Greetings, you wonderful people. This message has been rubber stamped by at least one member of the shadowy cabal that runs things around here.
guys we dropped the ball on this.
Fortunately, the blood king has roared, and so it is decreed that we will persist with the card exchange! Head to discord or PM chili to help us save cardmas!
|# ? Dec 10, 2020 03:50|
|# ? Oct 3, 2022 21:09|
I'm not going to sift through a triple dozen softball prompts. Give me a week you nerd.
|# ? Dec 10, 2020 10:19|
Week 203 was a cool prompt that didn't get enough entries. In to write some teen mystery.
|# ? Dec 10, 2020 10:22|
I should know better than to poke the angry dinosaur, but this can only end well, right?
In, you choose my destiny.
|# ? Dec 10, 2020 13:40|
Sounds fun. I'm in. #101.
|# ? Dec 10, 2020 20:06|
Week 203 was a cool prompt that didn't get enough entries. In to write some teen mystery.
~ i did not expect this to ever come up again. hype
|# ? Dec 10, 2020 21:07|
I'm not going to sift through a triple dozen softball prompts. Give me a week you nerd.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interrèd with their bones.
So let it be with Caesar.
So it let be with Entenzahn! You're so feisty these days. Lots of brawling. I like that. I like the new you. But I haven't forgotten when you were but a sniveling sycophant rolling onto your belly like a beaten dog before your supposed betters. No fire in your belly. Not so much as a teensy-tiny growl in you. You cost me two months getting to the crown because you couldn't bear to argue with an honorable member of the old guard. Perhaps I'm being too harsh, though. Like you said, "humor is subjective." Make me laugh and we can put this behind us.
Ah... but... it's not behind us quite yet, though, is it? To make this interesting, no one should submit a story funnier than yours. You will be placed lower than anyone and everyone who makes me laugh more or laugh harder. If they hm, you'll no mention. If they no mention, you'll dm. If they dm, you'll lose. Just think of it as a brawl against... well... everyone. Shouldn't be problem. You do so love to fight these days.
Week #101 - WAR
Week 203 was a cool prompt that didn't get enough entries. In to write some teen mystery.
You have an almost perfect record when it comes to giving crits. I, on the other hand, have an actual perfect record. Are you leaving poor SlipUp out in the cold out of deference to me? Touching but unnecessary. Take care of that then write me a story where something critical has been missed. Also, most of your stories seem to be about white people. Take care of that, too, please.
I should know better than to poke the angry dinosaur, but this can only end well, right?
Correct! Well thought out Gorka! While you're on a hot streak, take Week #100 - The Black Attache Case. All the writers that week got together to figure out how that titular attache case logically moved through the night, character to character, story to story. Disappointingly, Ironic Twist failed to submit so there is big open gap that bothers me to this day. Your story must fill that gap. Phobia's submission had the case given to a homeless man. You need to move that attache case from the possession of the homeless man to the back of a fancy SUV -- which will subsequently be stolen by a character from my story. You don't need to write about the vehicular theft. You don't need to include my character (in fact, if you do and I find your writing upsetting consider me definitively poked). You don't really even need to focus on the case that much at all. You just need to move it. Let's see if my trust in you is well-placed.
Sounds fun. I'm in. #101.
Edit: Well, gently caress. I went and wrote a whole-rear end assignment and hell rule because you made me misread your entry post. But sure. Whatever. Take 101. I'm sticking you with part of your original assignment though as a hell rule. You can only use the top thousand commonly used words as found here (with a buffer of about ten percent [with the obvious of word tenses/plurals and such as]). I'll be using this to make sure you didn't gently caress things up. Of course, if anything, I'm probably doing you a favor. Who needs the pressure of all 171,476 words in the English language? Certainly not you!
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 21:58 on Dec 10, 2020
|# ? Dec 10, 2020 21:49|
I am incredibly foolish, so I’ll take Week 119, and to (hopefully) stave off a disaster of my own.
|# ? Dec 11, 2020 01:58|
Happy Festivus. Your awful jiggling gif has made me long for death.
Week 338, Places of Power. "Give me your ending first and then show me how we got there"
The Darkhouse Keeper
Moth-Pope leapt from his rhinoceros and barrelled into the riot police. He swung his fists and splintered shields, glaring righteous hate at all those fat pale faces gaping behind their stupid fascist visors.
Some clutched guns, and suffered.
Trevor took the flank, hurling cats. The Kythera spun up and over the wall of riot shields, hammering into the line of patrol cars and ripping them into razor shreds. The shield wall buckled and peeled back; one cop was running, and then two, and then the whole drat herd scrabbled backwards squealing, stumbling on dropped guns and fragments of car.
There was silence, for a moment. Moth-Pope stood, breathing hard. His left arm hurt worse and his right leg did not feel right at all. He was afraid now to look at it. Trevor lay on the ground like a discarded sock, his cats scattered. The Kythera, dented, had retreated.
“The cops’ll be back,” groaned Trevor. “It’s kind of their thing.”
“I know,” mumbled Moth-Pope. He really wanted a drink. He strained for some glimpse of his home. He couldn’t see it. Too much dust, too much smoke. Too much teargas-
“Look at ‘em, hiding behind their cars,” spat Trevor. He sneezed violently; the meds were wearing off. “I don’t think we-”
And an ornate timber foot, about the size of a VW beetle, thudded into the dirt by the Pope’s head. He stared blearily up at it, mouth hanging open. A huge angular shape bulked up into the fog.
A hatch sprung open. The Vinewitch’s dreadful face appeared.
“Get in, losers!” she shouted. “We’re taking this thing on the road.”
Trevor made a series of spluttering sounds.
“It’s powered by compost,” continued the Vinewitch. “So, you know. Breath through your mouth! But we’re mobile now.”
The big shape shifted and hummed. A hatchway creaked open, spilling light. The Pope of Moths stared, a big dumb grin rearranging his face.
“Mobile,” he said. “Every time we cross a boundary, we’ll make another snarl of paperwork. They’ll never be able to track us. We’ll be free!”
“Wonderful,” said Trevor, grabbing armfuls of cats. “Uhm, can we stomp on a few more cop cars before we go?”
They considered this.
“Yes,” said Bronson Hayes.
DARKHOUSE KEEPER, by Tree Bucket
The world is a net of eyes, a grim grey patchwork of surveillance and paperwork and budgetary constraints. It is a cunning weave of labels, incarceration and executive bonuses.
But there are places that the signals can’t reach- lands the economy has forgotten to monetise- roads which fall outside every jurisdiction. And-
On a hill, surrounded by sibilant acres of grass, stood the Darkhouse. It was a modest timber home, handcrafted and pleasantly proportioned. It was a pity, then, that the builder really hadn’t known when to stop and had spent decades metastasising rooms, towers, awnings, stairways, minarets and buttresses. All built of planks hand-sawn from fallen trees.
The Darkhouse violated every single building code, just by existing. To adequately describe its Groverian awfulness, new codes would have to be written so that it could break them too.
High in one of the more stable towers, the Moth-Pope lurched out of sleep.
“Car!” repeated Trevor. He shoved a cat away from his telescope and peered through the eyepiece.
“Hhhmm?” went the Pope.
“Another one for you,” Trevor said at last. “Sorry.”
Moth Pope wandered over, scratching at his great big jaw with his great big hand. He frowned a bit and squinted at nothing-
The Darkhouse was a special place. The reasoning was clear enough: there were lighthouses, so, obviously, there must be some kind of darkhouse to balance them out, right? Satellites could not see the Darkhouse. Computers, brought close, spat magic smoke. Paperwork had been known to quiver and flex into paper-crane shapes. And writs, affidavits and summons- well…
“The Visitor’s staring at his phone now,” commented Trevor.
“He’s wondering,” grunted the Pope, “why he has no signal.”
“And now he’s shouting at his phone.”
“Just went from max battery to zero,” replied the Pope, jaw clenched.
“He’s not giving up!” said Trevor, a touch admiringly. “Do we know who this guy is? Real estate? Safety inspector? Mining company?”
“Does it matter?”
“There! He’s retreating,” said Trevor smugly. He was the Prince of Cats, and something of their attitude had rubbed off on him.
“Our Visitor just forgot which sub-department he works for,” said the Pope, with some satisfaction. “Also his pen’s leaking pretty bad, and his security swipe card’s now an Ace of Hearts.”
“Excellent,” purred Trevor. He really was good at smug. Capricious Fate had granted him a psychic bond with all felines, paired with a raging cat allergy! Hilarious! But modern science supplied Trevor with hayfever medication. Destiny was for losers.
Moth-Pope swept aside a drift of empty cans and sank back into his horrible armchair. He winced as his sweat-soaked shirt pressed against his back.
“You know,” he said loudly, “it’d be grand if Vinewitch could deal with some of these Visitor types, like she used to…?”
“Says she’s working on a project,” said Trevor, brushing three cats off his chair. Trevor was an eczema-haunted deviant with arms about the thickness of broom handles; he believed in the cautious approach. “Something about harnessing the power of compost?”
“I’m the Darkhouse Keeper,” rumbled Moth-Pope. “I could order her to help.”
They both paused and pictured the Vinewitch: tall and quick, with big hair and a laugh like a sack of bottles hurled down a gravel track. And very friendly with the local grasses and lichens.
“Or not,” finished the Pope.
“Or not,” agreed Trevor, Prince of Cats.
The Pope grimaced and wandered off to finish the morning chores. There were repairs to carry out, coffee to brew, rituals to observe. Mostly, though, Moth-Pope’s routine consisted of looking after the other inmates. Residents. Whatever.
The Darkhouse was a place of calm, and very definitely off every radar. It tended to accumulate denizens as the centuries went by. There was Trevor, and Kai, and Kai’s ghost, and several escaped zoo animals, and an old lady who ate electricity, and an accountant who was invisible on Tuesdays, and a big clanking doom-wheel named the Kythera that the ancient Greeks had tried to fight with some kind of mechanism, and-
And there was himself, of course.
“Yo, Vinewitch! You keeping an eye on the rhinoceros? Helloooo?”
He was the Darkhouse Keeper. If he concentrated (or forgot to concentrate) his aura could unravel bureaucracies, kill paperwork, shred networked technology.
He had to buy a new TV every couple of weeks.
“Vinewitch! Come on, the wombat needs feeding!”
He had been Bronson Hayes. Ten years back he’d given up his plans and his hopes and his name. Severed every cord. Except his gym membership. It was the only way he could devote himself to life as the Darkhouse Keeper, and quiet the clamour of the world.
His predecessors had taken all the good titles: ShadowLord and NightQueen and Emperor of Mists. It was forbidden to re-use these titles, so for the big dumb guy formerly known as Bronson, it’d been a choice between Moth-Pope and Chief Eunuch of Toads. He had chosen accordingly…
Someone had to do it.
The next day, Moth-Pope woke to find the House surrounded by thick fog, and about forty riot police.
They were glaring the glares of men who have just discovered their guns and megaphones no longer work. They weren’t sure what was happening, and wanted someone to suffer for it.
The Visitor from yesterday was there. Scowling. Moth-Pope squinted until the man’s security pass turned into an origami frog.
Their guns wouldn’t work here. But the Darkhouse had no power against the brute simplicity of forty angry men with sticks.
The Visitor stood and shouted something about building codes or late bills or outstanding writs. But the Darkhouse refracted his words:
“This place is a wound on the face of Economy. We will remove it!”
And the cops stomped forwards.
Moth-Pope rubbed at his eyes. He heard Trevor announce his arrival with his usual explosive sneeze.
“Here comes the cavalry,” he muttered.
What, then, if he took it easy, stayed Bronson? Opted for normality? Let the House look after itself?
Streamers of tear gas arced over the shield wall.
-but then, there’d be no Keeper, no one to close the eyes of the world. No one to feed the rhinoceros, or give Trevor dating advice, or wind the Kythera’s key every solstice.
“Let’s do this,” spat Trevor, jigging from foot to foot. He was surrounded by a hissing ginger nimbus of angry housecats.
“You’ll get creamed, Trevor,” sighed Moth-Pope.
“Oh yeah? Well: cats like cream.”
“That’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever said,” declared Moth-Pope. He shrugged, and whistled for his rhinoceros. “Let’s keep things weird.”
|# ? Dec 11, 2020 02:01|
i don’t have archives so this is my attempt to write a story better than one i can’t see this matters to me sorry. experimental week boringness is my worst regret. lose or dq it its chill
set in the year 300X. diagnosed autism approved
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|# ? Dec 11, 2020 05:33|
I am incredibly foolish, so I’ll take Week 119, and to (hopefully) stave off a disaster of my own.
Do you have any recommendations on staving off daggers to your heart from someone you respected and thought of as a friend? Like, hypothetically speaking, if you wrote - I dunno - six stories and that person you respected and thought of a friend callously and flippantly failed to critique any of them leading you to question if they even read them despite "passing judgement" on them, what would you do? I don't have any answers. I just have a bunch of knives. Pull them out please and toss them into your story. Also, you should get acquainted with a couple of characters: a reality tv star, two traumatized children, a clown gangster, a recovering magic addict, and Stanley Kubrick. I know this is basically a first introduction so I'm not expecting much but if you include two or three in your submission, I'd appreciate it.
|# ? Dec 11, 2020 06:50|
I will try again.
laxbro fucked around with this message at 03:30 on Dec 12, 2020
|# ? Dec 11, 2020 19:05|
Hey so this is a bit of a weird post but it feels important:
I started writing short fiction for Thunderdome 8 years ago. I'd always wanted to be a writer, but TD was the first time I wrote regularly and got real crit. I think it's fair to say that TD is where I learned to write.
Last year I put out my first novel, which won a fairly major award, and today, after almost a decade of writing, I signed with an agent.
This weird little thing we've built matters. I'm not saying writing for TD will make you insta-famous, but I've been through workshops with Serious Authors and MFA classes this is still the best forge for craft that I've ever seen. It's not even close. Treasure this weird loving thread and all the beautiful weirdos in it.
SurreptitiousMuffin fucked around with this message at 23:45 on Dec 11, 2020
|# ? Dec 11, 2020 23:13|
also fart rear end badwords stinkfriends etc
|# ? Dec 11, 2020 23:43|
!!!! Congratulations muffin, that's awesome!
Less awesome, and maybe not awesome at all, I am in this week, with week 429.
|# ? Dec 12, 2020 01:32|
You win. This hell rule was terrible. My plan was to write the story first and then edit it to meet your rule. Spent 30 minutes before giving up. I would rather watch paint dry so I'm throwing in the towel on the hell rule. (Edit: Reviewing old entries and prompts was a lot of fun as a new visitor to this thread. I look forward to joining in on future prompts.) Here's the DQ'd story (critique welcome!):
Don't edit or introduce your stories, and the right time to give up is an hour after deadline, not 48 hours before lol
|# ? Dec 12, 2020 01:53|
I will cojudge this week!
|# ? Dec 12, 2020 02:06|
!!!! Congratulations muffin, that's awesome!
Bold. You do remember that you already tried that week once, right? And that despite your best efforts, your story was neither the best nor the longest? It must have been emotionally devasting to spend all that time and energy just to come up short. No wonder you blocked it from your memory. I'm so, so sorry. I didn't mean to remind you that I won and that I stole the word count record from you but a few hours after you had it in your grasp. It's heartbreaking. I mean, you're a Week One blood-on-potatoes OG. The oldest of the old guard. You should destroy me. Yet, you haven't won in a week I've entered since September of 2015. How odd. Maybe you just need some encouragement!
You can do it!
Unrelatedly, your story must include something impossible happening.
|# ? Dec 12, 2020 03:12|
I will cojudge this week!
Well, you may have a big goose egg in the win column but at least your crit rate is 100%. I guess you're not totally loving worthless. Welcome aboard!
|# ? Dec 12, 2020 03:21|
you haven't won in a week I've entered since September of 2015. How odd. Maybe you just need some encouragement!
Okay but I did win the last time you judged so I'm not sure exactly what you want me to prove here
Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at 01:36 on Dec 13, 2020
|# ? Dec 12, 2020 03:53|
oh, if you choose 429 you don't get unlimited words even though i did because i don't want to allow it ty
|# ? Dec 12, 2020 04:07|
Sign ups are closed
Week #123 - Ceci N'est Pas une Nouvelle
In your story the world is bounded within a teardrop
|# ? Dec 12, 2020 05:04|
I was recently called out (again) for being incredibly bad at critting, so I went poking through the archives and found another unfinished crit doc! WOW!
So in case you entered Week #368: GACHADOME and were super heartbroken to not get one of my garbage-tier crits, today is your lucky day! INCREDIBLE!
Anyway, here are some crits with some minimal attempt at formatting, and if you would like something more substantial, let me know and I'll see what I can do
SUPER-AMAZING GACHADOME CRITS, WOWZA!!!
Exmond - The Ship's Name Was Purgatory
Lots of little errors that a proofreading pass or two could have fixed. You submitted early, so you had plenty of time to go over this.
This was a confusing mess of a story. As near as I can tell, the humans all fed themselves to the reactor so it could continue to operate? I don’t know. Why would humans dying grant the reactor sentience, and why does that matter? And why did it require two million humans? Why did they use a deck of cards (and what exactly was the mechanic there? Guessing the card on top? How would that produce exactly 52 survivors? Are they removing the cards after they’re identified? That would change the odds to significantly favor people who guess later; hardly a fair method)?
This feels like you had a lot more exposition planned that you couldn’t fit in, and the story suffered for it. It seems like you have some interesting ideas, but you needed a bigger wordcount (and quite a bit of editing) to make it work.
Vinestalk - Breaking the law of averages
Hmmm, maybe I’m too dumb to be judging this week?
This seemed somewhere in the realm of a burnt-out physics grad student getting high and having a trip about blowing up the lab that they work in. It’s well-written, and interesting in its own way, but it’s not very satisfying to read. More than anything it reminded me or my self-indulgent livejournal entries that my poor friends actually took the time to read, god bless their hearts.
Ironic Twist - The Dinner Party with the Wealthy and Eccentric Host
I lol’d. A good opening.
This is a minor quibble, but when you start a new paragraph but keep the same speaker, you leave off the end quotation until the speaker changes.
Where did you get these names? The WASP-Lite academy?
Wait, Harmonica is a dude? What.
Okay, this was cute and funny. I did not hate this. I didn’t super like it, either, but you got several chuckles. The ending could have used a little something else, maybe? Idk, it was just a little too pat at the very last.
Yoruichi - The Rust Queen
Ooh, I liked this one. I would have liked a little more detail/personality in the Rust Queen herself, but I thought it was good.
Chairchucker - Fun Tawny Frogmouth Trivia: They Rule
Title made me smile.
What did I just read.
I guess a better question would be why did I read it.
I’ll grant you that this was not an easy set of flashes to pull, but this also reads as a … story(?) that got churned out to not get banned. I’m expecting this was a toxx.
Would love to know what your proposed explanation for this was (what’s The Beast, etc), though.
Also why was it the cockatoo and not The Cockatoo? I thought maybe it was an error, but it was so consistent.
Uranium Phoenix - Once Burned
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is what you would have gotten if I didn’t re-crit it in Discord, but thanks for the reminder anyway.
POV character is a little too cartoonishly evil. And an Alpha Male ref? Really?
Idk, there was an idea here that could work, but it needed a lot more subtlety, and probably at least double the words.
Fleta McGurn - Use a Rubber
I have… so many questions.
Mainly just… why
Second cursed chicken this week, though!
Staggy - Lucky Tides
Well, you nailed the fable voice, and I liked the story. Some fairly minor grammatical quibbles, but pretty solid.
I am somewhat at a loss as to the meaning of your moral. Again, I feel like maybe I’m just not cued into the stories this week, but I don’t really get the back and forth between the elder brother and the cuttlefish at the end. Like, it seems really obvious that the elder brother is supposed to be the one worth emulating? How does his quip at the end … change or emphasize that in any way? Again, maybe it's just me, but idgi.
Simon - Wheel of Fate
You’ve got some weird prose choices here. It’s very cartoonish, but also like you were trying to use deliberately obfuscated language.
This… wasn’t good.
All of your characters here are weird cardboard cutouts. No one talks or acts like this. It all felt very dream-logic-y, and I couldn’t figure out what any of the characters’ motivations were at any given time.
I got the sense that Emily was supposed to be the “hero” here (maybe?), but she seemed super petty and vindictive for no reason. Like, sure, rich people bad or whatever, but no one on the boat seemed to be actually doing anything before she started killing people. Oh no, your dad is rich and … uh, can pay for your grandpa’s medicine now…? BETTER START MURDERING PEOPLE!
Also why does everyone assume Harald is the murderer? You make everything seem super huge and anonymous, but then he’s immediately singled out? Also how the gently caress is this kid suddenly so good at loving serial-murder-by-numbers? Whyyyyyyy
Phan Nuwen - In the Zone
Ooh boy, racial caricatures! So excited.
This one is so strange, because Luke’s luck is so well-known, but it’s actually pretty poo poo, isn’t it? If he’s that lucky, why is he still living in the slums and getting the poo poo beat out of him by his brother on the reg? If his brother dying and Luke getting a new family is such a possibility, why hasn’t it already happened? Your in-universe rules don’t seem particularly consistent.
Most of all, though, I didn’t really care what happened to Luke. Will is a dick, yeah, but Luke isn’t shown to be super great, either.
Black Griffon - The tale told in the turtlebird's shell
Oh, I like this one.
I think you did a really good job with the folklore flash. It’s not as strictly folklore as it might have been, but I enjoyed what you did with it. Very satisfying. Nice ending, too.
First story I haven’t had major qualms with. Gj.
Thranguy - Bacon and Ice Cream Is a Legit Combo
Title checks out. Man, now I’m hungry.
Wow, this is the weirdest, least-appropriate title I may have ever seen.
I don’t know. I feel like this wanted to hit home harder than it did. It’s well-written and a cool idea, but I didn’t get a lot out of it. The whole dual-self war was somehow simultaneously predictable and nonsensical. Of course the Dark Lord is him, he’s the only character of interest in the world (including the “clever” woman who didn’t even get a name), but why was he trying to stop himself? It makes no sense. Did he want to continue living in the world? Caspian even let all of the people live after the five minutes was up, so it’s not like he could argue that he was trying to save them. There is no motivating logic here. “I want to stop time and stay in this void because ???”
I think this may just be a preference thing on my end, though, so you do you.
sparksbloom - The Top of the Hill
Hmm, okay. So why did the pictures of Elena sell for some reason, but not the ones that came before? It seems like she’s got some character or spark happening, but there’s not really enough information here to figure out what exactly it is.
I feel like you’re trying to make a statement here about … euthanasia? suicide? family? greed? I don’t know. There’s not quite enough there for me to really see what you’re saying. I think this could use a little more space, and a little more detail.
P.S. I really hate you for making me think about the Euthanasia Roller Coaster again.
Nikaer Drekin - Eternal Life
Not really sure what to say about this one. An interesting concept, but the ending needed to be a little less trite. You were doing a decent job with the horror aspect, but kind of whiffed it at the last minute. This could also use a lot more characterization than it had (and lose the part about food poisoning, it seems really goofy and weird, especially when it gets 10x more words than divorce and death).
Pepe Silvia Brown - Just 'Cause It's Shiny, Don't Mean That It's Clean
Haha, you know, I usually hate twist endings, but I actually really enjoyed this one. Your setup was clear but subtle enough that I didn’t guess the ending beforehand. I might take out the “Buttmachine” line, since it’s a little silly, but otherwise good job.
Megazver - Janus' Blessing
Cute…? I guess? Pretty clumsy, and definitely needed another editing pass (and several line breaks). You didn’t really give your characters anything resembling a personality or a reason to root for them, so I’m not entirely surprised that this fell flat. Colt seems like he’s done this before, which is weird, and the other passengers playing along is also weird, because this whole thing seems bizarre.
Liquid Communism - Last Call
Wait, who’s Art?
Okay, (AUTHOR’S NOTE: CRIT ENDS HERE, I THINK THIS MIGHT HAVE BEEN WHAT MADE ME GIVE UP ON CRITS? IDK SORRY)
QuoProQuid - Beauty at Low Temperatures
I will accept this interpretation of your flashrule.
Predictable but cute. Not bad, not great.
Siddhartha Glutamate - Even the Darkness Has Its Light
I like this one, although I think it fits the folklore or fable genre better than a fairy tale. It’s cute and funny. Ending’s maybe a little … not rushed, but crumpled? Just needs some extra line breaks and a few more words. The title is also pretty bad, but that’s a very simple fix.
Hawklad - Mendocino
Can a boot punch something? Isn’t that a kick by definition?
Well, this was a very <thing happen> story.
Tyrannosaurus - Space is full of ghosts and there is no god
Augghhhh I love this. Goddamnit.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: REAL CRIT TO FOLLOW
Antivehicular - A Letter, Never Opened
Ooh, drat, another good one. Man, this is gonna be hard.
apophenium - Untitled
Okay, this is cool prose, but there’s not enough here for me to really get what it is that you’re getting at, so it seems like kind of a waste? Idk, I’d totally be into it if you fleshed it out a little more. No one likes to feel stupid reading a story.
Baby Ryoga - Incremental Progress
This reads like A Canticle for Liebowitz and Stardew Valley had a baby, and despite loving both of those things very much, I did not enjoy this very much at all.
This is another story that could have used a little more explanation.
Anomalous Blowout - The Devil’s Trill
Ooh, aces opening paragraph.
Hmm, this is a pretty neat concept. A strong contender, but this is a strong week.
Solitair - When Thomas Met Thomas
Man, def thought this was Oliver Cromwel and not Thomas, was briefly confused.
Well-written but not terrifically affecting. You do get points for teaching me that I have been spelling Thomas More’s name wrong for god knows how many years.
Sebmojo - A circle has no end
Man, what. Why do y’all keep doing this to me this week. (AUTHOR’S NOTE: I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I MEANT BY THIS STATEMENT)
And how is this time travel???
Fuschia tude - Honey and Vinegar
Man, you had some cool little bits of dialogue in here, but they’re the equivalent of making a really elegant garnish for a single slice of american cheese. Not enough substance to warrant the effort.
|# ? Dec 12, 2020 05:07|
And also because I am easily guilted into
Week #90: Down With the Sickness
God I don’t remember this at all. Probably because there were almost forty goddamn entries that week, and also probably because my brain immediately got blasted with rotting melons and poo poo geysers, but also because this is… not great. You know that. I don’t feel like I need to belabor the point here. It’s kind of a funny concept, and you kind of almost have a funny ending, but the “HELLO, HERE IS THE POINT THAT I AM MAKING” bit in the middle and the otherwise kind of gross fatuousness of the whole thing make this a solid no-mention, maybe a DM in a better (or smaller) week. Fortunately for you, this was neither of those things. This week loving broke me.
Week #140: Who do you think you are?
Boogie was Born in the Backseat of a Buick
I was SO MAD AT YOU for disqualifying yourself because this was hands-down my favorite story this week and I was furious that it couldn't win. Seriously tho, this is v. good and well done. Maybe a little saccharine at times, but definitely the most emotionally effective story this week, and my favorite.
Week #209: WHAT DO YOU GET A DOME THAT HAS EVERYTHING?
Love if possible
(For reference, this is the story where I figured out the connection between these and my characters)
I guess the thing that I keep coming back to is, why did any of this happen? Why did the lady buy two tickets when she already knew her son was dead, or at the very least, why did she hand both of them to the clown? The clown doesn’t need to know that. She didn’t ask him to investigate. She doesn’t even seem to know who killed her son, so why did the clown know to go to Pisani? Why is he examining the ledgers? For embezzling? Are they murder ledgers?? Who would keep a written record of all their murders??? If the clown doesn’t even know the lady’s last name, how is he going to report back to her? Is he not going to report back to her? Is he just doing this? To… find the truth? Okay, yeah, maybe it’s that. But still, though. Murder ledgers. (do not disabuse me of this notion; this is the truth I am choosing to live)
Anyway, despite my numerous questions, this is a competently-done noir pastiche, it just didn’t hit hard enough to get a mention in a largish week. Also I need to stop following Sitting Here into judging situations
Week #211: Next-Best Friend Week
I kinda wish I hadn’t read this again, because I wanted to use the magic-addict, and now I have this in my head instead of what I was thinking of. Oh well, I don’t have to write something better than this, at least, just your Calamity week story (which I think you and I both know is one of your weaker entries (lol, rip my chances of not dming this week)).
Anyway, yeah. This is a cool concept and a cool story, but it feels … hollow to me, I guess? The thing that I like the most about your writing is that you have a real talent for making the reader actually care about the story, and getting strong emotional reactions (and I’m a huge sucker for that, it’s true). This one was more Idea than Emotion, which is fine! It was definitely an idea week, but again, I have become accustomed to a certain standard of output from you.
Maybe it was Oofie? I never felt like Oofie was “real,” and I’m not being clever with that, I just never got the impression that anyone cared about him at all, even in the story. And maybe that’s the point, that MC has outgrown this relationship and now all that’s left is a kind of exasperated placating, but the story seems to imply that there was once some real affection there, and I never really felt that. I don’t know.
Anyway, yeah, crits, woo!
Week #338: Places of Power
what madness are mountains to an imprisoned moon?
I'm not sure what it is about this piece that annoys me, but I'm annoyed. There are several passages in here that feel sloppy and amateurish, which I would probably be less irritated by except that I know you are better than this. Seriously. It's a cool premise and it's not a bad story, it's just that I now have an unreasonably high expectation out of you and you have to live with that. I got outvoted on the win, so congrats, but seriously, tighten this up, it'll be excellent vs. the current good.
Week #364: GACHADOME
Space is full of ghosts and there is no god
So it turns out that I did write crits for this week! It also turns out they were really bad crits. Case in point, your crit from this week just reads:
Augghhhh I love this. Goddamnit.
...which, uh, having re-read this story just now, I am having trouble elaborating on. It’s really good, in my opinion probably publishable, and the only reason it didn’t win this week was because there were a bunch of other really good entries. SOOOOOOORRY!
|# ? Dec 12, 2020 05:17|
oh, if you choose 429 you don't get unlimited words even though i did because i don't want to allow it ty
Ugh I'll just have to come up with a new way to be extra-dumb, I guess.
|# ? Dec 13, 2020 01:06|
OK, numbers went up a bit for secret santa, hooray!
I'll be doling out assignments tomorrow night after work.
|# ? Dec 13, 2020 02:33|
Prompt: Shakespearean Week 297: And Now For Something Completely Different
Hugh tuned his implants to the coup in Norway when his dead father appeared at the end of his bed wearing full plate armor. The specter stood over six feet tall, imposing in Hugh’s cramped room. LED lights glittered off the polished steel. His father came toward him and leaned down, familiar bushy black eyebrows knitted together making that anger-crease between his eyes, and the ghost reached out to place his gauntleted hand on Hugh’s bare knee. It felt freezing cold, and Hugh jerked back
“You’re dead,” Hugh said. “Twenty years now.”
“You can’t be here. This can’t be happening.”
“But I am and it is.”
“What do you want?”
Father’s face relaxed. “We need to talk about the vote.”
“The vote?” Hugh couldn’t understand what he meant. His chest felt like it might crack open, and he’d never been so ruffled before in his entire life—not even during debates that got rambunctious or speeches that went off-kilter. He shook his head and tried to clear his mind, but his implant wouldn’t stop streaming.
“The vote,” his father said.
Hugh suddenly recognized the armor: it was one of his favorite sets from the collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He’d spent hours in there as a boy, staring at the ancient weapons, imagining what it must have felt like to wear all that metal on his body—and now there was his father, standing at the side of his bed, dressed like something from his boyhood fantasies.
“Speekr.” He barely managed the word.
“You have to vote yes, son.”
Hugh reeled back. “But—”
“You have to vote yes. You know the future of this country depends on it. You have to do the right thing here, son.”
Hugh looked away. He only partially understood the broad strokes: Speekr was an enormous online platform accused of monopoly status. The court cases stalled, but congress took up the issue themselves, and the vote was tomorrow.
Everyone told him to vote no. His party, the lobbyists that funneled money into his campaigns, his business contacts, they were all adamant. If Speekr got broken up, then they’d be next. Hugh believed in business and the sanctity of the dollar. He couldn’t vote yes and risk all that.
And yet. His father stared and Hugh felt a lump in his throat, something he hadn’t experienced since he was a child. He swallowed back against it.
“I can’t,” he whispered.
“You can, son. And you will, for me, and for the world. You must vote yes. That platform is wrong, and no matter how much money they give you, it must be broken up.”
He choked once, then cried. The tears came out, hot and painful, as he sobbed. God, he missed his father, missed the hours they’d spent fishing together, the still lake, the sun in the trees, the sounds of birds alighting off branches. He missed being that boy.
It took him a few minutes, but when he was composed, he looked up at his father. “I’ll try. I’ll do what I can.”
His father stepped away from the bed. Hugh wanted to reach out and beg him to stay.
“Avenge me,” his father said, his voice a hoarse whisper as he faded.
Hugh’s eyes went wide. “Were you—?”
His father smiled. “I’m just kidding. I died of cancer, remember?”
And then he flickered once and disappeared.
Hugh’s implant played the coup in Norway again, and things looked dire, but things always looked dire on the Net.
The motherfucker ate that poo poo up. They always did. Their dead parent or pet or whatever appeared out of thin air doing that ghostly crap and they’re always all like oh yes mommy I love you so much I’ll gladly forgo my inheritance!! Even though it’s so clearly a trick. And that idiot swallowed the dead dad bit and now he’d do exactly what Stern wanted, no doubt about it.
The armor was a good touch. Mika said not to go with the armor, but he was like, the motherfucker spent lightyears in that museum, his browsing history was packed full of knights and castles and poo poo, so why not? Throw the dead dad in a suit of armor and call it a day.
Stern shoved the hardcoded controller back into his pack and exited down the back stairway. He had to be within spitting distance of the guy to get this particular hack to work, which turned out to be simple: the apartment complex across the street had poo poo-all for security. Once on the sidewalk, he dropped the controller down a storm drain and looked around as it clattered into the sewer. Nobody was watching. He was stealth as hell.
Six months. It took him six loving months to program that sequence. The armor added an extra three weeks, and yeah, it was totally worth it, but drat. Six entire months to build an immersive download lifelike enough to fool that stupid bastard up there, six months of Stern’s life he’d never get back, and for what? A bank account filled with billions of rupees he couldn’t touch, not until he was sure the feds weren’t looking for him.
But worst of all, his best zero-day, down the drain. They’d figure it out sooner or later, that the dinosaur’s brain got hacked, and they’d patch that poo poo toot-sweet. He figured it would be a week tops, which was fine, so long as the craggy old poo poo had time to vote.
Stern hiked his backpack further up, tightened the chest straps, and stalked down the street, already trying to picture the look in Mika’s eye when he told her the story of how it all went down. He’d be a total legend. She’d be impressed, he was pretty sure. God drat suit of armor was a nice touch.
Mika lounged with her feet in Stern’s lap. The couch smelled like body odor and ozone. The hackerspace was quiet, which she liked, only a few coder-bros tapping away on mechanical boards. Stern had bragged all day about his alleged hack, but she was skeptical. He was smart and all, probably into some really dark-web advanced stuff or whatever—but not smart enough to break into a politician’s brain implant. He was cute though, and his little immersive experiments were pretty fun, so she went along with it.
“And then the dumb old fart started crying over his dead dad. It was the most hilarious thing I’d ever seen,” Stern said for the third time.
Mika plastered a smile on her face. “Totally,” she said.
She’d met a hundred guys like him at the ‘space, guys with egos the size of mountains, that thought they were geniuses because they tested into the gifted class in second grade. They were boring, and sometimes dangerous, but Mika liked Stern anyway, even if he was such a total cliché.
The flatscreen played C-SPAN and Stern looked enraptured as congress voted on Speekr’s breakup. She secretly didn’t want it to happen but could never say that out loud, since all the ego-boys at the ‘space loved to out-leftie each other, and she didn’t want to hear the lectures. Anarcho-capitalists, stateless socialists, whatever, she thought Speekr was fun, and anyway there were a ton of totally wild groups she spent time laughing at, like that one about lizard people, and those MLM-moms that kept begging her to sell supplements.
She leaned her head back, stared up at the tin roof, and wondered idly if she could get some coffee on the way home, and maybe spend a few hours painting if the light was good. She was about to ask Stern if he wanted to go camping with her, since maybe getting him out of his element would loosen him up a bit, when he sat up straight and pushed her feet off.
“Hey—” she started, then saw his expression.
“Hold on,” he said.
She looked at the screen and cocked her head in confusion. An old guy in a navy suit clutched his chest as more old guys crowded around him. She realized it was that congressman Stern was obsessed with, Hugh Something. He staggered once, then fell, and a woman in a reddish pant suit barely caught him before his head bounced off the carpet.
“Isn’t that your guy?” she asked, frowning, and she felt her heart do a double-take.
“That’s not supposed to happen,” Stern said, eyes wide, on the verge of flipping out.
He couldn’t be for real. Stern had to be full of it, like all the other ego-boys. She had played along, and even helped a little bit when he made that totally crazy brain-vid of the Ronald-Reagan-looking guy in the silly armor, but she thought it was all some game to impress her. It couldn’t have been real.
But Stern’s face was ashen white.
“Did you do that?” she asked.
“He’s not supposed to—”
He was cut off by a shout from a coder-bro sitting up front. The door to the ‘space popped open, the wood splintering like a disease, and Mika shoved herself sideways, putting her hands over her head. Stern leapt up, staggering, shouting something wild.
Mika risked a look as men in black body armor streamed into the room, guns aimed everywhere.
It was chaos, total freaking chaos. Coder-bros and terrified libertarians and anarcho-syndicalists dove for any available exit. Stern yelled something again, but she couldn’t hear over all the shouting. Some stormtrooper grabbed her, yanked her arm back, and she thought she her shoulder might pop from its socket as the trooper shoved a knee into her spine. She groaned in pain and looked up as Stern backed away from two more troopers that advanced on him.
“Put it down,” one trooper screamed. He sounded like her high school gym teacher, Mr. Luger, with his puffed-up red face. “Put it down now.”
“I don’t have anything,” Stern said, eyes wild. He looked at Mika, hands above his head, completely empty. “I don’t have anything.”
“Drop the weapon,” the other trooper said. “Drop it now.”
“I don’t—” Stern started.
But then the gunshots blared and Mika screamed even louder, and she watched Stern slump backwards onto the bare concrete of the ‘space, and he stopped moving.
She never would’ve believed it, if she hadn’t seen it with her own eyes. Totally crazy.
|# ? Dec 13, 2020 11:30|
Crit of Getaway trip by Staggy
In your opening paragraphs, it's a bit tough to get the transition between "ignoring alarms" and "oh it's serious actually", not helped by "subliminal" speed, a planet out of nowhere and an ant drive. This could be a little tighter. Nothing against the ant engine, though; it's really fun, as are the words you use to describe it. Generally, word choice is unusual and top-notch in this story.
The middle drags a little as you're making it clear again and again that only a queen will help with the situation; I feel like I get it, and that the queens all dying is an inevitability after a point that's earlier than the tension holds out for.
After the plan with the honey is made, which I don't quite get honestly but whatever - drugs! - you have a very nice trip description, both the exhilaration and the body-weirdness parts. The story is sublime after that, and ends on a funny scene to imagine.
Overall, it's a very fun piece that must have been a blast to write. It hits a bizarre tone very well that makes me forget very easily how little sense any of the individual pieces make. Mama as the ship('s computer?) is a bit hard to grasp as a character because of her nature, but the interactions with the protagonist are great. I enjoyed this!
|# ? Dec 13, 2020 20:15|
Prompt: Week #282 - A Lyttony of Sorrows
- start with terrible opening sentence and make a good story from it
- your chosen genre (none chosen)
- word count 1300, but: "Write a crit for a 20
- problem is resolved by a scientific solution that makes absolutely no sense
- tasty cheeseburger Pringles thrown in
The nights were getting longer and the days were getting shorter and on the plane there was a bomb. From the gallery above the lecture hall, a second story filled with even more students, it drifted down on the warm air from the heads burning with the exertion of thought below. First-year engineering students used the two-story setup of the hall to boast their skills; some professors were even vocally impressed by paper planes just consisting of a tube with a weighted front, the round shape forming a perfectly aerodynamic wing.
Prof. Dr. Alkwin Wondraczek was a math professor who didn’t care about planes unless they were prefaced with eigen-. In other lectures, as the semester progressed deeper into winter, the atmosphere had become more serious and the planes petered out naturally. Wondraczek had made it very clear from the first minute on that he hated the tradition.
And yet, two weeks before Christmas break, the plane, the bomb. Matthias watched it descend on the same trajectory as his academic success. His honeymoon period with the subject of inventors, architects and space explorers had been cut short somewhere between his first math lecture and the first exercise sheet. He was fine with Mechanics, excelled at technical drawings, programming - only math, the monolith of numbers, stood in his way.
So when the professor picked up the plane, Matthias cherished the few seconds to clear his aching head. But then, the bomb exploded.
The student who had sent down the plane had christened it, in typical fresh-out-of-school edgy humor, as Stuka. The German Sturzkampfbomber planes that had ravaged their victims in the second World War.
For some reason, this really upset Wondraczek. Matthias was unsurprised. The dusty academic could never comprehend a joke he couldn’t put into formulas. What happened next, however, nobody had really expected: Wondraczek stopped the lecture, stood up straight and declared in a voice much clearer than his usual mumbling: “I will not continue until whoever sent this thing down leaves my lecture. You can come back later and I will try my best not to let my opinion of you influence your grades, but I want you out of my sight. Now.”
Of course, nobody confessed by getting up. Matthias looked around him, scanning the hundreds of others on the gallery; did Wondraczek hope for peer pressure? From people who all hated his boring, unstructured lecture that was the direct cause of many of them failing engineering? True solidarity between victims here. Nobody stood up. The lecture stalled, as the professor stood his silent ground. Nervous murmurs and some giggles erupted, and some poor fools even began complaining that this would cause them to fall behind even more. How? Like Matthias, they couldn’t hope to learn a thing from such a subpar lecture!
Suddenly, a commotion. One of the few women on the gallery had gotten up, walked to the front of the gallery, simply said “I’m sorry”, and left.
Wondraczek crumpled the plane. “Thank you for that honesty at least,” he mumbled, as he deflated back to his bloodless lecture self. And then, to Matthias’ despair, math continued.
The next exercise sheet had been an even greater disaster. Matthias knew he needed to do something to keep studying his dream subject, and for that, he needed a better math lecture.
So Wondraczek liked to crumple up planes? The next one would have an even hotter payload. The cafeteria was inside the chemistry building. While everybody was eating, Matthias procured a few milligrams of thallium chloride, made a plane from poisoned paper. If the professor crumpled this, his last sad tufts of hair would fall out. The old man would check himself into a hospital, and he’d have to be replaced by a different lecturer. Every one of the over 800 engineering students would breathe a sigh of relief.
During the next lecture, Matthias waited for an opportunity. As usual, Wondraczek’s words just dripped off him like water off a lotus leaf. From his place in the front row of the gallery, Matthias could slip the plane through a gap in the fencing undetected. He was nervous, but mostly because he feared that during this maneuver, some of the thallium might crumble out onto his hands. Just in case, he had an antidote with him.
Studying the professor’s face already creased with age, Matthias wondered about the dangers. What if he hadn’t calculated the dosage properly? But he’d be sitting in an inorganic chemistry lecture right now if the subject wasn’t so inglorious in the public’s eye. Matthias knew what he was doing.
He scanned the crowd, feeling his tension mounting in sync with their stress level, as the equations on the blackboard grew increasingly complex. They would cheer with him when Wondraczek would be replaced, he was sure of it.
Then Matthias saw her: the girl who had taken responsibility for the first plane. She was no longer up on the gallery; she sat in the first row, down in the main hall!
Did she hope to soothe the professor’s anger by pretending to be an eager, attentive student now? Had he forced her into this position as a punishment? What a thankless spot to be in! Matthias knew that she was innocent; what a terrible injustice Wondraczek’s ultimatum had placed on her.
This settled it. He let the plane go.
It came down like Santa’s sleigh, carrying the gift of a comprehensible math lecture. A murmur rose through the crowd; someone had spotted the plane, called it out to someone else, and it made a wave way before reaching its destination. Hundreds of eyes followed it as it flew towards Wondraczek -
And got caught by the girl in the front row.
With just the slightest pause and nod, Wondraczek acknowledged the gesture and went on as if nothing had happened. Matthias sat there frozen. Why had she done this? Just to prove her innocence to the vengeful professor?
She started to unfold the plane.
Matthias jumped up. “Stop! It’s not meant for you!”
The entire lecture hall awoke from a drowse, as all eyes fell on him. Wondraczek turned away from the blackboard, his back straight again, but he only silently looked at Matthias. As did the girl, with a gaze that forced a confession from him more efficiently than a medieval torture instrument.
“I threw this plane. I also made the first one.”
Wondraczek just sighed. “Your own shortcomings at math don’t give you the right to disrupt the lecture for everybody else.”
Matthias felt his face become pale as the first snow outside. The people next to him moved away from him, and their looks echoed the professor’s: disappointment. Maybe a little contempt. Did they really just want the lecture to continue? Maybe they did have far less of a problem with it than Matthias had? He looked at the old professor with the Polish name who had been so hurt by the Stuka.
The girl still cradled the thallium plane.
“I’m sorry,” Matthias managed to squeak out. “I’m going to leave. But please, don’t unfold the plane, give it to me outside the hall. I don’t want to cause more harm.”
Wondraczek just shrugged and turned back to the blackboard. The girl rolled her eyes, but complied. Matthias ran out, through a gallery of shaking heads, and down, and to the ground floor door.
She had the plane in her hands, half-unfolded. Matthias’ heart skipped a beat, but it seemed like the thallium compartment was still intact.
“I’m so sorry. Please, I’ll throw it out.”
“I want to at least know what you wrote on it,” she said. “You owe me that laugh. Something about concentration camps?”
She motioned to unfold it. Matthias had to think way too quickly for his liking.
“No! It’s bad. Listen, I…” His brow was red-hot. “I’ll eat my words. Literally. As penance.”
She arched an eyebrow, but then gave him the plane. “This might be more fun to watch. Well, go ahead.”
He ripped off a small corner of the paper, but realized that this would not satisfy her. Fortunately, finally, he realized that he had the antidote with him. He dug around in his jacket with a hand that slipped off the artificial leather.
He produced his staple peanut butter and Pringles sandwich. The lactic acid in the latter’s cheeseburger flavoring should complexate the thallium ions and make them harmless. With an expression he hoped read as a sheepish grin rather than a rictus grimace of terror, he crashed the plane of his ambitions into the sandwich, and began choking it down.
She watched it happen with naked glee. “So, are you bad at math?”
“He got me in one,” Matthias said with a desert mouth. “I think I might have more of a chance with chemistry.”
She arched the other eyebrow. “You realize that you also need math for that?”
Matthias started coughing heavily. She glared at him.
“Finish your sandwich.”
|# ? Dec 13, 2020 20:17|
You have an almost perfect record when it comes to giving crits. I, on the other hand, have an actual perfect record. Are you leaving poor SlipUp out in the cold out of deference to me? Touching but unnecessary. Take care of that then write me a story where something critical has been missed. Also, most of your stories seem to be about white people. Take care of that, too, please.
Dunno chief, that crit record looks pretty perfect to me. A rare archival slip-up, I suppose.
The Ones Who Sing For The Sharks
Prompt: Week 203 // Teen Mystery
The uncles were down on the beach putting out fishing lines, which was boring to me and cousin Malcolm, so we went climbing up along the rocks at the end of the beach and up onto the cliffs to watch the boats motoring out of Port Augusta. Sun was setting behind us, and the sky was the same color red as the rocks under our toes, and the fishing boats were sparking up their grey green lights the color of fish bellies.
“Wish I could get a job on one of them boats,” Malcolm was saying. He was picking up rocks and tossing them out over the bluff into the ocean, plonk.
“I thought you liked working the bottle shop,” I said. That was where I saw Malcolm most times, working the trolley job at Liquorland, unloading slabs of West End into the back room. Malcolm looked at me and spat to one side.
I looked out at the boats. “Used to be Barngarla men stood up on these cliffs and sang to the sharks,” I said, changing the subject.
“Yeah?” said Malcolm, bored as could be. He had a ciggie hanging off his lip, shaking down an empty lighter for one last flame. I didn’t know he smoked.
“The old Barngarla word for sharks was goonya. The men would sing to the goonyas, call them into the shore, and they’d herd in the kingfish close enough so that the fishers in the shallows could spear ‘em.”
“Uncle Robert says goonya when he’s talking about the whitefella,” said Malcolm. His skin was lighter than mine, not that mine was even all that dark, but we were still blackfellas, no mistaking. “No way you catch me singing to whitefellas.”
“Same word for different things,” I said. We could hear the motors of the boats out on the Spencer Gulf, some of the boats had their radios on, scratchy snippets of Cold Chisel drifting by.
“No wonder nobody speaks Barngarla no more. Not enough words,” said Malcolm, and there was anger in his voice. “Singing songs to sharks? Yeah right. Probably just a bunch of us blackfellas out here singing goonya goonya goonya.”
“They’re starting to farm the kingfish now, down south, I heard,” I said.
“Goonyas love their fences, suppose it was just a matter of time until they worked out how to put them in the water.”
“They put a fence around Uncle Harry, didn’t they?”
“Prison’s a bit more than a fence, Jonno.”
“How long they going to keep him there?”
“Dunno. Long as they want.” There was an old grey gum tree up the way a bit, burned out from fire and crumpled, like it had been trying to crawl to the ocean to put itself out but hadn’t made it. “Back in the old days, up north, they used to lock up blackfellas in boab trees. Find a hollowed out one, put some bars in the holes, leave a blackfella in there for all the goonyas to laugh at.”
I thought about that, tried to imagine, but we didn’t have boab trees anywhere around down here, just stories. “Auntie Marree told me about a sorcerer who caught a magic fish and put it in his mouth, and as long as he held it there he could appear and disappear from any waterhole he could see. But the fish tricked him, and he got stuck inside a boab tree, and he couldn’t get out.”
“Auntie Marree talks a lot of poo poo. Where’d she hear that? I never heard that story.”
“That’s another Barngarla word: wadlada means tree, but it also means talking, yarning.”
“You’re wasting your time with that poo poo, Jonno. You still going to school? You’re old enough to get a job now, aren’t you?”
Back past the dead grey gum, well off into the distance, the big lights at the Baxter Detention Centre were coming on.
“I’m glad they put Uncle Harry in the normal prison,” I said, changing the subject again. “I’m glad they didn’t put him in there.”
“That place is for boat people. They don’t put blackfellas in there, you galah,” said Malcolm.
“The prison where they put Uncle Harry looks like just some houses with a fence,” I said. Baxter looked more like something out of a Yank movie, all fences and barbed wire and bright lights. “I don’t get why they need all that for boat people.”
“When the goonyas were taking the land from the blackfella, they locked up the blackfella in a tree, so all the other blackfellas could see. Other blackfellas don’t want to live in a tree, so they do what the goonyas told them.”
A truck came down the highway, single trailer, probably broken off a road train come into Port Augusta earlier that day.
“Now the goonyas have all the land, and they don’t worry about the blackfella anymore, they worry about boat people instead. But you can’t lock up boat people in a tree, because they come from far away. Gotta lock them up in a place with big fences and bright lights, big enough that the boat people can see from far away, then they do what the goonyas say.”
A scrap of white fabric had caught my eye round the base of the old dead gum, poking out around the grey wood against the red dirt, in and amongst the dry scrub under the blueing sky, and I went over to look while Malcolm flicked his butt over the edge of the bluff.
“Malcolm, there’s a brown fella in this tree,” I called out.
“Piss off,” said Malcolm, but he came over when I didn’t say anything back.
I wasn’t taking the piss. In the burned out hollow of the old gum there was a skinny brownfella who looked half dead, but he was breathing shallow and shivering still. He didn’t look like anybody from Port Augusta, and his lips were sewn shut with thread, the holes punched through still ragged and red.
“Bugger me,” said Malcolm.
“We gotta take him to the uncles, yeah?”
Malcolm didn’t say anything, like he was weighing his options.
“Malcolm, we can’t leave him here. He’s hurt.”
And so, as the first few stars began twinkling on the horizon, and the flow of boats out into the gulf from the Port slowed to a trickle, Malcolm and me, we got either side of the ragged brownfella and carried him back down through the scrub and over the rocks to the beach where the uncles all stood around the barbecue. There were a few fishing poles stuck in the sand, their lines out in the water, but no-one was tending them, and the only thing on the grill was wrinkled brown Aussie Choice sausages out the packet.
The uncles sized up the brownfella quickly and circled around Malcolm.
“Shoulda left him, mate.”
“Take him out by the road, someone’ll be by.”
“He’s seen us now, what if they think we was the ones who broke him out?”
“Take him back to Baxter I reckon.”
“Someone should get the coppers.”
They started arguing and spitting and talking over themselves, and I tuned them out, sat down next to the brownfella on the beach. He wasn’t old, I reckon maybe same age as me even, fifteen or so, but skinny as. He was waking up a bit, seeming a bit more lively on account of seeing the ocean and the fishing boats going out into the Gulf, maybe.
“You right, mate?” I asked him, but the words felt stupid in my mouth, and it didn’t seem like he understood anyway. He had big eyes, wide open, and a thin nose, not like any person I’d seen before. I couldn’t stop staring at the stitches on his lips. I’d heard the boat people did that sort of thing to themselves in the detention centres, as hunger protest or such, but it was something else seeing it close.
The aunties were mostly ignoring what was going on, but Auntie Marree came over to us with an old Nippy juice container that’d been refilled with water. She took a drink, poured a little out on the ground, and said: “Water.”
The brownfella took the bottle and poured some over his lips. A lot ran down the side of his face, hard to see if much actually went in his mouth, but he seemed to get at least a little bit.
“You want me to cut them stitches?” said Marree, and she held a little knife with a blue plastic handle up against her own mouth, miming cutting threads. The brownfella shrank back at that, afraid, and covered his mouth with his hands.
“Suit yourself, no-one gonna force ya.”
The uncles kept on their arguing, and it was looking like there might even be a fight. Marree and me, we sat either side of the brownfella, and Marree started humming a little song there on the beach, and I joined in too, none of us loud enough for anyone else to hear, certainly not over all the shouting.
“Oi! Watch the line!” someone yelled, and sure enough one of the fishing rods was all bent over toward the sea, and cousin Malcolm, who won the hundred meter dash in Year 8, went sprinting over the sand to grab hold, and the uncles chased after with their nets and knives, wading out into the shallows to help bring it in.
“Gotta be a kingfish, pulling this hard,” said Malcolm. I felt some old words stir loose in my throat, watching those blackfellas wade out into the water, backlit against the slow parade of lit-up fishing boats. Forty thousand years, the whitefellas say, Barngarla people been fishing these coasts.
I’d only taken my eyes away for a minute, I’d’ve sworn it, but when I looked back beside me the brownfella was plum gone. Disappeared entirely, vanished. Nobody saw him go -- everybody else was yelling good on ya to Malcolm, who had his heels dug in with the rod bent all the way over.
Everyone except for Auntie Marree, who was sitting in the sand and looking down at her crinkly old hands, which cupped a bit of water with a little silver fish in it.
|# ? Dec 13, 2020 20:43|
hey sorry about that schiz attack. stuff has kind of gotten to me. um im not reading any replies or anything and am gonna dip but i felt bad that that sucked so much so here is another attempt at the same idea thats more . anyway really sorry. just schiz stuff. i know this all seems pretentious/terrible. ive just hated my normal fiction for like so long
The eyes are all on the backs of hands which are the lobes in the eternities which are embracing . The eyes are on your back as the hands embrace.The eyes of yours are not human.The eyes are on the backs of hands which are emerging from lobes in chest of eternities . There are two eternities as usual. Your halo has been burnt away by the future of ghosts and your body is in pain. Your lobes are being stimulated.
Tears flow down your face… All of your tear glands are in pain and there are stimuli from the back of your head and several parts of your waved brain sections. The future becomes now, then hollow as the progress hour chimes in sand minutes which become( Create new evil whispers with I, one is chaos )My halo brain cells explode from the back of my head. The pain soon becomes a presence which has overwhelmed you and the world feels like a ghost place made up of smoke, a hive with dorment ideas waiting to be born.The hour chimes and sand is sleep and cells whisper softly.
Send them to the devils.
The whisper will either send them to hell or embrace them in the , indigo shadows of NOWHERE. Hear the voices, those whispers they are plans for new hives, buildings of gray cubes which are cold to the touch and empty inside. You delve deeper into the presence of the hour. You delve deeper into the presence of the hour. hour sounds violet pink and silver abstract midnight stars.
Everything is transposed into the language my brain uses to summarize realities for no reason, no nothing just existence. You embrace the hour closer, it engulfs your mind tighter. The burning presence of the hour deafens your hearing to everything and you feel weak, or is that the presence of the hour. from the neon hour o neon hour d word open s my mind rings w welcome t the reaper You sees q ghosts and a flood of thoughts, they scream, the hour screams. You take drugs to improve your focus. You play games as the drugs writhe inside your blood and veins.
You close your eyes and feel hours of concentration speed past you core. The fullness of neon rains stares gifting portals ripping pitchforks through hair heads hearts heads laughing pyramids mountains paintings of laughing pastel giants mountains
Your mind screams from too much visual stimuli but you send yourself deep down Hearts form as neon rain
whispers become words. Ghost chatter as you zen out
Your mind ascends into the hour your body falls as sand onto written words pages become sacred books which shine auroras from God's Mind Magick my hands fade away slowly deja v Ghosts taunt as you love them
Ghostly hands stroke your mind
Your lobes scream with the knowledge of Too much death hours and time sick headaches burn through your brain.
But its all in your head… Ghost taunts painful cracks of forcing into other dimensions translations of hundreds of minutes pass Picking a Violet Hair my hair was burnt away by acid dreams symbols appearing mountain of heads an evil sense of isolated understanding of endless voids within Your body shivers you ooze transpiration from every pore, you are wiping your brain shut lines become cubes rooms turning into confusing itself a wave of endless agonizing Emotions writhe inside your head
They are full of colours scream for your attention as
your mind gets wiped out.
High on the fractals of the hour, and each one bleeding with minds. Blankness fills your heart as you freeze on the outside, burning on the inside and fly away… Ghosts whisper as you lie down
Bodies of others. The room seems to bend horizons bleed down erase reality reverbs unreal. The written morphs into whirlpools of neon colours grind a blur an ending starting again beginning once more the hour keeps shouting hours burning from terror outside breathe in the peace of eternity breathe in silence
With each second an You drown into eternity immortal infinity lifeDeathBlood peaceNothing pauses pausedRESTARTED
You feels the hour of air on your body as you shatter float fly shatter bleed transformed reborn repeat again again.
|# ? Dec 13, 2020 20:56|
Weight and Life
897 / 900 words
Rules: Gratitude as a major theme; my cat; sky burials; told through the eyes of someone of a gender different from my own.
Moved to the archives.
Staggy fucked around with this message at 23:26 on Jan 7, 2021
|# ? Dec 13, 2020 21:12|
From Week 77, using this article from the list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P-Funk_mythology. I'm not going to bother reminding you what your hell rules were. Since you only bothered to read my most recent submission, I know you can read at least a few pages back in the thread at least.
I dunno where they dug these fossils up. I’ve been in this department for nearly ten years, and I’ve never seen either of these jokers before. Seriously, look at this guy on the left—the tweed jacket he’s wearing should be in a drawer in the collection room with a curation tag and an origin story. And the coot sitting next to him, I swear to God, I just saw part of his hair fall off. A whole patch of his hair just gave the gently caress up.
“Well, let’s get this started, shall we?” said Department Chair Crivens, sitting in the middle of the group. “Is that briefcase necessary?”
“I have supporting evidence, should it be necessary,” I assured her. She shrugged.
“Doctor Overby, we’re happy to welcome you to your tenure committee. You’ve been a member of the department for nine years and contributed much to the Academy. You’ll recognize Professors Steele and DeLacy, to my right,” he motioned to the geezers. DeLacy’s fugitive hair was the most animated thing about the man. Steele had been on the verge of dozing off, but managed a yellow, toothy grin when his name was called.
“Of course! Always a treat to fraternize with the giants of the field.”
“I’m sure,” said Crivens, and she motioned to her left. You’ll also know our department manager, Mr. Macroon, who has kindly agreed to be the secretary for this committee. Finally, allow me to introduce Sister Inquisitor Huang. The Inquisition has taken an… understandably… special interest in your candidacy for tenureship. I am certain she will have questions as we proceed, but perhaps we can start with questions from Prof. DeLacy who has some inquiry into your publishing hist… ”
“If I may, Professor Crivens,” Sister Inquisitor Huang broke in. Crivens rolled her eyes at the use of the ironic may.
We all know there’re two flavors of inquisitor. There’s the sort that eats a lot of beef and onions, and makes a vocation out of flattening people’s noses. Then there’s Huang’s sort, with their accountant militant chic. “The Congregation for Doctrine finds Assistant Professor Overby’s field of research very problematic. Would Dr. Overby care to care to comment on his promotion of certain heretical dance ideologies, such as Funkentelechy?”
“Sister Inquisitor, I would begin by saying there is a difference between research and promotion. It is not my intent to revive a dead faith—if Funkentelechy can even be called that. Rather, it is my goal to contribute to the socio-historical map of the Middle-American Empire during the early Placebo era. The ideas I describe should not be taken literally, but rather as shared cultural metaphors that that help describe the worldview of the P-Funk cultists.”
Put that in your pipe and smoke it. While Huang flipped through her notes, trying to make math out of my response, Crivens tried to get the committee back on track.
“Doctor Overby, I believe that Professor DeLacy had a question about your publishing history. Prof. DeLacey?”
“Hmm? Yes. Yes,” said DeLacey, coming back to our plane of existence from whatever fugue state he’d been in. Oh my poo poo, he actually picked up the patch of hair and put it in his breast pocket. “Doctor Overby, you haven’t published very much. Been hiding your findings from the journals, have you?”
“I assure you, no, Professor DeLacey. I think it’s important to recognize that the P-Funk cultists were intertwined with a number of other techno-pagan sects and esoteric progress cults of the Middle-American Empire. Soul Train, NASA, Deee-Lite, and so forth. Adding to the difficulty is the schismatic nature the Parliament itself, with sub-cults devoted to the veneration of deities such as the messianic Star Child or the alien-god, Bootzilla. It’s evident that Funky Occultists, (sometimes referred to as ‘Foucault’ in certain apocryphal texts), were philosophically promiscuous. These pagans often borrowed conceptually from both their contemporaries as well as their predecessors. They exist not so much as mutually exclusive cosmologies, but rather as a tangle of interconnected funkadelics. So, to return to your question—I have not published slowly due to inactivity, but rather, due to an abundance of academic rigor.”
I wasn’t sure if that was a satisfactory answer. I wasn’t sure if DeLacy was still breathing, either. But he didn’t have any follow up questions, so fine. S.I. Huang seemed to have gotten an idea, because she barged back into the conversation.
“So you freely admit to publishing research about the false messiah Star Child, an obvious reference to Lucifer?” Haung shouted, waking up a snoring Professor Steele, “I demand an immediate adjournment of this hearing and the arrest of Doctor Overby on the charge of dancefloor heresy!”
Not today, Sister. The briefcase had been perched beside the institutional-grade plastic chair, easy enough to flip open and reach a hand inside…
“Is that a Bop Gun?” asked Professor Steele, peering over his bifocals.
“It is! We found actual, physical evidence of the Mothership last month.”
“Ha! Machina Ex Deus, then!”
gently caress me. Wish I’d thought of that.
“Good one, Prof.”
“Wh-what is that?” stuttered Huang.
“Well Sister, we can quibble about the metaphysics and minutiae of occult faiths all we want, but there’s no substitute to good, old fashioned pagan technology. The Bop Gun frees the mind, rear end to follow. And believe me, there is no way to fake the Funk.”
Now dance, sucker.
|# ? Dec 13, 2020 22:50|
Week 95: Inhuman Centipede. Opening line: “Time was always neutral to everyone regardless what anyone had said to her.”
You know, I've been thinking, you've read so many Sitting Here stories that it shouldn't be hard to write one yourself. But do make it fresh, you know what I mean? I'm thinking something kinda dreamy, something something a "story about the power of stories" but you're the expert. You'll do great.
Time was always neutral to everyone, regardless what Anyone had said to her.
Xanthe knelt before the witch, who sat cross-legged within a thick circle of salt. Time alone would never be enough to heal the pain of losing Elsa.
Anyone’s black hair spread out around her like tentacles, and she looked hungrily at Xanthe from beneath her greasy bangs. “So you want me to tell you a story,” the witch said, her voice a heavy smoker’s growl.
Elsa would have been furious at her but Xanthe was beyond caring. She looked around the witch’s cottage. The room was devoid of decoration, save a row of herbs rotting in jars on the windowsill. An odorous nest of bedding was piled before the empty fireplace. Elsa would have felt sorry for Anyone. Wouldn't have trusted her, but still. Xanthe could just see the way Elsa's brows would have knotted with concern. She felt tears welling behind her hot and aching eyes. She squeezed them shut, forced the thought away. Then Xanthe looked at the witch, and nodded.
Anyone’s hair slithered against her thighs as water bubbled from between the flagstones. The salt circle dissolved with a hiss and a sharp smell like hot iron. Xanthe stood and stepped backwards towards the door, but the water - already up to her knees - dragged at her jeans like thick mud. She stumbled and fell, barely keeping her face above the frothing surface.
Anyone’s voice rose above the torrent, and the story poured into Xanthe’s ears.
Xanthe was in her living room, holding a steaming jug of water. Before her was her clawfoot bath, dragged from the bathroom and placed right in front of the fireplace. Elsa - beautiful and alive - reclined in the tub. Xanthe poured the water over Elsa's long, black hair, not caring that the tub was overflowing onto the carpet. She tasted salt. Feeling strangely furtive, Xanthe let her eyes wander over Elsa's naked body. Her wet skin shone like bronze in the firelight. Sweating in the overheated room, Xanthe moved to open the door, but found it locked. “You’re not going anywhere,” said Elsa. The surface of the water rippled, distorting the image of Elsa's slender legs, so that they seemed to writhe--
Xanthe opened her eyes. The water in the cottage was up to her chest. She flailed her arms, suddenly frightened. The story was all wrong.
“Stop!” said Xanthe.
In the stuffy living room Xanthe sighed, sat down on the sodden carpet and rested her head against the lip of the tub. “I’m the only thing you need,” said Elsa. Her fingers curled through Xanthe’s hair, suckers gripping her scalp--
The pressure of Anyone’s words made Xanthe’s ears pop. She pressed her palms over her ears and shook her head. She had to brace herself against the water, as if the tide were rushing in. Anyone stood before her, dress swirling in the current. Beneath the water, refracted by the surface so they didn’t quite line up with Anyone’s skinny torso, were Elsa’s legs.
“This is my story,” the witch hissed. She stepped forward, moving as though the water wasn’t there, and shoved Xanthe under.
Xanthe screamed. Bubbles rushed from her mouth and she tasted iron.
Elsa was gripping Xanthe’s biceps, holding their bodies close. Elsa’s eyebrows were pressed together in just the way they always did when she was most worried about Xanthe, and her lips were moving, mouthing Xanthe’s name--
Xanthe melted into Elsa’s embrace. Elsa’s lips were blue, so Xanthe kissed them, concerned. Elsa’s arms were around Xanthe, and she shuddered as Elsa’s fingertips walked down her spine and under the waistband of her jeans.
“You said you'd love me forever,” Elsa hissed, lips right by Xanthe’s ear.
What a stupid thing to say. That's what Elsa had said, when Xanthe once told her she'd love her always and forever. Time is a bitch. Noone knows how much of it they've got. Elsa had grinned, and run her fingers gently through Xanthe’s hair. On her face was one of those earnest looks she got when she thought she was being extra profound. That's why right now matters so much.
And right now, Xanthe realised, she was drowning. Desperate for air, she shoved Elsa away and kicked for the surface. Her face burst from the churning water, right below the cottage’s ceiling. Elsa’s fingertips had become suckers, gripping viciously to the skin of Xanthe’s back. Tentacles wrapped around Xanthe’s biceps and thighs. She looked down, and saw the octopus poised with its beak directly above her heart.
Elsa would have taken pity on the creature, Xanthe thought. She remembered the time Elsa had brought an injured pigeon home in a shoebox, and how she’d insisted on burying it in their garden when it died. But then Elsa always had been a better person than her.
Xanthe gave the octopus a solid elbow to the mantle, planted her feet against the ceiling and dove for the door of the cottage. The octopus hissed and filled the water with ink, but Xanthe’s hands were already on the doorknob. She twisted, and the door burst open under the force of the water.
Xanthe was on her hands and knees outside the cottage, coughing to clear her lungs. The black water beaded from her clothes, dripping from her as if in a hurry to be gone. The puddles coagulated and wormed their way into the stony soil.
Xanthe tilted her face to the night sky and took a deep, shuddering breath. Elsa would have been so, so mad at her. Xanthe could just picture Elsa’s eyebrows, pressed together with exasperation. She laughed, surprising herself with the sound. She coughed. She could just imagine Elsa’s outrage if she told her she’d punched an octopus, even if it was a witch. Xanthe laughed again, and fresh tears rolled down over her cheeks.
|# ? Dec 13, 2020 23:40|
Love at First Bite: An Original Hallmarchaeological Christmas Story
Word Count: 1171 words
Week 155: It’s Too drat Hot in Here
Flash rule: Tyrannosaurus must be a literal character in the story.
In the short walk from the car to Heather’s parents’ front door, Ty began to shiver. Whether it was from the cold or because he was nervous about proposing in front of a bunch of strangers, he wasn’t sure. He clasped Heather’s hand tighter regardless. Heather gave a quick knock on the wreath festooned front door, then pulled him in.
The warmth inside, instead of being a welcome relief, felt instead like a bandage being ripped off Ty’s entire body. He looked at Heather, but she didn’t seem to notice anything. He liked the heat, he lived down south for a reason, but this was dry. So dry he could feel his skin beginning to shrivel just standing there.
“Honey—,” but before he could say anything else, a wave of people flowed down the hallway. Ty was dragged under and when he came up for air they were sitting in a loveseat surrounded by people with the same nose as Heather.
Three different conversations vaulted across the room but when one of those conversations landed with a thud on his head he knew he couldn’t afford to be overwhelmed anymore. “Ty, Heather told us a little about you, but tell us your version and we’ll see if she lied.”
The other conversations stopped. Time to turn on the charm. He flashed a grin that prominently displayed his shiny canines.
“I work in publishing. My office is a few blocks from Heather’s courthouse. We’d see each other rushing in and out of the same restaurants. Since both of us always eat on the go, we never got a chance to chat until I dropped my card and a note into her bag as we passed each other. She clearly fell for my penmanship.”
This got some smiles and nods from those around the room and Heather beamed, still holding his hand. It was the only part of his body that wasn’t screaming to be freed from petrifying skin. But he couldn’t have that happen. Not here. Not now.
Everyone else in the room seemed fine with the heat which might have been because they weren’t dinosaurs trying to impress a whole family. Normally he had no trouble with other people. They were always captivated with his smile and his smooth talking. That was the only way to make it in publishing: to charismatically roar. And once someone was too far in… chomp.
He wouldn’t eat these people though. He loved Heather. He loved the way she was smiling with him by her side, the way she focused on each conversation. But especially, he loved how sharp her comments were to her family. She wasn’t letting them get away with any passive-aggressiveness or casual rudeness. They balanced each other.
As the night went on, Ty ended up in a corner with Heather’s oldest brother Junior and his wife Daphne. Junior didn’t do much more than posture at him. Few could match Ty for stature or out-stare his steely eyes and before long, Junior backed away, leaving Daphne twittering on about her job.
As soon as Junior had left, Daphne broke off her diatribe and leveled her own gaze at Ty. “Be careful. You might win when it comes to looks, but this family is a bunch of vipers.” Message delivered, she pasted her smile back on and hurried to bring Junior a beer.
Ty deflated but immediately puffed back up. When he slouched, he felt the skin come loose at the back of his neck. This wasn’t going at all how he planned.
As they were getting ready for bed, Ty fished for information on what the others had said about him.
“I hope your family didn’t see how uncomfortable I was. I guess my skin isn’t used to central heating.”
“Oh no, Babe, I forgot you had sensitive skin. Mom really likes the house warm. Did you bring your humidifier?” She continued to fuss over him.
“No worries. I’ll be fine. But your family did seem a little scared of me.”
“They’re scared of me, not you. They know if you’ve met my standards that you must be formidable. Just be yourself and don’t take any crap from them. And maybe slouch a little.”
But he couldn’t do enough slouching to lower himself to these people’s standards. When Heather was there, she called out comments like telling him that his parents must have been prize-winners. But Heather wasn’t always there. He was afraid if he retorted they’d see him for what he was. He had gnashed his teeth more than once.
It didn’t help that no matter what he tried, his skin was not holding up. The more he had to deal with her family, the more he scratched it off.
Aunt Phyllis said his career would probably be the one to go if Heather had her way. Heather’s sister Fiona just stared at him and laughed. By the day before Christmas the only skin Ty had left covered his head and hands. The hand skin cracked so badly that even Heather’s Dad offered to buy him some lotion. Ty wasn’t sure whether he was serious or if that was another jab.
As they sat down to Christmas Eve dinner Ty reassured himself that it was only one more day. He’d propose in the morning, she’d say yes, they’d fly back home and it would be over.
Heather’s mother clinked her glass with a butter knife for a toast. She smiled directly at Heather and Ty.
“Tonight we’re welcoming a new face at the table.” The old faces did not look thrilled, but Heather grabbed Ty’s arm like he was a prize.
“Thank you for letting us share your catch, Heather. We’ll try not to leave teeth marks.” She lifted her glass.
Ty stood up. He loved Heather but if her entire family did nothing but try to intimidate him, then they didn’t deserve his charm.
He ripped off the skin from his hands and his face all in one movement. He let out the roar he’d suppressed for four days and showed every one of his teeth. Everyone sat back and stared. He thundered out of the room, rattling the dinnerware.
The air outside froze his blood but he still felt hot. He’d lost his cool and he’d lost Heather. He should go. They’d probably called animal control. But he just couldn’t care enough to move.
“No wonder you’ve been so coy in the bedroom.” Heather snuck up behind him.
Ty huffed a laugh. “You’re not running in terror?”
Heather grinned. “Run? You’re perfect. I need a partner to shut my family up. They’re a bunch of snakes in the grass.”
He put out his clawed hand to take hers. She placed into it the rattle end of a snake. Ty’s eyes went wide.
“Comes from my mother’s side,” she said.
Ty dug the ring out of his pocket and placed in on the tip of her tail. “Marry me?”
Heather tackled him to the ground and kissed him.
|# ? Dec 14, 2020 01:16|
Everything changed when little Timmy Thomson, age 4, from Arlington, Texas, finally got up his courage and told it to Santa like it was.
"They say WHAT alt Walmart?" The jolly had disappeared from Santa's face as quickly as Folger's instant coffee will fill your cup with with the refreshing taste of 80% pure Arabica in the morning. Crumpling Timmy's letter in his fist, he threw spittle at his stunned elven court as he raged. "This means WAR." Santa looked into the camera. "A war... on CHRISTMAS!"
A Tyrannosaurus production
Written & directed by Entenzahn
The War on Christmas
sponsored by Folger's Coffee
Episode 1: Silent night, DEADLY night
"Mom, isn't it a bit late to drink coffee?"
Terri Taylor chuckled. Kids said the darndest things. "A cup of Folger's is just what I need to finish grading all these study papers before bedtime."
"Study papers? You mean the drawings from your kindergarden group?"
The papers laid haphazardly strewn across the kitchen table. The topmost showed a stink monster with stink lines and flies and a big drop of snot coming from the stinkmonster's nose. The headline said 'Mrs. Taylor'. Terri had rated it a frowny face.
"Go to your room, Tammy."
Her daughter meant to protest with something illogical when the apartment was rocked by a loud explosion that knocked the delicious cup of Folger's coffee out of Terri's hand. It didn't stop there. One impact after another, waves of sound and force shook their walls and rattled their tastefully, yet modestly, arranged decor. From their flat you could only see Mr Krozsarsky, who looked back at them from the opposite building, sitting on his recliner in undies and shrugging his shoulders at them in equal parts confusion and resigned apathy. They did the only reasonable thing and ran to the roof for a better view. Other tenants were already transfixed on the sky in shock and hushed disbelief.
Swarming above them were flocks of birds... no, airplanes... no... sleighs. Crawling across the twilight sky like dashed lines marking the point from A to V, for Vengeance. Christmas vengeance. Some of them periodically discarded package-shaped cargo that would drop, drop, go out of view and then...
"Oh my God, are they throwing bombs at us?"
"Well it ain't no Folger's coffee, that's for sure."
"I can't believe this. Who would do this to our beautiful city?"
"Come on now, it's New York."
"Tammy," Terri said. She grabbed her daughter by the shoulders. "The emergency bags." They both nodded at each other. They were prepared. Terri was an intellectual.
They hit the streets about ten minutes into the massive bombing attack. Everything they needed packed away in the duffle bags each had slung across their shoulder. The streets were alive with frenzy, people running like scared chicken, from the bombing, but also from all the cars that had people in them, and the people tried to get out of town and ran over other people to get there.
Two blocks down there was an entrance to the subway station. A few scared stragglers were hiding inside. These people were sheep and would eat each other in case of a prolonged siege. Terri and Tammy could only rely on each other. They had to go deeper. Subway traffic had stopped, so they hopped on the rails and went further into the network.
"Where are we going, mom?" Tammy said, after the third time they'd almost gotten run over by a homebound train. Explosions were barely audible through the tunnel system. You felt the tremors more than you heard them.
"We're looking for a place to shelter. Some abandoned control room, maintenance..."
"Abandoned? It's been fifteen minutes." Bored, she opened her duffle bag. Hey! It's just full of coffee."
"Well, with the impressive range of the Folger's product lineup--"
The elf turned on his warbulbs and jumped at them from his hiding spot like a brightly blinking sewer rat. All Terri knew was that she suddenly had something very bright and loud around her throat. She cried out, stumbled over the tracks and fell over backwards. The elf jumped off her mid-fall, got up and looked at the two women looking back at him, and it was very awkward, like he clearly didn't know how to lead through this situation and just expected the women to do the work for him now that he had started it. He carried what looked like a green-white-red striped toy pistol in one hand, and a candy cane in the other, which he started swinging madly, for lack of a better idea.
Tammy punted that little bastard like he was a child in one of America's Funniest Home Videos.
When the elf came to, he found himself hogtied, Terri standing above him.
"Why are you attacking us?" Terri asked without any introduction.
The elf only regarded them with bitter silence.
"I see. Tammy, check if we haven't got something to make him talk."
A voice came from outside the elf's view: "Mom, you literally only packed rope and coffee."
Terri smirked. "Check again."
"Oh, ew. There's a bag of Nescafé."
"Damnit!" The elf had daggers in his eyes. The vilest substance on earth - if he didn't talk, they would feed him Nescafé, and he would puke, or die. "You have started this," he spat. "You and your happy-holiday-folk. You wanted war? Well buckle up, because we have a saying on the north pole: the non-believers will wish they'd gotten coal."
"Oh yeah?" Terri said. "Well, we have a saying here on Earth too: drink Folger's or gently caress off." She knocked him out with a can of coffee.
"What do we do now, mom?" Tammy said. The tremors seemed to have stopped, for now. Who knew what it looked like up there. How many people had...
"Now?" Terri looked down on the elf. "We get ready for war. The war..." she looked into the camera. "...on Christmas."
|# ? Dec 14, 2020 01:49|
Week 403 – Fight Night, Round 2
Rules: all your characters must be asian but none of them can be stereotypes; include more than one language.
A light snow drifts down from the sky, but the valley is filled with fire and smoke. The Tibetan king sent hundreds of soldiers, armed with matchlocks and swords, down from the highlands to finally put down the upstart lama. A row of spidery trebuchets rain fire into the valley, incinerating trees into the charcoal haze through which you watch the battle. Figures weave in and out of the maelstrom, screaming in pain, missing limbs, bleeding from horrific wounds, scrambling in panicked retreat.
Your brother is somewhere out there. A braver man would grab his spear, charge into the massacre to find him, and battle the Tibetan soldiers with your back firmly against his. You are not that man. Instead, you watch from behind the half-constructed palace walls of the dzong, turning your prayer wheel with sweat slicked hands. Is he alive? Is that even possible? Pangka was always the warrior. As children, you would run the hillside upon which the dzong now stands. He would pretend to fight the demon that lived among the trees. This unsettled you. Later, as an adult, he’d vanquished the demon, and together you’d started construction on the dzong to imprison it in the rock beneath. News had filtered to the king; now there was a price to pay.
A wave of Tibetan soldiers bursts through the smoke and charge up the hill towards you. They’ve broken the flimsy defensive line your brother organized—farmers, armed with simple wood staves, run through by the invader’s superior weaponry. Where is your brother?
You flee into the dzong.
Woman and children have gathered here. As you enter the courtyard, a few turn to you, their lama.
“Pachāḍi chōḍnuhōs. Unīharu ā'udai chan!” you shout, gesturing towards the back gate. Some start moving towards the gate, but others hesitate. Murmurs turn to shrieks as a flaming arrow falls from the sky and impales a sack of grain. “Unīharu ā'udai chan!” you repeat, louder. You hear the splintering of the front gate behind you. That gets them moving. You shout at them to flee up the mountain, far away from the dzong.
You, however, cannot leave. You break from the wave of women and children and enter the lhakhang, the large prayer room in the center of the palace. Unfinished murals adorn the walls. You step over scattered construction materials to the center, where a statue of Buddha gazes down. Candles have been lit around its base. You think again of your brother. Is he wounded, praying? Calling for you? Shouts from the Tibetan soldiers grow louder as they fill the courtyard outside. They’ve breached the interior of the palace.
You take a candle and slip through a side door. Stone steps descend into the storage cellar. The air smells of metal and sulfur. You use the candle flame to light a torch on the wall, illuminating tight rows of sacks and crates. In the back of the room you find what you are looking for: a dozen large muslin bags stuffed with dark gray powder. You adjust the geometry of the pile and carefully place the candle beneath one edge. This should buy you enough time to escape through the monk’s quarters above.
The sounds of footsteps on the steps behind causes you to spin. A Tibetan soldier stands at the base of the stairs, his eyes wide. “Bujhā'unuhōs vā marnuhōs!” he barks at you. You consider it, for a moment. Surrender would be easy. But then you see the spear he carries. It’s familiar markings.
It belongs to your brother.
Three steps and you’re on him, swinging your prayer wheel with both hands at the back of his right leg. The sturdy wooden shaft connects, buckling the soldier’s knee. He is quick to recover, spinning away, and bashes the spear across the side of your head. Sparks wash into your vision as the room and your antagonist swim out of focus. You hold the prayer wheel up to block the next thrust of the spear, but instead you’re knocked backwards as the metal point sinks into your left shoulder. The searing pain sharpens your focus. The soldier pulls the spear from your flesh. You swing the prayer wheel upwards into his chin. He falls back against the stairs and there’s a wet crunch as his head contacts the stone. His body convulses, then goes still.
You don’t dare look back at the candle and the bags of gunpowder. Ripping your brother’s spear from the soldier’s grip, you race up the stairs back into the lhakhang. Two more Tibetan soldiers are there, picking through the debris. You run to the steps that lead up to the monk’s quarters. The soldiers shout, but you don’t stop. The wound in your shoulder burns, and blood soaks the fabric of your gho as you scramble up the steps. The soldiers rush to follow.
The windows on this level are unfinished, so you clamber through a window at the end of the hallway and onto the rooftop. Acrid smoke fills your lungs. The dzong below is swarming with Tibetan soldiers. Their conquest complete, they chant songs of victory.
“Rōka!” your pursuers shout from the hallway behind. But you don’t stop. The tile roof slopes down to the back wall of the compound. You make it to the edge, but it’s a thirty foot drop to the ground outside the wall. Turning, you see the two soldiers framed in the open window. They point at you and laugh. You raise your brother’s spear.
And then you are flying.
The explosion rips the dzong apart. Like a mighty breath from the demon trapped in the rocks below, the fiery blast tears through mud and stone and timber. The soldiers disappear in a flash of white and you are lifted up, out, back into the forest. The ground rushes towards you, faster and faster, and then--
--and then you wake up, flat on your back. The snowbank is wet and cold, and your shoulder is numb. Tiny snowflakes drift down through the trees. The same trees you and Pangka played in as children, chasing rabbits and demons and each other. Delicate flakes of ash float down as well, white and gray mingling in the cold mountain air. The dzong is gone, your brother is gone, and with them your dream of the placid and peaceful life of a lama.
You pick up your brother’s spear in one hand and your prayer wheel in the other. The world is full of demons. Weapons ready, you march back down the hillside.
|# ? Dec 14, 2020 02:57|
When his horse hesitated and reared back, Arkham shouldered his rifle. Jacob had the same trouble with his mount. He shouted "Who's there?" and Arkham silently cursed him for giving away their position. He scanned the thin woods, checking each tree for a hand or knuckle grasping the edge from behind, looking for any over-thick shadows. It was close to noon and freezing, too dry for snow or even much frost. There, a tall pine with one branch of clean green needles, not dusted and ashed like the rest. Arkham aimed at the space left of the tree, then jerked his head to the side. Jacob caught the signal. He had his pepperbox at hand. He fired without aiming, a bullet flying deeper into the woods.
"Don't shoot, don't shoot!" A man in rebel grey stepped out from behind the tree, right into Arkham's sights.
"You going to come quietly?" asked Jacob.
"You don't want to take me prisoner," said the reb, hands raised. He had a clean shave and a singed left sleeve. "In fact, you're going to let me go back to my unit."
"Fat chance Johnny," said Jacob. He dismounted and reached down and took the man's sidearm from his belt.
"It's Zeke," he said.
"You're all Johnny to me."
"Look," said Zeke. "Check my pocket. Left pants."
"Are you trying to pull something funny?"
"Humor him," said Arkham. Jacob reached in and pulled out a heavy yellow disk, like a coin but blank on both sides.
"It's gold," said Zeke. "And there's a lot more where that came from."
"What do you mean?" said Jacob.
"I'm with the payroll. A wagon full of gold headed for Charleston."
"You weren't just wandering around here," said Arkham. "You were looking for us."
Zeke nodded. "If I found a full unit I would have traded what I know for freedom and a ticket to Brazil I guess. But this way is better. You can find a few people you can trust and we can all be rich. There's more than enough to go 'round."
Arkham listened to the details, the number of men and weapons, a few ambush positions on the route, some signals while Jacob emptied the bullets from Zeke's revolver. Then they watched Zeke walk away.
"Who are you thinking? We'll need Michaels," said Jacob.
Arkham nodded. Without the supply chief there would be no chance to keep that kind of weight hidden until the end of the war. "I'd want six more riflemen. Maybe eight."
"Six," said Arkham. "I can think of a few names."
"I bet you can," said Jacob.
Michaels was easy to convince. He was already crooked as they came, started working angles to squeeze profit out of whatever steel had to come off the wagons to make weight immediately. Most of the men Arkham wanted were in right away. Ezra took a bit of convincing.
"Look," Jacob said, "We're already going to put the Confederates in a deep well of pigshit-"
"Don't be profane," said Ezra, sniffing as if he could smell the words themselves.
"A deep well of porcine excrement just by making sure they can't use it to pay their men. It isn't like we'll be hurting our side. We'll be winning the da- sorry, the blasted war. And think what good could be done with that money after."
Ezra's eyes moved left, then right, as if he were comparing two visions etched in the air. "I'm in," he said. "I may come to regret it, but I'm in."
Ezra was Arkham's least favorite person in the entire Union army apart from General McClellan, but the man was an amazing shot. He had two revolvers, one taken off a rebel officer at the battle of Marion, and was better with his left hand than most soldiers were with their right. At the signal, while most of the men were taking shots with their rifles he was in front popping shot after shot, each one a clean kill. It was a perfect ambush, a massacre, half their number dead in the initial volley.
“Yield!,” shouted a rebel, the ranking surviving officer from the look of his uniform. “We yield, you bastards!”
Ezra hesitated. Arkham set down his rifle and put hand to sidearm, as did most of the others. The surviving rebels slowly raised their hands.
“Like hell you do!” said Zeke. He raised his pistol to the officer’s head and fired.
Arkham resumed shooting, and the rest followed in a chaotic fight. Only one of the rebels had weapon ready enough to do anything but shoot wildly. He charged right at Zeke. Zeke turned and shot, just missing behind the man. His bayonet sunk deep into Zeke’s guts minutes before Ezra shot the man. His corpse fell across Zeke, wrenching the rifle and bayonet several degrees, deepening the cut.
“Damned fool,” Jacob said as he walked by Zeke’s body.
“Don’t blaspheme,” said Ezra.
“You want to bury the dead?” asked Jacob.
“We’re heading east tomorrow,” said Arkham. “No more patrols this way. Leave them for their own, or for the buzzards.”
The horses in the camp were spooked and useless. Arkham cut their tethers and let them run, each flying off a different direction. He checked the main wagon and found the trunks. They each had padlocks, large iron ones that weren’t too strong to be pried off. It was there, gold, enough to make them all rich, if they were careful enough. He organized the men in front and behind the wagon, pushing and pulling together. Half doing the labor, half on lookout, switching off around midway back, they reached the edge of their encampment. Jacob went in and came back with Michaels. Moving each of the two trunks was a four-man job. Would have been better with six for the load, but they weren’t long like a coffin, so it had to be four. They carried each trunk to the supply tent and set them down where Michaels directed. He had new locks ready.
“Remember,” said Arkham, “We know where you sleep.”
“I’d never-” said Michaels.
“Course not. Still.”
“Temptation is a mocker,” said Ezra.
:And you’ll have charge of this for quite some time. Just remember that we all know what the count was. Anything that comes missing when we make the split comes out of your share.”
“Jacob’s not coming,” said the woman. She wore black and white and a small red hat. Dark hair and a face just starting to show signs of age but still striking.
“That makes three less shares, then,” said Arkham. Two of the men had fallen on the battlefield during the last year of the war.
“Like hell it does,” she said. “I’m his wife and what’s his is mine by rights.”
Arkham was getting a little worried. He didn’t know how much this woman knew, didn’t know how far she would be likely to go. She was an unknown, an element of chaos, and Arkham didn’t like that even a little. “Is he dead?” he said.
“No,” she said. “I mean, I don’t think so. He was fine-”
“He isn’t here,” said Arkham. “Don’t know what would take priority over this.”
“Family. We got a telegram from Chicago, from his mother. She was having trouble and Jacob shot right out there. He was supposed to be back by now, but-”
“How did you find me?”
"You're a pretty distinctive looking person," she said. She wasn't wrong. Arkham stood a head higher than near anyone, lean and lanky, and had a scar on his head and right ear that was hard to miss, a parting gift from the war. "Jacob told me where the meet was and my eyes did the rest."
Arkham didn't trust her, couldn't even be sure she was who she said she was. But he couldn't just kill her for a half dozen reasons, not least being she might be telling nothing but the truth. And he couldn't have her bouncing around the outside of the job either. So. "Mrs. Breakridge," he said.
"Molly," she said.
Arkham nodded. "Molly, then. We're meeting up tomorrow afternoon in the backroom at the Star. I'll make sure you don't have any trouble getting in."
That gave another half-day for others to arrive, but as the hours passed and they didn't Arkham liked it less and less. When the meeting started it was just him, Molly, Ezra, and Vince Darling.
"Michaels was a, was a blessed idiot and a piece of work," said Vince. He was the one who had been out here, out in northern California keeping eyes on Michaels since the war. "Paranoid. Didn't white around or gamble or have any other expensive habits. Didn't trust the banks. When he died the banks and town taxmen went round to settle his estate, and nobody reported nothing about a huge pile of gold in there."
"Could be one of them went freelance, took it himself," said Arkham.
"They work in teams. Pairs. Too many eyes to be that dishonest," said Vince.
"And not enough to shift it besides," said Ezra. "Cashing out that much gold leaves records. That's why we wanted the mine." Ezra had bought the rights to a tapped-out mine down in the valley for a hundred or so. They were all going to buy in and claim the gold as from a newly-found vein. There were even smelting works and ingot molds on site, in need of a scrub to shed the rust but good enough.
"So we have to assume it's at the house, hidden," said Arkham. "Let's hope it's not buried unmarked in the yard."
"Can we get in?" asked Ezra.
"Not much to stop us," said Vince. "No posted guards, and the neighbors aren't close enough to be an issue. Foot patrol walks by at ten."
"Then we'll arrive at eleven," said Arkham. "Not together, and not from the same direction. Ezra and Vince from up Sherman Street, Molly and I down Ashford Lane."
The road was dark, unlit save for the lantern Molly carried. "How did Michaels die?" she asked.
"Some kind of fit, the doctor said. Apoplexy, swallowed his own tongue." Arkham didn't turn his head to speak, just kept scanning the darkness beside them.
"What a horrible way to die," she said.
"I've seen worse," said Arkham.
"Well, of course," she said. "What with the war. Jacob never speaks of such things, but sometimes, in the dead of night..."
"Some people have that trouble," he said. "Can't leave what's meant to stay on the battlefield alone."
"But not you, mister- is Arkham your family or Christian name?"
"We're here," said Arkham. Vince and Ezra were just ahead of them, inspecting the front door. There was a hefty lock and a notice from the town glued over the keyhole. Ezra dropped his sack of tools and pulled out a long iron prybar and started trying to work it into the space between door and frame.
"Give me that, you pure fool," said Molly.
"Don't-" said Ezra as she snatched it out of his hand. She walked around to the side window and wedged it in the crack in the old paint at the bottom. The window lifted after a shove and she shimmied inside. Arkham passed her lantern to her through the window and she navigated to the front door, which opened up to let them all in.
The house had clearly been searched, but not as thoroughly as they were going to search it. Drawers emptied, some furniture moved about. Not much more than that. They set to work, putting holes in the walls, ripping open mattresses, prying up any floorboards that sounded different when tapped. They found nothing after searching for hours.
"There's another building out back," said Vince as the others were resting and trying to think. "Some kind of larder."
They all went to the back yard. The larder had a heavy lock attached, and nobody objected to Ezra using the pry bar this time. The huge door swung open.
"Well," said Vince. "The man sure did love his cheese."
The larder was full of cheese, hard and soft and between. The smell of it was strong but not unpleasant. There were stacks of tiny cheeses, bigger ones set on tables, and at the back of the room, leaned up against the wall, was a giant wheel of Sacramento white cheddar, near as tall and wide as a man.
Arkham walked towards it, and pulled out a long Bowie-style knife. He sunk it to the hilt in the side of the cheese. He pulled it out and tried again, a few inches to the right.
Clink. The knife was less than halfway in. He hacked a bit, then pulled out a disk, a blank golden coin just like the rest.
They set to clearing out the room and rotating the cheese wheel.
"Good news is, it rolls," said Vince.
"Looks about the right width for the old mine track, too," said Arkham. The plan had been to rent or buy a cart and move it down to Ezra's mine that way, down a few miles of track that nobody used any more.
There was a thump from outside, and most of them reached for a weapon. Then a cat let out a yowl of displeasure and they relaxed a little. Ezra and Vince checked out the area and reported nothing unusual. They rolled the cheese out the door, then across the yard and through the gate. "Careful," said Molly. "If it falls we'll have a devil of a time getting it upright again.
The street was empty in that predawn hour, too early even for the delivery boys. There were a few bumps that required work to push it. They got lucky getting it on to the track, with a road crossing, where the track tops were flush with the road. They just had to turn it the right way, a maneuver they had gotten practiced at, and roll it into the track proper. From there they could move smoothly and swiftly, having to push only rarely where the grade was briefly uphill.
Just as the sun was starting to rise, while they were moving at a brisk pace, suddenly there was a loud sound, *crack* *crack* *crack* as three railroad ties snapped under the weight of the wheel. It stopped, then wobbled, but didn't tip over. Then Arkham noticed Vince on the ground, bleeding from the head. Perhaps only two railroad ties. Another loud crack. Ezra fell, shot in the left knee. He scuttled painfully over to the wheel, trying to use it as a shield. Arkham and Molly were already ducked behind it.
"Now why don't you come on out and die proper," someone was shouting. "I can promise you I'll finish you proper, and not leave you out waiting on the buzzards."
Arkham finally recognized the voice. It was Zeke.
Ezekiel "Zeke" Carter was never one for giving up. Lying under a dead man with a wide and bleeding gut wound was no excuse, no place to start.
Zeke was in the war before there even was a war. He rode with Bill Quantril at Lawrenceville and helped burn that nest of Yankees and abolitionists to the ground. When he signed up he figured that experience should have gotten him into the cavalry, but the recruiters laughed at him and put him with the rest of the cannon fodder in the infantry. He wished he could remember their names and faces. That was before he started making a list.
Lieutenant Jefferson (no relation) made his list, maybe right at the top. Jefferson had a mad-on for Zeke from day one, and the feeling was mutual. Singled him out for punishment even when everyone else was doing the same thing. Zeke figured Jefferson knew he was twice the soldier, twice the man, and couldn't help but try to push him down. Not so smart now, with his brain splattered all over the dirt. But one name goes off- two, really, but Galen didn't go long enough before gut-stabbing Zeke to being sent to hell himself to really make the list. As soon as he was out from under the man's meat and bones he'd forget Galen's ugly mug. Not so for the others, for the right men who paid him back for making rich by leaving him for dead. He'd remember each of those faces long as he lived. Which he didn't know how long would be. As long as he lived and as long as he burned in hell too.
Zeke was never a quitter. He couldn't just wait for the end. His arms were working. He shoved, and the dead man rolled off him to join another Virginia soldier. He tore the shirt off the nearest corpse and tied it right around his chest. It soaked through right away, but he figured it would at least keep the dirt out. He began to crawl.
Light kept fading from his eyes. He thought he heard music, heard the bluebirds whistling 'Dixie'. Then a moment of blackness, then motion: he was on his back, looking upward at a blonde angel eclipsing the sun. Then the darkness came back, and it stayed for a long time.
"Don't get up." The voice was strangely familiar even though he knew he'd never heard it before in his life. His body throbbed inside with fire and pain and he could barely lift an eyelid, let along a leg.
"Wasn't," he said, barely a rattle. "Gonna try."
"Let me help," she said. She poured from a pitcher to a glass, then lifted his head and tilted some in. "It's tea," she said. "Though more lemon and sugar than tea the way I make it. You need the water and the sugar, and the rest won't do you harm."
"Who are you?" he asked between difficult swallows.
"To you I'm Mrs, no, Miss Janey Hawcroft."
Zeke coughed, nearly letting tea down the wrong pipe. "A widow, then?"
"If by that you mean did the damned Yankees murder my husband and burn down my family home, then yes, the answer is yes."
Zeke smiled, waving off more tea. "Want," he said "revenge?"
Each day the pain was a little less, the range of his mobility a little more. And each day Zeke told Janey a bit more. The day he told the whole story, told what he'd done was a bad day. The pain, lessened as it was, felt like a constant burden he could not bear. He half hoped she would set a pillow on his face and take seat on it, press until he suffocated for his treasons. But she did no such thing. She looked him squarely in the eye and said "How much gold, exactly?"
As he gained strength they started planning, mixing violent fantasies with actionable plans. "I get what's mine, get all of what's mine, and then we go down to Brazil. There's places there where you don't even need to speak Spanish or nothing. English all day and live like a king. Last place left in the world where you can be a proper rich man."
And one day the news came to their corner of the world, the news that that old ham John Wilkes Booth shot the vile Republican Abraham Lincoln, then got run down like a rabid dog himself. "Well l, that's one name off the list," he said. That night, during his daily bath she took intimate liberties without a word or look between them.
"Shall I thank you, Miss Janey?" he said.
"Thank me by making it real. All of it."
Once he was mobile the war was long done. The newspapers in Yankeeland were helpful, publishing lists of heroes and their deeds. He found Dirk Randall, decommissioned home in West Virginia, and made a trip.
"Here," said Janey. "For expenses." It was the two gold coins he had seen into his uniform the first time he had access to the chest. He took three, that day. One to use to prove his story, the others for a rainy day. Of course she'd found them.
He came back three days later, with one less name on his list and Jacob's last name and town of residence. Breakridge, and Steerpike, Kansas. Janey wanted every gory detail. Her face lit up as he told it.
"Next time, I come with you," she said.
"Hm," said Zeke. "Could be useful. He'd know my face on sight."
"So, to Steerpike?"
"No. He's a local hero there. We can draw him away."
In Chicago, after they watched him go to the hotel, she said, "Zeke, would you be cross if I were to seduce this Yank?"
Zeke guffawed. "You think you could?"
"I know it. I know the type, ugly guys who managed to somehow marry a bit out of their league. They don't ever think about getting propositioned, and so don't have the slightest defences."
"Go for it," Zeke said.
Zeke was impressed by her brutality, and, grudgingly, with Jacob's courage. He took a lot of pure pain without giving a word, and for a while it looked like he was ready to die without naming a name or a place. Then she reminded him why he came to Chicago in the first place. "You want we should go round your address, bring your Ma in for some of the same as what you're getting? Or that little nephew of yours. We know where they live. We know where they sleep. She extracted every bit of information to be had from Jacob and left his shell for the hotel staff to find. So from there they went to California.
Perhaps, Zeke thought, she may have been a bit too enthusiastic. When they cornered Michaels, she showed him her needles and knives and how they glowed bright red when you put them on a stove for a few minutes the man pitched back and started shaking like a snake-handler in the chair, fell on the floor and plum dropped dead on the spot before he could give up a thing.
"No matter," Zeke said. They'll come right to us. And they did, and from their hiding spot just behind the fence they heard it all. Zeke pulled her arm and they ran back to their horses, a bit too quickly, a bit too noisy. Zeke spotted an alleycat and kicked at it as they went to give them something to blame for the sound. He missed but the cat still took offense and yowled nicely.
They went halfway down the track before finding a good ambush point. The old railway ties were in bad enough shape already, a few hacks and prys with a shovel and they were ready to crumble. He dug out enough dirt beneath them to make a dip deep enough to stop it, as far as he could reckon. Then they waited.
Zeke wasn't ever a crack shot, and Janey had barely ever shot at anything her whole life. Zeke managed to get a hit on one of them, while Janey's bullets missed wide. The devils ran for cover behind that great wheel of cheese.
"Now why don't you come on out and die proper," Zeke yelled. "I can promise you I'll finish you proper, and not leave you out waiting on the buzzards."
Arkham shot from behind the cheese, careful shots at the source of the voice. He heard bullets impacting rock. Dawn sunlight flowed through new holes in the cheese, illuminating rays in the dust. A clink, as another bullet struck one of the coins buried inside. Ezra laid down a few shots of covering fire and Arkham popped his head around the wheel, scanned, and shot. He heard a cry, a woman.
"Zeke? Zeke! Come back here you cowardly little-"
He looked again. Zeke was on his horse, fleeing down the track. Arkham and Molly carefully walked up to where the woman was lying, bleeding from her thigh, her gun just out of reach. Arkham kicked it away.
"You," she said, looking at Molly. "You're Jacob's woman, ain't you? He had a lot to say about you when I took him to bed, for sure. Then he had even more once I had my knife on him. He was a beggin' for mercy like you wouldn't believe."
"Your turn," she said. "But don't bother." She had a gun, a little .22 Arkham hadn't known she was carrying, and she put bullets in each of Janey's eyes without blinking.
"He's going to try again," said Ezra.
"How are you," said Arkham.
"I'll live, Lord willing the rot doesn't set in. Can't put weight on that leg though."
"No turning back now," said Arkham.
"No," said Ezra.
Molly whistled, trying a few different calls. Ezra looked at her strangely, and Arkham put his hand on the wounded man's shoulder. A brown horse carefully approached.
"Figured there'd be two. Two of them. And with the one not tied and close at hand the other would be too. You can ride?"
"That I can," said Ezra.
They pushed the wheel down the tracks for a while, finally reaching a slight upward grade, creating a blind spot in a lightly wooded part of the countryside.
"Here," said Arkham, softly.
"You sure?" asked Ezra.
"Where I'd do it." Ezra nodded. "Wait for my signal."
Arkham readied his rifle and walked, to the left of the tracks some distance, then crouched as he reached that blind incline. Lots of trees. He looked for the fatter shadow and thought he saw something, something moving slightly out of rhythm from the wind. He aimed to the right of the tree and gave the signal, a bird call.
Ezra shot, wildly. Zeke broke cover and ran. Zeke ran left. Arkham missed. He dropped the rifle and drew his revolver, shooting from the hip.
Two wild shots. A hit, low. Then his gun jammed. Zeke was down, leg wounded, lying on top of the tracks. He saw Arkham slapping at his gun and laughed. He drew his pistol and took careful aim.
Then the wheel of cheese, heavy to begin with and laden with heavier gold, rolled down from the top of the blind and crushed Zeke's legs and lower torso without so much as slowing down
Arkham walked around and slit Zeke's throat with his knife. He prided himself in not making the same mistake twice.
"You ever thought about what you're going to do with your share?" asked Ezra.
"Anyone else, that would be a stupid question," said Arkham.
"But not you," said Ezra. "I know you. You've been all about the getting and I bet you barely thought about after."
"Wouldn't have done so much good. Turns out three times what I would have thought at the start."
"With that much, three times doesn't mean as much."
"The widow. Molly. She's going to have all kinds of men coming after her."
"She can handle herself, looks like."
"Sure, right until she can't."
"Are you trying to suggest something? Matchmaking part of your ministry now?"
"I'm no preacher," said Ezra. "But I do see something there. Stick around for a while. Maybe she'll find some broke European nobleman who makes her happy to slowly fritter that fortune down. Or maybe not. None of us knows the Lord's plans."
"Maybe I will," said Arkham. "Not like I've much better to do."
|# ? Dec 14, 2020 03:31|
Okay, In with Week #77's prompt.
Week #77's prompt posted:
Please pick a link from the following list: Unusual Articles and use it as the basis for your story. When you post your story, indicate what link you chose.
You're the third person to choose this same week. Are you a lemming? Are you a bunch of lemmings stacked up in a trench coat pretending to be a person? I can only assume yes. I'll make this week easy for you: your main character isn't a human but is actually several animals in a trenchcoat.
On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Sobaka
Miss Livingstone, I’m very pleased you came to interview me. Not every journalist would take a story about three dogs in a trench-coat seriously, but Misha, Sergei, and I are not most dogs. Then again, most dogs aren’t Moscow street dogs.
The humans of Moscow love to marvel at us. The tricks we use to get them to feed us amaze and delight them, even when they’re the victims. “How clever!” they say, but it’s not that difficult to manipulate them. You understand, you don’t need to come up with ingenious lies to make them do what you want: you only need to dazzle them. For example, you stand behind a man eating and bark loudly. Startled, he drops his food and you snatch it up yourself. You haven’t truly fooled him, he knows perfectly well what you did. You’ve only confused him, gotten him to let his guard down long enough for you to get what you want. And now he can do nothing about it, you see? We use those skills every day in our profession.
Scavenging for food gets boring after a time: we wanted to put our skills to a true test. The laptop we found in a stolen bag near MGU had opened up a vast new world to us – a world full of new people, new forms of manipulation. Sock puppetry, brigading, forged documents…a far cry from begging on the street. I recall it was Misha who came up with the plan to use what we’d learned. We scrounged up a trenchcoat and a slouch hat, arranged ourselves inside it, and took the subway to Lubyanka Square. Somehow I managed to talk us into the Federal Security Service’s headquarters, meet with the big boss. I remember he was a big burly fellow, old KGB man. Saw through our disguise as “Mr. Sobaka” right away, but he listened. We could be useful to the motherland, he said. The new Federation couldn’t censor the citizens’ opinions, you see. That would go against the principles of a free society. But if a state-sponsored company were to hire employees to make Internet comments supporting the regime, that wouldn’t be a problem, would it?
So that’s how our Internet Research Institute came to be. One thousand dogs, each with three social media accounts, posting twice a day through each one. We set new quotas weekly; our best performers get fresh shwarma. We love it. There’s little point in denying our manipulations, even against your own country’s government. I know you’ve done your research, Miss Livingstone. It’s why I’ve called you in for this interview. No one is more qualified to tell our story to the West. And you will tell it; it’s the biggest scoop of your career. Three little dogs go from living on the streets to swaying the fate of nations? It’ll generate plenty of clicks, plenty of revenue. Plenty of comments. After all, we don’t need to fool anyone anymore. We just need to dazzle them.
|# ? Dec 14, 2020 03:35|
|# ? Oct 3, 2022 21:09|
Do you remember when you ran your megabrawl? That sure was fun! I very much enjoyed signing up for a short story competition and being told to write a prose poem and I definitely didn't spend several days learning what a prose poem was so that I could do my very best only to lose to crabrock who shat something out literally thirty minutes before the deadline. Since I had such a great time with it, your entry this week should be a prose poem, too! No death can be included, though. And certainly no love.
flerp fucked around with this message at 01:25 on Jan 1, 2021
|# ? Dec 14, 2020 03:40|