Interprompt: Holiday Dinners of the Damned (300 Words)
I get down on my knees and worship the baby with the tophat. He is very dapper, and I am in awe. “Oh great baby, bestow me with your blessings.” And the baby looks at me and smiles and he showers me with confetti and somebody blasts a ceremonial kazoo. Tears of hope stream down my cheeks, the baby has seen me, recognized my long suffering and granted me a reprieve. A pardon from a year of monotony right at the stroke of midnight. Hallowed be the baby, his sash so fair and holy.
An old man looks at me, regret in his eyes.
“gently caress you, last year’s baby,” I say. He said this year would be good, that I wouldn’t have to worry about the past, but his prophecies did not come to pass. He is a charlatan, a mockery of the faith. I spit at his decrepit feet. The others in the room and I take turns punching him in the stomach and blaspheming his name.
But the happy gurgles of the baby with the top hat snap us out of our destructive reminiscence, and we cheer again as the SKY ORB descends and bathes all in brilliant radiance, such that each of us is our own personal Swarovski Crystal, reflecting the opportunity that the baby has granted us, in his infinite mangnanomy.
The old man, blood trickling from his mouth, whimpers underneath the table where he’s crawled to escape our violence. A perfect spot, as is deservedly deprived of the streamers and glitter that rain down from the baby’s laughs. He dies, unloved.
All hail the baby!
|# ? Nov 30, 2020 22:51|
|# ? Feb 8, 2023 23:49|
Interprompt: Party Planning for Your Inconsiderate Relatives
1) If your party is set to start at four, tell your inconsiderate relatives to arrive at two. This guarantees they will arrive at four-thirty, which gives the punctual relatives time alone with the appetizers. There is no need to mention your inconsiderate relatives’ lateness. Time works differently for them, after all.
2) Your inconsiderate relatives can be counted on to bring their favorite dish, but only if you tell them to bring something else. If you tell them to bring their favorite, they will arrive empty-handed, as they simply did not have the time to cook. Telling them to bring a different dish guarantees they will bring their favorite, as they do not want someone else to screw it up. Only they have the sacred family recipe.
3) If the conversation drifts towards religion or politics, change the topic before the inconsiderate relatives can weigh in. They have much to say about their malignant god, he who slumbers in the ocean trenches, cocooned in tenebrous tendrils, awaiting the day he may rise and feast on the flesh of man. They also have opinions on abortion. Do not engage with either topic.
4) Your inconsiderate relatives must consume the still-beating hearts of the innocent. Have a chicken ready if possible.
5) When your other guests leave for the evening, take time to say goodbye to them. A well-mannered host should always thank their guests for their attendance. Seeing them to the door also guarantees they depart safely. Should your inconsiderate relatives attack them on the lawn, shredding them with fierce claws as the malignant god laughs beneath the moonlight, at least you’ll have said your goodbyes.
6) Have Home Alone playing on the television. Everyone loves Home Alone, even if they claim otherwise.
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 00:19|
Interprompt: end of year festival
It was December 28, again. The cone-shaped Ender’s Hat sat uncomfortably on my head. Whoever had made it hadn’t done a particularly good job, and raggedy fabric-ends itched at my ears. I swapped a sick-looking grin with the rest of the congregants, all wearing their Cones. All except _______, who was this year’s Wearer of the Judgement Veil.
______ had been lucky enough, this year, to open the envelope shoved under her door on the 27th, and find it empty. The rest of us had received horizontally-stretched printouts of the Mona Lisa, made by a printer that had run out of blue about halfway.
I was third in the circle. Ryan was weeping; Jack looked at peace. _____ approached me, and reached into the Sack of Finality.
She pulled out three pages of a failed screenplay, ending in the words “It was then I realised that adfasjjjlkjdfasdfasdfasdf.”
“You said you would finish it,” intoned ______.
“I did not finish it,” I replied, and the screenplay went into the big rusty barrel.
Next came a dog-eared book entitled Guitar for Beginners.
“You said you would finish it.”
“I did not finish it,” I replied, wincing. This too was dropped into the barrel.
Then came the half-done poem. And two pages of a novel. Then a gym membership, a Warhammer dude with a basecoat and nothing else, a guide to caring for tropical fish, a suspiciously clean shovel and packets of unplanted vegetable seeds. And three blank pages, symbolising three entries into fiction competitions that I never even started.
“You said you would finish it,” boomed ______.
“I did not finish it,” I sobbed.
_______ gestured at the barrel. She threw me a lighter.
“Then finish it now.”
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 04:01|
Toss Jimsonweed tips and nutmeg to taste (8)
Loss: siotle's Hunting (For the Way Out of This Place), for blandness and a completely dispensable Cryptid encounter.
DM: Maugrim's You Otter See My Animal Enamels for a disjointed mess
HM: brotherly's What Was Needed, a powerful emotional portrait
And the Win goes to Antivehicular's A Cubicle, A Coracle, A Storm, which packed a ton of creativity and character into our tight typical wordcount
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 07:05|
THUNDERDOME CDXXXV: 69 Love Stories
The theme of this week, as the cover image implies, is the Magnetic Fields' masterwork 69 Love Songs. When you sign up, pick a song from that album (first come, first served), or I'll assign you one; use that song as your prompt to write me a story about love. "Love," in this case, doesn't have to be romantic or sexual, but it does have to involve multiple people. I'm sure you can write me a great story about a man's love of pancakes, but that's not what I'm looking for this week.
The other thing I'm not looking for this week, in bold so you'll see it, is no stories about any kind of relationship/sexual violence or abuse. I don't want to read it, so don't write it! Your story doesn't have to be happy -- God knows the Magnetic Fields themselves have made great art out of loneliness and angst -- but I really don't want to read a single domestic-violence story this week.
("But Anti," I hear you say, "aren't there DV songs on the album?" Yes, there are. I will not assign them; do not choose them.)
Other than that, go nuts. Any genre is fine, as long as there's love. In fact, as a special bonus gift for this week, I will not DQ erotica. Use this terrible power as you see fit, or maybe don't?
Standard TD rules apply: no fanfic, political screeds, Google Doc links, poetry, bad formatting, and so on. You get a pass for erotica this week, but don't push your luck.
Word Count: 1500
Signups Close: Friday, December 4th, 11:59 PM Pacific
Submissions Close: Sunday, December 6th, 11:59 PM Pacific
1. take the moon, "Meaningless"
2. Tyrannosaurus, "The Cactus Where Your Heart Should Be"
3. Thranguy, "Strange Eyes"
4. kurona_bright, "The Way You Say Goodnight"
5. brotherly, "When My Boy Walks Down the Street"
6. Djeser, "Papa Was A Rodeo"
7. Sparksbloom, "The Things We Did and Didn't Do"
8. crabrock, "Grand Canyon"
9. flerp, "You're My Only Home"
10. magic cactus, "Love in the Shadows"
11. Nae, "Promises of Eternity"
12. siotle, "I Don't Believe In The Sun"
13. Nikaer Drekin, "Epitaph For My Heart"
14. Pththya-lyi, "Come Back from San Francisco"
15. Tree Bucket, "(Crazy For You But) Not That Crazy"
16. Simply Simon, "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits"
Antivehicular fucked around with this message at 08:37 on Dec 3, 2020
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 07:43|
in, assign me a song
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 07:50|
in, assign me a song
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 07:55|
In. Pls gimme a song ty.
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 08:03|
in retrospect maybe it was noided of me to think ur pick for me was meant to denigrate me or make me feel bad or something. it was kind of a buzzkill song & i overreacted. ive been finding processing reality problematic and i rly dont want to think all this stuff is futile & worthless
if you did mean to make me feel bad, get boned and brawl me coward. if not disregard
take the moon fucked around with this message at 11:11 on Dec 1, 2020
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 08:03|
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 08:10|
In. Pls gimme a song ty.
The Cactus Where Your Heart Should Be
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 08:10|
In, gimme a song
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 10:49|
In, assign me please
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 10:54|
In, gimme a song
The Way You Say Goodnight
In, assign me please
When My Boy Walks Down the Street
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 11:05|
in papa was a rodeo
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 12:19|
In , please assign me a song
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 13:51|
in, give song plz
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 15:53|
flerp fucked around with this message at 18:54 on Dec 1, 2020
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 16:27|
Bout to eat a Toxx but IN and please assign me a song.
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 17:55|
I'm in, I'll take Promises of Eternity.
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 18:49|
Tree Bucket, "Star Flame Grave Wing"
Good enough of an opening, although I could do without the excess capitalization. Interesting detail. Why is this captain so unfamiliar with their own ship's capabilities? Some interesting ideas in there. And the ending is cute. But it barely connects with the rest of it.
Brotherly, What Was Needed
A solid opening. I'm told real young people don't use periods in non-angry texts, although the age of the narrator and his social media coterie aren't clearly established.
But overall, this is quite good. Solid dialog and character work. The ending is a bit weak in terms of plotting (the prose at the end is quite good, though) but otherwise probably in the top portion.
Nae, The Prisoners of Bodwin Moor
Another from the cryptid's point of view, but a fairly harmless beast. Speaking of point of view, yours shouldn't work; either you're in the beast's head or you can give the English dialog. But it almost still works.
Yoruichi, The River
Slow but interesting opening. Overall an interesting piece. I can't for a second buy the abysmal security practices for a working hydroelectric dam, or for any working dam to ever be empty of personel at any time. Middle
Maugrim, You Otter See My Animal Enamels
So this feels a lot like a complicated joke with no punchline. The bits are okay, but they just don't come together at all, from the lack of any context that could make the opening pun work at all to the sudden animal hell to the Wikipedia exposition, the sudden shift from flirtation to hostility. Low group.
QuoProQuid, St. Liz and the Dragon
Slow establishing opening. Needs Corgis. It sorts of lives and dies on mounting absurdity, and the "moo" earns a laugh, but not really enough to justify the premise, and the ending is just there. Middle/middle low.
siotle, Hunting (for the Way out of this Place)
Opening is a bit generic, establishing a classic snipe hunt. And in the middle we have a sighting of the beast that does nothing in particular to influence the arc of the story. This one is just there, really. Low.
Antivehicular, A Cubicle, A Coracle, A Storm
Strong, evocative opening. Very much my jam. I don't know if the second person narration is a great choice here, don't know if it does anything that first doesn't other than letting you finesse a probable narrator death ending. Could have used more breathing room in a few places, but you were at the word limit. High, top pick.
|# ? Dec 1, 2020 23:03|
In, give me a song please!
|# ? Dec 2, 2020 00:31|
What the hell, hi again Thunderdome, I'm in. Give me a song of your choosing!
|# ? Dec 2, 2020 04:34|
In , please assign me a song
The Things We Did and Didn't Do
in, give song plz
You're My Only Home
Bout to eat a Toxx but IN and please assign me a song.
Love in the Shadows
In, give me a song please!
I Don't Believe In The Sun
What the hell, hi again Thunderdome, I'm in. Give me a song of your choosing!
Epitaph For My Heart
|# ? Dec 2, 2020 07:13|
*Kramers in to the thread*
Did someone say love story? I'm In! Song, please!
|# ? Dec 2, 2020 07:59|
I've never written a love story and have no idea who Magnet Field are, but I'm in!
|# ? Dec 2, 2020 08:20|
This is actually a pretty good album. I've been cleaning half the apartment to it.
I'm in with Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits.
|# ? Dec 2, 2020 18:25|
*Kramers in to the thread*
Come Back from San Francisco
I've never written a love story and have no idea who Magnet Field are, but I'm in!
(Crazy For You But) Not That Crazy
|# ? Dec 3, 2020 08:31|
I don't know how to write a love story so I will judge all of you instead
|# ? Dec 4, 2020 02:03|
Oh, right, signups are closed. One judge slot remains.
|# ? Dec 5, 2020 22:25|
When My Boy Walks Down the Street
One kidney was necessary. Two kidneys seemed excessive. I figured love was worth the inconvenience.
I lay face-down on the operating table. Dr. Hsieh crouched and stared up at me through his protective polycarbonate eye gear. A breathing apparatus covered his mouth like a tentacle. The room was light gray, the floor a damp tile, the walls almost pulsing with dim light.
“Are you sure about this?” he asked, words coming out muffled. His tube hissed and sighed.
“I’m sure,” I said. My naked back was exposed to the room. I felt sunburnt and lightheaded from the drugs they’d given me.
He nodded and stood. I watched as his shoes moved away and were replaced by a new pair. “Take deep breaths now, dear,” a female voice said.
A wrinkled hand pressed a plastic nozzle against my face. I sucked in air and tasted antifreeze.
These people, they came highly recommended—their reviews online were impeccable, their waiting room looked modern-contemporary, their receptionist gave off a comforting mix of polite condescension, and I thought, what was the worst that could happen? Two kidneys was one too many.
I sucked in another breath and the world slowed, spiraled, went away.
Cordie leaned across the uncomfortable hospital bed and put his hand on my knee. I blinked a few times, getting used to the smell of antiseptic. He’d been there when I’d woken, and I wondered how long he’d waited.
I dreamed of fields of organs, growing on trees that climbed into the air like monoliths.
“How do you feel?” Cordie asked.
“Okay. Fine, I think.” My back ached and I wanted to puke my guts out, but I couldn’t tell him that—not him, not my blue-eyed boy.
He forced a smile. “You didn’t have to do this, you know.”
“I know that. But I wanted to.”
“Yeah. Well.” He pulled his hand back and his smile disappeared. “How much will you get for it?”
I moved onto my side and felt the thick stitches along my flank. The market value of a kidney was around thirty grand, but nobody got market value unless they had serious connections.
“Fifteen, after expenses,” I said.
Cordie nodded as if to say, that’s not enough and you know it.
But it would be. I could almost feel the gleaming steel beneath my fingers, the metal smooth and cold, something solid in a world dominated by a flexible, pock-marked plastic. I wanted to taste the hum of its motor, feel the cold rolling from its insides—it was all I’d thought about for months, for years, and now finally, I could make it mine.
I leaned back in my pillow, grimacing through a smile that Cordie didn’t return.
The room was a riot of junk stacked floor to ceiling. I basked in the sheer weight of it all, glowed in those forgotten things, the sort of physicality most people had given up on. Cordie seemed desperately bored as he tapped at his tablet.
I followed the dealer along paths carved into the piles and stared at his long black ponytail bobbing against his back. He stopped in front of a teal monster, chrome handle gashed across its front, a logo emblazoned in black: HOTPOINT. He smacked a palm against its side.
“This is from 1948, comes with all the original parts, minus a few of the finnicky internals. Drawers are original, ice trays are original, minimum scuffing and rusting.” He pulled the door open and stepped aside. “Go ahead, take a look.”
I ran my fingers down the wire racks and thought I might cry. My side pulsed a deep rotten beat, and I leaned on a cane for support, but this was it, the perfect refrigerator. I stuck my face inside and breathed deep, smelling chemical wash and the tang of metal.
“Seems like you’ve made up your mind,” Cordie said.
I looked at him and blinked back tears. “It’s exactly what I wanted.”
“Will it work?” Cordie crossed his arms and gave the dealer a look.
The dealer beamed. “Absolutely. Redid the plug so it’ll run off the new grid, otherwise it’s good to go.”
I shut the door and let my fingers slide down the smooth exterior. It was a dream, the culmination of years, of organs, and now—it would be mine.
“I’ll take it.”
“Thirteen thousand. You make delivery arrangements.”
I nodded and Cordie let out a sharp breath from his nose. I looked back at him as he sighed and touched his fingertips to his temples, and I knew that meant he’d given in.
I pressed my cheek against the door and felt a deep groan emanate from somewhere inside the beast.
Two men carried her up the steps and dropped her into position. I cringed away, every jolt and movement sending electric arcs down my spine. Cordie lounged nearby, his face buried in his tablet, a glass of red wine dangling from his fingers.
“Let them do their job,” he said. “Stop hovering.”
I lingered, unable to help myself, and when the movers were done I shoved cash into their hands. Cordie stood as I plugged my girl into the wall and we listened breathless when the motor turned over, and it began to hum.
“It works,” I whispered.
“Better work. That guy ripped you off.” Cordie tossed his tablet onto the counter and studied me with that discomforting stare. The lights dimmed based on our moods and the side screen played media updates, but none of that mattered, none of it registered—there was only my Hotpoint, her electrical beauty, her steel austerity, and I wanted to crawl inside its guts and let it preserve me forever.
“Do you know how many of these still exist?” I asked.
“No, but I’m guessing you do.”
“Fifty, at most. Fifty, Cordie, and I have one of them.”
“Great.” Cordie walked to our wine rack and took out a bottle of white. “Shall we chill this then? I got it special for your new obsession. Call it a refrigerator warming present.”
I took the bottle, gingerly opened the door, and placed it down on the rack. It looked like heaven.
“Amazing.” I shut the door and stepped back.
“How long will you be out there?” Cordie asked, turning to the living room and flopping back down on the couch.
“A little while longer.” I leaned against the counter and stared. “Just a little bit longer.”
The refrigerator stared back, droning its deep, throaty drawl, and I rubbed my back where the stitches pulled against my shirt, and wondered if maybe one day I’d afford a pig-grown kidney to replace the one I sold, but that would cost another three-months wage, and even then, there was no guarantee I wouldn’t reject the thing—and it didn’t matter. Even jaundiced and half-dead, I’d prostrate myself at the feet of this behemoth, and pray it always ran.
“You’re a sick man.” Cordie peered at me from behind his tablet. “Come spend time with me when you’re finished with your new toy.”
It wasn’t that simple, but I didn’t expect him to ever truly understand.
At night, for weeks, I heard it out there, belching and popping, metal expanding and contracting, plastic giving off slow fumes, its filament bulb gone cold, its freezer section covered with ice crystals, its steel frame glowing—and I wanted to crawl beneath it like some broken creature. Cordie rolled over onto his side and snorted. I could barely sleep.
“You haven’t talked about it in a few days.” Cordie peered at me over his sunglasses as we lounged lakeside and watched kids splash in the shallows.
“Talked about what?”
“You’re losing interest.” He sounded oddly hopeful.
I laughed and ignored him. On my tablet, images of ancient grand pianos stretched along in a grid pattern. I tapped them, pinched and zoomed, and stared at their wood grain, their ivory keys bright and clean, their blacks so deep my screen had trouble reproducing their beauty—and I knew I had to have one, or maybe two, stacked like kindling.
“How much do livers go for?” I asked off hand, and Cordie didn’t answer. He stood and walked to the water’s edge, his toes in the surf, not looking back. “I’d only need to sell a piece. Nobody needs an entire liver, right? They grow back, sooner or later.”
I kicked my feet against the sandy rock and held the tablet closer to my face, and thought of Dr. Hsieh’s shoes, of that soothing waiting room, of Cordie’s never-ending patience, and of the weeks it took me to recover—the scar still raised and patterned on my skin—and I knew they’d take care of me, slice it out with precision, and the black piano skin could wrap itself around my dining room, packed into a corner, perfect and there.
|# ? Dec 6, 2020 11:37|
Crazy for you [but not that crazy]
It was a matter of music.
Our state went into lockdown, and after one week we all started on new hobbies. It was that or go mad. People tried painting, or learnt baking, or took up knitting, or grew disappointing vegetables.
And some people tried music.
So you can imagine my shop. My life. Six weeks of: mail-order madness all day, and ghastly news trickling in all night. And then, when the lockdown wound back, we were flooded. Skinny guys with weird eyes and weirder odours would ask if I wanted to jaaam. People kept hooting “ooh, bongos!” while pointing at my djembes and tablas. Kids moved goggle-eyed up the long rows of electric guitars while their parents ushered them towards some $10 plywood acoustic...
I started longing for 5pm, when the crowds would finally bugger off home, and I could close up the shop, and there’d be
s i l e n c e .
One day I heard a sound. It was a woman, playing one of my clarinets.
This was a big no. Even before covid. But three things stopped me stopping her:
First, she was cute. (I know, I know.) Second, it was five minutes til close, after a long day of retail hell. I was all out of shout. Third, she sounded great. She was swooping through the melody from Ravel’s Bolero. There was a lovely liquid glide to her high notes. There was a deep woodiness to her lower tones that brought to mind timbered dells and limpid pools. Though I’m not sure what a dell is or what limpidness looks like.
So I watched. Listened. Breathed out. Her music was just exactly like the sweetness that comes to the ear when a truck engine stops, or when a builder’s drill winds down. I felt the melody slide cool, dry fingers through the hot and tangled mess of my brain. I breathed.
I stood straighter and felt my shoulders crunch.
I opened my eyes again. The musician was just beautiful, in that heartbreaking way shared by all momentarily-glimpsed strangers. She had darkish skin, darkish long-lashed eyes, and thick chopped bleached hair. And a marvellous expression of concentration. There’s that thing, you know, when a person is beautiful, and you find yourself picturing them making breakfast, or arriving home at night, and you imagine the quiet beauty and primal joy that must surely suffuse each of these moments…
Maybe that’s just me?
And then the phone rang. I dashed out to grab it and when I came back the woman had left already.
I stood there for a while, then set about sanitising the clarinet.
I closed up the shop in a bit of a daze. I went to bed thoughtful. And I trudged through the next day. (Partly because of heartache; mostly because of retail.)
“How about Melbourne?” asked every customer. “Looks like it’s getting bad. Did you see what the infection rate’s up to down there?”
“It really seems to knock the oldies around. Once it gets in a nursing home…”
“You know, I was supposed to be in New Zealand this week.”
I opened crates, stocked shelves, answered phones, sprayed sanitiser. And five minutes before close, someone started on a guitar.
I drifted over. It was the clarinet girl from yesterday. Picking her way through something lively and Celtic. She wore that same expression of dreamy concentration.
“Excellent!” I called, when she finished. “You play clarinet too, right?”
She shot me a smile that nearly killed me.
“I do my best,” she said.
She uncurled from her chair, set aside the guitar, and left.
I sort of drifted towards the bus stop, through a grey blustery evening of dried leaves and eye-stinging dust. I blinked and found myself at home. There had been a lot to think about, apparently.
The next day was an eight-hour slog of receipts, sales, invoices, sanitising, and I need to return Timothy’s trumpet because look, this one has gotten all bent somehow, no I don’t have a receipt, where is your manager? And then at ten to five, the clarinet lady returned. Only this time, she sat herself at our piano and launched into selections from Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini. I watched with my mouth hanging open. Somehow she was great on clarinet and guitar and piano. Plus, she was beautiful, in case I haven’t mentioned that yet. Such a level of talent seemed unfair. I-
And again. The next day: trumpet. Film scores. Played magnificently. I smiled and breathed out as the year’s troubles took on some kind of grand and heroic significance. More music: Clarinet Lady remained polite, but cut short any attempts at conversation. I guess that’s an important skill for beautiful people to have. So at home I peered in the bathroom mirror and practiced my urbane chuckle, which went about as well as you’d expect; and I tried out various intelligent-sounding lines. Ironic that Ravel should be most famous for a piece of music based on repetition, no?
-another day. Grey sky, petrol fumes, eight hours of fat loud angry people treating my shop like an Amazon showroom, and then: Harmonica, 4:57PM. “It’s beautiful,” I murmured, “and I don’t even like harmonicas. Umm, harmonicae-?” Departing smile from the girl. Then: close shop, doomscroll on bus home, reheat lasagne, patchy sleep. Coffee for breakfast.
Next, another day of customers and credit and just on closing time, the clarinet girl arrives, grins from under that ash-white fringe, and finds herself a drumkit. Polyrhythms. The next day: work. The night: bad sleep, wake exhausted. Clarinet girl again: she plays bass trom (Bruckner) then flute (Herbie Mann?) then bass guitar (some weird Primus thing). Fluttering of fingers, flow and tension of arms, heaving of the ribcage, utter focus on the face. Guitarist’s grin, cellist’s glare. And later: sax, cornet, steel drum, theremin. Then ocarina, morin khuur, double bass, euphonium. Then lagerphone, fiddle, synth, dulcimer, didgeridoo, haegeum, flute, alphorn, church bells, pipe organ-
And every time, that little smile: that little flash of beauty that belongs only to passing strangers, that takes some grey from the world-
|# ? Dec 6, 2020 13:35|
Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits
Royal Wants, Worker Dreams
The light of the blind moon reflected off her carapace, giving it an infrablue sheen. Huddled together with him on the highest level of the farm-hive that offered them fragile shelter, she was at her most beautiful. Worker G-Uen-!Xa, his precious jewel dredged from the mud of the nutrient farms, with her thick forelegs, femur spikes polished by heavy use, the wide thorax supporting her four legs, thin and long like the delicate grass flutes of the court musicians.
Drone-heir 3P’i-Z shivered from antenna tip to hindleg claw. His love echoed the movement in her larger body, and they buzzed softly together for a drawn-out moment. Then she turned her eyes, compounded frozen tears of the moon goddess, to him.
“What is on your mind, Prince?”
“This is like the day we met, Gwen. Hiding our forbidden embrace between nutrient balls ready for delivery, our racing thoughts silenced by the vibration of our bodies. But today, our hum won’t be loud enough.”
She took his head gently between the joints between her claws, opened her mandibles a bit and he eagerly responded to her kiss. He heard her answer through a pleasant haze of her scent.
“It is in your royal nature to worry, my love.”
“Gwen!” He separated from her. “You saw the farm-head send a winged envoy. She has betrayed us to my mother, who will take me back and kill you. Should I just accept that?”
She skittered back, raising her claws in a gesture of hurt. “You agreed to stay here rather than keep running. We have one last night, after wonderful months together.”
He unfolded his weak forelimbs in a gesture of submission he knew she adored. “You were the one who could not accept my mother’s unjust rule. Broke ranks when I inspected your farm, and caught my eye.”
She shook her head. “I managed to turn the heart and mind of a Drone-heir. My dreams, and life, are more than fulfilled.”
“But I want…”
She silenced him with a sudden pounce towards him. “Oh, Prince. ‘Want’ is a taboo word for a worker. Give me one last thing I want, and I’ll die happy.”
They locked claws, she drew him in and off his feet into a desperate kiss. Prince felt a tingle running from his mandibles down to the very tip of his abdomen. Gwen must have noticed it too, and she skillfully raised her left foreleg to gently stroke him on the underside, below the wings. Her caress made him open his wings involuntarily. She pushed a little harder, and they sprang up all the way, exposing the part of his body, where his aedeagus, his penis, had already begun to extend.
“Someone’s eager,” Gwen whispered in a voice so low in frequency that he almost couldn’t hear it. “And it’s me,” she continued. She put Prince down, turned around and slowly, slowly raised her wings, showing the edge, the softness and moistness and finally her entire vagina. Prince could no longer restrain himself, and he used his wings to pounce on Gwen, clasped her wide thorax with claws extended as far as he could, took less than a heartbeat to adjust his position, and entered her.
For a few thrusts, immersed in the scent of her arousal, pheromones addling his mind, he did forget reality existed beyond their coupled genitals, as she twitched around him. Gwen vibrated her wings against his carapace, and he shivered in the same rhythm, and then she reached her first climax with a scream that shook the nutrient balls. He stopped thrusting, because he knew exactly what she wanted next.
After a reluctant separation, Prince lay down, folding his wings to make a shimmering bed. She gently placed her legs in the gaps between, arced her abdomen down and mounted him, the perverted position made even dirtier by the signs of hard work on her femur-spikes, the spotting on her face where the sun hard burned away pigment spots, and he almost came before she even touched him again. But as she moved in for a more gentle second round, a gust of wind blew away the final remnants of her pheromone cloud, and a coherent thought forced itself on him: this is the last time.
Prince raised his feeble claws, and barely managed to stop Gwen from uniting her heavy body with his.
“What’s the matter?”, she gasped. “Too rough again?”
“You are perfect as always.” He sighed. “I’m sorry. I can’t let go of wanting to keep you forever.”
“Always the entitled Drone-heir,” she cooed. “I’ll just work harder on making you relax then.” Gwen lowered her head towards his genitals. He watched her work her mandibles around his penis, enjoyed the pleasantly numbing sensation of her saliva, but he could not shake the image of her wondrous eyes reflecting the dead light of a blind moon with her head mounted on a traitor’s spike. The sharp wit from her sharp mouth forever lost, the ideas too big for her station gone from the world, and he in his heir-chambers whiling his life away until a suitable queen was chosen for him to impregnate. Even though the necessity of decentralized farming meant that workers were made fertile long ago.
A terrible but mighty idea flashed through Prince’s mind.
“Why don’t we do it the old way,” he whispered. Gwen halted her gentle assault on his penis and locked eyes with him.
“Like, as role-play?” She smiled an evil smile. “I might like that.”
He grabbed her head between his hindlegs. “For real, Gwen.”
“You cannot possibly be serious.”
“I love you, Gwen. I fled to the end of my world and beyond for you. I will always go all the way with you.”
She shook off his grip easily and skittered up until she loomed over him like an old, dried-out hive about to collapse. “We aren’t animals anymore, you hopeless romantic.”
“The stories say it's the ultimate thrill for both sexes,” he said with an intense ferocity that surprised even him. “It’s our last time. Let’s make it count.” He smiled his own wild smile. “gently caress accepting anything.”
Her eyes shone with their own light, rivaling the moon. “I never expected to be more than a fling for you. But you do love me, don’t you?”
His smile didn’t waver.
She slammed his thorax to the ground. “I’ll do it, you royal boy gone completely mad for a farmhand. I’ll take you like the women in your romantic stories.”
Before he could respond, she rammed the tip of her abdomen down on his, her opening wide enough to engulf his penis and then some. He was pinned to the ground like a display by the lepidopterist killer. He was almost scared by how quickly she had given into a base fervor. For just a second, his mother’s voice ridiculing his love for a “lower creature” entered his mind.
But this was exactly why he was going to commit to this wild idea even more. He just hoped Gwen would eventually forgive him.
Then she did a thing with her bottom that dissolved any and all sense from him, and he felt his own fervor rise, an urge way beyond the arousal she had caused him by merely putting her goods on display before. This was the real thing, not sex but mating, all stifling pretense of civilization, evolution, culture gone: they were animals, and giving into their instincts made their brains reward them with a pleasure some people spent their entire life chasing, but never achieving.
She climaxed again, her opening vibrating around his bruised organ. The wonderful pain gave him a last moment of unwanted clarity. Gwen didn’t know that Prince’s only brothers 1P’i-F and 2P’i-O were long dead. He had accepted the consequences of this mating for himself, but was it fair to her?
Too late to reconsider. He sent a prayer to the moon to make this a true gift for his rebellious worker.
A deep peace filled Prince as he let go of any objection, thought and want, and released his semen into Gwen, an orgasm like a steam-powered engine venting all valves, but it did not stop there of course. She felt the Drone-heir’s precious fluid, usually reserved for queens, coat her eggs, and her body tensed up from abdomen through thorax into claws, she grasped her lover’s head between them, opened her mandibles painfully wide, and bit his neck apart.
What should be pain was instead a wave of the most intense joy radiating up and down both of his segments, and as Prince’s head tumbled to the ground, a final vision shone through the wonderfully warm darkness he slowly faded into. Gwen, future mother of the last heirs to his mother’s kingdom, taking her first bites of his royal flesh.
Prince dissolved into romantic bliss.
|# ? Dec 6, 2020 14:00|
Promises of Eternity
The Curse of Eternity
When I was eight years old, my nanny Yvonne made me a triple-chocolate cake for my birthday. I'll never forget how the sweet smell embraced me as I blew out the candles and wished for a motorcycle with laser guns. In hindsight, that wish was the smartest decision I made that night.
The cake sat heavy in my stomach while Yvonne went upstairs to talk to my mom. Their private conversations weren't unusual; there were only three of us, and my mom was always in bed. I didn't know why at the time, but Mom didn't like talking about it, so I left it alone. I didn't mind. I had Yvonne.
I started to worry when they were still talking after my cake-sickness wore off, so I crept upstairs to investigate. Usually, Mom kept the door closed, but this time it was open enough to let out the sound of muffled crying.
I peered through the crack in the door. Mom was holding Yvonne and petting her copper hair. I couldn't see Yvonne's face, but I could hear the sobs that made her ribs jump with each breath.
"He's growing up so fast," Yvonne whimpered. "I thought we would have more time."
"It's never enough time," Mom said.
"I told myself I wouldn't get attached to him, but he's so sweet, and he's getting so tall...and soon I'm going to watch him die."
Mom was quiet. I was, too. What do you say to something like that?
"You've been scared for a long time, haven't you?" Mom asked.
I'd never heard anything like Yvonne's eerie chuckle. "Two-hundred years." Then she looked up, eyes wide and sad. "But I know your curse is worse."
"Nothing's worse than immortality."
If I'd been older and wiser, I might've heard the bitterness in Mom's voice. Because I was young and stupid, I only heard the facts: Yvonne was immortal, and she was sad that I would die. Obviously, I would have to fix this.
I would have to become immortal, too.
I waited two years to ask Mom about that night. I spent those years collecting evidence to prove I wasn't crazy. For all I knew, the whole thing could've been a prank. I didn't think it was, but I also didn't believe in immortality, so I needed to be sure. Mom's curse was on my mind, too, but that wasn't as important. I already knew Mom was forgetful and sleepy; what more could I learn?
Aging is a hard thing to track over short periods of time, so I had to test Yvonne by seeing if I could injure her. Luckily, being a kid gave me some latitude with how much I could do before it looked malicious. All I had to do was run around like a normal boy, and eventually, one of my misadventures would score. Two years of experimenting more than proved Yvonne could survive anything I could throw at her.
When I was ready for the truth, I cornered my mom while Yvonne was shopping and said I knew about the curses. I thought Mom would be upset with me, but she mostly seemed disappointed.
“I hoped we wouldn’t be having this conversation for a few more years,” she murmured.
I took that as proof of my brilliance and pressed for details. With a weary voice, she gave them. Her curse, as she explained it, was not just hers, but our family's. That meant it was also mine. And what was that 'curse,' exactly? The way my mom led up to it, I thought it was terrible, but it turned out to be amazing: we could walk between timelines.
“That doesn’t sound like a curse at all,” I said.
She laughed in my face. “You’re too young to understand.”
I’ll admit it; she got under my skin. “So it’s the curse that made you sick?” I snapped.
“Yes,” she replied. I knew she was lying. I’d observed a lot over those last two years, and not just about Yvonne. One thing I'd noticed was that my mom really liked her pills. Another decade would prove they were the real curse; another century would prove they weren't.
“I’m going to help Yvonne,” I said. “I’m going to become immortal.”
Mom laughed again, so hollow and sad, and wished me an embittered 'good luck.' I wish I had keyed into that sadness and backed off, but I was ten and brilliant. Nothing could stop me, especially not Mom.
Timelines, as I understood them from movies, were different worlds where anything could happen. Obviously, one of them had the secret to eternity. Yvonne had found it in our line, but I couldn't ask her where without ruining my surprise. I would have to find it on my own.
As a teen, I practiced little jumps to timelines like mine. As an adult, I graduated to stranger lines. It was fun at first. I rode dinosaurs and drove airships; I tasted colors and smelled songs. I also saw my loved-ones commit atrocities I'll never forget. My mother burying children's bodies, Yvonne slaughtering prisoners of war: those happened in lines like ours. They could have happened back home. I should’ve checked; I didn’t. Even then, I knew I'd seen too much, but I couldn't stop when I'd come so far.
It took me centuries to achieve immortality. I thought it would be a transcendent experience, but nothing about me changed. Honestly, the whole thing came as a massive letdown. I wasn't put out for long, though. I hadn't done it for myself. I had done it for Yvonne, who was waiting back home.
I appeared to her as a man in my thirties. By her calendar, it had been fifteen years since we spoke, when I told her I was going to travel the world. From the way her mouth twisted then, I think she knew I was lying. She certainly knew something was different when I reappeared, beaming like I'd swallowed the sun.
I hugged her tight, inhaling her scent. She peeled herself away and squinted at me. "Something's changed."
"I did it, Yvonne." I looked down at her and drank in her ageless beauty. Her elegant smile, her piercing eyes, her fiery hair: small parts of a larger whole that I would love for eternity. "I'm immortal."
Her smile retreated. "What?"
"I heard you crying on my eighth birthday. You were sad because you'd have to see me die. But I'm not going to die anymore, and now we can be together forever! Isn't that great?"
She shook her head, backing up. I reached out to touch her; she smacked my hand away.
Tears beaded her lashes as she gaped at me. "Harry, what have you done?"
I don't blame myself for thinking immortality would help her. I was young and stupid and hopelessly in love. I do blame myself for how I took the rejection. Rather than owning my mistake, I skulked out of our timeline and wreaked havoc on untold worlds. Stealing, destroying, killing: taking comfort in the misery of others. I also took comfort in drugs, just like dear old Mom.
I went back to her once, shortly before she died. She wasn't as stupid as I was; she never went looking for immortality. She'd witnessed enough terrors to realize life wasn't worth living.
Her hands were cold when I clutched them in mine. “Do you know how to fix this?” I stammered. “What I did to myself?”
She laughed at me and shook her head. What else could she do? She'd seen exactly how this was going to go. That was her curse.
When she died, I had nothing left, so I leaped farther than ever. That leap brought me to the nexus of time: a perfect void for someone who wants to feel nothing. And that's what I did. I sat there, and I felt nothing.
You can observe timelines in the nexus, which is handy when you're bored. As it turns out, uninterrupted self-loathing gets pretty dull, so I took occasional breaks to surf lines.
One of them caught my attention with the bittersweet scent of chocolate. Inside, I found my eighth birthday. It wasn't me, exactly—it wasn't my line—but it was close enough that I couldn't tell the difference between me and the boy beside his mother's door. What I could do was help him.
I leaped from the nexus and landed in the hall. Yvonne's muffled sobbing weighed on my heart, but I pushed through and knelt beside my younger self.
He bristled as I whispered in his ear. Then, understanding, he looked me in the eye and nodded. Smart kid; very precocious.
I observed from the shadows as he entered his mother's room. He closed the door behind him, but he left a crack so I could hear.
"Thank you for the cake, Yvonne," he said. "It really made me happy."
|# ? Dec 6, 2020 23:29|
Funhouse Mirrors in Parallel
Watching the city wake from its nightly slumber is one of Alexi’s favorite activities. Observing the people stepping back into the rhythm of the city, a rhythm totally alien to him. The prosthesis occupying the space where his right leg used to be whirrs quietly, the mechanism protesting the damp pavement, biofeedback sensors registering it as a twinge in the kneecap. He goes to rub it and feels cheap synthetic skin on chrome. A chill runs up his spine, the beginnings of de-synch, his body becoming unfamiliar. He forces himself to focus just like the therapy bot taught him, to feel the good leg hit the concrete, the groan of metal.
He holds that focus until the haze in front of him takes on a familiar pinkish tint and he sees the Dead Flamingo’s neon sign, slips awkwardly through the door. It takes a minute for his eyes to adjust to the low light level, his journey from door to the bar an exercise in patience. Rose watches him come back behind the bar. He gives her a nod, checks the count in the register.
“How’s the leg?”
“lovely. Doesn’t like the rain.”
“Can’t say I disagree.”
“Markus coming in today?”
“Nah, staying in some bottomless shitpump with Annabelle.”
He frowns. “Register is ten off.”
Rose holds out her vape stick. He takes the slim cylinder and puts it to his lips, inhaling. Stim. Low grade. Good for a pick-me-up, but he’ll crash later. He passes the stick back to her and she takes a drag before shutting it off and tucking it into her pocket.
“Needed to get through the day somehow”
He nods in understanding. He can feel the stim working its way through his body, turning up the resolution, tightening the synch. He feels too much like himself, feels every bend and flex of false leg as the neurons fire into the poorly grafted muscles. A customer appears at the bar and he’s glad for the distraction, serves beer in a concrete haze.
Mr. Bogus comes in right on schedule. Alexi almost misses him in the crowd, doesn’t visually pick him up until he looks at the usual spot to find him sitting there. Bogus smiles and raises his glass. The rush of people dies down after a little while, and Alexi makes his way to the booth in the back corner, nods at Bogus as he slides awkwardly into the booth.
“How’s the leg today?”
“Glad to hear it. Got a lot on the docket. Three partials, one full service.” He slides a data chip across the table. Alexi slots it into the wetbay behind his ear as Bogus continues.
“The partials are just vid requests, walking around, tying your shoes, standard poo poo. You can get ‘em done on the way to the full-service. You’re gonna need your NeuroMesh for this one. They were specific about it.”
“Why do they always ask for shoe tying? It’s not that different.”
Bogus shrugs. “People are endlessly turned on by things they don’t understand. At least you get some cash out of it. Speaking of.” He places a credit chit on the table. “Same deal as always. Standard broadcast rates.” Alexi nods as he palms the chit into his pocket. Mr. Bogus finishes his beer and pays his tab, winking his oversized cyber eye at Alexi as he heads out the door.
The vid requests are easy enough. He just pretends he doesn’t remember how to tie his shoes, throws in a few muttered swears and exasperated sighs. The shoe heads baffle him. Always the same requests. Maybe it’s a power thing. It usually is. But hell, it puts money in his bank account. The walking videos are even easier, just pipe in a live body feed as he heads towards his destination.
The stim he took earlier ups the kinesthetic resolution. His followers will experience everything as he did on this recording. Some of the anti-idols talk while they record. He prefers to let his body speak for him. Why pretend to be something he isn’t? They have the idols for that. Holographic phantoms wiring falsehoods, twisted in a funhouse mirror. He kills the feed as he arrives at the destination, a glass and steel tower with lines so sharp they cut his vision like a razor. He checks his notes for the apartment number, presses the corresponding button, and waits for the front door to unlock. The buzz sounds out as the door glides open on silent hinges, and he makes his way to the elevator, feeling nervous bile rise in his throat as he hits the button for the 33rd floor.
The woman occupying the apartment is kind-eyed and gives her name as Avalyn. He steps inside, noting the modern, algorithm-selected furnishings, concludes she must be involved in business. She laughs lightly when he tells her this.
“Something like that. The business of the body. I’m an escort.”
He tells her he’s not surprised, somebody must be getting hosed judging by the price tags for some of this stuff. She laughs. He finds himself a little taken aback at his quip. He’s usually more clinical. She pours him some wine and he accepts the proffered glass. She starts to ask questions. About him, about the anti-idols. He talks a little while. About the philosophy behind the anti-idols, the grit and grime behind the chrome shine of holo-capture. Making the invisible visible, making himself seen. She nods. Says she understands.
“When you give fake names as a matter of habit, you begin to forget yourself. Everyday is another apartment, another space to occupy. Another way to act. It really is just another nine to five.”
He says something about how at least punching dicks is better than punching the clock.
“Didn’t strike me as someone who would be into that.” She says with an upraised eyebrow. He laughs, blushing like a schoolboy. It takes a minute for him to figure out the warmth he’s feeling is her hand on his thigh, brings him back to the reason he’s here. Her hand drifts down to his prosthesis and it feels like she’s trying to reach him through a wall of rubber.
“Does it hurt?” She asks.
He shakes his head, tries to find the words to express the sensation. It it’s like being touched by a ghost. She continues to explore his synthetic skin as he activates the NeuroMesh. She pauses as she registers the sensation of his body. Continues gentler now, gives him space to feel. Her lips on his and he feels two mouths at once, finds her in the feedback. She undoes his jeans and lets it all fall away slowly as he unzips her, feeling the dress material on his skin. They stand and face each other, her lips on his neck as they make their way to the bedroom.
Eyes closed. Lost. Running together only to break apart, until at last they find—
After, she lays near him sleepily, and he is glad for the warmth. He lies there awhile, feeling her breath on his ear, the gentle life of it. Her hands wrapped around his midsection, pressing him softly into her. He deactivates the NeuroMesh, closes his eyes, and holds his focus, letting the purity of the experience wash over him.
When it’s over they embrace. He finds his way back out to the street in the faint glow of the dawn. He looks at the NeuroMesh data. Hesitates a second. Deletes it. He can splice in other data, his followers won’t care. This is his and his alone. He deletes his own Neuromesh data.
Another reflection dissipates.
He lights a cigarette as his knee twinges, and steps into the rhythm of the city.
|# ? Dec 7, 2020 02:20|
Song: Epitaph For My Heart
Love is heaven to some people. Not to me - at least not our love. But then again, it wasn’t hell, either. Not all the time. Moments of joy balanced with aches of doubt and despair. I do my best to think about it as little as possible, but now you’re all I see. Some stroke of cosmic fate has cursed me to live every moment we ever shared, again and again, a carousel of yearning and disappointment. The more times we go around, darling, the sicker I get of it.
Back in the early days, the times when I couldn’t see your face without blushing, I wish someone had written me a letter. A wake-up call. This letter would say something along the lines of, “This person does not love you and they never will.” Perhaps if someone else had said it I might have paid more attention. Or perhaps if it was printed in a book. Friends who told me the truth were just jealous of the happiness we might share, and if I admitted it to myself then I was just being pessimistic. But something objective, something written out by an authoritative hand. That might have swayed me. But probably not.
I know things didn’t end on the best terms for us, but I have a few words of advice. The next time your vacuum cleaner starts sparking and belching smoke, don’t reach into the tangled mess of wires in the undercarriage yourself. The resulting shock is liable to hurt you, kill you, or send your consciousness into an endless loop of memories and feelings centered around a person you once cared very much for. None of these options are very pleasant.
That said, I can’t help but wonder - in that last scenario, who would your person have been? Not me, of that I’m pretty certain. Even in our first moments I could see a distraction in your eyes from time to time, your wonderful spark retreating into a cave where nobody could reach it, least of all me. Were you thinking of someone, dreaming of someone like I dreamed of you? I never asked, because people don’t ask questions like that. Because it’s rude, first of all. And also because we don’t really want to know the answer.
It’s a gray fall day, and we’re sipping our coffees sitting on the bleachers at the park nearby. We huddle together to keep warm. You rest your head on my shoulder for a moment, then give me a sly smile. Your fleecy red coat stands out like a beacon, even outshining the leaves. I smile. As I move to kiss you, you jerk away, just the slightest twitch, and the doubts I’d managed to stuff away in a corner of my brain suddenly roar to life. You can tell I noticed. You lean in quick and give me a peck on the cheek, as if to tell me there’s nothing at all to worry about. But I know what I saw.
Perhaps I’m in a coma. Maybe my brain is digging through its file cabinets full of memories, replaying the juiciest ones to keep itself occupied before everything else shuts down. At least some people in my situation get to see the pearly gates. All my unshackled consciousness does is dig through the muck of the past, unearthing long-forgotten pearls of embarrassment and shame. All the same, I don’t want it to be over. Better to wallow endlessly in grief than to feel nothing, to fade away into the aether. Isn’t it? I’m clinging to this life like I always clung to you, or my idea of you at least. That might have been the problem all along.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve gone around now. Fifty? A hundred? Thousands upon thousands? I feel… weary in a way I haven’t felt before. Seeing all my mistakes and failures laid bare makes the sting feel less profound. It hurts, and it probably always will, but I can’t let what’s left of me rattle around in hysterics forever. What a waste of a lifetime - or lifetimes - that would be. My soul is ringed with scar tissue. I start to hear the music in your laugh again, see your hair glowing like a gem in the sunlight. And I can’t blame myself for loving you anymore because I can see I never had a choice. I would have been a fool not to try.
Spending an eternity inside your own mind gets pretty exhausting if you’re hell-bent on hating yourself. I’ve let that go. I’ve started to let a lot of things go; I’ve begun to look forward to each moment we shared instead of dreading them. My love for you may be a tragedy, but there’s a reason human beings can’t get enough of tragedy. To give every inch you have for something and fail anyway? There’s a beauty to it that I couldn’t see before. That I was even capable of loving someone as much as I loved you is almost frightening. The intensity of it blinded me, but now I see our silly little entanglement from the outside and the inside all at once. It was doomed, my love. But it was something extraordinary, too.
If we could speak I’d tell you I’m sorry. I knew how deeply I cared for you, but I didn’t really know you - or myself. I’m sorry for the pain that caused us both. But a part of me will always be yours, no matter how far apart our planes of existence may drift. I might soon wake up and find myself lying on the carpet with my hand stuck in a vacuum, smoke curling out of my ears, and forget this journey entirely. Or I could just let go and drift off into a long and lovely sleep. Before that, though… I think I’d like to meet you again. Just once or twice more.
|# ? Dec 7, 2020 02:33|
You're My Only Home
When You Look at Me, Please Don't Think of Me Everytime
flerp fucked around with this message at 01:24 on Jan 1, 2021
|# ? Dec 7, 2020 02:51|
Strays walk through a cluster of spires under snow that glitters like stardust.
The ice moon flares diamond light from the black sky as Citr draws her arm tighter around her twin. Not to protect Xea in claimant ways she sees others shepherd skizes. It's for warmth.
For they are near-frozen.
They are both waifs. Page-boy mops and skin gone ashen with cold. The cloth of their sweaters is fraying of freeze. Their toes are on fire, their fingertips numb.
Seeing now the glyphs of a Shrine glowing with spellfire within a threshold halo of light. The two pass through without sound. Grateful to be out of that bleak snow. Their business is with the Hierophant keeping the Shrine.
He tends the glowing flowers that aside the centred alabaster of the shrine-altar. Hums to himself as his bare feet gleam from darkness pressed to the chrome of the temple floor. She nods. The flowers burn enough heat into the inner Shrine for the Hierophant's ancient bones. The patterns etched into their petals hardwire into Ithys’ coda. The coda of healing miracles. The coda the goddess sings to the Hierophants in a voice for them alone. To begin there was silence, then the coda from nothing.
"Excuse me," she says. "We're cold."
"The violets," the Hierophant says. "They need their strength."
She repeats herself.
"Empath-wraiths," he says. They wisp into being, three glimmer mists burning cyan fire into her eyes. Bearing bowls of crushed oats and honey and milk. The two children accept the bowls.
She gazes hard at the Hierophant's pale silhouette, trying to bore herself into him. He looks at her in a flat, even way.
The Hierophant unrolls the blanket by the shrine-altar. The air swims with the pheromones of the bright violets. Yet a field of light churns from the shrine-altar, and the pheromones spark in the wash. Sleep soon finds her.
To be twin to skiz is to take their dreaming. In it you are offering to slow oblivion. You wander. The earth barren, blasted obsidian. Black glass. It's you in the dream, your ashen skin, but with no memory of yourself, and no one you can see. Why are you out here? Your reflection stares at you, its eyes burning from beneath your bangs. You don't know which skin now tethers you.
By stages you know you are neither skin, and both skins at once. And you grieve for the slow deaths of both tethered to a world of bodies. While your ethereal self has gathered here to skin in the freak twining of the skiz gene.
Aeons pass like this. She fears them, these aeons, this waiting with nothing but reflection in black glass. Knowing each time she sleeps she will be subject to it. But her body demands life. The body is a tether that you must care for, or else you will know the worst aeon, that of the body dying in snow and frost.
Some fragment of her stays together to maintain both their tethers. She guesses this is why every skiz is born with a non-skiz twin. For her brother's vision phases veils but misses the world of flesh. Sometimes she thinks skiz is a nightmare form that binds to dream and grows flesh to cling to its dreamer.
In these horizons the sun is silver and its light glasses the obsidian into black-light. The black-light reveals every part of you to yourself. Your sinew and bone. The drama of your flesh knitting and re-knitting. The passage of your breath through blood. All gazed at through eyes caged by skull and seeing eyes caged by skull. Tearing your eyes away to the silver sun. But your eyes soon fall again, for there is none but your reflection in the black glass.
She wakes at a flicker of light, a strobing of the field that scorches knives behind her eyes. She sits bolt upright and scrambles to her feet. The temple is as it was when she slept. All except the Hierophant, in a different place, tending different flowers.
Xea blinks himself awake. Stares at her, mute. Then around with clouded eyes. "I'm sorry," she says. "I got tired." He's always confused upon waking, for all parts of him miss the moment when the dreaming begins. He burns up memory trying to put together that he's slept.
She veers near the Hierophant. "How long has it been since your leaving?" he says.
"I don’t know,” she says. “All we know are snow and Shrines."
He turns to focus on her. "There are no pathics with other Shrines online since the cascade began. Do you bear message from one?"
She does. "The thaw will drown us within decades."
His eyes show nothing. "I see."
"That's beyond me," she says. "But I've been searching for a Shrine that could cure skiz. I bear messages between Shrines to buy our stay."
He looks at her. "They say skiz is the gene-seed’s fall. The nadir of the psyche-virii evolved through sheer entropic glitch. Its exorcism is fraught with danger. Danger to the skiz and the twin both.”
"Can you please try?" she says. "I want to hear his voice."
Xea stands wreathed by violets, face blank, but eyes nervous, in the way of someone nearing the gallows. Reflecting the shine of glyphs in pale luminescence. The way two fireflies fluoresce against each other in orbit. "Be brave," she says. "It'll be over soon."
She herself is heady with hope.
He summons the empath-wraiths once more. They do not bear bowls. They bear instead clasped hands, and eyes cratered with somber regard. The three surround him. Draw near from each side with his back to the altar. The altar crackles with electric fire as if giddy with the weight of the scene.
The Hierophant has chosen the distant reach of the temple. As if to divest himself of the blessing. She stands beside him. Fights the urge to close her eyes. No longer will she face long years under silver sunfire stripping her to the bones of her psyche. Xea will sleep by himself, and his dreams will be his own. They will no longer torment her.
The Hierophant recites verse in a language she doesn't know. For a moment it could be one of her twin's prophecies. Such is its foreign bleed into the dead air seeming to weigh it sodden, obtuse, so she feels a need to part it. As if parting her twin's hair to study him for fever. The empath-wraiths moan in echo, molding a grim harmonic of the verse. As if the mixture of black ash with snow to mirror the grainy haze of her amnesia. She knows nothing of the two's origin, focused for so long on her twin's skiz and the need to escape it. It hasn't mattered. Yet it does now, their kinship evoked in the spell as ghost of something greater. Despite herself she now strains for what resonates with her from the words. So is this ritual for her, and she wants to divine from it a spark of insight, like that first ember of song in void.
And in this she forgets all else. The creaking of the Hierophant's voice, emblem of the decay of what binds his tendons to his bones. The wailing of the empath-wraiths slave to sadness she can't begin to get at and so ignores. Galaxies away is the cascade of the ice-moon's bleed out into the sky falling over the spires. Falling because the sky bears no weight but its own weight of nothing. What matters now is those that cursed her twinship with the skiz gene. She finds she hates them, seed and womb both.
It ends here. In the words she finds a hatred of skiz and all that it is. She comes back in time to see the empath-wraiths swallow up her twin in a nova of blue fire.
Silence shrouds the temple as the Hierophant issues the ritual's final prayer. The empath-wraiths vanish and the violets burn out in a gasp that chars the air. Singes her skin even as darkness crushes out what she sees. She hears the Hierophant's ragged breath. Darts forward, rushing into dark nothing, like the altar-shrine never was. Her arms grasp like insect feelers. "No," she hears, "it's not safe!" But she's pitching forward. Balance lost without signal in the silence, any form missing the cast of her eyes. Memories of caged eyes. Her eyes caged now in a thing that does not see.
"Where are you?" she says. "Talk to me!"
From the void comes a sobbing, choking, wretched quaver. A glaze flares before her like light in glass, and she crashes and skids on chrome she can't see. Aches with bruise. "What's wrong?" she says, blithe to her own pain. To exude solace as phantom limbs to enfold what she herself cannot.
"Our aeons," her twin says, in a voice wet with tears. "They're gone."
|# ? Dec 7, 2020 02:53|
The Cactus Where Your Heart Should Be
i’ll get you a good lawyer once i’m famous
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 21:30 on Jan 8, 2021
|# ? Dec 7, 2020 03:50|
|# ? Feb 8, 2023 23:49|
How I Wrote My First Love Song
The night Anton flew out of LaGuardia, I was lying in Louis’s arms, bawling my eyes out.
“He needs me!” I gasped out between sobs. “He doesn’t know anybody in San Francisco! He’s going to be so lonely!”
My cousin patted my head in a way that he must have thought was comforting. “Anton is gonna be fine. But you, you need something to do. Why don’t you get a hobby? I got into programming after Mel broke up with me and –”
“Anton’s not gonna break up with me! He wouldn’t! How could you say that?”
“Okay, okay! Calm down. Just breathe.” As I obeyed him, Louis slumped his shoulders. “I didn’t say Anton was gonna break up with you. But, um, he wouldn’t want you to sit around moping, would he? You don’t want him to be sad when he’s working on his internship!”
I sniffed. “I guess not. It wouldn’t be very supportive of him, would it?”
“Right, right!” Louis said, a little too brightly. “Just think about something you’ve always wanted to do or would like to try. Now’s your chance to start!”
“I could learn the guitar. Anton really likes musicians.” I sat up, paced back and forth across Louis’s bedroom, my mind in full planning mode. “I could write him a song – play it for him when he comes back for Christmas break! It’d blow his mind!”
“Yeah, um, that’s one idea.” Louis cleared his throat. “Are you sure there isn’t anything else you might be interested in?”
“Nope, I’m gonna do this!”
Louis sighed. “Okay. If that’s what you think is right, then … I support you.”
The very next day Louis and I strode out of the Guitar Place, an acoustic slung on my back. He gave me the best smile he could as I chattered excitedly about how impressed Anton was going to be. During those first few months, I’d spend two hours a day or more hunched over my guitar picking along with every video tutorial I could find online. It was excruciating at first – and not only because of the blisters. I stayed up more than one night crying after spending a few hours wrestling with barre chords. Even though Anton always asked how I was doing during our daily video calls, I didn’t say a word about my struggles: I wanted to surprise him with my new skill. Louis was my confidant, listening patiently as I swore it was a stupid idea, that I sucked at music, that I’d never get good. “Be patient,” was his mantra. “Don’t give up. You’ll get it if you keep trying.”
And Louis was right. Three months in, I was confident enough to start playing at the park. If any real talents who frequented the High Line appreciated my beginner guitar songs, I’ll never know, but I got enough smiles and nods. A few people left change in my case, which I gave to the food bank: I played because I enjoyed it, not because I needed money. Some even left their phone numbers – mostly girls, but a few guys, too. I threw away the girl’s numbers, but the guys’ I kept. Anton didn’t have to know, did he? It’s not like I was actually going to call them. It wasn’t cheating just to imagine being with someone else.
Anton was thriving in San Francisco. At that point our daily calls had trickled down to once a week. Each time we talked, he’d be full of stories about the Oh-my-God-amazing things that had happened to him: the Pollock exhibit he’d seen at the SFMoMA, how his friend Gale got hit with a flying salmon at Fisherman’s Wharf, the best office gossip Hermes House Publishing had to offer. He rarely asked how I was doing, and I was fine with that. Anton and the guitar were two separate parts of my life now, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted them to meet. The blank sheet music I’d bought to write Anton’s song sat pristine in its package, untouched.
One brisk December morning Anton’s plane touched down at LaGuardia and I wasn’t there to greet him. “I just really need to catch up with my family,” he’d told me over the phone the previous night. “My mom and my little sisters would freak out if they didn’t spend time with me. It’ll only be a day, and then I can get away from them and we can have all the time we want. You understand, right?”
I said I understood. Three days later we met at the old café near the Chelsea Market. When Anton noticed the French press I’d ordered sitting at the table, he bit his lip and frowned.
“Oooh, I’m kind of over French press these days. My friend Jax, he turned me on to pourover. It’s much better. It’s lighter and smoother, and there’s zero grit. I can order you some, if you’d like –”
“No thanks, this is fine. Listen, I wanted to talk to you. Why don’t you sit down?”
“Well, alright. I hope everything’s okay.” Anton laughed nervously as he slid into the seat across from me.
“Anton.” I gripped the cup before me and steeled my jaw. “There was a time when I thought we needed each other, but now I understand that we don’t. I think we should break up.”
Anton barked out a laugh. “Thank God! I thought you were dying or something.” He smiled ruefully at the table. “I think you’re right. Actually, I was going to break up with [/i]you[/i] today. It’s better for both of us. Gotta spread our wings, you know? I spent so much time rehearsing my speech, you wouldn’t believe –”
“No, I think I would,” I laughed. “You always got way too into the spring musical.”
“I really did!” Anton put a dainty hand to his chest and held out the other. “‘Mar-ee-ah!’” he belted out. “‘I just met a girl named Mar-ee-ah!’ God, I was such a nerd,” he said. “I don’t know how you put up with me.” He swirled his coffee cup, then looked into my eyes. “We’ll still be friends, right?”
“Yeah.” To tell the truth, I didn’t believe our friendship would last much longer after Anton got back to San Francisco. He was too in love with his new home. But that was okay.
I called Louis as soon as I got back home that day. “What seems to be the problem?” he said. I could hear him bracing for the impact of my latest drama.
“No problems,” I said. “I just wanted to let you know I appreciate you being here for me. I know I’ve been kind of needy lately –”
“Gee, you think?” Louis said, without malice.
“Yeah, maybe. You’re a good cousin, Louis. Say –” I picked up the music sheets I’d bought for Anton “— How would you feel if I wrote you a song?”
|# ? Dec 7, 2020 04:36|