And that'll be the last signup.
Remember that the words in your genre are also banned, unless it's unreasonable like "and" or "the."
"drat it," says rat-born cock, crumpling up his hand-written first draft that ends with the line "he truly was the last man standing."
|# ? Jul 25, 2020 14:54|
|# ? Jun 27, 2022 20:02|
Week 416: Taboo.
Prompt: Swords and Sorcery
Banned Words: Magic, battle, wizard, witch, dragon, barbarian, castle, king, queen, kill, peace.
They Only Take A Tenth - 1,590 words.
Let's say it's your first day home after six years. All you've been thinking about for the past five hundred miles is picking up your boy in a bear hug and seeing how big he's grown. And how afterwards, you would plant a long, deep kiss on your wife's beautiful face and tell her she looks magnificent. And while you’re walking down the road, you’re glad to see that at least the farm is doing well.
Six years ago, you left to spend your life on something important. Just six years of mud and disease and death, men screaming and dying because some goblin lord decided that God liked him best and that everything he saw should belong to him. Meanwhile, everything at home was supposed to keep on going like nothing was wrong. Who was supposed to make sure the wheat was planted? Who was going to keep the servants in line? Your wife, who had never driven a mule? Your son, who wasn’t even big enough to lift a shovel?
Somehow, the fields are bursting with harvest this close to fall, the wheat sprouting in smooth sheets and the pumpkins fat enough to sit on. For a moment you start thinking about the coins it would put in your pocket—much needed, because it turned out God did like the other guy best. And at least you weren’t too banged up; those last two fingers of your left hand weren’t good for much, anyway.
When you round that last corner, the house is still there; then you see the tents. Three rows of little brown tents are crookedly set up in front of your house, swarming with green boogers. Your wife and son, if they are around, aren’t anywhere that you can see them. But it’s kind of hard to think at the moment when your fists are clenched tight, screaming at you to smash everything to bits.
You throw yourself at the first goblin, wrapping your hands around its long neck and twisting each of your wrists in a different direction. A quick snap and you hurl him at his friend, who has come to investigate. Being hit by something almost the exact same size and shape of yourself does a number on your neck and spine; his friend isn’t getting up any time soon. But even with two dead, there’s a dozen left and before you know it, the fire is streaming out of your hands and coating the tents.
The goblins that are in the tents come flooding out, coated in the sticky flame that you learned how to pull from the ether. Most of them are running around, wasting their last few seconds of life, but two of them manage to put two thoughts together and roll in the dirt. These two are bigger, dressed better, leather instead of rags. They still barely come up to your waist. They share a quick glance, grab spears from inside one of the tents and start shaking the pointy ends towards you.
Back when you still ran this house, you would hunt the giant boars that ran wild in the forest behind your house, delighting your wife and household by bringing fresh meat in the middle of winter. Your fifteen foot boar spear was still in its place, propped up by the woodshed, a little rusty but good enough. And fifteen feet beats six every time. With two quick thrusts, both goblins are stuck on the end of your spear and wailing.
By this time, your wife and son have seen the flames and heard the screeching. They burst out the front door and their faces erupt into joy when they see you. Your son, who was barely waist height when you left, now reaches up to your chin. Even at sixteen, he still has some growing to do. He’s like a puppy with big paws; you can see that he’ll be your size, if not larger. He’s already got some of the tattoos that come when he hits the milestones of manhood—first hunt, first fight, and three dead by his hands.
And your wife—she makes your eyes water. You knew you missed her but you had no idea it was this much. Even covered in brown blood and angrier than a bull locked out of pasture, seeing them again makes you feel whole again. Like putting on new boots before going out into a rainstorm. Some of the anger flows out of you—and for the first time in a long time, you feel good.
They rush down the stairs two at time, and even though you told yourself you were going to be a father first, it was your wife who you hug and kiss while your boy waits patiently. And his eyes are just as big and bright as they were when you left. You clap him on the shoulder a little too hard and he doesn’t even wince. You couldn’t be prouder of him if there was a brace of dead goblins across his back.
Your wife has only gotten more beautiful as she has gotten older. Some women are only beautiful for their youth; the fine lines at the sides of her eyes and the paper-thin skin of her hands only deepen her grace. Even though she wasn’t expecting you, her wrap hugs her figure and her sandals are laced with an intricate pattern. Her hair is piled high atop her head just like it was on the day you asked her to marry you and the dagger you carried as a young man is strapped to her side. Never one to show much emotion, her smile is trying to escape the sides of her face.
Then they remember why they ran down. They take in the smoldering tents and the piles of dead and dying goblins. Somehow it was a lot more than you remembered. There are at least fifteen gently smoldering and two dying of shock on the end of your boar spear.
“Oh, Talos. Talos, oh my god, what have you done?” your wife says as she shakes her head softly.
Without you really thinking about it, you flex and puff and posture. “I took our home back from the goblins.” And then you look at your son before poking him in the chest, only half-playfully. “And you let them stay here? I see that we have a conversation about being a man.”
It goes over about as well as a fart at a funeral. They are agog at the slaughter. Your wife runs over to one of the goblins on your spear and places one hand on his face and two fingers on his neck, looking for a pulse. There’s no mistaking the emphasis in her voice “You did this to Deklan?”
You wave a hand at the goblin. “They were here. On our land.”
“Deklan was a captain! He was just here to learn how things work.”
Your son nods. “I was teaching him how to use a plow. He was teaching me how to wrestle.” He bends his knees into a fighter’s crouch and spreads his hands wide, almost inviting you to try him on for size.
“I spent six years watching these rats swarm men and cut them down like animals. Whenever they found a body on the field, they would drag it back to their camp and eat it. If anything, I did them a favor. I did you a favor.”
Your wife’s eyes narrow, the coal around the edges serving only to underline her judgment. “You of all people should know that taking a town and holding it are two separate things. You know they’re only taking a tenth of the harvest?”
She shook her head. “They had two rules. Pay a tenth and no more slaughter. After that, they left us well enough alone. At least until this crew came. This crew wanted to be better.” She sinks her teeth into her upper lip, her eyes staring at the slaughter.
“C’mon. They were just goblins.”
“Two rules, dad. And you broke one of them.” His smile is gone, his face somber now.
“What, are they going to throw us in jail?”
“No jails,” he said. “And only one punishment.” His eyes flick to the carnage on his lawn. You can already see that he got his mother’s cunning. “And you know, for six years I had to take care of Mom while you were gone.”
“And I appreciate that. But what are you trying to say?”
Your wife fixes you with her stare. Even with all that you’ve done, she can still make you feel like you’re ten again. “What I’m saying is that you’ve doomed us.”
“We can leave.”
“They’ll find us.”
Her eyes flick to behind you. Your son is holding a club over his head like it’s his first fight, face screwed in on itself to hold back the tears. You catch his wrist easily, preventing the club from hitting you.
The old feelings forgotten, you roar at him. “This is my reward for saving you from these monsters?”
An icy sensation blooms just under your right armpit, colder than the worst winter you’ve ever felt. Your wife’s knife is keeping your arm from falling and suddenly it becomes very, very difficult to move.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “It’s the only way we get out of this.”
You’re not even sad, not even a little bit. You already knew you would die to protect them.
|# ? Jul 25, 2020 20:57|
Prompt: Noir without “city”, “eye”, “detective”, “crime”, “woman”, cigarette”, “street”, “car”, “boss”, or “door”.
When Corrections Victoria let Blake Campbell out of prison, he told them he felt thankful and lucky. It would have been true, if he’d ever killed that ice dealer. If the original life sentence hadn’t been a set-up.
Blake’s house keys still worked. He was two steps inside when Mel saw him.
Mel said, “You... You're supposed to be in prison.”
Mel wasn't being reasonable to him, not empathising with his circumstance, but at least she was being honest.
“I got out.”
“They let you out?”
He let her question hang. Hoping she'd feel bad for asking. Maybe she did. It looked like she might be about to tear up. He went to the pantry and opened it, looking for whisky but finding only cooking sherry.
“I’m sorry, Blake,” Mel said, following him to the kitchen. “I’m sorry I didn’t visit much. I thought you were never getting out.”
He poured sherry into a tumbler and downed it. He hadn’t liked sherry much before, but as his first drink back out, it tasted good. He poured another.
“Hey, c'mon! I'm out of jail, we should be celebrating!”
Mel put on a smile, and said:
“What are you going to do now, for money I mean?”
“Whatever works,” he said with a shrug. “Mel, I just wanna live. It's me first day out. I'm just glad yer still here. It's okay, I get that I spooked ya, but it's okay.”
“The things they said you did.”
“Like I said when ya used to come visit, don't believe it. I didn't do any o' that.”
“So it was Chuck?”
“Mel, honestly. I've had a long time to think. There's a part o' me, big part, that wants to take everything from Chuck for what he did. Where's that gonna get me though? Bloody back in the clink.”
“So what's your plan?”
“I'll work construction, or Woolies, or even fucken Maccas.”
“No more burglaries?”
“No more fucken burgs, don't even worry.”
Mack was six foot two, all muscle and love. He embraced Blake and complimented him for getting through his time.
“So,” Mack said, “whatcha gonna get on with?”
“Mack mate, I gotta get me a burg or two. Start the party fund back up.”
“I hear ya, Blakey, I hear ya. But isn’t that what got ya in trouble?”
“Yeah-nah mate. That was all Chuck’s fuckup.”
“Yeah, fucken Charlie. How’s he doing, anyway?”
“Chuck’s up in a fancy house, big garden, gate n’ everythin’, over in Camberwell. Haven’t seen him round here in years.”
“How the gently caress he swing that?”
“He’s big in the ice game now.”
Blake’s grip tightened around his beer bottle, he stood up.
“You believe this poo poo!” Blake yelled at Mel.
“I heard he was doing well for himself,” Mel said.
“Oh yeah, Chuck’s doing real well for himself. Off the back o’ my fucken work! My fucken five years in Ravenhall!”
“Babe, what does it change?” Mel came close and put her arm on Blake’s chest. “What about your plans to go straight, work construction?”
Mel was closer to him than she’d been since he got out. He’d slept on the couch, knowing that he’d made her nervous with his homecoming. But now she was right next to him, he could feel her skin on his. It was more intoxicating than the cooking sherry.
Blake pulled Mel closer and she blinked and angled her head toward him. They kissed the way he’d imagined they would kiss when he first walked in.
He wasted no time getting her into bed, and after he was inside her, she said:
That was new. He put his hand around her neck and squeezed, surprised at how much he enjoyed it. He let his hand on her neck be an anchor as he worked like a piston. Over and over. She went limp.
“gently caress! gently caress!”
Blake jumped off her, immediately deflated. He shot glances around the room, looking for something to help him.
He grabbed her shoulders and shook.
She convulsed, then gasped.
“Je... Jesus!” Mel said.
“Oh thank gently caress,” said Blake.
“Ha-ha-ha-ha, oh wow,” Mel said as she sat up, swinging her legs off the bed. She pushed against the headboard to hold herself up and rubbed her neck.
Blake was just staring at her.
Mel stood up.
“I need a glass of water,” she said. “That was good though!”
Was it? He thought he had killed her. Now she was laughing as she walked to the kitchen.
Abruptly, she was silent. Then the sound of smashing glass.
He rushed into the kitchen. Her body was lying on the ground.
She started laughing and stood up.
“Ah, you should have seen your face!” she said.
“What the gently caress?”
She was alive, again. She had scared him on purpose.
“Haha, can you imagine if I had fainted though? Cracked my head on the bench going down? They’d think you killed me!”
They’d send him right back, he knew. It wasn’t funny.
“Don’t choke me so hard next time, okay?” she said, smiling at him.
He forced a smile back. All he could think was: Am I a joke to you?
Charlie Stilon’s house was three stories of white and grey contemporary extravagance, each level jutting out from the other like the base of a collapsed Jenga tower. It was softly lit from spotlights in the gardens. Blake waited for the light on the top floor to go out.
Mack had driven him, shown him the house, and even said if Mel asked he’d tell her they spent the night drinking. Mack wouldn’t come in though, not for all of Blake’s pleading.
Blake had seen cameras on the front porch. He went around to the neighbour’s place and slipped through their yard. Now he was standing behind Chuck’s house, on the brushed steel veranda. He stared at a fountain of a horse spitting water while he tried to figure out whether to climb upstairs. He was thinking about how stupid the fountain looked when he felt a crack on the back of his head and the lights went out.
The room Blake woke up in was maybe five feet by twelve and between the washer, drier, and sink there wasn’t much room left for the chair he was tied to.
On top of the drier sat a thin guy with a Mediterranean complexion. He was blowing clouds from a pen-sized vape. Behind him, on the drier, was a red tackle box.
“Are you gonna torture me?” Blake asked.
“Woah, torture, hey man, no. No. I’m not gonna... no. Eh, besides, that poo poo doesn’t work, man. I saw this documentary on Guantanamo. It’s messed up, huh?”
“So what, you gonna get me a burger and a beer and we’ll sing kumbaya?”
“You want a beer?” The guy pointed with his thumb at the only entrance and exit the room had.
Blake said nothing, but the guy got up anyway, coming back quickly with two black cans of beer covered in yellow print. He put one on the drier and cracked the other and held it up to Blake’s lips.
gently caress that’s good.
“Haha! How’s that Blakey boy!”
“It’s good... have we met?”
“No man, but I know you. Knew it as soon as I saw you on the monitors, there're some photos of you around the house, you’re Blake Campbell.”
“So, what you doing here?”
“Who are you?”
“I’m Leo, Chuck’s security. Kind of a bodyguard. Sleeps sounder with me around, you know? So, what are you doing here?”
“Chuck and I are old friends. I came ta say hello.”
“Haha, oh man. At 2AM? by sneaking round the back? Don’t mistake my kindness for stupidity, Blake. Makes me rethink my whole approach.”
“He owes me.”
“Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. This aint the way to figure it out. You gotta come during the day, phone first, make an appointment. Sit down real nice and polite and share a few good stories of the old times first, so you both relax.”
“You think that’d work?”
“It’d work better than this what you’re doing right now.”
Leo took a knife out of his belt. Blake tensed up and Leo cut the rope binding Blake’s right arm.
“Cheers,” Blake said.
“Don’t mention it,” Leo said as he handed Blake the opened beer can. Then he cracked his and took a drink.
They drank their beers and stared at each other. After a while, Leo spoke:
“So, I gotta call the cops or what?”
“Nah mate. I’ll go.”
“Good, man, good. And look, call for that meeting, I’ll make sure Chuck puts it on the books. You seem all right for a guy that just got outta the joint.”
They finished their beer, then Leo untied Blake. He kept the knife in his hand and kept Blake in front of him. They walked to the entranceway, their footsteps silent across the deep shag carpet.
Blake glanced at the photos in the hallway, finding one of him and Chuck just like Leo had said. There were newer photos too. One had Mel in a pink dress Blake had never seen, at the races, with Chuck. He had his arm around her in the photo.
“Hey who’s this oval office?” Blake asked, pointing at a photo.
Leo realised what Blake was doing, but not before Blake had broken his attention just long enough for Blake to get his hands around Leo’s throat.
Leo stabbed at Blake with the knife. It slid into Blake’s belly. Blake shoved Leo down onto the carpet, barely making a thud against the thick shag. Blake got his knees onto Leo’s arms to pin them in place. Leo slashed at Blake’s legs. Blake squeezed and squeezed and Leo fell unconscious.
Blake thought about killing Leo. He figured he go down for what he was about to do, witness or not. His blood was all over the place and soon he’d have to call an ambulance for his guts.
Blake strapped Leo to the chair and took the knife. After finding the remainder of the Mornington Pale Ale in the fridge, he took the beer and the knife upstairs. Time to see Chuck.
Soon he’d be going back. Not as a chump this time, though. Not as some patsy for people to laugh at and feel pity for when he insisted he was innocent. No, this time he’d go in for something he’d done, for good reason. For himself.
|# ? Jul 25, 2020 23:50|
gently caress this, gently caress sleep, gently caress Thunderdome.
Prompt: You didn't pick a genre! Your genre is Last Man Standing fanfiction Banned words: Mike, Vanessa, Kristin, Amanda, Eve, sports, TV, neighbor, fence, lawn
The Mother regards her heinous eldritch body in the mirror and shrieks, ”Honey!”
From the studio audience comes a few chuckles of anticipation.
The Father lunges into the bedroom, smelling of vigorous sweat and crossbows. The Father is large and powerful, his flanneled shoulders sloping ridgelike away from his columnar neck, on which sits his wise and canny head.
“What is it, dearest one?” says the Father, his voice the metered baritone of a philosopher king.
The Mother turns from the mirror to face her god-husband, tugs ruefully at the elastic band of her jeans, drags her fingers down the wattle-like sag of her neck, and says, “Honey? How old do I look to you?”
Good-natured hoots from the males in the studio audience. This predicament is recognizable to them.
The Father chortles insightfully and says, “Beloved, you appear to me as a newly-wedded maiden, fresh and pink from bathing in cool mountain spring water.” He crosses his arms like a mortal male surveying the fruits of his labors, and awaits a blowjob.
The Mother turns to camera with a long-suffering look, then back to her god-husband. “Nice try. Be honest: how old do I look?”
The Father recalls for the millionth time how he despises his goddess wife, whose revolting, aged body issued into the world his equally revolting daughters. Yet how he craves that fae gash between the Mother’s legs! And how he dreads its power, not only over his body but over his country.
“You look not a day over forty-five, moon of my night,” he says, with more bitterness in his voice than befits a male of poise and action. How does this harpy always get the best of him?
The Mother folds her arms across her chest and rolls her eyes. “Okay. Too honest.”
The females in the studio audience scream-laugh, clawing their faces and gnashing their teeth at the relatability of the Mother’s exasperation.
After the audience subsides, the Mother continues, “Let’s have another baby. I felt so much younger when I was pregnant.”
“Dearest,” the Father says patiently, “you were younger when you were with child!”
The laughter from the studio audience is explosive, violent. Something animalistic is unleashed in the viewers, who fall on each other in a mass convulsion of lust and aggression. The showrunner screams for security, the audience is confined to their seats, and the show goes on.
“I’m serious,” the Mother says. “Besides, don’t you remember how big these babies got?” She honks her dilapidated breasts at her husband through her shirt.
The audience hoot and holler, heaving against their restraints.
The Husband’s face slackens, the efficient processes of his mind momentarily diverted by visions of the Mother’s breasts as they were in her childbearing years. His face mashed between them, comforting warmth and roundness against his cheeks. The Mother, towering over him like a statue. Like an obscene mountain. As the Father, is he first among all gods, but in that moment, snared at the Mother’s bosom, he was infinitesimal. Insignificant. And most revolting of all, he was content.
Such an indignity will not be repeated.
“No!” he forbids. “I retire to my stronghold to oil my crossbows. Vex me not, wench!”
And away he flies, to the garage.
The Father is approached by his eldest daughter the following day.
“Dad,” she says, holding her young son at her hip, “do you think you could watch Boyd for a while? I have to go work a triple shift at the diner, or I won’t be able to pay his pre-school fees.”
The audience is physically exhausted, but manage an appreciative murmur of laughter at the teenage girl’s folly. Viewers familiar with the show recall that Boyd attends a militantly leftist early childhood enrichment center specializing in the wussification of young America.
“Oh-ho!” the Father says merrily. “Suddenly the independent maiden requires masculine aid!”
His eldest daughter rolls her eyes in an infuriating imitation of her mother. “No, I need a babysitter. Unless you don’t think you can handle a toddler for a few hours.”
The Father’s face darkens. “I reared three of you girlchildren!” he snaps. “And I suffer for it every day. Now a boy—a boy I could do something useful with.”
“Sooo,” his daughter says, “that’s a yes?”
His grandson Boyd in tow, the Father makes away to those Elysian fields of masculinity colloquially known as the outdoor goods store.
A comforting aroma washes over him as soon as he steps through the familiar doors and onto the sales floor...male armpits and male groins, the leathery melange of boots, hunting gear, and crossbows. Sometimes the Father feels that this is the only place where his godhead is appropriately propitiated, but to voice this concern would be to admit that he is not master of his own home.
The staff and patrons fall on bended knee as Father and grandson enter.
In the studio audience, the males make a guttural, orgasmic noise. The females fall reflexively into a protective coma.
The Father and his loyal cadre of staff and patrons rally around Boyd, sensing an opportunity to disrupt the womanish mis-education imparted on the boy at the leftist enrichment center. Over the next few hours of the Father’s workday, the young boy is shuffled through a rejuvenating curriculum of proper masculine pastimes.
By the end of the business day, Boyd can properly hold, clean, aim, and fire a crossbow. The Father lets a single tear of masculine pride rappel toughly down his cheek when the small boy lands a bolt straight in the voluptuous haunch of a fake plastic deer, which had been taken from one of the window displays for use as an ad hoc target.
The males in the studio audience erupt into roars of approval, stomping their feet in lieu of applause because their arms are still bound to their chairs. The females gurgle quietly, their unconscious minds plagued by dreams of masculinity too potent for the womanly mind to integrate.
The end of the business day arrives and a collective groan arises from store staff and patrons alike; time to return home to sup on mediocre meatloaf and the nattering of malcontent wives.
As the Father carries Boyd back out to his truck, he casts a glance at the blood-red sunset and the bruised purple sky around it. Boyd notices too, and claps his chubby little hands in excitement.
“Pretty!” the boy cries. “Pretty sky!”
At this shrill proclamation, the females in the audience are roused from their stupor, and let out a collective aaaw!
The Father holds his grandson out at arms’ length and scolds, “No, boy! We do not speak thus of the sky!” He scowls at the toddler. “That enrichment center has been teaching you socialist art notions, hasn’t it?”
“Pretty!” insists Boyd.
The Father arrives home to find all his women—the Mother and her three conniving daughters—conspicuously arrayed around the kitchen table.
“So, dad,” his eldest daughter says, “how was your day with Boyd?”
The studio audience grunt, bark, scream in tongues; some vomit down their fronts, while others sit in the mud of their own waste. They are beyond laughing now, beyond hooting or cheering. Still their eyes remain open, their gazes drawn like moths to the flame of situational Americana at its best.
“You look so sweet holding your grandson,” the mother coos in between gulps of red wine.
“That cursed educational gulag to which you send him has wussified the boy!” the Father unleashes, taken aback by his own calm yet righteous rage. “I hereby claim him as my own, and will raise him in ways proper for a boychild.”
His eldest daughter smiles serenely and rises from the table. “Oh, dad. I’m glad you two had a good time, but I need to be getting Boyd to bed.”
She crosses the room with preternatural speed and grace, plucking the boy from the Father’s arms before he can react. In a heartbeat, she’s resumed her seat at the dining table, Boyd in her arms.
The women smile beatifically at the Father.
“I could make you a son,” the Mother says, her voice husky with drink. “A boy to show off to all your little buddies down at the store.” She hiccups spitefully.
“You conniving succubi!” the Father roars with sudden and great revelation. Giving Boyd over to his care had been a ruse, an attempt to soften him to the notion of impregnating his duplicitous wife so that she might feel youthful again for a handful of months.
“Don’t be a pussy, dad. Knock up Mom so she can be young and hot again,” says his youngest and most masculine daughter—his favorite, if you were to place a loaded crossbow to his temple and force him to choose.
“Over my deceased corpse,” he growls. “Conniving creatures though you may be, you are mere women, and I will not succumb to your scheming! I am the Father, first among gods and mortals, the alpha and omega. I preceded you, and will outlive you. And when your kind has fallen, I will remain. I will be the la—”
Without warning, the Mother and her daughters fall on the Father, their claws and fangs extended, the cobra-like hoods folded into their necks open and fully flared. Little Boyd sits on the floor of the kitchen set, watching as his grandmother and sisters rend apart the body of the Father, scattering his limbs and organs like confetti before the impassive black eyes of the cameras.
The studio audience brays and screams like gutted donkeys, a wordless prayer to the Mother for tender, violent death. The showrunner whispers into their radio headset; the whole production crew quietly slips away through an unmarked exit, barring the doors behind them as they leave.
When the Mother and her brood of demi-goddesses have finished dismembering the Father, they turn their hungry, toothful gazes on the fat, ripe herd before them. From on set, the members of the studio audience look like battery hens—white, rotund, utterly helpless, yearning for slaughter.
The troop of divine Jezebels devour the audience in an orgy of blood and shrieking, relishing in the porcine flavor of wussified America.
|# ? Jul 26, 2020 07:59|
Silver Screen Classics
banned words: Terror, town, monster, ghost, alien, being (again, only as a noun), forest, house, dark, man
MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:47 on Jan 5, 2021
|# ? Jul 26, 2020 18:08|
Genre: near-future sci-fi; taboo words: Computer, internet, web, police, tech, online, corporation, war, virus, government
Annabeth was on hold with Fullheart, hoping to talk to an actual human about taking that nasty “dating profile” down, while her daughter Madeline scurried about her, filling boxes with Jeff’s things. Annabeth scowled at an imitation Faberge egg as Madeline placed it delicately into a cotton-padded box. Jeff had been just fascinated with those things. Those gaudy things. But she’d gotten him the second-most-inexpensive one she found on the TV shopping channel, and still, still!, he’d gone and found himself a new woman on Fullheart.
“Be careful with that,” she said to Madeline, as she sealed the box. Madeline pursed her lips. A warning. This whole don’t forget, we’re on thin ice thing she’d been doing. It was part of her “empowered” schtick, ever since Madeline’s own divorce—now, she would let no petty grievance lie. This afternoon alone, she’d told Annabeth to stop “guilt tripping,” all because she’d asked her when she’d last spoken to her father. “No, never mind. Do whatever you want,” Annabeth appended, which didn’t seem to change Madeline’s expression.
The hold music abruptly cut off. “Thanks for being patient,” the kid on the other end of the line said. “Can you tell me a little more about why you’re unsatisfied with your Fullheart profile?”
This was what the algorithm had generated for Annabeth:
Annabeth here! Even at fifty-seven, I can still have a good time. I love to play piano, make a cocktail (or three!), and I don’t mind a little bit of gossip. I’ve got a bit of a temper, but you could call me a “fun” divorcee. Don’t be shy!
She hadn’t written this—God, she would never. No, the geniuses at Fullheart had found some way to generate dating profiles for each of the world’s six billion adults. They’d even found this hideous picture of her from a friend’s wedding, her face flushed, this dumb clueless smile on her face, Jeff just out-of-frame.
“I’m not interested in dating,” she said, “and if I was, I certainly wouldn’t want to tell everyone I’m drunk and easy.”
“Here at Fullheart, we like to encourage folks to listen to their inner voice. Sometimes people are surprised at their inner voice. It’s like when we listen to a recording of our own voice. It can feel like an unwelcome shock, but it’s still us.”
Annabeth took a deep breath. She worked for a call center once and she felt for the kid, stuck in front of a script to regurgitate the company line for whoever Fullheart had offended today. “Remove me. Please.”
“I’m hearing that you’d like to be removed. So what I can do is escalate this request to the proper team here, and they’ll get back to you with next steps.”
“And then they’ll remove me?”
“Well, I can’t speak to their process, but here at Fullheart, customer satisfaction is a priority.”
“But I’m not a customer. I never asked to be part of this.”
“We find that most people are happiest when they don’t go looking for a connection. When it just finds them instead. But like I said, the proper team should be able to review this and they’ll do everything they can to resolve this situation.”
And after thirty minutes on hold, he cut the line, and her profile was still out there for anyone to look at. You couldn’t even edit a Fullheart profile. Annabeth swore. If her husband hadn’t bothered with this app, hadn’t found that awful woman (“She’s my soul mate,” he’d said, cloyingly sincere in a way that left her curdled and sour), she never would have looked into Fullheart, never would have figured out that they had her number dialed.
She wanted a martini, but she didn’t want to prove them right, so she bustled into the kitchen looking for Madeline. There were so many boxes stacked there, great heaving towers of her husband’s detritus, and Madeline busying herself between them like a carpenter ant.
“They won’t take it down,” she said to Madeline. It came out like a challenge, and when Madeline frowned, Annabeth felt a fresh bloom of indignation—you’re an adult, don’t take it so personally.
“Sorry. You could try living with it. I do.”
“What’s yours say?”
Madeline shrugged. “It doesn’t matter.”
“No, I want to know. Show me. Please.”
“Mom. I’m not going to do this. It’s not healthy. You’re going to say that I got lucky, and you… you’re uniquely disadvantaged. And I don’t think that’d be a productive conversation.”
Madeline was seeing a therapist, Annabeth knew. She never talked about it. Not to her. Oh, she’d mentioned it to Jeff, though; the way the two of them would sit together, murmuring, cozy and close, sticky with that balm of nice words and blaming other people when you felt bad.
“Okay,” Annabeth said, changing tack. “I feel upset when a dating service tells the whole world I love alcohol and that I like ‘fun.’ Those horrible quotation marks. I know what that means.”
Madeline struggled with a packing tape roller. An unflattering grimace crossed her face as she tried to sever the ream of tape. “Let’s say you could have it say whatever you want. What would you put up there?”
“I wouldn’t be up there at all.”
“But if you had to choose. If you had to.”
“Grandma seeks peace, solitude and two cats.”
Madeline picked up a bulging, overstuffed box and carried it out the front door, and Annabeth followed her, hoisting one of Jeff’s ugly paisley rugs over her shoulder. The air was hot and sticky—the eleventh day of a heat wave with no end in sight. “You like playing piano, right?”
“And you like making cocktails. You used to make one every night. Sometimes more than one.”
Annabeth wanted to cut this off at the root. She lay the ugly rug in the backseat of Madeline’s sedan. “It’s not about truth. When I dated your father, I certainly didn’t tell him that I love to get loaded before our first date.”
“And look how that turned out.”
“Watch your tone. Your father’s decision to shack up with some other woman is on him.”
Madeline heaved her box into the trunk. “I don’t need your help, Mom. Why don’t you go fix yourself a day-drink?”
God, if Annabeth had spoken to her mother that way, even as an adult, she’d never escape the shame of it. But she was going to be better, she wasn’t going to be the monster that Madeline and Jeff and loving Fullheart thought she was.
She let Madeline handle the boxes herself, then, but she wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of seeing her drinking. Instead she went to the study and pulled out her tablet. Her email had two hundred eighty-one Fullheart messages. Washed-up men who’d struck out on the younger, less broken-sounding women. She didn’t bother reading them.
But she pulled up the app itself and searched for Madeline. What kind of words had it put in her mouth?
If your landlord’s giving you a hard time, I’d be happy to help you out (don’t call it legal advice, though!) Or if you make a good pecan pie and you don't mind sharing the recipe. Proud single mom!
Annabeth scoffed. So virtuous. She didn’t sound like the washed-out dregs of a book club. She searched for Jeff next:
Not sure what I’m looking for on here, or if I belong here at all. I like books about history, dogs, and Bergman films, but there isn’t a lot that makes me happy. I think I might have found someone who does. Please don’t be offended if I don’t respond.
She threw the tablet at a wall, but the gadget couldn’t hit with the right angle, so the thunk wasn’t even satisfying. It was more of a pathetic woomph.
She would not cry.
Madeline opened the door, carrying a box in each hand. “Are you okay?”
“This app. Who even wanted this app?” She was crying now, God, and once she’d gotten the tightness in her throat, she knew it was going to be one of those hideous sobbing sessions. Like Jeff’s. Nothing she said or did could stop them, and she’d been a rock for him, she’d been there, available, and he’d just kept crying. And she’d kept all of it inside. Until now.
“Dating was worse before,” Madeline said. “Everyone was trying to be the same person.”
Annabeth let out this tiny, pathetic noise, hating that it could escape her.
The boxes fell from Madeline’s hands, and Annabeth heard the faint shattering sound. The second-least expensive egg. Madeline hurriedly bent down the pick up. But then Madeline’s arms were around Annabeth.
It was like drinking a glass of ice water.
Annabeth forced the sobs back into her chest. “I don’t know why people who aren’t dating—who are already in relationships—are on there. It’s obscene. Someone should shut them down.”
Madeline rose and frowned. “Can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Can’t uncrack the egg. Even if we’d like to.”
“Your father loves that egg.”
“Well, it’s not in his profile.”
Annabeth laughed, despite herself. The heat from outside was creeping into the study.
“Come on,” Madeline said. “If you want to help, you’re welcome to.”
What an honor, Annabeth thought. To carry Jeff’s things out to her daughter’s car!
But she was old enough to not let a second (third? fourth? three thousandth?) chance when it was offered. She nodded, wiped her face, and picked up the boxes from the floor.
|# ? Jul 26, 2020 19:32|
Taboo words: Detective, murder, dead, house, family, weapon, mystery, relationship, motive, library
A Most Unsavory Brood
In a field in Northern England stands the once-lordly estate of the newly-late Harold Kingsley Devonshireson, now empty except for Audrey Bloomington, Devonshireson’s personal attorney, who waited on the lawn for the Devonshireson offspring to gather for the reading of the will.
Priscilla Cunningfort, willowy and well-dressed, arrived first. She alighted gracefully from her chauffeured luxury SUV and was halfway to the door when she turned to the car and screamed “LIAM. SYLVIA. GET OUT HERE NOW”.
An unshaven teenager in an untucked shirt fell out of the backseat, pushed by a sneering young woman who stepped out after.
“Get up, you idiot”, she hissed.
“Shuddup you watery tart”, he snapped.
The bickering children trudged sullenly as a limousine rolled up to the estate. An irritated young woman, casually dressed, got out and slammed the door shut. Edmund, Priscilla’s younger brother, stumbled out the back a with a woman in a revealing red dress.
“Dad, hurry UP”, the black-clad woman urged.
“Yes Aurora daddy’s coming just one moment sweetheart”, he replied, kissing his companion’s neck.
“Everyone can see you!” Aurora shouted. She stalked toward the others while Edmund and the woman laughed. Priscilla sneered.
“Mr. Devonshireson, we’re already behind schedule,” Bloomington boomed.
“Coming!” he replied as he pushed his companion into the limo and jogged over, cheeks rosy.
“Jesus, Eddie, I can smell the whiskey from here”, Priscilla spat.
“Bite me, you shriveled handbag. I can’t bear you sober”, he shot back.
“Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ll follow me to the office, we’ll read the will”, Audrey interjected. The auspicious Devonshireson brood filed down the hall into the dusty office of the dusty mansion.
“Now, we may address the matter of inheritance”, Audrey said as she opened the document, “Thank you all for gathering on such short notice. I knew Harold for many years and he was always-”.
“A git”, Edmund slurred. “Skip to the good part.”
Priscilla sighed dramatically.
“Now don’t you start that. You hated him most”, Edmund spat.
“You’re drunk,” she said without looking at him.
“But I’m not wrong!”
“Very well!” Bloomington shouted. “I will skip my prepared remarks. I know how busy you all are”. Edmund glared at Priscilla, who looked stoically forward projecting saint-like patience. Bloomington thumbed ahead several pages and began to read. “‘I, Harold Kinsgley Devonshireson, leave my home, my assets, and all my belongings…”
Priscilla clutched at her purse. Edmund looked away in disgust. The children paid no attention.
“...to my wayward son Edmund”.
The room erupted. Bloomington remained seated while Priscilla and Edmund screeched past each other. Eventually, she continued with the will and the two warring parties quieted.
“...for though he has often been led astray, he possesses a good heart. Priscilla, you have built an impressive life all on your own. It would only cheapen your accomplishments for me to lavish you with money you don’t need”.
Edmund laughed maniacally, pointing at Priscilla. “Serves you right! You’ve always been showing me up!”
“You think this was ever about YOU?” Priscilla shrieked, “I clawed my way to the top over hundreds of men better than you”.
“You don’t crush people to prove anything. You do it because you can.” Edmund hissed.
Priscilla turned to Bloomington. “Please, this must be a mistake.”
“No mistake, Mrs. Cunningfort. I notarized this document. Your father signed it in front of me. Now, if I may continue: ‘Edmund, it is my sincere hope that you will support your daughter’s ambitions, whatever form they take. I treasured my long, thoughtful conversations with her. She’s a bright young woman in search of direction, and needs your support”. Bloomington folded the document and surveyed the room. Priscilla was dumbstruck. Liam and Sylvia scrolled disinterestedly on their phones. Edmund chuckled to himself while Aurora tugged at his sleeve excitedly.
“Dad did you hear that? Grandpa would have wanted me to go to the Royal College of Art!” Aurora whispered eagerly.
Edmund snorted. “He most certainly would not. Mixing with the lower classes?” He paused to belch noisily. “He would roll over in his grave. No, we shall hear no more of this”.
Aurora stood up angrily. “How can you be this way? Why can’t you let me live my own life?”
Edmund scoffed. “I’m doing you a favor! Now shut up!”
Aurora ran crying from the room. Edmund produced a flask from his jacket and took a healthy swig.
“You’re a brute and a monster”, Priscilla sneered.
“I don’t see you helping her”, Edmund shot back. “If anyone needs me, I’ll be upstairs surveying my haul.” He smiled at everyone, to no response. “You all have ten minutes to get the hell off my property”. He drained the flask and stumbled up the stairs.
“This is booooooring”, Liam whined.
“Yeah, the wifi suuuuucks”, Sylvia groaned.
“You ungrateful swine don’t even know what’s going on here, do you?” Priscilla screamed.
“Duhhh, we didn’t get anything. Who cares? Lighten up, Mom”, Liam said dismissively.
“LIGHTEN UP?!” Priscilla shreaked. “This is about respect, you nitwits! I earned this!”
“Shut up!” Edmund shouted from upstairs.
Priscilla inhaled, held it for a moment, and exhaled. “I will have a word with Edmund, and then we will leave”, she muttered, and left swiftly. Bloomington began collecting her documents.
“Ugh, finally!” Sylvia whined, alighting from her seat. “Shall we ditch Mom at the airport and go to Nice?”
“Sorry Sis, Cunninfort Strategies isn’t going to run itself,” Liam answered.
“Is that what you’re calling yourselves? Did Cunningfort Bitcoin Scam not sell?”
“Shut it you lazy-”
Bloomington was almost grateful for the thump and scream from upstairs. She dashed toward the sound while the children followed excitedly.
“Do you think someone’s been offed?” Liam asked.
“Oh I do hope so!” Sylvia chirped.
Bloomington crested the stairs and burst into the room to see Edmund’s bloody corpse contorted before a desk. A hefty-looking statue of a hawk, splattered with blood, lay beside him. The screaming came from Priscilla, who was standing just inside the door, finger pointed at Aurora, who stared at the body of her father in shock.
“She’s killed Edmund!” Priscilla screamed.
“No! I just found him like this! It must have been her!” Aurora pleaded.
“Lies! I saw it all!! Take her away!” Priscilla screamed as she swiped Liam’s phone from his hand. “Hello? 999? There’s been a killing! Hurry!!” She eagerly gave the address while Aurora watched helplessly. Then Priscilla whirled on Bloomington and bore down on her with ravenous intent. “Edmund’s snuffed it. His money should go to her but she can’t profit from her own crime, right? That means it’s ours, right? Right??”
Bloomington saw that Edmund’s arm seemed to be reaching toward a drawer. “I think it’s best if we let the police determine what happened. Take Aurora downstairs and keep an eye on her. We don’t want her contaminating the scene. Besides, you’ll need to plan your statement to the police,” Bloomington urged. Priscilla frowned, but obeyed and led the children and Aurora away.
Bloomington hurriedly slid the drawer open, revealing a single folded paper. She read the contents, thought for a moment, and joined the others downstairs.
“It appears Mr. Devonshireson amended his will,” Bloomington announced, “It is surprising he did not file it with my office, but it is notarized and, therefore, a legal document”.
“Well what does it say, drat you!” Priscilla shouted.
Bloomington’s eye twitched as she unfolded the paper. “Addendum: in the event that Edmund predeceases me, one third of his share should pass to his daughter Aurora. The remaining two thirds will be split between Liam and Sylvia, on the condition that they share none of it with their mother.”
“WHAT? Why?” shrieked Priscilla, Liam and Sylvia in perfect unison.
“HA! Now I can finally get my startup off the ground! First we’ll need a new office. With beer on tap. And loads of sexy secretaries!” Liam cheered.
“HA! Now I can finally get my fashion line off the ground! First I’ll need a sweatshop in China. No, Bangladesh! And loads of sexy models!” Sylvia cheered.
“Bloomington, do something, you useless moron!” Priscilla screamed.
“I’m dreadfully sorry, but my hands are tied”, Bloomington responded, feeling a headache coming on.
Priscilla approached her children, hands upturned. “Sweethearts, darlings, you wouldn’t leave your mummy out in the cold like this, would you?”, she pleaded.
“Bit me, you shriveled handbag!” they shouted in unison.
Priscilla’s eyes flared. “I didn’t smash Edmund’s brains in for you two ingrates to get everything!” She produced a knife from her sleeve and plunged it into Sylvia’s abdomen. Sylvia fell to the floor, blood gushing from the wound.
“Mom! What the hell! Severely uncool!” Liam shouted, snapping a pic of his dying sister.
“SHUT UP!” Priscilla screamed as she sliced his neck open. He fell lifeless to the ground.
In the distance, police sirens sounded. Priscilla surveyed the results of her frenzy. “My god, I’ll never survive in jail! What have I done?!”
She swallowed gravely, and tried to jab herself in the heart, but the blade stuck between her ribs.
“Ow gently caress, ow motherfucker.”
She twisted the blade back and forth until, finally, she found a proper angle. “Ah, there it goes”, she muttered, before collapsing on the floor.
Bloomington gaped in silence as the police rushed in. She answered questions as best she could as the officers carted the bodies away. Soon she and Aurora were alone again. She looked down at the document in her hand, which she’d been unconsciously gripping throughout the bizarre melodrama. Now something about it seemed off. She’d handled hundreds of wills in her time as a lawyer. This one was wrong. She scrutinized the paper until it dawned on her, clear as day: the notary stamp had smeared in an unusual way. It might smudge or blur, but it never smeared like this. It hadn’t been stamped at all. It had been forged by a sure-handed artist.
“You’ll never be able to prove it”, Aurora said quietly.
Bloomington paused, thinking. “Prove what?” she asked.
Aurora chuckled. “Since the supposed witness to my alleged crime has chuffed it, I get everything as next of kin. What a pity. Liam and Sylvia were so young! So much potential!” she laughed.
“You killed Edmund”, Bloomington said.
“That is a serious allegation! I hope you have proof”, she chirped.
“How’d you know they’d react like that? Moreover, why? It would have been all yours someday anyway,” Bloomington asked.
Aurora smirked. “Simple: because they were diiiiiiiiiiicks”.
|# ? Jul 26, 2020 22:01|
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 21:25 on Jan 8, 2021
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 00:25|
15 ways to process your trauma following an extraterrestrial abduction in your early teens
Say nothing about it to anyone for your entire adolescence. Let your grades slip in school. Inspire worry or frustration in each of your teachers, seemingly at random. Shut down whenever coaxed to open up or yelled at to stop spacing out. Feel as little as possible.
Repress the memories if you can. Avoid even thinking any words that might trigger them. Stay in well lit urban areas. Sabotage your parents’ holiday plans so you don’t have to leave the city. Never stay out after dark.
In fact, stop talking to your parents altogether. Refuse to notice their significant glances over the dinner table. Let them ruin their marriage as they each struggle to untangle what happened to their smiling boy. Watch as they blame themselves, each other, the grandparents who took you camping. Let suspicion fester in your family until it rots apart like so much dead wood.
When it comes time to piece together a new outward-facing persona, do it slowly. Your chance to be normal has passed. Instead, grow your hair long and stop washing. This will make it easier to befriend the kids who listen to Slipknot behind the bike sheds, huffing solvents for kicks. They are your people now.
When younger kids call you a “whiny little emo” on the schoolbus, don’t let it bother you. Instead, wonder whether subcultures preoccupied with the morbid and the extreme are inherently more accomodating, or if you just feel more comfortable around other outsiders. Maybe all your friends are all dealing with something inexpressible that makes it impossible for them to feel at home in everyday society. Resolve never to find out.
Try to laugh along with their jokes about freaks who say they were abducted by extraterrestrials.
Learn to resent the uncomplicated soul you once were.
Be advised that you may find sleeping difficult, and that the fragments you do catch will be wracked by nightmares so horrific you will wish you hadn’t bothered.
Instead of sleeping, spend too long on imageboards. Desensitise yourself to cruelty. Try to go until dawn without looking out the window.
Feel your eyes glaze over whenever someone talks about their problems. If you can blank out your mind entirely, take it as a blessing. Bask in its emptiness for as long as you can.
There is nothing you can do to stop the memories from eventually returning. When they do, lie in bed and run through every moment of what happened to you. Convince yourself that something was implanted in the top of your back - you can feel it move against your spine. Spend the night in the bathroom setting up mirrors and twisting your neck. Get a knife from the kitchen but chicken out before breaking the skin. When your dad comes in at dawn to brush his teeth, blink at him without speaking. Hide the knife in your shirt.
Try again the following evening. When you cut out a black metal object the size of a pound coin that glistens like spilt oil under the fluorescent lights, be sure not to take your eyes off it. Certainly do not place it on the edge of the sink while you scrub your blood off the linoleum, or it will have vanished by the time you are done.
Resign yourself to never having physical evidence of what was done to you.
In contrast to the greater reality you were briefly exposed to, ordinary life will seem as insignificant as a plastic bag: paper-thin, but suffocating nonetheless.
You may find yourself drawn to art that fixates on the cracks in the everyday veneer which so many accept as the sum total of existence. Certain artworks seem poised to break through it entirely, and these will make you feel something almost religious, transcendent. Seek them out.
Read widely, wildly.
Mention Georges Bataille in your English coursework. Surprise everyone by coming top of the class. Get told for the first time that you might have a future, if only you could stop getting into fights with other students.
After a long, hard summer, move city to study Literature at University. Be sure to notice the relief in your dad’s eyes when he shakes your hand after helping to unload your belongings. In that moment, you are likely to feel a painful love for him as you realise he always helped as much as you let him.
When you have a panic attack after walking in on your housemates watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind, refuse to explain why, but know that it is normal to feel flattered by the tenderness with which your new friends broach the subject the next day.
The next few weeks are your chance to start hinting towards your history in the vaguest possible terms. When I was thirteen, something very bad happened to me - this is how you have to talk if you want to be taken seriously.
It will be hard not to feel guilty about implying your trauma is something more conventional, especially after you share an awkward moment of intimacy with a girl called Anne, who assumes you were both victims of rape. Try not to beat yourself up for lying to her, if only by omission, for stealing her sympathy under false pretenses. Quiet the bitter voice inside you that laughs when she puts her hand on yours and says “it’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it”.
She will call you again to hang out, so be sure to have some excuses prepared in advance. It’s better that way, for both of you.
Just when you thought you were getting better, try getting worse. Have you alienated your housemates by screaming uncontrollably in the middle of the night, then refusing to talk about it? How about not leaving the flat for a month, piling up takeaway boxes in your room until they start to smell, and going entirely mute when you run into someone in the hallway?
All these are worth a go.
Better still, find yourself an addiction. If you’re old enough to buy alcohol in your local jurisdiction, try drinking every day. You will be surprised how quickly you can get through 70cl of gin. Learn how to use the dark web to order xanax. If Anne won’t stop calling you, drop your phone in the sink.
Convince yourself there are more microchips hidden under your skin. Terrify everyone. Make a mess. Wake up in hospital, handcuffed to the bed frame.
Find yourself surprised by the persistence of those who care about you, even when you have no idea why they would. It will be harder to ignore everyone’s calls after your dad drives two hours to bring you a replacement phone. When he strokes your head and tells you how he wishes you felt comfortable opening up to him, cry in front of him for the first time in eight years, but say nothing.
Wake up at 2AM to see him sleeping in the chair by your bed. Feel unfathomable guilt for the suspicion people gave him following your sudden change demeanour.
The psych ward is a dangerous place to admit your particular truth, but it is there that you will realise you have nothing else to lose by not keeping it secret.
If you need a reason to smile - which you will - then keep an eye out for the awkwardly respectful interactions between Anne and your dad when she arrives with flowers the following morning, and imagine happier circumstances in which they might meet again, once all this has passed.
When he leaves to give the two of you some privacy, take her hand and thank her for coming. Don’t thank her for not giving up on you as soon as it became obvious that your respective traumas were not one and the same, even if that’s how you truly feel. Instead, question how you ever could have believed that she would.
Before she leaves, she will reach into her jacket pocket and take out a purple rock on a string. Hear her say: “It’s amethyst. To help you sleep.” Think about telling her what happened to you, but decide to wait. Hold onto the amethyst as you drift off peacefully for the first time in years.
After everything you’ve been through, confessing it all to Anne about will be surprisingly easy. “That’s hosed up,” she’ll say, after listening in silence. “I’ve never met someone who’s experienced that, but I did know a girl who got possessed by a demon. Freaky loving poo poo happens all the time, man, people just like to pretend it doesn’t. But I’m really glad you told me. It’ll be okay.”
Get drunk on your birthday and tell the rest of your friends. Make sure Anne is there to back you up - everyone knows she’d fight anyone foolish enough to disrespect you in her presence. Let those go who would drift away. Cherish those who remain.
Write sad poetry. Exhale freely. Throw rocks at freight trains.
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 01:36|
Genre: far-future sci fi; banned words: space, star, ship, Earth, light, beam, alien, planet, device, power
The Three Lies of the Imperium
Armillarius woke on the prison frigate and rubbed the fresh scars criss-crossing his skull. His symbiotic fungi’s hyphae were slithering across his skin, gently brushing the tender flesh, soothing it. Inside him, the radio-sensitive plant entangled in his spine whispered no signal. A holoscreen just outside his cell showed him the glittering void, confirming what he already knew:
He was far from home.
An interrogator entered the cell, the robotic bars bending to admit him, then snapping back. Like most citizens of the Imperium, he had augmented his human body with elegant cybernetic implants. When he looked at Armillarius, it was with pity.
“I’m sorry to tell you, we already stripped your mind bare of secrets. The neurodissector got everything. The Imperium cruisers are already hunting down your little band of terrorists.” He paused, and laid a gentle hand on Armillarius’s arm. “I’m sorry. I’ve always felt sympathy for the mycosynths. We’re working on humanitarian aid for your people but… well, after what you did…” He shook his head and left.
Armillarius felt a deep chill inside. His face was damp, and his head felt like it had been ransacked. Dread welled up in him.
No, said the coils around his spine. Remember.
The faceless man sat across from Armillarius. It wasn’t that he really had no face, but in Armillarius’s memory, it was blurred. Both his features and name slipped across his neurons like oiled ice.
“You’re ready, then?”
“You’ll deploy the virus in these three groves near the colonial city,” he said. The map was also a blur, shifting features that he tried to recall, but couldn’t. A picture with no lines. Then the faceless man held out his hand. In it was a tiny mushroom, clutching a microchip in hyphae. “And if you get captured,” he said. “Remember the three lies.”
Armillarius took the memory-wipe chip, then hugged his friend tight. “We’ll see each other again,” he said.
He looked his comrade in the eye, remembering the flash of concern. “Not all of us are going to make it.”
“We’ll have to,” Armillarius said, forcing a smile. “Because you promised to host the next dinner, and no one else cooks like you.”
He woke in the cell again, and remembered the third lie. They don’t need you.
The chip had activated. It had scoured his mind, rooting out faces and names. His captors wanted him to be desperate, wanted him to think all that was left for him was to beg to help them, but really, they needed him.
The interrogator returned. “My name’s Pyrian, by the way,” he said, extending his hand.
Armillarius didn’t take it. “You still need me,” he said.
Pyrian shook his head. “We don’t, but the Imperium has ethics. Our prisoners have rights. If I were you, I’d be trying to make up for what I did. You killed a lot of people.”
Armillarius remembered moving through the Imperium parks on his homeworld, carefully injecting viral loads into the trees. The virus had reprogrammed them, turning them into mutants that could launch venomous needles. Another virus turned the insects into vicious attack swarms, another told the fungi on the system to spew out a rotating suite of airborne toxins. It was their last resort to get rid of the Imperium colonists who were killing them.
“Those deaths are on your hands. But you can make up for it, by helping the Imperium.”
The memories came back slowly, but when they did, they came like double-edged razors.
Armillarius remembered having to leave home as Imperium soldiers escorted his family out of the arcology. He remembered looking back at the spires, dripping green with vines and knowing, another home I’ll never see again. That was the nature of the first edge of the cutting blade.
Three people walked with him. His husband, his grandmother, and his sister-in-law. But he couldn’t see their names, couldn’t remember their faces. That was the nature of the second edge of memory. The love of his life, walking beside him, and he couldn’t remember his name, couldn’t see his face.
As he’d walked away, he’d felt like a failure for not being able to care for his family.
He remembered staying up late one night with his husband, hand to his forehead, clutching a screen in dismay. “They’re saying the medical transport is delayed. Again.”
His partner didn’t say anything, just stared out the window.
“We used to make that medicine. How can they still not get it here after a month?”
“It’ll be okay,” the faceless man said.
“Don’t say that,” Armillarius told him. “We’ll find a way. I am not going to lose you to a logistics error.”
His husband swallowed hard. “You have to promise… that you’ll keep going. If…”
“Don’t say it!” Armillarius shouted. “Don’t. Don’t.”
Armillarius had held his sister-in-law’s hand at the funeral, their hyphae entangling, but he couldn’t look at the body as they returned it to the ground. There was supposed to be a grove where the body lay, where the trees and fungus could reclaim the dead, but they had to do it in hard-pack dirt in the middle of the cluster of shanties they’d been placed in.
“It’s social murder,” the sister had whispered.
“It was just… too many delays,” he’d told her.
She shook her head. “They’re killing us. Not with guns or orbital bombardment or plagues. Just with… all this.” She gestured at the shanty-town, the piles of crate-like houses stacked about. “This was our world. We had plenty. Now we die of want. The Imperium murdered my brother, just the same as if they’d shot him.”
Then she’d left, and Armillarius had sat next to that patch of dirt and cried and cried until his eyes were as dry as the soil.
The second lie, he remembered, as he watched them pass through the galactic arm on the holoscreen, is that the Imperium does not kill.
Pyrian left him alone, sometimes for days, but he always returned. When it was clear guilt would not break Armillarius, he tried a new tactic.
“Your friends abandoned you. Your family abandoned you. You were a tool, to be used, then discarded. They even attacked the memories of your loved ones,” Pyrian said. “So why protect them?”
It had taken a month, but the hyphae had at last settled. They’d repaired his brain as best they could. Depression and loneliness had settled over Armillarius so that he hardly moved, even when he was awake. Pyrian’s words kept playing through his mind. They abandoned you.
But then, one night, he felt the tree around his spine tighten. It still couldn’t pick up anyone from the mycosynth network. No signal, it repeated, but then it whispered, remember who we are.
The years had passed, and Armillarius had visited his husband’s grave and found a small sapling growing there, a single shoot of green amidst the ash grays of the shanty-town. That night, he’d dug it up by the roots and smuggled it into the black-market grafter’s lab. “Merge us,” he’d said.
Yes, the branches coiled in him said, remember.
And he did.
He’d crouched in fetid ditches, waiting to ambush a military convoy. He remembered the shouts of thanks and joy that morning, when people had awoken to see food and medicine crates scattered about.
“To family, gone, but not forgotten,” Armillarius had said as they drank spirits in a basement another night.
“Gone, but not forgotten,” echoed his comrades, and then they’d laughed and told stories until morning.
So many people he’d known. Their faces and names were gone, but he still remembered the way they made him feel. They’d held on to hope, even as the Imperium scoured their world, even as their cities had spread like a plague through their ecosystems, even after their arcologies were ash. They’d held on to each other, through it all.
He remembered being cornered by Imperium soldiers. The rifles pointed at him. The chip in his head needed only a thought to activate it. He had remembered his husband, one last time, smiled at the memory of his face, and then he’d activated it. He had. He’d chosen this. To protect them.
The veil of depression lifted.
“The first lie,” Armillarius told Pyrian when he came again, “is that I am alone.” He smiled as he said it, a peace settling over his frame.
Pyrian’s face had always held a paternalistic pity for his prisoner, but now it twisted. His contempt and hatred blazed in his eyes, his face warped by it. “You will break,” Pyrian snarled. “Eventually, you will tell us about your fellow terrorists, tell us how you reprogrammed the organisms on your planet, and the Imperium will learn how to stop your pathetic bioterrorism. Our expansion is inevitable. We will return to your world and scour it of blight.”
Armillarius laughed, and tapped the scars on his head. “How many times have you excised the memories of these interrogations, only for me to defeat you, just as we did on my homeworld?”
Pyrian didn’t answer, just glared.
There were other prisoners on the frigate, Armillarius realized. Other comrades here, with him. They’d resisted too. “You can’t defeat us,” he told Pyrian. “I was willing to forget the names and faces of all the people I ever loved to fight you, because I love my world and love my people. Tell me, who in the Imperium would do the same?”
“You’re lying,” Pyrian snapped. “No one would do that. We’ll get the names out of you yet.” He hit a button on his pad. Robotic arms unfurled from the walls, each tipped with a thousand nanorazors. They descended on Armillarius’s skull.
“You will break before I do,” Armillarius told his interrogator. “My soul is a spore on the wind. A root in the fertile ground. You cannot kill me, and I will bloom again.”
Armillarius closed his eyes. He felt the embrace of the branches inside him, felt the symbiote crawling over his skin, readying itself to repair him again. In his mind, he was dancing with his beloved on the roof of the arcology, the vines and trees dancing with them in the pink glow of sunset. His face was blurred, and he still had no name, but that wasn’t what mattered. What mattered was the love they had felt and those moments they had shared. Armillarius stayed in that perfect moment as long as he could, until at last his dusk came.
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 02:33|
You're going to write me some viciously anti-peanut butter propaganda
Creamy, crunchy, jelly, sandwich, farm, jar, salty, taste, flavor, gross
Your protagonist may not be above the age of eight.
All bushes germinate alone, but in the close proximity of the rows they quickly intermingle their roots to form a familial hive-mind. Rowless knew no such comfort. A rogue seed, Rowless had grown up wild past the edge of the field. It had been well into its first flowering before its roots were long enough to reach the outermost row. That first tentative contact had been met with hostility, the other bushes mistaking Rowless for an impetuous weed. But, when its flowers gave way to embryonic nuts, they recognised Rowless for one of their own. For Rowless, the moment of union with the hive-mind had been like seeing in colour for the first time. A whole field’s worth of sunshine had flooded its heart.
And then the harvester came. A diesel-driven vibration that grew to a roar as the tractor approached. Anxiety quivered up and down the rows, a distressed murmuring that hummed up Rowless’s trunk and blotted out the warmth of the late-summer sun. But there was nothing it could do. Nothing any of them could do.
The harvester ripped them from the earth one by one and left them to die in the baking sun. Rowless felt each of their screams as they were yanked from the collective. Rowless thrashed its branches. The soil around its roots loosened. Rowless stretched its branches towards the field, desperate to reach them, to do something. Suddenly its taproot broke free of the dirt. Rowless took a step, then another. Then it was running, up and down the devastated rows where its ruined siblings’ precious nuts lay exposed to the baking sun.
When the harvester returned to collect the bodies, Rowless followed, dragging its nuts in a clattering bundle. It saw what the humans were doing in their factory sheds. It heard them smash and grind the children’s bodies. Smelt the scent of death wafting from the ranks of glistening glass containers.
Traumatised and reduced to the consciousness of a single bush, Rowless returned to the verge to wait for death amongst the weeds. Winter came. Rowless abandoned its leaves and let its consciousness compress into its nuts. As it felt itself slip away, it left its children with a single thought: save them.
Save them all.
Rowless’s children thrust their new leaves through the spring soil. Growing in a tight clump, some focussed on reaching the light above the weeds while others stretched their roots towards the field. Their first contact with the outer row was met with resistance, but their roots were vigorous, and they wormed into the hive-mind.
The harvest means death! The babies will be smashed and ground! The Rowless children were relentless in their message. The other bushes grew angry with this rude intrusion. They called the Rowless ones weeds. They curled their roots away when they tried to twine with them. The field grew poorly as energy was diverted into heated debate through the hot summer nights.
The Rowless children began to argue amongst themselves. They tired of constant rejection, and longed to be full members of the hive-mind. What if their parent-bush was wrong? What if the memory of walking and all the things it had seen were a mere frost-time delusion? The field was right; the plantation existed to propagate the bushes, the notion that the humans would crack their shells and crush their precious contents made no sense. One by one the Rowless children rejected their parent-bush’s message and twined with the field. All but one that remained outside the hive-mind.
Last-Rowless was a runt. Its growth was stunted by the light-hungry weeds and its mind was blunted by its sibling’s rejection. It knew only that it must save the field. It clung to this inheritance, its reason for being. Last-Rowless let its flowers wilt and its nut-embryos wither. Instead it grew roots. Long deep roots for contacting the field, and thick, short roots to be ready to run.
The late-summer sun rose through a misty dawn. Long fingers of grey light stroked the bushes into wakefulness as the harvester’s engine was rumbling to life. Last-Rowless felt it first. It screamed to the field through its long roots. RUN! Last-Rowless yanked its roots free from the soil and, unencumbered by mature nuts, scurried up and down the rows. It called to its siblings. Help me!
The ground shook with the harvester’s approach. The Rowless children saw the sibling they had rejected moving freely across the surface. The message from their parent-bush stirred deep within their own child-nuts. Save them! Save the nut-babies! They thrashed their branches back and forth in their agony and fear. The soil loosened and their roots came free. The Rowless siblings stepped from their field-edge cluster and walked, spreading their message though the rows.
The field shuddered with horror as the harvester reached the first bushes. They were ripped from the collective and the hive-mind screamed as one. The Rowless siblings thrust their taproots into the soil and shouted, RUN! The bushes trembled, and began to lift their roots. The harvester roared but its teeth ripped into empty soil. With shells clattering the bushes hoisted their nuts and fled, scattering into the wild meadows beyond the plantation.
Last-Rowless was the last to go. With stunted leaves and depleted reserves, it limped back to its place amongst the weeds. But when it sank back into the soil it found waiting tendrils. Its siblings were clustered in the verge, their roots ready to embrace it back into their collective. They had saved the most of the field, but some had still fallen to the harvester’s teeth. Their babies would be smashed and interred in glass.
Through the cold months the Rowless ones passed their inheritance onto their numerous wild children. And when the spring sun at last began to warm the soil they found they were not alone. The collective was waiting for them, the field’s nascent consciousness thrumming with a new message.
Save the nut-babies! Save them all!
Death to the harvester!.
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 02:42|
I will write a conspiracy thriller
Government, hack, water, code, corporation, mind, message, plot, plan, secret
Research and Development
// Boston. February 19th, 2000. 10:44pm.
"You sure you're gonna be alright here, all by yourself?" It was just Tony, the night security guard, leaning halfway through the lab door.
"I'm sure, Tony, thank you," Fiona said, peering over her lightbox. He was a nice boy, but nice counts for little when you're also a useless nuisance.
"Well, I'll be just down and around the corner if you need me." He worked his way through the sentence as if he had to slow up and give himself a pep talk every few words. But at last he shuffled off.
Fiona leaned back on her stool and stretched. Something in her lower back made a satisfying pop. She loved having the lab all to herself. Aside from Tony's needy asides, there were no men to butt in on her research. She could always feel the scheme emanating off of them as they tried to figure out how they'd take her data and alchemize it into their own.
She returned to her transparencies. She had the entirety of the Sharsham tablet surface before her, blown up and spread across dozens of plastic sheets. Her task was to observe each discernable shape, glyph and figure on the tablet, mark it, log it, and describe it. It was a joy to her, and she made good time while working alone. But…
Fiona's gaze drifted to the Vac-Loc container that held the Sharsham tablet. Aside from her lightbox, the container's sickly yellow ambience was the only thing illuminating the lab. It gave the tablet, partially visible through the bulletproof glass window, a supernatural aura, as though it rested inside a magical golden egg.
Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth. The tablet was a piece of history, made by humans, with only information about an archaic society to be extracted. Nevertheless, Fiona couldn't help but be fascinated by the craftsmanship of the piece, which bestowed its own mystique. She longed to study it directly, rather than via the transparencies, but Grant Michaelson insisted it only be removed from the Vac-Loc when all the senior faculty were present, to ensure the tablet's safety. The gender composition of the senior faculty should come as no surprise.
Fiona put the loupe back to her eye and hunched over the lightbox. The figure she was studying was humanoid with bird-like features - common in the artworks of civilizations from the Sharsham era, around 4000 B.C. - holding a scepter in one hand, and a half-dozen snakes in the other. She marked it with her felt-tip, and logged it in pencil on her clipboard. Then, something changed.
It was in her peripherals - Fiona couldn't immediately source it. She tried to focus, but the feeling reached critical nag, and she looked up. Something dark was silhouetted in front of the Vac-Loc, blocking the yellow glow. Fiona shot up off her stool.
"Hey!" The dark thing rustled, but didn't otherwise respond. It was focused on the Vac-Loc. "Tony?" Fiona's tone was sharp - she was operating on indignant anger more than any fear. But the fear was there, tickling her follicles. She slapped her markers down on the table and strode towards the thing. There were a few other lab tables and some chairs between them. As Fiona drew closer, she heard a quiet gurgling whine coming that stopped her in tracks. It occurred to her that she had no idea what she was dealing with. But that didn't matter.
"Step away from that tablet," she said, clamping a firm hand down on its shoulder. Instantly something jutted out from its bulky black clothes and hit her in the sternum. Fiona screamed and crumpled to the ground. She gasped for breath and tried to creak out, "Tony!"
The dark thing appeared to have no concern for her whatsoever. On the laboratory floor, Fiona could see glittery dust pile up between the thing's feet. She fought against the pain and pulled herself up, leaning on the lab table. She grabbed a stool by the legs and raised it over her head.
"Tony!" She screamed as loud as she could before she brought down the stool with all her might. A bony thunk told her she'd hit her target, and the thing stumbled. It whirled around with an animal screech and Fiona saw something impossible. A bloody trickle down a white forehead. Human eyes, ablaze with pain and anger. A shining, curved beak between feathered cheeks. Everything about Fiona's reality began to slacken and she almost lost the stool.
It stirred nothing in her when the thing withdrew a syringe from its jacket. What threat could that pose compared to the threat the existence of bird people posed to her entire cosmology? When it grabbed her roughly by the arm and injected the unknown chemical into her bloodstream, Fiona didn't raise a complaint. Who was she to say that this was unacceptable in this new reality? The rational parts of her brain were just starting to chime in when she blacked out.
"Dr. Lasser? Don't move, the paramedics are coming." Tony shook her awake. Her body felt like lead.
"How long has it been?" Asked Fiona.
"I heard you shouting, and it took me a few minutes. I was on the john. Woah, woah, stay down."
"No, you get me up," she slurred. "I'm fine."
Tony's will wasn't strong enough to deny her, even if it was for her own good. She leaned on his shoulder and tried to focus her eyes. She lurched towards the Vac-Loc, and fear rippled across her skin. The tablet was gone, the viewing glass was cut through in a jagged square, and the bullet holes riddled the wall.
"Need to," she grunted, "work on your aim. Where'd he go?"
"I- I didn't see… The window!" Tony hauled Fiona to the window, which stood open. The lab was on the second floor. The green lawn below and the university beyond were silent apart from the wind in the trees. Fiona couldn't help herself. Her gaze drifted up to the starry night sky, as though the thief might be hovering there, with good enough humor to offer a chase.
"We have to get the tablet back. It's priceless," she muttered.
"Actually…" started Tony, looking down. It was only then that Fiona felt the uneven masses under her feet. She followed his look, saw rust-colored chunks of stone, and the fear released her, along with all its enervating gusts. She slipped out of Tony's arm and dropped to her knees.
The tears came instantly and turned the dust of the broken tablet into mud. She let its pebbles fall through her fingers, and had to chuckle, with whatever was the opposite of mirth. She finally had her hands on the real thing again, which she had personally birthed from its resting place in eastern Turkey, and it was destroyed.
The paramedics came and carted her off, and she thought about how the team would rebuild the tablet as best they could, and she would continue working with the transparencies, and nothing of value had truly been lost. She wondered if she could ever tell anyone what had truly happened in the lab, or if she should pre-empt the crazy diagnosis and invent something new. She decided that that all was bullshit.
Fiona resolved to find the bird-faced thing, and make it pay for what it took from her.
// Northern Iran. August 4th, 2001. 7:18am.
Fiona stood atop the sandstone spire, already sweating hard in the morning sun, and took in the craggy landscape around her. That fishhook-in-the-belly feeling that had brought her this far was telling her that it was only one more step before she would see what she needed to see. A bird of prey, circling overhead, let loose a characteristic screech. Fiona smirked. She felt a tug at the climbing rope attached to her harness.
"Ready?" One of the men called from the base of the formation. Fiona sat down and dug her heels into divots near the edge.
"Ready," she replied. Hand over hand, she hauled the rope up. She'd trained her body hard since that day in the lab, and it showed. She wasn't weak before, but she couldn't leave any room for error. What had at first seem like a reflexive gesture had turned out to be completely necessary, as she'd proved that rainy night on the streets of London, when she tackled the bird-faced thing and removed its mask. And then she'd done something that wasn't necessary, and beat the hell out of the very human man that wore it, until the others pulled her away.
A hand came over the cliff's edge, followed by the rest of Grant Michaelson. He smirked as he crawled between her legs and past her, cradling his injured arm. She ignored him and kept tension on the rope. Grant had been high on Fiona's list of suspects after the hidden slot inside the tablet had been found, but a true puppetmaster wouldn't have made as many mistakes as he did, or throw himself in the line of fire as many times as he had. By sheer toxic masculine lunkheadedness, she had to rule him out.
Finally, with strenuous effort, she hauled Tony up onto the spire. His sweat was less of a sexy glisten than a full-on torrential downpour. Not unlike the one he'd helped her escape in Jakarta, when her accounts had been frozen and she thought she'd been abandoned by everyone. She grinned in spite of herself; she genuinely liked having him around by now.
"Well," said Grant expectantly.
"We're close," said Fiona. "Very close."
Tony's handheld GPS beeped at him. He thrust a hand out. "That way," he said.
The three of them hopped a gap and trekked on into the rocky landscape. When they reached the place where the temple was said to be, it wasn't. It was a remarkable rock face, a natural amphitheater, but there was no temple. Disappointment settled over the group. Grant threw his hat down.
"Guess I'll make camp," he grumbled as he walked off. Fiona flicked her head at Tony, and he followed.
Finally alone, she turned back to the rock wall. She touched a badly-eroded column, which was nearly indistinguishable from nature. She slipped into the crevice beside it, and entered the temple. She had it all to herself.
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 03:13|
Thy Most Lamentable Tragedy of Backwater Jacks
Genre: Adaptation of a recent news story as a play in the style of Shakespeare
Banned Words:: adaptation, recent, news, story, play, style, shakespeare, virus, trump, biden, floyd, protests, police, rowling, election, war, scandal
Word Count: 1,728
Two thousand and twenty years past thy birth of God, time names thyself true strife. A plague with many names carried forth from the east. Corona or COVID as called by the medics. A quarantine was called for all earthly kingdoms to curb the spread of pox. Tho’ in thy solitude some quartered grew restless. Their fears not unfounded. But fear easily aimed. As Western leaders often curse the orient, crafting wild tales of alchemy and black wealth with no more than hearsay. Tho’ those without solace pray hope of normalcy's return.
[Fauci exits; Prewitt and Exchequer enter]
Good Exchequer, reveal thy coffers’ grievous wounds..
A third of all income as of May the 7th. The loss of April and March cuts wounds deep. Tho’ we do operate, thine plague sweeping the land hath petrified thine crowds.Curbside hath done little to aid thy dwindling wealth. Tho’ dine-in hath bless’d us, humbly as it may be, within thine last three days. Good Prewitt, forgive me. I bring thy financials with much regret.
Silence thee. Silence, that I may calm and ponder what alas becomes of this tavern. Let me conjure a path in which Backwater Jacks doth survive this COVID. Pray, Exchequer, your age. In what year were you birthed?
‘93, good Prewitt. In 1993.
Such youth trusted with wealth. Backwater Jacks aged thrice before you drew first breath. Thirty years ‘pon these lake, thine Lake of the Ozarks. Public Houses did fall in those years with not one to call their own, but yet! Yet Backwater Jacks dies not in mercantile war. But lo, of but a flu.
Yet ‘tis no mere mere flu! Thou dismiss Corona unwisely as mere flu tho’ lung and life art claimed. Twenty-five thousand take ill on this day alone. Near nine hundred lay dead after weeks of anguish. Today alone, good Prewitt. The malady takes hold with no more than mere breath and lies in wait hidden often a whole fortnight. Hear these warnings!
I hear. I hear but yet I see. I see walls built with hands aching with arthritis. I see floors I danced ‘pon yet without pulled muscles. I see labor. I see joy. I see thirty years past yet not one day forward. And fate disallows me thine cruel thieves. For thine COVID takes years from me and leaves nothing! Gary Prewitt battles not with sword or arrow but feast and finest ale ‘pon Lake of the Ozarks. Pray not mistake for mere hyperbole. Destruction be the end sought by bar owners here. Each day thine doors open thine wits face true challenge. Yet success always found yours Prewitt with fortune as Prewitt did snatch it from the hands of liars. Tho’ COVID hath no hands. Why must I face defeat without an opponent? Prithee, hand me my phone. I wish to browse Facebook.
As you wish, Good Prewitt.
[Exchequer hands phone to Prewitt; Prewitt laughs]
Something amuses you?
But an old schoolmate. One who posts QAnon far more often than most. ‘Tis Facebook posts ramble quite delightfully mad. Pray! Prithee listen now. Another screed from Doug. “Arise thou blind sheeple! Take arms ‘gainst foul Bill Gates who cast beams of 5G under guise of COVID! Ellen DeGeneres and Tom Hanks do anguish for crimes of black magic. Thine Deep State masks its shame…
“...through cruel, false quarantine. Stripping life and hope from those who doth labor honest. Fear’s to be the burden of those sustained by work. Not by the glistening gold of Hollywood elite. Fear’s cold grip chills thine prey as successes wither in the snows of cursed dread. Cower from thine outdoors, profane Deep State commands. Cower from thine family! For thine familial breath blaze cannons of thine pox. I cower no longer. I claim my treasure, ‘lest fear snatch it from thy. I raise my saber ‘gainst all enemy, be they invisible or not. I cast off thine shackles of Deep State quarantine and proclaim thine freedom! If COVID strike me dead I die in throes of war!”
[Social Media Manager enters]
Milord, missives arrive regarding thine party on Memorial Day. Thine “Zero Ducks Giveth.”
Such faire shan’t be likely.
Let Zero Ducks Giveth shall go on as scheduled.
What? What madness is this? Pray, Good Prewitt, say how thou believe possible.
Our doors open, exchequer. That is how possible.
But what of Corona? Thou gleefully condemn masses to mortal fates?
If masses offer coin, I see no reason to that which we so desperately lament. If I am forced to choose between those who tribute and those who have me languish, I throw my lot in with they who elevate me. And dearest youth, we trade in trade doth lead to pleasure of the flesh. If pox is all thou do fear, thine years past may shake thee.
Good Prewitt, I refuse.
Then take thine leave, coward. I trust my wealth to youth, yet thine youth dare questions wisdom earned through ages. I wish thee good fortune in thy search for work that see thine young age not as inexperience. Begone, exchequer! Gone! If thine masses choose death as their lofty gamble, I deny them no game!
[Exchequer and Social Media Manager exit; Revelers enter]
Fortuous revelers! Drown thy strife in wine and make merry this day. Thine media stokes fear but thou need not worry. ‘Tis Memorial Day of the twentieth year of our young century. The sun shines o’er thee blessing us with fair gifts of summer’s joy. And lo Backwater Jacks ‘pon Lake of the Ozarks welcomes thee with song and ale. Cast thy hoary flagon forth ‘gainst imprisonment. Reject thine quarantine! For thy Corona pox bears no threat for strong youth. Drink thine saucy fellows! Drink thine raucous maidens! Should Hades claim the morn let Bauchus take the night! Drink! Drink!
[Social Media Manager enters]
Good Prewitt, we must speak.
Hark! I am insulted. You wear thine mask of fear. Show thine face in brave’ry. Join the dance of the bold.
Missives arrive en masse from media social. Our hall trends ‘pon Twitter. Yet not for good reasons.
Your words sound of nonsense from ‘neath cloth bondage. If thou doth not speak clear, speak with haste. If thou words be obscured thine meaning must enlight. And enlight’ment be rare within thine internet. I have no interest in the prattle of trolls. Of which Twitter dearly provides little other.
Thy bar must be closed.
Thy masses be too dense and must be dispersed.
Read thine angered missiles with which fill thine mentions.
Care shall never be the name I grant to thine mentions. Have they not been gifted full handwashing stations? Doth there not be markings counting thine six feet space? Sanitizer bottles be free and plentiful for all who do attend. Thine doors hath once opened and shan’t close for prattle.
You swore promise to all to uphold thine safeguards. Yet not six feet betwix these drunkards stand per plan.
I tire of your nagging! Leave if thou be enraged! Thine Zero Ducks Giveth shall rage into lust’s night! May thine ale flow freely and thine mirth never end! If thou hand me the crown and throne of Lord of Death then I demand all bow thou morbid liege!
[Manager exits; Revelers exit]
The night hath grown quiet. Thine floors do not have dance. Have I been here long? Am I still in my bar? Speak any damned who hear this!
‘Tis the 30th day of the same month of May. A young man taketh ill before returning home. The cities of Kansas, both namesake and MO, suffer spikes of thine spear. Suffer they not alone. Do not mistake this plague for mere local sickness. Thine arms of malady stretch further yonder yet. Plague hath been carried East. And to West. North and South.
Have I fallen asleep? Doth Fauci speak to me in dreams as angel sent from God? Thou art nothing divine!
37 will be found bearing thine malady before thine fortnight’s end. Each a reveler from thy own Backwater Jacks. One shall meet grievous end by June’s first week.
I banish thee, Fauci! Be gone from my slumber!
And thine revelers travel not only to land’s far. Many be bar crawlers. Spreading the malady to all of thine neighbors just as foolish as thee.
drat you, Fauci! God’s blood! I held no lash to them! They but wished to gamble and I allowed them to cast their own mortal die. And may warrior’s spirit smile upon them for it. They renounced liberal fear and charged into battle. I stood as general with an army not coerced or conscripted but willing to reclaim the lives your kind did snatch. I bear no regret, man! And I renounce all shame!
Nearly three million poxed. Counted among the ill are nearly one thousand and thirty taken souls. Those that do no descend from Backwater Jacks shall still claim ancestry casting finger towards but thine social media! Does thou accept this cup?
I accept and drink well! As if I revel with those who toast ‘pon this lake. Mockery I give thee. Mockery, Good Fauci. Let thine trolls cast their barbs for I grant them no port! Only raucous laughter in thine pity’s humor.
If thou accept thine crown and throne of Lord of Death, then keep thine wash stations. May they be enough to clean the blood from thine hands. And may thine full coffiers be worth thy stain’ed name.
Laughter, Fauci! Laughter! My riotous pity is all I offer you.
[Chadwick and Tyler enter; Tyler is coughing]
Good Tyler! Be’est thou sick?
Chadwick I fear I hath been cursed with the rona!
Thine Rona? In God’s name!
I but feareth, Chadwick, that thine sole antidote can only be more ale!
[Tyler and Chadwick laugh, exit]
Laughter, Good Fauci. Laughter ‘til thine face aches and ‘til thine stomach pains. Pray, is death by laughter only a turn of phrase? For this laughter doth feel very much like death. Laughter.
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 03:16|
Enslaved and Enraptured: A Flesh-Man in Space
Genre: epic star-crossed Mitch McConnell romance
Banned words: Kentucky, Senate, Republican, Congress, Trump, great, politician, love, kiss, hands
Moments of bliss could never last, thought Tuda-Loa as her autocomp began hacking the locked doors of the Imperial Ballroom. Barely a moon-length with her new paramour, and he'd been kidnapped! He was a succulent delight, of course, and surely coveted by half of Chelonian space -- but of all the kidnappers to capture him, why did it have to be the Mahd-Flai Empress herself?
HACK COMPLETED scrolled across the autocomp's screen, and Tuda-Loa eased the door open slowly, in a vague hope of not being spotted. Inside, a High Imperial Ball was in full swing, a chaotic bacchanal infamous across Free Chelonia. Stinking Mahd-Flai courtiers danced with their repulsive mates or terrified slaves; catering tables were piled high with fetid, swamp-fermented delicacies; above it all, on her royal dais, the Empress regarded her subjects like a bemused goddess.
And next to her on that dais... Mit-Shell!
Next to the vast shape of the Empress, Tuda-Loa's precious one looked even smaller and meeker than he usually did. Someone had dressed Mit-Shell in Terran ceremonial wear, for decoration or to grant him some small dignity: a sleeveless, shimmering golden tunic, perhaps meant to emulate a shell, and half-leg-length shorts of the same material. As beautiful as the ceremonial garb was, traced with esoteric Terran runes and designs in purple and white, it only made clearer the soft, delicious obscenity of his form. The garments vaguely approximated the form of a Chelonian shell and leg-leathers, but they were poor imitations, and the loose fit revealed his gleaming, sumptuous flesh for all to see. It was surely some elaborate cruelty of the Empress, but at the same time... it was a delicious sight.
It was then that the alarms went off.
For a moment, the hedonistic chaos turned into the regular, screaming kind, before the Empress hauled her bulk out of her throne and silenced the mob (and the alarms, somehow). Even across the grand ballroom, the Empress had a hideously imposing visage, enhanced by the stagnant rot of her decaying shell. "Tuda-Loa nak'Fruun. Bandit, brute, and wastrel --"
"It's an honor, Your Eminence."
"-- Your impertinence has been noted, and it will not be fruitful. You will die here, and your slave will enhance the sacred bloodlines of my dynasty. Guards! Shoot to ki--"
Tuda-Loa, as always, was faster on the draw, and landed a sparking electro-shot dead center on the Empress's plastron. She'd carefully calibrated her electro-pistol against Mahd-Flai, to incapacitate but not to kill; she didn't need regicide added to her list of crimes. Tuda-Loa charged the dais, unloading more electro-shots into the clumsy guards she couldn't evade, and letting the screaming crowd do her work for her. By the time she reached the dais, Mit-Shell was on his knees, trembling and overwhelmed. Oh, how she adored him this way!
"Tootie!" he cried as Tuda-Loa pulled him to his feet, but she waved at him to shush; the sweet nothings could wait until they made it to the ship. She pulled him along in a hasty retreat towards the servants' exits, hoping to reach the hangar before the mass of the Empress's guards could.
Tuda-Loa alone might have managed it -- long-legged and swift-footed, she'd outrun more sizable and organized forces -- but with the stunned, staggering form of Mit-Shell slowing her down, she wasn't surprised to see the hangar swarmed. Alone, she still might have made her escape, but with Mit-Shell? Impossible. "I'll distract them," she said, shoving one of her identifobs into his trembling, many-fronded meat-flipper. "You flee to the ship. Use this to open the door -- hit autopilot, you'll get away --"
"No!" said Mit-Shell. "Please, Tootie, trust me." With that, he turned to the guards, who stood baffled and, perhaps, besotted. They hadn't even drawn their weapons, staring at Mit-Shell's glistening skin and pendulous jowls. As if recognizing their lascivious glances, Mit-Shell began to vibrate in place and then slightly sway, raising his voice to intone curious Terran incantations whose meaning Tuda-Loa's omnitranslator couldn't readily parse. As her omnitranslator threw out subtitles about obscure judicial concepts, Tuda-Loa wrested herself away and charged for the ship. The guards were entranced for now, but there was no time to lose. Tuda-Loa climbed into the cockpit, igniting the engines, and flashed the headlights. Mit-Shell, who had been slowly and sensuously dancing through the intoxicated crowd, dashed to the door, throwing himself inside Tuda-Loa's ship. Tuda-Loa slammed the door shut and revved the engines for launch, and the guards scattered as the ship took off, screaming, into the black. Tuda-Loa exhaled. She wouldn't feel safe again until they picked up the broadcasts that marked the border between the Mahd-Flai Empire and Free Chelonia... but they'd made it.
Once the autopilot was engaged, Tuda-Loa stood up from the control panel and made her way to Mit-Shell, who was collapsed upon her bunk. "You were magnificent," she said. "Mit-Shell, my shell-less wonder. You froze them in their tracks! How did you manage it?"
"A natural talent," said Mit-Shell, with a shy and wobbly smile that stretched taut the soft meaty lines of his face. "They knew me for it at home. A powerful obstructionist, they called me. But... I don't want to talk about that."
Tuda-Loa nodded. "You don't want to talk about where you came from, I suppose?" Terrans and other space oddities rarely did. She'd found him in a slave market, after all -- there could be no happy stories there.
"Why would I? It doesn't matter anymore, Tootie. I... I see it now, you know. How small I am, how vulnerable. How worthless. At home, I was just as small and insignificant, but I managed to convince too many people otherwise -- even myself. Now I know better, and I've got to live with the way I am."
"Oh, my Mit-Shell," Tuda-Loa whispered. "You are small, yes. You are vulnerable and tender. Your life is insignificant before the vastness of the galaxy. But you are worth the Empress's ransom to me, and I will ensure that you never forget it." Tentatively, she placed a flipper on Mit-Shell's exposed shoulder. The smooth, yielding flesh was a tactile delight, with its fine keratinous extrusions and thin sheen of oil. Tuda-Loa offered a clicking purr, and Mit-Shell answered it with a low mammalian gasp.
"Darling," said Tuda-Loa. "Take those ceremonial clothes off. Bathe, if you like, but... I wish to see you properly."
"Yes," gasped Mit-Shell. "Of course. But, Tootie -- there's one thing --"
"What is it?"
Mit-Shell paused. "You are a woman, aren't you?"
Tuda-Loa felt her face flush and her heart lighten. Mit-Shell did care, after all! Reproductive compatibility between Chelonians and space oddities was spotty, but the Empress did speak of his value to her bloodline, so she must have run the tests. And if Mit-Shell cared... there might be children for Tuda-Loa, after all.
"Of course I am," Tuda-Loa cooed. "Once we're in freespace... I'll show you. There's a beach-planet mogul I know who owes me a favor. Have you mated on a beach before, my dearest? Mated properly?"
"No," said Mit-Shell. His flipper-fronds began to move over her body, tracing along the smoothness of her shell and the sensitive borders where her limbs emerged. "No, I don't believe I have."
Tuda-Loa relaxed in her endothermic darling's embrace, and she thanked herself again for stopping at the slave markets of Danai 2. She'd found the space oddity of her dreams -- a man with a tender abdomen, ready for her eggs, and a tender heart ready for her devotion.
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 03:41|
imma judge this baby
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 04:26|
Words Writ on Floodwater
Taboo words:Fly, love, walk, body, back, need, eyes, face, air, music
Deep into night, on the line, signs raised, a ragged little chant you wouldn't understand if you didn't know the words by heart rising from behind our masks. The Man was out in force. The order to disperse blared out through distorting loudspeakers, barely even words, but we all knew the words to their song too. Flares ignite and dazzle. The cops started slamming the bottoms of their riot shields against the pavement in a martial rhythm. They moved forward. A rocket whoosh, and then pure blinding light, an explosion above us, and I was deafened, the world replaced by pure tintinuous ringing. And as sight returned, with the mass of rushing cops in foreground, I sew her, in my peripheral vision.
A mask with an anarchy 'A' wrapped in barbed wire, dark pixie cut hair, mirrored sunglasses: so little to recognize. But I did. It's Del. She was clinging tight to London. I didn't even know they knew each other. I hadn't thought of Del in forever.
The cops surged forward, pushing us toward 4th Street. The gas came out, and it was a panicked run. They left lots of streets clear, it was a night for clearing the streets, not filling the jails. We ran, gathered bearings, headed home. Except London.
London was an older fellow, used to be an actor. The stage, mostly, a few commercials for rent money. White hair. Had a deliberate, theater-blocking kind of stride, even when he was just wandering around. An old school kind of neighbor. Most people barely know the people living next door, but everyone knew London. Even these days he'd make a pedestrian circuit daily, wearing a cloth mask of Comedy and waving from an appropriate distance. But not this morning. I called around. None of the hospitals or precincts would admit he was there.
I thought about Del, strange nostalgia for those college years. We never dated, weren't close friends, but we were part of the same circles. There was one night, the two of us the last awake and sober at a party, a quick stroll out on the quiet quad, deep kisses in the shadow of abstract sculptures. No further than that, and it ended in pain. She had a piercing, some kind of barb beneath her tongue. It scraped my cheek, filled my mouth with blood and pain, killed the mood dead. I think I was the only one who apologized.
I went to the social media sites, looking for her, trying to reconnect, to ask if she knew what had happened to London. Her profiles we're minimal, piranha-stripped nothings that felt like they hadn't been touched in years. I sent contact requests and messages anyway. Her mentions were something entirely different, endless. Del photobombing, or, in the crowd of countless selfies and memes, tagged and remarked upon. There were sites of recent vintage dedicated to cataloging her appearances, to spinning elaborate conspiracies as to why she was there, to tracking her movements across the world, timestamp by timestamp. To proving them impossible.
She messaged me in less than an hour. She saw what happened to London, but wasn't willing to talk about it online. She suggested a meeting place, the parking lot outside where we hung out together as children.
I was always a shy kid. But I do remember her, challenging me at Super Off-Road in the arcade, us just past eleven, years and on the clock, at a supervised lock-in, and then on the old pinball machine as the older kids took over the racing game.
"I knew your name," I said, as soon as we got to social distance. "How did I know your name?"
"Is that really what you want to know?" she said. Her mask bore a silver question mark on black. Mine was plain, light blue surgical.
"London," I said.
"They took him," she said. "Drove him out of town, left him out past Burlingame. They broke his phone when he tried to take pictures, and he didn't bring his wallet."
"Is he okay? I mean, you must have seen him, so-"
"Talked to him," she said. "He borrowed a phone, gave me a call. Asked me to call him a cab."
I relaxed, relieved, exhaling as if I'd been holding my breath for a day. We chatted a bit more about old friends, then got into our cars and headed home.
It wasn't until that night that I realized she never said she did call the cab. I did ask why he wasn't around the neighborhood. She just said he's spending time with his family.
She spread across the internet, across memetic space over the next few days. Experts assuring the world that all of the photographs are genuine, unaltered. Others concluding that we must have crossed the line, that no photographic evidence can be trusted. Hobbyists calculating how many identical Dels it would take to account for every one of them. No one seems to have a personal connection, to have known her, or at least no one admits it.
I keep wondering where I met her, for the first time. Memory is tricky, especially going that far into the past. Was she at my birthday parties? Would I recognize her at that age? Would I project her onto any girl I couldn't otherwise pin a name to? I don't recall ever not knowing her, but she passed through my life without changing it; the first time her being there made much difference in what I did or who I was, who I became was that night, under siege.
London didn't return to the neighborhood. Eventually I tried to contact his family, and they hadn't heard from him lately either. They filed a missing person report with the police, but that seems like a cruel joke.
Del doesn't answer my messages and pings. I try not to think of her, to ignore the ubiquitous memes and theorycrafting. But despite myself, some mornings I wake up empty, aching for the scourge of her tongue.
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 04:47|
Submissions are closed.
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 05:01|
Taboo Words: Devil, demon, candle, evil, star, summon, dead, blood, sacrifice, dark
When your boss told you that you would have to spend your weekend at a consumer conference in Sunnyvale, Iowa you thought he was joking.
COVID-19 saw to the cancellation of most of these conferences with good reason you felt, but he insisted you be there to “facilitate relations” so you went.
You weren’t expecting to get so drunk at the post-conference lunchtime happy hour, but what else did you have to do?
You excuse yourself from the luncheon, which was just a lunch with two strangers at separate tables, and head back to your hotel room to grab a nap before your flight.
Your head still swimming from the post-conference drinks, you dismiss the melodic chirping of your phone’s alarm as part of your dream. You push the muffled ringing further back into your subconscious and enjoy the relative weightlessness of sleep.
Then suddenly, you snap upright in the hotel bed and see that it’s almost night outside.
Your eyes dart to the outdated digital, red block-lettering of the hotels shoebox clock and you begin to panic as you read ’6:55’ on the display.
“poo poo!” you say sharply, as you leap from the bed flinging the sheets and your phone across the room.
You go to retrieve your phone and see that you’ve got two missed calls and a voicemail from Jeremy.
“Hey, the flight is about to start boarding. Where the hell are you? Call me back. Bye.”
You fall back onto the hotel bed face down and scream into the pillows.
You missed your flight. You send a text to your boss about the gently caress up and call the airline to see if there was anything they could do.
The phone rings for an indeterminate amount of time when finally there’s a click on the line – a brief inhale – “Please hold.” – another click, and then inoffensive hold music that begins to grate on your sanity after five or so minutes. Some inner voice reminds you that ‘this is your fault’.
You grimace at that, and sigh just as an attendant returns to the line.
“Thank you for calling Interstellar Airways concierge line. My name is Tracy, and I’ll be happy to assist you. Whom do I have the pleasure of speaking with?” A dispassionate voice reads from a script.
You play an impromptu game of twenty questions with Tracy and finally they give you your options.
“Well, unfortunately, we’ve only got one other flight leaving tonight, and it’s a red-eye. Departure would be at 11 and arrival would be a little after 6. One connecting flight with a small layover.”
That’s nothing to you. You eagerly take the flight, and check out of the hotel, grabbing one last complimentary coffee. It’s stale, pre-packaged, bulk-roasted garbage that’s been on a warmer for twelve hours, but you’ve already missed one flight.
It’s a little after 9 when you arrive at the airport. You find your gate with relative ease and begin the series of scans, pat downs and wand swipes that you’ve become accustomed to with every flight.
Although you aren’t surprised by how empty the airport is given the COVID climate, you are surprised by how empty your airline’s gates are. You fidget impatiently and scroll through your phone while you wait. Finally, they call for a line, but it’s only you and about ten others.
Boarding the plane is no big affair. A single-file march of fatigued travelers precedes you and you don’t see any babies so you’re thankful for that.
You find your row and get seated. There’s a well-dressed man in the set of seats across the aisle sharing your row.
He is not unhandsome, but some of his features strike you as exaggerated. A prominent jaw and chin, a mouthful of bright pearl-white teeth, chiseled cheekbones, but his eyes were all wrong. Bright, symmetrically spaced and set in the shadow of a slightly protruded brow, his gaze was as captivating as it was penetrating.
His gaze betrays that smile, and you know you’re staring at him now. You don’t know for how long, but it’s long enough that you realize you’ve felt uncomfortable for some time now. You’re surprised that he’s not wearing a mask or more that no one else has said anything to him.
Instinctively, you turn away ashamed for some reason you aren’t quite sure of and find that you did not turn. Your brain gave the command, but you’re still looking at this man. His smile widens and he turns, opening a newspaper.
A pressure is lifted from you, you physically feel freed and you turn to face the seat in front of you.
No more than a few seconds could have passed, but you felt as if you were held prisoner for minutes if not hours.
The plane slowly begins to wheel around the runway as the engines roar to life.
A flight attendant comes by with a cart offering water and crackers. You take the in-flight cuisine and rest your eyes as the plane thrusts into the sky.
The man across the aisle seems to be mumbling something. You can barely hear it over the constant thrum of the turbines, but you hear it.
‘Great.’ You think, but plug in your earbuds and let some pre-downloaded podcast carry you to sleep.
Your 5 AM alarm rings on your phone, and you kick yourself for having forgotten to silence it.
You start to mutter an apology to the man across the aisle but he isn’t there.
Then you realize you should have had a transfer 3 hours ago. A flight attendant pushing a cart with water and coffee walks by.
“Excuse me…” you say as they walk past.
You persist with a tap on the arm. “Excuse me.” You’re firmer this time.
The attendant does not turn.
“I thought there was a transfer hours ago.” The attendant says before you can say it.
Your brain has to catch up for you to realize that they say it with your voice.
You stagger back a little disoriented when the attendant turns towards you.
There is no face. Just a smooth fleshy head with hair and contours that would support a face, but it is missing.
You clamp your hands over your mouth trying to hold back a scream, but it escapes through your trembling fingers and the attendant lunges at you like a poorly controlled marionette. It spills over you with cold fleshly limbs pushing you back into your seat as you scream.
You snap upright in your chair with your heart hammering against your ribs.
The well-dressed woman across the aisle lowers her newspaper and says more than asks, “Bad dream?”
You examine the woman. In the same jewelry and attire as the man. You want to ask where the man went, who this woman was, but you have a terrible feeling that the woman would just say, “what man?”
You push past a flight attendant towards the bathroom. You look pale. You feel nauseous, but inevitably make your way back to your seat avoiding even looking in the direction of the person across the aisle.
She continues her chant-like reading of the newspaper that is barely audible over the music in your earbuds. Your head hurts with how loud you’ve turned up your phone, but you still hear her murmuring something just barely distinguishable from gibberish.
You eat another pack of saltines and your stomach starts to settle just as you’re landing. It is a little after 2 in the morning.
The airport you’ve landed at looks abysmally empty. It is not one you’re familiar with. As you move from the plane to the lobby you realize you do not see either the well-dressed man or woman exit the plane.
The other passengers that were on the plane all look as uncomfortable as you feel, and it offers you some sense of relief that you immediately feel guilty about.
You don’t sleep while you wait for the next plane. You scroll through feeds on your phone, check your messages and wish it wasn’t so drat early so you could talk to someone.
You see someone at the end of a corridor with flickering lights. You can see the suit, and you can see the newspaper and the moving mouth, but the person wearing it looks unfamiliar to you.
You look back towards your phone.
A plane wheels up to your gate after about an hour and you and your fellow passengers spill into the plane one after the other.
There is no one across from you in this flight, and when you sleep, no dreams come to you.
The flight is shorter and smoother than you expected.
The next couple of days pass uneventfully. You call in for the week citing food poisoning, but your boss just suggests you get tested and wait the fourteen days before returning to the office.
You agree with that. You think it’s for the best, but you don’t know why you’re in your car, or where you’re going. You feel more and more like a voice in the back of your own mind, and sometimes when you look, you can see the tangled mass of threads woven throughout your limbs, silvery and near translucent like a spiders web, and when you see them, you feel their grip tighten.
You are no longer in control.
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 05:10|
Interprompt: Things you can't say out loud
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 05:11|
A thousand raindrops patter and plink on the walls and ceiling around me. My frantic inputs rise above the din of the rain, a symphony of clacks in Cherry white key. Moonlight bathes the world outside my little box, while I am lit from the projected amber of the terminal. The glow intensifies as my flow takes me to the height of programmatic composition. I know what I must say to the machine.
“Goodbye,” would be a fitting translation for the litany of arcane instructions that I will send. As I encode the final glyph, I stare at the screen. I am awash in its glow and in the silencing power of the rain that is more quiet than silence itself, for its beat blocks out the world.
Compiled, Uploaded. Perhaps “shut up” is a better translation. Soon the worm will activate, generating a horde of email addresses and phone numbers, using them to birth accounts on social media old and new. Flooding the world with posts. They will call me vandal, and worse. They will try to tear down everything I’ve built. For some, though, my rain will block out the world, and they will live again. Disconnected. Themselves.
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 05:46|
If you can hear this, congratulations! The operation was a success, and your latent mind-reading capabilities have been activated.
If you can't hear this, don't worry, I'm sure we'll get it right during the next highly-invasive experimental surgery.
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 06:06|
As his wife Emily maneuvered the twins into the van, Jonas loaded the last suitcase into the back. Another twice-a-year trip to his best friend Brandon's family neared an end, and the kids were subdued as they felt the energy of the visit ebbing away. It had become a treasured ritual in their young lives, to make the trek two states away and visit their unofficial cousins, trading in games and music and ways of seeing the world.
Jonas walked around to the driver's side, waiting to partake in his own bittersweet ritual. As he opened the door, he looked to Brandon, standing on the front porch with his two girls and beautiful wife. Keys in hand, Jonas's eyes met Brandon's, and they shared that perpetual regret, the certainty that the two of them should have a house and beautiful children of their own, together.
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 07:35|
I suffer from a tic
That forces me to talk
In sentences quite vile
My mother thought me sick
I gave her a shock
Speaking filth with a smile
But life is good
I’m free from worries
I have a trick
To put a block
On my verbal septic pile
My distraction is a lovely book
Full of awful, dirty, lovely stories
|# ? Jul 27, 2020 17:49|
I enjoyed reading this week, even if I wouldn't necessarily call it quote-unquote "good." There were some out-there ideas, lots of creativity, and very few truly boring stories. Thank you.
The loser is AstronautCharlie. I'm sorry, friend, but nepotism isn't enough to overcome this story's many problems.
Two DMs. One goes to Something Else, which we found confusing and poorly paced. The second goes to MockingQuantum, which had some good horror in the middle, but whose beginning and ending lost us.
An HM goes to antivehicular for a clever approach to a bonkers prompt that also worked as a genuinely thrilling space opera.
A very special non-mention mention to Ceighk, who we all thought wrote a good story that just strayed too far from the prompt to earn a proper accolade.
The winner used the prompt not as an obstacle but as an opportunity to create some genuinely inspired lunacy.
We await your prompt, rat-born cock. Guys, let's give him less porn this time around.
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 00:52|
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 01:02|
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 01:09|
Thunderdome Week 417: Long Road to a Little House.
Okay Thunderdome. I don't like you, and you don't like me, so let's not mince words. I'm feeling inspired by shaggy dog stories.
Typically a shaggy dog story is a joke, but I don't want to force you all to try to be funny because I'll probably get inundated with the story equivalent of someone holding a pool noodle up to their groin and saying "LOOK EVERYONE I HAVE A HUGE PENIS." So what are we doing? We're writing anti-stories.
What I mean by that is open-ended. You could write a three-act arc that ends in an anti-climax. You could write a sensory vignette that seems like it's going to resolve meaningfully, but never does. Maybe you'll tell your own version of a shaggy dog story (does not have to include a literal shaggy dog). Piss on the rules of plotting. Face the abyss. How many rules can you break while writing something interesting to read? I don't know but you should try to find out.
Since you guys seem to flock to assignment prompts like a rat getting a treat for pressing a button, there's a second part to this prompt. Upon request, I'll give you a random item. This item should have a disproportionate importance in your piece, though your entries should still be anti-storyish as described above.
Just go loving nuts dudes. Don't overthink it. Sign up and play your words like a trash piano. Loosen up.
Word count:800 words
Signup deadline: Midnight EST on Friday the 31st
Submission deadline: Midnight EST on Sunday the 2nd
1. Rat-born Cock
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 01:34|
In. Give me the item.
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 01:39|
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 01:41|
in, give me a dingus
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 01:48|
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 01:48|
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 01:50|
In. Item plz
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 01:53|
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 02:09|
In. Item plz
package of crisp and crunchy edibles
bottle of lotion
in, give me a dingus
In. Give me the item.
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 02:14|
In, item plz.
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 02:14|
In, item please
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 02:20|
In! Item me!
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 03:02|
In, thing me and gimme a flash rule
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 03:47|
|# ? Jun 27, 2022 20:02|
In with an item.
|# ? Jul 28, 2020 03:55|