I know I am posting a god damned bunch today but you’re allowed to do that when you win, nyahhh.
Simply Simon, I owe you a Week 344 crit. So I’m posting a full structural crit of your story from
With the power given to me by the Souls, I have brought humanity into an unprecedented golden age. As a young rebel, I had toppled a despot, my mentor for fledgling Soul abilities. Was thrust into responsibility as his successor far too early, stepped up to the unwanted task. I struggled, I learned, I grew. I tried, I failed, then died. My soul diffused into the vast lifeforce surrounding us, the melting pot of all Souls that ever lived, and I was ready to surrender my sense of self.
Right off the bat, this is just too much information too quickly while also not being enough. We learn a lot of big epic backstory explaining poo poo, but we don’t learn anything about what ‘Souls’ are and what ‘Soul abilities’ are and what your protagonist is actually like as a person. One of the key aspects of writing a story that people can connect with and care about is that there needs to be at least one character readers can really identify with and want to learn more about. “Identify with” doesn’t mean it needs to be someone immediately relatable in terms of demographic (i.e. your story need not be a college-educated chubby ex-goth to appeal to goons) but there needs to be at least some thread of personality or some thread of the character’s circumstances that readers can read and then go “oh yeah I know how that feels.” Right now we don’t know enough about your protag as a person to relate to them as a person but their circumstances are also so far beyond an average person’s experience that reading about them is actively alienating.
Instead, they spoke to me, made me understand the power I had only used like a flailing child before, and told me what I needed to do.
Our chaotic race was squandering its potential. Unlimited creativity, wasted on petty squabbles. We could be arbiters of the entire universe, but we were like children throwing tantrums. The Souls had taken a chance on my mentor and me, liked what I did with their gift much more, but it wasn’t close to enough.
I don’t dislike this premise but it feels like a summary of a thing that’s already happened, which makes it boring. Why not make this conversation part of the story? Then we could learn your protagonist’s opinions on it all–does he try to argue in favour of humanity? Does he agree that people suck? I want to know more about how your protag feels.
So I was rebirthed in an immortal body brimming with Soul energy. I took the reins the humans desperately needed. I eradicated war, I abolished money, eliminated sickness, gave every man the tools to rise to enlightenment.
Again, this is a LOT to just skim through. You’re taking very interesting story bits and making them less interesting by summarising them like meeting minutes.
It’s been millenia - and I haven’t succeeded yet. Sometimes, as I behold the gleaming cities from high up, so perfectly in balance with nature, I wonder if my task is by its very nature even possible. We have always defined ourselves by dissatisfaction. We reshaped the very world, even ourselves, to suit what we thought we wanted. We laughed in the face of evolution for being slow. How can I hope to conclude a process defined by a desire that can never be fulfilled? How can I guide what is informed by irrational passion?
The Souls want me to take the raw stone of that passion and cut it into a gem, its facets highly ordered, a beautiful and shining arbiter, an example for all other races. But human nature stubbornly refuses to be shaped like this.
“Human nature stubbornly refuses to be shaped like this” is an excellent in that you could use to describe how your character as a person reacted to all this. Did they resist being shaped by the Souls? Did they fight? Did they argue? We don’t know, and the story is more boring because we don’t know.
We claim to want stability and safety, but I provided that. We get bored in safety, and boredom leads to unrest, and unrest leads to our particular brand of impetuous madness. A madness I sense boiling in the mind of my latest apprentice as he makes his way up to the place I decided to manifest in. I can be wherever I want in the world with a thought. But I’m expecting him here and now, so this anachronistic penthouse office it is.
The door bursts open, and the madness bursts out. “Silas! Your death grip on humanity ends today!”
At this point we have no clue who Silas is and no reason to care. You haven’t really established Silas as a person at all.
“You have one last chance to cease this mad rebellion, Raleigh.”
“I am not afraid, master”, he lies as if I couldn’t see the inside of his brain. I could flip a chemical switch and calm him, disable him or kill him. But that would be the actions of the kind of man I’ve never been, and hope to never become.
“Master” implies a relationship between the two but we have not learned about it at all prior to this moment. If they have backstory, you need to establish it earlier on because that’s one of the ways you get people to care about your characters’ fates. This story would be a lot more interesting if, for example, they were a former mentor/protege team or former friends, but in order for readers to invest themselves emotionally in that relationship, you have to develop it prior to the moment of confrontation.
Imagine you’re watching Silence of the Lambs and it starts with the scene where Clarice Starling goes to Buffalo Bill’s house, then she hunts him down and shoots him. It’s still a story–it’s still got a beginning and a middle and an end–but without any of the build-up of who Buffalo Bill is we don’t really care, it’s just a cop neutralizing a murderer and it plays out like every other cop show.
I failed to make him see my ideals. I need to bloody my own damned hands. I draw the sword, badge of my position, and Raleigh’s follows suit. Soul power flows through us both, allowing us to overcome the limits of physical reality.
“Allowing us to overcome the limits of physical reality” is very vague. If you want to write a story where people have kickass magical Soul powers, detail some specifics of what those powers are so readers can visualise them. I’m still not really sure what Soul power looks like and we’re halfway into the story! Are these guys glowing blue? Do they just move super fast? Is there no visible effect at all? Show us a bit more about how their abilities affect their appearance.
We fight. A dance that leads its own steps. On the table, on the ceiling, in our minds. In the air as I toss Raleigh through the window, then back inside, the shards new weapons for both of us to wield, daggers slicing through the places our bodies did or might occupy.
I actually like the way you are light on exposition with the fight scene here–it makes the action feel fast, which is great.
Throughout, he pleads against my wall of silence.
“You keep us from what we could be!”
I sidestep a thrust.
“If you gave us freedom, we would have conquered space by now!”
My counter opens skin.
“Why would you unite us without leading us to more?”
He feints in his mind, and attacks in actuality. Clever - yet I still evade.
“Answer me, Silas! What is your plan for humanity? Do you even have one, or do you intend to just let us stagnate forever?”
Again, this is another good bit. You have a good grasp of how to slip bits of action into dialogue and vice versa. It has a nice beat. It makes the eye want to keep reading. Nice work. The only problem is that not knowing the relationship these two had before this fight began, the dialogue is kind of meaningless to me.
Why am I even sparring with him? I could end him with a thought.
I like this line.
Maybe I think he deserves answers? I start talking.
But he has heard my arguments countless times before; why would they start working now? His mind is set, and he will die in his madness like any human who senselessly challenges what might as well be a God.
Which is exactly how this entire mess started. When I got the mad idea to end my own master’s reign.
The story loses what momentum it gained here. Your interactions between the two while they are fighting are good, but now your protag is lost in his own head again.
I receive the first genuine wound of the fight. Why is his madness worse than mine was? Just because he has no way of succeeding?
And then, finally, almost too late I realize what he is doing. He keeps me musing to prolong the fight, gaining time to spin a web of Souls around me. In just a few seconds, it will close, and my powers will be cut off for just the moment he needs.
He almost made it. But this is where it ends for him, and I will continue to reign and guide humanity towards…
I LIKE that your character getting lost in his own head is what costs him the fight. That makes all the monologuing a bit more tolerable. But the problem is it still wasn’t very good monologuing for establishing the characters’ backstory and what actions they took to set course for their current confrontation.
The web closes, my sword falters, and my body becomes a physical necessity. He takes my head off, and I actually die from that.
I love that second line. I loved it the first time I read it and it still makes me laugh now.
About half a century later, the true me gains consciousness in a body where I lived a life from birth to now in ignorant innocence. I remember growing up as Raleigh became more radical. I saw his adepts march the streets to stomp dissenters who were happier with Silas. I was drafted into a new military for eventual space warfare. My mad ploy for sabotage makes me smile. My wife and kids they took make me shed a tear. They will join the vast parade of loved ones lost so far.
I awakened on the cusp of my execution; instead, Raleigh’s death squad got destroyed by Soul power. And now, I fear, I’ll have to knock on his door, and make good the mistake I made by letting him kill me.
But what a wonderful bout of madness that was! It’s been long since I felt so connected to my own humanity. I hope they will forgive me for allowing decades of oppression; but at least it wasn’t me, this time. Though I do wonder, did I make them forget that there are other ways but having a single strong leader? Can I ever truly leave them to their own devices again?
After all - this isn’t the first time this scenario unfolded.
This epilogue doesn’t really explain anything about the fight or who these two dudes were. I was hoping for some answers. It could have been cut entirely and the story would have ended on a stronger note. I get what you are going for with the “this has happened before and will happen again” but the problem is that message is useless when readers are still unsure what exactly happened. I still don’t know what caused Raleigh to suddenly turn against his mentor, out of all the bad poo poo they did. I still don’t know what the mentor was mentoring the protege in. I don’t know anything about how they interacted before the fight.
In the end, what would have anchored this story for me would have been some exploration as to who the protagonist was as a person. We learned a lot about his philosophical opinions, but nothing about : what he looked like, how he interacted with Raleigh, why he and Raleigh disagreed, whether he agreed with the Souls’ comments about human nature, and whether he acquiesced to their desires of him with or without a fight. Any of that info would have established him more.
Also, we need more about the relationship between the protag and Raleigh before the fight. We can’t care about the “why” behind why they are fighting if we don’t see how they got to that point in the story. Right now there’s a big blank space and then suddenly Raleigh kicks a door in and cuts the protag’s head off. Establish more of what they were like before the fighting and readers will care more about the fight’s outcome.
|# ? Apr 9, 2019 22:43|
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 18:16|
in, give me someone powerful
because the failure is strong in me rn
|# ? Apr 9, 2019 22:44|
Your goon is PoshAlligator.
In with a flash, please!
You get Yoruichi’s “What We Are Capable Of.”
in, give me someone powerful
You get Grizzled Patriarch. Do him proud.
|# ? Apr 9, 2019 22:55|
ing in for repeated failures.
|# ? Apr 10, 2019 01:39|
my two biggest worries this week was that either people would write stories where dog finds that their owner is dead or people would write annoying dog speak like me like humanz they give me scritches (or, god forbid, do both of those) but hey none of you made those mistakes so i guess thunderdome maybe isnt the worst thing ever? no wait that cant possibly be correct
instead, all of you gave me BORING GENERIC TRASH and why did you bring me this get that out of your mouth bad dog!
u know i actually had this as an HM for quite a bit, but ultimately i decided to pull away from that because while this story did something interesting, it wasnt actually very good. it's just decent, but i find myself disappointed. the spider cars are just kinda there. theyre interesting superficially, but they never really come into their own, never feel like they truly inform the story more than just being there as a thing. and the plot is kinda mundane, with the character drama being decent, but rather predictable and not very interesting. so it kinda just feels like you put up a facade of spider car to distract from the otherwise meh story that is the core of the story. i wish this did more with what it set up. i wish it had used its spider cars in a way to inform its themes and ideas, as a way to punctuate the drama between the two characters, rather than just feeling like "thing that is happening." it just feels like not enough was done with the core concept that it never felt like anymore than window dressing.
the opener is really bad. and why the D&D language? like, we're in some super future or w/e, why is the game that everyone is playing just a VR D&D game? that's loving stupid. the humor in here is really bad mostly because it's pretty predictable. there's not really anything funny because haha yeah waking up does sure suck for us gamers! it's done in such a way that it just feels bland and disconnected and it's also kinda disappointing when you think about it. like a person who literally never had to worry about waking up, feeding themselves, cleaning themselves, interacting with real human people face to face and then is put into a situation where now all of a sudden holy poo poo all of this is real and oh my god maybe this could be an interesting story and yet, nope. you do nothing with this conceit besides try to milk it for generic, boring humor. The story does kind of hit a stride where i dont actively hate it as much, although the dialogue is rather weak and the interjected gamer language is mostly grating rather than fun. then the ending is just ughhhhhhhhhh. why violence? isn't the whole arc supposed to be that the character learned, hey, maybe killing and hurting people in the world isnt good because it leads to real physical consequences? oh wait nvm theyre generic bad guys so it's okay if they get hurt.
to do a little positive, while i felt like a lot of the gamer language was overdone, this line felt very right. "The puppy’s fear animation has stopped." mostly because it feels like somebody who has existed mostly within a game would think. what's important, too, is that it doesnt call attention to itself. that line is just there, and it's confident, and takes itself just seriously enough to feel like a real thing. it works, and the core conceit here can work, but not like this.
God Loves a Terrier
this story is technically okay. it's written well enough, there's a conflict, things happen in it. but oh my god this is the most "thing happened" story i think i have ever read. it's very weird, in that you establish some characters in the beginning, they have some issues, but the second the dogs come in, it's dog time until youre like oh poo poo time to stop the story, time to bring some characters that you forgot about and didnt really care about in the first place. but the problem is that the dog stuff just isnt that interesting. it's just like, yeah, rat terriers kill rats. cool? it feels like something a coworker would tell you as a kind of amusing anecdote, like, oh hey, one time i was at a farm and saw these terriers kill a bunch of rats and it was kinda cool and id be like oh hey yeah that seems kinda cool but like as a real story that i would want to read? nah im gonna pass. it just like, doesnt really do anything with the story at all. like, what's the drat point? why did you make me read this? what were you even trying to say? (please dont answer these questions by talking to me in the discord about what your beautiful authorial intent was, because i dont care. answer these questions by writing a story that answers these questions)
Man Vs. Nature Vs. Buster
this is generic and boring. ill probably say that in about every other crit today, but this is perhaps the peak of that. your character isnt likable, really, and nothing really happens in this story as a whole. it's just like, an event, and the character doesnt really grow from his near death his experience. it's just, guy gets trapped, dog shows up, he yells at dog after a while, and then hey dog is back and he's saved. who cares? there's not really any tension here either. i just dont care for the narrator and so all of this is just like ok w/e. and since this story was so predictable, i had no fear the narrator was actually gonna die because of course he's gonna be saved! why wouldn't he? why would something surprising or interesting happen in a story? that's just stupid.
The Big Yearning
the prose here is good and it gave me a little smile, but ultimately, the words werent good enough to really push this past the fact it's just a "dog wants to be free" story. i kinda like that the ending wasnt an actual "freedom" but more of a symbolic escape, which is cool. but i just found myself nodding along as you kinda hit all the beats you were required to hit, without really mixing anything up on me. it's not that i didnt like these particular beats, and i quite liked the interplays of the Yes and the No, but the song you played was one we've heard a hundred times over, and everything starts to bleed together. it's fine but it doesnt particularly impress me besides sometimes the words are alright.
Stars and Stars
i want to like this, i really do. i like the voice, because ur good at voice. and hey it's about depression and dogs, that's literally everything i could ever want. but from the first line and the introduction, i knew everything that was going to happen in this story. dog is gonna do something stupid, guy is gonna be like "hey maybe i should try to be happier or w/e" and then he doesnt kill himself. when you brought up the dog chasing happiness, how your character was waiting for something magical to happen, i really wanted something ACTUALLY MAGICAL to happen because it meant it would be something different than i expected. and then i had the crashing realization that, nope, you just stuck to the same tune, and didnt do anything interesting with this story. i just wanted something out of this story that wasnt obvious, but it was soooooooooo loving obvious. also, the start of the last paragraph, it was a risk. it didnt pay off. it came off as way too public service announcement, way too essay-like. it might work if the story preceding it was much stronger and had earned that line a bit better. but as it stands? it just doesnt land.
The Great Dog Escape In The Hood
this is another fine story, and honestly, it's a little bit better tha technically okay because it establishes character and uses those established characteristics to do something in the narrative and hey that's kinda like what stories do isnt that cool? but it just never quite it fell outside of the trappings of "dog story" if that makes sense. it feels like (using the same metaphor again because im a hack) it was playing to the same beat we've all heard before, and didnt try to find any way to mix up the formula in some interesting way. it's alright, but i was wanting more, wanting you to try and push past "just another dog story" but that's what it was. just another dog story. i liked bits of it. the audacity of the dog napper to go back to the house where he stole the dogs and tell them "hey those are my dogs" is like, really loving great in that kinda yeah a dickhead like this would 100% do that. and while the smaller bits of this work fairly decently, as a collective whole, it fails to impress.
hooooooooo boy. i loving HATED this story the first time i read it because it is overwrought nonsense that, once you peel back all of the annoying overdone language, is just a story about how humans domesticated dogs. and man, is that loving TERRIBLE and i had just pure rage this the first time through. the second time, well, it was a little bit better, enough to pull back and say okay this is alright, but OH MY GOD can you stop being so loving purple? why are there random capitalized names? is The Song a dog or like an idea or both or idk? (and just so this is clear, i really dont loving care, please do not @ me in the discord telling me what ur genius brain was thinking because i dont want to know). the language here conceals more than it reveals, which is why it was so frustrating. and the even more frustrating bit is that, even after u peel back all the language, you just get like, a really uninteresting narrative. it's just, humans domesticating dogs from the dogs PoV. that imo is the big disappointment. having overdone, ridiculous prose is one thing, but it felt like it was there to try and almost hide the fact that u were giving me a pretty generic, kinda boring event and tried to make it more grandiose by using just, the most overwritten bullshit.
this worked until you ran out of words. the protagonist is likable enough, and then hey you have like a weird magical realism kind of thing going on, wow i maybe wouldve liked this story if it had, idk, actually kept going??? instead, it's a setup to a punchline that will probably never happen. and, honestly, let's be frank here, the dog here? he isnt important. you drop the dog from the story, and it would be better because you wouldnt have to waste words on establishing the dog. you could just have the protag move in, have him find the letter faster, and have him go up the stairs on his own. that's perfectly fine and would work and the dog does nothing in this narrative except waste words when you were so obviously hammered by the word counts. but really, this story doesnt work because it doesnt resolve anything. it just says, "ok, time to get to the interesting part" and then ends.
there's a uhhhhh kind of unfortunate association w/ the prompt that made me think briefly that Stella was a loving dog with the way they talked about her. in retrospective, that's kinda dumb of me to think, but it does kinda feel like they talk about her less as a real child and more as a kind of dog. but i kinda liked this story, altho that's prob mostly my biases. i like unlikable protagonists esp from their PoVs, i like when theyre forced to deal with their bullshit. but there's too many names, and all of the names are also pretty generic, so it kinda became muddled on who was who and what's the relationship and in a thousand word stories, that's just too much most likely. but really, this is kinda just a generic "deadbeat not really a dad but basically a dad gets yelled at and then realizes oh poo poo ive been a terrible person oh noooooooo now i have to deal with these consequences" kind of story. the dialogue isnt exceptional and kinda beats you over the head, and the protag's sudden realization is kinda just like, hrmmmmm idk. too easy. but i enjoyed it well enough as an examination of a fukced person realizing oh opps i hosed up. and i liked how you weaved Eric into the story, as his death is clearly visible, but never really directly addressed, which i think works esp because of how traumatic it seems to be the protag.
Walking the Dog
this story did exactly what i expected it to do. maybe not in all of the details, but like, from the second this story started out, you knew what kind of story this is. and, hey, it didnt deviate from that, so i guess, if that's what you wanted, you did it. was it a good idea? eh. did i like this? eh. fantasy and magic poo poo isnt that interesting to me, and i felt like some of the fantasy stuff was just handwaved around, like "oh were immune to magic but like not fully immune but also magic can cause death spells but also there are bombs" and idk it just felt like you were just making up rules along the way to suit the story's needs vs actually having a consistent magic theory but then again this is a 1000 word story that is meant to just deliver us to the point of a dog chewing out the bones of a bone golem so yeah of course it's not gonna be well thought out. i will say, the whole bone golem being defeated by a dog? that was good, i liked, decently clever and fun enough. everything else? i will probably forget.
there's some weird bits in this story that pull me out. this line, "I crawl into the cave, no longer the same man who left in search of it," is very odd when it's placed near the start of a story. it's like, we've barely seen this character, we've seen none of the character's actual journey, so the whole "i am no longer the person i was" just straight up doesnt work because like, how would we know? we've just met you. it's also weird that this character's big motivation is to revive his lover or w/e but it never felt very clear that it was his motivation. you do say "My Bashira died there, in a home as unrecognisable as I now am" but me being unable to think outside of my american worldview, i thought Bashira was a word for like mother or grandmother, not an actual name. and even knowing Bashira is a person, it feels mostly like a throwaway line despite Bashira's death being the literal catalyst for the entire story. so it feels weird that the story is so ambivalent about giving us the character's motivation until over halfway into the story. and so the whole "oh i cant bring her back" doesnt really have the impact it probably should have because the reader is too busy thinking ohhhhhhhhh that's why he was there in the first place instead of oh poo poo that sucks for that dude. i do like the whole "her heart is in someone else, so she cant come back" since it's got just the right amount of logic to make sense while forcing a character into a sort of dilema. i dont like the dog offering the guy time though. i want the guy to make the decision. i want him, whatever his choice is, to be his own. i dont know what that would necessarily be, but the dog being like "idk, you want ur time back?" doesnt sit well with me, because it pulls what should be the character's big moment away from him.
and yes, i am being rather critical about this story because it has a good number of flaws, but i guess i should explain why it won. it's because it tried to do something different and interesting, and it kind of succeeded at that.
the story of Max the Australian Kelpie dog
ive read (and written) a lot of crappy last second stories, and in that pantheon of garbage, this might sit as king. it's not amazing, and it falls into the trappings of the other dog stories where you just know where the narrative is gonna be going and hey it goes exactly where you expected to go! how not exciting. but it's feel good enough, it sets up the dog and characters well enough, and it feels pretty alright. my only real complaint, but it is a rather large one, is that it just doesnt try to do anything new or interesting with this premise. the idea of a dog trying to get his owner out of depression is fine, but so done before that it needs a real spark of imagination to make it feel fresh. it's basically trex's story, except the dog is the PoV character.
|# ? Apr 10, 2019 06:06|
Thank you so much for the crits, especially Blowout!
|# ? Apr 10, 2019 06:33|
|# ? Apr 10, 2019 06:34|
ing in for repeated failures.
Your goon is Entenzahn.
|# ? Apr 10, 2019 07:07|
By the way, my comments can be seen here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-wsDqazRmaMxLQ6wp068fR2jx4v-t84nDfmCHRnU9BQ/edit?usp=sharing Sorry, forgot to post this last night.
|# ? Apr 10, 2019 08:58|
Special crit for Yoruichi – Max
This might be my favourite crit of all time, because this interpretation had honestly not occurred to me (she's just getting an actual dog, dude), and I loving love that I put these weird thoughts in your head by accident.
Here is a crit of Druid Tutorial in return.
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’ Why is there an apostrophe here? If you meant this to be possessive you should have written megacomplex's, but in this case I don't think that's necessary, i.e. you can just say "apartment window" you don't have to say "apartment's window" 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 I think "graphical" means "in the nature of a graph", rather than what I assume is your intended meaning of the update being about graphics – there must be a story to this.
This is a very boring opening. You've just said, "here is a person playing a game in an apartment. Here are the tutorials they have completed. The game has recently updated its graphics." I am yet to learn anything about the protag, who or where they are, or what they want.
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.
Still boring. Still just a person playing a computer game.
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! All these exclamation marks make you sound like a crazy person! 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.
The details you've added in this paragraph should be helping to bring the characters and setting to life. Unfortunately, it's not working, because this is all just very standard computer game stuff.
“A player, huh”, Comma goes inside the quotation marks the leader says. “What’s your class?”
“I don’t know”, I admit. “Still confused by the new scenario.” This dialogue is a waste of words. What I really want to know at this point is how does the protag feel about meeting these new people? You imply above that they've been searching for a while ("I finally see human models!") - are other people rare in this game? Is the protag lonely?
“We’ll fix that”, he says and hands me the monster. Will my defense stat be high enough to protect me from attack? You've already told us the monster is weak... 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.” Oh yay, thanks random stranger about whom the author has told me nothing.
“You give out classes?”, I ask while studying the fascinatingly detailed enemy model I’m holding. It gives off warmth, breath, moisture; remarkable. Why is it remarkable? Because the graphics update is neato?
“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. Why? 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 This should be "many" 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. Why do I care about these details? Do they matter for the story?
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.
“This is not the Game”, I whisper. What?
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!” Are you implying that your protag, thinking they are playing a VR game in their bedroom or wherever, are actually outside with their VR helmet on patting an actual puppy? HOW DID THEY GET OUTSIDE WTF IS GOING ON?
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 do you mean the dog? Why didn't you say 'it'? 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. Ooooh kay so we're in some sort of post-apocalyptic scenario? Probably should have mentioned that at the start. And we? Our power supply’s name is 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.
Wait wait wait. So, humanity locked itself in a VR game and forgot about reality but the protag has broken free because of the (highly unusual and unexplained) arrival of a puppy and then a YEAR goes past and they've just been, what, chilling in Hyde Park, the only living soul outside of VR, with their dog?
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. It's been a year! How do they even remember this random person?
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.
Problems with this story in order of importance:
- Your protag is an outline of a person. Who are they? What do they want? What do they look like? What do they care about? You need to give us some details about them that turn them into a human who your reader can root for.
- The computer game details are boring. I would have much preferred to hear more about the post-apocalyptic world, but you skipped that bit.
- It makes no sense. How are they, in VR helmets and strapped in to VR chairs on life support, interacting with a real dog, as if they dog is in the game, but the dog is not in the game?
The most interesting bit is his year on the outside. If you'd started there, and then written a story about how he longs to free other people from the Game, and his stuggle to do so, that would have been way more interesting.
|# ? Apr 10, 2019 09:37|
i've been gone for a while, but it's because i've been kicking life in the dick.
in, toxx me flash me
|# ? Apr 10, 2019 18:03|
i’ve been gone for a while, but it’s because i’ve been kicking life in the dick.
Kicking life in the dick, eh.
You get SurreptitiousMuffin’s “Obvious Phallic Symbol.”
Welcome back buddy!
|# ? Apr 10, 2019 21:56|
A judge you need?
|# ? Apr 10, 2019 22:46|
GAME NIGHT AGAIN
4/11 Starting at around 9:30/10 EDT (or pretty much whenever my baby goes to sleep we can get started)
Not entirely sure where the party will be. I'd like to keep it in hangouts if we can, but if we have too many folks we can potentially shift to another venue to accommodate a larger crowd. I'd prefer not to have people get shut out. I'm open to suggestions if people know of better places, I do think discord might be the best option.
|# ? Apr 11, 2019 00:45|
In with a flash.
|# ? Apr 11, 2019 06:44|
aw yiss I'm in
|# ? Apr 11, 2019 15:07|
Thunderdome judging notes. Dog Week (part 1)
In general all the stories were faulty to very competently written, but kinda humdrum or lack of characterization to varying degrees. I had three HMs because honestly none of the stories knocked my socks off. That said many were solid. I tried to leave my personal story style out of the equation during judging and look for a character &/or dog I cared about. I was left disappointed. Mostly.
MAX by Yoruichi
First off-opening paragraph mathematical reference took me out. I wondered why? Was he a mathematician? Looking back there appears to be no reason. I like the potential of the “spiral” of Fibonaci as a metaphor for his downward spiral, but it didn’t work because of metal, in my mind, not being pliable and looking like ladders or scaffolding even if it was pliable. Spinning of tubular steel solidified that thought. Perhaps if the car was spinning a new type of flexible metal I could picture as webbing. Potential without effective execution.
There were several things that made me take pause like that: knuckled his tears, ladder like outstretched palm, falling from bottom few rungs? Leaning over a bar to wrap mouth around tap? Why not just go behind it? How old is this guy? Picturing this was awkward at best.
You spent about 80% of the story on the description of the new world of car spiders and webbing things. I allowed myself to go with it, but it went nowhere like the character. I had trouble picturing much of it although the bit about the Audi outside the window and throwing the keys at it and the controlled breathing was a highlight.
The story did create a setting-I know we’re in a city with quays. Instead of “the city” using a proper city name like Sydney here would have made the setting more solid. Likewise adding an adjective to tell me what kind of office (1 word) would have told me tons about Geoffrey-was he an accountant or a psychiatrist? Big difference.
Characterization is almost non-existent. Office worker guy with pricey car, is it wife or girlfriend who left? No sense of how long they’ve been together until the end when she had grey hair and he mentioned retirement. I assume he’s now regretting many of his marriage decisions because she left, but quite frankly I don’t care, I think I’d leave him too.
Also why does she have a rusty Hilux? He’s seems to have money.
Why is Jenn on the roof? Why does she take the ring back and give it to the car spider? Why is the car spider building a nest? I feel like I’m missing something very crucial to understand the story.
At one point I was wondering if it’s all in his head until there’s no one in the streets or bar, then I’m guessing, ok; it’s real. So how does he try to solve the problem? Goes to local bar he evidently goes to every night. Empty (again why? If this poo poo was happening in my city I’d be at a bar), oh wait, I’ll climb a few rungs, no wait, a car just caught me from a three foot fall and -problem worsening, it’s taking me to our roof, but not our regular building. Let me open the door and dangle out? What’s the motivation for any of these moves? I don’t want to go home? Go back to baileys and get drunk dude. Oh my is Jen safe? That’s supposed to be a turning point and get him to realize he loves her and wants her back?
Ah Jenna is there and the solution is to give the ring back? Nothing is resolved in the end.
Was not getting a dog the last straw for Jenn? If so I’d then I’d need to see much more about the dispute about the dog over years.
And his excuse is he’s too busy? Is she crippled and can’t take care if her own dog? I realize the toxx meant you only had to mention the dog, but where is golden retriever in this mix? It’s a faceless, breed less dog.
This was more like either car or spider week than dog week.
Bottom line I don’t care about these people.
Druid Tutorial by Simply Simon
I basically get the setting and set up through early description of the Game (although I’m not a gamer so had to read carefully and slowly) and the problem emerges quickly, as it needs to in 1000 words. Some description of the mastiff is there and certainly the dog plays an important role.
But there are too many jumps in action without development, which makes my head hurt. I shouldn’t have to re-read to understand what’s going on.
I’m missing characterization of the narrator. I like his viewpoint and thoughts but they seem censored. Why doesn’t he just kill this creature immediately, I’m not getting the hesitation really. More emphasis on the dog changing him and less at the beginning would have made things more satisfying for me.
As written I really don’t care about him or even the dog. That’s what I was longing for and the story isn’t compelling either.
It was a close call loser/DM, if that helps.
God Loves a Terrier by Lippincott
Well done. I really like this story even though it’s kinda expected and not earth shattering. I was leaning toward making this the winner for awhile. I liked your writing style.
Setting is a bit confusing upon opening-not sure what’s dead out there with the beady eyes. I’m assuming it was rats? But I don’t think it worked the way you wanted it to and opening sentences/paragraphs are SO important.
I thought the succinct description and dialogue of the characters was just right, making the focus more on the dogs. Most stories didn’t do that.
Nice description of the manner in which the dogs eradicated the rats.
The last line seemed canned and easy, but yeah.
Also the title?
Man vs Nature vs Buster by Nikaer Drekin
I wished you’d have taken time to put me into the setting with more description and a sense of more realistic pain from the narrator. He seems nonchalant about a tree on his foot. I don’t buy all his thoughts and they aren’t manic enough.
I basically thought the whole time I was reading that this is a canned plot with a character that is a robot because little he says it does is what a real person would do. I know nothing about his either except that he’s moronic enough to go camping by himself. That doesn’t endear him to me. As a matter of fact he’s super annoying.
Once the dog gets there it doesn’t get any better. He the lamest Saint Bernard ever.
This story was the worst of expected canned dog story so DMed.
The Big Yearning by Sitting Here
So I get the total dog frustration and it’s well done with both the description of the fence and the “no” repetition. I wish I had a more solid hold of where exactly this is taking place geographically. It’s a generic backyard. Near a forest but then snow and cold. I think I would have been more grounded with a distinct place.
I like how you wrote the “adopted mother” and her reactions-how simplistic they were seen by the dog. Taking the picture-I could see someone doing that and posting online. A very telling detail about the owner and it makes me not like her-which I’m guessing was the intent.
I wished you’d used dialogue to give the dog a name since he’s the main character/narrator.
I wished he’d also have thought of where his birth mother was to give more emotional depth. Maybe a desire to find her?
The samoyed’s wish is clear as is his submission BUT I’m not convinced the other dog(s) on the other side of the fence can change that so quickly. For me the other dogs don’t add anything. They seem to be there to act as a catalyst for your dog’s change of attitude, but it doesn’t quite work for me. That said, I did like the yes/no “conversation,” but it doesn’t drive the story forward for me.
Also, I thought this could be any dog breed.
Not 100% sure what happens at the end either. Did he attack her? Did the fence fall down? Did he escape? It seems unrealistic. Or it’s all in his head, this change in attitude? If so, so what?
Stars and Stars by tyrannosaurus
So first off is the voice. Love love love it and it mostly stays consistent.
I kinda wanna know what’s got the narrator so ready to kill him self though but the doggy savior angle is cliche and I needed it to go somewhere more than every other doggy savior story. It didn’t.
It was fine for being that, but as such was meh.
I don’t know the character enough to really care about him other than he’s a human contemplating suicide,
So on that level I’m like, please don’t. But I know he won’t because the dog will save the day, so yeah, I don’t really care about him.
I was taken aback at the last paragraph. It was abrupt and preachy. I’d cut it.
|# ? Apr 11, 2019 18:52|
Thunderdome judging notes (part 2)
The Great Dog Escape in the Hood by Nethilia
Opening paragraph didn’t grab me. It was fine but ok it’s about names that don’t seem all that important to the story so why start there?
I like the description of the dogs-it’s simple and clear by then giving the names of the girls and then never using them again didn’t seem necessary and I was trying to keep four names in my head for no reason really.
The paragraph about Okapi getting sick doesn’t do anything to move the story forward and I really don’t see the need for it. If you trying to establish “home” or care, maybe there’s a better way to do it because it took me off the track to oh boy, something’s wrong with one of the dogs, but then it didn’t go there either except for the parvo comment at the end, but having them registered is proof enough.
Then the theft. I liked everything about it except I don’t get why Okapi wouldn’t bite the guy. He’s the big one and he doesn’t want to be taken. Why only bark? And what kind of fence? I had pictured a wooden one up until now (not sure why) but is it chain link? Now I wanted a better description earlier so that the leaning over and picking up a big Rottweiler is realistic.
Also I was hip on the narrator being very close to the action but now all of a sudden the narrator knows how dogs think, so is the narrator another dog? If so, what dog? Idk it just took me abruptly by surprise and took me out of it slightly.
How did mamma know where Okapi was? Did she hear the whimper? It seems that way because of sentence placement. Or had those guys done previous mischief? Or did they have a bad reputation? I need more to make mamma know this immediately. How did “her people” show they were angry and sad? Did serafina not trust hem to do something?
Super nice voice/dialogue of the hood with the dialogue.
My attention was taken out of the story by how a hole was dug in a metal box. I get there’s dirt inside but how does a dog dog out of a metal box?
Why did the guy open the box for no reason just before the escape? Why didn’t Okapi notice serafina dogging all night? drat he must have been a deep sleeper.
I liked the last two sections a lot-except the last line. Just seems too easy and simplest for the story.
Dogs didn’t have to be Rottweilers though-could have been any kind of dog.
Overall, this worked as a story. I think I wasn’t invested in the girls at all and the concern of one dog toward the other didn’t seem all hat deep really. Maybe it was the narrator or maybe I wanted more of the sadness if the girls? I wanted to like it, really I did, and I think it has good bones. I’d like to see if maybe writtten from the POV of either one of the dogs or one of the girls.
Passing Note by anatomi
At first I felt like an utter idiot for not understanding a bit if this except that it’s primal pack feeding. I thought it was a wolf pack for awhile. I couldn’t get beyond the word masturbation to find a story. But, I re-read it and guess what, now I think it’s about Native Americans because of the names. Then I got frustrated with why the hell I couldn’t find a story. Then I get dumb again for about a second until I realized that I’m not dumb and it was your responsibility to not be so into words that you lost the story.
If I had re-read it again, it may have been the loser, so there’s that.
Looking Up by Chili
I know right away Zeus’s an outcast even from his own mother and right away you have me interested in him as a character. Finally! Love the first sentence.
There’s some tightening up that could have been done to free up some words to use later-which needed—I’ll get to that. Example: “He said as he nodded his head” p. 2. Also in that paragraph, I’m not loving he personification of the chair screaming. I get it. He’s a big guy. You don’t have to hit me over the head with it.
The second bit about him being an outcast-job rejection was effective.
The will reading seemed rushed and brought up unnecessary questions in my head like who are the other people in suits? How did they react to zeke getting the house?
Why is zeke’s birthday the pin pad password at his uncle’s house?
The situation at the uncle’s house is sufficiently weird enough to keep me reading and the grease on the wall of the stockpile is downright gross but in a good way. However, I feel like I need to know more about the uncle and the relationship here to care. I’d like to have something about how the uncle had been the only person to understand zeke maybe. Something. Or even how Zeke feels about all this. He seem now to be a big lug just moving through life where at the beginning I liked him, now I’m like “are you a doofus?” And he lays down to think and happens to feel a piece of paper? I get the set up in the will of the bed being able to hold him, but maybe later that night when we went to bed. It just seems odd to lay down at that moment.
So the yard is so small and surrounded by tall fencing but he has to ask the dog “where is it?” Yes, he’s a doofus. But ok, it was sorta hidden.
Ah! A twist. I’m so thrilled I’m completely ok that it came out of nowhere BUT that may be due to the lack of anything in previous stories and not your brilliance-just not sure.
Why is Hermčs distracted by a butterfly? Really? Later in the letter Len says to bring Hermčs because he acted interested but now, woah a butterfly, gotta go?
I like the placement of the letter and it’s written simply and clearly enough but I’d Len will be so heartbroken to leave Hermčs behind then then why didn’t he take him his drat self?
I’m actually ok with the ending and not knowing what happens. I’m a little disappointed in the usage of the dog. Doesn’t seem like the dog is really necessary. Take the dog out and everything could still happen.
I also would like the story to go back to Zeke and how maybe he’s doing this because it’s saving him from his situation on earth if being an outcast. I mean that’s what drew me to him, but then it got lost.
Also the name Hermčs for the dog wasn’t most on me and you could have done so much more with it.
Even with all these flaws, I liked it enough for an HM because I actually liked a character and was surprised by a twist that almost delighted me. In this batch, that’s saying a lot. It has real possibilities to be so much better. I’d love to see it reworked.
Enough’‘s Enough by kurona bright
I’m confused by the get go of who is who-maybe if you named the sister in law. I had to read-read the opening but several times to figure out who is who and that’s super annoying.
I must say I was impressed by how you had the brother and sister look like your dog breed-yes I caught that and loved the concept.
I am fixated on the fire but you never explain it and it hangs like a mystery over the whole story and I never get any satisfaction about the fire or Eric just something happened and boo goo goo this guy’s a wreck. Poor him? I don’t know enough to care about him so drink more buddy because you’re a loser.
These people are terrible even if I could figure out what’s going on. The actions and dialogue seem cliche and formulaic and just plain stupid. I honestly not only don’t care about them, no one is likable.
Like Passing Note, if I re-read this anymore it may have been the loser.
I really can’t give a better crit than that, sorry. Write something more clear next time.
Walking the Dog by Thranguy
Congrats on 50.
Slightly confusing opening to follow but I get the gist.
Lots of questions like why’d Minerva leave the dog in the first place? And they’re only walking it? Won’t someone have to do this several times a day then? That seems stupid.
It’s also stupid how the dog dogs in and won’t move then randomly for no reason jumps on the guy and the keys go flying conveniently under the van....oh snap, a bomb. Luck for them that dog is schizo.
Stilted conversation after bomb discovery. No reaction? Now they’re having a disputed about you’re always complaining? Didn’t they start the story complaining? Am I expected to like these two complaining dudes? Um, I don’t. I almost wished they’d gotten in the van and blew up, but dang that means the dog would have died.
Then we get a bunch of magic.
The dog. He doesn’t seem very necessary.
Seems like a magic story with a dog thrown in because it had to be. It could have been any kind of dog.
But I did like the bone bit and the last line.
Basically, I didn’t care about these guys or the dog and well it wasn’t much of a story either.
Irkalla by ananomous blowout
It doesn’t draw me in because of the mythological aspect, but it’s well written, and I could see how I’d like it more if it was the kind of story I like so I gave it the old college try. I’m glad I did. Mostly.
I don’t live the opening paragraph because it doesn’t seem to fit with the first person narrative to me. And well, I need the setting, but meh.
The early description of the cities is heavy and weighs down the next paragraph but I’m mildly interested in this man and why he’d travel blah blah blah. So, I keep reading.
I really like a good bit of it—a lot even—until I get to him closing his eyes and see someone. I’m not sure who, a name, relationship? Idk I need something here, but not a mystery about why he came. I need to know more about who he wants back, what happened to her and why he was there.....
Then again I like the whole bit about she’s been used in others and what else do you want instead? A highlight is the dog giving him back time.
That said I would have liked the story better if the last paragraph was dropped and it was left with the dog’s hopefulness.
Still a good solid unexpected story and I cared that the guy went through so much. A convincing relationship between him and the beloved would have sealed this as a winner, so HM for me. But, yeah if I had to be forced to chose I probably would have picked this as the win also.
Max the Australian Kelpie Dog by anamist
I loved the first paragraph and how you came back to herding at the end.
However, another dog saves master who is depressed story that is very predictable and I don’t care enough about the character.
I mean it’s dog POV, competently written, but so? I knew what was going to happen and it did. So, yeah.
|# ? Apr 11, 2019 23:33|
|# ? Apr 12, 2019 00:30|
I've already signed up but I'll take a flash if it is still available.
|# ? Apr 12, 2019 01:16|
In with a flash.
You get Nethilia’s “BFF.”
aw yiss I’m in
Your goon is Morning Bell.
I’ve already signed up but I’ll take a flash if it is still available.
Your Entenzahn story is “Make a Wish.”
You get Fuschia tude’s “Extrinsic Behavior.”
|# ? Apr 12, 2019 03:27|
could you flash me too
|# ? Apr 12, 2019 03:37|
could you flash me too
Your story is “Sins and Stones.” - Whither the unsophisticated boner of the common man?
|# ? Apr 12, 2019 03:40|
You get Fuschia tude’s “Extrinsic Behavior.”
Ugh I wanted to enter this week so badly, I just knew I wouldn't have time, plus my sister's getting married this weekend. Stop tempting me
|# ? Apr 12, 2019 06:02|
Thanks for the crit Salgal!
Also, we had another awesome game night and hit capacity again!
Gonna shoot to have another next week. May throw some Codenames in there, had a blast with that when we played it before. Stay tuned!
|# ? Apr 12, 2019 17:44|
Also, in other TD adjacent news...
I was chatting with folks and it seems like there's an interest in another mafia game!
If you're interested, please PM me (don't crap up the thread). Once I get a roster of around 8-9 people I'll see what I can do about putting a game together for CC.
|# ? Apr 13, 2019 00:35|
Sign ups are now closed! Please nudge me if I missed giving you a prompt cause by my count I got everybody.
|# ? Apr 13, 2019 08:26|
Prompt: Hawklad’s “Thaw” https://thunderdome.cc/?story=6318&title=Thaw
When I can’t sleep, I go outside and make snow angels.
I swish my arms in the dark while the sky is pale and black and waiting. Everything’s quiet, and I feel like I could dig a hole to China if the night would go on forever, and fill it in behind me if the snow would keep on snowing. It tickles my face, and I laugh, quiet like the snow is, so I won’t wake Uncle Hoke up.
When I told Uncle Hoke what I was reading about at the library, he started naming all the food in our fridge. The cheese was Cheryl, the eggs were Johnny and Ellen, the cans of beer were Bill and Bob and Benjamin. When he went out on what he called his business trips, I put some of his stuff in the fridge. His watch was Walter. His shoes were Henry and Holly and they were in love. His thick black gun I picked up by the barrel and I laid it down in the lettuce crisper like a baby in a crib, and I named it Frank.
Me and Uncle Hoke live at the end of town in a place where they dumped all the extra road cement after they stopped making the roads. There’s a field of tall grass behind us and a big woods to the right of us, which Uncle Hoke is scared of, even though he doesn’t let me know it.
There’s a padlock and a chain hanging from our trailer door and a sign, CONDEMNED BY THE COUNTY in big red letters, that Uncle Hoke stole from I don’t know where. I asked him about it, and he said when people see it, they’ll think someone else will get us so they don’t have to.
My mama walked into the woods and didn’t come out, back when I was still learning to walk. Uncle Hoke said she had on her long white nightshirt. He says he’ll beat my rear end if he ever sees me outside in less than three layers.
I had this Barbie doll with a wedding dress and one eye missing that I buried in a snowpile next to the woods line, after I ripped off the bottom half of the dress. I find things I like, like seashells and Tootsie Rolls, and I bury them in the snow to see if they’ll still be there when the snow melts. They almost always are.
“I know you’re in there,” says the voice from outside.
Me and Hoke are curled up against the wall, quiet like the snow, facing the fridge. I’m in Hoke’s lap, and so is Frank.
“Come out, come out, come out,” the man sings, tapping against the trailer wall with his fists.
Uncle Hoke stands up, dumping me on the floor.
“What--” I say, and he opens the fridge door, yanks all the shelves out. Cheryl and Johnny and Bill and Bob all go flying. Hoke grabs me and stuffs me in the fridge and I yell and the fridge swallows my yell up. I’m crying, but nobody can see me, so it doesn’t count.
Then I hear the shot, and every other noise inside my head dies.
...through extreme temperatures. Cryonicists argue that the brain can survive the freezing process without any significant damage, provided that--
“Hey, you! Kid! Who are you?”
I stand with the book in my hand, looking at the girl at the other end of the library aisle. She’s got perfectly curled hair, a bright pink coat with no rips or holes in it. Sneakers with no scuffs and pictures on the sides of Barbie with both eyes , inside little pink hearts.
“I’m going to tell somebody that you’re here again,” she says, not looking at me, and walks away.
I stick the book under my shirt and walk out. I’m going to bring it back, those are the rules.
“It’s just for a little bit,” Uncle Hoke says.
I stare at the truck, rust creeping on the sides. The chain that used to be on the door is now wrapped around the trailer hitch.
“Just a little while,” Uncle Hoke says. “Too many people looking for us now.”
I stare out towards the woods.
Twenty-eight different things buried out in the snow. Twenty-nine, if you count mama.
I nod at Uncle Hoke, and he heads around to the other side of the trailer, and I wait, and I wait, and then I run as fast as my legs will carry me towards the woods.
I hear him shout, and I know I’m not wearing my coat, but he can’t beat my rear end if he can’t catch me.
I dig my way past hanging branches and pine needles and I sit down with my back against the largest tree I ever saw and I sit and I wait again.
I breathe out.
The sun is fading, and I hear Uncle Hoke coming after me. He shouts my name. He sounds scared. I always knew he was scared of the forest.
I rub my hands together but I’m not worried. There’s less snow on the ground than there used to be, but there’s enough to bury me, bury me deep until the spring comes, when all the snow will melt and everything will come back again, including me, and it’ll be like nothing changed at all.
|# ? Apr 14, 2019 04:39|
I will judge
|# ? Apr 14, 2019 09:39|
You get Yoruichi’s “What We Are Capable Of.”
Your Auras Paint an Ugly Picture
Her aura blinded me like early morning’s light reflecting off fresh snow. And I stared into that light with foolish eyes wide open. Had I not cemented long ago my decision to ignore, no, subdue my gift? My conscience reminded me of this, then pleaded, then screamed, but it was powerless against the wonder I beheld. Churning around her brilliance, a murky sea of filthy auras. The rotten-algae green of greed. The aged piss of jealousy. Someone’s head surrounded by the color of an inflamed wound, violent rage in a pot always about to boil over. All of the world’s worst colors mixed and mismatched in their people, those disgusting sinners who wore their crimes openly for me.
Not she. Untainted, unprecedented. I plied her with words, and it was trivial to see a thundercloud grey or unwashed brown mix into her aura whenever I chose them badly. Worry, shame, anger – I knew their hues well, the bad emotions that lead to the permanent stains of bad actions. Quickly, I learned which words kept her aura the white of detergent commercials. My conscience was reduced to a hoarse whisper by the time I had made her invite me up to her room. Shyly, carefully, I kissed the pure ideal of a woman, the one, and she smiled shyly back. Asked if I wanted more, and I started to say that I wanted everything from her, the one person in world who did not disgust me with the sins I could see in their auras.
But the words rotted in my mouth when I saw it spread up from beneath her waist: the taint, the sin. The decayed flesh tone of the adulteress.
She noticed my mood drop, asked what’s wrong. Why don’t you ask your boyfriend? I wanted to spit. Or your husband or whoever, whore. But as if I had witnessed someone slash apart the Mona Lisa, I was rendered speechless, and choked up even more as it dawned on me: I had seduced her with my golden words – all lies – manipulated her, with all my skill, to sully her own aura for me. The one who’d cut apart Da Vinci’s enigmatic beauty: it was me.
I could only fumble in my pocket for the pills I used to take to dampen my senses, to see the sins inside the auras less. I stammered something about them hampering my libido, shook the bottle – empty, undermining my excuse – and fled from the scene of my crime. Her confused and angry cries hounded me for almost as long as the afterimage of her once-perfect glow.
Outside, the filth-pit greeted once again. A laughing couple: she a spoiled-meat cheater, he a tarnished-copper gambler. Years ago, I might have told them. Try and make their auras shine in brighter hues again. And earn a beating, well deserved for not minding my own loving business.
Over time, I had learned how to spin my message: read their reactions when I started talking, devise a way to make them show each other their true colors. And then, the tears, the fights, and the auras filthier than before.
I could not find a way to make the garish world that only I could see more beautiful; and so, eventually, I had just given up.
Taking drugs designed for the heavily depressed made all the auras shine less brightly, as I discovered when I first took them for their intended use. If only I didn’t have to go outside to pick new bottles up. After all, this is how I had met the only girl free from sin, and ruined her.
I reached the morning’s initial goal, the local supercenter’s pharmacy, and handed in my prescription. While waiting for the bottle, her angelic aura loomed into my memory again, and then the glow died once more. I shouldn’t do this ever again, I told myself, like I had told myself so often, and as punishment I forced myself to look around, take in the tapestry of awfulness. It made my head ache and my heart, to have to see this and be forced to just do nothing. I couldn’t take it anymore, and closed my eyes...
Through slitted vision, at last moment, an intruder violated me, forced my head to whip around, eyes ripped open. An aura sucked my gaze in like a black hole, a car wreck impossible to look away from. My heart felt like it stopped, to see the polar opposite of her: the densest tar, the crudest oil. I had seen and failed to bring to justice murderers before: this one was much worse. He wore a suit which might be tan but I could barely see, so dark shone his aura.
Entranced by it, I took the bottle from the harsh green neon liar clerk, who looked concerned when I swallowed three pills immediately. Soon they started dulling all the colors, of bruise-blue thieves and worse wounds’ necrosis shown by far too many rapists, but for this one, no amount of pills could ever help. Besides, it was not me who needed medication in this case.
I followed tan-suit’s evil aura through the store, and without a conscious thought, grabbed a tow cable from a rack in passing. As I stalked him, I briefly wondered why my conscience did not give a single peep of protest. But really, I’d ruined something beautiful already, might as well deal the same hand to the opposite.
Eventually, he stepped into a bathroom, and I followed, and I locked the door, and I wrapped the cable around his neck. The most terrible of humans I had ever seen did struggle hard, of course, but even in the abyss of his aura, I could see the flare-up of red-hot aggressions. I knew when he tried to strike me before he did, I saw the frantic kicking foreshadowed by the cold blue plumes of desperation. And finally, I dropped his twitching corpse the moment the black flame around him ceased its anti-shine.
The deed done, I looked up from the vomit in the sink and half expected to see the color of the sick reflected from the mirror. But no such validation. My own aura was the only one that never showed. So I would never know if committing sin to mete out justice counts as either. And truth to be told - I’d rather learn to trust my faulty conscience on my own than one day find out that my aura looks no better than the one I’d just snuffed out.
|# ? Apr 14, 2019 18:25|
Equal Opportunity Witchcraft
They arrived at Lady Blackflower’s cottage with pitchforks and torches. She knew that they would be upset with her latest witchery, but she was surprised at how many people were turning up.
She stepped out of the house to face the mob.
“Good people of Lilymarsh, I would like you to hear me out.”
“Witch!” screamed four or five of the townspeople. Why were they so offended now? They had known Lady Blackflower was a witch for near a decade now.
“Now, I’ve always said that I would only use my gifts for good. If you are displeased at my most recent hex I would you tell me why to my face.”
“Lord Stonethrower was the kindest man in town! He paid for my son’s funeral out of his own pocket!” screeched Agatha, the town schoolteacher.
“The son who worked himself to death tending the Lord’s crops,” said Lady Blackflower.
“He paid for the medicine to heal my ailing mother!” shouted Karl the farmer.
“You would have had the money yourself if not for Lord Stonethrower’s taxes,” said Lady Blackflower.
“He threw us all a great feast last Beltane!” yelled Jon the drunkard.
“Only after hoarding all the town’s food for almost a year,” said Lady Blackflower.
And each person in the crowd could name another kindness by Lord Stonethrower, having forgotten the cruelty that necessitated it. And each was happy to let the cycle of grievous injury and half-hearted healing continue, because any other way was utterly unthinkable.
After the townspeople had finished burning Lady Blackflower at the stake, a man with a set of nasty boils on his forehead in the shape of the word “MEANIE” on his forehead stepped out of the crowd.
“Thank you, everyone,” said Lord Stonethrower. “Now things can go back to normal.”
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 00:05|
Prompt: Entenzahn's Make a Wish
Kamir liked to think of himself as resilient. When news came in about the impending apocalypse, a small stone skipping through the cosmos towards earth, he’d continued going to work. When his dog got flattened by a panicked neighbor’s Subaru, he’d turned the other cheek. Even when his wife ran off, claiming he was cold and distant in the face of catastrophe, Kamir had refused to break.
He was tough. He was firm. He was due-paying member of the Going Away Initiative. Unlike those apocalyptic cults that wallowed in anti-consumerism and pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo, the Initiative had a website and corporate sponsorships. It was going to make him ready for the Big Day. Any void he felt was weakness the Initiative had carved out of him.
“Kamir,” said a voice beside him. “I’ve got a story to tell.”
Kamir jumped at the noise. He was inside the local Panera Bread, their usual meeting spot. He was part of a rough semicircle of people, murmuring about the banalities of the previous week. The pope had delivered a Requiem Mass in the Sistine Chapel, drunk and wearing his pajamas. Disney was trying to pump out its remaining cache of superhero movies before the Big Day. A man next to him, Cuvo, looked up at Kamir with watery eyes.
Nobody liked Cuvo. Cuvo was a downer always questioning the Initiative’s evidence-based practices. When he wasn’t asking questioning evidence-based practices, he was crying or telling obscene stories. The only reason he was even an initiate was because people were too polite to tell him to leave.
Kamir tried to ignore the dumb, little man inching closer to him. He focused instead on his hot chocolate and scone, which was determined to enjoy despite it being a balmy spring day.
“I was visited again last night,” Cuvo stared at him with a sadness that underscored his complete disrespect for the Initiative’s values. The whole point was to cast ignore pain and embrace the now, to shear away all sadness. “I was visited by the aliens. They told me stories.”
Kamir gave the insect a disgusted look and turned away. The murmuring of the crowd had stopped. At the center of the heads was their accredited Going Away facilitator Morgan. Morgan looked around the room, locking eyes with each Initiate for the millisecond needed to facilitate interpersonal closeness. As he asserted control, the ugly expression on Kamir’s face softened into something blissful and Buddha-like.
“So good to see you all again,” said Morgan. He dressed like a Mormon missionary, name tag and all. “So many bright and shining faces. Very inspiring. I hope you all have been practicing your exercises for the Big Day.”
Kamir nodded, hypnotized. The exercises entailed lying on one’s back and repeating the serenity prayer one hundred times. When the Big Day came, they were all going to lay in a field, hands on hands, and calmly ask for the strength to accept what they couldn’t change. Then, they’d all burn to death.
“Great. Amazing,” said Morgan in a ho-hum tone that suggested it was neither great nor amazing. “You are all so strong and resilient. Let’s paraphrase our mission statement and then get on with today’s work.”
They all did so except for Cuvo, who kept whispering about aliens, and Kamir, who found it difficult to talk with a scone-filled mouth. The mission statement was about recognizing what great lives they had all had lived and untethering themselves from anything painful. It also thanked their sponsors and Initiative facilitators worldwide for their steadfast leadership.
“Super. Love it. You are the heroes this world needs in its time of crisis,” said Morgan, keeping up the stream of positive affirmations. “Is there anyone who wants to share any nastiness they’ve whisked away with the Initiative’s tenets?”
A woman shouted. “I’ve stopped watching the news because of its negativity!”
Kamir waved his arm like an overgrown first-grader. “My wife never supported my strength and resilience and so I cut her out of my life. I don’t even feel bad.”
This was a slight fib, but Morgan nodded. “Extremely nice.”
Cuvo raised his hand. There was an uncomfortable pause.
“Cuvo, I love the participation,” said Morgan with forced lightness. “What nastiness have you been saved from?”
Cuvo took a deep breath. “Well, I really have more of a story...”
And it was. Cuvo said that he was visited by aliens from the planet Ognobar. The aliens said the asteroid couldn’t be made better by prayers and mission statements. The aliens said that all the important people already knew these facts. The Initiative was to keep the lesser-thans busy and hollow and at their desks until the Big Day arrived. Their dues were being used to pay for parties and orgies and other unspeakable things on lush, private islands.
“That’s a lie!” Kamir couldn’t take it anymore. He stood up, knocking over his lukewarm chocolate. “Aliens aren’t real. And even if they were they wouldn’t be spreading around filthy, hateful lies about us, about the only thing we have left.”
Cuvo gave him a disgusting, sympathetic look as if Kamir was the one who deserved pity. Kamir knew who he was. He was strong. He was resilient. The vast empty inside him was all the weakness that he’d gouged out. He was fine. Everything was fine.
Smushed bits of scone cascaded from his hand onto the floor. He wasn’t sure why such a dumb thing had left him so jagged.
“I have to agree with my punched-up friend here, even if he is exhibiting some clear negative feelings,” said missionary-dressed Morgan. “What a bunch of offbeat words. A verifiable ton of malarkey.”
Cuvo looked down at his feet. The impending asteroid had left him in tatters, had ruined him. “It’s okay to feel sad. You don’t have to pretend everything is alright all the time.”
Kamir opened his mouth, ready to spit bile, but Morgan spoke first. “That’s where you’re wrong, buddy. I think it’s high time for you to let us get on with our business.”
Kamir remained standing, ready for action, wanting to untangle his jumbled insides. Instead, Cuvo bowed his head and shuffled from the restaurant. The meeting went on. They did their exercises and offered great exaltations to their sponsors. When it was over, Kamir forced himself to chat with the others about an upcoming movie. He got in his car. He drove home.
Then, in his empty house, surrounded by photos of a world that would soon be wreathed in flames, Kamir sat on the floor and cried.
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 00:46|
Solitair’s “Collapse Sonata.” https://thunderdome.cc/?story=5748&title=Collapse+Sonata
The Legacy of the Stevens
flerp fucked around with this message at 01:46 on Oct 11, 2019
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 01:47|
Morning Bell's "Sins and Stones" https://thunderdome.cc/?story=3929&...Sins+and+Stones
somewhere, sometime, a garden
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 08:36 on Jan 4, 2020
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 02:57|
Prompt 'Holes' by Whalley
The city warned us this would happen. Dad swapped out the fixtures for environmentally responsible flow rates and planted succulents in the sand instead of grass. We received a credit on our taxes, but not enough to drill any deeper. Now, every Sunday we load up the truck with the storage tank and drive through sub developments littered with ‘For Sale’ signs.
Hartford Homes dug deep when they looked for water, deeper than Dad and I could ever afford to. They struck a water table and boasted it wouldn’t run out for years to come. We read in the paper that the development was a quarter sold when the faucets had nothing more to give. Dad bats at one of the wayward signs as we wait in the water line. Agua, a subsidiary of Hartford Homes, built the pump house, adding an electronic pay station and requiring purchase of their proprietary storage tanks. Before Agua purchased the water rights, the locals would gather at the dusty old pump and chat, but now the pay station frequently loses connection to the internet and jams up for spans of restless time.
“Think we should sell?” Dad asks me. My attention swerves from the book in my lap to fix him with an arched eyebrow. He laughs at my reaction. ‘Sell’ is just a different word for leaving. Nothing sells around here. I mentally review my father’s previous plans to leave. We got the car to Applebrook before the gas ran out. We walked to the orchards and worked for three grueling months just to limp back to the desert with our paychecks.
“We don’t have enough to get to Silverham. Without making that, there’s no way we could work the rest of the way to Buckwit by harvest.” I speak slowly, hoping he can tease apart some untruth in my statement and find opportunity. The sun crawls higher in the sky while we wait, and I can feel sweat dribbling down the small of my back. Dad simply nods, his eyes darting to the front of the line where Old Man Lane is swearing at the pay station and beating it with his gnarled, arthritic fists. Dad distracts from his hopeful reverie, frowning as he hops out of the car to join the others coalescing around the commotion with curious glances. The dust kicks up into a hazy cloud and I can taste the rust in the back of my throat.
“Yeah he’s sure he put his card in right. I did it for him three times. This loving thing just won’t work.” I can hear Greg shouting, defending Lane’s ability to use the machine. Dad wades through the fray as if he can actually solve pay station issues, kneeling at the spigot and running his finger inside of the faucet hole with a frown.
“Were you the first one here to fill up this morning, Lane?” He asked the wiry old man.
“Aye, and nothing came out. I put in over forty credits and nothing. Not even a drop.”
Dad coughs and enters his own card, despite the shouts ‘we already tried that’ and ‘it’s just going to steal your money.’ Into the slot, the card disappears, and the machine greets Dad with the three-syllable chime. Dad makes his selection with habitual motions and waits. Deep in the guts of the pump house the wheel whirs and gears clink, but nothing comes out of the faucet. The crowd riles into a fresh wash of restlessness, frustrated as Pavlov’s dog after the bell rings and no food appears.
The sun beats down on our backs, and I can feel the sweat spreading like sticky wings over my shoulders. Dad murmurs the error code, and reaches for the yellowed user guide swinging helpfully from a peg above the pay station. Still repeating the error code aloud, he matches it and his eyes dart between the screen and the flaking laminate several times.
“What is it?” Lane asks and the crowd echoes. Dad doesn’t say anything, just drops the sheet with a curse and starts walking back to the car. He’s not answering questions, just walking like he’s got somewhere important to be and I know better than to ask what’s going on. As we close the car doors, I can hear shouts from the pump house and people kicking the hollow sides.
“Dad…?” I ask, because even though I know the answer, I have to hear him say it.
As he turns the key in the ignition and puts our car in reverse, I see Greg going for the shotgun in his car and realize a few other folks are getting tools as if prying off the pump house will help them get to the water. There’s nothing there though, just a dry old hole. Dad’s expression is grim as we pull off the old country road and onto the main interstate.
We don’t bother going home to try to pack up some meager possessions or make a better plan. We just start driving as the wind batters the side of our old truck. In the midst of dust and tumbleweeds, a ‘SOLD’ sign slaps across the windshield. I feel laughter bubble up from my dry throat and Dad joins in, both of us giggling like idiots as the windshield wipers dismiss the sign from our view.
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 03:42|
Rule: Broenheim's "You Didn't Deserve All This Gray"
A Flash of Color
She was there when the Tensicor Gate fell. The world saw the holostreams later, but Yatau was there. She remembered looking up as the sky brightened, the ring of nanosteel burning as it entered the atmosphere. She remembered the wormhole shattering, sending out waves of radiation that blossomed into prismatic auroras across the sky. And of course, she remembered when it crashed down on Salis, the earth trembling, the heavens burning, the skyscrapers shattering, and her world became ash.
Years came and went, but the crater in the middle of Salis remained. When the sun rose, it illuminated the patches of glittering shock-quartz and patches of obsidian, then hid itself in the low sea of clouds. Then the rains came again, burying the world in gray. Yatau forced herself through her morning ritual and trudged to work. She passed the cranes and heavy machinery that littered Salis like a forest, donned her mech-assist suit and hard-hat and went to work clearing rubble, a block at a time.
“It’s pointless,” she sighed, gazing out at the miles of broken stone south of the new downtown.
“What is?” chimed a robotic voice.
Yatau gave a sideways glance at the robot that had crept up on her. It was an avatar of an AI, the little round body marked Salis University. Some far away basement had its cluster of computers. Usually, though, the AIs were used in research or logistics, not puttering about. “This,” she said, gesturing at the city. “My life. All of it.”
The robot’s mood-screen showed a smiling face. “We share a goal! I am also looking for a purpose. That is my research objective.”
“I’m not….” Yatau looked down at the robot. “That’s a cruel thing to do to an AI. Why would someone do that?”
“It is,” the robot agreed, “but it might end up helping a lot of people, so here I am.”
Yatau continued to dig through the rubble. “Don’t those studies usually happen in labs?”
“Some. But you can’t separate motivation and identity from context.”
“So then isn’t your purpose to help people find purpose?”
The robot wheeled over and started helping pile up rubble with a little claw-arm. “That’s a bit recursive, don’t you think? No, my research objective specifies that doesn’t count.”
They worked in silence, the gray sky sending rain to patter down on ash and concrete.
“So I’ve gathered this is a socially insensitive question, but why is there no point to your life?”
Yatau scoffed. “A bunch of bigshots decide to move a wormgate too close to Earth to maximize trade efficiency. A bunch of orbital engineers help them. A bunch of talking heads sell it to the public. Because of them, a city dies. Everything I built is under this ash. Every friendship I cultivated. All the joy I spread. Wiped out. Kill a person, you go to jail. Kill a million and it’s just a tragedy. No justice. And the survivors are left to pick up the pieces, while up there, nothing changes. So why bother.” Yatau pointed at a starship passing overhead like a shooting star.
“Oh. I am sorry,” the robot said. It continued to make little piles of debris—not in a helpful way, but simply because it looked like what Yatau was doing. “So why do this?” it finally asked.
“Why do anything? Inertia, I guess. I am alive, therefore I will keep living.”
“I don’t think that. Every being has reasons for doing things, it’s just the way your brain works you don’t know the why. That’s the problem I keep running into.” The robot gave a sigh.
“You’re oddly reflective. Are you sapient?”
“I don’t know. If you knew every physical process that led to your cognition, perhaps you would think differently about your self, your free will, your dreams. I can examine a decision and know the exact series of transistors that flipped to cause it. So how can I call what I do ‘consciousness’ if it all traces back to how I was programmed?” The claw-arm knocked over a pile it had been making.
Yatau gave a sardonic chuckle. “Well aren’t we a mess.”
Another month went by, and the rains came like clockwork. The ground stayed gray and the sky stayed ash, and the days ran together like the runoff through the rubble. Yatau worked, and the little robot visited from time to time.
“Have you found a purpose?” she asked, like she always asked.
“No,” said the AI, “but I did find a person you might like to meet.”
Yatau turned and saw the robot had brought along a stranger, a woman with sunken eyes who looked like Yatau felt. “Oh, sorry. Who are you?”
“Sona.” She looked down at the AI, then back up. “It told me… you saw it too? You were there?”
Yatau felt her heart skip. She saw the gate falling again, saw the colors splash across the sky, heard the scream of the city. “Yes,” she whispered.
They didn’t need to say anything after that. Yatau had known that there would have been other people like her, other people that lived it, but she hadn’t realized how badly she needed to share that moment of horror, of awe, with another. Sona and Yatau clasped each other in a tight hug, and Yatau found her tears joining in the rain. For a moment, she could forget the ruined world around her, and just saw the bursting colors of her eyes squeezed shut.
“Wow,” said the AI, happy face lighting up on its screen. “This is great. I mean, I think it’s great? This is the rare instance of happy tears, right? My social signals analysis suggests—”
Yatau broke the hug and laughed. “It’s fine. You did fine, purpose-bot.”
“I got the idea from something you said, about survivors picking up pieces. It seemed like it would go faster if you worked together.”
“What a delightfully robotic way of thinking,” Sona said.
“’Bringing people together,’ is nice. There are far worse purposes to have,” Yatau said.
“I meant more… wait. Did you say purpose? You did, obviously, I recorded it. I wonder if it counts? I’ll go ask the scientists!” The bot sped off, bumping along the rubble, and a last “thank you!” echoed.
Sona smiled at Yatau, and they talked. They walked across the mud-strewn world of dust, and told each other of their worlds. This world was still gray, but someday, the bright colors might return.
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 03:44|
Prompt: Fumblemouse's "Willful Indescretion"
The library shelves at Eversing Terrace had taken weeks to install, but it only took three days to tear them down. For the first time in his life, Lawrence Clemence was grateful his father had been such a miser; the low-bid contractors he'd chosen for the library job had secured the shelves poorly enough that he could dismantle them with untrained hands and a power drill. It was work, but he was grateful for that, too. The burn in his muscles was a welcome pain, the feeling of his body doing honest work and obeying him -- a feeling he feared he might never feel again.
Across the room, his brother Lance pulled another shelving board from the wall with a satisfied grunt. Lance's dress shirt was sweated through and rolled up to his elbows, his tie loosened for air; on the third day of work, a sensible man might have dressed down, but nobody had ever accused Lance of being sensible. "Close to done," Lance called out. "Wish Mum could see this!"
"Better to let her be!" Their mother hadn't left their sister's flat in days, ever since the reading of their father's will, one last gasp of cruelty from beyond the grave. Lawrence hadn't expected some vast inheritance or any great sentiment, but he'd hoped, foolishly, for a moment of decency from the old man, or the usual insults. Instead: hideous novelty. Lance being willed the library shelves, and only the shelves, had been the least of it.
Lawrence hauled down a shelf and carried it to the growing pile in the middle of the nearly-bare room. All the proper furniture was long gone, but Lance had brought in a camp chair and had sat down to mop his brow and drink from his water bottle. From the scent of it, it really was water, too -- maybe Lance did have some sense. "You're right," Lance said. "Poor Mum. Least we can do is keep her out of this. Lettie says she can sell the Torrenby Street house sight unseen -- lots of developers in the neighborhood -- get her some money for a new place."
"She can have mine, if she likes." Lawrence sat down on the floor and reached for his own water bottle. A break had been a mistake. Without constant motion, his legs were going weak, and the gnawing pain low in his belly was reasserting itself. "I'm moving in with Dustin."
"Wait, Dustin? Someone serious? Congratulations, Lawrence -- I didn't know."
"Because I didn't tell anyone." There'd never been any reason to tell anyone in his family anything, before now, but with the circle tightening, maybe it was worth the risk. "And... it is serious, in more ways than one. I mean, we're serious, Dustin and I, but -- I'm starting chemo in two weeks. I'll need the help."
"Wait." Lance stood up -- something he'd always done when he was confused or befuddled, as if being taller would help somehow. "Lawrence, look at you. You're not sick."
"I wasn't supposed to be. They said they got it early, that surgery would clear it right up, but here we are. They say the odds are still good, but... doctors. It's good you bought that nice funeral suit, Lance. You'll probably need it."
"No." Lance grimaced, stepping to Lawrence's side and flexing his hands, as if preparing to grab Lawrence by the shoulders and haul him up. "I've promised myself I'm not going to another funeral for thirty years. You're going to make it, and if there's anything I can do -- if you need somewhere to go, if this Dustin doesn't stay with you -- anything in this drat world, Lawry. It's yours."
Lawrence drank deeply from his water bottle and climbed to his feet, just in time for Lance to pull him into a tight, sweat-damp hug. That was Lance for you. He'd loved Father the best of them, tried constantly to get in his good graces -- sold Lawrence and Lettie out for a grudging word of praise, when Father was having a generous day -- but on the worst drunken nights, they'd always hid in Lance's room, and he'd never once opened the door no matter how much Father screamed. In the bad times, Lance was there. Lawrence wanted to cry, and might have, if he'd come from a crying family.
"Oh, let me go," Lawrence muttered. "We've still got a wall of shelves to finish."
That evening, Lawrence came home to a flat that smelled of washing-up liquid. Dustin looked up from his vacuuming as Lawrence stepped inside, at his side and embracing him before he could warn him about the grime and sweat. "Lawrence! How are you? How's your brother?"
"He's satisfied. We've gotten him his inheritance in full." Lawrence let himself lean against Dustin, letting himself feel the mingled aches of satisfying work and creeping sickness. "I'm exhausted. Need a shower, too."
"Go shower. I'll call the Thai place. Your usual?"
"Please." As Dustin went to call for takeaway, Lawrence stepped into the bathroom to strip off his work clothes and run a hot shower. It was two or three minutes of standing under the blast before he could form meaningful thoughts again, the kind of thoughts he so often fled from -- but there wasn't time anymore. He had Dustin to think about. And Lance, and Lettie, and Mum.
Maybe he'd get through this, as hard as that was to believe. But maybe he wouldn't, and if he didn't, he'd need a will. Lawrence didn't own much worth giving away, but that wasn't the point, was it? The point was getting one last word in, and if Lawrence was going to be the next Clemence to die, he didn't want to be misunderstood. There were things he'd need to tell the world: that, whether Dustin stayed to the end or not, every day with him was a gift; that Lance's stubbornness was as much strength as flaw; that Lettie, always defiant, had taught him what bravery meant; that his mother had survived, and that was a triumph. That he loved them all in ways he didn't know how to express.
He'd try to figure that out as he wrote. And maybe, if he lived, he'd find another way to tell them.
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 05:00|
My story is titled 'Dusty Holes'
Sorry for the omission.
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 05:03|
A Thunderdome Parable
an off-prompt rambling by Djeser
The blood queen was going off to the blood throne. She worried about her domers, who were always up to some mischief. She sternly admonished them, "Write well. No fanfic. No erotica. No political screeds. Don't post Google Docs. Don't break the archive. Don't submit more than one story." The domers had done all of these things on previous weeks. Hoping to head off new trouble, she added, "And don't write about golden beans with a street value of one million US dollars!" This was a new idea for the domers, who promptly tried it out.
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 05:57|
|# ? Nov 30, 2021 18:16|
Prompt: M. Propagandalf's "Some Coercion Required"
Hunter of Monsters
Jacob is already drunk when I approach him. I sit at his table, and smile, and I know that I have him. My eyes are blue tonight, my features the picture of gentile beauty. I wear the clothes of a lower-class woman who might consider it worth her time to approach a wealthy man, even if he was a Jew. From Jacob’s predatory smile, I seem to have gotten the look right.
He is a big man, with broad shoulders. An oversized banker who likes to pretend at being one of the common folk, but forgets to limit his spending to what a real dock worker might spend. I smile and laugh at his jokes, and dutifully pretend to choke on the fiery liquor he coaxes me to try. By the time I’m stumbling out of the bar, I have him following close behind.
We’ve barely made it through the doors before he’s pawing at my breasts through my coat, pressing his mouth roughly against mine. The pins in my blonde hair catch at his fingers as pulls me towards the back alley. I wonder how many times he’s done this sort of thing before, and my lip curls involuntarily at the thought of him rutting like an animal in the dark.
The place will suit my purposes just fine, though.
Jacob shoves me against a wall and begins fumbling with the fly of his pants. I glance at the mouth of the alley, but no one is there; even if there were, they would be unlikely to come to the aid of a Jew who had spent the last few hours downing expensive whiskey and flirting with a pretty blonde while the rest of them nursed cheap beer.
I reach out and grasp Jacob’s collar, shove him hard enough for him to hit the opposite wall. The wind knocked out of him, Jacob stares up at me in disbelief before the old spark of rage hits his eyes.
“You crazy bitch!” he manages to gasp out. I chuckle a little at that.
I put my foot on his chest as he struggles to rise, and shove him back to the ground. “Stay down,” I say, and Jacob’s eyes widen with fear as his limbs lose their strength.
“Mikshofe,” he says. Witch.
“Oh, so the little boy remembers his Hebrew? No, Jacob,” I say, leaning down to put my face close to his. “Mifletzet.” Monster. I let my true nature into my features for a moment, and the blood drains from his face.
“Please,” he says. “I have a wife, a family!”
“Oh yes,” I say, with a smile. “A wife, a family. You have these things, do you not, Jacob? Rachel would cry so if you were to be killed. Such a sweet girl. Too sweet a girl to leave alone on a cold night such as this and seek comfort in the arms of a goy, surely? And yet here you are, Jacob.”
“It was a mistake, please-”
“I know you, Jacob. I can smell the sin on you. You cannot hide from G-d, and you cannot hide from me.”
I reach for his throat and squeeze. I have the strength to make this quick, painless, but the beast in me hungers. We have a deal, the beast and I - the beast will feed, but we only hunt for monsters. Tonight represents the culmination of weeks of surveillance and planning, and I do not wish to let it end so soon.
“Mercy,” Jacob croaks out, and my rage flares.
“Mercy, Jacob? Mercy? Where was mercy when you beat your dear sweet Rachel for being too weary from carrying your child to clean to your standards? Where was mercy when she lost the baby and you beat her all over again? Where is mercy, when men such as you can show their faces before G-d, pious and holy, while your dear, sweet Rachel weeps?”
My voice grows more bestial with every word, and by the time I’m finished I realize the light has gone out of Jacob’s eyes. My fingers turn into claws and rip through the flesh of his throat in my frustration, at my rage yet unvented. The animal within me salivates at the sight of blood, and I allow it the indulgence of savaging the lifeless husk that was once Jacob. The body is no good now, anyway, not looking like this. No one will believe that this is anything than what it is: unnatural.
I stand and straighten my hair, already turning black under my touch. Tonight, I will dispose of Jacob’s body. Tomorrow I will be Bubbe Leah, who was sent to check on Rachel by the landsmanschaften, the hometown society. Tomorrow there will be new plans to make, new faces to remember.
But for now it is enough that there is one fewer monster left in the world.
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 06:03|