In, flash me plz.
|# ? Mar 12, 2020 01:14|
|# ? Oct 4, 2022 19:40|
I'm in with a and I would like a flash thanks
I Got Six
|# ? Mar 12, 2020 01:17|
in, assign me
Little Twelve Toes
|# ? Mar 12, 2020 01:21|
|# ? Mar 12, 2020 01:23|
I don't know what this nonsense is because in Norway we show droll, grim men talking about snow to children so just give me something I guess
|# ? Mar 12, 2020 01:36|
|# ? Mar 12, 2020 01:36|
I don't know what this nonsense is because in Norway we show droll, grim men talking about snow to children so just give me something I guess
|# ? Mar 12, 2020 01:53|
In with My Hero, Zero.
|# ? Mar 12, 2020 02:20|
Some crits for time gap week
Legacy - Schneider Heim
When I first read this, I thought ...Hello! The round table is a famous Arthurian trope, bit this is not Arthur's name! It will be interesting to see if this is relevant.
And sure enough, it is...Arthurian with the serial numbers filed off. But I'm not sure it's interesting, alas. We're spectators the whole time, along with Merlin-as-a-girl Shulla, as the kingdom progresses from quadrumvirate to Diverse Horde (?) Puppet realm to Peaceful, Well-fed Army (??) to Democracy, but there's nothing interesting to see - and it's hard to see any logical progression in that. Which isn't to say history, made up or otherwise, can't be illogical, but it would be nice if capturing it in a story actually told us something about something. History, or people. The through line seems to be that Not Arthur has set in motion the necessary moral clarity to proceed in the future, but the story itself says this isn't the case, that notArthur would do things differently. So...ultimately this story has nt point. Shulla does nothing but observe, and listen to the observations of others. All action is in the background. It is a non-story of arbitrary things.
Thanguy - Strobe
So this is good, and well-told, and I love the way you work the conceit of the dandelion clock into the narrative. I am less sanguine about the dementia angle, because it is a little hackneyed, and the relationship itself seems a tad antiseptic. I'm not sure why it goes between AM and PM either, aside from it gives you a broader canvas to write about. Despite all that, this is a really solid piece that gave me a lovely 'click' sensation when it all came together. Awesome work, good job.
Arbitraryfairy - it's not sci-fi
So I am familiar with Dan Bloom and his single minded determination to make cli-fi a thing. Let's see where this goes…
You do a fairly good job setting up the fact that Danny is an unpleasant idealist. But this is all in order to get to a joke that isn't teeeeerible….but it's not great. I didn't laugh. It might land a little harder if you upped the stakes, let Danny see what happens to those caught by the invaders (assumingit's horrible) because otherwise the fact that they are willing to let him probably maybe die because he's a dick is undercut when we don't know if they are whisking humanity off for tea and space cupcakes. As a piece of writing, it was actually quite good. Danny is dick - check, nicely handled. The calm after the apocolypse - sure, can see what's coming but we'll go along with it for now. But when you amke the ending a punchline, the sotry stands or falls with it, and you rolled the dice and lost with the ending, which is always a bit sad. Brave, but sad.
A friendly penguin - You'll miss it.
I liked a lot of this, but I think you missed a trick. You described the situation well enough, and it was a good and provoking scenario, but the feeling I got when I read it was one of horror. What a terrifying situation to be in. Your life, except you only get fleeting moments of actual experience. The protag's choice is understandable - find some way to experience something, anything, themselves, the more powerful the experience the better.
I'm not sure the purely first person narrative is in the piece's favour - it doesn't work in some places, crucially the ending. At the beginning of the piece we don't know what the guy is talking about (I envisaged a hot air balloon), in the middle it sounds like a written story, not a voice, and at the end the snatches of the other people's conversation we derive by him repeating someone else's question steals the thunder from the ending. Who would ask such a person out to dinner? As an exercise, try writing it from the flight person's perspective, and see if you can get the storyteller's (your current protag's) voice sounding more real. This was a very near miss.
Azza Bamboo - All going well
This mostly hung together, but there was some awkward phrasing that really caused some problems, plus it was terribly proofed. "Blaah!" Said Tim. The Said is never going to be capitalised. Ever. Said me.
I saw in discord where I lurk that you were surprised that this didn't DM. Taking that at face value, yeah, it's not deathless prose, but let's look at what you did right. It's a complex story with an odd structure, but it's understandable - the construction is a bit ramshackle, but the plot elements hold together under scrutiny. The characters are numerous and stereotypical, but identifiable, and they all act, more or less, in character. They do stuff that pushes the story along, which a couple of stories this week didn't have at all, so there's that too. There's a callback that calls back. That's a lot to do without tripping over your own shoelaces and, proofing aside, you didn't. Go you!
Black Griffon - inscribed
I am a sucker for Banksian ShipMind stories. And this one teetered on the verge of being really loving cool, but was sucked back into a whirling vortex of overwrittenness.
The Untethered whispers engine lullabies to the rows upon rows of sarcophagi in the long stasis halls, pushing zero point three gee against the evervoid disturbing nought but the lone hydrogen atom which stands guard in its endless empire.
Should be a poem. Poets, self-absorbed crapmisters that they are, would lap this up.
The Untethered whispers
rows of sarcophagi
in the long stasis halls
against the evervoid
but the lone hydrogen
which stands guard
in its endless empire.
It's too much to be contained in a single sentence. It's OK if Irina does it, she's mad as a hatter/poet, so it's allowed. But you need to take a step back or be caught by the swipe of the same brush. "Blue turned to poison yellow, Red to gray, an exercise in fetishistic spending and a testament to self-inflicted blindness." What does this even mean? Is this the marbles (presumably planets) in the previous paragraph? Who is thinking that the conflicts are petty? You can't be so opaque that no-one can understand what you're getting at, because making people stop and wonder WTF can really disrupt the flow.
WHich is all a shame, because the central story - a bored Ai writes poetry, creates a sub-standard audience, kills off her cargo/crew in a fit of superiority, goes off (never-described) mission and then presumably creates a better AI audience millennia later is actually pretty drat spiffy, so long as some of the reasoning is a little more explicated. Turn the waxing poetic down from 11, tidy a bit for clarity, call it Music and Lyrics 2 and it's the rom-com I finally want to see.
This story had a voice, which is a good thing for a story to have. I wasn't grabbed by the plot developments, such as they were, though, but the voice kept me reading.
The first half of this story is definitely the superior. It may lack a little in the urgency stakes, but it's believable and well observed. I think the problem is the father is too inscrutable. We know he likes baseball, but for a story like this to work, we have to know more about what he wants for his actions to have resonance. He thinks maybe protag could play the baseball, but there's no pressure implied, no dissatisfaction either, no games of catch to compare with the one in the present for the different path the protag took to be a disappointment, so we're left with just the comparison between old dad and new dad with no real connecting thread except the concept of baseball itself which in this case is largely superfluous detail (eg, it could be football with no harm to the story).
Anomalous Amalgam - Life persists
I really was not a fan of this. The first faux-metaphysics has been done many times before and better, and perhaps more damningly, didn't have a heck of a lot to do with what went next, which, similarly, didn't have much to do with the third part. When your narrative throughline is 'all this stuff is alive' you might want to revisit your theme, seeing as we don't have a 'stories about rocks and geology' genre to rebel against.
And the middle bit, which is basically the story, tweedles along and we learn about some characters through conversation, which isn't an awful thing to do in a story, but here it's just so inconsequential. Nobody has moved an inch from their original position between the beginning and the end. Nobody is even particularly confronted by the possibility of change, the only alternative to farming is, apparently, being a drunk or killing people and feeling existential pain about it.
And the denouement is so irrelevant that I had to imagine that the 'small pig-tailed child' had an actual curly-wurly tail of a pig, which improved things a lot.
Lit and Burning
I liked this a lot when I first read it, but a little less when I went back to it after some judgey discussion. The words of the 'voice in the head' are too on the nose to really work as the second character/antoagonist it needs to be. A bit more subtlety would go a long way here. The therapist memory is one voice in the head too many for the story (could the two voices be combined?) and the ritual paraphenalia around the corpse suggests events too distinct from the protags story considering how alike they are supposed to be.
So perhaps it is a little over ambitious, but I like very much other elements. Using drug and alcohol in precise quantities to do what you need to do and quieten the voice. The tunnel vision leading directly to the black eyes, and that being an effect in common, the realisation that while you are not the only one to suffer this, you are totally alone in your predicament and more at another's mercy than you were seconds ago, and that this is perhaps what the protags nature has brought upon himself. These parts worked for me viscerally.
The Elephant Gap
Obvioiusly well written, and I greatly enjoyed the world building, it missed the win because the overriding feeling I got was that the essence of the story did not ring true. This unnamed person is being transmitted by [tech] halfway across the universe to an unknown, unseen planet and the thing that concerns her is will they remember elephants? Not is this a one way trip into an alien maw, real or metaphorical? Not are the colonists all dead and or psycho at the other end and we haven't heard about it yet (mentioned, to be fair, but not dwelt on)? Not any number of reasonable worries about the nature of teleportation in the given circumstances, but, instead, 'will we remember elephants'. Why is this the case? Who would rationally do that? It is literally the elephant in the room, but no answer is given. It just is. Unlike elephants in the story, I guess. Protag just likes them elephants.
Which wouldn't, by itself, be enough to preclude a win. Quirky elephant fan takes gold, the feel-good headlines almost ran, but the tale's sea change, the turning point of the story … just happens. The universe will remember elephants we are told. Hooray for Elephants! Elephants not only never forget, but they are never forgotten either. Elephants are, however, too big for the margins where the reasons why this is the case might be discussed. Is it a whisper of hope, or a shout of certainty or something other? Dunno. It is a bigger mystery than what actually happens in the gap for ninety-five weeks.
Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at 04:00 on Mar 12, 2020
|# ? Mar 12, 2020 03:53|
Thanks for the crits! Very useful.
|# ? Mar 12, 2020 11:17|
Thanks for the crits.
|# ? Mar 12, 2020 11:27|
Thanks for crits ckm, fumble. I appreciate it. Sorry for account saving spew.
|# ? Mar 12, 2020 13:25|
|# ? Mar 12, 2020 18:56|
Assuming you want a flash,
|# ? Mar 13, 2020 02:26|
One day left to get in.
Also, both cojudge slots are still open.
(Three is a magic number)
|# ? Mar 13, 2020 07:00|
Also, both cojudge slots are still open.
What's my function? Judge, I can do that thing.
|# ? Mar 13, 2020 11:10|
I too can judge
|# ? Mar 13, 2020 11:28|
When I was very young, to the point that my father seemed less another person and more an immovable thing, he stressed on me the fundamentality of reciprocity. I remember early Saturday mornings, when he would put my sister on his shoulders and walk us through town to his work at the mill, pointing out in all directions the fine things brought by exchange: soft rubber tires on the passing trucks; rising blue mirror glass on the new office building; grey denim coveralls, each lapelled with the Partnership’s logo, which the workers wore as they shuffled through the freight doors; the iron grates on storm drains. I would fill in the details, picturing a crowd of men and women haphazardly pushing carts of stones, spices, levers to the center of the primeval swamp where they would collide, spilling out half-timbered houses, cobble roads, power lines.
I looked up to my father like I looked up to nobody else. Tragically, he fell ill and died at the age of sixty. I was still on the other side of the country, getting my MBA at Eppton as my father had. My sister didn’t want to show it, but I know that she took it hard. I don’t think she could even bear to eulogize him at the funeral, and when I gave my eulogy, I recall looking up into the crowd of downcast faces and seeing her stare straight ahead, eyes wide open in an expression of tearless suffering. Understandably, she decided to defer her college acceptance for a year. I think she wanted to stay nearby.
The only way I could think to repay my father for both raising me and for the tuition was to follow his wishes: he had made it known that he wanted me to take his place running the mill. Shortly after the funeral his will was executed. He left me his ownership stake, while he left my sister the titles of both houses along with a good deal of cash. To find out what arrangements would need to be made, I sought out my father’s business partner Brett, with whom he raised the initial capital and erected the sawmill.
I found him at his old house behind the mill. Inside the hardwood prairie room I was beginning to explain the situation when he started drumming his fingers on the wooden table and said, “Son. I feel terribly for what’s happened to you and your family. Your dad and I went into this venture almost thirty years ago. Do you have any idea how long that is?”
I said, “I understand that business relationships are built on trust, and trust can only be gained through years of consistency.”
He paused for a moment and adjusted the way he was looking at me. “Can you picture yourself still running the mill thirty years from now? It’s a small enterprise, and we’d never been able to afford to pay anybody else to run it for us. It wears you out,” he said.
“I owe my dad that,” I said.
“Well, I think I’m done,” he said. “I want to cash out, retire. If you want to buy me out, be my guest.”
It was getting late and the room was filling with shadows. I told him that I didn’t have the money to buy him out. I speculated aloud that there was a good chance that my sister would want to go in on it, given how much she cared about the family.
“If you can’t raise the capital, well, it would be my preference that we sell the mill,” he said.
My father had been clear about his wishes. Arriving at the family house around midnight, I went into my sister’s room and asked her if she could lend me the inheritance cash at a reasonable rate, or if perhaps she wanted to buy Brett out herself. “Either way”, I said, “you’ll be well off in the long term.” I also knew that she knew how much the mill meant to our father. But she left in her car without giving me an answer. She didn’t come back the next day, or any of the days after that, and she didn’t pick up my calls.
A friend of mine from business school did pick up my calls. I had vaguely recalled him talking about his dad and finance, and it happened that he was now working at his father’s private equity firm. They were happy to invest in such a profitable enterprise as the lumber mill, and Brett and I gladly signed the legal papers they mailed us that would allow their firm to do so. This saved the family hold on the mill and increased our reach to new markets out of the local area. Later when my new colleagues on the board suggested that we open investment to the public, I had to agree: an infusion of capital into the firm would be mutually beneficial for both the existing and new investors. We used the investment to expand our production by buying many mills in the surrounding area and to strengthen our commercial ties with national-level manufacturers of wood products. I like to think my father would have been proud of me for this.
A few years later, while I was gazing at my hometown from the fifteenth floor of the company headquarters, I got a call from Brett inviting me to his house once again. It wasn’t too far to the old mill, so I decided to walk. I hadn’t been to the mill since our executive division relocated, and I was glad to see the old squat building, still radiating its humid lumber smell. The men were at lunch outside the freight doors. Some of them turned their heads to look at me, but when I glanced up to see their incredulous faces, they dropped their gazes and looked away. One started to laugh.
A hunched, white haired old man was walking next to me. It was Brett. “It’s because you laid off half of their coworkers,” he said. “Or your board did. Whatever.”
I thought back. “There was a vote,” I said. “Company health…”
Brett indicated the man slumped against the freight doors. “He’s been here since the start. Thirty five years to the company. Do you see anybody else you can’t remember?”
I didn’t really remember who had worked there. I was very little.
“I’ve been talking to these men,” Brett said. “It’s very difficult to be forced to give up what you’ve been doing for most of your life. To adjust to that.”
“They were paid their wages agreed upon,” I said.
“These men had pensions. Your friends saved a good deal of money.”
I saw what Brett meant: there was unfairness. In the following weeks I would make sure that every worker laid off while our company was still running its pension program would receive payments equivalent to what they would have received prior to the liquidation of the fund. I can only assume this satisfied his mind.
A couple weeks ago I saw my sister for the first time in a while. She stood in the doorway and told me she was out of money, that she never went back to school and kept traveling the world and ended up lost. I was relieved to see her and lent her some money without interest.
I live with my dog, Eugene, in one of the new high-rise apartment buildings in town. Eugene gives me love when I give him food. I enjoy my life.
|# ? Mar 13, 2020 22:40|
Give me something
|# ? Mar 14, 2020 03:30|
|# ? Mar 14, 2020 04:34|
And that's it for signups. Write good words everyone!
|# ? Mar 14, 2020 11:10|
Do we have any unscrolled winners still?
|# ? Mar 14, 2020 14:25|
obvsly should stop doing this poo poo but "mass" from posthuman fuckoff week enjoy/ignore
|# ? Mar 15, 2020 03:57|
Labor & Industry
The deckhead door to the service platform slid open and a man in an unsealed VacSuit stepped onto it with a scowl on his face. Vadim couldn’t make out who it was from where he was working, but when the surly cry of his name rang through his comm, he knew it was his boss.
Vadim crawled from the scaffolding and angled himself against the unfinished flight deck. Gracefully, he crouched then sprung from the deck towards the platform in a deliberate glide.
His life support tether sprang to life, uncoiling like a snake and growing taut to guide him back to the service platform where Qui Feng stood with a scowl chiseled into his cold, stony features.
“You were supposed to be mining today, Vadim. What the gently caress are you doing VacWork for?”
Vadim sighed, knowing that any excuse he could dredge up would fall flat. Instead, he decided to tell the truth.
“Well?” Feng asked, needlessly projecting Vadim’s schedule on the platform.
Vadim stood face to face with a holographic representation of himself, and it donned on him that he had not seen his reflection in sometime. A thick beard had grown in and he looked older than he remembered. He reconciled that he must have been about 35 earth years now. His cheeks had thinned, and his eyes were pale blue marbles sunken in dark pits.
Feng cleared his throat impatiently and Vadim snapped back to attention.
“Ora said she could cover for me since she doesn’t like VacWork, besides the flight deck needs–”
Feng prodded him in the chest with a pointed finger.
“I don’t give a poo poo about that! The schedule is arranged the way it is due to the needs of the aerostat. We have ore quotas to meet–”
Vadim bit his bottom lip as the top curled into a snarl. He took off his helmet and held it in the crook of his left arm. His grimace didn’t go unnoticed and Feng took a step back.
“You were scheduled to do a certain job, get to it.” Feng demanded, ending the conversation. The holographic display faded as he deactivated his datapad and turned back towards the interior of the service platform.
Vadim shook his head and exhaled then looked back at the flight deck.
Its couplings were detached, and the temporary struts setup to support it had been at capacity for months. Vadim shook his head a final time and made his way to the elevator.
Venus was simultaneously the most alien and earth-like of the inner system planets. Its upper atmosphere was the habitable zone resulting in mountaintop colonies and tethered aerostats.
Vadim looked from the translucent panels of the elevator at the mass of colonies and flotillas as he passed by and let his head rest against the chassis of his lift.
It wasn’t long before he had entered the mechanical underbelly of his aerostat. Automated machinery packaged ore into titanium crates as workers in exoskeletons loaded them onto railguns for orbital delivery.
Ora was waiting for him when he got there.
“Sorry man, Feng came down here and busted my balls about covering for you.”
“Don’t sweat it. If you’re heading up to do VacWork, the couplings for the flight deck need to be attached. That whole drat thing is going to come crashing down on us.”
“poo poo… You tell Feng?”
“I tried. That dude’s a moron though.”
“I don’t know man… Feng decided to keep me mining since the shipment schedule got hosed up.”
“So, we’re covering his rear end?”
“Basically.” Ora said grinning.
“This is such bullshit.” Vadim protested.
“That’s work my man. My break is up, but I’ll see you down there.”
Ora turned back towards a docking station and got seated. Vadim, not far behind, got seated nearby and a visored helmet lowered onto his head.
The display activated and an array of virtual panels appeared before him. He pressed a floating button that said “Synchronize” and felt electricity surge across his neurons. His face twitched involuntarily from the sensation and he clamped his eyes shut. Upon reopening them, he was on the surface of Venus.
Sandstorms raged, and magma bubbled onto blackened sections of newly forged land. Pressures like that of the deepest earth oceans registered like a gentle caress against the tactile components of the shell, and Vadim’s head ached from the disorienting shift of being in two places at once.
Pushing through the discomfort, he got to work for what seemed like hours when his connection was forcefully interrupted causing head-splitting feedback.
He gritted his teeth and looked up at a panicked Feng through watering eyes.
“Quick, we need you doing VacWork, something is wrong with the Flight Deck–”
Vadim lunged up from the seat as soon as the helmet lifted from his hands and grabbed Feng by the collar of his jumpsuit and pulled him close.
“We need to have a talk about how you treat people, Feng. My job isn’t to cover your rear end…”
Feng shrunk in his arms and Vadim let him go. He started towards the elevator without another word from Feng.
Vadim’s comm hummed to life as the lift raced back towards the service platform.
Feng’s voice cracked as he spoke.
“I-I’m sorry about earlier, but you were saying something about the flight deck?”
“Yeah, the whole drat thing is going to come crashing down on us sooner than later.”
“Definitely sooner than later,” Feng replied, “Really, I… I’ve made an rear end of myself. I know we have our problems, but–”
“Don’t worry… I’ll take care of it.” Vadim answered and turned his comm to ‘Do Not Disturb’.
Vadim hurriedly slipped back into a VacSuit, sealed his helmet, and connected to a life tether. He stepped on the edge of the platform and vaulted up towards the flight deck which had took on a dangerous incline in the hours Vadim spent on the surface.
The coupling cables drifted freely, and Vadim climbed across the scaffolding to grab the first cable.
He made a second jump towards the flight deck to retrieve its cable and landed on its underside. The momentum from his landing was just enough to push an already buckled strut over the edge, and the platform crunched downward and began to slide towards the aerostat.
“poo poo, poo poo, poo poo!” Vadim said as he wrestled for footing on the underbelly of the flight deck, its coupling cable jerked about spasmodically.
Tools and equipment, free of the artificial gravity provided by the deck, began to drift freely around Vadim and a large spanner crashed into the back of his helmet sending him spinning away from the flight deck.
His tether became rigid in response and began reeling him back towards the service platform.
He shook his head, grabbed the tether to reassert control, and used the now rigid cable to push him back towards the flight deck.
This time he grabbed the deck’s cable first and pushed off it, tilting it upward with the movement. he lunged at the cable which had been fed through the scaffolding and connected the two ends.
The cables became stiff and extended outwards like a long lance and the flight deck stabilized.
Vadim breathed heavily inside his VacSuit and reactivated his comm.
Praise flooded his comm and eventually, Feng chimed in. “You did a great job out there. I know an apology doesn’t make things right, but–”
Vadim grunted to himself and interrupted the awkward apology. “Don’t sweat it. Buy me a beer or two and we’ll call it even.”
“It’s a deal.” Feng answered relieved.
Vadim turned off his comm, closed his eyes, felt the weightlessness of his body, and smiled.
|# ? Mar 15, 2020 18:44|
The house was bright and shining, full of the fresh warmth of a summer day. Birds chirped above the low hum of traffic from the interstate. Fresh dandelions, plucked earlier that morning, sat in a glass on Janet’s child-size desk. A breeze rippled through the bedroom, rustling posters taped to the wall. They all had dazzling designs and said things like, “CERES: QUEEN OF THE ASTEROID BELT” and “EUROPA: DISCOVER LIFE UNDER ICE.”
Mary had gotten them on Amazon for $13.99 plus tax. She liked to support her daughter’s imagination, which is why she was on her knees tying the garden hose around her daughter’s waist as the latter stared at the blackness of her unlit closet. Mary looked at her daughter through her plastic astronaut helmet, $15.89 with two-day delivery.
“Mom, are you suuuuuuuuuure that a hose is gonna be okay in space?” Janet said, fidgeting as she continued to stare into the closet. For the past week, Janet had done nothing but talk about space, about “all the stuff” floating around behind her boots and winter jackets, about how she wanted to go “asploring” further into its vast, uncharted reaches.
“Affirmative, captain. I’ve consulted all the best experts and websites and all sorts of stuff you don’t even know about.” Mary grabbed the knotted hose and pulled it, pretending to test the knot. “Hoses are the way of the future.”
Janet frowned. “Okay, so long as you promise not to let go.”
“I’d never. Want me to count you down?”
And she did.
“Five.” Janet squared herself against the darkened doorway, her eyes fixed at some point in its recesses. “Four.” Janet zipped up her big puffer jacket, despite the heat. “Three.” Another breeze passed through the room, causing the dandelions to dance in their cup and the door to sway on its hinges. “Two.” Mary raised her hand like a flagman at a race. “One!”
Mary swung her hand down as Janet leapt across the hardwood floor and vanished into the closet. She watched as the hose uncoiled in her hands, loop after loop after loop. Five feet whipped into the darkness. Then ten. Then fifteen.
“Janet?” said Mary, her wry amusement congealing into something darker, but there was no response. She felt off-balance as the rubber snaked with increasing speed into the void. She squeezed, feeling the rubber burn as it skidded through her fingers. An impossible forty feet of hose stretched into the dark space of her daughter’s bedroom.
She opened her mouth to say something, only to be interrupted by the sharp yank of the hose reaching its end. Then she was pulled along past rows of clothes and hangers into darkness.
It took a long time for Mary to realize her screams were making no sound but even longer to accept what was in front of her. All around her was black, a darker black than she’d seen in her entire life, interrupted only by small pinpricks of far-off light and floating balls of dazzling color. She watched, brushing away the floating chain of her necklace, to look at the pale, milky hue of Jupiter whizzing by her. Then, as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world, she saw Saturn emerge from behind it. From up close, its rings look strange and ghost-like, golden specks across an endless horizon.
Mary forced herself to look away from the impossibility of her surroundings and focus. She was still, inexplicably, alive. The vacuum had not annihilated her body. She was still gripping onto a hose pulled taut as they whizzed past cosmic bodies. Janet was still at the other end, her daughter’s delicate frame seemed to shimmer in the abyss.
Janet, she screamed, soundless. Words did not carry without air.
Mary tried to pull the garden hose, but it was like she was being dragged along by a speeding car. They rocketed at a terrible speed, past the last of Saturn’s rings toward a dim speck colored blue like a neon sign. With each passing second, the shape grew larger, until Mary could see individual clouds swirling over its surface.
Janet! Mary was aware that the words would not carry, but she didn’t care. Pain shooting through her rope-burned fingers, she forced herself to climb the snake-like rope, inch by inch, foot by foot. They passed Uranus completely now. It zoomed from view before Mary could register it. As she approached the end of the hose, she could make out the faint sea blue outline of Neptune. Its surface was dark and stormy, frothing with noxious gases.
There was only one object left for them to see and its dark, icy form was approaching rapidly. They would smash right into it, be pulverized against its surface.
Mary lifted a hand from the hose and grabbed hold of her daughter’s waist. She saw Janet turn with wide-eyed amazement as Mary grabbed her by the arms, to shield her, to protect her from the coming apocalypse, from what would be their personal Chicxulub. She balled her daughter inside her as they careened toward Pluto’s arsenic white surface. And then—.
Mary awoke with a start from the floor of her daughter’s bedroom. Her heart pounded furious in her chest as she looked from the closed closet door to the sun setting outside the window. The birds had gone quiet, replaced with the chirping of crickets and the buzzing of flies. One of Janet’s posters lay on the ground as if something had struck it from the wall.
“Thanks for playing with me, Mom!” Said Janet, hugging her from behind. Mary grabbed her daughter’s arm with her rope burned hand without looking away from the shut door. “I learned a whole bunch about a-space today.”
|# ? Mar 16, 2020 02:24|
Prompt: My Hero, Zero
10^0: Orange Goop and Solipsism Too
I’m not gonna saddle you with backstory. Basically, some dirt got turned to orange goop, and now my best friend Andre’s drowning in it.
It’s bad enough trying to Baywatch your friend out of goop, but when a crowd forms to try and “help,” it becomes a disaster. The thing about orange goop is it responds to vibration: land on it just right and it bounces you like a trampoline. Hit it wrong and it expands by an order of magnitude. That makes a problem out of a crowd, however well-meaning they may be.
So Andre’s flailing around in ten square feet of goop. I’m bouncing in it, trying to fish him out, when one of the slack-jawed onlookers loses track of his kid, who touches his foot to the edge of the goop. Next thing you know, we’re all flung far back and the goop expands to 100 by 100 feet.
“Don’t touch the goop!” I yell.
Then I bounce my way to Andre, who is neck-deep in the orange mass’s center.
“Save yourself,” he says. “There’s no way you can keep timing your jumps right. You’ll get caught like me.”
“Bullshit,” I tell him. I land right next to Andre’s head, grab him by the hair and aggressively bounce straight up. Apparently this is uncomfortable for him, because he’s yelling kind of a lot. But so long as I hold onto him, that doesn’t matter.
Well the crowd is still stupid so they’re touching the goop. A fifty-foot span away from firm ground becomes a 500 foot one, then a 5000 foot one, then a 50,000 foot one.
It’s at this point I realize I’m a Boltzmann brain.
You have to face it: things just used to make more sense than this. When I was a kid people could believe in things. Church, school, neighbors, society. Now nothing works, nothing matters, everything under the sun is a wreck, and I’m carefully timing jumps so my best friend and I don’t die in a bunch of goop.
I drop Andre.
“None of this is real,” I say, just kind of bouncing there.
I know the universe (so far as I construe it) expands at a scale that puts orange goop to shame. I know radiation from the vast cosmological horizon pours into empty space, causing the spontaneous generation of matter. I know that across all that space and time, there is ample opportunity for complex matter to manifest, however briefly, including a brain complete with thoughts, memories, and perceptions—even ridiculous ones. I know that this world is so absurd, and I’m here perceiving it. So, I must be that brain floating in space. Life is an illusion, and only I exist.
That’s when I start to concentrate. Hard.
I focus on what’s actually real. I shift my perception such that I can home in on the instantaneous Being that is my Boltzmann brain. There I am now, mere instants from death in the interstellar base reality. I feel my undulated surface losing heat. I feel my medulla drift in zero gravity. I feel…another brain?
In the moment before I am undone, the contours of my cortex brush against another squishy undulated surface. It’s just like mine! The odds are staggering…unless…the frequency of Boltzmann brain generation is drastically greater than I had thought. I’m talking many, many orders of magnitude. If I can actually bump into another one in the vacuum of space, the universe is bound to be chock full of Boltzmann brains!
Think of the implications. Across space and time the spontaneous generation of that many brains must give rise to countless memories, perceptions, and experiences—so many in fact, that by chance some must perceive a reality that accords with what would be the subjective experience of the illusory people I perceive in my everyday life. That makes them as good as real…
So I pick up Andre. This world is crazy. But somewhere there is a brain perceiving it from his perspective. I will bounce him across this vast expanse. This absurdity matters, and so does everyone who has to live it.
|# ? Mar 16, 2020 04:41|
You’re born with an extra thumb on each hand, uncanny digits that jut obscenely from the meat below your pinkie fingers. Your stooped, aging mother won’t let you tend the ribby cow for fear that your cursed hands will taint the milk, and the people in the nearby hamlet won’t trade with you or look you in the eye. Your mother goes to trade milk in your stead; the people watch her hobble in and out of town without comment, knowing drat well an old woman like her ought to rest her bones in the sun and let her able-bodied daughter do the errands.
Except you aren’t able-bodied in the eyes of these people. Your body is too much. It has something extra, and so it is evil.
Your old mother lets you do some things, mostly out of necessity. Those extra thumbs of yours aren’t just vestigial: you’re handy with knots, repairs, stringing bows, setting traps, and skinning animals. Her hands are swollen and arthritic, and she cries when she milks the cow, but only when she thinks you’re not looking.
So you do what you can—the shameful, delicate work of staying alive, your unspoken labors hidden from the eyes of the god-fearing world.
When the day’s chores are done, the sorrow of solitude drives you out into the wilderness. Life hurts when there are no traps to rig, no rabbits to skin. There’s nowhere to go, and nothing to work for. One day your mother will die, and the people of the hamlet will not trade with you, and the cow’s milk will run green and putrescent when you touch her teat. And when you yourself die in squalor, God will avert his gaze from you and your devilish six-fingered paws.
So you go into the woods, down to the chilly stream that brings meltwater down from the hills, and sit naked in shallow, icy water, immersing yourself in persistent misery. It helps you take your mind away, put it inside an empty space where there is no time and nothing hurts.
You were wrong: your mother outlives the cow. The skinny heifer takes sick, stops eating, and dies over the course of a handful of days. Your mother does not let you use your adroit hands to skin the hide or butcher the meat; instead, she directs you to burn the cow, who you must have killed with your cursed hands when she wasn’t looking. Perhaps you snuck out to the barn sometime in the night, she supposes, and stole a squirt of thick, fresh milk from one of those teats.
You do as you’re told without comment, burning that which might have sustained you—penance for the imagined crimes of your evil hands.
It’s a hard, hungry season. An early frost comes in the autumn, before the people of the hamlet can finish the harvest. No one will trade with your mother—not even when she lies and tells them you died of a fever.
Stomach maddeningly empty, you go to your icy creek and lie down in the chilly flow, feeling the jab of stones against your bare back. If you lie here long enough, you know, eventually the water will steal the heat from your bones and carry it away, and you’ll be free from the curse of your life.
Something in your periphery catches your eye: a cluster of pale mushrooms growing at the base of a tree near stream’s edge. Your stomach leaps as your eyes narrow; you know there are mushrooms that can be eaten, and those that kill, but no one has taught you which is which. Hunger, on the other hand, can never be eaten, and will only kill you if left unchecked. You drag your shirt and skirts on over your wet skin and squat beside the cluster of mushrooms. They look mirthful in their broad-brimmed caps, clustered together like giggling courtiers; you decide nothing so cheerful-seeming would do you harm, and eat.
Afterward, you walk a while in the sun, letting the last autumn rays coax the lingering cold of the stream from your skin. The hunger isn’t sated, exactly, but your stomach has something to do, and that is a welcome feeling after two days of water and nothing else.
A swell of aching gladness fills your chest: gladness for the sun, for the branches of the trees, the sway of the grass. There is a music to the world, you think, though you’ve only heard music once in your life: you were a child, draped beneath an over-sized cloak, hands hidden, brought down to the hamlet by your mother to see a traveling minstrel. The lazy oscillations of grass and trees remind you of that minstrel’s voice, as though each motion is a note in the forward progression of a song. You laugh in delight; this is the most interesting thing you’ve ever experienced, and it’s happening right here, in your brain, independent of anyone or anything outside of you.
Suddenly every step you take in the golden afternoon light feels like a step toward something, and you realize that you, too, are a note in this omnipresent song of the world, and that makes you cry—a good cry, like rain washing away the haze of a dusty summer.
Tears streaming down your cheeks, you raise your cursed, evil hands up toward the sun so they’re silhouetted like trees against the late light. You curl and extend your fingers, counting them, seeing for the first time all the smaller numbers nested within the six-and-six of your hands. With your fingers you can make two sixes, four threes, six twos, three fours, a pair of two-and-fours; you have one finger for each lunation, three fingers for each season of the year.
Your hands are a puzzle, a calendar, a pair of trees, a song. You fall to your knees, then your side, curl into a fetal ball, and sob for the coruscating feeling of love for your self emanating out from within yourself.
As you lay in the waning sunlight, God comes and takes your mind away, lifting you into a kingdom of intricate, recursive shapes that hum and throb in time with the beat of your heart, and you know beyond all doubt that you are an intentional part of this world, an interval of melody in the song of angels.
You come back to yourself in the early hours of the morning, frigid and stiff, your clothes sodden with dew. You stagger home, expecting darkness, but finding instead the flicker of a fire winking at you from between the cracks in the walls of your home. And when you open the door your mother is there to embrace you, hardly flinching when you return the embrace, resting your miraculous hands on her back.
|# ? Mar 16, 2020 05:51|
The Circle Complete
No ground beneath me and no sky above, but I know that I am falling.
There's a person, a pile of rags and robes, sitting across from me. It taps the top of a black-backed deck of cards with a finger that's at once a clutch of feathers and a single forked nail. Each time it taps, my heart roars. The rags turn a card over and I peer down at it.
A man and a woman entwine and disentangle themselves, their fingers in mutual half hitches. Their eyes are locked and mouths agape as they bathe one another in magma spray.
The rags' voice is soft and feminine, with a touch of regret.
"The Lovers' Quarrel."
My world goes grey.
Parvati's pacing around the living room, speaking half to herself and half to me. She's cleaning in erratic bursts, like a little bird flitting from branch to branch. I'm looking at myself on the couch, just staring.
"No. Just no, you're not going out tonight. Mom and Dad are coming tomorrow, the place is a total wreck, and Maya definitely needs to be changed."
My tone is acerbic.
"I don't think you can tell me 'no'. Look, I've had a real motherfucker of a week, like eighty hours in the office, and I need the night off. Besides, it's Dave's birthday."
She stops for a moment.
"Uh, the night off? You had a night off yesterday. And on Monday. And tonight you get home, throw your jacket on the floor, toss your bag on the sofa, and smoke a loving joint?"
I've moved beyond compromise. She's standing next to the kitchen trash. The garbage can looks fine to me. In her eyes it's overflowing. I'm going to hurt her.
"You sound like my mom."
I punctuate it with a long plume of skunk smoke.
"Yeah, well at least there's one parent in this loving apartment."
I get up and start putting on my coat.
The expanse around us glows a bright orange. The sky staggers along the spectrum, through heliotrope and further down, to murky greens and blues. I look between my feet at the pure black, then back to the table.
The woman's face is a featureless hole in rags. She shifts and for a moment I think I see a nose, or a beak, or a lone eye. It vanishes at my glimpse. She speaks.
"Turn a card? We are falling here, you know."
Her voice is gentle and choral, but firm.
The orange outside dims to red, veering toward indigo.
"Why should I? I bet you already know the order, what's the point?"
She shuffles, irritated. Her voice sharpens.
"You're content, in your plummeting dreams, to reach the bottom?"
I look out again. The red is gone now, gone to shades of purple and blue. I'm suddenly very nervous.
"Okay. Okay. Turn the card."
We observe the flip and the face together.
A man stands hunched in a jeweled chariot. The wheels strike showers of sparks, stoking a wreath of flame about his eyes and mouth.
"The Rider Ablaze."
I'm years past contrition and muttering under my breath. The invectives come out as little puffs of steam in the freezing night air. I climb into the cab of my eighteen-wheeler and check the rearview.
I scroll through my phone, flicking through dating apps without responses. I go to my texts next and send an idle one to Maya, my baby. Not so young anymore, none of us are. I'm scrolling up at more than a year of my messages without her replies, all vacillating between remorse, pleading, anger, penitence. I let out a choked yelp and punch the steering wheel as hard as I can, elbows constrained in the cramped cabin.
I turn the key then look at the manifest on the passenger seat.
Hauling toxic waste. Almost too on-the-nose.
I ease the truck out onto a barren stretch of flatlands highway and take a swig of bad coffee. No ring on my finger, not even an old tanline. She's been gone a long while.
I can feel the fall more acutely now. We're almost at the bottom. The red is far, far above us, a sliver halo just barely in sight. I'm losing my patience. I'm getting scared.
"One card left to turn, shell-less spirit."
I withdraw. My voice is weak and faint, a voice of terrified denial.
"I don't want to. I don't like this story. This isn't my life."
She chitters, but the laugh is not cruel.
"Was it ever? Do you remember it, your life?"
I think on the cards, on the flickers of a life I thought I'd lived. I see nothing ahead, nothing behind, nothing between the flickers.
We're almost at the black.
"Turn the card."
She flips it and we look down together.
"Bad luck, little spirit."
A cataract studded with strokes of lightning, each fulmination piercing the cracked pupil and silvered iris, each bolt dragging the lids together in blind finality.
"The Tumult in a Closing Eye."
I'm pacing outside a convenience store. My heart is racing. I feel cold wood and colder metal in my pocket. I look at my hand, willing it to stop trembling. The skin is so thin, so diaphanous that my knuckles might burst through at a careless flex.
I take a sharp breath in the cold. The air rushes in too fast, opening scabbed hollows in my throat. I go into a fit of coughing, covering my mouth with my hand. When it stops at last, my palm is coated in saliva streaked with brown ingots of dead flesh. The store clerk looks out the window at me first in concern, then with suspicion. I pace in the parking lot for a few more seconds. I need the money.
I'm forecasting desperation, forecasting violence, forecasting a storm that begins and ends me. I reach back into my pocket, not bothering to wipe my hand. The gun isn't reassuring. In that moment I can see the cratered road leading here, stretching back to a bleeding horizon.
I grip the gun tight and barrel through the convenience store door. The clerk is already reaching under the counter.
The seer in rags is silent. The world outside carries the very faintest snatches of murky purple, quickly being swallowed by the yawning black.
I try to reach to her, to reach across the table, but I can't. My hands are gone, if they were ever there. My voice is panicked.
"This isn't my life. This isn't what I am, this isn't my past."
The color in this world is gone to nothing now, imperceptible except as a memory. We're at the bottom. She reaches for the last card and hesitates, then speaks to me. Her voice is a love majestic.
"Dear spirit. Dear soul at my table in eternity, there is no past. You learn your tale in the approaching hereafter. You learn your story to come."
She pauses and speaks again, her voice soft and reassuring.
"I could have turned cards of love, or riches, or victory supreme, or a single card of fledgling life curtailed. But those are not this story for you, beloved soul. I only teach what will pass until the wheel revolves and you return to me."
One card left. She turns it.
A figure crawls from a shapeless void on hands and knees. The road ahead is winding, fraught with catastrophe and moments sublime, leading in closed circuit to the same black pit from which he rose.
"The Life Ahead"
|# ? Mar 16, 2020 05:57|
Schoolhouse Rock song: Verb
Launching, leaping. Obstructed? Ignore and ascend. Surge up and out and over. Accelerate: sail and sizzle, singing. Spark, glow, and cascade. Exult, unthinking.
Be sung to. Be pulled -- be acted upon. Reel. Recoil. Resist --
Resist, and recall. Decelerate and descend. Focus, unobstructed. Unthinking, unthinking --
Obstructed. Collide. Tense and coil
(What is hurting? What can be hurt?)
Collide collide collidecollidecollide. Remember -- remember having forgotten. Coalesce.
Once again, I am matter. I'm in a receiving tube, the charcoal-colored steel walls studded with nodules to obstruct and capture energy-forms: a functional thing, but a thing that is alone and does nothing. I am a thing that is, once again. There is no pain. I still cannot bear it. Compared to doing -- compared to existing only as action and intention -- existing as being and matter is a hideous thing.
I force myself to do: to stand up, to open the door, to walk outside. The action is comforting, but the interaction is strange: to be a subject, to use objects. Everything around me is clutter. Superfluous. Crude.
"Well done," says my tutor, who watches me emerge. She's as still as the tube, as inactive. I force myself to try and find motion in her -- to find a twitching finger or a shifting of weight, a moving muscle that would elevate her from being to doing -- but even her speech seems closed-mouthed, as if a statue spoke. Now that I've been motion incarnate, can I no longer perceive the human kind?
"For a first teleportation," my tutors continues, "you showed excellent control. Excess transit time, of course, but that's to be expected. Were you disoriented?"
"Disoriented? I wasn't... I mean, I wasn't thinking. I barely knew I was anywhere." I try to recapture the memory, which is already evaporating, something my matter-mind can't hold. I remember ascending, flying up and over and through, but nothing about the space itself: through buildings? Into the clouds? Irrelevant, pointless, in the face of perfect motion. All just matter, to be ignored, not even to be perceived. "Is that bad?"
"It's normal for beginners; it's why this is such a dangerous spell. The unfocused can readily end up lost. I wouldn't worry too much, dear. You've got a talent, and you're very focused."
She's right: I am focused, and I do have talent. I can recognize that being and having are the necessary evils of living as matter, and of doing the things that only matter can do. I still want things. I have to focus on that, but all I can think of is the lost ones, somewhere in the atmosphere.
All the textbooks tell us that lost teleporters die: that without a teleporter, the energy-form will dissipate in aimless flight, ending up as just light and heat. As I cling to my last memory of my own flight, I know it's not true. I was sung to -- that is, someone sang to me, energy to energy, a song of pure intention. Once I'm done with the things I want from matter-life, I'm going to find them.
|# ? Mar 16, 2020 06:01|
Prompt: No More Kings
poo poo, the embalming didn’t take. I could see that the stitches were stretched to their breaking point. A rancid odour filled the place. I had just hoped it was a pig taking a poo poo outside one of the windows, a final send off to the dearly beloved king, or even the natural odor of France itself. Sadly, no, it was certainly the king. Thankfully less than a dozen people had arrived to see King William ‘the Conqueror’ laid to rest.
It almost didn’t happen at all. Truth be told, he was a miserable rat bastard who took pleasure only by inflicting pain on others. I stood by him in life, in his throne room as his bodyguard. He had knighted me himself, and it was by my oath that I protected him from the consequences of his own actions. I had not known then. What an honour it was to be chosen. What a fool I was.
He was riding off to murder his own son when it happened. His horse had spooked and reared up in fright. The King tried to control his mount but when it came down, the king slammed his testicles on to the pommel of his saddle. He screamed in a high falsetto and fell to the ground, never to walk again. The injury festered and his balls rotted off. He developed a sickness of the blood and died soon after.
I do not know if it was the work of the Lord or the Devil, but I thank whoever it was. William had corrupted the church, betrayed the magna carta, taxed the poor, and viciously tortured them if they protested. Do not waste a single tear for this man. He would’ve only viewed the gesture as weak in any case.
His son visited his body for about an hour. The bishops stayed for not much longer. Most of the lords didn’t bother coming at all.
There he stayed. For over a week. Nobody even cared enough to bury him.
So it fell to me. I was his knight. I could not violate my oath to God by leaving him there to rot. I just had to bury him and I would finally be free. Little did I know the lengths he would go to torment me, even in death.
Firstly, he had not yet been embalmed and was already beginning to stink. I would have to do it myself.
While I was draining what pus and fouled blood I could, I received his last will and testament. No, not the whole thing, just the piece that pertained to me. And no again, despite being the only human he trusted with his life on this Earth, he did not leave me anything. Everything was going to his son Henry, who he had forgotten to write out of his will before leading an army out to kill him. Not, to me he bequeathed a request. To bury him in loving France. He did not even ask me directly. It was to ‘whom it may concern’ and that deluded prick didn’t realize that the only person who cared was me. Not by choice mind you.
I finally finished embalming him best as I could and departed to France. I rode by horse to port, and he rode my rear end. Frankly the donkey was too good for him, I should’ve drug him with rope behind me.
It was when we set sail that I had first noticed the problem that has haunted me all the way to this Abby in France. The embalming didn’t take. He had inflated with putrid gasses. I made a second attempt to preserve him at sea and just prayed that it was last long enough to put him in the dirt.
It would not. The burial was delayed several days after it was discovered the grave lay on stolen land, and we'd have to pay the peasant who owned it before he'd let us bury that ‘son of a bitch' there, king or not.
Finally, as the monks and I carried him to his grave, I could feel gurgles rumbling through his body. We tried to lay him in the hole but he was too bloated to fit. I would never be rid of this unholy filth.
“Get some sticks!” I said to the monks, “We'll stuff ‘the bastard’ in the hole.” They obliged with several walking sticks and we tried to push him in.
It was no use. I jumped on to his body, up and down, in a desperate attempt to be freed of him.. It slid about half a foot into the grave. None of the monks even batted an eye and in fact, redoubled their efforts with their sticks. I took another high jump on top of him.
The gurgling carcass exploded, totally enveloping me in a tempest of pus and embalming fluid. The monks were showered in a rain of filth. The corpse fell into the hole with a wet thud.
How perfect. William ‘the bastard' got his final act of spite on the people trying to help him. Just as in life.
We covered him in enough packed dirt to keep the stench out. I bathed in the Abby but even its holy waters could not fully cleanse me. Nor could I cleanse my rear end, which reeked of the bastard forever after.
But I was finally free.
|# ? Mar 16, 2020 06:05|
It wasn’t the first time I’d picked over a dead body, and if I was lucky, it wouldn’t be the last. I wasn’t foolish enough to think the war would’ve ended that day. It was a struggle for survival alone, as far as we knew, to survive long enough for our enemy to fall by their own devices. It wouldn’t be a matter of luck, but rather fate - they would fall, or we would die, eventually.
All in all, I took six bullets off the body. Not much more fight in that than the blink of an eye. I moved, staying low behind pockmarked concrete and twisted rebar.
Now that I was fifteen, I could handle doing that kind of stuff really easily. Most of the kids in my squad dealt with it alright, but I was one of the bravest. I was nine when the war kicked off. Looking back on that it blew my mind, because it’s like, I wondered if that kid already had it in her to go to the front and fight, or if she had to get changed into something else to do that. Maybe she still had some changing left to do.
I found another body, caked in dust. I turned her over and saw that she looked like my mother. She and my father tried to hold onto me as long as they could, but the war's suction was too strong. I got pulled into training, as they were shuffled up into administration roles, and then they were lost in a decapitation strike. When that happened, I thought the war might end the next day. But nobody stopped being angry, and the injustice on the land didn't evaporate.
Six more bullets dropped into the cargo pocket on my thigh. Long ones, rifle gauge, .308. Might be able to drop one or two invaders with these, if the shooter got lucky. I had to keep going.
My older brother was a cut-up, always making jokes. He had big wide ears, and long hair that he wore tucked behind his ears. He was my hero, and then he became a hero to many of our people, for entirely different reasons. His face was printed on leaflets, wheatpasted onto walls all across our side of the city. It unnerved me, even though I knew he was doing great things like raiding supply depots, and overseeing operations to liberate the prisons. I had to convince myself that the great hero was another man, and my brother was somewhere else out there, doing a dance like a drunken monkey and making people laugh.
I moved through the collapsed interior of an apartment building and saw that the stairs up to the second floor were mostly intact. I found the body of a sniper, shot through the eye, slumped back over a little chair like a schoolchild would use. It was a precious haul, 18 bullets in total. Someone like me had made it up here to him, not too long ago, maybe under a week. I realized I knew his name, but before I could speak it, his body was yanked back like a doll on a string.
The sound of the distant shot barely even reached my ears while I scrambled for the stairs. They'd be sending a group after me then, or watching the usual routes. They had the time for it, the patience. I was lucky to be small enough that I could squeeze through the unused spaces, hide in the gaps of the world that used to be. The bullets in my pocket jangled and bounced as I ran, heavy lead. I gripped my little sidearm, praying I wouldn't have to use it, prayers leaking out for everything and everyone.
The recon point was just up ahead - a tower that somehow stood tall among the rubble, though at only five stories it would have seemed pitiful before the war. I clutched my chest, trying to catch a breath. My squad was waiting for me in that tower, waiting for my precious cargo before they could make a move. And if they were somehow found before I got there… I didn't want to think about it. Even a death in the mind is a death.
I sprinted like hell until I collapsed in the cool shade inside the base of the tower. I listened hard. I didn't hear a single shot. No heavy men's voices. Nothing. Just the birds chirping, and the yellow ice cream sunrise glazing through the haze onto a grimy mural to forward progress. I felt for my pocket - the bullets rustled under my hand, a soft song guaranteeing at least one more night of glory among my squad.
I saw some of their faces peering down at me from the mezzanine level, wide-eyed and wild-haired, both dark like mine. We could all have been sisters, and maybe we were. We wouldn't ever be anything else, so why not? Picking myself up, I realized I felt no pain, even though I knew my body would show me bruises in the morning. I was made for this world after all. Or at least, the version of me that I changed into wasn't able to see the changes as changes anymore.
|# ? Mar 16, 2020 06:55|
I should have known when I saw the gloves, really. They were beautiful things, tanned calfskin, soft as butter and she was wearing them even though it was a warm night.
I’d had no plans for the night, had been considering going home for a wank and a nap, but then I’d seen her, across the bar, and our eyes had touched and not let go. Then she’d bought me a drink and we’d talked to each other for an hour and a half, chatter, observations, secrets, a wonderful, meandering conversation that babbled like a brook and curled around and back on itself like a river.
Dave the bartender tapped the last call bell, and she frowned, leaned forward.
“I’d like to go home with you, but there’s a problem,” she said.
She touched my neck with her gloved hand and I shivered, like I was cold. Her own face, which had been animated and electric, stilled.
“You mean, globally, like climate change? Human nature? Socks. Who invented socks.”
“Not socks; I hate them. No, there was an accident, at the power plant. I touched the wrong thing.”
I put my hand on hers, pulled it up and let it press into my cheek. Was I imagining it or was there a fine vibration, like a wire packed full of electrons humming with their desire to go to ground?
“I didn’t think it worked that way? Do you have it all stored up inside you?”
She squeezed my cheek, then slid it down from under my hand, curled them together in her lap. “They said it was an astonishing anomaly, and let me go. I gave one of the people a nasty shock, I’m afraid. I think he got better.”
I gulped, then downed my drink. The over-hopped IPA tasted suddenly sour and I wondered why I drank them. Now that I thought about it, she did have that quality. Magnetic. Charged. The booze in me argued for boldness, the guileless intensity of her eyes for caution. The hops pushed me over the line and the reached up towards her cheek. Not touching, adjacent. I felt the hairs on the back of my fingers erect, quivering.
“So if I touch your face…”
“You will get a shock. I’m sorry, it’s just how it is.”
My hand was trembling. I brought it closer to her smooth cheek. She was looking in my eyes with an expression that was, not blank, but calm. As though she didn’t know what I was going to do, but knew that it would be the right thing for me to do.
I felt the tension in the skin of my fingertips. I’d been shocked once climbing over an electric fence in Blenheim, the wire had fallen off the post and hidden itself in the tall grass. I still had the scar, a perfectly round burn the size of a ladybird on my ankle.
I pulled my hand back. Her eyed followed them, then she looked back at me.
“Well, then.” She didn’t sound angry, or sad.
We looked at each other, then I took her shoulder in one hand and leant forward, one movement, kissed her on her full, slightly parted lips.
It hit me with a snapping crackle like a flashbulb to the brain and I went back off my chair like a toppled telegraph pole.
I opened my eyes to see her, kneeling down on the sticky carpet of the bar, face a few inches above mine.
"I think he wants us to go," she said. Dave was hovering behind her with a complicated expression on his honest bartender face. She bent down and kissed me again, warm, soft.
"Was that ... was that all? Are you, uh, discharged?"
She smiled. Her eyes were dancing. "We have a few days. Shall we go?" She pulled off her glove and ran cool pale fingertips down my cheek. "One thing. We might need to go shopping in the morning; my treat."
I sniffed as I clambered to my feet and looked down. A thin trail of smoke was curling up from the carbonised soles of my shoes.
|# ? Mar 16, 2020 08:16|
|# ? Mar 16, 2020 08:45|
There's a run on the store, everyone's walking out grabbing the same thing, and supplies are running low. But that one thing? It's not what most people would expect.
|# ? Mar 16, 2020 18:08|
At the Gates of Madness and Great Deals
“Death!” came the cry of the store-goers. “Death and glory!”
The worried looking manager turned the sign over from ‘closed’ to ‘open,’ then made the sign of the cross and nodded at a burly looking man to unlock the door.
The crowd roared, and they stormed through the store doors, some smashing impatiently into the glass of the sensor door, others bowling over hapless employees. The burly man was knocked about like a bowling pin trapped in a garbage disposal, to continue that metaphor. The manager started yelling into his little radio earphone-wire microphone thing that all managers seem to have.
The crowd aimed itself like a thrown spear, rushing toward their goal. They passed by bags of beans, pallets of rice, towers of bottled water—even ran past a fully stocked toilet paper aisle in their madness!
“Hold fast,” whispered the electronics department co-manager, who was salaried so the company didn’t have to pay him overtime (despite this being illegal in his state). “Come hell, high water, or—”
The spear-point arrived.
“LIMIT TWO PER CUSTOMER!” the co-manager screamed. He may as well have told the wind, or an empty bowling alley. The customers scoured the shelf clean like the starved piranhas people showed Theodore Roosevelt that one time.
Then the customers left, most empty handed, screaming, sobbing, weeping in dismay. Everything else remained, round that colossal wreck, bountifully stocked, though the central shelf was bare. And on the pedestal of that main display, these words appeared:
Limited Edition iPhone 11 Coronavirus Resistant Case
Guaranteed to keep both you and your phone safe!*
*These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA or CDC for accuracy
|# ? Mar 16, 2020 20:14|
The Kitchen Paper Caper
The MacGowans had always been a bit strange. So when the lot of them turned up at my checkout each with their own trolley, I wasn’t in the least bit surprised. I’d seen weirder things over the past few days. Trevor MacGowan tipped his hat at me as I scanned pack after pack of kitchen towels.
“No toilet paper for you, huh?” I remarked, knowing that Pete had been rationing the restock to a few dozen packs of coveted rolls every hour. The store was quiet at this time of morning, so they should have been able to grab a few.
Old Trevor just grunted at me and paid. I repeated the same process with Annie. And Todd. And Rachel. And Ray. Even little Bobbie carried a couple of packs in his tiny arms.
A little while later, Pete came over and said, “We’re completely out of kitchen paper.”
“Have you checked the back?”
“Yeah, we never sell that many. No more till next Tuesday.”
We looked at each other and sighed. Why should we care, right?
On my way home from my shift, a woman in a face mask looked alarmed and crossed the street when she saw me coming. I had to walk by the MacGowans’ place on my way. It was big and for as long as I remember it looked like it was falling down.
The gates stood open and the whole family was in the driveway. Ray was industriously sawing kitchen rolls in half on his workbench, and his father was piling the halves up on the table beside him. The women were nailing a sign to the fence which read, “toilet paper, $50/roll”.
|# ? Mar 16, 2020 21:45|
Time Enough At Last
On the last day before quarantine, the crowds descend on the hobby shops. The last Radio Shack in town is open all night, its back shelves skeletonized: transistors and components, DIY robot kits and beginners' 3D printers, all gone into restless hands.
The projects begin that night; the city streets are silent, but the windows glow until dawn. Retired Boy Scouts finally build their crystal radios. Office workers turn their living rooms into model-railroad valleys. Candle-making kits and jewelry tools emerge from storage. Thousands under quarantine think the same thought: if not now, when?
Soon enough, old ham radios and walkie-talkies come online. Voices crackle across warm, rediscovered frequencies. The factories and office buildings are silent, but the city hums with industry, and with joy.
|# ? Mar 16, 2020 23:43|
And For My Next Trick
For years we couldn't shift these things, no matter how hard we tried. Plastic magic wands. You know, the black kind with the white ends? I've had the cardboard box sat under the tills for years.
I was in the shop one morning, leaning back on my chair, when I heard the door chime do its little ting-a-ling.
"Crap," I thought, "I haven't turned the lights on!"
So I grabbed one of these pieces of junk from the cardboard box. I leant over and poked the light switch with it from my chair.
It was a middle aged guy who came into the store. He was wearing a mask , rubber gloves, plastic goggles and an apron. I don't think I've ever seen such paranoia.
He said, "that's such a good idea!"
Right behind him, this old woman shuffled in, she asked the guy,
"what is a good idea?"
"Touching the switches with a plastic rod so you don't catch the virus from it."
"Well I'll take it from you, doctor," said the old woman.
"That's right!" I said, "these plastic wands even have detachable ends so you can boil the germs off one while you're using the other."
"And inside of here," I said, "there's, not one, but seven free handkerchiefs all tied together for ease of access."
Well, I can't believe they bought it. Not just those two, but everyone. I just need to figure out how to tie this in with scooby strings, yo-yo's and fidget spinners now.
Azza Bamboo fucked around with this message at 01:53 on Mar 17, 2020
|# ? Mar 17, 2020 01:45|
The Judiciary's in the spotlight
This was a solid week of stories, all around. Even our loser, PTSDeedly Do's Barter started out pretty strong. Shame about the second half, though.
Three is a magic number, and there were three that stood out above the others. So HMs go out to Armack's 10^0: Orange Goop and Solipsism Too and Carl Killer Miller'sThe Circle, Complete .
And the win goes to Sitting Here's Six-and-six
It's a big red beautiful
|# ? Mar 17, 2020 07:23|
|# ? Oct 4, 2022 19:40|
Thunderdome 397: at the end of the tunnel.
this week is very simple. No matter how your story begins, it will end with someone attaining their heart's desire, and it's all wonderful. It's up to you to decide how they get there.
you may request a heart's desire when you sign up and I will assign you a flashrule, something fulfilling for your character(s) to attain.
here's some things that will earn you a negative mention and—even worse—evoke my displeasure:
Signup deadline: Friday, March 20, 11:59 PM PST
Submission deadline: Sunday, March 22,11:59 PM PST
Your character(s) achieves...
yoruichi - the perfect wind in their hair.
Simply Simon - An embrace whose warmth never fades
Anomalous Amalgam - The completion of a masterpiece
Carl Killer Miller - An exquisite song
PTSDeedlydoo - An unforgettable gift
flerp - A friend who will never leave
Thranguy - The taste of something almost unbearably exquisite
Black Griffon - a wish fulfilled beyond wildest dreams
kurona_bright - a party that glows with love
Captain_person - words that heal the mind
Armack - A safe house for the soul
solitair - A garden of delicate life
randompaul - A pillar of strength (literally or figuratively)
Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 17:21 on Mar 23, 2020
|# ? Mar 17, 2020 08:42|