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Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006


Sitting Here posted:

preemptive 'in'

The Denver airport is the literal entryway to hell

Saucy_Rodent posted:

In(side job is what 9/11 was)

Amelia Earhart was an American spy on a secret mission

Thranguy posted:

Fnord fnord in fnord.

Israel can remote control sharks and regularly has them attack Egyptian beaches

Black Griffon posted:

oh hell yea in

and thanks for crits seb!

Russia is secretly pushing solar power in the United States so the US doesn’t focus on nuclear power

sebmojo posted:

In (or am I)

North Korea isolates itself because it is a real life Wakanda-like utopia


CERN built a star gate to awaken Osiris


The Soviets sent someone into space before Yuri Gagarin but it didn't go well so they kept it a secret

Djeser posted:

i am "in" for this "prompt"

Finland doesn't exist

Antivehicular posted:

HOW CAN PROMPTS BE REAL IF OUR WORDS AREN'T REAL

(in)

Pro wrestling is real

flerp posted:

i write :toxx:

Mermaids live under icebergs and the Bloop is proof


J. Edgar Hoover didn’t investigate the mafia because he was being blackmailed

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derp
Jan 21, 2010

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



Lipstick Apathy

Sounds fun I'll do it

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




In

curlingiron
Dec 15, 2006

Come fight terrifying creatures in the THUNDERDOME!


I’ve already got a title, so count me in! :toxx:

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

timeless Ned Flanders style


I've got an in to the cult

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


I'm in. :toxx:

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006


derp posted:

Sounds fun I'll do it

The “sinking” of the Titantic was an elaborate insurance scam


Elvis didn't die -- he just got tired of being the King

curlingiron posted:

I’ve already got a title, so count me in! :toxx:

Dinosaurs helped build the pyramids

Simply Simon posted:

I've got an in to the cult

Evolution is a false theory perpetuated by scientists at the behest of Satan


Queen Elizabeth II is a cannibal and she has lived so long because she eats people

steeltoedsneakers
Jul 26, 2016







and me

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

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


Fake prompt: SAD!!!

(IN)

Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

I want to believe.

In other words, I'm IN.

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

in

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006


Obliterati posted:

Fake prompt: SAD!!!

(IN)

No one has ever actually climbed Mount Everest (it's impossible) but a lot of rich people have lied about it to try and sound impressive

Nikaer Drekin posted:

I want to believe.

In other words, I'm IN.

Jimmy Hoffa is buried under Giant's Stadium


You shouldn't eat watermelon seeds because then a watermelon will grow inside you and kill you

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



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

*


In, like the mole people are in the center of the earth

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006


Anomalous Blowout posted:

In, like the mole people are in the center of the earth

Franklin's lost expedition wasn't looking for a shortcut to Asia -- it was searching for a crashed alien spaceship

GenJoe
Sep 14, 2010


hi in

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006



KFC had to change their name because their meat isn't legally chicken anymore

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010


In

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006



JFK's head just did that

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

Prompt: You shouldn't eat watermelon seeds because then a watermelon will grow inside you and kill you

Locally Harvested

1

“A fibrous root system appears to have compromised the jejunum beginning .75 meters below the duodenum. The roots are most dense among the plicae circulares and have perforated the intestine multiple times...”

“Are you sure 'multiple times' does this justice?”

“Unless you have a better adjective for what we're seeing, I don't know how else to describe this.”

“Well... we'd better come up with a better way. 'Cause this young lady's guts are shredded. This is the fourth case we've seen in the past six weeks. Almost all the same. Lower G.I. tracts blown apart by roots. Vines headed north or south – the last poor kid had a leaf hangin' out of his rear end.”

“I'm as frustrated with this as you are, but until the county hires a botanist to work the morgue with us... and please watch your language.”

“Sorry. But look – once woulda been weird, something for Ripley's or Unsolved Mysteries. But this is the fourth time. Is anybody even payin' attention to these reports?”

“You know the policy. We don't talk to the news. That's the DA's office's job. When they want to go public with this - after they're sure foul play isn't involved - that's their prerogative.”

“Foul play! These kids have guts full of fuckin' kudzu or somethin'...”

“Language!”

“...not bullet wounds or coke ODs. Jenn, this is a trend! This is the start of somethin'.”

“I know that, Fern. You think that I don't think this is disturbing? Jesus! Four kids with bowels full of plants. They obviously didn't swallow them like that, so they must have grown inside them. How does that even work? This is insane, but I'm doing my job. I don't make the policy.”

“Somebody's got to say somethin' about this. What if this is contagious?”

“Seriously, a contagious plant? I just made my four years. I'm not going to risk losing benefits to report something as dumb as a 'contagious plant.'”

“So how many more cadavers full of vines do we have to pop open, before you decide that lettin' people know about this is more important than your paid time off?”

“gently caress you, Fern. Oh god, is this still running? Siri, stop recording.”


2

Shauna pulled a cart from the stack at the front of the store, then folded the child seat forward on it.

“Come on, kiddo, let's get you strapped in,” she said as she picked up Kate and plopped her into the cart.

That taken care of, Shauna pushed the cart through the sliding glass doors of the supermarket and into the produce section. Picking up a nectarine, she squeezed it gently and felt it yeild to her thumb – a good sign.

“You like these, Kate?” she asked, smiling.

“No!” was the inevitable response.

“Tough crowd. What exactly do you want?”

“Candy grapes!” squealed Kate.

Shauna rolled her eyes and spun the buggy around to push it over to the grape display. A few months earlier, Cotton Candy grapes had made their way to the shelf – little green grapes that were almost sickly sweet, with a distinct candy-floss flavor. Shauna wasn't thrilled about the fact that Kate only wanted the sweetest fruit in the store, and she was a little suspicious of how that fruit even existed in the first place. But it got the toddler eating fruit, so it wasn't all bad.

“Hey you!” a familiar voice spoke behind her, and she turned around with a bag of the grapes in her hand.

“Oh hey, Ryann! How's it going?” Shauna exclaimed as she lowered the grapes into the cart.

“Oh you know, the usual Friday. A little nicer now that Eric has started kindergarten.” Ryann said. She was a couple years older than Shauna, but their oldest children shared a 3nd grade class.

Shauna reached forward and covered Kate's ears.

“Omigod, I can't wait.”

Ryann laughed and nodded knowingly, then noticed the grapes.

“Going for the frankenfruit, eh?”

“Hey, give the people what they want, right?”

“Speaking of...” and Ryann pointed to another display on the produce floor. This one was a large bin filled with round, dark green watermelons, about the size of bowling balls. Above it was a large sign announcing, “Cherry Bombs! The amazing seedless melon with real cherry flavor!”

Shauna narrowed her eyes in mock reproach. “Like, does everything have to be a remix these days?”

3

“Tonight's top story: Outbreak in the Heartland. A community is under quarantine tonight after a mysterious illness rocks a quiet rural town. For more information, we go to Jose Diaz on scene.”

“Thanks, Lester. It's been a trying week in this small rural community, where the unthinkable has happened. An unknown illness has ravaged the town, killing over one hundred and eighty people. It seems to be nearly universally fatal – with victims from all walks of life. The elderly, young adults, and children as young as two years old are among the confirmed dead.

While the CDC has not made any statement as to what the illness is, multiple anonymous sources at the local hospital confirm that there are uniform symptoms among patients. What starts as bloating and stomach cramps leads to sepsis and organ failure within four days of onset. They suspect a bacterial agent, but thus far antibiotics have proven useless.

Back to you, Lester.”

4

“Ok, that wraps up the usual business. I motion that the meeting move into executive session. Do I have a second?”

“Seconded.”

“All in favor? OK, good. Now will someone please explain to me exactly what the gently caress went wrong? Anyone?”

“Sir, uh, the rodent trials yielded false negatives.”

“Sure. Why not? Let's go with that. Care to elaborate?”

“It was the rat GI tracts, sir. They passed the spores before they germinated. But in humans, they had a chance to start growth because they took significantly longer to pass.”

“I'm sorry, did you say spore? Since when do melons have spores?”

“Since we subbed in slime-mold genes to try and make a truly seedless watermelon, sir.”

“Oh, good Christ. Tell me you are joking.”

“No, sir.”

“Does Legal have any input on this debacle?”

“Ah, officially I do not.”

“Unofficially?”

“I've authorized a large donation to the hospital. All tax deductible. Some smaller donations to a few folks at the coroner's office and the CDC, ah, non-tax deductible - but it has ensured that the bodies are cremated promptly to protect the public health.”

“Any other loose ends?”

“R&D has been instructed to have a server failure and sadly some records will be lost, if they haven't already.”

“Modern technology, right?”

“Gone are the days, as they say.”

“Right. Well then what's the next point of business? Lunch?”

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006


Grimey Drawer

1169 words

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006


Sign-ups are closed

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


week 365 crits

Out of this World

This story could easily have been told as a first-person account from the, uh, the person who’s not the minister and it would be basically the same. Here’s the issue – there’s no tension between these characters, because character A is just relaying a story to the Minister. And so not only does this rob the story itself of an immediate, visceral, emotional effect, but it makes the minister’s “quite so” questions feel just perfunctory and a little bit silly. And hey, maybe it’s supposed to be silly! Wow, gas giant aliens discover humans and the humans seem alien; that’s a workable concept, although it took me several re-reads to get what you were going for here. I definitely don’t think it’s a good fit for dialogue week, especially because the minister doesn’t seem that interested, moved, or affected by the account at all. It makes this story feel a little lifeless, clever but not fun or engaging to read.

The Inn by the Dark Lord’s Castle

Holy heck, there’s some tonal shifts going on here! The first half of this story feels like lighthearted riffing, complete with monologue about the lighter side of Dark Lords, and then it shifts to the deep enduring sadness of the lonely innkeeper. It’s distinctive, and I like how each half accomplishes what it’s going for, but it’s pretty jarring and makes the piece feel less distinctive as a whole. That said, the piece is fine, has an element of tension and conflict between the characters, and there’s some energy to the thing, which lands this squarely in the middle of this week.

The Solution

This is a very well paced shaggy dog story, and I laughed at the ending. I’m genuinely impressed with the pacing here, even if the whole story is just built around leading up to the punchline. That said, it’s about as substantial as cotton candy, and yet the ending makes this story much more memorable than almost anything else written this week.

Deep dive

This reminds me of the Black Mirror Christmas epsiode, although I’m sure the concept wasn’t original for them, either. I think this is pretty competent, and it delivers on the emotional level. I’m not a huge fan of the ticking-clock of the noises and commotion around the character, though, especially because the broader context here is pretty vague and difficult to fully understand. (I’m not sure if Sam is some kind of vigilante, private investigator, or something else.) But yeah – I like that the story values and acknowledges the emotional lives of both of your main characters and treats them with respect.

Help Me, Help you

There just isn’t a lot of depth here, unfortunately. It’s very short, and yet it still feels padded. The back and forth could definitely be cut down a little bit, and the whole point seems to be that Are Hero is a crooked cop, which is fine, but there’s just no reason to care, no real stakes or understanding for these characters. There aren’t even any wisecracks here, and c’mon, you can’t have a hardboiled interrogation without some wisecracks. All in all, this feels more like a sketch more than a story, which would be fine, except it feels like it wants to be a story.

Megaviscera

This was definitely one of my favorites this week! The emotional arc is very solid, and I think this story is clear enough about what’s going on without digging deep into backstory here. It’s weighty but not maudlin or sentimental, and it’s slightly uncomfortable and unsettling in a way I really like. I guess I just wish the dialogue was a little punchier, that there was a little more specificity and immediacy in the pacing, but on the whole this is a very solid offering.

The Elephant in the Room

So I think this is pretty good, and definitely nails the experience of feeling like an outsider in your own family. It’s a little on-the-nose, which I chafed against on my first re-read, but on revisiting this I think the story tolerates it due to its brevity. (Although not brief enough to escape a DQ, alas.) I actually don’t have too much to say here – the prose is workmanlike for the fable-like story, and if there was a little more complexity here it definitely would have ended up as one of the top entries this week.

The People v. Courtney Allan

This story just wasn’t a good fit for this week, unfortunately. It’s definitely daring to put a mid-air action caper in a dialogue driven week, and to tell that mid-air action caper with one-hundred percent dialogue, but this story doesn’t pull the gambit off. The effect goes from confusing (it’s very hard to get a sense of the blocking) to dull (dense with plane jargon) to just plain silly (everything that ends with an exclamation mark.) In a week where I was looking for intimate character detail, with real thought to character motivation, this story didn’t deliver.

Here to Help

Honestly, this story mostly reminded me of this Internet-ancient ACLU video where a guy tries to order a pizza and finds they have his whole life on file. Both this story and the video ask us to sympathize with a hapless schlubby dude in the face of a total lack of privacy. And it’s the kind of thing that makes you uncomfortable, sure, but it also doesn’t really make sense. You’ve got a protagonist who’s completely unaware of the world he lives in, and it works as a fable (or as an ad for a non-profit) but not especially well as a story.

Manaakitanga

This story uses its flash rule very well, with the interruptions bolstering the dialogue. The dialogue feels fast, these characters feel lived-in and complex, and the setting is sketched in with just the right amount of detail. I wish it was just a little bit tighter (the third section feels mostly unnecessary), but other than that, this is a very solid entry and my initial win pick.

I sneezed on your baby

On one hand, the whole “who am I to deal with this baby when I am a disgusting germ-filled worm” thing is pretty relatable. Unfortunately the resolution isn’t super satisfying. I’m not saying the baby needed to die of pneumonia, but I feel like some additional clarity on why everything’s OK for the protag afterwards would be helpful. That said, I get that the relief of not having to sneeze anymore probably contributes to this? Anyway, the prose is clear, but I think calling this a dialogue-driven piece is kind of stretching it, which lands this pretty solidly in the middle of the pack.

As Titania, my time

This one was big in my book for the clear, evocative prose, even when you’re describing trippy stuff happening. And yeah, the dialogue between the protagonist and the girl is snappy, moving right along, hitting the right sentimental spots. That said, eh, I find myself wishing there was a little more grounded-ness going on here; there’s hints of things that aren’t ephemeral to the trip, but they’re wispy and leaves the story with a lack of real resonance or stakes. The last line doesn’t help, either. And I don’t know if the story needs more than that – a moment of mutual healing in an acid-haze – and so this is still a great winner, but it makes me wonder what more it could have been.

Doctor Zero
Sep 21, 2002

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

Thanks for the crit!

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Prompt: Elvis didn't die -- he just got tired of being the King

The King is Dead, Long Live the King
980 words


The King wasn’t dead. Keith knew it. Twenty years ago the King himself had offered Keith a job working security at Graceland. Helped him quit the booze, gave him a chance when no one else would. Believed in him. And now it was Keith’s turn to believe. That lawyer’s lackey who had told Keith he was being “let go” a mere two days after the funeral could take his measly payout and shove it. The King was not dead. He was out there, and Keith was going to find him.

***

“Bullcrap he had a heart attack,” said Maude, bingo marker poised like a snake about to strike. “Young man like that?” The caller shouted a number, and Maude dabbed another big dot onto her card. “I’m telling you the aliens have him. They took Betty last year.” Maude nodded towards a woman with thin, blue-rinsed hair. “Poor dear’s never been the same since.”

Condensation from Keith’s glass of lemonade had soaked a hole through his untouched card. The vodka he’d added from his hip flask wasn’t helping. He hated being at bingo on a Tuesday, like some drunken good-for-nothing. He should be at work, walking his familiar beat around Graceland’s pink fieldstone wall.

“Don’t listen to her nonsense, Keith,” said Owen. “You need to cheer up. It’s past time you retired anyway, what with that hip of yours.”

Under the table Keith’s hand paused in its kneading of his aching thigh muscles. “Nothing wrong with my hip,” he mumbled. “In twenty years I never took a single sick day, you know!” Keith’s voice rose. “And now they say he’s dead and a dead man don’t need no security! Well it ain’t true! I--”

I heard his real people came for him,” said Betty, leaning suddenly into their conversation from the opposite side of the table. Her too-big cat-eye glasses had slipped to the end of her nose. “Just like they said they would.”

Keith’s heart pounded. He recalled an overheard conversation, from a hot summer night years ago. The King had been sitting alone in the dark, trousers rolled up and his feet dangling in the kidney-shaped pool. Not yet, Keith had heard the King say to the darkness. One day, came a hissing reply. We’ll come to take you back. The King’s shoulders had slumped. Keith had hurried away, afraid of being caught eavesdropping, and later convinced himself he’d imagined it.

Betty’s rheumy eyes bored into Keith’s over the top of her glasses. “You just have to follow the river.”

Keith’s chair scraped loudly against the bingo hall’s wooden floor as he stood up.

“Keith, where are you going?” demanded Maude, as he strode from the hall.

***

Dawn light filtered through the cypress trees as Keith’s flat-bottomed fishing boat drifted down the vast Mississippi. Empty bottles clinked against his feet. When he’d pushed the boat onto the river last night he'd figured he'd know where he was going when he got there. The riverbank gave way to the entrance to a swamp, and Keith steered the boat in between the trunks.

A sudden splash from his left startled him. Probably just a catfish, he thought. Keith was sweating, despite the cool morning air. Suddenly an alligator reared out of the water in front of him. Keith swerved, the boat hit a partially submerged log and tipped, sending Keith tumbling into the swamp. He thrashed to the surface, grabbed the edge of the upturned boat and clung to it, gasping for breath.

There were alligators everywhere. They watched him from small islands between the trees and floated in the swamp around him, eyes hovering just above the algae-covered surface.

Keith struggled towards the one alligator-free mound of mud he could see. Their eyes tracked him. I’m going to die, he thought. Keith wondered if Maude would think the aliens had gotten him too. Unbidden, the opening notes of Amazing Grace drifted through his mind. Keith started humming. He’d always liked the King’s gospel music best of all, and it seemed fitting, given the circumstances. The bottom of the swamp began to slope up and Keith could breathe easier. He started to sing, his voice wavering in a pallid imitation of the King’s sonorous baritone.

Keith staggered onto the mound and stopped, as the biggest alligator he had ever seen marched up out of the swamp towards him. Its white teeth gleamed in the dim light. Keith fell to his knees. Casting his eyes up towards his maker, Keith picked up the refrain again.

I once was lost...

The beast reared onto its hind legs. One green lip lifted in a slight curl.

But now, am found.

The ‘gator’s knees bent, its legs rubbery, and its hips swayed in time with the song.

Was blind, but now, I see.

As Keith held the last note the alligator tossed back its head and windmilled one forearm. A ray of morning sunlight broke through the canopy, illuminating the giant creature on its muddy stage.

Overcome, Keith crumpled, pressing his forehead to the ground. “I knew I’d find you,” he sobbed.

***

“Keith! Where in God’s name have you been all week?” said Owen, as Keith plonked into the seat next to him.

Keith smiled and took a big gulp of lemonade. “A man’s got things to do, you know,” he said.

“A man needs a shower,” said Maude. “Keith, you stink like swamp water.”

“Swamp water’s good for your skin, my dear,” said Keith, and patted Maude on the cheek.

She batted his hand away, blushing. “Have you heard the latest? His middle name is misspelled on his tombstone! That proves the King is still alive.”

“He's alive alright,” said Keith, leaning back in his chair. “He's not coming back though.”

“How do you--”

Maude was cut off by the caller shouting another number. With a smile Keith popped the top off his marker and dabbed a big dot onto his card.

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again



archive link

Djeser fucked around with this message at 20:52 on Jan 1, 2020

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

timeless Ned Flanders style


Evolution is a false theory perpetuated by scientists at the behest of Satan

God’s Plan for Hyderabad
1157/1169 words

Hyderabad was drowned in smog. The industrial centers spewed forth thick coils of it, slithering downwind to pool over the poison lake Hussain Sagar. Wrapped liked mummies leaving not an inch of skin exposed to the toxic, caustic serpent’s bite, Ivān and Vanya stumbled towards the church promising clean air. Purified by wicked machines built by ECIL, which breathed out more of the climate gas boiling God’s domain. Ivān had scratched off the Electronics Corporation of India, Limited logo, but they knew that Satan was ready to put his company’s brand onto their very souls.

Finally, they saw a proud spire shining through the hellish miasma: St. Mary’s Church, the oldest, proudest monument of Catholicism in this part of moloch-city Hyderabad. It was Sunday, and the siblings were determined to hear the Good Word; to be deterred by Satan’s desolation outside would be to give into the temptation so many others had succumbed to. Who had fled this God-created world tortured to the brink of death by its own stewards.

Inside, the priest descended on them like the holy Spirit did on Pentecost. He rewarded Ivān and Vanya’s struggle up this city’s Mount of Olives with a blessing and the promise of great tidings.

“A revelation during the sermon?” Ivān asked.

As an answer, the priest led them down the nave, through rows of pews that had hemorrhaged believers like the city had conscious men, until the pews stopped, replaced by entirely more modern chairs.

Intricately built high-tech sarcophagi, to take a seat, recline and have the anonymous death-mask of a helmet envelop your entire head. They were life-preserving, internet-connected, state-of-the-art virtual reality setups by ECIL. Within, the mortal forms of lost sheep were entombed, kept in a mockery of life. They spent their days in a bizarre simulation of heaven, playing games built on violence, fornicating freely in make-believe forms, or even just continuing how they did outside, but with a projected sky untainted by their own sin.

A trembling Vanya touched the unmoving face of a congregation member already connected to the virtual world they had decried together so often. No reaction, like their parents at home. Ivān became enraged at the blasphemy.

“Father, what is this? Did the corporation force them to submit to their machine idols?”

“Far from it, my son,” the priest said. He patted a thirteenth chair in the middle, right in front of the altar. “I will deliver the sermon from here, and reach not only the scant few in Real Life, but rather speak to an entire world of listeners!”

Ivān leveled an accusatory finger at the priest. “For years, we knew the ECIL scientists’ words echoed Satan. Going virtual being mankind’s next step in evolution – sweet poison meant to entice us into giving up on God’s creation. And now this?”

The priest smiled gently. “The church has long ceased to argue against evolution. Our dogma similarly changes slowly, but inexorably. On Friday, the Pope himself connected to virtual space. Who are we to argue against that?”

“Believers in the word of God,” Vanya whispered.

“Humans! The stewards of his creation!” Ivān screamed in righteous anger.

And they pulled their masks over their faces again and stormed out of St. Mary’s. As the siblings ran from the yells of the man who had betrayed their faith, they formulated a plan. The server center for all of Hyderabad was in the ECIL facility, Northeast through the smog wall. If they could destroy the servers, they would wake up all the people from their golden calf of empty dreams. Force them to face how wretched this world had become, and assume responsibility for creation again.

They marched past unlit windows like empty eye-sockets of a mountain of skulls. Rarely, the status lamps of an ECIL chair housing a virtual dreamer twinkled in the darkness. Towards the industrial district the siblings carried their cross, through what used to be a public park, now a row of skeletal trees. Vanya stopped to pet a Bengal fox, who had already lost all fear of humans. She wondered about how healthy it seemed in this muggy cauldron, but Ivān urged her on.
They cut through a parking lot full of cars half-eaten by the acid in the air, and this time Ivān stopped to smash a window. He cursed the engines which spewed the gases that made the world an oven, and ran off before Vanya could remark that these ones were all electric.

Powered, like the ECIL chairs, by the seemingly infinite power source that was called a “miracle” when introduced. They passed the former Nuclear Fuel Complex, remodeled for the new task. Ivān wanted to push through quickly. However, Vanya saw something that almost made her remove her protective mask to get a closer look: was that really a ray of sunlight breaking through, the first in decades? But Ivān didn’t stop to look and urged her on. Vanya prayed in silence for the sign she saw to be true.

And so, sweating, stumbling, thrice collapsed from their torturous march, they reached the Golgotha of ECIL in the early afternoon. The siblings clutched each other, expecting demon-guards to descend upon them every minute, but nothing came out of the shadows. In fact, the ill-maintained building seemed on the brink of collapse.

At the center of the facility, the siblings reached the altar of Satan’s evolution worship. Before the wall of servers piled high, a semi-circle of chairs was arranged. Each contained a scientist in self-inflicted coma.

“We can just topple this entire thing! Crush them under their false beliefs!” Ivān found a steel rod in some rubble.

“A growing tree broke this wall,” Vanya murmured. She searched out its healthy roots. “Is nature actually recovering?”

Ivān’s couldn’t hear her over the sound of shattering servers. Vanya hesitated. All over the world, people had chosen to spend their lives in virtual, abandoning God’s creation that they had treated so cruelly. Was this truly Satan tempting them to abandon their duty, like he had tempted them to rape the earth in the name of convenience and egotism?

Another ray of light caught Vanya’s wavering glance, and in it basked a flower in full bloom, the first she had ever seen. It grew from underneath the helmet of one of the ECIL chairs, a true coffin for the scientist in it.

She almost wept at the clarity of God’s message. It was in fact Ivān who was acting out Satan’s last attempt to stop earth’s salvation.

Without hesitation, Vanya struck her brother down. She gently put down the corpse nourishing the flower and connected Ivān to the ECIL chair instead. Then, she also fell into the embrace of the virtual heaven, the last human in Hyderabad to give up what they had no longer any right to.

God had cast them out of Eden a second time, and who was she to act against His will?

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

timeless Ned Flanders style


apophenium
Apr 13, 2009


Prompt: J. Edgar Hoover didn't investigate the mafia because he was being blackmailed

To Know
740~ words

It started long before Jerusalem. It started when I found photos of J. Edgar Hoover with various men in my father’s briefcase. But Jerusalem was when the kindling I had been nurturing burst alight.

“Look into his sister,” said Zir, staring into his coffee. A smug Mossad agent. “I never figured out how she died.”

“Sudden infant death syndrome. Trust me, I’ve explored more avenues than I care to recall.”

“You have all this doubt, yet you believe a death certificate?” He hadn’t looked at me once. I wanted to smack his coffee to the floor.

But he was right. Sudden infant death syndrome is a diagnosis of last resort; if nothing else can be proved, SIDS it is. I caught the next flight home.

Despite its clutter, being back at my desk was a comfort. I was proud of my work, though it had yet to bear fruit. Among all the Hoover materiel was a photo of the man responsible for my obsession. My father.

He had chuckled when I asked him about the photos of Hoover. “Why do you think he never looked into me and the boys?”

But his look betrayed him, eyes narrowing, challenging me to challenge him. Jaw tensed with worry. I didn’t press him, but I kept note of that look.

I had exhumed Capote and Dillinger. Normal stuff. Digging up a child, this felt like dark territory, even for me. I wasn’t prepared for how small, how strangely fragile her bones would be.

Nor was I prepared for the hole in the top of her skull, surrounded by shallow troughs and divots. My mind reeled with possibilities, none pleasant.

The Israeli picked up on the last ring. “What’d you find?” he asked.

“I get the feeling you already know.”

His chuckle made me want to hang up. “Maybe our pal J. Edgar ate her brains.”

“Maybe you’re an annoying prick.”

“There’s no need for that.”

“So, what, case closed? The Mafia knew Hoover ate his infant sister’s brains through a hole in the top of her head?”

“Don’t you think it’d be more fun to leave it unanswered? Anything is possible if you never find out the truth.”

“I don’t like to daydream.” I hung up. Bastard.

The photo of my dad still betrayed that worried look. I booked a flight back home for the next day.

-

“Ma, did you keep anything of dad’s when you moved outta the house?”

Ma tried and failed to see me around her cataracts. “Why, no. Threw away most of it. Donated what I could.” She waved to her caretaker. “Could you bring us some water, please?”

“I’ll get it, Ma.”

You’d guess my Ma was a spinster; the only photos up were of her and her siblings. Not a single trace of dad. I had an urge to rifle through her things looking for some evidence he'd existed. She erased him totally from her life. If she said his stuff wasn’t here, it wasn’t here.

“What’s this all about, anyway?” Ma asked, tracing the table with her fingers to find the glass of water.

“Nothing really, Ma. Just realized one day I was forgetting what he looked like.”

-

The family living in my childhood home were like an echo of my own family. Two distant parents and their one lonely boy. I imagined prying the basement window out of its frame, sneaking up the concrete stairs. I imagined padding through those hallways looking for my father’s briefcase. I imagined bumping into that kid, so much like my past self I knew he’d stay quiet.

It was time to move on.

I didn’t have the heart to throw out all my Hoover stuff. I packaged it up and mailed it to the FBI. Maybe they’d trash it. Maybe a young and curious agent would pick it up.

Zir was right, in a way. I could tell myself anything about Hoover and the mob. Believing any of it was the hard part. I rang him up, one last time.

“I’m done, Zir.”

“He was an alien, right?"

I couldn’t tell if he was joking. And I didn’t care. “No, Zir, he was a demon. From hell. I figured it all out,” I said.

There was a long silence. I had almost hung up when he said, “Ah that makes a lot more sense.”

When he started laughing I slammed down the phone.

curlingiron
Dec 15, 2006

Come fight terrifying creatures in the THUNDERDOME!


PROMPT: Dinosaurs helped build the pyramids.

The Last Hootenanny
822 words


By the time Maribelle was staring down at the foamy pink bile pooling on the sandstone beneath her feet, she knew there was no way this night was going to recover.

“Oh Lord Jesus, no!” The words came out as a long moan, cut short by her body’s continuing attempt to punish her for her bad decisions. She wiped her mouth and started a half-hearted attempt to kick sand over the mess. Maybe no one will notice that I puked all over the Valley of the Kings.

Because Keava would be the kind of person to hold a party in the most obscenely ostentatious location on Earth, wouldn’t she? And Anton would be the kind to invite Maribelle to come with him, and pay for the flights, and the ludicrously expensive hotel that would be the fanciest place she would ever stay in, and buy her a dress, and treat her like a princess, and introduce her to all his friends at his ex-girlfriend’s ridiculous party…

...where she would promptly do nothing but ask the world’s stupidest questions, drink entirely too much $500 wine, and drunkenly call Keava’s elegant soirée a helluva hootenanny. Because why the hell wouldn’t she? And of course everyone tittered politely, but she could hear the embarrassment in Anton’s voice, and the sneer in Keava’s, and the condescension in everyone else’s.

But the ancient stones beneath her feet had refused to swallow her whole, so she’d run away like a hound with its tail between its legs to go vomit into the sand and try to bury it.

She grabbed at the tiny, beautiful clutch that was absolutely too small to hold anything remotely useful, and thanked all the gods and Pharaohs that she had stubbornly stuffed a travel pack of tissues into the damned thing. She pulled one out and wiped her mouth, desperately wishing the bag had also had room for a pack of gum. She was barely surprised when the tissue came back red with the first drops of a bloody nose.

Her body seemed to fold in on itself of its own volition as she sank to the ground. Red drops glanced off the fabric of her dress and dashed themselves on the surface of her vomit. Belatedly, she held her nose with the tissue while she squeezed her eyes shut against the hot tears forming in them.

God almighty, why does this always happen to me?

“Blood, wine, and salt water,” a chirpy voice said from near her feet. “Your offering has been recognized, rmT. What is your request?”

Maribelle opened her eyes and looked down at the lizard sitting primly where her half-buried vomit had been moments before. The little creature had sandy scales tinged pink at the edges, and blood-red eyes that looked up at her dewily. She shook her head in confusion.
“What in the hell is wrong with me?” she said around the tissue still held firmly to her nose.

“What it your request?” said the lizard again.

“Oh Lord, I just want this to be over.”

“Confirmation: you wish an end to be brought about?”

“Yes! Jesus, Mary an’ Joseph, yes! Just leave me to die already!” Maribelle rolled onto her side and turned her back on the lizard. Anton would come looking for her soon, and in the meantime she would just lie here and allow herself to be miserable. There was no way the night could was going get any worse, after all.

Moments later, she was asleep.

With her eyes closed, Maribelle did not see the sky light up to the North, as hundreds of miles away, the Great Pyramids lit the sky with beams of fire. She did not see the ghostly figure blink to life where the lizard had once sat, nor did she note its reptilian countenance as it spoke:

To you, oh sons of man who we once called friends,” said the apparition. “We are pleased to find that the ancient ways have not been forgotten, although we mourn the circumstances that must have brought you here. For you to have called forth the Summoning, a great evil must have come upon your surface world, one that left you no choice but to use the great weapons we bequeathed to you. Although we always hoped that you would join us in the stars, we knew that there was always a possibility that this would happen. Know that your friendship will not be forgotten, and your end will be swift. Go in peace, friends.

Maribelle heard none of this. By the time Anton found her, there would be no sign of the message, or what had transpired.

In the sky above, a tiny point of light slowly began growing in intensity as a heavenly body changed its course. It would be hours before anyone realized what this shift meant to humanity, but it didn’t matter.

On the ground, the hootenanny continued on.

killer crane
Dec 30, 2006


Tyrannosaurus posted:

The Soviets sent someone into space before Yuri Gagarin but it didn't go well so they kept it a secret

word count: 1018

The First Vostok 1 

The launch pushed me into my seat; the acceleration was quicker than the simulator, and this was so much louder. Major Rykov was shouting congratulations from the radio. I was making history. They said I’d see stars in less than 30 seconds.

I stopped counting after two minutes. Layers upon layers of clouds continued to speed past, like a reel of blank film projected to my viewport. Then it stopped. Everything stopped. My body braced itself on reflex, expecting to be smashed into the instrument panel in front of me from the crash… but the impact didn’t come. The ship wasn’t moving, though the altimeter spun wildly. The radio was static. “This is Vostok 1, can anyone hear me?” I switched wavelengths; maybe the Chinese or even Americans were listening. I hailed for nearly an hour until I lost my voice. 

Hours passed, perhaps a day or two; I can’t be sure because the viewport never changed. The light outside never dimmed for evening. I busied myself trying every method I could think up to communicate outside of my capsule. I finally slept. I tried everything again once I woke up. This trip was supposed to take less than a day. They didn’t send me with any food, and my water had run out. Eventually my training faltered; I panicked, and unstrapped myself. I pounded my helmet, and fists against the hatch. It was bolted from the outside, I knew there was no hope to break it open. I passed out sobbing and exhausted. 

---

When I awoke someone was smiling at me through the viewport. I startled back, falling off my chair. Their face was pressed against the glass like a child making faces on a window. I scrambled the port. “Hey! Hey! Can you get help? Can you find someone with tools, and some men? Can you get me out of here?” I shouted. I wasn’t sure if they could hear me through the thick plating. The face only smiled back at me like an imbecile. “Do you understand me? Help me! Help me, please!”

The stranger pulled open the hatch like it was a car door. The hatched weighed 90 kilograms. “Oh, most certainly I can help you. Thank you for your politeness.” The person held a hand into the capsule, welcoming me out. Heavy fog flowed into the capsule. I stared. Their voice, face, and clothes showed no sign of masculinity or femininity. “Do you still want to get out?” they asked. 

“Yes… yes, thank you.” I took their hand, and stepped out of Vostok 1, and through the fog. After a few steps it cleared, leaving a gentle mist. I was standing in grassland. Low hills and haze hiding anything in the distance. "Where am I?"

"You are here, with me," my rescuer said. 

"Where is here?" I asked. Their face was a blank smile. 

"Your house is right there," they said, pointing towards the capsule. "Do you not know where you are from?"

I was now absolutely certain the person, or extraterrestrial being that resembled a person, was of a lower intelligence. "I'm a traveler. That brought me here, and I'm not sure where on Earth here is."

"Earth." Their smile dropped from their face. "Oh my, that will not do." 

I sputtered the beginning of questions, but they grabbed my arm and dragged me back to my ship. Before I was thrown in I pushed my heals into the ground, and braced myself against the hatch. "Why are you doing this? Why are you pushing me back?"

"You are in the universe right now. This is what life in the universe is!" They stretched their arms out. "It is beautiful, sensual, perfect. It is not for those that are anathema to such ideas. Those things are separated, and contained." They grabbed me again and threw me into the capsule. 

"Oh I am sorry, dear. You've come to us from a terrible dimension, full of horrors. Some horrors of your creation, and still more unknown to you all. They told us you were experimenting on getting out, but we didn't really think you'd make it so soon. Oh well," their smile returned, "it looks like we might have to widen your confines… perhaps an ever expanding abyss? Wouldn't want your kind infesting, would we?" They closed the hatch, and waved through the viewport. 

I feared I was going to die from thirst and rot imprisoned in the capsule, but eventually it began to move. The clouds drifted upwards through the viewport. I was falling. I strapped into the seat, and put my helmet back on. The plummet began pushing me up against my harness, digging into my ribcage; I was falling the wrong direction for reentry. I was going to die. Either I would burn up from atmospheric friction, or my neck would snap from the Gs being pulled without a headrest.

The harness got me first, I couldn't breathe anymore, and I passed out.

---

Major Rykov was at my bedside when I woke. "Don't try to get up, or speak. You've been badly injured." He handed me a pad and pen. "Before you ask; we don't know what malfunctioned. We lost tracking, and radio soon after launch. Your capsule was found 2 kilometers from the launch site, the parachute had not deployed. We do not know how you survived." he looked into my eyes. "Alexei, what happened up there?" 

I wrote what I could remember. I wrote about the stranger, and what they said about Earth. Rykov read it, and turned away. "Alexei, you can't write such madness. The doctors will think you are brain damaged." 

'What does the flight recorder show?' I wrote, and tapped the pad for him to read.

"It doesn't matter, the government took them away. You need to just be happy you're alive."

I wrote furiously, 'The malfunctions, the landing, no parachute - I'm not insane. It all happened.' 

"Even if it did Alexei… you mustn't tell anyone ever. They'll confine you. They'll lobotomize you. You would live a life of horrors" 

I dropped the paper. I understood.

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



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

*


Prompt: The Franklin Expedition wasn't searching for the Northwest Passage, they were searching for a downed alien spacecraft... so they could enslave the aliens.



Two Who Wandered Far Apart
1068 words


This story edited out of the thread for search engine anonymity reasons.
You can read it on the TD archive, though!
https://thunderdome.cc/?story=7616&title=Two+Who+Wandered+Far+Apart

Anomalous Blowout fucked around with this message at 04:54 on Dec 30, 2019

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




Shark Aeon

Prompt: Israel can remote control sharks and regularly has them attack Egyptian beaches

1160 words

Sharks have survived each of Earth's five mass extinctions, surviving the end of the reigns of the graptolites and trilobites, the tabulate corals and conodonts and dinosaurs. Some people might call that an impressive record for a nearly perfectly adapted predator. And maybe that's true. But me, I see a pattern like that and what I see is a prime suspect.

Rubi Al-Jakh was dead, the messy kind of dead in more ways than one. The only living son of General Al-Jakh, the kind of spoiled kid who goes to swim in a beach in the middle of a military coup. It didn't look like rebels or assassins. It looked like a shark had swallowed his right arm and half of his guts.

"Majed! Over here," said Bayan. My latest partner. The one before was too dumb to tell an overdose from sniper kill, and this one wasn't an improvement. That was the way it goes. Partners. Best case, you train them to take notes and stay out of the way and they manage to not get killed or caught the wrong kind of dirty for a few years. I left the kid to see what he had found.

It was the shark. The general sent a few guys out on a cigarette boat with harpoon guns and they came back with a big one.

"Think that's it?" he asked.

"We won't know for sure until they open it up," I said, "But I wouldn't be surprised if they found an arm with Rubi's iWatch." I levered the shark to the other side with my rifle. "What's this?"

There was a small black device, embedded in the sharkskin. "A remote control?" said Bayan. "You think maybe Mossad was piloting it?"

Sometimes I wonder if Bayan really is as dumb as he looks. Or if there's something going on in there. Here's the thing: there was no way we were ever going to close this as an accident. The general, when it came to his family, he was a superstitious man, in the Vito Corleone sense. If anything happened to him, a car wreck, a heat attack, a cocaine overdose, whatever, he would assume it was just a really good assassin and take revenge accordingly, and everyone knew it. He wasn't going to be satisfied with a dead shark. Blaming Israel may have been the only way to avoid a bloodbath. Did Bayan get that, or was he just an idiot? No real way to find out.

"It's a tracking device," I said.

"Ah," said Bayan. " So they can keep eyes on their trained animal."

I cut the thing loose and left Bayan in charge of the autopsies. "Call me if they got the wrong shark," I said.

A few hours later I was in Ghfran's basement, a dry hole lit only my computer monitors and the dim lighting of his fishtanks. I watched the goldfish and bettas school from glass to glass as he fiddled with the gps tracker.

"Huh," said the blue-haired hacker.

"Has our fish been anywhere interesting?"

"It's where he is right now that's weird. This thing is recording its location as off the coast of southern California."

"It's been tampered with?"

"Hacked, cracked, and shellacked," he said. "The code is strange, too. Complicated, self-modifying stuff."

"Any idea who might code like that?"

"Nobody codes like that," said Ghfran. "Not even machines code like that."

A dead end. I checked my messages. Bayan called. It was the right shark. One more call. No name, just a place to meet.

I recognized the setup, the mechanical voice. It belonged to Ali X. Ali was a spy. I was never sure who he was working for: CIA, Mossad, FSB, maybe MI-6 or VAJA. He never asked for anything in return, just passed on information that couldn't go through usual channels. Sometimes I did the same, on order from the bosses.

"I hear you're after a big fish," he said. The place was supposed to be a tourist nightclub, but that night it was a quiet bar with an empty dance floor. I sipped plain coffee to his beer. I nodded. "You know the saying? It takes a thief to catch a thief, yes? Go to Baroud. He will tell you what you need to know."

Baroud was not a fish. Dolphins are mammals. We'd worked together before. Dolphin isn't that difficult to pick up, with the right teacher.

"That loving bastard," he said, first thing after I showed up with my questions. I'm toning down the translation. Dolphin is the best language in the world for swearing, but it takes a poet to do it justice in any other tongue.

"Who?" I clicked.

"Ali. If this gets back, if they find out I told you, it could mean the end of all my people."

"Your family?"

"Dolphins. Probably whales too for that matter. They take the compact seriously."

"But you're going to tell me anyway," I chirped. Whatever Ali had on Baroud, it had to be, well, I didn't want to think about it.

Baroud did the cetacean equivalent of a sigh, a sort of whole-body eye-roll, and told me the truth about sharks.

The ones we see, they're just the pets. Like trained attack monkeys for the deep sharks that stalk the ocean floor. They're smart, they're psychic, and they want us all dead. You ever here about how octopus DNA is almost alien to everything else? They're artificial. Tools, arms for the sharks to pull the levers and build their tools. I learned about how they pressurized supervolcanoes, how they played telekinetic billiards with asteroids and comets, how all their tools looked too weak to truly exterminate humans. Reduce our numbers, tear down civilization, sure, but nothing we couldn't bounce back from in a thousand years or so. No, to wipe us out they needed war. Nuclear war, not because nukes would do they job itself but because in war like that the real doomsday weapons would get used. Later on Ali told me about a virus the Americans had in a vault in Atlanta. A subtle killer, sweeps the world like a bad cold in a few weeks and leaves everyone sterile. Something like that, with a regular war to shut down the high tech fertility clinics that might work around it, that's what the deep sharks are working for.

We wound up going with the Mossad angle. I didn't trust the bosses with anything near the truth, and what was I going to do, go down in a research submarine and slap handcuffs on the king shark? But I know the truth, and have been working ever since with Ali's other bosses, keeping the peace at all costs until they figure out a way to take those cartilaginous coralcock squidkissers- again, more eloquent in the original Dolphin- down, once and for all.

And maybe not go to war with each other after that, even, Inshallah.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

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




Mermaids live under icebergs and the Bloop is proof

1044 words

Where you were

https://thunderdome.cc/?story=7618&title=Where+you+were

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

Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Prompt: Jimmy Hoffa is buried under Giants Stadium

The Hoffa Family Road Trip
1,150 Words


Filed August 4, 1975

WARNING: THIS DOCUMENT IS INTENDED FOR THOSE WITH CLASS X-71 CLEARANCE AND ABOVE. UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS OR DISSEMINATION OF THE INFORMATION WITHIN WILL BE REGARDED AS TREASON AND PROSECUTED AS SUCH.

Okay, that should weed out the riff-raff. I’d put my name down but you’d just have to redact it anyway so how about we skip to the good stuff? Hello, Mike and Bill, plus any other poor bastards who might be reading. Congratulations, now my headache is yours.

Christ, where to start? Even the least-informed among you will gather that there was something of a shakedown over at the deepest levels of the Energy Collection Locus. Well, that’s where the story ended. Where it began was a parking lot in suburban Detroit, where that Teamster sack of crap Jimmy Hoffa was waiting for a rendezvous with a couple of his goonies. (Yes, yes, I know Nixon pardoned the guy - as if anyone considers that a ringing endorsement.)

The meeting did not go exactly as Hoffa planned. In fact, the son of a bitch got hauled out of his car, bashed over the head, thrown in a ditch, and shot six times through the gut. The assassins left him there, and in a sane world that’s where the story would have ended. Well, it turns out Hoffa, considerate hubby he is (was?) rang his dear wife Josephine to let her know when to expect him back. That deadline passed, obviously, so Josie got nervous and drove out there herself. After a bit of searching, she found Jim lying on his face in the woods nearby, cold, stiff, and full of holes.

You can thank the goddamn unions the story didn’t end there. The crew building the stadium above the Locus apparently caught on that something may be going on beneath the surface. This rumor spread from union to union like a strain of VD, until it reached the ears of one Josephine Hoffa. So Josie hauled her husband’s corpse into the back seat, drove over to pick up her son James Junior, and began the ten-hour drive from Michigan to New Jersey.

The following is a transcript of the audio-log from the ECL itself, recorded in the wee morning hours of July 31. Drs. Krenwinkel and Grogan were the only researchers on-site that early.

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

DR. KRENWINKEL: We need that equipment up and operational this week, Grogan.

DR. GROGAN: Of course. Yes. The government’s sending a tech they can trust. He’s needed in Arizona for the time being, but once that business wraps up…

[They chatter for a while, most of it boring and none related to the incident at hand. A sound of tires squealing in the background. Footsteps that start quiet and grow louder, a series of slamming doors, and then…]

DR. G.: Oh my.

DR. K.: Who the hell are you people? This is a classified site, civilians don’t have any-

[A sharp gasp from both doctors.]

JOSEPHINE: See this, egghead? It’s a .45 caliber pistol. Now if someone doesn’t tell me who’s in charge right now, this puppy starts barking.
[silence]
Well???

DR. K.: If we’re talking seniority, I’ve been on the site longer.

DR. G.: Hah. With all due respect, Doctor, I was on the Manhattan Project.

DR. K.: You’ve said that, but I’ve gone through the files, and you know something? You’ve never been on any of them.

DR. G.: You’re not looking at the right files, then. Which speaks, incidentally to your low-level clearance-

[A gunshot stops them cold.]

JOSEPHINE: I don’t have time for this. If you can’t decide who’s in charge I’ll just shoot one of you, then the answer’ll be pretty goddamn obvious.

DR. K.: Doctor Oswald is in charge.

DR. G.: But he’s in Bora Bora.

JOSEPHINE: Well then, Needle-Nose, I guess you get to be second in command. I’ve heard some crazy stories about this place. That you’re using power under the ground to run some kind of… electric... brain. I didn’t believe it at first but I’m in a desperate spot right now and I’m willing to try just about anything. So what the hell are you doing here?

DR. G.: Well… you know how there’s a network of phone lines that run across the country? Well, ley lines are like that, but they’re under the ground, so that [Blah blah blah, I’m cutting off the explanation here - just browse through a new-age bookstore and you’ll get the gist.]

JOSEPHINE: So a whole bunch of these underground lines come together right here?

DR. K.: Exactly. And we can draw an enormous amount of power, almost limitless power, from the convergence.

JOSEPHINE: And what can you use that power for?

DR. G.: Oh, just about anything you can dream of.

[It doesn’t come through in the tape, but I imagine a mischievous grin spreads across Josephine’s face right about now. It just feels right.]

JOSEPHINE: Junior! Go get your father.

JUNIOR: Right on it, Ma.

[A stretch of deeply uncomfortable silence, shuffling feet, doors opening and closing, Junior grunting as he hauls the bullet-riddled corpse into the laboratory.]

Dr. K.: Oh.

Dr. G.: Oh.

JOSEPHINE: Boys… you’re gonna help me make history.

[Cue Josephine ordering the two doctors about. Metallic scrapes as they drag a long, low vat into the center of the room, fill it with conductive gel, hoist the late Mr. Hoffa in, and stick a pair of cables deep within. The doctors throw the switch, and the room crackles with fierce jolts of power, electric and psychic forces flowing together as one. It builds and builds until... it all goes silent.]

Dr. K.: Well... any response?

Dr. G.: Mr. Hoffa? Are you there?

JOSEPHINE: Jimmy, oh god, Jimmy, please… say something.

[A silence long enough to break your heart. Then a low, rasping cough rattles through the room.]

JOSEPHINE: Jimmy? Is it really you?

The tape ends with one word, barely more than a hushed whisper. Nonetheless, with the right amplification you can hear it; I’ve heard it myself, though I can hardly convince myself it’s true.

“Josephine…”

The ECL’s new resident needs to stay plugged in to the Locus current at all times. If power is diverted elsewhere, his body starts failing, which is something Josephine has refused to let happen happen. For now, I recommend that we follow her wishes.

The egos of the research team members have been somewhat bruised by the ECL’s shift in priorities. They ought to grow up. The Hoffa family has elevated the site from a niche project of minor import to something worth a great deal more attention. My recommendation? We double the resources allocated to the team, and that’s just for starters. We may be on to something big.

One caveat, though: The fewer bereaved widows find out about this little miracle, the better. Let’s keep the unions’ noses out of it.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


Stiff Upper Lip
1192 words

Queen Elizabeth is a cannibal and that's why she's been alive forever.


The Knights of the Flesh were not a well-known organization. Although their history stretched back to Tudor times, very few people had heard of them. Those who had were usually unable to explain exactly what the knights were.

When Percy inherited his membership, he was blurry on the details. All he knew was his father had been a member of some secret society- common enough amongst the peerage. After his father’s death, Percy started attending rituals, council meetings, and other events, clad in ceremonial robes that smelled like mothballs. There was always a script to follow, through social cues if not on paper, and Percy seemed to do fine.

Percy had never liked for the secretive, cliquish nature of these upper-crust secret societies- they had always seemed like little boys playing pretend. But his last promise to his father was that, if he didn’t want to get more involved, he would at least participate during Harvest Week every summer.

Now, on the penultimate night of the festival, Percy was crouched in a little-used stairwell in Buckingham Palace, clutching an old-fashioned rifle with bayonet. He had been promised a sumptuous dinner at the Queen’s own table, and while he didn’t want to be there, it was a good perk.

Lord Terrence Hampshire, his guide for the evening, appeared at the bottom of the steps. “Readyy, my boy?”

“I’m not sure exactly what I’m meant to be ready for.” Percy stood up and stretched, almost stabbing the wall with his bayonet.

“The Harvest Hunt, of course! Didn’t your father tell you anything?”

Percy sighed imperceptibly. “I’m afraid I’ll try your patience, sir. I’ve never been much of a rider, and I’m vegetarian.”

Lord Terrence laughed and gave Percy a chummy pat. “Not to worry, we won’t be riding- and you’ll want to eat what we catch. Trust me.” He looked at his watch. “We must go right away, however, and join the others. I don’t want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

They descended for what seemed like hours, going far deeper than Percy would have thought possible. Upon reaching a vast underground chamber, Percy sighed with relief to see the other Knights standing and talking casually, drinking wine and cocktails and nibbling finger foods. Was it all symbolic?

“Please tell me we don’t run around the basement of the palace and try to catch rats,” he said to Lord Terrence.

Terrence laughed. “Your father always said you were a wit,” he said, giving Percy another pat. “No, not rats. This is the essential moment of being a Knight of the Flesh, however.” His face grew serious. “Although we are not well-known, we are Her Majesty’s most trusted…friends. She asks us for a very special and very private service, of utmost importance to the realm. The Harvest is a significant act, young Percy, an act of sacrifice and strength. I know your father couldn’t tell you much about it, so you will be quite surprised, but blood will win out. The pride and glory of providing this service to Her Majesty runs in your family line, or you wouldn’t be here.”

“But what are we going to do?”

Just then, a hooded figure appeared at one end of the room. The other men immediately stopped speaking, placed their drinks on nearby tables, got their guns back in hand.

“Welcome,” the figure said, “to the Hunt.”

The room exploded in applause.

“From the time of Henry VII,” the figure continued, “we have been the safeguards of royal power. We knew how to shape it, how to wield it, and how to instruct our masters to do so. We are the ones who cured royal diseases, who revived lost souls, and-“ He paused dramatically. “- we are the ones to have finally discovered the fountain of youth.”

Percy looked at Lord Terrence for an explanation, found none.

“For the sixty-sixth year in a row, I welcome you all to The Hunt. May your efforts continue to bring peace and prosperity to the realm.” The men clapped. “Now, would you all raise your weapons, and get into position?”

Lord Terrence clapped a hand on Percy’s shoulder and whispered, “Hold your bayonet out- like so- very good. Keep it steady, no matter what. Just stand in place and close your eyes.” There was a touch of sympathy in his voice. “It will be easier next year, trust me.”

Before Percy could ask what he meant, the lights went out.

“Steady!” roared a man behind Percy. “Here they come!”

Percy heard distant screaming, screams that we were coming closer very quickly. He gulped and held his bayonet at the ready.

The first body slammed into him so hard that he stumbled. He had barely recovered when he felt the force of another hitting his bayonet, accompanied by a horrible body squelching horribly into his bayonet. Percy screamed, feeling bodies whip past him and hearing nothing but organic squishes and cries of torture. Percye gritted his teeth and tried to keep his head down. He knew there were people around him. He knew that was what dangled from the edge of his bayonet. In his head, all Percy could do was wonder why? Why were you involved with this, Dad? Why did you give this duty to me?

When the lights came back on, Percy staggered towards the back of the room and vomited. The smell of blood was incredible.

“It’s his first time,” he heard someone say. Tuts of sympathy followed.

Lord Terrence grabbed a heaving Percy and forced him into a standing position. “You’ve done fine,” he said shortly, “now look sharp. We’re going to dinner with Her Majesty immediately.”

The private royal dining room swam with gold and crystal and candlelight. Percy was brought before Her Majesty, made to smile and bow. She looked sternly at him from behind her glasses- could she smell the vomit?

“Thank you all for coming,” she said in her quavery voice. “I’m certain you understand how much I value the Knights of the Flesh and their contribution to the Realm. Without your hard work and dedication, I would not have had so long and happy a reign as I have been blessed with.” Here, the men clapped. “As a token of my appreciation, please accept a small portion of tonight’s harvest for your own delectation. You may collect your parcel upon leaving tonight.”

The men eagerly hissed.

With a nod at her assistant, the queen stood up. She removed her glasses, took a deep breath, and shouted, “Long live England!”

“Long live the Queen!” the men shouted in response. Percy just swayed, sick and sweating.

The queen opened her mouth. She opened it very wide. She opened it so wide that her neck began to split open. Her lower jaw fell down, exposing a vast array of sharp, pointed teeth, dripping in rows down the maroon expanse of her enless throat.

A plate of shiny, pink scallops of meat was set in front of her.

“Eat!” the men chanted. “Eat! Eat! Eat for England! Long live the Queen!”

Percy could see a red-polished fingernail on the platter.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






Prompt: The Denver airport is the literal entryway to hell
title mandated by sparksbloom

GRANDPAS SPECIAL MOUTHWASH
1160 words

In an aggressively beige room, beneath a flickering fluorescent light, a man called Chet Mansley is doing his best to arrange a series of lettered tiles on a formica table. The tiles make an ugly rasp as he slides them around into different configurations:

A SCALAWAG PHONED TRIUMPHS

WHIP A SACRAMENTAL PUSH GOD

MUD THIGHS PROWLS A PANACEA

The two agents supervising this task are a woman, whose name badge reads Reese, and a man designated by his badge as Hennessey—pseudonyms given to them for the purpose of the exercise, and the only names by which they know each other.

HOW SPUMED A CHARLATANS PIG

Chet looks hopefully at the agents, his eyes outlined by a tired red rind.

Reese brings her fists down hard on the table, sending the lettered tiles shivering across formica.

“You’re pathetic,” she roars in unaccented English.

“If I just knew a little more about the cypher...” Chet says, gesturing helplessly down at the mess of letters on the table.

“You have the answer Chet,” Hennessey says. “You’re just not digging deep enough. But time is running out. Now is the time to play any trump card you might have.”

“There’s no loving trump card,” Chet says, his voice wavering under the heavy threat of a sob. “They’re just letters. A bunch of old scrabble tiles. Wee-hee!” He scoops up a fistfull of letters and lets them clatter nonsensically onto the table.

Reese rests her forearms on the table, looks Chet dead in the eyes. “You don’t solve this, nothing will be okay ever again for your wife and your daughter, understand?”

But Chet has already progressed to the hysterical giggling point of the exercise. “gently caress it,” he gasps between convulsive bouts of laughter. “gently caress it.”

He barely looks at his hands as he drags the tiles into a final configuration:

GRANDPAS SPECIAL MOUTHWASH

Chet’s desperate peals of laughter elongate and roughen into primal sobs. He brings his forehead down onto the table with a thwack once, and again, and again.

“Put him out,” Reese tells Hennessey in their native language.

Hennessey strides around the table, presses two fingers to the back of Chet’s neck. Instantly, the man slumps over onto the table, his cheek resting atop the non sequitur.

“Why does he always end up on those words?” Hennessey wonders aloud. “It’s a ridiculous phrase to torment yourself with.”

“Maybe it’s like, his ultimate expression of ‘gently caress it,’” Reese says. “Grandpa’s special mouthwash. It makes sense, but means nothing.”

Hennessey laughs. “No wonder he wound up here. Nihilists are repugnant.” Shaking his head, he says, “We should begin again. Quotas, and all that.”

Reese doesn’t reply right away. Behind the human facade, her true mien is troubled and thoughtful. “Do you think,” she begins haltingly, “that you’d do it better than them? Life on the outside, I mean.”

Hennessey’s mirth turns to annoyance. “They are what they are. We are what we are.”

“You’ve totally wondered about it,” Reese says, her hind-face splitting into a chitinous grin.

“Maybe I’ve wondered about a lot of things,” Hennessey says, giving her a look. “But what we have in here is job security and a guaranteed path to redemption—even if it’s the long path.”

“The only challenge in what we do is the monotony,” Reese says, glancing pointedly around the beige room. “Why’s that worthy of redemption?”

.

“Christ. Oh god. Oh Jesus,” Chet groans as soon as they materialize in the duct outside his chamber.

“Yeah, I can see how this would be jarring,” Reese says in English.

Both she and Hennessey have chosen to retain their human forms, for Chet’s comfort, but there’s nothing to be done about the appearance of the passageway: floor, walls, and ceiling are comprised of glistening meat, bulbous organs, and wildly rolling eyeballs—the useful detritus of those tortured to the point of dissolution.

“This is foolish,” Hennessey mutters. “The ingrate will get us caught.”

“Focus,” Reese tells Chet. “Remember: just a little jaunt through hell and you’ll be back with your family.”

Chet’s eyes look like they might bug out of his head, but after a long moment, he wrestles his composure away from the clutches of hysteria and gives Reese a terse nod.

A short way down the duct, Reese pulls open a flap of meat to reveal a dark, narrow vein just large enough to accommodate a human-sized form on hands and knees. Chet eyes the small passage with trepidation, but a squelching noise from further up the main duct forces the issue.

“Someone’s coming,” Reese hisses. “In!”

The meat flap slaps closed behind the trio, leaving them to crawl an unknowable distance in the dark.

“Explain to me how all this works,” Chet says over the wet schlup of their passage through the vein. “You were going to torture me into meat pulp, but instead you’re helping me escape. Why?”

Rumor has it there’s an old conduit leading to the human world,” Hennessey says, his tone crisp. “From when we used to accept, ah, donations in exchange for favors.”

“It’s not a rumor, I’ve seen it,” Reese grumbles. “But not just anyone can pass through. To open the conduit, there needs to be present both a mortal and a demon—for safety.”

“Right,” Chet says. “Any idea where this ‘conduit’ leads to?”

“The sacrificial chamber,” Reese says wistfully. “And beyond that, the…” She gropes for the name. “...Denbear Airway?”

Schlup. Schlup. Schlup.

“You mean the loving Denver International Airport?” Chet sounds like he’s about to start up with the giggly hysterics again, but manages to keep his cool.

“That’s the one!”

They emerge from the vein into an open space whose dimensions are lost to the darkness. The schlups of their movements echo off of distant walls. A moment later, a whorl of light shimmers into existence in response to their approach, its emanations glistening off the clammy, organoid interior.

“Out of curiosity,” Hennessey says, glancing sidelong at Chet, “what horrible thing did you do before you died?”

“I was complicit in the assassination of a head of state,” Chet says bitterly. “Operation ‘Grandpa’s Special Mouthwash.’” He laughs a despairing laugh. “I guess hell doesn’t differentiate between the willing and the coerced.”

Reese and Hennessey make eye contact behind Chet’s back and share a silent ooooh.

Chet eyes Reese. “What about you two? Should I be worried about unleashing untold death and destruction, and etcetera?”

“We’re going to try to do free will better than you,” Reese says brightly.

Chet surprises Reese and Hennessey by laughing. “loving fair enough, I guess.”

“We ready?” Hennessey asks.

Reese reaches out and takes his hand in hers, giving him a look that suggests she’s very much looking forward to exploring free will vis-a-vis the two of them. “Ready.”

Together, two infernals and an unwilling assassin ascend from darkness into the light.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

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



From Parts Unknown
1120 words
Prompt: Pro wrestling is real

Jason Courage is going to start something in the locker room. He's been staring at me since he arrived, eyes narrowed, face set; he was fine in practices, even likable, but nerves must have taken their toll. Jason's getting his first big push, thanks to his uncle the booker, and he's just self-aware enough to know what the guys are saying about that. That means a chip on his shoulder, and he's young enough to think starting a fight in the locker room will prove he "deserves" to beat me tonight.

I'm about suited up when he finally comes over. "Hey," he says, and there's a cold, sure edge in his voice I never heard in practice. He's already called down the Hero: taken on his role for the night, the spirit. "Hey, Michelle. You better be ready for this."

"Always ready," I say, trying to keep the bile down. I haven't called down the Monster yet; the anger crawling up my spine is, unfortunately, my own. "I'm looking forward to a good clean match."

Jason's eyes narrow further. That's got to be the Hero, I know; it's a hidebound spirit, and it's always surprised when its Monsters speak in something other than thick accents or tortured growls. Maybe that's the problem. Jason's young, and he's white-bread American Christian -- no background in hosting and binding the spirits. I know his uncle's hired him the best shamanic tutors in the business, but it takes time he hasn't had. Loose binding. Time to be careful.

"Michelle," he says again, like I didn't hear it the first time. His uncle's one of the few in the business I let call me Misha, and I'm sure Jason thinks his jab about it is a power play. It wouldn't bother me on most nights, but tonight my own nerves are jangling. Ronald Reagan's declared his intent to "outlaw Russia forever" -- the kind of thing the papers call a joke but sets my parents and their siblings to days of incense and prayer. They, like I, can feel the touch of evil.

I have to call down the Monster tonight, and the Monster has to lose to the Hero, and lose well. This is a nationwide broadcast night, and botching the ritual on a nationwide scale could mean the bombs fall. I can't afford to let the chip on Jason Courage's shoulder disrupt my concentration.

I ignore him, finish dressing silently, and he leaves at last. I throw the faux-fur bear pelt across my shoulder, lay the bitter herb on my tongue -- call on the traditions of my ancestors, beseeching the spirit to accept this battered body as its host, to bless me in ritual combat -- and I feel it accept and take hold, the boiling rage building again. I'm no longer Mikhail Lagunov. I'm not even the Siberian Psycho. I'm just the Monster.

There's a certain type of fan -- a clever child, or a less-clever adult -- that takes great joy in accusing us of being "fake." They mean it's choreographed. Of course it is. What kind of idiot would let the spirit-ridden fight without choreography? That's how wars start; that's how plagues get started. Anyone who can sense a spirit can see just how real this is.

***

The choreography breaks down about halfway through the match. Jason's angry, and it's making him messy; he's supposed to be hitting high-flying spots, to look agile and glorious next to my cumbersome bulk, but he's staying groundbound and striking when he should grapple. I sell the impact of his blows as best I can, even as the Monster snarls in my ear and tells me to end this farce. I do my best to hold it back, to let the Hero act through Jason and get him back to hitting his spot. When he heads back to the ropes, I think we might be back on script, for the moment of darkness before his triumph. He leaps, and I grab him when he falls on me, take the momentum, slam him to the mat and hover over him, the beast about to feed.

Jason flails. He hesitates. He's supposed to catch me in a leg lock, pull me down, initiate the final grapple, but I look in his eyes and I realize the Hero's left him. Keep a loose grip on the spirits -- fight sloppy, or worse, fight improperly -- and they'll abandon you, and now there's a terrified young man in the ring against the Monster. The referee, strategically, is looking away; there's some chaos in the audience, a distraction from someone grandstanding. (Bless them.) The Monster snarls in my ear and starts forcing me down for the pin.

I know it's not wrong about the show of it, the sport. The world probably wouldn't end; I can't flatter myself, that I'm the only one to call the Monster, or even the only caller slated to lose tonight. The bookers wouldn't even be upset at me for calling the audible and ending the drat match. But no, I realize -- I'm the highest-profile Monster on the bracket tonight, and I'm the Siberian Psycho, and the ritual matters more than the sport. I think of a new fire in the dull eyes of Ronald Reagan, the Monster feasting on the tatters of his soul. I cannot afford to win.

I stagger back, as if struck, and throw myself onto the ropes. "Khu-rage!" I hiss in my best dreadful accent, and I mouth the words he needs to hear. Defeat the Monster.

Jason stands up. There's no spirit in him now, just an aching boy, no better than a boxer or a footballer, the unblessed. But he charges me, and he grabs me, and together we throw me onto the mat and we fall. The referee is paying attention again, right on time, and I make a show of struggling and let him count out the pin. As he declares the winner, I bite down on my tongue and suck at the blood. Begone, I tell the roiling spirit. Our work is done.

***

Dan Kurtzman calls me the next morning, halfway through breakfast. "Jason quit last night," he says. "Says he can't do it anymore. I saw the match -- messy, but..." He pauses. "He okay, Misha? What's the problem?"

"He's a good kid," I reply, "but he's not suited to this. He'd be a better boxer, if he wants to fight."

"Nah, he's going back to school, thank God. That reminds me -- the morning divinations say we're doing well, making a little progress. You have time to meet and discuss the next arc?"

"Tomorrow," I say. "Today, I need to catch up on the news."

GenJoe
Sep 14, 2010


prompt: KFC had to change their name because what they're legally selling isn't chicken

987 words


Sycamore Grove
The man pushes his shopping cart down the aisle (clunk clunk) and stops by a tower of toner cartridges. HP.

The scheme is this: Credit card, new, Visa, $1,000 dollar spend, 10,000 mile cash back. The miles aren’t for him, but for his son, Patrick. It’ll only fetch an offseason ticket, sure, but it’s still something to do. Something he’ll appreciate.

The issue is this: who has a $1,000 dollars to spend anymore? With credit, though, you’re not really spending, and he can make do. Besides, the best businesses in the world thrive exclusively off of credit.

He takes a cartridge, fumbles with it in his hand. $24 dollars, HP. Tosses it in the basket. He’ll sell the toner (along with everything else in his cart) to one of the boys. Maybe this to Larry, who is always talking about his next big manuscript.

He’s always been keen-minded, good business sense, could sell a glass of water to a drowning man. And the drowning man would still live.

— — —

Ink. Toner. Manuscripts. Newsprint.

Indian summer. Patrick is nine years old, out in the neighborhood, his sweat pores really opening up for the first time in his life. On the sidewalk alongside him is his father. They’re going over his new paper route.

The father puts a paper in the boy’s hands and shows him the right way to wind his body back, like a discus thrower, for the perfect toss. Patrick lets it rip and it lands squarely in a bush.

They keep walking, paper-left-in-bush, a rush job but they have ground to cover and are losing hydration fast. The father carries the main stack by its ribbon while the boy holds a paper out with both his arms.

“Why did Washington have a Post?” The boy asks.

“Excellent question,” he replies. “First, Washington had an army. And armies naturally need to communicate: dispatchers, couriers (that’s you), those sorts of things. To organize all of that, you need a post.”

“I understand,” the boy says, staring at a passing mailbox — wooden, post-like.

“Which leads me to my second point. And this is important.” The father stops, wipes his brow, speaks at the boy. “The most important innovation of our times is the innovation of organization. And the most important institution of our times is the Corporation. So men can come together and do the best work of their lives.”

— — —

HP’s a good corporation. Used to be Hewlett-Packard, but everyone knew Packard was an rear end in a top hat, some stooge who got too mixed up in the Nixon administration. Never liked Nixon (or he came to not like him, he can’t remember. Does it matter?), and near everyone else today would say the same. The name had to change. HP.

That’s his theory at least. He’ll never know what discussions and deliberations went on behind those boardroom doors. Only trusts the decision made was the right one.

He stops by footwear, sees a pair of Nikes. Patrick was always a real player at basketball. He only made it out to one of Patrick’s games (busy, terribly, with work) — stood by the side of the bleachers, arms crossed, avoiding the thick of the noise and the cheer and the crowd. But he saw every whoosh, every buzz, and knew his boy had talent.

He was disappointed his son never never made college ball. That’s where you’ll make some of the best connections you’ll ever make in your life. Missed opportunity. If he had bought him better shoes…

Nike’s are the best. Fortune 500 good. He takes a pair, 12’s, $49.87.

His son’s at BU now. Studying philosophy. The boy’s mother and him don’t talk — hell, he only writes the boy letters now, him being busy at school. Urges him to get the right experience, intern, learn from the best minds in business he can.

The card has a $200 dollar limit. The best they could do, they explained, after initially messing up his paperwork (or something like that. Does it matter?) and denying him. They must’ve thought he was his son. They share the same name, same middle initial — Patrick Louis Reid; Patrick Levi Reid.

No one he know cares much for clothing, but he can fetch double for a pair of sunglasses hanging off the rack if he angles the sell right. Polarized, U.V. resistant, they are none of these things, and he’s not a liar. He’ll sell them on the chrome finish. $4.99. Ready to check out.

In the front corner of the supermarket is a bastion, a place of respite, a Kentucky Fried Chicken. He has some change in his pocket and figures why not. In line he strikes up conversation with the woman next to him.

“Did you know why the changed their name to just KFC?”

The woman shrugs at him, making a minimum of eye contact, and then stares blurry into the menu above the counter.

“What they’re selling now isn’t even chicken, it’s something else entirely. And they couldn’t in good conscious lie about it, right? So, KFC.”

The lady laughs, shifts her feet, doesn’t look away from the menu.

“At least that’s my theory. But don’t get me wrong I’ll gladly eat it,” he says. “They must know what they’re doing. Fortune 500 and all.”

— — —

In the parking lot, the man keeps going. Up onto the curb. Down 5th street. Wheels clicking with every ridge in the sidewalk. The cart’s full and he’ll never pay off his balance.

He reaches the shelter — in white wooden lettering reads Sycamore Grove.

Inside, in the room called the Cage, he has to check in his belongings before he’s allowed to enter. Doesn’t have drugs, weapons, and the young man behind the mesh has seen weirder poo poo, so he inventories the six plastic bags and hands the man a clipboard to sign.

He writes down his son’s initials, is let in.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Insufficient Songbun
1100 words

North Korea is a Wakanda-esque haven of super-science

I was on the way to break up with my girlfriend when Vitali called. The phone in my hand buzzed and I glanced down at the picture, at his crazy mad scientist hair and bulging Karloff eyes, and smiled.

“Hey buddy,” he said, his ambiguously east european accent making the last word sound like a cartoon character. “I have something super crazy important for you to see, yeah? You should come over right now.”

I grinned in spite of myself as I turned the corner to Worthington Street where Carol lived. “Sorry buddy, I am myself engaged at this moment, on my way to--”

His voice got loud and I held the phone away from my ear. “No! Is important, that you right now come to visit with me! Instanter!”

“Vitali, mate, I really need to--” I said before realising he’d hung up. I stood next to one of the wooden lampposts that lined Worthington, indecisive. Carols house was a ten minute walk, Vitali’s was five minutes in the opposite direction. I scratched a careful ? into the orange llichen that covered the post, then shrugged.

Vitali yanked open the door as I llfted my hand to knock on it, nodding already like he’d been waiting for me. “Yes, yes, good come.” There was a glitchy humming noise coming from further into his little house, which had the familiar Vitali smell of cabbage and under-washed socks.

“Nice to see you too. What’s the project?” Vitali always had a project, if not several - we’d met at uni in Chemistry class, where he was trying to make soda water that never lost its fizz, and chewable LSD. He got expelled for the last one but we stayed in touch and his projects grew ever more baroque, though always equally unsuccessful.

“Korea!” He held up one finger, spattered with what looked like black paint. “North Korea. You ever been there? Ever seen it?” Without waiting for a reply he scuttled into his lounge, gesturing at the large tatty couch we’d nicked from outside a community centre one drunken evening. “Sit, sit. Yes, is very good and impressive. Now sit!”

I’d stopped in the doorway because it really was very impressive. There was an array of screens, breadboarded electronics, daisychained motherboards with whirring fans and enough blinking lights for a middling size nuclear reactor. The whole wall was covered in the stuff.

“Why Korea? Carol taught English there, remember?”

He shook an impatient finger at me then used it to push a button on the biggest screen. “South Korea, no, everyone knows about that. North Korea. The mysterious one. Juche! Songbun! You’ver never been there! You’ve never seen it!”

I slumped down on the couch, suddenly very tired. Breaking up with Carol after seven years had been like a slow nightmare, and I realised now that I shouldn’t have come. Get it done, that was the thing. I’d thought Vitali would be an entertaining dose of crazy, but he looked like he was just being crazy these days. I’d tell Vitali the news, then go back and do what I should have done before. We were never going to work out, me and Carol. She wanted too much, I didn’t want enough.

The screen had lit up with satellite footage, like something from COD:MW. “North Korea,” Vitali said, tapping the screen. “Or so people think!”

This sparked a vague memory. “Is this about that, uh, Wakanda thing? Like Kim Jong Un is some kind of revolutionary superhero and they’re all, you know, hiding behind an illusion screen? I saw it on one of those conspiracy memes.”

Vitali was still for a few seconds, eyes cast down at the floor. “No,” he said finally. “Is not any ‘meme’. Behold!” He tapped furiously on a keyboard, throwing words over his shoulder. “Been collating satellite imagery, for a year or two. Noticed discrepancies, errors. Glitches. Non-random noise. Collected all the data from 200 satellites, ran them through an algorithm of own devising, revealed… this!” He hit enter and spread his arms, triumphantly. North Korea was outlined in false colour, a flat pinkish shade.

“That’s good Vitali. What have, what am I looking at?”

Vitali fixed me with a gimlet eye. “North Korea,” he said, “does not exist.”

The glitchy hum had gotten a little quieter, but it was the only sound in the house so we listened to it together for a while. Finally, and it took an effort, I asked: "What do you mean, 'doesn't exist'. It's a country. People come from there. They had a war, there were soldiers and everything."

Vitali shrugged. "Is most mysterious. But quite incontrovertible, they've been faking the satellite footage for years. Whole place is just a big flat plain, no people, nothing."

"So if it's not there, then where is it. Where did it go?" I noticed, absently, that I wasn't thinking about Carol.

"Aha! That is clever part. Was calibrating antenna and pointed it at moon to catch Mare Serenitatis bounce-back the other night." He patted an umbrella that he'd covered in tin foil and attached to a spray of wiring, grinning. "Heard this." He turned a knob and the room filled with scratchy brass and a choir. "Aegukka. National anthem of NK."

I was starting to enjoy the glitchy noise, it was oddly restful. "So you are saying that North Korea, Vitali, is on ... the moon? The entire country of North Korea is not where we think it is, and it is on, the moon."

He nodded. "Is pretty big discovery."

It really was. I sat there and contemplated it for a bit. "I've got to go and break up with Carol now, Vitali, but thanks for letting me know."

Vitali smiled, a little shyly, then frowned. "Oh no! What happened?"

I shrugged. "What we thought was there, wasn't, I guess."

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Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006


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