Crit for Mercedes’ “Father Of Exorcism”
So I agree with Getsuya that your in media res was unnecessary. It gives away the joke when building towards it would be better—the reveal that the demon sounds like Samuel L. Jackson comes too early to really pack a punch. I’m curious as to why you chose to put this here. Were you afraid your real beginning was too boring? Because it’s not. It owns. This is a good story’s biggest flaw, and it’s a glaring one.
The hotshot priest bit is great, but it moves at a pace that suggests you want to get the intro done with and get on to the action. This makes sense. Who wants to spend time with the horny teens while they’re planning their trip to the creepy cabin? Smoother transitions would probably help.
Okay, you’re at the centerpiece of your story. This is the section you want to write and it shows. I disagree with Getsuya that you nailed the horror but I also don’t care. This is tense, and has plenty of momentum.
I love your ending, but not your last sentence. The idea of losing your sense of reality is terrifying to me. The tragedy of the story isn’t that this guy gets abused in prison, it’s that this baby is dead. End with your hero getting hauled away, screaming that it wasn’t his fault, maybe?
You’re a good horror-comedy writer, stop hiding from genres that you think you’re bad at. You’re a good comedy writer because you’re a good writer, you can add jokes to anything.
|# ? Jul 24, 2019 01:06|
|# ? Aug 8, 2022 12:51|
You have once again entered a world of survival horror… good luck.
I’m back with Words for your “Words”.
Apis by Yoruichi
Owner of horns/Asyut/volubility of speech
I thought this was a lovely story that gave some nice personification and fantastic qualities to the lifecycle of a Queen Honeybee. It was informed and structured in a way that conveyed the Queen’s longing in a believable manner, and the ending felt whimsical and simultaneously bittersweet. It was written with a fine degree of competency and as a shorter story, the length felt adequate for the story you told.
I feel like the chatter of a beehive is a good way to reflect the volubility of speech even if it was a lesser note overall.
Beakbait by Drunk Nerds
I assume it’s intentional, but 2 million days seems about right for Egyptian mythos lore to have originated, about 3-400 years from recorded Egyptian history, and that’s nice nod, and a fun way to begin a themed story.
The story establishes its humor early on, and it includes many elements that create the necessary otherworldliness for this god story and the trek of the dead. Now, I am curious about the integrity of the character. I feel like him picking out the guy’s eyes isn’t a part of his job. Additionally, if the bird has been doing it for 5,000 years, and this trick to elude the judgment of gods was something learnable, attainable, why then punish this guy. I get that the character enjoys breaking individuals, but if the other god’s weren’t punishing the defiant man, then something seems off. It makes this bird god, more like the asp that seems to bite for no other purpose than to make the dead’s journey more difficult or impossible. I’m probably overthinking it. The story was decent, I just feel like it was a strange action for your protagonist to take. There are a few editing hiccups, but nothing that made the story unreadable or interrupted its pacing for long.
Overall, I felt like you were on prompt though, and told a competently composed story that more or less had defined motivations and reasonable character action. I personally think it just kind of got hung up on the auxiliary character’s gimmick and your protag’s reaction given it’s the “conflict” of your story.
Delivered by Vinestalk
Bestower of Powers, The City, Making Distinctions For Self Cycles
So this story takes you on a journey that goes from mildly obnoxious to poetically beautiful to disconcerting with the ending. That’s a good thing in my opinion!
There were some problems though, and specifically some sentence structure that I personally felt was awkward or rather it impeded the flow of the story, albeit briefly.
The main character’s grating personality and nonchalance is kind of key. Them losing their memories over time is good.
There is just something missing here… an extra coat of polish on some of your ideas would really make this stand apart. As far as your prompt is concerned. I think you do a pretty decent job of capturing the prompt for this week. Real world dynamics meshed with the mystery of the afterlife, I find that it worked well here. Still, I just think some extra time framing or showcasing your ideas would give it that extra pop!
Dead Ernest by Ironic Twist
Prompt: Owner of faces/Nedjefet/Impatience
Hot drat! This story was gross and beautiful. The micro life taking up residence in a decaying body is a very nice angle to work for this prompt I feel. More so than that, the humanization of the maggot in the right nostril. The existential pangs it feels. It’s a nice touch.
I don’t have much to say here beyond praise. The orange-tufted mouth might be the only thing I felt might have benefited from maybe some extra description, but what do I know.
What is Given by Flerp
Double lion, who comes from the sky, who judges destruction of food.
OK flerp… You’ve made my bulbous eyes slick a little biit, so kudos for that. Prompt wise, I think you extracted a story from the prompt that was very good. I felt that your scent associations were a very nice mechanic in the story.
I do feel like the zookeeper’s section is a bit clumsier than the rest of the story and in a sense lessened the significance of Casper’s own passing, but yeah I really liked this one.
The Walls of Busiris by Pham Nuwen
Prompt: Temsep/Busiris/conjuration against the king
100% on prompt. There are a few simple grammatical errors that extra editing probably would have caught. I enjoy magic in stories, and I thought the best part of this particular story was in how you showed the failed attempts on Temsep’s life/magic. I do feel like the familial trap was kind of hand-waived a little, but overall I thought the execution was pretty solid.
The Good of Generations by Simply Simon
Bestower of good /the harpoon nome/doing ...?
Simon, this story is good! Your opening line reads awkward in my opinion, but I’ll give you a hot drat! I really enjoyed the whole set up for this story and the generational attempts had me hoping right along with the character in each iteration that they’d get it right.
Cruel, unforgiving, and inexplicable. It meets the prompt in a really fantastic way, I thought.
The Tomb! By Derp
primp: Owner of horns / vociferous speech
“breathed in the dusty, dry rot smell that always accompanied him.”
Hahah, I think you came across something magical with this story. It was hilarious, gross, strange. A perfect mix in my opinion, and well written to boot.
Things that are not by Black Griffon
Serpent with raised head/the cavern/dishonest wealth
I think with the context of your prompt and the flash rule that your story fits the prompt. It’s almost molded to it, but I feel like some of the context is lost. I read it twice to let all the independent pieces sink in. Ferris is in some servitude to this creature Cue for reasons not entirely disclosed, but the reader can assume he is indebted.
The dialogue seems a bit stiff, but I think the only real problem is that there’s not enough story. I think you have an interesting foundation, but I’d personally like to see more.
Oceanatrix by Sitting Here
I’m conflicted. It’s expertly written. That first paragraph is so picturesque with an underlying eeriness that is confirmed to the reader right away with “this one” only to have that creepiness subverted by an actual predator which in turn reveals the “force” or “entity” as a protector, but told within the tropes of young girl too intoxicated to be in complete control of her faculties, vulnerable and in need of protection. Eh. I feel like it’s a unique take on an all too real occurrence, but I feel, maybe just personally, that it loses out a bit for that played out trope.
Exsanguination by sparksbloom
Blood-eater/the shambles/killing a sacred bull
There’s something unique about your story that I can’t quite put my fingers on, but I’d say that your story probably ranks higher than most for this week. At least to me! There’s a directness to your story that still some how manages to be surprising and prompt fitting in a creative way.
As Above, So Below by Obliterati
I feel like I’m a bit too dumb for this story if I’m being honest. Sci-fi that entangles astrological theory with science to tell something heartfelt with siblings from what I could piece together. I think I followed it, but a lot of it flew over my head, maybe? I don’t think there was anything wrong with the writing. I just think it’s a bit smarter than what I could parse. I read it three times.
Lights in the Cavern of Wrong by Antivehicular
Prompt: Face behind him / cavern of wrong/ copulating with a boy
Whoa! An excellent story that makes fantastic use of the prompt! The ending is cute, and given the self-deprecative exposé you lead in with, remarkably mature. Another high mark story.
The Secret-Keeper by Solitair
Eater of entrails, house of thirty, perjury
An excellent use of your prompt, the social dynamics were executed well. Another high contender in my opinion. I saw just enough of that world to be content; I wouldn’t mind seeing more. It was a perfectly contained story in my opinion.
The Heavy Heart by Nikaer Drekin
Hot-foot, who comes from the dusk, judges neglect.
I like your protagonist. I feel like Hot-foots flaws lend your story a necessary pedigree of realism that is contrasted by the paternal guidance of Anubis when it comes to guiding Hot-foot on his all too human passion. I feel like you meet your prompt neatly and appropriately.
The Assessment at Miccosukee Indian Village by Pepe Silvia Browne
Owner of Faces/Nedjefet/Impatience
I had to take a minute to stop laughing out loud. The Nedjefet line is awesome. A comedic, but very good take on your prompt. That ending contrasts the overall silliness of your story with welcome grim realism. Overall, the story seemed a bit salty in all the right ways.
Shattered by Thranguy
See whom you bring/House of Min/misbehavior
I like the framework. The central conflict in this comes as a bit of a surprise, but the delivery is something that I quite enjoyed with the focus of your story not being on either of those characters, but some secret being unveiled about the setting and its owner. A neat usage of your prompt.
Steamed by Sebmojo
Water-smiter/the abyss/being loud-voiced
A skillful use of the prompt, and a good portrayal of lives therein. The lines seem deliberate and well placed.
Imperfect Hearts by Siddhartha Glutamate
word count: 935
Your story is poignant and bittersweet! You have the adventurism of youth coupled with settling and the reconciliation of one’s hope for their offspring. There wasn’t anything that I really found offensive or glaring about your story.
I feel like the transition between the intro, which maybe seems a bit large for the overall story, with the end is done well and you used the prompt in a more direct but effective manner.
OVERALL REMARKS: A lot of great stories this week. Most high-mid. Hmmm… did I lose? I feel like I should lose this week.
Also poo poo, there were a lot of really good stories. I’d have trouble picking a winner.
The are just some opinions, do with them what you will.
|# ? Jul 24, 2019 05:36|
Thanks for your thoughts!
|# ? Jul 24, 2019 05:48|
Thanks, AA. I know exactly which sentences you're talking about. Really appreciate the feedback. First time any of my writing has been called poetic or beautiful.
|# ? Jul 24, 2019 07:26|
THUNDERDOME WEEK 363 RESULTS
Anomalous Amalgam's Live Honestly was not particularly bad, just particularly generic amid a soggy middle of interesting ideas executed poorly. It's this week's...dishonorable mention, just so I can be contrary. No loser this week, it's a Thunderdome Anniversary Miracle!
The winner is sparksbloom because I said so. HMs to Uranium Phoenix and Yoruichi because they're the ones I remember with a happy face instead of a frowny face.
Time to sleep for five thousand years. I'll be in my sarcophagus.
|# ? Jul 24, 2019 08:03|
Thunderdome Week 363 Crits: Thumbing the Scales of Truth
I ranked stories on a scale from 1-4, which turned out to actually be 2-4 because all your stories were basically okay. It's like you're getting better at writing or something. I don't like it.
Sebmojo, Steamed - 3
Sat on this one for a minuute or two before I picked out the metaphor, which was handily stated right there in the middle so I wouldn't miss it. It's a nice thought, but not exactly intuitive, this difference between steam and water, hot versus cold. The more I think about it the more I see it (water cuts deeper, becomes ingrained, while steam allows new things to happen) but it feels as though this is missing the key image, the thing that makes me go 'aha' as I'm reading. 'Water dissolves' is the weak link, I think.
Thranguy, Shattered - 4
A satisfyingly low-key magical world here, with a lot of authentically teenagery bad decisions. Most of my gripes are dangerously close to Cinema Sins complaints. Do the other magic outcasts know about the ice mom thing? Is it believable, in this world, that ice mom could have been real, or when she shattered was it obvious that she was a magical construct? The concluding bit is heavy on the exposition, like the story's rushing to tie everything up. (Also, I thought the grave was for ice mom before I realized it was for meat mom, and ice mom had taken her place.) Still good, but I think this story wanted to be a couple hundred words longer.
Pepe Silvia Browne, The Assessment at Miccosukee Indian Village - 2
This is fun, but kinda light. It's not a bad structure for a story, sure, but it's a bit of a stock plot, even if it's dressed up with some interestingly Florida Gothic ideas. The characters are a bit one-note too, which also isn't necessarily a problem, but part of the crux here is that Seth is somehow good enough to be sent back to earth, despite all I see of him being a straightforward rear end in a top hat. I guess the recursive supermarket bit is his character development, but the beginning bit is a bit lacking. I felt like he ought to be either more comedically impatient, or to have some kind of ironic conflict where he swings between attempting to be nice and having sudden outbursts.
Anomalous Amalgam, Live Honestly - 2
The ideas here are fine, if a bit stock. I would have poked more at the 'noble thief' trope. Surely a supernatural judge has heard plenty of justifications for someone's sins. What if Samir had to consider more deeply whether he was actually helping his sister or just being greedy? What could a divine being do to figure out the true nature of someone's character? I liked the images of the living robe, and of returning to his body, but on the other hand, there were some real clunker lines in there too. "His mouth began to salivate in anticipation of his meal" sounds like you could be describing Pavlov's dog, and the bit where he runs into the guard has some stumbly sentence pacing. Cut up some of those long phrases. "Knocked into the dust and scrambling to hold onto the bread he had taken, he didn’t see the scimitar swinging down on him in time." could easily be three sentences.
Nikaer Drekin, The Heavy Heart - 3
There's good images in here, and only a couple places where the writing gets away from the story a bit. (Mostly the part after the break, where it's Hot-foot's monologue.) At the start I was a little unclear whether they liked neglect or not (i.e., do they enjoy condemning people) though it clears up later on. That part where it gets messy is also basically the big important bit of the story, which isn't great; the story feels back-heavy because of it, when that should probably be coming a bit sooner. I like the plot here a lot, but it could be focused in closer on Hot-foot's impulsiveness and the idea that he commits the sin he hates out of indignance that someone else could be so neglectful.
Solitair, The Secret-Keeper - 3
This held my interest throughout, but the ending falls prey to being a bit too close to what you'd expect. There's a court interrogation, obviously something is fishy about the witness but there's no proof, and then later on, new evidence reveals the con. It's basically a mystery story, in that it's setup for the reveal, but here the reveal is almost like "the butler DID do it". It needed a bit more impact. Is it unthinkable to the stoic Kenta that someone would break their mind for this, all for political change? Is there an implication that Kenta themselves is the decoy, that they were working against the old regime all along? The prose itself I had no problem with, aside from one or two places where "they" got used to refer both to Kenta and someone(s) else, and I had to take a moment to sort out which they it was referring to.
Antivehicular, Lights in the Cavern of Wrong - 4
The cool thing about a story in IKEA is that all the stuff you read about is stuff you can buy. Even the glove fetish. You took the joke prompt I gave you and made it into an actual story, drat it. I don't have much to say, because this is overall pretty good. The voice works well for this kind of insecurity, of being with someone you like but who's from an entirely different social class than you. The anti-climax at the end is good too, as a resolution to the pervasive internal tension. Based on your performance here, I'm making a note to give you Rural Rentboys prompts for all subsequent weeks I judge.
Obliterati, As Above, So Below - 3
The biggest flaw I see in this is that it's high-concept in a way that makes it difficult to know what's in the realm of possibility. I think it's the connection between mining Mercury for resources and apparently uploading rich people into the nanobots that are mining Mercury...it feels like there's two hundred or so words that would have bridged the gap that just aren't there. But despite the fact that I used a lot of this crit to gripe about that, I like this a lot. It fuses the idea of astrology with a world where you actually can change the planets in an interesting way.
sparksbloom, Exsanguination - 4
This feels flash-fictiony, and I mean that in a good way. (A bit like sebmojo's, come to think of it.) It doesn't quite have the full-circle most Thunderdome stories have, but it sets a mood effectively. I got the feeling from this of a world that's slightly wrong, between the wailing cows and Kathleen apparently ferrying people around non-stop. It sounds like something's in crisis off-screen, and this is only an extension of what's happening somewhere else. Hopefully that was on purpose.
Sitting Here, Oceanatrix - 4
Hey, this is cool. The mythopoeia here reminds me a lot of Orphan's Tale stuff, because it has that same sort of misunderstood tragedy, something special soiled by short-sighted humans, et cetera et cetera. Then it winds up being a metaphor for what's happening in the broader story, too. The only weak part if you ask me is right at the end. There's nothing wrong with the "you've got a hell of a story, audible wink" but, I dunno. It feels like there's something more unique to this woman of the primordial waters that could happen at the end, even if the ultimate result would be unchanged.
Black Griffon, Things that are not - 4
This could have used another edit pass or two, but I like what's going on here. It takes a little longer than it should to get what's going on, but once you figure out what's happening, it's interesting. If the first bit was tighter and quicker, and if the middle bit didn't rely so much on the word 'something' (trust me, I know how hard it is to write about things which are meant to be impossible to remember) I think this would be pretty drat good. I like how the things that have already been forgotten are things that don't exist; it's easy to get sympathy by going "oh, we don't have books any more" but it's harder to do the same for something no one has attachment too, but you pull it off here in a compelling way.
derp, The Tomb! - 2
This is fine. It's jokey, yeah, but that's about what I expected from the title. Trying to look at this both from the perspective of a joke and the perspective of a story, I wound up at the same problem: Jack and Marriane basically have the same punchline/characterization. Someone talks a lot, Owner of Horns attacks. The context is different (Jack is self-centered, Marianne is wife) but not by enough to make it feel like a new joke. There's too much characterization of their relationship to make it just an "it happens again" gag, but there's not enough to sell the idea that Marriane, who apparently likes him enough to have married him, would just go and do the thing that sets him off. "Marianne talks too much during sex", while still a cheap gag, would have at least built off of their relationship, and then you'd get to write a scene where a mummy monster bones down. I'm not sure why anyone would pass up that opportunity.
Simply Simon, The Good of Generations - 3
This has a feature I generally don't like in Thunderdome stories (surprise acts of violence) but on the other hand, I really like the way it ends, and once I know that and I go back to look at the whole, I can see this idea that neglecting Bestower of Good is the right thing to do, and that's what's been going on until Jacob/Jacob mess it up. I think what keeps this from really shining is that it takes a while in the beginning to get going, and that by the end, it still feels like Bestower might just be a weird rear end in a top hat--I like the ambiguity of the ending, but it could have used omething that reflects back to the beginning, about how the statue should (or wants to?) be left alone.
Editor's note: At this point, Djeser fell asleep for approximately two days.
Pham Nuwen, The Walls of Busiris - 2
I was worried when this story started off with the word 'ken' and even more worried about the word 'puissant', but the voice never got thick enough to strangle the story, even if it got a bit dense where it's talking in circles around the radio (or whatever tech it was that the trap worked on). There's good meat here but it could use more flavor; there's a number of stories I've read with the whole far-future, magic-returns kind of vibe (Virconium, The Braining of Mother Lamprey) and I wanted to hear more about how the earth has changed now that the sun is no longer yellow, etc. The suggestive tidbits are interesting, but I don't even know what the beasts are beyond beasts with limbs and snouts. It's also a bit heavy on the explaining, which is going to happen in a story with as much magic as this, but I don't think the ultimate connection is satisfying enough to click. For a story about solving a puzzle, you want the solution to be something the reader wouldn't think of immediately, but which in hindsight makes perfect sense.
flerp, what is given - 4
This is Djeser Talks About Books Hour I guess because this reminded me of some of the stories in Under The Jaguar Sun, because they also have this hyper-focus on a sense as the basis for a story. I could complain about a couple things here, but then I'd be back in Cinema Sins territory like I was with Thranguy's. How do zoo lions know about cherries? But those questions aren't really the point. A lot of stories this week felt a bit too big for 1200 words but this feels maybe 200 words too thick. It's a dwelling and contemplative sort of story, but it could use a bit of trimming and editing to make sure it doesn't start to slide off of the readers' brains before they're done.
Ironic Twist, Dead Earnest - 4
I like this. A contemplative maggot is an interesting choice for a protagonist and it fits pretty well with this combination of gallows humor and navel-gazing. I do kinda get the feeling that thhis story might have started with "I LARVAE YOU LONG TIME" and then proceeded from there, since there's not much later on that's as much of an obvious joke. It's a good job of setting the tone, though, and that tone carries it through an arc that might otherwise be a bit pat. A human doing all this would be a bit of an rear end in a top hat, but a maggot makes it much more bearable.
Vinestalk, Delivered - 3
This isn't bad, though it feels a bit longer than it needs to be. There's also an ambiguity to the ending where I can't tell if it's intentionally left vague, or whether there just wasn't enough space to finish. (I'm choosing to read it as now that Dax has left his mortal past behind he can be resurrected/move on to a more final afterlife. Either way.) I liked the voice; it felt true to someone who's a generally angry person. Afterlife stories like these are always a little tricky because by nature they tend to come off like they've got morals, even if they don't intend to. It's hard to say whether Dax was right to accept things, and I think it could have used another scene before the ending, where he's getting a bit more willing to let go of his anger/memories, so the reader gets to see more of why it's happening.
Drunk Nerds, Beakbait - 2
Despite there being a line or two in here that pushes the world of the story a little too far (New Jersey sucks, yes, but it is unfortunately within the land of the living) I think this is a decent story that's a little too talky. Come back with an editing pass and trim off some of the flabby bits, and this is a decent myth/Twilight Zone episode. Someone thinks he's outsmarted the gods, but his one advantage is taken away from him, revealing his hubris, yadda yadda, it's all very Greek and good. Honestly, if a little foreshadowing was sprinkled in about pecking out eyes (even a mythology gag or two about some birds getting to eat tasty liver all day, but ah, I'd settle even just for popping some idiot's eye...) I would have upgraded this from decent to kinda clever.
Yoruichi, Apis - 4
I'm into it. I'm also into the number of people who wrote non-human protagonists this week, and I didn't even have it as a flash rule. Nice. This is simple, it's straightforward, and it's written well. It's also only five hundred words, which I really appreciate right at the moment. It's a very Thunderdomy sort of flash fiction, too, as it's a really quickly executed full story. The main character's conflict starts before she's even born. Now that's a tidy pace.
Uranium Phoenix, Sins of the Past - 4
Hey, you thought you were going to get away with not reading the prompt post because I haven't been bothering to read the prompts, but Kaishai's error-checking alorithms noticed that you went and picked a bunch of things from random gods like I told people not to do. The good news is that I'm enough of an idiot not to have noticed, so I'm not going to penalize you for it or nothing, but watch yourself, Buckminsterfullerene Bird.
Luckily, this story is good. It's a pretty direct reinterpretation of the bit of Egyptian belief I themed the week around, but it works. And I mentioned a few times in my crits for the other stories about how a "puzzle" story depends on the solution you use to solve it. Here, the solution is set up early, and the character is the sort of person who would find that solution. There are a few quibbly things I could pick at: if the nanites can tell the truth about anything, has no one else who came here sincerely wanted to learn? Was one good person enough to free everyone trapped on the planet? But these are relatively small things, and mostly about in-world consistency more than any actual complaint with the writing.
|# ? Jul 24, 2019 08:05|
Bless you and thank you for the work Djeser (and also AA, of course). Giving my cats an extra pet for your health.
|# ? Jul 24, 2019 12:33|
Thanks for the crits!
|# ? Jul 24, 2019 13:18|
Thanks for the crits DJeser and AA!
|# ? Jul 24, 2019 18:56|
Kinda moot now since I scrubbed it up and missed Uranium Phoenix's story, but...
Sins of the Past by Uranium Phoenix
Rules: Far strider / The abyss / Unhearing of truth
I feel like you married the more mythological concepts of your prompt excellently with the desperation of a far future dystopia where we've helped enable technological overlords that judge us for our past wickedness. I like that you don't spend time trying to iterate all the trials, I feel like it's a rookie mistake I would have made, instead focusing on the triumph that enables the redemption of the human species. Well done!
|# ? Jul 24, 2019 21:06|
Everyone told me The Resistance sucked for some reason so I avoided listening to it but this is good poo poo, what the gently caress
Edit: I mean it's like Muse sat down and consumed Ayreon for a week straight but for some reason that works because it's Ayreon with less Ayreon
Black Griffon fucked around with this message at 21:19 on Jul 24, 2019
|# ? Jul 24, 2019 21:16|
Thunderdome Week 363: Face Our Gods and March Backwards Into Hell
Djeser - Judge
Since Djeser is lone wolfing this week, and since he’s got a mysterious condition (have you seen any dead face huggers around, Djeser?) I’ll jump in to provide NON-SCORING crits. I thought this was an interesting theme this week, but didn’t sign up because I am a scrub. But I also don’t know exactly how close Djeser wanted the prompt to figure into the story. My take here is the story should at least give me a good feel of the theme of judgement with the aspect that you selected or were given. YMMV. Overall I agree with Djeser this was a strong week.
Let’s begin, shall we?
#1 - Uranium Phoenix - Sins of the Past
What worked for me: The theme fit well and you have some pretty nice concepts, such as the “tomb” world with a fleet of empty starships, waiting for someone to pass the tests and ascend. It feels like a glimpse into fairly deep world with some thought put behind it.
What didn't: I think you tried to fit too much into too little, or what you had wasn’t convincing. The beginning doesn’t grab like it should, and the end seemed too abrupt. I feel like you spent too much time setting up and then rushed the end. As an example, the other trials are one half of a sentence, but you have a whole section of the protag saying goodbye to her child. The emotional investment building could be more efficient. I think you meant the dialogue to be archaic, but it came off as stiff. Pronouns sometimes were unclear - I had to re-read sentences to be sure I understood.
Overall: Neat premise needed better execution. 2/5
#2 - Yoruichi - Apis
What worked for me: Nice and short, and well-crafted story about an insect queen without anthropomorphizing. Felt ‘authentic’ and relatable, even though it’s about a frickin’ bee. I liked this quite a bit.
What didn't: You started out talking about memories and then dropped it. Would have been nice to somehow tie that in again at the end. The last line seems a little abrupt and I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a metaphor or literal. Maybe that’s the intention? How it fits the theme is lost on me.
Overall: Although doesn’t (to me) have much to do with the prompt, nice work. 4/5
#3 - Drunk Nerds - Beakbait
What worked for me: another great short one. I liked the tone of the protag - the serious archaic talk with a humorous commentary. Even though it’s short, you effectively wove in good descriptions of the afterlife. I liked the line of millions of dead souls, filing into their judgement. Nice ending.
What didn't: I don’t know why your first 3-4 lines are separated. They could be one paragraph. You say the one soul is different too many times. Once, and then describe how so is fine. I got it. Um…. I’m kind of struggling for anything else here.
Overall: Nice use of theme, and style. 4/5
#4 - Vinestalk - Delivered
What worked for me: Good use of theme. I like stories with a cyclical flow. I think the urban take on the afterlife was a nice, almost Beetlejuice flavor.
What didn't: However, it just didn’t gel for me The main character is in purgatory burning off his anger, which is nice, but either we’re too far into his cycle or you just didn’t state why Dax is angry. Therefore, I don’t really care as a reader. It’s just generalized teenage angst at this point, which doesn’t do it for me anymore. It would have been good to know Dax is pissed because Becky Chisolm wouldn’t let him put his hand up her shirt, or he got caught spray painting anarchy symbols or whatever. Make me feel that anger draining away, don’t just tell me.
Overall: Fell flat for me. Not bad, just flat. Needs a couple of re-writes. 2/5
#5 - Ironic Twist - Dead Ernest
What worked for me: What is it with good stories about insects this week? This story made me feel uncomfortable and grossed out, but in a very good way. Good humor - I laughed way too hard at “I LARVAE YOU LONG TIME”. I never expected “I have a collection of nose hairs” to be a memorable line of something I’ve read, but here we are.
What didn't: Man, this is tough. I don’t think I have much to put here, other than it may have been nice if the protagonist had a nickname for the other maggot better than “the guy next door”. Also the “yellow tufted mouth” I assume is some kind of bird, and it made me stop and try to suss out what it was too much, pulling me out of the story.
#6 - Flerp - What is Given
What worked for me: drat YOU FLERP FOR MAKING ME TEAR UP WHEN READING A THUNDERDOME STORY. Seriously, this has the feels all up in it. Good job. Nice use of different senses for the animal characters. Once again, drat YOU FLERP I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING
What didn't: The Zookeeper’s story is too specific. Does the lion understand the concept of guns and bullets all the sudden?
Overall: Polish this baby up and submit it somewhere or I cut you. If I were really judging this would be HM, probably winner, but I’m not, sorry, so you just get my love. Lucky you. 4.5/5
#7 - Pham Nuwen - The Walls of Busiris
What worked for me: Interesting setting, and situation. I like the puzzle of trying to figure out how to breach the defenses.
What didn't: Typos in the first two words [self edit: I cheated and looked at crits posted after I started this and I *thought* you were trying to say “Know that” but you really did mean “Now ken” - ugh. Bad writer. No cookie.] and elsewhere, proofread your work. I think you were going to an imperious, archaic style, but unfortunately it didn’t work. You use “I did [do action]” in the wrong places (“I did leave my food and run”) … The word order is really inconsistently awkward in places “Sent I then for a clever artificer…” - bad, “Long did I sit in thought after this.” - good. Again, I know you’re going for archaic, but you miss the mark a lot. The sudden anachronism of walkie talkies or whatever it was is jarring. Nowhere else do you hint this isn’t just some fantasy world, and honestly, it feels jammed in and out of place. The last line about building walls misses the mark. Are you implying a cycle of repetition, where Daro now becomes the defender? Daro brags about the foolishness of others, and then sets himself up to be the next fool for some reason? I spent way more time trying to figure this out than I should have.
Overall: Prose style fail, although interesting take on the theme. 1.5/5
#8 - Simply Simon - The Good of Generations
What worked for me: I liked the generational nature of the story. You managed to successfully convey many generations within a short work. In the penultimate generation, when Joseph mentions a curse they can’t escape I immediately said to myself “Except by NOT COMING ANYMORE” and then, you did that, which was good, but maybe hide the fingerprints a little better so I don’t jump to the resolution before the end. Still nice resolution.
What didn't: You spent too much time dwelling on Jacob & Jacob. However, you also could have hinted a bit more that the previous corpses were somehow related rather than random. Jacob and Jacob are a neat affectation but it was presented confusingly. Who’s got the focus of the first section, Jacob Jr, right? If so, saying things like “Father Jacob” feels unnatural. Spears vs Harpoons line is unnecessary and clunky. However, I actually liked this quite a bit, but it had a rocky start that could be cleaned up and it took too long to get its legs under it.
Overall: Good use of theme, neat generational story that started shaky. A few more re-writes needed. 3/5
#9 - Derp - The Tomb!
What worked for me: Derp, for a few weeks now, after your epiphany, I’ve been seriously thinking that you’re trolling us. I read each week’s entries even if I don’t enter, and I am honestly trying to figure out what the actual gently caress you are trying to do. Your last few entries have been … well, something all right, and when I started reading this one, I thought “Here we go again.” But you know what? Whatever it is you are up to is beginning to work. Maybe it’s literary Stockholm Syndrome, maybe you are trolling and accidentally getting better, or maybe you are genuinely trying an over the top, ridiculous style, but whatever the case, it seems like it’s working. This goddamn story is just plain fun. I would love to see this in comic form, because the image of the Horned one with hollow eye sockets sitting in an easy chair by the fire reading is marvelous. The turn the story took in the middle is effective because it veers in a crazy direction I wasn’t expecting (and who could?) without being just random bullshit.
What didn't: The beginning drags on juuuuust a little bit. Consider maybe cut down the soliloquy or maybe not. Just when it started to grate on the nerves, you shift into the good stuff. The first line could be punched up a bit.
Overall: Shine on, you crazy diamond. 4/5
#10 - Black Griffon - Things that are not
What worked for me: The vague horror and discomfort and helplessness of Ferris. Nice twist on the theme. Good prose which evokes the scene without being overly purple.
What didn't: Unfortunately some things stick in the craw and spoil an otherwise nice story. I’m not clear on the call to the secretary. I think Ferris is trying to move the appointment because he doesn’t know how long he’ll be in the cave, and if so, could be made somewhat more clear, or while we don’t know how long he was in the cave, it doesn’t feel that long because it’s still dark and raining when he comes out. The “not buying a flashlight because he doesn’t want anyone to know” doesn’t strike true. Wouldn’t someone be more interested in why he’s driving wherever he’s going late at night than the fairly normal act of buying a flashlight? Could represent this better. The things no one remembers is neat, but I don’t see how those relate to wine. Do they? Or are they past things that are now gone? This “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.” Is a little obscure and awkward. There are other awkward phrases that don’t work.
Overall: I could put even more in ‘what didn’t work’ mostly because the things that didn’t work stand out starkly in contrast to what does. I wanted to like this a lot but kept tripping on rough spots and phrases. Give this a few revisions, and it would tidy up quite nicely, I think. 3/5
#11 - Sitting Here - Oceanatrix
What worked for me: Oh my god, that opening paragraph is amazing. I get chills at the phrase “wet, neon-kissed streets”. I like the interjection on the First Woman, and the turn about on Biblical canon. Really good tapping into the horrible treatment of women in general which feels timely without being too preachy. I want to punch Danny in the mouth myself.
What didn't: Not sure how the protagonist saw the mouthed words “loving bitch” if he’s turned to look at Sandra’s back. I got hung up on trying to place the action more than I should have here. While I like the interjection about the First Woman, it kind of sticks out in the middle there. I didn’t really mind it, but it would have been nice to tie it more directly to the protagonist. But the real issue is that the prose flattens out after the interjection and feels almost… pedestrian afterward, which makes the end fall flat. You work us into righteous fury at this Danny rear end in a top hat and then just drown him in a globe of water. Which 1) is kind of a letdown. I expected something more elaborate and subtle, and 2) is rather extreme for him being a dick. Yes, he’s absolutely a dick and an rear end in a top hat and would have probably assaulted / raped Sandra, but does that warrant a death sentence? Seems extreme to me, and almost like revenge porn in the final moments which is unsatisfying. Should Danny get his comeuppance? Oh hell yeah, but it’s too easy (and again, over-the-top) to just kill him. Make the bastard suffer.
Overall: Very strong start that wanders off at the end. Bring the ending up to a level of the beginning, and this would have blown everything else out of the water (eh? eh?), but as is I give it a 4/5.
#12 - Sparksbloom - Exsanguination
What worked for me: Neatly written. Fairly brisk prose. There’s more backstory obvious here that you don’t dive into with info-dumps, which is good, the story is short and well contained, not sprawling out of control. You played with the prompt in a very different way.
What didn't: Having said that, it also doesn’t have much supporting it. I don’t understand the importance of Jordan’s aunt and what it has to do with the cow, which seems to somehow be tied together, but it escapes me. The main character should either have a name introduced sooner, or drop the name completely. Does she need a name? When Kathleen was mentioned it took me a while to figure out who the heck that was. Jordan is simultaneously flat and has interesting character building. What I mean by this is that you paint some interesting detail, like folding her trash and keeping it, and the ‘standing invitation’ which doesn’t go anywhere within the context of the story. I almost feel like I’m reading a page that has been ripped out of a book. Don’t let people stab cows, you monster.
Overall: Competent mechanically, but loses me as to what the point is. 3/5
#13 - Obliterati - As Above, So Below
What worked for me: Interesting dichotomy between twins. Non-traditional prose format here works to make the story feel interesting. Not sure if you did it intentionally or not, but while I chafed a little at first on it, I quickly fell into the rhythm. I like the juxtaposition of the astrological and the technical. There’s obvious depth to the characters that isn’t beat over my head. I like the retrograde theme that recurs but I wonder why you picked Libra and not Gemini. Maybe Gemini would be too obvious.
What didn't: I think you might be bouncing between referring to the brother as ‘you’ and ‘he’ alternately, and I’m not sure if it’s a mistake or not. If not, then I don’t know who ‘he’ was referring to. I also didn’t get who was in the lab that was torn down. It’s sadly quite distracting. The notebook is problematic, and you emphasize it too much. You state that the brother will read the horoscope, presumably on the notebook, and then you have to mention it a bunch to make sure we know it wasn’t going to be broken down, but then the protagonist sends a signal back to Earth and the notebook seems like an unnecessary distraction.
Overall: I liked it, but wanted it to be better. A little light to the prompt but still satisfying it, the interesting style and story is unfortunately muddied by unclear pronouns. 3.5/5
#14 - Antivehicular - Lights in the Cavern of Wrong
What worked for me: Unique take on the theme of “judgement.” I wondered what the heck you were going to do when you were assigned the prompt, and I think you hit it well. There’s some interesting tension that may be intentional or not about the definition of “boy” in this case, someone who isn’t as together (and perhaps) younger than their boyfriend, or maybe I’ve been drinking too much LIT101 juice and it was a happy accident, but I still liked it. Sweet story about the stress of new relationships, handled sensitively, and set in Ikea which is great. I actually liked that the characters spent most of the story NOT talking about the conflict kept me in suspense. I love how Stan’s “kink” is kind of random, harmless, and cute, but he’s obviously bothered by it.
What didn't: You had the issue I frequently run into with dialogue, but you are being judged, not me. It’s too authentic. It sounds like you were writing down every word, stammer, interjection, and inflection and it was distracting. I’m quite sure you saw and heard the interactions clearly in your head, but you have to edit it down to reflect realistic dialogue, not transcribe it. I liked the ending, but I feel it could have been played up a liiiitle bit more. You did a good job keeping the tension alive, but the “kink” is revealed quickly. Might have been nice for a little bit longer tease, but not too much.
Overall: Neat character piece that isn’t harmed by being harmless. You float the tension across the story well. 4/5
#15 - Solitair - The Secret-Keeper
What worked for me: I liked the alien viewpoint, trying to tell the story from a race with a different structure, physique, etc. Seems to be a pretty thought out world without too much collapsing on its own weight. I was afraid it might get impenetrable, but it never did.
What didn't: Nothing really happens. Kenta interrogates someone, the government collapses, Kenta learns the truth. And… that’s it. It doesn’t help that none of the characters in the story are directly involved in the conflict. I mean, the one responsible for the misdirection is mentioned in passing, and Kenta doesn’t really feel the effects of the revolution. He’s given a new job. Moves on with life. There’s no character development. The first line misses the mark being “okay, move it along” in essence. Grab me with that first line! You don’t want to assign gender, so you rely on ‘their’ as the personal pronoun, which is fine (although I would prefer ‘it’ since they aren’t human, but there I go being species-ist) but if you do that you have to made drat sure every time you use ‘their' I am clear on to whom it refers. I wasn’t clear. You’ll have to work it better or fall back on names. It’s a challenge to pull off.
Overall: Interesting setting with nothing actually happening. Confusing personal pronouns. 2/5
#16 - Nikaer Drekin - The Heavy Heart
What worked for me: Good theme use. You talked about the judgement of the gods, but turned it inward. Good prose, interesting character. The core of the theme is nice (you must sin to understand it).
What didn't: Sadly, it got a bit muddled. I liked it, but it seemed to stray too far afield of the message before coming back. I am going to break my unwritten rule for this crit and give you specifics on how I would fix it. Read the story over again, decide what it’s about, and revise to that point. For example, I thought the “interaction” (*ahem*) with the house wife was nice and felt like something a caring old god would do. But it’s the opposite of neglect, or at least it’s a different sin, IMO. I’d have rather seen Hot Foot going around neglecting things, at least in subtle ways, before he realizes it and goes back to Anubis. Oh, and you have the same issues as Solitair with pronouns. Either assign Hot Foot a gender, or be more careful with the use of ‘their’ and use the name more. Spend a little less time on Hot Foot’s rage and exile, or at least tighten it up. That’s more time you can spend commenting on the human condition. Also, verb tense is inconsistent - you use past tense for some sentences, (not in the flashback). Check those carefully.
Overall: I really wanted to rate this higher because I think it has potential, but it needs to have the focus sharpened. 3/5
#17 - Anomalous A
malgam - Live Honestly
What worked for me: Pretty well written with only a few clunky phrases that could be caught in another round of editing. Gives me a warm fuzzy feeling, despite the judgement theme. Didn’t go the way I would expect it to, given the unexpectedly magnanimous nature of the god, although it is the god of truth, and he told the truth so, I guess that jibes.
What didn't: Doesn’t take enough chances. Seems more like a vignette than a story. The main character is asked to Live Honestly, but we never see him make a decision to change. What conflict here is resolved?
Overall: Not bad, but sort of middling. 3/5
#18 - Pepe Silvia Browne - The Assessment at Miccosukee Indian Village
What worked for me: Takes a nice turn after the first interstitial and gets better, less expected. Sia is a cool character. I liked her. Seth didn’t end up being as annoying as I feared at first. I liked how all the “gods” were so nonchalant. Serviceable prose. Tongue-in-cheek in the beginning was good.
What didn't: Too much tell. You told us a lot how frustrated Seth was when you could have showed us. As an example, the first sentence was great, and then the second paragraph was just telling us about the rage. The “I’S FURSE” bit cracked me up, but then I thought maybe it was a heavy dialect, and later he just talks normal. Was that the stoke symptoms? Again, here is a character that everything happens to, and he doesn’t get a chance to do anything. A little bit after the “zinger” last line to show how he changed (or didn’t) would go a long way here. I was really hoping for a good Falling Down feel from this, but it never hit.
Overall: There’s a decent start here that needs to be dug out. 3/5
#19 - Thranguy - Shattered
What worked for me: I liked this. The tone, the style, the humor was all good. I loved the one-trick magics, and I loved how the plot revolves on someone who is way better than everyone thought and hiding it to be mediocre. That, I was not expecting.
What didn't: The “I ruined everything” line comes a little late, I think it could be moved up, because that’s your hook. On the plus side, the rest of the intro kept me reading, so it’s a minor quibble. I’d like to hear a bit more about what Min did to Matt’s crops, but you’re bumping into the word count. I still think you could have squeezed in just a little more explanation than “Oh, it was me. They found me out.” Your main character doesn’t have too much agency other than being the change agent. That’s not normally ideal, but it works here anyway. Really, these aren’t major issues, though.
Overall: A good piece. I’d like to read more in this universe. 4/5
#20 - Sebmojo - Steamed
What worked for me: Really smooth prose. Smooth like expensive bourbon. You fit a whole lot into 600 words. I couldn’t believe that’s all it was. It felt much longer (in a good way). Just enjoyable to read. I loved the conversation about water. It felt like something about of an art film. Again, in a good way. Like I should sit down with a drink and savor this. Prompt is subtle here, but not absent.
What didn't: Despite how much I enjoyed the reading of this story, I have to admit I am a little unsure what happened. I feel kind of silly admitting that, but you know what, I still really liked it. It struck me like a Gene Wolf piece that you have to let settle into your brain and squish around for a while, maybe read it a time or four more. So, I’m not sure this ultimately belongs in ‘what didn’t’ but, there it is.
Overall: Nicely crafted Wolfian short that made me feel like a dummy. This absolutely would have been an HM if I was a judge and I would have cut anyone who argued. 4.25/5
#21 - Siddhartha Glutamate - Imperfect Hearts
What worked for me: Man, here is another nice piece of prose. It all flows smooth and warmly. It feels natural like it comes from a fully fleshed out character. The prompt is (once again) nicely subverted into an interesting take. Good cadence. I like how the reader doesn’t know the father isn’t talking to an adult child until later in the story.
What didn't: Are you German? You don’t need to capitalize Doctor or Nurse unless they are named. …. um…. let’s see…. The last two sentences both begin with “but”…. um… Yeah. That’s about it.
Overall: I really enjoyed this, and I enjoyed the take on the prompt. I think there are other stories this week that are just a little bit stronger, but this is a good entry. 4/5
|# ? Jul 25, 2019 00:28|
Thanks for the feedback Djeser and DZ. much appreciated.
|# ? Jul 25, 2019 04:51|
Much good crittin', a good thing
|# ? Jul 25, 2019 08:35|
Okay so I have to write this down before it fades, but I just woke up from a dream where Sebmojo presented this week's prompt and it was to run a 10k or climb a long distance in a videogame, recommending we do it using the paddles on a paddle shift car wheel to lessen strain on our wrist.
The thunderdome has turned my mind into something strange.
|# ? Jul 25, 2019 09:08|
Thanks for the crits.
|# ? Jul 25, 2019 12:46|
A kind reminder
please, for the sake of our beloved archivist and the sanity of the judges, include all flashes, and total bonus words at the top of your submission this week. If you forget, make a new post. DO NOT EDIT YOUR SUBMISSION!
|# ? Jul 25, 2019 13:00|
I'm in for this week. No numbers or anything.
|# ? Jul 25, 2019 23:33|
The Ship's Name Was Purgatory
Deck of cards, DIAMOND CAPSULE
Reminisce about you song
1,021 frantically written before-I-move words
It was typical that humanity met alien life during its own death throes.
Earth was dying. Slowly heating itself to death, a wreckage of humanity’s making. Some squeezed their eyes shut, buried their heads in the sand. Others tried to help and fix things - they failed.
When the Ralthians arrived humanity was down to three million souls. Those who hadn’t given in to despair modified the space elevator to act as a docking hub, and soon what was left of humanity was in the stars.
The great wanderer-ship picked up yet another migrant species, a small collection of organisms desperately trying to find meaning in a meaningless void. The ship continues every forward, unaware of its inhabitants, and unresponsive to attempts to control it.
But, humanity’s legacy is death, and it has followed them here, aboard the wanderer-ship.
S’rrantha rooted her fibers along cool metal floor of the atrium. Fifty million organisms stare back at her, ready to hear about the future. The stalks that run along her buds are a full tensile strength, emitting the tone of understanding. Language is not a barrier for her. When she rustles everyone understands.
“Psilocybins, Kroxens and Humans, thank you for gathering here today. We rejoin in shared harmony and shared chakra, to give praise to the great reactor.”
The plasma shield behind her lowered, and her leaves shifted to form an orb, the holy sign. She looked at the congregation and mentally recorded down the reactions from the first row. Her brain-mallow balloons as two million faces are transcribed. It will have to be enough for the garden of memories.
“The tree-mothers gave me their beginnings. How the wanderer-ship crashed into the land, and we thought it was a curse! How naive we were back then, to reject the blessings of the great reactor!. We have endured the destruction of our seed asteroids, the supernova that caused Kroxia to fall, and now we have outlived earth.”
S’rrantha slammed her buds, pollen falling onto the crowd. The section of humanity stirred, not knowing what will happen next.
“All journeys must end. Our calculations of the great reactor were in error and the reactor nears its pollination cycle. The great hibernation must come sooner than expected.“
S’rrantha paused, and let her joy-spores emit their full pheromonal strength.
“When the reactor sleeps, so too will the oxygen givers. The great hibernation will embrace us. But do not despair, let the end-times come with rejoicing! Let the wanderer-ship rest. Let us embrace our end!”
The Psilocybins emit spores, for their all-consuming hunger can end.
The Ralthians observee, their brain-mallows expanding. They must record everything, including the end-times.
And humanity? Those who would have despaired were left on earth. The last remnants of humanity did what humans do best. They planned; They adapted; They fought the coming annihilation.
Raphel was one of the young-bloods on earth, those who fought in the corporation wars. Few thought they had a chance, but when the dust settled, they had won. A shame that stubbornness and willing to act couldn’t save humanity.
He didn’t want to die, he wanted to fight, to punch something. But even Raphael knows you can’t fight against a lack of oxygen, and so he agreed to the plan.
Oliver, the last president of earth, shuffled the deck and looked at Raphel. It was a stern look, one that evaluated the teenager with a glance.
Raphael looked at him, and then at his other comrades. “Ace of Spades,” Raphael said.
The president flipped the top card and looked at it. He put a hand on Raphael’s shoulder. “Congratulations. You are a lucky man,” he said as he reveals the card to be the Ace of Spades.
Raphael looked at the others. He hated this, he wanted to fight this. But the war taught him when to fight, and when to step in line. He does not feel lucky.
As the Psilocybins rejoiced and Ralthians recorded their final moments, humanity acted. One final act of defiance. One final sacrifice.
The great reactor burned to life, and the ship shuddered to life. Great rhythmic booms echoed through the ship, as if a long dormant heart started to beat, causing everyone to fall on their knees.
The wanderer-ship had awakened.
The reactor was awake, sentience gained through blood. Great sails, their blue bioluminescent glow burning against space, unfurled from the ship and caught the souls of the departed.
Habitat05 once housed the last remnants of humanity. Now it was empty, a barren empty shell of metal, save for a few dozen survivors. S’rrantha marched towards the few dozen survivors.
Against the large emptiness of Habitat05 they looked like ants. There was no pattern to the survivors: a mixture of ages, races and genders. Some survivors clung to the idea that they were the brightest and best humanity had to offer, but they were wrong.
A scout returned to her and confirmed what the life scan had told her. Out of two million humans, only fifty-two remained.
Her stalks opened, the tone of understanding buzzed. “What happened?”
Most of them wept, but one of them, a young teenager, glared at her. A young child answered her, simply pointed to a house sitting by the edge of Habitat05.
The first thing S’rrantha noticed, was the names written on the walls, on the floor, on any surface on the house. The second thing was the hole leading to the outer areas of the biom. She stepped to the hold, the wind of the biome pushed her stalks and she looked down. The reactor, burning with newfound sentience, greeted her.
For the first time, the matriarch feels the emotion shame.
“Do you honor last requests?” The older human male asked her.
For a moment she is speechless. Humanity’s legacy, life to the bitter end, has cowed her. “Anything you want, human.”
“Call me Ace,” he said. He flicked a card off the edge and it lazily drifts down to the reactor. He picked up a photo of a woman smiling happily. “Teach me,” he said. “Teach me how to never forget two million faces.”
|# ? Jul 26, 2019 21:09|
Inside Out by Spoon (Link to video)
No flash rules or extra words.
Breaking the law of averages
“Time’s gone inside out…”
4.6 billion years in the forge. Of fire and water. Of hammer and tongs. Of tempering and sharpening. What are the chances of all those happening? Of the things that could have happened, but didn’t? Of everything that brought us here?
“Time gets distorted when…”
Is it fatalist to think that the pieces just fell into place outside of anyone’s control? Even for a brief moment? That it wasn’t through the chemoreceptors of an amoeba in an ancient, warm, gooey pool? Or a primate wrestling with the idea of food trapped inside the rocks left behind by a rotting body?
“There’s intense gravity.”
I don’t want it to be. If it is, then it’s too easy to fall down the rabbit hole of probabilities. Of X dictating Y and how that can become an equation. Enough equations and then you have existence in a neat, little algorithmic bow. Existence is already commoditized in its current chaos. Wrapping it up and packaging it in plastic would just be more fuel for the flame.
“I don’t got time for holy rollers…”
Was that first flame shared eons ago made by the same people who polymerize carbon and alkylate crude oil today? Were there others who saw what that flame did and felt a fear and anger rise up in them? Were they compelled to do something but failed?
“Though they may wash my feet,
I won’t be their soldier.”
Even during the night, with just a full moon staring wide-eyed above, the humidity out here sticks to you. There’s something about that humidity. It makes the smells cling to your nose. Making you breath in that earthy, pungent smell with every rise of your lungs. It reminds me that I’m protecting something else.
“There’s intense gravity in you…”
The fan blades stopped whirring, but the engine kept chugging through its throaty rhythm in neutral. It was enough to let the ambient sound sneak in. The buzz of unseen bugs. The high-pitched periodic call of spring peepers, punctuated by the deeper bursts of their bullfrog cousins. Something larger moving reeds aside as it starts gliding through water. It felt like a concert.
“I’m just your satellite.”
Could those sounds be a part of such an equation? Can the growth rate of the cypress and the increasing water levels be used to project the shifting border of the lands? How can something as profound as nature be reduced to numbers and percentages? It can’t be true. It’s not true. To think otherwise would be the same as accepting the world they want to create. The one teetering on the edge of collapse and ruin.
“Oooh I know that time’s gone inside out,
And it’s now only like I told ya…”
The excitement is welling up inside me. It’s not in my stomach or in my heart. It’s somewhere deep in my chest. It builds as the moment draws near. That’s how I know existence is more than anatomy. There is no anticipation organ sitting in that spot. That feeling is coming from something else.
“Mmm, though they wash my feet,
They do not make me complete.”
We lost something with every step forward. Those prehistoric fire makers dragged everybody else with them, whether we liked it or not. And they brought us into a world of prisons. Trapped by history. Trapped by society. Trapped by the need for the best outcomes, calculated by averages across people reduced to the letter “n,” in an academic paper.
“Break out of character for me…”
Is it fatalist to feel lucky? Is it supposed to be a feeling of reveling in the dice falling just right? Or is it just gratitude for the agency of myself and the people who share my purpose? Or is that feeling a reward from something else?
The light comes first. A yellow burst from the middle of the facility. The sound quickly follows and it reverberates across the water in the swamps. Then the yellow burst quickly turns orange and spreads.
“Time keeps on going when,
We’ve got nothing else to give…”
Another testament to those forward steps falls. The metal and concrete, standing in the face of the vast swamplands surrounding it, collapses in on itself with the sound of a dying behemoth. Grating and moaning as the fire burns it from the inside. They may have created it, but I’ll fight with it. I’ll drag us back to those first steps.
It’s hard not to bask in that warm, orange glow and think about everything it took to reach this point. And, yeah, I do feel lucky.
“We’ve got nothing left to give…”
|# ? Jul 27, 2019 00:50|
Quick reminder and addendum.
Do the best you can to type out exactly what your given flashes are at the top of your post. This will make things much easier for the judges and the archivist.
|# ? Jul 27, 2019 03:28|
The Dinner Party with the Wealthy and Eccentric Host
Flash rules: Central character is Wealthy(+50 words), Song is “I Can’t Decide” by the Scissor Sisters(+87 words), RFT is Everyone Dies(+63 words)
“That was a wonderful meal, if I do say so myself,” said Oswald to his five dinner guests, engaged in conversation with each other. “In terms of a last meal for us, I couldn’t ask for anything better.
Oswald leaned back in his chair. Dace, Cayden, Fallyn, Jandrel, and Harmonica were still talking to each other.
“I repeat,” repeated Oswald. “That was a wonderful meal, and in terms of a last meal--” He coughed, pulled out a silk handkerchief from his breast pocket, and spat into it. “In terms of a last meal…” He leaned forward, raised his eyebrows.
The other five party guests continued their conversations.
“Fiddlesticks--I POISONED YOU ALL,” shouted Oswald.
The other five party guests abruptly halted their conversations.
“Yes,” said Oswald, smirking, feeling all of their eyes on him. He pulled a vial full of green liquid out of his breast pocket, inadvertently pulling the silk handkerchief with the loogie in it out of his breast pocket as well, causing it to flutter down onto the table. “This is the antidote. Let me explain.”
No one spoke.
“Your dinners were all laced. You all have ten minutes to live. This--” --Oswald held up the vial-- “is your only chance of survival.”
“You have all lived--imperfect lives. Putting it mildly. Embezzlers--”
Oswald looked at Dace.
He turned to look at Fallyn.
He looked in Jandrel’s direction.
He pointed a finger at Harmonica.
Cayden sat up straighter in his seat.
“You have all sinned. And now you will try to convince me, your unlikely friend, why you should live.” Oswald folded his hands together. “So, who would like to go first?”
There was silence.
The five dinner guests looked at each other, and then all burst into uproarious laughter.
“You--” sputtered Dace.
“Are you seriously--” howled Jandrel.
“--kidding me right now?” cackled Cayden.
“I can’t even--” gasped Fallyn.
“--he really did it!” yelled Harmonica.
Oswald paled. “What?”
“Look--look under the table,” said Cayden, before dissolving into another fit of laughter.
Oswald lifted the edge of the tablecloth and saw five mounds of chicken cordon bleu staining the shag carpet.
“Come on,” said Cayden. “You get invited to a dinner party to see your friend that you haven’t seen in ten years, who’s now a billionaire from inheriting his dad’s fortune, sitting in his mansion estate, welcoming all his other friends who he hasn’t seen in ten years--and you think you’re not gonna get poisoned?”
“That is Poison O’Clock, my dude,” said Jandrel.
“Let’s get him,” said Harmonica.
Oswald leapt up from his chair, but Harmonica was already there to headlock him. Dace administered a violent noogie while Cayden forced a lump of poisoned chicken down his throat.
Within ten minutes, Oswald was dead.
“So now what?” said Dace.
“Here,” said Harmonica, presenting a bottle of scotch. “I broke open the liquor cabinet. As long as we’re not dead, let’s get drunk. You want to do the honors, Cayden?”
“Sure,” said Cayden, pouring himself a glass. “A toast: to embezzlers, adulterers, philanderers, drunkards, and easily-affordable skin-care options!”
They all cheered as Cayden drank.
Harmonica poured himself a glass, then handed the bottle to Fallyn.
Before he could take a sip, Fallyn knocked the glass from his hand.
“What the gently caress--” said Harmonica.
They all turned and saw Cayden sprawled out on the floor, dead.
“Well,” said Dace.
“Yep,” said Fallyn, peeling the label off the bottle of scotch and turning it over. “Just noticed this.”
They all crowded around to read the back of the label.
As a failsafe measure, I have poisoned this bottle of scotch to thwart any celebrations after my untimely death.
“Oldest trick in the book,” muttered Jandrel.
“Shhh,” said Fallyn. “There’s more.”
I have also poisoned other various edibles and non-edibles within my domicile, including one (1) of the scotch mints displayed in the crystal dish in the foyer. There is no luck, only preparation. --Oswald
“We all ate one of those, didn’t we?” said Harmonica.
Their eyes all slid over to the vial of green liquid on the table.
For the next two minutes, there was the opposite of silence.
Fallyn sat on the floor, bruised and battered, the vial empty beside her, licking her lips. “Finally,” she said. “I--”
Then she slumped over, dead.
“Huh?” said Harmonica.
“He poisoned everything else,” said Dace. “Why not the antidote?”
“Are the loving walls poisoned?” said Jandrel.
“Probably not,” said Harmonica. He walked over to the wallpaper and licked it, then turned back to Dace and Jandrel.
“See? Nothing to--”
The words died in his throat as he pitched forward, his large frame crashing through the glass dinner table.
Dace and Jandrel stood, unmoving.
“Finally,” said Dace.
“We did it,” said Jandrel. He turned and embraced Dace, locking lips with her in a long and sensual kiss. “We can have it all now,” he whispered in her ear.
“You said it,” said Dace. “We--wait--”
She pushed him away. “Wait--something’s--you motherFUCKER--”
Dace lunged towards Jandrel, nails scraping through the empty air, and fell flat on her face, dead as dust.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say we,” said Jandrel. He reached into his mouth and wrenched out the fake silicone tongue covering his real tongue, the cyanide pellet in the tip already gone. “You can’t die and then enjoy the benefits of life insurance, dear.”
Jandrel walked towards the front door. “Thanks, Oswald, it’s been fun working with you,” he called over his shoulder.
He put his hand on the doorknob, then turned towards the dish of scotch mints on the side table. He took one, popped it into his mouth, chewed, swallowed. Smiled to himself. “No luck, huh?” he called back over to the empty dining room. Without another word, he left.
Then there was only silence again.
Then more silence.
Then a thud.
|# ? Jul 27, 2019 07:49|
Central Character is… A COLLECTOR +69 words and a…. DIAMOND CAPSULE
Setting is… IN A CITY +160 words and a…. DIAMOND CAPSULE
Song is… Kingdom of Rust, by Doves +72 words and a…. DIAMOND CAPSULE
The Rust Queen
Micaela - my favourite, and worth every dollar I paid for her - has presented me with a fake. I have killed girls for less, and she knows it. This one is good; a replica 1873 Winchester, artfully aged to be passed off as an original. Micaela has worked hard, I’ll give her that. I would have been satisfied with the rifle as it was - even as a replica, it still dates from before the Calamity, and thus would fetch a pretty price with off-world collectors, nostalgic for relics from the old Earth. But, Micaela knows exactly how much she owes the Rust Queen. An antique this rare - if it were genuine - would be enough to buy her freedom.
I found Micaela chained in a line of men, digging through the mud in an old canal outside the city. A fat slaver with missing teeth held up the object I’d come to see. A 1950s Beretta, badly rusted. Could clean up nice, but it would never fire again.
“Who found it?” I asked him.
He nodded at a mud-encrusted waif. She was stick-thin, her dark hair matted and filthy. The slaver’s eyes lingered on her, and I shuddered. I knew that look too well.
“I’ll take this,” I said, hefting the pistol. “And her.”
He hesitated. “She’s not for sale.”
I sighed. Some men will only listen to the violence of other men. With a delicate flick of my wrist I signalled my personal guards to approach.
“Everything is for sale,” I told him. “Now, shall we start again?”
“How’d you find it?” I asked her later, as I combed the knots out of her freshly-washed hair. The steam from my bath coiled around us.
“I just got lucky, I guess.”
“A woman has to make her own luck,” I told her.
The first artifact that Micaela brought me was a pocket watch, early 1900s, its delicate mechanism frozen with rust.
“How’d you find it?” I asked her. My brand, a florid RQ, was still red-raw on her arm, overlapping with that of her previous owner.
“I just got lucky,” she said. Then, she asked, “how much is left?”
Most slaves, if they don’t get killed trying to run first, can buy their freedom in 10 or so years. Micaela knew what she owed me, down to the last cent.
“How much is left?” Micaela asked, as I examined the exquisite pair of art deco earings she had brought me.
“Oh, you will be with me for many years to come, my lovely,” I said, preoccupied with the earings.
Micaela frowned. “You’ve been giving me bad leads on purpose, haven’t you?”
I looked up, surprised at this rare act of defiance. “Your bond-debt was dropping too fast,” I snapped, then immediately regretted this show of weakness. I cursed my foolishness for thinking she wouldn’t notice.
Micaela was late returning from a job. I gave her a day’s grace - the most I could afford before my generosity raised eyebrows - then sent enforcers after her. They found her with a boy, in an apartment in the market district.
“You are late,” I said, my voice echoing around the dusty warehouse.
She shrugged, not meeting my eyes. “I just haven’t gotten lucky recently.”
I stood up, strode across the room. I raised my hand, but couldn’t bring myself to slap her. “Women make their own luck!” I spat at her. I was shaking, furious that she might have found happiness without me. “I saved you from that disgusting man and you just go and give yourself to some boy?” My face was close to hers, my voice a harsh whisper. “I own you,” I said. “Don’t you forget that.”
“How could I?” said Micaela, pushing me away with her branded forearm.
And now, she has presented me with a fake. “Come, Micaela, I have something to show you,” I said.
I led her through the warren of my warehouses and into the crumbling highrise that I claimed as my home. The elevator still worked, barely, and we rode it up to the penthouse floor. I walked slowly through the apartment, letting her drink in my lavish furnishings, the racks of exquisite off-world wine, the rare fruits stacked on my table.
On the balcony I swept my arm towards the luminous web that hung in the sky above the dust-brown city.
“Soon I will have enough money to leave this planet,” I told her. “You could come with me.”
The sleeve of my silk gown slipped back, revealing a large patch of shiny scar tissue, where, years ago, I cut out my own brand with a kitchen knife. I quickly shrugged it back into place, but Micaela wasn’t looking. She stared not at the distant lights of the off-world habitats but down at the sprawling city, its dark expanse punctuated by the glow of cooking fires. The distant thud of music floated up from the dusty streets.
“This is my home,” she whispered. She was still holding the fake Winchester, and thrust it towards me. “Take it,” she said. She stared straight at me, though her arm was shaking.
“Guess you found that just by getting lucky, did you?” I said.
“A woman makes her own luck.”
I smiled at that. I had taught her something, at least. I took the forgery from her, felt its weight, and that of Micaela’s life, pressing too heavy on my hand.
“Your debt is cleared,” I said. Then, “what will you do now?”
But Micaela was already striding away from me. The elevator doors clanged shut behind her. I stayed on the balcony a long time, staring down at the city from my rusted tower.
|# ? Jul 28, 2019 07:12|
Fun Tawny Frogmouth Trivia: They Rule 495 words.
The Owl was sent for. There was only one owl inside The Beast, and that was The Owl.
The Owl surveyed the scene before it. A lot of smaller birds were clustered around a wound in The Beast. The Owl peered inside, and saw blood and flesh. Delicious. It couldn’t remember the last time it had tasted proper meat. Oh, insects got into The Beast, and The Owl made do, but it wasn’t the same as a nice warm mammal, or even a little bird, that was still alive and wriggling as it went down the hatch.
The Owl also saw the cause of the wound. A small fishhook. It quickly gave the appropriate orders. The Tawny Frogmouth and a cockatoo would stay. The Tawny Frogmouth was a good assistant because it looked kind of like an owl, and there weren’t any other actual owls. The cockatoo was a good assistant because it looked too big to be a meal for an owl, and would therefore be less distracting.
The other birds were shooed away.
The Owl was the most skilled surgeon inside The Beast, as long as the surgery mostly involved cutting things. The cockatoo and The Tawny Frogmouth gently pulled the flesh on either side of the wound apart, and The Owl reached inside the wound with its beak. It cut away at the flesh beside the fishhook; it would agitate The Beast slightly, but it would be better in the long term.
The wound shook slightly as The Owl sliced, and the cockatoo and The Tawny Frogmouth almost let go. The Owl turned its head around to stare at them, and they quickly steadied their grip.
After a little more slicing, The Owl gingerly pulled the hook from the wound, then nodded to The Tawny Frogmouth and the cockatoo, who released and let the wound close.
The Owl then sent for The Chickens. No other inhabitant of The Beast could tell either of them apart, so they were always referred to in the plural. The Chickens also made good assistants, because they, also, were too big to be an owl meal.
Also, The Chickens could open a portal to the Demonic Realm of the Wollongong KFC.
The Chickens started squawking in unison, softly at first, then louder and louder until they raised an unholy cackle that shook the insides of The Beast. Between them, a red and white portal opened. On the other side of the portal was a deep fat fryer. The Owl took the fishhook and tossed it through the portal, where it sunk into the boiling fryer to eventually join with chicken flesh and maybe eventually, Beast willing, an unsuspecting customer’s mouth.
The Chickens ceased their cackling, and the portal closed.
The Owl nodded to The Tawny Frogmouth, The Chickens and the cockatoo, and went back to its roost. In time, with the fishhook gone, The Beast’s wound was able to heal over.
|# ? Jul 28, 2019 12:56|
Central Character is… A PYROMANIAC +56 Words
Setting is… IN THE SKY +78 WORDS and a…. DIAMOND CAPSULE
Song is… I Can See for Miles, by The Who +61 Words
RFT is…MUTATION! +32 Words
1004 / 1004 words
I adjust my suit and check the red glowforms on it as I step out of the shuttle and on to Venus’s Skystation 14. Of course I look good. Black and red have always been my colors.
“I’ve been sent to investigate a potential terrorist attack against this station,” I tell the receptionist. “I need your full cooperation.”
His eyes go wide at that, but if his face goes pale, I can’t tell. He’s one of those mutant Venusians, who’s had genetic engineering done to better fit into the habitat of Venus’s upper atmosphere. Translucent pupils, compound ears, and glassy-white skin. It’s unnatural. I don’t care for it.
“I n-need to see your credentials,” he says.
I pull up my sleeve and show him my wrist computer, and note the fear in his voice. That’s fine. Fear works in my favor. “Tell me where Naya Thorn is,” I tell him.
“No one on the station with that name,” he says.
Right. The name change. “Try Olivia Jones.”
“Is she…?” A terrorist he wants to ask. I can see the surprise, the skepticism. He knows her, then.
“No, but she does have critical information.”
He hands me her room number. I stride through the silver and white halls. So close now.
Technology can see everywhere now. It only took one lucky break, and all the precautions she’d taken were for nothing. A hacked scrub-drone took a picture of a face, and a compromised server sent it through two shell corporations and into a database, where facial-recognition software pinged her. I saw her the day after she stepped on this station. Fifty million miles wasn’t far enough for her to run.
I open her door, and Naya’s face fills with horror. She starts trembling, starts tensing to run.
“Wait!” I tell her. “There’s a lot of people’s lives at stake. And you can save them, if you cooperate with me.”
That freezes her up. Her eyes stay wide, but she’s not moving.
She cares about others. That’s her weakness. “There’s a suspected arsonist planning to attack this station. They’ve set incendiary charges. The security algorithm has determined your subconscious might know where those charges are, but we need to get off-station first.”
I see her facial muscles twitching. She knows that’s horseshit, I think. Her eyes glance at the screens in the room. But she also knows we’re being recorded.
She lets me take her arm, and I half-walk half-pull her toward my shuttle. “How long until the bombs go off?” she whispers.
“I can’t say for sure.”
We’re nearly to the shuttle when she stops, yanking back on her arm when I pull her. “Cameras are off here,” she says. “No more lies. Where did you plant the charges?”
I check my wrist-computer. She’s right. No signal, no recording devices detected. “Everywhere,” I tell her.
“Good,” she says. “Because I just sent your shuttle on autopilot to circle the station. I’ll recall it only if you disarm every bomb.”
I turn, fury in my face. “I can’t believe you’ve joined these people, these mutants! I loved you, like no one else. I treated you like a queen.” I pause, and run a finger through her hair. “I can’t believe you dyed it pink, of all colors. Your natural hair color was so much more beautiful.”
“You really did all of this, came all this way just for me?”
She doesn’t understand. Can’t understand. No one rejects me. Rejects me. I have billions of dollars, stocks in every major company, my own personal space cruiser, and politicians and judges across three planets on my payroll. Forging the credentials of a government agent was child’s play. I am an alpha, and an alpha cannot abide dissent. “Yes,” is all I say.
Naya takes a deep breath. “I’ll go with you, then, if you spare this station.”
I smile. “Deal.”
We move to the dock doors, and Naya checks my computer as I check hers to make sure we’re both abiding by the agreement. I grin again. She’s still so trusting. That innocence is part of why I adore her.
The bay door opens.
I feel a sharp pain, like my nerves are on fire, then I’m stumbling forward. I look back, in time to see a smiling Naya and her stun-gun before the airlock slams shut. I look around, but this isn’t my shuttle. It’s one of the escape pods. Somehow, she swapped them remotely. My face goes pale.
She opens a comm channel. “You never did bother to understand me, but I do understand you. The oppressed must learn the mind of the oppressor to survive. You think I didn’t know you’d come for me?”
“Wait,” I tell her, panic rising in my voice. “You’ll need these escape pods. I didn’t disarm the incendiaries, and--”
“I know you didn’t. But I also know where your contractors placed them. You revel in fear, like watching people hope just before you extinguish it. It’s just like the apartments of those unionists you firebombed back on Earth. You put all the bombs in the emergency stairwells, then triggered the fire alarm. Not that all the judges you bought off or the juries you rigged would ever convict you or the men who did your dirty-work.”
The evacuation alarms in Skystation 14 start blaring, but Naya slams a button and the escape pod launches. So do all the others, long before anyone can get on them. The wings deploy, and the pods start drifting lazily through the clouds of Venus. I lurch over to a computer, but all the controls are disabled.
“I really did love the person you pretended to be, all those years we were together. But I only have contempt for the monster that you are.”
The pods are all empty, except for mine. I have time to curse her, and then fire blooms around me, and the pods are fireworks splashing the rich Venusian clouds with red light, and I plunge to the molten planet below, burning.
|# ? Jul 28, 2019 16:18|
Fleta McGurn your…
Use a Rubber
I’d like to thank you all for coming today. I understand that some of you were taken aback by the securiyty measures at the entrance, but given the circumstances, we are trying very hard to avoid any surprise interference either by the press or by members of the Glory. As many of you know, Teddra Day did not name a successor for head of the organixation, and there-s currently a lot fo in-fighting.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Danielle Chiang, and I am the serving chaplain on the S.S.F. Peradventure. I knew Teddra from the Clerical Academy, and I asked to give the eulogy today because I’d like to share one funny memory I have of a highly controversial woman. I just want to recall a time before the Revolution, when Teddra was just a kid.
Teddra wasn’t a bad kid. She was smart. People were always surprised to learn that, because they assumed a big, rough girl like her would be a meathead. Teddra was kind, too. Helpful. But even with all that good in her, there was something in her eyes that just screamed trouble. Like a crazy girl was waiting to jump out of her skin. I think that’s what gave her such an anger problem, and if you ask me, that’s why Teddra Day died- got too angry she was losing a fight, and rushed her opponent.
Most of our instructors at the Academy liked Teddra fine, but not Devonia Perrin, who taught Intermediate Navigation. Before meeting Devonia, Teddra was accustomed to being considered clever and, well, superior to the other trainees. Devonia set her straight right away- everything Teddra said was greeted with a quick eyeroll and a snappy comment. Damned unprofessional.
Teddra kept pretty calm. She kept her mouth shut at first and took her anger out in the gym, training for hours. We all knew she couldn’t keep it up, though. She had to snap eventually.
Devonia had called on Teddra to come to the center of the podium and calculate a flight path through an asteroid belt. Teddra usually did fine with these exercises, but not that time. Her finger slipped, and with one quick flick, she sent her simulated spaceship careening into a black hole, where it hula-hooped for a moment before disappearing. The simulation screen powered down with a farty bleep of disapproval, eliciting titters from the class.
Teddra flushed, balling up her fists. We leaned forward in anticipation. Was this finally the day that Teddra took Devonia out? I admit, I was pretty excited. Devonia wasn’t popular with any of us, and I kind of wanted to see her get a clean punch to the jaw, even if it meant Teddra would be expelled.
The old bitch smirked. “Based on that performance, Teddra, I’d stop being so cocky and smug.”
Teddra said her jaw, said nothing.
“That was an elementary calculation. Did your finger slip?” Devonia eyed Teddra’s broad torso with derision. “Grease from a bucket of fried chicken all over those fingers, perhaps?”
Someone hooted. Teddra was turning maroon. Still, oddly, she waited.
With a sneer and a snort, Devonia dismissed her. Teddra saluted properly, then turned on her heel and strode out of the lecture hall. She didn’t even grab her stuff. People muttered to each other for a good few minutes before Devonia harshly called us back to attention.
Then Teddra disappeared for a couple of days. People gossiped that she had dropped out, that she was suing the Academy, that she had been forced to resign and accept a demotion to the combat corps. My friends and I came up with the elaborate scheme that she was hiding in the air vents, waiting to drop onto Devonia and strangle her to death with her powerful thighs.
Remember how I said that people tended to underestimate Teddra’s intelligence? Yeah, no one ever guessed that she was plotting a non-physical form of revenge.
Anyways, Teddra showed back up after a few days, and we didn’t mention the incident. Seemed safer. She was going to every class, including Devonia’s, so we figured it had all blown over.
Now, my friend and I were half-right: Teddra had been skulking around in maintenance corridors and ventilation shafts after all, trying to get a vantage point from which to invade Devonia’s privacy. She must have found a good one, because she was able to peep at Devonia’s personal communication device. It turned out that prim and crusty Devonia Perrin had a long-distance boyfriend, an older man who liked for her strip and pleasure herself with all sorts of unusual objects, including a few members of the vegetable kingdom. Sexual activities on secure channels were expressly forbidden, but Devonia had an illegal modification chip on her machine that greyed out the picture, so she apparently was getting away with it. A huge breach of data security and morals.
Now, I should tell you about our ship’s good-luck charm, a rubber chicken named Frank. He hung from a hook in the mess hall, and it was tradition for new recruits to kiss Frank’s jiggly feet for good luck before their qualifying exams. Frank disappeared one day, and no one fessed up about it. The chaplains yelled and a couple people made accusations, but Frank was long gone, and after about a week we’d replaced him with a slightly disturbing erotic teddy bear named Maurice, who had a plush cock new recruits were now encouraging to tug encouragingly for luck.
A couple weeks after the greasy fingers incident, I was eating lunch in a break when I heard some excitement down the corridor. I poked my head out to see Nelson and Telully, two yahoos from the grunt side of the training facility, scream-laughing into their comms.
“You apes wanna quit yapping?”
“Sorry, Dannie, but—” Nelson doubled over again, clutching his stomach exaggeratedly. “—this is comedy gold!”
I grabbed at his device and held it up to my face. It took me a few seconds to understand what I was seeing, to tell you the truth. Old Devonia Perrin, naked and spread-eagled on a reclining desk chair, moaning and huffing and enthusiastically plunging poor Frank’s rubbery head in and out of…well, you know. It was set to the peppy, quaint tones of that old Earth folk song, the one that goes zig-a-zig-aaaahhh! The music was timed perfectly so that the chicken’s head went home to roost just as the singers hit the “aaaahhh!”
It was a short video, about five seconds, but it looped three or four times before I could tear my eyes away. “Jesus Christ,” was all I said.
“Amen, Mother Superior,” one of the assholes said sarcastically, before loving off in a cloud of nasty laughter.
We had all underestimated Teddra, and not for the last time.
The aftermath was pretty textbook: Devonia was fined, demoted, and transferred. Teddra got away scot-free and graduated close to the top of our class. I lost track of her for years, and by the time she resurfaced, the galaxy had already changed for the worse.
I sometimes wonder if the incident with Devonia triggered something in Teddra, like she just got fed up with being this big joke when she’d done nothing to earn that status. It made her fearless, which is why she’s gone and I’m here sharing this story with you all today. I hope you remember more than just the funny bits of this tale, folks- remember that being hurt a little bit can bring on a big change. Let’s try to be better to each other, for the sake of the galaxy as well as the remnants of human society. Thank you for coming today.
|# ? Jul 28, 2019 22:12|
Central Character is… A MARTYR +159 Words
Setting is… UNDER THE SEA +168 Words
Genre is…FABLE +58 Words
Song is… Rocket to the Stars, by Slavko Kalezic +66 Words and a…. DIAMOND CAPSULE
RFT is…CONSTELLATIONS +149 Words
Bonus Words: 600
582 / 1,377 words
Read it in the Archive.
Staggy fucked around with this message at 12:50 on Dec 30, 2019
|# ? Jul 28, 2019 22:52|
Setting is… AT SEA + 84 Words!
Wheel of Fate
The pearl of fortune jumped from groove to groove as the wheel spun beneath her. From ruby 21 to onyx 4, it cavorted, teasing hearts and minds with its wild leaps. Finally, it settled, content with the fate it condemned people’s hope to, in the groove of the black 24.
Harald Wilcox had put all on red, so fate only had a grimace. Harald barely cared, though, a habit he had developed the moment his numbers came up in the weekly draw. Practically infinite money, something he deserved after a lifetime of slaving away for parents, wife and kid, all but the last worn away by fate now. Emily scoffed as seemed to be her habit since his win.
“Another 10,000 you pissed away like the swill from the pub.”
Harald chuckled. “Worth just as much now!”
She crossed her arms in teenage defiance. “You used to know the value of money. Money meant replacing my tattered dress or another month of heating.”
Harald flipped a jeton in her direction. “You can buy yourself ten dresses from this. Maybe one that suits you better than this garish green.”
Emily snatched the plastic disc and made it vanish in her emerald pocket. “Money meant another night out for you or medication for grandpa.”
Harald lunged for his daughter, but stumbled, unused to a suit. She dodged like so many rats she had thrown stones at.
“None of the leeches on this ship know what money means. And you have decided to jump right into the swamp with them.”
She stormed off, but Harald cared even less than for the colors of the wheel. In fact, the next round was coming right up.
The alabaster ball was particularly indecisive this time. Back and forth, it even teased a verdant 0, before coming to a rest on…
A scream cut through the grand reveal, a curtain dropped on the magician’s grand finale. The gamblers snapped into reality: the old and nouveau riche, forced to rub shoulders on this enclosed exclusive Christmas cruise, miles away from shore and safety, and now: a corpse.
Aghast with the other millionaires, Harald gawked at the work of art broken in the corridor, the raven-haired Countess, a woman his age but considerably better preserved. Until someone had slit her throat, that is.
There was no doubt: one of the guests celebrating the season of red and green (and black) was not one of honor, a foul cur debasing themselves to base murder, so beneath their esteemed station. Accusations began to fly before the Countess had finished bleeding out, and Harald caught the brunt of them. He, not here by merit but by chance, was the most likely candidate by far!
Emily appeared, lucky like the perfect number struck by the ball of fortune, and she was just as pale. Had he not been at the wheel when the murder happened? Hadn’t most of the gawkers?
Alas – everyone’s eyes had been transfixed on what fortune would be cast. And Harald had to admit as well, he didn’t recognize anyone who had been betting with him.
Before it came to blows, an arm clad in crimson rose. A Lord, who for this outing had provided the small and humble cruise liner they were celebrating on, so he had some say in this group of egos.
“We will not solve this tragedy. The police will find the culprit when we reach shore. Until then, we have to prevent another death. We will all gather in the casino and watch each other – and the wheel, of course! We will not have our spirit of revelry broken!”
To a Merry Christmas chorus, the crowd streamed back to worship chance under real pine trees adorned with bespoke wax candles.
“Money won’t save you from fate,” Emily whispered.
Harald held her close, his previous anger washed away in a river of blue blood. “I won’t let anything happen to you, my sparrow. Now, be my four-leaf clover – what should I bet on?”
She just stared at him, then shook off his side-hug and blew away like leaves whirling in a tornado. Harald wanted to shout, but it was time for the gentlemen to place their bets, and so he did. He forgot the exact number, but it didn’t matter, because it came up red and therefore wrong.
Before the next round, the Lord rose to give a speech. His vermillion suit was reflected in his champagne he raised to the season, to money and to the Goddess of fate. But soon, his speech slurred, he coughed, then choked, and finally collapsed.
But it was still hours to the shore. His son claimed inheritance on the spot, and declared that the show had to go on; and the drinks would be watched more closely.
As the wheel chose another red next time and the ginger star attorney got undone in the restroom, as the ball fell on black 15 and so fell the grieving widow clad in the color of her late husband’s oil fortune, Harald began to see a pattern. And began to finally care for Emily and what she might be up to.
He caught her seasoning the sandwich of the aristocrat proud of his stunning magenta outfit just after red 5 had been called. Harald’s stare of disbelief earned him an unprompted explanation.
“These people jeer at the whims of the roulette God, and it doesn’t even matter. They don’t value the money that defines them, because they have no values and no worth. I’m just making chance finally matter.”
Harald tried to protest, point at the corpses littering the floor, but saw the wheel spin on and nobody care, and choked on his words.
The green 0 got called.
A color that was really not in fashion. Emily’s dress began to dissolve into an algae slurry in her father’s watering eyes as she put a knife to her throat.
“Had to happen at some point. Maybe you’ll start caring now?”
|# ? Jul 28, 2019 23:03|
Prompt: LUCK, 777 words. Character is POOR (+165 words), setting is a SLUM (+136 words), random thing is a DUEL (+67 words) for a total of 1145 words.
In the Zone
Luke kicked a ragged piece of trash ahead of him as he walked home from school. All the educational terminals had been down that morning, except for his, so everyone else got to go home while he worked on math problems. What good is preternatural luck if it means you have to study while everyone else gets to play? Yes, extremely good grades were one of the few ways out of the Zone, Luke thought, but could his "luck" really work on something so abstract?
His brother Will was in the street outside their shack, arguing with another guy. A small crowd had gathered to watch.
"You just won't let it go, huh, Olivier?" Will shouted. "One time I'm late paying you back, just once, and now you're outside my door every week. Puta madre, you're worse than the Authority. You're just a goddamn vulture. You-"
He cut off as Olivier whipped a long knife from his belt and tossed it on the dust between them. Will glared at the crowd, daring them to say anything, then slowly bent to pick up the knife.
"Tomorrow," Olivier said in a quiet voice. "15:00. Behind Paulo's shop."
"Like that, huh?" Will answered. "Far from the gate so the loser bleeds out?" Only Luke noticed the tiny quaver in his voice.
Olivier nodded, then turned and left. Luke followed Will into their shack.
Immediately, Will turned on him. "You little bastard, see what happened because of you?"
Luke didn't say anything. He knew not to talk back to Will when he was angry.
"Basic income came up short a couple months back, so I had to borrow from Olivier. Couldn't get any day work, so I couldn't pay him back, so now he's gonna knife me. What good is your drat luck if it can't get me a job?"
"Sorry," Luke said, but what he thought was: all the luck in the world can't hide that you got kicked off every job you ever got.
Will threw himself down onto Luke's ragged Authority-issue cot. He raised the knife, looked at it, and dropped his arm with a groan.
"You better be there tomorrow," he said. "I need your luck. Just remember, if I'm dead, you've got nobody taking care of you--tell your luck that, or whatever the hell you need to do." He put his hand under the pillow and pulled out a protein bar. "Where'd you get this?" he asked, ripping open the wrapper and taking a bite.
"I found a credit chip that still had a little on it," Will said. Angry about the bar, he went on. "Maybe it wouldn't be so lucky for me if you win. Maybe I'd be better off if Olivier killed you. Petrovich told me the Authority takes kids with no guardians out of the Zone. He said sometimes they even get adopted off-world."
Will stopped chewing and considered Luke. Anger, doubt, and fear fought in his face. Then he threw the half-eaten bar at Luke's head--it missed--and stormed to his feet.
"You little bastard!" he yelled. "You'd like that, huh? Jesus, I should have known better than to think you'd lend me a little bit of luck for once, huh, for once? I don't want you anywhere near Paulo's place tomorrow, ok? You just stay however far enough away so your freaky luck poo poo doesn't work. Not gonna die just so you can get some rich new parents, hell."
Will raged up and down their tiny shack, working himself into an even greater fury. When he reached for his belt, Luke fled.
Luke and his friends Ben and Petrovich squatted near the 30-foot wall which enclosed their whole world. Ben and Luke were playing ten-go while Petrovich watched. Ben was the only one who would still play with Luke--he didn't mind losing.
"Push, ten-go. You win again," Ben said, undisturbed. Nothing bothered Ben.
Petrovich shot Luke a look. "It's almost 15:00, aren't you going to watch your brother fight?"
"He told me not to. He thinks my luck will make him lose."
"So what if I go watch, and he gets killed? That would be basically my fault, right?"
"Would you care so much? I mean he's a real fucker, Luke. Remember that time he beat your rear end so bad I had to drag you to the medic at the gate? He could have killed you. This could be your ticket out of the Zone, guy."
"How much luck is there in a knife fight, really?" Ben speculated as he gathered the dice. "Got to be some, but it's not like flipping a coin. I think if Will loses, it's mostly because Olivier was a better fighter. Mostly."
"Hey, I know a spot up on a roof where we can watch the fight and nobody will see us," Petrovich said. "You should be there. You should see what happens."
Luke nodded and stood up. "Ok," he said. "Let's go."
Ben and Petrovich chattered as they walked but Luke was quiet. He weighed the possibilities. Will wins, things stay the same: the basic low-level hell of not enough food and the constant threat of a beating, just the usual life in the Zone. Will loses: uncertainty. Nobody really knew for sure what happened to the kids who got taken out of the Zone.
From the rooftop they had a clear view as Olivier and Will prepared themselves, checking their knives and cinching down any loose clothing. Luke made his decision.
"Hey Will!" he shouted, standing up and waving. "Good luck!"
Will's head snapped up toward him in surprise. His face dropped. Petrovich and Ben were staring at Luke as he sat back down.
"I'll take every chance I can get. He really is a bastard, anyway."
|# ? Jul 28, 2019 23:27|
Central Character is… an ORPHAN +179 Words
Setting is… on A LARGE ANIMAL+51 Words
Genre is… FOLKLORE +48 Words
Song is… I Belong to You, by Muse +194 Words https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQoqM7l-vlQ
RFT is…Hiding! +124 Words and a…. DIAMOND CAPSULE
The tale told in the turtlebird's shell
There's a song they sing in the Brightfar, about a brave warrior abandoned by gods and guardians, who rode a hybi bull straight through the regent's citadel striking the vile ruler down. They sing it in taverns and ballrooms, parents sing it to their children to inspire and excite them, the senate sings it once a year to commemorate the fall of royalty. It's a fine song, I'll admit that, but everyone knows the truth is never as fanciful as song and story.
As my father used to say, the bread of fancy is baked with the grain of truth, and I suppose you've earned a sling of grain at this point. After all, you've found me. I knew it would happen eventually, and I thought I'd have a little more time to myself, but fair is fair.
So, first things first; I'm not brave, but I am abandoned. My mother died a few weeks after my birth, leaving my father to raise me alone. He did a good job, but nature claimed him as well, the day before my fourteenth turning. In that sense, I guess you could say the gods abandoned me as well. Gods and guardians.
In any case, growing up alone taught me the value of cowardice. Everyone hates a coward, but anyone who demanded bravery in the face of what ruled us back then were cowards in their own way. Everyone was praying, and waiting. Eventually, people thought, something would have to change, no one could rule forever.
But around my twenty fifth turning, it felt like the old regent would indeed rule forever. Twenty five years of waiting, of blood sacrifice and uprisings felled by the sweep of a hand. Thousands burning in magic fire, hundreds of thousands downtrodden and hopeless.
Maybe if we'd all risen up at the same time, a hundred thousand souls all pressing at the castle gates, it would've made a difference, but you haven't heard the sound a hundred rebels being flayed by silverbees make, you haven't smelled the boiling flesh of an army beaten back with the ease of a morning ride.
Maybe we would have made a difference, or maybe a hundred thousand corpses would have littered the streets of the capital. All killed according the twisted fantasies of a magically ambitious madman.
We knew better, we knew that the needed the tools of cowardice and subterfuge, not the banners of an uprising. And so, knowing it would be the way of the future, I began to teach myself those tools. I never imagined I'd make a difference, but I thought I'd gain an edge at the very least.
I trained every day, cutting purses and doing favors to keep myself fed. I studied the gaps and give in royal armor, the patrol routes and standing orders and emergency codes. I killed a royal guard once a week or so, every strike of sharp sickle and arrow flown giving me knowledge. Without realizing it, I was turning myself into a destroyer, a weapon poised against the throne.
And the hybi bull? No, nothing so fancy. My true steed was a turtlebird I found in the sewers, but a turtlebird looks far less impressive on the national seal.
It's trustworthy companion though, and strong. Fortune was only a juvenile when I found them, only the size of a wagon. Making my escape from one of my numerous killings, I passed through a large chamber, dank and grim with waste, and the saw the glint of sharp eyes. How they found their way down there I'll never know, but I nursed them back to health, and, lucky for them, got them out of the sewer before they grew too large to fit through the passages.
They were a good friend, and I miss them very much. I don't know if you've been inside a turtlebird shell before, but neither spell nor sword will touch us here. A protector to the end, and beyond.
And no, Fortune didn't fly me directly through the citadel, we never made our grand entrance, tossing aside stone and folk alike, as we rushed to the regent's chamber. I'm not going to say the true story is less exciting than the legend, but it's more mundane. The regent fell not from bravery, but cowardice.
I use that word a lot, I know, but it's hard not to. I've been a coward for most of my life, especially before the regent fell. Becoming an assassin for the crown isn't exactly inspiring.
Surprised? Well, I'm not surprised you're surprised. At some point, I realized the impenetrable defense of the regent was only traversed by those who were admired, and very few were admired. I had to be admired, and so I added other names to my kill list. Resistance folks who were close to death, reckless rebels who endangered civilians, and a few good folks who never deserved my blade.
But I impressed the regent. The assassin on the turtlebird, the deadliest shadow in a shadowed city. Before long, I stood before the face of brutality, and it was a beautiful face. I had my sickle poised to kill, a command that would send Fortune rumbling towards my mark, but my hand did not move and my steed did not rumble. I've told myself a thousand times that it was intuition that held my blade, that I knew there had to be some magical defense in place that would rip me to shreds if I made a move. In my darker moments I know that vile beauty stunned me, but it would become my weapon as well.
You see, I truly impressed the regent, more than anyone else before me, and so it wasn't long before I stood before that beautiful face again, and again.
And one night, when all defenses were tossed aside like tunics and sheaths and belts on the floor, I knew the time had come.
A hand stroking my hair, the rising and falling of a chest, and the swift justice of a hidden blade.
I guess the regent never let go of all defenses, because the entire west wing of the palace was torn apart with a dying gasp. I wouldn't be here talking to you if I was on the wrong side of the bed, and most days I wish I were.
And that's why the children hear the song of the hybi bull tearing through the palace, because a knight on a scaled steed is a far better image than a coward on a bloodstained bed. I escaped in the chaos, the wings of Fortune bearing me far away from the city, and I never returned. They never searched for me either, I'd served my purpose, and they were content to let the true story be untold. Fortune fell after long and good life, and they left me a home. This shell is no mansion, but it's enough. I'm certain there are still some royalists out there, scrying after me every few years, but in the heart of my friend I remain hidden.
But you, you found me, and you haven't made an attempt at my life. I can only assume you, like me, study the ways of those who shun bravery. Tell me, young one, is the world in need of another coward?
|# ? Jul 28, 2019 23:33|
Bacon and Ice Cream Is a Legit Combo
Central Character is… DEPRESSED +165 Words
Setting is… IN A VOID +55 Words and a…. DIAMOND CAPSULE
Genre is… FANTASY +87 Words
Song is… What’s Good, by Lou Reed +145 Words and a…. DIAMOND CAPSULE
RFT is…STORY TAKES PLACE WITHIN 5 MINUTES +60 Words
Caspian, Mage of Mirrors and Doors, full member of the Titan's Company, was in an impossibly tight spot. An ancient trap had sent waters from deep subterranean cisterns toward molten lava, and the chamber he was in would soon fill with superheated steam. The long-range spell that allowed his companions to escape required him to stay as they crossed, to hold the passage open.
After five minutes it would be merely uncomfortable, but he had no spell to help him escape, or survive. He heard the explosive boil begin. A half-formed desperate idea arose. He acted. The blink spell, good for crossing a room in an instant, short distances covered by stepping into and out of the void. He made a slight change to the third runic chant, added the necessary delay. He cast the spell, fighting the last syllables through a stinging burn on his face.
Caspian was in the void, naked but not cold, unbreathing but not choking or gasping. He waited. Nothing happened. He thought five minutes had passed many times. He counted out seconds in his head, one Silver Hunter Drake at a time. Three hundred. Three thousand. He realized his mistake. There was no time, in the void.
No time without matter to measure it on. After an eternal instant of despair and contemplation, he came to a plan. He began to construct a world. He had a bothersome tooth, a source of frequent pain. He pulled it out bloody, to form the stony core. He yanked out each hair in his head, and the longer hairs from elsewhere, making from them soil and loam and tree and vine. He trimmed his fingernails with his teeth, making them veins of metal, and once they were one with metal, he sharpened the last fingernail and ran it across his skin to shave and harvest the finer hairs. He spat until his mouth was dry to make lakes and rivers and emptied his bladder to make oceans. Finally, thinking of pleasant memories of Tessa Sparrow of the Tiger Crescent House,he pleasured himself and soaked the tiny world in life.
The magic took hold, but it was still no good. The world was cold and dying, not good for more than a few seconds worth of time. There was no light. There was no sun.
There was no plan to what happened next, no cleverness. Caspian worked a sliver of his big toe's nail, which by sympathy turned to iron when it was fully separated. He sharpened it s he had the other, against the rough surface of a molar, until it had a fine cutting edge. And then he raked the tiny blade down the vein in his right wrist. Blood poured freely into the void, unstaunched. Caspian grew weaker and weaker, more surprised at what he had done than angry or regretful, and finally lost consciousness.
He awoke on his world, under the light of a blood-red sun. He did not move, at first. His body felt like a statue, like if he were to flex a muscle he would shed piles of gravel. He blinked his eyes. The sun set, in due course, and there was a sky full of red stars above him by night. There was time, scaled out by the tiny size of this world. Centuries for every second. Time passed. Eventually, he stood up and started walking his world.
There were men, and beasts mundane and fantastical, peaceful and violent. It was a wild place still. He wrestled a great furred beast, a mixture of bear and tiger and wolf, and snapped the thing's neck before it could close jaws on him. He made a cloak from its hide and wandered naked no longer.
He wandered among the people, teaching fire and farming and forgecraft. He watched as they built cities and nations, as they tamed much of the wilderness and defeated all but the most clever and dangerous of the monstrous beasts.
He settled down,in the first great Empire. He found a woman who was far too clever to be a mere reflection of his own mind. He took her to bed and to wife, and was happy for a long instant, waiting for the birth of his first child,his first son.
They came not at night, but at noon, shimmering under the bloody daylight, horned and hoofed men with polished steel blades. They came by stealth while Caspian was out in the yard, chopping wood for a fire. They murdered his wife and child first, then spread through the village, diving deep into atrocity before the first of their victims lived long enough to raise a scream.
It was this that Caspian first learned that his world had a Dark Lord.
His vengeance left a crater that would dominate all maps drawn by cartographers thereafter.
He could not confront the Dark Lord directly, that he knew without knowing how. He used the people of the world, gave them more tools. He shared a fraction of his power and gave a few of them a kind of magic. The Dark Lord did the same. He constructed a prison for his enemy, and set his heroes to lure and trap him, to seal him within.
They succeeded. For a time. But the prison did not last forever, did not fully stop the Dark Lord's influence. Some fools let him loose in exchange for power and longevity. It fell to a new set of heroes to cage him again.
Time passed,by century-seconds. The Dark Lord's fortunes waxed and wanted, spending some centuries as a walled-away whisperer and others in near ascendancy,with Caspian caged and nearly forgotten, with empires too foul to grow heroes, or so it would seem. But the Dark Lord was not satisfied with that.
"He aims to stop time itself," Caspian would explain, again and again to questors seeking his counsel. There were ways he could have succeeded. Logical flaws in the system of magic Caspian had made, artifacts that might unravel the first spells and revert the world to hair and tooth, nail and spit and blood and spunk. There were ways he could have won, and no way for Caspian to win but through time, through reaching the full five minutes.
History and mythology and war raged over millennia, back and forth across continents and oceans. The conflict between Caspian and the dark lord erupted again and again, and each time, often at the last possible instant, the Dark Lord was thwarted in that final attempt. Sometimes he moved straight toward that objective, other times building power for generations, but he failed, again and again. Caspian's, and the world's luck held out, to the last.
As the last instants of time ticked away, Caspian visited the tired remnants of the last civilization, and he opened a portal to let them live inside him, forever. He visited sphinxes and dragons who remembered the world's youth and did the same. Finally, he arrived at the Dark Lord's last prison. The door opened, from within. He was not surprised to see his own face on his enemy.
"I forgive you," Caspian said.
The Dark Lord smiled, wickedly. "Do you even know what for?" The Dark Lord stepped outside, and grass withered where he walked."You think that I was the one who opened our wrist."
"You weren't?" said Caspian.
"Do you remember grasping it with your other hand, folding tight to keep pressure on as we faded out?"
"I do not," said Caspian.
"Well, there you go."
The door out of the void opened before them. The two men entered together, but only one man emerged back into the world Caspian had almost forgotten.
|# ? Jul 29, 2019 00:41|
The Top of the Hill
Central Character is… A STARVING ARTIST + 78 WOords
Song is… Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Nina Simone +104 Words and a... DIAMOND CAPSULE
RFT are… Death Traps! +139 Words and... DIAMOND CAPSULE
The clouds of dust from Elena’s car are still in the air when Gordon opens the ranchhouse door to greet her. She’s not at all like he expects; most of his clients seem already extinguished, their eyes downcast, with some relative beside them who doesn’t stop talking while he takes the photographs. Elena, although she’s leaning on her cane, looks bright, clever, even warm, as she extends a gloved hand. “I hear you’re good with a camera,” she says.
In less than four hours, she’ll be dead. You can even see the top of the Euthenasia Coaster, its topmost exhilarating peak sticking out beyond the mountain pass, like a threat, or a promise. And strangers only knock on Gordon’s door when they’re on the way to the Coaster.
“My aunt Gloria came through here last year. You sent me her photos,” Elena says, her eyes scanning the one room, alighting for a moment on the termite-chewed front facade. “I suppose you probably don’t remember, but you’d got her to laugh, somehow, and I thought, well, it’s nice to know she was laughing right up until the end.”
He remembers Gloria for the same reason. A blank-looking teenager hauled around her oxygen tank, while Gloria, evidently delighting in a new audience, catalogued the people she’d outlived and each of their delicious vices. “When I meet them in Heaven, they’re all going to understand why I won.” And when her energy started fading during the shoot, he’d woken her right back up with by asking her “What are you going to say when you meet Claudia in heaven?”
And how she’d laughed. Gordon had watched the top stretch of the Coaster that night. From his window he could make out the tiny pinpricks of the Coaster in silhouette, climbing ever-so-slowly and descending in a final long low drop.
And none of the newspapers wanted the photos.
Now he smiles benevolently and pulls his camera from off the shelf, holding it sheepishly in one hand as if to say yes, that’s me.
Together they walk around back, onto Gordon’s studio. It’s where he’s painted three different backdrops on the faces of the ranch’s truly abandoned buildings: one of the Pacific ocean, one of the Scottish highlands, and one of the Amazon rainforest. He likes the idea of giving folks a choice, if they want it, to pretend they’re somewhere else in these photos, but Elena shakes her head when offered the choice. “I know where I’m going,” she says. “I’m not ashamed.”
And they spend twenty, thirty minutes taking photographs, with that curl of the Coaster in the background, the empty desert in the foreground, and Elena, magnificent and bright, her brooch shining in the sunlight. She waits under an umbrella while Gordon fiddles with the sticky latch of the back gate, as he goes into the house, waits impatiently for his ancient computer to load up, and prints out the best of the photos. She looks through portraits and shakes her head. “I look like I’m auditioning for My Fair Lady.”
He asks Elena for any contact info of next-of-kin, she just laughs, scribbles down her son’s address – “not that he’ll give a whit about it, believe me,” – and she climbs back in her car, driving off through that mountain pass.
Three months later that son shows up at Gordon’s shack. The facade of the house is covered in plastic sheeting this time; Gordon’s used some of the money he earned from the photo to fix the termite rot. When BuzzFeed bought it seemed like an extravagance, but then the folks from the Pultizer committee had called. And it was only then that Gordon realized I never sent the photos to the son.
He’d sent the email then, but the damage was done.
Now, Gordon doesn’t shake hands with the son. In fact, he’s not even sure he knows the son’s name. It’s either Henry or Harry, something old-fashioned that doesn’t mesh with the shaggy haired boy with acne scars. But he invites the kid in, offers him a beer. The kid refuses. Gordon cracks his own and drains nearly half of it.
“Okay,” Gordon says. “I want to say that I apologize from the bottom of my heart for not getting in touch earlier. It was unfair to you, and it was unfair to your mother.”
The kid shrugs.
“And I’d like to go further,” Gordon goes on, “and offer you 50% of whatever this photo makes in royalties.”
“It should be a hundred,” the kid says, “but it doesn’t matter. I’m not here for an argument. Take my picture.”
Gordon finishes his beer and looks out the window, over the mountain pass.
“You’re too young,” Gordon says. “You don’t have a doctor’s note. They won’t let you.”
“My mom wasn’t sick,” the kid says, “and they let her. That’s what all the articles are saying – surely you’ve read them. Your pictures are all over them.”
This is far beyond Gordon’s paygrade. He wants to tell the kid that he’s the guy who takes the photos, and that the rest of the world is free to draw their conclusions about whatever he depicts. And he knows that if the attendants at the Coaster had seen the Elena that he’d seen, the Elena committed to a final still image, then they wouldn’t have let her on without checking that everything was according to order.
“It would mean a lot to her that you came by,” he says instead, turning to a desk buried in scraps of paper, of those inkjet low-quality proofs he’d hand to his clients, searching for the one of Elena. He has this image of the kid holding the same printout his mom did, and that somehow healing everything, of breaking a curse he’d been wrapped in. “I want you to see what she saw.”
When he finds the photo, he turns to the kid, but he’s gone, his nerve diminished, driving away from the pass, away from the ranch. He turns and gazes up at the Coaster, and sees a car just seconds from the top. He closes his eyes as it falls.
|# ? Jul 29, 2019 01:00|
Central Character is… A TERRORIST +67 Words
Genre is… HORROR +90 Words
Song is… "Bad Times" by The Presidents of the United States of America +38 Words and a…. DIAMOND CAPSULE
The morning had gone almost suspiciously well. Security ignored Katerina, the metal detector kept mum, and none of the rank, rotten pornographers who spent their days here making and peddling filth had even given her a second glance. Not daring to waste her good fortune, Katerina clambered up to the ninth floor and walked to the center of the office space. She zipped her bag open, hefted a grenade in her fist, pulled the pin, and hurled it at the first heathen she saw.
The sinners panicked as metal ripped them apart and flames consumed their squalid little lives. Explosion after explosion sent their bodies flying asunder, denting the weak cubicle walls. The haze of smoke kicked off the soulless cry of a fire alarm. A woman in a low-cut blouse wept beside her coworker, his torso shredded. A severed hand flopped to the carpet, oozing blood from its wrist-stump. Katerina smiled. She took the last grenade from her bag, held it tight to her stomach, and pulled the pin. She was ready for paradise.
The grenade blew apart.
The whine of the fire alarm, the roar of the explosion, the wounded-animal screams, all of these froze in place. But they kept going, unchanging, a single sustained note of fear and fire. No attack, no release. Only the blur of noise pressing on her eardrums like a locked-down vise.
And the pain, as if a white-hot cannonball had lodged itself in her midsection. She wanted to bellow out, but her vocal cords were bamboo-stiff. Some creeping instinct in the crevasses of her brain realized that all the strength in the world couldn’t make them move.
But if her vocal cords were so immobile, wouldn’t her brain be frozen, too? If she was seeing this at all, thinking about it, reeling from the noise in her ears and the torment radiating throughout her body, there must be something left of her, something beyond the physical. Even saddled with unbearable agony, Katerina felt a brief flicker of triumph. They’d been wrong. The atheists and heathens and perverts so sure that their wickedness would be wiped clean at the moment of death were wrong. There was a soul, and it lived on.
So where was paradise?
Not here, that much was certain. The blast had split Katerina at the middle, launching her upper half up and, at the same time, twisting to face downward. Her eyes refused to move, but just on the edge of her field of vision she could see where the torn garments ended and the mass of entrails began, her intestines a tangle of bridge cables, her stomach a balloon mid-burst. The white heat of the pain hadn’t ebbed, exactly, but it no longer shocked her, and for now that was enough.
She had been tested so many times, but her faith always stood firm. Life had never been easy, but was it supposed to be? The divorce. The accident that killed her sister. Even the bout of food poisoning that had laid her up for a week, alone, waste gushing out of her at each end, leaving her to beg for oblivion as her guts twisted in on themselves. None of that had bested her. Faith had saved her then and it would now, too. She only had to wait.
* * * * *
A week dragged on, maybe even two or three. Katerina’s mind traced the spattered edges of the carpet’s black bloodstain again and again, infinite laps on a mental racetrack. The grenade’s sharp thunderclap still stretched endlessly. The fire cutting her in two refused to die away.
* * * * *
A shadow stirring at the fringe. The flick of a demon tail, a vicious giggle dancing down her neck. Is it really there? Or is this all just a trick, a game played by eyes and ears desperate for something new? Dear God, please deliver your servant. Your lamb wants to come home…
* * * * *
But God isn’t there. The realization came years later (or centuries or whatever useless predeath label you want to apply), her body still ripped in two, forever contorted and splayed like a figure in Guernica. If only she’d realized sooner. The pain was bad enough without the unrequited longing, the groveling and supplication.
No, child, God’s not dead, she thinks. He just doesn’t give a poo poo about you. And why should he? Storming into a building full of people, blowing them up with abandon, drowning them in fire and smoke and agony. You brought Hell to life around them. Why shouldn’t you get the same yourself?
They were destroying the world, she thinks. Perverting it. They deserved to burn, and they got what they deserved.
She smiles. Oh did they now. How do you know? Do you see them stewing in a lake of fire? Maybe they’re enjoying eternal bliss. Or everything just went dark. Or they’re suffering same as you, locked forever in a dying body that will never die. You don’t know. And you’ll never know.
I’ve lost my mind.
Everyone does, you give ‘em the time.
It was all so beautiful, wasn’t it? Even the bad-luck days, the times I wanted to feel nothing and be nothing. At least tomorrow would be different.
Don’t despair, my darling.
Find comfort where you can.
Anywhere. In the littlest things.
Well. At least I’ll never be cold.
|# ? Jul 29, 2019 01:09|
Pepe Silvia Browne your…
Just 'Cause It's Shiny, Don't Mean That It's Clean
Detective's Log, 04/24/2033:
It's hard to see beauty in the Falls anymore. I start each day the same way I always have: go to Frankie's for a cruller, park by the Rainbow Bridge, try to take in the natural splendor. For a long time, it was enough. But Karen's been gone five years and... I don't know. It looks like anything else now.
Job hasn't been the same either. Ten years back, city council decides that too much time and money is spent responding to calls from Casinos. Too many vagrants dirtying up the sidewalks, unlucky drunks refusing to leave the pit, and... well, cleaning up worse upstairs.
The Niagara Gaming Group were more than happy to foot the bill, so long as they were guaranteed a certain degree of oversight and input. First came the new equipment, then the concessions from the police union. Soon our presence on the streets was being replaced by drones instead of supplemented by them.
Now there's maybe a dozen real cops left, and we're all glorified casino security.
Detective's Log, 04/25/2033:
Last week, there's snow on the ground. This week, I'm baking in hundred degree heat, trying to keep as many fans going at once as this piss poor excuse for an office can support.
To make matters worse, last night someone managed to execute the single biggest casino robbery this town or any other's ever seen. $35 Million. The internal security team froze all digital transactions and evacuated the building. Now there's a few hundred patrons of The Crescendo ready to storm the lobby and take what's left.
I'm left with fragments. Our culprit was probably rushed out of the building with everyone else. One great big deluge of bodies running in a panic, creating the perfect cover. Security footage is gone, points to an inside job. Someone would not only have to have admin credentials, but intimate knowledge of the system's architecture to cover their tracks this well. No physical evidence found in the fault, no sensors triggered in the vault monitoring system's log files between the previous physical sweep and the one where the money was discovered missing 15 minutes later. All failsafe systems tested and in working order.
Working around the clock on this case. No leads so far. Got a hunch, though.
A bot did this.
NGG Chat Logs, 04/26/2033:
TS: What's the status?
MD: our boys are on the case
MD: they know an AI was involved, but there's nothing to link anyone to the bot
MD: maybe we'll get lucky and they'll pick someone random to frame lol
TS: You joke, but the board would be ecstatic with that kind of outcome.
TS: Save a lot of time and money. I'm talking promotions for us both.
MD: we've got ways to go before then
MD: plus, nothing in place to stop that random person from being one of us
TS: Let's fix that ASAP.
Detective's Log, 04/28/2033:
Markus Dergel, some techno-wiz who designed NGG's security network, is not talking. He seemed far more interested in defending the integrity of his "masterpiece" than acknowledging the situation on his hands.
My bot theory seemed to intrigue him. First he laughed off the idea of one sophisticated enough to break his system and steal the casino's money. But his tune changed when I suggested it only needed to do the former. A human familiar enough with the system to point his AI partner to the right directories would be more than capable of handling the latter.
The Department of Cybersecurity is constantly discovering some Chinese or Iranian bot probing financial datacenters, hoping to worm their way in and funnel everything out. Seeing as how Markus's job was to prevent that sort of intrusion, you'd think he would've at least heard of these bots! But, as soon as I brought it up, he went tight-lipped. Kept saying there's no bot smart enough, and referred any further questions to his lawyer.
Is Markus our man, or just suffering from a bruised ego?
NGG Chat Logs, 04/29/2033:
TS: Update? We ready for Monday?
MD: so far so good. he seized on the bot thing and it's dragging him in circles.
MD: per our previous convo tho, he actually thinks a human used a bot to pull it off
MD: maybe we'll get lucky and get those promotions after all?? lol
TS: Who's the primary suspect?
Detective's Log, 04/30/2033:
Either Markus is the unluckiest man in the world, or someone powerful doesn't want this case getting solved.
The day after we spoke, Markus was fired by the NGG board as part of a unanimous decision. This morning, his body washed up on the Canadian side. Another dead end.
Spoke with Tim Swanson, NGG's head of security administration. Someone better at smoothing out edges than Markus. He assured me that the system had been thoroughly swept for AIs and come up clean. I got the impression that they cared more about what they'd lose if it got out their system was susceptible to bot attack than a paltry $35 million.
Karen and I used to go up to the Canadian side for years. At the time, it felt better. Sure, it was touristy, but their side was thriving while ours was shriveling up. I guess you can only take in natural wonder for so long before you think, "all right, so what else is there to do around here?" Maybe I don't blame them now that I feel the same way.
Anyways, now we got all the same stuff over here. 'Cept we're not thriving. Turns out, they were just better at dolling it up than us. These towers suck the blood out of this community each and every day. People living paycheck to paycheck, hoping the next slot'll be the one to change it all.
But just 'cause it's shiny don't mean that it's clean.
Detective's Log, 05/01/2033
The case has gone completely cold. The weather is the opposite. I go over each detail in my head, piece by piece, so many times now that they've lost all meaning. It's just information being pulled through me.
What was the missing link here? A man walks into a casino and steals $35 Million. No sensors or cameras detect him. Probably left in a crowd. Bot-involvement likely.
I can't continue to work in this heat. There has to be some culprit, some piece of evidence I'm overlooking.
Casino. Falls. Bots.
NGG Chat Logs, 05/02/2033
TS: Good Morning! Prepped for the meeting today?
MD: bad news and good news
MD: I got in early this morning to go over the logs. he's done.
MD: looks like he made it about a week this time. huge improvement over the last build.
TS: drat. Well, it's still progress. He only made it a day in the last stress test, right?
TS: What exactly did you change?
MD: personality overhaul. hates the establishment. got a dead wife lol
MD: I figure most people who want to be police grew up watching crime shows and reading crime books
MD: and then they end up acting like imitations of cool movie detectives
MD: so I trained the personality module on 100,000 hours of cool movie detectives
TS: Hard to argue with the results.
TS: We'll have to run it by legal to make sure it doesn't count as an AI rights violation.
TS: But with improvement like that, I'm sure we'll be able to work something out!
MD: having a dead wife isn't torture
MD: being given an unsolvable case to intentionally break your brain, on the other hand lol
TS: Technically, it falls under the testing clause, so we should be good there.
MD: "just cuz it's shiny don't mean that it's clean"
MD: anyways, I'll compile the data into some graphs for the slides. you know how they love graphs!
TS: Yes, thank you.
TS: and please change the name to something appropriate.
TS: I don't want NGG seeing that their new AI Detective is named Buttmachine haha
|# ? Jul 29, 2019 01:15|
Central Character is… AN AUCTIONEER +120 Words and and a... DIAMOND CAPSULE
Setting is… On a Train +49 Words
Song is… Run Boy Run, by Woodkid +119 Words
Genre is… Steampunk +31 Words
RFT is… Conspiracy! +191 Words
On the eighth day of their ride on the Transpacific Express, roughly halfway between Tokyo and Honolulu, just as Colt and the rest of the second class passengers in the dinner car were done with the cutlets and about to start with the apple pudding, the English Kid had finally worked up the courage to make the proposal to the Girl.
Colt was in on the whole conspiracy, of course. The Kid, who he had the misfortune of sharing the compartment with, brought him into the fold a few days ago, having spent an evening telling him his life story in a stammer so severe, Colt still didn't know whether his name started with a J or a G. Truth be told, Colt didn't pay much attention anyhow and spent the conversation resignedly staring at all the different species of tuna flitting in the sub-train's floodlights on the other side of the thick glass and cracking pecans, his favorites, with the gavel his former employers at the Auction House gave him as a parting gift, yet, despite Colt's best efforts, the Kid managed to impart all the basic facts onto him. He and the Girl met in Hong Kong a few years back, him being a clerk at an establishment the name of which Colt never quite got nor cared enough to get and her being somebody or other's niece, and they had a chaste maybe-romance with a lot of wistful gazing into each others' eyes and taking long walks and holding hands - this not being a euphemism, Colt confirmed to his mild disappointment, and the Kid's spluttering - and, with both of them leaving Hong Kong, that land of romance where Cupid's arrows first pierced them, it was now or never.
Specifically, right now.
The Kid rose, his face already beet-red, glanced in the direction of her table, then looked at Colt. What are you gawping at me for, Colt almost said, but found it in himself to give him a small nod instead. Go on, boy, you're about to become a man, and all that. The train jolted; the Kid steadied himself on Colt's chair, made the few wobbly steps over to her table, knelt, the ring box open in his hand and the most predictable thing in the world happened: He opened his mouth and, with everyone in the car now holding their breath with him, the only sound that came out was the quiet squeak of lungs leaking air. He swallowed and tried again, to the same result. Colt winced on the inside - he did not relish sharing the compartment with the guy if the things didn't go his way just now. To the Girl defense, she made a truly heroic effort of giving the Kid an encouraging smile - she probably practiced it for this very occasion - but it was turning out to not quite be enough.
No, Colt realized, this wouldn't do. As loathe as he was to admit it, the kid grew on him, in a way a fungus would and, anyway, the continued cohabitation situation had to be salvaged. Yes, he thought, perhaps even if luck wasn't on his side when he got the Kid as a neighbour, perhaps it was on the Kid's and maybe this one time he'd be okay with it .He rose from his seat, pulling the napkin tucked into his collar and tossing it aside, stepped forward and, in his best Job Voice, announced:
"Ladies and Gentlemen! Tonight only, we hold a very special auction. The first and only lot - this young man's heart and hand in marriage and in good condition. Starting bid," he smiled, "one dollar. Any takers?"
The crowd chuckled, not so much because of the joke, but just happy to have the tension relieved, and the old-timer Colt played chess with in the smoking car a few days earlier spoke up: "An auction for a heart. How American! Very well, one dollar -I'll keep in a jar."
"Four whole dollars!" came from the other end of the car, where sat the three middle-aged matrons from Shanghai. The most matronly of them smiled at Colt. "My niece collects young men's hearts as some do butterflies - showing no mercy and in large quantities. One more for her collection will make a nice gift, don't you think?"
Colt glanced at the young pair. They were still making cow eyes at each other, as they have been for the past minute. Finally, she broke the gaze and looked up.
"My bid is my heart and hand in marriage in return."
He nodded. "Sorry folks, I think this is as high as this one will go." He pulled out the gavel. This, to be honest, was his favorite part of the job. "One, two, three, sold!"
|# ? Jul 29, 2019 01:38|
Prompt: Luck 777 words
Setting: In A Bar + 171 Words
Song: Hellbent by Mystery Skulls + 177 words
RFT: REAL MAGIC THAT LOOKS FAKE + 89 words **DIAMOND CAPSULE**
1214 words maximum.
"There's no way this is going to work, Ally." Dave said.
"It'll work, Dave. I know it!" She glared at him through the smoky air, the peppy true believer woefully out of her element in the corner booth of a nearly empty dive bar. "The ritual..."
The thin man with dark circles under his eyes ran his good hand through his already messy hair with a frustrated sigh before waving it at the stained paper in the middle of the table. "The so-called 'ritual' is just some 4chan copy-paste job, Ally. Look, I get it. You miss him too, but it's just kids' stuff! Like chanting 'Bloody Mary' in a mirror."
Slumping back in her seat with a huff, Ally glared at the paper as Art took a long drink from his cheap beer. "You don't believe in anything anymore, do you Dave?"
"I believe that I must have done someone dirty in a past life and I'm paying for it now," Dave said with a grimace. "Not that I don't deserve it."
"It's just a run of bad luck, man. It doesn't mean anything."
Dave's empty beer glass hit the table a bit harder than necessary, and he seemed poised to snap back before deflating. His reply was soft, almost defeated. "Yeah. Losing a friend, a hand, and a career all in the same day was just a bad toss of the dice and in no way my fault."
"It's not about fault."
"It sure feels like it is." Dave leaned back in his own seat, staring at the nicotine-yellowed drop ceiling. "I could have stopped him, Al. He was ten feet away, if he didn't push it he wouldn't have been in the open. But I didn't wave him off."
"Yeah, and if that beam had held out another two seconds he would have made it." Grabbing her own beer off the table, Ally gestured with it emphatically, a bit of foam sloshing over the rim. "We all know the odds, Dave. You don't go into the business without knowing that you're riding on fate's dice and praying she's not rolling sevens. Peter knew that better than anyone."
"Yeah, well Pete's luck ran out and here we are a year later, drinking lovely beer and pining away," Dave said. "Betting on the odds some bullshit internet hoodoo will actually work."
Ally just grinned. "It'll work. Trust me."
Three hours later the Coors Light clock over the pool table was ticking up towards midnight, and the two were still in their corner booth. Empty glasses and red plastic baskets with the greasy after-impressions of fried snacks at their elbows, they both silently watched the clock. Outside, a summer storm rumbled in across the plains, occasionally lighting up the nearly deserted parking lot with brief lightning.
Finally, Dave could take no more. "I'm gonna go for a piss. Tab's on me." He dragged himself to his feet and headed somewhat unsteadily towards the poorly lit restrooms at the back of the bar.
Ally just nodded and unfolded the crumpled and stained piece of paper she'd brought in earlier to re-read the final lines. As the clock ticked over to the witching hour, she said the words, folded the scrap of paper, and touched her lighter's flame to it.
It went up in a flash, as it was supposed to, and Ally's grin widened into a smirk.
Dave was making his way back aross the barroom when he heard the door open behind him, but he wasn't curious enough to look back as the stormfront's leading edge sent a gust of damp air and a hint of woodsmoke in with whoever had decided to make a late-night stop. He shot Ally a curious look as he settled back into the booth, noting the table had been cleared in his absence.
"Get tired of the dead soldiers?" He asked, politely ignoring the absence of the ritual paper. "I think we've got time for one more round before the storm hits."
He just got another smirk in return from Ally as she waved to the bartender. "Something like that. Slide over, Dave."
He sighed, shooting her a glare. "Ally..."
The arrival of a waitress with three fresh beers cut him off, and his eyes widened in shock as a hand landed on his shoulder.
"Move over, man!"
A bulking, towheaded man shouldered his way into the seat, reaching across to fist-bump Ally before throwing an arm over Dave's shoulders.
"We got two hours 'til last call, and I have one hell of a thirst," Pete said, raising one frosty glass in his other hand. "Here's to absent friends!"
|# ? Jul 29, 2019 01:51|
Central Character is…PROUD +132 Words
Setting is…ANTARCTICA +71 words
RFT is...FAKE MAGIC THAT LOOKS REAL + 140 words
Total words: 1120
Beauty at Low Temperatures
The whole thing was stupid. Unbelievably stupid. All the fundraisers he attended, scrounging around for research funding. Letting his department cut corners to appease corporate donors who were more worried about a balanced budget than scientific progress. Gritting his teeth when they dumped him alone outside the ramshackle mess they called an Antarctic research facility.
Oh, he’d raised a ruckus in the months before. How was he supposed to study the cosmos by himself, he whined. Who was going to take notes or help him if things went wrong? There was always the possibility of error. They were leaving too much to chance.
He’d stomped and raged, expecting them to shell out cash for a few measly grad students. But no. Some administrative pencil pusher had a better idea, had preferred the chances of losing one crotchety astronomer to the chances of losing several bright-eyed students and their fat tuition checks. It was better to be safe, they told him, so they had gotten him—.
“Good morning, Professor Chiang. How goes your study of cosmological phenomena?”
Marcus leaped at the noise, slamming his head into the panel he’d been examining. He cursed as black shapes erupted at the edges of his vision and stumbled over his toolbox.
“SAM, I swear to God.”
The robot looked at him with its wide lantern-like eyes. A set of shutters opened and shut, a simulacrum of a blink. He supposed others might find the thing “cute,” but he knew its tricks. The child-like height. The sing-song quality of its voice. There was no spark of life there, just a shallow imitation of it. A magician’s trick. No technical wizardry could make it alive.
There was a whirring of motors from SAM’s processors as it tried to interpret his scowl. “I’m sorry, Professor Chiang. I only wanted to make sure you were doing well. I am excited to be supporting you on this important mission.” There was a pause. Another blink of its enormous eyes. “Would you like to know what I am most excited to see?”
Bile rose in his throat. Of all the indecencies this expedition had subjected him to, being forced to entertain the imitation of a child was the worst.
“I would very much like to see the aurora australis, Professor Chiang. I hear it is very beautiful.” When Marcus remained silent, it tilted its head. “Is something wrong?”
Marcus sneered. “Oh, you know, the usual. Heating panels that break down. Wiring that might as well have been done by a child. Having to deal with someone’s idea of a child.” He gave a cold laugh as winds battered against the facility’s exterior. The lights swayed from their cords. “Oh, and something’s gotten stuck in our sensor array, meaning research is on hold until one of us can clear it off.”
More whirring. “Professor Chiang, the current temperature is -72 degrees with windchill. My processors are unlikely to survive extended exposure to conditions these extreme.”
“Well then, I guess I’m going to have to do it myself,” Marcus said, words spilling out. His response was stupid, irrational, but it was as though a dam inside him had broken. “Just me! Just like always! Because I’m the only one who cares about expanding the reach of humanity. Because out of all the possible assistants in the world, I had the misfortune to get stuck with a talking trash can.”
He kicked at his toolbox, sending parts skittering across the floor. SAM was silent. The wind howled.
“I’m going outside. Do something useful for a change and clean the mess.”
The weather was worse than he’d imagined. Snow fell in sheets over near absolute blackness. He tried to keep his eyes focused on the small beam of light made by his flashlight. Every few feet was some new obstacle. Snow drifts. Crevices. Cracks. Icy pillars.
Christ. He thought as he almost lost his footing. Even bundled in his snowsuit, he could feel the wind ripping and tearing at him. He tried not to think about SAM inside, its motors whirring as it waited for him to return. He wondered what routines ran when it was alone. Could it simulate fear? Was it programmed to cry if he didn’t come back?
Dumb thought. You’re going to be fine. Everything’s fine.
He took another step into the abyss and his free hand brushed something solid. He lifted the flashlight. It was the array, transformed by the cold into an altar of ice. It twinkled with frost but was otherwise pristine.
He’d laugh if he weren’t so cold. He just needed to break off some snow and the thing would be working again. If he were lucky, he’d even get some readings on the aurora that SAM was fascinated by.
Setting his flashlight on a ledge, he gripped the icicle-sheathed device and—.
The ground slipped from beneath him. He was falling, twisting in the wind. Marcus sensed the array slipping out of reach and grabbed wildly for the next closest thing: the ledge. His fingers brushed against it, but he only succeeded in slapping the flashlight before slamming into the ice. The light bounced into the blizzard, leaving nothing but swirling dark.
Marcus wasn’t sure how long he was there. His last memory before drifting into unconsciousness was a set of flickering lantern-like eyes piercing the night.
Marcus gritted his teeth and pulled the sled. Weeks had passed since his accident, but his toes and fingers still ached as if pierced by invisible needles. The only consolation was the weather. Though still below zero, the night was calm and clear. Overhead, the stars shone bright. Ghostly lights were beginning to appear in the sky.
“Come on,” he heaved. “Let’s do this... before… I change my mind.”
On the sled, SAM sputtered static-filled noises. The light from its great eyes flickered over the snow drift. The cold had shattered all but its most basic functions. No repair could fix it.
“You haven’t fooled me, you know.” They reached the top of the hill. Below them, he could see the faint lights of the facility. From where they stood, it looked quaint, like a child’s drawing. “I’m only doing this to give myself some closure. It’s a rational response to a traumatic event.”
SAM blinked as its processors tried to form a coherent sentence. “Lucky.” It croaked. “To have.”
Marcus turned skyward, as much to hide the warmth welling behind his eyes as to see the aurora. “Look,” he said. “The show’s starting.”
He and SAM watched as ribbons of light arced across the sky. And though Marcus remained firm in his convictions, the moment would remain in his heart forever.
|# ? Jul 29, 2019 02:06|
Even the Darkness Has Its Light
Central Character is… NON-HUMAN + 130 words
Setting is… IN A MICRONATION +101 words
Genre is… FAIRY TALE + 95 words
Song is… I Know About You, by Milo Greene +88 words and a…. DIAMOND CAPSULE
RFT is… CUBAN CIGAR +136 Words and a…. DIAMOND CAPSULE
Once long ago, after Motikitik fished up the islands, there was a little wave named Kehlani who spent her days playing with the islands. She would rush out onto the shores, laughing all the while, slapping her cold hands onto the warm sand before being chased back to the sea. Kehlani thought she would spend all of time this way, playing underneath both the bright sky and the starlight. But the sea does not age like the land and so there came a day when the first of Motikitik’s islands was old, but Kehlani was still young. On that day Kehlani rose up as she had always done, ready to rush onto the shore, but just then a big wave came by and pushed her. Bolstered by the big wave Kehlani swept out over the whole island and it disappeared beneath the waters.
Kehlani was devastated. She didn’t understand what happened, she never meant to harm her friend, she only wanted to play. But she had harmed her friend, for an island is not meant to be under the ocean.
“You’re such a stupid little wave!” cried a voice Kehlani did not recognize. “You should have known you were too much for Motikitik’s island, didn’t you see how its peaks were getting smaller? How its green trees grew fewer?”
Kehlani had noticed these things.
“Who are you that hounds me so?” Kehlani asked.
The voice did not reply, instead it repeated its accusations. “You didn’t care about anybody but yourself! You’re a selfish little wave! A cruel wave!”
Kehlani started to cry. “I am not! I am not!” She protested, but in her heart she felt that the voice spoke true. She had never questioned whether the island wanted to play, or if it could play, she only knew that she wanted to play. “Leave me alone!” She shouted and threw herself far from the islands out into the deep ocean. But the voice did not leave her.
For days she fled, hoping to outrun the voice, but it was never far behind. Worse, as she fled it found new things to accuse her of. “You’re a coward!” “You’re stupid!” “Nobody will ever want to play with you again!”
Poor Kehlani could not take the voice’s harassment any longer. She knew she needed help, but she did not know who could help her. Certainly she could not go to Motikitik himself, for it was one of his islands that she pushed under the sea. Neither could she go to any of the other gods, for they might tell Motikitik what she had done and surely she would be punished. Except, she realized, there was one god who might be able to help her. The great trickster, Olifat. He had recently been kicked out of the heavens for causing too much mischief, such as adding stingers to scorpion’s tails and teeth to shark’s mouths.
Kehlani set out to find Olifat, all the while the voice telling her how stupid she was to seek the aid of someone so dangerous. Didn’t she know that Olifat’s help came at a cost? But it did not matter, whatever the price Kehlani had to pay to be free of the voice she would gladly pay.
She knew Olifat was hiding deep in a cave on the shore, but when she got there she did not find him. Instead all she found was a cigar puffing smoke. It sat on a rock outcropping in the middle of the cave, but as Kehlani looked closer, for it was a peculiar thing to find in a cave, she saw that it wasn’t puffing smoke, it was being smoked. “Oh Olifat, cleverest of the gods, I know you are here!”
The cigar danced in the air as laughter filled the cavern. Smoke filled up two invisible lungs and was then blown out obscuring Kehlani’s vision. When the smoke cleared Olifat stood on the rock outcropping, a richly tattooed man with a shark’s jawbone in his hair, smiling down upon Kehlani. “Who is this that has come to seek the great Olifat in his grand domain?”
The cave did not seem very grand to Kehlani, but she thought it best not to say anything.
“I am but a little wave named Kehlani,” she said. “I have come to seek your aid for I have wronged the great hero Motikitik by drowning one of his islands.”
“Great hero? Ha! Has Motikitik ever wooed the daughters of the gods? Has he bested the god of thunder? No, he has only fished!” He boasted. “You are wise then, little wave, to seek Olifat. What would you have me do to the fisherman?”
“Nothing,” Kehlani said. “I have not come to have anything done to Motikitik. I am here because ever since I have harmed him I have been cursed!”
“The fisherman has cursed you? Ha! What has he cursed you with, too many fish or too few?”
“No, there is a voice. It follows me wherever I go and says the most awful things.”
Olifat did not laugh as Kehlani spoke. “Little wave, what does this voice say?”
“It says mean things about me. True things. Things I cannot bear to repeat.”
Olifat sat down on the rock outcropping, dangled his big toe into the water. “It tells you that you wicked, a fool, that nobody will ever love you.”
“How did you know?” Kehlani quivered as she asked.
“For I know the voice, too. Look behind you.”
Kehlani did as she was told and saw her trough, which is like a wave’s shadow. “I don’t understand.”
“Can you be rid of your trough?”
“No, it is a part of me.”
“So to is the voice.”
“But what is it? I cannot see the voice, only hear it.”
“Conscience,” said Olifat. “It is a beast which harries us all.”
“I cannot be rid of it?”
“No, you cannot be rid of conscience.”
“Do not be sad, little wave, for being free of conscience is not what you need, you need only to learn how to talk to conscience. Go, ask it what it wants.”
“I already know, it wants for me to feel miserable.”
“Does it? Is that what it has said?”
“Well, no, but-”
Kehlani did, she closed her eyes and asked why it was being so mean to her.
“Because I miss our friend, and I do not want us to hurt anyone else ever again.”
“I miss our friend, too. But it was bad luck and carelessness, I never saw the big wave, and I did not mean to hurt anyone.l”
“I know,” said conscience.
“I promise to be more careful in the future.”
Conscience, for the first time since Motikitik’s island was submerged, was silent.
“It worked!” Cried Kehlani. “Conscience is silent!”
Olifat laughed. ”Of course it worked, I told you it would!” He chomped on his cigar and stood, rubbed his belly and declared that he was hungry. “Now, let us go show Motikitik how to fish and fill my belly!”
So it was from that day forth that Kehlani would speak with her conscience, at first only when conscience spoke harshly to her, and over time she found conscience harried her less and less. There came a day when Kehlani was no longer a little wave but a big wave all her own, that she realized that conscience was her greatest friend as it never left her and always had her best interests at heart. So long as she spoke to it.
|# ? Jul 29, 2019 02:09|
Setting is… ON A FARM +104 word
Genre is… MYTH +43 words
RFT is… A UKULELE! +99 words
A heavy boot punches the door off its hinges and before we can blink the room’s full of uniformed men with guns. Long, black guns, cold metal pushing us to the back wall of the small farmhouse. When we have nowhere left to retreat the sheriff—it’s Russell, of course, he’s been after us for months--throws some papers at me and puts his gun in my face.
“Got you now, motherfucker!” His breath is ragged and spittle batters my cheek.
If I reply I don’t recall, because at that moment one of those giant cargo type helicopters drops on top of us with a roar that splits the sky and blows out the windows. Celia screams as the wind from the turbines whips around us, turning the once quiet house into a maelstrom of papers and trash and shouting.
It was the fall of 1986, and Reagan’s drug war was in full swing. Townie cops and National Guard and off-duty LAPD had descended on Mendocino and Humboldt counties with full force, gently caress the rules, gently caress due process, and gently caress anyone who got in their way.
I look over and a goon has a gun pressed into Celia’s forehead, and I’m furious, helpless, about to do something stupid, and then I see him. He’s just there, suddenly, on the sofa. Uke, we called him. We didn’t use real names with the itinerant workers who come to harvest buds each fall. This guy showed up from Alaska carrying a ukulele on his back, so Uke it was. He’d set up camp out back, didn’t cause any trouble, and worked hard. Pale as snow, long tangled dreadlocks. Always wore the same too-small shirt with weird runes scrawled across it.
What happened next you won’t believe. You’ll say that I smoked too much of what we were growing in the back forty. And hell, you might be right.
Uke has his little guitar slung across his chest and he strums out a chord. The sound from this tiny instrument cuts through everything. It’s louder than all the shouting and screaming and cussing and helicopter blades. All those sounds simply fade away. He strums again, and we’re all frozen in place, staring at this scrawny kid on the couch with his ridiculous, tiny guitar.
And he starts to sing.
His voice is low, impossibly deep, vibrating air molecules at some fundamental level like the lowest bass note you can imagine. He’s chanting a melody in a language long lost, evoking old magics and ancient battles on frost-rimed mountaintops, sonorous and mournful, profoundly sad but filled with power. Sounds crazy, I know--but that’s when it gets really weird. We’re all staring at Uke, still singing, as he slowly gets to his feet. From out of nowhere a frozen wind blows through the farmhouse and sweeps everything away. The house is suddenly just gone. The farm, the roads, power lines, the helicopter—all gone. Just forest all around, the trees taller and more gnarled, covered in snow and ice.
Uke looks taller, too. More powerful. And that ukulele he’s carrying isn’t a ukulele anymore. Instead he’s holding a giant hammer, like some sort of Norse god. I turn back to the sheriff and stumble backwards in horror: he’s changed, too. They all have. They’re at least eight feet tall, with sallow skin, monstrous faces twisted into grotesque sneers. Scraps of uniforms still hang off their bodies; I can see his name--”Russell”--neatly embroidered on his chest. His gun has become a great, rune-encrusted spear made of dark metal. There’s five of them and only three of us. They move to encircle us, spears pointed inward. The wind howls and my mind reels in shock. Celia grabs my arm. I hold her close.
“Begone, cursed jötnar!” Uke’s voice commands from behind me. I turn to see him raise the hammer into the air. My whole body buzzes as electricity pulses through it, and the cold wind whips into a furious blizzard. Lightning rips the air as five bolts discharge from the hammer. The trolls make a horrible sound as they are struck, falling backwards and down into the snow. Uke lowers the hammer, the winds die, and the world blurs once again.
The farmhouse swims back into focus. The forest is gone. Everything is quiet and still, but a haze of acrid smoke fills the air. The bodies of the troopers lie all around us. Dark blood stains their uniforms, their eyes fixed open in shock.
I hear the back door slam shut, an engine start, and watch Uke’s old Volkswagen bus pick its way down the hillside. Celia collapses into a chair, sobbing. I set down the gun I didn’t realize I was holding and go to her.
“That’s the last I saw him.” The old man takes a deep sip from the whiskey glass in front of him. “Sure was lucky he was there that day. Things might’ve turned out real different.”
The bartender’s face is carefully neutral. “You’re right. I don’t believe it. Not a word.”
“I told ya.” The man puts some faded bills and a scrap of paper on the counter and walks to the door. A lone Inuit man looks up from his drink briefly, face inscrutable. “Anyways, if you ever see a guy matching that description come through, let me know.”
The bartender looks down. A phone number is scribbled on the paper. “Will do,” he says.
“I just want to thank him.” The door closes behind the old man and he disappears into the cold Alaskan night.
The bartender stuffs the bills into the ancient till and goes back to cleaning glassware. His reflection in the glass looks different than he appeared to the old man; instead of a ruddy, bearded face his reflected image is pale white with long dreadlocks. A faint smile brushes his lips.
An hour later, work done, he pulls the ukulele out from behind the bar. He sits by the hearth and strums idly to himself until the Inuit man shuffles over to join him.
Together, they sing sad songs until dawn.
|# ? Jul 29, 2019 02:23|
|# ? Aug 8, 2022 12:51|
Central Character is… HAUNTED! +134 Words and a…. DIAMOND CAPSULE
Setting is… IN OUTER SPACE +90 Words
Genre is… Sci-Fi + 98 words and a…. DIAMOND CAPSULE
Song is… In the Hall of the Mountain King, by Edvard Grieg +120 words and a…. DIAMOND CAPSULE
RFT is… FIREWORKS! +103 words
Space is full of ghosts and there is no god
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 08:39 on Jan 4, 2020
|# ? Jul 29, 2019 02:31|