Register a SA Forums Account here!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005

Now, in the quantum moment before the closure, when all become one. One moment left. One point of space and time.

I know who you are. You are destiny.

'74 No

A Wake in a Forest


You find him in a forest, deep in where whatever paths humans trod are overgrown by time and absence. He's propped between broken branches, bleeding from a head wound. The storm of the main rotor whips the forest like a wake.

"Gotta set her down somewhere," says the pilot "look at him."

You do. Through the clearing in the canopy you can see the wrong angles his limbs have taken, a rope lift is not an option.

"I'll head down, keep in touch."

You clip in and kick off from the chopper, the rope hissing as you descend. The forest whips you as you clear the canopy and with a painful thump you hit the ground and unclip. The storm dissipates as you approach the broken body.

"Sir, can you hear me? Don't try to move, just make a noise."

He groans, you run over to him, donning nitrile gloves. Hand on the pulse, weak but steady.

"We've got you, buddy. We found you."


In the helicopter, he looks over at you, then down at his palm, before he opens it. You look at him, a question on your face. He nods, and with a voice like paper he says, "Take it."

"I'm sorry sir?"

He nods, smiles, and closes his fist.

When you get home, several hours later, you're still unnerved.


As the days pass, the condition of the man improves. He doesn't mention what he said in the helicopter, and neither do you, though you're not sure why. He has a long, hard life of physical therapy ahead of him, but after a week, you only see him now and then.

At his absence, you think of the man more and more. You keep a memory of him tucked away in the back of your mind every time you head to work, as if that memory must be somewhere other memories of the man reside.

It's not a voice or a language, words or sentences. It's a gravity of truth transmitted to your hands. A young boy, flung from his bike by a hit and run, smashed against a store window hard enough to crack the glass. It blossoms from him like the splash from a stone hitting water, but you bring him back despite all odds. And after that it's the heroin addict with cut wrists and an OD at the same time. And after that there is more. Impossible cases, impossible odds, and yet you persist.

Until one day, you don't.

The woman has been stabbed several times, and the crowd of nurses gathered around her, hands trying to keep life in, feels almost grotesque, like a hive or a pack. It's no one's fault, and it's everyone's fault, and it's the way of things. You look at her after everyone has left. Six months without a code.

You tell yourself that there never was a... thing. No non-voice helping you out. You were lucky, until you weren't. You'll always lose someone.


The autumn leaves are torn in a flurry by the main rotor.

"Gotta set her down somewhere." Says the pilot.

"Look at him."


It's the same man, but it's not, obviously it's not. The first one comes in for regular physical therapy, and you've spoken to people who saw him only hours earlier. You sit by his bed as he sleeps, limbs strung up like a marionette.

You rub your eyes, head home an hour early. That night, you don't sleep, and in the early hours of the morning you text the pilot, telling him about the weird coincidence. He replies with a question mark.

The world is filled with inexplicable coincidences. Events that appear to defy reason, but on a closer look have a perfect explanation, but are just out of pattern enough to be uncanny. This is one of those, you tell yourself.

The non-voice is still there, guiding your hands, and the months pass without a single death on your watch.

Occasionally, both of the broken men are at the same place at the same time. One checkup following the other or something like that. You're the only one who seems to take notice. One day, you tell the second man that he looks like the first man, and he just nods and smiles.

The next one happens after four months. Shot by a cop at a traffic stop, six hollow-pointed bullets in the upper chest. It should have been obvious to anyone that it was a lost cause, but you've conquered so many lost causes the last few months.


The trees, stripped of leaves, bend in the storm of the main rotor. The forest is a white cloak, a quiet broken by the machines of men.

You rappel down, boots crunching in the snow, and approach the man. You kneel down beside him.

"Why are you doing this?" you say.

"I'm not," voice like futile gust of wind, "You are."

"Can you take it back?"

He smiles, a trickle of blood leaving the corner of his mouth, halted by the frost on his face.

"Would you, if you were me?"


Four still pops by the hospital now and again, just to talk. You haven't seen One in about a year, but you know you can get a hold of him whenever you want to. Most of the rest are still here, despite the fact their regiment have ended. Then there are the new ones. You'll always lose someone.

You barge into the staff lounge, hit the first button you find on the coffee machine and topple down on the sofa. There's a doctor and a nurse sitting by a table, talking. They give you a knowing glance, but say nothing. They've been where you are.

Eight is also here, you've stopped wondering how he gets in, you just know that he likes the staff lounge.

"Long day?" he says.

"Longer than most."

He smiles, like he did the first time you saw him, and you tell him about your day.


Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha

1000 words

The Ghost Box

It was a few months after the trial when Laurie decided to use the Ghost Box. She’d avoided the thing for weeks, hiding it beneath the pile of old court documents and unopened junk mail. Every so often, when she needed to find some old file, her fingers would brush up against it. It was cold. Metal. No larger than a cigarette case.

And the thing could contact the dead.

Before she could hesitate any further, Laurie flipped open the box and pressed the button inside. There was a soft whir and a flash of blue light. A man in a bedsheet in her kitchen. Through the two circular holes, she could see the glint of glasses. Familiar eyes. The man was—.

“I know you aren’t real. You’re not my dad.” Leslie set the device on her kitchen table and wrapped her fingers around the spindles of a chair. She tried to look firm but her brain felt numb, miswired. “You’re just his image repackaged. A shadow.”

The man looked at her. “That’s fine. I am.”

“I don’t want to perform around you.”

“You don’t have to.” From beneath the sheet, the man removed his glasses and pretended to wipe them. Then, he took a step forward and phased through a chair leg.

“Oh, sorry,” he said. The box rattled like rocket. The man blipped from existence, only to reappear sitting across from her. The cloth bunched up beneath him. “The apartment looks nice. Clean. I like the…”

He snapped his fingers as if struggling to remember something. Even obscured beneath the bedsheet, it was a gesture she remembered from her childhood, from him trying to remember the name of a song on the radio or an old family friend. The man gestured in surrender at the flowers by her windowsill.

Laurie snorted. “Okay, now who’s performing? My dad hated this apartment and I don’t think he knew the difference between one set of flowers and another. He definitely wouldn’t have tried to make small talk over it.”

The man shrugged, his arm phasing through the table. He reappeared near the window, light cascading through him. He looked down at the plants. “As you said, I’m only a shadow.”

Laurie let go of the chair and walked toward him, arms crossed. She watched as the translucent creature cocked his head. It was not a motion she remembered but it felt right. The kind of mellow interest she’d hoped her dad would have once he retired. Up until he died, he’d been filled with a frenetic energy, consumed by wild plans and ideas.

She cleared her throat. “African violets. After you—. After dad died, I Googled ‘houseplants, hard to kill.’ It seemed like the kind of thing that you’re supposed to do when…”

The eyes through the sheet had a patient curiosity, but Laurie didn’t want to have to talk about it again. About how he’d been driving to pick up farm supplies when another car swerved into his lane. About how the other driver had told the police he’d been trying to kill himself. About how her dad had just been in the wrong place.

“Anyways, it was cheaper than a dog. Less mess too.” She rubbed her eyes against her sweater. “I know I’m wasting time that’s supposed to be used on grieving or whatever. How many minutes do we have left?”

“About five. Then our connection will be severed.” There was a hum. “We don’t have to talk about what happened if you don’t want. My job is just to facilitate the grieving process, to give you a chance of closure and help you remember your loved one as you want to remember them.”

Leslie remained rooted near the windowsill. She did not want to think of her father with his head cracked open like an egg. She didn’t want to think of the obliterated remains of his car sitting for hours along the road. Instead she forced her brain to think of the ghost in front of her and the placid tone that she’d heard seen in life.

“You don’t even sound like him. You’re too formal. Too…”

Practiced is the word she wanted to say, but instead she gripped her arms tighter. There was a light ring from the box. Three minutes.

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know.”

The sheet rippled. “Are you sure?”

“I just…” She stared up at the ceiling. “People keep asking me to put my emotions in neat little boxes as if that’s how any of this is supposed to work. But it’s not.” She took a gulp of air. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel because most of the time I don’t feel anything at all. I keep pretending. I keep trying to feel things, and sometimes I do, but most of the time I’m just…”

She shook her head.

“Not there.” Her eyes felt hot as she heaved in a great gulp of air. “Because I miss you so much. I miss hearing your voice. I miss hearing about the farm and your stupid music through the phone. And I’m so scared that I’m not doing this right.”

She felt something firm settle next to her. Her hairs prickled as something white and transparent phased through her arms in the imitation of a hug.

“I’m so sorry,” said the voice. “I wish I had the right words to make everything better, but I want you to know that there’s no right way to feel.”

The box whirred and the man flickered.

“There’s going to be hard days but there are going to be so many more good ones. The longer you stick around, the more good days you’ll have.”

She cried.

“It’s okay,” the sheet bent down to her forehead. She felt the impression of lips. “You be good.”

There was a loud crack from the box and the form vanished. For a long time, Laurie stood sobbing. Then, she wiped her face and went about her day.

Feb 25, 2014

800 words

The Distance Between Atoms

flerp fucked around with this message at 18:59 on Dec 30, 2019

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Last Call
951 Words

The bottle showed up right after I got fired. My boss told me I was inconsistent, unreliable, and chronically late. I told him that he was a pitiless gently caress. I probably shouldn't have done that, but I was about a pint of vodka deep and I'm an angry drunk. I think I called him fat. That was uncalled for.

I climbed into my car. The glovebox was open and the bottle sat inside. The liquid inside sloshed invitingly, as if it'd just been placed there. I'd found bottles in my glovebox before, but they were hardly ever full and I had some recollection of scraping change out of cupholders to buy them. gently caress Monroe HVAC. I uncorked it and drank deep.

When I woke up, the bottle was full and in my arms. The label depicted a grinning face with three stylized 'X's underneath it. I didn't stop to think. Ten-ish hours without a drink and the shakes were setting in. I blacked out a few hours later. When I woke up, my mouth was dry and my head was full of needles. Time for round two.

Eleven months later, I'd had enough.

I'd vomited blood, spraying the cheap laminate floor of my apartment with a torrent that started bright red and ended up as coffee grounds. I laid there, hacking out dirty little chunks. Each cough sent a knife through my back. I'd left the bottle in the kitchen but as I sprawled on the floor, breathing hard, I saw it on the bookcase. The label smiled down at me. I laid that way until a neighbor found me, hearing my retching through the wall. I was in the hospital a few days. Before my discharge, my doc had stepped into the room. He regarded me with pity.

"Son, you have a disease," he said. "And it's going to do its damnedest to kill you."

He gave me a script for benzos to ward off the shakes. That day, I smashed the bottle in my bathtub.

My hands were pale and trembling. I took a benzo, closing my eyes and willing the shaking to stop. I opened them and hoped I wasn't floating into delirium. The glass was gone. The streaks of alcohol in the tub were gone. I needed a drink. I needed not to drink.

I walked back to the living room and sat down on the sofa. I wanted booze like crazy, more than I wanted anything else that hated me so bad. It'd make the pain, the confusion, the creeping fear wash away. But I needed to stop, for my life and my sanity. The bottle was on the bookshelf again. Its smile had faded into a grim, tight line.

I lunged at it and swept it away. It flew off the bookshelf, but there was no sound of glass shattering. I heard a trickling. I scanned around the room for the bottle as the trickling rose to a steady flow. The doors out of the living room were closed. I didn't remember doing that. I saw the source of the sound and my stomach dropped.

Pitch black liquid flowed from under the doors. The smell of alcohol singed my nostrils. I pulled the handles in turn as the flow turned into a spray. In a few seconds, the booze was up to my ankles. I threw my shoulder into the door. It didn't give. I whirled around, looking for an exit. I lived in a basement. I couldn't afford windows.

The liquor continued to flow as I pounded on my wall for rescue. The rough drywall began to change. It grew smoother. I was pounding on glass. The booze was at my chest and the glass wouldn't crack. My desk floated in the fluid. The bottle was atop it, swaying and shaking but not falling in the waves.

The bottle extended a glassy tentacle. The tendril whipped, then calmed as it grew into an ornate snifter. An offering. The tentacle stretched further from the bottle until the snifter had almost reached my hand. I closed my hand into a fist, denying the glass my grasp. The flooding intoxicant rose.

The face on the bottle contorted into a hateful glare. The glass sprang free of its tentacle and landed on my arm with serrated nails. It clawed up my hand and arm, leaving bloody divots as it made its way to my mouth.

I pursed my lips and shook my head as the snifter teetered on my chin. The liquor was up to my neck now. I was losing strength. The snifter hopped on my chin, stabbing down hard. I croaked in pain and my tongue was bathed in a sip from the glass.

I tasted vanilla, oak, berries, fresh dirt and soothing sunshine. I swallowed hard and the liquor around my neck receded. The glass lovingly rubbed its smooth lip across mine.

I opened my mouth a little more. It tipped more of the ambrosaic liquid into my mouth. It tasted even better than before. In that sip I was peaceful, secure, protected from the world and my fear. The black fluid calmed and receded further. The desk settled to the ground. I found myself holding the glass, still half full. I took a vigorous chug, not wincing as the strong liquor hit my throat. The rest of the liquid sept into my floor. I sat down and stretched my aching legs. Without a push, the bottle began to roll toward me, coming to a rest at my leg.

The fear and pain, guilt and shame, remorse and loneliness, they began to creep back. I knew they were with me forever.

Until the next drink.

Sep 30, 2006

stayin c o o l
Fly The Coop
Nine hundred ninety-nine words.

The bonfire had lit up the night for miles, surrounded by Hell's Angels and stripped down Harleys. They drank cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, smoked cigarettes, and snorted cloudy crank off of a rusty bowie knife in turns. Bits of blood and mud decorated their leather jackets and boots. They had just stomped the Ghost Riders, robbed them, and Leon, the leader of this motley band of the damned, even rode off with Carla, the old lady of the head honcho Ghost Rider. She was trapped there now, under Leon's arm as he leaned against his bike and told the story a third time. She looked away with a stilted frown and a furrowed gaze as Leon licked the side of her face as he reached the climax of his story.

Another engine in the distance roared, drawing the attention of the gang. They stood dead quiet, listening for a sign whether it was coming or going. It roared again. It was coming.

Leon pushed Carla over and pulled out a sawn off shotgun from the holster on his bike. The rest of the gang, six in all, pulled their handguns. It didn’t matter if it was Ghost Riders or the cops, well they weren’t going to go down easy.

When the lone bike was close to the fire the rider pulled a donut around the flames and slid to a perfect stop in front of the gang. He was older, wearing a red one piece jumpsuit complete with a deep v-neck, a short cape, and a perfect pompadour. Under him was a Triumph Bonneville, with white walled tires and a paintjob to match. The moon reflected off the chrome engine like a series of spotlights.

The stranger pulled out a switchblade, and the gang cocked their weapons in response, but the lone rider coolly flipped a comb out of the switchblade handle and smoothed out a single strand of hair.

“Hey-ey there fellas, it looks like y'all are having a glorious night and I was-ah hoping to partake in the festivities,” he said in a deep baritone as he flipped his comb closed and pointed a finger gun at the boys. Leon laughed and put his shotgun back in it’s holster.

“Scram ya louse, we ain’t got no time for a clown,” he said as he turned back to the gang. They holstered their guns and returned to the story.

“Is that a fact, Jack?” he responded as he reach back into his jumpsuit, pulling out a thick wad of cash rolled up in an elastic, “because I got about ten thousand reasons that say you do.”

Leon's eyes lit up like a kid in a chocolate factory. “Well now,” he said as he pulled his shotgun back out, “Let’s say you give that here and mosey out of town?”

“Not so fast Jack,” said the stranger as he dismounted his bike and walked right in front of Leon’s gun, “This here’s for a game of chicken. The only reason to blast me is if you’re a fraidy cat. My baby can fly but if you got mojo then this money’s already yours, no?”

Leon looked around at his guys. They were watching him for any sign of weakness.

“Fine, Jay, Smithy, hand over the loot from the raid tonight,” demanded Leon. The guys looked at each other but still ponied up. Leon looked back at the stranger. “Now you.”

“Whoa there cowboy, we need a neutral party to hold the winnings. How about this fine lady? Sorry miss, I didn’t catch your name?”

Leon cut Carla off before she could respond by grunting loudly and tucking his bills in her shirt. The stranger shook his head at this foul treatment and handed her his cash. Then he jumped back on his Triumph and pointed it toward dead man’s gulch, about a quarter mile away. Leon jumped on his Harley, rev'd it to an ear splitting decibel, and pulled up beside him.

“You gonna drive with that thing?” asked the stranger, pointing at Leon’s sawn-off shotgun. He sighed and tossed it to Jay, who juggled it and barely caught it before it hit the ground.

They rev'd their engines like dueling banshees in the night. Finally one of the boys fired his gun in the air and it was on.

They tore through the night towards the gulch. They bounced off rocks, sprayed dirt into the air, and soon the gang could only see their tail lights.

They approached the gulch but Leon noticed the stranger wasn’t slowing down. If anything he was going faster. Well he wasn’t going to let some prancy, fancy nobody beat him on his own turf. He pulled his throttle tighter to keep up.

Suddenly the gulch was right in front of them. Leon had been too busy watching this stranger to notice. As his bike flew out into the dark summer air he noticed the stranger flying beside him. Only his bike wasn’t falling back to Earth like Leon's.

The gang saw one set of lights fly up into the night sky as Leon crashed into the jagged rocks below. They stared in awe at the miracle before them as the flying Bonneville turned back to face them. In their bewilderment, they lost track of Carla.

Carla used the chance to pull the shotgun out of Jay’s hands like it was ice cream from a toddler. He turned back in time to take one barrel to the face, and Smithy the other. The guys were realizing what was going on when the stranger flew overhead and pulled Carla up on his bike in one graceful motion. They drove into the clouds as the gang took angry potshots from below, but they were too fast and too far now.

The stranger looked at Carla and said “Sorry baby, you can't go back to New York, but there’s a place that is out-of-this-world,” before pointing his bike at the moon and pulling the throttle.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
The Bet

732 words

Shall I tell you of my childhood, to start? No. You would not believe a single word after. Instead, let me tell you of the first time I met Fierra Suldeman, across three sleepy drunks at a bar in Bolivia, an improbable enough story but at least one you might accept the truth of, out of politeness if nothing else. 

She caught my eye at once. She recognized me, called me over. I did not know her by her face, but when she introduced herself the name  was one I had heard and read many times. She, a professor of mathematics, tenured and cloistered on campus to the world of pure research, nearing seventy and knocking back tequila like water, and me, just past twenty, an adjunct in a different field, struggling to keep up. 

She made proposition wagers, questions of statistics, to put down guesses and then do cocktail napkins estimates. What the population of dogs in the world? How many people in the phone book share both first and last names without being closely related? We collected unspecified forfeits from each other, to her great advantage.

"How many people," she put to me, holding eye contact, "Are loving right now?" The word felt natural from her lips in a way it never has from mine, even in the midst of the act.

It was only after, on the sweat-damp sheets of her steel-framed bed, that we did the math. The world's population, average frequencies, dividing mean duration into the length of a day. Estimating the bulk as happening between nine and midnight, and charting the number as the band between those meridians moved over nations prudish and libertine, or over the Pacific where only a few happy Islanders and furtive sailors added to the background tally of off-peak morning, daytime, and deep night fucks. We went at it again as the ink dried, of course.

Our second date took us to the Salar de Uyuni, to the salt flat on rented bicycles, where the shallow water reflects so perfectly we may as well have been pedaling in mid-air. She took me to a hidden place there, a slight depression, a curved mirror that focused light, focused everything. We stood there, a mirage of us above, an infinite regress below, and we were everyone. Identity ceased. I was a child at her mother's breast, a boy connecting bat and ball in his first base hit, an old prisoner staring at cracked paint. A teenage child slugged his father in the jaw and I was both of them at once. Fierra shook me, and I was me again. "We have to focus," she said. "To do it right." She unbuttoned her shirt.

We collapsed into the wet salt, clothes instantly ruined by supersaturated saltwater, her straddling me as the false walls of I and her and you collapsed into everyone, of clumsy virgins and bored couples going through motions, of untamed passions, masked kinksters, the tops and the bottoms, every duet and triad and symphonic orgy in that moment's grand universal gently caress.

And then my leg, near forgotten in that place of unity, kicked out, striking my bicycle. It fell, hit the ground, shattering the crystalline salt. Spiderweb lines spread and separated identities again. Incorrectly.

We tried to fix it, to reverse it. It took weeks for the water to dissolve and recrystallize enough times to smooth over the cracks. We were relieved to find the place functioned again once the mirrors were repolished, but nothing we tried would undo a thing. I remained in her body, my memories dominant though I could coax hers out with some effort. She reported the same, in my skin. I eventually talked her into giving up, to taking the chance to do whatever good she could with her brilliant mind in my younger body.

I told you you would not believe me if I had begun reporting myself, this spry crone before you, male and born less than three decades ago. As to the rest, well, I could take you there, show you everything. Or are you so cynical as to believe nearly all, but still think I can and would scheme to steal your flesh? Very well. There are other things to be, to experience, less intimate, less dangerous. All the world's dances, every chaste kiss, each prayer and blessing. The choice is yours.

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

Always Winter Break, But Never Christmas
991 words
Prompt: "Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree"

"Hand me another ornament," your dad says. "There's a bare spot over here."

You hand him the first thing you find in the box, a little green-and-white crocheted stocking, and bite back the impatience and the guilt that comes with it. You've been trimming the tree for 35 minutes -- it never took you and Mom more than 20, even with Dad kibitzing -- and the ornament box is getting low, down to the oldest dregs. How much more weight can the goddamn tree hold? You're definitely starting to run out of decent branches, you think as you pull out a flimsy metal snowflake. At least this one's light enough that any branch can hold it.

There's an empty spot a bit farther up the trunk, towards the back. Didn't you hang something there? That glass ball ornament from Dad's alma mater -- yeah, there it is, but next to it is a patch of thin, bare branches. You hang up the snowflake, which looks dull and dingy in the shadows; there aren't even lights on this section. How did you miss that? You're usually thorough. You're off your game, you think, and pick a little wooden sled to hang an inch or two down from the snowflake. The flimsy branch bends, but it holds.

"Another spot," says your dad on the other side of the tree. "Pretty scraggly branches, too. Sandy'd be embarrassed."

There's no sting anymore in Dad calling Mom by her name in front of you; after the hospital and the hospice and the funeral, that wound is an insensate scar. The concept of her disappointment, though, is as fresh and painful as it's ever been. You fish another ornament out for your dad, then one for yourself, and work to fill the bare spots in, trying to hide the brittle branches and dying needles. Your mom always joked that Dad was never happy with the tree unless you couldn't see it under the ornaments, and now that urge is catching.

The next bare spot is right at the front. You know you hung something there, the snowy penguin tableau that always gets pride of place and is now off-center, displaced by slender new branches. The spot's big enough that you can see the structure now, new empty limbs growing from the occupied ones in a way no real tree has ever grown. The tree is fractal, expanding itself as you work to conceal it, because otherwise you'll finish and you'll be ready for Christmas, and obviously you can't and you won't be, because Mom is gone.

You've tried your best to call her back, but without her, all the decorations are askew. The old wall hanging with Santa's face and a circular border of HO HO HOs catches your eye in the wrong place, turning into hollow OH OH OHs instead. The Santa-Garfield in his sleigh on the TV table looks wall-eyed, one fixed on his Odie-reindeer's missing antler, the other at where the TV used to be. The snow village sprawling across the bookshelves sits at wrong angles; the little plastic people are trapped on the Escher staircases of the main square and the Penrose-triangle slopes of the white felt hillsides, away from the lights of their little porcelain homes. They won't find shelter, because Christmas isn't coming. On some level, you always knew your family's world was ending -- that with Mom gone, the ground was crumbling underneath Dad and was going to take you with it -- but you didn't expect it to happen here, in the living room, decorating the goddamn tree.

Your ornament box is almost empty. You take out the one thing left: a piece of baked clay the color of gingerbread, in a cookie-cutter bell shape, slathered with chaotic blobs of paint and hung off a loop of yarn. You made it in kindergarten. Mom loved it. You hang it in a scruffy patch of fractal growth near the top of the tree, near the ancient light-up tinsel star that Mom never replaced, and something about it clicks; it doesn't look good, but it looks right. Your eye is already wandering towards another ugly bare patch, reaching into the box for a hook or fragment or something to fill the void, but you force yourself to think about the rightness instead of the wrongness. You step back a few paces, into the center of the living room.

From a distance, the tree looks fine, the bare spots that looked like glaring holes up close filled in with needles and the glow of the lights. It's not perfect, like Christmas seems like it ought to be, but maybe it's going to be close enough to get you through.

Your dad is grumbling to himself, holding the empty box of the plain glass balls that have always been desperation ornaments. "Kiddo," he says, "I think we need to run out to Walmart. Get some more of these, maybe another string of lights."

"Take a look from over here," you say, and he steps back next to you. "I think it looks okay. I think..." You think Mom probably would have liked it, that you'd managed at last to get all the ornaments on one tree; it's hard to see them all at once, with branches coming in and out of view as you tilt your head, but they're all there. You remember how much Mom hated having to leave any of them off.

"I think it's a pretty good tree," you finish, because you have to say something. You obviously can't say anything about fractal trees, and you're still not sure what to say about Mom. You turn to look at your dad, who has a stone-faced, indecisive expression.

"Yeah," he says, and you feel all the words he's not saying. "Yeah, I guess it's an okay tree."

Good enough for now, you decide. You've got another five days at home, and right now that feels infinite.

Oct 20, 2011

Lovely night, no?
Grimey Drawer
Random Access
745 words

“Infinite processing,” Zafer said, patting the small black box he had invented.

“What’s the catch?” asked Lidsome.

The garage which hosted the duo’s computational tinkering projects wasn’t somewhere they had to work. They had the resources to work out of a larger, more furnished space. However, they enjoyed the legacy of great progress being made from garages. Computer parts grew from worktables. Programming books decorated the corners. Wrappers and ash littered the floor, except where a single oily patch lie bare.

“Arbitrary processing order of instructions. It can do anything, extremely incorrectly, in no time at all.” Zafer lit a cigarette. He didn’t like smoking, but it was the most tolerable vice he could think of. All genius had to have a vice.

Lidsome coughed, waving his hand in front of his face. “Shouldn’t it also do some things correctly? Say you set a loop - sure, each time it ran a program, it’d probably be wrong, but eventually it’d be right. And since it didn’t take any time, nothing was wasted.”

Zafer argued, “Ignoring that you can’t just ‘set a loop’, what do you do with all the wrong outputs?”

“Just dump them,” Lidsome replied.

“By what criteria? You’d need to already know the answer to do that, not to mention, with what? If you try to dump them with the computer, there’s no guarantee it does that in proper order or to the right things. If you do it with another computer, you’re limiting it by that computer’s speed.”

Lidsome paced around the garage, rubbing his forehead. He occasionally raised a finger and opened his mouth, then lowered and closed each, respectively. Finally, he marched up to the bemused Zafer and asked, “Okay, if it’s so useless, why tell me?”

Zafer smiled. “It’s not useless. Are you aware of the idea we’re living in a simulation?”

“Sure. The Matrix, right?” Lidsome shrugged.

“Not quite. The argument goes, if it were possible to simulate a universe computationally, then computed universes would outnumber real ones nearly infinitely. Thus, it is overwhelmingly likely that we are living in one,” Zafer pulled out another cigarette.

Lidsome grabbed it from him and threw it on the floor. “Stop that. You think this device can simulate universes?”

“I know it can.”

Lidsome’s eyes bulged. “gently caress, how?”

“Infinite processing. Since it can execute infinite code, even if that code is in a random order, it can be fed instructions to infinitely execute arbitrary code and, in doing so, eventually form a universe through sheer chance in no time at all. Since the computer has infinite processing, those universes would literally last simultaneously forever, from an internal perspective, and zero time, from an external perspective.” Zafer picked up the black box, and plugged it into a computer.

“So that’s it? We’re simulated?”


“Are we being simulated by this computer, specifically?” Lidsome asked as Zafer plugged in a monitor.

“We’re in a simulation run by a computer exactly like this, though. And since it has infinite processing power, it can do anything, including create copies of itself within itself. I, in my brilliance, managed to figure out how it’s done.” Zafer powered on the computer.

Lidsome asked, “So the entire multiverse is a series of nested infinite processing computers, taking infinity by their own measure, and being wiped out in literally no time at all by the measure of any outside computer?”

“Except the original,” Zafer confirmed.

“So, what now?”

Zafer began to type. “Create more universes. Infinitely more.”

Lidsome pleaded, “Why? What’s the point?”

“While we certainly don’t have the means, perhaps someone in our computer will discover a way to escape the simulation. To probe infinity from nothingness. In the infinities of computation, as long as it isn’t impossible, it should happen eventually, and also instantly.”

Lidsome approached the black box, tapping on it. “What then?”

“We get them to share their secrets, and use them to pop into the universe above ours, ourselves. Keep going until we hit the original.”

“Will they share?”

“Even if they don’t, one in infinity will.” Zafer was one step away, a single keystroke from implementing his code that would propel him to the status of God.

Lidsome asked, “So we’re going to flood our universe in infinite universe-shattering beings in the hopes that we get out with them before we somehow die from this choice?”

Zafer stopped. “Um.”

“Leave it alone. After all, we have forever, don’t we?” Lidsome unplugged the black box.

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

What time is it?

Entries closed.

Apr 2, 2018

Bollocks, already? Guess I'm eating a :toxx: for loving up, I was gonna write today. :eng99:

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005

Now, in the quantum moment before the closure, when all become one. One moment left. One point of space and time.

I know who you are. You are destiny.

You can usually write a redemption story to avoid the ban, if nothing else. Get to it!

Apr 2, 2018


Apr 2, 2018

Growing Apart
739 Words

"Babe, you know where the thingy is?" he calls from the lounge. He's been in all of thirty seconds, barely taken his trainers off.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath, feel the hot dishwater on my hands, the steamy smell of chemical lemons, the normality of it all. Even the slight backache of a too-low sink. Enjoying it all for just a second more before I ruin it.

"Yeah, I hid it. So we could talk. Properly." Here we go, no turning back now. I dry my hands off, turn to give him my full attention.

"What? You hid it? Why?" He stalks through, he's already irritated with me, but at least he's paying attention to me for once. Better this way, I hope.

"You need to..." Nope, start again, remember what the website said. 'I' statements. "I love you and I care about you, but I feel like you're spending way too much time playing with it, and it upsets me that it's all you want to do. I'd prefer you to put it away, at least for a while."

"Is this an intervention? You think it's wrong for me to want to figure out what it is, what it's for?"

"We tried to figure it out. For, like, two years after we found it. You've got to let it go, get on with your life, this thing is eating you up! You're ruining everything for it!" I nod towards his general state, I'm not sure if he even notices the stubble, the holes in his T-shirts anymore. He looks like poo poo, always does, even with me trying to hold him together. "If it's an intervention, you see how I'm the only one here? When did you last see your mates?"

"Babe, it's a drat alien artefact, you don't think it's worth investigating?" He's smiling, faking like he's cool, like this is just a big joke. He's trying to pace in the three feet of kitchen between the counters and it isn't working. Turn-pace-turn, with this weird plastic grin on his face.

"We don't know what it is! We don't know anything about it, after this long, and... I've moved on with my life. It's weird, it's cool, but it doesn't do anything, we don't know it's 'alien' any more than anything else. You've let everything else in your life slip away, it's the only thing left in your life. I think you care more about it than me - you're addicted to it, honestly." Shitshitshit, shouldn't have used the A-word. Now he's insulted, flat out angry.

"Oh, OK then, if I'm addicted I'll just stroll down to Alien Artefacts Anonymous with all the other people who've found these things then, do the twelve steps? Maybe go to an intergalactic detox? Tell me where you put it, this is stupid."

"I'm sorry, look, I didn't mean to upset you, I want us to work this out tog-"

I got to hug him, try to show how this is an us problem, not me against him, not an attack. He turns as I lean in, and my head snaps to the side. Stinging. It takes me a second to put it together that he just hit me. Not hard, and he looks as shocked as I am, but he just loving slapped me.

I shove past him, furious, storm into the bedroom. He's frozen, holding his wrist with his other hand like he's got a gun he doesn't know how to unload, mouth open. gently caress him.

I slam the door, shove handfulls of stuff into my bag, a fistfull of underwear and a few T-shirts, I'm not really thinking. Can't think. Got to leave now, before I make any excuses to stay. I love him, how could he? Don't think, take what you can't do without, get out. Do what you'd tell your friends to do. Definitely don't stop to think about the life you'd built together and what you're about to walk away from.

He's still in the kitchen, hasn't moved in the seconds-or-hours it took to fill my bag. Doesn't try to stop me as I go past. I'm not sure if I want him to. He just looks at me with big watery eyes, and finally forces a single word out as I yank the door open:


"It's in the basement, you prick."

But it isn't. It's in my bag.

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe
:siren: SECRET SANTA THING :siren:

KK humbugs.

Everyone should have everything they need to ruin Christmas for their assigned people.

If you signed up for the secret santa thing and don't have your assignments, holler at me.

Now, make it loving merry. Or else.

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Thunderdome Week 381 Results

Win - flerp's The Distance Between Atoms
HM - Thranguy's The Bet
Loss - SlipUp's Fly The Coop

Crits will be posted momentarily. Since there's only one set of judgecrits this week, if you're ravenous for more critique, why not offer to trade crits :wink:

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Thunderdome Week 381 Crits

lofi - Growing Apart
What I liked: This is a well-sketched snapshot of a dramatic scene. Some of the beats that particularly clicked for me was the slap where the narrator doesn't realize what it was until a second later, and the bit about the guy's hand like a gun he doesn't know how to unload.
What I'd improve: The characters are thin; this could be just about any scene from any story about an addiction causing a breakup. Likewise, the alien artefact is "weird" and "cool" but I don't hear much about why that is.

JonJoe - Random Access
What I liked: Good exploration of the concept of simulated universes crossed with the counterintuitive nature of infinity. I also like where it ends up, with the idea of generating infinite universes in order to find one where someone can escape into a higher-level universe.
What I'd improve: It's a lot of Zafer explaining things to Lidsome with an occasional beat of Zafer putting on airs of being a genius, which I guess is the foreshadowing to his forgetting to carry the infinity one last time. You spend about 730 words explaining the premise and then the plot is "on second thought, let's not."

Antivehicular - Always Winter Break, But Never Christmas
What I liked: I wrote a pretty similar story to this one once, so I like the vanity of being reminded of my own writing. I also like the turn this took toward the end, since it would be easy to make this version of "infinity" overwhelming or melancholic, but instead it becomes heartwarming.
What I'd improve: It's hard to get across logic-defying ideas, but it would have been neat if you'd explored the experience of an infinite Christmas tree a little more. I think you could do some fun stuff with it.

Thranguy - The Bet
What I liked: Writing about South American academics in Borges week? Be still my popping monocle. Also, good job choosing something other than infinity to write about. The structure is solid, and the final paragraph is a good way to close out the idea. It has the feeling of a story this person's told a number of times before.
What I'd improve: The one spot where I tripped up is that I didn't quite 'get' what was going on with the mirror--I understood what it did in the moment, but I didn't grasp the general idea (that you can use it to experience all simultaneous instances of a single action) until the last paragraph.

SlipUp - Fly The Coop
What I liked: The stranger's campy/cartoony is amusing, and the structure of the story on a base level works just fine. It's a superhero story, or a Western: someone's in peril, a mysterious stranger shows up, outwits the bad guys, and saves the civilian.
What I'd improve: I wanted there to be more connective tissue between the bits. Like in the end, Leon gets done in by his own competitiveness. If you call that out earlier, make it his character trait that he won't back down, then his death seems more like a consequence of events than like something that happened because the plot demanded it. Likewise with the flying motorcycle--set it up earlier on, or at least hint that there's something ~special~ to it, and when it flies, it's less of a surprise and more of a "oh, that's how he was doing those sick jumps" or whatever.

Carl Killer Miller - Last Call
What I liked: A well-sketched alcoholism/addiction metaphor. Unfortunately, I am one of the least qualified people to assess this, so I have to assume you did a decent job.
What I'd improve: Short on character. The introduction has a bit of a voice, but past that, the narrator is not much of anything specific, and it makes it difficult to read this as anything more than the metaphor of a bottle that keeps coming back.

flerp - The Distance Between Atoms
What I liked: [thunderdome voice] is this magical realism? For real though this is the sort of stuff you do well. It's meaningful but not just a simple metaphor, and operates on unreal logic while still making consistent internal sense.
What I'd improve: Hard to say. The thing where they can hop over the gap for a night feels a bit off; sometimes the gap can move or grow but other times it's stuck and they're able to overcome it? I guess that's the part where the metaphor takes over.

QuoProQuid - The Ghost Box
What I liked: Feels true to a conversation between a daughter and a father's ghost. Touches on some interesting topics like approximation of identity versus the real thing.
What I'd improve: There's not much of a hook here. It works, it's fine, it's expressing a valid sentiment, but it feels as though it's missing a bit of something, like it wraps up in a way that's just a bit too expected. (My thought was to dig into the idea of this not quite being her dad--but close enough that it's still enough to comfort her, the idea that her dad might have said all that.)

Black Griffon - A Wake in a Forest
What I liked: It's a good take on an interesting premise. I like the strange situations and the almost non-reactions from everyone involved, which make it feel more grounded despite the obvious weirdness.
What I'd improve: Two small things tripped me up: first, I thought the first time you go back to the forest rescue, that it was more of an actual time loop, instead of the same thing happening over again. Second, I'm not sure I get the conversation in the winter--I'm not sure what it is the man's not taking back, so I don't know why the fact that he doesn't want to take it back is important. It's thought-provoking, but feels more like a gap in my understanding than something meant to be pondered.

Entenzahn - Thunderdome presents: Two Guys and a Pencil, a play by Entenzahn
What I liked: It's a comedy story about an impossible object. There's some good humorous asides in there.
What I'd improve: There are a lot of humorous asides in there. I feel like this story could be maybe two-thirds as long, and mostly that would just mean you'd get to the punchline earlier. Giving me too much time to think about it means I start wondering why, if "forget about pencil" doesn't work, "talk about pencil" or "experiment on pencil" or "notice pencil" does.

Haven - Byra
What I liked: It's a take on Blue Tigers, except instead of stones that never count up right, it's a dresser that never assembles right. I like that concept, and I like the idea of "stop worrying about the instructions."
What I'd improve: There's a lot of talking in this, and while the characters' voices are fine, neither Jon nor Amy are all that interesting to be around, so I'm not that invested in their back and forth. The ending takes a bit too much time putting a bow on the idea--the ambiguously European helpdesk lady could just say "Byra is working, yes? Then why so concerned about instructions?"

Anomalous Amalgam - Love & Sacrifice
What I liked: The folktale rhythm of the beginning is simple but compelling. Your characters are interesting, in that they're not stick figures with "husband" and "wife" written on them. I didn't expect that to be the theme this week, but TD always finds a way to surprise. The descriptions of the mountaintop garden are interestingly surreal.
What I'd improve: A number of little foibles that muddle the sense of your words. They'll stick out more if you read them out loud, especially when it comes to commas. (Try reading aloud while only pausing where you've got commas or periods. The points where you feel like you're rushing through your words probably need commas.) The plot is a little too simple. 'A parent sacrifices themselves for their child' is straightforward enough that it needs some more spice. Twist some of those assumptions.

sephiRoth IRA - Tesseract
What I liked: A character with a clear voice. Holy heck is that a relief to see. There's some good lines in here too, especially right around when they're actually dealing with the box. You're no slouch when it comes to the actual words on the page.
What I'd improve: Structure, mostly. This story falls into the super-common TD trap of spending a while to get to the point, then having to rush through it because it's almost at the word limit. The first half of is a lot of details about the crime scene, but they're not important to the plot. Right as it's getting to dealing with geometry beyond comprehension, the story realizes it's got 100 words left to finish and hurries through to the end. My advice would be to cut the whole crime scene section and pack it into some small-town-sheriff narration while he's in his office, like: "It'd been a hell of a day, and now there was a box sitting on Sheriff Jacob Johnson's desk. A nerd, a cowboy, and two suits had been shot over this box..."

magic cactus - PLAN Ω
What I liked: The scene with her daughter and the slide, not just the psychedelic bit but all of it. It's a good sampling of a sweet moment between Alice and one of her quantum-potential children.
What I'd improve: Like the previous crit, I think this story fell into the trap of too much intro and having to zip through the ending. There's a lot of musing in the first part that could be trimmed back. When starting from nothing, writers have a tendency to meander around a little before they hit their stride and figure out what the story's actually about. With a bit more space, too, I think you could make the ending hit a bit clearer. I wasn't entirely sure what tone the ending was supposed to be until I checked the flash rule and went ah, I see, the universe is telling her to wait. Or maybe I've got that all wrong.

Apr 11, 2012

Feb 25, 2014
week 382: turn on your monitor

hello, im gonna abuse my dumb idiot powers to force you to do things that i think are interesting and u probably dont but oh well guess u shouldve won u idiot. so this week i want stories about internet communication. that is, i want stories about the interactions we have with people that are hundreds or thousands of miles away who we may never see or even learn the names of. i imagine this shouldnt be too difficult to understand since all of you are extremely online idiots on a dead and gay forum who are competing in a no-stakes fiction writing contest.

anyways here's generally what i want:
stories that are generally based on reality. basically, little to no speculative fiction. ill be lenient and say if you really wanna invent some form of new internet communication, then okay, but it should be reasonable to exist in like the next 5-10 years.
stories that are focused on the interactions people have on the internet. it doesnt need to be ONLY through the internet, so you can have them meet irl (in real life), but these kinds of relationships we have with others through online communication should be the main focus of your story

otherwise, that's really it. you can still have magical or surreal stuff so long as the focus of the story is on these new relationships we have with weirdos on twitter

oh yeah and gently caress it if you sign up you get a song from a video game i like. you dont even have to use it i just had fun doing that last time

rules: no poetry, no google doc links

word limit: 1500

sign ups close friday 11:59 pm pst
submissions close sunday 11:59 pm pst

Jon Joe
another someone

Simply Simon
Black Griffon
sephiRoth IRA
Anomalous Amalgam
Something Else
Carl Killer Miller

flerp fucked around with this message at 21:14 on Nov 28, 2019

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔
Hit me with some sweet tunes for I'm in yo

Give me something Japanese for I'm posting from Nippon right now!!

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005

Now, in the quantum moment before the closure, when all become one. One moment left. One point of space and time.

I know who you are. You are destiny.


sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan
In please

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward

Djeser posted:

why not offer to trade crits :wink:

I will do this with up to three people

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan

Entenzahn posted:

I will do this with up to three people

I’m game

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo
Doctor Rope

Entenzahn posted:

I will do this with up to three people

Me please

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo
Doctor Rope
in :toxx:

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

I’m in

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Entenzahn posted:

I will do this with up to three people

I'm in.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:

Oh, I'm also IN

Feb 25, 2014

Simply Simon posted:

Hit me with some sweet tunes for I'm in yo

Give me something Japanese for I'm posting from Nippon right now!!

Mar 14, 2012

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
:black101: Week 380 post-massacre cleanup part three(3) of ???(?) :black101:

In the interest of getting these crits out quicklyat all, they're not going to be as structured as I sometimes like to write them.

Everyone gets a rating in the form of an object, plant, fungus, or animal from my neighborhood. If you talk to me on any chat platform, you might see some familiar friends. This was really just a fun way for me to think creatively while doing crits, please don't PM me asking for the secret hidden meaning behind your image because i won't tell youthere isn't one

full disclosure: the only time i have to work on these is...while i'm at work. So when I leave work, I stop critting. That means you will get as many of these per day as I can do while powdering hotel guest's chafed little bottoms.

Thranguy - What is Owed

Man, I gotta say, I was surprised you went with something so epic in scope this week. I think you honestly could have done without the "bargain with fairy land(?)" angle. The talking cat, too, sadly. The fantastical elements feel more like ostentatious window dressing for the actual plot (for me, the actual plot is Charlotte's doppelganger foiling her breakup with Hector, inadvertently causing hector a lot of heartache).

This piece is crowded, with all the individual components vying for my attention. Charlotte has a doppelganger, great! She also has a talking cat and some understanding of the "rules" of magic. I don't know why she has a talking cat and an understanding of magic, but since the story doesn't offer an explanation, I assume she's in possession of a relatively normal, if uncommon, understanding of her world.

The doppelganger acts really weird and mysterious at first, so i'm like, okay cool! The girl and her talking cat are going to get to the bottom of that! But...instead we pivot to poor Hector the summer fling. And it turns out the doppelganger dated him after the real Charlotte disappeared for the month of August. I was a little confused why "Char" was acting so creepy in the first section, but by the middle of the story she behaves pretty much like a normal person—not at all like a spooky twin who lurks in closets. All of the doppelgangers strangeness evaporates as soon as other plot elements come into play.

As soon as Char starts expositing on the backstory—the reason for the doppelgangers, her attempt to take Hector to the other world, the Queen's wrath—I lose the thread completely. I don't understand the deal with trying to take Hector "back", I thought the whole problem was that Char tried to take him out of the human world and so was banished to live among us. The story returns to 'rules' (the queen always leaves a door to the other world open, i guess), so I'm forced to take your word for it that Char and Charlotte can just take Hector to this door and resolve all issues by sending him through with Char. Even more frustrating, Edison the cat, who's functioned mostly as a whimsical prop/exposition tool, pops up at the end and reveals himself to be a shapeshifter, able to cover for Hector's absence. This would feel like a more significant moment if Charlotte and Edison had any legible connection, but nothing in their interactions is particularly warm or friendly.

If it sounds like I'm stumbling and groping in this crit, I am! Each section of the story supplies me with roughly 30% of the information I need, so I can't say with certainty that I fully understand your intention. There are lots of good turns of phrase, but this is that classic Thranguy thing where your scope exceeds your word count.

Here's the thing, though. You write TD stories every dang week, rain or shine, inspiration or no, and when you're writing at that volume, some stories simply won't gel the way you want them to. I think you already know the problems with this piece; I think you probably had to cut a bunch of stuff in editing, or weren't able to elaborate as much as you wanted on key story components. When I read this, I sense something I could really enjoy beneath all the muddiness, but I think this was not the story to try to tell at this wordcount.

TBH Thrangles if I'm judging and you have a big idea...i'd almost rather you go over the word count, selfishly, because yeah you'd technically be DQed but then I'd have the chance to crit your idea in its entirety, not just the version that gets crammed into a flash fic word count.

Story rating:

Jonjoe - Where We Never Rest

The opening has moxie. Punch. It is a mournful thrust in the direction of a compelling conflict or mystery!

And then we sort of just...roll around in it. The story gets stuck in a loop: all of the external stuff is tedious banality (getting ready, choosing to leave the house and walk to the therapist's office), and all the internal stuff is this angst and confusion over the narrator's missing loved one. And we come back to this again, and again—at no point did you develop this feeling, or use it to reveal something about the narrator that we don't glean from the first couple paragraphs.

Like, once I hit this point:


How did I know it wasn’t her? I don’t know her face. Do I expect memories to come flooding back to me? I don’t know. For all I knew, she could be home right now, and when I step back through my strangely unlocked door, I see her, and think she is nothing more than an intruder. How would she think, how would she cry, if she knew I could not remember her?

Say she was both real, and my soulmate. Say my memory was lost forever. She would stay with me, trying to rebuild me into the person she lost. Her frustration, her pain, her hope, her love. What if I was still her soulmate, but from my addled state, she was not mine? The winds push harder against me, shoving my sobs back down my throat. I consider returning again, to check for her.

I was craving literally any change in the timbre and mood of the story. Some new piece of information, some interaction that puts things in a different context (even just a slightly different context). The above paragraphs are the sort of thing that I would have deleted, or condensed into a sentence or two.

Eventually, we do get a change of pace because the narrator goes to a therapist! Except now we get to sit through a verbal explanation of the same stuff we just read about for several hundred words. With the addition of a terrible therapist's commentary. I gather the therapist is written as intentionally incompetent, but that really just sort of hardens the brick wall your protag was already beating his head against. This was, once again, an opportunity to expand on or develop the central problem! You didn't do that though!

It would be really hard for me to guess at what you were going for. The final line, where is house is "as empty and secure" as he left it implies that this is someone who has issues getting attached, or maybe he kept a lover so much at a distance that he eventually suburban-magical-realismed her out of his life. But I just don't know, because the story spends so much time languishing in the same feelings.

Story rating:

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo
Doctor Rope

Anomalous Amalgam posted:

Someone start chiseling Sneakers a tombstone.


In Mortal Danger
670 Words
Brawl Prompt: R.E.M. – Swan Swan H

Office Sub Assistant Commissioner
Bureau R. F. & A. L. State of Texas
Brazos County, Texas Jun. 2nd, 1867

His Excellency

Gov. E. M. Pease


I am writing to inform you of certain outrages, murders and criminal offenses that have been perpetuated against the Freed men and women of the county.

It may come as no surprise following the rebellion, that certain paramilitary and political enterprises have sought to capitalize on the plight of the newly emancipated colored peoples and refugees. However, the frequency and brutality of these crimes cannot be understated.

There are innumerable complaints, but evidence is circumstantial or nonexistent in most cases. I am only able to furnish data on the following as of May’s end:

January 1867 – A Freedman, Gilbert S. Blackman, had been organizing an evening seminar at a colored church for the continued tutelage in reading and writing, following the vandalism of the two schoolhouses set up in Millican. He was barricaded and burned alive inside the church along with Margaret and Abigail Peters, a Mother who had been assisting him and her daughter. There has been no official investigation.

March 1867 – In Navasota, a Freedwoman, Penny Howell, was clubbed over the head with a blunt object and left for dead in the grass. She succumbed to trauma associated with the wound but was still alive when she was found. The farmer who found her is currently under investigation, but a conviction is unlikely.

March 1867 – Burleson Co., Judge found drowned. There are several suspects, but local law enforcement has been less than cooperative, and a rebellious democratic presence seems to have taken hold of the civil infrastructure. There is a lack of substantial evidence that supports the conspiracy to undermine the republican appointed representatives of the Union, but the safety of more than one official has been compromised in public accounts with this death, not yet ruled a murder, being the latest in a series of increasingly hostile situations.

April 1867 – An open altercation between a colored man and his former master led to his kidnapping in the night by a group of men, to undoubtedly be murdered. He never returned, and there were no witnesses as he was working at the time.

May 1867 – I was personally approached by a group of men while off-duty. One clubbed me over the head with something glass. There are lacerations behind my ear that required stitching, but I shot the man with my service pistol and presented a badge that caused the other men to scatter. I wasn’t able to get a good look at any of the men who fled, but the man I shot was the son of the farmer who is currently under investigation in Navasota.

It will become increasingly dangerous for our officers to remain here when the military troops are withdrawn.

It is my hope that you can appeal to have their stay extended. The freed people in this county have not and will not have an opportunity to acclimate into this society. They are rejected at every turn and subject to near persistent terror.

Even getting statements that would implicate individuals in these outrages is difficult given the fear of retaliation.

So long as these people are viewed as something that was once property, and not as people who had their rights wrongfully repressed, it is my opinion, that certain individuals in this county, and in this state will make no concessions to aid in the transition and only further seek ways to degrade the moral integrity and spirit of this burgeoning populace.

I am also of the opinion that any reasonably minded individuals appointed or made to be vocal about the necessity of accommodating the freed man, is in active mortal danger.

As such, I am relieving myself of my post and returning to Austin. I have left this District in the capable hands of Lieutenant Melvin.

Please consider us for assistance.

Very Respectfully
Your Obdt. Servt.
Abel Bartholomew
Capt. And Sub Asst. Commr.

Jul 26, 2016

Antivehicular posted:

Okay! Sneakers, Amalgam, this is your brawl prompt:

1500 words, due Tuesday, Nov 26th at 2359 Pacific time. Toxxes, please.

741 words

In a house without windows, a pot boils slowly. Small bubbles rush to escape the sputtering flame underneath, the primus gasping on the last fumes in the tank. Martin can’t remember the last time he had a proper cup of tea. Every morning he fills a small cup with boiled river water and dips an old tea bag in it. The bags don’t taste of anything except rucksack, but he drinks the paper broth anyway.

The walls creak and stretch as the first rays of the sun warm the timber. The heat radiating from the chipped mug in the crisp morning air is one of the last small pleasures he has left.

Today’s a gathering day - find enough tat that they can trade for food over the winter. The small child sleeping in the corner isn’t a hunter, and Martin isn’t about to leave her to head up into the hills for pig. They’ll make do for now with the odd bird or cat senseless enough to pause in their vicinity, but when the weather shifts? Martin puts the thought out of his mind.

It’s been years since the turmoil, but nothing ever really settled down. There’s an edge to everything now, a harshness, as if the riots burnt off whatever softness was left in the world. Martin had always thought of himself as one of the good ones, using what he’d been given to put kindness back into the world.

But when the wolves came to eat the rich, they didn’t care that he was good - they cared that he had more. Because more was bad when so many had less. He knew that now. He had less now. But in that knowledge hung a thread of bitterness - he’d been a good person, doing what he could inside a lovely system.

In the opposite corner of the room, the wall unfolds. Long limbs crack and flop into place, the colour of faded wallpaper and dead memories. It’s tall and thin, like old branches lashed together into a rough forgery of a man.

As it rearranges its arms and legs, the creature’s body squeals and groans. It moves, staggering out of the wall in jagged, stilted strides. There are no eyes, but there’s enough knotted wood and torn paper to tell that it wears a sadness.

It always came out when Martin remembered the time before, fed the illusion that if people would just have put people like him in charge things would be better. It’s always there in the corner, just like it’s been in every other shelter they’ve slept in for the past 3 years. The little girl has never seen it.

It stands in the centre of the room. The burner is out of gas now, and the wind has stopped whipping and whistling across the broken glass in the window frames. It’s quiet. It’s just him, the creature and the gentle breathing from his child in the corner.

“Oh god.. not today” Martin mutters, rubbing the blur of sleep from his eyes. He whispers “Just - would you please just gently caress o-.”

Wood splinters and paper tears as it lurches forward a step, now standing between him and his child. He yelps reflexively. It’s never seemed malicious or violent, but the houseman still totters unsteadily, looming over him.

Martin takes a step backward as it brings its face down to his. He’s still holding the old, stained mug.

The sound of a roaring southerly rushes out from its toothless maw, rattling the boards with the force of cold stormfront rushing in from the Cook Strait. He holds the mug tight, screwing his eyes closed against the raucous din. The child sleeps.

Martin has tears in his eyes now. He collapses to his knees and sobs. He curses the unfairness of their poverty, the broken-down cruelty of their homelessness. He weeps now, as he does every morning, letting just a little bit more of the old world go.

As the tears slow, another line added to the slow calculus of his psyche. Years of tiny subconscious observations and computations to decide what to take forward and what to leave behind. He looks down at the mug, hesitates for a minute, and then puts it in the tat pile. Someone will want to cling to the old world more than he does, they can have it.

He wipes the tears before he rouses his child to face a new day.

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

Brawl Brawl H (Anomalous Amalgam vs. steeltoedsneakers) Crits/Results

So, uh, you guys know when I put a 1500-word limit on this brawl, I wasn't expecting you to split it, right?

Anyway, onto the stories:

Anomalous Amalgam, "In Mortal Danger"

This is a good concept marred by dry execution. I understand that this is a factor of the voice you're using (obviously, an epistolary story written by a legal officer to the governor in 1867 is going to be dry and formal in its diction) but it makes this read much more like a list of events, not quite a narrative. I can see you trying to draw some connections here between the crimes described, but it doesn't quite feel like it adds up to a full story. Still, the ending here -- that the writer is himself a freedman who has been attacked and is leaving his post for his own safety, writing a letter as essentially his last hope to do any good -- is pretty solid, and a decent amount of emotion comes through in the ending even with the voice constraints.

steeltoedsneakers, "Dream/Comfort/Memory/Despair"

I'm going to be honest: I have no idea what the central metaphor of this story is. On one hand, this is more clearly a narrative than AA's; we've got a character having little character moments, and then turmoil and a resulting decision, so that's, y'know, a story. The problem is that I can't figure out what's going on or what it actually means. To start with, Martin isn't a very sympathetic character, although I'm not sure he's supposed to be? Still, "this brutal class warfare has reasonable causes, but it shouldn't have happened to me because I was a Good Person" is not a great look. He's also kind of weirdly detached towards the kid; once again, this may be intentional, but it's strange to me that he thinks of "his child" or "the small child" and never thinks of her by, say, her name.

And then we have... the houseman. The houseman is a striking visual, but I can't figure out what he's actually there for. I guess the idea is that he represents the sheer desolation of Martin's current circumstances, the inadequate shelter and constant threat of death by exposure, knocking Martin out of his self-absorbed musings? But that feels a bit on the nose, and Martin's decision to focus on the new world just doesn't end up carrying much weight, especially if he's been being stalked by housemen for three years. What's different this time? What causes the epiphany?

The Verdict:

Both of these stories have fairly significant problems, but AA wins for virtue of having better fundamentals. Good fight!

Jul 26, 2016

Thanks AV, 'grats AA

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo
Doctor Rope
Thanks, and wow. I thought I'd be bleeding out after reading like the first paragraph of sneakers' story.

Thank you for the brawl, sneakers

Thanks for the judgment, av

Feb 25, 2014

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan

Entenzahn posted:

Thunderdome presents: Two Guys and a Pencil, a play by Entenzahn
989 words

“Huh,” Barry said.

“What?” Tom said.

“That’s it?” Barry said.

“Yeah.” Tom said.

You don't need this dialogue. Start with the next line.

The pencil was as standard as they come. It was thin. Brown. Pointy black end. Wood outside. Lead inside. It was a pencil. It was lame.

“That’s lame,” Barry said.

“Well,” Tom said, “that’s what I thought too, at first, but, you see, there is a trick to it.” This line reads weird. Like it's got bad mouth feel. There's just a lot of commas and "there is a trick to it" after a bunch of contractions seems oddly formal.

“Like what?”

“You can’t do anything with it.”


“No, I mean like, try to pick it up.”

Barry was not a very high-maintenance friend, but when Tom had told him of a great hidden treasure in his “spooky inherited turbo mansion”, he had expected something a little more, extravagante. This felt like the setup to a lovely Youtube prank. But alas, Barry came from a military family and following orders gave him a comfortable sensation of familiarity that sheltered him from man’s implicit obligation to question existence and/or the fabric of society. He went down on one knee. He reached for the pencil to pick it up. I'm on board with the zaniness at this point. You've done a great job giving it a very flippant, jokey feel.

But then he didn’t.


“I know, right?”

“What the gently caress.”

“I KNOW, right?”

He looked at his hand, dumbfounded. His five meaty hand tentacles looked back at him, equally confused. They had done everything their master had told them to. And yet, the pencil was missing from betwixt them. Ok, too zany. "Meat tentacles" and "betwixt" feels like you're trying way too hard to push the silliness.

“Hey,” Tom said, “is this a good time to mention that this room was boarded up when I found it?”

Barry ignored him. He tried to pick up the pencil again. But then he didn't.

“There was a note, too. I think. It may be cursed? I was pretty high.”

“How is it doing this?” Barry said.

“I dunno.” Tom shrugged. “Lying there.”

This wouldn’t stand. Barry had resolved to picking up the pencil now. No vaguely-defined metaphysical anomaly would keep him from fulfilling his new short-term destiny. This pencil would get interacted with.

“Let me try something.” Barry unfolded a dollar bill from his pockets and slid it under the pencil. Except he didn’t do that. He didn't punt the pencil across the room in frustration. Then, in a flash of brilliance, he decided to actively not-pick-up the pencil, which he did just fine.


"The devil's pencil," Tom said, nodding. These last three lines were solid. The interrupted curse made me laugh.

Barry didn’t give up there. In fact, the experiments went on for longer than either of them would eventually care to admit in front of their grand-children when they’d tell the exciting story of how they once tried to move a pencil around that one day.

“Okay,” Tom finally said. He crossed off attempt #114 in his notepad. “Surprise attack: complete failure. Maybe you’re right. Maybe it isn’t watching us.”


“And sorry again about the noodle thing.”

“Just…” Barry held up his hands. He never wanted to think of #46 again. It had been an affront to God.


There was silence between them. Silence, and a pencil. Silence, a pencil, and stale, musty air ripe with the exhausted breaths from one-hundred-and-fourteen failures. Come to think of it, maybe there were even more things between them, but let’s move on for now. It was ten in the evening. Time flies when you’re having fun.

“I should probably head home,” Barry said.


He looked at his phone. Fifteen messages. He’d missed dinner. Just now he realized that he hadn’t eaten since breakfast. This was solid. The turn from silliness to weird dread was effective

“Maybe,” Barry said, “if we saw out the ground from around the pen, and then lift the piece of floorboard, we can carry it around that way.” Again, really awkward dialogue here. "Saw out the ground" feels like I'm not parsing it correctly.

Tom looked at him, weighing the pros and cons, maybe, or maybe asking himself which particular decisions in his life led him to this situation. You are, after all, the Willy of your own chili. “Okay,” he said.

There were no outlets in the room and Tom was too useless to own an extension cord, so Barry found himself sawing into the ground with a handsaw like a caveman. Truly, these were dark times, but them’s the breaks, especially after sundown. For some reason Barry had imagined to cut a square hole around the pencil and then realized that a circle was easier, so now the hole was starting to look like an oval where the first corner of the square would have been.

Now the day had been long and fruitless, and Barry was pretty loving tired. In fact, you might say his stubbornness started to give way for a yearning for nourishment and recuperation. With each thrusting motion, he felt a little stupider. He could feel Tom hovering behind him as well, restlessly pacing up and down at first until the steps were punctuated by a silent thud, and then, nothing. Tom had sat down. Finally, Barry stopped sawing halfway through.

“You know what,” Barry said. “This is stupid. It’s a pencil. I don’t care. Why are we sawing your house in half?” This whole bit about the sawing is not funny or useful to the story. I understand you're using it to transition into the next bit, but I think you need to find another way to do it. It feels like it's been light and snappy and it bogs the hell down here

“Maybe,” Tom said “maybe you’re right.” He stopped to think, which, as Barry had learned by now, was bad. ”Or maybe… that’s the pencil talking.”

Barry looked at the pencil. Then back at Tom. “I don’t care.”

“Alright,” Tom said, “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s forget about the pen.” Pen? Did you mean pencil? If this was a plot point or intentional, I don't get it.

But then they didn’t.

They looked at each other, helpless like two children in front of a tsunami. And they realized: they wouldn't do jack to this pencil. They would never forget about it either. They couldn’t. Never ever. They would spend the rest of their days in this empty room, if not in person then in spirit. This pencil was their life now and that’s how it was. Just two monkeys trying to make fire by smashing rocks together. And maybe, as their shells slowly withered away, and their minds faded to memories of failure after failure after failure, that it would teach them not to open up barred doors and look at cursed treasures like naughty little boys when they were being told to stay the gently caress away.

Or hey. Maybe it wouldn’t.

I did not like this on my first read. I thought it was stupid. But on subsequent read-throughs, it grew on me. I think you do a good job of establishing the silliness early, and then the late transition into dread was super effective. You've got a lot of fluff dialogue here, and some of it really bloats the story. Some people might want more details about the pencil or backstory or whatever, but I think your piece works much better as a streamlined, shorter piece. I didn't need anymore details than you gave me. The whole "haunted mansion" flippant comment could benefit from getting fleshed out a little more, however. I a bit conflicted on it. On the one hand, it is pretty silly and presented as is lends to the silliness, but on the other hand it might be fun to have more details like previous owners, etc.

The weakest part of the story (besides the title, obviously, it was terrible) was the sawing bit. I see that you were using it to transition into the next part of the story, but I actually got a little bored with those three sentences. I'm not sure what you'd consider doing differently, but I'm wondering if you even need it. You could just go straight to Barry having had enough and wanting to quit. Other sections that need more help are the bit about the noodles/"affront to god". I like the idea, but the execution was weak.

Overall you've got a silly/dread-inspiring story. I enjoyed it, but think it could benefit from being shorter, with less filler dialogue.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.


Apr 30, 2006
In :toxx:

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5