Your beast is the Badger.
Badgers may be bribed with strong liquor. Their work is rough but functional.
A series of natural deaths
Samsa found comfort in the dank black void of her jail. There was no getting out of here, but more importantly, there was no getting in. She didn’t know what she’d do once her trial for theft was over. Leave town most likely. Hope she’ll get far enough. But for now, she was safe.
Something seemed to pitter-patter in the dark. The constant quiet made her imagine noises. But then, paranoia had become a habit of hers after Karl’s death. She’d started seeing things. A small silhouette, observing her far off in the distance. A blur of black and white in the corner of her eye. A glint in the dark, like a pair of beady eyes glowing at her from the abyss.
Another noise. Scratching. Far end of the room. She discounted it again. Dug her fingers into the dirt. She was safe here. She was safe, they wouldn’t get to her. She would have never admitted to stealing all that liquor if she wasn’t safe here.
As her nails scratched through mud and earth, she wondered if it was possible to dig a tunnel into her cell.
Something broke through the earth.
She heard the first badger before she saw it.
“Four years have I known your flock,” Karl said. “I have always brought you good custom.”
The badgers glared at him from all corners of his study, unflinching, unmoving furry little avatars of death, sizing him up from atop his desk, his shelves and even his ceiling lantern. They wouldn’t take pity on him. They were here for a job.
He wondered who’d sent them, and why. Maybe that foolish Samsa was tying up loose ends. Maybe the McTallister boy had figured them out and taken the law into his own hands.
“Very well.” The German reached for something inside his pocket and a wall of fur tensed up all around him. Slowly, he pulled out his flask and set it down. This kind of Whisky you only got on the Isles. It was exotic, even for the Highlands.
“When this is over, I want you to kill whoever sent you.”
There was no sign of approval. There never was. Badgers played with their cards close to their chest. It’s why he’d taken a liking to them in the first place.
“Now come and get me.”
He drew his saber and showered in a rain of fur, blood, fangs and teeth.
What was left of Cleft Toshen was a bloody mess. Literally. There was an immeasurable amount of cuts and bites all over his body. He’d probably died of blood loss.
“This man,” sheriff McTallister said, “has been murdered by badgers.”
“Excuse me?” the deputy said.
McTallister closed his notebook theatrically. The room was sparse. There was a half-finished dinner still on the table. Notably, only for one person. The man, in his death throes, had soaked the rushes red with his blood. Beneath them, shoddily closed-up mole hills still protruded from the beaten earth.
Cleft Toshen. Known for his temper. Not known for being good with animals.
“It has happened before. Remember the deaths in Midlothian? I was a deputy back then.”
“Wasn’t that witchcraft?”
McTallister snorted. “Sure.” As long as people kept believing in fairy tales and magic they would never solve the badger threat.
“You know sir,” the deputy said, “I mean, it’s not my place to say, but--”
“Straight from the hip.”
“There have been rumors concerning poor Misses Toshen and that German fellow.”
“Oh. Karl?” McTallister took his hat off the table and dusted it off against his thigh. “I guess I will speak to the widow now.”
Cleft had dinner. He ate at home. Other people annoyed him. He had a piece of bread, a bowl of pea pottage, a piece of salmon. Some porridge. He dunked the bread into the pottage. He wasn’t much of a reader, so he spent most of his dinner thinking, as usual, about how the world wronged him: his younger brother had gotten the farm. Naive Rory had been elected mayor. His wife hadn’t brought him dinner today - he’d had to get it himself. He’d give Samsa a mindful later.
Something crashed to the ground and splintered. There was a badger on the shelf. It had toppled over one of the plates. Stupid thing. How had it gotten in?
More badgers glared at him out of mole hills in the ground. More than he had fingers.
Something cut his ankle. There was a badger at his leg. It bit down. Cleft yelled, spitting bits of pea and bread, and kicked at it with his other foot. Another badger jumped him. And another. Until the cuts and stings and bites all merged into just pain. It crept up his body. He thrashed around, but the badgers didn’t leave go.
He fell to the floor. He tasted blood. Iron. Something tore at his throat. The room went dark.
The badgers formed a single line of fuzzy maliciousness, pairs of beady eyes glinting at them through the dusk. Samsa fiddled with the whisky mug in her hands.
“Are you sure they won’t hurt him?” she said. “I just want him to leave. Move him someplace else.”
“Give ‘em the whisky,” Karl said. The old German had a penchant for the direct approach. Maybe that’s how he’d gotten to know the badgers so easily. From what she knew, they had much in common.
“Look,” Karl said. “You want him out of your life, or not?”
Like a force of habit, Samsa’s hand went up to the black spot around her eye. She set down the mug and took a few steps back.
A wave of fur approached them, sudden and coordinated. It washed over the whisky and retreated just as quickly, breaking off into parts and scattering through the rocks and foliage of the mountains. Just like that, they disappeared.
“Don’t worry,” Karl said. “These guys always finish the job.”
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 01:45|
|# ? May 28, 2022 14:08|
Goats in the Shell
I was halfway to Ganymede when the goat alarm went off. With a sigh I disengaged my flight webbing and headed aft to investigate. Pushing though the final hatch I saw the containment shell had ruptured, spilling its contents all over the cargo hold.
Goats. loving everywhere.
Typical Govcorp bullshit. Shoddy construction, stuff the shell with more goats than it can handle, then shoot me off to the far moons of Jupiter and hope for the best. Now I'm stuck, fifty million klicks from nowhere with a hot mess to clean up.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and pictured that beach on Mare Crisium, watching Earthrise with a tequila in one hand and a cheap moonwhore in the other. No goats there, just sunshine, sand, and all the alcohol my liver augments could handle. That's what I signed up for—not this. Not interplanetary goat herding.
I shook my head. The Diaspora had begun with so much hope. But when we populated the solar system, it wasn't tardigrades or astrobacteria there to greet us—it was goddamned goats. Moongoats, first: dusty shadows bounding across the dry lunar plains. Elusive as hell. Took the first settlers two months to capture one and see that it was, in fact, a goat. Then Mars, Venus, Mercury; stubborn herds scattered through the asteroid belt and even out into the moons of Jupiter. Wherever we went, their goddamned beady eyes were there waiting, telling us they got there first.
I opened my eyes. When I said the goats were loving everywhere I meant it. Now free to mix, the males were going after the does with gusto, and a hot musky stench hung heavy in the enclosed space. Others were chewing conduit and cables, or bounding from floor to ceiling and back again across the cargo hold.
Above me I heard a loud clang. gently caress. They were in the maintenance tunnels. Popping the hatch I poked my head through to see a large male calmly chewing through a liquid oxygen tank. They'd destroy the ship if I didn't do something—my wristcomp was already ablaze with more warning lights than an Enceladus geyser party. Too late to round them up: even in the unlikely event I could catch them all, the shattered containment shell gave me no way to hold them.
That left one way to stop them: knock them cold. Not easy, though—space goats were notoriously hardy. Tokamak proteins in their blood generated enough heat, heavy oxygen, and magnetic shielding to easily survive the frigid vacuum of space. They were tough.
But not indestructible.
Grabbing a pressure suit from my locker I pushed back to the cockpit. The goat onslaught reached critical mass as ship systems failed left and right. I punched a new trajectory into the computer and jammed the throttle forward. The barge pitched hard, plummeting down the gravity well of the gas giant below. Fighting g-forces, I crawled into my pressure suit as alarms and goats bleated around me.
We hit Jupiter's radiation belt hard and I jammed the emergency vent switch. Charged particles would flood the cargo hold and into the ship, overwhelming the goats magnetic shielding. Should be enough to trigger them to hibernate, except—
gently caress. A goat must have chewed the connection. With the ship bucking and swaying around me I again pushed aft through a dizzying maelstrom of goats, loose cables, and shrieking alarms. Reaching the cargo bay I yanked the manual override. The doors split to reveal the violent, swirling starscape of Jupiter's radiation torus. Charged ions swept through the interior of the spacecraft, and goats stiffened and dropped under the electromagnetic onslaught.
Even through my protective suit I could feel my skin burn and peel. I was going to need some serious radiation meds—and definitely some downtime on Mare Crisium—when this was all over. The deed done, I cranked the door closed, used my wristcomp to order the ship back to normal trajectory, and collected the now torpid goats back into the cargo hold.
Thirty minutes later I was in the cockpit, peeling off my pressure suit. Patchwork repairs had given the cockpit basic life support, but goat damage had bled away the last of the ship's fuel. I was dead in the water. As I pressed the emergency beacon to signal Govcorp rescue, I heard a soft sound from behind me.
"Baa," it said.
Tangled in my flight webbing was a baby goat. It's soft eyes looked at me quizzically, then it shook off the protective straps. Straps that had shielded it from the radiation burst.
I sighed. It was a cute little fucker. I scratched it behind the ears, it licked my hand, and together we waited for the rescue ships to arrive.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 02:50|
Rook was a lithe thing, all muscle and legs as most Alaskan Huskies were. He was a gentle soul, named for his dark coat and raven-like eyes that watched Sarah with fierce intensity as she set down her skis and began to put on her gloves. The dog at her side had memorized all these little rituals, and as he noted the progression, his excitement ratcheted up.
Attached by a belt and line to his harness, the dog ran to the end several times with yelping whines that seemed to scream at the blue skies, “Do you see how slow she is?” Every fresh surge of his muscle hitting the harness dragged her sideways, making it nigh impossible to lock into her skis. This was part of skijoring with Rook though, and she had developed a patience for it.
With both skis clipped on, she took one last deep breath and called ‘Ready?’
Rook answered by hitting the line with all he had, jerking her forward before she could call out the command to go. Her shout of ‘ok!’ only made Rook dig in deeper, his paws spreading wide on the icy snow as his elbows hit the ground with the force he was driving into the harness. In four paces, they had reached a sprint and Sarah’s legs locked into a balanced stance.
This was their life every weekend. Together the two had covered hundreds of miles since she had purchased him from a kennel up north years ago. As his first owner tearfully said goodbye to Rook, he had looked up at Sarah and warned as gently as possible, “They are one-person dogs. Once he chooses you, you’ll know.”
Rook had not chosen Sarah. He'd chosen eating towels, killing her backyard flock of chickens, and escaping to gallivant about the neighborhood for several hours. The dog was wicked smart in all the right ways, which included learning ‘sit’ in a day but also mastering how to open cupboards and steal entire loaves of bread in an afternoon. He had little use for people unless they were holding a harness, skirting human touch with disdain and skulking outside whenever Sarah looked at him too long. Eventually though, Rook came to understand Sarah always held the harness.
As they passed the four-mile mark, Rook had settled into the distance-eating lope his siblings used to conquer the Iditarod, and Sarah could finally stand up in her boots. Her knees shook from the effort to keep upright during powerful sprint at the beginning of the run, and she let out a happy trill of laughter that Rook responded to by quickening his pace and leaning harder into the harness. Hurtling around the corner, Sarah noticed the approaching skier and strange dog from a distance off. Rook had no concern for another dog, his only focus being on pulling and the trail ahead. She called out, “Leash your dog!”
The dog heard. The owner didn’t. The gait shifted on the approaching animal, speeding up to intercept them even as Sarahs’ voice rose in ferocity and desperation. “Please, LEASH YOUR DOG.”
But it was too late. The other dog barreled into Rook, halting his forward motion by shoving him over and into the snow with a snarl. Rook hit the ground even as the momentum sent Sarah sprawling. Looking over at her dog pinned to the ground underneath a halo of teeth poised above his head, she could see Rook’s hackles rise and his eyes harden. Rook grew up in a yard of thirty dogs, and Sarah knew he would fight this dog. If he did, he would fight until one of them lay bloodied in the snow. As she struggled to get off her skis, screaming at the other dog attempting to scare it off, it loomed over Rook.
As a last prayer, Sarah called out “Wait!”
Rook froze. His brown eyes met hers. For that moment, they were the only two things that existed in the world. Not the other dog snarling over his head, or the approaching owner shouting for their dog to come back. Rook’s body relaxed. As the attacker realized there was no fight, it trotted away with a half-hearted grumble as its owner shouted an apology.
They left Sarah tangled in the snow shaking. She ran a hand over Rook’s black fur, finding saliva and quivering muscles but nothing harmed. Rook shook himself off and trotted out to the end of the line again, regarding her with a quizzical “You coming?” expression. Sarah laughed and dragged herself to her feet as she shook her head, still wondering over his choice to abandon self-defense at a single command.
“You’ll do anything I say so long as we get to run”
It was the only thing Rook needed people for.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 03:04|
Man’s Law, God’s Law, and Fishy Law
The room was dilapidated, mildew stains running down the walls mixing with the green paint to form a sickly vomit hue. This was reflected in the smell, overplayed with a heavy lingering staleness. I had on a black hoodie, ripped jeans, and my lucky looney tunes boxers. My attorney, Edgar Trout looked decidedly out of place with his three piece suit and full Windsor knot no less, and a glorious feathered haircut. We were being eye hosed relentlessly by the one way mirror, placed to the side as if a 142”x72” mirror encompassing nearly the entire wall could be inconspicuous. The thing is, in the moment, sometimes, it is. After a lengthy but strangely comfortable silence as if we were in the eye of some strange storm, Ed broke the silence.
“You’ve certainly come a long way since law school. Most likely to succeed in kappa sigma 2010.”
“Well, technically it never said I had to succeed at law.”
“There’s my roommate. Going after Goerman? Brave.”
The two cops entered one after another. One sat down in the chair opposite myself, while the other stood directly behind his partner, giving the impression of a two headed monster, or perhaps a hideously conjoined twin. The shorter head spoke first.
“I’m Detective Rosen, and this is Detective Stone. So are you ready to tell us about what happened to David Goerman?”
“Actually my client isn’t at liberty to divulge that information” answered Ed. Detective Stone responded.
“Are you aware it is a crime to not cooperate with a police investigation? Or to lie to police investigators?” Detective Rosen waved his hand dismissively which instantly gave his partner’s face a surely tone.
“I’m sure they have no intention of that. Perhaps you could clarify for us.”
“Of course officer” said Ed “My client signed a non disclosure agreement with Mr. Goerman on the day of the 26th and therefore cannot discuss the events of that night with you.”
“Ah of course.” Answered Detective Rosen as he reflexively glanced at the mirror. “I was aware there were some legal discrepancies. However, the thing is that Mr. Goerman is alleging your client committed a crime. NDA’s, as you no doubt are aware, cannot be used to conceal a crime.”
“Well, forcing my client to answer is no doubt a crime in and of itself. Since my client signed the NDA at Goerman’s request, and now is being forced to break it at Goerman’s request, is this not an example of civil entrapment? Surely, this is fraud on Goerman’s behalf.” Stone found cause at this.
“Your scumbag client poisoned him to snare him with that NDA! He should be going down for false imprisonment, reckless endangerment, and impersonating a priest!”
“Surely the fact Goerman was intoxicated and mistook my client for a priest doesn’t necessitate that my client was impersonating one, or that he is responsible for the hallucinogens Goerman apparently felt comfortable enough indulging in, in a place of worship no less.”
“Ah” Rosen interjected at this point, “He attests you were ahead of him in line for communion, and that you placed several drops of LSD into the communion chalice after you partook.”
Edgar Trout smiled. “Ah, this should be a simple matter to clear up. Rather than this war of accusations, let’s consult the priest on what he witnessed.”
“He wasn’t forthcoming. Apparently a confession was made and that he claimed has been atoned for under god’s law.”
Ed’s smile remained. “How unfortunate.”
“Well your client was seen entering the confession booth before service ended.” Said Stone stoically. “That seems to line up. Nervous in church?” He finished as he stared holes into me.
“Just because my client had a confession to make doesn’t make him guilty.”
“Evidently. However many parishioners claim to have seen Goerman acting strangely during the service and then entering and leaving the confession booth later, before the priest. Did your client not hold a duty to inform him he was not actually a priest?” Asked the sitting man.
Ed clicked his tongue and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. To the uninitiated, he was calm, cool, confident, and about to deliver the coup-de grace. To those who intimately knew him, he was screaming on the inside. This was my fault. This was my plan and I knew it would be folly for me to play this game of chess myself when it came time to play. Trout's defence was masterful, like a tall bamboo stem bending in the breeze. Its weakness was it’s root; me. As always in my life, it was about the good I should have done. They had me dead to rights on that one. They underestimate me, however. This is the good I should be doing. The courts could never accomplish what humiliation could do sometimes. If the humiliation is one’s own actions made public, did I really do any wrong revealing them? Well, I did dose him with LSD. Maybe the truth will set me free.
“The truth is.” I said, entering the game for the first time, opening myself up to a checkmate at any moment. With sudden death in effect, the mirror listened closely. “I’m profoundly ignorant. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. I’m not catholic but I know confessing is the right thing to do. When David entered the booth, I sympathized with him immediately. I listened to his story, and then told him mine. It was only after he became agitated I suggested the NDA. We could scrap it if he prefers. We’re really very much alike, him and I, after all.”
Ed clicked his tongue relieved, and a bang was heard on the window. Checkmate. I was free and in possession of his secrets. Goerman would live his life wondering if and when the proverbial sword of Damocles would fall on him. I wouldn’t do it, but maybe it will inspire him to seek forgiveness from his fellow man.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 03:32|
Hungry Birds in Dying Forests
Prompt: the Hercinia
A meal of cloves may tempt a hercinia to lead men to hidden glory.
In the archives
Antivehicular fucked around with this message at 12:44 on Dec 29, 2019
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 03:47|
A Princely Reward
Prompt: the Onager.
The onager will bow to those of noble lineage, no matter how diluted.
“Scrag, get your arse over here and get the captain a drink!” Chrelu’s voice rang out. Scrag scurried toward it, freshly filled wineskins clutched to his chest. He kept his eyes lowered, his dark, unkempt hair falling in front of his face. Chrelu would beat him if he made eye contact, he knew. He threaded his way through the dozen or so villagers traveling to where the onager herd had been sighted.
“Thank you, sir,” a deep voice replied. “We would not normally take from the smallfolk, but these are not normal times.”
The man’s voice tumbled about in Scrag’s mind. Scrag could not think why. His head was as empty as a bucket with a hole in it. That’s what Chrelu said.
“Oh, don’t we know it captain,” Rodyr’s voice this time. “What, with spring being so late, like this worthless git.”
Rodyr snatched a wineskin from Scrag, almost causing him to drop the rest. Chrelu took another, and cuffed Scrag on the ear. He ducked and shuffled back, robbing the blow of much of its force.
“I do not wish to tell you how to treat your property,” the captain said as he stepped forward to take a skin of his own, placing a gauntleted hand on Scrag’s shoulder. “But it seems that he came with all haste, and should not be punished unduly.”
“That’s just Scrag,” Rodyr said. “He’s a bit slow, needs a good knock to get going.”
“Found him living with badgers as a lad,” Chrelu added. “He ain’t never been right. We’re gonna have him make an offering to the onager. So they’ll announce the solstice.”
“Yeah, ‘twas three years after the scourge,” Rodyr said, making the sign of the cross over his heart. “God save old King Oldan’s soul, was a real shame.”
Scrag remembered little of that time, and mention of it flooded him with confused images and sounds. He knew the beasts of the forest had never beaten him for bringing wine too slowly, though. He offered another skin of wine to the captain’s men. Six armored men. Never had he seen such fine armor and weaponry. One of them carried the banner of the Steward, but the captain’s surcoat displayed a different standard. A soaring falcon. Scrag started to tremble. He smelled smoke and rot and heard mocking laughter in the dark. He breathed deeply and repeated the names of the saints, like sister Aelsbet had taught him. The trembling faded.
“-an offering to the herd in many years,” the captain was saying. “We can can only pray that they accept it and end this long winter.” He took a pull from the skin, swishing the wine in his mouth before swallowing. “We travel to Oldan’s tomb to ask forgiveness, so perhaps we will share the road for a time.”
“Forgiveness?” Chrelu asked. “From a dead king?”
“Yes.” The captain replied. “As we have every year since the scourge.” Scrag could feel the ice in his voice. If it had been Chrelu speaking in that tone, he’d be looking for somewhere else to be.
“Ain’t you got eyes?” Rodyr said, heedless. “They’re the falcon guard. Roaming about, searching for the old king’s children.”
Chrelu grunted. “I thought they were banished by the Steward.”
Scrag sensed a sudden tension in the men. He backed away, no longer desiring to be between the armed men and Chrelu.
“The Steward,” the captain replied, his voice sharp. “Made a rash decision that he had not the authority to make.”
There was some grumbling at that, and Scrag watched as several villagers fingered the crude weapons they’d brought to ward off bandits. The falcon guard either did not notice, or did not care.
“Perhaps the Steward might have a fat purse for the one who told him what you think of his authority. A fat purse of gold could feed the village, wouldn’t need to curry favor with a drat pack of mules.”
A low murmur went through the villagers. Many gasped, taken aback by the insult to the herd. The captain just stared at Chrelu for a long moment.
“A man could have such thoughts,” he said at last, his hand straying to his hilt. “But it would take a true fool-.”
The thunder of hooves filled the air, echoing from the spindly trees lining the path. A herd of onager crested the rise ahead of them, and stood as if waiting. The villagers cried out in joy while Chrelu and the captain glared at each other. Finally, a pack was shoved into Scrag’s arms.
“Get the offering up there, boy.”Chrelu ordered, his eyes still on the captain.
Scrag hefted the bundle and trudged up the hill, a few of the excited villagers, and the captain, following him. The onager watched as he made his way closer, their dark eyes impossible to read. The heat had risen with the sun, and Scrag was sweating by the time he reached the herd, and set the bundle down. The leader began to bray, and the villagers cheered again. Then it quieted, and the entire herd bent their front knees and dropped their heads in a bow. Scrag took a step back, confused, but a strong, gauntleted hand on his shoulder stopped him.
“It is said,” the captain’s voice was loud in the silence. “That the onager will bow to those of noble blood, Prince Oldan.”
The captain laughed, and Scrag went rigid.
Memories flooding back. Fleeing through cramped, dark tunnels. His mother’s screams following him, and the mocking laughter he now heard behind him. He tried to spring away, but that gauntleted hand caught in his hair and yanked him back. Something punched him in the back, and he looked down in shock to see a foot of steel extending from his chest. It disappeared, and blood followed. So much blood. Scrag sank to his knees. Vaguely, he heard the villagers screaming as the falcon guard cut them down before his vision faded.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 04:16|
SUPER ON-TIME JUDGE CRITS: WEEK 308, PART 2 OF 3
“East and West and We’re In Between OR: Stuck in the Middle with You” by Pham Nuwen
I didn’t think that this story was resolved at the end when I first judged it, but now I think that Dave abandoning Anil (along with two nameless people mentioned twice, so it took me a bit to realize they were there) does count as a resolution, if not a particularly satisfying one. The worldbuilding you’ve set up here relies on a neat idea you easily explain in a small paragraph, but it’s in service of a story that doesn’t add up to much. I get why Dave is unwilling to take risks, but why is Anil doing the opposite? Is he just that by-the-book? What is the emotional core of this disagreement aside from the inherent danger of their job? I don’t yet understand why this DM’d, but I’m not objecting that strongly.
“The Realm of Forgetting” by Uranium Phoenix
Not much to say here. While it’s not as creative as the Nine Hells story, it gets to the heart of what makes the setting provided compelling on a dramatic level. Cassus’s arc works well, and I appreciate that he learns to do better while also paying a heavy price for past mistakes. If there was a second place, this would take it.
“Hide and Seek” by Thranguy
This is pretty horrific. You found a decent way to construct an unnerving scenario and make it ooze dread while a reader is in the middle of the piece. The effect doesn’t last long after that; I tried tying the mimic outbreak to a bone-deep fear applicable to real life, and the best answers I could come up with are paranoia in what should be familiar environments, particularly if burglary or stalking is on one’s mind. That’s a stretch, while the horrific scenario in “Canto III” is harder to shake off and it’s easier for me to see in real life. All of your characters are stock, but for what you set out to do, maybe that’s enough.
“Skulls and Beetles” by Lippincott
In terms of setting and imagery, this is one of the most bizarre stories submitted this week, and it’s for that reason that I have a soft spot for it. In exchange, barely anything happens in it, and I still don’t know why Templeton chomps down on one of those weird metal bugs aside from adding to the weird vibe of this story. I guess it’s supposed to be a show of defiance to the minotaur-thing that keeps tormenting them on their travels, but I fail to see how this makes his trip on this land of color any better.
“With Form, and Void” by Kaishai
This is a really sweet, cute story about an unusual boy finding acceptance and a home in a world that has been unkind to him since he’s not like other people. I’m not much of a religious person, so I don’t know if there’s a greater significance to “God is in the void, too,” but it’s a nice sentiment that shows one of the better reasons why people embrace religion. It’s a nice piece overall.
“Just Like Clockwork” by cptn_dr
So there’s a lot of detail put into the inner workings of how a mage casts a complicated ritual, one of the most comfortably genre ideas on display this week, and not a whole lot of emphasis on the actual problem and reason why they need to cast a spell. I’m not convinced that this complicated, highly risky ordeal is a viable solution to the problem set up by the story, and you forgot to actually demonstrate the extent to which it worked. What the story demonstrates, whether or not you intended, is that Aria is the sort of person who chooses a convoluted, flashy solution that she thinks will impress people who hear about it rather than just cutting the Gordian Knot and going for an efficient, simple method instead. This might very well be what you wanted to convey, but you could have also wanted us to be as impressed by what Aria did as she probably wants her superiors at the university to be.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 04:19|
The Heretic’s Fork
Beast: The Barnacle Goose - The flesh of a barnacle goose will blister and burn at the touch of a Papist.
Story removed from thread by user for search engine anonymity reasons.
Read it in the Thunderdome archive here!
Anomalous Blowout fucked around with this message at 04:45 on Dec 30, 2019
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 04:27|
Red, Blue, and Green
Vale touched talons down on the earth for the first time in years. She stretched her wings, let the carmine sunlight shine through their feathers. Before her yawned the opening to her brother’s foundry. She hopped inside, squinting her eyes against the heat of the forges and the sweat of the humans working them. A bird matching Vale in every regard hovered down from the rafters.
“Is it time, sister?” he asked. Around his neck was a green gemstone, gorgeous against the red-orange of his feathers.
“You have been busy, Jole. The humans’ weapons made it to the front lines at last.” With a talon she raked a divot in the dusty floor. “Do you still like it here?”
“If you’re asking me to follow you into the sea, the answer’s still no. I have so much more to accomplish.” Jole hopped towards his sister and puffed his chest out. “We could live much longer than sixty years, Vale. There’s no reason to go through with it.”
“The reason to go through with it is so our armies don't rout. So we can continue the fight through the generations. It is the pinnacle of hubris to think you can end the war now.”
“Sister, do you think this forge is all the humans are capable of? They’re much smarter than you acknowledge.” Jole pecked towards his pendant. “Fight with me, Vale. I can make you one of these and we can see this thing done. Together.”
Vale alighted to a windowsill. “I will lay my eggs tonight. They hatch in sixty days, Jole. Sixty days to change your mind. Or the bloodline dies with us.”
Vale had missed the eggs crack and break. A male and female, as foretold. Vale saw strength and potential in their every movement. They would be strong warriors, strong leaders. It was time. Vale whispered a prayer for the new alerion and made her way to the sea.
On the distant shore Vale saw the humans' catapults. They launched missiles in slow arcs to meet the dragons above. Even without her guidance, the war raged on. Despite their distance, the thrill of battle raised Vale's feathers. A red blur caught her attention.
“Jole! How long has it been since you saw it?” Vale regarded her brother. Jole beat his wings uneasily, unused to the height. The speck of green at his breast bounced up and down on its leather strap.
“Years. But my hummingbirds keep me apprised. Things have been going well since I recruited the humans.” Jole dipped down a few feet and cast an eye toward the sea. “So they’ve hatched?”
“Two beautiful hatchlings. If you saw them you couldn’t let them die.”
“They die anyway, sister. Sixty years of commanding good birds to their deaths. How is that to be our legacy?”
“Don’t you feel it in your heart? Or has that stone numbed you? I am tired. We must pass the torch.” Vale maintained her height. But Jole sank and sank, the rhythm of his wings slowing.
Jole laughed. “We’ve attracted an audience. Is this part of your plan, Vale? Guilt me into suicide?”
A susurrus of birdsong filled the air around the two alerion, a soprano to the distant ocean’s baritone. “I did not call them. They wish to see the ritual complete. We do this for them.”
“I choose not to, sister. I will end this war with my own beak and claw. You say you are tired. Our blood is tired. Let’s break the cycle.” Grimacing, Jole beat his wings to rise.
Vale let out a sharp cry and dived into her brother. Tangled into a ball of fiery feathers, the alerion tumbled toward the sea. A cloud of birds followed them.
They fought under the waves. Vale bled from scrapes and punctures. She tasted saltwater and her brother’s blood. As they sank, the water darkened. Jole’s pendant betrayed him. Vale lashed out at its green glow and gripped it in her beak, ripping it from its strap. It floated up, away. She wrapped her wings around Jole and felt his surrender. An icy regret lodged itself in her heart. Her young would survive, but at such a bitter cost.
Above the waves a new emptiness was felt. One by one the onlookers flew to be with the hatchlings. To raise them. To teach them to love and to hate and to wage war.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 04:50|
Flesnolk fucked around with this message at 15:40 on Oct 26, 2019
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 04:52|
Your protagonist is convinced they do not exist
A storm rages inside me as we hack our way through the veil of twisted vines. With each swing of my arm lightning beats at the dunes in my guts, leaving glass scars that shatter into a thousand jagged pieces with the slightest movement. Each step flays my nerves and I let out a scream like thunder. I scream as I clutch my side and whack another vine out of my in my conquest for the Lost City and its coffers full of precious gems.
“Shh,” whispers Anjay, my superstitious guide. “We don’t know what might be listening out there.”
The lead of our party motions for a break, and we set down our packs. Even in the humid oven of the jungle, my forehead feels hot to the touch.
The doctor walks through the group giving his worn talk about the importance of staying hydrated when he stops—mid-sentence—in front of me. “Jesus, Edwin, let me have a look at you.”
He grasps my face between his oversized hands and mushes it around like a child playing with unappetizing porridge. I’m too weak to protest besides a few whimpers. “You’re jaundiced. Have you been drinking water?”
I hold up my nearly empty canteen. “I sweat it out before I finish swallowing.”
“When was the last time you urinated?”
I squint and grimace. I’m in no mood for math problems. “Yesterday?”
He jabs my back under my ribs and I almost black out. I hold onto the tree to keep from falling over and I feel the sudden urge to vomit.
The doctor shakes his head though I can tell he’s mentally patting himself on the back. “You have a kidney stone. Rather large one I’d guess.”
“Impossible,” I say. “I don’t have kidneys, or blood. Only sand. An unending sea of shifting dunes.” I wince as the glass in my sides tries to cut its way out.
But the doctor has already started barking orders at our guides to set up a tent by the time I mumble the words.
It’s hard to sleep through the heat and pain, and I exist somewhere between the plane of our world and hallucination. I dream I am a giant cat, prowling the perimeter of the camp, watching the flames lick the green fronds that hang too close to it. I circle, flitting in the penumbra like a bad thought, waiting to sink my teeth into somebody that ventures too far from the safety of the light.
I thrash and scream in my tent as the glass grinds to an erosive dust, penetrating every nook and cranny, slashing its way through my nerves in its quest to turn into yet more sand.
Anjay glares at me as he nibbles on his cold jolpaan.
I glare back. “What?”
“Your screams last night. They attracted the lynx.”
“Oh yeah,” I say, rolling my eyes, “and what is a lynx?”
He furls his brow and leans in close. “It’s a beast of the jungle, a soulless monster looking for a body to possess. It got Bodhi last night, entered his body and now he’s gone.”
The doctor overhears us and turns from stirring his pot of tea and scoffs. “I highly doubt that, given the amount of blood we found at the edge of camp. Poor sap was likely exsanguinated, I doubt any soul is living in his body. No, he was probably eat—” he stops himself from finishing his thought, as if it voids the preceding words. “Well anyway, I doubt it was a fantastical beast.”
I shift and wince as pangs shoot down my leg, ricochet off my toes and hit me in the balls. “Sorry about the screaming,” I say, but like the doctor, my words ring hollow.
“Edwin,” interrupts the doctor, “you should try to urinate. Even just a few drops if possible. You’ll build up too many toxins if you don’t.”
There’s no use arguing with the doc, he lacks the capacity to consider anything that didn’t come out of his mouth first, so I huff and drag myself out to the edge of the camp, past the men cautiously searching the brush with their bayonetts. I lean up against a tree with my chest and unzip my pants. I survey the ground: there’s a pool of blood mixed with dirt, a macabre mud.
Just a few drops the doc said. I push, and I can feel the tingle stirring inside as the sands shift, as a small pathway opens up and gravity takes hold, like I’m an unseemly hourglass. Sweat pours off my brow and I keep pushing. I clench my teeth so hard I can feel my fillings loosen. I push like I’m the doctor trying to cram all of his medical gear into the giant trunk he brought with him. I grunt and swear, angry that I’m holding back from yelling out because of the overactive imagination of some boy. Through the pain I feel sand forcing its way down my urethra, tearing and splitting me from the inside, but there’s no blood, just pressure and more cursing.
I white knuckle the tree and its bark digs beneath my fingernails as the relief of a single drop of piss washes over me, until I hear a thud between my boots, and half-buried in the mud is a yellow gem. I stand over it, hobbled with short, shallow breaths. It’s just a kidney stone, I mutter.
A beautiful, precious kidney stone. I hear the doctor coming up behind me and I stamp on the stone so that it pushes through the bloody mud and disappears. More than I want to pick it up and admire it, I want to hide it from him. I’d rather leave in buried in a patch of nondescript jungle for eternity than have another man lay eyes on it. Just the thought starts my heart racing and I clench my fist. I feel a new storm brewing inside me.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 05:00|
Cerastes 1,000 words
The breath of a cerastes induces false prophecy; vision of a future that cannot come true.
Renovations kept the foyer from being open to the public. Guests were permitted to access the parlor through a set of steps that led from the patio of the garden, but only upon the exception that they never cross the sagging threshold dressed in cautionary tapes and look into the unlit cavern that was the center of the Kerata House. The front entrance remained unopened throughout the winter, its great solemn doors sealed shut. Spring had begun to thaw out the frost and with its warm breezes hinting of mountain summertimes heat the arboreal array of growth that stretched around the Kerata House.
Visitors like Sarah Einfeld, a traveler fresh out of school who pursued the remotest connections to herpetology wherever she went, found the sprawling garden scenes spread at the feet of the Kerata grounds refreshing. The forests ran away in every possible direction from the blanketed walls of moss outside the old Kerata House.
The Kerata family had deteriorated long before their home was relinquished to the public. Its historical significance to the area paired with the affluence of the family name allowed the house to grow popular as a vacation spot and educational landmark. The plaques dedicated to the heritage of the Kerata portrayed their line as being a reserved, scientific clan, who embraced intellectual thinking and strove to understand the obscure. Their affinity for snakes brought members of their family distinction among taxonomists and scientists in the contemporary age of their long lineage.
Sarah was out on the west sunroom, an orange common area with sparse furnishings and tall windows spanning the whole length of the house's side, around mid-afternoon when she encountered Mr. Dunsperry, the anthropologist. Olmen Dunsperry’s interest in historic homes and the psychology of myth caused him to often invent narratives to act as answers to the questions he posed to himself about the symbolic meanings of myths and their relevance to the development of genealogical trees. The Kerata line, with its inseparable connection to the spineless snake, from the primordia of the medieval to the modern, fascinated Dunsperry.
"'Mythological,'" the old gentleman said to Sarah. "The world is canonized, and its unknown, unexplained elements are considered against what is thought of as certain. The natural superstition is supplied a logic that answers the locus of the theory presented and that rational becomes 'mytho-logical.'" Mr. Dunsperry indicated the Kerata coat-of-arms etched into the interior wall of the room, nearest to the roped-off entryway to the antechamber and, further away, the center of the house.
"Haven't you ever wondered what's down there?" Sarah asked, her eyes never leaving the entangled mess of endless coils that was the cerastes-in-cerastes, the two horned worms ceaselessly bending their spineless selves into each other's scales. The dark loomed around the embellishment’s frame, the garnets embedded in the eyeholes glowering in the flickering of the fading sunlight.
"I'd be careful about following that line of thinking down to its tail end," Mr. Dunsperry warned, clutching his black-leather cane with a crooked, snarled grip. There was a double-perforated slice on the scarred knuckle of his index finger that was still purple from envenomation long ago.
That evening, Sarah found she could not keep away from the space between the parlor and the antechamber that preceded the main hall of the house. It was while she considered the enduring, spiteful gleam of the ouroboric skein that she noticed a regal piece of furniture exhumed from the innermost sanctum of the home by a construction party.
The chest of drawers sprung open at the lightest touch of the copper handles. The dresser rolled open on creaking hinges that echoed along the walls and bounced back threateningly from the concrete foundation that blocked the way into the main hall at the end of the room. Sarah peered inside and saw the skeleton of a horned viper, literally Cerastes cerastes, partially preserved on parchment. The eyeholes of the skull were sunken and smashed, but the spine ran in succession from the nape to the tailbone without interruption. She couldn't help but marvel at the condition of the specimen. She became absorbed in the precarious placement of the individual bones, each arranged masterfully by a pair of careful hands.
The slamming of the parlor door shocked Sarah out of her wits. Her heart dropped into the cage of her diaphragm and pressed against her spine as her eyes spun in the fresh darkness. She hissed, trying to catch her breath as she felt for the handles of the dresser. Her fingers touched what felt like bone, but when she reached out to stroke the spine she felt instead a hard, cemented relief. She traced her fingertips along the wall and discovered that the feeling of bone spread all the way as far as she could reach in either direction.
From within the black chamber came a chilling sensation that crept along Sarah's skin, forming goosebumps underneath her hair. The rushing of air into an unseen recess and then back down the corridor to where Sarah stood created a sibilant breathing, and from that exhalation came words: "From dust we come and to dirt we go. Bone is the only truth any living thing must know."
Then came an illumination, revealing the hard work of the Kerata renovators: every piece of the main hall was fitted with serpentine skeletons. Sarah saw the walls embroidered with jagged bits of snake fossil behind a mosaic of inky marble. Snake teeth adorned the light fixtures, the great chandelier ornamented with every snake head Sarah could have imagined. The furniture was wrought from dried-up snake skins. And there, stretching down the hall, was the spine of a serpent bigger than Sarah or Mr. Dunsperry or anyone had ever dreamed, forming the hallway that led to the atrium. And the visage of the massive, living Cerastes curled around itself inside the court stared back at Sarah. The eyes seemed to smile, a liar's smile that beguiled unwary prey before strangulation.
"The end is inevitably in all parts present at the beginning."
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 05:01|
curlingiron fucked around with this message at 07:59 on Dec 29, 2019
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 05:01|
The Sun in Chains
The Elder's eyes blazed light and heat upon the entire cavern, but Cille felt the focus of the burning glare on her hands and face. She hated to work near an Elder. Her skin crawled incessantly while she did, to the point that she preferred to weave mycelium threads and root strands into cloth in the pure, chill dark. The cold made her fingers clumsy, though, and her blind crafting had snags and holes where her illuminated work was flawless. So she endured the Elder's eyes, keeping her own fixed elsewhere.
At least that way she didn't have to look at the cage that held the Elder or at the cord that bound its mouth shut.
No one else seemed to care. All around, people ate, drank, did their chores, and hissed gossip and laughter without appearing to notice the old lizard at the center of the chamber. Sometimes a child would fling a rock at the cage, and the nearest adult would nip the youngling hard enough to draw blood, but otherwise the others went about as though the prisoner were no kin of theirs. "Ignore it, Cille," her mother had said.
"But won't that be you someday? And me?"
The bite she'd gotten in response had left a scar on her shoulder. Cille turned her head to lick the mark. The Elder's eyes followed her: she sensed it, knew it, and shivered even in the warmth. Once a lizard got old, truly old, its sight failed, and the colony would drive it up to the surface to face the sun and become it. Sunfire would kindle in its eyes, and an Elder's gaze held that fire for as long as it lived. Thus was light brought underground. It had to be so--
Cille stole a glance at the cord, the bars. She set her weaving down and skittered out of the chamber.
She returned late in the sleep cycle to retrieve the cloth; it was still there, but the room was empty of people other than herself and the Elder. It wasn't sleeping. Did it ever? Cille stepped past her work, approaching the ancient lizard.
It growled low in its throat. It wore a gorgeous robe stained blue with powders, but beneath the fine material, its skin hung loose and grey. Every claw had split. Cille wondered who fed it, and how often, and why she'd never thought to ask.
She darted a hand into the cage and hooked the cord binding the Elder's jaw. Her claws wouldn't tear it; she pulled it toward her teeth, though that brought the Elder's face too close. The old lizard had gone still. Cille bit through the cord until it fell away. The Elder opened its mouth wide, spilling out sour, rotten breath and a shuddering hiss. Its tongue was a ragged stump.
Together, Cille and the Elder chewed apart its cage and remaining bonds. When its hands were free, the Elder seized Cille's head and forced her to meet its stare. Light stabbed into her brain. She struggled, thrashed, and fell, curling in on herself. The Elder grabbed her by the neck and dragged her out of the cave and down rough corridors before it dropped her and hissed one thick, clotted word: "Run."
The Elder fled, too fast for Cille to follow in her daze. She burrowed into the dark, but not far enough. Her people found her, and bit her, and clawed out her eyes, and they carried her to a crack in the earth to face the sun.
When the light struck her, it surged into the hollows in her mind where sight had lived. Fire heated the marrow of her bones. And it stayed there: the ruined pits in her face were no fit home for sunfire. Light seethed in her body, hers alone--unless she set it free.
Cille unhinged her jaw and spat incandescence into the nearest faces, which shrieked and scrabbled for cover; she breathed heat over limbs that burned and shriveled. She darted, fast with the warmth in her blood, away and deep into the ground.
Though still blind, she could sense sparks of the sun in the distance: Elders. Cille changed her course to head for the nearest. She would learn to live without enslaved light, and so, she was determined, would her people.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 05:01|
Whoops, forgot flashrules:
Everyone alive is, finally, absolutely equal.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 05:03|
It wasn’t supposed to go like this. Years of planning down the drain. Out of the dozens of people she vetted, someone must have slipped up. She couldn’t say who, it could have been anyone at this point. This intricate web she’d spent the better part of her life weaving was unraveling before her very eyes. She wanted to scream. She knew better. She wouldn’t give the Croc the satisfaction.
Her so-called partner was dead and sprawled out on his back on the asphalt. Blood pooled around him from the back of his skull, forming a dark halo around his head. His face was frozen in a look of unabashed surprised while the empty casing cooled on the ground.
She couldn’t wait. Her whole life had been wasted on waiting. Today was about taking back what she never should have lost. Joan ran, up the fire escape that was supposed to have been their way out when the job was done. Now the metal screeched and shook as she scaled it, willing herself not to look at her pursuers.
She tore up the stairs. Her lungs burned, every new lungful of air felt like fire in her chest. She wanted to reach for her gun, but the clip she’d loaded wasn’t the one she could afford to waste.
Joan nearly doubled over once she reached the roof, breathing so hard that her teeth ached. She never stopped moving. She’d never stop. Not until she got the Crocodile.
They weren’t far behind. The sound of boots on steel grew louder and she propelled herself toward the skylight in front of her. There was no other way. She drew the pistol from its holster under her shoulder and fired into the glass, sending shards cascading into the room below. Without hesitation, she leapt down.
She botched the landing, hitching forward as she fell and overcorrecting so she landed on her side. Her gun flew out of her hand on impact. She let out a scream that reverberated off the bare walls and shuddered on the tile floor while pain wracked her nerves. Joan grit her teeth, straining to rise and crumbling again as she heard something in her body give with a gut-churning ‘crunch.’
And then another.
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
Her eyes widened as she raised her head slowly, scouring the dark for the source of the sound.
She saw his shoes first as he shuffled into the patch of moonlight where she lay. Those alligator skin monstrosities. She’d never forget. He told her where he bought them, too. Right before he kicked her four front teeth in with them.
Joan scrambled for her gun, but it lay yards away. She started to crawl, but every attempt felt like someone was driving a white-hot iron through her midsection.
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
She looked up as he shambled closer, now completely exposed to the light. Joan wasn’t sure what she was looking at. Her brain looked for pieces it recognized, but it couldn’t fit them together to complete the picture.
The Crocodile’s face was contorted almost beyond recognition. His yellow, slitted glass eye glimmered in the light, stark against the steady stream of blood dripping from its sockets. His lower jaw hung down by his collar, spittle and flesh dangling like ribbons from his chin.
His white suit seemed ill-fitted, like it could barely contain him. She’d never seen him in anything short of immaculately tailored. But something else was happening here. Something horribly wrong.
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
Horror gripped Joan’s heart as she realized exactly where that sound was coming from.
The Croc fell to his knees, his entire body writhing unnaturally. When his side burst open, whatever remained of her composure evaporated. She screamed, momentarily numb to her own pain as she flailed to put some distance between her and the man now coming apart at the seams.
She saw the white of a rib exposed, followed by an impossibly large head slither out from within the Crocodile’s husk. A mouth like a stoat’s ground on a mouthful of bone, its two gleaming green eyes rolling asynchronously around until they fixed on Joan.
Joan fell silent, terror seizing her body.
The creature swallowed loudly, it’s wide mouth curling in something Joan might have called a smile were it a human face. But the beast was not, nor was it anything her mind could reconcile with. Its head resembled a weasel’s, but hairless and scaled like a snake. Its eyes, however, were like nothing she’d ever seen.
Slowly, it undulated its way out of the Crocodile's body. Joan waited for the gush of blood to follow, but there was nothing save a few bits of partially-consumed entrails.
The beast’s mouth cracked open to reveal two perfect rows of needle-like teeth.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 05:31|
The Misanthrope of Bhopal
Word count: 790
It was fashionable amongst the nabobs of Madhya Pradesh to showcase every animal specimen their wealth could seize. Upon exhausting the diversity of the wild, they took to splicing their beasts, boasting that Mother Nature’s menagerie was a pittance compared to their artifice. It was easy enough to make designer animals of whim – but a challenge itched: what if we could bring back creatures lost to history?
Lord Dilmore had grown weary of the dacoity that harassed his domains. He commissioned geneticists to breed him a creature with killer application. He wanted something savage, stylish, with an air of myth. The result was a leucrota. I will not recount its features, suffice to say the geneticists were faithful to the bestiary manuscripts, including its instinctual hatred for man. It did quite the job on the dacoity, but it did a bigger one on Dilmore’s plantation, before carrying its havoc to the countryside.
A call was issued for bounty hunters. The East India Company offered a sum I could retire with if I could capture it alive, though the pay wasn’t bad if it was dead. During its rampage, it ate every deer, bison, and tiger that crossed its path. Any unfortunate soul that fell to its saw-boned jaw was ripped to pieces, but it never ate human flesh. It killed man exclusively for sport.
The destruction it left in its wake made it dead simple to track. Keeping up with it was another matter. By the time we arrived to the shredded remains of one villager, it could be tearing apart another a day’s journey away. We had to predict where it would strike. Corbett was the first hunter to shoot it. It shook off his tranquilizer shot and charged. He swapped guns just in time to graze it with lead and it backed off. It left a blood trail we followed for a day before the bleeding staunched. The thing became a little less brazen, but gained in wits. It stopped killing out in the open and took to ambushing the unaware and defenceless.
The villagers did not take kindly to most hunters. Most regarded us as “white devils” responsible for unleashing this terror. My reputation for having culled previous man-eaters had kept me in the good graces of the locals however, and they aided me in shelter, food, and info.
It was in a village on the outskirts of Bhojpur where I met Amanpreet. She was thirteen and looked at me fiercely. She inquired if I sought to kill the leucrota. When I told her I would do everything I could to stop it, she offered her assistance to bait it out. I refused. She insisted. Her entire family was slaughtered by the beast. I told her I could not guarantee her safety. She told me she didn’t care.
A tip from the Tahsildar on the leucrota’s last sighting gave me a guess to what path it would take next. I hailed an autogyro with hopes I could intercept it along the creek I wagered it would pass. We landed atop a hill that provided a panoramic lookout. We made our way down. Amanpreet set up camp by a spot that offered a clear shot. She took one of the two-way radios, while I made my way back up.
A cold night passed as I scanned through my night sight pince-nez around the fire where Amanpreet convalesced. It was at the crack of dawn when she suddenly stood up. She heard something, she told me through the headphone, and mingled in the static background was a howling cackle that was unlike any call of these forests.
It dashed from the bushes. I cried into the radio. She turned around. It began to charge. I would not risk the tranquilizer taking effect in time and switched to the elephant rifle. I fired and it crumpled. But to my horror, it rose and continued its charge. Even in its death throes, it possessed a hate that craved one last victim.
But Amanpreet denied it. She stood her ground, and when it leapt at her, she stepped aside and flung out the drape of her sari, a katar wrapped within. Her blade ran the length of the beast, spilling its guts as it collapsed behind her.
By the time I rushed down, Amanpreet was scalping the beast, running the blade behind the back of its head, ear to ear. I informed her of the bounty and pledged her half. She shook her head. It wasn’t for one fish that she cared for, she said, but to be a fisherman. She offered her half back to me if I would teach her.
I imagine we’d be learning a lot from each other.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 05:55|
SUPER ON-TIME JUDGE CRITS: WEEK 308, PART 3 OF 3
“Living with Demons” by Fuschia Tude (DQ)
I also don’t know what this has to do with the plane of Elysium, nor am I as impressed with this as Jay W. Friks was. Sure, it’s eerie and unnerving that thanks to these voices and presences, but I’m not sure about the use of short, one-line paragraphs to represent... his parents, I think? The first time they come in, during the scene where you mention that Victor liked to go to the woods, it transitions from omniscient 3rd-person narration to unattributed quotations without telling me, and that trips me up and takes me out of it. Not a bad stylistic choice, but you needed to delineate it more from the normally told part of the story.
“The Gift” by Benny Profane
I said earlier that Lippincott’s story was the most bizarre and out there of all the stories I read this week. While that’s still technically true, this one comes close in terms of being out there, and is a better story because I have a sense of what’s happening and why. Not a whole lot about this story is overtly explained, like what the Blue or all the other proper nouns are, but aside from the slightly stiff opening part where Malok and his apprentice are talking, sensation and intuition take precedence over exposition. I came away from this feeling a stronger sense of awe and portent than I’m used to, and now I feel like seeking out more novels that can channel this specific feeling, too.
“Wretch” by Chuf (DQ)
I have much the same reaction to this as I did to Felime’s story. It’s mostly a fight scene, but with an ugly, gritty aesthetic instead of the flowery one they opted for, and I have more of an idea as to why the fight is happening. That doesn’t make it much easier to get invested, though. I mostly just wanted to end it, since without context it just feels unpleasant and predictable.
“Punishment duty” by sebmojo
This one’s pretty good. You’ve got this “don’t give up on life” pep talk happening in the imaginary headspace of a man in a coma, which has a sentimental aspect to it, but it’s balanced out by the unsentimental tone that reminds me of Guy Ritchie or Matthew Vaughan movies for some reason. Whatever, it’s got some hardness to it, which tells me everything I need to know about our main character. Shame you couldn’t have gotten this out sooner, or this would have been a strong HM contender in my book.
“Where the Desert Meets the Sea” by Bad Seafood
The whole idea of a killer targeted for revenge going “you’re better than me and that’s why I know you won’t shoot,” and being correct kind of had me roll my eyes a bit, but the ending line is good enough to make up for a lot of that. I also appreciate that you took from your Carceri assignment the idea of a place where only strength earns respect, and that you wrote a story significantly under the wordcount without making me wish you hadn’t. Yours is the first story I’ve critiqued to pull of that latter achievement.
“Gone to Collections” by Mercedes
Oh, it’s one of these stories. It wavers between this stale brand of internet humor that I don’t find funny, with the last line and the presence of Black Jesus, and a confessional vibe that might have been fine in a different context, especially when Nadia tells her story. Honestly, this feels pointless to critique, other than to say it bored me.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 05:59|
Part of the Forest
Simple. We get deliveries like this all the time. Colin and I even talked our way into a little bonus. Told the client that forest jobs take longer, but really, I just hate mosquitoes as much as they love me. If I’m going to be bug-food, I better loving get paid for it.
But we do take pride in our work: twenty-seven years and not one missed delivery, and we go through a lot. When Colin first taught me the business, he’d frequently stroke his silver beard and growl, “Ye gotta stay in shape and bring a weapon, ‘cause ye never know when some twat’ll try to shank ye from behind.”
He often tells me stories of beasts that sound like fairy tales, and stories of men that keep adults awake at night. Any other person, I’d swear they’re loving with me, but there’s something earnest about that gruff old man, and I knew—from the start—that I could trust him with my life. He treats me like the kid he never had. Having each other’s backs for so many years makes his stories a lot less terrifying.
After packing basic supplies and readying the package, I check my dagger’s blade with a forefinger; nice and sharp. Colin looks over my shoulder as I sheath it in my belt, miming a stabbing motion in my back. We exchange a few laughs and mimed back stabbings before setting off.
We reach the forest and my life immediately becomes miserable. Mosquitoes are having their way with me: twenty loving bites in twenty loving minutes.
“How the gently caress do you not get bit? Not once? They come from loving nowhere!”
The old bundle of muscles raises a finger to shush me as he leads the way.
Though my mosquito bites are legion, there’s something about the forest in the evening that unnerves me enough to forget about the itching. Squeaks and shadows that may or may not be trees or creatures. A thickening canopy that threatens to block out the sky with every step. Closing in.
Colin turns around and meets my eyes.
“Places like these, ye’ll see an’ hear many things. Take ‘em all in. Then the things that can really get ye stand out much more.”
I take a moment to ground myself: dried broken sticks in the underbrush, perhaps from other travelers; tree branches disturbed by weakening gusts of wind; leaves shifting from little critters, and shadows shifting with them; the echoing taps of a woodpecker against a distant tree; the creaks of shifting bark, and the bugs beginning their evening squeals. I breathe deeply.
“gently caress you, Colin."
The old man grins and we move forward.
As the evening darkens, Colin lights his torch. Its crackle and orange glow—though not part of the forest—are soothing to me. I lose myself in them. The old man stops suddenly, snapping me out of my trance.
I see a shadowy bolt of lightning dart towards and away from my mentor. He falls to the ground, limp, his throat a twisted mass of gore soaking the underbrush.
I unsheathe my dagger, head pounding, blood boiling. I listen for the sounds of the forest from a few hours earlier, guided by the light of the old man’s fallen torch.
Can’t hear anything. What stands out?
My left leg buckles and pain radiates through my lower body. I look down and catch a glimpse of a serpent, latched onto my thigh.
I swing at it with my dagger. Miss. It darts upwards into the canopy, taking a chunk of leg with it.
Pain roars within my left leg. Shifting my back against a tree and slowly balancing on my good leg, I clutch the dagger with all of my strength.
I drop my dagger as pain screams into my right arm, the snake removing another chunk of my flesh.
Slumping to the ground, I feel a sharp heat spreading from my wounds and roiling through my body. loving venom. Fantastic.
My head lands softly onto some leaves as the faint crackle of Colin’s torch enters my awareness. His killer comes into my field of vision, and I notice its wings for the first time.
Venom claws at my insides. The torchlight reflects on the winged serpent’s eyes, which stare directly into my own.
Of course! I couldn't see or hear it before, but this creature is always part of the forest’s sights and sounds. Now it waits for the life to leave the bloody mess in front of it. Simple.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 06:05|
I made it in time!! Aaaah!!!
The way up is the lonely part. The long, silent stare up into white. We are not permitted to look at one another during the ascent. The weather was rough for festival season, with icy mists that thickened the higher we climbed.
I clutched Huxley tightly to my chest, as if he were a real creature in need of warmth. It is not a difficult walk. Just long and lonely. Not even the thrill of festivals past could have made me dread it less. After delicately stepping over an intrusive rock, I made the incredibly poor decision to lift Huxley and gaze at him over my scarf. I'd promised myself I wouldn't, after I said my goodbyes before. One glance at his beady black eyes and I knew breaking that promise was a huge mistake. Startled by my own spike of emotions, I lowered Huxley and looked around like a schoolchild caught stealing.
Every climber had a large, densely packed bundle strapped to their backs. Every climber also held a single item in their hands. No heads responded to my movement.
I'd known Huxley would be the one before he'd even had a body to burn. I loved that fabric and stuffing like a pregnant woman loves her future child.
A monkey. The most precious little monkey in the world. In his unnaturally green fur I could hear the bustle in the store, the happy children who'd come in that day to gawk and grab sweets from the counter. In the red stitching on his arms I could feel the hearth slowly dimming, as I worked away into evening.
There was never a moon on festival night. It seemed there would be no clouds tonight either.
None save the smoke.
The festival pyre is burnt to honor the nymph Adrastea, who was forced to abandon her favored son in order to protect the greater good. The story is meant to explain the phases of the moon, as she is said to have wept for a full month over the loss of her child.
I would mourn for longer over Huxley.
When we crested the peak, the fire was already illuminating the darkening sky, as well as the distant, orange-tinted figures dotting the snow around it. Our peers waiting for us to begin the opening ceremony. Witnesses to our sacrifice.
When we craftsmen joined the rest of the village, friends we knew well, all was as silent as a crowd of strangers. Excepting, naturally, the loud flame and occasional crunch of snow as anxious feet shifted. This was the part of the ceremony, staring straight into the death of your heart, where the mind goes completely empty. I had a whole litter of young safe and sound on my back, to be displayed and sold during the festival, yet none could give me so much despair as Huxley.
We stood in a rigidly defined order. The baker to my right held a hefty, cloth-wrapped package in his hands, the weaver to my left a vibrant drapery.
I heard the horn sound once, twice, three times, barely registering the leatherworker, painter, and tailor as they each stepped up to present their offerings. An elaborately detailed decorative belt. A summer landscape. A wedding dress. Dozens of eyes all aglow with the same burning cold.
Like the drumbeat of war growing closer and closer, my heart beat harder and harder against my chest, where Huxley lay. At each sound of the horn, I heard sad footsteps approach, then back away from the pyre. Each nearer than the last.
The horn sounded. The baker stepped forward. The baker stepped back. The horn sounded.
I stepped forward, mind as blank as the new moon.
Pounding heartbeats drowned out by the fire's roar.
I move like a marionette. Lifting Huxley over my head with both hands in a fluid motion. Presenting him in open palms. Next, you lower your offering towards the fire in front of you and let it drop out of your grasp.
I did not move. Somewhere on the road from duty to action, for my first time, there was friction. Huxley continued to lay in my palms as the crowd grew gradually uncomfortable. Still, not a single word was uttered.
Frozen, hands to the heavens. A pair of cold arms embraceed me tightly from the back, then as I turned in shock, several others gently took Huxley and placed him within the fire.
It was the baker embracing me. I instantly buried my face in his chest but the flame kept burning in my eyes. "Thank you," I mouthed voicelessly into his thick furs.
Hands on my shoulders, the baker gave me a confidant smile, then followed the others to the main grounds.
We rejoiced in the new moon. The dancing continued for hours, devoid of love.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 07:00|
Also, now how to I get access to the thunderdome archives?
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 07:10|
If you squint it's totally there
Back from the Officially Dead 800 words exactly
Sandra was dead, and she was not at all pleased with the situation.
“What? Check your system again.”
The clerk dutifully looked her up again. “Yes, deceased last night, I’m afraid.”
“I’m clearly not dead, though.”
“The system doesn’t lie,” said the clerk. “Passed away peacefully in your sleep, burnt horribly to a crisp. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have live customers to attend to.”
Sandra was not inclined to behave in a reasonable and compliant manner that befitted the recently deceased, and before long the clerk was obliged to summon security to have her corpse escorted from the building.
Sandra’s day did not improve when she went to the market.
“Come on, I just got paid yesterday.”
“Sorry,” said the shopkeeper. “Card’s declined.”
“Maybe if I put some of it back.”
The shopkeeper did shakings of the head. “The machine says the card’s been deactivated entirely. I’d get in touch with your bank.”
The bank manager looked at Sandra over his spectacles. “Ah yes, Ms Sandra Jones. I was terribly sorry to hear about your untimely demise.”
“Thanks, but I’m definitely not dead.”
“Sorry,” he said, “there’s nothing I can do. Your will has already been actioned. As per your will, your funds have been split 50-50 between your parents and your partner, Chris.”
“What?” Sandra frowned. “We broke up a month ago.”
“Well,” said the manager, “we really do recommend people keep their will up to date.”
“Thanks,” said Sandra. “I’ll go talk to my lawyer.”
“Might be a bit late for that,” said the manager, but Sandra was not listening.
There were a number of cars outside Sandra’s parents’ house when she got there. Her father answered the door, and upon seeing Sandra his jaw dropped. “Sandy? But…”
“Ah, I take it you’ve heard?”
He nodded. “Police arrived late last night to deliver the news.”
She frowned. “How am I the last to find out about this?”
“Well, now that you’re here, you can clear it all up.”
“Wait.” Sandra thought a bit. “Don’t tell anyone yet. I saw there were a few cars here. Is Chris here?”
“Didn’t the two of you break up?”
Sandra nodded. “We were together for a while though. And it turned out I didn’t think to change my will after the break up.”
“Huh,” said her dad. “That’s interesting. No, Chris hasn’t been here.”
Sandra nodded again. “Go back with the others, I need to find something out. Don’t tell them yet that I’m not dead.”
He nodded, and she left again.
“Sorry, explain again what you’re after.”
Sandra tried again. It was difficult to explain to the police that you needed information on your own death, but eventually she managed.
“Ah,” said the constable. “Yes, terribly sad that, my commiserations to the family.”
“I’m not dead, though,” she said.
The constable shrugged. “The body was quite beyond resuscitation, and your partner was able to positively identify it as you.”
“Ex,” said Sandra.
“We broke up a month ago.”
“Huh,” said the constable. “I definitely didn’t get that impression at all.”
“And I thought my – the body was burnt to a crisp. How could anyone identify it?”
The constable shrugged. “Your partner seemed quite confident. I figured if you’ve loved someone that much for that long, you just know.”
“So, you didn’t DNA test the body or anything?”
The constable shrugged. “We had a positive identification. It seemed unnecessary. And it’ll be hard to convince anyone to reopen that case. It was so neat.”
“But Chris probably broke the law by lying to you.”
“Hmmm,” said the constable. “Our lab guys did say they were getting bored. Tell you what, I’ll give them a call.”
He did so, and then they awkwardly sat in the foyer for a while.
“How long does the DNA testing usually take?”
He shrugged. “Not my area, ma’am. Possibly overnight, though. Do you have somewhere to stay, what with your house being burned down and all?”
“I hadn’t really thought of that,” she said. “Did it really burn down? Glad I slept in an alley last night.” He raised an eyebrow, and she shrugged. “I had a pretty big night; I was celebrating a month of singleness.”
“Fair enough,” he said. “Anyway, we’ve got a room you can spend the night in. It’s not great, because it’s usually for drunks to sleep it off, but it should be better than what you had last night.”
She took the cell, and in the morning the DNA test came back.
“Good news,” said the constable. “You’re not dead.”
She nodded. “Good to hear.”
“Also, we arrested your ex for arson.”
“That was sudden.”
He shrugged. “Well we were almost out of words; had to wrap it up.”
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 07:10|
Also, now how to I get access to the thunderdome archives?
There should be a link to request an account at the top left, when you go to the main page. PM Kaishai or Crabrock for help setting up if need be.
You should definitely join the IRC and Discord too.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 07:14|
Your beast is the Parandus.
You Can Taste It
Ten days after the killing, and the long voyage across the sea, Pakuha and Mahakoa reached the horn of a long great island. The size of the island was unknown; it stretched off into the haze. Judging by what they could see from the ocean, it must take hours to cross on foot. They landed on the beach and carried their stolen canoe up past the tide line.
The sand was clean and white, the sea a brilliant green, the jungle cool and dark. The brothers had seen fish and crabs as they closed on the island, numerous and easy to catch. There would be plenty of good working fibers and wood from the palms and other trees. They wouldn't want for anything.
Pakuha set off to survey the extent of their new island. Mahakoa stayed to cook and dry the fish.
Pakuha came back hours later, changed, his good spirits gone. Mahakoa asked what happened; Pakuha only shook his head. His brother must come with him. He turned and walked away.
Mahakoa watched him reach the edge of the island where the beach curved around the forest, then sprinted across the sand to join him.
A stone hut squatted on a rocky outcropping on the beach on the other side of the island, larger than the huts of their old home. A large stone blocked its doorway; it would not be budged. The entire hut was carved from a single block of foam-gray stone, with strange decorations on its top. Mahakoa felt uneasy there. It clicked and trilled like forest birds and seagulls.
Who had made this? They had seen no sign of anyone else living on the island.
They returned to camp, Pakuha quiet the whole way, answering Mahakoa's questions with first grunts, then silence. They feasted on crabs and fish. They talked about the distant past, childhood. Mahakoa even coaxed a laugh from his brother. They tried to forget about the huge stone hut on the far side of the island.
The next morning, Pakuha woke before his brother. His head buzzed.
As the first gray light of dawn streamed through the canopy, an animal emerged from the forest. Its coat was shaggy and thick, brown fur that hung in waves washing over four thin and spindly legs like a young palm. It was a deep rich brown color, with spikes on its head like ferns.
Like the top of the stone hut.
Silently, the animal returned to the forest.
Pakuha thought to grab his spear and stalk the strange creature. His brother stirred beside him. He would likely have no chance to catch it on his own—not against something that big. He sat and waited.
Mahakoa was unimpressed by his brother's story. Even seeing the prints by the forest's edge, he was not convinced. It could be a pig, a large bird—he would hear no argument.
Come, Mahakoa said, let's make a hut. It gets too cold here at night. He sent Pakuha into the forest to gather wood and palm leaves.
He was gone for hours. Mahakoa collected what he could from the beach, cleared and flattened the earth far from the shore, then threw down his club. His calls into the forest went unanswered.
With nothing else to do, he stretched out at the worksite and dozed.
It was dark when Pakuha returned, running out of the jungle, shouting, his eyes catching a crazy campire gleam. Mahakoa jumped to his feet. He couldn't make out what his brother was saying—something about the hut.
The hut? Yes, the hut! Where is the wood? Mahakoa asked.
Pakuha had nothing. He grabbed his brother's shoulders and shook him. Mahakoa pushed him and he fell back onto the sand, breathing heavily, staring up at his brother, uncomprehending.
The wood, Pakuha. Pakuha kept staring up at him, mouth agape, the fire casting weird shadows across his face. Gradually, his breathing slowed.
What I saw back there, Pakuha said quietly. The stone hut. It makes sounds, always, always, sounds like birds, and as the sun sets it glows—it glows like fire but there's no smoke—there's no fire but it glows—no fire...
There was no fire. It had burned out. Mahakoa kicked sand over the embers and collapsed on his bead of leaves in the middle of the worksite. He had heard enough.
The beach was empty at sunrise, Pakuha nowhere to be found. Mahakoa pulled a crab up from their net to cook for breakfast. He gathered some sturdy branches from the edge of the forest and began to strip and prepare them to make a frame, but by midday he grew annoyed. He set off in the canoe to find his brother.
Mahakoa paddled beside a long stretch of white sand. The sea spray spattered his face and hair, the waves undulating below, gently rocking the canoe as he rowed. He turned the next curved of the beach and saw his brother.
Pakuha stood on the beach beside the stone hut, staring out at sea. Mahakoa beached the canoe and ran ashore, demanding an explanation.
They're coming, Pakuha said.
Mahakoa followed his gaze seaward. He saw nothing—no—a series of dots on the horizon, growing, bobbing on the waves. He couldn't make out any details, or tell who it was on those canoes, but he knew. It was the dead man's brother and a war party assembled with him. He turned to run for their canoe, then froze.
From inside the hut, a sound clanged, harsh and jarring, like the brothers had never heard before—once—twice—a dozen times—until their ears rang along with it. Then the stone in the doorway slid aside, and something moved in the darkness. Mahakoa cried and lifted his spear but there was a flash of fire from the doorway and his chest tore open and he fell dripping out onto the sands.
Pakuha looked down at his brother with pity. This is the judgement, he said.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 07:16|
The presence of a duck is said to prevent night terrors.
I used to get bad dreams, every kind. Nightmares, one in particular. Terrifying bouts of sleep paralysis, my eyelids sealed tight and refusing to open while I knew something lurked right above me. Ones I couldn't even remember that woke me up minutes after falling asleep. I had that going for a week, lived on coffee and energy drinks for a week. Got home, collapsed on the couch and next thing I was running from the headless giant, into a dead-end hallway. I started pounding on the walls, and at the second hit the walls of my nightmare gave way to the ocean beyond. The water sucked me in, pulled me through the wall and I was flailing and drowning and trying to scream for what felt like hours until Maxwell pulled me out.
So, Maxwell. He was a duck. Feathers brown and oily green, walked on two feet. Wore a top hat. Carried a sword-cane. Talked. “So who is zis little drowned rat?” Talked with a French accent.
I coughed water out of my lungs, then answered. “Jason,” I said.
He pointed a wing behind me, at a black and churning maelstrom. Lightning danced across it and thunder drowned out his next words.
“I said, you came from zere? Best come with me then. No going back. I could use a spotter besides. I'm Maxwell.”
I nodded assent, looking around for the first time. We were in a boat, something somewhat like a gondola and also like bookcase on its back. “Where is this?”
“Sea of dreams, Jason. Sea of dreams.”
We sailed. He hunted. I kept watch, and guarded the boat when he fought. The first on was that night, a great sea serpent breaching the surface like a buried sine wave. Maxwell popped the blade from his cane and ran across the water's surface, straight at it.
It wasn't much of a fight. Maxwell sliced it to pieces, then brought them back to the boat. He opened a book and it burst into green fire, and he cooked and ate the thing. I reached for a bit. He batted me away. “Not for you,” he said. “For you, poison.” He stabbed his cane into the sea and drew it out, a good-sized fish struck through. “This, better for you.”
I woke up refreshed, and almost forgot everything. But the next night I was back on that sea, spotting monsters for Maxwell. “Your island isn't safe. Better on the sea, here. The sea terrors I can kill. But only you can face your nightmare.”
Most nights were like the first, slaying sea monsters. One time he fought a kraken, and in a second they were both the same size, and the next he was the larger one. So far away and on the featureless sea I can't say which grew or which shrunk, but he popped the thing in his bill like a cuttlefish snack and that was that.
One night he taught me the trick of walking on the dream-sea water.
Sometimes we'd land on an island, the home of some other dreamer, and take bit roles in someone else's dream. Usually strangers, but once it was Ben from the office, and when he told me about the dream he'd had over lunch, I made sure not to let on that I knew the plot already.
I was getting more sleep, doing better, but it couldn't go on forever, could it? The storms returned. The current kept us heading in the same direction. Back to my island. Back to the headless giant's lair.
So about him. My father, of course. A violent man. Used to hit Mom, and my big brother too. I was ten, too young to target by his twisted rules. But he made sure I saw. Memory's strange. Most of my life his death went one way. He'd been fired and got bad news from the doctor in the same week. One day, a bang, and Mom holding me back, and Marty dealing with the people in the cars with sirens best he could.
That's not the way it went in my dreams. Sometimes in therapy I remember it the other way, too. His voice. “Come down here, Jacob.” The edge in it that allowed no argument. Me, opening the door, the sawed-off shotgun in his mouth. The bang, and the vivid shower of blood, bone, and brain.
The boat drifted toward the hole in the sea that had been my island, like a whirlpool, but solid. Like a spiral staircase made of water. We had no choice but to walk down.
The fight was a blur, mostly of terror. I saw the headless giant clearly. It wasn't completely headless. It had the bottom jaw, full of teeth, each sharp and broken, some with gleaming eyes embedded in the enamel. It swung a heavy club that broke the ground we stood on, forcing us to leap for safety. We tried to fight. It wrenched Maxwell's sword-cane from his feathered fingers. It fell at my feet, and I picked it up. It grabbed Maxwell and pulled him across those deadly teeth, over the dry bottom palate and into its neck-hole. The top hat flew off as I saw my friend vanish, and then it turned to me.
I didn't run. I raised the sword, and waited. And then the headless giant fell over, dead. At first I didn't understand, but then it melted from the inside out. All the poison terrors Maxwell had consumed burned its guts to ash and slime.
So I don't have trouble sleeping, not anymore. Sometimes I'm back on Maxwell's boat, alone. Not always. I even have a few completely dreamless nights, now and again.
And I might dismiss the whole thing. Just a dream, right? The business with Ben just a coincidence, sure. But there's the hat. Maxwell's hat. Woke up wearing it that last night, and I've sure never bought any such thing in my life.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 07:32|
I am the fourth failingest TDer and even I submitted this week. Don't fail!!!!
Flesnolk fucked around with this message at 09:04 on Jan 14, 2019
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 07:37|
Your beast is the Sea-Pig.
At Least It's an Entry
Jake's white coat hangs empty next to a few others outside the cooler's door. It's just the kind of coat to wear while making minimum wage; the cheap fabric feels stiff and plastic, and you're almost warmer not even wearing it. But I'm wearing mine because it's the rules.
It's just the kind of job to work while you're off school for the summer. Jake's been off school for nine years. He didn't major in English to work at a grocery store, but if we're actually being honest, that's why you major in English. To work at a grocery store, if you don't manage to get an internship. Of course, you'd be working at a grocery store if you were an intern anyway, so I guess that's really it. You major in English to work at a grocery store. I'm going to major in business or something; I'm not stupid.
I think a lot about my older coworkers here. If you're really old or still a kid, sure, it makes sense. Most of the managers are in between, which also makes sense. But the in-between coworkers, like Jake, are just depressing. How the do you work in a grocery store for that long making that much? How do you turn THIRTY working in a grocery store?
I'm hosing down the meat grinder inside the cooler. The meat department's back room is basically a refrigerator, and this is the refrigerator's refrigerator. It's the clammiest job; I hate it. Jake didn't seem to mind. He was actually a pretty great guy when I started working here. We were both into a lot of the same stuff, mostly good books and bad movies. At first, I thought he was a pretty cool guy for liking the same things that I did. I guess "cool" isn't really the right word, but when you're a nerd, you think nerds are cool no matter how pathetic they are. Anyway, it was cool to have someone to bullshit with about Zardoz or Neuromancer while getting a paycheck.
His favorite beer is Arrogant Bastard. I actually managed to buy him a case for his birthday just by telling the cashier (Lisa, in the "really old" category of appropriate grocery store ages) that it was for him. I also got him House of Leaves, which I still haven't read but looks cool as hell. But I'm getting off track here – I bring up the beer because, while I thought he was a cool Adult of Legal Drinking Age, I think at this point that he's just an alcoholic. He was a pretty fun guy when I first showed up last summer, but now he's just a wet blanket. Or was, I guess. I haven't seen him in a while now. And I think he was always a wet blanket; it was just the sheer novelty of my being a kindred dorky spirit that brightened him up for a bit.
I guess he'd have to be that way after working here for almost a decade (it said on his name tag). He started the job just because it was what he could get, and he stayed because it was what he had, and it just became a rut after a while. I probably made it even worse – I'm someone to talk to, but I'm also someone with my twenties still ahead of me. This isn't anything that we've talked about, but I think I can take a freakin' guess here.
Back outside the cooler, I'm seeing his coat again. And this is harder to guess about, the more I think about it. Where is he? We barely even looked at each other this summer. I don't know if he quit or if he was fired; both make sense in their own ways. Is he doing better now or worse? I hope it's better.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 08:18|
I learned to shoot at the age of twelve. There was a war going on and all the boys in the village were eager to prove themselves on the field of battle. One by one they boarded the train. My brother was among them.
"I will return a hero," he said with a smile, "Or not at all."
"With our young men gone," my grandfather asked, "Who is to keep us safe? Who will patrol the woods?" It was decided then he would teach the girls. I was family. I was first.
Grandfather kept an old bolt-action rifle above the fireplace. It was almost as old as he was. He cleaned it every Sunday. He taught me how to take it apart and put it back together.
"You must not be afraid, child. It is only a tool."
"It looks evil."
"Take it apart and judge for yourself. Wood and metal. The evil is here." He tapped his finger to his head.
It was midwinter when we first ventured out. The trees were bare and black and thin. Grandfather wore his snakeskin coat. He shouldered the rifle. I carried the bullets.
"There," he said with a chill on his breath. I looked and saw a beautiful stag. A perfect white, untamed and untainted.
Grandfather held out his hand. I pushed two bullets into his palm. Placing one between his teeth, he chambered the other, got down on one knee.
"Exhale first," he told me, "Then shoot." He did. There was a great and terrible crack, and a thin red trickle sprung from the stag, the side of its face. The creature let out a mournful sound and turned and darted between the trees.
Grandfather watched it go.
"It's getting away," I said. I tugged on his sleeve. I handed him another bullet. He handed it back, along with the other.
"Listen carefully," he said "When you are fighting for your life, it's a matter of survival. You must be prepared to fight to the end, and of course you must use everything you have. But when you are hunting, it's a matter of honor. Neither bird nor beast have anything which compares to the power of this rifle." He gripped it in both hands. "You have only one shot. If you cannot take your prey with a single shot, you do not deserve to take them."
I nodded but said nothing.
We returned that evening to the light of the fire. Noticing my distance, grandfather told me this.
"A stag is a powerful thing, my child. They say to drink its blood will cure whatever plagues your heart. If that is true then surely my bullet is nothing to such a beast. Now come, let us eat."
A few years went by. The war had finished. My brother was as good as his word. They all were as good as his word. Nobody slept for two whole nights.
On the third night I rose from my bed. I put on my grandfather's coat. I took his rifle from the fireplace.
It was winter again. The black trees stretched up into the sky, a vast dark canopy of starless night. I moved through the snow, the rifle over my shoulder, my pockets full of bullets. I knew it had to be here somewhere. If grandfather couldn't kill it, no one could.
As I crossed the hill it stood in the moonlight. White and beautiful, but marred by a scar. I got down on one knee and raised my rifle. I chambered a bullet and aimed for the beast.
"Your blood will soothe the aching of my heart, yes? If I drink my fill, I can forget this madness. We all can forget this terrible madness." I breathed in.
The stag turned and looked at me in the dark. Its eyes were black and deep and quiet.
We stood awhile in silence, at the end of the world. At last I exhaled. I stood up, and fired into the night sky.
"Begone," I said. "Before another comes who believes as I. Live as long and hard as you can."
The stag said nothing, but nodded, and left.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 09:06|
That's all folks - relax, have a drink and wait for the judgement to roll in.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 09:12|
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 09:27|
Word count: I dunno, somewhere around 800. I'm late.
Dan sighed inwardly as a naked Brad clapped rocks in his front yard. “Almost made it through life without seeing a FUPA,” he muttered, moving away from the window.
Dan strained against the door until it opened enough to allow a Brad sized person through. “Christ on a kite, man! Stop banging those rocks and get your rear end in here before anything else sees you.”
Brad did not stop banging his rocks. He ran to Dan with a panicked look on his face. His body was glistening with sweat and his cheeks were ruddy. He stumbled inside and braced himself against the bannister, struggling to catch his breath. Dan grunted, putting the weight of his entire body into closing the door until it latched shut with a satisfying thunk. His ears popped with the sudden pressure.
Dan worked his jaw for a moment. “Can you talk?”
Brad shook his head, his jowls wobbling.
“What the gently caress…” Dan muttered under his breath. He stormed to his calendar and studied the dates. “It’s mating season. What the gently caress… Where were you caught? The park?”
Brad shook his head no.
“Good thinking coming here. It’s like the wild west inside that store.” He turned to face Brad, a sudden panic clawing up his chest with a realization. He shoved it down, needing to think clearly. He spoke slowly, scared of the answer. “Was Naomi with you?”
Brad blinked rapidly, not wanting to cry in front of Dan and nodded sharply
The they stood unmoving, an uncomfortable silence yawning between the friends.
Dan cleared his throat and dropped his gaze, the pit in his stomach growing heavier with an extra dose of shame added to the mix. “Brad, I can’t go out there. I uh-,” he cleared his throat again. “I still have my son’s neck guard you can use and you can borrow a shotgun with extra shells.” He trailed off when his eyes met Brad’s.
Brad, still unable to speak, stood up straighter. There was no blame or hostility in his eyes. To knowingly go outside when the wolves were hunting was nearly the same as putting a gun in your own mouth and pulling the trigger. Brad nodded and mouthed, “Okay.”
Brad was so scared he felt physically ill. He was sweating like it was the middle of summer even though it was only mid January. His hands shook uncontrollably so he straightened his index finger to the side of the shotgun so he wouldn’t accidentally blow a hole in his foot.
He kept moving forward. His bowels were ice and every alarm bell in his head told him to run and be a coward like Dan, but against his character he slowly followed the knocked over items, deep into Voidmart™, towards the wolves’ den. Naomi could already be dead, but he knew he would end up playing Russian Roulette if he didn’t at the very least try to save his wife.
He heard a soft click of claw against floor.
Brad spun, the shotgun raised, fear all but replaced with adrenaline. Out of the corner of his eye, gray fur blurred passed his periphery. The shotgun exploded and the deep boom echoed in the store. He missed. Four shots left. A woman screamed nearby in surprise. Naomi.
Something hard slammed into the back of Brad’s knee and he went down, catching himself before falling on his face. He quickly rolled to sit on his rear end and brought the gun up. From the side, a large wolf with gleaming teeth lunged at Brad and it by instinct he brought the stock of the weapon straight into the wolf’s nose.
It bought Brad only a few moments, so he leaned back to aim the gun, but the wolf slid under the muzzle as the second shot exploded in a mess of gunpowder and noise. Claws sank into Brad’s chest as it scrambled up his body and suddenly the wolf’s glowing eyes locked on to his.
The wolf clamped its jaws into the leather and steel of Brad’s neck guard.
Desperate to survive, Brad enclosed his arms around the wolf’s neck and with the knowledge that this could very well be his final act, squeezed with the strength of a 500lbs. man. The wolf growled and jerked against his grip. Brad felt hot blood running across his chest. Still he held on.
A gunshot rang out and blood splashed against his face. The wolf’s struggle became less frantic and Brad heard a wet wheeze come from its throat. Dan’s boot shoved the dying wolf off of Brad’s bloody chest. His face came into view, deep bloodied scratches across his nose, but smiling. Naomi’s tear streaked face came flying into view and peppered his face with sobbing kisses.
“Let’s get the gently caress out of here,” Dan said.
“Help me up,” Brad croaked, happy he was able to speak again.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 13:23|
Better DQ than failing. Anyone want some unruly kids?
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 13:35|
judgment will occur.
Inter prompt: what the hell just walked in the door (350 words)
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 18:29|
I'll bite (and I hope it's fine to just post this, I'm new here)
A Beggar’s Pride
Heaven’s gate is not a fortification. If the door is closed on you, however, there is no way you will cross.
Though there might be no way in heaven, in hell there was one. A truly infernal Beast beyond description broke the door wide open. All the angels who beheld it lost their mind immediately. Many others unravelled once the violation’s full extent sunk in.
After unopposed rampage leading higher, higher, higher, a second door blocked the abomination’s path. And on this door, it knocked.
“Lord! I apologize for my transgressions. My rebellion was wrong, and I see the justice of your Light now. Please accept the surrender of hell…and me back in your arms.”
The door opened, and in much reduced form, the Beast entered.
There is little use for time in heaven, but the angel horde quickly gathered outside still waited an eternity.
Then, the door flung open, and violently the Beast was cast down, down, down, like so long ago.
The door was slow to close again, and Gabriel dared ask.
He got his answer, and the door closed again. The answer did not satisfy him, but he really should have known better.
This is what God told him: all of their fallen brother’s temptations were effective because humanity did not know humility. Like Lucifer, they constantly wanted to rise above their station. And though he exploited their pride so well, he did not actually understand the extent of his own.
Or would he have come begging for forgiveness in this form?
Gabriel pondered some more. Only if Satan himself can learn humility will humanity be saved. But did God tell him? Of course not, and the last time the Antagonist tried to surrender, God did not tell him either. And the time before that…
But would he ever learn on his own? Was that not against his very nature?
Or maybe, blasphemed Gabriel, God did not intend for them to learn?
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 20:03|
It's fine. Interprompts are very informal.
I'll bite (and I hope it's fine to just post this, I'm new here)
Sham bam bamina! fucked around with this message at 20:10 on Jan 14, 2019
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 20:08|
Inter prompt: what the hell just walked in the door (350 words)
I loosened my tie and pulled the bottle of rye from my bottom desk drawer. Deke had been in it again, the son of a bitch. You had to get up pretty early in the morning to get to my booze before me, but Deke never slept at all.
I poured out a healthy glass, then topped it up for good measure. I spilled most of it down my shirt when this dame came through the door.
"You could have used the doorknob," I told her, "I just had that drat door painted. So what can I do for you?"
She picked a few splinters off her blouse and started to unload her story, but I wasn't paying attention. I tell you, she had legs that wouldn't quit. She lit a cigarette, reached across my desk and poured herself a glass of my whiskey, and then took off her hat and started fanning herself with it.
"Look, lady," I said, "I'll take the case, but you've got to make your legs quit. Gives me the willies seeing them lighting cigarettes and pouring drinks like that."
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 20:14|
Guaranteed Summer School
Word count: 314
If God could pick a day out of my life to watch in fast-forward with the Benny Hill theme playing, I think today would be a good pick. I hosed up my alarm clock the other night and missed the dot on the PM. My circadian rhythm kicks me out of bed a half-hour late. I figure some carbs is better than no carbs and chow down some Pop Tarts past their due date. I gurgle some Listerine so at least my breath doesn’t stink.
I’m out of the house, and the bus takes off earlier than Google maps said it would. I fling my backpack at the trailing exhaust – it’s lighter than I thought. Did I forget my books? gently caress.
I’m back out of the house, and this bus takes off later than usual. The traffic sucks. I’m resigned to another absentee mark for my chemistry. This is the last one I can get before the report card becomes ugly. As long as I can make it for math.
It’s 9:35 AM. I’m out of the bus and beelining it towards the door. The moment my hand is on the handle, I rest a bit so I can stop mouth breathing like a wreck. I open the door, ready to play it smooth.
From the end of the hall, a deer barrels down at me, slipping and sliding like Bambi on ice, and wipes me out. The deer prances off while my face kisses the floor. I get helped to the nurse’s office. I think I could continue with classes, but at the expense of freaking everyone else out with my balloon face. My dad comes to get me, and I’m slightly relieved that my tardiness will be forgotten. I heard someone had their smartphone filming, so I guess I’ll figure into some meme that will run for the next year or so.
|# ? Jan 14, 2019 22:44|
Inter prompt: what the hell just walked in the door (350 words)
How My Girlfriend Met My Dragon
200 words or something
Author’s note: i wrote this on my phone at dinner with my family while super stoned
“Is that like a lizard or something?”
“No, it’s my pet dragon, are you blind?”
“Komodo dragon’s are lizards, dummy.”
Jake closed the door behind him with his dragon Esmerelda who had shortly before walked in, prompting the comment from Beverly “what the hell just walked in the door?”
Then Jake said “No its a real dragon, the dude sold him to me for just 600 bucks!”
Then Beverly said “That thing is loving ugly and you got ripped off.”
Jake said “No way José. gently caress off, mate. This gal can breathe fire.”
Beverly says “Bullshit Jake” but then the creature loving connects minds with her and goes with telepathy “ooo beverly i know who you are” and bev goes “what the gently caress”
dragon esmerelda says to beverly “I KNOW YOU CHEATED ON HIM” and Beverly jumps out the loving window.
beverly lives on the first story so she landed on the awning of the deli and then bounced onto the curb.
A car came by and splashed her with muddy water.
“Oh rats,” she said.
|# ? Jan 15, 2019 00:58|
How My Girlfriend Met My Dragon
|# ? Jan 15, 2019 01:58|
|# ? May 28, 2022 14:08|
Time to start declaring winners for interprompts.
|# ? Jan 15, 2019 04:06|