I'm told the 'dome has a rule against Google Docs. Let it be known that I, Muffin, am a rude boy who does a poo on your rules.
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 06:10|
|# ? Sep 24, 2022 17:15|
Prompt: Grizzled Patriarch; chosen story https://thunderdome.cc/?story=2684
Signe was sprawled out on the shaggy brown rug, cheek resting on her arithmetic textbook. It was too hot for math; the figures and formulas seemed to melt before her eyes, turning watery and imprecise.
From the kitchen came the clamor of supper being made, of half-remembered songs sung in her mother’s smokey alto. Signe swam in and out of consciousness, lulled by the heat and familiar, domestic sounds.
Sudden silence roused her from half-sleep.
Signe got quietly to her feet, padded into the kitchen, feeling like an intruder in her own home. Her mother stood at the screen door, looking out at the dismal alleyway beyond, motionless except for the faint fluttering of her gingham skirt. Signe crept up to peek over her mother’s shoulder, but recoiled as soon as she saw the thing standing just outside the screen door.
It was naked. The feathers were a dull, dirty grey, and hung from the creature’s body in greasy-looking clumps. Its torso was that of a man, but in place of arms were ratty wings, presently hanging limp at the creature’s sides. It stood on saurian talons, its scaly legs articulated in the manner of birds. Its face—
No. Signe wouldn’t look at its face. Better to inspect the wretched droop of its feathers, the awkward set of a human torso atop avian legs. At least she did not see in these things the green of her own eyes, the round button of her own nose. Better to let the thing outside be a monster, and nothing more.
Her mother said, “You remember your daddy, don’t you Signe?”
While her mother chatted shyly with the thing in the kitchen, Signe inspected herself in the bathroom mirror, from the top of her head down to her toes. She was, as far as she could tell, completely featherless—but then, the thing had been featherless when he left them. Her skin itched as, in her imagination, feathers sprouted from her arms and back, oily and dull, just like her father’s.
She would pluck herself raw before becoming like him.
The heat and the presence of the creature made the kitchen too oppressive. Signe returned to the living room and pretended to study figures in her textbook while eavesdropping on the conversation, which was mostly an interrogation:
“You look thin. You been eating enough?”
“Is the girl working yet?”
“Was there anyone else while I was gone?”
Her mother’s answers came as a series of small, quiet syllables:
There was a rustling like feathers against fabric, the wet sound of lips touching. Signe slammed her textbook closed, and the loud thwap put an end to the noises in the kitchen.
Signe tried. Her mother wanted so badly to feel like their family was whole again, and so Signe fitted herself into the role of the ideal child: seen but not heard, and obedient.
Mother and daughter had always shared the twin bed in the bedroom; now Signe slept on the sofa, covering her ears against the sounds of strange rutting on the other side of the wall. She practiced her arithmetic out back, in the sweltering alley, so as to not ‘disturb’ the thing when he was listening to his radio programs.
One early morning, well before sunrise, the thing roused her from the sofa with the prodding of one of his talons.
“Up, girl. ‘Bout time you made yourself useful.”
The thing did not lead her to the factory or the fields; instead, he led her to the freight yards, where trains were loaded up with produce and sent north.
“Now you’re gonna hop one of these trains. Girl like you‘ll do fine in Denver or Frisco,” the thing said. He licked his lips. “Your mother deserves to make up for time lost rearing you.”
Signe looked up into the thing’s face—a face so much like her own—and growled, “You. Left. Her.” Her skin itched, a prickling lattice that ran down her arms and back, all the way to her toes.
“Men got no use for a woman with a squalling baby on her tit,” the thing said. “Remember that, wherever you end up.”
Glossy black feathers exploded from Signe’s arms and back, glinted iridescent under the late moonlight. Talons tore through the canvas tops of her shoes and she felt a new power in her feet, a lethality she’d never known before; she could gut the pathetic creature in front of her, and he knew it too. He lowered his gaze in animal submission and took a few steps back, putting space between himself and Signe.
Oh, she wanted to end him. But in doing, she would break her mother’s heart; that was the job of the father, not the daughter.
Unlike her father, Signe still had her hands. She reached for a particularly large feather on her left shoulder, tore it out, and let it fall, leaf-like, to the ground.
“I’m gonna pluck myself clean,” she said, tearing out another black feather. “You best be gone by the time I’m done.”
The thing turned and ran, his oily grey feathers fading into the early morning murk. Signe grimaced and ripped out a fistful of feathers, then another, feeling her father grow more distant with every patch of skin she made raw.
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 06:12|
Inspired by God Over Djinn’s Gainful Employment: https://thunderdome.cc/?story=5188&title=Gainful+Employment
Let them in
Zosia swayed in a sea of bodies. Eyes slightly out of focus as the crowd ebbed and flowed around her, enormous headphones drowning out the roar of the tide.
She’d have to move some time, but honestly, where would she go? Her next lecture wasn’t for another half hour, the library smelt half like depression and half like cut apron strings - no, here was fine.
Lou Rhodes voice cut clean through the patter of triphop percussion in Zosia’s headphones, snaking up the cables from the clunky gunmetal discman in her satchel. She stared out the overbridge windows, out over the cars on the steep street below, out across the compacted skyline of the harbour city and up to the horizon.
Normal people don’t do this, she thought. Normal people don’t just stand and wait, parked like an unloved android until they’re needed again. What the gently caress was she doing?
There was a loneliness about her that other people seemed allergic to. It wasn’t desperate, or needy, it just was. She needed human interaction to stay sane, even just an idle “how about this weather” - but even in those short exchanges she could almost feel the other itching to disengage from the conversation. That feeling also meant she needed to be ten thousand miles away if she’d been in the same room with anyone for more than half an hour.
Zosia’s eyes refocused on the two faces mouthing rapid words and looking expectantly at her from either side. She slid her headphones off.
“- so we thought Zosh from our medieval literature tutorials would be just the right kind of company. Tonight, kay? See you there. ”
Laura? Yeah, Laura - and her buddy was Marcus. Either way, they were gone now. The two disappeared into the stream of bodies, leaving Zosia clutching a small flyer forced into her hand by her classmate.
Forbidden Book Club - Thistlechirp Residence
11pm first Thursday of every month
She mentally calculated the distance to the address printed beneath before the rest of her mind caught up. What the hell was that? Had she talked to them before? Why her? The bad parts overtook the good and raced ahead, following winding roads to awful scenarios.
She shook the thoughts out of her head. Laura and Marcus always seemed nice enough, they’d been the only ones to talk to her in tutes. She ran her fingers over the folded edges as she fidgeted with it in her pocket.
At about 10 past 7 that night, chopsticks gripping instant noodles halfway to her mouth, she decided she’d go. This was what she wanted ...wasn’t it? It’d be fine.
At about 5 to 11 that night, headphones wrapped around her ears on a cold Kelburn street, she decided she wouldn’t go. She turned to go back the way she came, nearly colliding with Laura and Marcus.
“You came!” Laura grabbed one arm, steering her back on course. They arrived at the top of a neglected looking staircase.
As they descended, Laura and Marcus burbling from in front and behind her. A sole candle flickered on the front porch, sucking the light out of its surrounds to condense it at the flame.
Zosia was ushered through the front door, and into a dimly lit flat living room. A hodge podge of cosy op-shopped furniture with an overall theme of “my Nan used to have these”.
Three new faces, soon introduced as Dan, Pedro and Britta, shouted an extended celebratory vowel at their arrival. Zosia fell into a series of spirited conversations with the others, propelled by the gins pushed into her hand.
“Alright alright alright! S’midnight!”
Britta pulled a massive tome out from under the couch, dropping it on the coffee table with both effort and dramatic flair. She deliberately opened the book, leafing slowly forward from a crimson silk bookmark, before settling on a page.
“Right! Zosia, you first.”
Zosia froze for a second, unsure what ‘first’ actually entailed. Laura grabbed her hand and pulled her forward, both now kneeling in front of the book on the table while Britta took the newly vacated seat.
Laura pointed at the words on the page, old gothic script - all calligraphic curls and extraneous crossbars. The both started reading, at first like a primary school play words phasing in and out of sync and syncopation, then flowing together like a rushing stream.
“Axaxaxas mlö. Axaxaxas mlö. Axaxaxas mlö. Axaxaxas mlö.”
The words rolling together, reverberating off the walls and then penetrating them. The chant rippling through the woodwork, vibrating in time with the chant.
AxaxaxasmlöAxaxaxas mlöAxaxaxas mlöAxaxaxasmlö
Zosia closed her eyes, the words humming inside her throat. She didn’t know how long she floated there for, anchored only by Laura’s hand. Peaceful warmth radiating out of their joined grasp.
When she opened them, she let the world refocus slowly around her. She hadn’t felt this good in years. The deep lingering, loneliness washed away, scrubbed clean from long forgotten rooms of her soul.
She didn’t know when they stood up. Something dripped, ribbons of something else hung across the armchair she’d been on earlier. Scorchmarks crisscrossed the ceiling, forming a strange tartan with.. Blood spatter? She watched something red slowly unstick itself and flop to the floor in a tangled mess. Laura squeezed her hand and she felt home.
Zosia swayed in a sea of bodies.
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 06:21|
All Closed With a Word
There's a new monolith at the rest stop on the two three seven mile marker on I-55, gleaming black, absorbing and reflecting the dawn sunlight in turns with subtle changes in the angle. Claire can't help but study it, even though it isn't what she came for. Her notebook comes out, jotting down dimensions and positions. She takes pictures, hoping her phone will last long enough to reach a pocket of signal. She's alone out here. The truckers all left before the sun. Another batch will trickle in over the dark hours after midnight. She consults her map.
It's almost a dark art, navigating by old roadmaps and demolition reports, paper with faded ink worn down to white at the numerous creases. No other choice, though. The GPS doesn't work for poo poo out here in the interior. She does the math. The nearest one is a Springfield, and it's too far by a day. With good forage she'd be fine, but she's seen the yellowed grass, heard barely any birdcall. The forage would not be good. She still has hope for the stop as she walks toward the hostel, hope for a bicycle to rent or buy.
There are none, no people either, just locks that answer to her debit card and the empty dining room. The automat has a face, a homey animatronic waitress that insists on talking to her. Claire doesn't like talking to machines. She presses buttons instead. The mechanized woman says “Thank you, and come again sometime.” Its head tilts to the left, like a collar muscle just gave out and snapped. Claire takes the steaming meal back to her room. She eats, sleeps, and dreams.
She dreams of enemies, meeting violent ends. It's all she has dreamt on this journey, she suspects all anyone dreams of here anymore. Nobody talks about dreams. She never knew before how many enemies she had. Exes, of course, and rivals. Her parents, which came as a surprise. All falling to the satisfactory stroke of a straight-razor. She sees her sister, and inside, below her dream self, as audience rather than actor, feels dismay. Then she sees that Janice is the one holding the blooded blade. Janice turns to her, eyes bulging and unblinking, doll-like. Her head tilts to the side, just like the diner mannequin, and she says something, but Janice cannot recall the words on waking.
She walks back to the rest area, now in quiet darkness and insect-song, to negotiate passage. It's almost always sex, on the surface. Money doesn't mean enough, and the truckers are loath to admit they need friendship, intimacy, any buffer against the loneliness of the roads. So they negotiate sex, even with someone they have no attraction for whatsoever. It would have made a fine Anthropology paper, if that had been her field.
She finds a willing partner, a young man, Valentine, call-me-Val. He claims to be on his first ride, making his first arrangement after a solitary first leg from Chicago. She isn't completely sure it isn't a line, but he seems pleasant and safe, and she trusts her instincts on such matters.
They travel south. The radio comes on unbidden, monolith voices broadcasting directly to the speakers, and the accusing arguments from a man of some unclear religion are too much to tolerate. They talk over him, loudly and quickly, leaving no pause for the rants about decadence and betrayal to fit. She hears his story and believes it. He hears hers and does not understand.
“I want to see it, to study it. How people lived.”
“Why?”,Val asks. She has no answer.
The preacher gets in a few words on the subject of the gates of Hell. “With a single word they opened to let the Lord and the righteous dead pass through to the shadow of the silver City, and with-”
Val starts talking about music, and they shut the frequency-modulated interloper out of their conversation. They talk about old novels and plays, about the cities, about the rails, where the currency of travel is violence rather than sex, fights for dominance or wagers or the sheer joy of it, fights to the scar, and how it's not for either of them, even if they both see a perverse romanticism to it, a longing to submerge into a primal, animal nature. Claire's words, but Val nods knowingly.
When they cross the old state line into Texas the broadcast finally changes, to a numbers station, a woman with a thick South American accent reading random numbers in English. It’s unobtrusive enough that they’re able to be silent together, a rare kind of intimacy on the road. Then, just past the Dallas ruins, they notice the numbers aren't random any more, but counting down. “Seven hundred and eighty-seven, Seven hundred and eighty-six.”
Val stops the truck, pulls over to a gravel shoulder next to a grassy field, green and slick. If anything, the numbers get louder with the engine off. He's got an unnerved urgency about him, and Claire thinks everything he said might be true, and more. She knows what he wants, and now, in the evening twilight while the numbers slowly count down, seems as good a time as any.
He makes love like a virgin, like a man used to a rougher grasp, enthusiastic but single-minded, long-lasting beyond the virtue of it. At ten the numbers stop descending, resuming randomness. They both giggle, tension broken, and find a more natural rhythm. Then the countdown resumes where it had left off, synchronized will his final strokes. The numbers girl repeats 'zero’ a few dozen times before resuming her random count.
Val lets Claire off at a rest stop a hundred miles out of Houston. There's another hostel there, another creepy robotic waitress, but this time also a bicycle for sale. Claire eats, makes her payment, and dreams of violent ends for unhelpful assistant professors. As she rides past the rest stop on the way to Crockett she sees a new monolith, casting its black shadow onto the highway.
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 06:26|
Kicking life in the dick, eh.
A Prince on Any Other Day: A Hero’s Tale
My mother was the first to notice my inadequacies, and she was the first to tell me so. Pointing out my pervasive shortcomings was a favorite hobby of just about everybody: people at church, my community college guidance counselor, and even random strangers. Nobody did it to be mean. Just a nonchalant comment like “how’s the weather,” only it was “you don’t quite stack up, do you?” They just assumed my emotional wherewithal was as lacking as my aptitude for… well, anything.
And I might have gone on believing that until I died—probably of my own negligence—until one day I decided to marry a princess.
I didn’t know any princesses, or if I did I wasn’t aware of it. There are lots of things you can be exposed to and not know it, like subliminal advertising or the measles. Then a few days later, when you’re not thinking about it, you want a Pepsi out of nowhere, or you have a rash.
It wouldn’t be hard to find a princess. They live in big castles and were the ones with the flowing dresses and ribbons in their hair. There weren’t any castles left in the suburbs, so I packed myself a ham and cheese and walked to the bus stop. That’s where I bumped into Stancio.
Stancio was a middle schooler I’d met before, but he didn’t throw bottles at me like the other ones. He said he “felt sorry for me,” which I don’t really understand how he could feel bad for me when he was the one that had to go to school with them.
“Hey Donald,” said Stancio. “Off to visit your mom at work again?”
I scoffed. “No, today I’m getting married.”
“Oh poo poo, for real?”
“Yes, I am going to marry a princess. I’m going to her castle to propose.”
“Can I tag along?”
Stancio had followed me on adventures before. We threw a watermelon off the top of the dam once, and another time we pulled a shopping card out of the lake, and we thought there was a skeleton in it, but it was just driftwood.
“If you’re not busy.”
“Busy? On your wedding day? What kind of friend would I be?”
I don’t count Stancio as a friend, on account of him being a child, but I did not want to upset him, so I said nothing. It was more of a mentoring relationship, where I showed him the best place to throw things off of and he taught me nothing.
We talked about school until the 77 bus arrived, and I let him have the window seat. I pointed out the best pizza places, like a true mentor. He hadn’t the foresight to pack his lunch like I had.
The bus snaked its way out of the suburb and merged onto the freeway that fed into the city, and we drove for half an hour until it let us off a block from the castle. Men in suits and ladies in suits walked very quickly on the sidewalk.
The castle itself was set back in a large, open plaza. We followed the path through rolling green hills filled with picnickers.
“We’re here,” I said.
“The courthouse?” asked Stancio.
The becolumned behemoth loomed over us, little marble gargoyles ready to turn into real life gargoyles and protect the royal family, if the princess rejected my offer and sicked the gargoyles on us. I needed to be extra sexy, for our safety. I straightened up, puffed out my chest, and ascended the many steps to the entrance.
“Stancio, it is very important that you do not have any metal on you,” I said, pointing to the metal detectors patrolled by sallow-faced guards.
“None. Just some homework.”
“You’re one hundred percent sure? Let me see your bag.”
I opened his bag and peered inside, then handed it back to him.
I stepped through the detector as the guards scowled at me. They were undoubtedly suspicious of a mysterious ruffian like me, but I kept a straight face and the machine didn’t beep.
Stancio sauntered through the detector with an ignorant bravado, and the alarm blared. Three guards stepped up to him and I used the distraction (manufactured when I dropped my house key into his bag) to slip through the side door labeled “authorized personnel only.”
The halls behind the forbidden door were empty and quiet. Every step I took made my shoes squeak, so I stopped walking and stood still. I looked over my shoulder through the security window at the guards ready to pounce on Stancio. If he fell, I would name an island after him, I decided with only the tiniest pang of guilt.
And then I saw the princess: a long black gown with little white frills. Not as pink as I’d imagined, but she was beautiful and intimidating and hurrying to the bathroom.
I took one squeaky step forward and stopped. I watched as the men rummaged through Stancio’s bag, and knew he would soon learn of my betrayal.
Was it worth it? Love? At the price of ruining what was probably the greatest mentorship of all time? Could I truly be happy in my castle, ruling over the land when I knew Stancio was rotting away in a dungeon somewhere?
Stancio was calm and unassuming, which was a great set up for my sneak attack. I lunged at the lead guard and buried my shoulder between his ribs. We skidded across the floor into a heap against the wall.
“Run, Stancio! Save yourself!” I yelled, and he turned his wide-eyed scrawny body around and bolted.
I was accustomed to falls, being of poor balance and observational skills, and was back on my feet before the guards could react. I caught up to Stancio easily as he made his way down the stairs.
We ran together, me a little bit faster, all the way back to the bus stop.
Stancio and I sat on the bus, out of breath, but happy to have escaped and certain torture.
“I saw her.”
“Yeah. I was about to ask her to marry me.”
“What did she look like?”
“Much older than I expected.” I dug the ham sandwich from my pocket, half smushed by guard ribs. I handed Stancio half.
He accepted it and took a bite. “You didn’t need to tackle that guy,” he said with his mouth full of ham.
I smiled at him. “You’re welcome though.”
He shrugged. “Maybe next time.”
I nodded, and we rode in silence, chewing our sandwiches.
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 06:37|
A Deep Understanding
[i]Based on PoshAlligator's The Black Mountain's Bell
Solitair fucked around with this message at 07:47 on Dec 29, 2019
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 06:55|
The Appliance of Dreams
I’m halfway through the conversation with dreary Mike from Accounting when I realise I don’t actually have to be who I’m supposed to be.
In front of me Mike is wittering on about quarterly billables and the effect of the Hamburg Rule on accrued liability, but I’m really not listening. Instead I’m exploring this new personal realm like a child with a flashlight, picking her way through a toy store at night. The light dances across stuffed animals, dollhouses, fighter planes. Fire engines.
“Mike, what do you think it’s like to drive a fire engine?” I say.
Mike doesn’t seem to know what it’s like to drive a fire engine. I start pulling him towards the lift. “I’m pretty sure it’s amazing.” His hand feels nice, actually, warm and dry with a couple of unidentifiable calluses. Maybe accountants get those from wrangling big numbers? I smile at that, and also at the thought of how good it’s going to be to drive the fire engine. There’s a bunch of people waiting for the lift so I am steering him down the stairs when he pulls his hand out of mine.
“Is this… are we going to a meeting room? I was going to book one, but then you said—“
I explain as we rapid-foot down the stairs, throwing words back over my shoulder.
“Downstairs. Jump in a taxi. Over to the big fire station at Oriental Bay. We’re going to grab a big red one and take it for a spin.”
He grabs me by the shoulder just as we hit the ground floor, spins me round. I look in his eyes, which are alight.
“That would be amazing,” he says.
I hold up my index finger like I’m balancing a plate on it and we nod, slowly. Then we bolt for the sliding front door, chortling like buffoons.
Over at the big station in Oriental Bay the fire engine guy is less accommodating.
“No,” he says, firm moustache quivering with resolution. “You cannot ride in the fire engine.”
I put my hands flat on his cluttered desk, bitten nails splayed wide. I have a sudden realisation that I don’t need to bite them anymore and use that revelation as a springboard for the look of utter certainty that does a perfect twisting half-pike dive right out of my eyes and into his.
“I don’t want to ride your fire engine. I want to drive it, with the lights flashing, and the siren on.”
He has risen to his feet, driven upright by the white hot intensity of my words, and takes a moment to respond.
“But… that would be incredible,”, he says. “Like a shiny red comet.”
“Yes!” cries Mike, and I laugh, and the fire guy is laughing and we’re all laughing, and then he grabs the keys and tosses them to me but I’m already out the door because we are doing this thing right here and right now; luckily Mike did cricket at school and fields the keys one-handed and slings them to me where I’m clinging, two thirds of the way up the ladder that leads to the fire engine cockpit, or or driving seat, or whatever. I slide the key into the lock and the door clicks open. It smells of smoke and glory inside and there are so, so many switches and lights. I flick them all on and they glitter and sparkle like a Christmas tree.
“Oh Jesus,” breathes Mike, who has clambered in. In front of us the big segmented folding door is click-clacking up into the roof and the fire engine guy is waving us out like a beaming black-clad Santa Claus.
The pedal is unctuous below my right foot as I ram it down to the textured rubber mat and Mike slams his fist onto the big red button labelled SIREN then, with a howling whoop, we bound into the afternoon traffic, squeal around the corner and growl down the long straight of Kent Terrace, and it's totally amazing.
Mike is guffawing with glee as we hit the red light by the big movie theatre and just sail right through it like a great glistening red dowager of the city, lights spinning and siren wailing and the sun gleaming off every perfectly polished corner of our incredible glorious engine of fire and dreams.
But there’s more. I can feel it.
I’m grinding the pedal down into the mat when we hit Newtown, swerving around the sluggish vehicles that clot the roads, and Mike is panting. I’m giggling, a high pitched sort of sound, because this is amazing, but it could be more, and there’s more to come, I can feel it. A fire engine is nothing without fire.
As though answering to my thoughts a car in front of us catches alight. Toyota Caldina, 2008, I think as we swerve around it. To our right a lick of flame caresses the front of a battered white bungalow, crisping the paint but then it’s gone and we’re howling up Constable Street, right over the roundabout bump bump bump and rocketing down Onepu Road, an open throat to the belly that is Lyall Bay and the sea.
Mike’s not laughing any more, it’s more of a wail now and I am frowning because while this is absolutely everything I could possibly have asked for vis a vis driving a fire engine incredibly fast down a road with the siren on, everything is catching fire. We are surrounded by a cocoon of white-hot air, now, with slavering tendrils of flame slapping the houses on each side of the road alight.
The bay is approaching, a T-junction where the options are to go left, or right; or -- and it occurs to me as I choose it that I have made many errors in my life -- to ram our gigantic lumbering brute of a fire engine smack bang into the low wall that guards the beach.
Mike and I share a look of mutual incredulity as the engine leaves the ground then the water comes up like a hammer and all is blackness.
On the shore, Dwayne McIvor, surfer, is stripping off his wetsuit. He gazes at the roil of bubbles where a flaming fire engine just careened down the road, soared through the air and sank. He looks at the airport down the other end of the bay then over at his girlfriend Lucy, eyes afire.
“Lucy,” he says. “What do you think it would be like to fly a jet plane?”
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 06:57|
we closed ladies and gentlebitches
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 07:19|
interprompt: I MADE SOMETHING I REGRET but i can explain, please put that down
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 10:50|
The Soft Patter of a Brainchild's Feet
interprompt: I MADE SOMETHING I REGRET but i can explain, please put that down
“An extremely realistic robot spider,” Warren said. “That’s a surprise.”
He picked it up gingerly and took a closer look. “Especially from you.”
“Please please please don’t hold this thing between us while we talk. Oh God.” Pearce wasn’t having a good day. He dared a peek through his fingers, but Warren hadn’t listened, and Pearce’ hands snapped shut again.
“How did you even make this?” Warren sounded genuinely baffled.
Staring hard at the instruments along the walls, Pearce shifted around to one particular console and opened up a 3D drawing. “Proof of concept for this program.” As he explained, the tremble gradually faded from his voice. “I give it a basic skeleton, and the printer back there –“ he pointed, catching sight of Warren holding up the spider still, and flinched, “– b-back there, it sprays a rubber compound I, I came up with…or rather the materials people…anyway, that’s how the coating is made.”
Warren bounced the model up and down, admiring how the joints flexed slightly and then back to neutral. Pearce fussed with some program settings.
“Why a spider, though?”
“The most complicated skeleton I could think of.” Pearce swallowed drily, shuffled sideways, back to Warren, until he reached the shelf with all the prototypes. He lifted one up and to the side so his colleague could see it with him having to turn around. “It’s very abstract without the…skin…chitin, I guess?”
Warren suddenly was next to him, and Pearce assumed a very stiff posture. “Are…are you still holding it?”
“Oh, sure,” Warren murmured, studying the eight metal limbs of the prototype. “The robotics people are amazing at this poo poo.” He gave a whistle through his teeth. “So, do they work?”
“This one has a switch,” Warren explained gently, and touched it, and the prototype began to move its legs in a carefully programmed rhythm. Pearce screamed, and flung his hand up, and the prototype went flying.
With a heroic dive, Warren caught it. It skittered in his hand, and he deactivated it with some effort.
“Of course, they wouldn’t give you a fully functioning one to toy around with.” He shook his head, getting up while dusting himself off. “You did use one without motors for your coating test, right?”
Pearce’ expression spoke of more than just the terror of his phobia. Warren’s eyebrows rose, but he didn’t say anything. It was Pearce who broke the silence.
“Where did it go? The coated one. Where did it go?”
Warren looked around to where the realistic rubber-coated spider should have landed, but it was nowhere close to that spot. He imagined hearing the patter of soft rubber on the laboratory’s floor, and judging from how Pearce could rival his lab coat’s freshly laundered whiteness, he could imagine it as well.
“I’ll tell the robotics people that they need to make the switches less sensitive,” Warren said. He calmly walked to the door, making sure not to step on anything on the way. “I’ll leave you to writing a report, then. Should be great! Pay rise for sure!”
With a thumbs up and a grin too wide for simple friendliness, Warren closed the door behind him. Pearce stood frozen in the middle of a lonely lab, no company but fading laughter from outside, and a very real patter of eight very realistic legs that got louder, louder, louder.
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 16:31|
Prompt: The Show, by Sitting here
When Yacob Chen walked on stage, the chatter of one thousand people instantly silenced. Nobody even dared to cough, for fear of disturbing the magic in every movement of the artist’s performance.
He began working instantly, without even looking at the audience, or allowing them a pause of anticipation. In a swift motion he removed the black tarp covering an enormous canvas six feet tall and reaching all the way to the floor. In that same motion, he covered the stage floor in front of the canvas with the tarp. Then, without moving his feet, he straightened his back to face directly away from the crowd. Some of them were only now taking their first breath since the performance began.
Yacob stood completely still as two uniformed men emerged from the wing opposite the canvas, each carrying an automatic rifle. Following them, a bulkier man dressed in a more militaristic style dragged a single blindfolded person by ropes onto the black tarp just in front of the canvas.
The audience’s gaze flicked up as words were projected onto the black curtain above the people on stage: “Serial murder.” One of the uniformed men stepped up and handed his weapon out to Yacob, who, moving now for the second time, grabbed it and switched the safety off with a smooth movement.
The night progressed, additional people were escorted on stage, and the audience grew more excited with each one. Espionage, then war crimes, then murder during a prison break.
The canvas got steadily redder. The roar of the audience drowned out the din of the show.
The following week, respected art critic Gregory Delisle was previewing an exclusive gallery of Chen’s latest works, accompanied by a representative of the venue. Delisle had received much praise for his article “Disappointing Lack of Rapists in Yacob Chen’s New Series” and was feared for his discerning tastes and ability to end careers with a single keystroke.
These walls, every inch by covered by innumerable huge canvases of harsh red and brown splatters with the smallest pieces of pure, untouched white shining through like so many stars. To the untrained eye they would likely be indistinguishable from one another, but Delisle responded to each piece separately. Dismissing one as derivative immediately after a glance. Examining another so close he could smell it, as if he could read where each bullet had struck. As if it formed a sentence.
This continued for several hours. The representative followed meekly after the critic, writing copious notes about his every eyebrow-curl or appreciative grunt. The venue would use this information to assist in designing the layout of the exhibition, as well as which works to display.
Delisle was reading the scarlet lines of a painting towards the back of the hall, apparently included as an afterthought, when he recoiled with such an urgency that the representative believed for an instant that the portrait had physically struck the man.
“Sir, what-” she was able to speak, before the sight of his sudden pallor brought her to silence.
After a long pause, he raised a trembling arm to point at an area on the bottom-right quadrant of the canvas. With a voice drained of all pride and professionalism, he whispered, “This one was innocent.”
Under the direct glare of fluorescent lights the canvas reflected an unpleasant glow. Not a single one of the men and women packed tightly around the metal table was concerned with art critique.
The portrait was laid horizontally with a gigantic magnifying glass fixed in place by a metal arm just above a specific location near one corner. Twenty faces leaned over it and searched with intense scrutiny for anything at all of substantial difference to the rest of the maroon landscape, made even more vast by close examination.
Gregory Delisle retreated into his home immediately following the incident, and did not come out until a week later when he flew to France to avoid the media attention. During that time, however, several news agencies had managed to reach him for brief interviews, eventually determining the exact square inch which had so startled the man. When pressed for why, Delisle simply told reporters to leave.
Yacob had ignored all requests for comment.
Presently, many of the greatest minds in forensics, psychology, data analysis, medicine, law, chemistry, theology, history, art, and mathematics were holding a formal conference to discover what factor Delisle had seen.
Computer programs had been fed images of the work, in addition to approximately fifty others from the same series. No concrete results had come from that endeavor. However, they had been able to determine from fractal patterns of the splatter the order in which the elements of each piece had been contributed, and thus were able to show with certainty that the section indicated by Delisle had been the first to hit canvas, and was the only visible portion contributed by that individual. Experts were baffled at how Delisle had been able to understand even that much on his own.
Three days into the conference, those who remained were frustrated, tired, and confused. The futility of their efforts and lack of any significant progress had been demotivating at best, and existentially debilitating at worst. At the end of the day, only two people remained. A theologist, and the medical doctor who had purchased the piece in order to host this conference.
“I know why everyone else left,” the doctor said after an eternity of silence. “They had the same realization.”
“That there is no answer?” the theologist asked.
“No,” the doctor said, pushing the magnifying glass away. “What if this part had been painted over? What if...”
The doctor didn’t finish his thought. He headed for the door. “Keep the painting,” he said as he left the room.
|# ? Apr 15, 2019 16:43|
Before we get to anything else, I'd like to state that this week was without a doubt the strongest overall week I've ever judged in TD history. Y'all brought the magic and for all we bang on about poo poo tier words in here, good words must be acknowledged when you all manage to poo poo them out. There were a handful of stories this week that could have won an average week, and only two we hated.
Whatever you're smoking, keep at it, Thunderdome.
Our loss and DM are Saucy_Rodent and QuoProQuid. Rodent, I get the feeling you were just trying not to fail. Quid at least wrote a story, even if it sucked.
This week we could have given out several HMs honestly. But there were three that clustered head and shoulders above the generally above-average tales: Ironic Twist whose tale of trauma hit a delightfully frenetic pace and had us wondering where it would go next, crabrock who absolutely tickled us with his sense of childlike whimsy and a great voice, and Sitting Here who wrote a character so repulsive he kind of oozes off the page and a satisfyingly ragey ending.
As a side note, we all voted as a unit to not dq SurreptitiousMuffin, you jammy bastard.
However, despite the overall quality of this week's entries, one blew me away to the point of where my crit file for it still just says "holy poo poo" and nothing else: sebmojo, you wrote a story that perfectly encapsulates racing crazy mania. I wanted to jog alongside this story and run with it forever. Slide down the fire pole, toot your horn, and take up the blood crown for Week 350.
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 03:45|
Here’s the crits. Run N’ Gun are my reactions in real-time. Overall are my thoughts after the fact. If you'd like me to take a deeper dive on your entry, just let me know. Also happy to talk shop in discord or IRC for anyone interested.
Ironic Twist’s Thaw
Run N’ Gun
Your opening is strong. Well written, whimsical and I have an idea of who this person is. The characterization in the next graph (of Uncle Hoke) kind of feels like a step backward because I was bought in on learning more about your protag and you end up throwing a list of things down, which, while funny and amusing doesn’t advance your narrative or characterization much after one or two examples.
And, OK, I guess the character of focus is Hoke, which I’m not thrilled about as I was more interested in your protag, but that’s a different strokes thing I suppose.
This is going all over the place with reckless abandon and I’m a fan. Your brevity is saving you here as is your prose. Moving around and not spending a bunch of time on any one thing is keeping the pace of this on point for me.
Your cuts here are kind of remarkable. My take on this, and I’m curious if this was your intention, was to kind of cut on emotion. Chronologically, this makes no sense, but you’re cutting to new scenes that are relevant to the character’s feelings. It’s a cool thing you’re doing and I really appreciate the respect you have for your audience’s intelligence.
Holy hell, I hope the rest of the week continues like this. This was a ballsy piece that nailed its execution. I’ll have to read it again to find something to quibble with but this is an early front runner for the win. I would pick this as a win for most weeks.
Simply Simon’s Your Auras Paint an Ugly Picture
Run N’ Gun
Eh, I don’t find that so blinding? OK, so you’re dancing around a whole bunch of stuff in this intro and using really flowery language as you do.
OK, so I really don’t much care for this opening. The only thing I do want to know is… what’s this referenced gift? You nod to it, get me interested and then just get all super descriptive about things I don’t really care about quite yet. Some of your imagery here isn’t bad, but it’s hard for me to want to see it.
Oh, alright, so like this dude has some kind of emotional synesthesia? It wasn’t clear that was his gift, it read more like the other person has an aura and that was their gift. Anyway, that’s kind of neat but I’m curious if it’s enough to build a story around. Here’s hoping it is, or you find something else worthwhile.
Haha, OK so the guy seems like a prick, which you handle well. And then he has his revelation that he’s a prick, but not for the right reasons. Honestly, this is toxic bullshit that is written believably… if that makes sense. Like yeah, this guy is full of poo poo, but I’ve heard people talk this way and have these feelings.
Huh, this is growing on me. Your guy kinda wants to help, but doesn’t know how and his blessing is his curse yada yada but you’re doing a good job.
Alright, so once your dude gets to the drug store, I finished reading the rest of this quickly. This is kind of uneven, and your guy shifts from scumbag to righteous to delusional… to like other poo poo too. None of that is necessarily bad but where you do lose me is in the guy’s sense of morality. Whether he’s making these judgments and seeing things as he sees them (my read) or this is some judgment from the heavens that he is privy to, I’m not sure where his morality comes from and what it is. Like he’s clearly got a big beef and hangup with sex, but is that inherently amoral? He feels like a religious character of sorts, but you never really go there. I don’t know. Also, your prose bordered on gratuitous at times, especially in your description of things. You were at your best here when you focused on color, anytime you strayed from that, it started feeling unecessary.
Anyhow, this was an interesting one and you did deliver on a high concept, so kudos to you.
Saucy_Rodent’s Equal Opportunity Witchcraft
Run N’ Gun
Alright, we got a mob! Couple of typos early. This is a short piece, so they’re gonna stand out more.
Oh, it’s over!
Uh, well that was a thing! Not so much a story as a list of people saying dumb things, and then doing dumb things. Which like… sure that’s a good list of things you got there. But… I don’t know, what really is this? If you want to do this story right, I think you need to consult your ‘show don’t tell manual’. It sounds like your witch is cunning, crafty, and overall decent. But all we have as proof is her word and the general understanding that you, the narrator are on her side. But, again, that’s not really a story. How about you show us these examples? And OK, the punchline here that she basically just trolled him a little and got burnt to the stake over it... We get it, these people are all morons. What else though? Do more. You had the words to spare.
Run N’ Gun
Hm, of all things to get me interested in a character “unflappably stoic” is not high up on the list. You do a bit of showing, but I could’ve done with more I guess? Things happen, you say he doesn’t care but in kinda short and normalish ways. It’s also all sandwiched with how he thinks of himself and then how you, as the narrator think of them.
I’m not that bought into him as a person I’m interested in reading about.
Also, a bit of a blocking issue, starting off your story with someone speaking behind him and we don’t know where he is. I’d put the Panera Bread thing first. Too much stuff competing for my attention. I don’t care about what Disney is doing, because that’s seemingly not what this story is about. We get it, the world is ending.
A lot of proofing problems, which surprises me coming from you. Go read through this again and you’ll see it for yourself. Some obvious stuff.
Names for your organizations feel somewhat Vonneguty, which is making me smile.
Pretty far into this and, again, finding it difficult to care. Are we supposed to feel for Kamir? You haven’t characterized him beyond “tough” but even that seems potentially due to brainwashing?
Nearing the ending and I have no idea where this is going to go but jesus you better not just blow up the world.
Oh. Well, I guess that’s an ending?
Nah. You’re better than this. What is this story? Unlikable, poorly characterized cultist meets other unlikeable poorly characterized cultists. They treat each other like idiots and are mean to one of their own. Then the guy goes home and cries a bunch? I really hope I’m just dumb and missed something. Either way, this story didn’t connect at all for me.
Flerp’s The Legacy of the Stevens
Run N’ Gun
You decently build some dread/impending doom with your opening. You’re going to need to earn the claim “all of us are bound to”.
Ah, so it’s a corpse disposal. I guess that’s cool, but it does remove some of the dread.
About a third of the way through and I can’t quite tell if you’re going for something clever here? It seems like you’re trying to make death and loss into something new but simply turning it into a black void ain’t much of a reach.
Well, I read the rest of this quickly thanks to your pretty solid prose. But, I’m kinda left feeling like I wanted this to hit me harder.
I don’t know what you were going for here. If it was to elicit a feeling, it didn’t do that so much for me. If you were trying to turn death/grief/general morbidity into something different and unique… mission accomplished kinda? Death, even intergenerational death, being centered around this idea feels kinda easy.
Tyrannosaurus’s somewhere, sometime, a garden
Run N’ Gun
Nothing terribly grabby about your first, somewhat long-winded opening graph. Decent job giving us a sense of place and time though.
These commas are kind of out of control. It seems like a choice, but it’s, not, quite one that, I’m happy with.
The voice of this is on point, more than most of the stories so far this week. It really feels like the narrator is sitting down and telling me this story. I can hear it.
Huh, the turn with the flowers is interesting, wasn’t expecting it or anything like it.
Wow, way to rush the gently caress out of what could have been a very cool ending.
This bums my poo poo. There’s good stuff here but it doesn’t quite come together. I’m not sure why they had to be flowers or why that’s an important choice but it sure seems like it’s supposed to be one. You spend much of your story building up to a showdown that doesn't really happen. So OK, these things all happened, got like a witch kid who does some witchy things, but to what end? Why did you want to tell this story? Not a question I like to hear when I’ve written something, but it’s the question I have for you now.
Run N’ Gun
Ah, Christ. Stories about environmental disaster are kind of kryptonite for me and I hope this doesn’t make sad for weeks.
About halfway in now and you’re doing a good job of painting a dystopian picture while also ensuring that personality and voice of your characters aren’t lost in the shuffle. This is impressively written so far.
The Pavlov’s dog comment is a bit on-the-nose and unnecessary.
Really solid paying attention to the sweat and contrasting the abundance of it to the scarcity of the water. Neat touch.
Read the rest quickly, well done.
This was very good. A hopeless story which somehow manages to still be a pleasant read thanks in larger part to the attitude of the characters. They speak and act believeably and you do a good job at maintaining a brisque, necessary pace, as not much happens. Add on to that some neat juxtapositions and imagery and you’ve got a pretty fine piece of storytelling.
HM/Wouldn’t mind seeing it win.
Uranium Phoenix’s A Flash of Color
Run N’ Gun
Not a bad opening but we don’t learn much about your character apart from that she was at a place and saw a thing. Some kind of reaction on her part would have been welcome.
Aw, she’s like Wall-E!
OK, so this went from shocking image sci-fi to waxing philosophical.
Kinda like Wall-E!
Alright so yeah, not much changes it’s dudes talkin’ bout stuff, but it’s pretty fun to read I guess?
Not much in the way of story or momentum but there is some charm here. It feels like it would be better suited to a short film or something. As it stands, it’s hard to catch a good bead on how this looks, probably because the scale is just too massive and you spend more time on the characters than the world itself. A fine choice, on its own but there isn’t much here to sink my teeth into.
Antivehicular’s Dismantling Father
Run N’ Gun
Nice little snapshot of who your character is and where they are in life in the opening.
Good balance of action and conversation. You also do a good job characterizing everyone, even the folks we don’t see directly.
Woah, chemo out of nowhere? Did I miss something or did you attend the Tommy Wiseau school of writing?
I’m having a hard time with this story and what you set out to do. I didn’t know where it was going at the halfway point and as soon as it makes its turn I got confused as to why it went that way and what the second half of the story has to do with the first.
Curlingiron’s Hunter of Monsters
Run N’ Gun
I am intrigued by the setup. Good on you.
This is effectively gross.
OK, so once she starts confronting him… what is going on? Why is she doing this? I am confused. So she’s like, on a mission from god?
Uh, what was this? If it’s some kind of jewish folk thing you couldn’t have picked a better week cos how often will you have some jewey judge to help deliberate but… what is this? I don’t recognize this or see much of anything in what you’re trying to do. It’s visceral and handily written but what apart from this person being like a witchy jew hunting dexter, I don’t understand what you were setting out to do.
Sitting Here’s Vulture
Run N’ Gun
Your opening hits hard and you go about the attack of your story in a sensuous way. Well done there.
Ugh, the second beat is a tough read, but for the right reasons.
And hey, it only gets moreso! This bird thing is working for you.
Alright, finished that one quickly. That was a hell of a ride.
Goodness that was something. It was powerfully told and frankly, I was really worried that the whole thing was just going to be a downer and have a tough ending. It was nice to see it take a turn toward the optimistic even if the situation itself may not commonly be so triumphant. This was good good good.
Steeltoedsneakers’s Let them in
Run N’ Gun
Lol, yup. That sounds like college. Like the unloved android bit. I feel like I know your character.
Alright, so we’re building up to this thing she got invited to. You took a bit of time getting to the invitation, let’s hope you get to the party itself faster.
Not bad, the hesitation for her getting there felt believable and you didn’t drag it out.
Got some proofing issues strewn about the piece. Do better.
I don’t understand what happened in the end of all of that? It seems like either the ceremony is real or your character drew something real out of it and it meant a lot to her? Whatever it was, the intention is unclear and it didn’t feel like you took it seriously enough. We spend the majority of the time in this story away from creepy blood magic. To just toss it in at the end like that didn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Thranguy’s All Closed With a Word
Run N’ Gun
Not thrilled with the opening. We don’t learn much about Claire, the monolith or the seemingly odd rules of this world.
Couple of graphs in and I’m starting to see more of this in my mind. The automat was handled well.
The truckers having all of this power is interesting and you’re handling it well.
Read the rest quickly. Well written, but I’m not sure what to make of this.
I liked the telling of the story even if it didn’t feel like the mystery of the world was addressed enough. Though, it almost seemed like the point of this story was to have a relatively unremarkable person acting with a backdrop of an intriguing setting. If that’s the case then yeah, you accomplished what you set out to do, and I did enjoy this quite a bit.
Crabrock’s A Prince on Any Other Day: A Hero’s Tale
Run N’ Gun
Huh, second story to used chatting about the weather.
I’m grateful for this story, it’s a happy little fresh thing that, if it didn’t come this late on a week that had a lot of heavy fare I may not enjoy as much.
Hm, I hope this Stancio guy is for real and not just a gaslighting enabler.
Haha, OK this: “It was more of a mentoring relationship, where I showed him the best place to throw things off of and he taught me nothing.” is probably my favorite sentence of the week. Nevermind “ I needed to be extra sexy, for our safety.” new best sentence. This is a loving gas to read I only hope it stays this fun and doesn’t come crashing down like I worry it may.
Alright, that was sweet.
Oh, I just liked this a lot. Fun time, good voice and confidence in your protag. Not much else to say, good job!
HM candidate imo.
Solitair’s A Deep Understanding
Run N’ Gun
Hm, not thrilling with me your opening. Like yeah, the pit will surely end up being more than what your protag is making it out to be but him not caring isn’t a great place to start.
Three graphs in and your protag is still in the business of whinging.
I don’t understand what’s exciting to your protag in graph 4. You’re doing a bit too much telling here.
Ah, alright, now we got a sea monster thing, this story is going places.
Oh, but the protag just leaves?! But they were all bored and poo poo!
So… dude has a boring gig and nobody trusts him. He whines and finds a fishman, he goes and freewillys the fishamn, and he laments that he didn’t get to study the fishman. One of my consistent complaints this week is that I can’t tell what the author was trying to do with their story. That applies here.
Sebmojo’s The Appliance of Dreams
Run N’ Gun
Digging the voice of this right out of the gate. Hard to tell who’s talking in places. It may be intentional, but I’m finding it distracting.
Hard for me to tell what’s up with Mike. Is he supposed to be a stiff, or someone who’s along for the ride? Or is he coming around?
Oh, OK. Once your character gets the to fire engine guy, I see more of what you’re doing.
By the time they get into the fire engine and drive off I have no idea where this story could possibly go.
Huh, well I guess it went there.
This was neat and whimsical in the right kind of ways for me. It’s certainly well crafted and the frenetic pace makes it work all the better. Well done.
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 04:02|
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 04:04|
Thunderdome Week CCCL: This is the line of division
hello again thunderdome i trust you missed me
this week you will be writing about :
2. either towards or away from something beautiful and/or terrible
3. in the style of or inspired by my man Gene Wolfe (R.I.P.) If you have no idea who Gene Wolfe is then you should fix that flaw in your character, but in the meantime these are some words he wrote so either grab anything out of here as fuel for your smog-belching story engine or ask me and i will assign you a quote.
you will have 1050 words, with another 350 for those who choose to accept the horrid benedictions of a bad toy as a flashrule
with your flash and you may also bestow a bad toy on another domer of your choice
subs close friday 2359, entries by sunday 2359, PST
Judges are me, sh and third emperor
now, quickly, before you have time to think: enter!
Members of the order of seekers for truth and penitence
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 01:38 on Apr 22, 2019
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 05:11|
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 05:20|
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 05:22|
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 05:32|
in, flash, and
for my toxx i'm giving somebody this loving terrible toy, which is something grandmas give you because they think it's a gameboy but the gameplay sucks and it hurts your fingers and gently caress i hated these things:
I'm giving it to IronicTwist because he and these games have a lot in common, namely being the worst.
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 05:37|
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 05:46|
Been a while. In.
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 05:49|
Thranguy gets lawn darts
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 07:38|
Week 349 crits
Good job Thunderdome, this was a very strong week. The only story I didn’t actually like was, alas, our loser. The rest all had something about them that I enjoyed. Some stories had intriguing ideas and characters but lacked execution, others were well-written but with pedestrian plots. The top end of the week was excellent, and there were a number of stories that could have won in an ‘average’ week.
Thaw by Ironic Twist
I liked this, I thought it was well done as a small window into a very hosed up life. I didn't understand the connection between what the kid was reading and naming things in the fridge - should I have recognised the book? The ending is just the right amount of ambiguous and poignant.
Despite not having a lot to criticise, I'm hesitating to call this really good. I think what holding it back is that none of the elements were at all surprising - hosed up kid lives hosed up life in hosed up trailer just feels like well-trodden ground.
Your Auras Paint an Ugly Picture by Simply Simon
This is pretty good, but it needed more characterisation and specific details to bring it to life. While the central idea is interesting, all the sins are very generic (gambling, adultery, etc.). Why is the protag upset by these things? Why does he want to find a woman free from sin? What is it about him and his life experience that makes him feel this way? For example, was he born with this power or did it come to him, perhaps as a traumatic shock, as an adult?
The theme of the story reminded me a bit of Sebmojo's The Gaps Between. Have a look at that one - the sins in it are all very specific and human, and even though we don't learn a lot about the protag, we do get to see how he feels, which makes it much more engrossing.
Equal Opportunity Witchcraft by Saucy Rodent
This isn’t actively terrible; it’s just… pointless. The joke ending isn’t terribly funny. Solid meh.
Homecoming by QuoProQuid
I liked this but the execution is off. Kamir’s turnaround at the end comes too suddenly. Cuvo was the more interesting character, but we don’t see enough of him.
The Legacy of the Stevens by Flerp
This is good and creepy but I didn’t quite feel the protag’s ultimate desire to live particularly strongly. What was it that made him change his mind and not follow his mother? Overall I thought this was good, but it just didn’t grab me.
somewhere, sometime, a garden by Tyrannosaurus
I thought this was neat. I like the way the ending plays with hope and darkness. The slightly jokey tone didn’t work for me though - I think it would have worked better if the adults appeared more genuinely afraid.
Dusty Holes by Lippincott
This has a lot in common with Thranguy’s story this week. The post-apocalyptic vibe is cool, but nothing is explained, no one gets anywhere, and ultimately the story is not very satisfying.
A Flash of Colour by Uranium Phoenix
I liked this but it felt like the tone of the start and end were mismatched. The destroyed city is such a grim scene, and the first conversation with the robot is great, but then it just gets a bit cutsie.
Dismantling Father by Antivehicular
The beginning of this is very good but it stumbles at the end. The opening scene reads like the beginning of a chapter of a book; like there's lots more to come about these people and their father's crazy will. But then we run out of words and just wrap up.
Hunter of Monsters by curlingiron
This is good little grim-dark story. Good imagery and the right amount of characterisation for its length. But, a bit like Sitting Here's entry this week, there's nothing super interesting or surprising about the bad-man-gets-what's-coming plot. I think this would have worked better if you'd made his sins (adultery and violence) less generic and somehow personal to the monster, so the attack had a more compelling motive.
my mum sucks at making jerseys lol by SurreptitiousMuffin
I am immediately so annoyed by the format that I actively don’t want to read this. I LIKE excel. I appreciate a good, well-formatted spreadsheet like a cup of calming camomile tea. Nothing is more satisfying than a complex cascade of correctly set up nested formulae.
This though. This is not that. This is an abomination. I loving hate it when people put sentences in cells and don’t use wrap text. I hate that there’s so much lower case. I hate that I haven’t even starting reading and I can already see “lol” three times and loving “l33t”.
Alright, gently caress, I’m judging. Better read this thing. God dammit who in their right mind adds comments to cells. Urrrrgh. This better go from left to right, top to bottom and not column by column or anything dickish or I swear I will just refuse to read it.
Ok fine this is actually quite engrossing. As an insight into what it’s like to live with depression - the fractured thinking, the feeling of existential dread, the almost comedic awareness of the pointlessness of everything, the little flashes of hope - this is actually kinda amazing. But gently caress I hate this formatting, even though it works. drat you and your insane genius, Muffin.
7/10 and also gently caress me but I want to read it again.
Vulture by Sitting Here
This is good grim-dark stuff. Pretty standard daughter-rejects-awful-father plot though. But the imagery is great, which lifts it out of dull territory into something pretty cool.
Let them in by steeltoedsneakers
My reaction to this is: “What?”
There is way too much set up and not enough pay off. But the characters and the setting have all got me hooked. Please write it again and this time explain what’s going on and tells us what happens next.
All Closed with a Word by Thranguy
I like the post-apocalyptic(?) world you conjure up and I was genuinely interested in Claire and her mission. Unfortunately, you didn't explain what this was or in fact what was going on at all. It was just a fraction too vague and confusing to be a satisfying read.
A Prince on Any Other Day: A Hero’s Tale by Crabrock
This genuinely made me smile. It's adorable but not in the sickly-sweet way that a lot of stories about children can be. The awkward self-awareness of the protag is surprisingly adult.
A Deep Understanding by Solitair
I didn't really get this. I didn't quite follow why the fish-guy was trapped, or how the blasting caps were supposed to help. I would have liked more characterisation of the protag.
The Appliance of Dreams by Sebmojo
That is an extremely Sebmojo story and I am delighted by it. I could perhaps fault it for re-using all your best Sebmojo tropes but goddammit I like it so I won’t. It is delightful and well-written and thoughtful despite being ridiculous. Well done.
The Tell by Mr. Steak
I didn’t get this. I feel like you’ve set up a puzzle for me to solve, but I can’t be bothered. There’s no character hooks or story arc to draw me into this - it’s too dense and slow moving - so I’m not motivated to read it again to look for the clues I missed the first time.
This was submitted too late for judging so it didn’t get compared with the others. But good on you for not failing.
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 08:50|
in, flash, and
Gene would have wanted you to have this as your own flash rule crabrock
And Fuschia Tude he specified that you get this fella
oh and here you go thranguy, I know you always spent half your visits staring at this so uncle gene left it to you in his will I know you already have one but I'm sure you can make something out of both of them
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 10:28|
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 12:14|
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 16:18|
THUNDERDOME CCCXL: Beyond the Murder of the Dolls
As the final signup, you get the image I somehow didn't give out before now:
Water In, Water Out, Water In and Shaken All About
Brandy was always thirsty.
“Ya got too much salt in ya bones!” screamed her pirate doctor, who was at the top of the Royal Navy’s most wanted list and had been first in his class at Oxford Medical School. “I prescribe one month of extra-strength land lubbin’. No salty seas for you.”
Brandy walked down a cobblestone alleyway and kicked at a coconut husk and wished it was the doctor’s head. When she got to her tiny island apartment that she kept for emergencies and smashin’ she didn’t even bother to take off her clothes, she just flopped into the bathtub, her legs hanging over the sides, and turned on the faucet. She gulped down water like a fish, as if she were some sort of amnesic mermaid.
The thought caused her to sit up so quickly she bonked her head on the faucet. “Maybe I don’t have too much salt, maybe I don’t have enough! Also, ow.”
This logic seeming sound, she ran back to the beach and gave the “repurposed” HMS Bloodletter the ol’ two-finger salute before stripping down to her skimpies. She dived into the ocean and took a deep breath.
Back aboard the Bloodletter, Cpt. Dr. Blacklung sat in a chair, thoughtfully stroking his stethoscope. Brandy smacked her dry lips as she awoke, then sat up slowly. “Not a mermaid I guess.”
Blacklung shook his head. “And now yer salt levels are off the charts!” He pointed to a sepia-toned chart of normal blood sodium levels, above which he’d attached a torn piece of a treasure map to the wall with a dagger and written the words “You” on it. “You hafsta stay away from the sea, or you’ll explode like a cannon shell!”
Brandy wanted to protest, to convince the doctor she belonged to the briny expanse, but the words stuck in her dry throat. She nodded in defeat.
She rushed home and threw herself in the bathtub, gulping water like rum.
The next few weeks were some of the worst of her life. Brandy sat in her apartment gazing out the window at the ocean. Its blue waters twinkled in the sunlight. Birds dove in and emerged with fish, turtles swam up on shore and returned as they pleased. Every animal on Earth who wished it was free to explore the cool, salty waters, but not her. She held her oversized cup with two hands and tipped it back to swallow a gallon of water in a single gulp.
Tired of her self-confinement, she headed out into the city to look for something to do. She passed by shops selling peg appendages, patches for a variety of gouged-out orifices, and a pet shops selling an array of colorful, rude-talking birds that said what the owner was thinking but unwilling to say. “That seems very inconvenient, what a dumb idea,” squawked the bird nearest her. The shop owner glared at her.
She continued on until she reached the Adventure Hut, which had posted several advertisements for island adventures. She was drawn to the crude drawing of a stick figure jumping off a waterfall. The doc had said avoid the ocean, but he’d said nothing about lakes.
Brandy dug a gold coin out of her pocket and paid the tour guide. He escorted her to a large elephant, where five other people sat waiting.
A young couple in flowing, patterned shirts greeted her as she climbed up on top of the elephant.
“Hi I’m Henry and this is Helen.”
The woman giggled. “We’re on our honeymoon.”
A faint squawking was heard from the town commercial district: “Nobody loving cares!”
They didn’t seem to hear it.
“I’m… Brandy,” said Brandy. She was going to make up a different name, but she hadn’t. Life was like that sometimes. She often failed to lie to strangers for no reason, it was just one of her quirks.
The guide, whose name nobody knew and everybody felt too much time had passed to ask, whispered into the elephant’s ear and it started lumbering toward what Brandy assumed was the lake.
“So, uh, married?”
Henry beamed. “Yup. Our parents didn’t want us to, but we did it anyway, becasue we’re in looOOoooOooove!”
“And we’re financially ruined!”
“We didn’t make any plans whatsoever!”
Brandy laughed. Heading to the island without any plans was how she herself ended up pirating. “I heard the HMS Bloodletter has an opening for a pirate,” she said. “But only one,” she quickly added.
“Dibs!” blurted Helen.
Henry looked at her with betrayal in his tearful eyes. “Wha… what?”
“My daddy was right,” she said, “I deserve better than a boring CPA. I deserve adventure and danger and little to no retirement options. You’re just too stable, Henry!” She grabbed a vine and swung off the elephant’s back and scurried toward the beckoning pirate ship.
Henry slumped in his elephant seat. “This sucks.”
Brandy realized that she was like Helen, and the sea was like Henry. Wait no, the other way around, she was Henry. No, she was pretty sure she was the Helen. Was the land Henry? She was all mixed up and confused in her metaphor. She shook her head and started over with a flashback.
Her daddy had told her not to go near the ocean. “You know how your mother died,” he warned.
“Yeah, cancer,” replied Brandy.
“That’s not the whole story,” he sighed. He sat down and stared out over the porch railing. “She died… in the tropic of cancer, chasing adventure. She was thirsty, Brandy. Always thirsty for something other than where she was. Like something out there could fix her, make her feel different. She could never learn to just accept who she really was, and that’s how she lost everything.”
Brandy, then 17, heard what he said, but hadn’t listened. Her head was already filled with imagined adventures her mother must have gone on. Brandy yearned to follow in her footsteps. “Maybe she didn’t know,” replied Brandy after a few silent moments. “Maybe she had to leave to find out.”
“Brandy was stirred from her memory by Henry’s sobs.
She slapped him on the back. “There there, nothing wrong with a little cry.” She was glad that bird wasn’t around though.
Brandy smiled at the thought of how easily she ruined that marriage. It was so easy to take somebody away, and in that moment, she realized that she didn’t need the sea, but the sea had been inside her all along. She didn’t need to be on a pirate ship, she would sink them. Her head lulled back and she cackled as it started raining. She let the rain melt onto her and wash her away.
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 20:13|
Week #349: A Stroll Through the Archives
Your goon is WeLandedOnTheMoon!
Tired routine wears down all edges, Benny told himself. He was sure the words wouldn’t hurt too much.
“You’re disgusting, Benny,” said Karin, trying to fix things. In a moment of their workmanlike loving the friction had somehow bred a warmth that could’ve passed for real—and a small intimacy had escaped her mouth.
Karin eyed her mouth in the hallway mirror, carefully evening out the hysteric pink. “Disgusting and worthless.” Satisfied, she popped her lips. “Don’t forget that.”
“I know. I won’t,” said Benny.
“Good. Kiss me goodbye.”
The smell of lavender and sex was smothering. But Benny was dutiful. Didn’t want to lose the apartment. It was his only for as long as he didn’t fall off the wagon—which, truth be told, he’d never got on in the first place.
The social office didn’t know that. Benny didn't ask how Karin kept her colleagues in the dark.
All Benny knew was that he couldn’t hack it at the collective housing—too many hollow eyes and swinging guts full of bile. He desired privacy in his self-destruction.
Karin didn’t really ask for much in return.
The cold can in Benny's hand anchored him. He peered over the open fridge door at the kitchen table. The lively yellows and blues of the flowers in the highballer glass looked wrong.
“It’s Midsummer,” Karin had said, pink lips straining against a strangely expectant smile.
Benny grabbed the flowers and threw them in the sink—and a heady scent of meadow hit him.
He was in his mom’s lap, cradled by strong arms dappled by freckles and sunlight. He grasped at his mom’s rough fingers as they delicately weaved seven kinds of summer blooms. Benny felt a warm whisper stroke the top of his head.
“gently caress,” Benny said over the sink, tears on his face. He cracked the first beer.
Two, three, four. Seven. Eight. But the memory refused to drain with the drink.
“Alright, mom,” Benny said. He fished out the pocketknife.
He swore thickly through the haze whenever he got a cut from the aluminum ribbons—twisting them got harder with the drinking, so he swore prodigiously.
But in the end Benny was happy. The silver wreath turned out kind of beautiful.
Benny broke into his neighbour’s storage and found a pair of leather shoes. Turned out they looked nice enough to fund an unscheduled trip to the store.
Benny was sweating through his good shirt, but he hoped the soap from that morning’s shower would mask the smell. The girl at the counter even smiled at him, until she saw the three bottles of Absolut in his cart.
Benny gripped the toilet rim, feeling like his eyes were going to burst from the sisyphean dry heave. He retched and spat nothing, but felt the taste of blood.
He couldn't throw up. He couldn’t breathe. A vein in his forehead throbbed violently. He couldn’t breathe.
He felt sad. He’d told his mom he wouldn’t go like this, like the old man. But Benny had entered the world a broken promise, and if he left as one—well, it was kind of poetic.
Something grew in his gut.
It was too hard, too big, the thing that scraped its way up through his throat and pushed into his mouth, grinding mercilessly against his molars. His jaws distended, and popped—and then the something dropped into the water, clinking to the porcelain.
He rested his head on the cold rim, gratefully gasping for air. And then the sick finally came.
As soon as he'd scooped it out, Benny abandoned the thought that it was a monstrous kidney stone took the wrong turn.
Benny knew. Knew with a comfortable certainty, like the feeling you get after the first swallow that everything’s going to realign, that the egg couldn’t be anything but. Strange as it looked—size of a fist and black as motor oil.
Benny admired the shell’s toxic-rainbow glisten under the light of the kitchen table lamp.
The egg was cold at first, but something inside seemed to respond to Benny’s touch with a growing warmth. He smiled.
“What should I do, mom?”
Beneath a layer of nicotine dust and overdue bills, something glinted.
The wreath did look like a nest, Benny thought.
“I’m not feeling so good,” Benny said to the pink lips that hissed at him through the crack of the door.
“I saw you, Benny,” said Karin. “At the square. Picking through trash. Have you stopped drinking?”
“No. I mean, yes. But it’s—it’s not delirium. Actually, I’m fine?” said Benny, confused at the realization that he hadn’t had a drop in days. “And it’s not trash. Achmed gave me some bubble wrap. It's insulating.”
"What happened to your hands?" said Karin, noticing the checkered array of bandaids on Benny as he failed to shut the door.
“What? Oh, it wasn't big enough, I had to—Karin, please.”
Her foot had wedged in sure. “It’s been weeks, Benny.”
“If you can’t keep your commitments—I mean, as your social worker I should make a note of this, you know.”
“But I was—I was just sick. I am sick. Next week, I’ll be better.”
“One little note, Benny. And you’re back on the street. Is that what you want?”
“Good. I don’t want that either. Now, you’re making me feel like a fool out here. Open the door.”
“No. Please, just—”
"Oh." Karin’s eyes narrowed. “Is someone here?”
Her fingers hooked white over the edge of the door.
“What? No, wait—”
In a moment Karin had pushed through,
“Please, don’t! Let’s just—the sofa, we can—”
and in another she was in the bedroom.
Karin’s feet disappeared in the crinkly mess. Plastic bags, bubble wrap and styrofoam peeked through a sea of aluminum.
“What is this, Benny?” whispered Karin. “What is that?”
Weeks worth of bloody-fingered weaving covered most of the bed. The nest wall was as dense as a hedge, silver ribbons intermeshed with soft plastics, spirals descending into the centre where a black something, the size of a beach ball—
“No!” cried Benny, throwing himself into the nest. He hugged the egg, shielding it with his body. “Don't touch my baby!”
Karin’s pink-lipped mouth worked in dull silence.
“What the gently caress,” she finally said.
Benny wrapped himself around the egg, whispering loving nothings into its black shell. Warming it, nurturing it—like he’d been doing over the last few weeks.
Benny felt something good and uncomplicated pour back into him.
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 21:44|
|# ? Apr 16, 2019 22:08|
|# ? Apr 17, 2019 06:28|
A crit of Water In, Water Out, Water In and Shaken All About by Crabrock
What a delightful pile of nonsense. Yet somehow, it all makes sense. The last line about the rain washing her away was a bit lazy, but I am very pleased Brandy got in touch with her inner pirate, and I think in the long run Henry will come to realise Brandy did him a favour.
6/10: Redemption achieved.
|# ? Apr 17, 2019 08:28|
If you have no idea who Gene Wolfe is then you should fix that flaw in your character, but in the meantime these are some words he wrote so either grab anything out of here as fuel for your smog-belching story engine or ask me and i will assign you a quote.
|# ? Apr 17, 2019 11:05|
|# ? Apr 17, 2019 14:19|
I'm so in. Flash. Quote.
|# ? Apr 17, 2019 16:01|
That we are capable only of being what we are remains our unforgivable sin.
|# ? Apr 17, 2019 19:17|
I'm so in. Flash. Quote.
There's a certain kind of lonely man who rejects love, because he believes that anyone who offers it wouldn't be a lover worth having.
|# ? Apr 17, 2019 19:25|
In, flash, quote.
|# ? Apr 18, 2019 23:35|
In, flash, quote.
We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges.
|# ? Apr 19, 2019 08:37|
|# ? Apr 19, 2019 12:39|
|# ? Sep 24, 2022 17:15|
Thunderdome Week CCCL
This will not end. I’ve been putting one foot in front of the other for the better part of a decade. No stop for rest and my beard, which was already a triumph to behold back on earth--poo poo, back on earth, am I even still on earth?-- now reaches my kneecaps. Why I ever started this climb in the first place was a mystery to me years ago. But now? I know the answer. I hated myself. I must’ve. I sent myself away from everything I had and now? One foot forward
one foot forward. What magic could this be? A spiral ramp that materializes under my feet. I check the letter from my uncle and review it. He outlined the rules clearly enough. The ramp only builds with forward steps and you can’t go back. But who cares? There’s nothing for me here. I check with Hermes, his dog, who I’m supposed to take with me and he barks at his disapproval of the climb. He watched his owner make this climb and never return. He sees evil and won’t budge. I scratch him on the head and wish him well. I’m going up
going up, and up, and loving up, and up again, and more up, and up so far that at this point, I could be anywhere. An apparition of the man I was setting out to find appears in front of my eyes. He waves, smiles, and encourages me. He is my tormentor. I clench my fists and feel diamonds materialize in my palms. I pelt them at his nose and, watch as they sail clear through him. My actions relieve my anger, but they are in vain. He’ll remain parked like this for a month. How long is a month? A month is how long I must be with him. That is a month. I used to be able to sleep
sleep feels right. A quick glance at my watch confirms that I’ve been walking for six hours. I’ve earned some rest. I figure that, so long as I lean forward, the ramp will continue to build with me. But then, I don’t quite know the rules. I don’t have any other options at this point. I extend my rucksack out above, and to the right, and carefully lower it until a purple section of ramp catches it. I continue to bob it up and down until I locate the edge. A bit taken with my cleverness, I smile, and place the ruck near the edge and hope that it’ll stop me from rolling off in the night
night. Or at least, I think that’s what this is. I haven’t had a night in well over a hundred days. Whatever gods created this abomination paid no mind to the rules of time and space. But, it’s dark and dark means night. I still know that much. I look past the rippling orange section of ramp and see stars. I’m hungry, so I reach out and grab one. I throw it into my mouth and squish it between my teeth. Their gritty insides tickle my mouth as I chew. Stars are like those jelly filled candy back home
home is out of sight now. It has been for some time. I reach into my rucksack and my stomach drops. I’ve been carelessly eating the jerky and candy inside. I hadn’t considered that this journey may go on for more than a day or two. I figured I’d get there, whatever ‘there’ was, by now. I’ll probably reach whatever this thing leads to before I run out of food. There’s probably about two, maybe three days worth of food left if I’m careful and I don’t indulge
indulging, I eat star after star, not realizing how hungry I was. I curse all that is below me and hope that if anyone counted on the light of these stars that they’re bumping around like shitbirds in the dark. At last, I’m full. And now, sleepy. I can’t remember the last time I felt tired. I flop forward onto a piece of green ramp and let my dreams take me. I wake up falling. Falling off the ramp. I roll my eyes and wait for the crash. It comes after a couple of days. I slam into the slope. Pick myself up. And start walking up again
again, I take the note out of my pocket and look for any clues I might have missed. But, there’s nothing. Just the rules and the hopes that my uncle will someday see me atop whatever this thing is. In a rage, I crumple up the paper and throw it off the ramp. It happens so fast that I barely realize what I’ve done in getting rid of it. It was all I had. Of him, and of the world below me. The ruck and its provisions I had to leave behind hours ago. Now it’s just me and the clothes on my back. I start to worry that I may not find anything up here and that maybe this was a mistake
mistakes like falling off the ramp used to matter. Walking is all I do now. I walk for another year, and another after that. And now, as I continue my walk, a shadow covers me and disappears. It happens again, and again, with every lap of the ramp. I look up and see a figure above me, probably three or so miles above me. I walk, and walk, and walk until I finally catch up
up, I’ve been going up for a year now. My watch battery died a couple of days ago, but I can still see the sun if I squint. It’s been a year. The only thing keeping me going is that I may see my uncle again.
I see his face, hidden behind a mane of gnarled hair. At first I think I’m looking at myself. But, it’s him. Not my tormentor. My family. He puts his hand on my shoulders, and we stare.
“Zeke?” He asks.
“Yeah, Uncle Les. It’s me.”
We hug, maybe for a minute or a year, and when we’re done he asks the question that I hoped he had the answer to:
|# ? Apr 19, 2019 21:19|