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Chili
Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit




Fun Shoe

Someone asked for an extension on the brawl that I'm judging. That's fine, take an extra day.

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Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010




Flesnolk / SlipUp Brawl Results

SlipUp, "Death of a Friend"
First off, I want to congratulate you on a huge improvement between week 336 and this brawl. You're a lot better about speech attribution here, and in general formatting is a lot better. Verb tense is a little inconsistent; sometimes "I move my bishop", but other times "I moved my Queen". I was more or less able to follow the plot, I believe, although I'm not clear on the exact timeline of chess games: protagonist played chess with Death in London for his own life (winning), then for his wife's life (losing), they another 165 losing games after that as he attempts to make Death take him? Also Death is hardly "the dead" but perhaps in a loose interpretation...

So my problem here is that the story is not especially interesting. Playing chess with Death is so well-worn that I expected you to execute it as farce, rather than play it straight. The whole story, both prose and dialog, is full of pompous-sounding sentences that don't actually mean anything: "If the two sides were to clear the boards but their kings it would be considered a draw, as if the death of all life itself soothed the souls of the departed.", or "“I am a mortal made immortal. While you true immortals consider this a flaw, I will show you its strength."

When we see someone playing chess with Death, we expect there to be one of two outcomes: Death wins, Death loses. It might have been fun if the player tried for a third way, or attempted to cheat, but instead he wins 4 turns. I noticed that you described the chess moves in detail, so I went ahead and laid them out on a board:



This, uh, isn't checkmate. It's just an exchange, white giving up his queen and bishop in exchange for black's queen (a pretty poor trade). If your intention was for the player to be very bad at chess, and that Death allows him to win as suits Death's needs, that would be interesting. A player so bad at chess that he can't recognize his 4-move check is not in fact checkmate, but Death is done toying with him so Death lets him win. Unfortunately I don't think this is what you've done here.

Flesnolk, "Deathmarch"
You both used the word "death" in your titles, which really shouldn't be a surprise. Considering that this brawl started when we ripping on SlipUp's poorly-formatted story, I would have expected you to ONLY PUT ONE NEWLINE BETWEEN PARAGRAPHS YOU gently caress

Did you intend "Then he shouted and swore and struck a comrade to the floor." to rhyme, coming on the heels of a sentence about "his insipid poetry"? You also use polysyndeton a lot, like multiple times per paragraph, and although it does help evoke a feeling of a translated work I'm gonna say:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbusIIX7jyo

It's the more interesting story, but I wish there was more to it. (I hate it when people crit "interesting setup, but i wish you had explored more of it" on a story that's already 1 word shy of the limit, but you still had 600 words left!) I get where you're coming from with the things the dead men took from the narrator, and I like it. Hell, I even like that it ends with the sergeant collapsing too drunk to keep himself from drowning. I just wish there was something between when the Germans are killing his comrades and the final death by drunkenness.

Judgment
Flesnolk wins, despite loving up his formatting. I was more interested in finding out how the story ended, and its simpler sentence structure (despite perhaps overuse of polysyndeton) won the day.

SlipUp, honestly, the difference between your first story and this one is night and day. A lot of people would have bailed out of Thunderdome after getting ripped on like that in their first entry, but you fixed some poo poo and kept on writing, which is loving awesome! I want to recommend 2 things for your next story:
  • outline it before writing, if you don't already.
  • try to use short and simple words, especially in your dialog, and keep your sentence structure as straightforward as possible.

Pham Nuwen fucked around with this message at 15:36 on Jan 24, 2019

CascadeBeta
Feb 14, 2009

by Cyrano4747


In, flash me, :toxx:

Staggy
Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes



Week 336 Crits Part 4

Kaishai: The Sun in Chains

I know I keep saying this but I like the direction you took the prompt in. I liked the idea of having elders act as proxy suns underground, at least on the face of it. It’s just, it had a bit of an unsatisfying aftertaste. Do they not have a huge surplus of elders? Elders must escape a lot if there’s loads of them living underground for the p.o.v. lizard to find. I think it’s fair to say that that’s too much to cover completely in flash fiction but a nod at it would have helped.

Your words are good, which doesn’t make for a very interesting crit. The story is good, if a little plain. There were just no real twists/surprises, you know? And yeah, ending on “now the real adventure begins” just is kinda frustrating to read. Kinda real frustrating.

Beezus: Insidious

It’s good to try and hint at established history/backstory early on without devoting too much of your limited wordcount to the task. It should spark the reader’s imagination and hint at just enough for the reader to fill in the blanks themselves. Your opening paragraph doesn’t quite make it, largely due to quite clichéd phrases: “years of planning down the drain”, for example. It makes “showing” feel more like “telling”.

When you first mention the clip and the gun it makes it sound like there’s something special about the clip. That sparked my interest - only it was never capitalised on and then the gun just gets fired anyway with no real consequence or followup. The latter half of your story is some real nice body horror but it feels very disjointed from the first half - and I have to confess, if there’s some meaning to the final line it escapes me.

M. Propagandalf: The Misanthrope of Bhopal

The use of “we” in the final sentence of the first paragraph feels odd and pulled me out of the story. The p.o.v. protagonist isn’t one of those geneticists or lords. In a similar way, the steampunk/biopunk elements feel a little slap-dash. If you’re going to use them, really lean into them, you know? Right now it just feels like slapping “autogyro” or whatever in when you need transport from A to B.

Also don’t use 10-dollar words just for the sake of it. “Convalesced” adds nothing and takes away clarity.

Also the ending line feels out of place and - given the kid is, you know, a 13 year-old kid - a little weird.

Still, I enjoyed this story. It’s pretty simple but you captured a little of that “gentleman adventurer on safari” magic. Again, though, it’s something you could really have leaned into a lot more.

DJ Dublell: Part of the Forest

If you’re going to start in the middle of a scene it has to be for a reason. You want to be grounding the reader in the immediate and often very urgent plot. Using this to jump into backstory just reads as though you accidentally deleted the actual first sentence. Here the backstory is so vague and generic that you forget it by the time you reach the next paragraph.

Same for swearing: have a reason. Make the reason obvious. “Swears a lot” as a character feature is pretty 2D and unappealing. gently caress. gently caress. loving. gently caress. Just doesn’t really do much.

I like that you varied your sentence structure and length a lot. It worked to really up the tension and slow things right down. I agree with Sebmojo that the paragraph starting “I take a moment to ground myself” is a really good paragraph. Imagine if you’d started there as they suggested - you would be grounding the reader in the world as the character does the same. That would have worked very well.

The ending just falls apart. It’s another one where everyone just ups and dies and nothing is accomplished or learned or even really attempted.

OnsetOutsider: Ape

It’s hypocritical because I do this all the time but: watch your tenses. “The way up is the lonely part … The weather was rough … It is not a difficult walk ...”, etc.

Having said that, there is a very pretty (and almost cozy) atmosphere to this story that I very much enjoyed. The premise is lovely and so is the execution. I just think there’s not much to prop up the emotional stakes - the protagonist loves Huxley but never really explains why. It holds everything back a little - figure out that and you’d massively improve the story.

Chairchucker: Back from the officially dead

There’s an air of disinterested politeness that runs through the dialogue of your characters and for the most part that’s great and fine - it really drives home the Brazil-esque bureaucracy-defined reality thing you’ve got going on. The problem is that this infects the protagonist as well, to the point where they don’t really feel that upset at the whole situation. It makes everything feel grey and muted which, again, is fine up to a point - but without a protagonist being contrasted against that world, with colour and emotion and drive, there’s no real interest there. It feels less like a Real Person trapped and beset by an uncaring society and more like a Vulcan sitcom.

And that ending jesus christ dude have some dignity.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk









Last of my crits. If anyone wants a line by line say so.

Mcslaughter, Bonehouse
Writing is a lot like cooking in many ways, you get a general idea of what you want to make and and get started, improvising occasionally, throwing in a few herbs and spices, you know? This story is like hot boiled sauce. You’re locked in p hard on the snake house thing and spend most of your words evoking (with some success) a gothic, rotting, snake-focused mansion; but then rather than pouring that atmospheric sauce on some entertaining, amusing or horrifying happenstance, you just pour it into a bowl and hand the reader a fork. You also, to push the cooking metaphor a bit further, wildly over season everything with a prose style that makes me think of a thesaurus with a high fever. Think of big delicious words as, idk, bay leaves. You don’t make a meal out of bay leaves.

Audience, flesnolk
Don’t know, can’t read it since you've hidden it in the archive. From memory the first third was ok, the rest was bad – if you’re stuck with a monster hellrule (which that was) you need to organise the story around it, and big slabs of dialogue that you just take the punctuation out of (!) were never going to work. See Funeral for the Europan Humankind for an example of how to do a similar rule well. And note how you can read that story even though its 6 years old? Neat, isn’t it. Please stop taking your stories out of the archive, it’s fatuous and self-regarding.

Crabrock, elephant stone
I don’t care that much for prompt or flash rule adherence, a good or bad story is good/bad regardless of the conditions that led to its creation, but when you ask for a hard one then 100% ignore it you are asking for disqualification, so I don’t think I’ll bother critting this one. It was fine, I guess. I would have liked to see what your considerable skills would have done with that rule, that you asked for.

Apophenium, red blue and green
I remember being puzzled by this at the time, and on a second careful read that feeling persists. You’ve got birds, who are … related? And they’re … making weapons? For humans to fight? And there’s a hummingbird army? And there there’s a fight, because, um? The words are average to mediocre, the plot is a baffling mishmash, this was lucky to avoid the DM.

Anomalous blowout, the heretics fork
All you can do when you write is give people what they expect or what they don’t expect, the artistry is knowing which to do at any given time. I don’t think this story forges any particularly new or startling ground, a bad man is punished, but there’s a lot of pleasure in just watching it all unfold by the medium of some well-chosen words. I liked this more than Hopperuk’s similarly by-the-numbers magical revenge story though because we had more of a close-in focus on the people involved rather than salamanders broad gestures in the direction of tropes.

Devorum a princely reward
You give decent low fantasy here, you’ve got yer cowering servants and slightly dubious witch hunter types – I like the economy of how you convey a moderately complex political situation, you manage the perspective well without turning it into an irritating infodump. So really, solid work, but then you kill the protagonist, bam, and the story ends all NO MORAL like. There’s a place for the end-of-story protag kill but it has to mean something and it has to be something that adds to or enriches the story; here, it just ends it. Next time find a better way to get to the final full stop – why not have him escape, then bring in one more interesting or surprising event? But that aside, not terrible, though you need to proof read better – lots of little errors.

Lippincott, harnessed loyalty
I read this one and at first thought it was a disappointing vignette, but it grew on my on a second reading. There’s really nothing in here except a description of a very good boy, but you know what? It’s a good description of a very good boy. There is character, incident, tension. Not a huge amount of any, but there’s enough to get the coveted ‘yeah I guess it’s a story’ tick from me and I had a good enough time hanging out with your furry guy that it made me smile, so you may pass, friend.

Antivehicular hungry birds in dying forests
Something I’m liking about your stuff is your control of pacing, which is an underrated skill – while we all need to use words carefully at this ridiculously skimpy wordcount, that doesn’t always mean stuff happening. Note when your protag takes the cigarette (I really want a clove cigarette now so thanks for that dam ur eyes) and smokes it all the way down, making a little lacuna in the proceedings? That’s what I’m talking about, it adds character, and economically creates a tiny implied scene. I also like the way you control information, which pham nuwen’s el oso also did well this week. We find out about the grimy hellscape one detail at a time, and just as a detail of a scene can act as characterising information, the things we learn about our protag do the same for the crapsack world he’s in. I liked the final hope that he’d see concern or fear, but only sees scorn. A good, grim piece. Nice title too.

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 13:01 on Jan 26, 2019

curlingiron
Dec 15, 2006

Come fight terrifying creatures in the THUNDERDOME!


CascadeBeta posted:

In, flash me, :toxx:

You get Angkor Wat, in Cambodia.

DJ Dublell
Dec 13, 2008


Thanks for the crit, Staggy!

Bad idea, but I'm in this week, with flash.

BabyRyoga
May 21, 2001

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


I'll go in with a flash please!

Lippincott
Jun 28, 2018

You weren't born to just pay bills and die.

You must suffer.

A lot.


DJ Dublell posted:

Bad idea, but I'm in this week, with flash.

The Great Serpent Mound – Pebbles, Ohio

BabyRyoga posted:

I'll go in with a flash please!

Singing Oak – New Orleans, LA

Sign ups are not closed. Lippincott doesn't know what day it is.

Lippincott fucked around with this message at 17:12 on Jan 25, 2019

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







huh, 11:59 PM on the 25th of january came early this year! :v:

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 17:33 on Jan 25, 2019

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006


In with a flash please

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


oh god does this mean I missed my brawl

I forgot to account for the leap half-day

Lippincott
Jun 28, 2018

You weren't born to just pay bills and die.

You must suffer.

A lot.


Tyrannosaurus posted:

In with a flash please

Smith Mansion - Cody, WY

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




ThirdEmperor posted:

oh god does this mean I missed my brawl

I forgot to account for the leap half-day

Yoruichi posted:

:siren: SittingEmperor Brawl :siren:

Deadline is midnight PST on 26 January.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk









Tyrannosaurus posted:

In with a flash please

You should put a toxx on that.

Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.






:byodood: BRAWL SUBMISSION BIOTCHES :byodood:

Love of Our Lifetimes

“I looked at Kelly Miller’s face. Covered with spiders. Laughing like an idiot. She didn’t care that one of those bugs could crawl into her mouth. Hell, she didn’t even care that we were inside a car plummeting off the side of a cliff. She was living in the moment, with me.

“Some context for those who weren’t there for our engagement party. You see, Kelly Miller, the prankster that she is, cut the brake lines and somehow replaced the airbags with a pound of live, angry spiders I’ve ever seen,” Cameron chuckled wistfully. “Black Widows. I think at least twenty of them bit me before the car exploded at the bottom of the ravine.”

The crowd murmured with polite laughter.

“I couldn’t let that stroke of brilliance go by without trying to top it, so later that year we went skydiving. The look on your face when kitchen utensils came spilling out of your pack, Kelly Miller, was prime.” Cameron sighed theatrically and turned to smile at Kelly who also had a bright smile across her face. “I wish you were there to see my face when I realized you stuffed my parachute with more poisonous spiders. Brown Recluse. I was dead before I hit the ground. The clone facility told me there were proximity mines all over the landing zone so it took them a few days to recover all the body parts. Prime!”

The crowd laughed and golf clapped politely.

Cameron continued when the crowd quieted down. “That’s what I love about you Kelly Miller. You think ahead, you’re thorough and you pay attention to detail. But most importantly, you’re extremely rich, just like me.”

Kelly smiled warmly and fanned her eyes, blinking back tears. “He’s right,” she mouthed to the watching audience.

“I want to thank everyone here for allowing the two of us to pamper all of you.  I know it’s hard being relatively poor and I’m honored we were able to save you from that drudgery, if at least for only a month.” Cameron raised his glass and everyone in attendance did the same. “To us. May we live forever!”

Everyone sipped from their champagne flutes.

Kelly burst into sudden laughter, flecks of bloody spittle staining the priceless linen on loan from the Louvre. Cameron giggled like a child holding on to the funniest secret.

“What kind of wine is this?” Kelly gurgled, blood foaming up out of her mouth.

Cameron hid his smile behind his hands, his shoulders shaking with glee. “It’s all liquid cyanide!”

The crowd collectively cried out in horror and spat out their drinks. One guest slapped the drink out of his wife’s hand.  Another guest vomited and sobbed loudly.

Kelly slapped the table. “Prime!” she shouted. Her head lolled forward and her mouth hung agape. A line of bloody drool dripped from her mouth. Dead.  Many wedding guests are instantly on their feet, shouting incoherently and pointing at the newly made corpse.

Cameron stood up with hands in a placating gesture. “Alright everyone, relax.  I know no one else in here can afford clones. Your drinks are fine,” he said dismissively.  He snapped his fingers and held hand out in wait. A server came and handed Cameron a knife in an ornate sheath.  He slid the knife out, a priceless artifact dating back to the Roman Empire and tossed the scabbard past the server’s hands.

“Time to cut the cake and keep this party going,” Cameron said. With practiced efficiency, he slid the knife into the six foot cake; and like squeezing an overripe fruit, angry Brazilian Wandering spiders exploded out in a brown quivering mass and swarmed him.

The wedding hall erupted in panic. Chairs and tables are overturned in the rush to escape the venomous horde.  The cries of children cut through the cacophony. The elderly were shoved to the floor as a means to slow down the sea of chittering creatures.  

Cameron, ignoring the pandemonium happening all around him, guffawed, looking down through swollen eyelids at his painfully erect penis. “Kelly Miller. Always paying attention to the details.” The muscles in his legs gave out and he collapsed to the floor, crushing some spiders into a priceless rug from the Ming Dynasty. “drat do I love that woman.”

Mercedes fucked around with this message at 19:35 on Feb 1, 2019

Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.






Just an FYI I have no idea why the heck my spacing between paragraphs are so wonky. I just copy/paste straight from google doc and it looks normal there.

Anyway.

gently caress you.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk









Mercedes posted:

Just an FYI I have no idea why the heck my spacing between paragraphs are so wonky. I just copy/paste straight from google doc and it looks normal there.

Anyway.

gently caress you.

Haha that story owns

e:

quote:

You see, Kelly Miller, the prankster that she is, cut the brake lines and somehow replaced the airbags with the most amount of live, angry spiders I’ve ever seen,” Cameron chuckled wistfully. “Black Widows. I think at least twenty of them bit me before the car exploded at the bottom of the ravine.

that's how you pass an adverb check

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 11:57 on Jan 26, 2019

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔


I'm in.

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


ThirdUp brawl entry.

Entering and Breaking
1804 words

At 9 P.M. sharp the Preston Center for Historical Artifacts shut its doors, plugged in the ever-shifting codes for the electronic locks, activated the web of infrared laser alarms, and even delivered free, slightly cardboard-flavored caffeine to the guard with his boots up on the desk watching nothing much happen across dozens of security screens.

A qualified panel of security consultants had yet to link the ongoing string of break-ins to the positions of the stars, although Tammy, the intern with half a degree in history and half a degree in feng shui, had absolutely loving called it.

At the same time, the heist had already begun. Two tourists, pausing at the edge of a canal to contribute to the waters below, found themselves the victims of a body-theft.

The main trick of possession was to remember you had to breathe again, after going so long without; with the stars aligned in Octavo’s favor and a good moon overhead, it was as easy as putting on a fleshy, flabby suit full of various fluids.

As his victim sighed in satisfaction, Octavo stuck his hands into the back of the man’s head and pulled the rest of his ghostly body in after. There was a spasmodic shiver as the first occupant tried to protest, but Octavio shoved his mind down into the depths of the subconscious and that was that.

Beside him, the other tourist sneezed, went briefly cloudy behind the eyes, and straightened up again as a new occupant took charge.

An early Roman soldier and a Mesopotamian grain merchant turned and looked at each other through borrowed eyes; the former grinning broadly and the latter went scuttling back as a wet arc barely missed his shoes. Not his shoes, persay, but after today Octavo was afterlife-bound and already felt sketchy about borrowing a body, much less returning it in bad condition.

“S’good to be alive.” Kushim opined, running his fingers along his face and pulling the tourist’s sunburnt, flabby cheeks down until red crescent showed beneath his eyes and his lower gums were bared in an ogre’s smile. “Gosh, look at this nose!” Crowing, he poked and prodded at the fleshy nub in the middle of his vision, delighted to have something there that wasn’t mere misty translucence.

“Careful with that, it’s not yours. And put that away, you idiot.” Octavo snapped, prompting his companion to finally glance down, wince, and stow himself. His host was younger, in a ratty band shirt with a tattoo of a mermaid showing her amphora on his scrawny bicep.

Digging in ‘his’ pockets came up with a lighter, but no cigarettes or candy or any other pleasures of the flesh. Pity.

Behind them, the Preston Center’s service door swung open and the guard peered out, piloted like a rather morose puppet by the spirit of late Bronze Age shepherd who died trying to invent dairy with an unhelpful auroch. “Well, come on then.” Ghort snapped.

---

Prowling through the artifacts in their sterile cases, Octavo couldn’t help but feel there were dead things and living things. Most people would agree, and probably look at him like he was an idiot, but he meant things; bronze knives that needed blood in the same way men needed water, crude coins that would never pass between another set of hands.

These things and more lay cleaned of their spirits and embalmed under glass. Even pottery shards and other refuse had been gathered up, eulogies written on bronze plaques by the displays. The dead were not even allowed a say in what they threw away.

Octavo, for instance, had done a great job of throwing himself away, and yet here he lingered on. It was a funny thing. Leave a name in paper and ink, or with digital nonsense, written on reeds or carved into stone, nothing. But things written clay seemed to clutch and hold. Octavo could feel the pull of his name, stamped on a ledger of pay for a battle he’d forgotten, like an invisible fishhook through his soul.

Thousands of years later, the three of them lingered on. Tethered to the world by their written names. Making midnight outings when the stars were right. Mostly, they floated together and mumbled old grudges, a ghostly coterie of mist that scattered in the dawn.

And of late, plotting. Borrowing bodies to scout and plan. Octavo was distracted, admiring a collection of antique weapons, his kind of toy, when those plans started going wrong.

“Wait.” Kushim’s voice called them to a halt. “It’s not loving here.

“Of course it’s here, where else would it be?” Ghort was already insisting as he turned around, but sure enough, Kushim stood hunched over an empty case. The plaque read Early Sumerian tablet, date unknown.

“They must have moved it.” Octavo said, confident in the obvious.

“Of course they moved it, but where!” Kushim howled, hands cupped around his mouth, his voice starting to go thin and reedy.

“Breathe.”

Kushim made an airless squeaking sound, his eyes wide and confused.

“Breathe.” Octavo reminded him, and the great lug sucked in a breath that almost turned into a sob.

There was a click of a door swinging shut, and by the time they turned, two officers already had guns pointed their way. Octavo was a few millennia out of date, but he more or less understood the gist of those nasty little bits of metal and the even more dangerous, smaller bits of metal they spat.

They were yelling the usual things - ‘hands up’ and so forth and so on - but Octavo’s head was burning hot and empty of sense. He vaulted over the weapons case and, dropping to the floor as a shot burst overhead, popped back up to smash the glass open, seizing the first thing his fingers met. He dropped down with a bloody gash across the back of his hand and a sling clutched in his fist.

Not what he would have chosen. Reaching for the lighter in his pocket, Octavo glanced over to see Ghort huddled behind a pedestal furiously gesturing for him to hurry up. And to eat a dick. And numerous other, even more vivid suggestions. It was amazing how you built a vocabulary when the whole of history had passed before your eyes.

Dropping the silvery lighter into the sling, he gave it a flick of the wrist and built up a whistling speed as the officer’s footsteps came closer. Holding his breath, he lunged out from beneath the case and let the sling snap to a stop that sent its payload hurtling out in an arc of silver.

It made a satisfying thud as it rebounded off the man’s collarbone, and Octavo tackled him at the legs before he could get his footing back. As they went hurtling to the floor together Octavo caught a glimpse of Ghort popping up and going skittering down the hall.

The guard grabbed for his face and Octavo slugged him across the nose in return, spotting the gun lying on the floor and kicking it away. Kushim’s hands seized his shoulders and helped him pull away from the fight, tugged him down a passageway as the officer scrambled to find his firearm, lead him through the museum’s darkened hallways as Octavo’s pulse pounded.

He dug his heels in when they passed through an entranceway overlooked by a one-armed statue, into a hall full of broken marble. Half of a statue’s head lay on its broken side, so it seemed to be half-submerged into its cushion, staring at him. “Here.”

Octavo tore through the exhibits, heading past the decline, the glory days, to the earliest corners, the very beginnings of things where they kept the oldest of their hoard. He found what he needed - his name, the tablet - lying alongside a dozen other pieces of historical flotsam. This time, he tugged off his shirt and wrapped his fist before he punched the glass.

Lifting it out of its prison was a moment that could have had trumpets and drums and a soaring chant behind it. Octavo felt whole, with a quiet retirement ahead of him.

“Now mine. It’s got to be here somewhere-” Kushim tried to grab him again and Octavo stepped back, making a quiet, painful calculation.

“No time.”

“But-” This time it was Octavo who grabbed for Kushim, stopping the fool for making a break towards wherever it was he thought his name might be hidden. Probably he would have torn the whole museum apart looking, if, and only if, he had time.

“No time.” Octavo hissed, and he was right. The doors swung open under a tide of officers, unfurling into a firing line as the two of them froze, stuck in their last pose; Kushim trying to head for the far door, Octavo with one arm out-stretched to seize the idiot’s shoulder and the other curled around his tablet.

As he took stock of the half-dozen guns and the hopelessness of the situation, Octavo considered that he was holding the tablet rather high. All he really had to do was drop it.

But he spent one split second in the vanishingly small moment of time he had to think things through, and looked over to Kushim. The look in the other man’s eyes was pure panic.

Eternity was hard. You found yourself stretched out, unable to ever be sure when anything happened or what led to any given moment. You drifted. It was hard enough with a friend or two, sitting on the roadside of history and spitting at the ridiculous eras passing by.

Leaving someone to that wasn’t an easy thing to do. And he’d caused enough trouble for this body’s owner even without leaving it full of holes.

Breaking his name and leaving Kushim behind might have been easier if he hadn’t had to look his old companion in the eyes, and see how painfully afraid Kushim was; it was a cold stab in the heart to see a friend, nearly his only friend, completely unsure of what he’d do and completely terrified to find out.

Carefully, Octavo lay the tablet on the ground, and lay his borrowed body alongside it, stepping out of the fleshy shell to become, again, a rolling nothingness vaguely like a puff of mist. Kushim did likewise, and they left the whole disastrous scene together to wait out the rest of the night planning and plotting, bickering.

They’d get it right next time. And they’d find a way to make it right for the people whose bodies they’d borrowed. They had all the time in the world to try, they were in it for the long haul.

Saucy_Rodent
Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica


Last Night

(Place of power: someone's childhood home)

“Why is the moon all dark tonight?” asked my daughter Mimi about the thin crescent on the horizon, stripped of its familiar spots of bright yellow-green.

“The big batteries they have there that keep all their lights on broke today,” I told her. We were standing on the balcony of the woodland cottage I had inherited from my mother.

“That means that the people who live there are very scared because they don’t have enough air to breathe for very long. They could die if they don’t figure out how to fix the batteries soon,” said my husband Surya. Mimi performed a brief frowny face before looking down at a beetle crawling along the railing. I didn’t scold her for her apathy. What seven-year old has the frame of reference for mass death?

There was a certain nostalgia to viewing the naked moon of my childhood from my mother’s balcony. If not for the distant thought of the potential suffocation of millions, it would have been almost peaceful to bask in the cool summer air among the choir of crickets.

We came inside. Surya and I let Mimi stay up for one more hour with a book before tucking her in for bed. She fell asleep faster than she had in weeks. Our day’s parenting complete, Surya and I poured some whiskey and put on some music in the living room. Surya mocked my insistence that we listen to hits of the 60’s.

“You mean the nineteen-sixties?” Surya laughed. “Are you my wife or my grandma?”

“It’s what my mom would play when I was a kid,” I said. “We had a turntable in that corner…”

“And a piano against that wall,” said Surya. “I know. I’m teasing you. I love the Beatles. I even make Mimi listen to them when I’m driving her to school. We’re both too old for our age.”

We were supposed to be sad, but the fear and suffering were far away, hidden beneath the deep lunar shadow. Surya was carrying me up the stairs even before we were done with our drinks.



“Mommy! Wake up!” Mimi whispered, shaking my arm. “Where is that music coming from?”

“What music?” I grumbled. The night was so quiet that it sounded like something was missing; perhaps electric humming from the moon was audible from Earth. I put my clothes back on from under the covers and got to my feet.

“Somebody’s playing piano in the house!” said Mimi.

We don’t have a piano, I thought, but whatever game Mimi was playing in the dark of night sounded fun. I reached for the light, but Mimi told me not to. “I don’t want to scare them away!”

I followed Mimi to the source of the supposed sound. I clutched the wall as I descended the staircase, for it was too dark to see the step ahead of me. Mimi was tip-toeing so as not alarm our trespassing pianist.

“They’re playing right there!” she said as we came into the living room. She pointed towards the shadow-covered wall where my mother’s piano used to stand. And I still couldn’t hear the music.

“What are they playing?” I asked. She shook her head.

“I don’t know the song,” she said.

“Can you hum it?” I suggested.

She started to hum along with whatever she heard: “Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah.” It took me a couple seconds, but I recognized the melody. I began singing along.

Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.”

My eyes were adjusting to the night. Something against the wall was taking shape in the darkness.

Nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah.”

Because a vision softly creeping left its seeds while I was sleeping.”

The piano stood just where it once did, singing the same lullaby my mother would use to put us to sleep through the wall.

Nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah..”

And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains.”

My mother, sitting on the bench made all of shadow, turned toward us. Her dark face smiled at the granddaughter she never met.

Within the sound of silence."

Then a faint ray of poison-green light came in through the window and illuminated the bare living room wall. Our visitor, it seems, had left. Mimi didn’t hear the music anymore, so we stopped singing our Simon and Garfunkel to the blank wall and went to bed. Someone, thank God, had fixed the moon.



The news the next morning was all about the genius hero engineers who had repaired (and, in fact, improved) the lunar colony’s power system. The experts were all very sure no catastrophe of this sort would ever happen again.

I told Surya about what had happened, and he just laughed. As much as he made fun of me for it, he really did love the music of the 1960s, and The Sound of Silence had probably played once or twice for Mimi in his car. It wasn’t inconceivable that she would know that century-old song.

One of the bedtime stories my mother would tell me was about a rabbit who lived on the moon. It was an old story, she said, older than memory. Mimi knew there were no rabbits on the moon by the time she was three. The moon was just the place where her rich friends would go for family vacations.

The night of the energy crisis was the only night Mimi would ever know the moon as it originally was, the way I knew it as a child. And it was the only night that she would ever hear ghostly piano coming from the living room. She would only know nights lit with dim neon, but magic is only possible in darkness, and we’re never getting darkness back.

Saucy_Rodent
Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica


958 words

SlipUp
Sep 30, 2006


See archive.

SlipUp fucked around with this message at 19:57 on Dec 30, 2019

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







SITTINGTHIRD BRAWL ENTRY

prompt: compost


Loamspiral
2000 words

If you could step outside of time, you would see that it’s a rotating helix. Each rotation adds filament-thin layers, building up themes, rhymes, leitmotifs, and running gags over the epochs and eons. If you could view the time-helix from above, it would look like a circle constantly reinventing itself, with existing layers acting as the thematic soil from which new layers spring.

But you can’t step outside of time. As far as you’re concerned, you are a fixed point around which the world moves in a cruel, confusing blur.

In one layer of the helix, you are a child. Your friend, Chance, is about to get the whuppin’ of a lifetime from his daddy.

Chance’s dad thinks Chance stole Oxycontin from the gun safe in the garage. Chance’s face is bright red, scrunched up so tight it reminds you of how uncooked ground beef looks before your mom takes it out of the package. His eyes and nose are in the process of disgorging all the snot and tears his little body can muster. And they may as well, because pretty soon Chance will decide he’s too tough to cry, and that’ll be that.

You know drat well where the Oxycontin went.

Earlier, you found Chance’s dad’s girlfriend, Star, nodding off right there in the garage, next to the open gun safe. At the time, you weren’t at all concerned with the oxy pills, but you were deeply concerned with the single flapjack titty hanging out of Star’s tank top. It was your first time staring down an honest-to-god naked boob, and even though it was laced with silver stretch marks, it took your breath away.

Now Chance is about to take a beating he doesn’t deserve and his dad is practically screaming in tongues and you’re cowering in the corner thinking about that single naked boob and all the implications therein.

Your feet carry you across the room and deposit you in front of Chance’s dad.

You say, “Star did it.”

Chance’s dad says, “If you’re in on this too, then I’m gonna whup you then send you back to your shitstain of a father to whup you again.”

You say, “I went out to get a popsicle from the freezer and Star was there with some pill bottles falling asleep and I could see her boob. It has like, lines all over it.” It seems important to add the bit about the stretch marks. For credibility.

Chance’s dad gathers himself up like a rearing bear and then brings one mighty paw down across your face, knocking you onto your rear end.

He looks like he wants to whale on you again and again, but he catches himself mid-swing. A slow, mean smile spreads across his face. In subsequent helix layers, you absolutely loathe the various Grinch movies, though you’ll never consider why.

You and Chance spend the night in the backyard, bruised and made to strip down to nothing but your underwear. The long, unkempt grass hides broken glass, needles, and bits of junk, so you and Chance sit pressed up against the side of the house, soaking up what heat you can through your bare backs.

“I would be dead meat if you weren’t here,” Chance says.

It’s the most terrifying thing anyone has ever said to you.

.

Further up the helix, you’re seventeen years old, rising out of the bitter mulch of your childhood to stand, gangly and awkward, above your peers. You’ve made it through the worst parts of your youth, but the damage was done; life has taught you to never disregard the animal inside your fellow humans. Anyone, at any moment, can be seized by their darkest urges and most fervent impulses. So the things that hurt you, that worry you, get tamped down, pressed into a dense loam out of which you continue to grow like a spindly tree.

There’s a girl named Alyhks who goes to your school. She wears her name like a scarlet letter, proof that she is inherently worthless and so worthy of the torment of her peers.

You think Alyhks is pretty, in a girl-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks sort of way. You like the stilted, thoughtful poetry she reads aloud for your english class. Like everything else, you crush these feelings down until they liquefy into something you can use in your own secret poetry.

You’re on your way back to class after another fruitless meeting with the school counselor. As you pass the restrooms, you hear shrill noises coming from the girl’s bathroom—nothing out of the ordinary there.

Then you hear Alyhks’s voice, pleading.

“Give them back! Please!

“Do these even stay in your pussy? Isn’t it all stretched out?”

“Dude, look at her, she’s a total lesbo. No way dick has gone anywhere near that pussy.”

“Let’s give her the tampons back if she lets us read that notebook she’s always writing in.”

You are frozen outside the bathroom. All the things inside you that’ve been tamped down for so long begin to seethe beneath the soil of your mind, stirring, reaching like seedlings seeking sunlight.

“It’s just homework,” Alyhks is saying. “I never did anything to you. Why are you doing this?”

“Let us see the notebook or I’ll dump your huge-rear end tampons in the toilet.”

You hear the sound of a backpack unzipping, papers rustling.

“Fine. Here,” Alyhks says, her voice small and defeated.

The other girls begin to read aloud from Alyhks’s notebook, laughing at everything regardless of whether it’s funny. Your fists wad up into bony knots.

Then they start reading a poem about a tall, gangly young man with big ears and a big heart, who speaks little but says so much with his resplendent brown eyes. Your own name is suddenly part of the hateful milieu in the girls’ restroom.

And like that, the things beneath the soil recoil back down into comfortable, compact darkness. You walk to class as fast as you can—you’re late anyway, and that will have its own uncomfortable consequences.

Resplendent. She thinks your eyes are resplendent. But all you can feel is that inward flinch, the anticipation of the bear paw coming down on your face. This girl now represents a vulnerability, a way for others to hurt you, and this is not allowed.

Last you hear of Alyhks, she’s been transferred to an alternative high school, the sort of place the district sends the violent and the pregnant and the chronically-expelled.

.

The time-helix spirals ever upward, nurturing the future with all that has come before.

You are the manager of a chain clothing retailer. It’s a position you worked hard for; you clawed your way up from sales associate to supervisor to shift manager to The Boss. Along the way you made hard decisions: hiring, firing, and cutting full time employees down to part time, stripping them of their medical benefits.

You don’t feel good about these decisions, but you don’t feel bad about them, either. You’re just a human animal, participating in the exchange of resources between other human animals. You don’t write poetry anymore, so the feelings you tamp down liquefy into rot, then fester.

You make a point of wearing a suit jacket to work every day, which your superiors love. Your staff thinks it’s some combination of dorky, endearing, and intimidating. The jacket hangs loose on your tall, lean body and conceals the gun you have in a holster at the small of your back. You don’t really know why you got your concealed carry permit; part of you dreads ever having to fire the gun, while another part of you wants to exact your revenge on every human animal within your line of sight.

It’s Black Friday. Customers have been treating your staff like poo poo all day. You’re out on the floor helping Carrissa refold the huge pile of shirts someone wantonly shoved onto the ground. You can tell she’s pissed as hell, just barely biting back the vitriol she wants to spew at every customer who passes within two feet of her. The store smells like too much perfume, unwashed rear end, and fast food—the olfactory signature of the human animal.

You’re not thinking about your gun. This is your sixth Black Friday as store manager and there is something almost comforting in the predictable repugnance of it.

You’re about to send Carissa on long lunch—you’re proud of how well she’s kept her own inner animal leashed—when a ripple of wrongness changes the timbre of the crowded store.

There’s not a commotion, per se, but there is a stillness, a shifting of the collective attention to one particular point near the front of the store. The hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

You know this moment. This is the uncomprehending interval before the bear’s claws come down and knock you on your rear end.

Now people are running toward the back of the store, or ducking underneath display tables, anything to shield themselves from what’s happening up by the cash registers.

You shove your way upstream, against the crowd. Panicked bodies give way to an open space, occupied by a man with an assault rifle. His thin, sweaty face is red like uncooked ground beef.

He raises his weapon and rat-tat-tat-tat-tats off a few rounds.

An overhead light bursts and rains sparks down on the people below, and you can see the gunman purposefully aimed high. In his wild eyes there is a kind of confusion—he walked into this store as an adult human animal, ready to make others pay for crimes real or imagined. Now he stands before you, a bewildered child, having been floated up to this moment on the thermal of the time-helix.

You see within him the same bitter soil that feeds your own roots.

He’s not looking at you. You could turn, run for the exit you know is in the back of the store, through the doors that read Employees Only. If someone’s going to die, there’s no reason it should be you. You didn’t spend a lifetime compressing your bullshit into mulch just to die like one of these stinking, cow-eyed shoppers.

You could reach for that gun holstered at the small of your back—give in to the animal that has been howling inside of you all these years, finally punish someone worthy of punishment. Yours would be a righteous expression of anger. A heroic anger. The only thing that can stop a bad animal with a gun is a good animal with a gun, but that’s all you’d be—just another animal acting out of self preservation, as animals do.

Rat-ta-ta-ta-ta-tat!

Another aimless spray of bullets. More lights go out, spilling their fluorescent innards onto the floor.

Your feet carry you, with gathering speed, toward the gunman. Tears are streaming freely from your eyes, though you won’t notice this for several minutes.

The helix spins, layers building on infinite layers. The past nourishes the future.

You collide with the gunman, tackle him to the ground in a bear hug. The gun flies out of his hand, goes skittering across the floor.

“It’s okay,” you say into his ear. “It’s okay. It’s okay.” He convulses against you, a frightened animal. And now you’re sobbing, stroking his sweat-soaked hair, comforting the animal inside of yourself as much as calming this would-be killer.

It takes two SWAT team guys to pull you off the gunman, who’s by now gone totally catatonic. They’re surprised and relieved to find you armed, but with your weapon still holstered.

“If you’d drawn your weapon, we could’ve had a blood bath on our hands,” a police officer tells you later, as you sit in the back of an ambulance giving your account of the day’s events. “Lotta those folks in there would’ve been dead fuckin’ meat.”

It’s the most gratifying thing anyone has ever said to you.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009


Saucy_Rodent vs. apophenium

Who's to Say
791 words

Francis walked past Johnny Nusbaum’s house every morning on the way to the schoolhouse. Johnny'd be on the porch with an apple, smiling. His mom kept him home, taught him herself. Francis Ramsey would sneer and spit on Johnny’s lawn. Johnny might yell, “How’s your pa, Francis?”

Francis’s father was not well. Malcolm Ramsey, sole purveyor of three-fourths of the farming land in Burrow county, lay in bed sweating from fever. The whole of Burrow county waited for Gerald Ramsey to pass on, if only to see the cold war between families go hot. Having neglected a will, it was anyone’s guess how all the land would be divided among the various siblings and cousins.

But Johnny and Francis didn’t quite grasp that. All they knew was their daddies hated each other, so they had to hate each other too.

The power dynamic shifted when Francis came home from school. One hot Tuesday afternoon, Francis and Miriam walked past the Nusbaum house. Francis smiled to himself when he heard their screen door slam. Here came little Johnny with his hair pomaded back.

“Hi, Miriam,” said Johnny.

“Miriam doesn’t want to talk to you.” Francis narrowed his eyes, then winced when Miriam punched his shoulder.

“I can speak for myself, Francis Ramsey. But he’s right, Johnny. Run along back inside and work on your letters. Or else your mommy’ll be mad.” Miriam grabbed Francis’s hand and the pair walked away.

“Ow!” Francis rubbed the back of his head, felt slick blood between his fingers. He turned, saw Johnny bending down to pick up another rock. He screamed and rushed towards boy, tackled him to the ground. Johnny’s arms shot behind him to break his fall. A wet snap as Johnny’s forearm broke.

“Your pa’s not getting an inch of my pa’s land,” said Francis. He turned to Miriam, but she had ran away. “What?” he shouted after her. “He started it!”

-

That night, Francis went to his pa’s bed, having been beckoned. He stood, forehead crinkled as Gerald feverishly offered advice on buying and selling land and crops, when to fertilize, how many workers the land would need.

“It’s all going to you, Francis. All of it. Whatever you decide to do with it. Sell it to Nusbaum if you want. I know you’ll take care of yourself and your mother.”

Francis nodded. Then Gerald added, “And be civil. I didn’t get where I am through intimidation.”

A tension gripped Francis. Did his pa know about Johnny? Would it complicate things with the Nusbaums? Francis mumbled “Yes, pa,” and left.

Francis joined his ma on the porch. “You all right?” she asked.

“I think I did a bad thing, ma. I hurt Johnny Nusbaum.” When she turned to him, eyes wide, he added, “I didn’t mean to! He was bothering me and Miriam!”

“Well you’re going over there tomorrow after church to apologize and see if he needs anything. Did you tell your father?”

Francis stared out at the fields as his mother berated him. He accepted the blame then slunk to bed.

-

Church was boring. Francis didn’t care to grasp the deeper meaning of the Bible. Instead of listening to the sermon he stared at the bloody man on the cross. He daydreamed of going to Johnny Nusbaum’s, seeing the anger in his eyes. Johnny’s pa, Malcolm, would be particularly irate. Francis looked forward to it with masochistic pleasure.

-

Johnny’s ma opened the door a minute after Francis knocked. “Johnny can’t come play, he’s had a fall.”

“I know, I just wanted to check in on him.” Francis couldn’t believe it. Johnny hadn’t told on him? Mrs. Nusbaum invited him in.

Johnny seemed even smaller, as if shrunken by pain. He sweated and winced. The doctor hadn’t been able to settle the bone perfectly. That arm might never be strong.

Francis shuffled over. Johnny opened an eye and recoiled. At Johnny’s terror, Francis felt a rush of power. He suppressed a grin.

“I’m sorry about what happened to you,” he said. But Johnny just writhed, clutching the sheets with his good hand.

When Francis left he bumped into Malcolm Nusbaum, returning from town. Mr. Nusbaum had something to ask Francis. “Your pa told you his plans for his land, son?”

Francis nodded.

“Is he signing it to you? Johnny’s won’t make it as a farmer. But you will. Why don’t we join up? End the bickering?”

Instead of going home, Francis walked down corridors of corn stalks on his father’s - no, his - land, grinning to himself. Pa was soft, like Johnny. Pa turned away from a lucrative deal with Mr. Nusbaum. He was letting a fever kill him.

Pa hadn’t gotten anywhere being mean, but that didn’t mean Francis couldn’t.

Rad-daddio
Apr 25, 2017


Place of power: Carhenge

997 words

Zeke held his cracked phone, and panned around the odd place to get some footage beforehand. Nightfall had come, and with it the isolation that befalls someone who was seeing their world through the illumination of a tiny gas station flashlight.

The old man told him that there was no use trying to record the event. Film, digital, none of it worked. Zeke was skeptical it would even happen. Too many nights spent talking with that old cook at Sal’s Auto Salvage. Bring him enough ‘shine, and he’d give you free run of the place. Free parts, tires worn down to the cord, rims that’d been rubbed by every curb from here to Georgia. Not a bad deal for a high school dropout with a run of bad luck, and a broke down car that ate a quart of oil at every fill up.

There was always one story that Sal came back to. Carhenge. That stupid tourist spot in the corn state. According to Sal, on the perfect night, when there was no moon in the sky, you could see miracles there. Zeke thought he was crazy. There was nothing there but a bunch of dumb cars stacked up like those rocks in England.

But Sal’s smiling rebuttal was always the same, “Well, why did they put those cars right there? They could’ve put ‘em anywhere if they weren’t so special.”

Zeke set his phone on the roof of his 1978 Trans Am and reached into the driver’s side window. He bumped the car into neutral, and pushed it slowly into the middle ring of cars. The silence was deafening. Not even a passing car at this time of night. All he could hear was the crunch of gravel under the worn tires of his busted car. The thing barely made the trip out, while coughing and leaking fluids like a crazed old lady in a mobility scooter.

Zeke stopped, stood back and tried to gauge the car’s location in the circle. He had to get this right. Sal had given him a tattered old book of notes. Just a bunch of gibberish to him, but Sal talked him through most of it. Zeke plopped the notebook on his hood and read it with his flashlight held in the crook of his neck. The cheap light faded, and then went dark.

“poo poo.” he said.

Zeke banged the light against the palm of his hand, and sighed in frustration. He reached in to turn on his headlights, and continued reading out loud to himself.

“Alright, it says here I got to say an incantation. What?” he said out loud with a puzzled look on his face.

He shrugged, tossed the notebook and the dead flashlight onto the passenger seat and walked to the front of the car.

Cringing with embarrassment, he recited the incantation from memory, “Oh Great One, creator of cars, make this right. Take my car and bring it to the light!”

Silence.

Nothing happened. No light, no magic. Nothing. Zeke grabbed his phone from the roof and angrily tossed it on the passenger’s seat.

“Crazy old bastard. Wasted all my time driving out here. Stupid nonsense.” Zeke muttered to himself.

It was then he noticed a single bolt sitting on the ground by his foot. It looked new, and it surely wasn’t from the circle of grey washed cars he was standing in. Figuring that his car had shed yet another piece of hardware, he reached down to grab it.

When he stood up, he noticed that there were more bolts. The gravel was strewn with various bits and pieces like they were sprinkled about while he wasn’t looking.

Suddenly, the bolt he was holding jumped out of his hand as if attracted by a magnet. It rolled away under his car, while his headlights flickered and blinked out.

“What the fu-” he was cut off by a sound that was emanating from the circle of cars. It was the lilting sound of angelic voices.

The bolts and assorted miscellanea began to move about, rising up and swirling like a maelstrom. Under his car, a rumble seemed to come from deep within the earth. While the car rocked back and forth on its creaking springs, the bolts darted under the rusty and dented body of the car like cliff swallows finding a spot to perch.

Zeke stood back, taking shelter behind one of the dilapidated, stacked cars. He cursed himself for leaving his phone on the passenger’s seat.

Suddenly, a pillar of intense white light engulfed the car. The accompanying voices had grown to a deafening howl, and he watched as the hood of the car was torn from its mounts and raised into the sky. A hot wind swirled about the car, sending oil-tainted gravel into Zeke’s eyes. He winced, and wiped his face on his black tank top.

The gravel under his car began to churn and swirl as if being stirred from beneath. His old tires, leaky transmission and tired engine were drawn down beneath the swirling gravel. After some time, the airborne bolts seemed to thin out, and the pillar of light began to fade. The once-deafening sound of twisting metal was gone, and all that could be heard was the rustling of weeds as the winds subsided.

Zeke approached the car as if it were alive. He ran his hand along the gleaming black paint, and then reached under the grille to open the hood. After grabbing his phone from the newly upholstered interior, he shone its light around the gleaming, perfect chrome engine bay. He shut the hood and exhaled quietly.

The driver’s seat felt foreign and new to him. Zeke reached for the key that was still in the ignition. He turned it, and the engine came to life. Each press of the gas pedal was rewarded with a loud and powerful snarl. He smiled to himself, and backed his new car out of the ring.

vannevar
Jan 27, 2013

The war goes on.


Somewhere Else
853 words

You can carry 150 pounds with you to Antarctica. That’s it. Anything you might need or want during the long dark of austral winter has to fit within that weight limit. Most people struggle with this, but I’m used to traveling light. It makes it easier when the time comes to move on. You learn quick what’s a necessity and what isn’t.

I bought a tablet before I left. I wanted to be the type of person that reads books, so I loaded it up and threw it in the suitcase with the long johns and the glove warmers. Some of the beakers brought paper books. That seemed like a dumb thing for people who were supposedly so smart.

You don’t have to be a genius to go to the South Pole. In fact, you might have to be kind of an idiot. Everyone’s heard about their little monster movie marathon after the last plane leaves. In the frosty depths of July they wait for the temperature to drop to a hundred below and they go streaking from the sauna to the South Pole itself and back again, all for a stupid cloth badge. Dumb, like I said.

But someone’s got to cook lunch for the cafeteria or unload the planes—in summer months only—or chisel the vomit up off the ice outside the bar. There has to be someone for the beakers to harangue when the toilet backs up. So you can go to Antarctica even if all you know how to do is run a cash register. Not that most regular folks want to.

When it’s winter at Pole you’re further away from human civilization than anyone else on earth. Six hundred miles—even astronauts aren’t that far up. Depending on what’s in the sky, there’s internet—some, anyway. Enough for your boss back at corporate headquarters in Colorado to send you a company newsletter.

Like you’re going to make it into the office to celebrate the May birthdays with cake in the break room.

There’s no cake at the South Pole, but there’s plenty of alcohol. The station has a store, where I work, and it sells tacky knickknacks—you’re so far away from everything else you’ve ever known, but you can still get a tee shirt to say you were there—but mostly it sells consumables. Maybe not cigarettes, because who wants to stand outside to smoke? But the store sells booze, and there’s a bar.

Mostly it’s the beakers that go to the bar, because when they’re done for the day they’re done. But if someone pukes on the snow or plugs up a toilet or breaks their printer in your off hours and you’re too drunk to handle it, it might be your rear end. “Fired” is a funny word when there’s no way you’re leaving for the next four months, but you do lose your bonuses and benefits. And you can never go back to Antarctica. So the support crew doesn’t drink much.

But I got from one town to the next just knowing how to count a cash drawer, and I made it to Antarctica to sell tee shirts to grad students. It’s the kind of skill you can take anywhere, and I have, all the way to the very bottom of the world. So I run the store at the South Pole, and when I lock up for the night I don’t need to be back until the morning. There are no 2 AM candy emergencies.

And then I go to the bar. It looks like a basement bar, and there’s a jukebox, and one of the beakers likes to play bartender. It’s like every bar I’ve ever gone to after work in all the ways that matter—except one. Nobody can call you a cab at Pole, so they over-serve you until you pass out and they prop you up on the couch. Sometimes there are bruises on my biceps from getting dragged into place, but it’s better than frostbite, I guess.

You keep a routine in the winter—May is when the sky stops getting lighter at all, so it’s more important then than ever. But even way down there, life’s the same. You think Antarctica is going to be strange and magical, that the rarity of the experience makes it special somehow. But every town has its banalities. Even Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Is it really so much better than Colorado Springs, where those corporate emails come from?

When the light returns and the sun comes back and the planes go in and out, my contract will be up. I expect someone else will run the store next year, and I’ll go somewhere else to build a new life. Maybe then I’ll have time to read those books sitting on my tablet. Maybe my stories will be interesting. Maybe somewhere over the horizon there’s somewhere that will transform me. It isn’t happening here.

In the months-long night, if you can stand the weather, you can go outside and see more stars than anywhere else on Earth. But you can’t change them.

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


-archived-

ThirdEmperor fucked around with this message at 22:50 on Jan 1, 2020

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




:siren: ThirdSittingEmperorHere Brawl Judgement :siren:

I gave you a prompt that, while evocative of themes of life, death and rebirth, was also a fairly blatant invitation to write about mushrooms. One of you tried your hardest to resist the call to mushroom-town, and the other dived right in. One of you wrote an awkward story that tried to be three different things and succeeded at none of them; the other wrote great, weird mushroom poo poo. The moral of the story is: follow your heart, especially if it has mushrooms in it.

The winner is ThirdEmperor. Congratulations, you have beaten Sitting Here at her own game. Please PM me with your choice of new avatar (or tell me if you want me to pick), so that I may cleanse your profile of the stain that is Umaru-chan.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Judge thoughts on Loamspiral by Sitting Here

If you could step outside of time, you would see that it’s a rotating helix. Each rotation adds filament-thin layers, building up themes, rhymes, leitmotifs, and running gags over the epochs and eons. If you could view the time-helix from above, it would look like a circle constantly reinventing itself, with existing layers acting as the thematic soil from which new layers spring.

I like the imagery here, but the ending of this story doesn't connect with, or deliver on, this rather cool opening.

But you can’t step outside of time. As far as you’re concerned, you are a fixed point around which the world moves in a cruel, confusing blur.

In one layer of the helix, you are a child. Your friend, Chance, is about to get the whuppin’ of a lifetime from his daddy.

I'm not sure the transition in style from dreamy to brutal vernacular works here. It feels too abrupt.

Chance’s dad thinks Chance stole Oxycontin from the gun safe in the garage. Chance’s face is bright red, scrunched up so tight it reminds you of how uncooked ground beef looks before your mom takes it out of the package. His eyes and nose are in the process of disgorging all the snot and tears his little body can muster. And they may as well, because pretty soon Chance will decide he’s too tough to cry, and that’ll be that.

You know drat well where the Oxycontin went.

Earlier, you found Chance’s dad’s girlfriend, Star, nodding off right there in the garage, next to the open gun safe. At the time, you weren’t at all concerned with the oxy pills, but you were deeply concerned with the single flapjack titty hanging out of Star’s tank top. It was your first time staring down an honest-to-god naked boob, and even though it was laced with silver stretch marks, it took your breath away.

Now Chance is about to take a beating he doesn’t deserve and his dad is practically screaming in tongues and you’re cowering in the corner thinking about that single naked boob and all the implications therein.

I think this section wants to draw me into the shitness of the protag’s childhood. But most of the words have been spent on Chance and Star - who don't reappear in the story - and the only insight I'm getting into how the protag feels is “omg a boob!” So at this point I'm not feeling much connection with the character or concern for what happens to him.

Your feet carry you across the room and deposit you in front of Chance’s dad.

You say, “Star did it.”

Chance’s dad says, “If you’re in on this too, then I’m gonna whup you then send you back to your shitstain of a father to whup you again.”

Do people actually say whup? Maybe this reads fine to Americans but to me it sounds like a joke word, which doesn't fit the violence of Chance’s dad. The challenges of writing vernacular dialogue that makes sense across cultures might be a convo for another day.

You say, “I went out to get a popsicle from the freezer and Star was there with some pill bottles falling asleep and I could see her boob. It has like, lines all over it.” It seems important to add the bit about the stretch marks. For credibility.

The choice of second person is starting to hurt you here. It made sense for the story about the time helix but isn't working for this somewhat separate and much more gritty story about a kid getting beat up.

Chance’s dad gathers himself up like a rearing bear and then brings one mighty paw down across your face, knocking you onto your rear end.

He looks like he wants to whale on you again and again, but he catches himself mid-swing. A slow, mean smile spreads across his face. In subsequent helix layers, you absolutely loathe the various Grinch movies, though you’ll never consider why.

Rather than complimenting or supporting the story, the helix reference here feels like an unnecessary footnote. I also haven't seen any Grinch movies: beware pop culture references.

You and Chance spend the night in the backyard, bruised and made to strip down to nothing but your underwear. The long, unkempt grass hides broken glass, needles, and bits of junk, so you and Chance sit pressed up against the side of the house, soaking up what heat you can through your bare backs.

“I would be dead meat if you weren’t here,” Chance says.

One third in I don't think I've learnt enough about the protag or what effect this violent formative experience has had on him.

It’s the most terrifying thing anyone has ever said to you.

This though, is a great line. Suddenly I feel some emotional investment in this story.

.

Further up the helix, you’re seventeen years old, rising out of the bitter mulch of your childhood to stand, gangly and awkward, above your peers. You’ve made it through the worst parts of your youth, but the damage was done; life has taught you to never disregard the animal inside your fellow humans. Anyone, at any moment, can be seized by their darkest urges and most fervent impulses. So the things that hurt you, that worry you, get tamped down, pressed into a dense loam out of which you continue to grow like a spindly tree.

You have smooshed together too many metaphors and none of them are landing. We've got the helix, which is great but kinda pointless framing, the idea of a person's future being the product of their past, the “animal inside,” and the rather mundane observation that compost makes saplings grow tall. The last in particular falls down because you're talking about the things that hurt him, the things that worry him, making the protag literally tall and gangly. I still don't know what effect the “bitter mulch” of his childhood has had on his emotional state, apart from making him not trust people.

There’s a girl named Alyhks who goes to your school. She wears her name like a scarlet letter, proof that she is inherently worthless and so worthy of the torment of her peers.

You think Alyhks is pretty, in a girl-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks sort of way. You like the stilted, thoughtful poetry she reads aloud for your english class. Like everything else, you crush these feelings down until they liquefy into something you can use in your own secret poetry.

English should be capitalised. Nothing about what you've said about the protag so far has set him up as a thoughtful writer of secret poetry. I thought he was suppressing all his emotions?

You’re on your way back to class after another fruitless meeting with the school counselor. As you pass the restrooms, you hear shrill noises coming from the girl’s bathroom—nothing out of the ordinary there.

Then you hear Alyhks’s voice, pleading.

“Give them back! Please!”

“Do these even stay in your pussy? Isn’t it all stretched out?”

“Dude, look at her, she’s a total lesbo. No way dick has gone anywhere near that pussy.”

“Let’s give her the tampons back if she lets us read that notebook she’s always writing in.”

You are frozen outside the bathroom. All the things inside you that’ve been tamped down for so long begin to seethe beneath the soil of your mind, stirring, reaching like seedlings seeking sunlight.

Again awkward use of compost metaphor. His mind is soil, his past is loam, and all is helix. You need to decide what you are talking about.

“It’s just homework,” Alyhks is saying. “I never did anything to you. Why are you doing this?”

“Let us see the notebook or I’ll dump your huge-rear end tampons in the toilet.”

You hear the sound of a backpack unzipping, papers rustling.

“Fine. Here,” Alyhks says, her voice small and defeated.

The other girls begin to read aloud from Alyhks’s notebook, laughing at everything regardless of whether it’s funny. Your fists wad up into bony knots.

Then they start reading a poem about a tall, gangly young man with big ears and a big heart, who speaks little but says so much with his resplendent brown eyes. Your own name is suddenly part of the hateful milieu in the girls’ restroom.

And like that, the things beneath the soil recoil back down into comfortable, compact darkness. You walk to class as fast as you can—you’re late anyway, and that will have its own uncomfortable consequences.

Resplendent. She thinks your eyes are resplendent. But all you can feel is that inward flinch, the anticipation of the bear paw coming down on your face. This girl now represents a vulnerability, a way for others to hurt you, and this is not allowed.

I'm not following the protag's emotional flip-flop here. First the girl he likes is in trouble so he's angry, then - gasp! - she likes him too, so he just… goes to class? Why doesn’t he try to help her? Or, why doesn’t he make an explicit decision to NOT help her? And now he has to reject his feelings for her because something something past trauma?

Last you hear of Alyhks, she’s been transferred to an alternative high school, the sort of place the district sends the violent and the pregnant and the chronically-expelled.

This is also a good line but again fails to give me any insight into the impact of Alyhks’ transfer on the protag.
.

The time-helix spirals ever upward, nurturing the future with all that has come before.

You are the manager of a chain clothing retailer. It’s a position you worked hard for; you clawed your way up from sales associate to supervisor to shift manager to The Boss. Along the way you made hard decisions: hiring, firing, and cutting full time employees down to part time, stripping them of their medical benefits.

You don’t feel good about these decisions, but you don’t feel bad about them, either. You’re just a human animal, participating in the exchange of resources between other human animals. You don’t write poetry anymore, so the feelings you tamp down liquefy into rot, then fester.

I get that the kid with the lovely upbringing has grown into a slightly lovely adult, but I’m just not feeling it. Tbh his adult life seems to have turned out fine, so there’s no sense of him striving or struggling - I’m not waiting to find out what happens.

You make a point of wearing a suit jacket to work every day, which your superiors love. Your staff thinks it’s some combination of dorky, endearing, and intimidating. The jacket hangs loose on your tall, lean body and conceals the gun you have in a holster at the small of your back. You don’t really know why you got your concealed carry permit; part of you dreads ever having to fire the gun, while another part of you wants to exact your revenge on every human animal within your line of sight.

Ok so he does have some inner turmoil. But see, I thought this was a story about a time helix - if it’s a story about struggling against your inner demons you needed to set this up at the start.

It’s Black Friday. Customers have been treating your staff like poo poo all day. You’re out on the floor helping Carrissa refold the huge pile of shirts someone wantonly shoved onto the ground. You can tell she’s pissed as hell, just barely biting back the vitriol she wants to spew at every customer who passes within two feet of her. The store smells like too much perfume, unwashed rear end, and fast food—the olfactory signature of the human animal.

The “human animal” line is starting to feel over-used.

You’re not thinking about your gun. This is your sixth Black Friday as store manager and there is something almost comforting in the predictable repugnance of it.

You’re about to send Carissa on long lunch—you’re proud of how well she’s kept her own inner animal leashed—when a ripple of wrongness changes the timbre of the crowded store.

See, he’s a good boss. This dude is doing fine.

There’s not a commotion, per se, but there is a stillness, a shifting of the collective attention to one particular point near the front of the store. The hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

You know this moment. This is the uncomprehending interval before the bear’s claws come down and knock you on your rear end.

Now people are running toward the back of the store, or ducking underneath display tables, anything to shield themselves from what’s happening up by the cash registers.

You shove your way upstream, against the crowd. Panicked bodies give way to an open space, occupied by a man with an assault rifle. His thin, sweaty face is red like uncooked ground beef.

I like the call back to the simile you used earlier but it confused me for a moment as I tried to work out if the gunman is Chance. I decided he isn’t.

He raises his weapon and rat-tat-tat-tat-tats off a few rounds.

An overhead light bursts and rains sparks down on the people below, and you can see the gunman purposefully aimed high. In his wild eyes there is a kind of confusion—he walked into this store as an adult human animal, ready to make others pay for crimes real or imagined. Now he stands before you, a bewildered child, having been floated up to this moment on the thermal of the time-helix.

It’s a story about the time helix!

You see within him the same bitter soil that feeds your own roots.

No it’s not it’s about how your past shapes your future! I mean obviously these are the same concept but too many metaphors make brain go uurrrgh.

He’s not looking at you. You could turn, run for the exit you know is in the back of the store, through the doors that read Employees Only. If someone’s going to die, there’s no reason it should be you. You didn’t spend a lifetime compressing your bullshit into mulch just to die like one of these stinking, cow-eyed shoppers.

You could reach for that gun holstered at the small of your back—give in to the animal that has been howling inside of you all these years, finally punish someone worthy of punishment. Yours would be a righteous expression of anger. A heroic anger. The only thing that can stop a bad animal with a gun is a good animal with a gun, but that’s all you’d be—just another animal acting out of self preservation, as animals do.

You haven’t set the protag up as someone wrestling with themselves so this bit doesn’t work.

Rat-ta-ta-ta-ta-tat!

Another aimless spray of bullets. More lights go out, spilling their fluorescent innards onto the floor.

Your feet carry you, with gathering speed, toward the gunman. Tears are streaming freely from your eyes, though you won’t notice this for several minutes.

The helix spins, layers building on infinite layers. The past nourishes the future.

You collide with the gunman, tackle him to the ground in a bear hug. The gun flies out of his hand, goes skittering across the floor.

“It’s okay,” you say into his ear. “It’s okay. It’s okay.” He convulses against you, a frightened animal. And now you’re sobbing, stroking his sweat-soaked hair, comforting the animal inside of yourself as much as calming this would-be killer.

This is great as a resolution to this scene. But it doesn’t work as a resolution to the story because I haven’t been reading this waiting to find out whether he would give in to violence or not.

It takes two SWAT team guys to pull you off the gunman, who’s by now gone totally catatonic. They’re surprised and relieved to find you armed, but with your weapon still holstered.

“If you’d drawn your weapon, we could’ve had a blood bath on our hands,” a police officer tells you later, as you sit in the back of an ambulance giving your account of the day’s events. “Lotta those folks in there would’ve been dead fuckin’ meat.”

It’s the most gratifying thing anyone has ever said to you.

This is like three separate stories - about a boy, a teenager and an adult, pasted together with a mishmash of overarching themes, which are: the endless march of the time helix; your future is a product of your past; people are animals and you can fight against or give into your animal nature; and compost as a metaphor for how you can break down your past and use it to grow your own future. All of these elements are good, but there are too many of them and they don’t fit together.

I think the best part of this story is the final third, particularly the way he saves the gunman, and himself. That would make a decent stand-alone 1,000 words I reckon.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Judge thoughts on Surrogate by ThirdEmperor

Victoria, lying over antiseptic blue sheets, a strange magenta light fixed over her face making the doctor’s gloved hands unnaturally slick and dark as they passed before the lamp. Victoria, under a haze of anaesthetic, still feeling the prick of the needle as a cold foreign intrusion, picking out three points in a line across her cheek.

“Even in the worst case, it won’t touch anything essential.” The doctor reassured her. Victoria supposed that was reassuring, if you lived a life where you weren’t constantly asked to measure and portion which parts of you were essential, slowly pushing one thing after another from the list. Which ruled out anyone who’d lie in this bed, patiently receiving a stipend in exchange for handing that vital calculation over to gloved, shiny hands, and a face that couldn’t quite be seen past the halo’d rings of the lamp shining into her eyes.

They show her the device, something like a reservoir pen. The two-part metal spear that would split apart after making a hole and the little tongue-piston that would force a spore down into the flesh opened beneath.

This isn’t the smoothest opening; your first para left me feeling a bit confused. But by the time we get to spores it’s clear that we’re talking about a strange medical procedure, that she’s being paid to undergo, and I’m interested in what’s going on.

---

Victoria, two days later, in front of the mirror tracing over the rigid redness of her flesh, the three splotches where her cheek has swollen up to shiny-hard plaques. Her eyes bagged with dark skin stippled like boiled chicken.

For the past two nights, she has dreamed in textured light and wet shadow.

Victoria’s apartment, mostly concrete, is scattered with a punkish brand of artistic endeavors carefully cordoned off from the scattering of empty wrappers and ramen bowls. Her audience was mostly in the line of transactional pity and charity. They would have been shocked not by the grossness of her room, but by the sharp delineations, the swathe of clean space around the worktable. It would have been a violation of Victoria’s role seamlessly converting poverty into another choice of aesthetic.

Spiderweb-thin roots stretch out from the swellings on her cheek, as the right side of her face gives way to the latest aesthetic.

I think in this section the prose is about 10% too overwrought. I had to read it a couple of times to get a clear image of Victoria’s apartment. I like the image you evoke, so you somewhat get away with it, but I think overall it would have been better to start the story with more straightforward language and descriptions - then the transition that happens later would have been more marked.

---

Victoria, going back a day, on a last expedition before her harvest starts to show. The cafe is open air and sprouts from the side of the Peppers-Radson Building, a mushroom-shelf of faux-wood and plastic greenery sprouting off the side of that chrome jewel with its glittering window-facets. The colors reflected on the glass table shift as ten-second adspots roll across the far building’s facade, bits of the show poking through the shade of the ornamental trees ringing the veranda.

See comment above about overwrought descriptions. This is cool, but I had to read it twice.

A mosaic of hamburger divided by leaf-shadows masks Audrey’s face as she talks, her own glossy, electric-blue mouth suddenly eclipsed by the perfectly cleaned and sanitized lips and teeth of a supermodel sinking down around the supermodel of burgs. Instinct almost has Victoria reach out to dispose of a mustard smear.

Audrey is to Victoria what Victoria tries to be to the art world. She has a neat way of summarizing a dozen things into a narrative Victoria didn’t realize she was already in agreeance with. Audrey, hand-talking, tells Victoria what she already knows, and a certain level of mutual appreciation keeps them both honest.

Agreeance? Is this really a word?

---

Relle, three days forward, sprouting off Victoria’s face in rich blood red shelves ruffled up at their edges into uneven patterns the color of coffee-filter paper, with underlying gills of grey. Victoria names him Relle, as the sensations flowing through it into her demand a personification to originate from.

Relle is overly bright, chirpy, refuses to sleep. Naming him was a mistake, giving him two avenues now to grow on her.

---

Relle, blissfully unaware he is a person, translating seamlessly the interplays of light and shadow into seas of texture, fingerpainting with three-dimensioned sensations.

Bars of thick shadow and thin sunlight through the shades lie over a soda can, dividing the crumpled metal as if on microscope slides, and this movement through segmented light becomes a continuous thing moving through time, swelling and shrinking through one cross-section at a time in a stain of bluish light-smears. Yellow gives her bright headaches as it becomes a spoke on which surrounding shadows turn.

She calls the doctor.

“That seems a little extreme.” The doctor says, putting it so brightly Victoria starts to imagine what kind of light-shape-motion the words would make. A downward spiral she decides. “But it’s not unheard of. A little information flows both ways.”

“I’m getting headaches. Migraines.” Victoria insists, even now keeping the screen’s light low so she won’t drink it in through closed eyes.

“For which you’re being paid. But, can you describe the pain?”

On instinct, Victoria fabricates several very interesting kinds of pain and ends the call.

Solid mushroom weirdness. Nice.

---

Relle, being too honest for his own good. He eats, and burbles motion out of still light, bends colors into their own dimensions. His world is a pop-up book; everything falls into its own private curvatures or comes smearing towards her.

Which is the problem. As reality filters through him, everything is reflected and nothing withheld for narrative sake. There is no deception. The infinitely-clever thing that propogates across her face in fruiting bodies and pins one eye shut with its tendrils does not know how to posture, only to break things down, reform them, present them proudly.

This is not Victoria’s line, which is entirely the magic trick of shifting privileged expectations from one hand to the other, with showmanship, and handing them back as if they were her own. A black box that only offers only the pretense of change. Relle seems to have no expectations and feeds from everything in her life, and she worries for him.

Even reading is too stimulating. The strict black ink gives her vertigo. So she lies back, eyes covered, and lets her idle imagination be recomposed. It’s fun.

But she worries for him, even if his worth will be decided after his fact. The least he can be is a success.

I’m enjoying the relationship between Victoria and Relle. I like the way you contrast the mushroom’s honest artistry with Victoria’s own approach of giving people what they want.

---

Victoria and Relle, visiting the memory of the greenhouse where he was born. Light coming through a thousand windows, becoming a fractal sharpness with a thousand frozen points formed by the extremities of rainbow prisms tapering into singular blades of white. For safety they submerge into a rolling dark that is the soil where Relle was cultivated.

They find a great hunched giant, defined only by the shadow it makes when it stoops over them.

“Doctor?”

It seems confused. Not confused with the disjointed manner of a dream, but with the irritation of a real person not being allowed their expectations.

“Do you think Relle is a person?”

“No, I don’t think about that.” The shadow lifts away, flees, and they are alone.

---

“Do you want me to prescribe a round of antipsychotics?”

“Just tell me what you dreamed about last night.” Victoria says, her voice a little too forceful. Relle’s blunt curiosity is infecting her.

“That’s really not appropriate. I think you need to remember that you are undergoing an experiment and-”

“You dreamed about me. Me and Relle.” Victoria knows she is pressing too hard even before the call is cut short and the after-call ad bombards her in colors.

---

Victoria, again numbed and against the backdrop of antiseptic blue, unable to keep her eyes open this time. Laceration after laceration opens a tension in her skin she never realized was there until now, but the cold of the knife ane the warmth of the blood is beyond her sensation. This is not handled by the old doctor, who has removed herself for concerns of privacy. Victoria takes this as confirmation of everything. This time, she does not indulge the replacement’s equally keen desire to have her see the tools. She feels this particular process is already familiar.

I’m not sure what the reference to the doctor’s privacy concerns here is about.

They scoop Relle out of her root and flesh. The plastic curtains of the operating theater give way to the domain of a young prodigy of a chef and Relle is moving quickly in showy flips across a buttered skillet onto a plate. The plate is remanded to a handsome waiter. Relle is bloody slivers in rich sauce and vanishes past the immaculate teeth of the wealthy.

This is a great conclusion to this whole weird trip; both hosed-up and completely plausible.

Some of her paintings have been hung, but the crowd is ready for a more direct translation. To eat from the source.

Victoria, floating in a cloud of her own authenticity, which is reified with fervor and seems to flow as much out of her as to her. Victoria, being portioned up as quickly as she is inflated.

Victoria’s name is suddenly everywhere.

“Victoria.”

“Victoria.”

“Victoria.”

She comes through the plastic curtains bandaged, smiling weakly, ready to play the suffering artist as Relle’s remains are served. She finds herself already present. The crowd dances with her phantoms. They laugh at private jokes, they smile at her brilliance, she is on the tip of their tongues.

The original article, weightless and presenceless. Growing lighter with every moment she remains unseen. Victoria, in awe, watching people’s reaction to Victoria-the-function. Happy to be obsolete. Feeling scooped empty, and only now feeling out the shape and depth of what has been removed. Triangulating how she was seen through how she is reformed and retold across a dozen personal realities.

I really dig this ending. An artist, who has gone to such lengths to create, being herself created and thus nullified by her audience is a really interesting idea. The weird trippiness of the story nicely matches the weird trip of seeing yourself refracted through the eyes of an self-obsessed audience.

I like that she’s not upset about seeing Relle get eaten; this is, after all, what she signed up for. “Scooped out emptiness” feels like the right reaction for this character.

I got a lot more out of this story on my second read; and therein lies my main criticism. The prose is cool but sometimes confusing (what tense is this in anyway?), and the core ideas are a fraction too subtle. There are hints are the beginning as to what’s going on with Victoria, but I think it would have been good to make these clear enough to pick up on the first read. But, that said, I enjoyed this strange mushroom trip.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔


A Good Friend, a Guardian Angel
999/1000 words

The undead army’s clacking was a constant din now. Astor Reines and Peroxi Oranado, two common people with ideas way above their station, had been on the run for three days now. The cause of their predicament shone softly in Astor’s clutch.

“You should really just toss it”, said Peroxi. A tired smile answered.

“We are almost there.”

“What do you mean, there? It’s gonna be another two days’ march to Toralis!”

Astor gestured at the trees.

“We have reached the forest; we have reached a place full of life! Soon we will be saved.”

Peroxi spat onto said life. “Those fiends are gaining on us every minute. We clearly can’t outrun them. I’m going to fall over any second now. Please throw the blasted thing down some hole to get them off us!”

“I will not do that, Pero. Remember why we even undertook this journey? When we got enraptured by the visiting preacher from the papal capitol?”

The expression on Peroxi’s face crumpled. “He talked about a Focal worthy of the archangels buried somewhere to the west! We wanted to get rich, not attain the blessings of Elysium!”

He raised his eyes up high where they met with the blue glow of the paradise moon. It was as if it watched the pair in mockery as they ran for their lives. Way behind, Elysium’s evil brother was just rising over the horizon. Chthon backed his demon horde, of course.

“This does not belong in skeletal hands”, Astor murmured, his own gaze lost in the light emanating from the crystal he caressed. It almost seemed like Elysium was reflected in the Focal’s facets.

“Before you got your hands on it and caused those damned things to chase us, you couldn’t care less about who it belonged to. You wanted to just sell it as much as me, Astor!”

“That was before we knew how much Chthon’s forces wanted to keep it. We can make a difference in the fight between good and evil! The preacher was right!”

Peroxi was getting really angry now. “The preacher told us that archangel Nichaio teaches us to surrender all our ‘attachments’ to the church! If we survive this, I won’t surrender this Focal to his fat greedy fingers!”

“All this running is making you a little loopy, my friend. I think we can slow down some.”

“Are you out of your angel-cursed mind? They are breathing down our necks!”

“First of all, they are not breathing…”

Astor got cut short by Peroxi’s slap. They briefly wrestled for the Focal, but even with the element of surprise on his side, Peroxi could not prevail against his partner’s strength that seemed untapped by their mad flight. He broke down in defeat.
A gentle hand was offered to him.

“Stand up, friend, no offense taken. Nichaio will protect us.”

An exasperated sigh. “I just don’t get it, Astor. You never were the religious type. What has come over you?”

“Just have some faith, okay? If not in the angels, then at least in me?”

He had put on that smile that would always get them in trouble. But could it get worse?
The walking bones that followed them were getting ever louder. So Peroxi kept following Astor through the forest in a walk that was as slow as if they had all the time in the world.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Here it is”, Astor declared, and sat down in the middle of a random clearing.

“What do you mean, here? We have to keep moving!”

“We have reached what I was looking for. The place full of life. Here, the energies gather. Here, Nichaio will deliver us from evil.”

Peroxi sank to his knees and put trembling hands on his friend’s shoulders.

“I’m going to be really clear with you here because I have loved you like a brother for many years. You have lost it completely and will get us both killed. No angel is going to come down from Elysium and save us, let alone one of the Five. We will be loving slaughtered by a horde of skeletons because you decided to become pious overnight!”

“Nobody cares if you believe, Pero. But I believe, and that’s enough. I will wait here for our salvation. If you don’t want to, feel free to leave!”

The grip on Astor’s shoulders tightened almost painfully. “I won’t let you die alone in some hole in the forest. You know that.” The last of Peroxi’s strength left him and he collapsed on his friend’s lap.
Astor’s free hand stroked sweaty hair, while his other one kept a firm grip on the Focal.

“I will be praying silently now”, he whispered. And indeed, for a while, only Peroxi’s sobs and a constantly increasing rattling was heard. Until the rattling stopped.

They had reached their prey. The vanguard of the skeleton army had crested the mound surrounding the clearing and surveyed the two figures for just a moment – then charged.

Peroxi bolted upright. “Oh Elysium. Oh no, it’s over. Astor, do something!”

But Astor had his eyes closed, both hands on the Focal now, and did not move a muscle.

Only a few meters between the uncountable number of skeletons and the humans. For a second, Peroxi contemplated his dagger. Then – he turned and ran.

“Wait”, said Astor. “Just a moment.”

Peroxi ran. The undead were upon Astor.

His eyes snapped open.

“Now.”

All color vanished from the world as energy flowing from the entire forest congregated at a single point, went into the Focal and flashed a pure white. One could imagine it casting the shadow of a magnificent winged being for the shortest moment.

Nothing remained of the skeletons.

Astor turned around to maybe gloat, but froze when he saw no trace of Peroxi except for some muddy footprints that stopped after a few steps.

“Oh no”, he mouthed, his voice losing conviction for the first time since he had touched the Focal. “Somebody did care if you believed, Pero…”

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010




Isla de las Muñecas
1232 words

(archived)

Pham Nuwen fucked around with this message at 16:51 on Feb 5, 2019

SlipUp
Sep 30, 2006


See archive.

SlipUp fucked around with this message at 19:58 on Dec 30, 2019

steeltoedsneakers
Jul 26, 2016







Sitting Here posted:

:siren: Flerptoedsneakers Brawl! :siren:

You can each, additionally, optionally, request a prohibitive flashrule from me. But only a prohibitive one.


hit me

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006


what madness are mountains to an imprisoned moon?
1500 words

Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 08:34 on Jan 4, 2020

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME








your story can't take place on earth

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Bear Witness

Prompt:The Megaliths of Weris-Belgium

780 words

The stones are, as all their kind, as old as the Earth, hewn from their quarry in time before memory, three giants lined up east to west. The infant is, as all their kind, brand new, freezing and crying and unknowing. She does not understand the cold calculations that mother and father had to make, of food versus frigid hungry time.

A dark fur-lined hand reaches down to the base of the middle stone and scoops her up, carries her off. Witnesses, far away and with the blurred vision of age and drink, will tell the town that he was a bear and not a man in bearskin. The story will spread, and when she returns to the stones a young woman and tells of being raised by the hunter and his barren wife, they will disbelieve, and mutter 'bear-girl’, and that will suit her just fine.

Move north by northeast now, as the clock turns wildly, to a hill. Underneath it is a tomb of rocks. They are forgotten, with no monument other than the hill itself. Half a dozen children at play on the summit, and the dead below pay them no heed, at least until one names himself King here and shoves his friends down in rough play.

There is a moment: a low blow against the King, a harder shove than the unwritten rules allow. The would-be usurper tumbles awkwardly, and when he tries to stand he shouts in pain and falls. Noise and dust gather in the distance, and a wagon bears down fast. The children scatter.

The King runs forward, pulls the other boy, a near stranger the day before, off the furrows that mark a road. They will go to war together, save each other's lives so many times they will pretend to lose count.

Go onward, past the village, and veer slightly more eastward and press on to a smooth rock bed with a rough headrest. A woman, alone, struggling to stand. A man, lurking in shadow, holding a knife. When? There is only one time, and that time is now. The sky is dark and moonless.

He aims to rob, and has done worse in his criminal life. He steps forward, snapping a stick. The noise cuts through the soft animal sounds of the countryside. Then the sound of her shouts drown out all the world. He sees her better, closer. She is not alarmed, but with child, about to deliver.

He sheaths his knife, steps forward arms open, offers help. “I'm no midwife,” he says, “But I've seen my share of calvings, back when I had kin.” He helps her down, onto the stone, lights a campfire, and stands vigil as she gives birth on the stone her people name the devil's bed. His knife, heated, cuts the umbilical. The baby cries out. She will, in her time, live up to the legend of her birth, but like any true devil will catch little blame and charm each sheriff and judge out of their convictions.

Fly west by northeast now, to a village, roads paved with stones that once stood as one. Listen to the rumble of hungry bellies, unheard, uncommented on, as every man and woman pays their taxes and rents and Sunday tithes and thinks their obligations met. Do not linger here. Turn west by southwest instead, and do not look back.

Reach another stone tomb, uncovered and open on both ends, at another now, another dark night, where three gather. Two lovers, defying fate. She was meant to marry a stranger. He is called to war with deadly urgency. The third is her brother, her chaperone, her co-conspirator. The priest has already left, his job done and his shaky signature on the paperwork. The brother stands guard, facing away, as they consummate the union on and under the stones, until the sunrise appears framed in the dolmen arch.

Their union will bear fruit. There will be loud shouts and louder silences and threats that will empty out before landing. He will survive the short and futile defense, return, and slowly win over his new extended family as they all resist as best they can until the armistice is signed. When the drums of war beat again they will flee west, across the sea, with their children.

Fly up now and see the pattern of your journey, the stars of Ursa Major in conglomerate stone, cut and measured and lifted into place before the flood of Gilgamesh, and know their purpose, feel what you felt at each one.

This is the only place. Now is the only time. Bear witness.

And be kind.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!







1000 words

fortune cookies are bullshit anyways

archives

flerp fucked around with this message at 21:28 on Apr 12, 2019

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QM Haversham
Nov 12, 2018

Postmodern Furniture Enjoyment Society: Where slow is the revolution and apathy is the fuel.


Froggy Went A-Portin'
1285 Words

“The tungara frog is a common amphibian species of the area. It’s a great choice!” the travel agent said. Ben kept his attention on the brochure pretending to read it. He didn’t want to seem too eager as she continued to pitch the package.

“There are many naturally occurring springs and falls at Las Pozas. Fresh, clear water winds throughout the entire estate just waiting to be explored,” she said with a patient smile.

“But what about predators?” Ben asked, “aren’t frogs vulnerable? If I were a parakeet, at least I could fly away from danger.”

“Parakeets are an excellent decision for the seasoned plane shifter and for an extra cost we include a personal guide to instruct you how to fly, but, honestly; is that how you want to spend your precious time?”

Ben already knew he didn’t want to be a parakeet. The whole point of his plane shift was to experience the water. He loved to daydream about diving into a pond, unconcerned about running out of air to breathe, and spending hours enjoying swimming and engulfed in water. Ben imagined that being underwater is like visiting a separate world in an already alien one.

He heard the travel agent speaking again and knew enough to lift his eyes from the brochure as not to be too rude.

“And as far as predation goes, we always choose safe locations with no predators. In fact, Las Pozas is well-tended and maintained by the local sapient species. We checked and they don’t eat frogs.”

***

Ben lay on a smooth, porcelain white table with rounded edges. The room was warm and dim and the console beside him had a steady hum that would change pitch each time the technician made an adjustment.

“Just making the final check for quantum harmony, sir. Your plane shift should begin soon.”

Ben swallowed and thanked him. He lifted his head up and saw his toes. He wiggled them with anxious intent when a blue glow surrounded him.

It was a soft light and it obscured everything around him. The technician couldn’t been seen and the only indicator the console was still there was its now diminishing hum. The light grew around him until his entire field of vision was filled with a pale blue.

He watched his limbs drift into the blue space and swirl like dust blown by a strong gust of wind. He soon felt the pull. It started out as a slow pull up that made him feel like a child again being lifted out of his bed by his mother. The pull increased until Ben felt he was now floating into a blank, blue plane and tumbling toward emptiness. Each tumble was faster than the last and Ben saw more of himself drift off into the blue void until he went blind.

Only a moment later his vision returned. The hum was replaced with rush of watering peeling over a rock edge collecting into a small pool beneath it. Then pool’s far edge was a shaped shoreline with a near perfect arc directing water into a stream.

Ben looked up to see strange and weathered archways and columns placed haphazardly around the pool with a stairway working itself up a green hill and through a circular portal. The blue sky had only a few stray clouds and a glaring sun that caused Ben to blink. He blinked again when he realized he had a nictitating membrane. He yelled a hello and only gave a strange chirp.

Ben made a large leap into the pool and found it deep enough for a satisfying dive.

***

Annie was bored. No kids her own age were around and her parents were too occupied with taking pictures to play at the moment. While they were busy taking shots of weird stuff, she tried to content herself with exploring.

Las Pozas looked more like a broken jungle gym no one wanted to fix to Annie. She would swing around the moss covered columns like the tree trunks in the park back home but everything else looked unsturdy to touch and too high to climb. She tried to make a game of leaping up the stairs. Annie like to hold her legs together and try to make it to the next step in one leap. This held her attention long enough until she saw the pool.

It was at the bottom of a waterfall. The water slowly swirled as it collected before turning into a steady and calm stream. As inviting as it was to stand under the waterfall and get soaking wet, Annie knew that wouldn’t be worth being yelled at for. She decided to compromise.

Annie took off her shoes and socks. She folded her socks into a neat ball and stuffed it into her left shoe. She was careful to place the shoes on the stairs and placed side by side together to make sure they didn’t get lost or wet when the splashing started. She hope either mom or dad would see that and decide she was being responsible and give her a chance to have some fun.

She waded shin deep into the cool water and scooped a handful to sip. It was crisp and unlike the fountain back at school, she wouldn’t be hassled for drinking too much or taking too long. She didn’t want to kick the water but made hard stomps instead. It made a wonderful BLOOP with each stomp and threw water up into her face. It was almost like swimming.

Annie’s stomping stirred a small frog to dash out of the water onto dry ground. It sat there and stared at Annie as she played. It blinked a few times and made a series of chirps and croaks.

Annie spun around and saw the frog just sitting there watching her. She had the fine idea to now make a pet. A frog all the way from Mexico would make for a great bragging rights back at school.

She ran toward the frog and made an immediate grab for him. First the frog made a causal hop out of the way only to be scooped up by a second grab. The frog tried to leap from the girl’s grasp but was caught midair by her other hand. He couldn’t kick out since his leg was caught between two fingers.

It wasn’t long when Annie heard her father calling and came around to see her with a smooshed frog in hand and her shoes off. He was quick to admonish her for taking off her shoes despite how well organized they were placed. Annie explained she made a pet of the frog but she knew it was falling on deaf ears.

Annie let the frog go when her father explained that he wouldn’t like being taken from his home. That maybe, just like Annie, he had a mom and dad, too. And separating him from his family wouldn’t be fair. Explained that way, Annie felt a lit bit of guilt but thought better of herself when she concluded she made the right decision.

***

Ben stormed into the manager’s office moments after his quantum realignment. He was still putting on his shirt while complaining at the top of his lungs about his experience. The manager offer apologies and a refund to calm him down. Ben left swearing to himself and everyone in the waiting room he would never use this agency again.

After he left, the manager spoke with Ben’s travel agent.

“From now on, we’ll sell only the parakeet package for Las Pozas. And if the customers wind up in a cage and force to say ‘they’re a pretty bird,’ it’s their own fault.”

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