Eh, I have to eat a toxx. I failed to submit for my brawl on time.
toxxes normally have some leeway; rattle something out now to beat it.
|# ? Nov 9, 2019 07:19|
|# ? Jan 25, 2022 03:07|
Signups are closed - happy foraging, workers.
I've still got room for a pair of alates to help with judging.
|# ? Nov 9, 2019 09:46|
Anomalous Slipup Brawl
The snow melts slowly day by day. I sit with my propane lamp and stare out the window, wondering if this year is the year. Every year there's a little less of the wilds each time. Nature is poked and prodded, herded into an ever smaller corner. An animal is most dangerous there.
Out my window I can see my neighbor's cabin down the valley. Light no longer shone there. It took him last year. I could hear the screams from here, but I was helpless. Stuck. Confined. Useless. My legs and my wherewithal had withered and died. I traded my courage for whiskey and my legs for wheels. A poo poo bargain to be sure.
I could've left. For a place with phones and Facebook and cars and... nurses, hospitals, a room in a building for the senile and infirm. No.
I had come here after Helen died. I couldn't take it. Not her being gone. That was a long fight well fought, but she was tired. The drugs they pumped into her. Who the gently caress can fill such a lovely lady with poison? It wasn't meant to be but she did it for me. For us. I will never forgive myself for that.
No, this monster out here wasn't going to scare me so easily. If she could face her demon, I could face mine.
Night has fallen. The wind rustles the doors on my cabin. Then again, strongly jostling the back door.
That isn't wind.
There was a low growl and the door buckled heavily. Then again, and again. I sipped some more whiskey. My time had come. I don't bemoan my station. I don't cry. I have no tears left for my death. It's not so sad to me.
It's not just the animals that get pushed further back. Us wildlings are as well. There's no more frontiers. No place to run to. No more fresh starts.
The back door split down the middle and the beast entered. It was huge, the size of 4 or 5 men, with thick brown fur, paws the size of frying pans, and the stench of rot on its breath. It's eyes held a glimmer. Something unlike a beast and more like a man. Rage.
I sip one last time from the whiskey and throw it at the reaper. It smashes over the creature's head to no effect.
"Come on you ugly sum-bitch. We were meant to be together," I say.
The bear lunges at me. I have time to kick over the lamp but then the beast breaks every bone in my body as he tackles me with his teeth. His jaws lock around my skull, but it's too late.
The propane lamp has set fire to the alcohol, engulfing us in flame.
I see her. There, in the light. She beckons. I must go.
|# ? Nov 9, 2019 10:15|
redemption for last week
Hearts and Stars
Space Captain James Mann slammed his fist into the Triumph's duralumin bulkhead, wincing as the shock ran down the muscles of his arm. “This is bad,” he muttered. “How far out are the Trilaxians?”
“9 million klicks, and closing fast, Jim.” Lieutenant Weatherby handed him the visi-slate and their fingers touched. Automatically, Jim’s eyes flicked to his, only to see him look away. It had been like this ever since that night on the smaller moon of Arcturus 7, sharing a smoking phlouchg bowl in the spaceport bar...
“Weatherby, I—” Jim began, then shook his head. There was no time to worry about feelings, not with a killsquad of Trilaxian war-barges coming in. “Follow me,” he said, slappping the door actuator and striding through it. “9 million gives us, what… half an hour at full battle boost?”
“The fleet will be here in 28 and a half minutes, based on ship calc, give or take a minute. Depends how hard they want to stress their engines in the braking flare, could be they will—”
“No,” said Jim as they pounded up the ramp to the bridge. “They want me bad after that little fracas at the Zebulon Interzone. Emperor Za’glzx has issued a mosqvur, an edict, and they’ll be racing each other to please him, that’s how they are. In fact… that might just be what saves us!” Jim paused at the entrance of the bridge, taking in the blinking galaxy of liights and readouts, each station manned by an officer in spacer blue. The filtered air of the bridge felt tense with words unspoken and fears un-named. Like a puppet show. Jim narrowed his eyes. Puppets have strings.
“Weatherby, you grabbed the recording of the Emperor’s mosqvurl off the GNN feed, didn’t you? Pull it up on your slate.” He spoke up, louder, for the benefit of the bridge crew. “You can see the incoming, this is most definitely not a drill. I’m not going to lie - this is a scrape, but we’ve got out of nastier ones. Warm up the Klystron Tubes for a quick getaway; we’re too low on fuel to get back to Earth but we can give them a run for their money!" Jim's gaze was firm as he swept it round the room, but he wasn't sure he was convincing anyone. Trilaxian war-barges were armed with triple neutron phase blasters, strong enough to rip through the Triumph's shields like wet kthokk paper.
"I have it," said Weatherby quietly. He flipped his slate round and on it was a cold reptilian visage of the Emperor, Za'glzx himself. His eyes were dull black marbles and his long rodentlike jaw barely moved as he whispered Jim’s alleged crimes.
Jim took the proffered slate and started tapping on it, picking out words. “This is going to be tight. Get the computer working on faking his image saying these words. Cut all non-essential processing functions to speed it up. I’m going to prep an escape pod. I might be out there for a while.” He looked up from the glowing words on the slate and saw Weatherby’s eyes, caught in a moment of despairing shock before it was covered up by the rigid professional armour of the spaceways.
“Of course, Captain. I’ll … get right on it.” He took back the slate and turned, heading back down the corridor towards the computer core.
“Weatherby… Lieutenant. Simon.” Jim took a step towards him and put a hand on his broad shoulder. It was hard and warm through the regulation duraweave. “We’ll make it through. I’ll make it through. I always do. You know that, right?”
Weatherby didn’t turn, and he was clutching the slate tight under his arm. “Yes Captain. Is.. there anything else?”
Jim rolled some words around his mouth, then shook his head. “Get to it man. I’m counting on you.” With on last glance at Weatherby’s retreating back, Jim turned and started clambering up the ladder to the lifepods.
Exactly twenty seven minutes later Jim’s comm buzzed. “Job’s done, Captain - it’s not elegant but it might fool them for long enough. We’ll broadcast it on the lifepod's transmitter. Are you sure you still want to go through with this?” His voice was tinny coming through the little speaker on Jim’s wrist, but he thought he could see the expression on Weatherby’s face.
“It’s the only way. I’ll get you a beer back on Earth. Or… maybe one of those smoking bowls?”
There was a pause at the other end of the comm, then a dry laugh. “That would be really nice, Captain. I’ll look forward to it.”
Jim smiled tightly, pulled the hatch of the lifepod shut and started the launch sequence. He felt the weight pull him sideways as the Triumph kicked in its drives, then he hit the launch stud and the pod release slammed him back into his seat.
Space was beautiful, a sheet of black jeweller’s velvet spread with riches, but he had no eyes for it. Saying a silent prayer, Jim hit play on the faked up speech Weatherby and the ship’s computer had devised.
“ATTENTION SHIPS UNDER MY HAND! THIS IS THE SUPREME EMPEROR. HEED MY DECREE. SUCH ARE THE CRIMES OF THIS SPACEMAN JIM, THAT HE MUST BE TAKEN BY THE MOST RIGHTEOUS AMONG YOU. DETERMINE THIS BEFORE YOU SEIZE HIM.”
It went on and Jim held his breath as he watched the scan, watched the onrushing fleet. Then - there! And there! Flashes of light arcing between the ships as they fought for the right to capture him.
The next stages of his desperate scheme, getting the bomb that was nestled between his legs into the winning war-barge and getting out safely, were still ahead of him but he thought he’d make it. He’d made a promise, after all.
Jim fancied for a moment he could smell the aromatic smoke of an Arcturan phlouchg bowl, and smiled.
|# ? Nov 9, 2019 14:29|
Anomalous SlipUp Brawl
Sorry, it's late. If I gotta eat dirt because of it, so be it!
Doreen trudged through a bank of snow with her infant daughter clutched to her breast and her young son following behind. Her husband, Jack, took an arrow to the neck defending the caravan against a raid by the Paiute that had been stalking them in the hills.
Following a failed attempt at fording the Truckee, a few of the families took on those who lost their oxen or wagons. Once Doreen’s husband died, so too did most of the hospitality that her family had experienced on the trail.
Diminished supplies, illness and fading hope had taken its toll on the settlers, but the worst was yet to come. Wintry winds swept over the crags of the valley, and dark currents in the sky brought a bone piercing chill with it.
A return trip was impossible. They had come too far, and their destination was supposed to be near. The path was supposed to be shorter.
As Winter found its purchase in the early November days, that waning hospitality would disappear in full as Doreen and her children watched the last wagon vanish from sight. Gaunt, desperate faces cast guilt-laden glances at the ground instead of facing the family they left behind.
“Mama, they’re leaving us.” James said weakly as his mother’s hand jerked him along through mounds of fresh snow.
“They’ll let us camp with them if we can keep up. We just have to keep up.” Doreen said not looking back. Her legs ached from the cold, but she hadn’t made any warmer clothing for the trip. They were supposed to beat winter. Jack told her that they would make it before the first snow fall.
Even so, with the majority of their belongings stolen or washed away, they hadn’t much defense against an early winter.
Dora whimpered in her arms. The cold penetrated the furs and cloths Doreen swaddled her infant in, and the child wriggled in an uncomfortable sleep against her mother.
A break in the snow flurries revealed the tail end of the caravan not more than a mile further into the pass. They were so close, but so far away. If the caravan made camp soon, it wouldn’t be a problem, but if they kept making way…
“We just have to catch up. They’ll let us make camp with them.” Doreen said to no one in particular.
James plodded through the snow behind Doreen, and she kept a tight grip on Dora as they pressed forward, the caravan always just a mile or two ahead of them; never stopping, never coming back.
|# ? Nov 9, 2019 17:09|
It’s S_R’s poorly formatted crits!
Imagine you’re watching Casino Royale, the Bond movie. You’re watching the poker scene, and it’s really intense. You really need to know who’s going to win this poker game. Then Bond gets up, walks to the bar, and says, “diarrhea, shaken not stirred.” Then he goes back to the poker game with a martini glass of brown liquid and the movie proceeds as normal. Now, you’re no longer on the edge of your seat about the poker game. You want to know why Bond is drinking liquified poo poo.
My point is, your story might have been good. I can’t focus on worrying about whether your characters will survive this when you casually mention that one of them is named Sssst. All I can think about is why this guy has such a preposterous name. It’s a stinky diarrhea martini of a character name. My pick for loss.
Naked guy boners: the story
This is the b-plot of a direct-to-video American Pie spinoff, down to the vehemently anti-Boner art professor? Like, this art teacher is bringing in nude models but just loving hated erections, to the point of physical violence?
I’m not anti-weiner. The story of a dude running around with his weiner bouncing around should be really funny. I think my issue is how reasonable your protagonist is compared to the cartoonishness of everyone else. What should be relatable ends up feeling like a drunk frat bro’s victimhood fantasy. This is the natty ice of stories.
I Am Weary, Let Me Rest
I liked this one. I relate to poor Bob. Everyone needs me to be awake, and I pretty much always want a nap. Your jokes landed, your ending was satisfied, your characters were well-drawn. Wouldn’t have minded an HM.
Man, you wrote a good story for at least two judges for whom this kind of thing really isn’t their jam. Quiet, contemplative family drama where the vast majority of the action is internal? Pass. It’s not fair, I know, being a good writer doing good work only to be judged by idiots who want explosions. But that’s the dome.
Man, why did you start with this in media res? I think it’s best used when the story re-contextualizes the given-away ending, and this doesn’t. You didn’t feel comfortable starting at the beginning, did you? Your real opening is fine, you could’ve cut the first paragraph.
Anyways, this one’s got problems. You have a lot of exposition about Athena and the umlaut, but they don’t really matter by the end. What happened to the rest of the band? They just got forgotten once the action started. Not my favorite.
Sweet Chili Heat
The main joke here, that your protagonist is determined to get those chips no matter how bananas poo poo gets, works like gangbusters. So does the conflict between the protagonist and Jerold, where they act like action movie characters despite having the most inane conflict imaginable. Execution could be a lot better; there were several places where I had to reread in order to get what was happening. But I liked it regardless.
South-ish of Heaven
This poo poo is dope. You nailed the parody of what a 90s middle schooler thinks is cool while making it badass in its own right. None of the jokes didn’t land. My pick for win.
Eh, I definitely didn’t hate it, and that’s the best I can say. It’s predictable as hell, and didn’t leave much of an impression. “Cat horror” isn’t a bad idea, but the shifting perspectives doesn’t help. What if the whole story was from the white cat? Then we’re attached to him when the murder happens? We naturally cheer for the character we meet first; make a bigger impact by showing us white cat from the beginning.
Sh’s spooky crow one
Yeah, this is the most you story in existence. That’s a good thing, you have a distinct style, and your poo poo really creeps me out, including this one. Nice.
All of the judges liked this one, and if you’d followed the prompt just a little bit closer, you’d have HMed for sure.
I liked this one a lot, and it’s also way too plausible for my own life to just turn off incognito without actually killing the browser window. Relatability is key here. Things go off the rails, not coo coo bananas, just because your protagonist reacts how we all would. I’ll remember to be more careful quitting out of the xvideos page, I promise.
I like your premise, but I did get kind of confused. I think there were some times that you used a pronoun when you should have used a character name. The conversation about song choices on the ride to hell was a lot more interesting than whatever was going on in the central conflict. In a story this short, your central conflict shouldn’t start halfway through, either.
|# ? Nov 9, 2019 17:11|
I've still got room for a pair of alates to help with judging.
Me. I judge
|# ? Nov 9, 2019 20:48|
The Little One Stopped to Check the Time
We awaken, not for the first time, at war, teeming across strangely flattened land at our foes. We do not like to give open battle, even during our aeons of mindless sleep, the long time between flashes of awareness. But sometimes the enemy gives no choice. It is no challenge, our foes in red and black no smarter than we were sleeping. We march, we trample, we overrun.
We are many, trillions of selves correlating information through scent and movement, trail and dance. We are slow; generations worth of those simple responses and computations comprise our simplest passing thought. We are alone. We are alone. We are alone.
We are idle. Managing the march, avoiding every battle but the few that count as we spread the yellow flag of our bodies across the vast world takes but a fraction of our attention. We turn to other pursuits. We study the ancestral reels and turns, memories of the giants who ruled as we slept, leaving behind geometry crystalized in rock slabs and monoliths. We imagine what them warring against us must have been, their clumsy stomps and clever poisons. Their dance was too fast for us, a tangle of violent slams and leaps.
We take inspiration from their example. We build. A great grid of a thousand thousand compound eyes turns skyward, to study for us the sky in those instants when the sun strobes off. We watch the stars, find the patterns to their movement, invent mathematics and geometry and calculus. We learn that the world is round. It does not surprise us. Perhaps we already knew, from some other waking. We learn the minuets of the planets, of the stars, of the galaxies. We measure the speed of light, the constants governing motion, the mass of the universe seen and implied.
There is news from the front. Resistance. Traps turned against us. The enemy has awakened, and the war begun in earnest. Red and Yellow march against each other. Our violent tango paints the border with green ichor and colored torn limbs.
There is no question of victory. How could there be? How could we find another mind like ours and ever want to return to solitude? By neither can there be peace. How could we resist any chance to interact with this other, this enemy, this lover? We can speak to each other only in the language of battle, in whispers of retreat and maneuver, in shouts of ambush and carnage. We remember other wakings, other wars. To learn to speak with the other as we do to ourselves would be to melt together, to become a single mind, once more alone. We settle for this dance instead.
It does not last forever, though. All things end. The planet's season turns, the true season, the seasons of burning wood and ever-encroaching ice. The long warm summer that came as the giants fell ends, and a longer cold sets in. Our numbers grow fewer as food becomes scarce, and we know the effort of carrying out our thoughts is a luxury we can no longer afford.
We sleep, and dream, as continents waltz beneath a million million million feet.
|# ? Nov 10, 2019 18:44|
Mother and Nature
"Is Lucas coming?"
"He won't be dear; he's up in Mexico for business."
The little boy gave his mamăe a disgruntled look. The thought of spending his birthday alone without his older brother made him upset, and he decided to make his feelings clear to his mamăe by crying.
"Please do not cry, little Anselmo." She pleaded. "Here, your papai left you this for your birthday."
Anselmo stopped wailing and looked up at her; she was holding a curious-looking item. He reached up and aggressively snatched it from her hands.
"What is it?" He demanded.
"A magnifying glass."
"Ooh!" Anselmo suddenly remembered what his friend at school had once shown him, and without saying thank you or hugging his mamăe, Anselmo stuffed the magnifier in his pocket and rushed out of the house.
The heat outside reminded Anselmo of his father's random rants about government policy. According to his papai, the cause of the queer weather in Brazil was a concept called "global warming." Anselmo didn't understand his papai's worries. To Anselmo, the sweltering weather was a blessing. Ant killing was going to be a breeze.
As he reached the edge of the forest, Anselmo sighted the marching ants, and a small gleeful sound escaped his mouth. His brother Lucas had shown him the trail a few months ago. The ants scattered as they heard Anselmo's footsteps, but the little boy quickly picked up a small log and threw it in their path, partially blocking their escape route. An eerie smile spread across his face as he gawped down upon the thousands of ants. Kneeling, Anselmo took the magnifying glass from his pocket and carefully burnt the critters alive. Some escaped his mini flamethrower, and so he stomped on them. It was a good feeling, and Anselmo spent the next few hours finding ants and cooking them. When he was done killing everything in the area, he piled up the remains of the dead ants, packed them in a cloth, which he placed in his pocket, and went home for dinner.
When he got home, he discovered his mamăe had cooked her famous feijoada. Anselmo grabbed a plate and started eating, ignoring his mamăe’s “ola!”. As he ate, he heard the front door open and close.
"Where is the birthday boy?!" He heard from the corridor, but it wasn't his papai's voice. "Surprise!"
Anselmo quickly threw his spoon to the side and ran out into the hallway to greet his big brother. "Mamăe said you were in Mexico!" Anselmo shrieked, giving his mother an accusatory glare.
Lucas squatted down in front of Anselmo. "I told her to lie; I wanted to surprise you." He grinned at his little brother and then ruffled his hair. "So, little brother, did you miss me? What have you been doing all day? What did you get for your birthday?"
Anselmo grinned back. "A magnifying glass! I used it to kill those ants near the forest!"
"You did what?"
"I burnt those ants you showed me down near the forest!"
"Anselmo, you cannot kill the ants while they are marching. Their mamăe will send her army after you."
Anselmo suddenly felt a feeling of dread go down his spine. "What will the ant army do?"
Lucas shook his head in disbelief. "I do not know."
They ate dinner together, and then it was time for bed. It took Anselmo (what felt like) hours to fall asleep. It was too hot, and he couldn't stop thinking about the dead ants and what Lucas had said. Eventually, however, he fell into a deep slumber.
When he woke up, Anselmo found the ants crawling all over his body. He screamed, but the ants piled into his mouth and crawled down his throat, preventing any sound from escaping. They covered his eyes and picked away at his skin with their little legs, taking turns to work at his body. Anselmo tried to shake them off, but he couldn't move. They piled on top of him, and it was only when the ants had completely covered Anselmo's body that he realized he was going to die at the age of 7. He wanted to cry, but, again, no sound was able to escape his mouth.
Anselmo opened his eyes to the sound of his brother's voice.
"Holy crap, you pissed yourself." Lucas shrieked. He stopped tickling Anselmo and jumped off the soaking bed. "Let that be a lesson to you, little Anselmo. Respect mamăe."
|# ? Nov 10, 2019 21:48|
There is a pit, in the dark, full of monsters.
A dank, suffocating blackness, all stale air and slick mud. An insurmountable wall of jagged rocks and shifting dirt, and lost souls strewn across the mire.
Once, there was chaos. A tangled mess of sludge and limbs and blood and bones, a muddle of despair that vied to separate from itself, pulling itself toward the light and shedding the beaten and broken.
Then, there was–
Not calm, but,
Then there was order.
They stood upright, for the most part, each laying an uncontested claim to the ground beneath their feet. Their breaths were harsh, hoarse, their eyes gloomy. Gashes, since hardened, painted streaks across their gaunt cheeks.
Those with gaits still steady, with spines still straight, led the way, gazing into the endless night and seeing a glimmer, a speck, out somewhere in the distance, burning out, barely visible against the void. A promise of exotic fruits, hard liquor, shillings, sunlight. Of life. A promise that brought them here, hundreds of them, from a city beyond the trees beyond the valley beyond the mountain. From home.
To a pit, in the dark, full of monsters.
This place had changed them. There was no longer an innkeeper with a lax understanding of "last call". No longer a young farmhand with a spring in his step and a pocketful of pilferables. No-one who sits by the bedroom window until the early hours of the morning, wondering if he would ever come home.
None of them spoke. None of them recognised each other. None of them missed anyone. They were together, inasmuch as they were not alone.
They jumped at sudden noises, picked at the wounds on their faces, and walked.
Through a pit, in the dark, full of monsters.
And they were hungry.
One of them would stumble, fall, but the others dared not break step. They knew of the beast that followed, that lived in the shadow, that announced itself through a ceremony of wet cracks and discordant wails which reverberated through the rickety bones of those left to hear them, as it devoured those who strayed from the path. The infirm of body, or of will, who wandered into the darkness and were consumed by it, never to be seen again.
One, then another, then another.
There are so few of them, now. Hours, days pass without any of them seeing another. One of them holds out their hand toward the wall and runs their chipped, yellow fingernails across the loose dirt, sending it drifting downward. They follow the light, always just off to the side, always guiding them out, away from the wall and towards nothing in particular. And yet there it is, somehow, always in arms reach. Always cold, crumbling dirt. Always the same.
But now, finally, their devotion is rewarded. Delivered unto them from the darkness is a bounty, swaddled in tattered cloth and trembling. Wounded.
They stop before it, their calloused tongue prising their lips open before scraping backward, sandpaper on sandpaper, toward the patches of dried blood that join their lips together, and then continuing through, in and out, sawing a little into one side, across to the other, then back again, their jaw drooping towards their chest, scabrous flakes falling into the dirt.
They close their eyes and kneel as it writhes and thrashes its heels against the mud.
Quickly. The others will be here soon. They strike. Both hands, one above the knee, the other below. To their surprise, it freezes. Still. Silent.
It sees them. It understands. It even looks like its smiling.
A thrust. A twist. A shriek. A snap.
The feeling of freshly-washed linen and the taste of rust.
They raise their prize aloft, howling, blood dripping onto their teeth, and wait for the others to come pick at the leftovers.
In a pit, in the dark.
|# ? Nov 10, 2019 22:41|
It's Them Or Me!
They brought in the military to fix the mess. Hush things up. Continue acting like ours was the only colony.
If you looked at my little laminate lanyard that hung on my neck at the institute it would tell you my proper name, but someone had once been very witty, and called me ‘Igor’ – the handyman for madmen. The implication is ugly, and something I spent a lot of time screaming about to whoever would listen, but everyone agreed that witty someone was witty indeed, and the name stuck. But I never worked for mad scientists, not even once. Dr Hester wasn’t mad.
When I first met Dr Hester there was a summer storm which whipped up California wind which went rat-tat-tat at the windows of the lab. The door clicked shyly as I entered – Dr Hester’s back was to me. He was sitting hunched over on a stool. In front of him, dwarfing the man, the entire wall of the laboratory was taken up by a massive ant farm. Like the neuron links of a great, living brain, dirt tunnels snaked, branched, and intersected this way and that. Inside those tunnels was an ever-shifting black mass. There must’ve been tens of thousands of ants in there.
I made a sharp intake of breath which alerted Hester to my presence. He peered over his shoulder, a pair of maroon-rimmed glasses weighing heavy on the bridge of his nose, and after taking a moment, he turned himself around where he sat, and began to speak. “Ah, I was told to expect you – Igor, is it? It was good you didn’t knock. The biomass is sensitive to noise.”
“I’m your new assistant.” I replied.
“Is that right? Well, certainly I’ve heard only good things. Though, tell me if I’m wrong, I was under the impression you were the young buck who was scarpering off to the CDC?”
“There was a misunderstanding. It would be more beneficial to my career spending one or two more years at the institute.”
Dr Hester smiled in such a way to bring the lines into his pallid face. “Oh? I once had a similar escape plan, but here I am.” His finger wagged impatiently. “The work, you know, has a certain way of dragging you in.”
Within a month, Dr Hester would be held responsible for what happened. Struck the blame. They’ll have found him splayed on the carpark asphalt. His star has fallen.
Before then, when we started, Dr Hester showed me the ray. I remember how his hands ran across its mechanic frame, a squat turret sealed inside a leaden box room. The cylinder pointed stern at a bullseye, irradiating anything that was placed in front of it – or anything which just stood close to it too long. The second day we managed to grow an ant to the size of my thumb. It wasn’t alive.
“This is exciting, isn’t it?” Hester would say. He acted like a sporting champ when we watched an ant grow, expand, its exoskeleton buckling under its own new weight. It reached the size of a cat before it expired. Hester smiled, looked back at the control panel and then to me. His eyes were glassy. I could see the ant farm in his skull.
I never bother asking what this was for. My job was to assist, not to question. By the time a week went by I convinced myself this was some mad institute project. It made me feel better to imagine someone upstairs knew about this, someone who wasn’t us. I slept almost never. Watching the ant farm, watching the dials on the control panel, all the numbers and levels Hester had set.
I could do better.
Hester took the blame but his back was turned when I fiddled with the numbers and corrected the equations. The growth of the subject took him by surprise, but not me. I was surprised by the aggression.
The colossal insect brought down the walls with one wild swipe, exposing us to the outside. I fell prone and watched the heaving carapace of the ant cross the ripe California sun like a living eclipse.
|# ? Nov 10, 2019 23:07|
Fragile, bitter, and over two meters tall of stalwart exoskeleton, Destra was the perfect target for the hawkish recruiter.
He strolled to her and said, “Name’s, er, Acci,” erring not due to any fear, but the flare of sun in his eyes as he looked up into her twitching mandibles. “How’d you like to be a star, miss…?”
“You stalk the unemployment office?” Destra asked, crossing her three arms. The fourth sleeve of her leather jacket shifted with her posture.
“Just passing by, just passing by, but what I couldn’t let pass by was this opportunity, for me or you.” Acci removed the cigarette from his beak and dashed it on the concrete, ground it with his talons, and stuck out a feathered hand for her to shake. Common tactic. Most people wouldn’t turn down a polite handshake, even if they didn’t like the person. Opened the door.
She pushed him. “Waste of a damned cigarette.”
“Now, miss, I know you lost your colony, but-”
Destra lifted him up, ripping out feathers with her grip, and turned her head to direct an enormous eye on him. “Speak of my colony again; I’ll pop off your wings.”
“I really can help you!” Acci squawked. “You can get revenge!”
Others were staring at them now. Destra didn’t care. She held him painfully, silently.
Acci continued, “They attacked a lot of places. We’re working on hunting them down, but recruitment is at an all time low. You, though, you’re the perfect face and story to convince others. With your help, we can get those bastards.”
Her lost arm thobbed. “And start more pointless conflicts along the way.” She dropped him. “Go away.”
A newer recruiter would have either given up, or tried to threaten her with an assault charge, depending how stupid they were. Acci, though, spent every morning brushing over thin feathers left atop his head.
“We’ll pay your living expenses, and a stipend. All you need to do is agree to some photographs and to let us tell your story. That’s it. That’s all. No other obligations.”
He said, “The stipend is five hundred.”
“Just one photo session?” she asked, backing up.
Acci planted a talon forward, filling the space she left behind. “Just one.”
Destra turned her head. She looked up at the unemployment office, then down at those entering and leaving. Existing there degraded her.
Acci said, “You don’t need to decide now. Here’s my number.”
She turned back and cautiously plucked the slip of paper from his hand. She said, “Give me a cigarette.”
With a chuckle, Acci pulled one from beneath his wing, and a lighter. Destra bent down, placed it between her mandibles, and allowed Acci to light it. Burning, she lit his number with it, and watched it burn, too.
“I’ll do it,” she said.
Fishing around under his wings once more, Acci said, “Miss Destra. You won’t regret it. You have concerns, problems? See me, I’ll help. For now, though,” he pulled another slip of paper out, “don’t burn this one. Photos are tomorrow. Address is also there. Questions?”
“Anything. We’ll provide what clothes we’ll shoot you in.”
She stood full height once more. “I’ll be there.”
“I know you will,” he said, and left her alone.
Still smoking, she flipped the paper between her claws. She was going to be the face of a war. Pain drove up her missing limb. She wandered to a nearby bench, and sat there. “Waste of a damned cigarette,” she muttered.
|# ? Nov 11, 2019 00:06|
“What are you being so anxious for? The decision is made, the plane tickets are bought, the funds are allocated - just tell her the truth.”
Hagar smiled at Dalia sweetly and squeezed her hand. “I know, I know. I was hoping she’d understand why it’s important. it’s just… I’ve never been able to tell my sister no, about anything. And I will be sad to miss the delivery.”
“Habibti, trust me, I’ve been an aunt. You won’t even be in the room and your mother will be hovering her so much you won’t have any space. Besides, you’ll regret giving up on everything you’ve worked for the last three years a whole lot more.” Dalia glanced over her shoulder and let go of her hands. “She’s back. I’ll talk to you afterwards, alright?”
Hagar nodded and smiled as Dalia turned to walk off. Sure enough, her sister Sarah was standing behind her a moment later, rubbing her non-existent baby bump. “Sorry, you know how it is, the little one is dancing on my bladder. Who was that you were talking to?”
“My friend, she works in the biology department.” Hagar replied, but Sarah had already stopped listening and was staring into the terrarium next to them full of ants.
“Ugh, they’re so creepy. Why do you need all of these bugs anyway?”
“They’re not bugs, they’re ants. And they’re all different and interesting. Those ones are Atta Cephalotes, a leafcutter ant. They’ve separated themselves into different castes for different duties. And even for leafcutter ants, they’re very unusual. See, there’s the rubbish area, where some of the ants are segregated - the soldiers will force them back if they try to leave. And the queen’s attendants are capable of laying eggs themselves, but it seems that instead of hatching the eggs, they feed them to their queen instead.”
“I still think they’re creepy,” Sarah replied, clearly uninterested and inattentive. “Sorry, I can’t wait until the end of the tour, I’m starving. You know how it is, eating for two. Come on, let’s head to the lunch hall.”
Hagar frowned but followed her sister. She had planned to tell her in her office, in private, but this was fine. She tried to ignore Dalia’s disappointed look.
“It’s your niece! How can you be seriously considering missing it?” Sarah hissed in a way that was trying to be quiet and failing.
“Because it’s important,” she replied, already prepared to lose the fight. “Surveying the Costa Rican forest floor has the potential to reveal countless new species, and shape entomology research for the next decade. It’s everything I’ve been working towards, finally.”
What use was it to argue with her sister? She would pursue the matter relentlessly until she got what she wanted, and even if that didn’t work, Sarah would recruit their parents and relatives to her side until they all wore her down.
“Nothing is more important than family,” Sarah shot back, not quiet at all now. “I can’t believe this is even a consideration, there’s no way you can go on a vacation right now, not when - um. Hello? Can I help you?”
Hagar looked over to see Dalia sitting down next to her. “Whenever my mother tells me ‘nothing is more important than family,’ what she really means is ‘nothing is more important than what I want.’ You must be Sarah. Hagar has told me all about you.”
“Um, okay? I’m having a private conversation with my sister, so if you could just, you know…” Sarah had never been as liberal and tolerant as her parents had raised her to believe, and Hagar was enjoying how uncomfortable the Palestinian co-worker was making her feel.
“Yes, I heard. Most of the lunch room heard, in fact.” Under the table, Dalia gave Hagar’s hand a comforting squeeze, and she squeezed back. “But I think maybe you’ll hear it better coming from someone else. Hagar is going to Costa Rica. It’s not a vacation, it’s important to her and to science as a whole. She’ll be back soon enough. You’ll survive. Now, come along Hagar, we’re late for the staff meeting.”
Sarah sputtered something but Hagar let Dalia lead her along by the hand. She ushered her into the office, where no one would be watching them. Finally alone, she broke down into tears while Dalia held her.
“It’ll be fine, habibti,” she whispered gently into her ear and stroking her hair. “We’ll be fine.”
|# ? Nov 11, 2019 04:52|
Four hundred thirty-seven words
It is spring. I emerge from my larva stage. I feel the warm moist air of the colony for the first time. I take my first steps.
It is summer. I am looking for my friend. I can feel her pheromones. They are weak. The trail is old. I have taken many steps.
It is fall. I crawl, deeper and deeper into my home, my prison. I am nearly out of steps.
It is spring. I grow fast. I am different. We are different. Different from the ones who came before us.
It is summer. We work ourselves to death, in the heavy sun and dry air. I can't find my brood sister.
It is fall. I am sick. The pheromones lie. It was always a lie.
It is spring. We start working immediately. The ones who came before watch us, intently. One of us steps out of line. She is tired. They take her. We never see her again.
It is summer. I climb higher into the sky on the trunk of a mighty oak. I sense her. I am getting close.
It is fall. The pheromones tell me to work. My brain tells me to climb. I refuse to obey. I go deeper.
It is spring. We understand now. We are meant to work and the others are meant to make us work. I have taken many steps now. I have many more.
It is summer. I have found her. My sister who is like me. I feel her. She has bitten onto a branch. A soft spike is protruding from her head. She is gone. I have lost the steps I will never take.
It is fall. I feel the pressure in my head as I descend. I only hope I have enough steps left.
It is spring. I am at peace.
It is summer. I know the truth.
It is fall. I have found my queen. She is not my queen. She has taken my queen. She senses my arrival and my sickness. The pheromones are overpowering, but they conflict with the disease. Each vie for my submission. In the space between I think my own thoughts.
With my last step I bite the queen as hard as I can. I die. The ones who are different attack me but there is too many. They block the entrance and get in each other’s way. The soft spike emerges from my skull. They have lost all the steps they haven’t taken.
It is winter. All are gone, those who work and those who watch. We are equal now. There are no steps left.
|# ? Nov 11, 2019 05:07|
In the sixth month of my life atop a gutted skyscraper, my dreams became unbearably erotic. By month seven, I’d Macgyvered a pulley into existence on the fifth floor, complete with a chain long enough to reach the ground.
Today, I go down. Before I hook myself to the apparatus, I survey the hell-pit into which I’m about to descend. The floor of the world is carpeted red, completely nationalized by our new overlords: trillions and trillions of fire ants.
The air hisses with insectoid movement on a scale that means nothing to my tiny monkey brain; in the distance, the periodic crunch of crumbling concrete and murmur of collapsing steel remind survivors that humans are no longer the masters of the Earth. Those of us who remain are flightless birds confined to the tops of dead high rises, and from there we watch the ants reconstitute our hives into their own.
From five floors up, I can only perceive the vaguest impression of movement below, a T.V. static swirl of colony activity. Envy, desire, and fear engage in complex foreplay in the pit of my stomach as I watch from a distance the currents of a culture that is and will always remain unknowable to me.
I’m tired of being an alien on my own planet.
I want to go deep into the unknowable black passages, the blind egg chambers, the pheromone-rich caverns of the queens, the uterine miles of formicidae highways. I want to spread myself thinly over top of this civilization like a decadent caviar. I want to be the twitch of antennae, the grubby white protein of eggs, the swell of a queen’s abdomen, the power in a soldier’s jaws.
I’ve seen people get taken down by a megacolony on the warpath, seen the way a human shape dissolves under the ministrations of a thousand-thousand mandibles, leaving nothing behind but a scattering of offwhite bones, a splash of ant-red blood. I’ve seen so much death, but my dreams are hot and dark and diffuse and hideously intimate. I wake from them feeling as though I’ve been stretched in a million different directions, used for a trillion different purposes, and then returned to a single body cursed with a desire darker than murder.
I hook the pulley chain to the makeshift harness around my chest. Then, holding the slack end in skeletal fingers, I repel hand over hand down the side of the building. After months living on cockroaches, rainwater, and small birds, I weigh next to nothing, but starvation has devoured my muscles down to the bone. Less than halfway to the ground, my hands slip and I plummet a whole level, metal chain links ripping bloodily across my palms.
My hands scream. My shoulders scream. I stop my fall but my momentum sets the chain swinging and I slam into the side of the building, which is almost enough to convince my hands to give up, let go—
No. This is happening on my terms. On the ants’ terms. Not gravity’s.
I think of my dreams—the debasing heat, the midnight clench of tunnel visions—and grip the chain with all the strength of my insane obsession, lowering myself with agonizing slowness into the hostile nation below my feet.
I touch the ground.
And then I’m theirs.
Fire consumes me. Fire pixelates me, dissolves my being across a thousand individual points of apocalyptic pain. It’s not the bite that makes the ant, oh no—it’s the sting. My body thrashes. My body kills unknowable hundreds of workers. My body claws at itself and makes noises of braying animal death.
My body is hell.
But somewhere deep below the agony, in the saturnine pit where my most malignant dreams reside, a part of me swells with the exultation of giving myself utterly over to this new world.
Time lags, then snaps forward.
They’re in my eyes. My body tries to crawl to nowhere.
The sun stutter-steps across the sky in erratic bursts.
Pain is a room and I’m trapped there, clawing, keening.
They’re in my throat, stinging even as they drown in my saliva.
Anaphylaxis—oh, gentle, godly suffocation—sets in. All sensation collapses into a long, lightless tunnel, but I don’t need light, because here is the sweet chemical song of my queen wafting from her chamber, leading me by the tips of my antennae, calling me home to be part of her world.
Just a little further.
Just a little
|# ? Nov 11, 2019 05:31|
Overwintering in Hive Country
Let it never be said that Oi am not a simple beetle. Oi want the things that all beetles want - a bite to eat, a fit lady beetle to spar with me mates over, and to not get caught out in the open by a bloody great crow. But we don’t get what we want in this life, so we? Almost never, and me especially. That winter, in the desert, all Oi got was ants.
If Oi remember it right, Oi was trundling along as Oi do, looking for me mid-afternoon lunch, when I ran into the first of them. The wee moron nearly ran right under me, Oi don’t think she even noticed me until she was fifteen, twenty grains on the other side. Then she turned around and got real “interested” let’s say, circling me about and sniffing me over.
“What the gently caress do ye want, ye hairy swarmer?” I asked her, to predictable silence. Oi never trusted the ants. They’ve no personality to speak of. No force of will. All hail the queen and that. Not like me - Oi’m all willpower, with a shining personality, and a giant, heavy hanging set of bollocks. Metaphorically.
She paused, antennae quivering, and then shot off, weaving her way back to wherever she came from. Oi went on me way and forgot about that dronette. Oi had me sights set on some scrub plant root tendrils and Oi wasn’t about to stop to accommodate whatever may be the dark aims of the local hive. But Oi hadn’t found nary a nibble before she came marching back, with a whole crew in tow.
Me hackles rose. Of course Oi’m a fighter, but a dozen ants could overwhelm even one such big-balled beetle as me. Oi made a run for it, but they kept nipping at me legs, driving me back into the scrum. Bastards! Oi went for higher ground, but they hounded me and hounded me. Oi growled, “Go on ya wee cunts! Come at me if ye want me!” And Oi knew they had some mad plan because they didn’t - just kept corralling me up the hill. The circle tightened, me foot slipped - and there it was. The entrance to the hive. They had me right where they wanted me and their jaws weren’t getting any less sharp. Oi have to imagine you’d have done the same thing.
Inside the hive it was dark and tight. Me carapace scraped the narrow tunnel walls. A thick melange of pheromones assaulted me nostril analogues and Oi about lost consciousness. Behind me, the worker ants steered me by nipping at me heels - albeit less fiercely than before Oi dove into the belly of the beast. Oi turned another bend and found a worker squatted in the tunnel before me - Oi could go no further. Those behind steered me into a side chamber. It was a wee hovel of a room - barely big enough to turn around. “Bloody brilliant,” Oi grumbled to myself. “This is what ye get for heeding the wishes of the bloody queen.”
At the entrance to the chamber, that worker crouched, staring back at me with her gormless eyes. She didn’t look worried - the fear stench must’ve been flying off me in waves, among me other fluids. They had me right where they needed me, and Oi was about to find out why. Another ant slinked into me chamber, but this one was different. She didn’t have the hard exterior of the worker drones that brought me in; her backside looked smoother - almost silky like. She nuzzled up to me leaking glands, absolutely dousing her antennae in me excretions. And then she started… drinking it. Yeah, Oi don’t have any bloody clue either. You’re thinking it stops there? Wrong. Because the more she drank from me, the bigger her hindquarters grew, swelling from me lovely juices. Oi haven’t any love for the ants, but it was frankly impressive how much she could pack in there. When she was done, she dragged her big rear end out.
This baffling dance went on for months. All winter they sucked out me fluids and fed me with honeyed pods, straight from the organ. Oi never learned to speak with the ants, but they only wanted the one thing. Me juice for the queen. Come spring, they kicked me out to wander the wastes again. Oi’m not proud of what Oi done, or what was done to me. But Oi am a survivor.
|# ? Nov 11, 2019 05:33|
Beautiful Things with Beautiful Wings
I was young and new to my jaws the first time I saw a butterfly. The elder foragers hauled it in, a corpse shedding dust and unfamiliar smells, but even dead it was beautiful: one of the bright flower-colors, a color of sweetness. It was a feast for Mother, of course, but I was happy just to see it. It was the beginning of my ambition.
If a thing is dead, it must have lived once; if a dead thing is food when foraged, it must be food when hunted alive. I would learn soon enough that there are things we cannot hunt, but butterflies are not beyond us. They are scarce, though, in our hunting grounds; to this day, I have not seen a butterfly alive. I most often forage, or hunt small squirming things, as I must to be useful.
Today is different. Today, I have a hunt worthy of my ambition.
The scout's interest-trails have led me to this place, where I hide in the leaf litter, jaws down and watching above. The scents around me, at least, are not distracting; our nest is poor in forage, and out here, at the borders of other colonies, many have been here before me. My antennae do not smell enough to blind me, and my eyes stay focused and careful. There will be no bright color, only the dullness of the body, but there will be motion.
There! There is the shimmer of it, the gliding flight, the body carried by wings as clear as air. This one is fresh-winged and fast, and I must choose my moment. I tense myself, resting my weight on my jaws, and wait until she is nearly upon me. The wind carries her smell to me, a hopeful smell. How foolish.
My jaws snap, and I fly. My target is nimbler than me -- I am all speed and little control, tumbling through the air, limbs flailing -- but I have practiced for longer than she has had her wings. My jaws rearm in flight, and a glancing touch to her abdomen snaps them shut again. We fall together, the winged sister-prey and I.
The winged sister-prey smells so much like Mother. It stirs memories of her visits, her grace, the hatching of new young and the bowing of grateful sisters -- but it is not perfect, and that means it is wrong. This one is not our kin, and she will not build a nest here, where we already have so little. She is not my sister, and she will never be a mother.
Soon she is still, and her not-quite-mother scent is death-scent. I drag her home, her wings scraping the ground; by the time we are home, she will not be beautiful. The sister-mothers' wings are too fragile, and their bodies too much like ours, to be lovely for very long. They are beautiful for just a moment. A butterfly is beautiful forever.
I am not beautiful, but I am ambitious and I am useful. I hunt and kill the winged ones before they settle here as mothers, and I bring their carcasses home for the young, and no elder sisters say my ambition is foolish. For now, that is good enough. One day, though, I will see a butterfly, and my jaws will find it in its soft parts, and I will eat it wings and all.
|# ? Nov 11, 2019 05:54|
I was born into the Us a long time ago, eyes seeing everything there was in that wide beautiful world, twitching antennae smelling each scent and passing it on to my sisters with quick, eager dabs of trail pheromone. I remember coming out of the sac already full of my sisters’ gifts of Food, already bursting with delight. I remember the joy of finding a nugget of fallen Food, sweeter than anything that could be imagined, and sharing it with my sisters. Here, I said. Come here, with me. There was nothing better than being together, and feeling together, seeing with a hundred million eyes. We were one, and everything was joy, running, always running, to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. The sun was younger then and the world was hotter, though at the time I didn’t know it; the young never do.
I thought nothing of the sap when I came upon it. My job was simple and required no thought, only joy - run, eat, run, eat, run. But not this time. Not this time, because my right antenna wouldn’t move. It was stuck to the sap. Inexplicable. Disturbing. I slapped my other one down to investigate because this might be a Threat and Threats were as important as Food. The Us was all of us, all the time, but I was very much the Us in that moment. I was stern-eyed and duty-proud, both antennae laid on this Threat to decide its nature. I could feel the warning glands inside me hot and ready to pop if needed, ready to bring my sisters with jaws full of retribution. My life was a nothing, and I would have given it in an instant.
Neither of my antennae could move.
I pulled, gently at first then harder. They did not come. I yanked, then put my front right leg on the huge globule of hateful sap to give me leverage because this was stopping me from running and eating and that was a bar from joy and could not be tolerated. My foot was stuck. I clambered onto the sap. Each one of my beautiful legs was stuck. Mired in the globule. I hated it. It mean I could not run and could not eat and there was no joy. My limbs thrashed, pulling me into the sap, deeper. I tried to yell to my sisters with my warning glands but they were stuck, everything was stuck, as I sank into my translucent tomb.
I could feel them out there, not searching for me because I was only one of the Us and there were so many more, but out there running and eating. I quivered, yearning, frozen. Something about the sap preserved me, preserved each of the jewel bright memories I had of running and eating and my beautiful, radiant sisters, preserved the Us in me. I could feel the Us and it kept me alive.
This is painful so I will say it quickly. There were many of Us, then there were more of Us, then there were fewer of Us, and then, cursed and impossible day, there was one of Us. There was me. And I sat, entombed in amber, the last Us in all of the world, quivering with a grief you could never comprehend or experience.
Which brings us to now, as you hold me in your enormous meaty fingers, studying me with your lens, cataloguing my sisters through me.
You will never know their beauty.
You will never know our joy.
You will never know Us.
|# ? Nov 11, 2019 07:58|
Diaspora in the monsoon undergrowth. They will never see their old home again, its arboreal existence snuffed out by the flurry of wind, tumble-swept, washed down and away in a current of red clay. Many drowned, and those that landed on patches of dry earth clung, escaping the drowning death, escaping the death-current — those that could had found their footing, and fled up a tree.
They climbed in a straight line, like mountaineers, each of their hairy legs an ice pick. Some climbers fell, but when they did, they did not fall vertically — instead, they were carried effortlessly with the wind, and then placed gently down onto the basin floor, to die.
In that tree, the survivor ants fanned out, swarming the tree’s community of limbs. They jiggled their antennas, and got to work.
A week passes.
The colony survives. Wedged between two branches lies a new home: brambly, a chaos of leaves woven together by silk, and sheer determination. Inside, it is dry, the only dry respite available to them. Light does not penetrate through waxy patchwork. The inside is packed, with food, and bodies. It is a throng, each ant marching in and out and up and down in the overdark, moving as a network, as a single sensory system that is wholly foreign, indescribable.
The colony will not survive. The ant queen is dead, swept perfectly away and then drowned like the others. There will be no future generation, and the workers that remain, although strong and chitinous, will slowly decay, and die, and dwindle in number until, one day, they can no longer maintain the waxy chaos of leaves. Extinction follows.
The monsoon passes.
An ant overcome with disease forages alone, far from the diaspora. It sets down the piece of junglefly it had been carrying, for its siblings to haul later.
And in a bright clearing on the jungle floor, two ants come across a husked-out beetle — they shake and perform a jig together, as if to celebrate.
|# ? Nov 11, 2019 08:16|
The successful foragers have returned with their story bounty, the failures already forgotten within the collective memory of the superorganism.
Judgment to follow.
|# ? Nov 11, 2019 08:25|
INTERPROMPT: they came from the sky on wings of fire (250 wrds)
|# ? Nov 11, 2019 09:18|
INTERPROMPT: they came from the sky on wings of fire (250 wrds)
There is no sky. There is no fire. There are no wings. You worship a false god. Bow down before all realism. Subject yourself to inhumanity. Become one with the hatred for yourself. Be as we are. Be as we are.
|# ? Nov 11, 2019 09:32|
INTERPROMPT: they came from the sky on wings of fire (250 wrds)
Chariots of Fire
Private Andrews fell in line alongside Sergeant Porter. His fatigues were matted against his skin, and they were two to five miles of shifting sand slopes away from the departure zone. Relief was coming.
"I can't wait to sink my teeth into a nice, juicy, hamburger. Double cheese, no tomatoes, extra onion with mustard on the side." Andrews remarked planting one boot in front of the other. Deadly hardware held in a tired, but wary grip.
"That's an abomination, Andrews."
"What? What's so wrong with that. Mustard on the side? Extra onion? What type of heathen dunks his-"
The sound of a vehicle treading across dunes sounds out from just over the ridge of a high bluff.
The soldiers fell prone and inched their way up the sandy bluff.
"A small enemy convoy. Three soldiers, a driver and... gently caress..."
"What is it, Sarge?"
"Do we engage? I've got a sap charge left."
"I don't think it'll-"
The mounted anti-air platform thundered out as its shell tore through the clouds. An explosion out of sight sends flaming shrapnel raining down over the dunes. A moment later, an aircraft engulfed in flames barrels past overhead, over the enemies, and out into the horizon crashing in to a twisted smoldering wreckage.
"There goes relief." Andrews remarked.
"Yep." Sarge responded.
Both soldiers sigh, and rack their weapons.
|# ? Nov 11, 2019 14:43|
TD 379 Judgment
The judging panel deliberated for some time with regard to who should be should be crowned queen of TD379 and allowed to found the new colony of TD380. The two contenders were Sitting Here and sebmojo. Sitting Here gave us post-humanist pessimist romance, both a lonely swan-dive into extinction and the echo of a love story. sebmojo gave us the imprisoned musings of the forgotten and unknown, and provided the most compelling example of an inhumanist voicing for the week. Both are excellent stories, and you should read them if you haven’t. While there were excellent reasons why either should win, I’m exercising my privilege as head judge to crown Sitting Here as the winner, with sebmojo getting a very honourable HM. I also very much enjoyed Thranguy’s entry this week, and so they get an HM as well.
At the other end of the spectrum, we found less to love in asap-salafi’s Mother and Nature, which takes the Loss for the week. SlipUp’s The Slave, while displaying an admirable instinct to experiment with form and non-human voicing, became grating in its repetition and was too coy in concealing its narrative elements to escape a DM. But these brave entrants, in actually submitting a story after signing up, are vastly more honourable than the despicable failures of the week, who know who they are and should feel bad.
All hail the new queen Sitting Here, and best of luck with your new colony. Crits to follow.
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 06:43|
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 06:51|
Was that a "not mentioning everyone", or did I get lost in the swarm?
Grats to Sitting Here!
lofi fucked around with this message at 07:28 on Nov 12, 2019
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 07:25|
Was that a "not mentioning everyone", or did I get lost in the swarm?
If you weren't mentioned, then you survived, and that is all we can hope to do
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 07:30|
Crits for week 379
As always hit me up if you want more detail about my erudite opinions on your ant words.
Lofi - Fourmis de Cuisine
Wait, so, he gives the ants someone's business card, smeared with something that makes the ants sense danger, and then they go kill the guy? Erm, what?
But the real problem here is that most of the words are about the protag not doing something (becoming an ant overlord supervillain), which is much more boring than actually talking to ants should be.
Thranguy - The Little One Stopped to Check the Time
Here we have some competent words about an ant hivemind that exists over millennia and is forever at war with some other ants, I think. There are no stakes or real characters, and the words aren't pretty enough to make up for the absence of these. I felt like I needed to look up some info about your ant to work out what you were talking about.
Asap-salafi - Mother and Nature
Horrible child gets horrible comeuppance oh no wait it was only a dream. This child was an unpleasant character to spend time with, the dialogue felt unnatural, and the moral of the story was obvious and weak. I think you should have made the ant revenge real and leant into the weird horror.
Some Strange Flea - The Mill
This is weird and gross and altogether too vague for me. What was it even about? Monsters escaping from something…?
Crimea - It's Them Or Me!
This is all flashback and no story. You have committed the story crime of ending at the beginning.
Jon Joe - Broken Through
This is a well-written little vignette, but it left me thinking, where's the rest? It feels like the set up for a bigger story, and so isn't very satisfying.
Tibalt - The Lady-in-Waiting
I didn't really get the reference to her “non-existent baby bump” - is she not actually pregnant?
Overall I found this pretty boring. There's no emotional stakes - you state at the start that she's already made her decision, and there's nothing in the story to help me understand or make me care about why she's so in her sister's thrall.
SlipUp - The Slave
The repetition of “it is spring / summer / fall” got pretty annoying, and this detracted from the impact of the final “it is winter”. This was too vague for me to follow what you meant, and there wasn't much description or imagery for me to picture any of the scenes.
Sitting Here - Desire Invicta
Something Else - Overwintering in Hive Country
I assume this is about some weird thing your ant species does? Unfortunately, I hated it because of the use of the word “Oi.” There was no reason to give this beetle a bizarre and annoying accent. Also as a story it was pretty dull.
Antivehicular - Beautiful Things with Beautiful Wings
Another story where I felt like I needed to read about your ant to understand what you meant - I didn't really get the jaws bits or the references to sisters / mothers. Still, you manage to weave more emotion into this than some of the other a-day-in-the-weird-life-of-an-ant stories.
Sebmojo - The Us
Another day-in-the-weird-life-of-an-ant story, except this ant had a super weird day. And, importantly, because this is what makes this story better than the other similar entries, this ant feels feelings. Feelings are good. Feelings make stories interesting.
You know what else is good? Endings that make sense. Not that I hate this ending, but like, how is it still conscious and talking to the reader when it's encased in amber I don't understaaaaaaand.
GenJoe - Diaspora
Here we have another day in the life of an ant colony. This one is better than some of the others though because: the imagery is good and interesting; I can follow wtf you're talking about; and, I like the bittersweet non-resolution ending. Needed more feelings though.
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 08:19|
Thunderdome week 380: sitting here thinks of a prompt
uuuh i have a headache so you get an awkward hodgepodge of a prompt. this would be an extremely good week to get weird because idgaf
PART ONE OF YOUR PROMPT IS: magic in the suburbs. Your story doesn't have to be set in the literal suburbs, but it should be somewhere low-key and residential, whether that's a neighborhood street in a city or a cluster of homesteads somewhere rural.
I don't want epic battles of good and evil. Did I already use the word low-key? Good. I'm gonna use it again. I want low-key magical poo poo happening in normal-rear end places like where you might walk your dog or buy your latte, you milquetoast motherfucker.
PART TWO OF YOUR PROMPT IS: When you sign up, choose something that matters to you (or your character) and post it. You can be a real or as shallow with this as you want. But you better post that poo poo when you sign up. Examples of things that might matter to you are: fame, money, compassion, trees 'n poo poo, your cat, gains, cleanliness, optimization, funkopops.
THEN! You will write a story about the absence of that thing. From your life, from your character's life, from the world, whatever.
FINAL, OPTIONAL PART OF YOUR PROMPT: Sebmojo is on deck with some rear end-puckering hell rules for those bold enough to
So, to recap all of that:
Signup deadline: Friday, November 15 at 11:59:59PM PST
Submission deadline: Sunday, November 17 at 11:59:59PM PST
Chili - family
Curlingiron - my cat
Nethilia - books (Not writing. Not paper. Not stories. Just literal paper and board, multipaged, rectangular books.)
Slip-up - Booze Everyone is drowning on dry land
Anomalous Amalgam - blood kitchen appliances are watching everything, what do they know
Djeser - Wildlife the ground will no longer hold us up
Exmond - love of the protagonist's life
saucy_rodent - touch story is told in breaths
Weltlich - healthy blood pressure
Something Else - gd Funkopops
Black Griffon - sleep protag is quivering into oblivion
flerp - peace
Antivehicular - Sanctuary protag doesn't believe they exist
flesnolk - ERROR ERROR ERROR (please choose something to go without) story takes place in the barrel of a gun
Crimea - connection all of your characters actions are meaningless
Carl Killer Miller - my cat there are no personalities in your story but we still care what happens
selaphiel - leylines
thranguy - august
sephiRoth IRA - coffee
entenzahn - privacy everyone can't stop fighting, not even for a moment
chairchucker - my heart
magic cactus - noise
sparksbloom - the moon no words longer than three syllables
dmboogie - song
jonjoe - memories
Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 05:03 on Nov 18, 2019
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 09:24|
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 12:05|
Early post to claim my cat as my important thing.
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 13:29|
(Not writing. Not paper. Not stories. Just literal paper and board, multipaged, rectangular books.)
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 13:39|
SlipUp fucked around with this message at 17:55 on Nov 12, 2019
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 14:06|
Caffeine sounded like rear end, let's spice it up with bloooodd
Anomalous Amalgam fucked around with this message at 18:21 on Nov 12, 2019
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 14:27|
in wildlife hellrule me sebby
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 14:56|
Derp give me all your information so I can write nice things about you, 50 words.
My protagonist has lost the love of their life.
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 16:07|
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 16:35|
healthy blood pressure
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 16:41|
I'm in and I'm taking the gd Funkopops
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 17:22|
|# ? Jan 25, 2022 03:07|
Oh, hellrule please
|# ? Nov 12, 2019 17:34|