|# ? Jan 31, 2019 16:47|
|# ? Sep 29, 2022 18:41|
Great Depression Bounty-Hunter Fairy Tale
Animals Strike Curious Poses
Word Count: 746
They've got it all wrong.
Hear me out. It's not easy being a wolf, especially not in these trying times. And when I say a wolf I mean a literal wolf. I didn't ask for this life, I was given it.
I've had a lot of time to think about this.
I didn't just wake up one day wanting to kill grannies and eat small children that wore little red hoods. Just like everyone, I sought survival and sometimes survival means doing the ugly things in life. Sometimes you have to live long enough to see yourself become just what you are - an animal.
So when Johnny Twoshoes, a vile and arrogant creature offered me delectable pickings of his finest cattle in exchange for some baneful doings I made that bargain. Made the bargain to use the gifts only I had in order for my pack to survive.
See, poverty charges interest. Not just in the human world, but the animal one too. We suffer all the same when the world goes to poo poo.
“The deal is done, Wolf,” that's how I got into this mess.
My job was simple, or so I thought.
Johnny, oh dear old Twoshoes used to be a prime man. We had a mutual understanding. He being a farmer and I a predator. He was good to his land and to his own human pack. See, his land was blessed. Never did it starve or wither, droop or die. Truth is Johnny is a warlock, with the ability to bless good fortune on those he sees fit.
But one day the world changed for Johnny.
Us wolves heard the horrible screams that came from the Twoshoes homestead that night. We could smell the gore mixed with pine from the tree perched in the house. Its little star had toppled off the top to lie in a pool of blood.
The next day we only ever saw Johnny, no mate, no pups. Johnny turned cruel after that. No lights ever glimmered on that tree again.
“Kill their girl, just like they killed mine. Do the deed and your pack will survive this season yet, Wolf.”
Straightforward concept, yes?
While I'd never killed man before, I understood it could be done despite their unnatural tools. And with the promise of good fortune for I and my pack it made the idea more fathomable even if it was just a pup.
But that was my mistake, not asking why a warlock would need the aid of an animal to kill a human child.
I learned quick enough she was not just any child.
She was a trickster. Wild and fairy-like. Almost as if she were raised on the flanks of beasts. Maybe she had been.
Her small maw had turned up in a crescent moon, revealing horrible incisors when she saw me. She clearly hadn't taken kindly to the corpse of her grandmother lying stiff on the floor.
It makes my heart race with fear remembering that tiny girls face scrunched - filled with so many years of pent up rage. So much hatred for something I believed to be easy prey, dense and docile. Innocent.
Turns out my quarry was not merely a human girl, but quite a gifted witch.
It didn't go well for me. Granted, if someone had slain my kin I don't reckon I would have been merciful either.
I stand, unmoving. Cursed in a body that is frozen, unable to speak or even flinch. Maybe it's justice, maybe I should have been wiser. Stayed away from witchery and bounties. Led my starving pack to better lands, but again we become what we are in nature.
My nature has changed now.
The girl I had sought to kill walks through the cabin I am now eternally entombed to. She swings a wicker basket filled with berries in her right arm while cradling a bundle of herbs in her other. A haunting whistle escapes her lips which are stained red from berry juice.
She places the basket near a basin of water and sets the herbs on a oaken table near the door.
Ever so softly she pads towards me.
With a small, childlike giggle she removes her pelt that reminds me of the cardinals who nested near my old home.
Gently she adornes the article upon my back, and pulls the hood up over my ears before stepping back to admire her workmanship.
Like I said, my nature has changed now.
|# ? Jan 31, 2019 18:48|
Exclamation! Positive upbeat fun fun sentence assignment: Opposites Attract Vigilante Romance!
|# ? Jan 31, 2019 19:35|
Brawl with Bolt Lux: A bar brawl as Greek tragedy and exploration of the human condition - Flesnolk
The Ape Dreamed of Aquavit - 1,997 words
The sweat made his dirty clothes itch. The musician had been bowing and tapping like a man possessed. Several gaps disfigured the key fiddle’s denture. He dropped the frayed bow to the stage. His stiff fingers hurt. But the soreness paled as he saw the destruction.
Smog shrouded Occam’s Foam-Scrape. Broken furniture threw occult shadows on the walls, where plaster had come off in jagged sheets. Foundered men draped the interior. A few were miserably conscious. Their moaning picked up where the fiddle had stopped.
Only the musician and the ruffian remained standing. At the ruffian’s feet lay a barrel-chested old man. One of his enormous mustaches had burned off, making his face lopsided. A mess of soot and blood muddied his features.
The ruffian suddenly fell forward. But he caught his descent and transformed it into a stagger towards the stage. He boarded the foot-high platform and grabbed the musician’s arm. The dented nose made the words that crawled from the ruffian’s ruined mouth incongruously nasal: “… your name?”
“What? Oh. Sten. Sten Stens—”
“My name…” began the ruffian. His mouth worked in silence. He closed his eyes; this seemed to collect his frazzled thoughts. “Doesn’t matter. Now. I’m the firebrand of the Ur-Ape.” Sten glimpsed a young man beneath the smiling decay.
“Indeed,” said Sten.
The firebrand relieved his grip and Sten relaxed. He registered the chain of events backwards: First the explosion of unbridled catgut, beech fragments and varnished keys; then the fiddle arcing towards the stage; and lastly the firebrand snatching the instrument.
“Sorry,” said the firebrand, all checkboard. “… wanted to do that all night.”
Sten surprised himself by striking the firebrand to the stage.
Chairman Zygmünd was pleased. It was as a troop together a dozen of the gathering of 1863 wore at the cobblestones of Gripfôrt at night. The sciences unified them, naturally, but the Linnaean Society was nonetheless a motley collection of eccentric naturalists. Strong wills all. However, Zygmünd had leveraged his remarkable savoir-faire to settle a common course.
A single voice had been raised against banning Labor Union students from guest seminars. But Zygmünd had quashed that fuse with a rhetorical boot. Any remaining dregs of discontentedness would soon be rinsed with libations.
“Onward!” he bellowed as they rounded a sagging corner and discerned the Scrape, the warm glow in its windows vowing comfort.
“loving toad,” said Lâzlo. Disapproving brows shot up around the table. But he also spied a few smiles, hidden behind hastily raised tankards. It was surprising that anything could be heard over the whining that plagued the Scrape’s gloom. The musician rubbed and slapped his peculiar key-laden violin, which hung from the man’s neck like a curse.
The admission of sooty beer and snaps fueled Lâzlo’s resentment. Fine, gently caress the workers’ sons. It was really about the principles of the whole thing. Didn’t it irk that Zygmünd used the Society as his battering ram?
“Drink and be merry, mon capitan,” a voice said behind him. Honoré sweetened the proposition by placing first a heavy tankard in front of Lâzlo and then a heavy arm around his shoulders.
His friend approximated Zygmünd into his ear, “Young Lâzlo, allow me to expound the academic capital,” capping the words with a wet mouth-fart.
Lâzlo’s laughter promised nothing good.
Sten conjured that polka, the one that usually got even the crabbiest village elder on his feet. But the tension remained thick and threatening. The gaggle of stuffy academics had cleared the Scrape of other guests.
Only one of them showed any appreciation for Sten’s work. The same young man who alone had been clapping and whistling cheerfully all night. Maybe Sten wasn’t the quickest thinker, but nor was he a dummy. Sarcastic little poo poo.
He had to piss anyway.
“I’m a cannibal, you know,” said Honoré. His comrade muttered something ambiguous. Lâzlo had been throwing dark glances at Zygmünd’s table all night. Thankfully, the musician’s performance had put a lid on the kettle. A kind of status quo had been established, one that Honoré maintained by sacrificing his cultural image. But his smugness twisted into dismay when the musician suddenly left the stage.
“Da capo!” pleaded Honoré, hurting his palms. The musician made an obscene gesture and left the Scrape.
One of Zygmünd’s favorite expressions was horror vacui. It was all Honoré could think as a guttural voice filled the void.
The words floated like oil atop the murmur.
“— the Queen likened our nation to a clock, in which the most unassuming gear plays its part, as important as the silver face! However —”
Zygmünd raised a finger and admitted a beer-tide. Brown foam decked the huge black-polished mustaches.
“—however, can the gear tell time, can the face drive the hammer? No! Everything, and everyone!, has its place!” Wise nods and nothings. Zygmünd trapped some snuff inside his cheek and chased it with a snaps. Two snaps. “And is this not reflected in the natural order? The plurality, over which Man has dominion (as God has dominion over Man, yes?), also has its ordained orders and ranks.” Zygmünd gulped someone’s aquavit and slammed the glass to the table. “The swine roots in the loam, as he always has and always will.” The clang from colliding drinks favored Zygmünd’s conclusion. But some hands remained on the oak slabs.
Lâzlo snorted with great emphasis and something squishy dipped into his beer. Zygmünd’s mustaches jerked as he struggled to ignore the insult. Resigned, he broke the silence. “I’m sorry. Does Young Lâzlo have something to say?”
A wet burp escaped Lâzlo as he twisted to empty the tankard. A black pool fizzed on the earth floor. “You’re wrong,” he said. He could feel the fraught gaze of the Society tear between him and Zygmünd.
Zygmünd shared a forbearing look with his commensals. “Young Lâzlo’s love for the lower classes is admirable, however —”
“Man is just an animal.” Lâzlo’s knuckles turned white around the handle. “And you’ve no idea if the swine once browsed the canopy.”
Zygmünd’s laughter arrived too late. “I see. I see. Our little Darwinist,” he said with a thick voice. “It is regrettable that half-baked theories root so easily. Our fault.”
Foam dripped from his mustaches. “We haven’t cultivated the soil zealously enough.”
“Actually”, a frail voice said. Lâzlo wondered if his shock was as evident as Zygmünd’s. The advanced zoologist Brôm swayed with his words. “It hash to be shaid, Zhygmünd… On that we’re not… We do feel that thish theory of evolution ishn’t too shabby.” Brôm conducted his hands pedagogically and beer cascaded from the table.
“What?” said Zygmünd, uncomprehending.
“Well… Thish whole thing with homology and vesh… veshtigiality, and sho on.” Brôm swatted the beer with his sleeve. “Everything jusht becomesh more… digeshtible.”
“What the gently caress are you going on about?”
Lochner, the big-nosed biologist, chimed in: “Zygmünd, if you’d just join at Huxley’s —”
“—next presentation in Paris, I’m sure you’d come around.”
The Society sank into a comfortably numb buzz on the finer points of evolution. Zygmünd was perplexed. “You’re wrenching the crown from Man’s head,” he whispered.
His eyes found Lâzlo’s sneer. A wake of flinching drunkards followed as the old man exploded from his seat.
“Are you a monkey, Lâzlo? Are you a monkey?” roared Zygmünd, striking the table. Bang. “Are you a loving monkey, Lâzlo? Answer!” Bang, bang. Zygmünd shook off Lochner’s impotent hands from his shoulders. “Zygmünd, Zygmünd old chap, please —”
“Did your mother gently caress a monkey, Lâzlo?” Bang. Clang. A sickening crunch as Lochner caught the tankard on his nasal bridge. Lâzlo’s hand was empty.
“You dog!” screamed Zygmünd. “Ahh!” screamed Lochner.
The Society embraced the chaos.
Honoré felt fiercely homesick as he dragged Lâzlo’s unconscious body. A mirage of the aged church on the hill of Bonnieux slid over a fresh impression of violence; of Zygmünd holding Lâzlo by the collar, reshaping his face with a cruel fist.
Would Zygmünd have stopped hadn’t Frederick, the timid entomologist roaring like a bear, managed to pry open the old man’s fingers? Poor Frederick. Honoré whispered his thanks to Prussia’s finest, whimpering on the stage in fetal position. The musician tried to push him off with a foot, while birthing a bastard between a Swedish polka and a requiem. When had the man started anew?
Two Linnaeans, locked in reciprocal chokeholds, tripped over Lâzlo. Honoré unfroze when the couple danced back into the fray. He continued pulling Lâzlo into safety behind the bar’s breastwork. Honoré grumbled. “Your boneheadedness is going kill you.”
Honoré now had to convince the hysterically German innkeeper that there was plenty of room for even three cowards. “Wo ein Wille ist, ist auuuu—” said Honoré as he slipped in a puddle. He greeted the counter with the back of his head.
The fog smelled like cheap brandy and the lavender hedgerows of Bonnieux.
Seeping through the atrocities being committed against furniture and folk, the unmistakable sound of cheeks being slapped crossed into Lâzlo’s consciousness. He opened his eyes. A mistake. The world keeled. As he wiped vomit and blood on his sleeve, he saw Honoré’s boots; and then another pair, standing astride the fallen comrade.
A man, open palm at the ready, stooped over Honoré. Rage compelled Lâzlo to slowly rise, the effort making him lightheaded. A growl grew in his chest. “Get the gently caress away from him.”
“Aber, he is fain —”
The man dodged a flying candelabra. His eyes rolled backwards as the tip of his chin met Lâzlo’s fist.
Lâzlo sank to the floor and began to cry. “I don’t care if you eat people,” he said as he cradled Honoré in his bosom.
A muffled drizzle, like rain on a hood, trailed a brutish laughter. A hunchbacked creature slouched above the innkeeper. Urine streamed from between its bent stump-legs, soaking the innkeeper’s vest. The ape’s matted fur was black as the night. Ancient fires smoldered within the caves of its deep-set eyes.
“Ain’t over yet,” the Ur-Ape said and shook itself dry. Cruel canines flashed in its flat face. “Tear his dick off.”
The blasphemers had fallen like wheat to the scythe. Zygmünd stood alone in his temple. Divine inspiration flowed down his cheeks. “Oh,” he said. “Thank you.” The whining from the man at his feet (Hogarth the geologist?) intermingled with the out-of-tune wedding lay. The musician, eyes closed, shuffled around the stage. Zygmünd wondered if the man knew any hymns.
It was a pitiable phantom that arose on the other side of the Scrape. Young Lâzlo’s legs wouldn’t support him. He had to pull himself up against the counter. Zygmünd searched frantically for his saber. Then he remembered it hadn’t hung from his hip since the November Uprising.
Zygmünd howled as he assaulted the battlefield.
He didn’t have any breath left to lose. Lâzlo screamed mutely as his hand was smashed against the counter with a tankard. The other arm was pinned to the side as he left the floor in Zygmünd’s embrace. Lâzlo couldn’t breathe. He dashed his mangled hand against the fat head pressing into his belly.
Zygmünd grunted and tightened the fetters. Lâzlo felt a dull pop in his ribcage. A keen pain radiated through his body. The world fell into darkness.
Two fires festered distant in the endless gloom. Lâzlo reached for the embers, stretching inwards across eons. His useless fist clenched around something.
Shards from the kerosene lamp dug into Lâzlo’s hand. Zygmünd was on fire, screaming. His grip slackened as he tried to quench the burning mustache against Lâzlo’s chest.
Lâzlo jerked his arm free. He grabbed Zygmünd’s hair and pulled the old man’s head back. A drum sounded as Lâzlo began to dissolve Zygmünd’s face with his forehead. Boom. Boom. Boom.
Something gave and Lâzlo dropped. Exhausted, they leaned against each other to the fading music. Zygmünd bubbled redly. Collapsed.
Lâzlo laughed along with the ape.
|# ? Jan 31, 2019 22:31|
A reminder to the remaining combatants that they have until 11:59 PST, and it is currently 7:42 PST.
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 03:44|
adj. finding a person so attractive it actually kinda pisses you off.
flash: your story can't take place on earth
Perlus Tigistus knew there was more to life than spreading space fascism through the galaxy in gigantic flying war cathedrals. He knew it deep within his plascrete-plated bones. In the steam room, that deep knowledge bled from his bones and spread through his humours, stewing in the hot, dense nanobot soup coursing through his veins. Perlus had to say something to his battlebrother. He couldn’t hold this in anymore, he cleared his tensor-reinforced throat and spoke as low as his booming field command voice would allow.
“Have you ever, uh . .um, do you..” He sighed. Closed his eyes once in quiet preparation and ripped off the bloodgauze. “Listen, Stadiel. I think I want to be with a razorchitin.”
Stadiel kept his steely gaze fixed to the floor. He was identical to Perlus in every way, save a millennia of combat scars unique to each. Stadiel, Perlus and all their brothers were genetically bred not just for horrific violence, but for both tactical and strategic split-second decision-making to best direct horrific violence. For Stadiel, this did not seem to be a transferable skillset.
After what felt like a decade to Perlus, Stadiel spoke. His voice was even and steady, but the edges, the silences between words, they bucked and growled like a battle-hungry beast.
“Perlus. You are not attracted to the Razorchitin. We are soldiers of the federation, the pinnacle of a centuries of research and battle experience. We do not have ‘attractions’, and we do not have them for the filth that seeks to spread itself across the universe.”
Stadiel rose, bristling, and turned on Perlus . “No, Perlus. Control your temperaments. Light the fire as you were trained. Burn off the phlegm and bile and ignite your choler for the Razorchitin. We drop in 4 hours man, get ahold of yourself and do not speak of this again.”
He left a massive, palm-shaped crater on the steam room door as he burst through it, striding down the corridor as if to escape Perlus’s strange appetites.
Perlus spent the following hours in a fog, having exposed his neuropiston-assisted heart to his battlebrother and then watching it crushed under a platesteel boot. He floated through drop-prep in a bubble of protective introspection - shouts, clanks, engines and fire muted and distant.
And then he was falling. Falling into a sea of flame and rage. War-chems pumped through his armour and into his bloodstream in escalating doses, until Perlus was one with the raging, roiling tide of his brotherhood.
The surface of Mortis IV was a mess of angry, sharp features - long spikes of rock erupting at all angles from a surface torn by deep canyons. It was perfect. Soldiers lit the dusk sky with arcing tracer fire, flame jets and explosives. Wave upon wave of yellow plate armour surged up and out of the deep ruts the drop pods had carved into the ground.
Perlus crested a small hill, taking stock of the battlefield. The sea of yellow crashed into a sea of blue, arthropodic armour ahead of him. Perlus roared, raised his sword and oversized sidearm and charged into the churning mess of blood and thunder.
There they were. 9 foot crustacean warriors, overlapping plates of deep blue armour cascading down their slender backs, past four thick legs and ending in a magnificent tail that shimmered in the dying light. Muscular tentacles wrapped around weapons, around foes, contorting and flexing beneath smooth, azure skin. Small black eyes that could swallow the world set atop twitching, searching antennae.
Perlus had less than a second to take in their beauty, before he was sent sprawling sideways, his suit activating another shot of war-chems in response to the attack. He roared afresh, rolling to his feet and digging his heels in to slow the momentum of the hit.
The ground rumbled its misgivings as the mortar shells hit. Not yet dialed into the the atmospheric conditions, they landed short - ripping holes in the front line. One landed to Perlus’s left just as he regained his footing the blastwave sending him hurtling toward a canyon edge along with his attacker and a mist of blood and viscera.
He awoke hours later in a pile of rubble, the night sky a pinpricked sliver of light far above. His vision adjusted for the pitch black surrounds quickly, revealing a rocky creek bed and sparse foliage. Further down the creek he caught a faint shimmer of blue in the starlight.
Combat drugs completely flushed from his system, he found himself drawn to it. Following the gentle curve of the royal blue backplates up from the tail, he could see that the razorchitin was on its side facing away from him. He allowed his eyes to play up and down the exquisite exoskeleton before being shaken out of his reverie as the tail twitched. The razorchitin groaned, a low husky murmur bouncing through the narrow canyon.
Perlus stood and went toward the razorchitin. Various pistons and compressors in his suit failing to fire, he carried the full weight of his armour on his bruised, but uninjured body. He popped the release on the parts still intact, and prised the rest off as he strode up the creek bed.
He towered over the prone razorchitin. Perlus followed the line of their armour around across the place where he assumed a shoulder was, the line continuing down a tentacle and coming to rest under a large boulder. The razorchitin, sensing his imposing presence, rolled back as best it could to look up at him, deep black eyes fearlessly returning his gaze.
Perlus gently placed a hand on the plate armour near their head, as reassuringly as he could and then stepped around the razorchitin to the boulder. Even without power-armour it was trivial to heave the mass of rock from their tentacle. Underneath, bloodied and twitching it writhed, seeking a comfort in all directions that never came. The razorchitin groaned again, bringing their other tentacle around protectively.
Perlus knelt slowly and reached out to console them. He hushed them softly.
“Shhh. It’s okay, I’m not going to hurt you.” He laid a big meaty palm above the shoulder of the injured appendage, and looked into their eyes. “Just.. just rest now.”
They held his gaze and brought their unscathed tentacle around, it tensed briefly then rested atop his hand as the razorchitin passed out on the banks of the creek. Perlus could feel the plates gently expand and contract as they slept.
Looking up, he saw the first reds and oranges of dawn singe their way across the dark blue sliver of sky above him. In 36 hours command would send retrievers to the battlefield for his and his brothers’ genememories and organs, following trackers in his armour.
For now though, he felt a peace. A quiet that radiated out from the smooth limb resting on his hand. Perlus smiled.
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 04:36|
same but unironically
flerp fucked around with this message at 21:28 on Apr 12, 2019
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 05:00|
Much apologies to Third and SlipUp for the delay, my life is a bit chaotic at the moment.
You've waited long enough, so let's have a verdict.
Third wins, and it's not even close.
SlipUp, your story had some ambition and moxie but ultimately did not execute on its premise in any meaningful way. Whereas...
Third, you had the goods from the jump and the telling to back it up.
More indepth crits can be found for each of you here:
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 05:08|
Are You Ready for the Country?
Solitair fucked around with this message at 22:19 on Dec 28, 2019
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 05:16|
Antisolitary Nerd Vacation Brawl, go!
An Elegy for Rhyannon
Somewhere in the multiverse, Rhyannon Starcrown is dead. Her soul hangs in the balance between rebirth and oblivion, while her friends (a charitable term, one she'd only say through gritted teeth) fight against Chronon, Lord of Eternity, to turn back time and remake their ruined world. They do not fight for her. They never have.
Rhyannon Starcrown is dead, so she cannot know this -- but across the worlds, in consensus reality, Nathan Horacek can. He trudges his way down the halls of a Super 8 Motel somewhere in Missouri, a roll of quarters in his pocket and darkness in his heart. It's Saturday night. Back at home, it's game night, the last night of the campaign. And he's somewhere in Missouri, at a Super 8, staring down the barrel of another day in the car and then a week at Grandma Pahlke's. Of course, if he were at home, he probably wouldn't be invited to the game anyway, he thinks --
(Rhyannon is dead, and after she died --)
But he makes himself stop thinking about it. He's found the motel's arcade: a dingy room with a soda machine, three arcade cabinets, and a pinball machine with the unlikely name "Dr. Dude and His Excellent Ray." The room is empty save for a scrawny kid at the pinball machine, attention focused on the scratched score display. Nathan steps by him, slumping down on a bench near the soda machine and opening his backpack. He doesn't feel like video games, and his father bribing him to "go have some fun" can't change that. Instead, he pulls out his copy of the Avishala Adventurer's Guide, with Rhyannon's tattered character sheet sticking out like a bookmark. For ten happy minutes, he reads comfortable old passages about the elves of Flamewood, until he's suddenly aware that the clanging of the pinball machine has stopped, and the scrawny kid is looming over him.
"Hey! Whatcha reading?"
"Um," says Nathan as he slams the book shut. "I don't wanna talk about it."
The kid, undeterred, plops down on the bench next to him. "Why not? Hey, that's Avishala, right? That's cool. My friends only ever want to play in Shadowholm. Do you like it?"
Nathan feels the familiar, sinking feeling that comes with knowing he has to talk, but next to it is a strange lightness. There's nobody else he can tell about what happened to Rhyannon, and he'll never see this kid again. Why not tell him, if he wants to know? "I did," Nathan says, one finger idly flicking the protruding edge of the character sheet. "Or I thought I would? But after I made my character, all my friends got really weird about it, just 'cause she was a girl."
"Why'd you play a girl, though?"
"I had to. I wanted to play a ranger from Flamewood, but all the guy elves in Flamewood are wizards, so I had to make a girl ranger, right? It's in the book."
The kid furrowed his brow, but slowly he nodded. "Oh. Okay."
"But... it got weird. My friend Pete kept asking me how big her tits were, and whenever we were in a tavern or anything, he kept having his guy buy her drinks and touch her hair and stuff, and Jake had his paladin be like 'you guys are really cute' like I should have had them hook up? I got sick of it and just said she didn't like guys, and Pete stopped talking to me, even at school? And our Dungeon Master, Connor, just got mean. Every time I tried to make a skill check, he was like 'you can't do that, girls in Flamewood don't go to school,' which isn't even true, but he said it was in his world and stop arguing. I just sat around while Pete's wizard solved all the puzzles."
"That's kinda dumb. Did you have a book or something? I always stack dice when it's not my turn."
"And then last week, we had this big fight against harpies, and Connor just had them swarming Rhyannon, and he said they were too close for longbow attacks? But all my melee rolls were crappy, and she got killed by stupid harpies, and everyone was all 'we have to go, the world is ending,' and, I mean, okay, it was, but they could have taken her to a temple or something and they just left her! Connor said I could make a new guy if I wanted, and then Pete was all 'just don't make another dumb dyke,' and..." Nathan swallows; his mouth is painfully dry. He stands up, unrolls quarters from his pocket for a Coke from the machine, and kills it in two long gulps. He looks up to find the kid on the bench still staring at him.
"And then what?"
Nathan's gone this far. He has to say it. "I hit him. He fell, but he grabbed me, and the table fell over, and... Pete's mom says I can't come back there. Mom said we should take a trip to go see Grandma, to help me get my head right before school starts, but Grandma's house sucks, and my sister gets carsick so we have to stop like every hour, and now they're finishing up the campaign and it took two years and I'm not there. And Rhyannon's dead and all I can think about is how she never got to do anything cool and then she died."
Nathan's lying to the kid and to himself; there are other things he thinks about, like the magnet school he's going to in the fall, where he knows nobody. Like all the friends he doesn't have, now that Pete and Jake and Connor are out of his life for good. Like how much he wants to reach between the multiverses and grab Chronon, Lord of Eternity, and make him turn back time to sixth grade, to the sleepovers in Jake's basement with Catan and Happy Gilmore. To before the fault lines started to show.
The kid's silent for a minute or two, hanging his head in thought, and then he looks up again. "Your friends are loving assholes," he says, in a voice like he's sentencing them to death. "You should find some other guys to play with. Get a new game, and play your girl again if you want. It's just a game. You can always try again."
He's right, Nathan realizes, for the first time. Somewhere out there, Rhyannon is dead -- but there are other worlds, other groups, where nobody says "dyke" and the dungeons aren't full of wizard puzzles. Rhyannon isn't really dead. Rhyannon is free.
And so is he.
"I have a message board game," says the kid. "You can play if you want; we need a cleric. Let me write down the address. Oh, right -- my name's Brody. What's yours?"
"Nathan," he says. He takes the sticky note Brody offers. Grandma Pahlke's house has crappy Internet, but he brought all his books. A week should be time enough to make a cleric, to dream his way to a new world.
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 05:35|
Brawl goes to Merc by default, but I will crit Merc's story within 48 hours.
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 06:26|
Token of my Kin
The token felt hot and sticky in my palm. “Have you seen Ashley today?” asked Roy. A mall cop, Roy was living up to the stereotype he managed to give everyone a reason to dislike him. “We got a report that he was here only minutes ago.”
“I just got here, so I haven’t seen anything,” I said. It was a total lie.
In fact, as Roy was searching the barcade, Ash caught me on his way out and put the token in my hand. “Hide this, don’t talk to Roy, don’t let Boss know,” he had said before taking off through the mall crowds.
“Fine,” said Roy. “We’ve already let the bar staff know we’re looking for him. If you or anyone else catch word of him, get us.” He left after making this demand as if I would even acknowledge it.
When Roy was out of sight I loosened my grip on the token and got my first real look at it. It was exactly like the tokens that the barcade, Donkey Pong, used for its games: quarter-sized, dull gold in color, albeit this token was engraved with flames on both sides.
Inside Donkey Pong the island bar was crowded and the tables filled with people eating food from the kitchen. All the bodies almost certainly helped Ash get out unnoticed. Manasika was working the bar tonight, which was great; even if I could never coax a free drink from her, Mana was cool to talk with.
“Did the mall cop getcha, Zach?” she asked. “Better watch out or you’ll end up on Boss’ hitlist, too.” Mana smiled at me, a theatrically sinister grin. She leaned in for a bit of privacy as she set my beer down. “I really do think Ash got Boss mad at him. The last time Boss was here I heard him say Ash’s name and it wasn’t in a friendly way.”
Boss to me was no more than the security cameras embedded in the ceiling of Donkey Pong, a boogie man that Mana swears actually exists. I wasn’t worried, so I held out the flame token for her to see.
“I’ve seen Boss with that!” Mana gasped. “It’s for the game machines. It works on all of them.”
“A skeleton key for arcade games?” I asked.
“It’s called a slug, and yes,” she said. “I don’t care that you have it. I need to work, and be careful about using it.”
I promised Mana I’d watch out, though I knew I was going to use the hell out of the fire token. The enigmatic Boss was was ruining most of the fun of going to a barcade by raising the cost of the games: a single play was nearly the same price as getting a beer. Even on a busy night like tonight most of the games were unoccupied, people opting instead to spend their money on food and drink. It was less a barcade and more a bar with arcade-themed decor.
Gauntlet was the first game to call to me. I went over to the cabinet with the fire token ready. The token slid into the coin slot, then slid right out into the coin return tray with the depressing metallic rattle that heralded an out-of-order machine. Except in this case the hero selection screen came up on the cabinet monitor.
It actually worked.
This was awesome! I was about the select the barbarian when I heard, “Gauntlet? Yes! I’ve been wanting to play this for a while now!” Katrina appeared next to me, waggling the Player 2 joystick. She reached down to put some tokens in herself but stopped short, groaning. “Man, this one got expensive. How can you afford to drink and play this, Zach?”
“Shhh, Katty,” I said as I put the fire token through the Player 2 coin slot. I motioned to Katty by drawing my fingers across my lips like a zipper.
“Yes, yes, yes!” Katty was hushed in her excitement but was doing small hops as she cheered. Her celebration did not go unnoticed, however, as our friend Ryan and his girlfriend, Kay, came right over.
“Excited about Gauntlet much, Katty?” asked Kay.
“Always!” said Katty. “Especially when Zach is playing since no one else wants to…”
“That’s because these games are old and expensive,” Ryan said defensively.
“They’re actually fun! And now,” Katty paused to look at me, “totally affordable!”
I frowned at Katty as Kay asked, “What does she mean, Zach?”
I sighed and loaded up Player 3 and Player 4 with the fire token in lieu of an explanation. Ryan and Kay were shocked but happily jumped into the game. Keeping my voice down, I explained what I knew about the token from Ash and Mana.
After my first death I ducked out of the game as I needed food badly. Katty begged for me to leave the fire token with her; she was genuinely excited to play more Gauntlet, and I trusted her, so I handed the token off to her before making my way to the bar to order some of Donkey Pong’s Golden Rings along with a fresh beer.
“I’m certain Boss sits around watching those cameras most of the day,” Mana said as she brought the onion rings out from the kitchen. “Four people only putting a single token in per play is kinda suspicious.”
“We’ve been using the token for a whopping ten minutes,” I said. “I doubt Boss is that paranoid or that bored.” Of course that’s when Roy showed up again.
Roy zeroed in on the Gauntlet machines immediately. Ryan was gone, but Kay and Katty were there. Katty had the fire token in her hand, ready to put it through for another play. I nearly choked on my onion ring when I saw Roy storm over and snatch the token from her.
Katty was stomping her feet and demanding the token back from Roy while Kay chewed him out. Roy ignored the both women as he inspected the token, frowned, and threw it over his shoulder. He briskly took off into the mall, leaving Katty to scramble for the token and Kay scowling.
“What a nuisance,” I said.
“Roy’s in good with Boss,” Mana said. “I don’t need to tell you that his coming here wasn’t by chance.”
Ryan came back into the barcade not much later with a smile on his own face. He held open his hand as he came up to me. “Zach! Check this out. The key copy place here in the mall also does coins, too.” He was holding four flame tokens, three of which were shiny and new. This explained why Katty didn’t get caught by Roy.
“Boss will personally come here and strangle the both of you,” warned Mana before heading to the kitchen for another order.
“Unlimited plays for our whole group!” Ryan said, ecstatic. “Let’s go finish Gauntlet with Kay and Katty, then go see what else we can play.”
Mana was right - we were clearly being watched. It wouldn’t be long before Roy made another visit, this time finding the evidence he was looking for. “Roy just accosted Katty, thinking she had the token. But I have an idea,” I said. I gave him some money. “Go back to that key shop and make as many more copies as you can. Let’s hand them out to everyone.”
Ryan left and before long returned holding a sack heavy with fire tokens. We went to each table and bar counter, giving out tokens to every person we saw. Skepticism about the tokens passed quickly as the arcade machines filled with people. Minutes after we had made our rounds, Roy showed up again, this time with four other mall cops.
A whistle cut through the air. “Listen up!” Roy shouted after putting the whistle away. “Turn in all your tokens to us. We know there are slugs being used. Those that don’t comply will be ejected from the mall, barred from returning, and prosecuted by city authorities.”
Restless mumbling added to the background of video game noises. Kay was the first to step up, handing her coin to Roy. However, as Roy looked down to inspect the coin, Kay poured her beer over Roy’s head. Roy yelled, grabbed Kay by the wrist, and twisted her arm around, making Kay yelp in pain.
This set Ryan off. His fist was in Roy’s face before I noticed he had left my side. Katty tried to pull Ryan away but one of the mall cops restrained her arms. Ryan now was throwing punches at two of the other mall cops as Roy called for assistance on his radio, his face already swelling.
It was my turn. I took the hefty sack of leftover fire tokens and whipped it at Roy. It hit the side of his head. Roy staggered, his radio crashing to the ground alongside a shower of tokens. I ran over and kicked the radio further into Donkey Pong. Before I could see where it went I was being lifted up, Roy holding me by the waist. He charged forward, and next I was slamming into a cash register then tumbling down behind the bar. My hands caught the cash register, but unfortunately it was due to the register landing on top of them. My hands hurt, a lot, and even with Mana’s help it took me a solid minute to get back up.
Donkey Pong was a madhouse. A number of other patrons had joined in on the fight, and so had more mall cops. Broken glass and tokens made the floor glitter. The Addams Family pinball machine had a mall cop laying inside of it. Several games had broken screens, and Ms. Pac-Man had fallen over onto a large, bearded patron. I saw Katty and Kay outside in the mall carrying a limping Ryan away from the melee, unmolested by the mall cops that had their hands full with the patrons inside.
Mana called out my name, though before I could react I was being grabbed by the shirt and dragged back over the bar. My hands useless, keeping myself from falling over was the only thing I could do. With no small amount of pleasure, Roy dragged me out of the mall with the help of two mall cops and threw me onto the sidewalk. “You are banished from the mall and all stores within it,” he announced through swollen lips. “I’ll get your friends another time. Now leave. The city police are on their way and you’re trespassing.” Roy left with the other mall cops only after one final kick underneath my ribs. I discovered what liver pain feels like, if such as thing exists.
From that day I could no longer go to the mall, no longer hang out at Donkey Pong with the others. Katty, Ryan, Kay, and even Ash never officially got caught, so after letting the dust settle for a week they braved a return to the barcade. They told me Roy would stare them down whenever he’d see them, but as they weren’t causing trouble he couldn’t confront them. That, or he was worried about taking hits in another fight. Either way, they were able to keep up with the news at the barcade.
And news there was! So many fire tokens were given out that Boss couldn’t deter their rampant use after the fight. The entire game selection was made free to play, not a single token needed, to end matters. Mana said Boss was going to raise prices on the food and drink to compensate but the free play drew in so many more customers that bar sales easily made up for the money lost on the arcade machines.
I would miss going to Donkey Pong, yet I was happy in a way to hear it do well, with people like Katty now able to play their favorite games all they wanted.
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 06:32|
Well fought, gentlemen, thanks for submitting. It's always better to lose than to not submit at all. Expect crits within about 24 hours.
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 07:12|
The holes of Maslow County
The sun was nailed to the sky, stuck there with a single brave wisp of cloud.
Far, far below Enderby Malthus was lying facedown in a mud puddle, singing a song he remembered from when he was a child, inside his head. He only remembered some of the words but sang them all anyway. Around him was a shallow depression in the rutted mud of the road, like if a giant had pressed down with his thumb just so.
Emilia, his daughter, smoked a cigarette, watching each curl of smoke get whipped away by the wind. She used to love Lazlow but the love had faded and cracked in the sun, dry geometric fissures forming and joining up across the smooth rounded surface of her love. She looked at his bearded red-cheeked sleeping face pressed against the puddle in the middle of the road. The depression around the puddle quivered and sunk an inch lower, but it didn’t wake him.
Emilia took a final drag on her cigarette and flicked it with a fingernail, sending it spinning and sparking across the road before it was caught by the wind and whipped away. The sign above her swung in the dusty wind. She had seen it every day for the last twenty three years and its faded lines and curlicues no longer registered as words or a picture.
Inside the bar smelt of dry sweat and spilled whisky. The tables were pushed into a rough ring around the hole in the middle of the floor, chairs arrayed like at a bull fight. The Mayor was perched on one, her heavy boots poised on the crossbar like she was about to leap.
This hole was one of the deeper ones, and had already started its exhalations, heavy humming drafts of thick moist air that carried a smell almost too faint to perceive. Back when people could still speak there was lively debate over what it was - Angus Waller said fried potatoes and had defended that opinion with vigour, defeating Little Mo’s counter proposition (fresh-turned earth) with two swings of his gnarled fists. Emilia had kept her thoughts to herself at the time; but she smelt the faintest whiff of roses as she picked her way through the clutter of bar furniture and clambered on to the chair next to the Mayor.
Helena Cornchafer was her name. Her eyes were small, and kind, and fixed on the depths of the hole as though afraid to blink, in case she might miss whatever came out of it. She was taking slow breaths, in and out to the rhythm of the hole. Her balance on the crossbar of the chair was precise, swaying forward and back a little with each breath.
Melvin Bunker and his wife had argued for making the holes into a profitable tourist attraction, but not with any conviction. In fact: visitors to their town had always been rare and, as the holes multiplied, they grew fewer. The townsfolk didn’t care, even when, one after another, they found that they didn’t want to speak anymore.
This close to the hole Emilia could feel its pull. She risked a glance; it was just black. Or was there something more, something moving down there? She blinked down the hole as another gust of warm rose-scented air roiled up from the place below, then turned her head with a deliberate effort and touched the Mayor on her shoulder. Her skin was hot beneath the thin print dress. Emilia shook it, as though trying to pull someone from a dream without waking them.
The Mayor blinked twice then sat back on her chair with a huff of expelled breath, hard enough to make the chair rock back on its legs. She looked at Emilia with tears in her eyes.
Emilia pointed down the hole and moved her hand, palm down, in a firm left to right. The Mayor looked at her, chest heaving, then in a flurry of print dress and heavy boots she was gone, scrabbling her way through the battered forest of chairs and tables.
Emilia felt tears brimming in sympathy behind her own eyes and squeezed them shut, then opened them again after a moment as another soft breath from the hole fingered her hair. Her jaw clenched. She reached over and tipped the chair the Mayor had been perched on into the hole. It bumped down the smooth sides and disappeared. She pushed the one on her left down the hole too and watched as it vanished, jaw still tight-set.
Then, in a frenzy, she leapt off her chair and grabbed a table, scraped it across the floor and into the hole, hurled a chair, kicked another one, grabbed two at a time and threw them into the dull, all-devouring hole. Her mouth was wide, a hiss of breath all that could be heard of the scream that was echoing inside her head.
Alison Moresby was the first of the town to go down a hole. She had gestured downwards, nodding as though listening to a pop song, then held up her other hand in a ‘wait just one moment’ way. Then she had stepped over the edge of the hole outside the corn mill and slid down in a flurry of skirts and bonnet. Emilia was a distance away and just saw her disappear from view amid a sussurrus of concerned hissing. She wasn’t the last.
There was only one table left, the heaviest, in the once-crowded bar and Emilia was gathering her strength to heave it into the hole when she heard someone cough. She spread her hands flat on the scarred wood and looked at her bitten fingernails, then turned.
It was Enderby Malthus, red beard still wet with puddle-water. He looked at his daughter, expressionless. Then he looked around the bar. A slow, wide smile spread across his face and he laughed, soundless.
Emilia felt something cracked inside her loosen. She shrugged, and sat cross-legged on the table. Her forehead was wet with sweat and she wiped it off with her hand.
Enderby spread his arms wide and turned in a circle, then kept turning as he danced through the space where the chairs and tables had been, hopping each time he came around like a drunken ballerina. When he got to the bar he caught himself with his outstretched arm and bowed, grand like a lord.
Emilia bowed back in as dainty a fashion as she could manage, and clapped. The sound echoed around the empty bar, so she did it again.
Enderby pointed at the two of them, then pointed down the hole. He raised an eyebrow.
Emilia shook her head, left then right. Her father looked at her and he didn’t smile, and he didn’t nod, but in the way he looked at her she knew the cracked thing inside her was still real, and therefore so was she.
The tiniest, faintest of smiles found its way to her lips and sat there, hesitant but proud, like a bird on a bush.
Enderby pulled a bottle of scotch from behind the bar, and brought it back with two glasses. He clambered up on the table beside her and filled their glasses, then hugged her with an awkward arm. She leant on his shoulder for a moment.
Then, solemn as owls, they toasted each other, sitting on the table in the little town that had been swallowed up by the holes that just grew there one day.
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 07:59|
Onsetoutsider gets two more hours because I don’t want to get anybody banned.
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 08:02|
(posting this draft so i dont get banned)
409 words (so far)
They call me Supermaid! Who’s they? My clients. And me. Mostly me. I call myself Supermaid. It’s on all the flyers.
“FOR A SUPER MESS, CALL SUPERMAID!”
That’s my motto. And I have never left a client unsatisfied, not even once! Not even at...
Which is what I’ll name the chapter in my semi-autobio-graphic novel I’m writing and illustrating. Yeah, I have a lot of skills. Even more in the comic where I’m a badass superhero. I’m best at cleaning though, even in my comic.
I’ve been around the block, so to speak, when it comes to huge intimidating messes, but this one was, let’s just say, nemesis-level.
After I’d parked my adorable little maid’s car, the first thing I noticed as I walked towards the entrance was the sheer amount of stuff cluttering every single window, of which there were six on the front-facing wall. The sign next to the door was illegible. It had not worn the gnawing of time well.
Never fear, I narrated inside my head, for Supermaid is here!
Then I knocked on the door, which just sort of creaked open when I did that, so I stepped into the dark hall, figuring the owner must have left it open for me. Wielding my broom in both hands, I prepared for the worst.
That’s when I encountered my first foe. Or rather, I felt him slap me across the nose with his foul-smelling arm, which doubled me over right on the spot. Even as I felt for the light switch he was trying to sting my eyes with his sour breath.
I clicked the lights on, and seeing his morbid, grizzly visage was even enough to crack my confidence for just an instant. It was Señor Dumpus (I came up with the name later). My now-arch-enemy, though here I was meeting him for the first time. I’d never seen such a grotesque dump in person before; only in the picture books my mama, also a maid, would read to me as a child.
He was huge, he was smelly, and only the power of my cleaning might could save the day! I stabbed my trusty broom with confidence into the heart of the beast, giving it a good old flick of the wrist to amplify the cleaning energies.
However, the unexpected happened. My broom was nigh ineffective!
[the rest of the story goes here]
And that’s the story of how I blew up a house to clean it.
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 10:05|
Good brawl, I'm glad you both got your stories in. I'll get some crits together in the next couple days.
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 10:20|
Week 336 Crits Part 5
Fuschia Tude: You Can Taste It
Your description of the island is some of my favourite scene-setting of the week. It’s rich and sumptuous and just detailed enough for the reader to fill in the gaps without being overbearing. I liked the subtlety with which you used your prompt and hinted at the backstory.
Your ending was swift and slick but sprung out of nowhere a little. The final three sentences just feel out of place with the rest of the story. I would have liked to see a more subdued ending - or at least one that had been foreshadowed a bit more than this was.
You do a very good job of setting up a coherent dream logic: bizarre and fluid but hinting at an underlying structure. And frankly, a talking duck with a sword-cane and a top hat could easily come off as wacky and ~~random~~. You avoided that. And the repressed memories were portrayed effectively and with that subtle nightmarish style, rather than gore/tragedy for gore/tragedy’s sake.
But your ending paragraph is a rude awakening (hah hah). “It was all a dream … OR WAS IT?” is one of those endings that retroactively poisoned my feelings of goodwill towards this story. Just … just don’t do it. Drop the ending paragraph, slap a couple of new sentences in there, done. They can be corny or twee and still be miles better than this.
Sham Bam Bamina!: At Least It’s an Entry
Your story is short even for a week with an 800 word limit but it doesn’t suffer for it - it’s as long as it needs to be. It’s a very, very good non-literal use of your prompt and flash rule and very effectively captures a strong sense of … well, I’m not sure what emotion it is. Probably one of those ones that only has a name in German and translates literally to “little death of another’s soul” or something.
I’m going to break slightly from what sebmojo said here: I think the imagery of overcoming inertia and emerging from a garbage job (a bottom-feeding job, if we’re feeling unkind) meets the prompt just fine, even if it could have been explored slightly more.
There’s just a lack of any real progress through the story - it’s an effective character piece but there’s no drive to it. The title is a major eye-roller too - it sounds like you ran out of time and weren’t satisfied with what you had to submit? If that’s the case, you probably needn’t have worried. A little polish was all it needed (well, that plus a less angsty title).
Bad Seafood: The Hunt
I enjoyed your story. The imagery is great and the characterisation - primarily of the grandfather - felt very real and sombre without being clichéd. The story moved quickly and clearly and effectively. It wasn’t a particularly complex story but you hit each beat at the right time and told it very well.
The one bit of confusion, for me, was what actually happened to the young men of the town. I was expecting them to die - to not return at all, as they promised. And yes, that’s what appears to happen. But then you talk about nobody sleeping for two days, which sounds less like grief and more like a celebration - or madness, brought back from war. It’s only a small point but it tripped me up right as the story was moving into the climax and diluted things as a result. Another pass here would have really helped stick the landing.
Mercedes: Voice Thief
Late submission is better than no submission.
So: this was a fun, fast-paced read. You suggested just enough world-building to hold everything together and wrote believable, if uncomplicated, characters. Some of the elements of the wolf-weirdness (the banging rocks together, the loss of voice) come out of nowhere and only really make sense if you know the prompt. It’s not a bad thing for TD - just something to be aware of if showing it to someone who isn’t familiar with Medieval wolf stuff.
The story could have down with a bit of a trim and polish. There’s no real pay-off to Brad being 500lbs so it feels like wasted real estate in such a short story. Plus there are a few typos - just the usual stuff that happens when you’re in a rush to post. I’m not sure you would have made HM if you had submitted on time but I would have put it at mid-to-high middle of the road.
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 22:11|
Thunderdome Week 336 Crits (Part The Last)
Curlingiron - Gestalt
I’m 50/50 on the Bible-speak, but it does add a mystery to the hubris-derived plague that wiped out mankind. Except there were enemies that killed mankind, too? That felt like a leftover thought fragment. My major complaint is that the enigma you build up crosses over a little bit into being obtuse. I also never understood what “Our Scaly Hide” was or represented. While specifics might feel like they would ruin the tone you were going for, without them I finished reading this feeling unsatisfied. 6/10
Kaishai - The Sun in Chains
The middle of this story left me with a few questions. Why did the Elder look Cille in the eyes? Was it a warning? Affect her ability to later channel the power of the sun? It was a nice tale otherwise. And, while I don’t think this was the direction you were taking it, I really want Cille to be the mother of dragons in this world. 6/10
Beezus - Insidious
I felt disconnected from the story while I read it. A lot of action and tension for a character that I knew, and learned, nothing about, and who suffered rather vague, but violent, events. Nothing tied together, and the ending just happened out of nowhere - and the final line was, frankly, really cheesy. Normally I would have questions about parts of the story, but all I have for this is “what actually happened and why?” 4/10
M. Propagandalf - The Misanthrope of Bhopal
First, I’m totally going to call people “Lord Dilmore” as an insult. I understood why the character used lofty language though it did take me out of the story at times. The creature was wonderfully threatening, only suffering from mostly passive descriptions of its carnage. The setting and story on this really drew me in, like a fresh take on Frankenstein. 7/10
DJ Dublell - Part of the Forest
The characters being built up at the start was really good, but I feel it’s all thrown away by the Monty Python killer rabbit, er, serpent easily picking them off at the end - all that winding up didn’t match the pitch being thrown. Dialogue could have used real words in lieu of constant swearing in places, too. The “simple” beginning and end was both tacky and felt tacked on. I never got the setting established, either: was this a fantastical world with vicious, mythical beasts or a dangerous natural world where something more than natural easily kills the most wary of men? 4/10
onsetOutsider - (Untitled)
There wasn’t much meat to sink my teeth into with this. It’s a nice description of an odd ritual but left too many questions without even a hint to keep me intrigued after reading. Why is Andrastea so important to these people? Is it also important that she’s a nymph specifically? What other components are there to this mirthless festival? And what happens to those that do not, either willing or unwilling, contribute to the pyre? 5/10
Chairchucker - Back from the Officially Dead
Obviously rushed and unfinished, but I’ll put a few things down. The prompt wasn’t really used; there was a “resurrection” and blood test, but not tied in with a parent, bird, or equivalent. This gag feels old and worn, variants done to death (ha) by standard-fare sitcoms. Worse, there wasn’t even a punchline. At least it wasn’t a slog to read? 3/10
Fuschia tue - You Can Taste It
I didn’t understand the story. I feel bad for critting this one as I have this lurking fear that I’m an idiot missing something obvious, but I couldn’t figure out the church-hut or how the animal showing up tied into the story or what really happened at the end. I think the stone hut is actually just a church, that a confession/conversion was made which resulted in the betrayal/judgement at the end. My alternative thought is this is some kind of allegory for Hell or Purgatory. Honestly, I think I’m just dumb, and I’m sorry. 5/10
Thanguy - Sea Monsters
“Imaginary friend helps fight real life trauma” almost works here but misses a few key notes for me. One is that Jason is an adult rather than a child, without Maxwell being mentioned as being a character from his childhood reappearing (ala Drop Dead Fred), so it feels awkward. What caused Maxwell’s manifestation at this point in Jason’s life, especially since the bad dreams aren’t new? What does Maxwell’s self-sacrifice represent in terms of Jason growing as a person to deal with this childhood trauma? Who the hell is Marty? The hat and Jason entering his coworker’s dream was a bit cheesy. However, I genuinely like the idea of a magical French dream adventure duck helping people with their nightmares! 5/10
Sham bam bamina! - At Least It’s an Entry
Despite this being an incomplete, promptless story, I was actually drawn into the story you began to build, mostly because I empathize with it personally, having worked decades of menial jobs and only now on the cusp of getting my feet into a worthwhile career. Definitely a useable premise for another writing piece. -/10
Bad Seafood - The Hunt
This had me deep into the story until near the end - the words and phrasing of the protagonist’s dialogue there really threw me off. Same with the stag nodding, which was a bit too “Disney spirit animal” for your setting. Other than this, everything else was great, and I really liked the tone and pacing. 7/10
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 22:43|
Sham Bam Bamina!: At Least It’s an Entry
yeah i got that wrong, story fits the prompt fine. i was fooled by the dumb title so the lesson is don't do dumb titles but also i guess i was dumb so it all balances out shantih
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 22:54|
Thunderdome goes to the moon (literally)
Also it has been pointed out to me that I wrote 12pm when I meant midnight tonight, so this is still open. HMs and brawl wins admissible. Feel free to spam past domers who might want to be included.
|# ? Feb 1, 2019 23:17|
Less than an hour remains to get into the holiday spirit!!!
|# ? Feb 2, 2019 04:17|
oookay sign ups are closed
|# ? Feb 2, 2019 05:54|
ANTISOLITARY NERD VACATION BRAWL RESULTS ARE IN
My b on the delay, I have been out on the farm and my phone blew up. But that’s pretty fitting for judging this particular brawl. As penance for my own lateness I’ll do a line-by-line on both of these stories when I’m at my own computer again.
I liked the direction both of you took with this prompt, and your upbeat endings pleased me. You both developed your protagonists nicely and I felt their nerdrage deep in my angry heart. However, toward the end, both of your stories turned kind of twee. Solitair’s lost control hard enough that it approached TURN LEFT, DALE! NOO!! territory. (Side note, whatever happened to that guy?)
The win goes to Antivehicular for managing to navigate the emotional stuff with a bit more dexterity rather than plowing into the trite, unforgiving NASCAR wall of human platitudes.
|# ? Feb 2, 2019 21:32|
Permabanned for bitching about someone's probation in Helldump.
Solitair’s lost control hard enough that it approached TURN LEFT, DALE! NOO!! territory. (Side note, whatever happened to that guy?)
|# ? Feb 2, 2019 22:04|
two brawls one post
Simply Shambam brawl
There are some clarity issues in this piece. Most of it is due to phrasing, though, which is good news—it's a lot easier to edit for awkward sentences than it is a fatally flawed premise. Here are a couple examples:
I didn’t care, they kept paying me well for the privilege of laughing at a Dwarf woman with a choice of employment as esoteric as they come.
As written, it sounds like Raitha is the one laughing at a dwarf woman. It took me a couple reads to realize you meant the elves are paying for the privilege to laugh at Raitha when they buy her products.
It was not, however, and neither were being a dishwasher, a barmaid, a horse (not pony!) trainer, a juggler, and so on.
The parenthetical breaks up the phrase "horse trainer" in such a way that at a glance it seems that Raitha herself was employed as a horse!
But okay, let's talk about the story itself. Raitha is a decently likeable character. She has an outer persona and a distinctly different inner monologue. I enjoyed how you integrated the quote from the prompt; I personally can identify with Raitha's "go with the flow" approach to life. The overall situation is pretty silly, which isn't a problem in and of itself, but it does make Raitha's various magma-related metaphors seem a little bit melodramatic.
This story could've used a bit more setting and description. It would've been nice to place your characters in each scene a little more firmly; this story is told almost entirely through Raitha's inner monologue and dialog with the elves. I wanted to see/smell/taste/touch the world around Raitha a little bit more. I'm not saying I need a bunch of worldbuilding, but right now my mental image of this setting is pretty much a blank white space with some bearded elves in it.
So really, whether or not I enjoy this piece comes down to Raitha, and whether or not she undergoes a satisfying change by the end of the story. I'm going to say that yes, her character arc is basically satisfying. Her go-with-the-flow approach to life makes a lot of sense because it makes her happy! On the other hand, trying to hold on to that mentality is ultimately what forces to take a more active role in her own life. She reminds me a little bit of Quark from Deep Space 9, although if you don't care about Star Trek that will mean nothing so ignore me.
Writers writing about writing is a risky business. That said, I hate proscriptive crits where the only feedback is NO YOU'RE NOT SPOSED TO WRITE ABOUT THAT so I will ignore the reflexive curling of my lips into a sneer and focus instead on the individual merits (or lack thereof) of this piece.
So this piece has three components: The writer (and by extension, Evan),
First, the writer's bits. We've all met this person, so I'll give you kudos for an accurate depiction of 75% of all aspiring fantasy authors. Unfortunately, this presents a couple of problems. The first problem is simply that this character's struggles are very familiar to writers, but might not be terribly familiar to normies. So you've got a character that is really hard for most people to identify with. The second problem is that, even for a writer, this person isn't terribly fun to read about; it's a similar to when people try to write about nerdy gamer goons. Nothing about this writer is especially compelling, just excruciatingly familiar. There's a slight bit of intrigue in the form of the freaky cheese dream, but I'm not actually sure how it relates to the rest of the story or why, in particular, it seems to be correlated with the writer's revelation that their story is boring as poo poo.
Next, Vràchia's prose bits (the stuff the writer actually wrote). This is flowery, archaic-sounding fantasy generica. Anyone who's read and critiqued a bunch of amateur fantasy has seen this a thousand times, so again, you nail the realism, but at the price of effectively writing boring fantasy. Luckily, there isn't a whole lot of this so it wasn't super grating or anything.
Finally, Vràchia's actual bits. These are the most interesting, though it's not a terribly high bar to clear. She's a victim of the writer, which makes her sympathetic to me because I, too, feel like the victim of a writer She's basically trapped in the opening of a lovely WiP and can't exert any agency not granted to her by the writer. Which makes me wonder how she can even think or make some of the small decisions she appears to make when the writer isn't actively working on the doc. The rule of her (lack of) agency are not super clear to me.
I didn't like the ending. I think leaving it at "writer gets cheese shits, deletes lovely novel" was a misstep. It's fine to have that as part of the story, but it would be cool if we got to see Vràchia find some measure of freedom; since she can seemingly think and feel when the writer isn't actively writing her, it might've been nice if the deletion had freed her and allowed her to explore things beyond this milquetoast writer's imagination.
The bottom line:
Neither of these stories hit it out of the park, but I didn't hate them, either. Shambam wrote much cleaner prose, but there was little in the way of emotional resonance. Simon, you need to continue to refine your prose, but your story wore its heart on its sleeve in a way I found endearing. I've been going back and forth on these results all afternoon.
In the end, I have to go with the story I find most endearing. To that end, Simply Simon wins this brawl by the skin of his teeth.
Okay so full disclosure, I like both of these stories a fair bit, and as of this moment, I don't actually know who wins. So I'm going to sort of talk it out with myself okay here we go.
This is as warm and good-humored as flerp's story is honest and moving. Your opening sentence is extremely fun, but the scifi cheekiness gives way to some real feelings and frustrations. I'm reminded a little bit of The Orville—not that this feels derivative in any way, for all I know you've never seen the show—insofar as they do some really fun things with scifi absurdism + character realism. The descriptive language really pops, too, which is another thing that makes this story really fuckin' different from flerp's (his story is very descriptive, but not of a setting, per se). By the end of the story I was disappointed I didn't get to see some super soldier-on-chitinous alien lovin, and boy oh boy I can't believe I'm saying that. Also, this is a really clever take on your prompt; I was not expecting this angle whatsoever.
So, if sneakers wrote the equivalent of a nice burbly hot tub, this is a belly flop into a frigid pool. Ooof dude oof. Whereas Sneakers' story explored its prompt through a situation, I think your story expresses your assigned sorrow through its cadence, through the texture and flow of the words. It reads like a dam breaking between two people in a way that liberates them from the usual constraining structures of conversation. There's been some recent discussion about how to incorporate the online aspects of our lives into fiction; I thought you did so pretty well here. I loved the detail about the three little dots bobbing; it was very real and true.
The bottom line:
Okay I have to choose one of you and please understand this is very hard for me, so like, really, it's you guys who should feel bad, not me. I'm fairly certain if I try to proclaim a tie the cabal will send their fixers to disappear me so that's out.
...right, my lawyer has advised me to choose based on prompt adherence and then get banned. I'm not sure why I need to get banned but this is what my attorney advises me to do.
In that light, this brawl goes to steeltoedsneakers because falling for your mortal alien enemy is probably the most balls-to-the-wall approach one could've taken for that particular prompt.
Flerp pls don't feel bad though I legit loved your piece too oh god aaaah
|# ? Feb 3, 2019 00:55|
Week 336 Crits Part 5
Thunderdome Week 336 Crits (Part The Last)
|# ? Feb 3, 2019 05:54|
LGBTQ Focused French Race Against Time Thrillers About Royalty Cults
Clarisse looked stunning in her red brocade gown. The pearls I’d woven through her auburn hair were as fake as our IDs, but both were good enough to get us past security. Inside the mansion the Christmas ball was in full swing. Dancers in bustles and corsets swirled around an enormous gold-wreathed tree. A waiter wearing tights and a stiff ruff bowed and placed champagne flutes into our hands.
“Not too shabby,” said Clarisse, taking a sip. “Almost makes working on Christmas worth it.” She gave my hand a demur squeeze, and my heart skipped a beat. I reminded myself that we were just work associates. Professionals.
“What’s the deal with these guys anyway?” I whispered back to her, taking a swig of champagne. “Why the Louis XIV costumes?”
“Rich people,” she said, and shrugged.
With a final flourish the band stopped playing. Trumpets sounded from the base of the grand staircase. A middle-aged woman, her breasts wobbling on top of her straining corset and her face flushed red from dancing, elbowed in front of me.
“Ow!” I said.
Red-face turned and glared at me. Her pupils were dilated and she was breathing heavily.
“I must see the King!” she said, bathing me in halitosis.
I flinched away from her, and Clarisse put a protective hand on the small of my back.
“Mesdames et messieurs,” a loud voice rang out. Red-face’s attention snapped to the front. “May I present, Le Roi Soleil, His Majesty Louis XIV!”
To rapturous applause a well-known Parisian businessman, currently dressed in silk tights and an indigo robe embossed with gold fleur-de-lis, descended the staircase. Clarisse was being paid handsomely to relieve him of a certain laptop. I still couldn’t believe she’d asked for my help. Definitely makes working on Christmas worth it, I thought, her hand still resting lightly on my back.
We hung back as the other ladies lined up to kiss their Monarch’s fingers, and slipped unnoticed into the corridor to the bathrooms. Once we were out of sight of the ballroom we got to work. In a matter of seconds I picked the lock to the servants’ passages. With great relief we stripped off our corsets and stuffed the gowns, their part done, into a cupboard full of janola and mops.
Moving silently in our body-suits we ran through the empty corridors until we found the locked door to the third floor quarters. This was a serious piece of kit and wasn’t going to be defeated with picks alone. Sitting cross-legged I plugged my home-made card into the slot and hunched over the programme on my phone.
“C’mon, c’mon,” I muttered.
“It’ll work,” said Clarisse.
I looked up at her, surprised.
“After all, you wrote the code.” She smiled, and I felt my face go red.
“Hey, Clarisse,” I said.
She arched her beautiful eyebrows in response.
I took a deep breath. “I’m really glad you chose me for this job. I want to tell you, spending time with you, it’s been amazing. I - ”
“Merde.” Clarisse chopped the air with her right hand. “Hear that?”
My sweat turned to ice. From further down the winding passages came the sound of booted footsteps. Not walking but jogging; the sound a group of men makes when they are moving with purpose. Hunting.
The lock clicked and I sprang to my feet. Palming my tools back into their pockets I grabbed Clarisse’s hand and pulled her through the door.
“Jeanne, did you re-lock the servants’ door?” she said.
I felt the blood drain from my face. Clarisse’s expression was blank, professional. No hint of accusation. That made it so much worse. I couldn’t believe I’d made such a rookie mistake. Clarisse will never speak to me again, I thought. If we even get out of here alive.
Out of time, we sprinted along a thick-carpeted corridor, counting the doors.
“Here,” Clarisse said.
She stared back down the corridor as I knelt in front of the door. My hands were shaking so bad I couldn’t get my picks in the lock.
“Clarisse…” My hands circled in front of me in lieu of words that wouldn’t come. As if I could ever tell her how I felt about her now.
“I’m sorry,” I said at last.
Clarisse squeezed my shoulder. “Open the lock so we can get the laptop and get out of here,” she said.
Right, I thought. I’m just here to do a job. I took a deep breath and my hands steadied. I pushed the picks into the lock and then sat back in surprise as the door swung open.
The room was even more richly ornamented than the rest of the mansion. A diamond chandelier glittered in the low light from candles arranged around the gold-leafed four-poster bed.
“What are you doing here?” said Red-face, snatching up the sheets to cover her bosom.
“We came to, err, get something for Louis,” I said, as Clarisse slipped past me into the room.
“That’s his Majesty’s desk! You can’t go through that!” said Red-face, sitting up in bed. “I’ll call the guards!”
“No need,” said Clarisse. “They’re on their way.” She held up a laptop.
I yanked open the window and snow-scented air washed into the room. The red railings of the fire escape trailed down into the darkness.
“Jeanne, look,” Clarisse said. I paused, one leg over the sill. Clarisse pointed up at the dark green leaves hanging from the curtain rail. “Mistletoe.”
The pounding of booted feet echoed down the corridor. I met Clarisse’s eyes, then she leant forward and kissed me.
For a moment the world stopped.
“Merry Christmas, my beautiful Jeanne,” Clarisse said. She grinned.
“Merry Christmas to you too,” I said, smiling back at her.
Then Clarisse pushed me the rest of the way out of the window and together we disappeared into the night.
|# ? Feb 3, 2019 09:24|
lippincott can we get some crits, if you really don't want to then just crit mine cheers
|# ? Feb 3, 2019 13:18|
Family Above All
Prompt: Supernatural Chinese Looking-for-love Story (at Christmas)
Nina Fong slammed the door to her room, shaking the posters of punk bands and Russian political philosophers on the walls. She threw herself onto her bed and screamed into the nearest pillow. Outside the room, her mother yelled, “This won’t do you any good, child! You’re going whether you like it or not!”
Nina jumped off her bed and stomped to the closed door. “Nora’s much more important to me than my stupid dead grandpa! So why don’t you just gently caress off?!”
There came no reply, only frustrated muttering (“I can’t believe this. Liang Fong, the child’s father’s father, and the child won’t even…”) A few moments later, Nina’s mother could be heard creaking down the stairs.
Nina’s phone vibrated. She pulled it out and opened the lock screen to find a text from Nora: Are u there?
The lock screen was a picture of Nora. Her sandy hair, piercing green eyes, and melancholy smile always comforted Nina. There were, of course, other pleasures to be had with Nora, but her body, Nina felt, could be appreciated in more ways than one. If only the two were together tonight, on Christmas Eve, when lovers always professed their love.
But they weren’t. As Nina thought that, she knew what she had to do. Yeah, im coming, Nina sent back, and within a few minutes, she had changed clothes, shimmied down the drainage pipe, and landed on the ground behind her house. No, it was his house. Liang’s. Not hers - never hers.
A half hour later, Nina felt she was no closer to her destination than when she had left. The bitter December winds cut through her deep blue coat and black stretch pants. Cars flew across the road next to Nina (could the next one be her mother’s?), blowing wet snow behind her round glasses and forcing her eyes to negotiate quick shifts between light and darkness. Her phone vibrated again. Where are u?
“poo poo…” Nina muttered. She pulled one glove off with her teeth and was halfway through a response when the tell-tale whine of a police siren broke the eerie calm between wind gusts. Nina yelped and tried to stuff her phone back in her pocket, but as the siren grew closer, a strong wind started up. Her phone flew from her hand onto the road, and with a grave crunch, it was crushed under the wheels of the police car.
Before Nina had the chance to panic, the car pulled over a few feet in front of her. She gasped, then darted into the woods by the road.
Thirty seconds, a minute, ninety seconds - how long would Nina run, against the wind? She saw a clearing, then a shed. A shed! Nina’s boots tracked snow on its decaying wood panels as she ran inside and swung the door shut. She fell to her knees and shivered on the floor for a while, then reached for her phone - her phone...
Nina pounded the wood with her fists. “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” she yelled. Her sobs rocked her entire body and scared off the worms and ants crawling between the floorboards.
“Yes, that was stupid of you, wasn’t it?”
The voice - a man’s voice, obviously sneering - had come from behind her. She stopped. She didn’t dare turn around. The voice sounded so familiar… What was it?
“Oh, get up. No grandson of mine is going to cry on the floor like a… Like a failed… Like a failed something or other.”
Grandson (the very nerve!)? But that would mean - Nina pulled herself off the floor and turned toward the voice. The spirit of her grandfather, Liang Fong, cast in a pale green light that illuminated most of the shed, stood before her. His arms were crossed and his entire face seemed to participate in a glare.
“B-but…” Nina stammered, taking a few steps back, “y-you’re dead.”
“Yes. I see you’re a very intelligent young man, to recognize that.”
Liang smirked for an instant, then contorted his face, wrinkly and mean even in death, to a frown. “I am your grandfather. You should be showing me more respect.” He shook his head, then let out an exaggerated sigh. “But then, you were never a respectful one, were you, Derek Fong?”
Nina growled. “It’s Nina.” Liang laughed a long, vicarious laugh. Nina curled her hands into fists and stamped on the floor. “Don’t laugh at me, you old bat! My name is Nina!”
“Ah,” began Liang, moving closer to the young woman, “but that’s not the name your mother gave you, is it? Cruel, nasty child. Always forsaking your poor family.”
Nora and Nina had spent hours coming up with her current name. Nina saw Nora again, in her mind’s eye... Would they ever meet again? Was this a hallucination? Would Nina die here?
No, she wouldn’t. Nina ran toward the door to the shed, passing through Liang’s spirit - what a clammy, ugly feeling - on the way. Liang moved in the same way, at lightning speeds, without making a sound. Before Nina knew it, his hand was on the door. “Now, now,” Liang chided. “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”
“Let me through, rear end in a top hat,” Nina said.
“Very well. I don’t have the power to stop you. But - where will you go? And where are you right now? Might I remind you you don’t have your phone?”
“I’m going to Nora’s, obviously.”
Liang laughed again, but this time the laugh was heartier and lower in pitch, as if it was malicious. “Then go on ahead. Try to force your way through the woods.”
Which Nina did. As she stepped outside, she noticed that the wind had picked up, and that it had started to snow. Even the skin under her wool mittens felt every single gust. Disregarding these omens, Nina trudged onward, lifting her knees to her chest just to get above the snow. Where was her scarf? She must’ve dropped it while running to the shed…
And then Nina saw light - candlelight, flickering in the distance. No, candles wouldn’t stay lit in this environment, they’d have to be electric… That thought drew Nina’s eyes deeper into the woods, so deep they could make out a woman in ceremonial garb, praying.
Her family’s shrine to Liang.
Nina pivoted on her boots (well, pivoted as much as was possible in the snow) and made her way back to the shed. She wasn’t giving her family the satisfaction, not even after all this. When she got back to the shed, Liang was waiting for her, his arms crossed, that damned ghosty smirk on his face.
“So,” he began, moving toward his granddaughter, “what did you see?”
“I’m not talking to you, old man.”
“Your mother and father are very brave to come all this way in the snow, just to pay their respects.”
Nina stuck her tongue out at Liang, who merely chuckled. He went on: “Do you remember the night I died? No? Oh, come, come, it’s easy to remember! Christmas Eve, five years ago!”
Nina pursed her lips. “What about it?” she spat.
“Every year since then, they’ve come, rain or shine, to honor me. And you’ve come with them! Every year! But why not this one, Derek? Why -”
“It’s Nina! And I didn’t come because I hate you.”
A hint of some hitherto unknown emotion flashed across Liang’s face, but it was gone as quickly as it had come, replaced with a glare. “Fine. I should’ve known you wouldn’t listen, stubborn bitch.”
Nina felt the world around her freeze. “What did you call me?” she spoke, in a low voice.
“A bitch, of course! A bitch! Bitch bitch bitch!”
Time stopped. This was why. Nina remembered a day, seven years ago, when Liang and her parents had gotten into a bloody argument. Like every other time, he could not be reasoned with. Never. Not to mention the dead dream of him accepting Nina for who she was. And yet her parents would go and honor him, as if he hadn’t done anything at all?! What was the point?!
And yet - what was the point of this, right now? All this anger over a dead man with no real power?
Nina closed her eyes and breathed a few deep breaths. Her mind was clear, somehow, clearer than it had been all night. She walked back to the shed door, opening it - and the snow and wind had stopped. The woods were clear.
“Where are you going, Derek?!” Liang snapped. “I haven’t finished with you!”
Nina stopped and turned her head slightly. She smiled at Liang, then said, “I don’t hate you. ...I didn’t come this year, though, because I realized some people aren’t worth honoring.”
With that, Nina strode out the door, gently shutting it behind her. As she walked through the woods back to the road, the protests of Liang’s spirit fading behind her, she took in the calm Christmas Eve air. Phone or no phone, shrine or no shrine, grandfather or no grandfather, only two things mattered: Nina and Nora.
“I’ll be there soon, Nora. I promise.”
|# ? Feb 3, 2019 14:22|
Prompt: Underdog Mad-Scientist Prison Stories
Cool Hand Leukocyte
Pham Nuwen fucked around with this message at 14:09 on Jul 9, 2019
|# ? Feb 3, 2019 19:47|
Prompt: either a Gritty Love Triangle Set in Latin America or some good old fashioned Viral Plague Police-Corruption!
It's raining in Kourou, which isn't news. It's rained every single day in December and maybe it will rain forever: water hammers on the old tin roofs like a staccato orchestra and, no matter what she tries, it seeps through the folds of Maria's cheap police jacket. She tosses the cigarette, walks back down the slick steps into the shelter of the staff locker rooms and looks again at the duffel-bag full of shredded Euros.
“Catch.” Hatueh flicks a centime at her and she grabs it without thinking. It's local: a rocket on the launchpad towers over Kourou, framed by jungle. Before she can say anything, he snatches it back from her hand and holds it up to his eye. “Can't be too careful, Detective,” he says. “No offence.”
She raises an eyebrow. “And what would you have done if I was infected?”
“You'd have owed me a centime, for one.” He pockets the coin, pulls another pair of gloves from his labcoat and passes them over. “And you'd be stuck using plastic for the rest of your life. But not to worry: I'm sure you're perfectly honest.” With his gloved right hand he reaches carefully into the suitcase and pulls out a long string of paper. He tuts approvingly. “Total loss. Serial numbers are perfectly shredded. It's improving.”
Maria shrugs and pulls on the gloves. She looks around at the rows of lockers. “Who'd they catch this time?”
Hatueh frowns, scratching his thin beard. “Whoever it was made a quick exit when they discovered their, ah, affliction, but they were smart enough to close their locker. Word's getting around.”
“What do you think?” He waves an arm at the scene. “Given that we have another infected officer thinking they can lie low and, ah, the circumstances of your transfer – don't look at me like that, you Franqui all have your stories – it is good that you were on duty. Finally someone will investigate properly.”
She is never going to live it down, it is clear. Not amongst the cops of Kourou, where everyone is there for a reason. He smiles and turns back to the mound of paper that was once enough cash to retire on. “I mean no offence,” he says over his shoulder. “I know what you did. Perhaps, sometime, we can get a drink and talk more about it.”
Maria looks at him and sighs internally. Oh, for Marseilles. “I'll think about it.”
She holds her card at the machine and a can of Orangina clangs into the dispenser. “Simplest option: line up every cop in the poste and pay them in cash.”
Bertrand laughs. “They said you were against that kind of thing.”
The building is quiet in December. All the French empty out from Kourou in a great flock, migrating over the Atlantic for frenzied shopping trips and strained family Christmases, until all that's left are the locals, the lifers, and the lost. Her partner Bertrand, she thinks, is a lifer. He has the parched dry skin of a man who long since gave up on sunscreen and the easy smile of one who doesn't care. Plus, he's the only other detective still around by the late afternoon.
“Besides,” he says, “these poor fools aren't the problem.” He nods at the briefing screen and the shots of the two ex-cops unlucky enough to disintegrate currency in company. “It's a targeted, one-shot infection, apparently: they can't pass it on. We want whoever's infecting them.”
“Via the money.”
He shrugs. “It's Kourou,” he says, “what can you do?” Maria knows what he means. There are many reasons for a cop to be reassigned to French Guiana and none of them pay well. She wonders who he pissed off to get sent here, what secrets he'd disturbed.
“Hell,” he snorts. “They don't even get to keep the money! Whoever's running the honeypot is smart.” He checks off the points on his hairy fingers. “Makes a standard approach. Just a dead drop full of notes laced with the virus. And, of course, if there's a cure they're not sharing.” He walks up to the machine, waves his card and takes a can. A tschk fills the silence.
“What else did they say about me?”
He looks at her. “Not much. You picked the wrong fight and went down like a brick, it's always the same.”
“Tell you what,” he says. “Once we've caught the bastard and put this virus away for good, we can grab a drink and you can tell me what they missed.”
She sighs again. “Sure,” she says, “we can talk about the case.”
When Maria comes home, it is to a duffel-bag on the bed.
She spins around. The bedsit is empty. She closes the door and goes for the forensic kit she lifted on her last day in Marseilles. It is undisturbed. Pulling on the gloves, she takes a deep breath and unzips the duffel-bag.
It's money alright. There is a sheet of paper with 'FOR YOU, IN FRIENDSHIP' written on it in typeset letters. Looking at the neatly stacked Euro bills, she immediately understands how they could fall for it. Maybe it's a million – she daren't touch them to count, even wearing the gloves – but, whatever it is, it's enough to think about just doing whatever dirty job comes your way and getting out. To go back home to France and do something other than watch the rocket launches or chase moralising virologists through this wet green hell.
Gingerly, she closes the duffel-bag, grabs it and the newspaper and walks out of her room. The rain has stopped, leaving behind the muggy heat of the still air. She leaves from the back, leading out into the dark scrubland that separates city from jungle, until she finds an upturned metal bin. She spreads crumpled balls of paper to make a base, wedges the duffel-bag over it, pulls a lighter from her pocket and sets the paper aflame.
The cheap plastic in the duffel-bag takes a while to catch but when it does the money goes up with it. The bin spews acrid smoke and Maria takes a few steps back. Over the scrub and up the hill, a rocket fires. She stays there, upwind, watching her fire and the rocket's as it lifts slowly up and out of sight, and thinks about gloves and dirty money and what she would have done.
Once the flames peter out, she dials Bertrand. “Did anyone test you or Hatueh for the virus?”
“Me? Nope. How even would they? As for the good doctor...” There's a rustling of papers. He's still at his desk, clocking up the hours. “Not that I see.”
drat. “I'm going to swing by his place.”
“Wait, where are you? If he's a lead on the virologist I should-”
“Stay right there,” she finishes. “And hold the fort. I bet no-one else is around.”
It's raining again. Hatueh lives in a complex by the beach, within walking distance of the last infection. The last of the summer sunlight lingers on the water as she walks there.
He doesn't answer her knock. He doesn't react to her trying the door either, and it's not until it opens onto the silent room that she's sure he's not in. She moves over to the desk, still cluttered with papers. She picks up the top sheaf, and beneath it she finds a five-Euro note, still perfect and unblemished. Beside it there is a note:
I meant it about the drink, but if you're half the cop you're supposed to be I should get a new cover. I don't regret anything: nobody has been harmed, after all. I know you won't have taken the money, but – to be fair – you could guess it held the virus, so does it count?
Don't touch any strange money and tell your colleagues the same,
She puts the letter down, runs through the possibilities, and calls Bertrand. “Hatueh's not infected. He – God drat it – he's the virologist.”
There's a moment of silence on the line. “Christ. I'll get the word out, see if we can find him – did you find any notes, research, or-”
“Listen,” she says. “This is going to get kicked upstairs any moment now. You still want that drink?”
The only other detective on duty that afternoon. Working all those extra hours. She waves her plastic at the autocab and steps out at The Blue Lagoon. Pretty cheap place, like all good cop dives. She reaches into her coat pocket and feels the centime there, nestled in the fabric. She thinks about Kourou, and the rain, and how the rot gets into everything.
He's waiting for her at the quiet bar. He waves just as she flicks the centime. “Catch,” she says, and he does. It lands flat in the palm of his hand and instantly she can see it sag, the burnished copper tarnishing and crumbling into ash.
He gives her a sad smile and raises his hand in surrender. “It's Kourou,” he says, as the dust wafts away on the air. “What can you do?”
|# ? Feb 4, 2019 01:43|
Jewish Werewolf Drama from the 1930s!
Some Coercion Required
Word Count: 999
Gideon sighed as the clock ticked away another day without a sale. Christmas approached and in years past his toy shop would have been bustling. But with the depression dragging on, his toys sat unsold. At five o’clock, Gideon flipped the shop sign to 'closed.’ As he was shutting off the lights, there was a desperate rapping against the door. Through the glass, Gideon saw a woman. She wore a veiled hat that hid her face.
Gideon walked up to the door.
“Sorry miss. We’re closing.”
“Are you Mr. Theiss?” spoke the trembling voice.
“Rabbi Epstein told me to see you. I need your help.”
Against the glass, the woman flashed a business card that had nothing to do with the toy shop. Two words were printed:
Gideon opened the door.
“Come in,” he whispered.
Gideon led the woman to his office and offered her a seat before closing up shop. When he returned, the woman had taken off her hat. She seemed well within her twenties, yet weary and old. Her lip was cut and her left eye was bruised.
“Thank you,” she replied.
“For any friend of Epstein, I serve gladly. What can I do for you?”
“My name is Esther Ginsburg. I need a get from my husband.”
The answer did not fully surprise Gideon. Nevertheless, it was strange hearing such a rare request.
“It’s hard even for a man to make it through these days. For a woman—”
“—it will be harder. But bearable. What is unbearable is for me to continue living with Amos.”
Esther brushed the mouse under her eye.
“How soon do you need it?”
“Soon. I’m scared. I… I’m pregnant.”
“He doesn’t know?”
“You don’t intend the child to know the father?”
Esther gave a disgusted look.
“I don’t intend the child to grow up abused. I made the mistake believing marriage would change him. I won’t make the mistake of believing fatherhood will.”
“You will have your get.”
Esther let out a sigh of relief, but furrowed her brow.
“Rabbi Epstein told me that you’re… savage when you so choose.”
“I can be.”
“Amos is awful, but I don’t want him hurt.”
“I’m slow to anger. But how he behaves will determine his well-being.”
Esther shook her head.
“He isn’t pleasant.”
“Well then. Alas.”
Learning what else he needed from Esther, Gideon followed up the next few days with the surveillance of Amos Ginsburg. Amos cut an imposing figure, standing a head taller over other men and drawn like Leyendecker’s football hero, save that years of booze had distended his belly. He was a goliath among Jews, hated both at the dock where he worked and the pubs where he boozed. Nevertheless, he was rightly feared. Satisfied with the intelligence, Gideon couriered a message to Esther, informing that he would be meeting Amos at their house the coming Friday, and that she should be anywhere but there.
Amos arrived home from the pub that Friday night as scheduled. As he ambled up the porch hollering his wife’s name, he was puzzled no lights showed through the windows. Stumbling into his house and fumbling for the light, he sobered up at the stranger seated in his living room.
“Hello Mr. Ginsburg.”
“Who the gently caress are you?”
“My name is Gideon Theiss. I’m here to represent Esther on an important matter.”
“Where is she?”
“She’s somewhere safe while we attend to business.”
“What business? Tell me where she is!”
“The business will be to provide Esther a get. Once it’s written, you may see her and deliver it to her yourself.”
Amos strode up to Gideon, grabbing him by his lapels and lifting him from the chair.
“You trespass here thinking you can piss around in my house?! You get one last chance to tell me where she is before I cave your head in.”
“There’s a sofer waiting in the car outside. He’ll write out the get—"
With one hand still gripping the lapels, Amos punched Gideon in the face. Each blow punctuated a word:
“There. Will. Be. No. Get!
Amos let go of the coat, leaving Gideon sprawled to the floor.
“She’s my wife, and she’ll stay my loving wife until I’m done with her!” yelled Amos, “now where is she?!”
Gideon turned away from Amos, leaving a trail of blood as he groveled and moaned.
“Goddamn staining my carpet… Get up—"
As Amos reached to haul Gideon up, a blow sent him flying across the room. More astonished than hurt, Amos turned to Gideon as he became a savage thing. Every joint spun like a propeller. Every pore sputtered blood as fur bristled. Like a zeppelin, his stature ballooned until he towered double in height to Amos. Sinews from the neck stretched and slithered, pulling back the ears, the jaw jutted forward. As Amos started to scream, a gnarled paw-hand as big as a bowling ball clamped his head. It lifted him, pinning him a hair’s breadth from the ceiling. Through a crack in the paw-hand, Amos gazed into the snarling red-fanged countenance of the werewolf.
“FOR ESTHER’S SAKE, I WAS LENIENT. BUT YOU WILL ANSWER ME NOW: DIVORCE HER, OR WIDOW HER. CHOOSE.”
The paw-fingers parted, allowing Amos to mewl.
“I’ll give her the get! I’ll give her whatever she wants! God, don’t hurt me!”
The werewolf snarled, then paused, as it drew a sniff. At the crotch of Amos’ trousers, a wet-stain spread.
I WILL NOT FORGET YOUR PUTRIFYING SMELL, AMOS. IT ENRAGES ME. YOUR ENGAGEMENTS WITH ESTHER WILL BE OVER, BUT NOT YOUR ENGAGEMENTS WITH ME. FOR THE SAKE OF THE HOLY DAYS, I PERMIT YOU TO LIVE. BUT SHOULD I EVER CATCH YOUR SCENT AGAIN…
The werewolf hurled Amos to the foyer.
THE SCRIBE IS WAITING. I WILL BE WATCHING. GO.
Amos bolted out and into the waiting cab, as it sped off from the dreaded howl that shattered every window of his home.
|# ? Feb 4, 2019 02:29|
A Quirky Spiritual Period Piece
It was snowing in London and the ghosts of Octavius Antonius and Isabella Barrington were arguing on a street corner.
“What the blazes are they up to now?” Octavius asked. His armour clanked as he floated back and forth along the small patch of earth he was bound to.
“I think it will be rather pleasant,” Isabella said. She was sitting—or as near as you could when you couldn’t touch anything—on the ground, knees and feet pulled under a tattered frock. Beside her was a child—a living one—shivering in the cold and oblivious to both ghosts. All three were watching as across the road a gentleman in a fine frock coat and top hat carefully tipped a tree off the top of his carriage.
“It’s just a bloody tree! A dead one, and it’s only going to get worse if they keep it inside.”
“Oh, but it’s not ready yet! The children will decorate it, and it will be lit up with candles and—”
“And it will catch on fire, the house will go up and we’ll have a dandy and his bratty family for neighbours.”
Isabella frowned at the dead legionnaire. They had shared this streetcorner for nearly a century and, while she felt that they had developed at least a cordial relationship, she too easily forgot that Octavius could sulk and moan for months at a time when he was upset.
That didn’t mean she had to be miserable too.
“Well I am excited,” she said as she picked herself up. “It will look beautiful, and the children will soon get those lovely wooden toys we saw their father bring home just last week.”
Octavius snorted and nodded towards the figure on the ground between them.
“What about that one then?”
They both looked down at the freezing child. Face hidden beneath clumps of sooty hair, they were half-heartedly rubbing their hands together but their fingertips were already turning blue, and the dirty snow churned up by passing horses was freezing onto their rags. As if they knew they had an audience, they coughed, a pitiful, rattling sound. Even the two ghosts shivered.
“That one’ll be lucky to make it to the workhouse before they freeze to death,” Octavius continued. “They won’t get the chance to die there like you. There won’t be any wooden horses or hot food for them.”
Isabella stopped dead, trying to stammer out a reply. Satisfied, Octavius floated away to find something new to complain about, leaving her stunned into silence.
❄ ❄ ❄
Night had fallen in London and the ghost of Isabella Barrington was lost for words.
Snow was falling thick and quick, turning the new gas lamps into pale orbs of light floating in the dark. From across the road she could hear laughter, and the smell of a roast dinner was almost tangible.
Isabella felt the spectre of her stomach rumbling. Her last meal had been a morsel of bread that was mostly burnt crust, and that had been 97 years ago.
She had argued with Octavius many times over the years. The problem with being a ghost was that you couldn’t choose where you were bound to, or who was stuck waiting on the other side. He’d barely offered a greeting, let alone his condolences, when she’d shuffled off the mortal coil, and it was a decade before they had a conversation. But this time she knew she couldn’t leave it be. He had been so smug, had always been so smug, and he had no right to scold her like a child.
Determined, she turned to face him.
“Okay, I admit you may have a point. But don’t you dare accuse me of not caring. It pains me greatly to see somebody so young suffering, and I wish I could do something. I truly do. But just because a child is in pain, it doesn’t mean we can’t still find some joy in the world. Otherwise we would all be just as miserable as you are Octavius.”
“So you’d rather ignore pain just to make yourself feel better?” His reply was clipped.
She groaned in frustration.
“That’s not what I meant and you know it!”
“That’s the world of the living,” he continued, ignoring her, “as soon as one person gets ahead, they forget about everybody else.” He gestured across the street as the sound of glasses clinking together echoed through the windows.
“You think he’s going to suddenly feel charitable? Will he wake up tomorrow a changed man? No. He’s still going to be a bastard tomorrow.”
“So why do you fixate on that so much?” Isabella said. “You only make misery for yourself.”
“If I still could, I would curse that man.” His voice was steady. “I would curse him to be kept awake by maggots for the rest of his life, and I would curse anyone who permitted or tolerated his callousness the same.”
Isabella stared. “That’s nonsense. You don’t have to react to cruelty with more cruelty. You only make more misery for yourself.”
She floated over to where the child was slumped against the wall, their chest barely moving.
“Instead of cruelty,” she said, “why not try to be more kind, and make some joy?”
Octavius chewed this over for a moment.
“Sure,” he said, “you could. But being kind to those that need it doesn’t do anything about those with no charity themselves.”
“So you would rather curse them than try and make something positive?” Isabella asked.
“Sure would,” he replied. “Besides, we’re dead. What am I going to do, scare the bastard into turning his life around?”
“Well then, you are just as cruel as they are Octavius. You have just as much malice in your heart.”
“That is not—”
“You are as much a bastard as the living are and you will only make yourself suffer for it.”
Isabella snapped around and floated as far from Octavius as her she could, leaving the stunned legionnaire to stand alone in the cold.
❄ ❄ ❄
The wind was blowing in London and the ghost of Octavius Antonius was pacing through the streetlamps.
The wind was cold and kicking up flurries of snow but Octavius didn’t notice either. Nor did he pay any attention to Isabella, who was crouched against the wall and pointedly not watching him. He was growling curses under his breath, too low to make out.
A line of light broke out across the street as the door opposite opened and the gentleman with the fine frock coat, and the expensive top hat, and the happy, warm family stepped out. He staggered as he reached the icy steps, but caught himself and carried cheerfully on and—as if to show the world how carefree he was—pulled out his money purse and began weighing it in one hand contentedly.
Octavius stopped. Fists clenched tightly. Staring resolutely at the man walking so smugly towards him. Not moving, not even drifting in the wind, as if he were a statue carved of air. As the gentleman from across the road drew up to him Octavius paused to consider for only second, before he lurched at him with a grunt, pulling the snow and cold out of the air to make himself visible, just for a second. A ruined soldier, his chest caved in, burned and twisted fingers reaching out. He opened his mouth as if to speak and—
No words came out. Only a roar—a deep, primal bellow, one that was born centuries before, that had grown every year from pain and isolation, watching helplessly as the living hurt or neglected each other, an anger beaten into submission and locked away time and time again until it couldn’t be contained, all let loose in a single cry.
The gentleman froze, his face as white as Octavius’. He stammered, wordless mumbling that began to build towards a scream. His whole body was twitching, his fingers letting the money purse drop to the ground with a thud. Isabella and the child stared at it, eyes wide. Something in the gentleman’s brain took over, and with a scream he tripped over backwards, scrambling and slipping through the snow, trying desperately to stay upright as he ran off into the night.
The child raised an arm towards the money purse, not certain if it was real or not.
“Go,” Isabella whispered.
The child scrambled forward, faster than she had hoped, and snatched the money purse up. They almost seemed to struggle with it for a moment, whether because they were so weak with hunger, or it was so full, but Isabella blinked and they were both gone, the child running off into the night to find somewhere warmer.
She floated up and over to Octavius, once again in his familiar, spectral form. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but he stopped her with a tired wave of his arm.
“What? You think I want them to die here and be stuck with their coughing for the rest of eternity?” Octavius said as he turned his face away from Jane.
“Of course.” Jane smiled and floated over to stand beside him. The sky had cleared enough to see the stars blazing overhead, with only a few wisps of cloud scattered between them. The wind had died down, and gradually at first, then all at once, the bells of London began to ring out, joyously announcing to all that it was Christmas Day.
|# ? Feb 4, 2019 02:32|
Suburban Gangster Family-Dysfunction Dramas!
Dreaming of a White Christmas
It was the most beautiful day of summer so far and the pohutukawa were in full bloom. A beat-up old Holden had just pulled down the gravel driveway of 47 Puriri Avenue. A fat tui sat on a pohutukawa branch, feathers shimmering in the sunlight as it sang. The warbling tune floated over to the deck that overlooked the garden, as if to announce the new arrival to the twitchy young man who had just stepped out of his house. The man walking delicately up the slightly rotting stairs raised a hand in greeting.
“Kia ora Zane, Merry Christmas! How’s it going?” he asked with a smile.
“Nah, gently caress off Jethro, I’m still not talking to you, you massive oval office.” Zane Astle was not pleased to see his big brother.
“Mum wants us all at the beach this year,” Jethro pleaded. “Now that Dad’s out, she just wants it all to be normal again.”
“Well you should have thought of that before you hosed off and let Aaron get done for possession,” Zane shot back. “He was holding for you, and you know it.”
“Get hosed! He was holding for you too - he always did whatever you asked, he basically worshipped you,” said Jethro. He took a deep breath, and tried to get a better grip on his rising temper. He raised his hands in a peace-making gesture. “Okay, sure. Whatever. Aaron was my fault. I’m sure Baz was too. Just make sure you’re there tomorrow, okay? For Mum.”
“Jeth…” Zane looked thoughtful, like he was deeply considering something. “Are you carrying? Can you hook me up?”
“No, I’m clean.” he lied.
“Then gently caress off!”
Jethro turned and stalked back to the Holden, slamming the door as he got in. The radio crackled to life as he pulled down the driveway, filling the car with the pleasing sounds of Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl. Jethro sighed heavily, wrenched the car into gear, and headed off to see the next person on his list.
“Oi, piss off Jethro, ya poo poo,” Saskia Astle was not pleased to see her big brother. She was hanging out washing when he arrived at her house, while her kids ran around the front lawn, shrieking and throwing buckets of water at each other. “Housing corp almost kicked me out last time you visited. The tenancy manager found a fuckin’ meth pipe on the lawn and called the cops.”
Jethro took a deep breath, and thought guiltily about the small ziploc bag in his glove compartment.
“Look, that was a bad time for me. I’m sorry. I just came to tell you that Dad’s out, and Mum says we’ve all got to go up to the beach again this year.”
“It was a bad time for you? I almost lost my home, Jethro. It’s bad enough Dad went down for it, you can’t just come around here every time you’re off your face. Not around my kids.”
“I’m clean now, Sas. I promise.”
Saskia shrugged. “If you say so. I don’t want the kids around Dad, though. Tell Mum Merry Christmas from me, though.”
“But -” Jethro started to reply, but Saskia cut him off.
“But nothing. I’m done, Jeth, I’m out. You should think about getting out too. Now piss off.”
The sun was setting as Jethro pulled onto the northern motorway. He shouldn’t have been surprised that apparently half of Auckland had decided to wait until 8.30 on Christmas Eve to leave town. On the radio, Kylie Minogue serenading Iggy Pop faded into the Beach Boys enthusiastically harmonizing about Saint Nick. Jethro ground his teeth in frustration - at the traffic, at the heat, and at his siblings. He thought about saying ‘gently caress it’ and just abandoning the whole thing, heading back home and spending Christmas on his own.
He glanced at the road sign. He was almost at an off-ramp, and traffic would be better going the other way. He daydreamed about it for a while - a peaceful Christmas, cold beer and no fights. He opened the glove compartment, made sure the little bag was still there. Maybe Sas was right, maybe it was time to get out of the family business and go straight.
He watched the off-ramp go by, as the traffic crawled past it. He couldn’t abandon his mum, not on Christmas. No matter what Saskia might say.
Jethro pulled up outside the bach just before midnight. There was still a light on in the kitchen. Then a light in the hall clicked on. Then on the deck. The door opened, and his mother stepped outside. He got out of his Holden. The air was oppressively warm and humid. He smiled, and enveloped his mother in a hug.
“Hi Jethro.” Her voice was muffled, her face pressed against his chest.
“He’s there all the time, ever since he got out. Says he has ‘business arrangements’ to se too,” she said, with a bitter laugh. Jethro’s watch beeped as the hour flipped over. “Come on, I’ll go make up your bed for you.”
“Merry Christmas, Mum.”
Jethro sat on the beach under the shade of a pohutukawa, the first beer of the day in his hand. Dad was still passed out, and Mum was in the kitchen preparing Christmas lunch. He didn’t have the heart to tell her that Zane wasn’t coming, that Saskia and the kids were staying away. The tui in the tree burbled happily.
Jethro sighed, stood up, and went to help his mum with the ham. He dropped the ziploc bag in the rubbish bin as he went past.
|# ? Feb 4, 2019 02:50|
Absolutely devoid of creativity or motivation these past few days, due to stress from things in my life that are not Thunderdome bullshit. Will post a redemption when I can think straight.
|# ? Feb 4, 2019 02:57|
This was definitely the mansion from Edward’s dreams: an opulent grand set of stairs dominated the foyer in the same imposing way it had towered over him each recent night, nightmare after nightmare, always leading him up to a fate he’d never remember after waking up, except for the fact that it was to be dreaded, and buried in the recesses of his mind.
What an oddity that it should have been on this Christmas day that he’d gotten the invitation to these very halls. Not that he’d have much of a family to spend it with otherwise. The young Lord of Bruxbury led a lonesome life, consumed by his duties, and his many attempts to make up for his unreadiness to fill the shoes his father had left behind all too prematurely.
Even odder than the invitation was the state of this mansion: in fact, it seemed quite abandoned. Cobwebs and dust could not be seen, but certainly assumed in the many dark corners of this hall. A lantern hung, ready for the taking, at the lowermost stair post. He set it alight.
There was a faint ringing somewhere in the distance.
It called to him. He couldn’t say why. On some level he knew it was a bad idea to venture deeper into the mansion, especially if his dreams were anywhere close to the truth. Yet, he found himself yearning for a meaning to his nightly occurrences. He wanted to know how the story ended. His feet set into motion, carrying him up the creaking stairs and deeper into the mansion, where the lantern cast long shadows across the abandoned hallways he found himself wandering.
The room with the bell in it seemed like any other, claimed by vermin, and shielded from the sun by smeared, oily windows. There was a small table in the middle of it, and not much else. On top of that table was a small bell, the kind you used to call for a servant. It was ringing, faintly, hollow, although it sat still on the table, with nobody around to move it.
As he approached, the air seemed to close in on him, an oppressive corset that made his breath heavy and labored. Was this the first time he’d experienced this moment? He couldn’t tell, yet when his hand moved forward, the moment seemed vaguely familiar.
He picked up the bell, and everything went quiet.
Light flooded in through the windows, which were now clean. The vermin was gone.
A woman gasped. She wore the dress of nobility - perhaps a Duke’s daughter, but not one he’d ever been introduced to. She was beautiful, the kind of woman you would duel over, and her shocked expression did nothing to distract from her graces. Even in fear she still seemed composed.
“You have touched the bell, haven’t you?” she said.
He realized the ringing had seized and the bell had vanished. As he mustered his empty hands, the woman rushed up to him, seizing them, then feeling him up as if she couldn’t believe he was real. She caught herself quickly, and, embarrassed, took a step back.
“It’s been so long,” she said. “Excuse my manners. I’m Lady Victoria of Essex.”
Victoria of Essex, daughter of Duke Ernest of Essex, was quite the fabled figure these days. Many rumors had ranked around her for just as many years, ever since her disappearance. But that had been over fifty years ago, and there was no sign of that kind of age on her.
“Where are we?” Edward said, after having formally introduced himself. But either she hadn’t heard the question, or decided to ignore it.
“We need to find the bell,” she said.
Indeed, the ringing had picked back up, but it was faint again, and seemed to come from somewhere else entirely. They quickly made up their minds to go the way together, and although she seemed just as relieved for the company as he was, they were both tense, and talk came hard. At least the mansion seemed much more well-lit and maintained now.
Suddenly, Edward was walking alone. Lady Victoria had stayed behind a few steps back, at a room that emanated a soft glow through the door crack. The ringing still seemed far-off, yet she said, “It’s here. Can’t you hear it?” and pushed the door open without waiting for a response.
There was a well-decorated Christmas tree in the far-off corner of the room. A woman in a governess’s dress kneeled in front of the tree, her back turned towards him, two children playing with toys in front of her. He couldn’t make out their faces.
“My Lords, you have arrived,” the governess said.
Candles had been lit all along the walls, connected through garlands and hollies. A wholesome scene on the surface. Yet, whenever he blinked, the place seemed rotten for a split-second, murky, like they were at the bottom of the sea, and the candles were nothing but mirages. A cloud entered his vision with every breath he took, and he realized how cold it had gotten.
The governess turned around, and before he could see her face, the lights went out. A mean laughter echoed through the darkness.
Something crashed into him - a body. Victoria. She’d fainted. He took her into his arms and half-carried her out of the room, good as he could, but there was only a wall where the door had been. The laughter got louder.
Something cold touched his shoulder. He turned around, and there was his father. His face was rotten, pale, sickly flesh hanging of him like dead weight. His lips moved, but no sound was coming from his mouth.
Faint moonlight now filtered through the room. There were no ways of escape Edward could see. He clutched his chest. What did this apparition want from him? Its ghastly face moved closer to his. Finally, he heard it speak.
“ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring”
It held something out to him - a bell, like the one he had rung before. Its voice picked up, slightly.
“Rung Rung Rung Rung Rung Rung Rung Rung”
Hesitantly, he took the bell from the thing that was his father. Suddenly, its voice thundered through his ears. Only now did he really understand what the ghost was saying:
“RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN”
He rung the bell, and everything around him fell to pieces. Darkness swallowed him whole.
From the utter confusion on Victoria’s face, it seemed like they’d both woken back up at the same time. Edward found comfort in the fact that the room was in a decrepit state, a memorial to rust and grime. The shadows seemed to be still watching them, shifting in the corners of his vision. He offered Victoria his hand. He couldn’t wait to get out of here.
In front of the mansion, the sun was setting.
“Do you know where to go from here?” Edward said. “I’m sorry to say, I don’t know if you will find anyone familiar at your old home. You have been gone for quite a while.”
“I realize that.” She bit her lip. “But still--”
Edward raised a hand, stopping her. “I understand. But if you do ever find yourself in need of company, I am quite lonely at my estate. I’d be happy to have you, anytime.”
“That is nice,” she said, and he could tell she meant it.
She kissed his cheek, and wished him a merry Christmas.
|# ? Feb 4, 2019 03:07|
Super Cool Max Extra Holiday Jolly Genre is British Bollywood Road Trip Fairy Tales Set in the 1960s
Archie stood at the back of the gutted VW bus and shook his head. Smoke billowed out from the engine bay, and he struggled to look at the, now-ruined, engine through squinted eyes.
“How’s it looking?” asked Finley, his close friend and navigator on this misguided trans India journey.
Archie nudged the deck lid shut with his foot and ran a hand through his shoulder-length blonde hair. “Ah, the engine’s buggered. I think we ran it too hard coming out of Talasari.” he replied.
Finley hopped out of the bus and stood at the rear with Archie. “Well, I suppose we could find a shop to fix it.” He looked around at the bustling streets of New Delhi that surrounded them and said, “how do you say ‘auto club’ in Hindi?”
Archie smiled and shook his head. “I don’t know, but if we find an expat, we can ask them-” he said, stopping mid-sentence to look at a strikingly beautiful girl across the street.
He watched her cross towards him, her delicate hands holding up the hem of her gold and topaz saree. She was looking down at the ground, trying to avoid stepping in a puddle. When she passed him, he could her the kinetic music that her gold bangles made. She looked up at him and smiled just a little, and he could feel his soul ache for her in ways he didn’t yet understand.
“Mate? Mate, are you still with us?” Finely teased, watching as his friend lost all touch with reality.
Archie shook his head comically and said, “Yeah, uh, um. That girl. Do you know who she is?”
Finley smiled and said with a shrug, “You know we both came here in the same knackered van, right?”
Archie watched as she stepped into the doorway of a cafe. She looked back at him and smiled once more, her piercing amber eyes seemed almost iridescent even from across the busy sidewalk.
“Right, I’m going to go and talk to her.” Archie said with conviction.
Finley said, “Mate, your parents aren’t gonna be happy with this. We're behind as is. It's almost Christmas, and you’re here chasing after the natives like bloody Dr. Livingstone.”
Archie was already making his way through the crowd to the café.
“It’s like I’m not even talking. Bloody hell...” Finley muttered to himself while he watched his friend wander off.
In the empty cafe, Archie looked around and spotted her at a corner table. With as much panache as he could muster, he walked over to her table and sat down across from her. She was reading a book, and looked at him over the top of it.
“Hello, I uh, well you see my friend and I broke down and, uh bugger....” Archie stammered, unable to form a sentence in the presence of this anonymous young woman.
She closed her book, set it on the table and said, “Why don’t you start with your name?”
“Archie!” he finally blurted out, adding “and yours is?”
“Anika.” she said, pushing her glossy black hair behind her ear. She smiled again, and looked out the window. “Is that your friend?”
Archie followed her gaze, only to be met by the sight of his dear friend being encircled by a group of men. He watched as his friend gestured at the busted van, and then towards the cafe with a shrug.
“Ugh, I suppose I should go help him. Our van broke down. Say you wouldn't happen to know a good auto shop close by, would you?” he said while standing up.
Anika began to speak, but suddenly stopped and looked down at the table.
“Well well well, if it isn’t my little princess. Who is your tapori friend?”
Archie turned to see a large man with a thick beard. The impeccably dressed man smiled, placed his hand on Archie’s shoulder and slowly pushed him back into his seat.
The man sat at the table right next to Anika. Another man sat down uncomfortably close to Archie. This man also had a thick beard, as well as an alarming amount of muscle that seemed barely contained by his nehru jacket. This man turned to face Archie with a baleful glare.
“Please forgive my intrusion. My name is Arjun. The man sitting next to you is my assistant, Sai. My family runs an import and export business here. Why are you accosting my lovely wife-to-be?” Arjun said with a sinister smile.
“Well, my friend and I broke down and I was just asking Anika here about any auto shops that might be close by.” Archie said, wiping sweat from his brow.
“So, you thought you’d ask a woman where to get your car fixed?” Arjun replied incredulously.
“Well, I-” Archie was cut off when Finley hurried over to him.
“Mate, there’s some gents out there who either want us to move the van, or sell me a cow. I’m not sure. There was a lot going on. Anyways, we have to move the van before the police show up. Uh, who are these chaps?” Finley blurted out in one long stream.
“Sai, arrange to have these boys towed to the closest auto shop.” Arjun said with authority.
“Say, that’s mighty good of you!” Finley said.
As they stood up, Archie looked to Anika one last time. She’d been silent ever since her fiance had shown up. She looked up at him, and he saw in her eyes a pleading, conflicted person who was well and truly stuck in their life. Their locked eyes seemed to blot out the busy, tense world that surrounded them.
“Right, well I suppose we’ll need to find a hotel while the van is seen to.” Finley said in an attempt to break the tension.
Later on, at the hotel, Finley finally spoke up about his friend’s new forbidden love. “I don’t think you know what you’re getting into. Those guys I was talking with I the street, they said that Arjun fellow is no one to mess with. Either that, or they said he makes a big mess. I didn’t understand most of it. At any rate, we gotta stay here until those blokes at the shop get the new engine put in. So, behave.” he said.
"I don’t know, man. I saw something in her that I can’t explain.” Archie replied.
Finley shook his head and said, “You saw your undoing is what you saw. But I suppose you’ll just ignore my warnings as always. Just like that time in Belfast when you took a liking to that rugby player’s girlfriend.”
Archie was already out the door.
“Bollocks. It’s like I’m talking to myself all the time.” Finley said to the empty hotel room.
Archie stood in front of the cafe. He was nervous, and he tried to think of what to say, or how to say it.
“How is your van?” Anika asked as she walked up behind him.
“Good god! You scared me!” Archie blurted out, adding “You sure do spend a lot of time here.”
“The cafe belongs to my parents. It doesn’t stay busy, so they were happy when Arjun took an interest in me. We are to be married after monsoon season.” she said to him. Her tone of voice held a sense of dire inevitability.
Across the street, Archie saw Arjun and his burly assistant. The men came over quickly, and Archie could tell this would be unpleasant.
“You accost my fiance again, even after I’ve helped you?” Arjun said with a scowl.
“Just out for a stroll. No harm in that, is there?” Archie replied with a smile.
Without warning, Arjun jumped ten feet in the air and kicked Archie right in the chest sending him sliding back and into the wall of the cafe.
Archie, supine on the dirty sidewalk, looked up to see Anika kneeling down next to him.
“You can’t fight him. He's too strong! You’ll need to dance for my love! It’s the only way!” she said.
“What the-” was all Archie could manage before Arjun picked him up and threw him into the middle of the street like a stuffed toy.
Archie stood up, winced in pain and tried to remember the dance moves needed.
“Right, the Bharatnatyam!” he said out loud to himself.
He assumed the start pose of the dance as Arjun and Sai closed in on him. The men took note of his perfect form and stood back with caution. Archie executed the moves with a flowing, rhythmic precision only found in someone trying to dance for their very life. Soon, Anika joined in his dance. Other similarly-dressed women spilled out of the surrounding shops and businesses to also take part in his dance with amazing synchronicity.
Archie was so lost in the moment of his dancing that he didn’t notice that the two dramatically powerful men had left in disgrace. Anika finally stopped his fervent dancing by placing her hand on his arm.
“You have won! And now, by the doctrines of Hindi pop culture, my hand is yours!” Anika said with pride.
Archie leaned in to kiss her. Finley ran up and interrupted their intimate moment.
“Mate! What’s all the commotion? I leave you alone for ten minutes and you start a bloody riot!?” he said to Archie.
Archie pulled Anika close to him and said, “No worries. I think I’ll stay here for a bit.”
|# ? Feb 4, 2019 03:17|
Prompt: Raunchy Teen Environmental Disaster
Naughty and Nice
Natalia was naughty, the naughtiest in the business. She’d started out basic, staying up past her bedtime, teasing her baby brother. By the time she’d turned 17 and picked up a sponsorship from the American Coal Company, she’d graduated to petty theft, vandalism, and reckless driving. She was one of the best coal-getters in the business. She appeared in magazines and newspapers. She was the reason America stayed powered, why the snow fell black over West Virginia.
And she was going to fall short this year, all because of her boyfriend.
“Just take a breath and try it again.” She said, trying not to look at the clock or the dark, smog-filled sky outside her bedroom window. There were only a few hours left until Christmas Day.
Her boyfriend Paul cleared his throat. “Hey, babe, I would love to have some,” he looked down at a cue card, “premarital relations with you.”
“Okay, alright,” Natalia said, willing herself to play along. She hoped Santa was awarding points for effort. “Tell me how you’d do it.”
“Oh, you know, I’d… uhh… I’d…” Paul flipped through his cards. His cheeks flushed a dark shade of red. “I’d definitely do the business. Yep. You and me would definitely, consensually, respect one another’s sexuality and uhh…”
The clock ticked on the wall.
“Jeeze, I’m sorry,” he said.
“No, no,” said Natalia, “that was… better. Maybe try it next time without the cue cards.”
“Would that help?”
“I mean, I generally don’t get propositioned by guys reading off a script.”
“Darn, I’ll try that next time,” he said without sarcasm. Even a year into their relationship, Paul was still prone to using expressions found in old Archie comics. Despite her best attempts to corrupt him—tarnishing the innocent earned a hefty amount of coal—he’d remained pleasant, polite even. He was terrible at being terrible.
It would been maddening if it weren’t so endearing.
He gave her an embarrassed look. “I really am sorry. Do you want to try again?”
She sighed and looked at the clock again. “Nah, let’s take a break. I hear there’s a light show going on downtown.” She threw a pillow at his head. “And maybe we can get you to jaywalk.”
As they stumbled through the soot, she tried to remember what her plan had been. They had met last Christmas. She was 17, trying to impress the American Coal Company by stirring up some last-minute road rage. The radio of her parents’ gas-guzzler blared with the sultry static of talk radio. New Orleans had finally sunk beneath the waves and, as she crossed the toxic sludge of the Ohio River, the president had come on the air for his yearly Christmas message.
“This year, it’s important that we remember what this holiday is really about,” said the old man’s kindly voice while Natalia cut off a semi. “That’s why, this year, I’m declaring war against the tiny nation of Andorra. Bombing begins in five–¬.”
The truck blared its horn and barreled past her, spewing smog and dust across the road. She coughed, struggling to roll the window up, as a piece of gravel slammed into her windshield and left a spiderweb crack. She could feel the car shifting from the paved bridge to the rough, pothole-laden road but still couldn’t see. She strained her eyes and stopped only moments before running through an intersection.
A few minutes later, she had pulled the car along the side of the road as she tried to get something resembling fresh air. She kicked at the small stones along the roadside. Her heart thumped in her chest.
“You alright?” Said a voice. Beside her stood a guy in snow pants and a cloth tied over his mouth. A small truck, its motor running, sputtered behind him.
“Oh yeah, you know. Just enjoying all this,” she gestured around to the cars whizzing past them and the dead, blackened trees in the distance. “Natural splendor.”
“Heck, we have that in spades,” said the stranger, smile hidden behind the handkerchief. “They say the Ohio is the cleanest river in the world. It’s so clean that, when it burns, the flames are clear white.”
Natalia moved from her car and took a few steps toward the visitor. “And the fish?”
“Oh, the freshest. On a hot summer day, you can scoop the dead ones right off the surface.”
A half-empty pop can whizzed past his head, but he gave it no mind. They smiled at each other. She took another step forward and was close enough to hear him breathe. “Wanna help me get on the naughty list, if you know what I mean?”
The boy jumped backward, only to lose his footing on the gravel. She reached out, trying to steady him, but it was too late. They were both tumbling now. The stranger gave a soft “oof” as he fell on his back, then yelped when Natalia fell on top of him.
“Sorry. Oh, gosh. I am so, so sorry. It’s just… uhh… I have uhh…”
She brushed herself off while he continued to sputter in the dirt. Any coolness that he might have had seemed to have evaporated.
“It’s just my grandmother and my parents and, I know I’m supposed to be doing my part to get stuff from St. Nick but, oh gosh, I don’t—.”
“Just relax for a second, Jesus.” Natalia said, trying to stop herself from laughing. The Company had said there were still do-gooders out in the boonies, and it looked like she had found one.
He managed to lift himself crab-like out of the gravel. His handkerchief had torn away revealing red cheeks and the beginning of a bloody nose.
“Sorry,” he said, finally recollecting himself. “Let’s try again. My name is Paul.”
He extended his hand. She giggled at the corniness of the gesture and then shook it.
The dark winter rotted into a musty spring. They started dating a few weeks later. The Company found it cute. At first, they applauded her attempts to blacken a soul. Then, they had been amused when she kept him around long after those efforts seemed to fail. Her lessons in casual cruelty were received with quiet earnestness. He gave her goofy grins whenever she took him to wild parties. The best she could get him to do was jaywalk and, even then, he did it with a pained expression.
“What about a car, though,” he had said one day, as they walked past a store display in transition. A plastic Christmas tree with glittery lights stood beside a witch and cobwebs. “It could run right through here.”
“Oh my God, no one is going to hit you with a car,” she said, already aware that she was falling behind. People expected St. Nick to deliver her bushels of coal and she’d have to stuff all her debauchery into a few months to catch up.
“I’m more worried about you.”
She had looked at him, a smile as sweet as crude blossoming across her face.
The crowds downtown were trying to get some last-minute nastiness in before Santa arrived. An old woman spat gum out onto the sidewalk. A police officer handed a middle-schooler a pack of beer and saluted. The coal dust in the air reflected the red and green store lights below, making it seem like the whole sky was alive.
Paul looked down at his feet while they walked arms locked. “Look, I know things didn’t go as you planned this year.”
She was silent and then shrugged her shoulders. “Eh, it happens. There’s always next year.”
She kicked at a dark rock and it bounced off into the darkness.
“No really,” he stopped. They looked at each other and tried to ignore the truck full of illegal fireworks a block ahead of them. “I’m sorry, I really tried.”
She removed her hand from his crook and grasped his cold fingers. “That’s all anyone can ask for.”
They watched the truck in front of them erupt in sparks. Rockets shot up into the smog, transforming the clouds into brilliant red and green shapes. Explosions rocked the square and the assembled crowd cheered.
“Hey,” said Paul, leaning over to her, “if you want, we can try to squeeze some last-minute jaywalking into the evening.”
She snorted and walked with him across the road.
|# ? Feb 4, 2019 04:02|
|# ? Sep 29, 2022 18:41|
Nothing of Them Will Fade
Genre: Nostalgic Deep Sea Feel-Good Slasher
Antivehicular fucked around with this message at 22:21 on Jan 1, 2020
|# ? Feb 4, 2019 04:31|