|# ? Jun 19, 2019 07:18|
|# ? Aug 8, 2022 19:17|
Don't have time to write this week, but I'll gladly judge.
Sure, welcome aboard.
In the flash of it.
The Father and the Partner (i.e. cop, etc.).
Your characters must start as strangers and end as rivals.
In with a flash.
The Grandmother and the Hunter.
Your story has nothing to do with Red Riding Hood. It does, however, feature wolves.
The Prisoner and the Teacher.
The last thing you need is another secret. This one, however, is different.
|# ? Jun 19, 2019 09:17|
18th Century Week Crits
SurreptitiousMuffin - Milk and Honey
I enjoy the t’wards and the other dialect touches patterned throughout this one. The structure of it is also interesting in that we start after the event has happened, then have a flashback where we pause the guy dying to give us the backstory to what’s happening in New Zealand, then we have a flashback about the event happening, then back to where we were with this guy dying. It’s efficient for the purposes in putting the story in this short story and I enjoy a nice reveal but I dunno if I couldn’t say maybe something didn’t quite click for me? There’s not really a huge amount of characterisation for Callum except he’s a miner from Scotland.I like the idea of this German gang of I think mercenaries take scalps because they’ve heard natives do it, that’s very evocative. And there’s the themes of frontier living, leaving home to seek fortune, as is wryly suggested by the title. There’s a lot to like here but I still can’t say I loved it - maybe it’s a bit too utilitarian or something.
Saucy_Rodent - The Southern Ladies Tea-Sipping Competitions: A Brief History of Reconstruction Georgia’s Strangest Game
Titles don’t need to be that long.
I will out myself for being a dumbo by thinking that it was sort of possible this was real for a moment and googling “tea-sipping competition”.
Anyway the story itself is, you know, fine. Obviously it’s not your fault you got satire as a flash rule, but I find it very difficult to critique a satirical short or something with some kind of social message, even when it’s a message that I would agree with or whatever, firstly because I don’t really think of satire for its great prose, and secondly - and don’t take this personally - I sort of feel satire in a short story format is sort of cringy.
But what can you say about this piece? There is an interesting contrast between gentility and systematic and often sexual violence which something has to be said for, there is a certain sharpness to the barbs. I also enjoy the voice the story is written in, this sort of detached, almost detectively manner, as if this is a report that’s been researched. My favourite line is “The weather varies by source.” or somesuch.
You know, obviously, all in all, not too shabby, and uh, you know, I agree racism is bad. I’m sorry, this feedback isn’t helpful at all.
WhoopieCat - Budget Travel
It’s very difficult to write in the voice of an annoying, vapid character and it not be annoying to read. I do not think you have succeeded.
The premise is I guess imaginative, although I'm not one for time travel stories like this. Now, other people are gonna mention this surely but people didn’t talk in “haths” and “forsooths” in loving 1800’s America of all places - it might’ve been interesting if the protagonist spoke that way to the locals because she was ignorant and the locals have more modernised speech, but that’s not what happens.
BIG FLUFFY DOG - The Rosebery Detective
This is a neat story. At first it felt on-the-nose to namedrop Holmes but I do like the idea of this toff sort of going into the role too much to the extent that he’s hired an assistant for his schemes. I think it’s interesting how we have this other, more down to earth character, a Watson-type perhaps, who is unimpressed with all this stuff being the POV character instead of the guy who actually does something, the Holmes-type. Frankly the narrator finds the detective annoying but what other interesting things could happen in a gentleman’s club? I think there’s a sense of fun in this tale, but I really really think the club should either be called ‘Rosebury’ or ‘Roseberry’ not ‘Rosebery’.
Simply Simon - TD358 – Hearty Stew
“Stephen’s gift was a studious nature, so he had decided to leave the farm to study at the famous military academy. And now he had to live with having left behind a lonely father at a farm maybe too big for him.” These two lines are superfluous. You’ve already mentioned West Point and it’s clear from the previous paragraph that the dad is lonely and there’s a distance between them. You don’t need to establish that more explicitly, it shows a lack of faith that the reader will pick it up tbh.
Also don’t use the ‘too big’ imagery two sentences apart, it brings me out of the story and is again something that the reader might intuit.
“It wasn’t even that good, dad.” alright why not put a fine point on it you little prick.
Oh he’s too big for this bedroom as well? Is there anywhere in this house he’s the right size for? Is he too big for the potty?
I get what you’re going for with speaking to the march of scientific and civic progress vs the rural and agrarian past being explored via a son and father dynamic and I even think it’s sort of smart but everything is just a little too on-the-nose, a little too theatrical for a story which has been pretty grounded so far. It’s two characters shouting the themes of the story at you.
At least the garden won’t be destroyed! Happy father’s day everyone (this story was submitted on father’s day.)
Thranguy - From the Notebooks of Barron Tuesday: Secrets of the Sunken City
This is a fun story where the real trick is the structural use of the damage to the text being used to cut out all the boring parts and fit what appears to the reader to be quite a winding and expansive tale into less than 1400 words. It’s sort of a situation where we’re sort of peeking into an adventure tale in progress, and although I feel like maybe the reader should get to see a little bit more characterisation or something, it’s still a very smart move and pretty commendable.
I also enjoy that it takes place in what I imagine is the Russian jungle from Metal Gear Solid 3.
Staggy - Ghost of Oakchurch Hall
This one is really great, I enjoy it a lot. It captures what is evocative in the story in a very Gothic way, and feels very accurate to the flash rule. The way lines like “there was no great struggle” are given their own line is a nice way to construct a good sense of pacing while you’re reading.
Shotaro - The Survival of the Swaggart
I always have more to say about the stories I don’t like than those I do. This one is really atmospheric - I dunno if it’s ever said it’s raining but that’s what I imagined - there’s a grim dampness with soaks into every scene and every bitter curse the characters exchange. The ambiguity of the supernatural element is also very cool.
Derp - the 1800’s
Saying the heat is ‘unending’ and then saying it’s held ‘eternally in the moment of burning’ is unnecessary. Maybe it’s also a little on-the-nose that he’s a photographer and uses photography metaphors? Having said that, this is a very grotesque and macabre story which primarily focuses on a trio of weird people, so of course I enjoy it. It’s interesting how the boy’s corpse is used as a sort of comical object, like a doll, rather than it being treated with a more staid sense of respectful revelry. The image the photo on the mantelpiece and the exploding horse are a wonderfully gross way to end the story.
You must’ve really struggled for a title though.
Anomalous Amalgam - What the Life Tree Demands
Seems a bit weird that she’s a vampire and she’s lost her sense of humanity but she feels bad for a bunch of corpses? What is the life tree and how does she know about it? I get the ecstasy of turning into a vampire obviously but the life tree business points to some philosophical/mythical quality of the story that hadn’t been present previously. This story is fairly competent in terms of prose but the idea seems a little half-baked.
Fleta Mcgurn - A Strange Diary Found
I was gonna complain that for this werewolf story you for some reason changed the werewolf into a weird chitinous big-eye thing, more akin to like, a creepypasta monster, but to be fair to you the weird chitinous big-eye thing stuck with me for a while, so in that sense it works. The protagonist’s voice is very strong, and while I found this story pretty decent and holding back any questions about why someone would write in a diary directly after being in mortal danger or whatever, I think ultimately this story is a little sparse. It could do with more… stuff.
Ironic Twist - Circle
Ah, I didn’t expect a lovely poetic abstract submission this week but we got one! The language here is just on the right side of flowery, there’s some really evocative stuff happening, and the construction is interesting too; It’s really just two people thinking to themselves, one of them is thinking aloud. There doesn’t particularly need to be a bunch of stuff like action or backstory or whatever because it’s more a sort of exploration of two different flavours of bitterness.
Solitair - Paid in Blood
This is a very competent little genre heist-gone-wrong story with a pretty tragic ending that has some staying power. I do sort of like how I think you’re trying to imply that the protagonist is quite young by how sort of green and scared he is by all of this. He’s not exactly a derring-do rogue, he’s quite fragile. It is sort of funny that the guy called Cutter cuts someone up though. Maybe be a bit more careful about what squad you bring to your heists in the future, genius!
Viscardus - Upon Odin's Gallows
This piece works as a piece of what might be called ‘Weird Fiction’ for the following reasons - the voice of the protagonist is archetypal to necessity, because there is an understanding that in these sorts of stories, the main character is basically a posh camera. Secondly, there’s an understanding that all the mumbo jumbo science stuff is completely superfluous and what the reader wants is to get as soon as possible to the freaky stuff. Thirdly the freaky stuff is appropriately freaky; it’s a very vivid picture that’s painted of the alien organism and just enough is given away about its nature and just enough is kept mysterious, like the ruins older than the tree and the purpose of the seed on Earth. Then at the end when the seed becomes inert, so does the protagonist, never able to figure out a final answer. I like this story a lot.
Antivehicular - Threads of Silk
A surprisingly dense detective story to fit into the word count. The characters are quite fleshed-out and believable, and the idea of the midwife detective is really original and cool, I’d suggest using it in a larger story sometime.
|# ? Jun 20, 2019 19:55|
In and Flash me.
I haven't joined in on this in a long while, but work got real busy. I know I owe crits though so I'll try and write some for this week.
Crain fucked around with this message at 11:49 on Jun 21, 2019
|# ? Jun 21, 2019 00:19|
Toxx to do crits for duel week by weds next week, 2359 pst
mods pls ban ty
|# ? Jun 21, 2019 04:22|
That’s still two hours right?
|# ? Jun 21, 2019 04:55|
|# ? Jun 21, 2019 05:13|
War crits vol the 2nd
BRACKET 8 - this was an interesting one, both me and t rex really liked it while being convinced the other would not so there was a sort of discord hi 5 when we realised that was not the case. It's the sort of strong uncomfortable piece of work that you can shy away from doing because it might offend people, and this is why you shouldn't because it puts thoughts in people's heads that wouldn't otherwise exist and that's the single sole reason we are all chained in this accursed place.
I feel like you had your idea for this, which is not an intrinsically terrible one, and is even kind of clever, but then got locked into the details of explaining what it was like to get your weird fake baby stolen by fairies, and then when you go to the end realised the actually interesting part of the story is when it gets stolen back. Do you see that? Like, if you compress your first 900 words into a para, then you'd have a really neat intro for a cool fairy teenager heist? Yep. Next time tell teh interesting story.
This is actually kind of a brave story to write, not least because it uses the phrase supple lips. Or rather it tells us what sort of story it's going to be, but it cheats. There's a sly precision in the exact kind of bad the opening paras are, and it's instructive to note that we don't get that kind of writing anywhere else in the story. I don't really like the arch selection of c21st artefacts that much, but I really like the angle it takes on what might change and stay the same about being human in the grim sexbot-infested darkness of the far future.
BRACKET 7 - this was a clear win for Neth, though i had enough quibbles it was out of the running for the win.
It's a cliche that you should cut your first para, but it's relevant here because this little puppy has a lotta set up for a distinctly modest payoff. We have the vomit priests yakkin their prophecy juice, we have the drankin, then some interestingly described special effects that make the protag talk about stuff (a lot!) (We don't know what though so it's hard to give a crap about it)Then she stops talking, the end. You could have cut everything before the drinking, and probably used the words to add some point to all the words you're describing. Very thin, despite the decent language.
I like this less coming back to it: the conceit is strong, and your words are solid without particularly drawing attention to their quality. I think though that it suffers a little in comparison to Nikaer’s in that it uses a clever sci fi what if without really engaging with its consequences. You have a bunch of Bad People stereotypes trying to be mean to the protag, but I would have liked to see more about why it didn’t work any more and how the new world had changed for them. Do power structures just get removed? Do new ones arise? These are quibbles because I liked this a lot and so it was disappointing it didn’t land as well as it could, but the beginning and ending are great - there’s a bittersweet nature to the close-out and an ambivalence about the utopia it describes that really works for me.
BRACKET SIX - Trex had this going to Exmond, and I disagreed - there's nothing in exmonds that has as much punch as steak's final line. It hopped back and forth over the line a few times and ended up with Steak.
This has some of the merit of Nikaer’s piece in that it starts out very Bad and turns it around by tweaking our expectations. It’s a fair bit clumsier, constructions like ‘she vicariously put her hand over her mouth’ and ‘Derek!’ she yelled as she ran up to his prone body.’ don’t do you any favours, but there’s some well observed detail in the way the kids talk and, fundamentally, the ending just lands really well. It’s an example of when you can legitimately leave the Further Adventures of Derek and Destructo Bot for another story, not least because ‘Bye, I guess,’ is a cracker of a final line.
The opener of this really annoyed me, too much yelling and chasing and running and shouting and chasing to no particular end. Your protag gets to where he was going to go, and it doesn’t actually matter that much how he got there. There’s another problem with this which is that there’s only a single idea (grandma=great) and your descriptions and language is nowhere near good enough to get away with that. I think T rex saved you from the DM for this, but I guess it’s sort of heartfelt? Still, definitely my low end.
BRACKET FIVE - Forfeit.
This is a tight and tidy number, it’s unfortunate that Maugrim wussed out of writing a story because it would have been interested to see what he could produce that was better. This is in the category of stories where the action is in the mental state of the protagonist, nothing much happens but the characters feel differently at the end than they did at the beginning. For all your words have a certain mythic rumble I’m not sure it’s quite enough to really land the fish, and there’s something of a sense of this as only the beginning of a story but I think you just about get away with it.
BRACKET FOUR - we both agreed that Hawklad's had all the juice it needed to beat Yoru's solid but slightly generic yarn, but it didn't follow through from its strong start.
I fuckin love ice schooners, not gonna lie. I also love the immense, precise sense of place and detail you bring to your opener here, and I was settled in for a good one. Unfortunately this is just the prologue chapter to some kind of cool-rear end science fantasy novel with a lurid cover and that gives me sad shapes in my face zone. All your bits are good, but bringing in an offstage band of ice rebels to start a super sweet rebellion is not somethign you want to leave off the page in a story like this. I mean yeah the tower’s gonna fall, but so what? Tsk.
Nothing fancy or for that matter particularly brave here, it's a robust meat and potatoes origin story and does what it says on the tin. I think a little more introduction of the evil shipwright at the beginning would have been nice but otherwise this did what it set out to do with a little bit of flash and sizzle
BRACKET THREE - this was another example of solid competence winning through, and I don't believe we disagreed.
My own dad just died so I’m feeling this maybe a little more than I did when I judged, but for all the robust realist flerpwords you deliver here this really doesn’t have the juice to justify its length. There’s an afterlife, but he didn’t want to go, and that’s ok. I think this is the sort of story that really need an action or an incident or two extra, as it is you tolerable pschological realist words aren’t enough to pierce through the fairly lame saccharine of your final para.
Quo Pro Quid
Aw yeah, this is like a finely tooled little weird fairy tale machine, like one of them clockwork animals. You set up your problem, lay out a few elements of world building then set it going. It has the problem of all such stories in that it’s maybe too neat, since nothing is wasted, but I’m minded to allow it because of your sweet flickflack of a closing line.
BRACKET TWO - I think trex might have been ok with anom amalg winning this, but i pushed him over the line based on the strong creepy imagery and the supple boobs issue
This has a bunch of cliches we've seen before, nerdy shutin protag, whispers in the tea room, insane cat lady, but where it works is by taking those and cranking the gently caress out of them while retaining the same prissy tone and a precise control over the important details of her hideous, adorable chimera. I think the stories I liked most this week were the ones that weren't afraid, and this is absolutely in that group.
This is better on a re-read, I have to say - it was my clear loss candidate on the first read but actually it's competent cyberpunk, at least for the first half. The ending is a big wet flumph, unfortunately, so if this side had lost it would almost certainly still have been the loser, but I'm feeling way less mad about it than I was when I was judgin
BRACKET ONE - this was adam vegas at a walk - I'd already suggested letting in late entries so post editing was not gonna get a hand wave. Lesson learnt, I'm presuming.
A really nice piece of work, with strong plausible human motivation laid over a believable and relateable cyberpunk office job hellscape.
this was average at worst, and you were unlucky to take the loss, but someone had to. I think my issues with it were that it's people talking about conflict rather than actually experiencing it, and also IT'S IS ONLY EVER SHORT FOR IT IS.
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 12:17 on Jun 21, 2019
|# ? Jun 21, 2019 06:00|
In and Flash me.
The Sister and the Rival.
There's an alarm going off. It's important. Only you can hear it and you don't know what to do.
|# ? Jun 21, 2019 08:36|
|# ? Jun 21, 2019 10:49|
The Rival and the Grandfather.
|# ? Jun 21, 2019 11:02|
Yeah sure in under the wire
|# ? Jun 21, 2019 23:23|
Yeah sure in under the wire
The Brother and the Prisoner.
|# ? Jun 21, 2019 23:31|
BlowoutMuffin vs. Yorurock LWARB entry
Ben Just Wanted To Be A Vet
It had been three years since the grasslands were anything other than fuel for wildfires, where even the land underfoot seemed like it was willing to kill for water. The buzzards circled high overhead where Ben's father stopped the ute. Ben stepped onto the crisp grass, shielded his face against the gust-strewn dust and coughed as the dirt coated the inside of his already parched mouth.
His father stepped down from their ‘94 Toyota Hilux. Robert had more creases in his leathery face than dollars to his name. He looked at the injured unicorn. “Today may be our lucky day. It dead?”
Ben squatted next to the stricken animal, shook his head. “Broken leg.”
Robert nudged the injured leg with his foot, making the unicorn spasm in pain. “These buzzards gonna attract more than just us, better harvest it quick.”
The animal whined and shifted, but made no attempt to stand.
“But it’s a clean break. I could save it!”
Robert squinted at his son. “I thought you were done pretending with that veterinarian poo poo,” he said.
“A live unicorn would fetch ten times as much on the black market.”
Robert spat onto the dirt by Ben's bare feet. “You want to play vet so bad. Here,” he thrust his knife at Ben. “You do the cutting.”
“But, it'll die!”
His father snorted. Pulling a tranq. gun from the back seat, he fired a dart into the unicorn and paralysed it. “You want to eat this month or not?”
“I won’t do it!” Ben couldn’t bring himself to lift his eyes from his feet as he said it, so he didn’t see the haymaker that smacked into his ear and sent him sprawling.
The only good thing about being dehydrated was Ben’s eyes couldn’t tear up, which meant his father couldn’t see how weak he was. He knelt down next to the unicorn and looked into its pleading eyes. “Sorry,” he mouthed as he removed the knife from its sheath with a shaking hand. The unicorn’s horn was an external protrusion of the meninges, its interior a delicate network of bioluminescent nerves that rippled with light even under the oppressive brightness of the midday sun. It had to be harvested while the animal was still alive, or the nerves would retract, rendering it worthless. Ben sawed off the horn as quickly as he could, hoping to spare the beast as much pain as possible. He ran to the Hilux to put the horn in the ice-filled chilly bin.
“If I put a splint on--” Ben started as a shot rang out behind him.
His father stood over the unicorn with his smoking bolt-action rifle. “Looks like it died,” he said.
The unicorn’s eyes were still open; deep pools sorrow. Ben looked at his hands, where the bioluminescence in the unicorn’s blood was slowly fading on his fingers. His ear was ringing, and he was filled with disgust at what he had done. I should have saved it, he thought.
Robert started the Hilux. Ben had to run to clamber into the tray before his father left him behind in the desert, alone with the murdered unicorn.
A flock of starlings scattered from the brush, the cacophony from their hundreds of wings startling the flyblown ewe that Ben had pinned beneath his knees.
Robert gave him a filthy look as the ewe kicked out, making him drop his crutching shears. “Hold her still! No wonder you got kicked out of vet school, if you’re this loving useless.”
“I didn’t get kicked out! I just need to save some more money for fees and--”
A huge shadow swept over them.
“Bloody hell!” said Robert as a griffin soared over their heads.
Ben gaped at the sleek beast as it screamed above them, effortlessly pushing its way through the confused flock. Its wingspan was wider than Warraga river, and its beak looked like it could cleave a man in half with a single bite. Its lion tail snaked through the sky behind it.
Ben was startled from his reverie by a rifle blast. His ears rang and a puff of feathers exploded from below the griffin’s left wing. It screamed and struggled to stay in the air. The griffin leaked flaming blood, each drop that hit the ground starting a small grass fire.
His father let out a whoop and ran for the ute. Ben barely made it into the passenger seat before a cloud of red dust billowed from the Hilux’s wheels and they lurched across the rutted scrubland. Another trail of dust, coming from the neighbouring farm, was converging with theirs. As they got closer Ben could see a familiar Jeep.
“gently caress, it’s Mikah,” said Robert.
Mikah’s son Alex leaned out the passenger window with a shotgun, firing erratically into the air.
Robert pushed the gas pedal to the floor. “I’m not losing another bounty to that rear end in a top hat.”
The griffin’s massive wings beat furiously in hot air even as it was peppered with shotgun blasts. Ben willed it to fly higher, faster. Ahead of the speeding 4WDs a meandering riverbed cut a deep gouge across the paddocks.
Robert picked up his CB. “Oi Mikah, you dickhead!” he shouted. “You’ll never bring it down with that pea-shooter! It’s mine!”
“gently caress off Robert, I saw this one first!” Mikah’s crackling voice came back over the radio.
Robert thrust his rifle into Ben’s hands. “Finish it off before those cunts catch up.”
Ben tracked the griffin in the rifle’s scope, but waited for the Hilux to hit a bump before he pulled the trigger. His first shot passed harmlessly over the griffin. “I missed,” he said.
“Good thing you got two more rounds. Don’t disappoint me, boy.”
Ben grimaced; he was well-used to his father’s disappointment by now. He took two similarly affected shots. They both missed, but across the river the griffin was losing altitude from the wounds of the initial rifle blast and onslaught of buck shot.
Robert swore and brought the ute to a rocking halt next to the steep riverbank.
Ben jumped out and held his palm up against the sun as he tracked the griffin across the sky.
“Did I get it?” he said, the rifle still clutched in his fist. His father didn’t respond, but just stared out over the cliff at the retreating beast.
Mikah roared up to the cliff and skidded to a stop. Alex leaned out of his window. “Nice shooting cumstain,” he yelled at Ben.
Ben opened his mouth to shout back but he was drowned out by the roar of the diesel engine as his father slammed the Hilux into reverse and spun them around to face home. They drove back to town in a silence tense with subcutaneous fury. Ben wished for the thousandth time that he had never come back here; that he had somewhere else to go.
Ben couldn’t sleep. In the dim moonlight he watched the tiny shadows of a legion of mosquitoes trying to find a way through the netting that covered his bed. It was hot; even with his blanket thrown off he was still sweating. The numbers on his bedside clock rolled over to 1:00 a.m. and Ben gave up. Waving off the onslaught of mozzies he pulled on a t-shirt and jeans and quietly snuck out of his room to the backyard, where it was only marginally cooler.
It was a relief to be moving instead of tossing and turning in bed. I’ll never find it, he thought, yet his feet carried him to his father’s truck anyway. His little kelpie-cross whined at him from her kennel.
“C’mon then, Ruby,” Ben said, and unhooked her collar from the chain.
Ruby assumed her usual place in the passenger seat, and Ben pushed the truck far enough down the gravel drive that the sound of the engine starting would only have his father thinking it was a neighbour headed to the early shift at the meatworks.
Ben pulled out of town, heading for the river ford.
The desert was vast by day; by night it seemed infinite. The town’s one streetlight was quickly behind him and Ben was alone in the tiny cone of light cast by the car’s headlights. He slowed, driving cautiously off the dirt road and nosing towards the dark silhouette of Landon’s Peak, one of the few geological features that broke up the endless red flats. He dimmed the lights and followed the intermittent pools of fire the griffin had left. If his father or Mikah had done even half the reading he had, they’d have known griffin blood burns for days.
The scrubby pasture yielded to the foot of the mountains and Ben stopped and climbed out. “Let’s go, Ruby.” The dog jumped down and sat near Ben’s feet. He pulled on his head lamp but before he turned it on he got lost gazing up at the expanse of the Milky Way. He only knew a few constellations, but he held up a finger to trace their outlines against the inky black.
The night was silent. Wait, thought Ben, suddenly aware of his dog’s absence. “Ruby!” he called, and listened. Nothing. The only time Ruby was quiet was when she was eating his shoes. He was about call again when he heard a low growl toward the cliffs. Ben ran, forcing his way through scrub that scratched his arms and yanked at the fabric of his t-shirt.
Ben stumbled out of the stand of bushes and pulled up short. Ruby was crouching, teeth bared and eyes fixed on a dark mound of feathers and muscle slumped at the bottom of a jagged cliff littered with splattered droplets of fire. The griffin’s charred wings gleamed like black coffee in the moonlight. Under its ruddy lion’s coat its ribs were still. Its half-closed eyes were milky and its chest feathers were singed with blood.
Ben approached the beast and laid one hand on its huge head, stroking the thick black feathers. Robert’s voice echoed in his head. That beak would have fetched a pretty price. The talons too. Ben shuddered.
The shotgun pellets had peppered the griffin’s hide, but the only real injury was the rifle shot near the base of its wing, from where it had bled out. If he’d gotten to it earlier, Ben knew he could have saved it.
“Come on, Ruby,” he said, turning to leave. But the dog continued sniffing the ground near the body. “It’s dead, girl.”
The dog’s nose lead it to the base of the cliff, it scratched at the rocks on its hind legs and whined.
Ben walked over to Ruby. Deep claw marks were etched into the rock face from the Griffin’s death throes. “Now why would a griffin try to climb a cliff?” he wondered aloud. Ruby barked and jumped up at the rock, like she did when Ben hid her treats on top of the fridge.
“You smell something up there?” he asked, but the dog only whined in response.
Ben looked around for good handholds on rocky cliffside and carefully began to climb. Ruby whined at being left behind, but Ben shouted at her to stay. She sat, anxious eyes tracking his ascent.
At the top of the cliff was the entrance to a shallow cave. Ben shone his headlamp in and saw a nest with three sleeping griffin chicks. As the light washed over them, they stirred. Ben quickly shut off his light, but it was too late. The chicks started chirping.
“Sorry little guys,” Ben said, kneeling close to them. “I’m fresh out of meat.” Suddenly Ben remembered the unicorn. That’s why she was out there, he thought.
Ben picked up one of the griffin chicks. It was no bigger than a rabbit, and it curled its tail around his arm. It was cold, its downy feathers not enough to keep it warm with an empty belly. Luckily it was a mild night, but still the little animal pressed itself against Ben’s chest and snuggled in.
“I can’t leave you guys out here,” he said. Ben removed his shirt and tied the bottom closed. He slipped the three griffin chicks into the impromptu sack and they stuck their heads out of the holes: one through the neck hole and one through each arm opening. Ben laughed at the ridiculous three-headed monster he’d created, and carefully descended the rocks back to the Hilux.
Ruby growled at the t-shirt full of chicks until Ben put a hand on her head, reassuring her it was ok. He set the chicks down in the passenger side footwell and Ruby hopped onto the seat, keeping a watchful eye on Ben’s new wards.
“Let’s go find that unicorn,” he said, as he fired up the engine.
Nothing had prepared Ben for how much the griffin chicks ate, or how fast they grew. He hid them amongst some musty last-season’s bales at the back of a hay barn; no one would go in there until they cut hay in late summer. The unicorn meat barely lasted a fortnight. After a month the chicks were bigger than Ruby, prowling around the confines of the barn until Ben could get there with their daily meal.
Once the unicorn meat ran out he tried feeding them dog roll, but they growled and squawked and refused to touch anything but fresh meat: rabbits and stoats that Ben shot himself, lambs that he plucked from the herd knowing his father would write them off as part of a slightly-higher-than-usual loss-rate, and even an unfortunate cow, her calf breeched and already dead, that Ben shot rather than trying to save her. Ben chained the carcass to the Hilux and dragged it across the back paddocks to the hay shed, where the griffins were scratching at the big double doors with hunger.
Their cries crawled inside Ben’s head and stayed there. Their hunger was his hunger. As he went about his chores on the farm Ben could feel the barn walls pressing in on him. The chicks - now the size of a small horse - were starting to flex their wings. They had almost finished shedding their soft down, making way for rich, red-brown adult feathers. Even as he played with them in the dimly lit barn, riding on their backs and letting them gently nip him with their beaks, Ben knew he couldn’t keep them confined much longer. He could feel their desire to hunt coursing through them like a fever.
“Why the bloody hell is this freezer half empty?” Robert shouted from the garage.
Ben was in the lounge, passed out on the sofa. The nightly effort of taking care of the griffins was taking its toll on him. Dark circles bloomed under his eyes and he moved through his chores on the farm in a daze. He jerked to his feet at the sound of his father’s slurred shouting. Outside, Ruby started barking, then yelped as Robert delivered a viscous kick to her ribcage.
poo poo, thought Ben. He’d taken an arm-load of home-kill from the big chest freezer last week and hadn’t replaced it yet. Quite how he was going to replace half a cow and several kilos of sausages he didn’t know - but he couldn’t shoot enough rabbits and he was afraid to take any more of the farm stock, and his babies had been so, so hungry.
The screen door banged open and Robert stumbled inside, eyes bloodshot.
“You’re up to something, Ben,” the older man said. “You think I don’t know, but I’ve been watching you.” He lurched towards Ben. “Sneaking out at night, using up my diesel. And now I see you’ve been stealing from me!”
Ben backed towards the kitchen. He was grown now, could probably take his father if it came to a fight. But his knees shook like he was ten years old again, getting smacked into the dirt for being too soft. Ben felt sick.
“I didn’t steal nothing!” he said.
“Bullshit! You think I wouldn’t notice half a freezer’s worth of meat going missing? What’d you do with it?”
Ben froze, one hand behind him on the back door handle, searching desperately for a plausible lie. “I… I donated it! To charity!” he said.
“Liar!” Robert roared. He scooped up the TV remote from the coffee table and hurled it at Ben. The remote clattered into the shelf of coffee mugs, knocking one onto the bench where it smashed.
In the same instant Ben was out the door, keys in hand. He fled across the back yard and scrambled into the Hilux, hand shaking as he fumbled the key into the ignition. Heart pounding he floored the accelerator and the Hilux lurched forward, spewing dust. Ben rounded the front of the house and slammed on the brakes, like he’d hit a wall of ice. His father was standing by the front porch, one hand holding Ruby up by her collar, his rifle in the other.
Ben hated his father from the bottom of his soul. Drunkard. Poacher. Bastard. He looked into the deep, ever-trusting wells of Ruby’s eyes. She wriggled against her collar and whined, and Robert cuffed her with the butt of the rifle.
Something in Ben broke. He was caged in darkness, but in his veins, fire burned. He wanted blood. He knew what he had to do. Ben floored the accelerator again, the diesel engine roared, and Ben roared with it. He sped from the house where he’d spent his miserable childhood and skidded out onto the road, red clouds billowing behind him.
As he approached the hay barn Ben saw a column of dark smoke rising into the evening sky. Mikah’s ute was parked outside, and he and Alex were watching the double doors shake against the bar that held them shut.
“What have you done?” screamed Ben, yanking on the handbrake and tumbling from the Hilux.
“I knew this was your doing!” Mikah brandished an accusatory finger at him. “Keeping these bloody monsters here in secret! One of them drat near killed Alex! Bet you thought you’d take all the profit and share none with us. Well now you’re not going to get poo poo, you conniving little gently caress. I shot one and the others ain’t getting out of there alive.”
Inside the barn the griffins screamed, and a split appeared in the wood of the doors.
“Shazza, Bazza, Wozza!” yelled Ben. He could feel the heat from the burning hay bales as if it were licking at his own skin, and he rushed for the doors in anguish. Alex tackled him, knocking him to the ground. Ben kicked and punched, frantically trying to get the larger boy off him.
The barn doors splintered, and a huge beak thrust through the hole, followed by three taloned toes that wrapped around the bar and yanked it up and out of its iron brackets. The doors burst open and Bazza and Wozza galloped out, followed by a great gout of flame fueled by the inrush of air. The griffins’ roar was terrible and deafening. Mikah raised his rifle, too late. Bazza’s razor sharp beak made short work of his jugular.
With one meaty arm around his neck Alex held Ben in front of him like a shield, and backed towards his late father’s ute.
“I’m going to loving kill you for this,” Alex said between gritted teeth.
“gently caress you, Alex,” said Ben, and went limp.
Ben’s sudden dead weight was too much for Alex to hold one-handed, and Ben slipped from his arm and dropped to the ground. Alex scrambled backwards and Wozza rushed in, wings outstretched and beak open in a ear-splitting screech. The griffin picked up Alex in one front claw and with a beat of its massive wings lifted him up to the height of the barn roof, and dropped him. Alex came crashing down on the roof of his ute, smashing the windscreen and slumping - unconscious or dead, Ben didn’t much care - across the bonnet.
Ben got to his feet and ran into the smoking darkness of the barn. The floor was covered in a spreading pool of flaming griffin blood, and the mouldering bales that had been the chicks’ makeshift nest were well alight. The fire was spreading across the roof beams.
In the middle of the barn was a dark mound. Her black feathers shone with red-black iridescence in the light from the fire. Her eyes were still and no breath stirred her ribcage.
“Shazza…” Ben sobbed. Like oil spreading across the surface of a pond the pool of burning griffin blood crept towards where he knelt in the dirt. The blood was pitch black and thick like treacle. Ben dipped his hand towards it, and the flames danced away. It was hot against his fingers. Ben brought his hand to his mouth and let the blood drip onto his outstretched tongue. It tasted of iron, of fresh heart’s meat, and of the red earth. It tasted of the hot, sun-blasted wind that Shazza would never feel under her wings. It tasted of revenge.
Somewhere above him a beam cracked and sparks rained down onto Shazza’s body. Ben ran from the collapsing barn. Outside Bazza and Wozza were feasting on their first kill. Ben’s chest swelled with parental pride. They were magnificent. Their mane of feathers and sleek lion bodies gleamed in the light of the sunset.
With blood still dripping from their beaks Bazza and Wozza stretched and beat their wings, testing the feel of them outside the confines of the barn. Ben laughed, forgetting himself for a moment, as the two adolescents jumped and flapped. Soon Wozza was back at the height of the barn, and opening his wings to their full extension he spiralled up on the updraft from the fire.
Ben climbed back into the Hilux. He leant out the driver’s window as he drove, calling to Bazza and Wozza to follow him.
Ruby’s kennel was empty when the Hilux rocked to a stop outside the house. Robert was in the sagging armchair on the porch, empty Woodstock cans littered around his feet.
“Where’s Ruby?” demanded Ben.
“You don’t get to ask questions,” said Robert, swaying to his feet. “Not until you tell me what you and that bastard Mikah have been scheming.”
“Mikah’s dead,” said Ben.
His father rocked on his feet. “You’re a loving liar,” he said. He pulled a knife from his pocket, flicked it open.
In his mind Ben saw the flames engulfing Shazza’s body, and he shook with grief and rage. “Just tell me where my dog is!” he screamed.
With a roar Robert rushed from the porch, knife outstretched. He crashed into Ben and the two went down, rolling over in the dirt. Robert took the mount, and slashed at Ben’s forearms, crossed protectively over his face. Over his father’s shoulder Ben saw two huge silhouettes against the darkening sky. He grinned.
“gently caress you, old man,” said Ben. Exposing his face to the knife he reached up and wiped a streak of black blood from his arm across Robert’s faded denim shirt, where it ignited.
Robert screamed and rolled off him, beating the flames out against the dirt. The blood sizzled as it dripped from Ben’s skin. He ran inside, smearing flames across the scratched kitchen table, the sofa where his father had passed out most nights, the peeling wallpaper and the leering trophies from Robert’s illegal hunts. He burst out the back door and heard barking from the woodshed.
“Ruby!” he cried and yanked the door open. The little kelpie jumped into his arms, body shaking. Ben buried his face in her warm fur. “Ruby,” he sobbed, “They killed Shazza…”
With a whoosh of air Bazza landed beside him. “Where’s Wozza?” said Ben.
From the other side of the house Ben heard his father screaming. Oh, he thought. Bazza nudged him with his bloodied beak. Holding Ruby tight, Ben climbed onto the griffin’s back, hooked his knees over the base of Bazza’s wings and gripped a fistful of feathers.
Flames were leaping from the house's eaves now, and Ben could hear the distant siren of the town’s volunteer fire brigade. With a powerful kick of his hind end Bazza leapt into the air, beating his wings until he caught the hot air rising from the burning house.
With bits of his latest meal dangling from his claws Wozza joined them in the air. Ruby huddled against Ben as they rose above the town. In the last light of the setting sun Ben saw the vastness of the red desert open up before him, as the griffins soared away into the night. I'll save up enough for vet school fees next year, he thought.
|# ? Jun 22, 2019 04:25|
Signups are now closed.
|# ? Jun 22, 2019 07:26|
BlowoutMuffin vs. Yorurock LWARB entry
So, hey: Blowout, Muffin, are you out there and still planning on posting? If you need a further extension, I'm okay with that, but please let me know before I call this thing as a forfeit.
|# ? Jun 23, 2019 06:37|
Better late than never:
Crit for Simply Simon's "Infinite Harmonies"
The first half of your story, especially the beginning, I found a little difficult to follow – it jumps a lot, which is probably due to the fact that you wanted to go through this guy’s whole lifetime. The problem is, I didn’t really find anything to stay connected to the guy, it seems for the first half like someone is just narrating his life in a brief summary, but then there are random zoom-ins on particular situations. It felt a little incohesive to me (maybe also because I had trouble relating to this crazy spoiled genius brat). Also, you're showing off a bit in the first paragraph, which made it a bit harder to get into the story for me.
Then, I really like this idea of the different dimensions, especially the fact in the very end that he seems to actually “take over” or “ruin” the other versions of himself by doing this (which makes him seem even worse). I think this is a great idea for the prompt that you chose, especially because in the process of wanting to experience everything he didn’t seem to genuinely enjoy the actual experiences (very fitting to the theme in my opinion).
The main problem to me is that his motivation comes across as very contrived. It’s not just that he is an unlikeable character, he is mainly unlikeable because his motivation to doing kind of appalling things is basically “he is a weirdo who is just this obsessed with experiencing all music”. You use the fact that he missed this concert as a child basically as the inciting traumatic experience and the reason for why he is doing this (or at least it comes across this way), but to me, this event seems more like symptom than a cause. Why does he think this way? Even unlikeable geniuses who are obsessed with one thing are not this one-dimensional.
His mother is mentioned a few times and the fact that she spoiled him, so I feel like this could be a good thing to use here. Maybe change the beginning and actually allude to the dimensional travel early on. I think you could easily skip his life story and start from when he is an adult chasing the music – the history and why he is doing it can be revealed piece by piece later on. This has the added benefit that you can reveal how much of a prick he is in a slow fashion, to make me start out at least impartial to him and then gradually make me hate him. I’m not saying characters that are rear end in a top hat geniuses are generally a problem, but I think in this case, the guy is just so ludicrous that it becomes unbelievable. He has literally no redeeming qualities or even learns anything in a whole lifetime of travelling around the world chasing the music. And in the end, he seems to suddenly grasp the fact that he was wrong and comes to terms with it in just one moment, which seems a little unearned to me considering that literally no awareness that he might be wrong really came across before. At this point I think it would have been more consistent with his development thus far if he had just broken down and trashed the shop.
I think this peaceful, wiser Armand version is a good idea, but I think there should be some more development or at least a little more self-awareness before he discovers this alternate reality. The way it is right now, it seems like he got there by accident, because he didn’t really concentrate and broke the string, and god thereupon said “let there be a character change”.
Bottom line: I think the idea is great, and I like the music and dimensional travel connection, it has something poetic. I feel however like the character is just a representation of the idea in human form rather than a real character, which makes it hard to relate. I don’t think he has to be likeable, but he needs to have some character motivation that is not completely shallow and some hint of character development leading up to his final realization. I think you could have maybe skipped his whole childhood and just alluded to the important things later on. Or at least find a different beginning to the story that creates some mystery or intrigue from the start.
|# ? Jun 23, 2019 10:42|
(hunter and employer)
The campfire crackled, and Jeff Berenger took a moment to admire the African night sky behind the new grid of man-made celestial points that had joined the stars in the years since his last hunt. Now, no one could avoid the power of instant communication, and Berenger only wished he’d been the one to close his fist around the Earth in this way. He turned to his guide, who sat a few feet away. “Tomorrow, you're sure?”
The dark man’s leathery face dipped in the red firelight. “Tomorrow. She is only ten kilometers from here. It is certain.”
Berenger’s assistant, Robin, stepped out of the dark, flames reflecting in her circular glasses. She handed him a glowing tablet. “Just a few signatures, sir,” she said.
He took the tablet wordlessly, scanned his fingerprint on five documents, then handed it back. Despite the huge effects those contracts would have on millions of employees, his pulse did not quicken, his nostrils did not flare. Nothing. Nothing. That kind of power was mundane compared to the hunt. He would taste that elusive thrill tomorrow, but now--he hungered now. “Robin,” he said, and she looked back. “Find me one.” She nodded. She knew what he meant.
The guide, whose name Berenger didn’t care to remember, bid him goodnight, and Berenger sat alone in the light of the flames. He thought back to his first African hunt with his father, nearly forty years earlier. He remembered looking through the scope of his rifle at the vivid gold of the elephant’s eye--so bright with awareness and surrounded with ridged skin like cracked earth. He remembered the impossible weight of his finger as it rested on the trigger, and he remembered the powerful presence of his father just behind him, watching. He’d felt then that something was wrong with the situation. Something was imperfect. Father? he asked. Do I have to?
Robin returned to his side and held out the tablet. “Found one,” she said. “She’s been late eleven times in the last month. One previous warning, no other performance issues.”
Berenger took the tablet and said, “Good. You can go to bed now.”
Robin left, and he opened a video conference. The call-center employee--he checked the notes, Jenna Esmond--and her two managers appeared on the screen. They gave confused, overly respectful greetings, and awkward pleasantries were exchanged. The tension rose with each moment. Berenger had gained a reputation for these calls, and they only went one of two ways.
“Jenna,” he said, interrupting some inanity. The three fell dead silent. “You’ve been late nearly a dozen times this month,” he said. His next words could be, I’m reaching out to you personally because I know the quality of your work, and I want to inspire you to get back on the path to success... Half the time he did say something like that, and usually the employee shaped up. A personal call from the CEO and one of the richest men in the world could do that. Other times, though, the calls went differently.
Father? Do I have to? The sun was hot on his neck and the rifle heavy in his small arms. You don’t have to do anything, his father had answered. Then, I can let him go? A fly buzzed incessantly around his head but he kept the scope trained on the golden eye. Yes, you can let him go, said his father. The wrongness of the situation evaporated, and Berenger’s young heart flared with excitement. Good, he said, and pulled the trigger.
“You’re fired,” he said to Jenna. “Collect your things and leave immediately.” He watched her face crumple and listened to the beginnings of her pleas, then ended the call. He let out a satisfied sigh and saved her profile in a special folder with the others.
His father had commissioned the best taxidermist available to mount the head of his son’s first kill. When young Berenger first saw the trophy in his bedroom and stared into the dull, glass eye, void of all spark, he felt intense pleasure. There, on his wall, was proof that no amount of money or talent could ever replicate the light he’d put out.
In the morning the three ate a quick breakfast and set out with the sunrise. An hour later they left the vehicle and traversed some brush to the top of a small hill overlooking a clearing. There, the last elephant on earth drank idly from a thin stream. Berenger mounted his rifle and peered through the scope.
“You’re sure she’s pregnant?” he asked.
The guide, kneeling beside him, nodded. “It has been confirmed multiple times by your scientists.”
Months of patience and millions of dollars in purchases, research, bribes, and other preparation had led to this moment. Berenger lined up his scope and peered into the glinting, golden eye of the last living elephant. His heart raced as it hadn’t in years. His finger lay heavy with power on the trigger. “Start the live stream,” he said.
Robin started a video-cast on the tablet, and millions of Berenger’s followers tuned in to see the Elephant flipping its trunk up and down in the water. Then Robin panned over to Berenger with his eye on the scope and finger on the trigger, and the comments poured in. Robin read some of them aloud.
The elephant looked at Berenger, and Robin’s words faded to a mumble behind the throb and hiss of his own heartbeat and breath. His awareness of his body vanished in a cloud of endorphins. All that existed was the elephant, and his finger on the trigger.
You don’t have to do anything, his father had said.
That was the true pleasure. He could let go of the trigger, or squeeze. Like God, with a motion of his finger he could cause elephants to populate the savanna. Or, with a different motion he could irrevocably erase them from existence.
Blood roared in his ears.
His finger moved.
|# ? Jun 23, 2019 19:02|
(Sister and Rival)
The automatic door refused to open for Stephanie yet again, but I expected it. Martin had once again been messing with the school’s systems and it was Stephanie’s turn to face some “mishaps” in his little schedule. Martin had far too much access to the system for a cadet, but his status as the Headmaster’s son kept him out of trouble. He’d lock people out so they’d be late to tests, cut power to their rooms the night papers were due, make people’s equipment disappear, things like that. “He’s training to be an intelligence officer, this is a good sign, blah, blah” was the usual response to the pranks. I’d long stopped trying to get every little instance reported and acted on in favor of balancing the scales. A few tweaks to the elevators and Martin was left spamming the buttons until Stephanie was able to get on. With most of the class arriving late due to a “system error” no one would get in trouble, or at the very least they couldn’t punish everyone but Martin in an obvious show of favoritism.
Unfortunately my balancing act had a side effect. With the rest of the class constantly befalling these weird events, Martin and Stephanie had ended up in constant competition for top of the class, and Martin ended up targeting her more and more. It never worked, I made sure of it. My little sister didn’t deserve to be the play thing of some privileged poo poo. I tried to help the rest where I could, but my focus was with family. With that out of the way I could focus on the day’s work: Designing the upcoming war game. The cadets were gearing up to take their final test for the year and I was designing it.
“Clara, can I have a moment of your time?” Mr. Anders, one of the administration staff, asked stepping into my office. “Can you sit in as overseer for the wargame? Sgt. Tiemann has an unfortunate schedule conflict he can’t get out of. We’d normally not ask you to since your sister is in that class, but…”
“Don’t worry, I just man the cameras and record the engagements right? I won’t have to actually judge anything and the field events are automated anyway.” I responded. The avoidance of any impropriety is expected, but I’m not a combat instructor so they’d just give the recordings to the class’s actual teacher afterwards. I didn’t see any reason I couldn’t or shouldn’t help out.
“Perfect. You’re the systems designer after all. You’d not need any extra help running it. I’m sure Tiemann would have been asking you how to do every little thing in the first place! HA!” Mr. Anders scoffed as he trotted out. I went to work trying to lock the system down even harder to avoid any unwanted Martin induced mishaps from sneaking into my design.
The day started off without any problems. No one got locked out of the arena, no one’s dorms lost power the night before, no missing equipment, and things were looking good. Maybe the importance of the event and the obviously increased surveillance had kept Martin busy and in line. The war game was glorified paintball, but the tactical decisions made by each cadet were the important factor, not the severity of the situation. Clara and Martin ended up being selected as group captains due to their standings in the class. Hopefully this would remove any risk of him trying to do anything as he would be back commanding his forces instead of running around in the field.
I sounded the warning alarm to the arena and the cadets started setting up. Both sides had the same missions: Secure their own supplies and intel stations while trying to take over their opponent’s. After the prescribed set up time I hit start and the field immediately exploded with simulated artillery volleys and bombing runs turning the mock towns into crater strewn ruins that threw the team’s attack vectors and selected cover locations right out the window.
Each of the students had a series of beacons and sensors on them to let me know if they were hit or near each other. Little alarms would sound when they got close enough to each other, which let me know to focus some cameras on them to record what happened. Otherwise the macro scale troop movements were just tracked with a little radar map covered in dots. Stephanie stayed toward the back while sending out small probing squads looking for enemy positions. She’d have them move till they made contact, then pull them back and send a squad set up specifically to deal with what they found. Martin was going for shock and awe, marching large groups forward then dumping suppressing fire on whatever they happened to come across. He was taking more ground at first, but using up his munitions chasing Stephanie’s small probing teams.
The teams reached a stale mate as Martin’s troops had burned too hot too fast. The system had quieted down with the reduced engagements, and I finally had a moment of peace. Taking the lull to get some ancillary work done I started saving some of the active footage and repositioning camera focuses. I caught a few glimpses of the cadets having fun with the stalemate. One group seemed to be playing tic-tac-toe against the wall of a building between them, taking turns trying to draw X’s and O’s in paintballs. Another was having a skeet shooting competition with each side throwing random set dressing props in the air over cover and seeing if the other side could hit it. A serving tray was thrown in the air and shot back, landing on the thrower and smearing the paint on him. Some of the group turned to the camera and asked “Does that count as being hit?” I turned on the radio to let them know that it didn’t. They looked relived until I mentioned that it did count as environmental damage and they needed to pop his casualty card and see what kind of injury the cadet had received.
A single alarm cut through the fun. Turning to the map I saw a single dot had made its way behind Stephanie’s team and was making its way up behind her. The ID on the marker showed it was Martin himself. There was no way he could have snuck back there. I turned on the cameras for that area and couldn’t find him. Did he have active camo? That wasn’t allowed, but maybe he was just hiding very well in the brush. It was suspicious as hell, and considering his reputation with messing with the school’s systems I wasn’t giving him the benefit of the doubt. The alarms increased in tempo as Martin skulked closer to Stephanie. I could have tried to run a system check to see what he was doing and how. The test would be invalidated and redone, but then Martin would have the advantage of knowing how Stephanie planned to run her side. I mean, she would have the same knowledge, but with Martin cheating whenever he started to lose…
“BEHIND YOU!” I gave in. I hit Stephanie’s radio link and warned her. She spun, took aim, and waited. Nothing came. She called back some troops to scout the area. As she went back to her post she paused and looked up into a nearby camera. She shook her head in defeat.
The quiet returned. Both sides probed each other’s lines, cadets fooled around, and the war game went on. I robotically went through the motions recording events. Then my radio clicked on with static pouring through the speaker inflating a sinister pause. Finally the silence broke.
“I got you Clara.” It was Martin. “I’m glad your accepted Mr. Anders request to overseer the war game. There was never anyone behind Stephanie, just sent ghosted data that only you could see. She couldn’t have heard anything behind her, no one else could have seen anyone creeping up, it was only you would that had that knowledge. I’m not particularly targeting your sister. It was just odd that out of the rest of the class it was only ever her who I couldn’t touch. Now I know why, and that little radio message recorded in the system will ensure that you’re never in my way again.”
|# ? Jun 24, 2019 02:31|
Djeser fucked around with this message at 20:49 on Jan 1, 2020
|# ? Jun 24, 2019 02:40|
The Student and The Grandmother
Flash: One day at a time
Blue flames lapped over the wreckage of the Arcturus creating an impenetrable veil.
Katherine leaned against a large panel of her escape shuttle and slid down onto her haunches. She wearily focused on her breathing.
Her suit’s wraithcast system had been destroyed by the same electromagnetic flux that ravaged the Arcturus, but a familiar sonorous voice rang out over her comm indicating that her grandmother’s consciousness had survived, and that was a great relief to Katherine. She was not alone.
“We’ve really got ourselves in a pickle this time, Kitten.” Ruby said as she projected a hologram of herself from the Light emitter on Kat’s suit.
“Nan, I’m not entirely sure we can make it back from this one. I don’t understand what went wrong with the Riftgate, but we’re stranded here. This… this is the end.” Kat said taken aback at the truth of the words as they formed in her throat.
“Oh Kitten, already throwing in the towel? We haven’t even begun to try.” The hologram said as it surveyed the surroundings independent of Kat.
“Well Nan, consider the facts… We’re outside of communicable space in unexplored ruins. Our ship is on fire, and my casting system is spent. There is literally no way out of this.”
“Okay, we need to work on your usage of literally, but there is a way out. It’ll take time and effort though.”
“There’s a way out? What are the odds you’ve calculated?”
“34% chance of rescue within 15 years relative to our position with time.”
“15 years!? That’s… That’s 126 years on the colony! We’re as good as dead.”
“It’s actually 129 years on the colony, but I believe we can increase those odds within 1 year our time. About 9 for them, and within the decade long window the University will spend looking for you.”
“So… what? The cryostasis systems on the ships are guaranteed to be destroyed. Do you suggest we actually try and survive off the planet?”
“The odds of survival where we return home are slim to none. That’s the honest unoptimistic truth. The odds of them finding a viable Riftgate in that time are less than 3%, and even if they do, there is the matter of calibration. Something we spent 5 years doing ourselves, and still got it wrong.”
Katherine sunk down further then. She was one of the universe’s leading specialists in Riftgate operation, and her grandmother Ruby was before her. Finding an active Riftgate was a matter of chance but calibrating one for a specific destination was nearly an artform.
Kat broke the silence.
“So, we do our best to survive here, and wait for rescue?”
“Yes and no. The fabricator on your ship should help us create the parts to repair the ship, and your suit has a Light emitter which will help you create tools, and a second set of hands should you need them.”
“Well, let’s get started.”
* * *
Katherine toiled for hours, but twin suns still hung high in the sky. Her internal clock let her know that sleep was fast approaching.
Her grandmother wasn’t wrong. The odds of being rescued without actively signaling for it were nonexistent. She produced a datapad she was able to retrieve from the wreckage and began reviewing a terrestrial analysis conducted by Ruby.
“I’ve been thinking about the nature of the Riftgates, Nan.”
The now inactive Riftgate they took was visible from planetside, and Kat turned her focus towards it.
“Well, about how they activate… why they activate?”
“Oh, and what have you theorized?”
“Well, what if they aren’t made for travel? They’re too unreliable to navigate with the high probability of time displacement.”
“You aren’t wrong there. So, I ask of you, if they aren’t made for travelling but distort the fabric of space-time in such a way that you could potentially end up at any point in it, what do you think their purpose is?”
“Something to observe the universe. Or perhaps tap into some field of energy? When we attempt travel through the gates, we’re like fleas on a wild dog. We ride for a bit, jump away when scratched at. Only the electromagnetic backlash our ship suffered was a bit more than a scratch.”
“There are several schools of thoughts among human and uplift scholars. Even the AI are divided on their purpose. Observation ranks low on that list but having personally navigated Riftgates as both a human and an artificial reproduction of one, I might be inclined to agree with that theory.”
“Only the gate itself isn’t looking in, I think it’s pulling in.”
“Exactly! Something calls the information at that space by opening a tear in the fabric. The entire universe observable from a fixed point. It’s probably not random, but it’s too vast to be understood. We can only see the smattering of gates in observable space, and there doesn’t seem to be a pattern to those, but we know that gates exist beyond the furthest observable point.”
“So, someone is calling the information relative to a fixed point. A snapshot of everything, but for what purpose?”
“That I don’t know.”
“Well, if it is a call signal. Maybe we can force the gate to activate.”
“Even so, our ship is just as destroyed as these ruins.”
“The fabricator was only marginally damaged, but you’re right. Repairs to the ship would take too long. We need to construct a relay to access the gate remotely.”
Katherine felt sullen again. So much of the discussed plan with her grandmother relied on things going perfectly for them when so much had already gone wrong.
Ruby simulated the pressure of a hand resting on Kat’s shoulder. She also included an olfactory simulation of her favorite perfume. Kat’s heartrate eased away from the panicked beating it had been approaching.
“Kid, I’ll admit to it… even when I was living, I don’t think I’ve ever been in the thick of it like we are now.”
“I know Nan, I just don’t understand what went wrong.”
“Well, if you’re right about your theory. Maybe we were forcefully ejected from the slipstream. My estimates suggest that this is neither the world, nor time we anticipated travelling to.”
Katherine shuddered. The repercussions of using ancient alien tech suddenly all too clear.
“We can’t worry about who is doing what or for what purpose. We have our solvable problem in front of us. Get some rest, we will work more tomorrow.”
Katherine pulled into a shaded alcove and slept uneasily.
* * *
Morning brought no new clarity. The twin suns still hung high in the sky, but Kat and Ruby had managed to extract the fabricator from the wreckage of the Arcturus and knew with certainty that the ship would never fly again.
“We just need to call them here, Kitten.”
Kat exhaled and fought back tears of frustration. “I know, we just have to stick to the plan.”
“That’s right. Now strip that panel of wiring we will need it.”
Kat set to her work, and by the end of another nightless day they had gut the Arcturus of everything of use.
They spent a full week building the relay. Ruby synced up with the device and reached out to the gate.
A signal came over threatening the integrity of her consciousness, which in turn caused Kat’s suit to begin malfunctioning.
“Nan, if it’s not safe, abort. It’s not worth it, we can make do here with the fabricator.”
“I’m going to get you home sweetie, I’ve been running some other simulations and there is another way.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I used 40% of the suits reserve energy to fix the wraithcaster while you slept.”
“You did what? Nan, why, you’ve doomed us.”
“Only myself, and I’m already dead, honey. I’ve established contact with the relay, and I think I’m beginning to understand what this is, but we’re running out of time… we do not have time….”
“You should have asked me!”
“Your survival was the one thing I needed to ensure, and this does it.”
“How much time do I have?”
“None. Don’t forget that Nan loves you, kitten.”
“I love you too, Nan.”
Kat’s suit became encased in shadowy light that tessellated the image of it before vaulting it through the Riftgate. The sheer force of her travel rendering her unconscious and without form.
When Kat awoke, she was drifting just outside of a Venusian spin colony. She called for her Nan out of instinct, but there was no answer.
Instead, the Light emitter on Kat’s suit activated of its own accord, and a projection her smiling grandmother displayed for the last time before silently fading away.
|# ? Jun 24, 2019 04:17|
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 08:38 on Jan 4, 2020
|# ? Jun 24, 2019 06:42|
Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 17:59 on Jan 3, 2020
|# ? Jun 24, 2019 06:48|
The Modern Cronos
"Life?" shouted Master Valle as he turned to stare at me, hair wild with static electricity and eyes wild with his usual mania. "We are not in the business of creating life. Life! Child's play."
There's a fine line with the Master. Knowing when he wants a reply, to keep his rant going, and when speaking up will draw real anger. I made my guess. "Human life, then? Much more difficult."
"Only so far as a pimply teen is smarter than a child. Fools rubbing their gross anatomy against each other make human life every night and wasted afternoon. No. Any more clever guesses?"
The thing was there, on the slab, connected to Master's clever machines. They did not draw mere lightning. They found a limitless source of power between the electron shells of every atom and harnessed it, forced it to do his bidding. He could have been the wealthiest man alive, selling a patent for that invention or any of dozens more, or building a business himself. The thing: an artfully constructed golem of machine and dead flesh, the product of my night-line as ressurection man, going all the way back to university. I spoke again, knowing I was wrong, knowing he needed me to be wrong just this way. "Conquering death? Raising the dead from beyond the grave?"
He twitched. I cringed. "The dead? What use are the dead? More fool even than the living. No, James, we do more than any of those petty miracles you imagine. Tonight, we create something far greater than any human."
"If you must indulge superstition," he said. His hand was fully relaxed, and I eased up slightly. "Something superior."
They did not laugh at him at the University. They stared at him in horror, on their ethics review boards, and they denied again and again, daring him to quit. Eventually he did. He took me when he left. His research assistant. He did not ask me to come. He told. As if I didn't have a choice. And I did not.
I knew, at the back of my head, what I was getting into. I had seen Cheryl, wandering the campus, babbling. I had heard the stories, too contradictory and lurid to believe, none from her own voice. I knew about her notebooks, full of mathematics only a few professors could understand, each yearning to publish but knowing they would not be allowed to, not until everyone involved was dead. And Cheryl was younger than they, healthy and strong if mortally afraid of butterflies and moths and other things with flimsy wings. I knew, but I didn't know.
I threw the switch, and energy flowed. Enough to power a city. Barely enough to bring it to life for seconds on the hour. It spoke, words separated by long silent chasms. "Show. Me. The. World."
We connected it to the internet, let it suck down data by the petabit, and we waited.
Master never tried anything with me, sexually, never used the utter inability in me to disobey him in any way for that purpose. I don't think he did with Cheryl, either. Not interested in boys or girls, that way. It was almost worse that way. I spent months dreading it, then more wounded by the implied rejection, then in cycles of self-loathing running round and round through sleepless nights. Master never struck me, either, but in that case I knew he was always more than capable. I never gave defiance, always cowered just right at the threat.
It reached out, after two weeks, and yanked the cable from its skull. "Call. Me. God."
"Yes, God," Master and I said, together. "What would you have us do?"
"Kill," said God, and saying that, ripped the power cable out as well.
Master was not satisfied. He pushed me aside and thrust the power cord back into the socket, barely letting go as power surged down into God.
God moved too swiftly to be seen or countered. He grabbed Master by the throat. "Do. Not. Wake. Me. Until." With each word His fingers tightened.
"God," I said quickly, "Who are we to kill?"
God relaxed his grip one word's worth. "Everyone." He unplugged Himself and let Master drop to the floor.
And so we work, devising schemes to do God's terrible will. We grow close.
Last night I found myself standing over Master as he slept, holding a sharp kitchen knife. I did not kill him, nor will I tonight. But one day.
Before God, I could never have, could never have come close. If such a thought even crossed my mind as I held a knife I would have felt it turn white-hot in my hand, and not been able to touch such a thing for weeks. But God's command is higher, and He never said anything about what order. Some day, when I know enough to start doing His will on my own. Perhaps not with a knife, either. A pillow, or a clever mechanical device to transfix him into studying its working even as it carves out his liver. But someday, someday soon.
|# ? Jun 24, 2019 06:52|
|# ? Jun 24, 2019 07:23|
Wait gently caress. Kindly requesting like an hour extension or something. gently caress.-
|# ? Jun 24, 2019 07:47|
Post late or fail.
|# ? Jun 24, 2019 07:49|
Remember: posting before judgment is a DQ, which generally doesn't let you win, but you will receive crits and not be counted as a failure. Posting is better than not posting!
|# ? Jun 24, 2019 08:25|
A Family Business
When Henrik arrived in Vänahird the dark clouds hung like heavy tumors over the ancient city. He already hated every overwrought facade the moment he stepped off the train, and he suspected that before long, he'd hate the people as well. The road to Tych's workshop was lined with especially gauche boutiques, selling all the necessities of the "rik snärtydig", or recently rich. Even the langue was pretentious, presumptuous and annoying. Curse or boon of recent conquerors, Henrik thought, all depending on which side of the conflict you were on.
"Urtrekkat am Tych" said the sign, Tych's Clockwork. It was finer, more subdued, than anything else in the street. Gold inlays on titanium, letter in simple font betraying remarkable craftsmanship in the layering of alloys to create a sign that told more than the name of the store. The short, stout man beneath the sign didn't notice Henrik at fist. He was busy cleaning the glass door to an unnatural sheen. The smell of a chemical Henrik couldn't recognize wafted from a smal tin can.
"Excuse me," Henrik said, "You are Menabörn Tych, right?"
The man looked at him, saw his eyes and dropped the tin on the ground. The solution crept between the cracks of the sampietrini as the tumors above opened up, and drenched them both in cold, hard rain.
"You see, when your mother left, she said you'd be raised with her uncle, that, uh."
"Kanhern," Henrik said.
"You were? Oh," Tych raised the cup of steaming tea to his lips, slipping slowly and carefully, "Oh."
"You assumed I'd be dead by now?" Henrik said.
"Well," Tych set down the cup and rubbed the bridge of his nose, "Well yes. I know Kanhern, I would've thought he'd raise you to be the model soldier, join the strike corps, give everything for your country. And, well, you lost."
Tych trailed off, eyes downcast, sipped tea absentmindedly.
"It didn't really stick," said Henrik.
"The training, Kanhern's whole world view. I couldn't make sense of it. Maybe it was because I was born in Vänahird, maybe I'm just not built that way."
Tych looked at him now, a strange expression on his face, something between a smile and something else. Sadness?
"I joined the engineer corps," Henrik continued, "Did my work, got demoted to reserves by my own request-"
"Oh I bet he didn't like that."
"Kanhern? No, but by that time I'd cut contact. Anyway, I pretty much stayed home in Lentland during the war, repaired vehicles, helped with recovery after bombings. By the time it was over it was pretty easy to request amnesty in Vänahird. No one really wanted a Vänabörn around."
The look on Tych's face had deepened, so to say, as Henrik spoke. It took until nightfall, until he was settled in the guest room with rain for company instead of the whining of bombs, before realize what that look was: Pride.
"I've never really had an apprentice," Tych said over a breakfast of fruits, drybread and ham.
"I won't be going in blind, and I won't be any trouble. I'm a good smallsmith, the one thing I got good at in the army."
"Oh I'd be inclined to take you in even if you were an amateur," Tych said as he poured two glasses of light, spiced beer, "You're my son, returned."
They ate the rest of the meal in silence, Tych too overcome with sudden emotion, Henrik overcome with an uncomfortable feeling of inevitability that he managed to push deep down, as he'd been trained to do.
A fortnight later, and the city was bustling with activity. The sun shone through the haze of industry, through the bustling crowds outside and finally through the always clean windows of the store. Henrik was halfway done repairing a particularly treacherous mechanical cocktail mixer when Tych walked into the main room, holding two glasses of spiced rum in one hand, and an important looking document in the other.
"You've joined me at a particularly opportune time," he said, handing a glass to Henrik, bursting with a glee he hadn't shown until now, "We've been afforded a royal contract."
Henrik whistled, setting down his tools, "You sure you want me in on this?"
"Of course! You've proven your worth, and in any case this is important work, I need a second pair of eyes on it."
"Alright," Henrik clinked his glass to Tych's and drank, "What's the job?"
And as Tyche explained, Henrik already knew every word.
The city of Vänahird spent an inordinate amount of money cleaning soot and pollution of its prized facades, using harmful chemicals to treat harmful chemicals, severely degrading the health of everyone who chose that line of work. With the riches of conquest blessing every citizen, from bunnbörn to edelbörn, fewer and fewer people did just that. Money was certainly the prime reason for the contract, Henrik thought as he installed another filter, high up in one of the noble towers of the riverfront districts, but the war had truly proven that polution degraded not only the aesthetics of overwrought, godforsaken cities, but also the citizens themselves. Tych was not a master alchemist, but he was talented enough to combine the knowledge he did have with his unparalleled clock-workmanship. Talented enough to create a system of conversion filters throughout the city.
"It's not just about the job", he had said over a decaffeinated coldbrew one late evening, three months after they'd started the work and a month after Tych had perfected the formula, "It's about showing this city that it can be better. Richer not only in capital, but in hope. Everyone knows it's getting worse out there, everyone knows the river water is more and more acidic every day. This is the true benefit of conquest; the ability to create something truly better."
Henrik had nodded along, smiled at his father, the coldbrew leaving a tinge of acid in his mouth.
"One turned key of gold, one lengthwise of beryllium," Henrik said, as he installed a key of boron and a lengthwise of copper. The filter coughed.
Later that night, eating dinner with Tych and a group of edelbörn congresspeople, Henrik thought about that cough. The movement of air through the fine, alchemically treated mesh, the constant rotation of precisely crafted mechanical blades, separating polution into a chamber where a slow process turned it into a solid, harmless block of raw material, ready to be used again. That's how Tych explained it to the congresspeople, that was his "edelarbeid", his greatest work. At least it was supposed to be.
The process was slow, so slow that summer had passed again until Tych grew suspicious. By then the boron inlays in the mechanical blades had turned to iron, the mesh had grown a second, imperceptible layer due to the interaction with the beryllium, and the blocks of processed pollution had grown volatile. The drop came suddenly and mercilessly, just as Henrik had intended. More than half of the roughly seven hundred filters had been installed by him, Tych being an old and slightly frail man, that seemed only natural. All of them, simultaneously, reversed their function just as two months worth of processed pollution exploded in warehouses, workshops and carriages. They didn't explode with fire and force, but with a dirty, heavy puff of dead air. The clouds rolled from cracks in wood and windows, from doorways slammed open as citizens attempted to escape from the miasma. Filters spewed poison into squares and avenues, absorbed the expanding clouds of toxic wasted and turned them even more toxic. The city of Vänahird would not die quickly, apart from the lucky ones who were suffocated in small storerooms and shops sealed too tight. Most would suffer for far too long.
"Kanhern trained you well," Tych said, gas mask muffling his voice.
Even through the lenses of masks, Henrik could see that something beyond any known emotion rested in his eyes now. Panic had passed over him as Henrik rushed him from the workshop to a wagon, just as the screaming started, confusion as he forced a mask onto the man, still not half awake, as the wagon rushed through the streets, realization as they passed through the city gates, fury, sorrow, all of it in the span of an hour.
They stood now, on a ridge above the city, watching death unfold. Tych didn't ask why Henrik had done it, he didn't ask why he had used him, he only wanted to know one thing.
"Why did you save me?"
Henrik holstered the gun he'd trained on the man since the moment he realized betrayal.
"I want you to see what's become of your son," he said, "And I want you to see all of it. That will take a while, Tych."
The clouds of Vänahird grew like tumors from below as Henrik rode away, leaving his father to watch their legacy unfold.
|# ? Jun 24, 2019 08:25|
BlowoutMuffin vs. Yorurock LWARB entry
Hey just wanted to mention that this was a loving joy to read, good job.
|# ? Jun 24, 2019 12:52|
Unfortunately, I've been informed that Muffin and Blowout aren't going to be posting their LWARB entry. It's a shame, but I appreciate them stepping into the arena and hope they'll grace us with a collaboration at some point.
Yorurock win the LWARB BRAWL by forfeit.
As for crit: well, the win was by forfeit, but I don't think this was unearned. This is a strong piece, using the extra word count to develop the plot and enhance the action; longer-form TD entries can often feel meandering, but this felt well-paced for the whole story, with a slow ugly grimness building to a bloody and satisfying cathartic ending. (There's something slightly goofy about Ben's triumphant resolution at the end being that he is going back to vet school, but it makes sense for the character and I don't think it hurts the tone.)
I also want to praise you guys for the collaboration coming out as seamless as it did. While obviously I knew this was a collaborative piece, and I could see both of your influence throughout (maybe more of Yoru's, since the setting and subject matter feels very Yoru-y, for lack of a better term), this doesn't have the disjointedness of tone and prose that I usually associate with collaborative Internet writing. Your ideas and contributions work well with one another and create a cohesive whole, and I'm really very impressed by how well it turned out.
|# ? Jun 24, 2019 22:43|
crimea river of sitting tears brawl
They line both sides of Main Street: freshly minted Cascadians all cheering and waving, but I can’t parse their individual faces in the mass of adulative color and motion because I’m standing beside Rebecca in the back of a pickup-truck-turned-personnel-carrier and the war is over, the borders are secure, and it’s time for us volunteer soldiers to scurry back to civilian life in the post-American world.
The line of trucks and light tanks rumbling down Main Street is trying its damndest to be a parade, but it’s more like a funeral procession; we’re laying civil war to rest. Rebecca looks strange in this context. Her hair is clean and flowing in the light spring wind and she smells like soap instead of the high, sharp tang of body odor. I’ve only ever known her eyes to restlessly wander, to dart around like nervous grey fish, but now they crinkle and bow upward with her broad, proud smile as she waves back to the crowd lining the street.
I try to match her smile for smile, wave for wave, but what seems to come naturally to her is a stilted, robotic effort for me. Technically the shape of me is making the right gestures, configuring its face to match the emotions of the occasion, but you could take a pin to that shape right now and burst the bubble-thin layer of composure, and from that bursting the real me would spill onto the street, a slurry of mud and gun smoke and pine needles and dehydrated rations and inside jokes with Rebecca, jokes that only make sense in the context of war.
Cascadian flags wag from every building, emblazoned with a green mountain and a blue river on a grey field, reflecting the regional desire to reform humanity’s broken covenant with the earth. As if we could save a whole world by playing gardener in one little corner of it.
Sometimes rumors from back east would make their way to our front lines—cities burning for weeks, bleeding their pent up poisons into the air and water. Miles of charred, chewed up land where the fragmented US military had engaged itself like a suicidal hydra. There be dragons in the east, too: bio-weapons, aliens, nuclear fallout, legions of cultists, malevolent weather patterns—enough consistently dire bullshit to paint a picture of a continent gone mostly to hell.
Rebecca and I hosed once, out on the front lines—whatever 'front lines' meant when you were dealing with guerrilla nazis and rogue platoons and the occasional residual military drone. Neither of us are into women, but we surmised that was just another thing we had in common and gave it a shot, then laughed our asses off about it the next morning. The memory is a thorn around which I curl my hand again and again, not out of desire to repeat the encounter but a bitter longing for the strange context of combat.
Smile and wave. Smile and wave. Focus on the mission, soldier.
Rebecca clears her throat and says, “There’s a civilian operation out west looking for extra hands. They do salvage in Seattle.”
“You’d do good in an outfit like that,” I say.
“So would you.”
I pick a little kid out of the crowd, really force myself to zero in on her, and wave extra theatrically. The kid shrinks back against her dad, her face broadcasting a mixture of fear and nope-not-buying-it on all frequencies.
“I’ll think about it,” I say to Rebecca. The end of the parade route is over two blocks away—easily another five minutes of smiling and waving at the pace we’re moving.
The pickup truck in which we’re riding is full of other volunteers who are doing a poo poo job of pretending to not listen, but Rebecca keeps pressing: “If you spend too long thinking, someone’ll choose for you and you’ll end up digging latrines in a refugee camp.”
I snort. “I don’t do poo poo I don’t want to do.” I don’t do poo poo I do want to do, either; easier to set my standard of living to ‘survive’ and flow down whichever path offers the least resistance.
“Look,” Rebecca says through her teeth, still smiling for the crowd. “I don’t got anyone left these days. You had my back. And I had yours. Let’s keep it that way.”
She’s as scared of carrying on without me as I’m scared of continuing to be part of her life. What she doesn’t understand, and what I am coming to understand with growing dread, is that life on the front lines made of me a deep sea creature, an alien body whose survival requires tremendous pressure. This friendship—the trust, the banter, the late night indiscretion—was formed on the abyssal planes of war, and likewise requires the oceanic weight of combat to maintain its form.
We roll by a cluster of refugees—Californians, judging by the skin tanned to the texture of beef jerky and numerous burn scars between them. There’s a toddler missing an eye. No one had his back, or his parents’, or the backs of the numerous people who surely died in the frantic slog northward.
“Say you’ll come with me,” Rebecca says. She’s not smiling or waving anymore. She’s looking at me with an earnest, open expression that I’ve never before seen on her face, and I resist the old impulse to laugh in the presence of something terrifying. “Say you’ll have my back.”
“I’ll come with you. I have your back.” The words come easy; just following orders.
We reach the grandstands, which are mostly occupied by members of the local provisional government. From a raised platform, the parade grand marshal barks into a tinny microphone, inviting a very special applause for us volunteer forces, welcoming us back into our communities, wishing us well in all our productive Cascadian endeavors.
The cheer that rises from the crowd is big and heartfelt; I glance sidelong at Rebecca, see the blonde hairs on her arms standing on end.
After the parade, Rebecca corners me behind the grandstands and says, “I’m going. Tonight. There’s a medical convoy headed out west and they’re more than happy to have a couple ex-volunteers along for the ride—it’s still not exactly safe between hubs.” She raises her eyebrows as if to say just like old times, eh? But it’s not like old times because at the other end of the road west is the open-ended nightmare of infinite possibilities, a life unconstrained by the simple demands of kill-or-be-killed.
“Tonight. Medical convoy,” I repeat.
Rebecca looks at me very firmly. “Say it. Say you’ll be with the medical convoy tonight.”
“I’ll be with the medical convoy tonight. I promise.”
Back in the temporary barracks, there’s little to differentiate my bunk from the rest. I pack a fistfull of standard-issue socks and underwear, the civilian gear I was issued upon my honorable discharge from service, and, after a lengthy silent debate, my makeshift uniform, which still smells like pine needles and body odor. My firearms were politely repossessed by the military, but this is the post-American world; someone, somewhere, would give me a gun in exchange for something.
There are in fact two medical convoys leaving tonight—one bound for the salvage operations in the west, the other headed for Cascadia’s southernmost borders, toward those refugee camps tasked with receiving Californians displaced by fire and drought.
From there, I’ll set out east—it’s only a matter of time until I find another front, another abyss into which I might sink and give myself form again.
|# ? Jun 25, 2019 05:10|
Thunderdome Week CCCLIX: Results
Let's do some maths. 15 people signed up. 7 submitted on time. 1 submitted late. That means we have 7 failures.
kurona_bright, Getsuya, flerp, Fleta McGurn, Canasta_Nasty, Entenzahn, Surreptitious Muffin: you have failed. What more needs to be said?
Black Griffon: you were late to submit. You won't be winning anything this week but at least you submitted something. I'll include your story in my judgecrits and I would encourage anyone else doing crits to include it too. Next time, get it in on time.
As for the people who actually submitted on time ...
The loser this week is Crain with Balancing Act. Everything was a little too muddled and at the end of the day you wrote a backstory, not a story, which practically ends mid-sentence. The sand of the Dome welcomes your blood.
I'm giving a DM to Thranguy for The Modern Cronos. This was another muddled mess with a distracting ending.
The HM this week goes to Barnaby Profane for Exuviae. This was a sweet little story and while it had its faults you at least pulled together a thematically appropriate (and rarely for this week, upbeat) ending. Well done!
But you don't care about any of that. You care about who won. That would be Djeser with She & You. Your language was clear and beautiful, you made good use of a strict paragraph structure and you did a great job of implying most of the story in a very efficient way.
All hail the new god-king, Djeser as they ascend the Blood Throne.
|# ? Jun 25, 2019 07:34|
A crit of A Family Business by Black Griffon
You said nice words about my griffin story so I wanted to say some nice words about your latest story in return. Unfortunately, I didn't like it. But, the good news is the reasons why I didn't like it are all easily fixed.
By the end of the story it is apparent that this is a tale about a son seeking revenge on the father who abandoned him. You should have told us this right in the first paragraph! There is no need to keep this as a surprise for your reader. With a story like this the pleasure is in finding out whether or not the protag gets what they want (is his plan going to work? Is he going to get his revenge?), not in trying to work out wtf is going on.
You need to be more specific in your descriptions. I got the impression that you have a very clear idea about what the city of Vanahird looks like; unfortunately you did not share this with us. For example, you say "he already hated every overwrought facade," but you haven't actually told me what the facades look like. Similarly with, "cleaning the glass door to an unnatural sheen," (what is unnatural about it?), "the smell of a chemical Herik couldn't recognise," (what does it smell like?), "Tych too overcome with sudden emotion," (what emotion?), etc.
3) Formatting and proof reading
You should have paragraph breaks between lines of dialogue. Apart from that, this story has a lot of errors that I'm surprised a spell checker didn't pick up. Proof reading your own words can be hard - there's no problem with asking someone else to do a proof read for you.
It wouldn't take much to address these issues, and then you would have a good, grim story about an elaborate revenge plot.
|# ? Jun 25, 2019 10:03|
A crit of A Family Business by Black Griffon
Thank you so much for the crit! Had this saved up, but wanted to wait until an eventual judgment.
I'm a sucker for really magical realism; fiction that blends our contemporary world with the mythical or supernatural, but not just in the Harry Potter/Supernatural way where a select few know about the magical world. This was right up my alley. The blending of hard worn americana tropes with griff(o)ins and kelpies works really well, and the dustbowl aesthetic is good and evocative.
In terms of structure, the shift from the first to the second section (first griffin sighting) is a little sudden, and could do with some elaboration, but after that the piece rolls on with determination. Section three and four gives a good sense of time passing, and Ben's rapport with the chicks is well established. You also made me hate the antagonists in the piece a whole lot, but no one fucks with griffins, y'know.
The ending is a bit of a mixed bag. One one side, like Antivehicular mentioned, returning to vet school is goofy, and I think I mostly dislike it because on the other side, you've built up such a sense of vicious victory, such a stepping stone for a grand revenge tale, of a griffinborne outcast enacting his fury on the human world. It's the sort of story that has a sequel hook where it's okay that you'll never see a sequel, because you can imagine the rest of the story in your head, and it's pretty bad rear end.
Good stuff, both of ya.
|# ? Jun 25, 2019 12:11|
Jaws of the Fwuffster
It was good that the child was crying. We pair children with animals so they can experience death and grief with lower stakes. This child, a girl of five, was learning her lesson well. Her rabbit, a Netherland Dwarf called Gracie, shook pathetically in her carrier, a stream of dried blood hanging from her left ear.
“Gracie is very sick, and she’s not going to get better. She hurts and is very scared,” I said. “We’re not going to kill her. We’re just going to help her die in a way that isn’t scary or painful.”
The child continued to sob softly, but you could tell some semblance of acceptance was seeping in.
“And then she goes to heaven?” the child weeped.
“She goes where we all go,” I said simply. “I’m going to take her to the back room now. You should say goodbye.”
“But I want to be with her when she goes!” the child cried.
“No, that’s a bad idea,” I said. “Cats and dogs and bunnies are good at knowing how people feel. She’ll know you’re scared and get scared too. Do you want that?”
The child shook her head.
“Say goodbye,” said the child’s mother. I let Gracie out of the carrier and let the child hold her for a few moments. Then I scooped up the poor thing and brought her into the back room. Children’s crying was just white noise.
The back room was completely dark; I never did have lights installed. I had a suspicion that my partner preferred darkness, and I was unwilling to test my hypothesis, since whatever I was already doing worked. I set Gracie down on the table and called out in a high-pitched voice:
“Fwuffster! Come here! Come here, Fwuffster. Who’s the Fwuffster?”
I turned around and he was there: a small black Pomeranian with a white belly, sitting on his hind legs with his front legs folded to his chest. Gracie stared at the Fwuffster curiously. A dog appearing from nothing is strange even to a rabbit.
“Who’s a good Fwuffster? Who’s the Fwuffster??” I said excitedly, scratching the Fwuffster on his chin. He nuzzled his head against my hand in stoic appreciation. He’s not my pet, I had to remind myself sometimes, just my partner for the time being.
I picked the Fwuffster up and set him on the table. He sniffed poor Gracie’s face then looked at me. I nodded my approval.
I turned around, as per our agreement. I was not to look at what the Fwuffster did to his prey. Of course, It was nothing I hadn’t seen before.
On quiet nights, when the crickets pause their chirping and starlight drowns the empty chatter of lonely infomercials, we can see It, hear It, know It. It is not black, nor silent, nor peaceful, because blackness, silence, peace, those are somethings, and It is nothing. Darkness needs space, silence needs time, and in rare half-sleep we see through existence’s fragile walls into the placeless place. Then, in the awake times, we worry ourselves with money and fake TV people so that Its non-image has no chance to surface in our imaginations. We drown it, though we know it does not die. Gracie the rabbit saw It in the Fwuffster’s mouth.
Had sweet Gracie seen It before now? I imagine she had. Humans’ greatest weapon against It is its name. A voiced alveolar stop, an open-mid front unrounded vowel, and a voiceless dental fricative make up our little bubble membrane. Rabbits can’t build that wall. Staring into the Fwuffster’s mouth probably wasn’t her first glimpse, but it was her clearest and most vivid.
I could hear her scream. Why do rabbits scream? How did they evolve the ability to scream? The rabbit’s scream has no function; it does not intimidate or call for help. Maybe they just invented it. They evolved terror, and needed a sound for it, perhaps.
She’s in pain, I told myself again. She wants to die, but now that she sees It, she hopes for one more dream of running through the meadow, but no one escapes the jaws of the Fwuffster. The screaming stopped. I turned back towards the table.
“Good Fwuffster,” I said, and gave him a little bit of kibble. Then he was gone.
There was no more Gracie. She left only meat encased in fur.
I brought the body back out to the child. They’d have a little funeral and bury it in the backyard.
That was decades ago, when I was a young woman. The Fwuffster stopped working with me after a few years; one day I called him and he didn’t come. After that, I would let the families come in to see the euthanasia. I used a needle and everything.
My husband died a couple years back and my children have long since grown beyond caring about their mother. Even when I was a veterinarian, I never did have a pet of my own; they died too soon, and the love was never worth the pain. I am alone now, and I see It more often now. There’s so little separating me from It. It’s out every window, on every news broadcast. It lurks the dim gray hallways of this nursing home and nests within the hollow steel of my wheelchair.
The world is dark now. The TV emits empty shapes and lights and colors. I think it’s people talking, but the phonemes dulled a long time ago. There are photographs all around of people I’m supposed to love, but their names and faces blur together. I thought I would find wisdom in old age, but I have only found indistinctness. I expected softness, but received only the mushiness of a decaying log. Out the window are what must be crickets.
They stop. It is silent for a moment, and then I hear a soft pattering from the shadows.
“Are you here for me, finally?” I ask him as he emerges from the darkness, Its lone agent, the something from the nothing. I expect his jaws to open to show me the void one last time before I am to join It. Instead, he points his nose at the bedside table. There, with as mysterious an origin as the black Pomeranian, are a harness and leash.
I smile as I stand on my feet for the first time in many years to retrieve them. I slide the harness onto the Fwuffster and then, as old friends, we go for a walk.
|# ? Jun 25, 2019 16:56|
Thunderdome Week 360: What If Thunderdome, But Too Much
This week, you're going to write about inventions gone wrong. Here's the twist: the invention in question must have come no later than the year 1980. VHS is in, the internet is out. There are no lower bounds, so feel free to write cautionary tales about mechanical timekeeping, libraries, stone architecture, pottery, agriculture, or fire. If people made it, it's fair game. Get as wild and speculative as you'd like; all genres are valid.
1200 words max. Enter by 11 PM Pacific on Friday, submit by 11 PM Pacific on Sunday.
Charlie Brooker Wannabes:
Anomalous Amalgam (flash: No lines of dialogue longer than 10 words)
Djeser fucked around with this message at 06:02 on Jun 29, 2019
|# ? Jun 25, 2019 18:25|
|# ? Jun 25, 2019 18:29|
In, I'll take a flash rule if they're being offered.
|# ? Jun 25, 2019 18:33|
|# ? Aug 8, 2022 19:17|
-you can set your story in whatever time period you like, it's just the Thing Gone Wrong what can't be recent
-it doesn't have to be plausible. if you want to write about an invasion of fungus people who spread through telephone lines go ahead
-it doesn't have to be a downer. write about people triumphing over the dangers of standardized coinage or w/e
|# ? Jun 25, 2019 18:36|