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Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


In, flash

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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME





your character(s) achieve...

Yoruichi posted:

In, flash

the perfect wind in their hair.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME





quoting the prompt for the new page...

Sitting Here posted:

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:

  • Stories where an evil or lovely person gets their evil or lovely heart's desire won't fly.
  • No "be careful what you wish for" bullshit.
  • No tragic endings or pyrrhic victories.

Wordcount: 1300
Signup deadline: Friday, March 20, 11:59 PM PST
Submission deadline: Sunday, March 22,11:59 PM PST

Judges:
sitting here
<3
<3

Desirers

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔
in

flash

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME





Your character(s) achieve...


An embrace whose warmth never fades.

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo
Doctor Rope
In flash

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

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


In, flash plz

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Crits week 396

PTSDeedly Do Barter
This story is told very clinically. And while I can tell one of the main points of your story was to represent the transactional nature of our society, which can definitely be cold and calculating, barter has a longer history of being more personal and emotional. I think I can see you trying to go for that as well, but it doesn’t land since all of the characters come across flat, with no depth. There are a lot of tough situations in your story but there’s no emotion in them to connect the reader.

The style is also heavy on telling and not in a believable way. I’m not even sure that I believe the MC enjoys his life with his dog. Everything is just too simple. This for that, that for this. I think you might have taken your song prompt a little too literally. I would have liked to see Brett, even in retirement, do a little more mentoring of the MC, help him grow. While his dad helped him understand reciprocity of goods, Brett could be like a second father that teaches him reciprocity of feeling.

Anomalous Amalgam Labor & Industry
You’ve done a fairly good job of setting up your scene. I think this is a good introduction but to a longer story. Some of the details that you include (physical appearance of MC, functionality of various machinery, etc) enhance the setting nicely, but for a story that’s only 1300 words, detract from the immediate narrative you need to present

There isn’t a good sense of the stakes in this story. And the ending reinforces that with a “no big deal” playing it off, Vadim not trying harder to report the issue with the flight deck, and just casually mentioning it to Ora before getting to the more important moment of complaining about the boss. And I’d love to see the relationships between your characters have more detail. As it is, we just see the edges of their histories together.

Overall, I’d like to read more about these characters in this setting, but in the limited word count, your main problem doesn’t carry the weight (heh) that you might have wanted it to.

QuoProQuid Space Travel
Thank you for actually sending them into space! I’m sure there was a good story to be told about children and imagination, but I was much more looking forward to actually wandering about the solar system inside the closet.

I wonder about the specificity in Mary’s recitation of how much the posters and space helmet cost. If these details were setting her up to be a precise and exacting person, then I think it was important to show what the knowledge of the vastness in the closet did to change her outlook or at least to see her try to cope with it. This may have been your intent, but, if so, it wasn’t as clear as it needed to be.

The ending mirrors the opening nicely, though the “wake up to question if it was real” ending doesn’t feel very satisfying.

Armack 10^0: Orange Goop and Solipsism Too
Thanks for introducing me to the Boltzmann Brain. Everything you write makes sense. I can follow your logic, I just don’t understand exactly how it all fits together and exactly what point it’s trying to make. This story comes across almost as if you’ve had this idea floating around in your thoughts for a while and wanted an excuse to write a story about it. Your writing is competent so I don’t have much more to add.

On the other hand, my husband (who is a frequenter of C-SPAM) loves your story and says he absolutely gets what you’re putting down. He explained to me about the absurdity of a traumatic situation that we’re trying desperately to escape only to realize that it continues to expand and how can we expect to help others when what are we but alone in the universe. But then there might be a glimmer of hope at the end. So he feels a connection.

And the other judges agreed with the success of this story. So I think the takeaway message here is every audience is not your audience, and that's okay! Someone is your audience.

Sitting Here Six-and-six
For some reason my first thought when reading the consideration of the hands while tripping on shrooms was of a stoner doing the same while considering their own hands. “They call 'em ‘fingers,’ but I never see 'em fing.”

I go back and forth on whether this narrative needed to be told in the second person or whether third would have worked just as well. With the third readers are likely to be like the mother/villagers and see the MC as other and therefore unnatural, whereas the second person should help the reader to identify as the MC and feel stronger empathy for the situation she finds herself in. But with the directness of second there’s also the chance that the reader doesn’t go along with the conceit and disagrees with what they are told is the case creating a dissonance.

But this is me working my way through literary possibilities and it has little to do with your story as a whole since I think it very much works. It’s real and elicits emotion. And it’s simple. There isn’t a lot for a reader to get caught up on here. I think you could have played up the divine angle with the visions a bit more since that would fit better with the world you’ve presented. You use a lot of colons. That’s not good or bad, just something I noticed about this story. That and your long sentences, which work for the rhythm of the story. A complete and enjoyable work.

Carl Killer Miller The Circle Complete
On the story level, this really strikes me. The only thing I don’t like about it is the inevitability of the new life coming filled with strife and suffering. But that’s the point of the wheel, so I’m just railing against the nature of reality. I think the narrative gets a little unclear in the final falling scene, but you could easily simplify. And though very real, the life struggles seem a bit too perfectly structured. And that might be down to the number of words you had to work with. So there wasn’t much room for further individualizing details.

On an execution level I appreciate how the short sentences really drive the reader through. And even though your number of details is low, as mentioned before, you still manage to evoke very distinct images in each of the “flashbacks”. The reader is there and can understand the emotions and pain of the character. Also, you might need to go back through and look at the dialogue between the card flipper and shell-less soul. Who was speaking wasn't always immediately clear and it did take me out of the flow of the story when figuring it out.

Good stuff.

Antivehicular First Flight
I’m sure you wondered just how long you could get away with an opening of mostly verbs. And I think the answer is actually a little bit longer. But what you have here is just fine. You had to be very deliberate about your choices here and I think you chose well. I kind of want them all to be arranged a bit more lyrically to give it all a flow. Though I don’t think there is anything wrong necessarily with the abrupt and jagged feeling of their current arrangement. Depending on the scene you wanted to set. Thinking about how you end the work, I think a more musical arrangement might have fit better. A sort of siren song.

I kind of want the MC to be more shocked with their first words after rematerializing. Or if not shocked then something that indicates how weird that feels. I think it would tie in well to the other details indicating how being seems weird after all the acting.

It’s a short piece, but I think it mostly works. Your ending doesn’t quite fit and is what lets the whole narrative down. I think it grounds the story in reality more than it wants. I think this story can go places with a little more time and words.

SlipUp The Bastard
I find it remarkable how much of this story is true. The death by ball injury and exploding carcass are ripe for good humor. Though some of it isn’t true and it’s not good to be pulled out of the story by having to consult history that you only half remember but are pretty sure it isn’t that. It was impossible for William to betray the Magna Carta. He predated it by almost 200 years. There are a lot of other little things about this that rankle: abby instead of abbey, need for an editing pass to catch typos, some sentence order that could have been rearranged for clarity.

I think you do a good job of giving voice to an angry knight, but the reader doesn’t get a specific explanation of why the knight turned against the king he once was loyal to. Was it just that he got nothing from the king after he died? That is the only thing stated in the narrative but that snub doesn’t seem in proportion to the ire? And when exactly did the change in attitude occur? During the journey to France with the body? Before/after?

You have all the elements of a good story to tell. Kings are polarizing, they leave a lot of drama in their wake. You just need to find the right character voice/motivation and be a bit clearer in the narrative in how you get there. Ditch the last sentence.

Something Else Multiply
This is 2/3 there. What we have here has the present action, which is very engaging and you describe it so that the reader can almost breathe in the dust of the city and feel the need to remain inconspicuous. The story has establishing past for the MC. Hearing about her family and their fates/roles in the present action gives us a sense of the progression of the MC and her view of the war.

But what we don’t get is the context of the present action. What is the purpose of the MC’s squad? How do they fit into the overall war? Why are they all girls (I think clones, but need more context for that too)? Why do they need bullets and seemingly nothing else off of the dead bodies? What will happen if she’s caught?

As previously mentioned, your descriptions are fantastic for helping the reader feel present in the story. My favorite is “the yellow ice cream sunrise” I know exactly what that is. And I like the theme of changing to fit the situation but eventually the changes are no longer that and perhaps they never were.

Sebmojo PPE
In my head, this is the introduction to a character in a comic. One of the newer, edgier comics/graphic novels. It does feel like just a beginning when we don’t need to know much about either party since that will be revealed later. Right now it is enough to see how a “normal” interaction goes with our hero.

And if this is what you intended, great! It works. A few typos, but since I think I remember someone saying you were typing to the very last moment, then it’s likely you didn’t have time to proof.

If instead, you were going for something deeper or with more meaning, then I missed that. And your characters are almost too perfect for anything else. Both characters are self-assured and appear free from personality flaws. And that would hold this back from being anything other than a character piece.

But yeah, definitely look into the super hero angle.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔
Judgecrits week 396

PTSDeedly Doo - Barter

This is an extremely straightforward piece. This can be quite fine, and I personally like stories that do not leave me guessing, but sadly you did not manage to write a narrative that particularly engrossed me. If I were to sum your plot up, I’d call it “wish-fulfilment under capitalism”. You touch on themes of inheritance, old labor and fairness, which can be extremely powerful especially given our times, but you do not manage to hold tension or conflict for more than a few sentences at a time, which is a shame.

For example, the sister ghosts the protagonist, and he’s just accepting of that, finds a different solution almost immediately, and when she eventually returns, he bears no grudge and is just pure and good. I get that you’re building a bridge to the beginning, where you lay out (slowly and kind of painfully) that his father impressed certain values on him and he follows those, but “he was raised to be a good person and thus does good things later in life” is not at all interesting, I’m sorry.

As for style, it’s a very mixed bag. Some of your turns of phrases are good - I like your description of the father as a symbol more than a person, and the “humid lumber smell” of the mill is evocative, but often your descriptions are very plain and frankly boring. “Tragically, he fell ill and died at the age of sixty.” is a terrible sentence and a prime example for why people get told that adverbs are of the devil. There is absolutely zero emotion in this utterly pivotal moment of the protag’s life. And that’s not the only such sentence. Most of them are too long to boot, containing just a little bit too much dry information, that could be put into a different sentence and spruced up to put more weight on each plot point.

Your dialogue suffers from similar issues - it’s often awkward, and needs to be snappier in general. Example:
“I understand that business relationships are built on trust, and trust can only be gained through years of consistency.”
Nobody would ever say that out loud, and you might realize that if you read it to yourself in the future.

Overall, this is not good but I’m sure you can do better, starting from the core idea.


Anomalous Amalgam - Labor & Industry

What we have here is a story about someone having an incompetent manager, who in the end learns a lesson in the face of a near catastrophe. This is eerily similar to PTSDeedly Doo’s story just before you, in that it is basically wish-fulfilment under capitalism. That is, you both present a system that is deeply unfair, but show a specific example where things nonetheless turn out fine. It’s tough to see a point or message in this.

Regardless of the political aspect, your story has structural problems. In my opinion, the entire first part is useless - nothing it sets up cannot be developed elsewhere, through dialogue or in the revisit of the flight deck. In fact, your Chekov’s gun of the weak struts is so blindingly obvious that it weakens the “oh poo poo” moment later on.

Speaking of dialogue, it needs work. While your conversations are generally not terrible, sometimes they seem to just…end, and characters seemingly interrupt themselves with no good reason. Also, it’s occasionally hard to tell who is speaking. Example:

“Ora was waiting for him when he got there.

“Sorry man, Feng came down here and busted my balls about covering for you.” “

Vadim is also covering for Ora (they’re just switching jobs), and the last person mentioned in the introductory sentence is Vadim (“him”). Therefore, it’s not clear that Ora is speaking, and it took me a bit to unravel that. It doesn’t help that Vadim and Ora are on the same page about everything.

And what about Ora? If she and Vadim switched jobs and Feng forced them to switch back, then she should be working the flight deck as the near catastrophe is going down. I was expecting Vadim having to rescue her, but she’s just not there, and it’s in fact not entirely clear why it’s suddenly Vadim’s responsibility to fix the flight deck. I guess one could infer that Feng knows he’s the most qualified, but forced him to mine instead because he’s a stickler for schedules (but not really because he hosed up his own), but Feng’s simply presented as too irrational to get any kind of grasp on him.

Overall, confusing plot and message, not unsalvageable but needs a lot of work.


QuoProQuid - Space Travel

Narnia is different than what I remember

Kidding aside, this is nice. Captures the imagination of children quite well, with a little cliché but “oooh”-worthy twist at the end in the rope-burned hands.

To really set the world on fire, I think it could use a little bit more of everything. Janet should be more afraid of something going wrong at the start, Mary should be even more terrified, the planets should be grander, more awe-inspiring and threatening. Describing Pluto’s surface as arsenic-white is what I’m looking for, this should have been the tone throughout, imo.

What I’m saying is, watch a video of Sephiroth’s Supernova attack and then describe that in reverse.

Kidding again, of course.

Overall: neat but lacks a little bit extra oomph to make it really good.


Armack - 10^0: Orange Goop and Solipsism Too

I didn’t actually know about Boltzmann brains before, so that was neat to learn.

In fact, the entire piece is neat. Usually I’m not into surreal stories at all, but you do a very good job of this devolving into complete nonsense - in fact, it’s quite the opposite, the story makes perfect sense if you work backwards from the twist of what the protag is resp. realizes about themselves. I got the sense of it expanding from an isolated incident into a vast universe (much like the good is expanding, eh? eh?) and then back again, and the perspective changes were well done.

Overall, keeping this as short and sweet as your story, I liked it and it’s a fun thought experiment jumping off some seemingly random absurdity.


sitting here - Six-and-six

Wow, the first part is depressing. That’s a compliment, as you manage to dissolve that quite well in the end, but wow, it hits heavy at first. This might be the story’s biggest problem: the protag (and by extension her mother) have so many real, very lovely problems, that “just” finding some much-needed self-esteem seems to pale a little in comparison, despite you coating her transformation in words that make seem everything peachy at the end. Even her monster of a mother is happy to have her back despite spending all her life grinding her down.

Accordingly, “just take drugs it’ll turn your suicidal depression about” is a little trite, though I won’t claim expertise in either subject.

As for the style: many people hate second person, which I don’t get, it’s fully legitimate. Obviously it’s a little easier to gently caress up than more traditional styles, but you didn’t. I don’t need to slather you with more praise, you know you can write!

Overall: extremely heavy on the emotions, presents the story it wants to tell about those emotions very well. Should maybe make the story less extreme in both setup and dissolution.


Carl Killer Miller - The Circle Complete

Pretty bleak. This is a well-written tale of someone’s waste of a life, with a very interesting framing device. The latter is definitely more interesting, with the vignettes of the protagonist’s failure to amount to anything also not amounting to much - it’s a relatively standard setup of laying the foundation for how terrible of a person (and father) he is, shows the consequences of him being terrible, and then escalates - doubly, maybe not needed - into heavy illness, crime and violent death.

I wouldn’t necessarily call it cliché (just calling something that is a cliché in and of itself), but I feel like you’re making it too easy on yourself. The protag’s life as presented to him starts garbage and ends worse. What if it started with promise, but turned worse over justifiable, but wrong decisions? That would make it more tragic, and more relatable in a sense.

I really like the twist that this is not a past, but a future life - as I said, the framing device is by far the more interesting part of the story - and it makes you think, for example: what would happen if they did reach the black void before turning all the cards? Would he just die earlier, or would his soul never be born? Would that be better, considering what is to come? Was he tricked into revealing one bad card after another? It’s good that you open these questions and don’t answer them.

Overall: compelling idea hampered by somewhat mundane interstitials.


Antivehicular - First Flight

This is a nice experiment, starting with only verbs and using this to explain how being pure energy might “feel” like. It might be a little underdeveloped - despite being very short, the ending drags just a tiny bit too long, there’s a bit too much exposition - but I’d say in general, the experiment was a success.

Therefore, I want a full research paper now. I think the protagonist “gives up” a little too easily, comes back too quickly to form, and accepts too readily that yeah, he’s back in a body now and that’s FINE I GUESS but he’s going do things about that LATER MAYBE. You could expand on that even within this story.

Overall: yes this is good do more


SlipUp - The Bastard

I like how this is written, wonderfully gross. It’s sadly not quite engrossing however, as it’s over before it begins: after all, the king is already dead. You’re laying on thick how much he deserved this and how much of a hassle he still is being, but I’m not quite seeing the point. It all hinges heavily on the protagonist not abandoning their duty - and stuffing the corpse wherever, or even leaving it to rot - and even with allusions to God and such, I fail to see why he bothers.

The problem is, the language is so flowery in its justified hatred that “but still I have to do this” doesn’t quite hold up. And therefore, the central conflict it might have - the knight struggling with the terrible disgusting job he has to do - isn’t there, as he never struggles. He knows he has to do it, so he does it. And that’s the extent of the story.

Overall: It’s still enjoyable to read, so kudos for that, but you need to work more on the motivation of the knight.


Something Else - Multiply

This is grim. Not bad, though. As someone who tends to overexplain things, it’s interesting to me how you eschew exposition almost completely - you do not elaborate on who is fighting who in this war, what the cause was, if the hero brother died at some point or if he’s just off doing hero things, and so on. It does make for a somewhat strained beginning, like I was grasping at straws that deliberately weren’t there, but soon I realized that all of that doesn’t matter, you just want a snapshot of a character musing about how she even ended up inhabiting these few moments.

And that’s fine! It does leave me wanting for a little bit more, however. Some of the things that are happening, even on re-read, are a little confusing (the action of the sniper’s body being “pulled back” - I assume it’s a bullet impacting it?), and for example the protagonist elaborating on how someone must have picked through the body before…but why are there still plenty of bullets on it?

I’m also not sure if I can find true excitement in a chase scene where nobody is chasing. Even if she’s just constantly paranoid due to being a child soldier war orphan and imagining rifles trained on her that aren’t there (one shot was really fired however, if I got that correctly), that doesn’t come through either. Therefore, her reaching a save haven with others just like her doesn’t feel like much of a climax - and of course, she hasn’t “won” anything, the war will still continue and they won’t win with some 30-odd bullets more or less.

Overall: Interesting exploration of the mind of a child in terrible circumstances, but maybe doesn’t quite go far enough, both within and without.


sebmojo - PPE

This is pretty cute, and generally succeeds at being lighthearted and daring while keeping a lot of love under the surface. I enjoy how your protagonists pumps himself up to make a move, and how for a moment it seems like he might pull back; you had me there. And I was cheering for the kiss that took him off the barstool.

It’s not all rosy, however - you did get a little sloppy in places. “The hops pushed me over the line and the reached up towards her cheek.”, you write, missing a word - and that took me out of the story at a critical moment. Very unfortunate. In a similar vein, protag joking about the socks just baffled me - I thought even during the first re-read that her touch had made him hear voices, before I finally realized that he was reacting to her “problem” line. For me, the flow of conversation broke there completely, not helped by the longish action line in between - which ends with HER, not him, who is talking next.

Something meta: I’ve read quite a few stories of yours by now, and noticed that you really like metaphors. Often, they’re great, but they can get grating if overused, and once you see them as a “his style” thing, they stick out a little in what should be a naturally flowing story. Maybe my brain is uniquely wired to notice these patterns and it’s just a “me” thing, but consider this:
“a wonderful, meandering conversation that babbled like a brook and curled around and back on itself like a river.”
That’s like two things at once which flow and I get it but if it’d been just ONE comparison, I might not have gone “oh Sebby’s at it again with the thing’s-like-other-thing-thing”. Something to maybe keep in mind if other people also report the same issue going forward.

Overall: feelgood story of this week and I like those, so extremely biased thumbs up despite the smaller issues.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME





your character(s) achieve...


The completion of a masterpiece


An exquisite song

PTSDeedly Do
Nov 24, 2014

VOID-DOME LOSER 2020


thank you for roasting me!

in, flash

PTSDeedly Do fucked around with this message at 18:32 on Mar 17, 2020

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME





your character(s) achieve...

PTSDeedly Do posted:

thank you for roasting me!

in, flash

An unforgettable gift.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014
in flash

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME





your character(s) achieves...

flerp posted:

in flash

A friend who will never leave

Thranguy
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.
In and flash

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005

DOUBLE THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021
in and a flash please and thank you

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013
in, flash.

Captain_Person
Apr 7, 2013

WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?
In with a flash please

Armack
Jan 27, 2006
In. I request a heart's desire.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME





Your character(s) achieve...

Armack posted:

In. I request a heart's desire.

A safe house for the soul

Captain_Person posted:

In with a flash please

words that heal the mind


a party that glows with love

Thranguy posted:

In and flash

The taste of something almost unbearably exquisite

Black Griffon posted:

in and a flash please and thank you

a wish fulfilled beyond wildest dreams

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again

in......without a flash :c00l:

also :toxx:

SkaAndScreenplays
Dec 11, 2013

by Pragmatica
In

Solitair
Feb 18, 2014

This statement is a lie!
In, flash

RandomPauI
Nov 24, 2006


Grimey Drawer
In, because you're a pal and a confidant

arbitraryfairy
Feb 13, 2019

In!

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME





your character(s) achieve...

Solitair posted:

In, flash

A garden of delicate life

RandomPauI
Nov 24, 2006


Grimey Drawer
I have two ideas that I'm attached to, but they don't work together and I can't choose, so flash please

Saucy_Rodent
Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica
In

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME





Your character(s) achieve...

RandomPauI posted:

I have two ideas that I'm attached to, but they don't work together and I can't choose, so flash please

A pillar of strength (literally or figuratively).

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk









I'm judge this nonsense

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

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

In

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice
In

Nethilia
Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition


what's this signups are still open

in

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME





Nethilia posted:

what's this signups are still open

in

indeed!

they are closed now. Unless you really want to sign up i guess, idgaf.

BTW if you are on Discord, tomorrow afternoon (sunday, 3/22) there is going to be a one-shot rpg over voicechat—a glorified radio show for the isolated goon masses. The players are already decided but we would love to have an audience! More details will be available to members of the server. PM me for an invite.

Also, for those who aren't aware, discord upped its streaming cap from 10 to 50 for all accounts, so we've been doing frequent game nights. Please continue to take care of yourselves in this weird time by keeping in touch with your fellow humans, whether through TD or elsewhere :unsmith:

ahem.

right, enough of that soft 10-ply toilet paper bullshit. GET WRITING YOU FUCKMONGERING LINGUIPHOBES

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo
Doctor Rope

Flesnolk posted:

Sure. 1500 words, a story about a boxer but without portraying a boxing match. No pre-, post-, or mid-apocalypse. Due date, 23:59 EST on 22 March, 2020. Custom rules on request.
The Thrill of the Fight
1,403 Words

A packet of stale crackers and a too small cup of water made for a piss poor in-flight snack, but Ralph felt ‘piss-poor’ suited him just fine.

He crushed two aspirin between his teeth and washed the grit down with the lukewarm water, then leaned into the headrest.

The swelling had gone down enough in his right eye that he could see out of it again, but the bone surrounding it seemed a little less solid than it did before the fight.

Ralph probed at his face with thick, awkward fingers and out of the corner of his eye, a little girl, probably no more than five or six, stared at him from across the aisle, intrigued by the cuts and bruises on the ogre of a man.

He shot her a toothy grin that was more than a few teeth shy of a full set, and she ducked back behind her sleeping mother.

Ralph’s grin faded as he leaned back in his seat and shut his eyes. Mitt-like hands gradually clenched into a grip on the armrests as the reel of the fight played back in his mind.

Ralph bowed his shoulders forward and sunk in his chest until his spine was convex. He raised his gloves over his face, and advanced, bobbing right past a straight, and then left, under a hook.

Ralph was near crouched, looking up at Hugo’s huge panicked eyes, ready to pounce. One full uppercut with the momentum from the slight hop, the complete extension of his arm. He could have laid the kid flat. That was the moment. Right there. If he was going to do it, he should have done it then.

“I ain’t no fuckin’ sellout.” Is what he wished he had said, but he hadn’t said that. When Hugo’s manager came to him with a brief case filled with more money than Ralph would make in a year, he found the request to throw the fight pretty reasonable.

Hindsight is always 20/20 or so they say. You see everything with perfect clarity, and you chastise yourself for not having made better decisions, but on one hand, Ralph could take some time off, spend it with the girls. He could skip out on a whole circuit with the type of money they gave him to rig the game. He was tired. He had been fighting since he was a kid. At thirty-six, decades of hits were wearing on him, and he figured, maybe that’s why he really agreed to it.

Getting old, making ok money, but not enough… What’s one fight?

Everything.

Ralph exhaled, and his memory track hit play.

Throw the fight he heard, staring up at Hugo.

Hugo, wide-eyed like a child, swung with every ounce of might he had in him, definitely more than Ralph actually thought him capable of, and rammed his fist into Ralph’s skull causing capillaries to explode, skin to tear, and bone to shift under the immense pressure behind the blow. Ralph blinked once, and fell into darkness, the roar of the crowd carrying him into quiet oblivion.

* * *

Hugo was tall and lanky with a surprising amount of weight hidden in compact muscles that he spent his whole life perfecting.

His girlfriend, Alyssa, ran her fingers over his bicep and he forced a smile in her direction.

“What’s wrong, babe?” Alyssa asked. Hugo was an excellent boxer, but a terrible liar.

“It’s nothing really, or probably nothing…”

“Well, that doesn’t really tell me much, hon’?”

Hugo smiled genuinely then, but confused frustration hung over him like a cloud.

“Something about the fight?” she asked.

“Yeah.” Hugo said stoically.

Alyssa looked at him with soft eyes and his façade crumbled.

“It just feels like… it feels like there was a moment, where I was certain I was going to lose. He had me. I was already exhausted; Ralph lives up to his reputation as a monster. Gigantic, but so swift and deliberate in his movements like a cat or something.”

Hugo swallowed as his eyes raced from side to side at the cinema of his mind. Alyssa watched him.

“I led with a straight jab, but he had feinted to the left and bobbed to the right, no problem, I lead up with an overhead hook, but he’s gone, he’s under the hook and probably less than five inches from me and he looks up at me like a wild animal, a real beast, and I think, ‘oh gently caress, this is it’, and it’s probably you know, fractions of a second or some bullshit, and he’s just looking at me, lost with indecision. I can see every muscle in that right arm of his tensed up to deliver the final blow, and it doesn’t come. So, I give him everything I’ve got. Knock him out with a real haymaker. The crowd goes wild, but it doesn’t feel right…”

“You think he threw the fight?”

“I’m almost sure of it.”

“You won though. It was a good fight, right?”

“A drat good fight, but… I didn’t win it.”

“Of course you did, maybe he was hurt or-“

“He threw the fight. There’s no other way around it. I keep playing it back in my mind, and that was checkmate. He conceded, but why?”

* * *

“Hugo, baby, fantastic fuckin’ job with ol’ Ralphie boy, you really put him on his rear end!” Jason shouts as he steps into the gym.

Several boxers turn towards him, but he pays them no attention. He’s got his eyes fixed on his cash cow. Hugo Georgeson, the hottest rookie boxing has seen in years, not without some behind the scenes help, of course; help Jason was more than willing to make to ensure certain investments panned out.

Hugo pays Jason no mind, instead focusing on his trainer. A red foam baton comes at his head from the left. Hugo weaves right, leans in with a short uppercut that plants firmly into a training pad. Another foam baton swings from his right flank. Hugo can’t back away in time so he pivots into the blow with a forearm guard, steps back and lands an overhead hook, the hook he missed against Ralph, firmly onto a training pad.

“Hugo, my man, we need to talk about your next fight. That one was good, but with the way things are going, you’re sure to be a shoo-in for the championship fight in the fall.”

The trainer responds to Hugo’s shifting stance and crouches, Hugo leading the practice into a replay of the fight, and then, as Hugo’s guard is exposed, the foam baton comes up swiftly hitting Hugo in the chin, tilting his head back. No natural time allowed for a counter.

Hugo bumped elbows with the trainer as the session ended and began to towel off, coming to the ring’s edge where Jason had been waiting impatiently for him.

“Like I was saying, we need to talk about your next fight.”

“I think I’m good.”

“What?” Jason asked incredulously

“I said, I think I’m good. At least, I think I’m good with you, man.”

“What’s that poo poo supposed to mean?”

“It means I think we should go our separate ways, I don’t think you’re the right fit for me anymore.”

“Bull-loving-poo poo, you wouldn’t be where you are right now without me. You’re good, but you’re not that good, kid.”

As soon as the vitriolic spew tumbled from his mouth, Jason knew he had said too much.

Hugo craned his head, looming over him now.

Jason cleared his throat awkwardly, but it was Hugo who spoke first.

“I am good, but I want to be better. I need to be better. I know Ralph threw the last fight, and I don’t know how or why, but I know it was because of you, and so, we’re done man.”

Jason nodded, as he backed away, finding his voice again as he escaped arms reach. “That’s all fine and good, Hugo. There’s a lot of other talent out there. You need to be careful looking a gift horse in the mouth, but I understand. You gotta’ do you. Good luck, I’m sure you’ll need it.”

“gently caress off.” A nearby boxer said.

Jason smirked uneasily as he made his way out the door. The other boxer lifted his head up at Hugo in recognition, and Hugo nodded ready to accept the real challenge that awaited him.

RandomPauI
Nov 24, 2006


Grimey Drawer
No title
183 Words
Prompt: A literal or figurative pillar os strength

I was determined to turn my ideas into my stories. And there was one idea I was particularly attached to this week; a piece about a man who found what he needed in his fiance's voice. Any attempts to go with other premises never progressed past rambling sentences I couldn't stay excited about.

I tried different ways to get writing done; anything done. By Sunday that meant cleaning the apartment once I got too tense to sit still. And when I felt drained I would close my eyes, rock back and forth, and put a damp towel against my neck. And I'd think about the people important in my life and the memories with them that felt too precious to share here. The act would center me enough to write another or revise another sentence.

In the end, I couldn't write the story I wanted to write. My feelings were too fragmented and intense: their wants and needs couldn't be reconciled. But I could at least share my story. And that would work for me.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔
Phantom Heat
1297/1300 words

The candle’s flame gyrates in a mesmerizing dance, never tiring on its waxen stage, but the performance has almost reached its end. On the stump, it’s barely possible to make out carvings that once adorned the proudly erect pillar top to bottom: runes, hieroglyphs, and holy symbols. In a similar fusion of magical craft from all beliefs and cultures, a hundred-pointed star painted with blood and ash surrounds the candle. On the points of this Centagram, a ring of sleeker candles surrounds the central one like the worshippers the golden calf.

All this knowledge, all this power drawn from any possible and impossible occult source, with one goal: to keep the flame alive, to sustain Hubert’s lover.

۞۞۞

When Abadin had arrived at the university, he had been so fascinating, so exotic. Smoldering eyes sharpened by the same charcoal lines he drew on his plucked eyebrows, preened like nobody else where Hubert lived. He pushed for them to become study partners, and while poring over the same book, Hubert would get lost drinking in Abadin’s scent of foreign spices. All courage gather, Hubert asked about them, and earned a smile radiating the sadness of a lonely desert. Together they mourned flavors lost.

The very next day, still tired from sleep lost dreaming of olive skin pressed against his, Hubert made his way to the big market. And with enough persistence, and almost all of his savings, he finally obtained what he was looking for: a single seed from half the world away.
More studying, horticultural, in languages so frustratingly foreign. But Abadin was so helpful, so gentle teaching Hubert characters flowing so much more gracefully than his own harsh scripture.

Finally, after months of waking to the expectation of finding the exotic plant shriveled, Hubert had his perfect gift. A chili pepper he presented Abadin on a bed of satin, and his friend’s kohl dissolved when he saw it, and this was how they became more than friends.

Soon, a coveted degree celebrated in intimate embrace. Hidden kisses lingering for hours as they bought a house for research, food and love. Their laboratory grew as did their affection, the chili plant prospered and slowly, Hubert learned to appreciate its heat, accompanied by Abadin’s gentle mocking laughter.

But then, the laughter became raspy. His breath labored, and their bed turned from a place for fiery embraces to one of rest. Abadin had taken ill with a flu his foreign body was not used to, burning up with a fever a local might shrug off.

They had studied medicine as well, had all the resources, the herbs, the tinctures. Hubert never slept these days as he mixed ointment after potion, with a restless energy he’d last expended on winning Abadin’s love. But the fight for his life, he lost.

And thus, he turned beyond life. Days, then weeks spent poring over books as Abadin wasted away. He kept smiling this drat smile, saying it would be fine, that Hubert should just lay with him and hold him and that was all he needed. But Hubert knew that this was the only way, and if he just succeeded, they would have all the time in the world to embrace, entwine their undying flames.

So Abadin’s last hot breath left his lips as Hubert held a candle, not his lover’s hand. But through his multitude of magics, Hubert did succeed in this: matchlessly, the candle ignited, housing Abadin’s spirit until Hubert could find a new vessel.

He’d spent more time than he liked on that quest. Every morning again fearing that over night, the candle had gone out. The life of Abadin for weeks threatened by every gust.

But here Hubert stands now, ready to clad Abadin again in life. An orphan youth that won’t be missed is bound to a wall inside a samesuch Centagram as on the floor; its magic paralyzes him with eyes wide open. In them, the quivering flame reflects, which will replace his spirit.

Hubert starts the ritual, lights candle after candle, with a match lit from Abadin himself. With each tiny flame, the room grows brighter than it should, and after half are lit, going on is like climbing into an active crater. But as he endured the chili’s heat that coated his palate, Hubert pushes onwards, even as the firey circle singes his hair and dries his skin. In the center, Abadin seems frozen in anticipation.

As the match touches the last wick, the entire Centagram flares up, each line in unison. The blaze unites in one bonfire, consuming the candles all, and something attempt to rise, a protuberance like an outstretched hand; but it collapses, lacking strength!

Hubert curses, upends his desk and throws it in the ring of fire. Not enough. The bed must burn, he drags it in as the youth’s eyes grow wider still beholding his obsession.
Almost high enough the fire roars. The books are next, their words the fuel for this mad endeavor anyway. And still, the fire craves, what else…

The chili plant! It won’t burn well, but this is magic; its heat a symbol.

In it goes.

For a moment, it seems this painful sacrifice was still in vain. But then, with a flash a fiery tornado builds, gathers all the fire, a magnificent pillar scorching the ceiling, and then it settles in humanoid form. A burning effigy, a djinn, Abadin lives as fire.

With haste, Hubert explains what Abadin has to do, as his lover’s glory burns off his eyebrows and parches his mouth. He gestures to the youth, and the head with features obscured by licking plumes turns towards him. In the captive’s eyes, the fire fades.

But it is Abadin’s reflection which wanes. Already, the magic falters, and he does not move to enter his new body. Hubert falls to his knees, crawls closer, his hair catching fire. He pleads through cracking lips. But Abadin shakes his head, and from his body draws an item, a shining smooth unburned perfect chili pepper.

This hits him as if the djinn had driven a flaming fist into Hubert’s stomach, and for the first time since Abadin took ill, his lover opens his eyes to reality. Sees the ashes of his life twirling in the firestorm. Sees all the time he burned and wasted, to gain back a warm embrace he himself denied his dying lover. Sees the terrified victim he would have sacrificed in his obsession.

And so Hubert stands up and moves to free the youth, but stumbles in the stifling heat, succumbing to the fever he infected himself with. In despair, he turns to the djinn, and imagines in his empty face the lonely desert smile. Abadin throws his arm out, and a ball of fire ignites the ropes holding the youth, who falls out of the Centagram, freed from the spell. As his victim flees, Hubert attempts a scream an apology he recognizes as inadequate, but the fire has robbed him of all words. His skin feels crackling like a roasted chicken’s, but still he crawls closer to reach out, grab the chili and Abadin’s singeing hand, and manages one last request.

His lover obliges and draws him into the embrace they both desired for so long.

۞۞۞

Once the flames have died down, from the ruins of the house a scorched figure will emerge. Hubert will be bald and scarred but twice alive. And for the rest of his long life, he’ll feel it on his back: the imprint of two burning arms. Whenever Hubert thinks of Abadin, they will radiate a phantom heat like a chili pepper hours after consumption. A permanent reminder that through this final fiery embrace, Abadin’s spirit will forever live in Hubert, smiling his warm desert smile.

PTSDeedly Do
Nov 24, 2014

VOID-DOME LOSER 2020


At Their Estate
891 Words

I was waiting beside the paper doors, trying not to listen to the muffled voices coming from behind them. Other unfamiliar doors, shining translucent in the day, dappled the length of this plain hallway which extended into the Sato mansion. Standing there in my American suit, waiting on my mother to finish conferring with my fiancée Amaya’s parents, I felt like a costumed child anticipating the cane. I surely could not stay there beside the doors: I imagined some distant relative coming through them, halting at the sight of me, rushing up to me, shaking my shoulders crying: “Who are you? Why are you here? Have you been spying on Mr. Sato?”. But what alternative did I have? I could not go exploring the unfamiliar house like a western explorer, traipsing through unknown room after unknown room like I belonged there.

A door rasped shut at the end of the hall. I turned to see a barefooted teenager in a black kimono striding towards me. “Are you John?” she said.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Amaya’s waiting in the parlor-- come on!” she said.

I followed her through the door she had come through.

“Why am I supposed to call you John?” she asked.

“Am I allowed to know who you are, first?”

“I’m Amaya’s sister.”

“Well, sister, you know how your dad works in the civil service? I’m trying to do that too.”

“But he doesn’t use an American name!”

“Since when does your dad allow you to use his first name? Anyways, the reason that I’m John is that the position I’m trying to get -- it’s being part of the new diplomat corps for America. Over there they like it when you use their kinds of names.”

I didn’t tell her that this future had been postponed, that I had run out of money at the university, and had been forced to run home to my parents’ farm. I may as well have been coming from the other side of the Pacific. My parents had been instrumental in arranging my engagement to Amaya. An arrangement facilitated, to the best of my knowledge, by the prestige of my anticipated position. I had wanted that life so fervently that I had tried to purchase it, to make it solid through the imported suit, the English novels, the gramophone. The purchases that I didn’t know I couldn’t afford, which now crowded my little room at home, filling it with a sense of fradulence. This, I knew implicitly, was the explanation my parents would be muttering to the embarrassed Sato parents.

We entered the parlor. I could scarcely take in the room before Amaya was on me, kissing me, the skirt of her white gown settling like a parachute over the both of us on the floor.

“I haven’t seen you in so long!” she exclaimed. “I can’t believe this is happening! We’re finally planning it!”

“I missed you too,” I said. I couldn’t look at her. Was it wrong to let her think that nothing was wrong, that the engagement would continue as planned?

The news would arrive to her at some point: be it from me or from her parents. I wasn’t going to ruin our last hours together. “Okay, so tell me what you have in mind for the wedding.”

She had been thinking about it for a long time. So had I. She sketched me an image of a great dance-floor by the seaside, with a bandstand set up in front of the ocean. The dance floor would carry forty wheeled tables for four hundred people, each table decorated with twenty sea lilies. On that bandstand we would have an American band, with ten trumpets, and an American ceremony, with a public declaration of love sealed by a public kiss in front of the roiling crowds of family.

“My grandpa, and your grandpa, and my grandma, and your grandma, they’re all going to be absolutely scandalized by this,” she finished with glee. It was a perfect, expensive picture. She pressed her body even closer to mine, and I felt myself sink even further into dread.

“There’s something I need to tell you,” I began.

But before I could explain anything, the door opened, and Mr. Sato strode into the center of the room. My parents were standing in the doorway, and were staring at him with red faces. “John,” he addressed me.

“Your parents have told me that you cannot return to Tokyo. They say that you have returned home after exhausting their savings. So it doesn’t seem like you’ll be able to sit for the civil service examinations. Is that the case?”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I began to repeat, to Mr. Sato or my parents or Amaya I don’t know.

“I wasn’t finished. You understand that we are a moneyed family, and that we do not wish our children to marry into poverty.”

“Yes, yes, of course.”

“We have our childrens’ welfare in mind, understand? Amaya hasn’t stopped talking about you since you left, and we want her to be happy, but we are worried about your situation, you understand? So if you and Amaya are bound to marry, as it seems impossible to stop, I will be forced to fund the remainder of your education.”

I couldn’t respond, because I couldn’t breathe.

“Why are you crying?” Amaya said.

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo
Doctor Rope
Left Behind
1,300 Words

Kanoko soldered an angled joint that sprung up from a used circuit board, and clipped the endings off, forming a nice bead with the soldering iron on the tiny prong that stood erect where the joint was.

She unscrewed a panel on the back of the water pump and pulled out the burned out, cobweb covered circuitry of the old machinery and replaced it with her freshly soldered board, connecting the circuitry’s various wires and connectors.

A few short minutes later, the piston came to life, slowly rising into the sky before methodically hammering back into the machinery at the apex of its climb. Water collection resumed and the onlooking villagers collectively breathed a sigh of relief.

“Praise be to the Gods, we’ve been saved!” an older man called out and children gleefully began to play again as tension was lifted.

“A little praise in my direction would be nice…” Kanoko muttered under her breath, but she waved and smiled at the crowd who had gathered to watch her work.

The tribe elder approached Kanoko with a leather-bound parcel.

“It is not much, but it is what we can afford to spare. You have done us a great service, Kanoko.”

Kanoko took the package and examined its contents. Bushels of yucca, corn and as requested, all the scrap they could find. Old bulbs, Wires, and shell casings. Spare parts, but ultimately nothing she needed. Kanoko graciously accepted, rebound her package, and trailed away from the village leaving them to once again enjoy water.

* * *

It had been a week since Kanoko fixed that village’s water supply, but her own supply was starting to run low, and she still had another three days travel back to her bunker.

Ralston, a small junker settlement, was nearby and her father’s old friend, Orland, had a shop there.

It was just after night fall when she got to Orland’s and the old man was hunkered over a panel of wires and circuits that seemed to be put together haphazardly.

“Mr. Orland, how long has it been?”

His hand slipped with the soldering iron, and a circuit sparked with a small snapping sound before a small wisp of smoke trailed away from it.

“Dag-blasted! Can’t you see the shop’s closed! I’ve got half a mind to… Well, I’ll be damned. If it isn’t Takeda’s little girl all grown up.”

“In the flesh.”

“I heard about your dad’s passing, what? Five years ago, now?”

“That’s right, it was an accident. The Reclamation Committee had him working on artifacts left by the visitors and one of the devices became unstable. An explosion claimed his life and the lives of four others working on the project.”

“Jesus… I’m sorry for your loss.”

“It’s okay, it’s in the past now, but I wish I knew what went wrong.”

“He’d always come back with the strangest objects from the Visitation Sites. Most of them with no discernible mechanisms that could be disassembled or means of understanding their function. Disparate parts of some unknown whole.”

Kanoko’s eyes lit up then. “Do you still have any of them?”

“Of what?”

“The objects.”

“Yeah, I’ve got a whole crate filled with the things. I’ve traded off bits and pieces to collectors, but what’s left is yours if you want them.”

“You have no idea how much I would appreciate that.”

“Why? You been following in your dad’s footsteps?”

“A little. I think you’re righter than you know about the parts of a whole. Shame you traded some parts off, but I’m sure I’ll find something of use in there.”

Orland pulled a dust covered blanket from a footlocker sized crate filled with metallic orbs, translucent fuse like cylinders and obsidian hued fragments with surfaces that swirled and rippled at the faintest touch.

Kanoko carefully removed and examined each object in front of Orland, arranging them by similarity until she came across a small cube that fit in the palm of her hand. It was like the cylinders, mostly translucent, but inside it was a tiny arc of purple light that coalesced on itself endlessly.

“A heart. My God, he brought you a heart…”

“A what now?”

“These bits and pieces, gruesome as it sounds, are body parts. Not like yours and mine, but parts of various living machines.”

“So, they came here to die?”

“I think they came here to be fixed.”

“Sounds like work best left to an official and not a couple of Junkers.”

“Maybe not, but it’s the work my father started. The Reclamation Committee won’t release any additional details about his work and warned me that I already knew more about it than I should, but I’ve got to know. I know he was close to figuring something out.”

“…and then something went wrong. You need to be careful, Kanoko. Your father would haunt me for the rest of my days if I let you go off doing something that might end your own life.”

“You’ll have to forgive me, Orland, but I’m afraid you don’t really have a say in the matter.”

Orland’s jaw hung slack, but then he shut it and nodded.

“Like I said, it’s yours, just don’t go blowing yourself up, ok!”

“I won’t” she said reaching out to give the old man a hug.

* * *

Water resupplied and gifted an unexpected boon of parts, Kanoko made an uneventful journey back to her bunker and took the night she returned to rest, but hardly slept as her mind raced over different possibilities with the parts Orland gave her.

At dawn, she headed straight to the lab where she had several other similar objects arranged in what appeared to be an incomplete bipedal form.

She arranged the additional parts along the structure of the form and bridged frayed alien circuitry as best she could from the diagrams her father left behind.

There was so much about the devices that was just beyond human understanding, but they had come close to something. A breakthrough, and now Kanoko, had come closer than even her father.

Kanoko recalled her father’s writings on the heart as she set to work fastening and arranging the components.

‘The heart is a power source. We’ve only managed to find inert devices, but I believe there may be a way to recharge the heart.’

The thing in front of her, looked far from human and completely alien in origin. The alloy fragments molded impossibly like putty against the chassis of the machine through properties that defied Kanoko’s understanding of the physical world, but at the same time, there was something instinctual about the actions. Ritualistic almost, like an otherworldly mummification, the instructions coming from a primal place.

The alloys worked themselves deeper into the framework forming new circuitry, but it was missing that one crucial piece, the heart.

Kanoko reached for the cube last and watched the cold spark inside it churn in on itself like a tiny tempest. She placed it in the chassis, and – nothing.

The corpse of something not of this world, lay there, whole for the first time in who knows how long, yet something still was missing.

Kanoko noticed then that a network of clear hair thin wire had wove itself through the form and that tiny raised nodule had formed on the heart cube into a point.

“It couldn’t be that simple could it?”

She pressed her thumb against the point until a tiny trickle of blood coated the point, just a drop, and the point rescinded into the cube and the blood droplet swirled inside the purple light. Then in seconds, the purple light tinged with red spread throughout the network of wires.

The machine sat up right, said, “Thank you, Kanoko,” and began to vibrate until it vanished.

Kanoko stared in disbelief.

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SlipUp
Sep 30, 2006


stayin c o o l

Flesnolk posted:

Sure. 1500 words, a story about a boxer but without portraying a boxing match. No pre-, post-, or mid-apocalypse. Due date, 23:59 EST on 22 March, 2020. Custom rules on request.

Standing Up
1103 words

“It’s over Jimmy,” my manager said to me. I was nursing my eye with a cold pack and sitting next to a pile of bloody gauze. The EMT told me that she’s had to stitch my face but she sounds distant, faded.

“It ain’t over Brad, it’s just a couple losses. It’s a bad run of luck. I’m stuck in a rut. I can get out of this,” I tell him, but he shakes his head. I felt a sting as the EMT stuck a needle in my brow and starts stitching me up right then and there.

“It’s over,” he said again to me, “it’s been a long career Jimmy and I know ya got the fire but you gotta face facts, you’re body just ain’t willing no more. That brow of yours gets busted up and starts gushing any time you take a lick. Ya don’t got the speed in your legs no more, you’re thirty but ya got the knees of a fifty-year-old.”

I wiped away the blood pooling in my right eye. The drat thing gushes like a fountain anytime it gets brushed, then I can’t see what’s going on. Too much scar tissue. I knew he was right about the knees too. Even getting out of bed ain’t as easy as it used to be. Now it sounds like god drat Rice Krispies with the way my joints snap, crackle, and pop. I tried to look away but the EMT grabbed my face and said something about staying still.

“Brad, this is all I got. Look at this,” I said as I pointed to my face, “it ain’t like I got a modeling gig waiting for me. Come on, gimme one more shot. If I just push myself hard enough—“

He cut me off, “No Jimmy. I ain’t gonna help you kill yourself. Look, I know this guy, he owns the Top Hat. I can get you a job working security.”

I laughed out loud, “I was the champ once, now you want me working as a bouncer at a strip club?”

“That was ten years ago. And hey, it beats being the janitor.”

***

I had gotten a grand for that last fight. It was enough to cover my bills for the month. poo poo. What the hell was I gonna do? I’ve been boxing ever since I was kid. I got into it when my parents moved to a new neighborhood and put me in a new school. They told me I’d make new friends but all I ever got out of it was the attention of a rat-faced redhead named Lucas. Him and his friends would jump me on the way home, beat the crap out me, and toss my books into a storm drain. Once they stole my clothes instead. I had to walk twenty blocks home holding an old newspaper around myself.

My dad seemed angrier at me than them. 'You’re an O’Connell!' He’d yell at me, as if it tarnished of his own reputation. He’s the kind of guy who would go out to the bar just get into a fight. 'Just hit ‘em back!' he'd tell me and well, that’s what led to me getting my clothes stolen that time.

After that, the old man took me to my first gym. It was at the YMCA. My dad got me a membership and told that was my allowance for the rest of the year, which was fine by me because it usually ended up in Lucas’ pocket anyway. He left, and I walked over the ring. There was an older dude there, showing another kid how to hold his hands up to protect his face. He saw me and came over to introduce himself.

“Hello, my name’s Father Pat. Are you a new student?”

“You’re not my father,” I told him. He let loose a deep wheezing laugh.

“Ah child, I am everyone’s father. I’m a priest.”

“But you teach people how to fight.”

“No my son, I teach people how to stand up for themselves.”

***

I don’t go to the Y anymore but I pass by it on the way home from the grocery store. I was only a few blocks from it when I saw some commotion on a nearby playground. There was a whole circle of kids surrounding these two girls. The bigger one hit the smaller one in the face and pushed her to the ground. The whole group of ‘em took to laughing like hyenas. I sighed and kept on walking. As I passed them I saw the big one grabbing the little one’s backpack. Lucas flashed through my mind. Ah hell.

I put my groceries down and walked over.

“Hey you loving animals, get lost. Beat it!” I yelled as I pushed my way through the ring of kids. They scattered like cockroaches in the light.

The little one was still on the ground. I helped her up and she wiped the tears from her eyes.

“It’s okay now,” I said, “My name’s Jimmy, what’s yours?”

“Beth. Thank you, sir,” she mumbled while looking down at the ground.

“It’s nothing. Hey, you gotta stand up for yourself ya know? Bullies look for people who won’t fight back.”

“I… know,” she said as she looked up to me, “I tried once, but that just made it worse.”

I picked up her backpack and handed it to her. “It’s hard, but you gotta keep at it. It helps to know what you’re doing. Here,” I said as I gently grabbed her hands, balled them up in fists, and put them just above her eyes, “this way they won’t be able to hit you in the face so easy and you’ll be able to hit them back like this.” I snapped my fingers. She smiled.

“So are you like a fighter or something?” she asked. I hesitated.

“I used to be. I guess now I just protect people.”

“Like a bodyguard?”

I chuckled. “Something like that. Tell you what, why don’t you go home and ask your parents if you can go to the Y, if they say yes then you can meet me there tomorrow after school and I’ll show you how to protect people too.”

She nodded happily. I turned to go and noticed my groceries had disappeared. I muttered a curse under my breath.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

I shook my head. ”Looks like one of those kids stole my groceries.”

She laughed. “I guess you’re the one who needs saving.”

I smiled and patted her on the head. “Sure seems that way, Beth.”

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