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Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again




Hot-foot/the dusk/neglect

Yoruichi posted:

I'm sorry I can't hear you over all the chanting for blood

And I guess if I'm joining this shitposting party then I'd better enter too. In and please assign me a thing

Owner of horns/Asyut/volubility of speech

sebmojo posted:

Yah, in toxx

Water-smiter/the abyss/being loud-voiced

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Siddhartha Glutamate
Oct 3, 2005


Exmond posted:

Does everyone realize that the big joke was that I'm one of the poo poo slugs? And the protagonist beats me up in the end and tosses me off a cliff?

Hopefully you realize that my challenge was kayfabe and not at all honest. Though I would say that being called a poo poo slug feels apt for me. Don't get me wrong I'd totally brawl you, but I only choose to do it since you quoted my "in" post to contrast your creative "in". Mostly I just saw it as an excuse to force myself to do more writing.

That and your post it tickled me in a good way. Like, I sat there for over a day trying to think of how I could write a "brawl me" reply in the same style as your post, but I couldn't do it.

Though I am proud of the line "two poo poo slugs enter, one poo poo slug leaves." That could be my motto for life.

Saucy_Rodent
Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica


Are you gonna brawl derp or not tho

Exmond
May 31, 2007

Writing is fun!

Siddhartha Glutamate posted:

Hopefully you realize that my challenge was kayfabe and not at all honest. Though I would say that being called a poo poo slug feels apt for me. Don't get me wrong I'd totally brawl you, but I only choose to do it since you quoted my "in" post to contrast your creative "in". Mostly I just saw it as an excuse to force myself to do more writing.

That and your post it tickled me in a good way. Like, I sat there for over a day trying to think of how I could write a "brawl me" reply in the same style as your post, but I couldn't do it.

Though I am proud of the line "two poo poo slugs enter, one poo poo slug leaves." That could be my motto for life.

You don't have messages enabled, otherwise I'd pm you.

Your bad pun post inspired me to make a terrible foreshadowing pun, which I placed in my entry post.

Siddhartha Glutamate
Oct 3, 2005


Saucy_Rodent posted:

Are you gonna brawl derp or not tho

gently caress, I knew I forgot something.


You wanna go toe to toe with me, poo poo slug? Fine.

Let's brawl!

Saucy_Rodent
Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica


Derphartha Brawl!

I saw a tacky yard sign the other day that read “Alcohol: Because No Great Story Ever Began With Someone Eating a Salad.” Prove this sign wrong.

Write a story that begins with someone eating a salad. The consumption of the salad must be directly responsible for the plot of your story. No, “I’m eating a tasty salad oh no unrelated aliens!”

Due a month from today.

20,000 words.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again



Lipstick Apathy

Saucy_Rodent posted:



20,000 words.

we got a masochist here people

Saucy_Rodent
Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica


I am allowing a novella, not requiring one.

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.


In :toxx:

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again




Bringer of your offering/Sais/unduly active

Drunk Nerds
Jan 25, 2011

Just close your eyes

Fun Shoe

I've entered this 6 times and come in dead last 3 times... rightfully

But goddamn I'll take any excuse to write, it's so fun. IN

Drunk Nerds
Jan 25, 2011

Just close your eyes

Fun Shoe

:toxx: sorry

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

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



In, :toxx:

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo


Doctor Rope

More Dark Words
Once again, it's that grotesque assemblage of appendages here to give you some criticisms for your "words". This is Pt. 2 of the schizoid man week.

The Ghost of Oakchurch Hall by Staggy

General Remarks: *rubs hands* Staggy, this is 100% my jam. I had a couple of hiccups with description, and I’m not an educated enough individual to put it into correct terms, but the orangutan to drunkard description felt excessive, then the description of the captive, the framing for not describing the state of the wretch almost betrays the guilt the father feels. The implication of the severity is there, but the obviousness of it seems dulled in some ways.
I’m going to forgo more Mechanical or Overall because what do I know? All I got is general remarks.
8 or 9/10

The Survival of the Swaggart by Shotaro

General Remarks: Intrigue, Illegal Trading, Supernatural Battle Prowess and the High Seas. All things decidedly, my jam, but there are some hiccups! A few negligible editing mistakes, but overall a decent story.
6/10

the 1800's by derp

General Remarks: The grim depictions and the nonchalance of it! I love it. Probably a bit more grimdark then the actuality of things, and is palatable for most, but it’s not far from it. A snapshot of the times. It was written well I thought, but other than the evocative descriptions, it didn’t feel like much of anything. I like it though.
7/10

A Strange Diary Found by Fleta Mcgurn

General Remarks: Wowie! This was a good story. The journal was executed well, and the story had a good pacing to it. If it lacked anything, it’s beyond my skill to notice or identify.
8/10

Circle by Ironic_Twist
905 words

General Remarks: I feel like there is a lot of emotion woven between bits of conversation and the card deck and drinking comparisons. The structure of the writing as far as I can tell kind of mimics this kind of hopeful/hopeless shuffling as well.
I feel like a lot gets lost here, could be me, but it struck me as a middle of the road account of pipe dreams and relationship woes that comes across a bit jumbled. Not poorly written, but lacking something.
5/10

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again




Bone breaker/Herakleopolis/lying


Face behind him/cavern of wrong/copulating with a boy

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







actually can I :toxx: and get a flash rule, not getting anything from the one i selected

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again



Sitting Here posted:

actually can I :toxx: and get a flash rule, not getting anything from the one i selected

You who acted willfully/Tjebu/wading in water

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007

Boom.



Rules: Far strider / The abyss / Unhearing of truth

Sins of the Past
1193 words

Before she died, Iabet sat with her colleagues in the ruins of the old university, pouring over the texts of the Elders and their ancient language.

“We’re still ignorant of too much,” Professor Seker said, as the hour grew late. “We’ll never escape this place. That was the great sin for them, to not know. But we cannot know. Their secrets died with them.”

Iabet didn’t reply, but despair whispered to her. They were locked away from the cosmos by the whims of a long-dead civilization. They, like the generations that came before, would live and die here.

The sun’s last light faded, and Iabet slammed her book closed. She looked up through a gap in the ceiling as the stars appeared. They were dimmer than the grand ships among them, shining bright with reflected sunlight. Those ships stayed still against the backdrop of stars, their light frozen in geostationary orbit. They were both the bars to their prison, and the sails that would set them free.

“I’m going home,” she said.

“Die wisely,” Seker said.

The others echoed him.

***

At her house, Iabet craddled her child one last time. “My sickness has gotten too bad,” she told her. “So Mommy has to go now. The others will take good care of you.” Iabet stared at Zahra’s deep gray eyes. She was still too young to understand, but she could play back the holorecorded messages when she was older. She would understand, eventually. Someday, she might even forgive her.

“When the Elder’s civilization fell, their machines continued their vigil. Those lights above, those ships--they keep us down here with their big guns. But if we pass the Elder’s test when we die, we are reincarnated into a robotic body. And if we are reincarnated, it will be on the ships up there, and we can finally be free. Then we don’t have to die young from the sickness. We can go to the planets that didn’t die.” She smiled at Zahra, then held her up to look around. “Imagine a place lush with forests and life, like in your books. And if Mommy passes the test, she’ll see you again soon. If she fails…”

Ethical failure of the Assessor’s tests condemned them to the Abyss server. It was a virtual world, full of the consciousnesses of the dead. It was even more desolate there than the real, but at least it was existence. And everyone was there. Everyone. No one had passed the test yet. “...then it will be a long time before Mommy talks to you again. And she’ll miss you more than anything…”

Iabet stopped, too choked up to continue. She wanted to stay longer. She didn’t want to miss her child growing up. But that was life on this planet. The sickness was in the rocks around them, and in their bones. The symbiotic nanite colonies in their brains held the sickness at bay, but never long enough. The nanites the Elders had left in them could only do so much. If the sickness grew worse, they would fail, and then they couldn’t relay her consciousness to the Underworld network, and she would be dead forever. So it was goodbye.

She looked at her child one last time, then ended the holorecording and handed her off, and went to die.

***

When Iabet awoke in Underworld, the First Assessor was already examining her. She tried to blink away her tears, but her face was dry in the virtual world. The assessor spoke in the tongue of the Elders, but through generations they’d recovered fragments of their language.

Did you steal? it asked. It had the head of a serpent, each scale glimmering like a mirror of the Milky Way. It towered over her. Did you take without giving?

“No,” she said in the Elder tongue.

It paused, looming over her while it checked the ancient data networks. Somehow, the symbiotic nanites that lived in their brains checked for these transgressions. Iabet had painstakingly lived each day to be free from the many sins the Elders had set down.

You may pass, the assessor hissed, and it retreated.

Because the ancient sins were not all known, it was possible there was no way for anyone to pass the tests. Iabet shoved that thought aside.

One by one, the other assessors crept forward to confront her on the walkway of stars. Below, she saw the Abyss, and the eyes of a million people staring up at her, hoping one of them would pass at long last. She thought of Zahra’s eyes, and imagined them in that crowd.

At last, the Twenty-Fourth Assessor appeared, the one who had never been conquered. It had the head of an ibis, each feather dancing with streams of symbols, each a different language.

It spoke, but unlike the others, it spoke in words they didn’t know, words long forgotten.

An impossible riddle. How can one answer a question they don’t even understand?

The great sin was ignorance, she remembered Seker saying. Elder relics told of great wars in the cosmos over misunderstandings, and great ecological disasters where entire planetary ecosystems were exterminated by accident. The scales of disasters for a spacefaring civilization were horrifying. But it’s impossible to know everything. Everyone’s ignorant of something. She thought of Zahra. She didn’t know what the future held for her but she wanted to know. Wasn’t that enough?

The metallic beak of the ibis descended toward her, ready to pluck her soul and cast it down to the Abyss with the others.

The Elders must have known. “Wait!” she said. “I am ignorant, but I want to learn.”

The ibis hesitated.

“I want to know other worlds. I want to see the stars. I want to hear my daughter’s first words.” Her words came between sobs. “I want to see her grow old. And I want to see her learn, not be imprisoned here, trapped in perpetual ignorance.”

The ibis stared at her. At last, it relented, wings carrying it away as it said, You may pass.

***

She woke, and looked around. Her skin was metallic, but even as she gawked, the skin of her new robotic body morphed to reflect what her own vision of herself was. She saw light creeping through a window and rushed to it. Below, she saw the full circle of her planet below, barren and striped brown and gray, but with splashes of green life where humans still clung to it. The enormity of what she had done hit her, and she fell to her knees and wept.

It took time to reawaken the old computers on the Elder starships, but unlike the relics of the surface, the systems were intact. Soon enough, the Abyss emptied, and the machines aboard the starships filled with life. They sent shuttles down to retrieve the living, and Iabet held her child again, spinning her around in the air, laughing and crying at the same time. She smothered Zahra with kisses and listened to her giggle, and then together, they watched through the windows as the solar sails of the starships unfurled, like flowers blossoming in the cosmos.

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo


Doctor Rope

Schizoid Man Crits Pt III
Rest easy travelers, I'm done spewing my nonsense bile.

Paid in Blood by Solitair

General remarks: A caper gone wrong due to an emotion filled vendetta! I like the set up. There are parts that I feel are worded awkwardly: “No sooner had he come to that conclusion, however, than a shadow leapt upon the man, knocking him to the floor.” Being an example. Just some revision here and there. I will say some of the story seems like it just happens

Like Cutter’s vendetta is a complete surprise. Not a bad thing, but it seems like it happens just to create the conflict in the story, doesn’t feel organic. Nothing that lets the reader in on his ulterior motives other than his namesake and that’s tangentially something to think about after he’s already cut Brownstone to ribbons. I like the framing and I feel like overall it was pretty well written, it just kind of strikes middle of the road.
5/10

Upon Odin's Gallows by Viscardus

General remarks: oOoOo a strange fiction with an otherworldly, psychedelic cosmic tree. Decidedly my jam, and well written at that. I’m left with questions about Fitzhugh though? Can we, the readers, assume he did not go on this psychedelic out of body experience. He’s convinced of its novelty, but perhaps it was just the amateurish eye to recognize something extraordinary. Maybe these questions are the hallmarks of a good story? Also this definitely schooled me on “Literary Romance” and I feel like this story fit the prompt/flash well.
8 or 9/10

Threads of Silk by Antivehicular
General remarks: Out the gate I like the framing, but I feel like maybe something is unclear. "Take me to her, and tell me all you know." This is at the end of the first section. Now history shows that people tended to keep bodies in their homes, prep them, I’m fine with that, but it’s not immediately clear that she’s asking the giant Swedish man to take him to his dead wife. Also I get that maybe the police or community isn’t answering, but his wife, Greta and the threads under the dead woman’s finger nails should be evidence enough.
It’s well written and an interesting take overall, but I feel like a lot of the logic here only works within the context of this story.
5/10

…And that’s all this gelatinous ooze monster wrote!
Well, not really. My rubric:
0 – Are you even breathing? Off-prompt/Non-Stories. I’ve written a few of these, whoops!
1 – Terrible! This is almost not a story. Rife with errors or inconsistencies. Signs of a draft.
2 – Very Bad. This is not a good story. It is a story, but is in no way good.
3 – Poor. There are elements here that identify this as a story, and there’s some sort of progression, but much feels unfinished or inadequately delivered.
4 – Less than Average. A story that clearly shows promise in places, but is largely underwhelming.
5 – Middle of the road. An average story. It’s neither good or bad, and could stand to be improved.
6 – Better than Average. OK, now we’re getting somewhere. This story has defined elements, conflict, resolution. Perhaps it is muddled by poor editing, or some logical inconsistencies detract from the overall package. No reason one of these couldn’t reach the throne with more careful consideration.
7 – Good. This is a good story. It’s not the best story you’ll ever read, but far from the worst. I aspire to at least reach this level consistently. You’ve got a plot, elements, problems, resolution, etc.
8 – Very good! This is reaching exceptional quality. High marks for clarity, defined elements, interesting characters or situations.
9 – Exemplary! These stories have something about them. Written with care. Very few words wasted, if any.
10 – Perfect in every way. A diamond in the rough. These stories impact the reader. Change them. Inspire them. A 10 story is something I study so I can be better. I’ve seen a few in TD before, but few and far between.

These are just my opinions, y’all. I know they are kinda mediocre, but they come from my dark oily heart.
Love, AA

Anomalous Amalgam fucked around with this message at 22:08 on Jul 18, 2019

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔


In with

code:
Bestower of good              the harpoon nome          doing ...?

Saucy_Rodent
Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica


Magical realism brawl

[b]Ariadne Hills[/i]

Ryan and Trevor made their way to the reception desk. Trevor carried the cheap bouquet they’d picked up at the supermarket on the way over.

“Hi, welcome to Ariadne Hills Regional Hospital,” said the receptionist.

“We’re here to visit Amy Liu. She just had an appendectomy.”

“Of course,” said the receptionist. “Looks like she’s in room...C322.”

“And what’s the best way to get there?” Trevor asked.

“There are a few ways,” said the receptionist, handing Trevor a map. Trevor unfolded it on the desk.

“Ooh boy,” said Trevor. “This place is a loving labyrinth.”

“Oh man, we’re right on the opposite side of the hospital, aren’t we?” said Ryan.

They examined the map carefully.

“We could take that elevator to the third floor and take a right past radiology,” said Ryan.

“Maybe, but that would make us answer a riddle from a Sphinx by gastrointestinal,” said Trevor.

“Oof, no. I suck at Sphinx riddles,” said Ryan. “Doesn’t it feel like they’re getting harder?”

“I know,” said Trevor. “When we were kids, they were just ‘what has a mouth but cannot talk, and runs but doesn’t walk?’ Now they’re always making obscure literary references to books I haven’t read.”

“I know, right? What if we take the West elevator?” said Ryan.

“That could work. Let’s see...looks like the only obstacle is the Hallway of Madness where you walk for what feels like a thousand years surrounded by the sounds of your deepest regrets.”

“Nah,” said Ryan. “I just did one of those at my grandma’s nursing home last week.”

“You’re not leaving us a lot of options,” said Trevor.

“I got it,” said Ryan. “What if we take the East Elevator to the fourth floor, make our way to the north elevator, then just go down one level?”

“I suppose,” said Trevor. “But the entire fourth floor is stalked by a Minotaur.”

“It’s a big floor,” said Ryan. “What are the chances we’ll even run into it?”

So they were off. They were followed into the elevator by a pale man holding a harp.

“Hey, do you guys know what floor I should need to go to if I want to make a bargain with Hades for the soul of my tragically lost love?”

“Basement two,” said Ryan. “But remember that the deal always come with...”

“Yeah, I know, an ironic twist,” said the pale man, clearly a little annoyed that Ryan felt it necessary to explain. “You think I haven’t Googled it?”

Ryan and Trevor got off the elevator at the fourth floor and started making their way North. They came to an unlabeled fork.

“Excuse me,” said Trevor to a passing nurse. “How do we get to the skyway to the North Wing?”

“Just around the corner to the right,” said the nurse.

“Left, then,” said Ryan. “By the way, have you seen the Minotaur around here?”

“Not for a few days,” said the nurse. Ryan and Trevor continued onward. They turned that one corner and there, halfway across the skyway, was the Minotaur.

Its back was turned. A bull’s head was sewn shoddily onto the neck of a fat, naked woman in a process that killed neither and dulled neither’s nervous system. Its human vocal cords shrieked in unending pain through its bovine mouth. Its bloodied, piss- and poo poo-stained body writhed in furious agony.

“So do we just go around it?” Ryan asked.

“I think,” said Trevor. “Just sneak up and sprint once we’re past it.”

They crouched and moved softly across the glass skyway. As they approached the Minotaur, the smells of decay and bodily fluids filled their nostrils.

“Don’t let it hear you,” whispered Trevor, inaudible under the Minotaur’s kill-me moans. But it was too late; Ryan let out a wrenching noise from the odor. As he did, the Minotaur grabbed his head and smashed it against the skyway window. A few cracks formed in the glass like lightning.

“Ryan!” Trevor yelled, dropping the bouquet and lunging at the monster. He threw himself over its sweaty shoulders, but the Minotaur pinned Ryan against the glass with its horns.

Ryan knew the Minotaur’s pain as he gasped futile breaths into his punctured lungs. Little drops of blood sputtered out of him as he exhaled.

Then Trevor grabbed the cord connecting the bull’s head to the woman’s body. It came out like a thread from a sock. Human and bull each fell to the floor, each emitting a final bloody scream, a geyser of blood and puke shooting from the neck-hole.

Trevor rushed over to the gravely wounded Ryan.

“Tell Amy I kind of had a thing for her,” said Ryan weakly.

“I think she knows,” said Trevor. “You never were very subtle.”

Ryan grimly grinned and went limp.

Trevor carried the bouquet into Amy’s room.

“Trevor!” said Amy from her bed. “Where’s Ryan?”

“Got killed by the Minotaur,” said Trevor.

“Aw, that sucks,” said Amy.

“He asked me to tell you he had a thing for you,” said Trevor.

“I mean, like, duh,” said Amy.

Then Trevor asked how the surgery went, and by the conversation’s end, they had forgotten Ryan altogether.

Getsuya
Oct 2, 2013


Magical Realism Brawl

Something's Been Bugging Me

Martin winced with each scraping touch as Kichik smoothed his hair with her clawed arm. He was supposed to be her husband, but he always felt more like her kid whenever she fussed over him like that in public. It didn’t help that she dwarfed him, but he had known from the beginning he would be the short one of the pair when he decided to start dating a praying mantis.

“I just don’t understand why anyone would think I would ever do anything to harm my little Marty,” Kichik was saying to the social officer.

The officer was another praying mantis, of course. Kichik insisted that they speak to another insect about the case, since they were ‘more sensitive to the needs of human-insect couples’. Sensitive to her needs, she meant.

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding toward mixed phylum couples,” the officer said sympathetically. “I’m sure the person who made the report was jumping to conclusions.”

Craning her emerald neck down to Martin’s level to fix him with her multifaceted eyes, she asked,

“Do you feel in any way threatened or abused by your wife?”

Scrape, scrape, scrape

Had Kichik’s smoothing of his hair gotten subtly more firm, or was he just imagining it?

“No, no, everything’s fine,” Martin said, putting on the fake smile he had mastered a month or so after marrying Kichik.

“Well, I’m glad. It’s always good to see a mixed phylum couple getting along despite all the prejudices,” the officer said.

She picked a card off her desk with a long claw and handed it to Kichik.

“If there’s ever anything you need to talk about, here’s a good insect relationship therapist who is excellent at helping mixed phylum couples with the little issues that may arise,” she said.

Kichik thanked the officer, and the two of them went home.

***

“So,” Kichik said, as soon as she shut their front door behind them. “Why is someone from your work calling social services about us?”

Martin had started to sweat in the car, and was drenched in it now. He fought to keep his face as calm and normal as possible. If he showed fear she would ask him why he was afraid. He had to put on that smile. Hadn’t she seen that fake smile enough times now to recognize it? No, he couldn’t worry about that. He had to smile.

“Honey, I have no idea. I guess I’ve been a little stressed lately and maybe someone just saw that and immediately assumed something was wrong at home. You know how people are about couples like us,” he said.

“Stressed? Why are you stressed, Marty?” she asked, head tilting in a way that might have been sympathetic on a human, but looked predatory on an insect.

“I’m not,” Martin said, cursing himself for giving her something else to poke and prod at. “I- I mean I guess work has just been a little stressful lately.”

“I’m sorry baby,” she said, with the barest hint of feigned sympathy, then she was back to business. “You need to complain to your boss. Tell them this is discrimination. Will you talk to him tomorrow?”

Her suggestions always turned into commitments, and she always followed up on them. The only saving grace in his life was that he worked at an all-human company, and they would have his back if she ever called to check out his stories.

“Sure, yeah. You’re right,” he said.

He would talk to his boss about it. He’d ask him to tell everyone to not do crap like this that put him in an awkward position with Kichik. Yeah, he was having problems with her, but getting dragged to an insect social officer wasn’t going to resolve any of them. It would be weeks before things would get back to normal, now.

“What’s wrong?” Kichik asked, bending to stare at him from his own level just like the social officer had.

Too late, Martin realized his response hadn’t been energetic and positive enough. He had let hesitation slip into his voice.

“Nothing’s wrong, I’m just tired from work,” he said, but Kichik wouldn’t be turned aside.

“You’ve been acting so strange lately,” she said. “This is about the eggs, isn’t it?”

Martin blanched. He couldn’t help it. She turned away.

“I knew it. Every single time we talk about it you say you want to have kids but you never want to talk about when,” she said.

What she meant by ‘you say you want to’ was actually ‘when I ask you about it you say yes’, but it was all the same to her. Martin had to swallow a few times to work up enough moisture to form a response. In his head he was seeing those horrible Youtube ‘grub birthing party’ videos she excitedly showed him of poor human bastards vomiting live white maggots the size of their arms while groups of insects stood around and cheered.

“Is that why you had one of your coworkers call the social workers?” she asked. “If they decided I was abusive, you would have never had to worry about kids, right?”

“What? What?”

Martin’s mind reeled. She was throwing accusations so bizarre he couldn’t even figure out how to lie about them.

“Baby you- you know I want to have a family with you…” he stammered.

“Then let’s do it. Right now. Tonight,” she hissed.

Then it clicked. Would any of his friends really have called social services against his wishes like that? Besides that, would a domestic abuse call about two adults even go to social services? Wouldn’t it have been the police? The connection between the call and this discussion of children suddenly clicked in his brain.

Even after realizing he had been manipulated, even with the horrible Youtube videos cycling through his head, with her looming large and emerald and angular over him, he forced that same old smile as always and said,

“Of course baby. Let’s do it.”

***

“Oh don’t worry, baby, it’s not a stinger, it’s an ovipositor,” she joked as she jammed the thumb-thick spike through his navel and into his stomach.

He whimpered and twisted under her, but she kept him easily pinned with her claws.

“Oh stop. You’re a man, aren’t you?” she whispered as tears dripped from the corners of his eyes.

Then she stroked his hair, scrape scrape scrape, as the eggs squeezed in.

After it was over, and she draped herself over him, spent and asleep, he lay awake long into the morning, staring at the ceiling. The bloated feeling in his stomach disgusted him, the dry smoothness of her chitin disgusted him, the angles of her body disgusted him, her bulbous eyes disgusted him. His own cowardice disgusted him.

It was as he dwelt with his dark thoughts that night that a plan took root. As it spread its poisonous branches throughout his brain, he smiled a small, content smile and rubbed at his full belly.

***

It took four months.

Four months of wearing that same, contented smile for Kichik to see and really meaning it. Four months of her babying him even more than she usually did, rubbing at his growing belly, cooing at the grubs as they hatched inside him, spoon-feeding him just the right nutritious sludge to make sure they grew up big and strong. Four months of breathing in through his nose to keep from vomiting when he felt them twisting and squirming inside him. Four months of really meditating on how much he hated her.

Then the opportunity came. It was their wedding anniversary, and he convinced her to let him go out alone to pick out a gift for her. With all her hovering he was sure she would say no, but apparently he had been doing such a good job playing the obedient, cowed husband that she let him go with only a little wheedling and shmoozing on his part.

His human friends from work came through for him. They got him the one item he needed, and promised to take him in if he needed a place to stay after it all went down.

When he arrived home Kichik was there waiting for him, her chitin all polished, wearing a fetching red dress. She had a great big chocolate cake in her arms, an indulgence she hadn’t allowed him since she put her eggs in him.

“Ooo, what did you get me?” she cooed, seeing the wrapped package in his arms.

Without a word, he stopped where he was, out of her reach, and unwrapped the package.

The cake fell from Kichik’s claws, plate smashing to pieces on the floor.

Martin was holding a bottle of insect poison.

Before she could move, he tore off the top and pressed the neck of the bottle to his lips. She froze, half-extended in a grab for the bottle.

“M-Marty wh-what,” she stumbled over herself trying to find words. “What are you doing Marty? Why?”
He didn’t want to negotiate.

“I’m leaving, and I’m having a doctor remove these things, and I never want to see you again,” he said. “You take another step toward me and I’ll down this whole thing.”

“Marty, I know it’s been tough but we’re almost there,” she pleaded. “Soon they’ll be out and you can go back to work and everything will be back to normal. You won’t even have to help with them, I can take care of them.”

“Don’t you get it? I don’t want grubs!” he shouted. “I don’t want to come home to a house full of you!”

“I don’t understand,” she said. “I asked you a dozen times if you really wanted kids and you told me you did every time. A dozen times.”

“You wanted me to say yes so I said yes,” he said through gritted teeth. “That’s how it always was.”

“So when I asked you if you were sure you didn’t want to date a human woman instead you were just humoring me then too?” Her voice cracked, and her bulbous eyes were cloudy with tears.

“I-...” he hesitated. “I did love you, when we first met. You were fun and different. But after we got married I felt like I could never disagree with you about anything.”

“Why not?” she asked, tilting her head to the side in honest confusion. “Why can’t you tell me how you really feel?”

“Because I was afraid!” he shouted, trying to drown out her reasonable, rational tones. He was the sane one here, she was the monster.

“Afraid?”

“Yes! I was afraid if I made you mad you’d-...” he stopped short.

He had been raised to be tolerant. His parents had marched in the pro-insect rallies and he had too. He had come face-to-face with a lot of the worst kind of anti-insect prejudice in the world and, even then, couldn’t bring himself to give voice to the worst of the propaganda.

Kichik knew what he was thinking, though, and she finished his sentence.

“You were afraid I’d bite your head off?” she said, cold outrage in her tone.

He dropped his eyes, but kept the bottle close to his lips.

“Why don’t you just call me a bug, huh?” she said. “I thought you were different. But, no, apparently even guys who say they’re tolerant still believe us insects are just one argument away from eating everyone.”

Her righteous indignation cut through his numbness, and his hand trembled.

“I’m sorry,” he said. And he was.

“Me too,” she said, and he felt like she was.

“But, this isn’t going to work,” he said, lowering the bottle.

“I know,” she said, scratching at one arm with the other. Scrape scrape scrape.

“There’s a doctor I know who will take the babies out without harming them or you,” she said, after a moment of silence passed between them.

“Okay,” he said. “But I’m going to go stay with some friends from work in the meantime.”

“Okay,” she said. “But, before you go, can I just say one thing?”

She stepped closer, her body hunched and smaller than he had ever seen it, almost level with him. He saw his own sad face reflected in the facets of her eyes.

Then he heard the bottle hit the floor with a thump. He looked down and saw his hand, still holding it, roll on the carpet. He hadn’t even seen her clawed arm move.

Before he could process what was happening, she had his other arm and her face with its giant emerald mandibles was centimeters from his, hissing cold breath, glaring through a thousand mirrors.

“I just wanted to say that you don’t need a head to grow my babies.”

Then she bit his head off.

Vinestalk
Jul 2, 2011



In

Bestower of Powers, The City, Making Distinctions For Self

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again



Oh yeah, entries closed.

:siren: Fun tips for this week :siren:
Remember you don't have to use all the parts of your prompt if you don't want to.
Include your prompt when you post your story or Kaishai will be upset.
:frogsiren:If you forget to include your prompt don't edit it into your story, just post it after! DON'T EDIT YOUR POST!!
:frogsiren:
Also submissions close at 11 PM Pacific/2 AM Eastern/6 AM UTC/7 AM London time. You won't get toxx-banned as long as you submit by the time judgement is posted. Don't gamble on SJBJ.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Owner of horns/Asyut/volubility of speech

Apis
475 words


The Queen’s earliest memory was of noise. The sounds of the hive penetrated her cell’s walls and filled her larval dreams with incessant chatter and the scraping of legs against wax. Listening to the reports from the foragers was better. They spoke of the sound of wind and the smell of the sun. The Queen longed to experience it for herself.

Her second memory was the sound of piping; a battlecry from another newly-emerged virgin queen. The Queen was frightened, but the drones wouldn’t let her run. They boxed her in. Her choices were to die from hyperthermia amongst a press of bodies, or to fight. The other virgin queen stood between her and the exit from the hive. The Queen rushed for the opening and her sister lunged at her. They fought, and her sister screamed as the Queen’s stinger penetrated her thorax.

The Queen tasted open air but for a moment, and then the drones were again upon her. Confused by the cacophony of their voices and wings, the Queen couldn’t break free. Mating done, they pressed her back into the confines of the hive.

The Queen was never alone. Abdomen swollen with eggs, she could barely drag her distended belly across the comb. Her children groomed and fed her, and ensured optimal conditions for egg production. They gossiped constantly about the other workers, always convinced that they were on the verge of swarming. The Queen hoped they would, for then at least it would be quiet.

A forager, legs stockinged with pollen, paused near her. Tell me about the outside, she said, dragging herself towards her daughter. The drones, the Queen’s jealous guardians, piled onto the worker, smothering her with their body heat. Afterwards, a mortuary bee carried her body outside the hive, and the Queen envied the dead.

The high vibration of a new virgin queen’s piping cut through the clamour of the hive. They had betrayed her, the Queen realised, by allowing another to emerge. Again she must fight, or die. On trembling legs she hauled herself to the hive’s entrance, where she returned the usurper's call. The drones retreated, leaving her untouched for the first time since she cracked the wall of her cell. She felt a whisper of cool air from outside on her wings, and shivered.

The challenger rushed her, and they locked together, each struggling to bring her stinger to bear. The wind rose as they tumbled closer to the exit. The Queen could smell the sharp scent of pine trees. She rolled her lacquer-black eyes towards the exit, shoved the other bee away from her, and heaved herself from the hive.

She fell into bright sunlight. Her wings struggled to find their rhythm, her heavy abdomen dragging her down. Finally, the wind caught her, and she let it carry her away.

Drunk Nerds
Jan 25, 2011

Just close your eyes

Fun Shoe

Djeser posted:

Bone breaker/Herakleopolis/lying


Beakbait

"Love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life."

Whoever said that never had to go to work for two million straight days.

I am Bone Breaker. I possess the omnipotence of the seven oceans, the wisdom of a thousand eons, and the body of a short, fat bird.

I need to remember to stop ending on that last note. The bird part is usually useless

My days are spent perched atop an open temple with a name lost to the winds of time, which probably wouldn't have happened if every place around here wasn't so hard to pronounce. I watch the line of a million dead pass through the temple's only corridor, each soul being made to explain their misdeeds to the multitude of Gods that line the hall. At the end of lies the pyramid to the Underworld, its dark catacombs snake all around and come to multiple dead ends before finally opening up into the next life. Somewhere in that pyramid slithers a deadly asp. He lives to strike those not fleet of foot enough to navigate the twisting passage, leaving them writhing in agony, yet another obstacle for the next contestant. I wonder if the asp is bored with his job, too.

My task is simple. I watch the dead justify their errs to the Gods of the temple. If I catch someone telling a lie, I swoop down and break a bone in their foot. This greatly reduces their chances of reaching the end of the pyramid: Navigating the dark maze is hard enough without a pronounced limp.

Don't get me wrong, I do love my job. I am so enamored with breaking of bones that when the Demigodess Fluffertiti once granted me human form for a day, I spent the first hour orgasmically cracking my knuckles. Turns out, that didn't do what I thought it did.

But still, after 5,000 years on the job, watching the slow collective shuffle of the line of that stretched over the desert dunes and over the horizon, I am frequently on the lookout for something different. Something to break the cycle.

Which is why I spotted him as soon as he crested the most distant hill. Unlike most of the millions that came before him, he did not hang his head low. Instead, the sun blazed upon his upturned face which, as he slowly came closer, bore a smug smile. For once, someone who was not just unbroken in terms of bones, but also spirit. I love seeing the snapping of a healthy spirit.

Watching him progress towards the temple was the bright spot of the next few months, each day he moved slowly closer until I could make out every facet of his way-too-confident expression. We get these guys every few hundred years, they always think they can sail through the system with some confident twisting of facts, never realizing that my job is to see straight through this and leave them hopeless and hobbled.

Turns out this one was a little different. Upon entering the temple hallway and ordered to declare himself, he pulled a neon green sheet of rolled parchment from his tunic, puffed out his chest, and bellowed:

"It is neither who I am nor what I have done that should concern you, but rather where I have been. Upon arriving at this land of dead, I took a detour. I walked the desert dunes for years until I arrived at the Great Hall of Calligraphers. There, they drew me this glowing map of the pyramid catacomb to the Underworld. I then ventured to the fiery mines of El-Alil Yelaa'i'i'b, where I was fashioned a dagger of holy silver. I then sailed to the foul, death-smelling shores of South New Jersey, where I learned this one weird trick to getting past the line of Gods without judgment."

With that, he drew his silver dagger and cut off his own tongue. Walking past the line of stunned Gods, the Man responded to any questions by shrugging comically and pointing to his mouth. My hollow bird bones felt as if filled with raging lava. Upon reaching the mouth of the pyramid, he did a small dance, his unbroken feet mocking me with every step and swivel. The man unrolled his parchment, and gazed upon the map.

I am Bone Breaker. I possess the omnipotence of the seven oceans, the wisdom of a thousand eons, and the body of a short, fat bird. The bird part is usually useless, but not this time...

I flew down and plucked his eyes out.

Vinestalk
Jul 2, 2011



Bestower of Powers, The City, Making Distinctions For Self
Cycles

Delivered
1192 words

He felt his neck slump forward and he startled awake. He couldn’t remember how he got here.

He found himself in a metal and plastic chair, one of many along a light gray wall, the kind only found in the shittiest airports. Designed to push you out with uncomfortable angles, lined on top of thin carpet glued to concrete floors. Designed by some corporate gently caress.

Rubbing at the crick in his neck, he looked over at a balding man in a disheveled suit snoring beside him. He thought to himself it could have even been this corporate gently caress.

“Dax Stephenson!” A voice rang out and the groggy man turned his achy neck, squinting towards a desk at the far end of the room.

Dax lifted himself from his chair, leaving the businessman to the rest of the bench. He waded through a maze of legs coming from people passed out in rows specifically designed to maximize occupancy over comfort. He’d been looking at all the snoozing faces crowded in the benches, trying to get his bearings, when he came to a desk and jumped back at the figure behind it.

“Welcome, Mr. Stephenson, to the City.” A crocodile’s head emerged from a sharp pants suit. The crocodile wasn’t even looking at Dax, just typing away at the screen sitting atop her white desk.

“What city? Wait, what the gently caress are y- Who the gently caress are you?!”

“The City. A client access manager. My name is right here,” she tapped a burgundy plastic plate with white glyphs. They were a hawk, a stick, and some wavy lines. “You’ll have the same job you had on the surface, but you’ll have to remove your… accessories,” Dax never thought he would see condescension painted across the face of a crocodile, but there it was as she pointed at his gauge earrings and lip ring, “and wear this…” she pushed across a gray shirt and ash shorts.

A boiling part of Dax wanted to toss the uniform into the sleeping masses behind him and shove his middle finger into the crocodile’s face, but there was something about the room that sieved that rage through his feet. He grumpily latched onto the clothes and grumbled under his breath, “fuckin’ repto-Eichmann. What the gently caress is even going on,” as he walked through the sliding glass doors beside the desk.

In a rack directly in front of him was a road bike, with charcoal messenger bags slung over the seat. Dax numbly stared at it as she retorted in a raised voice.

“You died, idiot.”

***

It felt like he’d been winding his way through these streets for years. Concrete canyons, carved by paved rivers, filled with people shuffling through whatever monotonous task they felt compelled to complete. The City was always busy. It was like San Francisco poo poo its population onto the flat grid of a Midwestern capital no one heard of. The seasons passed, but the only noticeable change was from cloudy, to rainy, to cold and rainy, back to cloudy.

He missed his old mp3 player. He also missed the reckless abandon he felt flying through Denver. Erratic weather, poorly planned streets jutting off in every angle, lovely drivers from every corner of the US… they fueled his angst as he pedaled to the beat of whatever punk band thrummed in his ears.

That was all lost here. The chaos that made him feel alive was replaced with the metaphysical equivalent of unseasoned Quaker Oatmeal. Even worse, one job melded into the next. As soon as he dropped off his package, the recipient would hand him something else to deliver. From one gray monolith to the next. One gray uniformed hand to another.

He occupied himself by attempting to hum songs he struggled to remember. These were the songs he used to use as a lens to project himself into the world. But they were incomplete now. There was a time he could belt them out in the shower or stumbling down Colfax…

He was trying to think why, as he dragged himself into another elevator at the base of another lobby ripped from the most outdated hospital in America. He pressed the button for the 40th floor and stood as people ambled off with every stop. He wanted to be angry about forgetting the last verse to Crack Rock Steady, but he just couldn’t. He didn’t have the energy for it. He ate, he slept, he cycled, but there was nothing left.

The bell rang for his floor and the door opened into fluorescent hallways. Dax rubbed his fully healed earlobe as he dragged himself past a series of closed doors. The loss of those lyrics forced him to ask himself many questions, like why those lyrics were important to him. Or were they?

That question brought him to his delivery. Gray wall, white door, silver knob, privacy glass with a snake, an ankh, and four sticks painted in black. Dax didn’t even knock. Everyone always expected his delivery and just held out their waiting hand before shoving something out with the other.

“Hello, Mr. Stephenson,” said a snake man in elaborate Egyptian clothing. It sat at a nondescript wooden desk.

It was jarring. He couldn’t remember the last time someone spoke to him. Or the last time he saw something other than a gray uniform.

“Uhhh, hi. Package… for you?”

“Yes, thank you, Mr. Stephenson. How are you feeling?”

“Yeah, I mean, okay?”

“Good. Excellent. Yes, the wheel is almost done turning for you.”

“The wheel?” The shock of an actual conversation wore off, “What are you talking about? Who are you?”

“They say I bestow powers but, really, I just give people the chance to understand themselves. I wouldn’t worry too much about me, though. This is a time to turn inward. There’s no balancing those scales if the heart is heavy with anger.”

“But I used to be angry for a reason…”

“Why does that matter anymore? You’re dead.”

***

It was so long ago, maybe even years, yet that conversation felt like yesterday. More and more those questions he kept asking himself were easily answered. He came to realize what he needed to shed from himself. There used to be so much disdain, but it was slowly replaced with acceptance.

It was cold and rainy. Dax was delivering another package. Through the lobby and halls, he came to a door. It took him long enough, but he could read the glyphs easily now. “Nutrition Resource Management.” In it, he recognized the face of the disheveled businessman from his first day. A knowing smile crept across Dax’s face, as if this place was revealing itself to him.

He rode towards his next drop off. The building from his first day. He began humming a song, nothing he knew or recognized, just something that came naturally.

Tkchunk. The chain on the bike snapped. The front wheel stopped rotating and began to skid. The bike catapulted itself out from under Dax and threw him into the curb.

His neck slumped forward and he began to drift off. He couldn’t remember how he got here.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


Dead Ernest
808 words
Prompt: Owner of faces/Nedjefet/Impatience

The sound of his wriggling keeps me up at night, in the next nostril over.

I can’t stand that guy. Yesterday, I woke up and looked outside and saw the words I LARVAE YOU LONG TIME chewed into the ground outside, where he knew I would see it. I ate up his dumb words and I would’ve spit them out if I wasn’t so hungry. Right now, I’m waiting and listening to him chew up the rest of his home and I don’t want to look outside again and see I MAG-GOT A CRUSH ON YOU or whatever.

I can hear pustules of rotting flesh popping, veins of soured blood corrupted and pouring out over his body as he rolls around in it, and all I can think is how hard it would be to sell this place to someone else. He’s ruining the re-sale value.

Nah, that’s a bit of a joke. It’s not like this place accumulates value over time. It only accumulates stench.

This place stinks, doesn’t it?

Also, it smells.

That’s another joke, ha ha ha. I don’t have a sense of smell, but this guy used to, whoever he was.

Still, I’m hoping to raise my kids here some day, and it makes me angry that I have the warmest, moistest place I can find, safe from everybody, and right next door, the next nostril over, is this guy, who doesn’t care about any of that, only cares about burrowing and eating and destroying the foundation of this place.

It’s not much, but it’s mine, and that’s what matters. I can see out into the sky from where I am, see the stars shine at night, see them glimmer over the flat, squirming pools where the guys’ eyes used to be. I hear the sounds of things burrowing, chirping, crunching, sputtering. Do any of them think about the future? About their kids? Am I the only one who has these thoughts?

I know the guy next door doesn’t think like this. He’s too busy thinking about all the free food in his face. He never wonders about where it came from.

I have a collection of nose hairs, propped up against the nasal wall in the corner, sheltering the empty egg sac that I came from. When the moonlight hits it right, it looks like it belongs up in the night sky. I don’t know why I keep it around. I don’t know why I talk to it like I’m talking to it right now. Maybe because it’s the only thing that belongs to me. These nose hairs, they never belonged to me, and I’m going to have to leave them behind at some point. Just like this house. Just like this entire world.

But the egg sac…

Does that guy ever think like this?

I nudge it around sometimes when I have these thoughts, when I want to chew on the walls. Sometimes I sneak into the other guys nostril when he’s not around and eat his walls, because I don’t want to tear mine down. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t talk to me. Maybe he’s too busy up at the eye holes, with forty of the other maggots, all squirming and flopping over each other, trying to fill their round bellies up until they’re fat and waddling, and the only reason they don’t eat each other is they don’t like the taste.

I only went up there once, just enough time to watch and think about if I should dive in or not, when I saw an orange-tufted mouth descend from the sky and take a yawning bite out of that big wriggling lump of maggots, snuffling around in the empty eye-hole. The mouth spit them back out, but I could still see the yellow insides of some of them, dripping down the side of the mouth where they popped open and died.

I didn’t even hear them scream.

I stay in here more often now.

Does the guy next door ever think about these things?

I think about growing wings. I think about flying away, surveying the landscape for places to hide my eggs. Soft, warm places for offspring to grow, and feed, and hopefully dream. Dream about flying away and laying eggs of their own, and giving them a chance to dream.

I dream about stars toppling over from the sky, throwing other stars back up into the air before they fall to earth.

That’s all it is, isn’t it? Just trying to find a soft place to land. I’m in this world where nothing is mine and everything is dying, and I just want a soft place to land when I start to fly.

Does the guy--no, probably not.

Probably not.

I should go talk to him.

Maybe I’ll just sit here and listen some more.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!







1200 words

what is given

https://thunderdome.cc/?story=7553&title=what+is+given

flerp fucked around with this message at 01:52 on Oct 11, 2019

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!







prompt: Double lion, who comes from the sky, who judges destruction of food.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010




The Walls of Busiris
1200 words
Prompt: Temsep/Busiris/conjuration against the king

Now ken that I, Daro Panemomon, am scion of a line of conjurers founded when the Earth was young and the Sun was yellow. I am heritor to their spells and of the family secrets, and it is I who brought the downfall of ancient Busiris.

Busiris stood millennia unchanging, ruled by immortal King Temsep and circled round with walls and protective magics. No outsider was allowed within the walls, but thousands came to trade at the fair outside the city. Despite rumors of great wealth, no thief had ever penetrated beyond the wall. Armies besieged it, but found the walls restored each night by occult mechanism. Perhaps in the ancient days when man wielded the Sun's power the city could have been taken by force, but not in these dissipated times.

To break Temsep's enchantments I was engaged. The Red Company promised me one tenth of their taking should I succeed. I left for Busiris at once and took residence in one of the inns outside the wall.

I am no hasty man. A full year I observed. Each sunset King Temsep slowly paced the top of the city walls, flanked by his dreadful guard beasts, renewing the spells of protection on the city. An acrobat from a traveling show I hired to scale the wall found that he could reach the top, but an unseen wall did block him from climbing into the town. I had given him a small amulet, the energies in it near gone, to leave on the wall. Next evening I watched Temsep's beasts as they approached the spot. One suddenly stopped, sniffed the air, then leapt to where the amulet was hidden. It tossed the trinket into the air as a cat tosses a mouse and swallowed it with a snap. In this wise did I learn the beasts could sniff out any magical trap I might lay.

Do not think I was the only one who plotted against Temsep--only the most patient. I saw three attempts against the King during that year. The first cloaked himself in an invisibility cantrip and waited in ambush on wall-top; the beasts sniffed him and tore him to shreds. The second was also a conjurer. He found a pegasus somewhere and flew in near enough to throw a fireball, which did but splash off Temsep, who raised his staff and turned the man to dust without a pause.

The third interested me most. Sat to breakfast one morning, I felt a powerful dispellation begin to take form. I did leave my food and run out to look across the wide plain between trade fair and town. I saw a woman near the wall--dispellation being a short-range effect--and even at such a distance could feel the power of her incantation. Puissant though Temsep's enchantments were, I thought she might succeed in breaking through them. But a dispellation takes time to cast, and before the work was half done I heard the roaring of the guard beasts and saw them clambering over the wall. Their many limbs flailed as they leapt off the top; her voice faltered and she ran, but they fell on her and she was devoured.

Long did I sit in thought after this. Temsep's guard beasts could sniff out any magic, and Temsep himself did seem to be proof against physical attack. I lacked the power to dispell the whole city's protections as the brave sorceress had tried, but I was sure the solution lay that way. At last I hatched my plan.

I found and hired three thieves of skill and discretion. I paid them richly for a simple task: to steal for me a stone from the top of the wall. With the stone, I retired to my ancestral home. Sent I then for a clever artificer who hollowed the stone and built into it a cunning hinged lid. The seams of the rocky casket were so well-made that even close examination might miss them. With great care I went to work, laying the spells on it to make a no-box, whose contents no magical senses could divine.

Here I will reveal one of the secrets of my family. When magic returned to the Earth, the elder ways of men were lost in the turmoil--mostly. Though my ancestors became conjurers, they preserved an ancient science and the mechanisms of that science. From a deep vault I did retrieve an ancient wonder: a pair of small devices by which two people could communicate across great distances, with no magic used. Referring often to the tomes of this lost discipline, I married one device to the no-box with some other forgotten mechanisms, so that a word spoken into the other would open the box. Finally, I cast my most powerful dispellation into the no-box, sealing the lid as I said the ultimate word. I sent the last signal to the Red Company and returned to Busiris.

My trap I laid on the day of a great festival at the trade fair. It was undetected; the work of the stone was flawless, indistinguishable from any other in the wall once replaced. As the sun settled to the horizon, I did make for a hill outside the city, to view the wall-top and wait for King Temsep.

As that great wizard came toward the trap I felt certain, against my own better knowledge, that the beasts would scent it and raise the alarm. When a pair of them suddenly dashed forward, I feared my plan had failed, but they did run straight past it, sniff the air, and return--they could not detect my ancient trick. At last Temsep strode within a few paces of the no-box. The button pressed, the box did open. The slow strong tension I felt as Temsep wove his strange spells burst instantly, and the King fell to his knees as the guard beasts set up a keening wail.

I said I was the downfall of Busiris, but no wealth did I see of it. Temsep had girded his city with a powerful protection against invaders, this is true, but he did also wrap it in a time-spell, preserving the city and its inhabitants unchanged for millennia.

When I broke his daily renewal of the spell, it unraveled. Those citizens of Busiris who had worked at the fair that day were returning to the city; I saw at a distance their hair did grey and whiten and fall from their heads, before they too fell into the dust. By morning they were bones, and the bones were soon dust. In the fading evening light I watched the roofs and high towers within the city walls begin to crumble and fall; the crashing sounds of their destruction continued through the night.

The Red Company arrived at dawn, a thousand daring raiders ready to sack the city. Instead they found tumbled heaps of stone, with no surety of any wealth inside--time magic is an unpredictable thing, and they might dig through to find no gold at all. I have forfeited my share, taking only Temsep's staff. I feel age approaching, and my ancestral estate must be protected. I will begin the wall at once.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔


code:
Bestower of good              the harpoon nome          doing ...?
The Good of Generations
1136/1200 words

A flickering torch’s oily smoke adds to soot already many-layered. This crumbling grave has been despoiled by many, stripped bare of corpse and wealth and dignity. Tiny shards of pottery, dashed like frustrated dreams of robbers believing themselves the first. The chamber’s only feature is a small statue deemed worthless, too worn away by fingers digging at its gold and jade adornments. It lies slanted, sad, discarded in a corner. A sitting maybe man, casting little shadow by the torch now raised above in triumph.

“This is him, Jacob. The Bestower of Good.”

Jacob junior can’t find solace in the quiver of his father’s awestruck voice. When they lost a wife and mother, the elder Jacob took them on a dark and terrifying journey, deep into the bowels of despair and sand, to reach his promise of a golden future here: a broken idol, forgotten since millennia.

As his father digs for something in their backpack, so light now with their food and water gone, young Jacob tries to lift the fallen God at least, a small gesture distracting him from how profound his disappointment rings.

As the Bestower sits upright in the first proud moment of many centuries, a rumbling starts in both Jacobs’ bones, spreads through the floor and walls and ceiling, and seems to diffuse the entire valley’s underground. Son and father huddle together, the former’s resentment growing infinite in every moment he believes his last. Why did they come here, to this long sucked dry corpse of a coffin they’ll now add to?

But only one wall falls, the blackened relief sinking down far too controlled, and reveals a second, bigger chamber, and in it: a neatly ordered row of skeletons, impaled upon gigantic spears, no, harpoons, with cruel hooks.

Boy and man join in paralyzing scream, but the latter calms down quicker, and leaves his son behind to tremble as he enters the ossuary. Each of the ornate pins mounting an entry in this human bug collection has a word engraved, and Jacob, almost but not quite touching the recessed glyphs, mouths their meaning.

“Robbery. Obstreperousness. Prying. These people, Jacob – they came here to receive the gift of Good, but angered the Bestower. He struck them down for doing something wrong!”

“Papa, we should not…”

“I will risk even death for you, my son. But look at this register of sins – I just need to do better!”

He presents a shining nugget to the boy.

“I brought this, a worthy offering. I want the best for you, so I will ask for the Good fortune – this tiny token of my worship, to be exchanged for wealth and a future for my boy.”

Young Jacob wants to protest, but the empty socket of the beckoners before them transfix him with their gaze. They all failed, their hopes for Good bestowed crushed by a God dissatisfied with how they begged him for this gift. They would witness this attempt succeed at last – or have someone join their ranks.

Father Jacob bends his knee and places the gold and addresses the Bestower, asks for it to be returned manifold, so he can provide for his poor son and survive himself.

An agonizing moment passes, his tense muscles relax just a tiny bit, and then from somewhere in the darkness a harpoon comes screaming and pierces Jacob all the way through. He dies without a sound, but the younger Jacob picks the scream up seamlessly, as he runs orphaned towards a cruel surface.

⊷⊷⊷

Thirty tough years later, Jacob returns, now himself a father. The Bestower has fallen again, Jacob rights it, ducks under the lowering wall; there is Jacob the elder, desiccated, mounted on his harpoon pin. And on there, his sin, a single word: “Greed”

Jacob curses, scurries back to the statue, kneels and produces his own offering, the best he could scrounge up: a small bag of myrrh. He throws it down where once the nugget lay.

“You killed my father,” he says. “I guess he asked for too much. Well, I’m only asking for what I’m due. You cast me into a swamp I barely struggled out of. Reimburse me however you deem fit, that’s all I want.”

He waits, he trembles as if he was still a child. Lets his shoulders slump the distance of half a breath.

The harpoon pierces his heart.

⊷⊷⊷

Almost half a century later, an aging Magdalene enters the chamber which killed the two Jacobs. She resets the statue, enters the hidden room of skeletons. Rests her hand on the skull of the father she never knew. Checks the harpoon’s inscription. “Bargaining”

She kneels and contemplates her offering: the finest incense she could get.

“You did not bestow gold upon my grandfather, and denied my father reparations. You gave them only death, and misery to those they left behind.”

She stands up.

“I thought to ask you for some explanation. But I can see on my own. You do not bestow anything, least of all Good. You lash out because you are powerless and forgotten, a dead God best left that way.”

She motions to pick the incense back up. Just as Magdalene’s fingers touch the bag, a harpoon springs forth and flies right through her skull.

⊷⊷⊷

Not soon after, a young man enters. He sets the statue straight and finds his mother’s mutilated corpse pinned with the others and weeps just as he did when she left him and his pregnant wife. He checks her sin, and shivers when he sees it’s “Blasphemy”.

The incense is still there. He kneels and burns it. For a long time, he prays in silence, weeping still. Finally, he’s able to face the Bestower.

“My name is Joseph. For generations, you have killed the members of my family. They asked you for your favor, and you granted only death. It seems a curse we can’t escape.”

No fatal answer. But Joseph is still taut; he hasn’t finished.

“I think I understand what you want to tell us with these deaths. You do not give what people demand. You do not ask for a trade. When people worship you, you bestow; your Good comes by your choosing and in your manner. This is why I only brought myself, and my reverence.
I will accept whatever happens next. But please, I beg of you. Free us from our need to seek you out. Do not make my child return here to be killed.”

A moment stretches back through generations, history and ages. Held there, timeless, until Joseph finally exhales. Relaxes.

Accepts the harpoon that enters his chest.

⊷⊷⊷

Years later, Joseph’s son will enter the chamber. Find the harpoon that killed his father, and read the inscription, the Good that was bestowed. It will read “Futile Obsession”, and maybe Jonathan will understand.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again



Lipstick Apathy

The Tomb!

primp: Owner of horns / vociferous speech
1111 words


Dr. Jack Hackman held his torch into the tomb he’d just cracked open. His colleagues watched nervously. Jack looked inside. His flame lit walls covered in strange carvings and lined with pottery and sarcophagi, statues, gold, and more.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Jack said in a sonorous, handsome voice, his eyes surveying the bounty. “Before us now is a historical find like none ever in the history of the world. Mark my words! Really, write them down in your journals. You, Marianne, write them.” Jack glanced briefly at one of his colleagues, a tall woman with red hair, and gestured at her pack, in which he assumed there would be a notebook of some kind. She didn’t move. He continued: “This day will live eternally in the hearts and minds of our descendants a million years from now. A billion years from now! Our progeny, who will be living on the moon and Mars, will remember this moment! Even when humanity has traveled beyond the stars and turned our bodies into pure electricity we will still remember this moment! Do you feel it? Can you sense how this moment has now physically altered you forever? Ah, life! Memory! Isn’t it amazing! One of my earliest memories when I was just five years old...”

The sound of stone grinding on stone echoed hollowly in the tomb. Jack’s colleague, Marianne, crept cautiously forward and peered around Jack’s bulky frame. A low groaning floated out of the dark. Jack went on: “...and my mother found me, two feet deep in the yard, digging with my bare hands! She had to drag me away! Now that was a vivid memory! And this memory, right now, shall be remembered in that same vividness! The dust in the air! The light of my torch! The glimmer of the gold! That hollow groaning sound! Each feature of this monumentally momentous moment will stay with us, with everyone! Forever! How does it feel to be part of forever?”

There was a distinct lack of cheers and claps and pats on his shoulders, so Jack turned around. He saw Marriane holding her camera up and clicking like crazy. All the other archaeologists kicked up dirt as they fled over the hill. “Ah, yes, yes,” Jack said. “Document this moment well, indeed! A wise choice Marriane! We and our children and grandchildren--and great grandchildren even!--will all treasure those pictures. All of humanity! Imagine! A picture you took will be the voice of this instant! It will speak into the minds of people who are not yet even born!”

The groaning sound threatened to drown out Jack’s voice. He determined it came from within the tomb, so poked his head inside and managed to say: “Excuse me, could you plea-” before a long, black, and dusty horn thrust into his mouth and out the back of his neck with a wet tearing sound.

Marianne kept click-click-clicking on her camera as Jack’s gurgling, twitching body seemed to float out of the tomb. Then, a desiccated, skeletal figure emerged. From above its dead, gaping eyes, two horns rose straight up like those of an oryx. Jack’s body hung from one of them. The creature shook its head and Jack flopped to the ground like a piece of meat flung off a skewer.

“QUIET” the creature bellowed, and a storm rushed from its mouth, whipping up dust and sand that clattered into Marianne's face and camera. She kept clicking.

~

“And that,” said Marianne, closing the photo album, “is how I met your father.”

Four year old Lisa laughed and clapped her hands. “Again mama, again!”

Marianne pinched her little daughter’s cheeks. “Not again, silly, we’ll annoy papa!”

“Papa!” Lisa giggled and ran to the sitting room where her father was reading in his lounge chair by the fire. She threw herself into his lap and gazed lovingly into his hollow, eyeless face. He looked down from his book and the little bells Lisa had tied to his horns earlier that day tinkled. “Quiet,” he said, and Lisa ran back to her mother, laughing, saying “He said it again, mama!”

“Your papa used to get real mad when people talked too much,” said Marianne. “He’s better now, but we still try not to annoy him with our babbling!”

“Okay mama,” said Lisa seriously. “I’ll be quiet like papa says!”

Lisa got out her crayons and stated doodling, and Marianne returned to an essay on ancient gods she’d been working on. The crackling of the fire and the rustling of paper were the only sounds in the comfy home.

~

Later that night, under the blankets in their bedroom, Marianne nuzzled into Owner of Horns’ hollow, bony chest and breathed in the dusty, dry rot smell that always accompanied him.

“Oh Horny,” she said. “Why do we never talk?”

“Quiet,” he said.

“I know you like your silence, but it’s been almost five years and we’ve still never really-”

“Quiet.”

“I just want to get to know you, the real you. I want to know what goes on inside your head while you sit alone in the dark for hours, what you feel about me when I touch you, what you think of this new world you’re in and how it compares to the one you came from! I just want to know you! I care so deeply about you and I can’t stand to be without you one minute, oh, it hurts so much when I have to be even in the next room! But I do it for you! Oh Horny, please talk to me, say what you’re thinking--oh, just say my name! Say anything!”

Owner of Horns shook his head increasingly faster as she talked. His mouth opened and his eye pits widened, and he saw his future merge with his past. All his existence narrowed to one torrent of words and noise, crashing over him, crushing, drowning him, battering him from all angles with questions, comments, curiosity, concern, who, what, where, when, why, how, you, I, me, listen listen listen-”QUIET!”

A storm erupted from Owner of Horns’ mouth and blasted the roof into the sky. The ground split and wood splintered and crashed, a scream sounded in the wind, so tiny, then gone down into the yawning earth, the quiet, dark earth, now closing above them. The storm dissipated. Silence returned.

Little Lisa, who’d been narrating a play with her dolls in her room against strict orders to be quiet, ran toward the sound and into her parents room to find them gone. Only a pile of rubble remained.

Two firemen found her hours later, a blue plastic shovel in hand, digging uselessly at the wreckage. Her eyes blazed with determination.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Serpent with raised head/the cavern/dishonest wealth

Things that are not

(830)

The night is the darkest he's seen in a while. Ferris has sweat beading on his forehead, the pings from the cooling engine have stopped, the rain outside the car is making the air inside humid, like the bathroom after a summer day shower.

"I'm gonna be late tomorrow, doctor's appointment got bumped," he says to his receptionist, listens to her answer on the other end, wipes wet brow with sweaty hand.
"Yeah, yeah just move it, after lunch, it'll keep them on their toes. Right, bye."

Ferris sits in his car, rain like a gallop, on car roof, on canopy, on rocks outside. He's tired, he's so tired. It doesn't matter, Cue doesn't care. He closes his eyes for a moment, opens them, opens the car door.

The walk to the cave is long and uncomfortable in the dark, phone flashlight barely making sense of the knotted chaos of a forest at night. He doesn't buy a flashlight for these walks, he could, but he's convinced himself someone would find out. He knows it's irrational, of course he knows that, but the dots can not be connected, that can't happen. The battery is running low, he's not sure he'll have enough for the trip back.

Maybe this is the night, though? Maybe he doesn't have to worry about the trip back?

No, no. He's far from free.

The cave hates him as much as he hates it. The shadows and the low passages and the fungi slick as oil on the floor. He makes his way towards the chamber, hands gritty with dirt, scuffed by rough walls. It gets worse the deeper he gets, like it senses the nature of his sin, like the mountain itself despises its guests. Deeper, deeper, until he starts to believe there is no more sky outside, until his mind is convinced the world is a solid eternity of dark, weeping rock.

And there he is, in the chamber. Eyes vivid and alert.

"Hello, Ferris."

"Cue."

Hair and beard long, fingernails curled, the rags of pants and shirt that was something long ago. It's all just a costume, all a low effort to make sure Ferris doesn't scratch his eyes out.

"Tonight," says Cue, syllables like the sound of ivy held taunt and then stripped from a facade, "Tonight I would like to hear about wine."

-

Do you remember it? The creature with wings like spun silk, long as a man, it sung in the evening. It would perch on roofs in Europe's oldest cities, sing as the sun glinted in the Seine. You don't remember it? No, of course you don't. No one does.

Do you remember those rooms? They'd have them in airports and shopping malls, at universities and amusement parks. Families could go in there and they'd be in peace, and there was something, something there that would help them, but I can't remember what. I can't remember what they were called.

There was something we could do, something we humans could do, but it's gone. I don't remember if it was good or bad, violent or peaceful, but we had some skill, some sense, something innate and pure, and it's gone. I don't remember it, no one does.

-

Ferris doesn't realize he's back until he hears the sound of rain on metal. The whole trip, through treacherous cave and tangled forest, spent in darkness. There is something else he realizes that he doesn't realize, and then it's gone, like that split second of knowing a dream before the act of knowing it makes it disappear from your mind.

He opens the door, turns the key in the ignition. Rain like pinstripes in the headlights.

In the morning, showered and shaved, his secretary greets him. The delegation from Sanio Industries is waiting for him. They seem nervous, she says. The meeting goes well, because of course it does, and the deal favors Ferris, because of course it does. That's, well, the deal. Isn't it?

And when they celebrate with schnapps, he only remembers that he visited Cue, a memory he banishes to the back of his mind, until he needs to visit the creature again, or the creature calls for him. He doesn't remember the drink the Greeks and the Romans enjoyed, the sweet or bitter smell, the texture sometimes dry, sometimes savory. There's no reason for him to remember it. And there's no reason for his secretary to remember it, or the delegation from Sanio Industries. That drink, whatever it was, has gone the way of the silken creature, like all things eventually will.

In the cave, a presence spins the memory of wine into the same oblivion as the cornuseria and the lifting rooms and the bleeding gift, where it doesn't wait to be used by some entity. It doesn't get turned into energy or power. It ceases to be, by will of the presence, like all things eventually will. Maybe next time, it'll ask Ferris about himself.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







Prompt: You who acted willfully/Tjebu/wading in water (note for the archivist: I initially chose something different, but then toxxed for a flash rule)

Oceanatrix
1200 words

From the bar she is birthed into the hot, dismal night. Too much booze has left her unsteady as a newborn fawn, but she has no nearby mother to drive away the predators who stalk the wet, neon-kissed streets. She stumbles past the doorway in which I’m ensconced without noticing me, focused as she is on the Sysiphusian task of placing one foot in front of another.

A primordial thing inside me whispers: this one.

I fall in behind her, taking care to keep my distance. Her summer dress burns a playful orange beneath the streetlamps, its color deepening as rain soaks into cotton, bright as a beacon. She can’t be more than a couple months into her twenty-first year, and the guileless way in which she moves through the night speaks of innocence unsullied—this world has not hurt her badly enough to make her fear the dark.

She makes her slow, shambling way, into a dimmer, more residential corner of the neighborhood. Here, elderly big-leaf maple trees obscure the streetlamps, slicing their light into a meaningless kaleidoscope of brightness and shadow.

A man’s voice rings out, cutting through the liquid sigh of rain on concrete: “Hey, Sandra! What’re you doing out in this mess?”

I step behind one of the maples, concealing myself in the shadow of its generous trunk.

Sandra says something in a voice too soft to be heard over the rain.

“Well, me, I came out here for a late night smoke. Keep me company? It’s been a while since we hung out.”

Another muted response from Sandra.

“Come on, what’s five more minutes? I’m starting to think you’re too busy for me, or something.” He laughs a mirthless laugh.

I peer around the side of the trunk, my lips curling into a reflexive sneer when I glimpse the interloper. He stands in the middle of the sidewalk, umbrella in one hand, cigarette and lighter in the other. There’s no graceful way for Sandra to get around him; to her left is a deep, muddy soup of gutter water, and to her right, a wrought iron fence.

She goes to the left, stomping pointedly through the rain-frothed puddle. His expression turns dark as she goes, and to her retreating back he silently mouths the words loving bitch.

That’s my girl, I think, but the primordial voice says, wait.

Sandra gets to the door of her apartment building, makes to reach for the purse at her hip—but there isn’t a purse. She’s no doubt left it at the bar, but that’s a long, dark walk through the rain. She turns to look out into the sodden night, at the sheets of rain, at the glowing red cigarette cherry beneath the umbrella.

“Do you think you could open the door for me?” she calls to the man.

“Do you think you could talk to me for more than two seconds?”

Sandra takes one last look through the glass doors that lead into the building’s foyer, hoping, perhaps, for some late night dog-walker to emerge from the elevators. No such intervention arrives. She hugs herself tightly and steps into the rain, joining the man under his umbrella.

.

The first woman was not plucked from a man’s rib, nor was she crafted by some sky-bound god. The first woman was born of a tidal wave, a great crashing of water onto the shore of the world.

She was not intended to be anyone’s lover or mother or chatel. She wan’t for anything. For millennia, she roamed and hunted and sang and counted the stars, and the whole of the ocean watched through her eyes. Her wandering brought her to a verdant valley in the heart of a vast mountain range; at the sight of it, the ocean within her leapt up, crying, “Here! Here!” And so the first woman lay herself down on the valley floor and became the first lake.

Rumors of a miniature ocean with preternatural properties spread throughout the world of men; those who came and drank of the first woman’s waters could prolong their lives by centuries. Wars were fought for dominion over the lake, and the first woman was consumed to the last mouthful—a quantity of water small enough to slip down through a crack in the parched lakebed and disappear into the mists of legend.

.

“You’re quiet,” says the man to the fawn.

“Sorry,” she says.

“God, don’t apologize. Just, like, have something to say.”

“I’m really tired, I don’t—”

“That reminds me,” says the man. “If you don’t have your keys, how are you getting into your unit?”

“I was going to use the lobby phone to call maintenance,” Sandra says, her voice stiff with false confidence.

The man snorts. “Yeah, like they’re gonna send someone out at this hour, on a weekend.”

“Then I have a friend over on Melrose. She’ll let me—”

Hello, you have a friend who lives in the same building as you. With a couch.”

“Danny…”

‘Danny’ hucks his cigarette into the puddle, his congenial smile curdling into something sinister. My entire body shivers with readiness.

“I don’t understand,” he says in a brittle tone, “how you could do those things with me and then. Just. Act like a stranger.”

“I’m sorry, Danny, I just wasn’t feelin i—”

Stop apologizing,” he growls. “You were only just starting to get to know me. You barely gave me a chance.”

He has her by the arm before she can back away. “Look, I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m not really like this, I swear, I just—you’ve been haunting me, like a ghost.”

I’ve seen enough. This need not progress to a transgression; the fawn’s innocence need not be consumed to the dredge. I step out from behind the maple tree, stride through the rain toward the altercation.

Danny sees me first. He releases Sandra and smiles as though nothing is wrong. I smile back and spread my arms.

The rain responds to the ocean in me, young water yielding to the old, congealing into liquid spheres around my outstretched hands. I extend my arms forward and send the obedient rainwater crashing forward into a miniature tidal wave that collides with Danny’s face, swirling around his head to form a suffocating helmet. He claws at the water, mouth opening and closing like that of a gilless fish, but his fingers find no purchase; there is nothing to tear at, nothing to destroy, because water, like women, learned long ago how to bend around the aggression of men.

Sandra takes a few steps back at my approach, looking between me and the rapidly suffocating man on the sidewalk. There’s fear in her eyes, but mostly wonder. I give her a roguish grin, then reach into his back pock and withdraw the key fob that will open the main door of the apartment building.

With a flick of my hand, I send Danny gushing down the street in a torrent of muddy rainwater that doesn’t subside until it’s carried him a hundred or so yards.

“Call your friend on Melrose,” I say, tossing Sandra the key. “Tell her you’ve got a hell of a story to tell.”

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


Blood-eater/the shambles/killing a sacred bull

Exsanguination
828 words

Jordan and I were polishing off our gas-station tacos on the side of a Pennsylvania backroad when we heard the infernal mooing. It was the sound of cows, yes – even I knew that – but cows in pain, an extended, drawn out pulling-out-your-fingernails wail.

I wiped a spot of beef juice from my chin and crumpled my taco wrapper. “Let’s get going,” I said.

Jordan took her own trash, folded it neatly, and placed it in her carrying bag. She gazed out at the horizon, towards the ruckus, squinting at the setting sun. “I bet there’s a slaughterhouse around here,” she said. “I grew up near one. I remember the noise. The smell, too.” She sat like that for a second before rising all at once, then nodding her head to the car.

I didn’t want to tell Jordan, but I was exhausted. I’d been driving sixteen hours a day for the past month, shuttling people around the country, and I needed a break. But I’d always get a text after dropping someone off – don’t know if you’re anywhere near Memphis, but I’ve got a friend who needs to get away from her family yesterday – and I couldn’t say no, not when I knew it was a thing I could do.

Even with the windows rolled up, I could still hear that bovine bleating, like a subwoofer in the night. Jordan put in earbuds as I started driving again, away from the bleating.

“Does your aunt know you’re coming?” I asked Jordan. At first, I thought her music was blocking me out, but then she removed one earbud and said:

“It’s a standing invitation,” she said.

“You’re lucky,” I said. “I mean, it’s a lucky thing to have that. Someone who understands, who’s got the space, in a city where you can get away. Not everyone’s got that sort of thing.”

Jordan was silent for a while, and I wasn’t sure if I’d ventured too much – god drat it, Kathleen, you can’t impose your own story on everyone – when all of a sudden Jordan screamead, and I saw the cow in the middle of the road.

I swerved, thanking God for the first time that the streets here were buffered by corn and not cliffs, and managed, narrowly, to miss the cow. We came to rest again at the side of the road, and I just took a deep breath. My head was swimming, both with sleep and adrenaline, and I closed my eyes for a second to get my bearings. Then I heard the car door open and slam shut.

“Jordan?” I got out of the car, and, in the filter of dusk-light and shadow, watched Jordan approach the cow. I walked up behind her, feeling all the while that this was a waste of time, that we just needed to get out of here, make it to a motel, do some praying, and that this would all be okay.

“It’s sick,” Jordan said, her hand under the cow’s muzzle, staring intently.

I didn’t know what gave Jordan that impression. I did notice that the animal was wounded, though; half an ear was missing, and, near its buttocks, the cow’s flesh was scraped, raw, bleeding. From its mouth came an unearthly low moan, a low bass note from the symphony we’d heard earlier.

“You know what happens,” Jordan said, “is that the slaughterhouses don’t want to get caught with sick animals on their inspections, so they just find some cornfield or whatever and let the animal die.”

“I don’t know if that’s true,” I said. My eyelid was starting to twitch. “Wouldn’t they just kill the animals themselves?”

“Not for cows,” she said, “not since mad cow disease. No, you bring the animal out far enough that no one will know if it’s your cow or someone else’s cow. You burn off the brand mark, chop off the ear, and strand it somewhere to die.” I was looking at the cow’s exposed flank again, my stomach churning with rest-stop meat. “But,” she said, “at least it’s not in a slaughterhouse anymore.”

She was looking the cow in the eye with such intent, such purpose, that the idea entered my head unbidden. “Jordan,” I said, though I knew I shouldn’t, “does your aunt know you’re coming?”

The cow was still moaning, low and guttural. Jordan didn’t look at me, just rubbed the animal’s muzzle, knelt down, and kissed it between the eyes. Then she reached into her jacket, and I barely had time to catch the glint of metal before she stabbed the cow in the neck.

“Let’s go,” she said. The pocket knife was still in the cow’s throat.

I should have said a prayer – for the cow, for Jordan, for the cursed land between the slaughterhouses. But instead I turned away, my head down, as I retraced my steps to the car.

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.


As Above, So Below
860 words


Bringer of your offering/Sais/unduly active

I was born in the third house. “No we weren't,” you said, the last time I saw you. Mercury was retrograde then. You were riding it out in the lab, fixing the inexplicable bugs as fast as you could spot them, and you wouldn't listen. “We were born in a hospital like everybody else, and you need to accept that.” I'm sorry, brother, but I was born under Mercury in Libra and you were born two minutes and ten seconds later, by which time the planet had passed out: that's just how it is, whether you like it or not.

I hated retrograde too, by the way: I just didn’t hate it as much as you. All kinds of communications were harder, prone to mistakes: I'd write my horoscopes still. Under the balefulness they came out half-formed, twisted things, but I wrote them anyway. I know you’ll read this one. I started it in my lander on the surface, while I waited for the first of your nanobots.

It's a matter of perspective, you see. When the ancients first mapped the heavens, they thought the Earth to be the centre of the Universe: now, of course, we know better. We're rational people, you and I. We know how it works, even if we don’t both like it. Here, close to the source, the words flow like the tin outside my window: they scorch my fingers as they run through the pen and drip onto the paper, burning truths I barely understand. I was born in the third house and I am nearly home.

But, of course, I am waiting for you. I remember the nanotech models, and how you tore them down after every retrograde, when Mercury lay heavy upon the earth and their logic turned to sludge. When the grand entrepreneurs prostrated themselves begging for an end to the chaos (and a place in the upload queue) you took their money, promised them immortality – and rejected their friend requests. It was never about the money for you, I know.

“It shouldn’t work this way,” you muttered, one of a hundred times. “It's a rock. Its position in the sky should not spontaneously create technical issues that share a mystical theme. It shouldn’t work this way. It's a bloody rock floating in space.”

I spread my hands and shrugged. “And yet it moves.”

You didn't like it when I joked like that. “You know,” you said, “one day I’m going to do something about it.” When you break Mercury down for parts, spin her matter around the Sun in a perfect ring of processors – you think it will break the grip of the cosmos on us all. I agree.

An alarm chimes softly. Your first wave has landed. The nanobots burrow into the crust, surveying, marking sites for focused excavation. For now, they follow the algorithms you gave them, awaiting direction from the highest bidder. Are you there, in the lab, as he dissolves into his constituent elements? Are you watching them transcribe his soul, or are you watching me?

A little gleaming sphere assembles itself out of local matter: I appreciate it sparing my notebook. “Hey,” your pre-recorded voice says, “it's showtime. We can talk about you stealing the ship when you get back. I hope you... found what you needed.”

“Not yet, I haven’t.”

“I assume you didn’t. Still, it’s time to go,” it says.

Beneath my feet, the lander's engines hum as the nanobots take command, prepare to take me away. I look through the window to the outside. They're making progress. The surface of Mercury shimmers, the liquid metal trembling in anticipation of its fate.

I used to wonder why I wrote horoscopes. Hearing your voice, then, still blissfully unaware of how far I had come and how far I would go, I stop wondering. I take a deep breath. Then I clutch my notebook, override the airlock, and open it. For an instant I stand naked in the third house, drinking in the heat and the silver.

Then I am them. They're perfect, to be fair to you. Distributed, self-correcting, they survived the journey Sunward through dust and radiation, never once retrograde to Mercury. They recognise my mind as mind and preserve it, passing me up the hierarchy you built, approaching the peak. Already they're preparing to lift material away from this place to sculpt the skeleton of your ringworld: with a thought I countermand and redirect them downwards, deep into my heart.

The first of your uploads intrudes into my consciousness, stepping off a laser beam seven minutes too late. He hoped to plant a flag and rule the third house, but the fates will not be monetised. I mute his keening demands, close to all incoming comms and squirt him back to Earth where he belongs. I can't be interrupted right now. The horoscope sits deep within me, committed to memory, inscribed across my molten heart. I add the finishing touches – a comma here, a deep forboding there – and transmit it Earthward. I hope you like it, brother. After all, we are twins still: I promise you will receive this, and more besides.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

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



Lights in the Cavern of Wrong
1190 words
Prompt: Face behind him / cavern of wrong/ copulating with a boy

Stan's visiting my place for the first time, and the first thing he says is "we should get you some lamps." I was expecting something more like "this is a hovel" or "how do you live like this?" or "I'm breaking up with you." I keep this place clean enough, but it's cluttered and dark and ugly, all Goodwill and curbside scores. It's a damaged-goods apartment, and how Stan hasn't seen I'm damaged goods yet, I have no idea.

Stan isn't damaged goods. Stan has a nice, clean apartment where we've been hanging out for the last four months, and now he's sitting on my lovely couch and he's going to realize how nasty I am. He scratches his elbow. Is the couch bad enough to make him itchy? Jesus.

"I'll go get some beers," I say, and go to the kitchen to grab a couple, mostly to keep myself busy. I take a couple pulls off of mine before I hand Stan his. "And yeah, you're right. I guess it is kinda dark in here."

"Seriously," says Stan. "Lamps. You like IKEA?"

"I dunno. Never been there." There's an IKEA about ten minutes away, but it's not like I have the money for new stuff, and besides, I sort of like this shithole. It's got a lot of memories. It's what I deserve.

"You've never been? Then we have to go. It's great -- it's like an amusement park for furniture."

"I'm kinda broke right now," I say, and it's not an excuse. I'm not sure Stan gets how broke I am when I say I'm broke. He's a webdev; I'm a taxi driver. There is no way in Hell this is going to last.

"My treat. C'mon, let's have a beer and hit IKEA."

We haven't even had sex. My boyfriend of four months hasn't even had sex with me, and he wants to buy me lamps. What the Hell. Why not?

***

We need to talk about the sex thing, I think in the lamp section of IKEA, which is at least twice the size of my apartment. I'm looking at the simplest floor lamps they have, but Stan's playing with this hanging lamp, an orb made of interlocking Tetris-looking pieces that unfold when he pulls the cord. "Hey, Lucas," he says, "what do you think of this one?" He's grinning like a kid in a candy store. God, he's got a great smile.

"I don't think I have a ceiling mount."

"You do," he says. "I checked before we left." Of course he did. He's the kind of guy who checks stuff like that, and that's why I like him so much, and that's why I have to talk about sex with him and don't want to, because I don't want to know what he's really like.

Sex is always where it falls apart. After the first few mistakes, once I officially moved from dumb kid to damaged goods, every guy I've liked just wants a little boy or a puppy or a cock slave. If I'm lonely enough, I try it until I can't ignore how much it hurts. If I'm not, I tell him I can't and he drops me like a hot rock, every drat time.

I don't think Stan is a guy like that, but if he isn't, then he's too good for me. It just confirms what I already know: that Stan's going to marry some nice guy from his softball league, foster-adopt a bunch of kids, and die in his sleep at 92, and I'm going to spend years having sex with men I don't even like, until I get AIDS or get old or get gross, and then I'm going to slink back to my apartment to die. Either Stan's too dommy for me or I'm too trashy for him. That's why I've put it off so long: it's the end, either way.

But right now, Stan wants to buy me a hanging lamp that costs eighty goddamn dollars, and he's smiling while he tells me he'll install it, it's cool, and I want him so badly it's getting hard to be afraid of it. "That and one of those three-head HEKTARs should work," he says; the HEKTAR costs seventy dollars. Half of the guys I've dated before wouldn't even buy me lunch. "That sound good to you?"

"Yeah," I say, "Let's do it."

***

As Stan installs the hanging lamp, I grab a box from my closet and do a little cleaning. This apartment is full of memories, but some of this stuff I think maybe I've just left out to hurt myself: old photos from calms before storms, little courtship gifts from guys who didn't stay sweet very long. I'm not sure I'm ready to throw it all out, but maybe I don't have to look at it all the drat time. Stan's giving me some decent light, and maybe I can use it for something better. Stan doesn't say a word; I can't tell if he's too busy or just giving me a little space.

Once the lamp is up and the box is in the closet, we just stand there for a minute admiring Stan's handiwork. All the way open, the hanging lamp looks like an exploded diagram of the Death Star, and it and the floor lamp together cast weird shadows -- weird, but not bad. I reach for Stan's hand. "Thanks. It looks really nice. Um, can we talk for a minute?"

"Sure," says Stan, but he's frowning. "Is everything okay? I'm sorry -- I know I came on kind of strong with this lamp thing, and, like... poo poo. I'm sorry."

"No, it's not... I like the lamps. It's not bad. I mean, I was just thinking..." Goddammit, I'm never going to say it if I don't just say it. "I want to have sex with you."

"Oh." Stan doesn't stop frowning. poo poo. "Are you sure? You don't have to do anything you don't want to, okay?"

"I want to," I say, a little firmer, and I lead him back to the couch. "I promise I want to."

Stan's face finally relaxes a little. "Oh. Okay. That's... um, I mean, that's great, but... there's something I need to tell you. I have a kink."

Oh, God. I was wrong -- he's another loving daddy dom, and a familiar cold jolt of fear hits me right in the spine. He's a daddy or a master or something, and it's just the same as it ever was, and it's over --

"I'm into gloves," Stan says. "Like, leather driving gloves? Or motorcycle gloves. You wouldn't have to wear them all the time, but... maybe a little bit? Oh, God, I'm sorry. It's too much, isn't it?"

I start laughing. I can't help it. "No, I -- you scared me for a second. No. It's cool." And it is cool. It's something different. Stan isn't perfect. Stan isn't gross. Stan's just Stan, and I'm just me, and maybe we do have a chance in Hell after all.

I catch my breath. I squeeze his hand. "Hey," I say, "wanna go glove shopping?"

Solitair
Feb 18, 2014

This statement is a lie!


The Secret-Keeper
1,169 words
Eater of entrails, house of thirty, perjury

REMOVED

Solitair fucked around with this message at 09:10 on Dec 29, 2019

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Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Hot-foot, who comes from the dusk, judges neglect.

The Heavy Heart
1,161 Words


Hot-foot emerges from the dusk into the night. They glide through the settling blackness, a dark muscular fish in a current of longing. They’ve taken this path many nights before, the loneliness a sharp strike in the face after a day in the overstuffed, effervescent cauldron of souls that is the spiritworld, seemingly endless hours sitting on the tribunal of forty and two judging the sins of mortals. Hot-foot traces the familiar trail past the Nileside reeds. Their form approaches the little village and comes to rest at that familiar window, spirit tendrils settling over the dry mud brick, feeling the rough coolness.

Lit by an amber oil lamp, a mother feeds her baby. Rocks him, holds him with feather tenderness, plants a kiss on his ruddy forehead. She rises to put the little one to bed, face creased by melancholy, and Hot-foot can watch no longer. They push away from the sill, drift off into the ocean of navy ink that the Egypt night always becomes, seeking forgiveness that refuses to be found.

Neglect can mean so many things. Hot-foot sometimes thinks mortal men and women must spend a portion of their too-brief lives dreaming up new things to neglect. The health of bodies. Their minds and spirits. The other people in their community, the health of the land they share, the crops they tend, but perhaps most terrible of all they neglect their promises.

One day in the tribunal, they judged the immortal soul of a man who vowed to build strong, lasting homes for his neighbors. He took money and his builders set to work, and soon his customers were happily settled in. Then the wet season came. Buffetted by stinging torrents of rain and the whipping winds brought forth from the desert’s merciless heart, the houses weakened, crumbled, washed away. The people united in rage, vowed to find the man and exact punishment. But the man was away, away living in another town, sipping good beer and nourishing himself with meat, untroubled by the destruction he so casually enabled. He went on and did the same to another town, and another, over and over until finally he tripped down the temple steps and broke his neck.

When they heard this story, rage overcame Hot-foot. Their form burst into jagged outcroppings, twisted out and away in agony, indignation radiating like a flaming heart. Stabbing a spectral appendage at the man, they condemned him to the deepest pit of the underworld, cursed him to haul the burdens of sin on his back for all time. The old gods joined as one and took hold of Hot-foot, whisked him away from the tribunal and back into the wide miasma of divine souls, Anubis casting them a final shame-heavy glare before returning to the tribunal.

Heart coiled like an asp, Hot-foot fled to the land of mortals. They skirted over the city, saw slaves returning to their quarters, merchants covering their market stands, farmers gazing with a pang of pride over their crops. Each grain of barley took such care to coax into life. Giving your fields only half your care and attention would only grow withered, malformed plants, and that was that. No apologies would send the stalks shooting straight up. The damage was done so early.

They came to their favored house, the home of a scribe and his wife. The wife stood by the window, idly running a comb through her sleek ebon hair. The scribe often worked late. Hot-foot went to her, drawing in the nearby air and arranging the atoms into just the right places to leave a human figure standing in their place. This form had strong cheekbones, soft rounded lips, glittering eyes a mile deep, a pure, unbridled fountain of desire. The woman’s heart stood still.

“My lady,” said the incarnation of Hot-foot, “I have seen you. I have seen how your husband leaves you here, alone and lonely each night. To neglect such a remarkable creature is a sin. To stand by and leave you in such pain would be truly unforgivable.”

The woman reached out a hand, touched the warmth in Hot-foot’s cheek.

* * * * *

The night wind stirred over them, rippling the curtain like a fragrant petal, sending a chill through their languid nakedness. Footsteps sounded down the hall. Hot-foot gave the woman one last smile before vanishing, melting away and becoming one with the wind, soaring free through the night wind.

Free. Then why did they feel trapped, as if buried under a pile of stones? Whispers permeate the earth itself, rumors of arcane, heathen conception staining reputations, emboldening jealous husbands to- Don’t look away. The cries of babies, the speech of men, the sounds of organs fermenting in canopic jars and skin turning to leather under linen wraps, the mark of sin reverberates throughout reality, you cannot look away, there is nowhere else to look, and even if you close your eyes you’ll still be staring at the void in your heart. The well of guilt digs deeper and deeper with each generation that passes, each baby born that grows with a suspicious father or no father at all, grows into a woman who can never shake the feeling that she is some kind of unreal creature. Half a human soul cries into the night, seeking unknowable answers. An episode destined to repeat over the centuries because even a god does not have the strength to stop the wheel.

Slipping back into the dusk, Hot-foot lies before Anubis’s feet. The Lord of the Afterlife glances down. “So,” Anubis said. “The truth has found you.”

“Yes. I’ve seen the rot of my soul, Lord Anubis.”

“And now that you see yourself for who you are… what will you do?”

Hot-foot shrunk down, almost to nothing. “ I can do nothing but ask that you destroy me. Dissolve my being, break me away into nothing. How can I judge the souls of others when mine...” He could not say any more.

Anubis’s dark eyes peered down. He walked to an elaborate cascade of golden metal, a slender statue with a small, round platform in the center. “This used to suffice. The weight of a man’s heart told us whether he would be exalted or condemned. Beautiful in its simplicity. But humans didn’t stay simple. If we are to judge their sins, young Hot-foot, we must know those sins. We must be sinners.”

“But I’ve let so many responsibilities slip by. I haven’t done my duty.”

Anubis laid a hand on Hot-foot’s face. “No, you haven’t. And now you know how much that hurts.”

Hot-foot lay alone, soaking in the sublime possibility coursing throughout the dusk. So much had been done in the day, much that could never be undone. But night followed close after dusk, and each new night was pure and pregnant with tomorrow’s hopes. Swaddled in this peace, Hot-foot gathered their courage, looked neglect in its face, and made a promise.

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