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Feb 25, 2014
:shittydog: dog week 2: this time, you actually write something :shittydog:

i won and everyone disappointed me last time i won so it's dog week, again. you go to this website and you pick a dog and link it in your sign up post (or you can have me/a cojudge pick a dog). no repeats. your story must include this dog UNLESS you :toxx: . if you do toxx, then u can just be inspired by said dog. if you have a chihuahua, it can be set in mexico, if it's a fluffy white dog, somebody can be fluffy and white, etc. also, no dogs may die as that is illegal.

additional rules: no poetry, no google docs, no erotica, fiction only. also, all dogs are good and this is a very strict rule.

word count: 1000 words
sign ups close friday 11:59 PM PST
submission close sunday 11:59 PM PST


Fleta Mcgurn

people who are going to write words and arent going to fail

Chili :toxx:
kurona_bright :toxx:
Anomalous Blowout
Sitting Here
animist :toxx:
anatomi :toxx:
Flesnolk :toxx:
Simply Simon
Nikaer Drekin
Yoruichi :toxx:

flerp fucked around with this message at 08:12 on Apr 6, 2019


Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
In, flash.

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

Oh and a :toxx:

Mr. Steak
May 9, 2013

by Jeffrey of YOSPOS

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe
Thank you for the crits, antiv, and yoruichi!

Mar 21, 2013
:toxx:, flash, in

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006


It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

In with this good boy.

Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition

In, I guess.

let's use this:

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
oh heck, in

Apr 12, 2006

Chili posted:

:siren: Game Night :siren:

Tuesday 4/2 @ 10:30 (or so) EDT

Jackbox, CAH, whatever y'all want. Got like 4ish people confirmed so far. If you know you'll be around, lemme know via PM 6 or so makes for a good crowd imo.

how tho?

Feb 25, 2014

Thranguy posted:

In, flash.

Aug 7, 2013



The April Fool for ThirdTomi brawl
948 words

Here are his signs; A new moon, the month of april, and a throaty burp. The April Fool is carried in by wine-sour wind, bells and belly bouncing on capering footsteps. He comes on a day when the river is ebbing, the waters a dross-treacle trickling through mazes of discards rising into sight as the river shrinks low, low, between spires of potato peel mortared in fat. The oozing ungent spirit of the waters infects the air and the Fool sucks in a welcome breath and he sighs. Bliss.

The stuff of humanity is on display in that river and he has missed it. Eleven months a year, a prisoner of paradise, and what a relief imperfection is now. The thickness of a streetlight trying to churn through smog. The rattling, phlegmatic brree-ump of sickly frogs.

Today they’ve tried to pretty the streets with flags and flower garlands, but the Fool treasures the bouquet of humanity, the company of flies. It wraps him in a damp embrace of spring wind laced with the hint of the rain, a wealth of the real, the thump-crash-shout of carnival carrying on around him.

There is a festival spirit that lifts, in whooping shouts and strains of music, the spirits of the city. It is a giddiness that says gravity has to let go as long as they spin and whirl and your feet flash over the muck of the streets, only fingers interlocked with another dancer tethering them beneath the blue of the sky.

They don’t notice who walks among them - there are enough cheap jesters wearing his face that night - but they know his name. Everything is sharp and crisp and the sensations of the world don’t run together, like so much cheap paint; they are limned by an invisible color that draws out the others, the ones they see with their eyes, in bursting brightness, the world a ripe fruit.

Here’s his face; wide and wide-smiled and Roman-nosed, with the horns of a goat amidst his curls. Children surround him demanding treats, and he floats above them as a grinning moon, dispensing candies, pretending not to notice the hogtail they’ve pinned to the seat of his britches.

A boot comes swinging at his rear and he lets the momentum of the pratfall carry him out of the world; twist himself just so in the last moment before he hits the ground, and misses, slipping voidways.

He slides through the meat of things, lets the palpitating heartbeat of the world shunt him to where it needs him. Another fair. Another call to his name. A cosmic fart pl-urp-prps him out.

He is everywhere for a day. Lunging with greedy eyes for a purse left on the ground, only for a bit of strings to suddenly snap taut and yank it away to leave him grabbing the dust of the street.

A woman holds her baby up for him to kiss, but as he leans in there’s no child under the frilled bonnet. Only an ugly pup that licks his nose and barks with excitement as he reels back, mock-surprise, his own laugh.

He has, beneath his prow of fat straining the buttons of his shirt, surprisingly delicate legs. He dances out imitations of clumsiness, of wine-sick teetering, with genuine pride. It was hard for him to learn that. To bend perfection to imitate something as interesting as life.

Another step and he’s gone again, smearing a grease of magic where he goes. It’s not an obvious thing. It does not make kings of men. It is most apparent, perhaps, in memory, when all other days begin to fade to grey with the hairs on a man’s head, but one day still lives, sweet and clear, a palace of springtime in a wintered memory. Something not to be remembered but revisited, coming again in dreams.

They pull the insubstantial stuff of magic from him with every trick, every jest. He always falls for them. The Fool is the perpetual butt of the joke, and it wears him thin, spreads his being across a hundred hands. He unravels as he capers among a hundred dances, a thousand laughs.

He stomps and gallops a dance with a lovely thing in his arms, the revels filling a thatch-roofed barn. Just once he glances up, to see the old impish thing hiding in the straw above, its wizened face dissolving into shadows at the edges; the eyes hot and bright with disdain.

It won’t touch them, after this. There are Rules. For his sour-mouthed and beautiful kin, there must always be Rules, or else they’d be called tyrants.

Rules are fine things for tyrants who don’t wish to be called tyrants. A beautiful way of saying, alas, the world is cruel, as if the world wasn’t made. But the old imp won’t curdle the milk here anymore, or snatch up children. That’s the Rule. If man wins against faerie, against the world, they will be left be.

They didn’t think any of their kind would ever play to lose.

The pretty girl is spun into someone’s hands and he slips away again, back to the river.

The wine is hot and dense in his belly, brined star-heat thrumming at the back of his ribs. His extremities are cold clumsy orbits, dark to the senses, his fingers fumbling the lace of his breeches to unleash a golden comet-trail across the night sky reflected in the waters.

He is worn so thin he leaves no reflection of his own. People have had about as much of him as they can take, and the Fool’s moon is sinking. He slips into unbeing.

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

Sorry. For future reference, the hangout link will be posted in both the irc and discord.

We had a great turnout, the call filled up and we hit capacity! Most likely will shoot to put another one together next week, maybe even at the same time since it seemed to work well for so many people. Stay tuned for that.

Aug 28, 2018

:toxx: but just to keep on task, i'm definitely gonna have a dog in the story

Apr 11, 2012
I wanna judge dog week

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.
I am also down to judge.

Feb 25, 2014

Flesnolk posted:

I wanna judge dog week

you failed the last four times you entered. i want you to write. doesnt have to be this week, but still. thunderdome is about writing.

Fleta Mcgurn posted:

I am also down to judge.

welcome aboard

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.
Where is chat these days, Discord?

Jan 31, 2015

Fleta: Discord and IRC.

Dragging my rear end across the carpet.


Aug 7, 2013



oh its crits

Death, of a Sort
You know, I like this. I think Steve is maybe a little off-base, a little too fond of saying the quiet part loud instead of entrenching himself in justifications and innuendo as real people, alas, are wont to do. But I really like the ending and I like the clever little loop back to transporters.

The Undoing of Hannah McAllister
I don’t think you’re getting quite enough out of this flow of consciousness narration, or carrying it well enough, to justify the confusion it adds the narrative. The story itself is a list of petty anxieties, and I know you know that, and I know that’s the joke, and maybe I even cracked a smile at the end -- but the thing about humor stories is they can’t be a boring set-up and a single punchline, they have to justify the whole of their wordcount.

I know these are real words but that doesn’t stop them from feeling like Fantasy No’uns. I do love how stripped down this is, how effectively it repeats the same touches of description through the cycle of the Sekhm’s days. It’s got that to recommend it but it’s just not enough to break it free from being one of those stories that gets a small grin and passes from memory, for me.

Huh. Weird that I found this as enjoyable as I did, honestly, but it’s got a pacing and a crisp kind of prose that would make anything at least readable -- and while maybe’s the protagonist isn’t the most interesting soul on the planet, you do a good job of painting him by inference, by small and quiet details, there’s a humor here that go to me. I could imagine passing this guy on the street and never even knowing it.

It Runs in the Family
There was a line early on, about Andrew being a headache, a thing that’s blurred unless you squint, that pushed me out of this. The best thing about it is the unaffected, stuttering, real way these characters talk, and that was just a little too affected, a little too author-trying-to-do-author-things. Other’n that man, I really do like the end -- the fact that, more than any overt affection, simply being a brother has shaped their lives.

Rough start here, and a rough start is dangerous when your story is supposed to tight and claustrophobic. It took me a little long to settle into that mood, to overcome the initial eye-roll of ‘oh a bad office party’ and start to feel the underlying tension - it’s good once it gets going, and there’s a lot of good little touches that help you paint characters in few words, but, I dunno. For all the time spent in Amanda’s head I didn’t walk away with a good sense of her.

Quiet Room
I can’t give this an even vaguely objective crit because it touches on, gosh, a lot of personal experience, actually, but I love it and reading it hosed me up.

Apr 11, 2012

flerp posted:

you failed the last four times you entered. i want you to write. doesnt have to be this week, but still. thunderdome is about writing.


In, toxx, give dog.


Feb 25, 2014

Flesnolk posted:


In, toxx, give dog.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔
I'm in with the Mastiff

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006


It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

Gonna be dropping some Week 344 Crits as the workday allows:

Staggy - Tulip

There isn’t a lot of crit for me to offer about this one. I mean, it won for a reason. You cram a lot of world and character into a very sparse word count and everything felt like it was sliced from a believable reality that existed beyond the boundaries of your story. Great work! I think more than anything your story nailed the prompt (and also the flash rule). A lot has been said lately about the banality of evil in a thinkpiece sense, but you capture it so well in a fictional sense. Thanks for writing this and I was happy to hand the blood crown to you.

One thing you could work on: There were times when the main character’s voice was a liiiittle wooden. It was forgivable in the context that they were a cog in a military machine and didn’t detract from the story’s believability at all. Very minor quibble, I just try to give one bit of constructive crit per crit.

Sitting Here - Bardo 59

Like most of your work, this was atmospheric and dreamlike in a way I really dug. I love the juxtaposition of modern-day yoga idiots and the relentless, unforgiving apocalyptic wasteland. You do those sorts of contrasts extremely well. The detail and imagery were top notch. I didn’t care at all that you never dwelled on the ‘why’ of the apocalypse because you made it clear from the get-go that the story was focused on the characters. This is a real strength of your writing–you know when you show and when to just let the characters speak for themselves.

One thing to work on: My biggest issue with this piece was also my only issue, really. For such a character focused story, it felt emotionaly removed from the characters. I felt like I was watching their experiences through a wide-angle lens that didn’t ever quite focus sharply enough on their feelings and emotions for me to get a sense of who they were as people. If that’s a stylistic choice that’s totally understandable, but it lent the piece a distance that kept me from wanting to win or HM it.

The Saddest Rhino - UnOfficial Baby Rhinos: The African Kingdom Appreciation Group ? Admin Pinned Post

This is probably the most unique TD entry I’ve ever judged. I love that experimental poo poo. I would have fought with my co-judges to keep this HMed if they’d argued. Part of learning and growing as a writer is taking risks and I love the risks you take here. You stick more of the jokes than you miss. Apart from a few very minor complaints this is a great piece of absurdist horror comedy. Tough to do well. Well done.

One thing to work on: Sometimes you were a liiiiittle too on the nose. This line for example: “A lot of us original watchers have been growing up with the first series and it formed most of our childhoods, and this new show is anything but respecting us fans. It panders to the new kind of audience who wants things like inclusivity and respect for alternative lifestyles.” - that reads a little bit too much like someone critiquing a person with those beliefs rather than a person who believes them, if that makes sense.

crimea - Stars Are Right

It took me a bit to get into this one. The beginning is quite overwrought and dramatic, which isn’t necessarily an issue, but unfortunately you don’t quite give us enough in the beginning to make this character matter to readers, so the epic poo poo doesn’t feel quite as epic and weighty as it could. I really liked the ending and I really liked your protag’s voice. It’s just the right amount of self-important to be believable without being over the top.

One thing to work on: The first couple paragraphs as written and the first-person POV in this particular voice don’t quite work in this story imo. The first paragraph is very passive and gives us little sense of the narrator as a person. They develop a lot more personality later on, but as far as beginnings go, it doesn’t fill me with a rabid hunger to read more. The “I didn’t have a choice” “I didn’t choose” etc make me wonder what this protagonist DID do and what they DID want, rather than why they are focusing on this emotionally-removed and distant series of events with little enthusiasm. It ties together nicely by the end but that was a big hurdle toward getting me to care about your dude.

Bad Seafood - Huòluàn

There was some truly beautiful prose in this one. I loved your interactions between the older and younger generation, the dialogue felt true to life and realistic. The protag is a well thought-out character and you handle the prompt well. Overall this story has a nice flow right up until the ending, where it just sort of… ends without any kind of resolution, leaving the reader feeling like they’ve just read a vignette instead of a story. Still, I reread it because I felt like maybe I missed something, which is a testimony to how strong your prose was.

One thing to work on: Open-ended narratives are tough. I feel like I get what you were going for here but it didn’t quite work, because there isn’t enough hint toward what resolutions may be possible for readers to even dream up their own ending. The story just kind of ends. The final line implies that the old man stays sick and doesn’t go to a healer and also doesn’t permit the boy to be healed–but I feel like there needs to be at least some whisper of an in-story consequence as to what would happen if he did that. As it stands, we may as well end on the note of Bao leaving and saying “k” and nothing more happening, which doesn’t do justice to the nuance and emotion with which you’ve written these interactions up until now.

Flerp - The Moth

This is a sparsely-written tale that I liked more the second time around. I think perhaps I judged it a little unfairly on first read because it’s nicely profound at times and it has a satisfying ending. It just didn’t feel quiiiite on prompt to me–one could argue that the man was exerting his authoritarianism on his wife, but in the end it just felt more like “a couple arguing” and it wasn’t like he was actually forbidding her from doing any of the things she talked about doing. The story really shines in the last four paragraphs, but the journey to get there was kind of flat and not super interesting.

One thing to work on: The dialogue in the middle of this story wasn’t particularly badly written, but the lack of exposition surrounding it made me imagine two people just kind of listlessly arguing with little vigor or interest, and that made it tough to maintain interest. I have a feeling that may have been the note you were going for all along, which is fair enough, but it was a very listless read and I found myself wanting to skim through the couple’s misery rather than wondering more about their inner lives and motivations.

Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012

In, with the good old Saint Bernard!

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006


It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

More Week 344 crits:

Saucy_Rodent - Talamar the Strong

This was a silly little story but silly doesn’t necessarily mean bad. I immediately love the contrast between Talamar’s dialogue and everybody else’s. It strikes a good comedic beat. Funny is hard to do well and you land more of your jokes than not, which is why we ended up HMing the comedy stories this week. You handle the absurd idea of a barbarian playing win-or-die chess that ends the world with just enough of a straight face that it’s amusing rather than stupid.

A thing to work on: Considering what a big deal the chess match was, there wasn’t a lot of tension. It’s breezed through in five lines from opening move to checkmate, and for being such an important part of the story it’s barely granted any attention. It kind of fits with the whole “feeling inconsequential about ending the world” angle but a bit more dramatic tension would have rounded this up into more of an actual story than a funny anecdote with a funny ending.

Benny Profane - The Swineherd Rebellion

I am not a fan of stories that open with big infodumps, and I know that you’re trying to evoke a sense of self-important pomposity with the way this infodump is presented, but it doesn’t quite work. It’s still very hard to slog through. The narrator feels very much like a guy going “this happened, then this happened, then this happened! but i’m telling you about them in a clever way!” and I get that your protag is supposed to be extremely unlikeable but there’s a difference between unlikeable character and character the audience doesn’t enjoy reading. Everything’s very wordy and rambling and trying a little too hard to be funny.

Please don’t ever stop trying to write loathsome characters, they’re a lot of fun. But the audience still has to enjoy reading from their POV.

One thing to work on: I think this story has merit if you told it from the POV of someone who wasn’t one of the authority figures. You could still show off that rambly, intensely self-important dialogue, but by virtue of having the characters speak that way rather than forcing your audience to read a whole piece written in that voice. I almost never say “rewrite an entire story, god drat” but I could see myself liking this tale a lot if written by someone who was in on the poo flinging joke.

Noah - Long Live the King

This is fun space pulp that I enjoyed, except it didn’t quite feel like a complete story. The beginning of the piece is funnier than the rest, to the point of where I was kind of wondering if it was supposed to be humour or not. Tonally a little inconsistent. Still, I enjoyed your overly important space man. Unlike other judges, I liked the abruptness of the ending and I liked the tropeyness of the piece overall. It felt closer to a clever critique of those tropes than a boring derivative work.

One thing to work on: If you’re going for funny, lean all the way into it so I am not at the 75% mark of your story trying to guess whether I’m supposed to be laughing or not.

Sebmojo - Wormfood

I really wanted to like this more than I ended up liking it because the premise is clever and the voices of the main characters are strong. There isn’t much to say about your prose that you don’t already know–you have a real gift for simile and I like how you can paint a picture using few words. Where this piece fell flat for me is that Yarrow figuring out his plan and then jumping the gun on him kind of comes out of nowhere. It feels like all the good tension happens off-screen, you feel me? I reached the end of the story really wanting to know how Yarrow had come to the conclusions she had and what tension had befallen the camp, all of which we never get to know.

One thing to work on: Make sure the most interesting moments happen where the readers can see them.

emgeejay - Dear Leader

This was a great effort for a first-time entrant! There were some stellar lines in this story, and even though it’s written as a press release, it still manages to tell more story than a lot of entries this week, so great job with that. Like Rhino’s piece, some of the jokes were a little too self-aware and a little too on the nose. I feel like you could have cut maybe 15% of the total jokes and the story would have been stronger for it, but the jokes that did work were great and it got genuine out-loud laughter from all the judges.

One thing to work on: Comedy is all about timing. Knowing when to quit with the jokey material and play it serious for juuust long enough will help you tighten up your comedy work a lot. This piece was good, but I think if a few paragraphs had been completely straight-laced it would have been stellar.

apophenium - The Notary

This opening SLAPS, my dude. I was so interested and hooked from the very beginning. Well done. I love John’s perfunctory way of viewing the world. You give him a really unusual personality that reminds me of Michael Douglas’ D-FENS character from Falling Down in a way that sends good work shivers up the spine. I love turns of phrase like “too late he contorted his face into a mask of compassionate sadness.” They say so much about the character. But then the end kind of devolves into this back and forth dialogue that doesn’t have the same strength as the beginning. The ending is also a little ehhh. Myself and another judge were both a little perplexed that a nanny, someone paid to mind a house, would just chuck a package into the recycling.

One thing to work on: The bits of this story that were the strongest–your evocative prose and your punchy sentences that explain so much–almost evaporate toward the end. Changing up the style so that it’s mostly dialogue with little exposition really doesn’t work after your opening spent so much time showing us John’s interactions with the world. It was jarring and kept me from wanting to HM this piece.

Doctor Zero - The Truth Shall Set You Free

A lot of stories this week had sections of back and forth dialogue with no narration around who the voices were or how they were speaking or why they mattered. Opening a story with this is a risky proposition because I’m so fresh into this piece that I have no emotional attachment to Talana yet and I don’t really care that the gods are bickering over her death. Also “a test”? Okay, kinda vague, I kept waiting for the test to be explained later in the piece but unless it was done so with such subtlety I completely missed it, it never really is.

Once Talana starts going on her Roaring Rampage of Revenge, I liked this story a lot more. It really pulled together and your protag’s interactions with Jorren and the highwayman are interesting and fun to read. I almost feel like this story wouldn’t lose a thing if you cut the beginning entirely.

One thing to work on: Think about your opening and how it’s relevant to the rest of the story. Do readers benefit from seeing the Gods’ poorly explained thought processes rather than your text spending some time showing us who Talana was before her resurrection?

Feb 25, 2014
brawl crits


this is good, in the way that it's a solid intro, but when u rly dig into the story, it's rather lacking. not because it doesn't work, it works well enough, but that the story opens up a lot of questions and doesnt resolve rly any of them. why are bees stealing people? why did hugo want to go with the bees? why did bees kidnap/borrow/take other people? what's the dang point of all of this? im not asking for all of these questions to be resolved, but even then, the ending just kinda happens. it's like, welp, they reunited, so that's the end, roll credits. but like, there's so many questions here that this feels mostly incomplete, to be quite honest. it doesnt really resolve and it feels like an introduction to a larger narrative that we dont get to see any of. i dont have much more to say, tbh, just because i think this is technically fine and i could nitpick the hell out of it if i rly wanted to, but there's more here that needs to be explored.

i guess prompt-wise, this was a bit lacking. i dont rly care about the flower shop thing because that's not rly a big deal, but a character who thinks their husband was kidnapped by bees? i dont think thats a happy person. but i dont rly care that much, and you wrote a better story, so hey, grats.


onsetOutsider posted:

Flower shop story
1219 words

It what is this "it?" dont have vague pronouns in your first sentence always starts out with the seed of an idea, which you feed and water do you need feed and water? would water work enough? with your mind until it sprouts into a huge, gorgeous bouquet how is a single seed gonna be a bouquet?. The only difference though, and the reason this metaphor falls apart, is that for ideas you don’t choose whether or not you water them. In that sense, they are more like weeds. Gross, leafy thoughts that you don’t want but they’re in your garden anyway. Yeah, that’s a better analogy. Screw the part about the gorgeous bouquet. i kind of hate this intro, but i think it's more for personal reasons than anything else. i can kind of see what you're doing, subversion, setting up the tone of the story, which is alright. but it's done a bit too hamfisted, too generically. feels kind of played out to have this whole "metaphor but actually this metaphor sucks" kind of intro.

My name is Marcus, but my nametag says Mark why does that matter?. I think the owner Christine misheard me on my first day but at this point it’s been a couple years and I’m too embarrassed to correct her. none of this matters. well i mean it gives a little bit of character, but in the context of the story ur gonna be telling us, this doesnt matter

I’ve been working here part-time while I finish my bachelor’s degree in chemistry telling. It’s actually surprisingly relevant to my field because, you know, working with plants you need to know stuff like the ideal chemical components of the soils for an individual flower or what have you this is very hand wavy nonsense that, ultimately, doesnt need to be in the story. like, this doesnt matter. your character doesnt care about taking care of plants, so this detail is irrelevant. So I’ve been pretty good at my job.

Until a couple months ago, that is. When the new guy showed up. this is probably where you start, btw. most of the details you said in the last couple of paragraph? you weave those details into the story. "embarrased to correct people" -> have a moment where you show ur character being self conscious or awkward. "name is Marcus, nametag says Mark" -> perfect chance to do a setup where the new guy comes in, Marcus introduces himself, and then the new guy is like "but your nametag says Mark" (although personally, i think that detail is mostly irrelevant and probably not necessary in the story at all, but you could at least do it better if u rly wanted it in the story) etc etc.

He was this extremely bro-ey guy who walked into his first shift wearing a varsity lacrosse t-shirt. Lacrosse, the most violent game in the entire history of our country this aside is utterly worthless (and also probably wrong but that might be my water polo bias showing through)! And he was expected to take delicate care of my plants this is disappointing because this mightve been an interesting character trait, but it gets dropped within the story. i mean, this setup is decent enough w/o the prank war. like, you have a delicate chemist who loves his plants and then this guy comes in who's big and scary and then idk he does something rough and the protag is like alright stop let me show u how to be gentle and then oh hey the guy becomes gentler and then hey love blooms and that's not amazing but it's better than prank war because it has two characters with distinct personalities coming in conflict with each other? He was also way younger than me, probably a freshman, so the intimidation I was accustomed to feeling in the presence of jocks was super dulled this intimidation, show it. dont tell us. I didn’t even flinch at his friendly slap on the back when introducing himself. “Luke” apparently. i think it's kind of a bad choice to make ur narrator a bit of a dick. not that i think a narrator needs to always be nice, but in a story like this, i think him being friendlier would work. at least, from the start. like the whole, oh hey, nice to meet you, he seems friendly enough, and then the narrator gets pranked and he's like gahhhhhhhhh i have been betrayed. id be, well, something.

He was all charm and smiles while I trained him that whole afternoon. Deceitful, insidious smiles. It wasn’t until most of the way through our shift that I noticed the small paper taped to the back of my shirt. And do you know what it said? KICK ME. What was he, a second-grader? this sentence is one of those frustrating because you literally know this is incredibly juvenile, but you still decided to write it in! just because you know it's bad and acknowlegde it, doesnt make it not bad. just DONT DO IT And when he saw me freaking out all he did was laugh and smile at me. I may have been the type to take this kind of thing when I was in highschool, but this punk needed to be taught a lesson about respecting his elders. The prank war had begun. this doesnt really make sense. i mean, one, nothing really happened because of the prank? he didnt rly get embarassed or even kicked, so like, why is he so angry? it just feels like a forced escalation because your plot mandated prank war, and well, you just gotta make it happen

The next time Luke and I shared a shift, I pretended not to know about his little joke how? didnt he see you freaking out about it? he literally knew. I just gave him my best customer-service attitude and showed him how to do some daily chores in the back. I couldn’t tell if he bought my facade, but he was obedient and didn’t try anything funny. Perfect.

He suspected nothing when I directed him to sit in the comfiest break-room chair. Little did he know, I had placed a whoopie cushion there. this like, the second lamest prank, after a kick me sign. you have a chemist, you have a flower shop, and your best idea is a whoopie cushion? come the gently caress on Ha, I’m a genius this line is so undeserved even if it's ironic! I was watching his face with excitement when he sat, and for a second his face was priceless, just this dumbfounded surprised look. But then, when he realized what I’d done, he just laughed and patted my shoulder. “Good one, man,” he said, and my heart skipped a beat. Why did I feel like he had completely turned the prank around on me? This was supposed to feel more empowering! I knew I had to go all out next time. this is actually kind of an alright escalation, in that is is kind of unexpected. like, it isn't necessarily forced. the character wanted a bigger reaction and then oh hey he didnt get it and that forced him to escalate. that's kinda alright.


Just after closing, when we had about an hour by ourselves to clean the store, I put my plan into motion. The most elaborate prank yet, which was sure to end this war once and for all. I felt downright evil, dastardly even, as I hid in the broom closet and waited with the most gloriously sinister intentions. It took all I had not to outwardly cackle in anticipation. this paragraph is awful and should be cut and expunged from this world

I heard him approaching. The time was nigh! this little aside are really bad. i understand theyre trying to help with the tone, but they mess with the pacing and just are painful to read. theyre trying way too hard to be cocky and funny. and nothing's worse than somebody trying too hard to be funny. I heard him turn the doorknob and readied my throwing arm. As soon as the light hit my face, I chucked my stinkbomb I’d spent all night synthesizing in the lab, directly into his chest, staining the entire front of his shirt. this is so anti-climatic when u look at the paragraph before this. i did this dastardly plan that would win this prank war and it was a......... stinkbomb? really? that's your loving masterplan? christ At that moment, all of the villainous energy I’d been holding in since the previous night came pouring out. “Mwahahaha! Witness the glory of Sir Stinky the Smell-nifiscent!” well, this callback is really bad and i hate it, but also, wow this dialogue is really bad and i hate this

Luke took a couple steps back, clearly struck speechless, then making a face as the smell him tsk tsk him. Yes! Finally I’d won!

Once he’d recognized that it was I who had conceived his demise ugh i hate this language use so much. villain language, even used ironically, is just, it's not funny. it's not good. stop. , he said “Dude, gross. What is this?” with one of his trademark smiles. It didn’t matter though. I already knew he would take it in stride. He was still irreversibly smelly, so my prank still worked.

Luke lifted the hem of his shirt to his nose to take a closer sniff, then visibly recoiled from the smell. Then he made a face exaggeratedly holding his breath, pulled the shirt off over his head, and threw into one of the sinks. I was not expecting him to do that! SHOW DONT TELL I had been watching and revelling in my success but now I didn’t know where to look because it was weird to stare at another man disrobing, right? I probably wouldn’t have given it much thought if he was ugly or something, but...

I glanced awkwardly at the floor for a second, but by the time I looked up again Luke had come all the way back to the closet, turning essentially my entire field of vision into unavoidably checking him out, and simultaneously blocking my exit. I pressed back as far as I could in the already cramped closet and that’s when Luke reached up for cleaning supplies as if I wasn’t even there, leaning in so far that his freaking hairless lacrosse abs were... What? Stop! Why was Luke such a goddamn pranking master? this is frustrating, in that sense that then this becomes the cliche "omg he's so cute" kind of rom com moment that has become so cliche that even the most generic of rom coms will try to subvert this idea. but you play it 100% straight and i just, i cant. it's terrible.

In a last ditch attempt at gaining ground, I grabbed a mop and used the soft end to shove Luke away from the closet. He actually fell all the way over onto the floor, and I took a moment to be surprised at my own strength, but then I dashed out before he could recover.

As soon as I did, however, Luke stuck his leg up exactly so that I tripped very hard directly on top of him. I also just so happened to catch myself with my face like 0.005 inches from his face. like, man, this is just the most cliche nonsense possible LOL At this point I was quite frustrated with myself for getting so flustered, like why did this guy have so much power over me and why in the hell was my face so hot? After a moment of my brain short-circuiting, I leaned back frantically.

But Luke’s biggest prank wasn’t over yet. He leaned up like he’d probably done a thousand times at the gym doing situps, and planted a big one right on my lips. Okay listen, how can a human possibly be this smooth? god u somehow made ur college senior into a loving twelve year old girl I immediately panicked and tripped over myself, sprawling on the floor. there's a larger problem with this ending though. it's that, well, there's no actual real sexual or romantic tension between the two until basically you decide "time for the rom com end." like, this is so forced it's really annoying and bad

“Okay, you win,” Luke said, standing up.

“What?” I said.

“You’re prank proof,” he said. “No matter what stunts I pulled just now, all it did was make you even cuter. Hell, it was like I was pranking myself instead.”

“Buhh, what? You’re still pranking me with this, right?”

“Heh, maybe. Do you want to go out to dinner and see how long I can pull it off? Look, it’s literally sunset right now.”

“Um." this is an action so the dialogue should end in a period. He kissed me before I could respond.

so yeah, this story technically has the pieces of a story. it has characters that sort of have motivations, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, there's a conflict. but like, when u look at all the pieces, none of it matters. none of the characters are interesting or even close to having any depth, the narrative is basically forced while also being cliched as hell, and the conflict is resolved just kind of randomly by making it "oh they actually liked each other the whole time even though there was indication of that at all."

Jun 28, 2018

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

You must suffer.

A lot.
In for this week because dogs.

Jun 28, 2018

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

You must suffer.

A lot.
CCCXXXVIII Places of Power Crits

“Last Night” by Saucy_Rodent

I would encourage the first section to be significantly truncated – Surya doesn’t add much to the story and could have been written out on a work trip. I appreciate what you are trying to do with the dialogue to set the scene, but many parents wouldn’t bring up a pending natural disaster on the moon with their child before bed. It weakens believability of the characters. The dialogue portion about how the moon residents will run out of air has it’s stakes cheapened by being at a child explanation level. It may have set up better as a post-child asleep reflection with a glass of whiskey in one hand.

Side Note - The most unbelievable thing in this story is a parent exists who would be cool with their child waking them up after drinking enough whiskey to necessitate being carried up the stairs. There is no game in existence that would ‘sound fun’ if my kid woke me up.

There’s a bit too much reliance on the song lyrics in the middle portion to ‘set’ the tone.

“Our visitor, it seems, had left” – is distracting. Combined with the repetition of “Nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah..” and ‘all of shadow’ are lost opportunities for more impactful words. You lost about a sentence or two of description that would have fleshed out this scene and made it stronger.

I like the premise of moon colonies dying off and being observed from earth but the idea of a childhood home holding power isn’t strongly tied to the death of moon colonies. I do see that you mentioned how important the old music is to the protagonists though, and that could count as a ‘visit’ to the power that this home holds/a way to maintain the power of the memories in the home. It feels like the story wants to be about moon colony death but we added a ghost in it so it could become a ‘place of power’ story.


“Carhenge” by Rad-daddio

Your build is excellent. Honestly, I’m invested in this 1978 Trans Am by the 5th paragraph when you introduce it. I know why the character is here, and what he’s waiting for. The first sentence is a little clunky – I think you’re trying to emphasize the sensation of loneliness but it’s a bit long. ‘Isolation that befalls someone who was just seeing their world’ is wordy and doesn’t match the rest of the story’s tone. There’s a lot packed into the first two paragraphs that sets the stage – we know why Zeke is there, but not necessarily what he’s planning to do, which keeps the reader invested.

There’s nothing about this story that is exceptional or interesting. The table of judges concluded it feels like a made-for-Disney-Channel movie. I’m fine with that, to be honest. It is tight enough in terms of what happens, what background we are given and balancing dialogue and description to be neither remarkable nor terrible. It also fleshes out the assigned Flash Rule theme. I ranked this one higher than the other judges because it was clean and easy to read.


“Somewhere Else” by vannevar

The setting is solid, but the tone is so conversational I got distracted a few times. ‘That seemed like a dumb thing for people who were supposedly so smart’ and ‘Everyone’s heard about their little monster movie marathon after the last plane leaves’ are wordy without adding a lot to the characterization. In fact, they confused me a bit. Does the POV think he’s smarter than the other folks there? Or stupid for going? There isn’t quite enough context for me to figure out what a ‘beaker’ is and if the POV thinks they are also one. The characterization suffers some consistency issues due to how conversational the account is, which I think impacts the audience’s ability to relate to them

There’s also a bit more in the first half than there needs to be. ‘unload the planes – in summer months only-’, ‘Like you’re going to make it into the office to celebrate […]’ are just examples of sentences that would not have been missed. The 150lb weight limit, the description of streaking in 100 below and the comparison to astronauts in space is strong.

There isn’t a plot here. The tone is consistent though and I think it could be a valuable part of a larger piece. I particularly like the theme of the ending. I struggle with this story because it definitely captures the ‘feeling satisfied on a level they cannot truly describe, and profoundly dissatisfied on a level beneath that.’ Portion of the prompt. However, I am unsure what drew the character to Antarctica in the first place or what the stakes are – what do they lose by being unable to change the stars?

Compared to some of the other stories that had very tight narratives and rising/falling actions though, this story placed low for me.


“A Good Friend, a Guardian Angel” by Simply Simon

I want to like this story from the beginning because I’ve been on a drat near two month binge of the show ‘Lucifer’

However, this story suffers from Fantasy Key Words. Instead of focusing on developing the characters/setting, you assume since the audience knows what an angel is that we are invested in these weird character names and can keep up with their pell-mell escape from an undead army’s advances.

Showing through dialogue is great, but not when the audience feels like they are going to be quizzed later on what a ‘papal capitol’ or ‘being enraptured’ is. I still don’t know why Astor and Peroxi are ‘common people with ideas way above their station.’ There also isn’t enough characterization in either of them for me to follow the banter, which weakens how the banter characterizes them and builds to their short struggle over the Focal.

Who am I rooting for? The skeleton army at this point, I guess?

The choice to swap between a local ‘angel-cursed’ curse and ‘loving’ is a bit clunky. You get to choose one and since there are biblical references, I’d go with weird curses in your pseudo-fantasy setting and find a different way to add emphasis than using the word ‘loving.’

There’s a lot more that could have been done here – speaking as someone who has physically exerted themselves long enough to collapse. Shaking knees, ragged breathing, and the weird cold feeling that happens when adrenaline is finally spent. Any of these details would have characterized Peroxi more and added stakes. As it is, they’re just chilling while a skeleton army rolls up to kill them.

Like why hasn’t Peroxi just killed his weird friend and left his dead body with the focal? Problem solved.

If Peroxi can still bolt upright, the last of his strength didn’t leave him. Same with being able to run away.

I dunno man, Astor wins for being a pious dick and Peroxi gets vaporized? I wish the skeletons had won.

The tie to the prompt is weak – the nod to the ordinary becoming extraordinary is legit just describing the location as a ‘random clearing.’ There’s too much background noise for the location to matter – it just happens to be a location the characters needed to move the plot forward, not a central theme of the plot itself. We also have no idea why it matters to the Focal point – none of that was built out. These dudes basically collapsed in the a clearing somewhere, pulverized a skeleton army because ‘angels’ and then one of them peaced out.

For a reference – I still have no idea how Astor Reines and Peroxi Ornando are ‘two common people with ideas way above their station.’ This is the idea that you could have spent a lot more time on instead of moving two characters through a ton of action. Create stakes that explain why Peroxi doesn’t kill and abandon his friend with the focal, and what is really lost when Astor decides to invoke a being that vaporizes his friend but seems totally okay with that loss.


“Isla de las Muñecas” by Pham Nuwen

I read the title. I whisper a prayer, ‘Please don’t gently caress this up.’

And you didn’t. Yay!

The tone is a passive – a lot of exposition and not a lot of action, but it’s consistent. I think the story could have built a bit more with different diction choices. ‘One day’ and ‘finally’ chop up the flow of this otherwise creepy story of a kid losing track of time because he’s becoming slowly obsessed with repairing dolls.

‘As soon as he stepped into the canoe he felt a great sadness’ could be enriched by communicating the depth of the feeling - ‘as soon as he stepped into the canoe, a weight settled in his chest. As he paddled to the opposite shore, it weighed heavier and heavier until his cheeks were covered in tears.’ I want a more visceral connection to the character besides ‘sadness’ and tears, but perhaps the removed perspective was purposeful to make the slow devolving into doll-making madness cleanly show.

I think that the overall story has nice structure and enough action to keep the reader invested without dialogue, which can be hard. I like the concept that as he fixes these dolls, he gains calm and control despite the fact that he’s descending into madness, but ultimately gains control over death itself. Even if that wasn’t the intention when you were writing, you left me with a story I could interpret personally and enjoy, which shows a lot of depth for about 1,200 words.


“Come and Thou Shall Have They Come-Cup-Ance” by SlipUp

I don’t know what happened but I support it.

There’s nothing particularly bad about this story – the tone is consistent, fun, and the story is quaint.

There’s also nothing really great about the story either. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, there are no stakes, and it’s neither the prompt you were given or a ‘place of power’.

However, I really like coffee mugs so I’m a big supporter of the King of Cups.

I will state for the record that we HM’d this story because the other stories were very polarizing. There were better stories, but this one made us all laugh.

It may have been laughing out of sheer exasperation and exhaustion, but we still laughed.


“what madness are mountains to an imprisoned moon?” By Tyrannosaurus

Okay read your first paragraph out loud. “It was ultimately decided by someone, I don't know who, a judge, I guess, that five siblings shouldn't be split up in the foster care system so we were shipped off to our only living relative in the middle of nowhere Wyoming.”

This line is long, disjointed and doesn’t match the terse framing of the other next threes sentences. Break it up a bit. You create the right tone in the next paragraph with the ‘No one asked me to specify which one. I’m not sure I could if I tried. I’m not sure I could even find it again.’ Give the first paragraph the same flavor by fixing that sentence.

Aaaaaaaand you got me. The coin stacking and the word for ‘the nonsense’ is wonderful. Now I’m invested. I understand the stakes and I want these kids to get out. You have set this house up so well in 625 words. Bravo for structure.

The dialogue at the end is a little clunky – I would have removed some of the ‘alsos’ as it makes the situation seem humorous/conversational and they’re about to burn alive their aunt Agnes. It seems a little inconsistent with the rest of the ending.

Our main character is strong – I don’t particularly know who the other characters are besides Agnes, but the narration is enough to carry the story without having to know all the details. The concept of the Nonsense really made this a winning story for me, but it struggles from tone changing suddenly and a lack of characterization in the other siblings. The ending feels rushed and contrived to finish quickly. I think this story could do well if you fleshed it out more and polished it. It is very unique and there are pieces of it that balance horror with humor.


“Bear Witness” by Thranguy

I honestly shouldn’t like this story, but I do. The main character is the place, which I couldn’t ask for a better interpretation of the prompt. This is a difficult story to execute, and you decided to do so in elevated language which is equally risky. The execution struggles in a few places from being verbose – for example I re-read the first paragraph four times. I wanted the initial two sentences to better mirror one another, and the cadence of the second is too out of sync to do so.

I enjoyed it more on my second and third read throughs because I knew what to expect, so I believe re-working the first paragraph to better establish the reader’s footing before introducing the individual stories would help this story significantly. Move the line introducing the infant down, and focus on what the stones have seen with that space instead. Then when we enter the stories, we know we’re seeing a series of flashbacks and not supposed to be connecting the infant’s story with the King’s story, and so forth.

A few of the judges felt that the last line was a weak attempt to connect stories that were not otherwise connected, and would have preferred to see more continuity. I’m a sucker for the final line though because thematically that is one of my favorites. Perhaps it acted as a final plea to the judges, and kept me from nitpicking the structural issues and overall flow.


“fortune cookies are bullshit anyways” by flerp

‘most scared to see again’ is a weak word choice in the opening paragraph, especially considering it follows a ‘haunted by the truth’ cliché. Considering how short this first paragraph is, it should carry more impact.

The setting immediately takes shape though. I can understand that this is a place of power and that there’s a ‘draw’ that brings ordinary people back to something that seems unremarkable to receive something fantastical in exchange. This is accomplished with relatively little flair in a concise way that characterizes the mother, so bravo.

There’s no reason for ‘And I stared at the table and traced the floral tablecloth pattern with my fingers’ with the word ‘And’. While I don’t prescribe to general rules such as ‘don’t begin a sentence with a conjunction’, I don’t think doing so adds anything in this case. The same lack of polish is in the next paragraph ‘however many years back.’ ‘However’ could be eliminated if you change ‘many years back’ to ‘many years ago.’ Similarly, you could cut some ‘that’s out of here and save yourself a few words.

I like the setting you built, the characterization on the mother is good, but the ending feels like a zinger instead of an impactful conclusion we can understand from previously characterization of the POV.


“Froggy Went A-Portin'” by QM Haversham

I’m going to be straight with you, I cooed ‘Oh this is a clever way to do this’ when I realized what your prompt was and the direction you were going with it. Unfortunately, the execution is sloppy and jumps around too much for me to feel any connection to the stakes of the characters.

There’s some typos in the story (‘couldn’t been seen’, for example) and there’s a really odd tense shift in the middle where you go from present for the first part of the story to past for a few paragraphs, which doesn’t set you up well for the transformational paragraph where ‘pull’ is used in every sentence. Alternate word choice to create a bigger impact when possible, or cut out the descriptive sentence. The lack of proofing becomes more evident as the story continues.

I honestly think the ending falls flat – I want to know why this vacation matters to Ben. Why living this dream of being a water-bound amphibian matters so much to him, what the cost is to engage in it, and experience the fear and trauma from his perspective. The perspective shifts are rapid and don’t carry much weight – I don’t care about Annie or the travel agency and all the value added in the first section is lost/cheapened by trying to tie up the ending with a bow.

Stick with the frogman. It was stronger.


“The Cadillac Man” by Devorum

I don’t understand this story.

Native American Medicine Man with a drum is an overused and weak trope that borders on racist. You double down on the racism by making the characters racist.

The white kids take inspiration from the brown elder’s efforts.

Then one of them is disrespectful.

And nothing happens to him.

Coyote would have kicked these kid’s asses.

I suppose structurally there’s nothing wrong with this story, but it leans hard on racist stereotypes and doesn’t do anything to redeem itself for that laziness. This entire store could have been a quarter of the length and then had the actual focus of the story being coyote wrecking these white teenagers instead of inspiring them.

Even without the weird racist tropes, the focus is oddly balanced in this story and there’s no poetic justice to be had. If that was the point, then it’s lacking the tone of a ‘nothing matters’ piece due to how beautifully described the art and inspiration is.


“The Burden of Faith” by Bad Seafood

This is an interesting story that captured a few of our judges, but suffered from a disjointed feeling that didn’t contribute to the overall narrative.

It’s really evident in the second paragraph. ‘She wore her brother’s jacket and her hair cut short. Her hair was a vibrant bubblegum blue. No real reason. She just liked the color. If you didn’t like it, you could go to Hell.’ The short sentences combined with the jump out of a removed narrative set this up to feel a bit immature, which could have worked if that was the only ‘flavor’ that we added. Unfortunately, we start sprinkling in flashbacks.

It’s like combining meat and fruit in a dish – it works sometimes but probably needed longer to simmer. In this short of a piece, it made it feel chaotic and it was hard to track where the dialogue was coming from. Added to that many of the descriptions used to build the character reference a dog or a brother or a car shop, but we have only glimpses of them. They are effective glimpses, but set within the short sentence structure and interspersed flashback dialogue, they add to the disjointed feel of the piece.

This piece really pulls it together towards the end. The descriptions are incredible. Even without seeing pictures of the mountain, I can envision it and the word choices bring together the ethereal beauty of human faith while keeping that strained feeling of being separated from the divine - examples - ‘birthday cake fallen from heaven’, ‘technicolor terraces covered in prayers’, ‘thirty years of love […]’, ‘sun broke over the edge of the world’.

I think there’s a lot in this story that a bit more time and a higher word count could bring out. Stories about faith that aren’t contrived or tropes can be hard to find, and this one could definitely hit that mark with a bit more time.


“Undeath of the Author” by Dolash
I don’t know that this story particularly fits the week’s theme but it was a fun romp and took the idea of a dangerous road in a different direction. The humor in the dialogue at the beginning made me chuckle. It had good timing and formatting, which I point out because humor can be difficult to manage, especially when you place it in a campy D&D setting.

I can’t say that the story falls apart at the flare gun because I’m not sure it was super cohesive to begin with. The action is well timed, the pacing with dialogue is good – sure it should be a 30 minute television show, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t like the pacing shift at the *** break, I want to see the full effect of the woman’s work in its seemingly dark magic glory. As it stands, we cut to a woman squatting in the dirt suddenly and add air ships, but they are air ships harvesting mystical energy on a ley line.

I don’t hate this story. I honestly found it fun on my second read-through for critique, and nothing jumps out at me as particularly problematic in its structure and technicalities except that sudden pacing shift. I’m sure there is a very specific short-story competition out there that it would do well in with a longer word count to smooth out that transition and a bit more time to add more action balancing against the dialogue/humor. As it stands, it’s heavy in dialogue/humor and there’s not much meat to it besides that.


“Gone to Waste” by Sebmojo

I personally liked making a podcast endorsed mattress a place of power. The other judges were less impressed, but the novelty of the place of power gave me a chuckle.

There’s a lot of BEEPing in this story. It doesn’t work effectively for your word count, especially contrasted against ‘trivial bother’, ‘impossible beauty’ and ‘languorous’. The beeping is repetitive and I assume intended to be discordant and sudden. The other word choices are elevated.

The second paragraph struggles similarly– ‘came to realize, somehow’ and ‘couldn’t get himself together’ are wordy and conversational. This continues in the following paragraphs too with ‘nearly, very nearly.’ The other word choices aren’t particularly conversational so these ‘breaks’ from elevated diction jar me out of the story and wonder if you read the story out loud before submission.

The whole story suffers from this weird casual discussion and dialogue contrasted against an elevated word choice like ‘entreaties’ and ‘mid-life anomaly.’ I think this is supposed to be a funny story, but there isn’t much humor in it. It makes a few attempts but those fall flat, so it falls back on attempting to be a well-constructed story with elevated diction.

Go all in – write a funny story about a mattress that grants eternal life or write a story about the crushing lack of meaning in life where even the fantastical eventually wears out. Trying to do both doesn’t come together well.


“High on Idiot Hill” by sebmojo

This is a pretty story. It has strong structure, which can be hard in a ‘one-shot’ that doesn’t introduce any *** breaks or assumed gaps in time to move it along. It’s a single look into one person’s connection to the land with a suggestion of the fantastical at the edges. I also appreciate the unique take on the ‘place.’ I wasn’t expecting an origin story, but I really enjoyed it.

The emphasis on Oregon imagery is succinct but strong – the time that’s taken to examine the dirt, talk about the soil after a rain, and a passing nod to larch saplings set the scene without leaning too much on the ‘place’ to move the story.

How well established the imagery is makes the dialogue feel weak towards the end. This well constructed nod to the Faerie through things you can see out of the corner of your eyes and what lives under the hills is fantastic because you took time to build the feeling through dialogue without expressly saying it. I think it falters at the ‘What, like walking tours? It’s just a hill, Roger?’ because the whole story ends on this note of – ‘Don’t know, we will find out.’

I think it’s been established that they both want to share that feeling of almost seeing something that doesn’t exist, that there’s a power in cultivating that in a place, but the sentiment falls flat at the very end with the equivalent of a shrug. You almost pull it together with the bells imagery, but I think the dialogue could’ve used a bit less of a casual ‘don’t know’ and a bit more of ‘don’t know, but maybe it’s the kind of thing you can’t know?’

He is literally licking dirt to get closer to this place at the beginning and I could feel the weight of the earth under their feet with all the ‘unknowing’ it holds. I would’ve liked some kind of tie back into the ‘there’s a lot of ground beneath us, and it knows more than we’ll ever know’ at the end.

Feb 25, 2014

Lippincott posted:

In for this week because dogs.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

In :toxx: golden retriever

Apr 12, 2006

Feb 25, 2014
sign ups closed please write words for me!

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006


It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

S’more Week 344 crits.

Thranguy - The Sounds of Hammers on Glass, Played in a Minor Key

I loved this story right up until the ending. The disjointed somewhat janky rhyming scheme worked with me and you cram a lot of worldbuilding very deftly into a short piece. Both your characters are different and well-defined and there’s a clear plot with structure that builds nicely toward the… complete nothingburger of an ending. What even was that, Thrang. You can do better than that. “Ah well just let her go” and a mystic hand-wave that it’ll all work itself out doesn’t really fit the driven, fanatical way you have written these characters and it’s also just so lazy. Doubly so considering you weren’t anywhere near the word limit.

One thing to work on: I mean, I’ve seen you write way better endings than this. I am assuming you just ran out of time or motivation or some poo poo. This would have been at least an HM from me if not for that sad scab of an ending.

SlipUp - Destroyer of Worlds

I liked this story more than the other judges did. Possibly just the classics reader in me. I think you’ve captured the vocabulary of Roman era translations well and I found your MC endearingly pompous. Your use of dramatic imagery is confined to a few nicely meaningful and impactful moments so I can tell you’ve got some skill with prose, but the structure of this one was a little messy. It’s a vignette more than a story really. Something does happen, but for such a big planet-shattering (literally) finale, the last three paragraphs feel pretty flat and they don’t really carry the same oomph as the rest of the piece.

One thing to work on: I think rather than starting off with a lot of exposition and monologue, what might have helped this piece and boosted it to higher echelons would have been some hints in the beginning that we’re building up to zap a planet with a big laser. Every character involved knows it’s gonna happen, so a bit of foreshadowing would have helped lend the finale some momentum. Also I would have liked to hear more about your MC’s motivations for doing this. There’s some vague hints but he’s never really explicit about it despite the whole piece being from his POV.

Viscardus - I Have Seen the Light and It Is Beautiful

This isn’t bad but it isn’t great. Your interactions between the POV character and the people holding them hostage are well-written and nicely unpredictable. There’s a real sense of tension that develops about 1/3 of the way in. But the problem is that it takes that long for me to get a sense of what’s going on.

One thing to work on: Opening a piece with the POV character being disoriented and confused is a risky proposition because it creates an immediate emotional distance. I don’t know who this person is. I don’t know what is happening to them. Therefore I don’t know how much I even care. And you don’t do a great job of explaining it further on into the piece. There’s a lot you can nicely fill in with “they took me on the road” and lines like that, but I think those lines need to come much earlier in order to build empathy for your protagonist.

Joda - Hands of Fate

First off, this really needed a proofread. The inconsistent formatting made it tough to read. Your prose on its own isn’t bad though. The beginning is solid and sets up a good conflict and characters that have opposing goals–nice. The action is concise and made me want to find out what happens next. Unfortunately I think you came up against the wordcount limit because Leila’s change of heart and the last two paragraphs feel very rushed. The ending feels unearned. When you’re writing a big change like that, it can’t just come out of nowhere and have no seeds sown beforehand. While I suppose that does happen in real life sometimes, it makes for very weak storytelling. “I read a book and decided my entire sacreligious crusade was a lie” just doesn’t work.

One thing to work on: If you wanted to improve the ending, you could spend more time dwelling on how the book changes Leila’s point of view and give some more specific examples from her life. Or you could show a scene or two that has her questioning her usual method of doing things. They are small choices but they’d really help to sell the ending, and if you’d put a bit more of her transition into the piece this would have been a great little story.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

1000 words

On the day that Jen told Geoffrey Wollerston she was leaving him, all the cars in the city turned into spiders. They scuttled up the buildings and wove webs made of metal bars like Fibonacci scaffolding. Geometric shadows patterned the empty roads.

Geoff was in his office with the door locked and Jen’s returned ring clenched in his fist, trying not to cry. A sob escaped his clenched teeth, and he dug the diamond’s sharp edge harder into his palm. His Audi coupe scurried over the window, its rearmost legs spinning tubular steel.

“Go away!” Geoff shouted. He grabbed his car keys from his desk and hurled them at the window. The startled Audi skittered out of sight. Geoff stood, yanked his suit jacket from the back of his chair and knuckled the tears from his checks. He exhaled, slow and controlled, through his nose. Better.

A bus-spider hung above its stop on Lambton Quay, doors hissing open and shut. Geoff strode across the empty asphalt without looking left or right. The warm air of the Old Bailey greeted him like a lover’s sour morning breath. There was no one behind the bar. Geoff looked around. There was no one in the pub at all. He leant over the bar, knocking laminated menus onto the floor, and wrapped his lips around the tap. Beer frothed over his face and he choked and coughed.

Outside the Old Bailey a ladder of scaffolding hung down to the pavement like an outstretched palm. Geoff pictured Jen's face, set like stone when he'd slammed their front door behind himself that morning. He couldn’t face going home. A movement in the darkness above him caught his eye. Bloody Audi, he thought, and hauled himself onto the ladder’s lower rungs.

Above the pub’s stone facade the web expanded to encase a glass and steel high rise. Geoff’s palms sweated despite the cold. His forearms began to tremble and he looked down, trying to work out how to descend. Eight articulated legs clanked against the geometric steel. The spider’s headlights burst on and Geoff threw up one arm to shield his eyes. It rushed towards him, making the scaffolding shake. Geoff’s grip failed and he fell -

The spider swung below him, rear door open, and Geoff thudded into the familiar upholstery of Jen’s ‘94 Hilux Surf. It climbed straight up, so that Geoff slid head-first into the boot, the contents of Jen’s back seat raining down around him. Well-worn walking shoes, a raincoat, the torch she insisted on carrying in case of emergencies, and a brand-new puppy collar. Jen had always wanted a dog, but Geoff had refused, insisting that he was too busy.

Through the rear windscreen Geoff saw Lambton Quay retreat. The Hilux reached the top, righted itself, then leapt for the next building. Geoff gripped the back seat and braced himself with his legs as the rusty maroon spider swung and clattered across the webs.

Other vehicles moved through the cocooned city. Geoff saw people inside, palms pressed against windows and mouths open, shouting; but the spiders moved too quickly for Geoff to make out what they were saying. With a shudder of fear he realised he had no idea if Jen was safe.

He climbed over the seats and thumped the dashboard. “Take me home, Max,” he said. That’s what Jen called it. She had always given weird things names.

The Hilux clanked down and crossed Willis Street. It latched onto the side of the Majestic Center and began to climb.

“No, Max, stop! I have to get home! Where are you going?” Geoff said.

The Hilux climbed faster and the street began to drop away below them. Geoff yanked the door handle, forced the resisting door open with his legs and thrust himself out into the cold air. For a moment he hung, legs flailing in sickening nothingness, then a metal bar smacked him in the chest. He grabbed at it, wrapped his legs around the bars and clung, shaking. The Hilux skittered back and forth below him, blinding him with its headlights and preventing any descent.

Geoff climbed. He’d tell her they could get a dog. He’d stop spending every night at the Old Bailey. He’d retire early. Anything. Just as long as she was ok. The scaffolding grew denser the higher he got, until he had to squeeze his belly between the bars. The web vibrated with the clicking and scuttling of the spiders.

Geoff reached the rooftop and sprawled, panting, on the cold concrete. He looked over the edge for an upthrust maroon bonnet, but Max was gone.

“Geoff?” said Jen. Her greying hair danced around her face in the wind and her hands were thrust into the pockets of her parka.

Geoff climbed to his feet on shaking knees. “Thank god you’re safe.” He moved to embrace her, but she took a firm step backwards.

His arms dropped to his sides. Jen’s wedding ring was still in his pocket. He pulled it out and thrust it at her.

“Here!” he said. “At least keep this. It’s yours.”

Max crept over the lip of the roof and began to strip the metal casing from an air conditioning unit with his pedipalps. Behind him, supported by the entrance to the stairwell, was a half-constructed orb made of densely interwoven bars.

Jen slowly opened her palm, and let Geoff drop the ring onto it. “Maybe I’ll give it to Max,” she said, with a look over her shoulder. “He can use it in his nest.”

Geoff laughed, a deep belly rumble that felt like the release of years of tension.

“What are you going to name your puppy?” he asked.

“I don’t know.” Jen said. “Max?”

“Can I come meet him?” Geoff said, his voice cracking.

There was a long pause. “Maybe,” she said.

The moon was rising, full and yellow, over the gossamer city. Geoff watched as the spreading webs turned silver in the moonlight, blurry through his tears.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔
Druid Tutorial
1000/1000 words

Three weeks after the power cut event in the Game, the graphics of simulated Real Life London are still transfixing me.

I force myself to turn from my apartment megacomplex’ window overlooking the dormant city. I really need to look for the main quest. So far, I’ve completed “extraction from virtual reality chair”, “gain limb strength by minor exercise”, “fill hunger meter from broken food dispensers” and other assorted tutorials. But this surprise update to a new engine that makes the Game almost look like long-forgotten RL, loading transitions masked by a painful waking up process, cannot just be graphical – there must be a story to this.

I wander through hallways, looking for a quest marker, when I hear a sound cue: high-pitched whining. I hope this is not an encounter I’ll need a weapon for, but if it kills me, I’ll just respawn.

Following the noise to a hallway crossing, well-rendered defunct fountain in the middle, I finally see human models! A party of three, at a glance: a Rogue, a Barbarian, a…Paladin perhaps, cornering a monster. Players, then! If I can join them before the kill, I’ll share the experience points! The Rogue has a dagger modeled after a sharp-looking kitchen knife, +2 at least. He lowers it in surprise as I greet them. The party leader, clad in what looks like machine paneling, turns around and I see that he is actually holding the monster up. It is tiny, a pitiful thing, probably the lowest level of its creature type. I could hit its wrinkly face with fists, deliver critical damage and throw the smooth-furred body flying. An early-game enemy, worth a sigh of relief.

“A player, huh”, the leader says. “What’s your class?”

“I don’t know”, I admit. “Still confused by the new scenario.”

“We’ll fix that”, he says and hands me the monster. Will my defense stat be high enough to protect me from attack? But the thing seems stuck in a fear animation, trembling, panting, whining.

“Kill it, and you should level up. Then I’ll give you a class and you can join my party.”

“You give out classes?”, I ask while studying the fascinatingly detailed enemy model I’m holding. It gives off warmth, breath, moisture; remarkable.

“Yeah, I’m an Admin.” From the small dog’s shining eyes half hidden under skin folds, mine snap to the hard-edged ones across from me. “I’m thinking of making you a Priest. We could use a healslut.”

“Carry healing spray and bandages!” A snicker from the Rogue.

Joining an Admin’s party would be an incredible start for this new content. I force myself to shove the slur aside think about the possibilities. All I have to do is kill one monster.

I realize that I am stroking a back so soft. I never deliberately input this - has my hand bugged out?
The puppy’s fear animation has stopped.

“I think this is not worth much points. Rather look for something bigger”, I say.

“If the kill experience is not enough, the strength boost from the meat will be.”

“Delicious dog steak !” The Barbarian stomps his club down, a pipe broken from a food dispenser. At max +1, if even.

The puppy has started to lick my hand, and my skin feels wet and warm but cooling quickly, until the raspy tongue assaults again. Sunset’s light shines through the windows, casts complex fountain shadows on the players.

The people.

“This is not the Game”, I whisper.

Rogue narrows his eyes. Barbarian cocks his head covered by a VR helmet with crude eyeholes in the faceplate. Admin steps up to me until he’s very close.

“Kill the dog, join my party.” His breath smells terrible.

“I won’t take an RL life!”

Admin’s fist impacts the weak point on my stomach and I double over, desperately shielding the puppy. Rogue moves forward dagger drawn, but Admin stops him, gestures to Barbarian instead. And his pipe delivers blunt damage to my entire body, the pain enforcing the truth of this reality, which hurts again all over.

Finally, the beating stops, and Admin softly speaks to me alone.

“You accept the Game and me as Admin, or next time I delete your character.”

To all: “It’s true, the dog isn’t worth much yet. I say we let them go, then kill and eat it once it has evolved.”

A final kick. “Second chance, only chance.” And they are gone.

The puppy licks my wounds. I guess he (she?) is my main quest now.
So what’s my next objective?
I have never seen an RL dog.
I need a manual for this.

The megacomplex’ reception has an ancient paper map. London Library sticks out, just across what once was Hyde Park.

It turns out that this is still a park with trees and grass and lakes, and somehow animals, and Puppy is ecstatic. And so am I. RL is stunning. Humans left it to play the Game forever, powered by Perpetual Energy, and on its own, the world recovered. And we? Our power supply’s name a lie, London remains without. Everyone who was strapped into a VR chair’s life support, depending on it more than I…

I focus on my friend instead, and watch him frolic.

⚯ ⚯ ⚯

A year later, I return, much learned. Caring for a dog is good exercise. For body and the rest.

I meet the Admin and his party, who still think this is the Game. Their delusion keeps them in a tiny world. I intend to open it, like cradling helpless life did mine.

“You brought the meat?”, the tyrant asks.

I shake my head. “He is not meat. And these are free humans, not your players.”

He loses the control he craves so much. “Then it is Game Over for you. This time, Rogue, the knife!”

“The Game has ended long ago”, I say, then call my friend to me.

They learn far quicker than I did that Mastiff puppies grow quite large. Soon after, they learn much more.

Jun 28, 2018

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

You must suffer.

A lot.
God Loves a Terrier
Prompt Rat Terrier
Word Count 996

The largest of the area’s dairies, Marion’s housed hundreds of placid, brown cows with butter-thick organic milk. The manager Dwayne surveyed the heifers with a skeptical look, pursing his lips as he glanced to his milker.

“You sure?” Dwayne asked Tom.

Tom nodded and his lip curled as he repeated, “Yeah, it’s bad. Real bad at night. Sweep the east road with a torchlight and you can’t see the ground. Just bodies and their beady eyes. I think they got the cats. No kittens survived this spring.”

Dwayne regarded the milker with an arched eyebrow while he sucked chew against his gums. A long silence stretched between the two of them, punctuated only by the lowing of cows and the shuffling of heavy bodies across cement.

“Well, poo poo.” Dwayne finally spit. He pulled out his phone, thumbing through a long list of numbers. Settling the phone against his ear, he turned away from Tom and began walking back to the office. Tom turned to the cows, reaching out a hand to one of the curious heifers nosing at his pockets.

For every cow at the dairy, there were almost a hundred rats. Occasionally Tom would shoot into the dark alleys when the cows bedded down, and for every bullet, he would hit a rat. They outsmarted the traps, and poison meant they lost organic certification. Short of moving all the cows and burning down the property, Tom wasn’t sure who someone called for a rat problem of this magnitude.

The answer became clear three days later when a battered old van rumbled up the long driveway and parked just outside the office. A tall man exited, a history of hard work lining tanned features, framed by an overgrown beard. As Dwayne exited the office to greet him, the stranger smiled and met him with a handshake before they began to walk the dairy together. All the milkers had been asked to stay late, though they weren’t entirely sure why. Tom stood among the others in a perplexed jumble, armed with the shovels they had collected like a contingent of wayward soldiers.

As the stranger and Dwayne returned to the milkers, they put out their cigarettes and glanced curiously towards the van, which had begun barking shortly after the stranger left it. The stranger paused and faced the milkers, introducing himself in an unhurried drawl, “Hello folks. I’m Reed and me and my dogs are going to be doing a bit of work here today. Ya’ll are going to help... They will leave the cows, cats, chickens, goats, whatever else ya’ got here alone. They’re only hunting one thing and that’s rats. They need you to use those shovels to dig out their tunnels. Less time they spend digging, more rats they can kill. If you see a dog looking funny at a corner, then start digging.”

With no other explanation, Reed returned to his van while Dwayne dispatched a few of the milkers to start moving the lumber pile. As the back hatch of the van opened, the barking fell quiet and a line of noses materialized in an orderly row. The dogs were small in stature, the heaviest in the bunch twenty pounds, and all boasted an array of splotched coats in both smooth and wiry assortment. All of them bore the upright carriage of terriers, square and straight with musculature wound so tight with eager energy they practically vibrated. Reed’s beard parted in an honest smile as he cooed, “Ya’ll ready to kill some rats?’

As if he had opened the floodgates, the mongrel hoard surged out of the back hatch of the van.

There was no casual sniffing or distracted exploration of their surroundings. Every dog immediately sprinted towards a corner, a feed trough, or a pile of lumber with ears canted forward and an eerie silence as they hunted with murderous intent. Tom expected them to bark more, but the pack fanned out with intentional quiet, their focus so complete it did not waste effort on excessive noise.

The dairy erupted into chaos within seconds.

Tom had never seen anything like it. The dogs fearlessly flushed the rats into the open with snapping teeth and arcing sprays of mud. The rodents bounded frantically skyward, bouncing off walls and desperately seeking crannies to disappear into, but the dogs hounded them too hard to duck into tight corners. Just as it seemed a rat would escape, another mongrel from the pack would materialize and sink their fangs into the fleeing scourge.

Despite the varmints being near the same size as the curs, even the youngest pups in the pack were undaunted. As soon as their jaws closed around the rat, the dogs would start to shake, but if the neck didn’t immediately snap, the dastardly creature would turn and sink their teeth into the dog. Instead of yelping, the terriers snarled and shook harder until the motion tore the rat loose and left it dead. With jaws gaping in dog-smiles and the froth hanging to their lips stained pink, the dog would turn and dart back to the nearest shovel-bearing milker with an expectant glare.

‘Hurry up, human. We have a schedule to keep’ the busy beasts seemed to insist with their keen eyes.

Soon shouts and laughter filled the air, the milkers yelling rat counts to their colleagues in high spirits despite the late hour and hot sun. As Reed lifted a huge beam on the woodpile, he boasted proudly, “Sometimes old problems take old solutions, ya’know?”

As several rats scurried into the open, the dogs descended upon them in a coordinated wave. One of the pursued rats darted towards Tom, and he brought down the shovel with a satisfying crunch. The dog who had herded it to him regarded Tom with a twitch of its prick ears in seeming approval then pivoted to rejoin the fray.

Marion’s replaced their barn cats with terriers in the spring and never suffered from rats again.

Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012

Man vs. Nature vs. Buster
990 Words
Chosen Dog: Saint Bernard

Luis wondered which deity he’d pissed off.

Sure, going on a weekend camping trip alone may not have been the smartest plan. But who could have guessed that a massive tree would collapse across the campsite, smashing down on Luis’s foot and pinning him to the ground? Not Luis. Obviously.

He reached out, ignoring the stabbing pain in his foot, straining further than he’d ever strained before toward the gray-green JanSport that held his phone, his canteen, and a first-aid kit just in case. He stretched taut as a rubber band on the verge of snapping, reaching and reaching until… he gave up. His fingertips couldn’t even brush the straps.

Luis dug through his pockets for what must have been the fiftieth time and, once again, discovered only his pocketknife. He grimaced. Maybe he could give himself the 127 Hours treatment, do his best to hack off the wounded foot at the ankle, tie off the bleeding stump, and call for help, but it would still be a crapshoot. He sighed and decided to wait. He wasn’t that hungry yet, and he happened to enjoy life with two feet.

An hour passed, maybe two. The wind stirred the branches in a slow ripple. Luis was about to start shouting for help again when he heard a faint jingling off to his left. Something bright stirred at the corner of his vision, a mass of fur charging right towards him. He reached frantically for the knife, tugged it out of his pocket, and immediately felt foolish. What stood before him was a fluffy, bouncy Saint Bernard, not much bigger than a puppy, though that still made it pretty drat big. Relief washed over Luis, and he reached up to gave the pup a scratch around the ears. He felt a collar, and couldn’t help but grin. A collar meant people, people who might just be looking for a boisterous Saint Bernard puppy who’d gotten off his leash.

Luis stretched up, squinting to read the ID tag hanging from the dog’s collar. The little tin circle was stamped with BUSTER. “So, you’re Buster, huh? Well, Buster, is your family around?” Buster looked down at him, panting happily. His wide, pink tongue lolled off to the side. “Your people? Your owners? You’ve got to belong to somebody, right? So where are they?”

Buster licked his face. Luis smiled. “Okay. That’s all right, we’ll just... sit here and wait for them. Someone has to be missing you. Right?” Buster sat and panted, his dark, shiny eyes taking in the lush forest around them.

The morning passed them by, the sun arcing higher and higher above their heads. Luis let out a long sigh and looked Buster over. “All right. So your folks are taking their time. That’s… fine. Let’s try something else. See that backpack, boy? Backpack?” He jabbed a finger at his pack. Buster turned to look at it. “Good boy! Now do me a really big favor, Buster… get the bag for me! Get it!” Buster kept sitting. He yawned.

Luis gritted his teeth. “I think what we’ve got here, bud,” he said, “is failure to communicate. You seen that one?” Jesus, he thought, my last hours on planet Earth and I’m making Paul Newman references to a dog. “Buster?” The dog’s ears perked up. “Yup, that’s you. What I need you to do is go over there… pick up my bag… and bring it to me.” He gestured, slowly and deliberately, at the bag as he spoke. “So… go!” Buster just sat there, giving him a big, dopey puppy smile.

The noontime sun beat down on Luis’s face. Sweat stood out in drops on his forehead. “Okay. So the bag was a no-go. Let’s try something new. Can you bark for me, Buster? Please? Just one bark, that’s all I’m asking, and then maybe your people will come find us.” He reached a shaky hand out to the dog, who sniffed it twice before giving it a lick. “No kisses, Buster. One. Bark. Please.” Buster laid down on the ground and let out a low whine.

Something about that whine struck Luis’s last nerve. “Oh, what do you have to complain about, you stupid dog? I’m going to die trapped under this loving tree trunk! Weren’t Saint Bernards supposed to be good at rescuing people? Well let me tell you, dummy, if you’d been around back then a lot of hikers would have frozen to death. Get out of here! Go! Go!” He flailed his arms at Buster. The dog stood up, startled, and trotted away into the forest.

“Good riddance! Who needs you, anyway?” Luis shook his head, tried to shield his eyes from the glare of the sun. He lay there, alone. Before long he was seething in an acrid stew of shame and regret. Look on the bright side, Luis thought to himself. You shouted at an adorable puppy who was only trying to be friendly, that’s true. But you won’t have to live with the guilt much longer.

For the next hour or so, Luis gave shouting a try. The hour after that, he prayed. Neither seemed to do him much good, so he lay there instead, waiting for the inevitable. The sun was sinking behind the trees. His head swam. Thinking was a burden, but one thought lingered. He gulped, pain shooting down his parched throat, and reached for the pocketknife. Then he heard a rustling to his left. A female voice, too, but muffled and indistinct. The rustling grew louder, and finally two figures emerged into the clearing: a dark-haired woman in a blue vest, yanked along by Buster the Saint Bernard.

“Oh,” said the woman. “Oh my.”

Buster looked right at Luis, drooling contentedly onto the forest floor. Luis’s heart swelled with pride. Thank God for dumb dogs, he thought, before passing out with a smile on his face.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007

The Big Yearning
1000 words

Boris’s yard smells of wounded grass, weed killer, and the sweaty tang of bare human feet. Sometimes the afternoon breeze slithers over the fence, ruffling the cut grass and Boris’s voluminous white fur, teasing Boris’s nose with rumors of a distant place—a place populated by strange animals, tall trees, uncut greenery. A forest.

The scent is faint, nearly lost under the gravy of fast food and automobiles, but when Boris smells it, he smells it. Gets an itch in his gums and a thrum in his four stout legs that sends him leaping and twirling around the yard, a futile bid to exorcise the big green yearning from his doggy soul.

Invariably, his adoptive mother spots him doing this and rushes outside, smartphone in hand, and records Boris’s exorcism while chanting, “Dance, Boris! Do your dance, baby! Dance Boris!”

It’s the worst in the summer; the breeze gets all hot and sticky, then rolls around in the forest, coating itself in the wild language of pine and sparrow and loam and deer. On those days, when the scent of freedom completely overpowers the grease-and-asphalt slurry of humanity, Boris’s dance isn’t enough to exorcise the big green yearning. The itch in his gums demands Boris bite and gnaw and tear loose with all the little-used strength in his jaws.

He rips out chunks of manicured grass with his teeth, tossing them up in the air as he dances his exorcism. When this happens, his adoptive mother bursts through the back door, shouting another of her many chants: “No, no, no, no, no! Bad Boris! Grass is no!”

Boris’s world is made of No. The fence surrounding his yard is No. The leash around his neck when his mother takes him for walks is No. The cleaning agents humans use to wash away especially loquacious scents is No. The whole city is a big No, a living structure designed to keep Boris in and the forest out.


Boris trots around the perimeter of his yard, snout wedged in the space where the fence meets the grass, vacuuming up familiar smells with his blunt, bear-like nose. The breeze is mercifully laconic today, and Boris’s pacing is more a walking meditation than an act of restlessness.

On what is perhaps his fiftieth or hundredth circumnavigation of the yard, Boris stops, inhales deeply, and exhales a perplexed chuf. A cold, concise scent emanates from the gaps between fence boards, a scent unlike anything the breeze has ever carried into his yard. The alien scent is accompanied by familiar sounds, however: panting, shuffling, canine grumbles.

Boris presses his nose against a knothole in the fence and takes another deep, inquisitive sniff—


Running straight down the throat of the wind, paws crashing through a crust of snow.

Every direction is YES: YES the trackless snowfields, YES the temples of sleepy pine trees under their snowy steeples, YES the joyful baying of Boris and his pack.

YES to the itch in Boris’s gums, the thrum in his legs; these goads have a purpose out here, on the forever-run.



Boris backs away from the knothole, tossing his fluffy head from side to side. The dogs beyond the fence whine plaintively. An errant gust of subarctic wind whistles between the pickets, clean and cool, momentarily thinning the soup of human smells. Boris knows, in a doggy sort of way, that he could step onto that wind, run the length of it, and find himself in that trackless land of YES.

YES? The dogs ask in the language of scent.

Boris tucks his tail and whimpers. No.

It’s always No. If Boris tries to contradict No, he finds more No. Worse No. He can’t run the wind anymore than he can freely run the length of his street because No has boundless resources. No embedded the microchip in his skin. No employs people with trucks and cages to go out and catch dogs with too much YES in their souls.

His adoptive mother emerges from the house, pauses just outside the door when she sees Boris’s submissive posture.

“Waddya doin’, bud?” Another one of her favorite chants. Boris's leash dangles from her right hand, a coil of No that swings back and forth when she moves.

Boris yawns a frustrated aroo that elongates into a whine. The dogs beyond the fence respond in kind, a chorus of frantic noises accompanied by the sound of paws scratching on wood.

His mother casts an annoyed look at the fence, then claps her hands twice. “Hey Boris! Wanna go for a walk?”

No. Boris wants to go for a run, a forever-run punctuated only by brief commas when he and his pack bed down in a warm, furry heap. He wants clean, frigid air and the gentle weight of snowfall on his fur.

No! he barks at his adoptive mother. It’s not an angry bark, just authoritative, but she takes a step back, instantly filling the air with noisome fear.

The big green yearning in his soul has crystalized into something cold and white and undeniable, and the way to the wind is open. The cold gusts come harder and more insistent, slipping beneath Boris’s paws, lifting him up off the manicured grass.



And the choice is made.

Boris rises along with his pack, ascending into the air above the sprawling grid of No. He looks down at his adoptive mother, once, sees her looking up at him, mouth gaping is if in a silent howl.

The dogs are buoyed higher and higher by the wind. They join the ranks of fluffy white clouds, high enough up that their fur is soon coated in a scintillating layer of frost. Boris and his pack find their footing in the sky, and begin to run.


Apr 12, 2006

Stars and Stars
908 words

Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 09:35 on Jan 4, 2020

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