poo poo every time I slide em through, my cell gets bigger. The blue walls push out a few inches. Enough that I can breathe.
This goes on and on. One day, I look around and my cell is gone. I’m just here, and I’m fine. I expanded the world. The only thing of my cell that’s still here is the door, and the small transfer door under it.
Jasper’s squeaky shoes remind me of where I am. But I’m good with it.
“How you doin guvnah?” He calls through the transfer door. We’ve kept this going since the first day that I started it. Pretty sure that poo poo is why I’m as lucky as I am.
“Righto, Chap!” I shout back.
The usual exchange occurs. I look around my room. The blue walls don’t look much like walls anymore. They stretch, or they seem to, for forever. But, I’m not free. I can’t forget that poo poo: I’m not free.
I take the red crayons and I go to work on the walls. I draw a bunch of poo poo, write some poo poo too. And with each etching, I feel the walls shrink back in.
It don’t take me long to finish. And when I do, I realize how hosed I am. The walls are covered in red. They’ll starve me over this. Well, not starve me, but they won’t make this happy. I got Jasper to laugh, yeah, but that ain’t gonna improve my situation.
What to loving do now?
I draw a noose and think about slipping my head in it. I could be free.
But, I scratch that poo poo out.
I draw a window and think about jumping out of it. I could be free.
But, I scratch that poo poo out too.
Instead, I just write “Sorry” and go back to sleep.
I wake up in the Nurse’s. A lump the size of a sweet potato sticks out from my forehead.
“The gently caress they do to me?” I ask out loud.
“It could’ve been worse.” The nurse responds to me.
“How’s that?” I ask.
She sighs, “you don’t remember, do you?”
“Nah, what happened?” I ask.
“They found you strung up by some twine, no idea how you got that in there. The guards figured it must have come from the guard on duty. So, they fired him and before he left he rushed back into your cell and beat you within an inch of your life.”
Everything is confusing, but worst of all, I’m still here. Not in my cell, and not knowing what to do next.
“Got any crayons?” I ask.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 03:24|
The Law of Leaving
They say Atlantis sank, but that’s only because you can’t go back once you leave. Those who weren’t born there, who didn’t grow up breathing the dull, oppressive fragrance of lavender, whose ears do not ring night and day with the music of the lyre, might wonder why one would ever want to leave such a place, but I craved the sting of adversity. I didn’t know what lay beyond the tepid waters of my home; I knew only that my life had no teeth, no ardor.
Continentals have legends, alleged routes to Atlantis. Likewise, Atlantis has its own legends, a few scraps of lore that detail how to leave the island, what we call the Law of Leaving. Those who seek the continent may bring nothing with them. They must leave on a simple raft, built with their own hands.
It was easily done. I had long been fascinated by seacraft, and constructed my raft by moonlight in a secret cove where the ocean lapped warmly against the sand. High above, at the apex of the seaside cliffs, the city twinkled, and the distant murmur of poetry wafted down on the night time breeze.
My sister was likely in some fragrant courtyard, lounging on cushions while whichever up-and-coming bard sang tired tales of distant heroism. I thought briefly of going to her—it would make her smile, to have me at her side during the evening songs—but decided not to risk the integrity of my resolve.
I shoved the little raft into the surf and unfurled the crude sail I’d crafted using pilfered bedsheets. Before I’d shoved off, I shed my clothes in keeping with the Law of Leaving. The only thing I would bring to the continent was my thirst for a new life. I sailed through the night, until my home was a distant, scintillating constellation.
The sky brightened and the sun reared its head. I slept uneasily in the shade cast by my sail, tense with the knowledge that I was deep in the doldroms. Peaceful seas could turn ferocious in the space of an hour, and my raft stood little chance in a storm.
A shadow passed over me and I opened my eyes, thinking I’d sailed beneath a bank of storm clouds. The large cat who’d been standing over me lept back, hissing. I rolled onto my side, pushed myself up into a crouch. The cat looked to be of the domestic variety, though she was half-again as big as the pets kept in the city on Atlantis. She glared at me, ears flat against her head, fur bristling. Something glinted around her neck—a collar.
“Where did you come from?” I asked, then immediately felt foolish.
The cat replied with a growl that sounded like the rumblings of an old, irritable man.
“All right, all right, calm down,” I said. I moved slowly and deliberately to the corner of the raft opposite the cat. After a long interval, the cat settled down, glaring at me with panic-wide eyes. My heart thrummed in my chest and my mind boggled at the absurdity of this animal’s presence on the raft.
Some aquatic animal surfaced for a moment, then dipped back under the water with a small splash. The cat turned her wild gaze in the direction of the sound, exposing the ornate gold collar around her neck.
Not a collar, I realized. A bracelet. My bracelet, a gift from my sister for my sixteenth birthday. It was a solid piece of jewelry meant to lock tightly around the wrist with the aid of a clever latch. The cat had to feel half-strangled. Her flanks puffed in and out rapidly and her mouth hung half-open as she gulped for air.
The Law of Leaving was ambiguous on animals, but exactingly clear about objects: if the bracelet was onboard, we would never make it to the continent. We were already locked out of Atlantis—had been from the moment I set sail with the intention to leave—so the bracelet’s presence would condemn us to drift until our deaths.
Three days we drifted. Hunger and thirst left us with too little energy to do more than eye each other warily from our respective corners. The beat of my heart was both heavy and shallow. I kept my hand pressed to my chest, always conscious of that unsteady rhythm, as though it might cease without my supervision.
The cat was worse off than I, but remained defiant. There was no other way to describe the way she resisted my aid. This was defiance. Or perhaps I was delirious. The air was dead still. The sky was bone-blue.
“My sister—she was so proud to give me that thing, you know,” I said to the cat. My voice was strange and dry. “I couldn’t bear to tell her it felt like wearing a shackle.”
The cat growled her old man grumble in reply.
Without warning, the wind whisked itself into a fury, straining the sail and hurling our makeshift raft north. I gripped the pole that served as my mast. The cat was splayed out, claws dug into the the raft, still panting through the grip of the gold bracelet.
There was no more time. The sea tossed us about, and a black hump of clouds surged up from the south. Either we would discard the bracelet, or we would drown.
With one last, mad surge of vigour, I lunged for the cat. She was slow and exhausted from lack of food, water, and air. My fingers hooked around the gold bracelet, feeling for the latch that would release us both. The cat tried to pull away, left a bloody streak of claw marks on my forearm, but my thumb found the latch and flicked it open with the ease of years of routine. How many times had I gratefully slipped the bracelet off after a gala or festival? I hurled it into the ocean.
The cat’s desperate momentum carried her over the edge of the raft as soon as the latch released. She tumbled into the frothy sea with a huge splash, and I caught a glimpse of desperately flailing brown arms, a sodden tangle of brown-black hair.
“Help,” a familiar voice gurgled through a mouthful of saltwater.
I threw myself down onto my belly, reached out for my sister. Our hands clasped and I pulled her, gagging, onto the raft. We held each other for a long time, curled around the makeshift mast, at the mercy of the massive elemental forces around us. We did not speak for the crash of waves and bellowing wind.
By the time the doldroms spat us out in calmer waters, I was cramped for the effort of clutching the mast and my sister. In time, we uncurled from our desperate embrace and looked each other in the eyes.
“I followed you in a stollen fishing boat,” she said, voice hoarse, in answer to my unasked question. “There are old magics—did you know? I worked almost up until the moment you left to imbue that bracelet with the power to transform myself.”
Starvation and trauma stole the rationality from my response. “To what end, sister? We’ll die out here. There’s no going back.”
She regarded me steadily, her gaze wide and dispassionate as a cat’s. “You are wrong. You may have fled with the intention to never return, but I always knew I would come home.”
She looked past me, then, at some distant point over my shoulder. Slowly, with growing dread, I turned to see a familiar landmass. The home I had tried to flee sat nestled atop the cliffs, carved from the living rock. And there—so prominent I couldn’t believe I’d missed it—was the scent of lavendar, and the terrible, melodic sound of lyres.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 03:28|
??? words but def under 1300
The First Heir
The one who will syncretize the multiverses is born of familial blood; an unholy promise, decreed by the ascendant ones just before their departure from this plane.
Clearly, I am the most fit for this honor - I am the last male clout-folk of pure blood in my family line. The mightiest there ever was. I remind myself as I glance over the serpentine scale-like plating covering my arms, flexing the rugged iron sinew in my muscles. I have not made any progress on determining how to objectively take what was promised to me. Our line dwindles. Will it become obvious?
I rouse myself from my chambers and march down the candle-lit hall that serves as the foyer to the dungeons. The lower level of our ancestral home is reserved for the containment of the Sequacious-ones. And of course, good, dependable Abdul's quarters.
Good, dependable.. poor, pathetic Abdul. The product of our father and some Sequacious whore; you'd think he would be blessed with more of our gift. Alas, his Sequacious side emerged dominant. He was left behind, just as the Sequacious-ones were left to their humanity when our ancestors fibroformed into the clout-folk.
As I reach the bottom of the stairs, he greets me. I walk past him without as much as a glance and unlock one of the cells, leading out a coffel of a dozen [DEROGATORY WORD FOR NORMAL HUMANs], chained by their necks. I turn to Abdul. "Dinner will be served in 10 minutes. Finish down here, first."
Abdul looks towards the brethren he has come to befriend, and a flood of worry subjugates his lips into a twisted frown.
"You don't want to starve now do you, dearest brother?" I mock him, devoid of compassion. Deep down, I revel in the sublime delight of the dread that has now soiled his face:
"You WILL cull one," I continue, correcting myself without missing a beat. "Two.. of them before you join your Sister and I upstairs. Do I make myself clear?"
He nods silently. Grievous sniffles and whimpers escape from the coffel and fill the musky subterranean air like music to my ears.
"Good. The day when I syncretize the multiverses will come soon. Be a good little Sequacious dog, and i'll see to it that you aren't left behind."
"Curdardh, I don't see how slaughtering lesser beings than us-..nay, yourself will get you there," he calls to me, trying to appeal to my rationale. I know he is correct, but I turn and walk towards the stairs without acknowledgement.
One would think Killing good labor, even if they are pure-blooded Sequacious-ones, to be a waste of resources. If they are to remain subservient to us, however, sometimes a message must be sent. They reek of intelligence, and will see it as I do. Once I syncretize the multiverses, even Xanthe will see it my way. I will command all that is and will be, and quell the weak. Only the strongest amongst all living will be deserving of the privilege to exist in my reality.
The Second Heir
"Do you consider us abominations, Abdul?" I address my brother, as he slaves away, scrubbing the supper-ware clean. "Do THEY consider us abominations?" I call out, before he can answer, taking a puff from my pipe and blowing a ring of smoke into the air.
"Xanthe, you know I don't." He frowns uncomfortably. A bold lie from one's own kin. The stress turns my stomach, but I play along.
"Dear brother. Consider yourself an ambassador. A bridge that connects the lesser human-folk with the clout-folk." I manage to finish my statement, despite the vile taste that fills my mouth as I endear those vile Sequacious-ones rather than berate them by mere name.
I have long flirted with the idea that unifying our races might in some way be the missing piece of the puzzle that is syncretizing the multiverses. Of course, I would just be using them. And Abdul is the most potent instrument I have at my disposal. That fool Curdardh believes he can take with force what must be subdued with finesse. Perhaps his methods have some validity. There is too much at stake to not have a thought-out plan. I lay my pipe on the cleared dinner table and approach, amicably.
"Do not worry brother, I will grant them mercy." The mercy of a painless death.
"I don't think, urm- they trust you, sister." he says, discerned.
He knows nothing. No one knows anything; This world lacks vision. Ever since the clout-folk evolved beyond the Sequacious-ones, there has been a trickle of unworthy visionaries leading it astray. Society is eclipsed by anarchy - an untameable beast can never be saddled.
My vision is eternal. My vision will be absolute. I will be the one who figures out how to syncretize the multiverses and when I do, I will purge what remains of this crumbling wasteland.
I smile at him, as I contemplate how to fill in the next phase of my plan. "Learn from them, brother. Bathe in their ancient knowledge, so that we may gain from it. Show them compassion so that they may trust.
Abdul might be the only hope, but I he musn't know how much I depend upon him. I pick up my pipe and take another puff, blowing smoke in his face, devoid of emotion.
Upon the dawn following the Curtail of Perceptivity
Privy to the ancient knowledge previously available exclusively to the greatest minds of both races, you have come to a decision.
Now, the shackles have been unbound.
As you awaken to your new consciousness, the shapes that make up every layer of reality leap out at your new-found perspective like glaring mistakes.
The screams of all manner of man, beast, other fill the air in your wake as they are shredded and dispersed back into formless dark matter. Reality in all its oppressive nature. No more burdens.
No more following the will of oppressive siblings; their once physical form is permeable to you, as transparent and lacking in substance as their grand visions have always been.
You are aware of everything. You are the will of everything.
The process can never be undone as it is neither here nor there. You are the heir, the one who cannot be contained within time, space, or the sequacious name you once held. Your will encompasses every physical construct, every theoretical concept. syncretize the multiverses].
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 03:58|
Submissions closed. Nine failures. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 04:02|
Maybe I should have gambled on the deadline not being called to the minute and proofread that before submitting it. Well, the laws of the dome cannot be broken.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 04:04|
Family Recipe (1141 words)
It wasn’t exactly a surprise when I got the call abuela was dying.
She’d had her share of brushes with death, but there was nothing she couldn’t cure with her cooking, at least as far as she was concerned. When I was sick and had to stay home from school when mom had a shift, she’d give me a bowl of soup with secret, wonderful things inside of it, and though I was always well enough to leave the house after the first love-filled spoonful, she always kept my secret as long as she got to pick the channel on our foil-mummified tv.
The old house seemed smaller every time I went back. I’d taken off work and gotten Janine to cover me. She’d offered to come, but I knew it’d just complicate things. I liked to think abuela knew why I’d never settled down with a nice boy, but there was no sense tempting fate.
I almost had to bend my head to walk into her sick room. The pantry, always a nebulously-bordered thing, had encroached from the kitchenette into her bedroom. Woodear mushrooms sat, wrinkled like hanging bats in huge glass jars by her bed, packs of noodles and bottles of honey, and things whose labels I could no longer read gathered dust beside her.
They looked more at home here than the increasingly distant relatives who’d made their pilgrimages here to say goodbye. A cousin or uncle handed me a book of English crossword puzzles, rolled up like a baton on his way out.
“Come closer, mijita,” she said, her eyes barely open. I did, despite the heat of the room. She lay cocooned in wool blankets, not a drop of sweat on her. I’d never seen her look so small.
“How are the dogs?” she asked. I told her, and she was polite enough to feign interest, though she’d been allergic since she was my age.
“I’m glad you came. There’s something special I’d been meaning to give you,” she said. I practiced my gracious smile for whatever VHS she’d gotten from the library, or off-brand chocolate bar she’d picked up at the dollar store god knows how long ago because it’d reminded her of me.
She reached into her sweater and picked at a mole on her neck. “Did I ever tell you how your abuelo courted me?” she asked. Only a hundred times.
“I think you might’ve mentioned,” I said, not because I couldn’t bear to hear it again, but because I didn’t want her to spend her last minutes feeling obliged to tell it.
“Well, when he asked me to go dancing with him that night in the cafe, it wasn’t just his heart talking. This is something that’s been passed down in our family for generations. Your mother, I love her, but she just didn’t understand,” she said.
Mom had been the first in the family to go to college, then medical school. When abuela refused the chemotherapy, they’d stopped speaking. I’d tried not to take sides, but that only went so far.
“My mother, and her mother, back as long as we can remember, we’ve got something special hidden away, close to our hearts. We save it until we meet the man we know we’re meant to be with. Then, well, it’s like they say, closest way to a man’s heart and all.”
I nodded along. She reached under her sweater and untied the necklace she’d worn as long as I could remember. A small leather satchel hung in its center, drawn tight with string. As far as I knew, it contained abuelo’s ashes since he’d died when I was little.
I realized I’d never seen her without it. She clenched the thing in her withered fist and held it out to me. I couldn’t refuse. She beckoned for me to open it and I did. Inside were spores I couldn’t recognize.
“Coffee, soup, pie, even those nutri-bullet things you like, if he’s one of those healthy guys. Just a few will do it. After that, he’ll always be with you, always be a part of you. I know your mother doesn’t think so, but that’s why I’m not afraid to die. I know I’ll be back with my husband. We were never really apart.”
“I see,” I said, trying to remain neutral, like when she’d read me Bible stories when we’d go visit her.
“I know how you are. You’ll do research after you take it. I can’t stop you. But you’ll find it works. Why do you think we’ve never had a divorce in this family?” she asked. I kept to myself that I’d always assumed it was our nominal Catholicism.
“Even further than our family tree goes, before those ancestry records, the women of our family were using these seeds. The first of us to get them couldn’t get her beloved to even look her in the eye. She threw herself on the steps of the temple to Huehuecóyotl, and said if she couldn’t live with him, she might as well die. He gave her these seeds and said she’d never need to be alone again. I know you’ve had trouble settling down, you’ve been so busy with your studies, but maybe this can help. It’ll be one less thing for you to worry about,” she said.
I looked at the pouch. Janine and I had been together for— god, it was ten years this week. We’d been putting it off til it was legal. After that, we’d looked at lists of which members of our families we still weren’t out to. I guess it wouldn’t be any on my side now. Could stopping the excuses really be that easy?
I uncinched the bag a little more to see the contents more closely and smelled their earthy scent. Before I could exhale, I knew abuela was dead. I didn’t have to check her eyes or her breathing. I wasn’t even looking at her. I could feel that she had left, and I could feel what I’d always mislabeled as pity for me. It was love. She’d thought her life wasn’t full without a man, and what she wanted was to pass that on to me. Issues of consent aside, I somehow knew my abuelo, who I’d never met, had lived a long and happy life with her, and that what was left of him in our family plot had already gotten the news.
I covered her with a sheet and made the sign of the cross for the first time since high school graduation. I could say for certain now I knew it’s what she would’ve wanted. I texted Janine and told her I’d be home early and that I’d be making dinner.
“Who are you and what have you done with my girlfriend lol,” she replied.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 04:49|
God damnit I wrote down the wrong time zone. Once more, I am Slammed in the Butthole by my Concept of Linear Time.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 04:50|
QuoProQuid's John Doe wins
Pham Nuwen's Like Oil and Water hms
Flerp's Stop Worrying also hms
CascadeBeta's Last Paradise loses
Invisible Clergy's Family Recipe is disqualified for being late af.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 05:13|
For you feeble failures that are still playing with yourselves instead of writing some goddamn words, submit before this time tomorrow and I might be loving bothered to swallow down my disgust for your inadequacy long enough to poo poo out a critique for you, despite you not being among the competent folk who can string some words together and hit submit or, y'know, read a clock.
Don't take this as some benevolence on my part, though. I just want the practice critting, so I can increase my writerly power level and crush all of you under the hobnailed bootheels of my mediocre prose.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 05:20|
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 06:23|
Week CCCXV: Ships Passing in the Night
(Special thanks to Chili.)
One of my favorite movies is Roman Holiday. Starring Audrey Hepburn, the film depicts a princess who sneaks off during a state visit to adventure around Rome. Along the way, she meets with an American reporter, played by Gregory Peck, and the two enjoy a few days together. Though they grow as people and develop a meaningful relationship, the two must return to their responsibilities at the end of the movie. They likely never see each other again but carry the experience for the rest of their lives.
This week, I want stories like that. I want tiny, meaningful relationships between people who only know each other for a fleeting moment. Within your story, you must have at least two characters who:
1.) Meet for the first time;
2.) Experience something brief and important together; and
3.) Separate and likely never see each other again.
These characters do not need to be formally introduced. They do not need to talk at all. They do, however, need to be aware of each other in some way, shape, or form. Genre and setting can be whatever you want, but you can request a flash rule from one of the judges if you are struggling to find inspiration.
Per the usual, no fanfic, erotica, quote tags, or Google Docs.
Word Count: 1,400 words
Sign-Up Deadline: 23:59:59 EST, 17 August 2018
Submission Deadline: 23:59:59 EST, Sunday, 19 August 2018
1.) CascadeBeta; Flash Rule: "Both of your characters are over 60."
3.) Staggy; Flash Rule: "Your story must take place in a prison or jail. "
4.) apophenium; Flash Rule: "Cold noodles must be a part of your story."
5.) Thranguy; Flash Rule: "Your story must include a dead bird."
8.) Bacon Terrorist
9.) flerp; Flash Rule: "Your story must be set in an urban environment."
11.) Bad Seafood; Flash Rule: "One of your characters is not who they claim to be."
12.) spectres of autism; Flash Rule: "At least one of your characters must be a performer of some kind. "
13.) Lead out in cuffs
14.) Invisible Clergy; Flash Rule: "Your story must feature baked goods."
16.) Jon Joe
17.) Flesnolk; Flash Rule: "One of your characters is guilty of something terrible."
QuoProQuid fucked around with this message at 01:20 on Aug 18, 2018
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 14:01|
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 14:08|
Hmmm, I'm abnormally busy this week and already juggling two projects. Of course I'm in!
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 14:46|
Congratulations, QuoProQuid. Great job with a challenging sheet.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 14:55|
In. And why not - hit me with a flash rule too.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 15:03|
In. And why not - hit me with a flash rule too.
Your story must take place in a prison or jail.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 15:09|
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 15:09|
Ah, what the hell, hit me with a flash rule too.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 15:13|
Ah, what the hell, hit me with a flash rule too.
Just got brought on as a judge, so I'll hit you with: both of your characters are over 60.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 15:20|
in, and flash me
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 15:32|
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 15:34|
|# ? Feb 9, 2023 09:08|
in, and flash me
Your story must include a dead bird.
|# ? Aug 13, 2018 15:45|