|# ? Mar 15, 2019 18:30|
|# ? Sep 25, 2022 11:12|
Somebody was a real disgrace on discord this morning.
btw little shop would be a perfect film if you entirely cut "mean green mother from other space" that song loving sucks
And you've got me fightin' mad.
|# ? Mar 15, 2019 19:25|
Somebody was a real disgrace on discord this morning.
please give at least a week.
also third, youre wrong
|# ? Mar 15, 2019 19:28|
third outsider brawl
third asked for a horror prompt, so instead, youre going to give me a feel good story where everyone is happy. also, it's about a flower shop
due 3/28 11:59 pm pst
|# ? Mar 15, 2019 19:40|
Ok folks, signups are now closed. You have roughly 48 hours to submit.
|# ? Mar 16, 2019 08:05|
Thanks for the crit third! Here's one in return
Victoria, lying over antiseptic blue sheets, a strange magenta light fixed over her face making the doctor’s gloved hands unnaturally slick and dark as they passed before the lamp. Victoria, under a haze of anaesthetic, still feeling the prick of the needle as a cold foreign intrusion, picking out three points in a line across her cheek.
“Even in the worst case, it won’t touch anything essential.” The doctor reassured her. Victoria supposed that was reassuring, if you lived a life where you weren’t constantly asked to measure and portion which parts of you were essential, slowly pushing one thing after another from the list. Which ruled out anyone who’d lie in this bed, patiently receiving a stipend in exchange for handing that vital calculation over to gloved, shiny hands, and a face that couldn’t quite be seen past the halo’d rings of the lamp shining into her eyes.
They show her the device, something like a reservoir pen. The two-part metal spear that would split apart after making a hole and the little tongue-piston that would force a spore down into the flesh opened beneath.
Tense shift in line one. Ouch. ‘-ing’ and ‘-ed’ do not mix. The second line flows poorly too. ‘could feel the prick’ maybe instead, or even maybe ‘picking out’ is just a clunker. Second paragraph picks it up though. Ditto third. You might say two out three ain’t bad, but whiffing on the first is tough to overcome. I like the tone though and the drama so I’m hanging in there.
Victoria, two days later, in front of the mirror tracing over the rigid redness of her flesh, the three splotches where her cheek has swollen up to shiny-hard plaques. Her eyes bagged with dark skin stippled like boiled chicken.
For the past two nights, she has dreamed in textured light and wet shadow.
Victoria’s apartment, mostly concrete, is scattered with a punkish brand of artistic endeavors carefully cordoned off from the scattering of empty wrappers and ramen bowls. Her audience was mostly in the line of transactional pity and charity. They would have been shocked not by the grossness of her room, but by the sharp delineations, the swathe of clean space around the worktable. It would have been a violation of Victoria’s role seamlessly converting poverty into another choice of aesthetic.
Spiderweb-thin roots stretch out from the swellings on her cheek, as the right side of her face gives way to the latest aesthetic.
Have I mentioned I like using lines for breaks instead of asterisks? Vonnegut did it like that in ohh… Deadeye Dick I believe. I feel like this style really gives a feeling of fragments of something being told. Entries from a diary or a slow recollection. Anyhow.
Victoria’s place sounds like mine.
Great example of varying paragraph length.
I almost left this section with no negative comments but now that double use of ‘aesthetic’ is looking at me funny. The rhyme seems unintentional and unnecessary, the best kind of literary device.
A mosaic of hamburger divided by leaf-shadows masks Audrey’s face as she talks, her own glossy, electric-blue mouth
Audrey is to Victoria what Victoria tries to be to the art world. She has a neat way of summarizing a dozen things into a narrative Victoria didn’t realize she was already in agreeance with. Audrey, hand-talking, tells Victoria what she already knows, and a certain level of mutual appreciation keeps them both honest.
Good descriptors. Seems to be something of a hallmark for you. I’ve decided to take this section to do my tradition weasel word rant. Some of these words do not help. Adding ‘suddenly’ into a description of something to further the feeling of quickness does not work. I’ve struck out some weasel words. See how you feel about it.
First line of paragraph one feels like there should be an ‘is’ in there. Is this a stylistic thing I’m missing or poor proofing?
Is ‘agreeance’ a word? Eh, it feels ok. I feel like writers should invent words drat it.
Relle, three days forward, sprouting off Victoria’s face in rich blood red shelves ruffled up at their edges into uneven patterns the color of coffee-filter paper, with underlying gills of grey. Victoria names him Relle, as the sensations flowing through it into her demand a personification to originate from.
Relle is overly bright, chirpy, refuses to sleep. Naming him was a mistake, giving him two avenues now to grow on her.
Is it just me or is there something of a tone shift here? I mean kind of but not really, it was dark creepy and now it’s cute creepy… I’ve decided it works for now. Let’s see where it goes. Seems like a subversion angle.
Should be ‘chirpy, and refuses’. Missing a lot of words that are required to form complete sentences. Starting to lean to poor proofing in that case.
Rely, blissfully unaware he is a person, translating seamlessly the interplays of light and shadow into seas of texture, fingerpainting with three-dimensioned sensations.
Bars of thick shadow and thin sunlight through the shades lie over a soda can, dividing the crumpled metal as if on microscope slides, and this movement through segmented light becomes a continuous thing moving through time, swelling and shrinking through one cross-section at a time in a stain of bluish light-smears. Yellow gives her bright headaches as it becomes a spoke on which surrounding shadows turn.
She calls the doctor.
“That seems a little extreme.” The doctor says, putting it so brightly Victoria starts to imagine what kind of light-shape-motion the words would make. A downward spiral she decides. “But it’s not unheard of. A little information flows both ways.”
“I’m getting headaches. Migraines.” Victoria insists, even now keeping the screen’s light low so she won’t drink it in through closed eyes.
“For which you’re being paid. But, can you describe the pain?”
On instinct, Victoria fabricates several very interesting kinds of pain and ends the call.
Her calling the doctor here earned a laugh from me.
Relle, being too honest for his own good. He eats, and burbles motion out of still light, bends colors into their own dimensions. His world is a pop-up book; everything falls into its own private curvatures or comes smearing towards her.
Which is the problem. As reality filters through him, everything is reflected and nothing withheld for narrative sake. There is no deception. The infinitely-clever thing that propogates across her face in fruiting bodies and pins one eye shut with its tendrils does not know how to posture, only to break things down, reform them, present them proudly.
This is not Victoria’s line, which is entirely the magic trick of shifting privileged expectations from one hand to the other, with showmanship, and handing them back as if they were her own. A black box that only offers only the pretense of change. Relle seems to have no expectations and feeds from everything in her life, and she worries for him.
Even reading is too stimulating. The strict black ink gives her vertigo. So she lies back, eyes covered, and lets her idle imagination be recomposed. It’s fun.
But she worries for him, even if his worth will be decided after his fact. The least he can be is a success.
’propogates’ should be ‘propagates’. I feel like a better term could be used in place of ‘too stimulating’. It reads passively. ‘Arduous’, ‘torturous’, or ‘mind-melting’, or even just ‘painful’ work better.
Her growing into her motherly role is kind of sweet.
Victoria and Relle, visiting the memory of the greenhouse where he was born. Light coming through a thousand windows, becoming a fractal sharpness with a thousand frozen points formed by the extremities of rainbow prisms tapering into singular blades of white. For safety they submerge into a rolling dark that is the soil where Relle was cultivated.
They find a great hunched giant, defined only by the shadow it makes when it stoops over them.
It seems confused. Not confused with the disjointed manner of a dream, but with the irritation of a real person not being allowed their expectations.
“Do you think Relle is a person?”
“No, I don’t think about that.” The shadow lifts away, flees, and they are alone.
“Do you want me to prescribe a round of antipsychotics?”
“Just tell me what you dreamed about last night.” Victoria says, her voice a little too forceful. Relle’s blunt curiosity is infecting her.
“That’s really not appropriate. I think you need to remember that you are undergoing an experiment and-”
“You dreamed about me. Me and Relle.” Victoria knows she is pressing too hard even before the call is cut short and the after-call ad bombards her in colors.
Victoria, again numbed and against the backdrop of antiseptic blue, unable to keep her eyes open this time. Laceration after laceration opens a tension in her skin she never realized was there until now, but the cold of the knife ane the warmth of the blood is beyond her sensation. This is not handled by the old doctor, who has removed herself for concerns of privacy. Victoria takes this as confirmation of everything. This time, she does not indulge the replacement’s equally keen desire to have her see the tools. She feels this particular process is already familiar.
They scoop Relle out of her root and flesh. The plastic curtains of the operating theater give way to the domain of a young prodigy of a chef and Relle is moving quickly in showy flips across a buttered skillet onto a plate. The plate is remanded to a handsome waiter. Relle is bloody slivers in rich sauce and vanishes past the immaculate teeth of the wealthy.
Some of her paintings have been hung, but the crowd is ready for a more direct translation. To eat from the source.
Victoria, floating in a cloud of her own authenticity, which is reified with fervor and seems to flow as much out of her as to her. Victoria, being portioned up as quickly as she is inflated.
Victoria’s name is suddenly everywhere.
She comes through the plastic curtains bandaged, smiling weakly, ready to play the suffering artist as Relle’s remains are served. She finds herself already present. The crowd dances with her phantoms. They laugh at private jokes, they smile at her brilliance, she is on the tip of their tongues.
The original article, weightless and presenceless. Growing lighter with every moment she remains unseen. Victoria, in awe, watching people’s reaction to Victoria-the-function. Happy to be obsolete. Feeling scooped empty, and only now feeling out the shape and depth of what has been removed. Triangulating how she was seen through how she is reformed and retold across a dozen personal realities.
Tell me about it. It’s a metaphor for the life of an artist right? Serving up something deep and intimate for casual consumption. I empathize.
Presenceless is another good invented word.
The plot is great, the metaphor is great, you said you don’t write characters only reactions but you’re a big dirty liar in this one. Structure and pacing are fine.
I’ve decided the tone shift works to build empathy for Relle. In shifts back too! Good job, playing with fire there.
Proofing. Make sure you check your tenses, conjoiners, indefinite articles, and weasel words.
Seriously though, that proofing is going to bite you in the rear end one day! I heartily recommend finishing with time to spare, sleeping on it, read it a couple of times, edit, go about your day, and then sleep on it again for one more read and edit. Not doing the work cutting of the chaff does a disservice to frankly what are often some pretty spectacular words that get lost in the ensuing confusion. It’s like a nice restaurant with a total noob doing the work of plating five-star food after professionals cook it, ya know? “Looks terrible, tastes great.”
You're next saucy.
|# ? Mar 16, 2019 21:49|
A Broken Clock
I’m not sure when the coffee date went sour, but my enthusiasm was definitely waning. Nor could I pinpoint the issue precisely. I pondered while he related a story about his friends.
Blaise was cute, clean, and well dressed, bringing a nice blazer and a scarf. The conversation had started easy and felt natural. He asked questions about me and my interests, but always ended up talking about own views. Was the confidence and charm that I found attractive two nights ago in reality, ego? Perhaps.
Then I realized that he made too many assumptions - that this (whatever this was) was a done deal. He said I’d meet friends, we’d go places together, as if we had agreed to more than just coffee. We hadn’t.
I tried to figure out if my inner voice was being protective or perceptive as he flipped over the check.
“Oh my god!” He exclaimed, and I startled out of my thoughts.
“Did they overcharge?”
“No, look at this!”
He handed over the bill. I examined it.
A mocha for him, chai latte for me. A chocolate croissant that we shared. Looked correct.
I shook my head. “I’ll give.”
“See anything unusual?”
I looked again. The name of the server, ‘’Becka’? I was about to say I didn’t know when I saw the total.
“Oh, $11.11? That’s neat I guess.”
He smiled as if he had the punchline to a joke I wasn’t getting.
“Do you know what time is was when I kissed you the other night?”
I blinked. That was random. I thought about it - pictured the night dancing, him asking for my number. After I gave it to him, he leaned forward and ever so gently kissed my lips. I thought it was sweet.
“Some time around midnight?”
“It was 11:11 pm,” he said. “I remember looking at the clock.
“Oh, huh. That’s … funny.”
“Actually,” he said and leaned over the cafe table with a glance around as if he were imparting state secrets, “1111 is a good omen.”
Was he putting me on?
“Ah.” I said, unsure what else I should say.
“Look at the table number,” he said.
I did so. An embossed plastic tag informed me it was 22.
I raised an eyebrow. “Twenty two? Another secret number?”
He clucked. “It’s 11 and 11.”
When I didn’t drop my eyebrow, he said “11,” pointed at me, “plus 11” and pointed to himself.
“Ohhhh.” I said.
“And, I got here at 11:11 today. I made sure of it.”
He nodded as if that said everything, which it didn’t.
“Okay,” I said with a shrug, “I’ll bite. What’s special about 1111?”
“Well, in numerology the number one is significant, as you can imagine. One is the smallest integer before zero. One is self. Every person is one. It indicates the universe, because there is only one. Mathematically, it’s also the basis for everything. Anything times one is one. Prime numbers are only divisible by themselves and one. When you get a pattern of one, it’s a sign of good luck.”
“Uh… huh,” I said.
“Oh! Look at the time here on the receipt. 12:45. Two minus one is one. Five minus four is one. One and one!” He beamed.
“Well, it would really be one minus two, and four minus five, which is negative one and negative one. Wouldn’t that be bad?”
“No!” He was really getting excited now. “Because negative one times negative one is … one!”
Yep, this date had absolutely gone south.
“Okay. Listen, Blaise.” I looked at my watch, “it’s almost One and I have to get going.”
I stood and slipped my jacket on.
“My treat?” I said and grabbed the bill.
He looked stunned, frozen.
When I walked to the register to pay, he snatched up his blazer and ran up to me. I studied a picture of a cat taped to the counter with the caption “You gotta be kitten me!”
“Can I see you again?”
I pocketed my change and turned to him. “I… don’t think so.”
Stunned look again.
“You’re a sweet guy, really but…” I shook my head. “Look, I’m sorry. I should give it to you straight.”
The the girl behind the register stood playing with her fingernails, mouth slightly agape, listening. I tugged his sleeve and led him outside. The spring air was fresh, sweet.
“The date started nice, but I’m just not feeling it. I’ve dated guys a lot like you and I know how this ends. I’m cutting to the chase and saving us both a couple of miserable months.”
“It’s the numbers thing.” He said.
“No. Well, yes, but not just that. The whole thing started to feel off while we talked, and I’m going to listen to that little voice for once.”
“But all the signs were there.”
“Blaise. Stop listening to,” I made air quotes, “signs and portents and just be yourself okay? If you like numerology that’s great, find someone who’s into it.”
“Wait!” He cried, and glanced at his watch. “Come with me!”
He grabbed my arm. I didn’t move. I looked at his hand, looked back to him.
“Sorry,” he said and let go. “But please, just come with me to the gas station.”
“I want to try something. If you come with me, I swear I’ll leave you alone.”
“Fine,” I said and followed.
He walked quickly, and glanced at his watch. I felt stupid.
“What are we doing?”
We walked to the corner Sunoco and went inside, a bell jingling as we entered the small storefront stuffed with junk food, auto liquids, and day old hotdogs on rotating racks.
He grabbed two daily lottery forms, filled one out with 1111 and handed me the other.
“Any four numbers you want, but hurry.”
“Oh for…” I muttered but filled in a random 9578, mostly to make this whole thing end faster.
“There. That’s all I wanted.” He tucked his newly printed ticket in a pocket, but not before pointing out that it had been sold at 1:11pm.
I snatched my ticket and left as quickly as I could.
Later that night I was shopping and trying to decide on pasta when my phone chimed. It was a text from Blaise. It read, “Check the numbers” with a smiley face.
“Oh my god, really?” I said and made my way to the lottery counter. Tonight’s numbers were on a bright, red LED.
Pick four: 6-3-1-1, it proclaimed.
I scoffed, and checked the winnings chart. Blaise had won $11.
“Even a broken clock is right twice a day,” I muttered and deleted his number.
|# ? Mar 16, 2019 22:41|
Just Don’t Ask Me How I Am
Keith's thumbs tapped in synchrony against his fingertips. Index finger first, down to his pinky, then back up, then down again in endless repetition. Little beads of sweat shone on his temples in the light from his screen. The cursor in the ‘number of tickets’ box blinked in time with his tapped rhythm.
His office door swung open and Dianne's perfume assaulted his nostrils.
“Quiz time!” she said.
Lightning fast Keith alt-tabbed and hid the Ticketmaster window behind an Excel spreadsheet. He jerked to his feet and the backs of his knees sent his chair rolling across the tiny space. He jumped as it clanged into his filing cabinet.
Dianne was waiting. Her permed blond hair had grey roots and her bright red lipstick clashed with her pink floral blouse. Crevasses formed in her foundation as she smiled at him. Keith stared at his feet as he squeezed past her, pulling the door shut behind him.
Dianne. She was relentless like the tide. Every morning at 10 a.m. she would come to fetch him for The Quiz. Keith wondered if she simply lacked the intelligence required to give up on him. Her low heels clacked on the corporate-coloured carpet tiles as she escorted him into the staff kitchen. Keith kept his head down, chin to chest, avoiding eye contact. Each tap of thumb to fingertip sounded a mute note inside his head; comforting white noise.
Keith assumed his customary place at the bottom left hand corner of the long, free standing counter. Dianne occupied centre stage. The Dominion Post was laid out in front of her, answers hidden under the letters to the editor. She beamed at her subjects. Keith tucked his chin more tightly against his chest and sunk back against the wall, trying to put more space between himself and the press of bodies around the counter. His fingers felt sweaty. He paused his tapping and wiped his palms on his too-big suit pants.
“Who was New Zealand Prime Minister in 1995?” said Dianne.
Jim Bolger, Keith thought. He kept his eyes glued to the floor. It was ok, Richard from the policy team would answer this one.
“Jim Bolger,” said Richard. A tall, angular man, he kept his opinions to himself save where matters of principle were at stake. Keith liked Richard. They rarely spoke.
“What is the approximate population of Hamilton?” said Dianne. “I know this!” She paused and looked up and down the kitchen, daring any of them to speak the answer before her. No one spoke.
“140,000!” she said, triumphant. “My mother lives in Hamilton,” she added, as if anyone could forget a single detail about the oft-discussed matriarch.
“When is Halley’s Comet due to reappear: 2035, 2056, 2061, or 2087?”
There was a momentary pause and then a low murmur as people debated the answer.
2061, Keith thought. His fingers quickened their rhythm. His left thumb failed to connect squarely with his ring finger. It slid down the side of his knuckle with a frisson that made his gut clench. Someone else say it, someone else say it, he thought, as the murmur faded to silence.
“I'm sure it's 2061,” said Kirsten from HR. “My son loves space stuff.”
Keith let out his held breath. He remembered the feeling of his little niece, barely 2 years old back then, squirming against his arm as he pointed at the once-in-a-lifetime blaze of light against the night sky. He'd been disappointed that she wasn't interested in the comet, and his sister had laughed.
“What 1987 hit song featured the line ‘Just don’t ask me how I am’?”
Keith's heartbeat quickened. Not a big name, but topical, given the upcoming concert. Surely someone else would know the answer.
There was silence. The rhythm of Keith's fingertips faltered. He looked up and scanned the table. The others were shrugging, stumped.
Dianne was looking at him, and without meaning to he met her eyes. A slight smile lifted the corners of her lips. He felt his face turn red. His fingers lost their momentum and stopped. The silence roared in his ears. The unanswered question hung between him and Dianne's blue eyes, unbearably heavy. She was waiting. Keith balled his hands into fists.
“My name is Luka,” he said. His quiet baritone voice rolled down the counter under a row of surprised faces.
“I live on the second floor,” said Dianne.
“I live upstairs from you,” he replied.
The corners of Dianne’s eyes crinkled with pleasure. “Guess I think you’ve seen me before.” She sang the last line, and people clapped, laughing.
Dianne peaked under the folded page. “Correct!” she said, rolling the r’s for emphasis. “Thank you, Keith.”
He nodded at her. Then he tucked his chin back into its usual place against his chest, so that only his feet could see his smile.
Keith didn't hear Dianne read out the next question. Instead he listened as the song played on inside in his head, fingertips tapping the beat against his thumbs.
|# ? Mar 17, 2019 05:32|
[removed for publication]
SurreptitiousMuffin fucked around with this message at 10:22 on Aug 15, 2019
|# ? Mar 17, 2019 06:03|
MUSHROOM BRAWL, ENTRY THE ZWEI
This story edited out of the thread for search engine anonymity reasons.
Anomalous Blowout fucked around with this message at 04:47 on Dec 30, 2019
|# ? Mar 17, 2019 07:05|
Stasis (740 words)
Dear Mr. Claymore,
The team here at Destinations Tourism Marketing Consulting is very excited to work with your organization. We’ve been fans of your work for some time, and we’re looking forward to the amazing projects that we can accomplish together.
That being said, we have some serious concerns about the idea you shared with us by fax on 4/12. Though much of the language is vague, we’re under the impression that you intend to buy up millions of currently uninhabited acres stretching from Minnesota to Texas. We have no doubt that such an acquisition is possible with your considerable assets, and we are happy to work with you to bring tourists to these areas. However, some members of our team had an issue with your proposed slogan. “The Sunset Stripe: Where You Can Always See the Sunset” is an inaccurate description of the range in question. Several of our staff have lived nearby, and assure me that you can only see the sunset for a few minutes each evening, assuming the weather isn’t cloudy, much like everywhere else in the world.
We’re interested in the blueprint of the machine included in your fax. The cost of the device appears astronomical even by your standards, and we’re interested in how you plan to finance it. The marketing majors at our firm were clueless as to its purpose, but an engineering friend (who, as it should go without saying, was made to sign an NDA) looked it over and determined that the machine would halt the spinning of the Earth, both in its rotation and its revolution. We have inferred that the basic idea of your business plan is to stop the Earth and sell real estate at the only part of the world that would still experience the sunset.
We appreciate your ambition, but we have serious concerns.
First, as tourism professionals, we believe that part of the beauty of a sunset is in its short duration. A sunset reminds us of our mortality, and thus of the beauty of existing at all.
Secondly, we fear your proposal may have unforeseen environmental effects. Cutting off half the world from the sun may turn those parts of the Earth into an uninhabitable frozen wasteland, and the other into a dry, scorched, post-apocalyptic hellhole. By the estimates of a friend who works as a climatologist (again, NDA), the only (barely) inhabitable places on Earth would be the points of sunrise and sunset. This would, as a matter of fact, bring traffic to the land you intend to buy. However, our preliminary market research indicates that the primary motivation behind visiting these developments would not be to witness the natural beauty of the sunset. We spent the night brainstorming a new slogan and came up with “The Sunset Stripe: Where Your Entire Family Won’t Die Horribly Maybe.”
Third, the continued revolution of the Earth around the sun is what prevents the planet from getting caught in the sun’s gravity and falling towards it. While we appreciate your business, our other clients’ hotels, restaurants, and B&Bs would be negatively impacted by the incineration of the Earth and thus our business would suffer. This is our most serious concern, and one that I hope is addressed during our meeting on the 27th. Have you considered stopping the rotation but not the revolution?
Again, much of your previous work is legendary around here. Buying up all the real estate in Minneapolis and then creating earthquakes underneath St. Paul was a stroke of genius. Using an orbital mind control ray to turn the entire population of Bahrain into utterly subservient slaves is another, even though that plot was sadly foiled by Electromagneticman.
We hope to move ahead with some version of this project. Unfortunately, the plan as it currently exists is going to be difficult to implement and we are going to need to see some major changes if we are to keep the S.W.O.R.D. Corporation on as a client.
Destinations Tourism Marketing Consulting, Owner and CEO
Congratulations on the recent assassination of your arch-nemesis Samurai Girl! Who would have guessed that her secret identity was famous pop singer Katy Katana? Those braces fooled us all except you. Funny how you both have sword-based names. Though I’m sure she’ll be resurrected shortly (they always seem to, don’t they?), I wish your company peace and quiet in the months before that happens.
|# ? Mar 17, 2019 16:58|
The witching hour is more powerful than most people know. It's also not when most people think it is.
If cats don’t go to heaven, then what’s the point?
flerp fucked around with this message at 21:29 on Apr 12, 2019
|# ? Mar 17, 2019 21:53|
Week 266 Crits Part 1
Captain_Indigo - FuckArabella
The idea you've got here is cool, I like these gnostic demiurges creating weird universes of their own, and the cyclical ending thing is fun and reminiscent of that one Borges story about the dreaming guy in the ruins. I'm sleepy, I don't feel like looking it up. There's a few things that make this harder to get a grasp on though. One of them is purely technical: use more dialogue attribution. A cheap trick is just to put the dialogue next to a sentence about a character. The other one is a bit trickier but a good rule of thumb to keep in mind: the more abstract your concepts, the more concrete your imagery needs to be. Think of it like you have to hit a clarity threshold, and if what's going on is all woobly and metaphysical, you need to make sure that the reader's picking up what you're putting down.
Exmond - Monster killers and child stealers
The wonky punctuation, especially with the dialogue, probably didn't help, but what stuck out most to me was the weird order of information, particularly in the prologue bit. Like Peter gets introduced, and from the context it's easy to tell that Peter is his partner, but then you do an aside to mention that by the way, Peter is his partner. The core idea here is perfectly fine (CPS officer with his own family trauma sympathizes with someone he's taking in; also magic) but I think pacing in general is what you could work on. The way that information only gets referenced after it comes up makes it feel like it was written on the fly. IMO the way to improve the action scene would be to get a good idea of the apartment first, then have people doing their runny around bits once you've established the blocking.
Taciturn Tactician - Fighting Words
Huh, wonder why this was DQed. Anyway it's good, I liked the voice of the protagonist. I think the only thing was some of the dialogue, particularly in the middle, felt like stock lines--there's good bits in there, where they're saying things they don't know how to finish, but there's also a couple lines where they say what they mean a little too directly, like “Then did your promise really mean that little to you? Did you ever intend to keep it?” It's not a big issue, but it's the one thing that stuck out in an otherwise pretty emotionally resonant story.
5D AUTISM SPEX - Sema
You've definitely got Style down here, but the interface between style and meaning is where it gets tricky. I like this impressionistic sense of the world, but things are so encoded it's hard to get at just what it means when you say "What else is there for a nymph?" This feels like a story loaded with things that have personal meaning to you, but I feel like I'm kept at just enough of a distance that I have to work to get the meaning.
Thranguy - What Kind of Fool
I like this opening, got to say. It's a fun read too, and Norman feels fleshed out as a bad influence--he's not cartoon evil, but he and the protagonist kind of use each other. What's a little bit is the way the ending comes--I get that it's looping back around to the beginning, but ending it on the protag deciding that the rabbit is real is just not much of an arc. He seems real throughout, so it's not much of a turn in the end.
jon joe - The Adventures of [Protagonist]
Oops this is messy. The wild perspective shifts are bold but disorienting, since without a way to tell who's what, I've just got to guess, and there's a few too many characters with voices that don't stand out enough. A lot of the things they say are stock-ish, and it feels like the plot just bounces around before it coalesces. I'm sure you had an idea in mind while writing this, but exposed to these out-of-context snippets, it's hard to get a grasp on what's honestly a fairly complicated situation.
Hawklad - Old Breed
With a different ending, this would still be a pretty good story. There's an abruptness to the flashbacks that works well, and it contrasts with the peace of the lake well. It's the ending that makes it interesting, because it changes the nature of his triumph from one of determination to one of morality. It turns from a story about machismo into one about dealing with trauma and it does it as the character's perspective changes.
|# ? Mar 17, 2019 22:09|
Week 266 Crits Part 2
QuoProQuid - People Vanish Every Day
I think the strength here is the voice that manages to sound juvenile in thought without getting overly cutesy or euphemistic. It sounds like a kid trying to deal with a serious situation and serious guilt. The plot might be a little bit subtle, or maybe I'm a little bit too tired to pick up on stuff without a second read--I wasn't entirely sure what his uncle's fate was at the end, but a reread made me more confident that he's snitched on his uncle and now wants to warn him before he's disappeared.
Tyrannosaurus - heart of a dog
The uncomplicated sparseness makes this a little light in the beginning, but past the first paragraph or two it hits its stride and makes it work. This feels like a quick thing put together so you have something to post, but it's good, so I'm not blaming you for doing it quick. I like the way it combines this childlike storytelling voice with the serious impact of the sacrifices they have to make with the kids talking over each other. It's a combination of tones that makes it feel realer.
steeltoedsneakers - Last call
Hmm. Another one where I can't tell if I'm too tired to be critting or if it doesn't quite fit. This is a fine picture of two different characters meeting at a bar, and I get a good sense of both of them and their personalities, but then the ending is just abrupt and I'm not sure what to make of it. Given that this is short and at the end of the week, I want to guess "rushed ending" but I don't know. The guy seems sympathetic until he...yells at his employee because he actually owns the bar and she...was closing early? I'm not sure if either of those two things happen or were meant to happen, but that's my read, and it seems to just come out of nowhere and not really tie anything up.
magnificent7 - Hammond's New Clothes
This was pretty decent, though I think knowing the flash rule is part of understanding it properly, since my read on it wasn't wizard, it was just that Hammond was getting some kind of reality-altering karmic retribution for being kind of a dick I want to say this was a bit moralistic but then this was morals week so that makes sense I guess. My other thought was that this could probably be cut down a bit, around the beginning particularly--the setup feels like it's going for something a bit different, but it's really just an excuse to force him to talk to the wizard, so you could honestly condense it down to one paragraph about Leonard ready to open the store for his first day as manager, but oh no the key doesn't work and look here comes a hobo.
Crits for week 259 to come as soon as I take a nap so the ants in my brain can stop screaming quite so loudly
|# ? Mar 17, 2019 22:41|
The Union Pacific overnight freight from Kansas City to El Paso rolled down the tracks behind Kevin's house every morning at 4:51 AM, thirty-nine minutes before his alarm went off. Most mornings it woke him up, and by the time he had gone to the bathroom to empty his bladder of the work of two kidney-nights and settled back into bed it was time to get ready for work.
This had been going on since he moved in, three years ago. He explored possible solutions, but they all failed. The only earplugs strong enough to block the sound also rendered him unable to hear his fire alarms, he learned through extensive testing, and so he sadly consigned the poor things to the trash. Three different contractors quoted figures on soundproofing the house that he could not even pretend to afford, and the fourth was obviously a crook, a fraud without the equipment for the job. Kevin reported the man to the police, but nothing came of it. He resigned himself to the lost hour of sleep.
Then one Sunday a tree fell in the woods, and Kevin was awake to hear it. He collected his notebook from the middle left kitchen drawer, a blue dry-erase pen, and an umbrella and went out into the rain. His umbrella was a good one, capable of taking a strong breeze without inverting. Kevin had owned and discarded fifteen inferior umbrellas before he found this model.
He reached the woods, umbrella struggling mightily to free itself from his grip, and saw the tree, fallen across the railroad tracks. He consulted his notebook, turning laminated pages one-handed, finding the hand-drawn map he was looking for. The tree was on his lot, or had been. Now it was on his, on Union Pacific land, and on whatever person was living in the house behind his. The rain and wind were slacking, so he briefly transferred the umbrella handle his armpit, crouched, and pulled out the pen. He marked through the circle representing the tree on his map with a blue 'X’, and drew a line crossing the tracks. The he returned pen to pocket, closed the notebook, properly took hold of the umbrella again, and walked briskly back to his house.
He spent the rest of the day on the phone, calling the city to report the fallen tree. They politely listened to him and told him that an emergency removal crew would be out by noon Monday. Kevin expressed his concerns regarding the 4:51 train that morning. The city official told him that that line had been out of service for a year and a half, and would not believe Kevin when he said that he had been woken up by that train just the previous Friday. He repeated nearly the exact same conversation with as much of the City government's chain of command as could be reached on a stormy Sunday afternoon. He called and emailed as many Union Pacific representatives as he could find contact information for, which was very few, and who ultimately told him the same story.
Kevin's neighborhood was not particularly close or open. He did not carpool or go to barbeques or yard sales. His interactions with the people living next to him were strictly limited to the subject of misdelivered mail, and Kevin liked it fine that way. Nonetheless, he found himself ringing the door of the light peach painted house to his left without so much as a flier addressed to 'resident’ with the street number four less than his own. He waited. The door opened. His neighbor, with a head of curly black hair and a salt-and-pepper beard answered. Kevin went straight to the point.
“Been a while since it woke me up, got to say,” he said. “These days I can sleep through near anything. But a year and a half? I think I remember it more recently than that.”
His neighbor wasn't concerned about it, though. “The people running things aren't fools.” Kevin just stared at him. “Not that kind of fool. They know the tree is there, and they'll do something if something needs doing.”
Kevin did not sleep that night. At three AM he gave up, got dressed and went outside. He wondered what a safe distance might be. He took out his phone, and let his finger hover over the emergency call button. As the time grew nearer he wondered what he would do if nothing happened, if it was a vivid dream that had been waking him up each weekday for more than a year. He had never been able to stick to therapy for more than a few weeks, and that sounded like a years-of-work sort of problem. Then he started to hear the noise of the engine driving down the rails. He checked the time on his phone. 4:49. 4:50.
He saw the train, just slow enough to see clearly. It passed right through the tree: the engine, five boxcars, three tanker cars, two car carriers, three more boxcars, four open container cars full of coal, three flat cars loaded with timber, and finally, the bright red caboose. The tree was still there, lying across the tracks. He walked to it. In the center, where the train had passed through, the tree looked different. Younger. Live wood rather than dead.
Kevin called in for a personal day, to deal with the tree removal people. He watched them work. They did not take any notice of the changed midsection of trunk, and Kevin did not raise the point either.
Kevin adjusted his schedule, setting his alarm for four AM, getting to bed earlier to compensate. He watched the train go by each morning. Sometimes he would put things on the track, to see how they were changed. Autumn leaves turned green. Old coins did not flatten but lost their tarnish. He learned that he could recharge old dead batteries. The obvious next experiment occurred to him, placing a recently dead animal on the rails, but between conception and implementation he had a vivid, horror-movie nightmare and he tried to abandon the idea, but it kept returning to his mind unbidden. Finally, the only way he could stop himself from trying it was to give up experimenting at all. He returned to his 5:30 alarm habit, to being awakened early most mornings.
It worked. He did not think about the ghost train running behind his house each morning.
Until he saw an alarmed expression on his doctor's face during a checkup. Medicine was not his field, but he understood the critical words. Terminal. Inoperable. He could look up what Stage IV meant online.
It took longer than he suspected, but one Monday morning he lay down on those tracks, pain from a dozen points of failure seeping through the medication haze. The sound of the engine filled his ears and he resisted the instinct to stand.
He wondered what would happen next, and the fact that nobody would miss him much, disappeared or dead or whatever struck him hard. He always knew that was objectively sad, but the sadness never landed on him until that moment.
Then the train.
He was a child, ten years old with no memories more recent than the early eighties, in a stranger's oversized clothes and a science fiction future, and he knew what he wanted more than anything was someone to share this adventure with.
|# ? Mar 17, 2019 22:41|
The Night Cousin
Flash rule: It's 3AM. You can't afford to sleep now.
Antivehicular fucked around with this message at 12:48 on Dec 29, 2019
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 00:59|
Tell a Twilight
A solitary candle illuminated the simple wooden table where the four corners of the day met for the parliament of hours.
Noon rummaged through his disorganized satchel and produced several crumpled sheets of handwritten notes. “I want to go first,” he said.
Midnight rolled her eyes and Dusk scoffed, but Dawn smiled and nodded for him to continue.
“It’s about a wolf” Noon began, “who like, gets put in a zoo, only she escapes and this fireman rescues her because he thinks she’s a cool dog so she like, rescues these people from a burning building and becomes a hero dog. She gets promoted to a K9 unit where she busts these drug kingpins and the cops are like ‘whoa, we got a real talent on our hands’. Then a rocket smashes through the window and shoots out a pair of sunglasses that has a hologram of the president being all like ‘we have a real bad situation and only Wolfie the good dog can save us!’ And she like totally foils a terrorist plot and saves the president.”
"You're high, noon," said Dusk as Midnight stifled her laugh. Dawn reassured Noon as she held his hand.
“That’s an interesting story. I think you tell it too… straightforward though.”
“I can’t take it seriously,” Midnight complained.
“What would you do?” Noon asked.
“The dog should die at the end,” Midnight replied.
“Wolfie?” Noon said crestfallen, “but I love her. She can’t just die.”
“I think what Midnight means is that you have an emotional connection that feels real. Her death gives people meaning. It adds depth. Maybe they find out she’s really a wolf so they treat wolves better,” Dawn commented.
Noon perked up. “Ya! I can have the president sign a peace treaty and there can be like, a big funeral where wolves and people come together.”
“There ya go Nooner,” Dawn said.
“What’s your story Dawn?” Noon asked.
Dawn opened a single, perfectly folded sheet of paper to read from. “It’s about a boy who floats in an ocean of stars. The water is peaceful, but the ripples wake him. The ripples turn into waves that crash and churn, casting him far away from home. He fights against the stars but he cannot change them. Finally, he meets a girl who was cast away into the infinite horizon too and they form a constellation of their own. Now sailors can look to the lovers when lost at sea to find their way home.”
Noon clapped. “Aww. I like it!”
“I didn’t,” Dusk said.
“It’s a metaphor,” said Dawn, as she crossed her arms.
“I know, but the characters don’t really do anything. It works as a metaphor but not as a story. Maybe he sees her while they are out there and has to fight to get to her. Then he’s doing something instead of having stuff happen to him,” Dusk replied.
Dawn thought about it. “That’s good. It helps the metaphor even. He can change the stars. It works later too, when sailors are finding their way home to their loves, they know they just have to fight like he did.”
“That’s even better,” Noon said happily. “What did you write Dusk?”
Dusk unstrapped his leather-bound journal. “I think I really outdid myself today.”
“Your last one was pretty good. We’ll have to see,” Midnight said.
Dusk read aloud from his book “There’s a man, a defense lawyer. He helps uphold some of the highest principles humanity stands for. There’s a murderer he’s to defend, worst than the rest. His heart just isn’t in it. He goes through the motions. The murderer goes to jail. The murder obsesses and obsesses. Where was his passionate defense? He escapes, tracks the lawyer down, and murders his family. Now, this lawyer is the one obsessing. How could this man do this? He was lucky to even have someone defend him. Most people would say no. Finally, the murderer goes to trial for the lawyer’s family, and is shot by the lawyer in the courthouse.”
“Not bad,” Midnight commented.
“Terrible,” Dawn said. “What was the point? I didn’t like the characters or the plot.”
Dusk closed his book. “It’s supposed to be a dark story. It’s supposed to make you feel uncomfortable.”
“The end was predictable,” Dawn replied.
Noon chimed in. “I couldn’t relate to any of these characters.”
Dawn rubbed her chin. “I think the lawyer should forgive him.”
“What? That changes the whole story,” Dusk said.
“Right? You don’t see it coming and it makes the lawyer so much more interesting. All he has left are these principals of justice and he can’t turn his back on them now. He’ll trust the justice system as he always had, and the murderer loses the spiritual battle in the end,” Dawn explained.
Dusk cracked his book open and wrote a small note. “Sort of like Job in the bible right? I might just do that.”
“Alright Midnight, last but not least,” Noon said with a smile.
Midnight unlocked her phone, cleared her throat, and began.
“A greedy man tells a lie and a mother is sent to a desert with a gun. It is war. The scrawny goats stare at her with their bulging eyes; long pupils gazing intensely at her. She sees a woman with a child struggling down a lonely road. She has orders; but she has a child back home too. She moves; but when she’s helping the child the mysterious woman blows a powder in her face. Capture. She’s held in a bright room. Her clothes are torn off, she’s in handcuffs, bent over backward while they slowly flay her. She has the information. She could make it stop. She decides that she can’t control what the outside world does to her, only how she reacts to it. She is strong and full of love. She will not break. Finally, they execute her live on the internet while her child watches, and knows how strong she is.”
The candle flickered as the flame reached the base. The silence broke.
“That’s hosed up,” Noon said.
“It’s beautiful,” Midnight replied with a side eye.
“It’s kind of poetic, but nobody wants a kid to see their parent get killed. We go through all of that suffering with her and there’s just more suffering. It’s so… nihilistic.”
“You think Wolfie should rescue her?” Midnight asked.
“Not bad, but no,” Noon said as he held his palms up and shrugged, “She should live though, escape, and see her kid again. How badass would that kid’s mom be then? The torture is gross too. Maybe more of the mental trial instead? Like how much she misses her kid.”
Midnight typed a note into her phone and slipped it into her pocket. “Ya… maybe her tormentor is the other woman, and she has to kill her to escape.”
“Uhhh… sure,” Noon said.
“So what do we file this collection under?” Dawn wondered aloud.
“It’s definitely a Monday, it’s so depressing,” Noon answered.
“I don’t know, there’s a lot of hope,” Dawn replied.
“There’s not enough fun for it to be a Saturday; I wish we wrote more Saturdays,” Noon said.
“We can’t always write Saturdays,” Dusk said, “it’s too uplifting to be a Monday.”
“It’s settled then,” Midnight said. “It’s a Sunday.”
“I just have one question Midnight,” Noon asked, “What was up with the goats?”
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 03:34|
dumbass little pictures
You thrive in the first moments of dawn, while others still sleep.
The jalopy's flickering headlights squint into the predawn dark.
The sideroad twists and turns before you. lovely country plays on the radio. There's enough light and haze in the air to keep the stars from being really visible. No fireflies anymore, either. Just the gray forest looming around the cracked asphalt.
You drive around the wide, bare hump of an old landfill and pull into a dirt lot barely wide enough for two cars. The truck's engine whines a juddering wheeze as you turn it off. Prolly should get that looked at.
You step down from the truck and stretch, wincing as something in your back pops. Your breath fogs the air. Chilly, not quite freezing. You hear the chirps of crickets and frogs, distant cars; there's a highway a ways to the south of here, busy even this time of morning.
You grab your hiking pack from the foot of the driver's seat and pull out the can of scentless deodorant, give yourself a liberal spray. Gotta get the smell of dying truck off of you, best you can. You snap on your old flashlight and set off to begin your morning hunt.
The trailhead's just a break in the guardrail next to the road, a thin footpath stretching off into the woods. There's a piece of plywood stuck into the ground with a laminated map stapled to it, unreadable in the gray light. Unreadable in the yellow circle of your flashlight, too. drat thing's faded to parchment.
Leaves crunch under your feet as you walk. The air tastes of loam and oak, new leaves poking out of their buds. It's a tentative sort of spring this year. You think the woods aren't sure if winter's over yet.
The trail winds up and around the hump of the landfill. It's a strange thing to look at, a big lump covered in dead and sickly grass. You gratefully leave it behind as you follow the trail back into the forest proper.
You draw a stiff little bag out of your pack as you walk, unzip it, draw your hunting weapon: an old canon, cheap telefoto lens sticking out the front. A relic of the early 2000s like your truck, all rounded bezels and chunky logos.
It's funny, logos. You started noticing them a few months ago. Walked past a fence with a logo on it, and wondered why anybody felt the need to put a logo on a fence. Then you saw them everywhere. Toilets with logos, shirts with logos, cars with logos; bananas with logos, lightbulbs with logos, shoes with logos. Hell, people with logos -- you've got a lovely skull-and-crossbones tattoo on your right shoulder. Humanity's quest: put dumbass little pictures on everything.
The oaks around you loom mute in the darkness.
The trail meets up with a thin brook and turns to follow it to its source, up along a small dell. The water burbles quietly as you walk beside it. Used to be the brooks around here ran rust-red, contaminants from the landfill. They put in filters after the country club down the way complained about the fish dying.
At the top of the valley there's a 20-foot-wide, 5-foot-tall wall of tangled branches. Beaver dam. Weathered the winter well enough, looks like. It's anchored to a big boulder on one side. You clamber up the rock with your flashlight in your teeth, savoring the rasp of the cool granite against your hands. You reach the top and stand for a moment.
The dam holds back a wide lake, mirror-smooth, reflecting the blue light of the warming sky. The lake's hugged on either side by steep hills, one bare and stony, the other carpeted in pines. A single dead tree juts into the sky from the center of the water. You hear tiny ripples lapping at the shore, a symphony of insects, the beeping of frogs, a few of the ratchety-click calls of bats. A grin finds its way across your face.
You hop down from the boulder. The footpath meanders along the edge of the lake, through a stand of tall grass. It rustles against your legs as you walk. (Gotta check for ticks when you get home.)
Eventually, the path makes a sharp left, up into the hills. You leave it, and walk into the woods at the edge of the grass. There's a spit of land here that juts out into the lake. Good vantage point.
The underbrush scratches at your legs as you shine your light around, questing for a good spot to lie in wait. You choose a wide slab of rock a foot from the shore, ringed by reeds. As you approach the shore, you hear several alarmed ribbits, and see splashes as frogs squirt away deeper into the lake.
You hop onto the rock. There's an excellent view of a stretch of shore here. You've got good shots across the lake as well, and the rock is dry. Carefully, you lower yourself lie flat on your belly, and settle in to wait, camera poised.
The sky is lightening. Still not bright enough to shoot, but you see whites and ambers in the sky between the hills in the east. Dawn soon.
A mourning dove croons somewhere in the forest, a nostalgic sound.
Here and there in the water around you, small lumps emerge, little pairs of them. The eyes of frogs, peeking out of the lake, scowling at the world in general.
You feel the prickle of tiny feet across your hand, a meandering harvestman. You blow gently on it and it skitters away.
You scan the lake for any piles of logs, searching for the beaver lodge, but can't find it. Must be further upstream. The only thing in the lake is the dead tree, a proud old pine stripped bare and listing like a drunk.
It used to have companions. This was more of a swamp, once, a whole stand of skeletal trees jutting proudly into the sky. Herons nested in them, great blues. They made nests adorning the tops of the snags, big messy blobs like fat afros. You could watch them feed their young through binoculars.
Not anymore, though. Couple of years ago, some dumbass dynamited a beaver dam upstream. A wave of water came through, a small tsunami that smashed everything in its way. Two more layers of beaver dams got knocked out, the bridge on Chestnut Drive got taken down, couple of houses got water damage. And of course most of the trees in the swamp were knocked over. The beaver came back, rebuilt; the pond's filled back in nicely. But the herons stayed away.
Light's a lot brighter; the birds are singing in earnest now. You line up the camera, snap a few test pics of rocks and frog eyes. They come out decent. (No shutter sound. You shut that off after it ruined a shot of a deer a while ago.) You adjust the exposure a bit and take a few more.
As the sun is just cresting the horizon in the east, you spot a ripple of movement in the water. It's moving towards you. Cautiously, you line up the camera and start taking shots, finger clicking steady, once a second. The ripple crests; the top of a small head emerges. Beaver! Mid-size, swimming without a care in the world, fur looking black and golden in the amber light. Eventually it hits the bank and ambles out of the water -- not 15 feet away..
With bated breath, you keep shooting, unable to believe your luck. The beaver scurries up to a sapling, turns its head, and quietly starts gnawing around the base, giving you a set of nice angles as it goes. You can hear the crunch of its teeth biting into the wet wood.
After a strip of bark has been peeled off, beaver stops its chewing and sits back on its haunches, surveying the landscape around it, then goes still. There's something ancient in its gaze, looking over the lake. You take another picture, not breathing.
The beaver bolts for the bank. It hits the water with a sound like a gunshot and a massive splash. You jump involuntarily. Once you recover, the beaver's gone, only a widening circle of ripples showing it was there at all.
Blinking, you steady yourself. Tail-slapping; beaver warning signal. Belatedly, you turn to look where the beaver was looking, squinting into the bright light of the rising sun. Far in the distance, you see the thin line of a hawk. You twist onto your back to grab a shot, but it dips behind a hill before you can line the camera up.
For a moment, you just lay there. After a second, you remember to breathe, and take a deep, shuddery breath. You make a quiet, very sincere fist-pump; then you flip over onto your belly, ready to catch whatever else you can while the light lasts.
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 03:57|
Push It to the Limit
1, 059 words
Solitair fucked around with this message at 23:52 on Dec 28, 2019
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 04:01|
oh man would you look at the time it's
"drat its a shame I'm not head judge or I'd be slamming the doors on you slowpoke fucks"
hurry it up, especially you toxxes.
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 05:12|
Barbara's Morning Commute
Driving through the suburbs every morning is to be entirely desensitized to the sight of animal viscera. That fact is most likely why, when Barbara drove past the same mutilated skunk on the right side of the road three days running, she did not even register it in her conscious mind. On her fourth work commute of the week, the skunk had been joined by two additional skunk corpses in the same spot, but Barbara had been responding to a text while she was driving past. On the fifth day, the skunks numbered nine, but Barbara had a slight cold, and had been distracted by a large sneeze and missed it. On the sixth day, Barbara noticed the skunk pile. She thought it strange, but she prioritized getting to work on time over satisfying her curiosity.
Then Barbara had several days off, but the next time she drove to work she was astonished at the growth of the skunk pile. Its height had more than doubled and she could no longer estimate the number of skunks that would consist such a mass. This time her curiosity won. Barbara pulled over a couple yards ahead of the pile, and exited her vehicle.
As she stepped toward the quite large pile of skunks, Barbara expected to be overwhelmed by a nauseating scent, but was shocked to smell only the pines from the wood that surrounded the road on both sides. Pacing the full circumference of the skunk pile, Barbara examined that every skunk had been thoroughly gutted, yet still there was no stench of decay, nor the buzzing of flies. When her eyes drifted downwards to the grass at the pile's bottom, Barbara spotted something peculiar. There was a single skunk corpse laying several feet away from the others, in the direction of the forest.
When she went closer to see what was up, she noticed another skunk further into the wood. Noticing a trend, Barbara continued to follow the path of dead skunks, which continued for quite a ways. The forest grew very gradually dimmer as Barbara progressed past dead skunk after dead skunk.
Eventually, she reached a strange cottage or hut or something. Clumped at the doorstep were at least five more mutilated skunk corpses. Still, there was no smell of decay or skunkiness. Barbara had come too far to not proceed further, so she knocked on the door.
Nigh instantly, a man flung open the door with an exuberance that was a sight to behold, while screaming "MWAHAHAHA! Witness the glory of Sir Stinky the Smell-nifiscent!" Before Barbara had time to respond, she was blasted with the stench of a hundred rotting skunks and immediately had a fatal brain hemorrhage.
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 06:50|
Week 259 crits
Noah - Gorda
This is an interesting scene of futility, which is difficult to write sometimes because it's inherently about people who have given up. There's a matter of factness to the prose here that puts a bit of a distance between the reader and Andy's emotions, not sure if that's intentional, but it does make everything feel a bit more arbitrary--which is probably the point, given how it's about futility. It took a bit of rereading to make it click, (I didn't quite understand the death chute at first) but once it did, I liked it.
Sokoban - No Time
I like the concept and I respect anyone who can tell a narrative in a nonlinear way because I can't even do word jumbles. I think I get it, but like Noah's, it takes a bit of reading to unpack the idea, because there's basically two: one, he's wobbling through time as he reverses dying, and two, he's unmoored in time and re-experiencing a car crash, and I think navigating between the two of those and figuring out the meaning of both was a bit tricky.
Uranium Phoenix - Another Life That Mattered
This I think a fine framework for a story, but it's lacking a bit in personality, though I know there was a tight word count restriction this week. Doing it from a different perspective might make it more meaningful, since you're kind of "telling" the point of the story here, instead of letting us infer it. I like the idea of someone who's a peaceful scientist in a time where that's not a thing you can be, and trying and failing to get by, it could just use a bit more of his identity.
Uranium Phoenix - Violation
I like this too, though it's pretty sparsely A Metaphor. It's tricky to crit 100 words since so much comes down to what you can fit in a small space. Similar to the previous though, I think this would be better suited if the perspective was more in her head, kind of mirroring her inner monologue, as opposed to more fly-on-the-wall style.
steeltoedsneakers - Strobe
The spacing of this makes it feel halfway between poetry and prose. Again, it's tough to say I want more out of one hundred words, but what I get out of this is someone looking for a woman, a fight, and then she shuns them. There's not enough hinting at what their connection is to give the final action the weight I think it was trying to have. There's some nice word choice in there, though.
big scary monsters - The Man Who Screams at the Sun
This is a nice image and a pretty good selection for 100 words, where you get about enough space to elaborate on one thing. Beyond the image and the general vibe of "gently caress you" though I'm not sure what the intended takeaway is here, or if there is one beyond an interesting image to sit in your mind for a little while.
Fuubi - Slowdown
This is mostly just a bit generic, it's sort of what you'd expect to read about a car crash scene. There's nothing super wrong with it outside of that sort of blandness (and a few minor grammar things). My advice is to focus on what makes a situation unique: what makes this scene worth telling? Tell me something I wouldn't expect, or tell me something in an unexpected way.
Fumblemouse - Cursed Spite
I'm gonna keep saying things are interesting this week, huh? Well this is interesting, and I think what makes it work is that there's not really any fluff. Things are established, then repeated in a way that adds new meaning each time. It's unclear what's happening, exactly, but I think the sense of the structure here is more important--the cyclical nature, more than figuring out the implications.
Solitair - Unformed
Oh hey it's another A Metaphor. This works well enough but like a lot of the middle ground stories this week, I think it would have been better served with a bit more personality, maybe at the expense of some of the plot. Stuff that's A Metaphor is a bit like writing comedies: you need the framework to hang the metaphor on. The glimpses of this world are interesting, so play into that. Show me the experience of a dysphoric leukhmier, show me how he walks into a xplazh-tavern or the turbans he wears to cover his antlers or something.
Fumblemouse - Unfumbling
This is pretty cute and it should maybe have HMed. My only real beef with it is there's a bit of repetitive sentence structure, which might be on purpose, but like the first three paragraphs are all like "garblegoo" spake the whingesly, frambling the barnaby Other than that though, the only other thing I could see is introducing the wormhole bit sooner, maybe cutting down on the introduction a bit, so that it can focus on the wormhole/string theory gag.
Solitair - Eternity in an Hour
This is pretty good, and beyond that I don't think I have a lot to say about it. Which isn't a bad thing, just y'know, it's pretty straightforward. I think the real interesting bit here is less the numbing and more the idea of the artificiality of this preserved moment and its lack of substance, which you could play off of all the options she starts to imagine. Maybe also oughta HMed.
sebmojo - One Last Kiss
That there's no 'end' to this is interesting, and what I think it does is it forces you to meditate on the last bit, which is sort of what Mike ends up doing too. It lingers for as long as you let it linger, then you let go of that wire and the world keeps going. The imagery it ends on has a good rhythm to it, too--I like the repeated stress of 'sun-warmed rock'.
Bad Seafood - Homecoming
I said this in another crit but these short word limits are really best when you get one idea and meditate on it. This one gets a lot of work done by implication and contrast, and there's a rhythm to the way the story gets revealed that's satisfying. The ending almost feels like a punchline, or the inverse of a punchline. A gut punch?
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 06:56|
Week 259 crits
Oh wow! Good job, Djeser - and thanks for the crit!
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 07:07|
Waterskating (1246 words)
The taste of brine stuck in Aaron’s throat, even after finishing the glass of water. He glanced up at the wine cabinet, considering, but there was no point risking Mark’s wrath when they’d be driving Victoria back to her mother in the morning. He’d just have to ignore the tide’s call until then -- the steady ebb and flow resonating within him, gentle enough to be inviting and not painful.
He wasn’t going back to sleep, though. There was still salt on his tongue.
Aaron sighed, and went on to check on his niece. Even without the nightmares, this was a pretty sour note to end the trip on. They’d only had a single day for water-skating before a storm rolled in. It’d finally lifted yesterday, right as the tide was rolling in -- and Mark had refused to take her out.
It was a pretty nasty tantrum, all around.
He stepped into the bedroom she was using, idly wondering what he would even do if she was awake, and then frowned. Even in the window’s dim moonlight, he could tell something wasn’t right. He flicked on the light, and a second later, he yelled for Mark.
The two of them sprinted to the pier, and Aaron couldn’t help but shudder as he took his first steps off land in years. The waves were thrumming in his bones now, a traveling ache that passed from head to toe and back again.
Mark grabbed his hand then, startling Aaron out of his thoughts with a bone crushing grip.
“She’s taken the boat,” he said. “And I don’t have the keys for the others.”
Aaron squeezed back. “She knows not to leave the harbor. And you never got the chance to refill the tank.”
“I thought she knew not to go skating at night,” Mark hissed. “Do you think there’s anybody who can help?”
“I think we’ll have to call 9-1-1. This entire stretch is private property, right?”
“I already called! They said someone would be coming in twenty minutes,” Mark said, and his next words echoed Aaron’s thoughts. “That’s too long, right?”
“Almost certainly.” Novices tended to bite off more than they could chew -- and while that was fine if they stuck close to the boat or dry land, Victoria did not seem the type to do so. And it was high tide. The number of joyriders who had either gone too far out to return or burnt themselves out was a sobering statistic.
Aaron tried not to think too bitterly about his contribution to the latter. He settled for saying, “I’m going to try something. Please don’t let go.”
Mark stared at him. “Aaron, you can’t-”
“We don’t have a choice.” Aaron said, more sharply than he intended, as the ache began to travel back up his legs. “At least this way, we can make sure she’s okay.”
Mark didn’t say anything more, face pinched, but he didn’t argue further. Aaron took a deep breath, squatted down on the pier, then stuck his free hand into the ocean.
A second passed, then every bone and every joint in his fingers throbbed, at once, and he couldn’t hold back a gasp.
“Aaron!” Mark yanked at him, but Aaron shook his head impatiently.
“I’m fine. I--” He closed his eyes, and tried to steady his breathing. Eventually the throb died down to a dull ache, which was definitely something he was going to pay for later. He exhaled, and began to read the waves.
It didn’t take long for him to narrow it down -- the high-tide boat tended to use vessels that left rather larger ripples than the motorboat that came with the cottage rental. When he finally came across someone skating just a half-mile out, he breathed a sigh of relief.
He opened his eyes, and waved in her general direction. “She’s out in that direction. We might actually be able to see her. She’s further from the boat than I would like, though.”
Mark relaxed, just a hair. “Do you think she’ll be able to hear us?”
“I’d rather not spook her. We can just wait for the lifeguards to pick her up -- as long as she’s wearing a life vest, she’ll be fine.”
Aaron and Mark both stood up and walked to the edge of the pier. After a little longer, Mark pointed towards the horizon. “I think that’s her.”
Aaron squinted, then shrugged and sat down cross-legged on the pier. “I’ll have to take your word for it.”
Mark stood there, looking out before he asked, “Do you still feel it? The ocean, I mean.”
Aaron laughed. “Of course I do.”
“Right,” Mark said. “I just thought, maybe all this time, it would have dulled a little.”
“I don’t think it ever will,” Aaron replied. “How long before the lifeguards arrive?”
“I thought they would be here by now, honestly.” Mark pulled out his phone, fiddled with it, then frowned. “Crap, I think she saw us.”
“You mean she saw your cell phone,” Aaron said. “Honestly, how did you never learn the meaning of ‘stealth’?”
He waited for Mark to reply, then looked up at him. “Mark?”
“I think she went under,” Mark said, face white. “I told her to always wear a life vest, but she hates the things.”
Aaron looked out over the waters, then down at himself. Then he stood up, and said, “Call 9-1-1 again. I’m going to… try something.”
“I can. It’ll just be really painful, until the adrenaline kicks in,” Aaron said, as calmly as he could. “Wish me luck, Mark.”
Aaron’s shoulder was caught in a painful grip. When Aaron looked back, Mark looked right at him, lips pressed into a grimace. “Don’t drown.”
Aaron nodded. He took a moment to compose himself, then stepped out onto the water.
The rolling ache in his body roared and he nearly sank, right foot sinking halfway past the surface. Mark made an aborted sound, and Aaron gritted his teeth, focusing on syncing up his body with the waves. It was almost bearable, now.
He angled himself towards the frantic splashing he could sense, by the horizon, then shot off.
Saltwater sprayed into his eyes, his clothes flapped in the wind, and Aaron swore that the pain had gone. He laughed, a short bark, and all too soon, he was there. He forced himself to stop, sending a magnificent spray up into the air, and found Victoria staring up at him.
All of a sudden, the pain returned, the pulses stronger than ever. He held out a hand to her, she took it, and as he helped her regain her equilibrium, he considered his options.
He could try to get back to land, but skating that fast with a passenger was risky, and he really didn’t think he’d be able to make it there anyways. He motioned toward the boat instead, faintly visible in the moonlight, and they started gliding.
This time, Aaron was keenly aware that his bones were aching and he was very, very cold. By the time they got to the small motorboat, it seemed Victoria was carrying him more than he her. He collapsed into the pilot’s seat, and curled up as the pain pounded over him.
“Uncle Aaron!” Victoria cried, but he waved her off.
“I’m -- fine. Just need to rest. We’ll be fine here.” He mumbled.
The last thing he could hear before he drifted off were motorboats.
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 07:58|
Djeser fucked around with this message at 20:46 on Jan 1, 2020
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 08:11|
What time is it?
It's time that submissions are closed.
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 09:02|
Beep. Beep. Beep beep, beep beep. The alarm clock rudely pulled Alice into wakefulness. Eyes closed, she flailed her arm around until her hand connected with a button. Unfortunately, it was too late. She’d never been able to fall back asleep her alarm went off.
Alice risked opening her eyes and immediately regretted it. The broken blinds in her student apartment did a terrible job of keeping sunlight out, and a beam hit her square in the eye. She winced and rolled over, which turned out to also be a mistake. Her stomach roiled and her head spun. How many drinks had she had last night? Bob’s parties were legendary and this was the last one of the year, to celebrate the upcoming exams …
With a burst of adrenaline, she threw herself out of bed. This maneuver didn’t quite work as her legs remained tangled in the sheets, so she crawled across the floor in search of clothing. Underwear, check. Pants from last night (faux leather, tight), fine. Bra, where was her bra? A fuzzy memory of swinging it above her head at the party last night came to mind and she gave up. She grabbed a sweaty sports bra from her laundry pile and pulled on the closest shirt. It turned out to be the joke Garfield t-shirt one of her friends had given her for her birthday, with “I Hate Mondays” splayed across the front. Whatever, at least she was dressed.
Alice glanced at her phone as she yanked on her shoes. It was twenty until nine. The bus covered the mile or so to campus in a few minutes so she had time for a very quick breakfast. She hustled into the kitchen and pulled open all the cabinet doors. Her shelves were bare but she found a half-empty cup of yesterday’s coffee, which she downed desperately. Her hungover stomach immediately tried to reject it. Leaning against the sink, she turned to her roommate Marnie’s neatly arranged cupboard and spotted a box of sports bars for Marnie’s cycling events. Some carbohydrates! She opened it and found one last bar at the bottom. She felt guilty for a second, then scarfed it down and made a mental note to apologize later.
Now with some fuel, she grabbed her backpack and rushed to the bus stop. It was 8:45, the bus should be showing up any minute. Yep, any minute. She alternated between bouncing nervously from the caffeine and trying to stay as still as possible in deference to her hangover.
The bus continued to not arrive. As the minutes ticked by, Alice became increasingly anxious. Finally, at 8:50, she broke and ran back to the house. Marnie’s bike, a custom carbon-fiber beauty, was sitting by the door. Normally Alice was terrified to even go near it, but desperate times called for desperate measures. She pushed it out the door, mounted it awkwardly (why was the seat so high?), and pedaled off down the empty streets. All the other students must already be there, she thought wildly, and pedaled harder.
At one point, her shoelace became caught in the gears. Swearing and with no lingering reverence for the bike, she threw it on the ground and savagely pulled the lace free, shredding it in the process. Tucking the remains of the lace back into her shoe, she remounted the bike and redoubled her pedaling speed. At least the fresh air, exercise, and adrenaline had nearly banished her hangover.
Finally Alice arrived at the science building, only to realize that the bike didn’t have a lock. Even through her panicked haze she realized Marnie would murder her if she left it outside, so she awkwardly shoved it through the door and carried it up the stairs. Strangely the lights in the hallways were off, she must be truly late. She found the right room, set the bike gently against the wall, and burst through the door.
It was empty.
For a crazed moment, her brain invented all sorts of reasons why this was the case- the room changed and she missed the email, she was in the wrong building, for the wrong exam- but cold reality set in. Sinking into the nearest chair, she pulled out her phone. 9:03, Sunday, May 19th. Sunday. Of course, the party was on Saturday. Why did she think it was Monday? The alarm clock?
Alice sat pondering her stupidity when the phone in her hand rang. It was Marnie.
“Where the gently caress is my bike? I’ve got a meet this afternoon!” Marnie was not messing around.
“Oh, uh, I took it to campus real quick, I’ll be back soon …”
“What the hell, Alice? The bus still runs on weekends, what was so urgent that you couldn’t wait?”
“Uhh ....” Alice knew Marnie would go ballistic if she knew the truth.
“And you ate my last bar, gently caress you’re such an airhead sometimes.”
“You might be right,” Alice mumbled, looking down at the smug face of Garfield on her shirt.
“I know I’m right. Now, if you’re not back here with my bike in ten minutes, I swear to God …”
Alice left Marnie ranting on the other end of the line as she grabbed the bike, hastily bounced it down the stairs and pushed through the nearest exterior door. It turned out to be a fire door so, as Marnie yelled and the alarm screamed, she started pedaling back home.
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 10:39|
I forgot what timezone I was in, but posting on time would have been contrary to my theme anyway
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 10:40|
Interprompt: I'm so sorry. I'm dry.
200 words maximum
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 10:42|
Interprompt: I'm so sorry. I'm dry.
Just when Nic Waterford thought he’d get some rest she came alookin’ and frantic like too. She’d been like this before-once when she was pulled over for speeding and another time when she was short of change for the tollbooth-but neither time was he the object of her haste.
Today was his day.
“Where the hell are you?” She demanded. A huff of hot air pushed through the gap of her two front teeth. The wallet was flung through the air making a thud presumably on the floor. Boy, that had to hurt, thought Nic.
“Are you okay? A sweet voice asked.
No reply. Then lots of shuffling left and right.
Nic felt her fingers clamp down on him, raising him up toward the light.
“Yeah, got it,” she said.
Nic looked around. A few women surrounding a guy near the doorway, nothing unusual.
Suddenly a lunge forward propelled Nic and a piece of paper toward the guy.
“Leonardo, I loved you in Titanic.”
The guy clicked Nic and swirled him to no avail. Nic knew he was supposed to perform, but he failed her. If she could only understand, he’d say, “I’m so sorry. I’m dry.”
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 19:02|
ok question: what's the etiquette for crits? like are you allowed to just throw a couple out or do you need to do the whole batch of stories for the week?
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 22:44|
ok question: what's the etiquette for crits? like are you allowed to just throw a couple out or do you need to do the whole batch of stories for the week?
Generally non-judges should wait until after judgment to post crits. Otherwise, do as many or as few as you like, no worries.
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 22:51|
Thunderdome Week CCCXLV: Results
It's everyone's favourite time of the week - judgement time! And I'm sure everybody wrote fun, clever stories that -
Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear.
In addition to several total failures - some of which carried toxxes with them - we had a late entry! Sorry baneling butts but that counts as a failure and carries the requisite shame. Don't worry though - I'll still crit it.
As for everyone who did enter, I just want to quote a little something from the prompt post:
And seriously, if your only adherence to the prompt is "hey chief, guess the victim was shot around noon" then don't expect favourable judging.
Did you think I was joking? There wasn't really the level of engagement with the prompt this week that I was hoping for. It's a shame. I wanted to see stories where the time really mattered, where there was character and texture to it, where it influenced the mood and direction of the story. Thanks, crumbums.
The loser this week is onsetOutsider. I don't think I need to explain why.
The dishonourable mention goes to Doctor Zero. You had an annoying character and that's fine - but you let the annoying behaviour infect the rest of your story and a disappointingly passive protagonist.
The honourable mention goes to Antivehicular! A very cool concept just tried a little too much for the word count and fell flat as a result.
The winner this week is none other than Djeser! Saved from failure by the grace of God's Own Timezone you engaged the most with the prompt and captured the otherworldly potential of the early hours of the morning. Congratulations! Take your time and ascend the steps of the blood throne - but always remember that fast prompts are the best prompts.
|# ? Mar 18, 2019 23:17|
Week 345 Crits
Doctor Zero - A Broken Clock
No Flash Rule
There’s a bit of a jarring contrast between ”went sour” and enthusiasm "waning". The former just seems a lot more severe than the latter, to me at least. The last two sentences of the first paragraph create a false sense of continuity they read as though there should be a comma between them, rather than a period. But because there isn’t the pause created by the period is exaggerated too much.
"about own views" missing ”his”?
”... found attractive two nights ago in reality, ego?” I think you’re missing a comma between ”ago” and "in”.
So far you’re writing with a very particular voice. The word choices your P.o.V. character is making are rather refined and almost aristocratic? It’s distinct, which is good. You’re also doing a good job painting a picture of Blaise. We’ve all met a Blaise, or known a friend who has.
Want to know how picky I am? Your quote marks around ”Becka” are mismatched ” and ’.
This is a fun little conversation.
The fact that the P.o.V. goes with Blaise feels a little forced. A line or two of internal dialogue around the decision would have helped things flow a little.
I like the ending, I really do. You capture the self-satisfaction and obsessive self-reinforcement of someone who expects to see a particular pattern. You didn’t go for the obvious ending where the protagonist/Blaise win a ton of money and ”"maybe they were right all along”. My internal reaction to the last couple of lines was a dismissive snort and "Blaise is such a dumbass".
Overall I liked this story and the occasional hiccup (such as those above) didn't really detract from my enjoyment. Not a ton happened but there was nevertheless a clear narrative progression. It’s tricky to achieve when nothing really happens (I certainly struggle with it) but you carried it off well here. It does, however, mean that the story didn’t really have much of an impact. It’s a nice little slice of character but not much more.
Yoruichi - Just Don’t Ask Me How I Am
No Flash Rule
That’s a good opening paragraph - setting, tension, little bit of personality. "assaulted his nostrils" it's a little bit cliche but nothing too bad.
Dianne. Oh god. I’ve worked with a Dianne. Good description.
“... relentless like the tide …” - I‘m not sure that ”relentless" is the right word to go here. The tide does relent, at least temporarily. Relentless is unceasingly intense, whereas the tide ebbs and pulses. Setting that aside, the tide simile seems a bit out of place so far, given the office setting. That can work but I'm not seeing anything else for it to tie into yet.
"corporate-coloured carpet tiles" I can see the faded beige already. Even if that’s not the colour your saw - or anyone else sees - it’s a good, instant image.
This is ultimately the tale of somebody deeply uncomfortable with interacting with other people being forced to do so on a daily basis. It’s a universal topic and while I've never felt this strongly about it, I think that forced, fake joviality - which you made excruciating with the little duet scene, by the way - is a good, relatable foundation for the rest of the story.
I think the characterisation of the P.o.V. character could have used a little bit more work. The early line about Dianne and whether she "simply lacked the intelligence required to give up on him" is out of place, particularly given the ending‘s hidden smile. Getting the song right reads as a personal victory to Keith but the reason isn't very clear. Given his thoughts on the previous answers it doesn't seem like just satisfaction at knowing the answer, so I assumed it was at bringing himself to interact with the duet. A little more focus here would have helped things flow into a more satisfying ending.
In the end, though, this is a very personal story and a nice example of how you don’t need huge stakes to create impact.
Saucy_Rodent - Stasis
No Flash Rule
An epistolary story, huh? Alright.
A risk with the epistolary format is that you have much less room to show, rather than tell, and so far I think you're doing a good job of overcoming this obstacle.
"We appreciate your ambition, but we have serious concerns.” is a great sentence. This is a sentence that embodies your entire story (at least so far). The juxtaposition of very respectful, professional speech with a plan to halt the revolution of the Earth and sell real estate in permanent sunset is fantastic.
The next paragraph, the one starting “First, as tourism professionals …”, is a bit on the nose. Only slightly, but you may want to take another look. Would framing it as ”Our market research groups/customer feedback tells us that ..." help? No Idea! Give it a shot.
Haha, see, you worked in market research.
Ok, and then it turns out the client Is a legit super-villain and not just an eccentric crackpot. You know what? I like this twist, I Just think it's too sudden. The tone up until now was more “19th century crackpot inventor's get-rich-quick scheme" than actual villain and you change gears in a single paragraph. A few more hints woven in earlier on, giving a rising sense of suspicion, would have made this a much stronger ending.
Also I am very disappointed that the tourism consultants didn’t end up with an elaborate S.W.O.R.D.style acronym name too.
Flerp - If cats don’t go to heaven, what’s the point?
The witching hour is more powerful than most people know. It’s also not when most people think it is.
If the witch is inside and the protag is outside, wouldn't the witch pull her in, not push?
I like the sheepdog fur simile on its own but I'm not sure it fits here. In a story this short it can't just tell me the colour of her teeth - make it work double-shift, tell me something about the witch or the house or the protag too.
“it's”. Two things: first, the possessive is "its" without the apostrophe, like “his” or “hers"; and second, describing the beloved family cat as "it” seems oddly distant. I know the cat is dead but It still diminishes the affection the protag presumably feels for it. See, it's fine when I do it because it’s not my cat.
You do it in the dialogue '... and then, she went quiet ..." but if you’re going for first person narrative you need to expand that into the rest of the text. The rest of the dialogue is a bit clunky too - how likely is it that the protag would carefully note the breed of dog?
I think the point at which the witch is flopping the dead cat around is the better place to mention the blood. The absence was notable - and then when you confirm that there is, indeed, blood it’s all a bit jarring.
“Black as tar” - a bit cliché.
… and there you are, working the flash rule in. It’s not incredibly deep but it works and I like the in-text justification.
You’ve presented the protag with two prices: her mother and her soul. Which is it? Because it seems to be the latter and it renders the time spent discussing the former moot. You repeat the imagery of the cat as a sole companion after each price is presented and there’s nothing wrong with repetition. But because the two discussion of price are so similar it reads like you wrote two drafts and forgot to delete one.
The ending is okay. It’s a bit flat and I think you could have done more with the idea of a child making bargains that they don’t fully appreciate it but you tie everything into a neat bow. I think that sums up the story - pretty neatly done but lacking any real oomph.
Thranguy - 4:51 AM
No Flash Rule
“Two kidney-nights” - I get you were going for a play on man-hours or similar but it doesn’t really work. I just tripped myself up a few times before I got it.
So I just got to the end of the paragraph about the umbrella and I like how you’re characterising Kevin. He tested earplugs, he got multiple quotes, he went through a whole parade of inferior umbrellas. He appreciates quality work/products. So far it’s not relevant to the story but even if it isn’t it makes them more than a blank slate.
… and here comes the intrigue. Okay, ghost-train or misfiled paperwork? You’re starting to ratchet up the tension.
… and gone. Ghost-train. Rejuvenating ghost-train. Huh.
I like the description of his experiments. I like that he thought about the obvious dead-rat experiment and then stopped himself. It shows character very well. I like that he doesn’t immediately jump in front of the ghost-train when he gets the cancer diagnosis - again, it shows an established caution in his character.
There’s even a little twist at the end - only it doesn’t really fit. I think the fact that he’s reverted so far and at the cost of his memory makes sense but the final lines don’t. He’s ten and suddenly on a train track, dressed in an adult’s clothes, in the middle of the night, alone. How is he not freaking out? What about his current situation would scream science fiction to him? The ending could work, thematically, if there had been more build-up of a regret at not doing more, at not making more connections with neighbours/etc., but Kevin is described as happy about his situation right up until the penultimate paragraph.
It’s a nice idea - it just needs another pass or two.
Antivehicular - The Night Cousin
It’s 3AM. You can’t afford to sleep now.
Strong, strong opening line(s).
This is an interesting premise and I honestly can’t tell yet how reliable the narrator is. Is this just taking a parent’s joke too seriously? Is this legitimate? Time to find out.
“... dark and empty but but it goes …” - typo there.
You do a very good job of keeping me off-balance. The protagonist is delusional. The protagonist is right. The protagonist is right and that’s even worse.
And that’s a wrap.
I think you were at the very border of how much you can fit into a story this short. I think if you had twice as many words to play with you’d have been able to fit a lot more in. As it is, despite a kidnapping, a conversation, a confrontation and a closing scene, it doesn’t feel like much has time to happen. I’m also left with questions - how did Claire not see the parents’ seams before? It’s the sort of thing I’m sure could be explained - but again, not in a story this short.
The ending is also a bit cheap. Driving off into the sunrise is a nice reverse on driving off into the sunset but it’s also a very sudden end to what is portrayed as a lifelong obsession. Still, a lot of fun to read.
SlipUp - Tell a Twilight
No Flash Rule
I like your setup. You have a serious, almost reverential tone.
… that you immediately abandon for the anthropomorphised times of day pitching movie scripts (?) at each other. A good framing device can take a rambling section of lolrandom text (like the pitch) and make it entertaining to read but this does not do that. Annoying text does not necessarily become any less annoying to read just because you stick it in dialogue tags and attribute it to a character rather than the narrator. So the first pitch is hard to read.
High noon? Really?
I like your dialogue. It feels very natural and snappy.
You vary the style of the pitches a lot and you get a good sense of differentiation between the characters as a result.
I like your overall idea for the story, it just doesn’t really tie together. You have a framing device for four very short stories but don’t really do anything with the framing device. The end result is a nice enough scene but nothing much feels like it’s happened. It’s just four story pitches and a few lines about each one. It could have been worse but it could also have been much stronger.
Animist - dumbass little pictures
You thrive in the first moments of dawn, while others still sleep.
I think your story - at least the first few paragraphs anyway - has done the best job of setting the scene in a specific time. A little more description wouldn’t go amiss but you’ve nailed that pre-dawn feel.
So far it’s all very serene and - despite being outside and cold - cosy. Very thematically appropriate. The problem is, a lot of the description about the terrain gets a bit samey after a while. It feels like 90% of the story is just describing the very nice pre-dawn countryside and the tell-tale signs of wildlife. Not much actually happens. Yes, there’s the quest to photograph a beaver, but it feels like all of the action is squeezed into the final few paragraphs.
Also, “not 15 feet away..” - either you’ve missed a bit of an ellipsis or used too many periods. Picky, I know.
You’ve got some beautiful descriptions and paint a very nice picture of the scenery but it’s too much for a story this short. Cut the scene-setting by a half - hell, by two-thirds - and have the protagonist do something other than wander around. Have a story to tell.
Solitair - Push it to the Limit
You do your best work in the five minutes before you fall asleep each night.
You could stand to vary their sentence length a bit. At the moment it feels like you’re rushing to get stuff down on the page and its resulting in a lot of long, breathless sentences. Break a few up. Slow the pace a little.
Your similes are a bit clunky sometimes - “the silence that fills my head is more absolute than in the void of space” is a good example.
Woah mama, your prose is getting purple. I’ll admit that I like the idea of drawing inspiration from that blending of conscious and unconscious you get just as you fall asleep (which I think is what you were going for) but you switch gears way too fast. One moment you’re talking about making the streetlights shine like stars and the next moment you’re remote-viewing a neighbour argue with themselves through multiple stages of their life.
You do a good job of catching that dream logic but some of the phrases you use are just a bit too cringeworthy. “So thinks my neighbour as his greenbacks form angel wings and lift him up to heaven …”
Your ending also skirts way too close to “it was all just a dream … or was it?” for anyone’s comfort.
You’re trying too hard. Strip down the sentences and the grand imagery. Breathe.
onsetOutsider - Barbara’s Morning Commute
No Flash Rule
Congrats, you submitted a story and technically met your toxx and avoided the cost of re-registering. Now you get to spend it on buying back your avatar instead.
kurona_bright - Waterskating
No Flash Rule
I think throughout your story your biggest problem is that you hold too much back.
You drop hints as to the true nature of the protagonist. The salt on the tongue. The ache. But you need to give the reader a little bit of a conclusion and you don’t. The effect is a little like when writers will talk about a momentous event or supernatural element in deliberately matter-of-fact tones to try and blend it into the everyday - but here it just comes across as confusing. You don’t need to go all “and he could run across waves because he was part selkie” or similar but you need something.
It’s always “something”, trying “something”. It’s too vague.
You also need to give a little more with regards to your descriptions. Victoria could well be a life-sized mannequin for all the impact or personality she displays. Your word count is limited, true, but you could have cut quite a lot of vague supernatural angst and put it to better use. It also gets a bit confusing as to what the actual stakes are - it’s painful for Aaron to use his supernatural elements, Victoria may or may not be ok in a life jacket, etc.
Also there’s not much of a link to the prompt other than “it happens at night”.
Djeser - Night Shift
No Flash Rule
That’s a great opening paragraph. I can see the artificial lights, the forecourt.
Two sixty three, huh? Ok.
Okay, this is a good entry. The imagery you use brushes up just this side of pretentious and gives everything a very dreamlike, detached feel. Although I’ve never worked nights I’ve pulled all-nighters and that feeling of unreality at around 3AM, that sense that anything could wander in out of the dark and just happen, is very effectively captured here.
You really, really engaged with the prompt. I wanted that character of a particular time of day to be front and center and you did that in spades.
If I had two minor complaints it would be these: 3AM seems very early for a sunrise and it feels a little like you were writing towards that ending sentence/joke. All is forgiven with good enough execution, however. If you had to revise this, either add in another event (word count permitting, of course) or remove the things in the red-gold car. As it is, the fact that two things happen gives the two of them similar weight - but the entry of the deer is clearly more important to the story. Have a few minor events (of which the red-gold car could be one) leading up to it or make it the sole focus.
Baneling Butts - Late!
No Flash Rule
Just a little thing - the beeps at the very start might work a bit better spread out across line breaks.
Okay, I’m generally a fan of the “just put the protag through the loving wringer” school of writing a story but this doesn’t do anything for me. I think it was the ending, which was pretty obvious right from the start. Person is late for [THING]. Person rushes to [THING]. Person has got wrong day.
It might also be because for the most part, the protagonist is not the unfortunate victim of a terrible day. They just seem to exist to be a bit rubbish and that’s not really an engaging story.
I mean, good on you for submitting even if it was late. Really. But if you’re already late you might as well spend a bit more time just thinking up a twist or new take on an old idea or something to make your story stand out.
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Thunderdome Week 346: A Fistful of Magic Missiles
Wild West fantasy. Make it as high fantasy or as grounded as you like, as long as it's recognizably Western, and somehow fantastic.
Enter by midnight in El Paso on Friday, submit by midnight in Denver City on Sunday. (That's 11 PM Pacific, for you Sacramento folks.)
The Saddest Rhino
Djeser fucked around with this message at 19:30 on Mar 24, 2019
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Some Brief Thoughts on Your Stories, In The Order I Remember Them Existing
Let's do a brief experiment and write these entirely based on what I remember of your stories, with no looks back. It's only been a night, so like, if it's entirely run out of my brain already that's a crit in itself.
Antivehicular's The Night Cousin
My standout favorite of the week. Everything here feels so squirmingly discomforting, never quite letting the reader settle on any glimmer of certainty, and when they finally do understand -- well, the reveal made me pull back from my monitor in an actual flinch. The writing may have rough edges but its worth polishing, there's something in there shining through with a terrible light.
I feel as if the rapport between the cousins is just right, with the balance of silence and undertone to convey understanding even as they diverge, but we never really get enough of the Night Cousin to make her need to do this feel real and urgent. Broad strokes of an unhappy life, yes, but nothing detailed, nothing definite. She comes into the story already set on this course of action and it steals from the moment when she finally breaks and turns away.
Djeser's No-Heads Stag-King 7/11 Story
There's something marvelously strange about this story, but every weird element pulls from that initial image of an out of the way gas stop in a way that keeps it from being a random splatter of imagery across a page. It feels mythic, it's well written. If there was just a little more tying it together I woulda voted it for the win but hey, ya got there without me. There's a short story collection that contains a very similar piece and I'd love to recommend it to you, but I've been googling for fifteen minutes and can't find the drat thing.
Yoruichi's Just Don't Ask Me How I Am
High on my list, for reasons I'd honestly struggle to articulate. I like the undramatic, low-stakes but high-tension world presented here, I like it being unafraid to be small and how you paint portraits of people quickly and with a certain flair. I feel like I'm in that claustrophobic room watching them orbit the lovely trivia game and I like that. It's a good piece and I'm not too sure what could be added or expanded without losing how compact and complete it feels.
onsetOutsider's bad story
flerp's dead cat story
This is so rough. I get where it would be a good story, but at every opportunity it failed to evoke in me a mood, to draw me into the perspective of this kid or the genuine belief that magic could happen. It failed to set the stakes and make me afraid for her making bargains she didn't understand, and frankly, I kinda didn't understand what the bargain was either. Did something change with her mom, afterwards? Did anything really change? It all feels a muddied, the magic neither mystical nor sinister, the witch neither good nor evil, and while there's room for nuance this was all painted with a wide lens as if you wanted to evoke rather than zoom in on some messy multifarious reality. I dunno this one stuck with me mostly for its potential rather than its execution.
Doctor Zero's story about a creep
It's fine to write a story about a creep. Actually, you did that very, very well. I would not want to be in a room with this creepazoid, and for the time I read your story, I felt like I was. I felt the clammy grasp of his fanatic eyes and it was disconcerting, sure. I guess I just want more than being poked with discomfort in a story, and since that's all this story did - I never got a handle on the supposed protagonist, never really felt enough about her to develop a sympathy, never wondered how she ended up on a date with a creep like this because I never really imagined her having a continuity beyond the story's start and stop - well, I kinda gave it a DM vote just for being uncomfortable without payoff. An issue of half-baked concept, rather than poor execution.
Solitair's Push It To The Limit
Okay its a story about artistic creation. I am being pandered to. I like that.
I might've voted for an HM if this had stopped with the four-dimensional thanksgiving dinner scene. From there, you get a little too comfortable writing about writing, and a little too full of yourself with the grandiose description. If there's one thing dreams aren't - in my experience - it's pretentious. The language you use, the cloying abundance of metaphors about The Man and Like, Y'know, Money Dude near the end, it's a bad look for a story that might otherwise have been closer to this week's winner. A trip to a strange place, without an overly verbose tour-guide insisting we see how meaningful it all is.
The One About The Supervillain Who's Basically Ol' Musky
I may have slept on this one. Or I may have forgotten why it didn't wow me when I first read through, leaving me with only a faint smile on my face as I piece together the bits that stood out now. I can totally see Mister Claymore, despite his absence in the proper text; you've painted perfectly the kind of silicon-valley villainy that would stop the sun to sell timeshares. I wasn't a fan of him being a literal supervillain, it came too late in the game; I read this as a mundane bastard proposing in endlessly mundane terms a horrific act. Then you flip the script and I have to imagine him in spandex, which kind of killed it for me.
The One With The Beaver Dam and the Heron
I actually pushed this for an HM but its faded a little. It was pleasant, it put me perfectly in a place and, more importantly for the week, a time. I actually just got back from spending a few days at a lake watching, yes, a blue-winged heron, so maybe that's why this worked for me a little more than it did the rest of the judges.
In retrospect its losing its grip on my brain fast, no particular turns of phrase standing out, the moment that's holding up best the one where he's turned on his back looking up at the sky and just too at peace with nature to bother moving for a while. I'm not sure how you can 'expand' on a story that is defined by its quiet sense of place, but if you had pushed yourself a little more I think you woulda walked away with an HM.
Thranguy's Ghost Train
A great sense of character, for sure, but I never quite felt invested in the mystery. The experimentation, the character's trepidation in testing this supernatural event, that was good and the story could have cut a lot to get us there sooner. That sense of curiosity and caution could have given the final 'test' some heft if given time to stew, and frankly, a better payoff. This story was middle of the road but I can't deny it's solid science-fiction and I could imagine it being published. A little polish could do a lot.
One specific thing I have to bring up is the bit where the train passes through the tree - somehow it got so wedged in to a lengthy paragraph that my eyes skipped over it and what should have been, you know, the curtain rising on the supernatural element of this tale, just left me a bit confused and left me to double back.
SlipUp's Tell a Twilight
I could probably critique this story entirely with quotes from the story if I wasn't trying to do this from memory. The main thing I remember is a bunch of anthropomorphized concepts pitching short stories that go nowhere, in a metaplot that goes nowhere, and that I've read this story before. Nothing particularly stood out as offensive, but it earned a low, low score by so many times almost going somewhere, almost, then making the reader feel stupid for believing it would. The last bit about the goats salts that particular wound.
I suggest you read Neil Gaiman's October in the Chair because it's basically this.
Kurona Bright's Waterskiing
I remember the title because 'somebody drowns and there's a waterskiing rescue' is the only thing I remember. That and the opening line, which was a pungent, sensory line of prose right before I was plunged into a story lacking either of those qualities. Repetitive paragraph length, short bits of dialogue without much in the way of characters behind them, a plot that tries to clutch its card close even as the reader suspects there's not actually that much going on behind your efforts to obscure. I have written stories like this myself and it was always because I was short of time and trying to bluff a better tale than I actually had.
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