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Tree Bucket
Apr 1, 2016

R.I.P.idura leucophrys
The cryptids have lured me into the Dome, for the first time.
Give me a clue and a creature!


Apr 21, 2010

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

Tree Bucket posted:

The cryptids have lured me into the Dome, for the first time.
Give me a clue and a creature!

"Wild party following opening of Grant's tomb." (5)

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
In, give me my monster, I'm confident I can recoup the words :smuggo:

Apr 21, 2010

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

Maugrim posted:

In, give me my monster, I'm confident I can recoup the words :smuggo:

"Paints ten camels without heads." (7)

Aug 20, 2014

In for this, haven't posted in a long time so here we go.

Apr 21, 2010

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

brotherly posted:

In for this, haven't posted in a long time so here we go.

"Foreign shores seen with sound judgement" (5,5)

Your Sledgehammer
May 10, 2010

Don`t fall asleep, you gotta write for THUNDERDOME
Love me some cryptids. In, please assign me a monster.

Also, thanks for the crit, Staggy!

Apr 21, 2010

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

Your Sledgehammer posted:

Love me some cryptids. In, please assign me a monster.

Also, thanks for the crit, Staggy!

"Well-worn remark: 'Peace begins with freedom'" (9)

Apr 12, 2006
What's up, Thunderdome? A brand new, very special recap has officially dropped for Week 430: Long Live the King! We specifically discuss the stories by BabyRyoga, Old Binsby, tab tabby, take the moon, Thranguy, Antivehicular, sebmojo, Dr. Kloctopussy, and Sitting Here. We also do a dramatic reading of have you ever wondered if there's a militia of fascist christian warlocks in the american heartland.

Give it a listen here.

Your Sledgehammer
May 10, 2010

Don`t fall asleep, you gotta write for THUNDERDOME
Thanks Thranguy! Could you assign me a creature as well?

Apr 21, 2010

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

Your Sledgehammer posted:

Thanks Thranguy! Could you assign me a creature as well?

Nov 16, 2012

Once a creature has been assigned to someone, is it banned from being chosen again, or can one cryptid have multiple tales?

Either way, In.

Apr 21, 2010

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

crimea posted:

Once a creature has been assigned to someone, is it banned from being chosen again, or can one cryptid have multiple tales?

Either way, In.

I'm going to try to avoid assigning duplicates as long as I can, so depends on how many people we get this week. The wiki list looks long but there are a lot of them that just link to Yeti. People choosing their own can duplicate.

"Listening device gripping ear hard is a tight squeeze?" (4,3)

Tree Bucket
Apr 1, 2016

R.I.P.idura leucophrys
My sister very briefly worked for a small-town Australian newspaper that breathlessly reported bunyip, giant panther and min-min sightings every few weeks. It was just exuberantly awful.

Jan 12, 2012

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

:toxx: in with the Bear Lake Monster

Apr 21, 2010

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

"Revolutionary mobs hesitated, blew opportunity." (6,3,4)

Sep 3, 2020


Naeing Horses Brawl!
- Pick 2 of 3: Confrontation at High Noon, Necromancy, Cybernetic Horses.
- 1500 words max.
- Due by Wed the 25th at noon PST

In the Light of the Smiling Sun

1499 Words

My backpack hits the locker floor with a thud. As my watch vibrates against my wrist—five pulses until solar peak!—I fish through my bag for my dead planet core.

Volin's blue bulb of a head blocks the light as he cranes over my shoulder. "Did you forget it?"

"Of course not!" If I did that, then Jacey wins the astromancy contest by default, and there is no way she's beating me in my favorite subject.

My necklace dangles in my view. I swat it aside and keep digging. Something round and rocky scrapes my knuckles, and I yank out my core with a whoop. "Got it!"

Three long shadows fall across my locker. My headfin flattens against my skull. When I dare to turn, Jacey and her flunkies are looming over me, reveling in the height of their growth spurts.

"Holy poo poo, Zamantha, is that a dwarf planet?" she says.

"Uh, no?" I stammer. "It's a telluric planet."

"You're gonna resurrect that little thing? There's no way there's any life on it. It's a planet for babies."

She laughs, and her friends laugh with her. I wish I was tall enough to punch Jacey's green face, but Volin would cry if I started a fight anyway. He's a good friend, but he's terrified of bullies.

Jacey cranes forward until she's nothing but eyes and teeth. The black lines of her pupils drag downward, settling on my neck. "Is this a smiling sun?" She snatches the yellow pendant and jerks it upward. "It is! Oh my God, you're an even bigger baby than your planet!"

Pustules of embarrassment swell on my cheeks. "Shut up!"

Lights pulse over our heads—solar peak. Jacey drops my necklace and me along with it. "See you in astromancy. Good luck with your baby planet!"

As she strides away, Volin offers me a hand. I swat it away. "Thanks for nothing."

"Sorry. For what it's worth, I like your sun."

I scowl at him, but I like it, too. It's nice to see someone smiling at me in the mirror. No way I was gonna say that to Jacey, though. My baby stuff isn't worth fighting for.

Mr. Dorgle slouches in his stool, clutching his coffee like it's the only thing keeping him upright. "Okay, class. Today, Jacey and Zamantha will be presenting their planetary resurrections. Remember, this is a friendly competition"—his deadpan really selling how much he buys that—"so let's all be nice. Jacey, you're up first."

Jacey strides up to the desk, really showing off her height in her palladium-heeled boots. "Thanks, Mr. Dorgle. Today I'm going to be resurrecting a gas giant with a hydrogen-helium atmosphere." She spreads out her pristine astromancy tools, then holds up a green container for the class to see. A dark, syrupy globule bobs up and down in the center like a buoy on a bender.

Everybody leans forward as she slides her resurrection disk into the base of the gravity pillar. She pours her chronal powder into the disc—smirking the whole time, that snake—then clicks some gas canisters onto the sides.

"Okay, everybody, stand back!" she says. Volin and I share a scowl. We're all sitting down; where would we go?

When she's sure she's got our attention, Jacey tilts her container over the resurrection tray. The wet core hits the powder with a plop. One flick of a switch on the gravity pillar sends it floating upward.

Jacey turns the dial on the top of the pillar, recreating the planet's rotation. The chronal powder mixes with the gases, and the clock starts running backward for her planet. The shimmering powder fuses with the hydrogen streams to create a metallic barrier around the core. It's bright and smooth like the toes of Jacey's boots. She knows how good it looks, too, which is why she giggles as she flicks the oxygen tank to get the ice layer going. It's all over for me when that happens. There's no way my crappy core will spawn anything as pretty as that swirl of the copper-gold gases.

"Very nice, Jacey." Mr. Dorgle says. "Now set up the planeoscope for a life-check."

I draw in a breath. Maybe there's no life on there. Maybe I can still win!

My hopes die once Mr. Dorgle checks the planeoscope and nods. "Ah, helium wraiths. Zamantha, would you like to see and confirm?"

"No thanks, I believe you," I mumble.

"Very well. Nice job, Jacey—but wraiths are pretty common. B-Plus." Jacey's face falls as my eyes pop open. I've still got this!

Now it's my turn. I scramble up to the front, 'accidentally' bumping into Jacey as she passes. She shoots me a deadly look and mouths 'baby'. I'm no baby; I'm gonna win.

My hearts race as I set up my crummy tools and speed through my introduction. Telluric planet, liquid water surface: potential for carbon life forms. My little core may look pathetic now, but it's gonna be something special as soon as I turn the gas on.

I flick the switches on the gravity pillar. Once my core starts turning, gases spurt from the canisters and mix with the powder. My headfin twitches like it's ready to launch as I hold my breath and wait.

It's an absolute disaster. Brown clouds fly over browner seas, hiding what I can only assume is brown lava. It stinks like Volin's hand-me-down boots mixed with old meat somebody forgot to cryo-seal. This isn't a planet; this is a mud-ball wrapped in farts.

"It's telluric, alright," Mr. Dorgle murmurs. "Now set up the planeoscope."

My embarrassment pustules throb as I look through the lens. I can already hear Jacey snickering from here. There's no way there's gonna be life on here. Even if there is, it's just gonna be stinky and brown and…cute?

I lean closer to the scope. My planet is covered with dirty, sticky mud-blobs, but there's something strange about them I can't help but love. Maybe it's the way their big eyes bug out as they flop around; maybe it's the way they keep bumping into each other like they're trying to hug. They're as wholesome as they are stupid: like they were genetically engineered to be picked on. Boy, can I empathize.

When I look up, Mr. Dorgle is staring at me. "Any signs of life?"

My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth as I catch a glimpse of Jacey's sick grin. I've never seen anything like these little mud-bumblers before, which means Mr. Dorgle will probably give me a better grade than her, but then Jacey will want to look to confirm. There's no way I'm letting her do that. She won't appreciate how unique they are; she'll just make fun of them. The mud-bumblers deserve better.

Pustules pulsing, I glance around the room. My attention lands on the light switch next to Volin's desk. An idea pops into my head. It'll cost me the win; it'll also be mortifying. Jacey will make fun of me for years. I don't like it, but I can live with it. This is for my baby bumblers.

I look at Volin, then the light switch. He stares at me with his chin wobbling and his headfin flat. Idiot.

I do it again, then twice more with a grimace, and finally, finally, he gets it.

He flips the switch. The room goes dark. I knock the planeoscope off the desk and scoop up my gravity pillar. The reborn planet wobbles on its axis, but the pillar's got enough juice in it to keep it turning until I get home.

The lights turn back on. No one is looking at Volin, hand on the switch; everyone is looking at me, surrounded by metal and glass. I'll bet I look like an idiot baby—and this baby's about to cry.

"Oh no-oh no-oh no!" I stammer-sob. "I got so scared that I knocked over the planeoscope! Now it's broken and I can't afford to replace it." I toss my arm over my face with a wail. "What am I gonna dooooo?"

"Now Zamantha," says Mr. Dorgle, "I'm sure it was an accident—"

"I'm so stupid! All I can do is run home and cry!" Before Mr. Dorgle can stop me, I race out of the room. Jacey's laughter follows me into the hall. It hurts, but I can take it. I did it for a good cause.

I set up my gravity pillar on the shelf where I keep my cybernetic pony dolls. Once my planet is safe and secure, I check on the mud-bumblers. They're alive, thank goodness, and they're as dumb and bumbly as ever.

"You guys are gonna be alright here." Grinning like a proud parent, I tilt my desk lamp to shine down on them, then slip my necklace over my shoulders and loop it over the bulb. My enamel sun spins from side to side, shining over a carefree world.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

:horse: Naeing Horses Brawl :horse:

Boned at Noon
1180 words

An explosion rocked the mountainside above Hope Creek. Thornton and his horse George reached the clear ground of Ramstooth Pass just in time to see Beth pummel the cybernetic horse with a hail of bones like bullets from a gatling gun. Her eyes were aflame with righteous indignation, auburn hair escaping from the hood of her black robe. The sight slammed Thornton back to the first time he’d met her. His battalion half dead and the town near taken, Beth had descended like a hurricane on the enemy droids and their cybernetic mounts. Thornton had fought at Beth’s side that day and lain beside her that night, and every night since; until peace came. Then they’d fought with each other, until, one dusty day, Beth had left.

The hail of bones knocked the cybernetic horse to its knees, but from his vantage point Thornton could see the panels covering its flank-cannon opening. Oh gently caress, he thought. Beth was gasping for breath. Her robe had fallen open, revealing a sweat-soaked t-shirt and bike shorts above a pair of leather hiking boots. Thornton realised there was no way she’d get a shield up in time.

“Beth, get down!” he screamed, and spurred his long-suffering horse towards the two combatants.


X2045 stumbled with the force of the explosion, and barely got its shoulder-mounted shield up in time to protect itself from the hailstorm of bones. The shield was military-grade and deeply pock-marked. Its previous crest had been painstakingly scoured off and painted over with the emblem of the Cybernetic Horse Veterans’ Union.

X2045 had sworn it would never turn its flank-cannon on a living creature again. If it had known this crazy bitch was guarding the path to Hope Creek it would have gone looking for plowing work somewhere else. But Hope Creek was small, and life was simple there. Plus, this was horse country. X2045 found the company of horses was best of all for keeping its old programming locked down. Hell, the town had what X2045 was looking for right there in the name. Hope.

But having hope wasn’t worth a drat if X2045 got blasted into scrap by a vigilante necromancer. A chestnut horse burst from the trees to X2045’s left. The gelding’s neck was wet with sweat and it was jigging sideways, resisting its rider’s urgings to move forward. X2045’s heart went out to the other equine. It remembered that feeling well, of being spurred into a fight that it wanted no part of.

I’m sorry, X2045 thought, as its cannon’s servos whirred to life.


The skeletal mare’s front legs were blown off by the force of the explosion. Held to the body not by boney joints but by a miasmic cradle of spirit-muscle, stopping the scapula from detaching was the bane of quadruped reanimation, and Beth was out of practice.

Tilly sat back onto her pelvis, deeply perplexed by the sudden absence of forelimbs. She tried to flick her ears in agitation, but found she didn’t have any. She wished her bones were back in the soil, close below where her old pasture-mates grazed.

Her necromancer’s opponent was a horse, Tilly was pretty sure of that. Something about it wasn’t quite right, but it had neighed when it saw her. It was a lonely neigh; one herdless horse to another. Tilly had tried to respond, but when she opened her jaw no sound came out.

Suddenly a chestnut gelding burst from the treeline, blowing hard, his rider making a fearful racket. Bright blue fire blazed in Tilly’s eye sockets as she recognised George’s whinny.

The cybernetic horse’s cannon boomed and the hillside behind the mare exploded in a shower of rocks and dirt. George spun in panic, unseating his rider. The necromancer sprinted, robe flapping, towards the crumpled human. George paused--

Wait! screamed Tilly. Tendrils of blue flame sprang from her ribcage, and with a panic-fueled force of will she sucked her scapula and foreleg bones towards her, reattaching them with a sound like a cracked whip. She leapt to her feet, and bolted after the other horse.


The earth of Ramstooth Pass boomed beneath the necromancer’s feet as she ripped the old bones of thousands of mountain creatures from their resting places and hurled them at the war-horse. She hated these remnants, these unnatural tools of violence and destruction. They should have been melted down along with the captured droids and their means of creation scrubbed from humanity’s records. There was no loving way she was letting it get away with thinking it could pull a plow in her town.

Her first assault had not had the effect she wanted. Beth panted, trying to slow her breathing and summon enough necromantic energy for another go. gently caress, she thought, as she realised Tilly’s front legs had fallen off. But she couldn’t let herself get distracted; she knew better than anyone how dangerous war-horses could be.

“Beth, get down!” she heard a familiar voice scream.

She opened her mouth to tell Thornton to gently caress right off, but she was knocked off her feet by the shockwave of cannonfire hitting the hillside behind her. When she looked up, coughing dust from her throat, she saw Thornton crumpled on the stones, and her heart froze.

No, thought Beth. No, no, no! She and Thornton had kept each other alive right through the war, the stupid bastard couldn’t go and die on her now.

Beth abandoned her fight, and ran.


George did not like the noise of the explosion, and did not want to go up the hill towards where it came from, but Thornton told him he had to, so he guessed he’d better.

He was blowing hard by the time he cantered from the trees onto Ramstooth Pass. A woman he recognised was facing a horse (something a little off about it) that he didn’t. And behind the woman was--

“Nnnnuhuhurruru!” neighed George. He’d recognise the bones of his old pasture-mate anywhere. He had felt her absence from the soil, and he missed her.

A second explosion shook the ground beneath George’s hooves, and he spooked. Thornton thudded onto the ground and the sudden lightness on his back made George hesitate, confused. The woman was running towards him. Her robe was flapping behind her, flappy and black and flicky and shifty in a way that George did not like, not one little bit. The woman tossed the robe aside as she knelt beside Thornton, blue fire springing from her hands as she cupped his face--

The robe hit the ground and poofed in an alarming fashion, and George bolted. He heard the thundering of hooves and looked back to see Tilly running to join him. The other horse (bit odd but definitely a horse) fell in behind her.

Neck extended, George flared his nostrils to flood the great bellows of his lungs with air. The three horses galloped together. The wind was in them, and they were the wind.

This is great, thought George.

Nov 2, 2012

Stop that.
In, give me a monster please!

Apr 21, 2010

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

siotle posted:

In, give me a monster please!

"Senator snarled like a brigadier general" (3-4)

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


Naeing Horses Brawl RESULTS

In the Light of the Smiling Sun

Summary: Alien astral necromancers have a planet-reanimation contest at school. One is bullied, but instead of taking her vengeance through competition, saves her planet and the life on it and takes it home, losing the competition and her reputation.
Discussion: The plot is clear, and we get four distinct characters. However, the reason it is clear and the characters easy to follow is because of its strong adherence to a well-trod formula: Bully, school competition, etc. This also leads to a strange difficulty with the story: I’m not sure how to visualize this. The school setting (and human qualities of the (presumably massive) aliens, such as palladium-heeled boots and teenage growth spurts and lockers, contradict the scale of planets and suns and flattens the aliens into just humans by a different name. The set dressing is too obvious here. The protagonist also wants to protect her new life, but I don’t understand from what. Jacey is visually confirming life and the worst thing that will happen to the mud people is “get made fun of by an alien titan, which is too large and different for them to comprehend, probably” so Zamantha isn’t really protecting them from anything and didn’t need to lose the contest. Still, I do get the point; the character is taking action to distinguish themselves in ethics and has found something more important than reputation. The story is satisfactorily concluded. I don’t know that Volin needs to be in the story (they hit a light switch; this could easily be replaced by telekinesis or hacking the class light controls). I also don’t know that the story strictly needs to be in a classroom. I appreciated the strange set dressing, and wonder if the story would be more intriguing if the more mundane aspects were painted over with even stranger details that made the story feel less like “humans but not” even if at its core it wasn’t.
Rating: An oceanic planet with anoxic life, missing an active liquid core and therefore a protective magnetic field.

Boned at Noon
Summary: Two necromantic war veterans and their mounts confront a cybernetic horse (also a veteran of the war). They fight, there’s explosions, and the horses run off.
Discussion: The first reaction I had to this story was “confounding.” It starts in medias res but is already having flashbacks by sentence 3. The story is divided into sections, so I don’t know that interweaving rapid tense changes to describe both an action-filled present (no clue wtf is going on at first) and past-built character relations is a good way to do this. Beth launching bones at cyber-horses is difficult to visualize (especially since any other reader isn’t going to be necessarily expecting necromancers prior to their introduction in paragraph 6). I do appreciate how we get the perspectives of combatants on both side of the battle. However, the sheer number of perspective shifts, each coming with a miniature backstory, is jarring, and makes determining new events from repeated events difficult on a first read. I do have to give props for the structure here; it’s neat, using each different character (including the horses, undead or otherwise). Honestly, George’s perspective is the best (‘something off about that’ repeated is a great joke), and I like how, for George, the conflict is resolved because they’re all running together. There’s intentionality here (X2045 is set up as liking to run with other horses in the second section), but for most of the cast, there's not a clear resolution. Tilly, wants to rest; will she get that? Beth and Thornton’s fate are unknown (she might be reanimating or healing him, not sure), and even X2045 (who might have to deal with Beth’s quest-for-vengeance depending on Thornton’s fate) doesn’t get to know if they’ll have peace. George’s ending is a punchline—and a nice one—but it detracts from what the rest of the story is set up as. There’s also a strong need to clarify the setting and circumstances—perhaps a short prelude the showdown?—so that the reader doesn’t get lost.
Rating: A partially reanimated necromantic skeleton, devoid of key necrotic field suspensions.

Both stories are very different, with very different flaws and strengths, and therefore impossible to meaningfully compare and rate, but this is Thunderdome, so we’ll do that anyway. Nae’s story has strong clarity and an inventive setting. Yoruichi’s story sacrifices clarity, but introduces a neat structure and historied, if compact, characters. I enjoyed certain details of Nae’s story and the clear arc and resolution; overall, it succeeds, telling us a familiar tale in an inventive way. Yoruichi’s story needs revisions to clarify the beginning and perhaps a bit more to really make the resolution land for each character, but in the end I enjoyed the complex structure and the last section has a few quality lines that ended up being my favorite part of the brawl. It’s not a commanding victory, but by a hair, I award the win to Yoruichi, though the real winners are the friends we made along the way.

Sep 3, 2020


Thranguy posted:

Thunderdome CDXXXIV: Cryptic Cryptids

I'm in. Give me a Cryptid, Thranguy!

Apr 21, 2010

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

Nae posted:

I'm in. Give me a Cryptid, Thranguy!

"Going without food, a camper enters depot" (10)

Feb 22, 2013

I am sorry. I have no vices for you to exploit.

In, cryptid and a clue please.

Apr 21, 2010

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

Tosk posted:

In, cryptid and a clue please.

"The man notices sound coming from grave marker"(9)

Aug 18, 2014

Week 433 crits

Your Sledgehammer

As a reader, the idea of time tourists is frightening. You've got my interest from the start.
I feel the decision to take the second portal is questionable once Gilead realized the customer was a spy. Plus, I have trouble thinking he went in without a way to get back in his timeline in case of emergency. I guess it's a side effect of the spy's tampering, but it's not that clear to me.

All in all, I like it. Good take on the flash.


It's well written and poetic, but I had a lot of trouble getting into it at first reading.
I feel like you had a lot to explain, and it slowed the story down significantly to the point where it weakened the last few lines for me.

In the end, I still think the punch line works, and I can't really explain that much why I didn't enjoy the story as Staggy did.


I like the idea and I thought you had a strong start.
Sadly, it kinda fizzles out after the tower of Babel. I'm not sure about the timeskip and would've liked the story to have more focus, either on the beginning or the end.


Cute story about self-search.

Small switch between 2nd and 1st person in the dialog tags at one point, but I guess it's just a typo.
2nd person POV felt weird at first, but it really works here. I liked it.


Fun gimmick, did a double take on the first few timeskips. I felt the yiddish slang was a bit too present at the start, it pulled me out of the story.
Bit of a mixup between names, I guess they're the same character tho. (Shira and Shaina)

I liked the progression in this story and the mirroring between the start and the ending.


Fast, efficient. Everything clicked together just before the change in POV.
Not sure I can add anything, really strong entry.


I'm not sure what the objective of the protagonist is once he's got the map or what the map is for.
I feel like you had more going on, but you were forced to cut stuff because of the word limit. Could be wrong tho.

(Mythology stuff, I'm too much of an enthusiast to ignore this, but it's subjective)
I don't get the significance of the muse being Clio in particular. I'm guessing it's because it's also the name of a car?
Satyrs/fauns are not Greek hell creatures, but you only referred to it as one once so I guess it's more of a demon/devil than a satyr.


So usually I try to visualize the characters while I read, but because of the fish-bus I had no idea if the girls were fish, human or some kind of in-between. I ended up having those girls with pufferfish faces in my head, which was weird.
I didn't like the dynamic between the two main characters. The fact that Glitteress tries to save Spanglesdot after calling her defective irked me.

I feel like there was a lot of stuff going on, but not a lot actually happening. The world you created felt alive, but I feel you went too hard on the weird side and it ended up being a disservice to the story.


Liked the writing style. As for the rest, the message I get from the story is "The party never ends."
Not sure that's any help, but hey, I tried. :v:

Jan 31, 2003

My LPth are Hot Garbage
Biscuit Hider
Week 429 delayed crits

You know, the one where you got unlimited word count and I lost my crit documents.

Magic Cactus - Homesong

You've got to understand that Idle Hands are the Devil's Playthings is one of my favorite episodes of almost any media ever and it's definitely got some fingerprints all over this story.

It made me smile but the conflict feels very, very rushed. There's no specific reason why these things really revolt and there's no big foreboding presence about it.

It just happens suddenly for me and I wish it had been done either in a different capacity or with a different conflict. I'm not really invested in the homonculi is what i"m saying.


Take the moon - skinwalker-

You've got this immutable style that breaks all the rules but you've tried to do a lot here. Two perspectives. One alien set of rules.

I loved some of the word choices and some of the imagery you used. You've created an interesting world and I'm conflicted on how we're dropped in the middle of it.

But the last line fell flat on its face to me, given your ability with words.


Path - Degenerate Stars

8.5/10 You've definitely nailed postcolonial fiction. The interplay of the different languages definitely helped show that it was two different cultures smashed together.

There are some issues with telling as opposed to showing- things like "Long-haul space travel was not easy on the body." and

I loved the scene with the Xibalba reveal. And then you put in something like "It was a station—no— it was a citadel—no—it was. A lot." which completely took me out of the picture you had painted.

I enjoyed calling the gods Deaths but you've brought some things completely out of whole cloth when it would suit you-- new rules when it was expedient, which I wasn't a huge fan of. Like "You love play, right?"

A hell of a first entry. It needs some editing but I'll probably say that a lot this week.

Simply Simon - Take the Stars

I'm going to shoot straight with you-- this one's hard to follow. And I think it's supposed to be, because being an empath is confounding and a jumble of emotions and tangles, of getting lost in the names.

There's definitely growth here. The problem is I'd like a little more background as to what's going on instead of being immediately dropped in.

You had the words to do it, young man.

Promise, though.


Uranium Phoenix - What Lies Beneath

You took the concept of post-colonial science fantasy and nailed it. It's a setting I never really thought about before but it makes sense in your context.

There's an outlying world, it's not too confusing and your universe makes sense-- it has rules.

The scenes are great and I enjoyed the action going on here.

The characters, unfortunately, fall a little flat. It's a little tough to follow who's who. While there's motivation, it ends up being a little...forced.


A Friendly Penguin - Battle of the Senses

Things are a little stilted. Some uses of double negatives that don't appear to be stylistic and some awkward phrasing. Things like "He’d have to share any secrets of efficiency that he learned when he returned to work."

Simple grammatical mistakes, like missing commas. "This was a simple matter they said."

It kinda peters out a little bit. It's your main character being annoyed. Exploring the world but being annoyed and he doesn't really change as a result.


Gorka - Song of the Depths

This one was out of your comfort zone, I can tell. You're doing a lot more telling me than showing me things here.

"Strange, the previous squad should've noticed the alert."

"He actually knew what to do in order to refill the water levels, and he could do more than just signal the problem. He could report its resolution"

"As the youngest member of this expedition, he wasn't given any meaningful tasks. He still wanted to prove to himself and the rest of the crew that he was capable."

"It was the only time he did something unsupervised, and it went wrong."

Then it's such an abrupt shift to talking with the whales and...what? You kinda lost me. It just got really, really rushed.


Sparskbloom - Institutional Memory

You've got good, solid prose here and I love Grandma as a character. Your main character has motivation and there's a concrete plot line with a conflict.

I've got an issue with the ending, though. If she's a revolutionary and tried to commit a coup, you'd think that'd be the last person you'd turn into.


MockingQuantum - A Spark

So this is a crit I've gotten before-- you've fallen into the pattern of "This happened. Then this happened. Then this happened" in your story. It needs to be broken up with a little flavor text every now and again or some description.

Not necessarily dialogue but depth. Give me some flavor. There's not enough to really get into here-- but I want more. Show me more.


Thumbtacks - “Excuse me, would you be interested in a timeshare on Callisto?”

It's cute. But it's passive. Your character elaborates and complains but ultimately nothing really happens.

It's a dry turkey sandwich on white bread. All the elements are there and you've checked the boxes but it's not deep.

Give me growth, give me something to root for. Give me action. Having a character die at the end of a short story is kind of like the sad trombone sad from Price is Right.


Tyrannosaurus - Anyway Your Honor

Looove it. Was my pick for the win. 12K words and I was excited to read all of them, holy poo poo.

Love the characters, love the setting, it's definitely post-colonial. You've got three fully-fleshed characters, a cogent story and frankly, I'd pay money for it.

You done good. Any criticism I could make is purely stylistic.

Sorry. It's hard to crit good stories.


Crabrock - Countdown

I think you played a bit too long with the physics instead of the characters and setting. I liked the parts about Dan, not so much about how physics works. I think it detracted from what you were going for.

If you had more words? Sure. But with this space, you tend to need to condense it to what you need or color in what what you've got a bit more.


Sebmojo - V

I like it. It's very short. I would like some more, please. It's tough to crit something this short.

Dr. Kloctopussy - Vampire Dad and the Magical Sword from Space (Part I)

I loving love this kind of stuff. John Dies at the End is my favorite book.

But much like John Dies at the End, it needs editing. You need to crunch it down and keep it on focus.

But it's FUN.

Where's part 2?


G-Mawwwwwww fucked around with this message at 17:43 on Nov 28, 2020

Apr 21, 2010

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

Tree Bucket
Apr 1, 2016

R.I.P.idura leucophrys

Thunderdome CDXXXIV: Cryptic Cryptids
Prompt: Jersey Devil // "Wild party following opening of Grant's tomb." (5) Answer: Grave
“Star Flame Grave Wing” 1388 words

My Ship drops out of blinkspace, and all I can see is blood and smoke and flailing tentacles.


Everything is spinning. My Ship screams. I rub thoughtfully at my chin, and lean forward in my harness to wipe nameless fluids from the monitor.

What I expect to see is the glittering trellis of the Home Orbital. What I can actually see is black space and the blue disc of some watery planet. It is spiralling closer, quickly.

“That’s not optimal,” I murmur, as the cockpit floor begins to melt.

I glance at my arm. A medi-slug is there, quietly filling my veins with soothing drugs.

But I need my mind sharp and clear. So I toss the slug into its pond, while the blue planet fills the monitor.

The warm haze drops away. I feel nothing, just for one blessed moment.

Then the Ship screams and I scream and the Ship screams and-


-awake. Again.

Nothing is on fire this time. The walls aren’t bleeding. All tentacles are where they should be.

The cockpit lights are on, but the monitor is blank. The scans make no sense.

“Ship? Are you there?”

The Ship is happy to see me awake. It has an update for me: after we spasmed out of blinkspace, we managed a barely-controlled crash into the blue planet. The Ship’s exoskeleton was shattered. It had to spend a long, long time regrowing itself, extruding new ligaments and vesicles. And then the medi-slugs, over long years, rebuilt my body from various fragments they found smeared across the cockpit.

“…right,” I mumble. It’s hard not to escape the feeling that I’ve been rebuilt last along with other non-essential ship components, like the algae vats and the lamp-fungi.

Also, murmurs the Ship, our crash left us buried a hundred metres underground. Sorry.


…and with the sunforce generator crippled by gravity, the Ship can only keep me conscious for an hour at a time. Then it has no choice but to let the planet’s ambient psychic field disperse my thoughts like dry leaves on a cold wind, while the Ship recharges its own energy reserves…

Blank-faced, I chew on a spiced polyp.

“I see. And how long does your recharging process take?”

A decade, announces the Ship apologetically. This planet’s mind-field really is very strong, you see, and it’s getting stronger all the time. In fact, if ever you ventured onto the surface- says the Ship over the roaring noise in my ears- your consciousness would be pulverised instantly…

I blink. Emptiness. Not a drug-induced blankness, but the gnawing blasted nothing felt by any sentient being a long way from home.

There are certain thoughts I must not think.

I must keep busy.

“Ship, grow me a drone. I want to see what’s going on up there.”

Ship notes that- during our mad final plunge- its external eyes managed to grab a few fractured glimpses of the local life-forms. Blurred images appear on my monitor: horns; a tail; membranous wings; a long hair-trailing face with a herbivore’s mouth. And so on.

“Weird-looking creature,” I mutter. “Right. Put these fragments together- properly!- and grow me a drone based on that model. The drone can dig its way to the surface, and I’ll pilot it when I’m awake.”

This will take some time, says Ship cautiously.

I roll my eyes and take a big gulp from a nutrient sac.

“Time,” I mutter.

I go under. Ship gets to work.


Awake, again, after nine years of nothing. I’m back in the warm humming darkness of the cockpit. Lights blink, fans whir, fibres twitch. I grope for the new drone’s ganglions and slide them under my eyelids-

And I can fly! I send my splendid new drone high over a dark landscape of pointed trees. The drone runs through the forest and soars over a landscape shining silver in the moonlight. I exalt in flight and freedom. I spot a cluster of two-legged animals. I descend. The creatures scream and flee.

I grin, as sleep claims me.


Awake, again, and again, and again, and again.

I remain stuck in a bubble of blinking blue lights under a million tonnes of rock. If ever I stood on the surface, the combined psychic onslaught of the planet’s minds would shred my brain. Ship theorises that this world reached some threshold; that enough creatures on this planet gained sentience to impinge on blinkspace and nauseate Ship’s navigation computers as we passed by, thus dumping us out into real space…

Makes sense. I guess. I wonder if anyone else has met with this fate, or if my Queen has had lighthouses erected.

Still. I love my drone. I love piloting it around the forest. Actually, as the decades pass, the forest is shrinking. Tracks slash through it; fields take nibbles and then great bites from its edges. Smoke plumes rise from little buildings, little villages, little cities. Big cities. Cloth-wrapped bipeds seem to be everywhere, now. They don’t always see me. When they do, they scream or run or shoot.

For some reason I never spot any creatures that look entirely like my drone.

Awake again. And asleep again and again and again and-


This has been happening less and less frequently. The psychic weight of this planet’s population is staggering; there must be hundreds- even thousands!- of minds up there. By chance, I must have wound up under the capital of this world.

And, though I would never comment on it, Ship's own systems must be running down. Brittle membranes, sluggish tendons. Little errors in cell replication building up…

But the locals have developed electronic communications. Ship has been listening and watching. While I sleep, maybe Ship can learn to translate. Even communicate.

“That’s great news,” I tell Ship. I’m not sure how to feel about this, really. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt anything new.

I brush a medi-slug from the console, and reach for the drone’s controls.


Awake. Ship has been learning and listening. Ship has kept me asleep for century, while using the drone to scout. Ship has accessed something called the Human Genome Project, and had the medi-slugs deconstruct my body. Ship has rebuilt me along a new pattern more closely matching that of the locals. I will be able to crawl through the drone’s tunnel and walk freely on the surface for the first time, unhindered by the psychic weight of so many sentient humans.

Really, I’m one of those humans now.

I seem to be hurting Ship.

And I should resent Ship for keeping me under for a hundred years. I should be nauseated at the thought of my limbs and organs and tissues floating in a hundred separate vats of nutrient slurry. I should be horrified by this new two-legged, two-eyed body. I should curse the universe that has left me trapped a hundred lightyears from home.

But my human body has heard mention of sunlight and fresh air and other humans. I find myself feeling excitement, and even joy. It has been a long time…

I crack the hatch; it sticks a bit, after four hundred years. Rock shards patter down. A long hard climb is ahead. I feel my face shifting strangely in a new human smile.

I go up.

Ship’s lights dim behind me.


Indica glares at the graveyard, at the BORED crowd, at the TACKY Halloween decorations that some moron’s draped over trees and tombstones. Like it’s a GRAVEYARD, you shouldn’t have to ADD Halloween stuff to make it SPOOKY. They can’t even have music at any kind of volume in case someone calls the COPS. Like THREE people are dancing and they are, yeah, DEFLATING by the second. People have their PHONES out, flipping through messages, searching for some party that doesn’t SUUU-

Rustling. Movement. Grass shifting, by a gravestone. People shriek and point. Phones up and out.

Indica feels blood pound at her temples and adrenaline’s acid spike.

A hand thrusts up from the grave.

An arm follows, and a head. And a completely nude guy clambers up from out of the ground, blinking and staring.

Everyone screams. Indica feels a slow and terrible smile grow across her face.

“Buddy,” she shouts, “where did YOU come from!?”

Aug 20, 2014

What Was Needed
1,445 words

Jim posted for the first time two weeks after the funeral.

I swear this isn’t a troll and I know you guys aren’t gonna believe me, I’m just saying I saw it last night, I was cleaning my truck and it had these glowing red eyes and big fangy talon things and it looked like a hosed up dog with lizard scales and wings and I think it was the Jersey Devil.

He lay on a twin bed with his tablet inches from his face. He smelled old socks and deodorant, and stared past the screen toward the ceiling where star decals glowed green.

The replies started right away. — Looks like we got a case of mental illness boys.

Let’s see the proof if you’re so sure.

I bet this guy doesn’t have any outdoor cams. Can’t prove poo poo.

I believe you brother for wat it’s worth.

The Jersery Devil is bullshit and u all know it. The CHUPACABRA is real u fukin moron.

He felt something unfurl inside of him, retched and ugly, and he knew that he couldn’t turn back from the certainty of what he’d have to do. He read each comment, sometimes twice, before typing his only response.

I saw it and I’ll get proof.

He hit send, turned the screen black, and stared up at the glowing stars.


The bed of his truck felt freezing under his thin jeans and sweatshirt and the darkness pressed in like water. He watched the tops of scrubby, twisted pine trees flash past on his tablet screen. The pines were so dense that he couldn’t see the sandy ground below, and the trees themselves looked like ancient mushrooms forming dense vistas in the night-vision. He wanted to weave his way between them, but the drone would never fit inside.

The smell of sap and dirt blew in from the west. The Devil was out there, he knew—and sooner or later, he’d find it, hidden in the deepest sections of the barrens. His back was sore from lying on the hard-plastic lining, and his arms hurt from holding the tablet up for so long. The drone didn’t have much battery left, but he’d driven two hours to this spot and he wouldn’t give up until he had something.

Headlights cut across the side of his truck then illuminated the dense forest beyond. A white SUV with the words Park Ranger painted on the side stopped a few feet away. He turned his head and sat up as a door slammed and an older man in a black jacket walked toward him.

“Hey, you,” the ranger said, holding up a hand in greeting. “Everything okay?”

Jim let the drone hover. “Everything’s fine.”

“That your drone flying out there?”

“Don’t know what you mean.”

“Got a call about a drone buzzing the pines.” The ranger looked at him strange. “Can’t have drones flying around like that.”

“What do you mean? It’s a national park.”

“Designated no surveillance zone. Bring the drone back in, please, sir.”

He thought about resisting—thought about telling the ranger about the Devil, how he’d seen the eyes, the wings, the scales, considered pleading with the man, but instead he looked down at his tablet, sucked in a breath, and hit the recall button. The ranger stayed until the drone landed on the grass nearby.

Jim drove home on the Parkway. He passed cameras, so many cameras, dangling from branches, perched on light poles, hundreds of cameras watching every inch of the road, each with its own memory, each filled with image after image after image, so many of them stretching back for years. Jim knew he’d be in there, somewhere, lost in the surveillance, locked away on inaccessible hard drives, and he wasn’t sure what that meant—if he would last forever in some database, remembered but anonymous, or if it was a second way of being forgotten.


News scrolled past on the TV. He sat at the far end of the couch, feet up on the coffee table. Katie sat at the other end, hair piled in a messy bun, pods in her ears, face buried in her phone. She took a long drink from her third glass of wine.

“I went searching for it last night,” he said.

She looked up, seemed to realize he said something, and took her pods out. “What?”

“Last night. I tried to find it.”

She tilted her head. “What were you looking for?”

He leaned toward her and realized this was the most they’d spoken in two weeks. The house was dead quiet and so still it felt like the center of an impossible labyrinth. Sometimes he thought if he could only break out—but there was no beyond for them anymore. Outside, his motion-activated spotlight burst on. He suppressed the urge to get up and walk to the window.

“The Jersey Devil,” he said. “I drove out to the pine barrens and—”

“You went looking for the Jersey Devil?” She seemed to pull back. “You’re joking, right?”

He shook his head. “Took that drone out. The one we got him for Christmas last year. Flew it out over the pines.”

She opened her mouth and looked like she wanted to say something, and for a moment he saw her again—the Katie from before, that one that used to laugh and dance with her elbows, but he knew that Katie was gone, just like he was gone. She closed her mouth and put her pods back in.

“Good luck with that,” she said and hunched over her screen.

He stood up and walked to the back door. The yard looked flooded with too-white light. The grass lay still and he wondered if he saw red eyes peering back from the bushes.


The green-glowing stars shone down as he typed on his tablet.

Went searching for the fucker again, wanted to get you boys proof, but the park ranger told me I can’t fly my drone over the barrens, anyone else think that’s really sus or what?? Guy straight up told me it was illegal, all those cameras posted all over and there’s not a single shot of anything, seems really fishy to me. I swear I saw it and I’ll get proof.

Replies ticked past, one after the other. — Real sus, but what can u do. Gotta follow laws.

gently caress laws. And gently caress the cams. You have to go out on your own two feet and be part of nature. That’s the only way you’ll find the monster.

He’s right, you gotta get out there. Forget the ranger, man, he’s probably part of the cover up. How’d he even know you had a drone out there? Sounds fishy as hell.

Jim closed his eyes and could taste the rotten pine scent again. He imagined rough wood under his fingers and thought he heard laughter, high pitched and on the verge of breakdown, until he opened his eyes and saw the empty room. He shifted positions, rolled onto his side, and went fetal around the tablet. More responses came in, one after the other, and he knew what he had to do.

He typed, — You’re all right I gotta get out there and make something happen since nobody else will.


The headlights showed trees, so many trees, and he sat in his truck with the radio turned low, thinking about the hunt. The Devil was out there, somewhere in the damp darkness, and he’d find it.

He got out and grabbed his bag. It was packed with granola bars, a pair of plastic children’s binoculars, an LED flashlight, the drone, and his tablet. He pulled the shotgun from the passenger’s side floor and made sure it was loaded. It felt solid in his hands, heavy and dependable. He had to do what was needed.

Needles crunched under foot as he walked to the edge of the barrens.

He thought of the way Katie always kept her pods in now, and the house, too small to fit them both along with their grief, and he wondered how he’d never noticed how many stars there were.

He walked forward, switching off his flashlight, into the shadows cast by the thousands of scrub pines, pushed his way through the needles with his shotgun on his shoulder, and he felt more lost than he ever had before—but around him, in the black, he thought he saw thousands of little red eyes, shinning out from every corner, peering around every twisted trunk, and he wanted to get closer to them, as close as he could, right up to that edge, and maybe past it.

Sep 3, 2020


ThunderdomeCDXXXIV: Cryptic Cryptids
Prompt: Beast of Bodmin Moor // "Going without food, a camper enters depot" (10)

The Prisoners of Bodmin Moor

Word Count: 1175

My mother pads through the quiet darkness, halos of blood ringing her paws. "He should not have stuck his neck out," she says. Her voice rumbles through her chest as if her words live in her heart. "Stick your neck out, lose your head."

I sink into the grass, shielding my spine with my shoulders. The stance takes its toll on my muscles. My mother's words are well-intentioned, but I must stick my neck out to stretch. After so many nights pressed to the corners of a cage, nothing is more precious to me than movement.

The moonlight soaks the grass as we creep away from the body of one of our own. He did not hunt with us, but he hungered as we did. That hunger drove him into the path of a farmer's bullet. My mother said he was her mate once, back in the fluttering tents, but I do not remember him. All I remember of our old life is the cage. When I close my eyes and concentrate, I can summon the blurry remnants of faces, but they are always obscured by the bars. Perhaps that is why I wake up some nights with pain in my jaw. Even in my dreams, I try to chew my way to freedom.

Here on the moor, we are free from the cages and the trainer who kicked our ribs, but we are still imprisoned by unceasing hunger. My mother's mate died for that hunger. I do not feel sad for him, though. He died with a full belly; he died free.

The gnawing pain in our stomachs has affected our sleep. We doze in fits and starts, waking with wild eyes to snap at the air. We are leery of predators—and the trainer, always the trainer—but the greatest threat stalks us from within.

A night comes when my mother is unable to hunt. She tries to walk alongside me, but her hind legs quake, and her chest wracks with shudders. When she stumbles, I nose her to the shade of a tree and promise to complete the hunt alone. She does not believe me; I am ill-equipped to scavenge for two. But she is too frail to fight me, and I will not let her waste the energy. She is not allowed to die this way.

When she dies, she will die free.

I do not make the mistake of my mother's mate. The quiet farms tempt me with their throngs of sheep, but I do not trust myself to bring one down before a farmer comes for me with his gun. My sight is keen and my limbs are quick, but my time in the tents cost me the ability to kill. When my mother is healthy, she can feed us both; when she is sick, I cannot feed either of us. Not without sticking my neck out.

Long roads wind around the moor, carrying humans and their vehicles. I am not capable of killing a human, but it is not their meat that interests me. It is the feasts within their cars that draw me out of hiding. Most often, those cars contain little more than sweets and crisps, but some overflow with food. The best are the ones that contain breads and meats, as the meats give us energy and the breads keep us full.

There are not many drivers on the roads at dawn, but these months on the moor have shown me strange places where men may lurk. One such place is a placid pond speckled with tall grasses that brush the sides of my legs as I wade through the shallows. It is a quiet place, one that calls humans to come alone. The isolated location also forces them to leave their vehicles a ways away from where they plan to go. The solitude disarms them; they leave themselves unguarded and their doors unlocked.

The morning light glows over the pool as I approach. A lone van sits at the edge of the road, its silhouette obscuring the sun. It reeks of food, and its doors are wide open.

I listen for human footsteps in the reeds. When no sounds return to me, I bound across the road. My nose twitches and jumps as I scramble into the back of the van. The tight space is lined with metal slats holding objects of unknown origin and use. Only one of them interests me: the white container perfumed with spices and herbs.

It takes all of my self-control to stop myself from devouring the chunks of roasted meat within. My mother needs them more than I do; I cannot eat her food. Yet if I do not eat it, I may not be able to carry it to her, as the container is flimsy and likely to spill.

"Good God!"

Blinding light strikes the corner of my eye. I whip around and bare my fangs. There is no seeing past the bright circle, but I can smell the human behind it. I can hear them breathing hard. If I am lucky, I can dart past them; if they have a gun, I will die in this box.

"Bloody Hell… what's happened to your teeth?"

A face emerges from the darkness. A woman's face: familiar, yet unlike the woman trainer who would leer at me through the bars. This face is softer in both construction and expression. It brings to mind the way some children used to look at me: with curiosity, respect, and awe.

I dare to relax, letting my cramped muscles extend. The light drifts to my paws.

"You haven't got any claws, either…poor thing. No wonder you're after my chicken tikka masala. It's probably all you can eat with those nubby teeth. It's a miracle you've survived this long." She sets down the light, then gestures to the container. "Go on. You can have it."

I glance from her outstretched hand to the food. The meal seems to have become a peace offering: an exchange for leaving her vehicle. I still do not know how I will carry it home, but I will not waste the gift she has given me.

Using my paws and nose in concert, I manage to shut the box. For once, I am lucky that my teeth were dulled by the iron bars, as they do not puncture the container's surfaces.

"Well I'll be," says the woman. "A big cat who prefers takeaway. You'd fit right in at Chipperfield's Circus."

She steps aside, allowing me to slink out of the van. As I pad away, clutching the feast in my jaws, she calls after me: "Be careful getting home! My mum says there's phantoms out there!" Although this woman's words elude me, I accept them with gratitude. Her voice comes from deep within her chest: the source of maternal wisdom. Those blessings will guide me as I return to my own mother, and together we will feed and know freedom.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Brosno dragon
"Expertly learned Dorothy is capturing random pawn" (4,3)

The River
990 words

Adrienne Pavelka stalked through the familiar corridors of the hydro-dam’s admin block, her bare feet quiet in the darkness. She stopped at the door to her old office. It was locked, so she pressed her face to the glass, hands cupped around her eyes. Someone had already moved into her desk. Adrienne frowned. They’d put a stuffed Dunstan Dragon - the lake’s legendary inhabitant - right where her scale model of the dam used to sit. Through the soles of her feet Adrienne felt the vibrations of the lake pounding against the dam, like the boom of a distant drum.

Adrienne had always been able to hear the lake. On her lunch breaks she used to sit atop the dam and watch the way the surface rippled, agitated, even on windless days. She had listened to the rhythm of the lake’s breath through the power station’s pipes as she worked. She’d always known what the lake wanted, too, though it was not her job to grant its wishes.

The lake had been Adrienne’s ubiquitous companion, until she’d been asked to take early retirement. The manager who’d delivered the news had been barely older than her own youngest son. He had stared past her as he talked, calling her “Ms Pavelka,” as if she was too elderly to be familiar with the use of first names. There had been nothing Adrienne could do, no reasonable argument she could mount. She had felt like garbage, scrunched up and tossed away.

Adrienne’s fingers gripped the thin fabric of the nightshirt she was still wearing over the top of a hastily pulled-on pair of shorts. She felt suddenly ridiculous. She could still visit the lake any time. She could go bloody boating on it if she wanted to. The Clyde river even ran right past her house. But it was a shallow, aglae-clogged thing, nothing like the deep, freezing water of Lake Dunstan. Adrienne reached the secure door to the control room. She took a deep breath, and punched in the code. She just wanted to hear the lake’s heartbeat, one more time.

The control room was the lowest part of the station, almost level with the bottom of the lake. Adrienne pressed her palms against the wall and leant her forehead against its white paint. She had spent a large proportion of her working life in this room. She thought about the millions of tonnes of water imprisoned by the huge wall of concrete above her head. She had always been able to hear the lake, and she’d always known what it wanted. But she was an engineer; holding the water back was her job.

It was a job she’d done well. Adrienne had liked coming to work, liked eating her lunch on the sun-warmed concrete while the dragon rippled below her dangling feet. She used to tell it she was sorry, but that she had a job to do. Adrienne sighed as she felt the lake’s thrumming through her forehead. It should have been you, she thought. You should have been the one they let go.

Adrienne put her back against the wall and let herself sag to the floor. Through her back muscles she felt the dragon’s heart, pounding unceasing against its prison. She hugged her knees to her chest and took one last look around the room’s familiar instruments.

“Goodbye,” Adrienne whispered. She stood up. It was time to go.

The floor bucked, making Adrienne jump. She glanced around the monitors, but they had picked up nothing untoward. But Adrienne could hear it. The lake’s pounding was no longer a just-out-of-hearing vibration but a real, audible boom. In her mind’s eye Adrienne saw the dark surface, a hundred meters above her, suddenly start to seethe.

Adrienne had always been able to hear the lake. But it hadn’t been her job to grant its wish. Hadn’t been her job. Hadn’t been. Adrienne closed her eyes and tried to count to ten. It didn’t work. She was trembling all over, her heart pounding in time with the lake’s. She could feel the dragon’s hot breath on the back of her neck. It was pleading with her, she realised, her companion of so many years. She couldn’t leave it here, alone.

Adrienne felt elated and terrified all at once. She eyed the dam’s control panel. I’m a madwoman, she thought, and realised that she was deeply delighted at the prospect. Adrienne took a deep breath, and held it. The dragon held its breath with her, as if it were looking over her shoulder, waiting. She breathed out, and with shaking hands opened the floodgates.

The emergency discharge siren blared throughout the power station as the huge gates clanged open. Adrienne was laughing as she hit the stairwell, and was thoroughly out of breath before she was even halfway up. Red lights strobed the walls as she hauled herself along with the handrail. Through her bare feet she could feel the floor trembling, like the lake was laughing with her, a great belly-deep laugh that rolled up from its silty bottom and burst from the surface like bubbles on a boiling pot.

Adrienne shoved through the exit and stumble-ran, clutching the stitch in her side, to the center of the dam. Three huge jets of water roared from the spillways, sending up a plume of spray that soaked Adrienne’s nightshirt. Across Cromwell lights were coming on - the station’s siren a rude awakening for the town. In the dawn light Adrienne saw a crowd gather along the riverbank. She fancied she could hear people cheering at the sight of the mighty Clyde flowing full and deep once more.

Adrienne felt lighter than she had in years. She leant on the railing, slowly catching her breath, and watched the lake return to the river. The dragon’s serpentine body unfurled across the landscape, glowing burnished orange in the rising sun.

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face
You Otter See My Animal Enamels
Cryptid: Dobhar-chú / Cryptic: "Paints ten camels without heads" / Answer: Enamels
1500 words

That’s what I said to Rosanna, and she was hooked right away; a good tooth collection is a real draw for the ladies. I lined up a few more puns as we strolled home arm in arm.

One of the ghost cats yowled at us as we climbed the steps to the flat - a rotund tabby with stubby legs who mostly resembled a loaf of bread. Rosanna, enchanted, stopped to fuss him; he stuck his head right into her breast and she giggled at the tingling sensation. I tipped Catloaf an appreciative wink, and received a withering stare in return. Cats, eh.

A few more critters were hanging about inside. I was tickled to see a couple of otters frolicking in the sink; them showing up made a good bookend to my pickup line.

“Heh, look at those little guys,” I said, steering her kitchenwards. “Makes you wish you could touch them, like properly.”

She duly cooed over the otters, the croc taking up most of the sofa, and a guinea pig I found next to the coffee. By the time I handed her a cup, though, the novelty had worn off. She took a sip and came out with a weird question.

“Aren’t you going to show me the teeth?”

“Huh? They’re just teeth. Seen one lump of ivory, you’ve seen them all.”

“I guess I like to... connect them with the animals. Like a link to their old physical selves.”

I shrugged. “Makes sense.” It didn’t, really.

The teeth were in three boxes, their labels faded and peeling. I laid them on the table, shoving aside the clutter. A lurking capybara leapt out of the pile and bit my hand, numbing the fingers. Served me right; nobody needs a stack of law textbooks inside them. I apologised to the rodent as she faded sulkily away.

Rosanna reached for the largest box.

“Hang on,” I said. “Let’s save that one for last.”

I opened the smallest box instead. Lots of tiny teeth in labelled compartments. Cat. Snake. Badger. Otter. Guinea pig. Small intake of breath from Rosanna; I looked askance at her. I guess I was beginning to suspect at this point.

“There’s a lot. How did you get so many?”

“Inherited a bunch. My grandfather was a pretty keen collector, and well-off too.” I opened the second box, watching her reaction. There were fewer of these; larger animals, like the crocodile and a dolphin who sometimes turned up for bath time. Rosanna controlled her expression well, but when she reached out I moved the box away. “No touchy. They’re precious.”

She grimaced. “It’s not like I’d steal them.”

“No, you wouldn’t,” I agreed. “You’re a painter, aren’t you?”

Her defiant glance was admission enough. “Not a proper one. Just a student.”

“And you thought my collection would be a good dissertation topic, huh? Not a chance!”

I made to put the lids back, but she grabbed my arm. “Wait...”

I pushed her away. She fell onto the sofa, flailing. The startled croc tried to bite her head off, which dazed her a bit. That gave me time to close the boxes.

I turned back to meet her glare. “Look, I’m sorry,” I said. “I know you lot mean well, but this is the most valuable thing I own! You can’t just barge in and ruin it.”

“Ruin it. You just don’t have a clue, do you?”

“Nothing personal, you’re lovely, but I don’t have much truck with religion.”

“It’s not a loving religion!” Wow, she was pissed off. I really hate conflict; I was already shaking, even though I was totally in the right. I searched for a way to placate her.

Tell you what... I’ve got one dud tooth. I don’t know what it’s from - the owner’s never turned up. You can do your thing with it, if you like. But you gotta leave the rest alone.”

She wasn’t happy with that deal, but I guess her curiosity was piqued. “Alright.”

I grabbed the third box and showed her the contents. There were only two teeth in there. A gigantic molar labelled “elephant”. And a big yellowed old canine, with no label at all.

She paled as she looked at it. “My god.” She had tears in her eyes. “It’s screaming. How do you not feel that?”

I hesitated. I knew teeth could be emotionally painful for painters, but I’d just figured they were oversensitive. She looked really upset.

“Are you sure you want to...?” I began.

“YES. And what’s more, you’re coming too. I’ve a point to prove, you condescending arse.”


She grabbed my hand and laid her other hand on the tooth. My head spun, and everything went grey.

What the gently caress? I could still see Rosanna, as a sort of fuzzy human shape, and I felt her hand on mine until she released it. But my flat was gone. We seemed to be standing on a featureless grey plain. Featureless, that is, but for a sea of animals.

Every one was sick, injured or twisted in some way. They limped, they crawled, they rolled, they panted, and the utterly noiseless clamour of their misery pounded my brain like a mallet. A lynx stumbled after an otter, both predator and prey bleeding from deep gashes in their flanks. Ten headless camels bumped into each other in a perpetual confused search for comfort. A calico cat dragged itself towards us trailing useless hind paws behind it, its chest heaving with each breath.

Too much to take in.

I realised Rosanna was sobbing next to me. It was the only sound in the whole landscape.

“Is this...” I gestured around. “Is it always like this?”

“No! This is horrible!” she said between gasps. “It’s supposed to be just one! I paint them, and they fade away. Their suffering ends.” She sniffed. “What am I meant to do for all these?”

I didn’t have an answer. I stared out across the plain, until I felt something bump against my leg. The calico cat had dragged itself to my foot and was butting against me insistently.

I reached down. Its head was hard and fuzzy and soft beneath my fingers. “Hey, I can feel you!”

What?” Rosanna’s washed-out form bent down next to me to touch the cat. Shapeless fingers ruffled through black fur. “I don’t understand... My course hasn’t covered anything like this.”

“Maybe it’s advanced knowledge. Masters only.” I felt a twinge of panic. “You can get us back, right? From wherever the hell this is?”

She ignored the question, gazing into the distance.

An orange glow spread across the landscape some way off, as if a fire smouldered over the nonexistent horizon. Rosanna started towards it. I hesitated, looking down at the calico cat. It stared back. I picked it up - a warm docile weight in my arms, hind legs hanging - and followed.

I found her staring down into a formless opening. All the fires of hell seemed to glow there, behind a figure that blocked the entrance: half otter, half dog, bigger than a horse, dripping gore from a dozen deep wounds, it thrashed its head and snapped its great yellow fangs at us, and any other animal that dared approach. Approach they did - they clustered in a fascinated mob around the entrance - but none could pass through.

Rosanna sighed softly. “Dobhar-chú.”


“The Otter King. An old legend... just one of the many surrounding the disappearance of the animals. He saved a woman from drowning... but her husband thought he was attacking her, and killed him. So he guards the gate of rebirth, letting no other creature pass through to a world that metes out such injustice and cruelty.”

I looked around at the sea of bewildered, injured animals. “That seems pretty cruel in itself.”

“I think he’s beyond that kind of reasoning. He’s suffered so long...” She sat down abruptly and pulled out a sketchbook and a small paint set, weirdly real in contrast to her shapeless body. “I don’t know if this will work.”

I scratched the calico cat behind the ears. Her painting took form quickly. The Otter King gained substance on the page; gaping wounds, wild grimace and slavering jaws; a heartfelt acknowledgement of its suffering. It faded softly from the world as she touched in the detail.

“Wow.” I stared at the entrance. The animals were already starting to edge towards it, drawn like filings to a magnet. “I guess we go through too?”

She laughed. “Not unless you want to start again as a baby. Here - grab my hand.”

I looked at the calico cat, purring in my arms. “Man, I wish you could come with. But you’re better off starting fresh.”

I plonked him on the ground and gave him a little shove towards the cave mouth. Then I reached out to Rosanna. “This better work.”

Luckily, it did.

Jan 12, 2012

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

Bear Lake Monster
"Revolutionary mobs hesitated, blew opportunity." (6,3,4)

St. Liz and the Dragon
785 words

Utah, Liz had to admit, had not been her first choice for exile. It wasn’t just the heat but the all-pervading tackiness of the place. There were no great homes, no estates. The single-story ranch she and Charles had shacked up in was about as far from Clarence House or Sandringham as one could imagine. Her current wardrobe, cobbled together from the nearby Bass Pro Shop, could scarcely be compared to the wondrous, colorful outfits she’d once worn to galas and state dinners.

Still, she was determined. She would not falter. She’d been in charge when the republican revolutionaries stormed London. She would see the family survive through this catastrophe just as it had survived countless wars, rebellions, and bad marriages. As the head of the house, it fell to her to be strong in the face of impossible odds, to persevere. There was, she told herself, something even a little exciting about discovering that she was more than just an ornament, a pretty plastic thing. She’d prove her use in reclaiming the throne.

Liz sat for a moment at her position in the underbrush by Bear Lake beneath a large sign bearing a googly-eyed, cartoon serpent and the words “BEAR LAKE MONSTER X-ING.” She stared out at the cool blue water and the mountains. Then, seeing no sign of the beast she’d come to slay, she picked up her phone. Before she could speak, the device buzzed to life.

“I just don’t understand! I don’t understand in the slightest!” Said the voice on the other end.

“Charles,” said Liz, not daring to look away from the lake. “First, one mustn’t interrupt on the telephone. Second, one must be patient and—.”

“Stuck in America. In Utah or Idaho or wherever. Up to my bloody…”

There was a sound of boots squelching into mud. She imagined he had ignored her advice to dress for the occasion and had come to Bear Lake in full military attire. She could see the bright-red uniform stained by mud. The blue sash. Rows of medals smeared by filth.

Liz felt a dull pain behind her eyes, a ripple of frustration beneath her calm exterior. Bear Lake remained placid. “I understand it is hard but we have all made sac—.”

“Oh, sacrifices,” crackled through the device. “You let Harry and Meghan scurry off to Santa Barbara without a fuss. And Will gets to spend all his time in Washington, pleading with the Americans about ‘restoring order’ and ‘preserving the special relationship.’ Meanwhile, I’ve got to muck around in—.”

The dull pain grew more intense. In the 94 years she spent on this planet, she’d developed an incredible reserve of patience that only her son seemed capable of depleting. She blamed herself for foisting him onto nannies as a child.

“The most important task of all,” said Liz in a harsh, dark tone. Save for the occasional yacht or the distant sound of laughter, the lake was still. “To reclaim the dominion, one must demonstrate capability, prowess. One must pull a sword from a stone or slay a beast and, regretfully, the world has been rather depleted of monsters and magic swords leaving only—. ”

“The Bear Lake Monster,” said the voice. “A sad, sorry excuse for a beast if you ask me.”

There was a long silence.

“And I don’t even see it.”

Her dam inside her broke. “That’s because you won’t stop running your mouth off. How on earth are we supposed to hunt and kill a magical beast when you keep scaring away the game with your incessant talk? Goodness, you’ve hunted with us before at Balmoral, you know the importance of—.”

But, once again, she did not get the opportunity to finish the sentence. A shudder passed across the once still lake. The small waves passing over its surface grew, spilling water onto the surrounding beaches and marches. A passing boat rocked back and forth, the people in it spilling off the side. Liz gasped as cold water slapped at her.

“Charles, move now!” She yelled before cutting the line.

The water grew choppier and more violent. Then, she saw it. Rising from depths of the lake came a long, serpent-like creature. She stared at its many legs and cream colored skin. Her eyes traced its form, following its neck up towards bulbous, bovine head. The creature opened its wide mouth, ready to let loose a roar.

“Moo.” It said in a bored voice.

Liz rolled her eyes but a disappointing beast was a beast nonetheless. She raised her sword and let out a battle cry. She would not miss this opportunity. Even faced with the absurdity of it all, she was ready to make her mark.

Nov 2, 2012

Stop that.
Prompt: Cryptid:Elwetritsch//"Senator snarled like a brigadier general" (3-4)
Hunting (for the way out of this place)
1050 words

Jen yawned and rubbed at her eyes. It’d been around half an hour since the other interns had set off to find the snipe, and left her with a bag and clear instructions to wait for them. But it was a nice day, and she was tired after staying up half the night, doing prep work for a briefing the following morning. After a moment’s consideration, she stretched out on the warm rock and closed her eyes. Whenever the others came back, she was sure they’d wake her up with all of their screaming and yelling.

When she woke back up, her rock was cool and stars glimmered far above. She blinked, rolled over, then shot up, wide-eyed. They didn’t find me? But then, she hadn’t moved from where they had left her. There were seven other people - they couldn’t have all forgotten about me. As she looked around the meadow in vain, searching and failing to see anything besides the dim outlines of the other rocks, the thought that she’d been duped slowly crept into her mind.

gently caress. She pulled her phone out of her pack, and checked the time. It was 9:42 PM, but it’d had taken them half an hour to walk to the field from the reserve’s parking lot, and they’d gone off trail at some point… and she could barely remember the path they’d taken, stumbling after the group, half-asleep. Come to think of it, they only told me what we were doing after we’d gone out of cell range.

9:42, now 9:43 PM. Half an hour to the parking lot, and the others had pointed out that a bus ran out here from the city every hour, up to 8 PM. There was no way she was making it back in time for Senator Kiera’s briefing. She sat up, hugging her legs to her chest, and sighed. All of the previous briefings she’d done, the senator had known the bills inside and out, much to her chagrin. She caught details that Jen had missed, highlighted bits that Jen had mistaken as unimportant, and generally seemed unimpressed.

She checked her phone again. Still zero coverage, but the battery was still more than half full, since she hadn’t used it on the hike at all. Relieved, she flicked on its flashlight and stood up, looking around.

Now, where should I check? The trail skirted the edge of the forest, she was sure. But the field was wide and large, and largely surrounded by said forest. It would take a while to check the adjacent edges - but then, I suppose I have all night to do this. Or at least as long as it takes for my phone’s battery to run out.

Suddenly, the grass rustled to her left. Jen’s body tensed, and she slowly moved her phone to shine in that direction.

Is that a bird?

But birds generally didn’t have antlers growing out of their head. Or scales instead of feathers. Or… are those… breasts? She stared, dumbfounded.

Am I dreaming? But she could think sharp and clear, without the meandering paths that her dream-thoughts usually took.

The bird-thing (she was definitely sure it was a bird, despite the scales. It was bird-shaped, not lizard-shaped.) met her eyes. It chirped once, twice, tilting its head. Jen shifted her weight, snapping a branch, and off it bolted, into the dark.

She stared after it, then shrugged. It went towards the forest - it was as good as any direction to start searching for the trail. She stepped after it, following its path.


“Where were you.” The senator bit down on every word, clipped and sharp. Jen didn’t move, didn’t speak, just stood, ramrod straight, staring at the opposite wall. She didn’t manage to get back until the city until late morning, and if she had missed the briefing already, she figured she might as well get herself presentable. The last time she’d come in, with messy hair and rumpled clothes - well. Senator Kiera hadn’t said anything, but her raised eyebrow and pursed lips said plenty by themselves. But maybe she should have rushed, anyways.

“Well?” The woman on the other side of the desk narrowed her eyes, obviously displeased with the lack of a response. Jen forced her mouth open before it could get any worse.

“I got lost in the woods, ” she said, and flinched a quarter-second later. As far as excuses went, it was pretty awful.

“Lost in the woods.” Her tone was unforgiving and icy. This is it, Jen thought. So much for my illustrious career.

“...Yes. I went out last afternoon with some other interns, and - ” fell asleep in the middle of a field “- got separated. When I managed to get back to the visitor center, the last bus had already departed. I spent the night at the visitor’s center.”

Senator Kiera stared at her, eyes still narrowed, brow creased, and then sighed. The lines of her face softened. “Snipe hunt?”

Jen, eyes wide, snapped her gaze to meet the other’s.

The senator snorted, finding her reaction answer enough, and sat down heavily into her desk chair. “The older interns do this every year. Generally,“ she said, voice tight, “they have the sense to leave my staff out of it. I suppose I’ll have to remind them why.”

She pulled a file over, and said, “You’re free to go. I expect you to make up the briefing tomorrow morning, same time.”

Jen hesitantly asked, “You’re not firing me?”

Senator Kiera looked up from her desk. “It was very inconvenient for you to disappear like that, to say the least. I had to call in a favor to delay the vote on Bill 546.”

“What?” Jen’s mind raced. I was supposed to brief her on that this morning. But she always knows everything about my briefings, anyways...

For the first time since she started her internship, Senator Kiera’s mouth twitched into a half-smile. “You do good work.” Then her face smoothed back out and she returned her attention to the papers spread across her desk.

For a half-second, Jen froze. Then she bowed slightly, exclaimed “Thank you very much!” and rushed out the door, determined to nail the presentation.

(She didn’t. But she found she didn’t mind as much, this time.)

Dec 30, 2011

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

A Cubicle, A Coracle, A Storm
1424/1500 words
Cryptid: The Kraken
Crossword Clue: "Copper borate introduction destroyed lice in office area." (7)


Antivehicular fucked around with this message at 21:40 on Jan 10, 2021

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
And that's entries closed

Feb 13, 2006
Grimey Drawer
Interprompt: Holiday Dinners of the Damned (300 Words)

It's that time of year, again. The time when we gather together with people we normally try to avoid. In strange fellowship, we eat foods that we don't seem to eat any other time of the year. And through these rituals, we repair the rips in the fabric of our culture, and stumble on into another year.

In 300 words, tell a small story about our year-end traditions that don't make any sense at all when taken out of context. It might be an anecdote about the office holiday party, a recipe for a vaguely disgusting food that is somehow delicious during the month of December, a list of gift ideas for the wing of the family we try to avoid, or anything else you feel like writing on the subject of culturally mandated merriment.

Apr 12, 2006


Feb 25, 2014

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