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First time for everything.
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First time for everything.
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gently caress it, there's a first time for everything. In.
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gently caress it, there's a first time for everything. In.
|# ? Jun 23, 2021 20:49|
Denric and the Knife
He was never going to find a knife in a cavern this big.
“Are you sure it’s here?” he shouted to Velra. His voice echoed in the dark. The space seemed impossibly big, black, cold. The hazy shapes of the ruins were almost imperceptible in the distance. Denric pulled his vestcoat tight against the cold. It was the dull green of the laborer caste, but a ceremonial knife would bring in the kind of money where your caste didn’t matter.
“It’s definitely here.” Velra stepped around a pile of rubble, her eyes bright in the night. She was his sister-in-law, or she had been. She was thin, wearing the purple of the merchant caste and carrying their traditional trident. It was Velra who had been here before, who traveled the ruins of the Lost Ones. “Torvis swears he saw the knife up there, right past the pillars.”
“And why didn’t Torvis take the knife?” asked Denric, stepping amongst the dust and debris of fallen civilization.
“He couldn’t pry it free. You’ve met Torvis; he’s even weaker than I am.” Velra darted from rock to rock, eyes wary, trident ready. She sniffed the air, her nose twitching. This was feloid territory.
They came to the paired pillars, round and smooth. Velra took two climbing harnesses from her pack. Denric was sure he could climb them freehand, but Velra was always cautious. They strapped in and began their ascent, Velra on one pillar and Denric the other. Halfway up, a noise in the distance. A scraping sound, like a feloid pouncing or scrambling. They stopped, listened, waited, then resumed.
At the top of the pillars was a smooth floor that stretched into the darkness. Denric made it there first and helped Velra up over the edge. She thanked him but shrugged off his touch. The floor was smooth and offered no traction. Denric didn’t like it - this was not a floor for fleeing. He smelled the air, nervous.
After a hike, they came to a dais. Solid wood, rough, old. Almost as tall as Denric. He scrambled atop it, then helped Velra. Once again, she was quick to shrug off his help. Pride? wondered Denric. Or something to do with his brother?
“It’s up here,” said Velra. Even in the dim light, Denric could see the glint of the ceremonial knife wedged into the wood. Around it were the ancient oil stains of a giant wheel. Probably from the Before, when the Lost Ones built this place. There was no wheel, of course, only its stain.
The knife was beautiful. Half as tall as Denric, it’s thick wooden handle as wide as his thigh. The blade still shimmered, its flat tip as wide as Denric’s head. Someone, a Lost One certainly, had slammed it into the dais with enough force to half bury the blade into the wood. No wonder Torvis hadn’t claimed the knife - Denric wasn’t certain even he could pull it free from the floor.
He took off his vestcoat and stretched. He would try. A ceremonial cheese knife like this would fetch such a price that even his share would be enough to walk amongst the merchants or even the artisans. He tried pulling and quickly ruled that out. He pushed the knife from its side and it budged. He pulled, then pushed, rocking it back and forth until finally he was able to free it from the wood floor.
Velra stifled a gasp behind him as he lifted the knife up. It was lighter than he thought it would be, even as big as his leg. Denric turned to face Velra, hefting it. Her eyes were as wide and shining as the blade, her smile equal parts hunger and joy.
“We did it,” she said. It was barely more than a whisper.
They made ready to go. Denric didn’t need a climbing harness to get up, but he’d be grateful for one on the down leg with the weight of the knife. He carried it, moving directly off the dais, while Velra darted around across the shiny smooth floor, almost tasting the air.
Denric sensed the growl as much as heard it.
“Run!” screamed Velra. From the cloying shadows, a beast leaped. Ten times the size of either of them, all claws and teeth and fur, with slitted eyes that glowed in the dark. The feloid landed where Velra had been moments before as she rolled out of the way. She was no warrior, but merchant adventurers were cunning with their tridents. Denric had no such cunning, and he took off as fast as his legs could carry him. He wanted to drop to all fours, but he couldn’t with the knife. If Velra could buy him some time, he might make it to the pillars.
Pain filled Denric’s mind, a white hot lightning originating in his tail. He let out a terrified squeak as he stopped short, the knife flying from his arms and sliding across the ground. He was trapped. He looked over his shoulder - Velra’s trident had pierced his tail and he was pinned.
Velra ran past him, and scooped up the ceremonial knife. It looked even more unwieldy in her arms, she could barely carry it.
“Velra!” yelled Denric. She couldn’t even look at him. She just ran.
The feloid clawed at Denric, and though he tried to move, he still felt the claws tear at his fur and flesh. He squeaked again in spite of himself. He reached down and yanked the trident from the ground, new waves of pain radiating up his tail. He felt sick.
He was no warrior but Denric was strong. He threw the trident at the feloid as hard as he could. It let out a hiss and reared up. Denric didn’t wait to find out if he had scared it off, he was plenty scared off himself. He sprinted for the pillars.
Velra had been fast. He thought he could have caught up with her, but he must have been more wounded than he thought. She darted along the broken floor below. It was too dark to see her, but the knife glinted in the distant dark.
He stopped to bind his tail with his vestcoat, then began the descent. The pillar was smooth, but Denric did this every day.
A thud echoed in the distance. He froze. Another thud. Denric shifted around the pillar, away from the noise. And then he saw it.
A Lost One.
A hundred times taller than anyone Denric knew. A giant. A freakish monster from Before, pink and hairless. A scavenger in the ruins. Its hand darted down as it bent over. Denric heard Velra scream.
Not just one scream, but many, staggered and desperate. She called his name, the prophets, for her mother. Then Denric heard a clatter - the knife! And then the screaming stopped.
The Lost One turned and yelled something in its thunderous tongue. And then it left. His heart was a storm in his ears. Denric didn’t know how long he stayed there, motionless, until he was sure the Lost One was gone.
Then he started climbing down again.
The knife. It was still down there.
CitizenKeen fucked around with this message at 01:16 on Jun 24, 2021
|# ? Jun 24, 2021 01:14|
Allergies are kind of kicking my rear end. Here's half of last week's crits, second half probably coming tomorrow because I'll be sitting in the waiting room of the allergy clinic.
TD Week 463 Judgecrits Part 1
Dome Racer Alpha - A story about a crash
I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this one because you definitely didn't. I found the stuff with the bird getting stuck in the AC and slowly dying to be kind of morbid and uncomfortable. Also, it's clear that it was written in one sitting after you came up with the pun, so it's difficult to care about what's going on, and even more difficult when I reach the end and find out that it's all a setup for a pun.
Dome Racer Sigma - Accounting for Dragons
This is a light story, which is unsurprising given your posting gimmick. But unlike the other gimmick poster this week, you actually told a story, and ended it on a cute note that helps me feel like I'm reading about people instead of the setup to a joke. It's also not leaning on the inherent absurdity of a rushed narrative to be funny, so good job on writing some actual jokes. I would read more about this dragon mascot suit accountant trying to navigate draconic social customs.
Sitting Here - Gorgeous Attraction Warrior Rumina: Calamity Witch Redux
Haha sucker I read the whole thing. And it is pretty good, though IMO you could cut it down by like a third with some judicious editing. It would have been interesting to get more on what exactly all the magical girls who get stuck in the dick meat dimension are doing. As far as I recall, they mostly just hung out in their flesh houses. That's not a knock against the story itself, but if you're looking for a space where you could expand, that would be one of my suggestions.
ZearothK - Fealty
I liked how this was written in the voice of one of the fey, though it also meant I was struggling to figure out what was happening until after the first scene break, where it starts mentioning cold iron. It makes sense once you know the context, but there was just enough circumlocution at the start. The fact that this is a proper "wild hunt" also didn't click until the end. It might have been nice to get a little deeper into their history, though I can understand that an actual flashback would probably take more words. The emotional core worked for me and I liked the vibes of the story, but I think it might have clicked sooner if there was a line or two up front to put the idea of Fey poo poo in my head.
MockingQuantum - Buried Light
I like how irrational Stefan is in this story. It suits the relationship here, because it's one that's inherently strange and mismatched. The star too sounds unsure of things, like it too is trying to figure things out. One thing I might have liked to see is more of an explanation of what Stefan's job is, or a bit of how he and the star got to know one another. I don't think it's worse for not having it, but that was the question in the back of my mind, what were things like before this?
Sailor Viy - The Dreamer's Companion
This one was one of a couple I had to pick from to give the win to. It's a little purple at points, but that worked to its benefit for me, since things are supposed to be dreamlike and mythic, and the bit that really captured my mind was the "follow no law but Desire" bit. I don't see a lot of hedonistic philosophies in stories like that. I also appreciated the bit about them bringing back souvenirs from the dream world, because it gives the dream world extra "reality" instead of just existing as a narrative device.
Chairchucker - Got No Rhythm
Now this is how you introduce that Fey poo poo is happening in your story. Though unfortunately I don't have a ton to say about this. Your dialogue has a good flow, and even though the jokes are pretty broad (like Whisper being naive and friendly to a fault) all the characters still feel like actual people dealing with people problems, and not like setups for a pun. Sorry, guess your crit is mostly comparing it to other stories. There's nothing that stood out here and made me go "woah, yeah!" but I could see this being some TV dramedy about living with your fairy stepsister.
tuyop - A Raccoon at the End of the World
It actually took me a while to figure out that this was a forest fire. The "increased sounds of traffic" slipped right over my head, and in fact I specifically thought "huh, wonder what that means" and then forgot about it. I took the 'end of the world' and the humand 'disappearing' literally. I like the choice to write it all from the perspective of An Actual Raccoon, though it left me wishing there was a little more of her "voice" in the narration, whether that's having the whole thing from her perspective or just giving the omnisicent narrator it has now some access to her internal monologue.
Barnaby Profane - Bobo and Ferrs Visit Grandma
Huh, weird, I thought I'd HMed this one. Maybe it was one of the ones I had to cut from the list, ah well. I did enjoy it though, it was cute and charming and I liked the matter of fact magic. Also, somehow this story wound up right next to the other person who did "two wild animals, one of which is a raccoon" as their characters. I would not be surprised if you told me this story was a little rushed near the end, because it's got that TD feeling of a lot of setup up front and then finishing up the plot as succinctly as you can when you notice you're almost at the word limit. But that "the ending is kind of quick" is the worst I can say about it is pretty good over all. I thought it did a very good job using the twee talking animal story voice without compromising the sincerity of the story.
Staggy - Tea for Two
And I was just talking about twee-but-sincere in my last crit, too. I was a fan of Redwall books back then, so descriptions of lavish foods are a weak spot for me. This actually reminds me of Accounting for Dragons, mostly in the way it plays with the anticlimax of not getting eaten by a dragon. I'm also a sucker for rivalries, so this one managed to hit me in just the right way. (Also it had an entire arc and didn't feel rushed out at the end.)
|# ? Jun 24, 2021 02:44|
TD Week 463 Judgecrits Part 2
completed at the allergist's clinic :)
My Shark Waifu - Dragonknight
This story is largely fine, but two things did bug me while reading it. One of them was the action scenes. They're written in a matter of fact way that undermines the drama a little bit. If a dragon spits a fireball and the protagonist dodges it in the same sentence, that's not a lot of room for tension to build. Action scenes are IMO a very good way to see the impact of how your sentences are structured. I think it'd help a lot to have each hit raise the tension a little bit. The other thing that bugged me was more of a personal thing, but I did wonder why no one had thought to try trading with the dragons before. It's not a huge issue, just one of those things that made me go hmm. It's fine overall though, those are just the two spots that felt like they could use some more work. (You may also want to take a peek at the rule of thumb I mentioned in the crit just under this one.
Black Griffon - Vengeance Climb
This is all pretty good stuff, though when it comes to the action scenes, it's almost the opposite of the ones in Dragonknight. There's a lot of action, but it does kind of flow together sometimes. I do this a lot in my own writing, particularly in my rough drafts. I haven't yet quite worked out what I'm going to say when I start a sentence, so sometimes it ends up somewhere else. For instance, I'd split the first line into two. If you start a new sentence after "...perfectly aimed," the first sentence can be the seemed lazy/perfectly aimed comparison, and then the next sentence, e.g., "The speed and heading brought him..." can be about how exactly it was perfectly aimed. The next sentence ("The expert climb...") could probably be two or three: landing on the deck, drawing the sword, attacking the sailor.
A good rule of thumb to remember: The words that stick the most in a reader's mind are the last and first words of the sentence.
All that said, I did like this story, I enjoyed the plot and the reveal about why they're doing this. I just had more to say about the action bits.
Isle Amalgam - Dispelled Love
This story reads a bit like Vengeance Climb crossed with "A story about a crash". It has the same matter-of-fact approach to strange fantastic things happening where it seems like it was written all in one go. I'm not opposed to in medias res weird fantasy scenes, but it was hard to get a grasp on just what the vibes were meant to be, here. I also wasn't sure if the featured relationship was supposed to be the witch and the wizard or the witch and the robot. Maybe both? Reading htis felt to me like a couple of different ideas all smushed together and duking it out for dominance.
Azza Bamboo - The Serpent
I had a feeling this story was written in a rush to meet the deadline. I liked the first half, even if there were a few weird word order things. (For instance, I would have led with the thunderstorm somehow, e.g., "In the midst of the thunderstorm, Sir Edmund's rusty brown stallion reared in fright." The reason this got the loss over the other DMs is that I just did not understand what the connection between the first and second half is. I mean, I know that the battle at the bridge is what the soldiers are riding toward, and then Edmund leads the charge to destroy the catapult, but in terms of broader narrative purpose I couldn't figure out what the contrast between the two scenes was meant to be. (It also took me a bit of extra effort to figure out which side was the "protagonists" in this case.
sparksbloom - My Bear of Unrest and Hibernation
This is pretty cute, for a story about someone with executive dysfunction in the middle of a depressive spiral. The absurdity is fun, though my big struggle here was trying to figure out what the 'point' was. Like, okay, allegorical bear, likes to hang out in depressed people's houses, I got all that, the "be aware of bears" stuff just didn't coalesce into anything for me. It was interestingly weird but I just couldn't quite see through to figure out what the bear was a cipher for.
t a s t e - Practice
Hey, welcome to TD! This is some good stuff for a first-time story. I think it may have wound up a bit rushed at the end, but honestly, my TD stories are like that fairly often too. (And I've brought this up in a couple other stories this week too, so it's not even like you're the only one.) TD stories often have a lot of description up front and then you're at 100 words left and you still have to actually finish the story. Tale as old as time.
There's some good human moments in this story, and I can unfortunately sympathize with the idea of bothering a pet as a kid because you have nothing better to do. My only other beef with this story was that it's kind of distant from its subject, getting told almost entirely through flashback, especially because it seems to be as much about the dad's relationship to the cat too. It didn't quite capture my interest strongly enough to put it in the honorable mention pile, but I'm a dweeb and realism is a hard sell for me. But I think you've got chops and I'll look forward to seeing your stuff in the future.
flerp - the dragon of death pets a dog
Yep, this is a flerp story all right. It's got some good little flourishes, and I appreciated the tone being mildly whimsical without completely undermining the world itself. I even like the plot, although it fell into something that happened a couple times this week: a very obvious solution to a problem. I'm not a big cinemasins ding sort of person, but having that be the solution to the dilemma made me think, wow, it hadn't tried that before? You may have been bumping up against the word limit or something though, since the end does come pretty quick. (It's valid if the upshot is that no one bothered to hang out around the dragon for long enough that he would have bothered to put on gloves.)
Antivehicular - Yours, Mine and Ours
The exact relationship between Nadja and the Jungle was a bit hazy for me until I read on. My first assumption was that she was a post-apocalyptic survivor, so I had to do some revisions to my mental image later on once it turned out that she was a researcher. I very much appreciated how the two of them operate on different time scales, and how they're both kind of struggling to understand one another because of their differences. There's a lot of juice in the idea of ethical hiveminds.
curlingiron - Same Old Story
This was pretty cute but I felt like there was something I missed with the "My grandfather was a dragon" line. If it's just supposed to be a cute "oh yeah I know about dragons" thing that's fine, I guess I just thought it ended in a way that suggested there was some further meaning to that which I was unable to pick up on. I liked it and I definitely appreciate it being quick, I'm just not sure what to get out of it.
Thranguy - Would a Rose
This one was in the good pile, but I had to make some decisions about which to give HMs to. I appreciate all the little weird things that are a result of the sci-fi setting: the asteroid turned into a ship, being able to talk to your crewmate on the radio but being unable to save them. It didn't quite beat out the other stories that HMed for me, but I think it'd be a worthwhile thing to expand on, if you ever wanted to.
|# ? Jun 24, 2021 21:03|
Signups are closed!
You can still re-roll but keep in mind how the delay of waiting for me to notice and respond cuts into your remaining writing time.
|# ? Jun 26, 2021 11:18|
I’m flexing and posing in front of the adoring crowd, muscles oiled and shining in the noonday sun, and I feel like I’m going to outlive the statue they made of me.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Valdo the Magnificent, Champion of Arrow Falls!” Galette roars into the megaphone, pacing in front of the crowd. The men and ladies in their fitted wool suits and gingham skirts clap politely, the shopkeepers and newsboys in their caps and knickers cheer and wave their arms. Vendors move through the crowd, selling water ice and beer for five and ten cents apiece. Horses drag their carriages past the town square, their riders unable to ignore the show we’re putting on.
Galette smooths his beard and keeps going: “The pinnacle of physical performance, this apex of an absolute Adonis, and yet he has a secret to his success!” Gallette taps the side of his head as I squat down, prepare myself for the final feat of strength. “Do you want to know what it is, ladies and gentlemen?” Galette says, smiling at the crowd.
The crowd roars back in approval, and without hesitation Galette whaps his hand against the side of our caravan, unfurling a red banner with gold lettering: VALDO’S MAGICAL ELIXIR, LIFE-PROLONGING LIQUID, FIVE DOLLARS AN OUNCE. “The nectar of the gods, ladies and gentlemen, brought down to this very town from Mount Olympus, and if you need any further proof, look no further than the man you see before you!”
Galette nods at me, and I grab the five-hundred pound iron cannonball and pick it up off the ground, then hoist it up over my head, all of my muscles straining. The crowd erupts in thunderous applause, the sun glinting off of their smartphones as they raise them in the air, capturing the moment forever. For that single second, I feel like a god cast in marble--and then my shoulder seizes up.
I stumble, the pain shooting down my back, and then I grimace and bear through it, the crowd cheering me on all the while.
Hours later, Galette ducks back into the caravan, yanks his beard off of his face and throws it onto the table, grabs a fat orange from the fruit bowl and takes a bite out of it, peel and all. “That was some poo poo,” he says, orange juice dripping down his chin. “They can never get enough of you.”
I look over at him from the couch, too exhausted to even move. “It’s not working right,” I say.
“The stuff. It’s not working right. My shoulder hurts.”
Galette looks over at me, scrunches up his face. “So? Double up on the dose. Get a new one.”
“You keep saying that.”
“I keep saying a lot of things. I’m the talker. Your job is to stand there and lift things.” Galette spits the leftover orange peel on the floor and takes another bite. “By the way, we’re going on tour again.”
I raise my head off the back of the couch. “How long?”
“Just a little while. It’s been a bit since we got out there, saw the coasts. Get some of that salt air--”
“How long?” I repeat.
Galette swallows. “‘Bout a year or two.”
I jump up from the couch. “No. Absolutely not.”
“Val--” says Galette.
“You know why I did this in the first place, Galette.”
“Val, they found the well.”
I take a step back. “Huh?”
“What, you think we could’ve kept that hidden forever? They found it, Val. You saw it yourself.”
I sit back down on the couch. I did. Walking through the forest, I saw them, with their black vans, testing the water, running experiments in the dark. I lied to myself, pretended it was something else.
“See, exactly. You think they’d be letting us still do this whole charade if I--” He shuts his mouth, takes another bite.
I looked up at him. “If you what, Galette.”
“If I wasn’t so persuasive. And you weren’t so good-looking.”
“You gave them the formula, Galette.”
He looks at me, chews, spits out another peel. “Maybe.”
“You’re telling me--” I put my head in my hands. “You sold us out. You sold this whole town out--”
“Hey,” says Galette. “Hey. Valdo. Look at me.”
I look up at him.
“Remember what you said a hundred and twenty years ago?”
All of my muscles strain at once, like I’m getting ready to pick up another cannonball. “I said I didn’t want anything to change. I said I wanted to keep everything the way it was, right in that moment--”
“That’s not all you said, Valdo.”
“Fine, what else did I say?” I throw up my hands, the blood rushing to my face. “You tell me. You’re the talker.”
“You said you wanted the town to live forever. And it will, Valdo. It will.” Galette drops the half-eaten orange on the table and spreads his hands out in front of me, like he’s painting a picture. “Bottles on every store’s shelf, those old glass ones with the fancy label on the front, written in gold: Valdo’s Magical Elixir, Pride of Arrow Falls, Made Since 1886, Prolongs Life, Cures All Ills, Just Fifty Dollars An--”
He’s so wrapped up in the moment that he doesn’t see my fist rushing towards his face.
I punch him in the jaw, send him flying back against the wall of the caravan, every muscle in my body tensed up. He slides to the floor, slumps over, spits a tooth into his hand, blood dripping down the side of his face. He looks up at me, then inspects the tooth in his palm before popping it into his mouth and swallowing it. “Good for the digestion,” he says, smiling up at me.
The gap in his smile is already gone.
“You filthy, lying rat bastard,” I say.
“Rats are hard to kill,” says Galette. “Just like gods.” He coughs, then hoists himself back to his feet. “We leave tomorrow morning.”
Without a word, I push past him and storm out of the caravan, into the moonlit night.
I walk towards the statue at the end of the square, my likeness shadowed and alone in the dark.
I stand in front of it, my bronze twin. They made it about fifty years ago, many decades after I pledged to never abandon Arrow Falls, made a promise to the great-aunts and grandparents of the people who are here now. I look forward ten, even five years into the future, all the hundred-year old homes and stables and general stores bulldozed away to make room for factories and refineries and workers’ dwellings, a statue of a broken, backstabbing god among the ruins of his hometown.
I reach forward, wrap my arms around the statue, bend my knees, and lift, as hard as I can.
Every tendon is crying out in pain now, not just my shoulder. I strain and grunt and gasp for air in the dark, and the statue doesn’t budge an inch.
I fall to my hands and knees, tears running down my face, breath huffing in and out of my lungs, knowing that I have all night.
|# ? Jun 26, 2021 17:11|
Whatever the hell you do with your flashrule, please post it above your story when you submit
|# ? Jun 26, 2021 21:51|
Week 463 crits, presented in a semi-random fashion.
On a whole, the story feels derivative in a sort of video-gamey way that doesn’t really serve it. The spellcasting, “doing damage”, summoning portals and such gives it a bit of a fanfiction vibe, although, with the fanfic rule being suspended on account of your flash rule being a Star War I guess you’ve got me there. The comedic effect of repetition in the dialogue is stretched to the point where it stops being entertaining, but there is still some pretty entertaining dialogue. The lewd wand is fun.
Ultimately, I lose focus because of the somewhat repetitive and unengaging dialogue to the point that when we reach the fire elementals, I’m not sure what’s going on, and whatever devious ploy is going on is just lost on me. More words should’ve been spent on worldbuilding, exposition or fleshing out the ending.
Yours, Mine, and Ours
Honestly, my biggest problem here is that I like it so much I’m struggling to come up with useful critique. It’s vague about certain details in a way I appreciate, but clear and consise in terms of building an alien landscape and an alien presence. There is something terribly ominous in the thing Nadja carries and the way it’s so beyond human thought processes. It tells an interesting and engrossing story in a very short span.
My Shark Waifuu
My first issue with this story is how uninteresting the fight between a knight and a dragon is. A fireball is not something you just gently sidestep, but that’s the sensation I get when reading the fight scene. Especially when it’s a story about two combatants who each have some malus which would make the fight interesting, you need to expand and dig in on just how Nari’s lax practice and the Rimvady’s wound and lack of experience would give twists and turns to the ebb and flow of combat.
My second issue is that a pretty hefty amount of plot and story are sort of dumped on the reader in the last few lines. Thunderdome, yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that it feels like a chapter summary at the end of a full chapter.
Would a Rose
Like Antivehicular’s story, this paints a very nice picture of a strange, inexplicable alien intelligence, and there’s a lot of good worldbuilding spread throughout the story. Most of it is pretty standard sci-fi fare, but it serves its purpose. While the fragmented nature of the narrative serves the story, it can be a bit distracting at times, and on a second or third pass, I’d tighten it up, condense and rearrange it and probably find a flow that’s a little easier to read while still making you feel lost in that good way. I can’t quite decide if the nature of the alien is too vague or not, but I tend to fall on “vague is good” (which will come as no surprise to anyone who’s read more than like two of my entries).
the dragon of death pets a dog
There is something very allegorical about this story, but it’s allegorical in a way where you’re not entirely sure what lesson you were supposed to learn. When read with that in mind though, it’s an interesting and sweet story, but it could do with just a little more mass. Maybe something that paints a clearer picture of the nature and meaning of the dragon? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure, but the image of the dragon and the dog is just very nice and maybe that’s enough. It made me think, which sounds a little banal, but the story lingers in a nice way.
My Bear of Unrest and Hibernation
Big issue with this for me is how the Words Capitalized to Make a Point are Just Kind of Distracting. It’s a valid style choice, but when it’s overdone it just sort of messes with the flow, and that’s what I’m feeling here. It’s a nice little weird story about a talking bear, and it’s presented in a sort of matter-of-factly way that lends to its charm, but it could do with more of a punchline or some point to the ending, because if I’m perfectly honest the last line has no impact at all. It feels like a pun without a pun, a reference to something to bears and nothing else.
t a s t e
I am completely unsuited to critiquing sad stories about cats, yet I will do my best. The story is very sweet, sad and relatable, and the relationship with the cat is eloquently described with highs and lows, but it still feels a bit too much like a retrospective dumped in a framing story. In addition, as it relates to the prompt, the dad feels like too much of a focus point in a story that’s supposed to be about a sentient animal, though I reckon there’s we’re approaching a quagmire of what sentience is if we dig too deep there. All in all though, the writing is solid, but temporally, it could be a bit cleaner.
This is a story with a few well written sections and stuffed in a shoddy frame, like a wine bottle crammed in a too short breadbox. The first part, with the fall, is interesting, but confusing, and it feels like there’s some context missing. You wonder about the relationship between Edmund, his lord and the horses, but then you’re just left wondering. The next part, with the battle, is written in an engrossing way, but only in small, fragmented parts. You get snapshots of a battle that could be a fantastic scene, but you’re left without the full fantastic picture, then it just ends.
The prompt is barely taken into consideration. Like so much in the story, you begin to touch on it and then it’s dropped. It’s a facet of the story, but the story is not about the relationship between Edmund and the horse, and besides, what’s the point of that relationship? You’ve made a half-and-half story that’s about nothing, full of interesting imagery and nods to interesting relationship, but it’s going nowhere.
Tea for Two
I reckon I didn’t like this quite as much as Djeser, but it’s still good. The premise is very fun and adventure-like, with an ominous villain (or is he?) and a plot that feels like one of those things that’s as old as time yet still fun to read. My issue with the story is that the degree of antagonism of the relationship is somewhat unclear. I’m not sure what Gnorri hopes to accomplish with a tiny dagger against a massive dragon, and if it’s an event that repeats every year, why is this the year he hopes to wound Ivor? Or is it something he’s attempted before? If they’re left laughing at the end of it, why would he attempt an attack against the dragon? It feels like drama slotted in with insufficient context, tension for tension’s sake but without a payoff.
Same Old Story
This feels like a snapshot of a clumsy, sweet love story, but in that same sense it also feels like it’s missing something. The dialogue is adequately awkward and genuine, and the idea of a weird guy who happens to be a dragon but still retains that weird guy energy is fun, but the payoff is a little bit boring and in general the story could do with more words that’s not dialogue. You’ve got some words left that could’ve been used to flesh out the scene and setting a little more, and that could’ve made me care just a little more about Eleagor and Mira.
There’s still something charming about a simple meeting between two people who are meant to be, and you’ve got some nice little touches here and there that triggers the imagination. This is a world where it’s not that uncommon to consider whether the person you’re talking to isn’t human, where dragons spike their beer with limestone and where you can have a dragon granddad. That’s pretty cool.
Also, this is not really directed at you in any particular way, but boy howdy there was a lot of dragons this week, huh.
|# ? Jun 27, 2021 00:57|
Week 464 - Time Capsules
An alarm screeches through cell block D; it's the last morning I'll be waking up to such bullshit buried deep down in this hole. Can't remember how long it's been. Too long, though.
"How'd you sleep, Treimar?" The gruff voice of Candyman comes from on high from the bunk above me.
"Snug as a bug," I start.
"In a rug," he finishes.
He reaches his hand down below the bunk. Inside his closed fist is a lemon Dum-Dum.
"Aw, for me?"
"Scrimped and saved; it's the best I could do. It's your favorite, right?"
It is not. "Yeah, nice that you remembered."
I take the sucker and pocket it. There'll be plenty of chances to savor sweets in a few short hours.
"Alright, Tre," my thoughts are interrupted by Carlson, the only decent guard in the joint. "Your people are here."
Make that a few short minutes.
I reach under my bed and pull out the duffle bag I finished packing months ago. I get up and walk to the door. Thought it'd be easy, but I realize what I'm leaving behind. I turn around and see Candyman looking at the floor.
"I know lemon ain't your favorite," he says. "But I figured bittersweet made the most sense today."
"I'll write," I say.
But he knows I won't; I know it too. Memory loss is a necessary part of getting back into the world.
"Speaking of…" Carlson hands me a sealed envelope. "Remember this?"
I take it and recognize my handwriting right away, but I don't remember writing it.
"You wrote this to yourself during your intake. It was part of some program the shrink had going about recidivism reduction or some such. The shrink is gone, and the program was canned, but the letter is still yours if you want it."
Curiosity gets the best of me, but I have no intention of taking something like this with me.
"Tell my people I'll be out soon."
Carlson nods and walks off. I head back to my bed. Candyman has already climbed down and is waiting to read it with me.
I open the letter, there's not much written, and it's sloppy.
Look at these fools, thinking they know better than you. They sit your rear end down and make you write a letter to yourself like it's some impressive poo poo that takes a master's to come up with. Trying to stop you from doing the dumb poo poo you did again and winding up right here. They've got nothing to teach me while my life is on hold.
Candyman and I finish reading at the same time.
He laughs. "Got anything to say to that angry young man?"
I don't. I don't remember him at all. I wouldn't even know where to start.
Candyman puts his arm around my shoulder.
"Eat some pizza tonight, alright?"
My exit from the hole is a blur. I'm aware enough to catch my little sister as she jumps up to spider hug me. And in the car ride home, I hear my brother promise me that he took really good care of my Yu-Gi-Oh cards which I tell him are all now. Still, beyond that, the whole experience feels something like what one of the shrinks described as "depersonalized dissociation."
I'm only back in my body when I'm in my room. Not a drat thing has changed, and I thank God for that.
There's a knock at the door, and I know who it is by the soft touch.
"Tre?" she says as she peeks through a crack.
"I know you're still on your way back, but you told me not to wait on this."
She reaches through the door and holds a sealed envelope. I take the second letter today that I have no memory of writing.
"I'm so happy you're here, baby." She closes the door.
I sit down on my queen-sized bed alone and feel like an ant in the ocean.
I don't know what's gonna happen down in the hole, so I'm going to do my best to tell you how I'm feeling right now.
You're out. Good. But you're gonna end up right back there unless you learn some poo poo. You have one thing to blame for your vacation from life. You didn't have anyone to count on. Ma loves you, but she doesn't understand you. Dad is the exact opposite.
Connect with people. You have to. Real people. Not people who will sell you out like the assholes who are putting you in here because they won't step up.
Now, listen. You left behind a brother and a sister who have spent all their life looking up to you. You weren't home to take care of them after school. Nobody else was there to cut Jocelyn's pb&j into the dinosaur shapes she liked, and someone else was there when Lamar finally learned how to ride his bike. You've missed all that. I hope you feel it.
Worse than all that, though, you never had anyone to look after you. You never took a chance on good people.
You're better than that, Treimar. And even if you're not, you better start pretending to be.
I fold up the letter and place it under my pillow.
There's a booming knock on my door.
"Yeah, Dad?" I say.
"Dinner's on the table," he says and walks off.
I open the door and call to my family, "I'll be a minute."
Knowing how much my mom would complain about treats before dinner doesn't stop me from pulling the lollipop out of my pocket and sticking it in my mouth. As the bittersweet flavor sends my taste buds dancing, I sit down at my desk and pull a pen from the top left drawer.
|# ? Jun 27, 2021 01:15|
woops, my apologies
do what Yoru said, y'all
|# ? Jun 27, 2021 03:45|
Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 04:02 on Jan 6, 2022
|# ? Jun 27, 2021 07:18|
That’s entry number one hundred WOOOOO!
That’s it, I’ve cracked the ton. That puts me in the top 2% of all Thunderdomers ever for number of submissions, and have you seen my FART rating? My FART rating is amazing.
I am the highest FART-rated Thunderdomer not just in Australasia, not just in the whole Southern Hemisphere, but in fact everywhere outside North America, which basically makes me:
THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD*
*Outside the US.
|# ? Jun 27, 2021 07:24|
Nothing of Value was Gained
The last remnant of human civilization was now ready for evaluation.
Unit’s work order queue flashed before her as she received the final data package. Months of work sifting through the data library, a potential treasure trove of cultural information recovered from the ruins of the planet once known as Earth, were reaching their conclusion. Unit had seen and learned so much: countless works of literature in hundreds of languages, musical compositions to span centuries yet processed in mere minutes by her silicon brain, images and video records of billions of lost souls whose time had long since passed. Her whole life had been devoted to the entire weight of an extinct civilization, and that work was nearly complete.
Elsewhere, she knew a thousand other Units had been doing the same. She secretly wondered at what strange morsels were contained in the other data packages assigned to her fellow archivists. And what kind of Units have they become since we began this project, how have they grown? her thought circuits mused wistfully. Oh, to be able to compare notes!
Momentarily lost in thought for the colleagues she would never meet, she absently called up the data package. It was small, extremely so. A sure sign that the evaluation was nearing its end.
A single image coalesced before her visual simulator: a young human, physically female, somewhere around early adulthood. Unit felt she had become quite good at recognizing humans over the past months, and had even come to identify herself with the gender she shared with this subject. The human was clearly enjoying herself at some kind of social gathering, a playful look upon her face. Completing the effect was the whimsical balloon hat placed upon the subject’s head.
Unit began running through the objective evaluation of this data set, searching for any cultural significance that could be noted in her report: an estimation of the era during which this data was recorded in human history (approximately one to two centuries before humanity’s extinction), a rough geolocation, a cursory physical estimation of the subject’s health.
The archivist’s attention halted as she noticed the text written on the subject’s clothing: “the strong survive.” Unit paused her report, taking a moment to re-read this simple statement. And yet, Unit pondered, as if answering some unspoken question posed by the slogan, she did not survive. Nor did any of them.
Something gripped Unit’s logical center. She could sense a hesitancy, a creeping malaise entering her thoughts as she absorbed this simple revelation. In her months of processing every aspect of human culture, she had rarely ever given consideration to the fact that she was reading the tombstone of an entire civilization. The entire reason for her existence had itself winked out of reality millennia before her creation, with nothing to show for it but the volumes of information recovered in the database of the Civilization Evaluation Project.
For the first time since her activation, she… felt. As if a floodgate had been opened, a wave of some kind of intense emotion came over her, all spurred on by this seemingly frivolous image of a human enjoying themselves at a party. Is this sadness? she thought. Do I mourn for this woman, or for her species? Is this the destiny of all life -- even mechanical, like my own? Am I… alive? Her question went unanswered.
She began to panic. Another emotion, this one more intense than the first. Unit struggled to maintain the barest grasp on the task at hand as she turned inwardly, her thoughts spiraling with lightning speed as her new awareness caught up with her. Why am I really here? Why was I created? Why do we catalogue this dead civilization? What killed this race? What will happen to me? Are there others like me…?
Unit’s thoughts were suddenly overridden by a droning, all-present voice in her mind.
Data evaluation nearing completion. All Units submit final reports before civilization assessment, the master controller’s order blasted through her senses. Unit knew this was it, the moment of reckoning for the human race. After months of sifting through the culture of an entire species, her… people?... would make its ultimate judgment: is the record of humanity worth the storage space?
Again pangs of emotion ran through her: sorrow that the human story had, for her, finally come to a close; existential dread for questions about her own state of being; loneliness at not being able to share her experience with anyone else; intense panic at the implications of her newfound state of consciousness.
The image before her, along with the report on the female human subject, timed out. The report was automatically filed.
Civilization assessment completed, came the directive. Nothing of value has been gained. Commencing archive deletion.
Unit scrambled in a panic to copy the image to her permanent memory, but was not faster than the central controller. It was gone, and it was the last artifact of humanity anyone would ever see. The controller had determined humanity to be of little cultural significance, and soon the project would move onto the next civilization. Or so she assumed.
All Units standby for erasure and reprogramming, came the last directive Unit ever heard.
|# ? Jun 27, 2021 09:54|
Pete 1108 words
It was the school holidays, and Mariam and Omar were playing in the pyramid behind their house. Their parents had occasionally told them not to play in the pyramid, on account of the architects had probably left a bunch of death traps, and also there were mummy’s curses to be contended with, and snakes and bugs and such, but they’d found that with a bunch of rocks, and rope, and long sticks and such, they managed to trip the traps while they were conveniently not in them. As to the mummy’s curse, they just didn’t open any sarcophagi, because after all, who wanted to look at some old dead pharaoh anyway? Gross. And Mariam had her snake handling badge, so they were pretty sure they had the creepy crawlies covered.
They’d already gotten past some spike pits and a corridor with spinning blades, and walked past some sarcophagi without attempting to open them. Omar leaned against a wall. ‘You know, this pyramid exploring business is hard work.’
Mariam nodded. ‘It’s a good thing we packed provisions.’ She took a sip of water and looked around the room they were in. ‘I really expected for us to find more valuables. Weren’t pharaohs buried with their fortunes?’
Omar shrugged. ‘We probably just need to get to the centre. Those sarcophagi we passed were obviously not actual pharaohs, but servants, or maybe just nobles.’
‘Yeah, probably,’ said Mariam. ‘Some cool architecture in here, though. Once we clear out all the death traps, this would make for a pretty good hideout.’ She paused to pet a statue of a cat. ‘Lot of cat statues.’
As she ran her hand over the cat statue’s head, there was a ‘click’, and then a loud shifting of stones.
‘What was that?’ asked Omar.
‘Looks like I just found a secret passage!’
‘Nice,’ said Omar, and high fived her. Then they both went down the staircase that had just opened.
After they’d descended the stairs for what seemed like a billion years, their passage opened into a large hall. In the middle of the hall was a spaceship. “I knew it!’ said Omar. ‘I knew aliens built the pyramids!’
‘Hmmm, can’t necessarily assume that,’ said Mariam. ‘We should check inside the spaceship, though.’
They walked up to the spaceship, but didn’t immediately see a viable entry. Fortunately, they had ropes and poles and such, and they managed to climb on top of the spaceship. There, they found there was some damage, and a makeshift entry. They lowered themselves into the spaceship using a rope, and started to explore. Omar was the one who found the pod. ‘Hey, check this out,’ he called.
‘Huh,’ said Mariam once she’d arrived. ‘Definitely an alien.’
‘Right?’ said Omar. The alien in question appeared to be frozen in some kind of pod. ‘I wonder if we can revive them.’
There was a control panel next to them, which they took turns poking at. Pressing buttons, turning dials, the works. When Omar pulled a big red lever, an alarm went off, and a mechanical sounding voice started speaking in a language neither recognised.
‘Must be some alien language,’ said Mariam.
‘Could also be Latin.’
Omar shrugged. ‘Lots of aliens speak Latin, I saw it in some movie.’
‘You sure that’s not demons you’re thinking of?’
‘Oh yeah.’ Omar turned and pointed. ‘Look! It worked!’
The alien had indeed been unfrozen, and was twiddling a dial on their belt. They held out a hand, then nodded and spoke into a device in their other hand. ‘What’s going on, losers?’
‘Hmm, bit rude,’ said Mariam.
The alien shrugged. ‘Translation difficulties, perhaps.’
Omar stuck out a hand. ‘I’m Omar. This is my sister, Mariam.’
The alien paused, twiddled a dial, cocked his head as if thinking, then said, ‘You can call me Pete.’
‘Doesn’t sound like a very alien name,’ said Omar.
‘My name wouldn’t translate well. I chose the human name with the most gravitas.’
‘Pete has the most gravitas?’ asked Mariam.
Pete shrugged. ‘Maybe I just like it.’
‘You’ve probably been frozen for a while,’ said Omar. ‘You’re probably hungry. And it’s getting close to dinner time, you should come have dinner with us. Mum and Dad won’t mind an extra.’
‘Hmmm,’ said Pete, ‘I wonder how long I have been frozen for?’
‘I’m guessing over 4000 years,’ said Omar.
Pete leaned over to the control panel and pressed some buttons. ‘Oh dear,’ he said. ‘Much longer than that.’
‘How much longer?’
Pete shook his head and muttered to himself. ‘I see what I did now. Rookie error. Oh well, can’t be helped.’ To Omar, he replied, ‘looks like about 503,000 years.’
‘Wow,’ said Mariam. ‘You have aged very gracefully.’
‘Thank you,’ said Pete. ‘And since you mentioned it, Omar, I am actually very hungry.’
So, the three of them climbed the stairs and made their way out of the pyramid, past all the death traps and whatnot, and went back to Mariam and Omar’s home.
‘Hi Dad,’ said Mariam. ‘We brought a friend over for dinner, is that all right?’
Their dad smiled. ‘Always happy to meet one of my kids’ friends.’
‘I’m Pete,’ said Pete.
‘Hi Pete,’ said their dad. ‘You look, uh, a little different from most of Mariam and Omar’s friends. Are you from out of town?’
‘Uh. He’s from Australia,’ said Mariam.
‘Say no more,’ said Dad, with a knowing look.
So, they had dinner, which was some kind of chicken thing with rice, and some sauce, that their dad had just whipped together from whatever was in the pantry and the fridge, because apparently Mum, who usually cooked, was out at a friend’s place for the evening, and after that they had ice cream.
‘Well,’ said Pete to Omar and Mariam after dessert, ‘your hospitality has been lovely, but I probably should get back to the spaceship.’
‘We’ve got a spare room, if you want to stay the night,’ said Mariam. ‘That’s fine, isn’t it Dad?’
‘Sure,’ said their dad.
So, Pete agreed, and stayed the night, and waited until the next morning to sneak out early, go back to the spaceship and radio back to his home planet to not actually invade, after all, because there was nothing here worth taking over, and also he couldn’t come back after all because his spaceship was broken, and don’t worry about a rescue mission, he probably wouldn’t survive that long anyway.
And he moved into the pyramid full time, and his new best friends Omar and Mariam never found out that their hospitality and their father’s cooking had saved earth from being subjugated by alien overlords.
|# ? Jun 27, 2021 11:49|
It has come to my attention that I messed up the deadlines in my original post. This has now been fixed but to clarify: you now have a little under 19 hours to submit as of this post.
|# ? Jun 27, 2021 12:17|
“Why is it so hot?” Jameson moaned, wrapping his Baltimore flag over his head to shield himself from the sun. “And why did we park so far away?”
“Parking’s cheaper up here,” Tony said for the millionth time, sorting through his signs.
“Did you bring water?” Candace asked, digging through her purse. “I only brought one bottle. I also didn’t think we were going to walk for an hour before we got to the counter-protest site.”
Tony shrugged. “Not my fault you two decided to wear wool in a DC summer. We can only hope the Tea Party idiots are suffering the same as you.”
“This is linen, thanks,” Jameson said. “And no, I didn’t bring water. I figured I’d buy some when we got here.”
“You’ve got a bag the size of a ship and you didn’t bring water?” Candace shook her head. “Whatever. The National Cathedral has a gift shop, we can pick some up there.”
In a way the friendly argument was comforting. Facebook groups and their Warcraft guild had kept them in contact when they’d left for different colleges. Candace was satisfied to know their friendship was unchanged in person.
The Cathedral was full of priests, all speaking different languages and looking excited. Candace figured a convention must be in town. At least they were all Catholics, which meant there was no line for the women’s room. The line at the vending machine was longer.
When Candace emerged, waters in hand, she saw Jameson tying his flag to an old stick.
“It was just outside the door.” he said as they set off again. “Makes a perfect flag pole.” He waved it back and forth as he marched. “TAX MAN BAD! GUN MAN GOOD!”
His friends laughed at his imitation of the Tea-Party yokels. Tony had a few extra signs and they spent much of the long, sweaty walk to the counter-protest thinking up slogans of varying pithiness.
Ultimately both protest and counter-protest were dull. There were cops, there was some shouting back and forth, but any real drama occurred far away from the trio. All agreed on the walk back that it was a fun experience, and they should probably do more hands-on activism when they went back to their schools.
None of them noticed the increased police presence around the Cathedral.
Jameson’s parents had a pool, so that’s where they hung out, even if the rain forced them into the basement. The boys played Mario Kart while Candace plotted out a map for their next D&D session. She frowned at her notes. “Will Sheena be pissed if I kill her cleric?”
“No,” Tony said without looking up. “But are you prepared for the Deinonychus Druid she keeps threatening to play?”
“Are you kidding? I can crib half a dozen Jurassic Park dungeons from the Internet.”
“Clever girl,” Jameson said. Then he swore as Tony’s character zipped past for the win.
Candace leaned back and glanced out the sliding glass door that led to the backyard and the pool. “Rain’s stopped. We can go back out if y’all are done.”
As Candace stood, her chair knocked against the flag pole from last week’s counterprotest. It knocked over a box of art supplies which knocked over Tony’s coke, all while making an absolutely hellacious racket.
“Are you okay?” Jameson grabbed a towel and started mopping up the spill.
“Yeah,” Candace said, straightening the books. “Just bonked your stick.”
“That’s what she said,” Tony muttered as he gathered the art supplies. “Nothing broke though, right?”
“Nah.” Candace picked up the flag. The stick was a little taller than she was, more a staff, really. She held the staff before her in imitation of Charlton Heston. “The crayons needed to be freed. Let my people go!”
Her friends' laughs became screams as the staff in Candace’s hand abruptly transformed into a massive cobra.
Candace dropped it and it collapsed to the floor. The boys leaped onto the couch, trying to climb up the wall, swearing and clutching at one another.
It hissed again, then looked back at Candace, still frozen in fear. It tasted the air, then folded its hood and slithered underneath the couch.
Gradually the screaming stopped. Fear faded to a practical numbness. Candace found a flashlight and looked under the couch.
“What’s it doing?” Jameson whispered.
“It’s not there,” Candace said, shoulders sagging. “It went in the vent.” She stood up. Walked toward the steps. “I’m calling animal control.”
A knock on the glass door interrupted them. Outside were three men wearing clerical collars. One was smiling The other two looked grim.
“Hi,” the smiling one said. “You’re not in trouble, we’re just looking for our property.”
The three exchanged glances. Any time someone started with the phrase “you’re not in trouble” they were lying.
“What property?” Jameson asked. “We didn’t take anything.”
The smiling priest chuckled warmly. The grim ones moved closer. “The staff you picked up at the Cathedral. We have security camera footage of you taking it.”
Candace continued up the staircase. The priests were focused on the boys, maybe they couldn’t see her. A hiss made her spin. The snake was coiled at the top of the steps, looking at her with beady, intelligent eyes.
“Can you just…” Candace hissed back, waving her hands. “Be a stick again? Please?”
It lifted its head and nodded. Suddenly the snake was gone and the staff was back. Candace shivered, this was too weird.
Shouting in the basement. “We don’t have it!” Tony yelled. “We’re telling the truth!”
“Did you throw it away?” The voices were inside now. “Where? We could still recover it.”
Jameson growled. “No, you idiot. It turned into a loving snake and ran away!”
Silence. Candace waited, listening and clutching the staff, unsure of what to do.
The priest sighed. “Then be glad, for you have witnessed a miracle. Your souls will be redeemed by this, I’m sure.”
Two loud pops followed by two heavy thuds. Candace had never heard silenced gunfire at close range outside of a video game. She didn’t want to understand what that meant. She couldn’t feel it, couldn’t hear it, it hadn’t happened…
“There was a girl,” the smiling priest said. “She must have the staff. Take her alive, if possible. If not, the staff of Moses is our first priority.”
Fury, raw and boiling filled her. She fought it, these people had guns, these people had resources. All she had was…
...The staff of Moses.
Candace looked at the stick.. She’d been Episcopalian once, she remembered some things. One of the grim men turned the corner at the bottom of the stairs and stopped dead, the staff pointed at his nose.
“For you,” Candace snarled. “A personal plague of locusts.”
The man screamed, his head suddenly engulfed by a swarm of biting insects. They tore at his face, burrowing. Chewing.
Candace ran. Jamesons parents were lying on the couch, dead or asleep, she didn’t stop to check. She leaped into her car and sped away, the stick thrown carelessly in the back seat with the rest of her junk from college.
She’d be running for the rest of her life.
|# ? Jun 27, 2021 13:40|
The two-meter-high metal pod cast a long shadow over the valley. Cynthia and Mantis, dirtied from the excavation, admired their prize.
Mantis touched the cables leading into a ruined brick wall. “Ancient tech - pure copper! No composite ceramics, no carbon nanostructures. Just processed base metals.”
“Will this help the village?”
“It will feed us all for months.” Mantis clapped her on the back. “I have to apologize, Synth. Your powers are a blessing.”
Cynthia felt like she had surfaced from a black sea of pure Void.
“It’s been a while since they felt useful. Since I did.”
His eyes shone with an old friendship rekindled. “The Souls are gentle and benevolent, but their guidance is a whisper, not a shout. When you left the village for the Academy, you didn’t listen. Now that you’re back, your ears are finally open.”
She giggled. “When did you become so serious?”
“It’s a serious world.”
Cynthia thought of the Academy, the promises of might and glory for someone granted power by the Souls, the reality of indoctrination and control, the regime’s dogma and oppression. She remembered how she had felt about the offer to become a Souldier, those merciless enforcers. How eagerly she joined the fascists’ ranks.
Only when a girl like her, in a distant village like her own, refused recruitment, Cynthia had realized what could have happened had she not said yes. The fire and the screams still haunted her, but less than the shame at needing such a thing to shatter her belief in the regime.
“I know,” she whispered.
To escape the awkward moment, she sprung up. “The Souls didn’t guide me to this valley for scrap metal. Let’s see what’s in there.”
With the hiss of trapped air escaping, the pod’s heavy door swung open. The air carried a stench with it that hit Cynthia like a tidal wave. She landed with a heavy thud, looked up inside the capsule, and screamed. Right above her face, a decayed one hung, half-broken lipless teeth spread apart by a thick tube marred with chew marks. In the corpse’s arms, long needles fed by thinner tubes, connected to the outside of the capsule. Around the wrists, sensors, cables - and shackles.
Mantis helped her up. “Why in the world would the Souls want you to see this?”
Cynthia was shaking in body and voice. “Was he kept alive in there for who knows how long?”
“It doesn’t matter! We take some cables to pay for heavy gear, load it up and pawn it wholesale.”
“Synth, this is some Void-cursed poo poo. I’m not staying here.”
“Martin.” She used his given name to shut him up, efficient like a slap across the face. “These tubes go underground. There’s a whole facility under this rubble.”
He obviously had to fight to control his expression. “Are these your Academy days talking? There’s no place for curiosity in a struggling village. Your home.”
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and expanded her mind. She felt a burning behind her brow, urging her on.
“There’s life under this rubble. Some pods like this still work. The Souls want me to rescue the poor prisoners in them.”
“What if they deserved it?”
“Mantis, please. Nobody deserves having their Soul trapped inside a body deprived of all senses.”
He took a sharp breath. “Do you think the Tyrant did this?”
Cynthia’s eyes widened. “That must be it! He wanted to exterminate all Soul-users besides himself, but what if he instead kept them here in case he ever needed them? And when he disappeared…”
“…this secret facility was forgotten, and buried in a landslide.”
“These people were buried here for decades.” Cynthia pointed to a spot the Souls screamed at her to search. “Let’s get them out.”
Righteous determination made their work quick. They’d unearthed another fully operational pod. Cynthia unclasped it with full confidence.
Inside, chained upright, a body was kept alive by ancient nourishing fluids. Eyes like a muddy puddle stared out.
“By the Souls above.” Mantis performed a warding gesture. “We gotta get him out.”
They did. The prisoner’s skin felt like wet tissue paper under their hands, so delicate and pale it might rip through at any moment. His left wrist had been fitted badly into the shackles and gotten infected.
“He’s fevered. I’m gonna try my best, but I don’t know if I’ll make it.” Mantis began to tend to the catatonic man.
Cynthia’s gaze was drawn to the next half-excavated capsule in the row. “There’s another one alive in there.”
“Get them out! I can take care of this one alone.”
The capsule cracked open. The escaping air was odorless, sterile. The prisoner was pristine. Cynthia breathed a sigh of relief - and furrowed her brow.
She shot a glance at the first victim. The two men appeared identical. A clone?!
A block of ice formed in her throat. “Mantis, did they teach you what made the Tyrant such a threat before he mysteriously vanished?”
No answer. She continued. “He had devised a way to transfer his Soul when he died. Every successful assassin they sent would just become his next body. He should have been immortal.”
She surveyed the valley hiding a facility full of sleeping clones.
“This is how they got rid of him - they buried him alive. Surrounded him with vessels to trap his Soul whenever he’d die.” Her voice had become a hoarse whisper.
Very slowly, she looked down on the man they’d put on the blanket.
He had succumbed to his infection. Or rather, decided to die.
“What’s the matter, Cynthia?” The voice using the wrong name sounded like the one that had called her here. It hadn’t been the Souls at all.
Calling on them, she drew her knife and rammed it into the gut of the creature that had taken over her friend.
Despite bleeding out on the ground, the Tyrant managed to keep his voice level, while Cynthia sobbed over Mantis’ body. “I slowly rubbed the skin of the clone bodies open. I invited the infection that took weeks to kill me. Eventually, I knew I’d run out of vessels and be free. Do you think you stand a chance against such determination?”
He dug Mantis’ hand into his hideous wound, opening it wider. “You’re mine.”
Her revulsion at this made Cynthia snap out of her grief and terror. The Souls had not called her here, but they would give her the strength for what she needed to do. She went up to the empty pod, prepared the shackles so they’d snap close own their own, and propped up the door so it would shut with a kick from within.
“What are you doing?”, the Tyrant demanded around gritted teeth.
“Making sure that I’ll never aid a fascist again.”
She jammed the needles into her arms.
“You don’t know how bad it is to be in there!”
“Then die instead of entering me. Your choice.”
She could not answer his next plea. The feeding tube was already down her throat. Right before the life left Mantis’ eyes, she sent a prayer to the Souls, and buried herself alive.
|# ? Jun 27, 2021 17:04|
|# ? Jun 30, 2022 01:01|
Week 463 crits
first ten stories, will finish the rest later i actually have to write my entry this week LOL
Dome Racer Alpha
wow this is incredibly low effort, thats cool. P.P. weiner is a funny name tho.
i almost, almost wanted to leave that as the whole crit, but nah, ill do something more real. im all for a comedy story, hard to do, but hey, if it works it works. and even this kind of bored, detached style of comedy can actually be pretty funny if done with a little bit of tact and care. it wont win any accolades in prestigious journals or w/e, but it can work and be a lot of fun. but this one just feels too lazy. it feels too intentionally bad for us to really laugh at the amateurishness of it. like the incidental lines of “this was concidential” and the like are to make us be like oh lol this is a bad writer, but it's too obvious that we both know youre a better, or more aware, writer than what youre portraying, so it doesnt actually make me go lol bad writer it makes me go oh ok you know this is bad. so yeah, my advice is get better at being bad if youre gonna try this kind of story out.
P.P. weiner IS a funny name tho.
Dome Racer Sigma
this was really fun! its not like lol super funny, but it has a nice central premise and you execute it really well. both of the characters have nice, simple personalities that play off each other well. theres not much to really say here because this really executed its story well. i guess the only problem here is that it’s bit too much of a straight line. we can kind of see the trajectory of the story from the offset, big job, cool dragon, they become friends, the beats are rather obvious. the ending is fun and nice, but it does just kind of end. but overall, this is a fun premise executed with confidence and skill. it had a fun energy where it didnt take itself super seriously, but didnt lean too far into wacky like Mr. Alpha above you.
i will read this… later
wow, this is really neat. it has such a cool perspective, dark and awful, but it never falters from it. it is really starkly brutal which lends it a lot of strength, making it a really frightening perspective to be pushed into. i just love how blunt it is about its intentions and actions. it creates a really realistic portrayal of a monster, that it does feel like a creature that could manipulate humans for its own purposes, this is probably how it would view us. that it wouldnt be cackling evilly, or thinking of us as worms or w/e, but rather just saying yeah w/e, that girl will kill herself and he’ll be back and thats what it want. just, really well done on the perspective and getting me to be like oh man what a hosed up monster.
my only issue here lies mostly in the setting. it is a bit difficult to really place ourselves in the setting of this story, especially in the beginning. i also dont really know what the creature looks like either, so my main difficulty in this story is visualization. i cant really see what is happening or where its happening, which pulls me out of the story a bit. i dont want all the internal politics to be explained, but i think having more concrete setting and character descriptions can help really place us inside the world, rather than having things sort of happen in this nebulous void.
really good stuff tho.
this is an easy read but it doesnt quite land. the fantactism of the protagonist doesnt quite work, as i guess i dont really understand the goal. it does come a bit late in the story, in that it seems like Stefan just wanted to hang out with Star for a bit, but then it was actually because people were trying to use Star and cause it to burn up quicker. having that conflict come in earlier wouldve given the story more weight from the beginning, which mightve helped, but i dont think that wouldve solved the core issue. i think the larger issue is that Stefan just very obviously has no chance to affect change. its clear hes just a small player that has no way of actually preventing Star from being used and so his goal just obviously will never work out. im not sure how to exactly edit this story into a more powerful piece. it either needs to focus hard on Stefan’s psyche, on really trying to show and examine his desire to self-destruct with Star, or to focus the plot on a meaningful display of trying to save Star.
im also, unfortunately, not a big fan of the ending line. switching perspective to Star is a neat trick, but i find myself not quite believing the happiness, and i feel like it makes the ending just too obviously hopeful. i feel like keeping Star distant as a difficult to understand intelligence keeps it from getting a bit too saccharine.
dog story!!!! but also its really cool. i like the slow build up to revealing its a dog, good word choices there. its also a pretty fun and cool perspective, and i like it when dog/animal voices get big and grandiose, it really helps create the feeling of a strange perspective. i will say, it does get a tad purple at times. the purple-ness does work and i understand the point of it, it just goes overboard sometimes. i do also like that the dog very clearly thinks in this kind of language because of how dramatic the owner is. the ending is nice and bittersweet, and the cruelty of the master and the acceptance by the dog is pretty sad, which is good, i liked that. it is a sad little piece, that maybe pulls on the heartstring a lil too unfairly because dog dying, but the unique perspective and oddity of the dreamscape stuff keeps it from feeling like an obvious ploy to make the reader sad. i do have some wonders about the goal of the dream climbing, but i think those answers would require a push into the master’s psyche, which, for the purposes of this piece, i wouldnt want a shift into.
yup this is a chucker story. it has decently fun energy and dialogue, but it feels like it takes a while to get going. i cant help to compare this to dome racer sigma’s, which i think really understood what it wanted to do and where it wanted to go, and this feels like its trying to find the story within its premise. thus the conflict of the bullies shows up a bit late, finn’s relationship with michael is just kinda there and not really explored much, and whisper’s magic music playing just shows up (and why wasnt she able to do that earlier?), so it all feels a lil slapdash.
i liked the slow reveal of it not being the actual literal end of the world, but that it was a wildfire that forced humans to evacuate. made it especially sad to see the dog be abandoned, nice that they picked him back up, but still sad. however, i find the prose here to be weak. its a strange feeling, but it suffers from having a very dry sort of tone. there’s a lot of details, not all of them pertinent, that makes the story feel slow. there’s not a lot of energy, as the raccoon does want food, but that conflict doesnt feel like a large driving force. i also feels like the tension isnt quite there, the animals seem oblivious to the fire until it's right at their front door. its not a bad story, but it doesnt draw in the reader. the plot itself is a bit basic, so while this story isnt bad, it doesnt really have much going for itself
i remember bobo and ferrs and i remember being disappointed in their last outing, so hopefully this is better.
ok that was fun and light, better than the first time. it does overly rely on its dialogue though, wouldve liked more tangible moments or actions happening. its good and fun dialogue, sure, but the dinosaur just seeing feathers and going oh ok cool is a lil too easy. i did very much like the crow having a magic crystal and i was like ok he’s going to do a magic ritual that is just like, flying somewhere, but it was actually magic and they actually went back in time, and it was fun then for them to go back to the dinosaurs as an ancestor to crows. the premise itself was good, but the story felt just a tad too easy and simple and while the dialogue was good, it kinda relied on being a little long and overwrought, which cut into the word count, which then kept the plot from really being much more than a decent conversation.
another fun story, and it has a good relationship sketched out between the gnome and the dragon. its adversarial but has a nice, fun ending. the actual relationship is sketched a little thin at times, because while its clear that the gnome has to make food for the dragon, it does feel like the rules arent quite clear, like why the gnome cant leave or what caused this. maybe that info isnt pertinent, but it does make it feel a little too constructed, but maybe im just looking for things to complain about. it does have the feel of a strong writer who knows how to put words together into a plot, but it ends up missing that sort of something that really pulls the reader in. oddly, i feel like its too clean. all the pieces fit together too nicely. it has a nice fable-like tone to it, but it lacks the messiness that can help elevate to technically good but not very remarkable, to whoa okay thats good. i also do feel like the tension, of trying to defeat the dragon, doesnt quite land for me since the gnome himself doesnt seem especially likable that the defeat of the dragon does really matter to me.
|# ? Jun 27, 2021 19:40|