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Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again



in for cloud-flash-sound spin-a-circle-and-cut-it-in-half

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Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give



In, and a thing to make the story harder, please.

Doctor Zero
Sep 21, 2002

Would you like a jelly baby?
It's been in my pocket through 4 regenerations,
but it's still good.

Thanks for the crits !

Nethilia
Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition


Djeser posted:

in for cloud-flash-sound spin-a-circle-and-cut-it-in-half

Cats are nice. Dogs are strange.

Antivehicular posted:

In, and a thing to make the story harder, please.

I like blue and red and yellow, but i do not like the colors together.
(Translation: All you can use are primary colors.)

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe

Here be crits for this past week. Happy to talk about any of these stories further. Come find me in IRC or Discord. Also, if you want me to take a deeper dive into your entry, just let me know. Happy to provide a couple of those too.

Short Stories, not gonna bother breaking this up as I usually do. Just a react piece at the end.



Simply Simon’s Diamond Eyes

The choice to start your story off as you did didn’t help you. We know these are campfire stories, just start telling the drat story bruh. The excessive exclamations really lose any momentum of giving this any sort of dread or fear. It just feels funny to me, but not like, ‘oh this is making me laugh’ and more ‘why is this being played for laughs?’

Uh… who is talking? There’s like no quotes around anything so I can’t tell if sometimes you’re commenting on what’s happening as the meta-author or the in story teller. This is confusing and messy. And like, sure, this is supposed to be listened to, and I’ll listen to it later, but that’s not what I’m judging you on. Your story has to work like this and it really doesn’t seem to.

Saw the Billy payoff at the end fell flat and was obviously coming. I guess it’s nice that he didn’t like, show up with a chainsaw at the end or something, but when you start your story that way, it’s pretty obvious where things are going.

So yeah, this wasn’t great. The structure telling of the story itself led to it not quite doing much in the way of evoking a reaction. I do appreciate that you went for a literal telling of a campfire story, that’s saving you from a DM vote.



Doctor Zero’s Go There Not

Achieving meaning through italics is just highlighting that you can’t do it on your own. Lose that shiz and write gooder. Also, about halfway in and… where’s the story?

Ordinarily, I’d be supportive of a semi-second person story like this but the telling of it is odd. Who exactly is this person talking and how do they know all of this? I wouldn’t quibble if it weren’t important that the scene you’re painting, the telling of this story, is occuring in real time between two people. It’s odd and I can’t quite piece together the teller’s motivations. You spend a bit too much time regarding the place and not as much about what’s driving the characters. We find out too late what the protag is all about.

Didn’t hate this, didn’t love it. It’s whatever.



Anomalous Amalgam’s Missing

Your act breaks don’t seem to be necessary. In a story this short, that occurs over such a small amount of time, considering losing them. They disrupt your flow.
So, I get that you’re trying to build suspense and tension in the getting to the campsite. But you took far too long with it. The whole beat where Ted drives the protag could do with a major trimming. You could probably just put the little bit about the ranger station back when Ted’s explaining things at the headquarters.

By the end of the story we have a dead hero but not much in the way of any sort of spookiness. He just sorta dies and we don’t learn all that much or even have time to be fearful. Where exactly, in this story, do you want your reader to feel scared? There’s just no point in here where that happened for me.

Meh.



M. Propagandalf’s The Baker’s Half-Dozen

Good god, are you trying to make this opening as clunky as possible? Come on, just look at this sentence “While I ended up being an only child.” and ask how it fits into the rest of things. That kind of problem is littered throughout the telling of your story. A lot of short sentences that don’t seem to jive too well with one another. The story is also told immensely objectively and offers little to no opportunity for any sort of emotional response, let alone a fearful one.

Not great, maybe a DM, possible loss if the week is weak.



flerp’s The Squishiness

Oh dammit, claustrophobia. A thing I have. I will do my best to remain impartial and try to read this as someone with out it. Oh good and now baby stuff. Agh, I should probably recuse myself from judging this story, too close to home.

Alright this worked big time for me and I needed to ask myself if it was just because it resonated so personally for me, or was it that the story kicked rear end?

I came to the conclusion that the story kicked rear end. I can absolutely see the scene of a people being prompted to tell some scary poo poo around a campfire and the weird creepy kid comes out with this and shuts everyone the gently caress up (maybe just because the kid is weird). The telling of it was perfect that way and it addresses a universal horror that is entirely relatable yet, to my mind, pretty loving novel. I’m sure there are stories with this sort of POV but I’m not aware of many of them.

This was a fine piece of work. It evoked fear, was tough to get through and was a good take on the prompt.



Black Griffon’s White Hill

Oh, right, the butt guy. Let’s see how you handled this. Bit of odd spacing at the top. Not a big deal, just pay better attention next time.

As for the rest of the story? I don’t get it. Hard to follow the action or comprehend all that much. Like yeah, I stuck you with a difficult flash but what is the thrust of your story here? Sorry, I really don’t have much else to say except that this didn’t make much sense to me.



Nikaer Drekin’s Mama Bear

There’s too many unanswered questions here. I think in your mind you have a clear idea as to what your monster represents but that’s certainly lost on me. I hope it’s something more than just ‘how a parent feels about their kid’. Anyhow, the story itself is fine. Things happen and I understood them. I don’t however view this as much of a horror story. This is a Vonnegut style ‘man-in-a-hole’ story and there’s not much to evoke terror in here. Dude gets in trouble, dude gets self out of trouble.

It’s a thing, you wrote it, I didn’t hate it. Fine.



Nethilia’s Gator Bait

I’m having a hard time with this one. On the one hand, you do manage to evoke a lot of feeling with your story. It’s certainly upsetting and difficult, but is it much of a campfire tale? Not really, to my eye. It’s a cautionary piece, told by a seeming elder, and the apparent ‘scariness’ is of despicable human behavior. But, it’s also not much of an original story in its own right. You point out some elements of stories past and call attention to them, but you don’t tell much of your own story. Having said that, it’s a solid piece of writing that did connect with me and for that it does deserve praise.



Thranguy’s Don’t Turn Your Head

This is slick and nice, and I like that the story is occurring in real time. But, that’s about where my appreciation for this ends. I’m struggling with this piece in a similar manner that I’ve struggled with others. Who’s talking here? I think it matters and I’d really like to know. It seems like it’s the devil but then the devil is referring to himself in the third person and that seems silly. Anyhow, apart from the presence of ghosts, there’s not much in the way of ‘spooky story’ here. Didn’t really get what I came for, but it’s otherwise alright. Got some weeping angel stuff going, whatever.



QuoProQuid’s Sick

A dead doggo story? I hope this is more than that.

Well, it isn’t. Dude this just read a ridiculous comedy to me. I couldn’t take it seriously and the language you used betrayed the sense of characterization I think you were going for. I saw the ending coming from a mile away despite it being ridiculous and this ultimately landed with a wet fart.

DM, maybe a loss.



Kaishai’s Hollow Hearts

Sensually, this story works on a bunch of levels. I can feel this setting through the prose. That’s pretty much as far my enjoyment goes. This story feels similar in content to some of the others this week where a protag kinda goes somewhere and kinda dies. The death itself here is handled pretty well, again through a deft hand with sensory management, but there’s not much else here.



is a wiki a book’s Stay Ouf of the Woods

The informal nature of your opening is a bit exhausting and I’m hoping it goes away. I get that you’re going for a voice here but things like “if you ask me” are not necessary in a short piece of fiction. We know that’s how they would respond if asked, because they’re telling us now. Keep things swift and clean. You’re also calling upon poor cliches that are uninteresting, “hardly contain myself”, you can probably do better than this.

(Sorry I’m gonna nitpick a little more with the entry than others because you have some stylistic problems that are easy to address and could vastly improve your writing, so stick with me)

“Once we were unloaded and the tents were set up” this is passive and awkwrad. A simple fix here of “After we unloaded and set up our tents” is better. It reads better and also doesnt’ make it seem like things just happened outside of your character’s control. Dig?

“Eventually” is not the right word here.

OK, anyway, you told one of the more straightforward spooky stories this week and I appreciate that you kind of took that direct approach. This is a story one could easily tell or hear around a campfire. Problem is, it doesn’t have much to it. We don’t really get to know very much about whatever it is that Randall had to deal with so readers are likely going to be more curious than scared. The scary moment here is when he’s in the tent and Randall comes back, then… nothing happens. There’s no payoff at that moment and I’m wondering how this would play if I were watching it.



Antivehicular’s The Only Story Your Friend Knows

A bold move tellings us upfront that your story is not going to be good!

This is pretty nifty. I like how we have two stories going on at once. We get the friend telling theirs and the narrator’s own personal experience to contrast it. While the story wasn’t exactly scary to the reader it was scary to the characters within the story itself and I believed and bought that. I liked how this work, and flowed and I’m into it.

Good job.



Lippincott’s Don’t Tell It On the Mountain

Might be better off starting your story with the first sentence but then cutting to “When I was at college…” makes things more ominous and could make for a more intriguing read. You hit the word count so you likely could have used those words somewhere else and for better results.

Anyhow this is probably the straight-up, scarriest story of the week so far. Good on you for that. You give us enough about the oogeyboogey thing to make it scary and impactful but not so much as to remove the opportunity for us to fill in our own blanks. The telling of the story itself was clear and I could see plenty of images in my head of all of the events.

Well done.



sebmojo’s Haumapuhia

You’re spending far too much time on the telling of the story, which isn’t really all that interesting. Oh, but then there’s a little eye stabby stabby and I guess this is what the real story is?

Ok, so by the end of this, I’m kind of on board. I still don’t quite know who the people were who were telling the story or what their deal was but they seem to be bad guys or something, so I guess that’s enough.

The ending did pack somewhat of a dreadful punch, so points to you for that.

A fine entry.



Fuschia tude’s Interchange

A bitch of a flashrule, but you handled it in stride. Your story overall was fine, bit too much telling of how scared your protag is, but otherwise this mostly ticks the boxes of what I was looking for this week. Didn’t really find it particular evocative or scary though. Guy follows another guy into woods, some odd thing happened to the other guy, not really sure how or why, but it’s scary!

Worked well enough but nothing memorable.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔


Big thanks to all the judgecrits :)

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo


Doctor Rope

Thanks for the crits, I appreciate them!

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo


Doctor Rope

In, flash please.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




In

Adam Vegas
Apr 14, 2013





In, with flash, please.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019



Chili posted:

Here be crits

Thanks, Saucy/Chili!

In, and a flash work-order if you please.

Doctor Zero
Sep 21, 2002

Would you like a jelly baby?
It's been in my pocket through 4 regenerations,
but it's still good.

Thanks chili!

Nethilia
Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition


Anomalous Amalgam posted:

In, flash please.

Your main person in the story wants to talk in big words. They can not do that.

Adam Vegas posted:

In, with flash, please.

It rains a lot here, but you still have to go outside.

(if you might want to judge, get on the Discord and hit me up.)

Nethilia
Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition


Fuschia tude posted:

In, and a flash work-order if you please.

Everyone keeps knocking on the door.

WhoopieCat
Sep 15, 2018

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019

In, please.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







SH Wrestlebrawl

Decimation
1250 words

There’s a big clock on the wall of Johnson’s house and the time is three minutes to twelve and I’m looking at it with eyes that have a black fringe around them like a portrait at a funeral, an oxygen-starved darkness creeping inwards from the rim. The second hand kicks once, twice, moving with vegetable slowness. The arm bar around my neck is making breathing harder than it should be so I slide my left leg back, feeling it slip on Johnson's fancy rug and drop, letting my weight pull me down, waiting for him to shift his own balance to compensate. I twist out of his hold and hit the floor, rolling through broken glass from the window I smashed on the way in, sucking in a grateful helping of air as the splinters trace pain across my back. I tense for the slam of his body on mine but it doesn't come so I keep the movement going, bring me bleeding feet under me and pull myself up, hands outstretched. I can see the age on them, written on the gnarled spotted skin of them, framing Johnson’s tanned angry face.

"This is dumb, Rudi," Johnson's yelling, but the words are just babble like the crowd noise when you're on the torn and restitched canvas of the ring. He's bleeding too, a part of me notes without any particular emotion. I took a chunk of his ear off just now, like in the rough and tumble gouge-happy days. His eyes, those deep-set handsome eyes the girls used to like so much, dart towards the front door and I step to the right to cover it off, but then I see them settle back on me and I know we will see this thing out. There are kids playing ball out in the street, a boy’s voice is setting out some unfairness in specific high pitched detail.

I’m wondering, as we circle around the smashed glass and rumpled mat in the middle of Johnson’s room, when I lost the ability to care.

I used to have it, I used to care so much. I would care about slights and tiny victories and who said what about me, and winning. Always winning. I wanted to win like there was nothing else in the world. There was nothing else in the world, just the ring and whatever jumped up sack of muscles and hot jism thought he could take me. And then, and then: nothing.

I could pinpoint the moment in my mind, I’d put my hand on the rope to pull myself into the ring, I was fighting some skinny young tattooed rear end in a top hat with a beard and the fear already slumbering behind his eyes ready for me to awaken with a double hammerlock. The morning sun was hot on my bare shoulders, and I looked up to see it coming through the leaves of the trees around the clearing and a bird called out, squawk, then just like that the ability to care wafted up and out of me and was gone.

You can win if you don’t care but it’s not easy any more. Tattoos went down easily enough but the next was harder and the one after that was harder still. My strength was a cup, not a fountain, draining a little more with each sip.

The Romans knew what was what. When an army stopped caring enough, when it didn’t want to win they would line them up and make them draw straws. One in ten of the straws would be short, and those men would be beaten to death by their comrades, smashed with rocks and fists and feet until they didn’t move any more. The simple brilliance of that was breathtaking.

Johnson moved, scuttling left like a crab then grabbing for me, slow, too slow, but of course it’s a feint. The real move was the right leg coming from below to take advantage of my distraction. Johnson was always sly, little bastard. I hop back and go for his wrist, to pull him forward and down onto the broken glass, but he’s too quick and snatches it back. He’s still off balance from the leg though. I bring my left up, tightened like an old tree root, and smack him in the nose with a soft crunch like stepping on a twig.

“Ow,” he says. His face is reddening, I think he’s angry now and I nod, that will make this easier. “I used to hate feeling sorry for you, Rudi.”

I nod, slowly. I’d seen him a few times, before. There was a corner I liked to sit with my hat and my sign, it caught the morning sun, had good foot traffic and missed the worst of the winds. He’d driven past once and I’d seen him look out the window, double take - is that…? Then a week later he’d dropped some coins in the hat and walked on, but I knew. That’s when I decided what I was going to do, and that’s why I was here.

There’s a moment in every fight when it gets decided, but it’s not when one of the fighters taps out and grunts uncle, it’s not even a move really. It happens in the eyes which is why you need to watch them. I see it in his eyes and know it’s mine and lunge.

I take him in the belly, which is softer than it ever was when we fought riverside, and carry him backwards into the wall. A framed picture crashes down on the floor, scattering more glass but we’re past that and through the open door that was beside it, spinning round and slamming down on the floor with a brutal impact that takes the air out of him. He’s got my wrist in his hand and he’s scrabbling for a finger lock but his fingers are too slick with my blood to get a purchase.

I’m grunting, panting, I can feel the number of breaths I have left ticking down as I lift up his head and push it down on the wooden floor. He’s too strong though. I can’t do this, it occurs to me. I grope for his arm to lock it but he’s twisted round and he’s on top of me, straddling me, eyes, staring into mine. He has my hand in his and gets the fingerlock.

“Give up Rudi. We can make it work. For old times.”

I stare at him, and I don’t know what’s in my eyes because I’m not sure there’s anything else in the world but me, looking at him. He tightens the lock. My left ring finger is a bar of pain, but I’m looking at him and I can’t, I won’t say it.

The house is quiet. The boys have gone away. The clock in the front room ticks, midday.

“loving hell Rudi,” he says and snaps my finger.

The pain is like an old friend and I gasp as it rushes in, the old familiar wash of nausea and adrenaline, taking up residence in my belly. I look in his eyes and wait for the change, the realisation that I have this, his answering understanding that I have him, to arrive.

It doesn’t come. There’s nothing there. I’m lying on the floor of a suburban house with a broken finger and there’s a man on top of me and there’s no way, none, that I will ever win again.

The tears come, and I let them fall.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Obscure Sorrows Judgethings

Saucy_Rodent, 5202 S Wentworth

Okay, yes. This is very good stuff here. The gimmick leads you to a couple of garden path sentences that could be avoided. "gently caress around" is a garden path risk anywhere, but even more so with this particular voice. but a very good start, hm/win candidate likely.

Crimea, Moon Report

This one is cute and to the point. I don't think it does quite enough; too many blanks are just pronouns, especially the "himself/herself/itself" one that makes solo explorers part of the pattern. That's an improbable thing already, don't draw extra attention to it... At any rate, I think you could have allowed yourself a bit more variation and still had the main point work.

Doctor Zero, Moment by Moment

Editing issue, early ("broads smiles"). And not quite enough to distinguish the characters by now. This one is a bit too literal, a bit too explaining the feeling than evoking it. I sort of think externalizing the emotion into the monk harms the story, that it would work better as an entirely internal sensation, or if the monk still exists, having him part ways with the narrator early and only his words remaining to influence things. Probably middle.

Lemonie, Windows

Brands are capitalized, not doing that for "Caravan" confuses the meaning here. This may be at the bottom if quality overall holds up. It's more about this person's psychic powers and mental challenges than a universal human emotion. It doesn't help that Susie, unseen, is a cliche from central casting with a horribly stilted only line. The refusal to resolve anything doesn't help it either.

Simply Simon, Infinite Harmonies

This works far better than it should. The character is an unlikeable brat from the start, the turn of his randomly gaining quantum superpowers comes out of nowhere, using them to construct musical utopiae seems wasteful (and wishing for a world where Jackson was never caught seems distasteful at best; one where he was truly innocent could never be one where he was the same artist.) But it does sort of work, despite all.

Canasta Nasty, In Between

Mostly I'm bored by this one. In a normal week that might mean the middle, but this may be a contender for the bottom. Too much explanation of backstory, not enough interesting done with any of it, not really evoking the sentiment. Just someone explaining their job.

Lippincott, Seat Belts

Stasis? Should be status or state, maybe? Solid opening, though a bit slow. Well written, but I can't quite buy him being a nurse and having that level of commute-time ennui; that one in that profession could find a near miss on the road the most exciting thing in memory

I mean, maybe he's a nurse on a low excitement specialty or something, but he has emergency training and skills, so...

Also his lack of guilt is striking and distancing. This mass casualty event is not entirely his fault, but enough contribution is there to make him come across as a bit sociopathic by not feeling it, and it's not like he's a doctor... Middle I think.

Flerp, For No One

Second sentence doesn't work in second person without a mirror. Eventually we learn that this is first person with second person direct addressing. That's a tricky POV that should be set up quickly. So "hard for me to see" would have done better I think. Solid overall, although I think it misses the prompt a little bit. High middle.

Salgal80, Bloodlines

Opener could use a comma or two. Don't like the second sentence at all, and the whole paragraph is a bit limp as a start. The lowish stories and story parts this week are hitting a pattern: let me tell you about my (protagonist's) job/commute/hobby for hundreds of words. While very little is happening. Prompt level: low, a better fit for Sonder really.

Antivehicular, Radical Empathy

Strong opening, very much my poo poo here, let's see where it goes. Stays strong, although the ending isn't really set up well enough, not enough to establish this as a cyberpunkish world where corporations can override the police on straightforward murder charges. Not sure if the permanence of the treatment fits in right either. Still, high.

Anomolous Amalgam, The Rebinding of that which was

Functional opening, sets expectations fairly well. Then three paragraphs of let me tell you about my magic system, ug. With poor grammar on top of muddled technobabble. Ug ug. Then an in character let me tell you about my other magic system. My loss candidate so far and unlikely to change. Prompt Ness: okay, not great.

M. Propagandalf, Non-Playable Character

The mismatch between voice and content is jarring as heck here. For someone who claims to be uninteresting he comes across like Dracula, like a Victorian era aristocrat or something. Who can certainly be boring, but not in the way you're trying to paint this guy.

And then he unironically quotes Morrissey. Adding curses to a voice this late is always jarring. It might work as deliberate, as him getting so upset that he abandons the pretend of the earlier voice, but no, he's back to talking about Latin a few lines later. Low, dm maybe.

Nethilia, Pamela's Diary

Good kid voice, okay mission statement if a little on the nose. Strong work. Blatantly emotionally manipulative, but it works. The ending too. Would have been easy to go for a nihilistic end or a more unbelievably uplifting one, but it threads the needle. I liked this better than my cojudges, had it as my initial win pick, but that's because I can be a sucker for the right kind of emotional maniplation sometimes.

Ironic Twist, Shed Red Thread

Very strong opening. But this is a light snack, a clever little variant vampire story, when other entries offer a more satisfying meal. Middle.

Kaishai, Choose, and Remember

Long, is it worth it?

Interesting opening, sets up a number of things at once. And the piece is, overall, good. It a well constructed story for that length, in ways that make it unfair to compare with those. I'm not sure a 1500 word version of this is even possible. 2000 maybe, but cutting further than that would lose what makes it work.

Sitting Here, One as the Sky

Okay opening. This is almost the same story as Twist's at core, although I think. And a bit like Kaishai's. All three map the prompt onto an alien, a superhuman or monster of some sort. Although the monster here does the least good job at being a metaphor for the sentiment of the three. Strong prose, but not enough substance to rise over the middle on my list.

WhoopieCat
Sep 15, 2018

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019

removed per publisher submission requirements

WhoopieCat fucked around with this message at 08:29 on Jun 4, 2019

Nethilia
Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition


There are eight hours to decide if you will write words this week.

ETA: and a day. I can not tell time.

Nethilia fucked around with this message at 23:22 on May 23, 2019

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







sh v sebmojo


Chapfallen
~2K words

Two men circled each other in the ring down by the river, both sweating dark patches in to their garish costumes. The midday sun pressed down on the match like a flatiron, a more vicious opponent than either of the combatants. An acrid, muddy smell wafted up from the river, hung in the humid air like a specter of dead fish and decaying logs.

Charlie ‘Longshot’ Johnson waited until his backside was angled away from the sparse gaggle of spectators, then hitched up his sagging orange leggings. His opponent— one George ‘The Masher’ Marston—used the opening to go in for a lackadaisical grab. Not part of the script, but Longshot sidestepped it easily enough. The Masher never was much use in the heat, and moved like a submerged drunk.

“The girls are sick and tired of you peeping in their trailers at night,” Longshot said, pitching his voice for the benefit of the audience.

Masher’s retort was half-hearted. “They sure do leave their doors open wide, for ladies worried about onlookers.”

Longshot scowled at other man’s delivery. Masher sounded like a schoolboy reciting his figures, not the womanizing rival to Longshot’s hapless hero.

“A woman has the right to enjoy a cool breeze without worrying about a peeping tom!” Longshot glanced at the audience—two dozen in all, half of them bored carnies—to see if his heroics were having the intended effect. The spectators looked how Longshot felt: sodden, heat-drunk, and miserable.

It was time to wrap up this farce, drat the script.

Longshot closed the distance between himself and Masher, feinted to one side, then danced around behind the bigger man, going for the choke hold. Masher grunted surprise, briefly pawing at the arm around his neck, and there was a tense moment where Longshot was afraid he’d inadvertently won the fight.

Things seemed to finally click for Masher, though; the big man heaved himself onto his back, pinning Longshot under his bulk. Longshot’s oof wasn’t theatrical; the maneuver hit like a truck no matter how many times they practiced it.

Masher rolled onto all fours, pressed his forearm down on Longshot’s neck, and said, “I’ll tell the girls what a gentleman you are when I visit their trailers tonight.”

The barker was in the ring before Longshot signaled submission. “What a match, ladies and gentlemen! I did not not see that coming, folks! Better luck next time for those with money on our hero…”

Longshot lay flat on his back in the ring, waiting for the carnies to come haul off his apparently unconscious form. There would be a rematch the next day, of course, and invariably the marks would bet on The Masher, thinking he was easy money.

Longshot would win that fight, because the script said so, and Ackworth’s Traveling Funfair would be a little richer.

.

Rudi—no moniker needed—was a ruthless old hooker, the real bread and butter of Ackworth’s. After sundown, when the mosquitoes were thick and crickets chorused from the muddy shores of the river, the ring was his domain.

He’d face all comers, whether they be career strongmen or young locals with something to prove. Didn’t matter which part of the country the funfair trundled through; no one wanted to bet against the hometown muscle, which was just fine with the bookies of Ackworth’s. Every town had their brawler, their cock of the walk, their headstrong stud looking to make a name for himself, and Rudi patiently dispatched them all, pulling no punches.

No scripts. No narratives. Just honest fighting.

Charlie didn’t bother watching the evening’s bouts He knew Rudi’s moves inside and out, could play them over and over inside his head like a silent film. While the crowd was clustered around the ring watching their local hero get manhandled, Charlie grappled, eyes closed, with the Rudi in his mind. He did this ensconced secretively in the shadows between trailers, where few were likely to venture, except—

“By god, you’re at it again,” drawled The Masher, now dressed simply as George. He stood at the mouth of the alley formed by the two trailers, cigar in hand, little more than a silhouette against the midway lights. “We’ve all done our time in the ring with Rudi, boy. Not one of us walked away with our pride intact.”

“I don’t have any drat pride,” Charlie snapped. “I play a cheesy face for small change.”

“Nothing ‘small change’ about a roof over your head, food in your belly.” George took a deep drag off the cigar. “Besides, you get hurt, I become a one-man act.”

“You were rolling marks before I joined up, you’ll be rolling marks long after I’ve moved on,” Charlie said. He stooped to brush dirt from the knees of his trousers. “I want a fight, not a fiction.”

.

Charlie ‘Longshot’ Johnson challenged Rudi once, twice, three times in three days, and lost.

With each bout fought, the movie in his head grew more precise, and he found himself dreaming in sequences of hooks and pins, matches of mythological proportions where Rudi presided over the ring like a gilt god.

With the fourth day came a fourth challenge. Longshot stalked clockwise around the ring, mirroring the older fighter, feeling out the timbre of the fight. Rudi wasn’t the heaviest hooker in the game, but there was a density to him, as though the world bowed slightly beneath the weight of his presence. Everything beyond the ring fell away from Longshot; there was only Rudi—the whipcord muscle, the keen ice-chip eyes, the placid confidence of a champion.

But this time, there was something perfunctory in the way Rudi moved. Something absent.

The fight lasted no longer than seventy-five seconds, with Longshot dancing around the ring with the deftness of a spider in its web while Rudi fought like a fly who’d accepted its own ensnarement—a token resistance at best. Longshot felt the belly-fire go out of the older man during the final pin, felt the moment of irrefutable mutiny in Rudi’s lean, taut body.

Rudi pounded his hand on the ring floor once, signalling submission, and then lapsed into unconsciousness.

For the first time in Longshot’s time with the funfair, the barker was speechless, his expression slack and disbelieving, like a local who’d just watch the town hero get pummeled.

“Call it,” Longshot said, his voice barely audible over the songful crickets.

Afterward, George clapped him on the shoulder, grinning around his cigar, and said, “Boy you just made me a rich man.”

.

Soon, it was time for Ackworth’s to move on from Valewood in search of greener pastures and fuller pockets. Rudi stayed behind, citing Valewood as a good a place to get old as any.

Charlie was a man spread across two lives. In the first life, his old life, he’d been a daytime conman, a charlatan in orange leggings. In this new life, he was a warrior; some challenged him, while others courted his affection. All comers, regardless of their intent, treated him with deference.

The funfair trundled on across the heartland, burning through brave young locals like wildfire through brush.

In Charlie’s sleep, though, there was only one opponent: Rudi, still standing tall and golden like a man from a different age, an immutable god of the ring, who, by virtue of having been defeated, was free from his mortal shell. Every strongman, every hayseed, every tough customer who entered the ring was little more than a transparent vessel carrying the undefeatable spirit of Rudi.

Charlie fought that ghost for a decade, undefeated yet never truly victorious. His trailer was opulent, the women who visited it clean and affectionate. George ‘The Masher’ Marston dropped his moniker and became simply George Marston, manager of the indomitable Longshot, and the closest thing Charlie had to a friend.

One night, after a lucrative day of meaningless bouts, Charlie found himself in George’s trailer, saying the unthinkable.

“It’s time, George. I’ve done my tour of duty. I'm not waiting for some hotshot to catch me on an off-day. I want to quit while I’m strong, be remembered as strong.”

George chewed his cigar with browned teeth, shuffled a thick stack of bills between his hands. “Now what I’m hearing here is, my bread and butter telling me he doesn’t wanna butter bread anymore. That right?”

Charlie spread his hands. “I’ve given you a decade. A guy’s got a right to rest.”

George gave Charlie a long, hard look, then laughed and shook his head. “I know what you’re playing at, boy. Don’t think it’s escaped my notice what town we’re in.”

“That’s got nothing to do with it,” Charlie mumbled, but he found himself unable to meet George’s incisive look. “Rudi’s probly long past dead now, anyway. There was nothing left in him that day. I could feel it.”

“You’d be surprised,” George grunted. Sighing, he split the stack of cash, shoved the more generous portion across his desk. “Go on then. Don’t say I never show you any gratitude—but once you realize you’re not gonna find what you’re looking for, you come on back to me.”

.

Valewood, as Rudi had said, was a good a place to get old as anywhere.

Charlie turned his stack of cash into a house, a car, and a respectable bank balance. His neighbors at first treated him with furtive curiosity, then tentative friendship, finally welcoming him as one of their own when he made a wife out of the mayor’s daughter.

No one spoke of an aged fighter from long ago. No one remembered the bout that had dethroned the greatest hooker of his time. Charlie told himself Rudi had simply moved on; there was no applicable headstone in the cemetery, no obituary in the newspaper archives. Maybe, Charlie mused, the old man had hopped a train, headed west to gentler, dryer climes.

And yet Charlie would still dream of him—that golden giant of the ring, the force of nature, the pale-eyed god of unattainable victory. The dreams produced in Charlie a restlessness that saw him trundling around town in his flashy Chrysler, windows down, smiling and waving to folks in a neighborly fashion even as he hunted that which haunted him.

There was an old, run-down panhandler who liked to sit on the corner by the barber’s, beneath the cheerfully spinning red-white-and-blue pole. Charlie saw him without seeing him, as though he was a tattered, bearded piece of scenery.

Then, on one of Charlie’s long, aimless drives through town, he passed the corner and the barbershop and the patch of scenery who happened to be a derelict old man. An abrupt breeze tugged at the panhandler’s hat, then lifted it off his head and flicked it down the sidewalk. The old man watched the hat go with a sort of wan curiosity before heaving himself to his feet to retrieve it.

The Chrysler came to a dead stop in the middle of the road. Charlie had only caught the barest glimpse of the old tramp’s unshaded features, but it was enough: that face, or a version of it, had been etched into the stuff of his dreams for over a decade.

He watched Rudi amble after his hat, corner it against the side of a shop, then jam it firmly onto his balding pate. There was a moment when the old man turned, when his eyes passed over Charlie, when the lances of their respective gazes seemed to intersect—

Rudi turned and went back to his chair, settling down once more with his grubby paper cup and cardboard sign.

The Chrylser peeled out, did a hard burn to the edge of town. Charlie wasn’t cognizant of where he was going until he arrived: a trampled fairground down by the river, empty now but still bearing the scars of tents pitched and trailers parked. The smell was the same as it’d been that day a decade before: a swampy miasma that saturated the air with intimations of death. Charlie sank to his knees and closed his eyes, breathing in the noisome perfume, all at once longing for the days when he had something to strive for, someone to conquer.

But now there was nothing to prove, and no one against whom he might prove himself. He could all but smell George's cigar smoke, hear his voice rasping, I told you so.

Charlie dreaded the night, feared what images his mind conjure in place of his golden giant, but when he did at last sink into bed next to his wife, sleep claimed him quickly, and he dreamed of nothing at all.

steeltoedsneakers
Jul 26, 2016







Thunderdome CCCLIV: S’moreDome redemption story
Bookbinding
633 words
https://thunderdome.cc/?story=7429&title=Bookbinding

steeltoedsneakers fucked around with this message at 19:15 on Dec 31, 2019

Salgal80
Jan 28, 2019


In for the simple writer prompt, mostly because the word "loving" is OK and "sunny" is not.

Saucy_Rodent
Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica


Crit for Bookbinding

This is more of a guided meditation than a spooky story. I’m not frightened and I’m not exactly sure that I’m supposed to be. It’s interesting and evocative, and would probably win guided meditation week. However, it really doesn’t fit the prompt even a little bit.

steeltoedsneakers
Jul 26, 2016







Saucy_Rodent posted:

Crit for Bookbinding

Thanks for the crit, Saucy

Salgal80
Jan 28, 2019


Life is Good
440 Words

Emma sits resting at the table in her kitchen drinking her coffee. Ever since last year when she and her husband renovated by putting in new white cabinets and stone countertops, she waits for hours in this room every morning before starting her day. She loves the French doors that lead out to the garden where pink peonies are flowering. She loves how she can see through to the family room where Rachel Ray is making a new food to surprise her viewers. Most of all she loves the windows. On a day full of sun, like today, she feels like she's being lit by God.

And she is lit by God, for she has the luxury of sitting around drinking coffee with nothing to do until she feels like moving on to the next familiar calling for the day. The garden ladies will be coming over later in the week so she’ll probably plan the menu.

Emma is quite happy.

Emma is happy because she doesn’t know that the boy who lives next door and sits next to her daughter in homeroom is now sitting in his bathroom not more than 300 yards away shooting up heroin. Or that Mr. Diddle at the end of her street is "beating his stick" while watching little girls get touched by older men on his computer screen. Or that her old babysitter is sitting in a doctor’s office in Alabama being refused an abortion. Or that last week in the next town over a cop shot a black man dead for breaking into his own house.

Nor does she know her husband is loving his assistant in the cleaning closet at Williams & Wright as she gently puts her cup into the dishwasher. Or that the brother she has not talked to in ten years is now her sister and living in Thailand selling herself for money every night. Or that her mother tried to kill herself by cutting her wrists when Emma was a baby.


Emma decides to go to Planet Fitness to work out. A new trainer started last week who's easy to look at, and she thinks he noticed her. At least, he looked her way. She grabs yoga pants and a t-shirt--the “Life is Good” one with a dog and cat hugging--and heads to the bathroom to shower.

She passes the mirror on the way and sees herself out of the corner of her eye. She stops and looks at herself for a long minute. She smiles, admiring her perfect teeth, thanks to Doctor White, and starts her morning knowing this is going to be another great day.

Mr. Steak
May 8, 2013

by Jeffrey of YOSPOS


oh yeah, in, obviously

Killer-of-Lawyers
Apr 22, 2008


In.

Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Yeah, I'll be in for this.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


College Slice

In

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006



In

Nethilia
Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition


Sign-ups are closed. Go write your stories.

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



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

*


Wrestlebrawl stories received. I spent all day hospitalised in a foreign country tho so judgement will happen uhhhh soon

Doctor Zero
Sep 21, 2002

Would you like a jelly baby?
It's been in my pocket through 4 regenerations,
but it's still good.

Don't Drink the Pink Water
970 Words


Thank you for helping me. I am happy to have new friends. My old friends were mean to me and I didn’t want to be friends with them anymore. They hit me so I hit them back and now they are not my friends and you are my friends. Now I am happy.

My name is Sed. It used to be Said Ric but that name is stupid and doesn’t make sense. I don’t know Ric and I don’t care what he said, so now my name is Sed which is easier to say and I make it like S-E-D.

We came to this below the ground building place that’s not a rock hole because we were looking to stop the bad people and find good things, but it turns out my old friends were the bad people. I guess they were not really my friends. They were just people I walked places with and did things. But it’s easier to just say friends.

I had three friends and we found a room where you make special colored water that has power. There was a bottle of pink water that has power and my friends said I should try it. I didn’t want to but they said I was a Pal.. Pull.. something with a P that means I fight and I am a really good person. They said it would be okay so I drank the pink water but then my head hurt a lot and I forgot my words. That’s what Nuz said anyway. Nuz has a bigger name but I can’t say it anymore. He was a man who wears a dress and can make power come from a big stick and he said the pink water made most of my words go away. I said he should have drank the pink water and he laughed and said it was better I did it, which made me mad.

I used to know a lot more words and some were God words, but I can’t remember them anymore, so I asked the man who talks to God to help. His name was Bran. I can say Bran’s name. He is really short like his name and had a lot of face hair. He said he couldn’t ask God to help because the pink water had a different kind of power than his, but I think he was laughing at me behind my back too.

My last friend, who was really tall and had funny ears and carried a stick with a line that shoots smaller sticks that are pointy, said that we should finish what we were doing and then they could get me help in the town that is close. His name was long and I forgot it when I forgot my words. So I called him Tall Man.

We kept walking in this below ground building that is not a rock hole, and found many bad things. They were brown and smelly like dogs and very loud, but I hit them with my long, sharp metal stick and they stopped making noise, so that was good.

But Nuz kept laughing at me. He said that I talked like a stupid person, but I am not stupid, I just forgot words. He said I talked like “Sed Ric will hit you smelly brown dog things with my stick!” But that’s not true, I can say “I”, only stupid people say their own name when they talk. I told him that. Nuz laughed and said I could not even say his name anymore. I said that I couldn’t say Tall Man’s name either but that just made him laugh more. Tall Man tried to make him stop but he wouldn’t.

I got mad and pushed Nuz and said he wouldn’t laugh if he couldn’t remember his words and couldn’t do the power with his stick. Nuz fell over and also got mad. Nuz hit me in the head with his stick and said if he hit me hard in the head maybe my words would come back. I grabbed his stick and broke it. Then he got really mad. He said I broke his power when I broke his stick and he tried to hit me with his hands, but he was not strong so I pushed him again but maybe too hard. He hit the wall and stopped talking. Bran and Tall Man got mad then too. Tall man pointed his sticks at me, and Bran said he already used a lot of God words and it would be hard to help Nuz, but I said good. Then Bran hit me with his big ball on a stick, so I hit him with my big metal stick and he stopped talking too. Tall Man didn’t yell but he looked sad and shot me with his pointed sticks. It hurt. I grabbed him and he put a small metal stick in me and I shook him until he didn’t talk anymore.

I felt bad after that because I was supposed to be a good person, but they made me so mad and hit me and I had to make them stop. That was when you guys showed up. You saw what I did and you helped me and made the hurts feel better.

So you are my new friends now. You don’t make fun of Sed, I mean me. Even though you are green and look strange and smell bad and talk funny, you helped me, so I will help you if any more people come from the town that is close. I am happy now. Having friends is good, so I will be a person who is good for my new friends.

Just don’t make me drink any colored water that has power, okay?

Adam Vegas
Apr 14, 2013





Rain Can't Make You Sick
882 words

It has rained here for a year.

It started in summer, and everyone liked it: warm rain on the skin, the sound on the window, the smell of wet dirt. The children ran around and played in the rain every day, and the parents were happy. They came to my store and said it was good, that the kids spent too much time in their computer worlds these days. They bought sticks and balls for their children to play with. I made lots of money, and I was happy. I bought a dog, and I called him Max.

Then the river broke its banks. The children laughed in the wet streets, building boats. The parents did not like the rain anymore. They worried, and came to my store. The bags of sand sold out. I took Max on lots of walks that summer, and he enjoyed the water like any good dog. We were safe and dry at the top of the hill, and we were happy.

Fall came and the town worried more. It got colder and the children did not enjoy the rain anymore. They went to school wet, they ate their lunches wet, they walked home wet. It never ended, and it wasn’t fun anymore. The parents came to my store and said it was bad, that they worried the rain would make the kids sick. They bought lots of things: plastic coats for the children, and plastic hats. I knew they were wrong: rain can’t make you sick, children get sick because they aren’t strong. I didn’t tell them, though. The plastic clothes sold out. I kept some back and cut them up, and made Max and me plastic coats, because he needed to walk. He looked good in his. We were happy.

The winter came and the men on the TV said we should leave. They said the rain was all over the north of the country, and spreading fast. They said the rain made people stupid because there were bad things in the clouds. People tried to leave, but it was too late. It was cold, and all the rain became ice. You couldn’t drive on the roads. Some tried, and they broke their cars, and they broke themselves. That made lots of noise and fire, which scared Max. That made me mad at the people. Rain can’t make you sick, and it can’t make you stupid. All we had to do was wait.

The parents came to my store, and I told them that. They ignored me and said they were going to take the children and leave the town, walk south. They told me to come with them, and asked for warm coverings, wood, lighters, and those little plastic houses. I wasn’t going anywhere, and said they would have to pay. That made the parents angry, but they gave me the money when Max shouted dog noises at them. He was a good boy. I saved some of the warm coverings and made him foot wraps, and a warm coat. We went on slow, careful walks in our plastic coats, because he needed to walk. We got wet, and we got cold, but it was nice to walk around the town with no one there. When we got home after a walk, I would dry Max off and build a fire, then wrap him in the warm clothes I made. We were happy.

Spring came. I was surprised, because the people did not come back. Max and I ran out of food in the store, and we had to go into their houses. I was worried because I knew that stealing was bad, but I did it for my dog. I was not worried anymore when I found that many of the parents had left the old people of the town behind. They had left their own parents behind, and the old people had died in their beds. All they had to do was stay in the town, and stay warm, and dry, and build fires. Max and I had made it through the winter like that, and these people had run away from their homes into the forests. They did not know how to live outside, and I knew they and the children would all be dead too. I was very angry with them, and I did not feel bad about stealing their food, so that is what we did.

I walked with Max every day, and we made our way through every house. He helped me make holes, and I put the old people in the ground. We took the food from the houses. We went home, and got dry, and ate our food. I read him stories by the fire.

Now it is summer again. The rain has not stopped, and I don’t think it will. It doesn’t need to. We need food, but Max helps me look. We are wet, but I help him get dry. We share what we find, and we catch animals. I cut down trees and we sit by the fire. Sometimes he doesn’t remember his name anymore, and sometimes he looks confused. Sometimes I feel confused, but it is ok. This is our town now, and we take care of each other. We are happy.

steeltoedsneakers
Jul 26, 2016







steeltoedsneakers posted:

Ex-Anomalous Steak brawl

Due soon kids. We said 26 May so let's standardise to 23:59:59 PST at the latest. Get your stuff in.

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again



archive link

Djeser fucked around with this message at 20:48 on Jan 1, 2020

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give



How to Use the Doctor Machine
1028 words
15 words that are not simple (three different ones: two said once, one repeated often)
Harder story idea: I like blue and red and yellow, but i do not like the colors together.

When you are sick, you need to take medicine. If you have a doctor, she will make some for you. If you do not, you will have to make it yourself. Do not be afraid. We made the doctor machine simple for you.

Everyone in the room with the doctor machine must wear ear covers. The machine makes a loud noise when it works, and this noise can hurt you if you do not wear ear covers. If you do wear them, it is still loud but safe. Be careful, but do not be afraid of it.

If you are sick, do not use the doctor machine. It is not safe for you or anyone who uses the doctor machine after you. Tell a person who is not sick what to do. Stand near them and read them this book. Make your voice loud, so they can hear you. That will help them and will not hurt anyone.

If you are not sick and helping someone who is, or you are a new doctor, here is how to use the doctor machine:

1. Press the spot on the machine that says "On."

2. Put your arms in the holes in the machine, into the covers that are inside. These covers let you work with the machine and keep it clean, and it keeps you safe. The things inside the machine are not safe for you to touch.

(On the side, in different writing: We are sorry. I promise you that we are sorry.)

3. Your face should rest on a soft thing above the holes. This has glass to let you see inside the machine. If your face does not rest there, your body may not fit the machine, and you should find someone else to use it.

(All of you should fit the machine. We made you so you would all be like each other, so it would be easy for you all to use the machines we left you. I do not know if that was a kind thing to do.)

4. Inside the doctor machine are three spots with three different colors: red, yellow, blue. If it is dark or you cannot see colors, look at the shapes: red is round, yellow is three-sided, blue is four-sided. Each spot makes a medicine for a different way to be sick.

(We tried to make life simple for you. We tried to make you simple. Three ways to be sick, three ways to get better. Are there new ways for you to be sick, now, that this book doesn't know? That the doctor machine can't fix?)

If you feel too hot, like you're burning, and see things when you sleep, you need the yellow (three-sided) medicine. Push the spot once, then wait for it to light up, then push it again. The machine will begin to make a loud noise. Do not be afraid! This loud sound is how it turns the things it stores into safe medicine.

When the machine is done, it will go quiet, and the door will open with the yellow medicine inside. It is a hard yellow ball. Do not break it! Put it in your mouth and swallow it whole with cold water. Soon you will feel less hot and you will sleep without dreaming.

If blood comes from your mouth or your holes, you need the red (round) medicine. Push the spot, wait until it lights up, then push it again. The light will turn on and off quickly. Push the spot again. This noise will be louder. The red medicine is strong and the machine has to work very hard to make it.

(We are sorry about the blood. There was no other way to make that part of you work with what we knew then. When we come home, we will fix it.)

The red medicine is like water, but very thick, and darker than blood. Put it in your mouth and let it melt away. If you can drink water, drink as much as you can. Eat if you can. Do not go to sleep again until something leaves your holes that is not blood.

If you cannot sleep or work, or you sleep too much, and there is a darkness or a heavy feeling in your heart, you need the blue (four-sided) medicine. Press that spot once. This will be quick, and there is no noise. Blue medicine is easy to make, and the doctor machine stores a lot of it.

The blue medicine is like water. Drink it. If someone is sick and asleep, open the hole in the back of their neck with a doctor's key and put the medicine in, to help them wake up. It may take a lot. The blue medicine is not very strong, and this way of being sick is strong and slow. Do not be afraid. Just do your best.

(We did not make this way of being sick. The burning we made, because it is good for you, although it feels bad. The blood we made, because we had to. The heavy heart we could not find a way not to make. If we could have made you happy all the time, we would have, but even making you simple did not fix it. We tried our best.)

5. When you are done with the doctor machine, step away and press the spot that says "On." It will turn off. If you turn off the machine, it will make less noise and last longer.

If you are afraid or not sure what to do, ask a doctor or reader. If you have no doctors or readers, touch the teaching machine and ask for help. If you have no teaching machine, just try your best. You will be all right. You are strong.

(We love you very much, more than my words can say. We are sorry we had to leave you. We will come home, one day, and we will show you the sky, and we will fix everything together. I don't know how long it will be. I'm so sorry.)

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


Paper Hearts
808 words (65 non-simple)

There’s a pile of wet paper snow in the street, and part of me wants to walk out into the rain after it.

Neva’s asleep, and I’m listening to the rain fall through the screen door, drowning out the noise of the paper mill on the hill, the low noise of endless work.

See, because of the paper mill--in our town, we don’t have Wanted posters, we have Wanting posters.

There’s one on the side of Mrs. Veckel’s house on the corner, real easy to miss if you want to. It’s the size of a postage stamp and it’s stuck in the middle of the oh in the gold number three-oh-seven on the side of her door and if you have tiny eyes you can see that it reads: Wanting: A Friend with an empty square in the middle where the picture should be, save for a little brown smudge.

There’s no house without a poster. Mr. McKechney has one hanging from his clothesline, saying Wanting: A Cure. Susan Dennis has one covering the windshield of her car, spiderwebs hanging off the side mirrors. Wanting: A Summer Love. I see her at the bus stop every day, riding to work, her little paper dog on a leash behind her, and every time he barks it sounds something being torn in half.

Across town on the hill, the paper mill runs, day and night, and people go in and out.

Everyone who works at the paper mill gets a Wanting poster as a little every-now-and-then gift. How big the poster is decides what you get out of it. Miss Parallel, she thought she’d made it when she got the poster bigger than her house with Wanted: A Man written on it. The whole town was there to watch when the brown smudge finally became a face, a pair of shoulders, hands reaching out and parting the front of the poster and we all saw him, twenty feet tall, bare and muscular with eyes that could cradle an aching soul. And he took one step and collapsed into a pile of ribbons.

We found her later that night after the rain fell, curled up in the pile of wet white mush, smiling from ear to ear.

Yet I know that once Mrs. Veckel’s five-inch tall friend climbs out of her little poster, they’ll live longer than her. Like the kind of paper that makes a blank fired from a gun. She’ll talk to him and play cards with him and he’ll lift the playing cards up over his head and throw them onto the pile, and up on the hill the paper mill will go rhum-rhum-rhum into the darkness, and she’ll lock the door to keep him from walking out into the rain.

But they’ll want each other, completely.

I watch the rain fall some more, watch it wash away the white pile in the road.

The sound of the rain and the sound of the paper being rolled and mashed and formed, they’re both at war inside my head.

My hand tightens on the door knob.

“Honey?”

I turn around.

Neva’s there, at the doorway. “Are you ok?” She’s waiting for me to say something.

“I’m fine,” I say.

She knows I’m lying. She steps into the moonlight, shining through the window.

Her skin is whiter than the moon. Whiter than any skin is supposed to be.

“Crane?” she says to me, fear in her voice.

I stare at her and I wonder why. Why people can’t be good enough. Why people can want someone so much, for so long, with everything within themselves, and when they finally find them, it’s still not enough. It never is.

The sound of the mill is still in my head, and it’s pulling me back, towards the door.

“Crane,” she says.

I don’t know what to say any more. All I want to do is leave.

But she’s still waiting there, waiting for me to answer her.

I speak into the darkness.

“How could they leave?” I say. “How could they leave us behind?”

“Come here,” she says.

I shut my eyes.

I let go of the door handle.

I step into the moonlight.

My skin is whiter than the moon, whiter than any skin is supposed to be.

White as a blank sheet of paper.

Wanted: To Have and to Hold.

Wanted: The Perfect Man.

Wanted: The Perfect Woman.

Wanted: The Perfect Love.

We embrace, gently.

“I want you,” she says.

I don’t say anything, just lay my head against her shoulder and listen to the rain fall and listen to the thump of her paper heart until I can no longer hear the noise of the mill, and then I whisper “I want you too,” into the darkness, just loud enough for her to hear.

Exmond
May 31, 2007

Writing is fun!

Ex-Anomalous Steak brawlentry

The Trials And Tribulations Of Being A Single Father
Word Count: 972

The doctor had formed a grim prognosis, the father was describing his daughter’s condition with carefully rehearsed lines and the daughter? She gleefully described the act of eating spiders.

“I put ‘em in my mouth and they go crunch, crunch!” She said, her young mind unable to fully explain the delectable delight. Language is frustrating for her, she knew if she could describe the taste that everyone would only eat spiders, like her.

Three appointments in and The Doctor still couldn’t figure it out. He turned to the father, “I think it’s trauma, linked to losing her mother. But we should run another test. To see if it’s a chemical imbalance in her blood.”

The father’s face went pale. Money was tight, and more tests meant more expenses.

“I can take another painting as payment,” the doctor quickly added. He makes good money, and he can empathize with the father. His mother raised him to be a good man, all by herself. What would he be if he demanded money from a single father with a sick child?

The father nodded, and the two men looked across the office to the other painting adorned on the wall. The father didn’t consider himself an artist, but he does have talent. His paintings call out to the doctor, the myriad of shapes and colours opening up the dark pits of his mind and infecting the furthest corner of his mind. The doctor felt something stir inside him, the father looks at the doctor and felt guilty.

The doctor reached out to the daughter and took her arm. A quick bit of pain shot through her, and blood filled the syringe. He sighed, patted her back, and told them he will call them back with the results.

***

“Dinner will be ready soon,” the father told his daughter and he looked out at the cenotaph in the garden. It was easier when the mother was here, but her body was beyond his reach.

The daughter went to bed, her belly empty, and the father prepared dinner. He walked to a small studio and locked the door. In the center of the room was a white canvas surrounded by paint cans.

Colours washed across the white emptiness of the canvas like a frantic web. “He’s a genius, his art calls to your soul,” the critics commented when they saw his creations. There was a certain sense to it. All art shares a telepathic link where a central theme incubates and corrupts your mind. But his art has no theme, just a purpose. The paintings are only whispers of insanity spread out to look like art.

Memories seeped into the painting; they always did. He saw the face of his late wife, though nobody would recognize it. He remembered meeting her for the first time: the meteor crashing to the ground, her carapace rising out of the rubble and his fear mixing with curiosity.

Those were the happiest years of his life. He remembered her embrace, her eight legs entwining with his. He remembered crying as his daughter was born. How the mother told him that all young need to feed, and the sacrifice that all mothers of her kind must make.

But mostly, he remembered her last lesson - on how to provide for their child.

A phone rang, interrupting his mad work. He picked up the cellphone and heard the doctor’s voice.

“Hello, It’s Doctor Troyer. The test results aren’t good, can you come tomorrow?”

The father walked to a calendar on the wall. Its days were marked off with names and incubation periods. He checked where Troyer’s name was on the schedule.

“Yes, that works,” the father says. He looked back at the painting and saw the mother staring back at him, a gigantic spider on a web of incandescent colours. Then he rushed to inform his daughter when dinner will be ready.

***

The daughter smiled at the doctor, the innocent smile she was taught by her father. She doesn’t understand what the doctor is talking about, but she likes his voice.

Her belly rumbled, and her hunger grew. She was impatient, but she didn’t complain - she was a good daughter, it was her mother’s last request. She missed her mother, she was delicious and the best.

The father handed the doctor his latest painting, but the doctor shook his head. He had failed to find a cure, no payment was necessary. The father insisted and showed the painting to him. The doctor looked at it, and something stirred in his mind.

The stirring didn’t stop. The doctor looked around, confused, and then something stepped on his parietal cortex. His back spasmed and the father went to lock the door.

The doctor thought he was having a stroke, but when thousands of tiny legs stepped on his mind, he knew he was wrong. He bit off his own tongue, he tried to run, but to no avail. He fell, and the daughter looked down at him, her smile full of fangs and teeth.

“Daddy!” she said and looked up expectantly.

“Go wash your hands first,” the father says as the sound of cracking bone echos in the office.

As the sound grew louder, the doctor smelled blood. He reached up to his face, and his hands brushed up against exposed bone. From the widening crack in his skull, a baby spider jumped onto the floor. More and more baby spiders fell onto the floor, their blood-soaked bodies leaving frantic marks on the white linoleum. The doctor cannot scream, but he could feel every spider jump out of his mind and onto the floor.

The father looked down at the daughter, who displayed her eight limbs. They were sparkling clean.

He nodded approvingly and said, “It’s Dinner Time.”

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Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



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

*


steeltoedsneakers posted:

Ex-Anomalous Steak brawl

Listen you muppets, that signup process was shambolic. Let’s iron a few things out:

  1. You don’t flashrule. Because of that display, if you want flashrules mojo will provide hellrules on request.
  2. Exmond, that caveat in Blowout’s challenge stands. Spill blood in June or I call in the toxx.
  3. That date works so let’s run with it.

You’ve got until 26 May to slap together 1000 words of creeping horror. I don’t want a slasher from you, I want dread.

Your theme is “open up the pit”, cos y’all are up in here throwing elbows like hoons at their first hardcore gig.

Get lippy again and those hellrules won't wait for requests. Let me see those toxxes, AB and Steak.


Acute Grief Reaction
997 words


The baby monitor crackles in my hand when I first turn it on. The static is louder than I expected. Alice watches me from her crib with wide, uncomprehending eyes.

We’re trying something new tonight, baby girl, I tell her.

I set one of the monitors atop the dresser. The thought of stepping out of the room, of leaving her to sleep alone, opens up a cavern in my stomach that threatens to swallow all reason.

But my therapist says it's time. Says it's hurting us both to clutch her so tightly.

Since you died, I’m afraid to even blink lest I lose her too. She burbles on oblivious, reaching new milestones every day. At five months, she can roll over onto her belly and sit up on her own.

I tuck her in and tell her I love her and the baby monitor renders a gentle, electric crackle as I step away.

At my back, your side of the mattress stretches vastly, emptily into the dark. Sleep comes eventually.

Then I'm tugged gently back to consciousness by a soft tickle of sound against my ear. Over the soft hiss of the baby monitor, my daughter is laughing.

Five nights pass and I wake to the sound of her laughter. It does not occur to me to ask what she's laughing at until too late.

###

Our house is a wreck. I'm sorry, Erik. The tidy little home you cherished is heaped with unwashed laundry now, the sink always piled with dishes. Some days I make a dent in it.

I feed Alice and the only reason I feed myself is because I know I have to eat in order to keep producing milk. This is what losing you has done to me.

So I eat. I do two loads of laundry. I make my dents.

And then at night, the soft scratch of the baby monitor nudges me awake.

This time, I hear you, the low basso rumble of your laugh through the speaker.

Alice gurgles and coos. A shudder slams into me as I recall how I woke to the sound of her cooing almost every night. How I assumed she must be having pleasant dreams. The chill informs me there's no way this can be a dream.

The baby monitor buzzes. I hear words now, fuzzy and indistinct, like a murmur behind a concealing hand. I hear you say her name. And it isn't until I hear you say her name that I realise that this means something that sounds like you is in her bedroom, and then I'm stumbling from the bed, tripping over the sheets and racing for the door and holding my breath and unable to decide which would be more terrifying--if I opened her door and saw nothing or opened it and saw you.

Because you're not here. You can't be here.

I burst into her room. The door slams against the wall and she's wailing instantly, alone in the dark, no spectres to be seen.

But as I hold her to my chest, I see it on the window: a patch of fogged-up glass, like someone had been breathing against it from the outside.

###

You're not here. You cannot be here. Not only are you dead, you are buried under a thousand tons of stone.

###

When I tell Dr Phipps I hear you at night, she gives me a smile so sad that I want to punch it off her face. It's an acute grief reaction, she explains. Completely understandable when a mine collapses on your husband and entombs him. It's normal to feel these things even months after, especially when dealing with anniversaries or trigger events.

She asks me if I'm going to the press conference.

The press conference I'd forgotten the press conference. Tomorrow, the government is going to announce the results of their inquiry into a recovery operation. Into whether they can open up the pit and bring you home.

I have to stop them. I can't let them open up the mine, not now that I know you aren't really dead.

At home, I clean like I haven't in months, body full of frenzied energy with nowhere to go. Alice is sleeping in my room again.

I've ripped the batteries out of the monitor's back. It sings from its spot in a bottom drawer two rooms away, the warm rumble of murmured words too faint to make out but too yours to ignore.

I sleep in in stops and starts. I hear you screaming, begging me to let you out, but then I snap awake and it's Alice screaming to be fed.

###

Dr Phipps arrives hard-eyed on my doorstep two hours before the press conference. She asks if I've been sleeping.

Why?

They called me when they got your voicemails, she says.

They?

The Council.

I ball my hands into defensive fists. She doesn't understand. I tell her over and over that she doesn't understand. They have to know they can't open up the mine. That if they open up the mine--

She says she's going to stay with me. To make sure I get the help I need. That none of what is happening to me is uncommon. Alice cries in the other room and I snap back to myself and I tell Dr Phipps to please excuse me, the baby is hungry.

As I step into my bedroom, the baby monitor shrieks. I hear your voice louder than ever. This time there's no mistaking the words. LET ME OUT.

I shove past Dr Phipps with my baby in my arms. Throwing us both into the car, I floor the gas and take off for the interstate.

I can't stop them from reopening the mine. But I can be far away when they do.

Let me out let me out let me out let me out--your screams recede to pleading whimpers, lost in the static of the radio as I leave my haunted home and you behind.

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