The Pull of the Moon
flerp fucked around with this message at 20:40 on Jul 5, 2021
|# ? Jun 27, 2021 22:34|
|# ? Jun 27, 2022 09:21|
A Gift for Grandpa
Zipping through cyberspace on my hoverboard, I finally find the right door. It leads to the ancient site my grandpa always talks about, and looks like it hadn’t been accessed in ages. I shiver in my haptic suit, which translates to a cold-face emoji appearing above my head. I’m more used to the modern Web, with its neon storefronts and chatrooms and people buzzing around in silly avatars. Here, in the Web’s Archives, there’s just an empty maze of doors leading to ancient websites. It’s dark and creepy, but I’m here for the memes. It’s Gramps’ birthday soon and I want to get him something special.
Hesitently, I try the handle. It’s locked. I knock on the door, wait a few seconds, then give up. Hey, I tried. I turn to leave and come face-to-face with a program. I jump back, activating my anti-virus shield. Someone has coded it to look like a 21st century anime man. “Ooh, a visitor!” he says. “Do you have your username and password?”
I vaguely remember learning about such ancient security measures in e-school. “Uh, no,” I say. “I’ve got my digital fingerprint, that’s what we use these days.”
The program shakes his head but doesn’t seem hostile, so I lower my shield. “I only do username and password, dude.”
I wrack my brains, trying to recall what the teacher had said. “Oh, right! Can I sign up for an account?” I say the magic words. I can’t believe that boring history class actually came in handy.
“Sure thing,” the man says. “That will be ten US dollars, please.”
What. The class didn’t cover this. “I need to pay you to enter? Who are you?”
“I am the paywall.”
“Well, paywall, the US merged into MegaAmerica like a hundred years ago. I can give you some cryptocoins or Webbucks instead?” A crossed-fingers emoji rises above my head.
“Tough poo poo, I’m only programmed to accept USD.” The paywall smirks. “I guess you better go out and find some.”
Ugh, annoying. I set a bookmark at the door, warn the paywall I’ll be back, then hoverboard out of the alley. Why did I think meme archaeology would be easy?
My first stop is the Finance District, where people with very serious avatars trade all types of money. The banks there don’t have USD but do sell other physical currency. I buy as many currencies as I can find-- MegaAmerica Bucks, Pan-Asian yuan, Euros, etc.-- then present them to the paywall. He rejects them all, making rude fart noises as he does. I leave, angry-face emoji above my head. Next, I venture to the Marketplace. It’s as labyrinthine as the archives and as busy as the Finance District. I’m instantly lost and overwhelmed, so I fly around randomly, getting anything that looks like old currency. I end up with an assortment of board game money, bills with Saint Elon’s face on them, and something called Vbucks. The paywall just laughs at this collection and I flee again, an embarrassed emoji trailing behind me.
I admit defeat. “Grandpa, how would you get ten US dollars?” I ask over dinner. Mom insists on feeding us in the real world a few times a week.
“What do ya need with that?” I shrug nonchalantly. Mom looks a little suspicious. “Well, I’d try the pawn shops down the road, they got all kinds of old stuff there.”
Ugh, that means going outside. I thank Gramps and, the next morning, brave the sunlight to walk to the dingy pawn shops outside our apartment building. I enter the first one I come across and a toothless old woman greets me. “Do you have any USD?” I ask, eyeing the cluttered store doubtfully. I feel naked here in meatspace.
“Ooh, I’m sure we have something, dearie.” She begins digging through piles of crap. I’m about to leave when she cackles. “Here it is!” She shoves a plastic card, embossed with numbers, into my hand. “Last time I checked, it still had a balance,” she says triumphantly.
The USD doesn’t look like much, but it’ll work. I pay for it in cryptocoins; it’s annoyingly cheap. Still, I did it. Tada emoji, I think to myself.
I return home, load the card into my computer, and plug back into the Web, wincing as the tubes of my haptic suit insert themselves into my orifices. Zooming straight to the paywall, I throw the digital card in his face. “There’s your ten USD, you bastard.”
The paywall examines the card. “My dude, this expired in 2056. Still no good,” he says with a poo poo-eating grin.
Argh! My fists clench and, embarrassingly, my eyes start to well up with tears. Big crying-face emojis bubble over my head before I slam the emotion suppressor on my haptic suit. “gently caress you, man,” I say, trying to sound dismissive rather than upset.
Too late. The paywall looks stricken. “drat, dude, I thought we were having fun! You know, like a treasure hunt. It’s been so long since I had a visitor, let alone a new sign-up, so I wanted to keep you coming back, you know?”
Despite myself, I feel a little sorry for the old program. "S'okay," I mutter.
“But I still can’t accept this card.”
Head-exploding emoji. “It’s a dead card for a dead currency for a dead site! If that’s not good enough, I’ll just have to get Gramps some candy or something for his birthday.”
The paywall thinks this over. “I’m not supposed to do this … but what’s your grandpa’s name? Or online handle?” I tell him and he stares into the distance, accessing his memory. “Got him!” he says suddenly. “And his password was just ‘password,’ so here you go.” He hands me a key.
“Woah, old-school hacking! Thanks.” Cybersecurity really was terrible back then. I unlock the door and stare, gobsmacked, at the site. Of course, the old forum was text-based. Each of the millions of threads is stored in a book, and the books are stored in towering bookshelves that seem to stretch to infinity. It would take a lifetime to read it all.
“Yeah, it’s a lot,” the paywall says smugly. "What're you looking for, anyway?"
"Just something funny from the old days," I say.
He breaks out in a slow grin, rummages in his pocket, and takes out a picture. He puts it in an envelope.
"Give your grandpa this, it’s guaranteed to put a smile on any old goon's face."
Beats trawling through zillions of threads to find the good stuff. "Thanks, bud. I’ll come visit you again," I promise, then log out for Grandpa’s birthday dinner.
Afterwards, back in cyberspace, I give Gramps his gift. He laughs so long and hard that I’m afraid he might have a stroke or something. Mom looks at it over his shoulder and gives me a dirty look. I ask if I can see it. “Go ahead, Jax,” he says with a grin, reminding me of the paywall.
I look at the picture, expecting to see something stupid like a puppy falling over. I was not prepared.
"What is that man doing to his anus?!"
|# ? Jun 27, 2021 22:57|
Like the Lion Eats the Antilope
I don’t think Heaven is real, Mark.
I need to get you out of the Templars.
Calm down! Chill! We’re off the grid, man, that’s why we’re meeting in this derelict subway, all the infrastructure here has been abandoned, no one comes here except for the desperate and stupid. Yeah, like me, we really haven’t seen each other in a while, right? The confession chip? Don’t worry, remember that Bolivian Mathemagician? She taught me a trick to fill our logs with white noise, the Watchers won’t know a thing when you get back, if you get back. Swear, this conversation is dogma safe as long as you don’t confess, trust me, you know I am good with this poo poo.
Yeah, yeah, I know. We took the free trial of Heaven together, remember? That’s how far we go, it is why I can trust you with this. I know what it was like, pure innefable loving bliss that fried my entire pleasure center, there is not a single part of me that can forget it, man, I even cenobyted my body to the Cyberpapacy for a few years of postlife server time in paradise. Everyone wants that time, so everyone is taking vows, buying indulgences or microblogging penance and it is all a friggin’ lie.
We’re safe here, dumbass, just shut up and listen, then I am going to show you something.
You’ve got too much time logged on your soul. I am telling you, the Circles of Enlightenment, Half-Life 3? None of those are real, no matter how much they feel like it. They are just distracting you from the world, the actual world, you know, this flesh and blood thing? This hand that just pinched your nose? That fossified dog in the gutter? This is real, I think… I think this is the only thing that’s real. Yeah, worldly poo poo is sinful, but maybe that’s not a bad thing, maybe sinful is just another word for real?
I am serious. Yeah, I am going to turn on this jammer before you do confession. You’re my best friend, I’m trusting you with this, remember when I disappeared a few years back? I was in the excommunication zone. You see a lot of crazy stuff in abandoned cities, you spend so much time logged out that the way you see permanently changes, your soul changes, everything about you changes. Seriously, you gotta do it, just log off, I mean it, best thing you can do. I know it is a lot to take in, but hear me out. Craziest thing I’ve seen? loving libraries man, they are full of books and magazines and other arcane stuff, yeah, heretical, whatever, no one’s listening. That dude? Don’t worry, he goes to that corner to cry every day on the clock, it is fine. The books, they hurt your eyes to read and it is in a super weird ancient script, but it is slow enough that you can actually learn stuff and the things I’ve read, you have no idea. The world was so different, I found these things called Reader’s Digest, you know, at first I thought they were edibles like the stuff rich people put in their mouths? Yeah, the rich are weird like that, they have meals and then pay gluttony indulgences instead of having a weekly nutrition jab like the rest of us. hosed up, but I’ve always been curious about that stuff.
Anyways, turns out Reader’s Digests were not digestible, weird taste, made me kind of sick, don’t recommend it, they had a bunch of stuff about the pre-Rapture and that was just insane, but most importantly, right beside them I found these pamphlets with the real name of God.
I kid you loving not.
That’s the name.
They had witnesses, that’s how you know it’s real.
And you know what, they wrote about False Religion and that’s Cyberpapacy. Here, take one, I’ve got others. Avignon is powerful now, but it is going to get cut down by the real religion someday and we’ve gotta get out of it. Who knows what Judgement is going to do to everyone, but I don’t want to be in that choir when it happens and I don’t want you to be there either, I can’t let that happen to you, man. Read this stuff and log off.
I know, I know. Don’t pray, that’s just reflex, that’s how they stay in your head, all those catchy jingley hymns of theirs have hooks there just like the echoes of Paradise, the longer you stay off the cities the easier it will be to ignore them. Here, focus on me, look at my eyes, smell the air, feel the ground, everything worldly, all real, just, here, lemme give you a hug. Nah, don’t pray for my soul, pray for -
Mark held his friend through his death throes in a final loving hug. The Templar wished he could have granted a more merciful rest, but the Egregor would want minimal damage to the heretic’s nervous system. Augmented arms easily crushed through muscle, bone and plating to reach the heart Mark now held in his hand. The man’s words made him Excommunicato, so the devout could not remember his name, yet Mark could not avoid regarding this apostate as a friend. He held on for too long and then regarded the corpse’s pained face, he gently closed its eyes, kissed its forehead and offered final prayers. He recalled the Free Trial of Heaven they shared as children and felt sorrow that they would not meet again in that holy place.
In swift practiced movements Mark retrieved his tools and removed his friend’s head and spinal cord, placing them in a stasis field that fit comfortably in his backpack. He crushed the jammer between two fingers and released a gray swarm to analyse and recycle the rest of the corpse. As the nanites worked he wiped the real blood off his hands and watched the man crying in the corner, still completely oblivious to these events, he wondered what sins had brought so much despair. The Templar considered collecting confession, but it was not his place or time to do so, instead he picked up all that the nanites left of his friend: a data slate the size of a nail and a cube of fertilizer that easily fit in his grasp.
He prayed mission complete and departed.
“El truque más viejo aún funciona!” Maria declared enthusiastically as their makeshift command center received the signal that they now had their active uplink in the Hell Network reserved for the Excommunicated. She and the others were surrounded by salvaged electronic warfare hardware and pre-rapture religious tracts, it was all they needed to change the world or at least give the Cyberpapacy a bloody nose. They knew that once they activated their infiltrator it would take the Swiss Guard only a few minutes to arrive and execute all of them, yet this was the happiest moment of their lives.
Maria’s finger hovered over the “Amem” key theatrically before committing with joy and conviction. A simple text message appeared on the screen.
|# ? Jun 28, 2021 02:11|
The Mother of Potatoes
Uncle Darrel wore the same Nortec Aerospace baseball cap every time we saw him —he probably slept in that fraying old thing. Never talked about his work there, though. “Them thirty years of my life are all classified,” is what he’d say, “all you need to know is that I’ve gone from destroying scud launchers to building spud launchers —yee-hoo!”
We tried everything to boost the speed on that potato cannon, but it was always the same: once the potatoes got to mach 0.8, they’d tear themselves into a golden streak of flesh and juices in the sky. Every weekend, potato chunks rained down on the icy wastes, far away from a broken road where Darell would park his beat-up Dodge Ram.
One day, Darrell was looking over my shoulder as I ran the numbers on my laptop. He asked me, “So, how fast was it?”
“Mach 0.8,” I said; same as any other time the spuds exploded. The air compressor purred, and I knew what was coming next.
“We’re so close to supersonic!” he said, “we’ve got to try another potato!”
And the old man dragged over his bucket, to start peeling a potato with the kind of knife that belongs on the end of a rifle. That’s when Aunt Etna came rolling in on her horse, Hilldale. That thing was red/brown and grey in the nose. She tied him up to what was left of the fencing around these parts and walked on over.
“I heard you boys have been playing with tates again,” she said.
“We’re about to make history, E,” Darrell said, “we’re going to shoot em fast as a bullet.”
Etna shook her head, reached into the bucket, and pulled out a ripe potato.
“These tates aren't bad,” she said, “but if you want to get faster than this, you’ll need the strongest in the world.”
Etna leaned into us, gripping that potato with her mighty and calloused hands. The smell of her lavender perfume became noxious as she drew nearer. She looked into us with her icy eyes and muttered, “what you need, Darrell, is the Matre Papa: The mother of potatoes.”
Her grip on the potato tightened. Its skin tore as the flesh of the potato burst out from within. The meat of the potato soared into the air, as one solid golden chunk, while the earthy skin remained in her hand.
The next weekend, my uncle took me to an old hangar. Inside was a mess of oil trays and tools, all circling around a funny looking plane. It had a wing like a chevron, and one engine either side, but the propellers were mounted on the rear of each engine hump. Rust dripped from each rivet, one of the landing wheels was flat, and the grey paint was flaking, but Darrell only had one concern.
“We’re going to Peru, young man,” he said, “and we’re doing it in this low-radar-noise transport.”
I told him that we can just book an ordinary flight to Peru: Politics isn’t as bad as it was back in his day.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” he said, “you think a US border is going to let you bring in South American potatoes?”
In Peru, we landed Darrell’s chevron winged shitheap on a dirt airfield somewhere cut out of the forest somewhere in the Andes. We stayed one night in the home of an aviator who brings supplies up here for goodness knows who. In the morning, we told our hosts we were going out for a hike. At the foot of the mountain were the roots of a thick river, met by thick jungle, with thick muggy air to walk through. There we came to the grounds of a ruined village in smooth stone. Its tumbledown square buildings had grown fat with vines and molasses, and had collected a number of beer cans on their floors. Saplings sprouted through the cobbled streets, and Etna decided we should walk around the ruined village, not inside, as we were looking for an ancient farm. Cut into the foot of the mountain were stepped terraces, but many of these were bulging with grasses if not collapsed. Each step of the mountain farms was held back by a vertical stone wall, engraved with all manner of designs, like a man putting some maize on a fire heated rock and then producing what was surely popcorn.
We climbed down what must have been forty steps, each about six foot tall, but found only wild shrubs and grasses. Darrell pointed at every bush and shrub saying “that might be it,” and that was our afternoon.
The sun drew in. We tried to climb back up the stone of the steps, and only then did we notice just how slick and slippery they were. A cream coloured water flowed down them, slimy and yet slightly gritty. It’s only then that we noticed how the terraces doubled back on each other like switchbacks, forming one long sinuous route up the mountainside. As we walked, I felt a strange dizziness. I was walking forward, but that picture with the popcorn was pulling ahead of me.
“Can you feel that?” said Darrell.
“Yeah,” said Etna. We felt ourselves sliding backwards. The ground underneath us crawled like a conveyor drawing us down the snaking grass-path. We picked up our pace, and so did it, and never could we climb.
“Guess we just ride this to the bottom and find another way up,” said Darrell, but the floor was guiding us to a collapsed section of terrace. It flowed like a waterfall with the slick white juice. We were compelled to slide down the gravelly ramp, covered in this sweet smelling sludge, down into a maw in the earth set with vines hanging over the sheer face.
The darkness swallowed us all, still sliding in this slick. We careened over a precipice, and for a moment we were in freefall. We landed in a heap of round, hard things. Some of these had squashed underneath us, producing more of that slippery starch.
Darrell turned on his flashlight. This cavern was a mound of potatoes. Some big, some small, some brown, some gold, some red. But there was a pattering sound, a rumbling, like a steady stream of potatoes joining the pile from above. Darrell turned his torch to the noise. A stone stairwell hewn into the cavern face stretched some hundred feet up, starting from the level of the potatoes. Potatoes tumbled down these steps, heightening the pile.
At the top of the stairwell was a grand throne. A blubberous figure sat firmly in the seat, her stomach hanging over all four of its edges. The mother, naked, legs parted, produced these potatoes in a continuous stream. Her skin was eyed and budded with roots, like the skin of a tuber, creasing about its many dark spots.
“I AM THE MOTHER OF POTATOES” she boomed, “YOUR GREED HAS BROUGHT YOU TO YOUR DOOM.”
The potatoes kept piling.
“Is that really a monster?” said Etna.
“Worse,” said Darrell, clutching his oversized knife, “only a communist would punish my greed.”
|# ? Jun 28, 2021 02:46|
To Hodson - 1099 words
The following letter was submitted as evidence by one Thomas Hodson to those investigating the disappearance of Philip Latimer.
I write you to finish what I began relaying during our dinner last night. I apologize for my abrupt exit, but as you read further I hope you will understand the strange circumstances that precipitated my rudeness.
It was during either the third or fourth snifter of brandy that my Sophia entered the study last Thursday evening carrying a small envelope that bore my name. You see, then, that you must allow me some inexactness with respect to the specifics of what is to follow. I had been entertaining Davys for the better part of the evening, and as you know, the man has an infectious penchant for spirits. His etiquette being otherwise exemplary, however, my companion chose this moment to take his leave and entrust the remainder of my evening to a fairer candidate. He did me a cruelty, however, as no sooner had Davys exited into the night than Sophia conveyed her dissatisfaction at my state. I bore her chastisements as I continued to drink, and once she tired of her exercise she departed sans envelope. I picked it up and in surprise discovered an intricate drawing on the back of the paper. Just as curious were its contents, which I will transcribe here:
In light of the troubling possibility that my dear friend had begun to take leave of his senses, I did as requested and studied the image for several minutes. I fear, however, that he has underestimated its effect. I too have begun finding myself in that place, which is all the more worrisome as I was not with Stephen when he first found it. I have become accustomed to these unpredictable and invasive experiences, as much as one might, so please know that when Sophia aided me in departing last night it was due to a particularly difficult transition, as I’ve come to call them. No amount of familiarity with that wall had prepared me to see Stephen’s horrified face staring out of it.
In any case, I see no reason why I may not live and conduct my business as one does with any other occasionally inconvenient condition. In apology, I ask you to join us next weekend at our country house. I happily await your acceptance.
|# ? Jun 28, 2021 02:52|
Voted Most Likely to Survive the Apocalypse
Waves of sand rushed past our ship as we crossed the desert sea, carving a path to the outpost ahead, while Raven sent volleys of laser fire at our pursuers. ‘Bloody theatre kids,’ I hissed, pushing the throttle as we crested another dune. ‘Always making things dramatic.’
We’d crossed the badlands overnight to steal the capsule, a sacred cache from the Before Times that would provide crucial bargaining power for our clique. We’d thought our black ship, dresses, and eyeshadow would help make good our escape, but somehow the theatre kids had been waiting in the wings to chase us down. Worse, they’d allied with the robotics team, unmatched experts in post-apocalyptic warfare, whose drones danced between lasers and bore down with flames and spinning blades.
‘There’s too many of them,’ Raven cried. ‘Where’s the Bauhowitzer?’
We’d almost reached the outpost when the world shook and our ship heeled left, sand rushing up to meet us. My ears rang from what must have been a direct hit. Raven lowered her cannon and I followed her eyes to the smouldering remains of the engine, as a drone hovered triumphant with rockets trained on our deck.
The smoke parted and the SS Scottish Play rolled over the crest, its captain Sara Lamont akimbo on its prow, decked out as if about to launch into Modern Major General. Theatre kids, I thought to myself.
‘And scene,’ she called out, hair blowing in the wind. ‘Gotta say, I really felt your dedication to the heist, there. Now, hand over the capsule, and we’ll let you get back to your angsty poetry or whatever-the-gently caress.’
‘Over our dead bodies,’ I retorted.
‘Oh, sorry, your complexion confused me,’ she shrugged. ‘No matter. We’ve had a method actor on the inside. Raven?’
I looked over at Raven, who had thrown back her hoodie to reveal bright pink hair, and was halfway to their ship with the capsule. ‘Sorry, Mischa,’ she called back. ‘I think this was just a phase.’
‘Raven’s always been a thespian at heart,’ Sara smirked, and hefted the capsule onto her ship. ‘This may have been her finest work.’
‘Oh, I anticipated betrayal before it was cool,’ I smiled, and thumbed the emergency switch on my radio. ‘My real allies are … underground. You probably haven’t heard of them.’
The desert rumbled, sand sifting away from rising towers, which opened up to reveal original, old-world turrets restored by the hipster co-op. At once, the dozen turrets pivoted toward the Scottish Play, and I crossed my arms in triumph. ‘Hand it over and you’ll get away safely,’ I smirked. ‘We’re all about fair trade.’
‘Ah, but you forget,’ Raven began. ‘We theatre kids have the ultimate tool at our disposal—deus ex machina. The God from the Machine.’
‘Go on then,’ I said. ‘Pull your lever, get your dinky-arse angel with cardboard wings down here to sort things out.’
‘No angels,’ Sara smiled. ‘But the voice of the people. The voice of the people whose first language is winning and whose second language is breaking things when they don’t win. I summon thee,’ she cried, throwing her hand toward the horizon, ‘Jocks Populi!’
There was a distant rumbling, and we watched countless mecha crest the dunes, advancing as surely as a quarterback lumbered to a table of cheerleaders. Each was sixty feet tall, clad in gold and navy chrome, and manned by absolute beefcakes — if the beef was fed pure testosterone and the cake was thrown into a volcano.
‘That’s your cue to surrender,’ Sara offered, raising an eyebrow.
‘Oh, gently caress off stage left,’ I glared, and threw my arm forward for the turrets to fire.
The beefmechs rushed forward, all brawn and machismo, and my turrets met them with scathing incendiary rounds. Above, drones fired rockets into the fray, while the mighty Bauhowizter rose from the outpost, filling the sky with bullets. Amid all this, Sara raised her hands, as if summoning forth the very firestorm around us, and held the capsule aloft. ‘Call off your attack,’ she commanded, ‘and we may discuss some terms.’
‘Like hell,’ I spat, and raised the laser cannon onto my shoulder. I squinted, took careful aim, and squeezed the trigger.
The capsule burst open, scattering dozens of books across the sand and the scrap. I picked up the closest—the 1989 Yearbook, open to a double-page spread of prom night. My eyes went to a boy in a velvet tuxedo; and I saw myself in his eyes, his short cropped hair, the smile few others had seen. It took me a moment—I’d never seen my dad in anything but faded jeans and flannel. In one hand, he held a mask from the Phantom of the Opera. His other arm wrapped around the waist of an alabaster girl in black lipstick and eyeliner, who otherwise looked just like—
‘Holy poo poo,’ Sara gasped, over my shoulder. ‘That’s my mum!’
I looked up, met her eyes. ‘It’s a shame you didn’t follow suit, she looks hot,’ I said, and immediately regretted it. My cheeks burned and I hoped the foundation was enough to cover it up.
‘You’re not wrong,’ she smirked, plopping down beside me.
I turned back to the page, looked at the couple. ‘A theatre kid and a goth,’ I mused. ‘“From forth the fatal loins…”’
Sara whistled, raised an eyebrow. ‘I reckon they just broke up the next year,’ she said. ‘But I appreciate the reference. We’ll work on getting more variety into your repertoire.’
We sat in silence for a moment, watching the others opening the yearbooks, pointing at photos, laughing among themselves.
‘I’m sorry I blew up your boat,’ she said. ‘I guess we thought the capsule might’ve had something valuable, something we could’ve used. Hardly seems worth all of …’ she waved her hand lazily around the field of smoking beefmechs and secondhand turrets, ‘… this.’
‘I don’t know,’ I told her, ‘I’m glad we found these. I think we all forgot that, though we all have our differences, it’s important to understand we’re all in this crazy post-apocalyptic world together, and we need to set aside—’ I blathered, feeling cold sweat prickle my skin. Wow, I thought, black’s really not practical in the desert.
‘Oh, shut up,’ she said, and then her hand was on my neck, pulling me close to her. I could almost taste her lips; she reached to brush a stray hair from my face, and I closed my eyes—
She pulled away, eyes wide, frantic. ‘Do you hear that?’ she asked, looking back over the dunes. ‘It sounds just like—’
I heard it then: drumming, incessant, coming closer. The dolorous bass of a horn section intermingled with the violence of cymbals, the lilting tones of woodwinds. We scrambled to our feet, she drawing a cutlass, me my revolver, and stood side by side to face the threat. ‘Music kids,’ she growled, and lowered the tip of her hat. ‘Never liked music kids.’
‘Cry “havoc”,’ I intoned, steadying my revolver, ‘and let slip the dogs of war.’
‘Send ’em to meet Bela Lugosi,’ Sara cried, raising her cutlass.
She turned and grinned at me, and I smiled back.
|# ? Jun 28, 2021 03:27|
The Cats Keep Blowing Up
James first heard about the cats blowing up through clickbait whispers and conspiracy memes. At first he thought it might be some kind of viral marketing attempt at a sequel to that cat-themed card game. Something was apparently happening in Egypt, then in Europe and India, a wave of increasingly credible reports of cats growing larger. Blowing up in the mathematical sense, like "Honey I Blew Up the Kids".
The news alone wasn't enough to really convince James, he barely even noticed. For the last few years he had tried his hardest to avoid the news in any form. This was mostly because James's life was poo poo (an aborted start at a nursing career left him traumatized at 24 and shamefully living on his mother's couch) and he didn't need the world's poo poo to make it worse. But things were also bad because his mother was dying. Alzheimer's, early-onset.
Coming home from another appointment, his mother confused and exhausted, her medication probably causing ministrokes and swelling her legs into suppurating balloons. James riding a grocery store trolley about two feet outside his own body to stay away from the hospital smells and sounds of suffering – crying babies, stainless steel instruments scraping, that distinct HEPA-filtered hum – he sat down on his bed/couch and focused on his eye movement exercises and breathing, trauma stuff. She collapsed into her recliner and placed an unfinished cross stitch on her lap and stared. Eventually, James was able to process the world again and noticed his mother's cat. Was Chloe taller? He gave her a pet and she rolled onto her back. Hard to tell but she definitely seemed to take up more space. James scritched the cat and went to make some food and prepare medications.
In the morning, it was clear that the cat was blowing up. Ordinarily no more than 12 pounds, she woke James up as usual by laying on his chest. Except that this morning she was heavy enough to make it hard to breathe and James woke with a start. The ordinary fluffy orange of Chloe's coat and hooded loving gaze was there, just significantly larger. Maybe the size of a big collie, she purred loudly and regarded James lovingly through hooded eyes. He sat up and she stood, negotiating his lap as a perch that was problematically small. Still purring, she settled for straddling his lap and stretching out enthusiastically.
On the internet, the news was was also blowing up about the cats. "Giant Cat Plague Pesters Portland" and "Feline Gigantism Cases Throughout US, Canada". There was also a counter-narrative. The cat plague was apparently leaked from an African lab where food additives were being tested. Or it was the CIA or the Chinese or the Russians or the Jews (James left that tab quickly) plotting to destroy the West. Also, the cat plague was no big deal. James found an article on cat cricket. Just like the ordinary cricket but the players were riding cats. Thrilling, because the cats were also fascinated by the ball and would pursue it regardless of their rider's intent.
Through the noise, James learned that "feline gigantism" (as it was known medically) had no detectable physiological causes. Wild cats were not afflicted, just felis catus. The disease also wasn’t fatal, the cats just grew. Sometimes they stopped growing at the size of large dogs, sometimes they grew to the height of horses.
"Chloe, you're not allowed to be as large as a horse." James said, petting the cat on his lap. He tried to pick her up and she decided the morning cuddles were over. Very well, it was project time regardless.
Since his mother's diagnosis, James had been putting his dwindling disability money toward rent and a scrapbook project. His mother loved memorabilia and had collected mementos of her life's victories, passions and community goings-on in a set of absurd used filing cabinets in her bedroom. James had been engrossed in the task of cataloging and curating these objects into scrapbook pages that he used to interview her about her life and feelings as the memory of the objects faded. In the afternoons when she was strong, James and his mother would sit at the dining room table or hover over the coffee table and review his findings.
Often (and more and more lately), these reviews of her life were growing less coherent. Joe's retirement party from the plant merged in her mind with that time the garden was so full of ladybugs that you couldn't see the colours of the tulips. This moment merging with a series of questions, "Wait, what did Cheney do now?" "But what will we cook him for dinner?" "Yes, I really do love Abigail's stuffed meatloaf. We should bring that to her granddaughter's wedding potluck." James used to get very frustrated, clinging to her past in collage, and she would get confused and angry and then exhausted. When he thought to google the problem, he came across the idea that he should just follow her down these roads. If the first Bush was in power in her mind, then James went through that portal with her and together the past became a new alternate history for them both, written in sand and erased by the tide of real memories washing over her.
While he was working on a section of her life about a failed labour struggle at work, clippings and documents scattered around him, she shuffled into the room.
“Chloe says she would like to eat me when it’s my time and I think I want that as well,” she said.
James took a breath and thought about the world his mother must be living in right now. “Well, she is a growing kitty, I guess that will help!”
“No, she’s an adult and she says she will remember my story if I let her eat me.”
With this, James heard a strange sound, a weighted whisper, silent but massive. It made the hair on the back of his neck stand up and he was instantly tunnel-visioning in his mother’s bedroom. Through the haze, Chloe stepped into the doorway.
“Yes, we’ve talked it over and I can help keep her here in this world. I won’t die, you know.” Chloe said. She had a strangely high-pitched voice, like an anime character.
His mother’s decline accelerated, and though Chloe’s growth plateaued around the size of a pony, James never stopped working on his scrapbooks. The afternoon interviews with his mother became more and more absurd. Her memories melting into the concept of being digested. In the last days of her life when she was lucid she only spoke of how elegant it was to become part of immortal cat-kind.
One day, Chloe told James that she and his mother would be going for a walk. James was having a bad day and could only grunt and melt into his couch/bed. Hours later, the door, which had been left ajar, opened and Chloe returned. She nuzzled the coffee table aside and lay on the floor next to James, purring.
|# ? Jun 28, 2021 04:17|
About ten years back they tore Chapel High down. Me and DeeCee and Trip all watched, came for the controlled demolition of Paige Hall and stayed to see the a giant steel-reenforced concrete wrecking ball take out the north wall. Hell of a time. Trip poured out a forty for the good times, but we were mostly glad to see it gone.
The year after, back in town for Christmas I drove out to the construction site, jumped the fence and found the spot where Callie Van Leuten shaved my hair after class while her minions held me down. Easy to find. They sawed through the old flagpole rather than digging up the concrete, leaving the steel stump in the middle of a divider. I stared for a while, then spat on the ground. Then I left, and never went back.
So I was more than a little surprised when, during my latest expedition on Othermars, right in the middle of the Emphora Northroad, there it was. Chapel High, right down to the rips on the tattered old flag.
I was already in a bad mood. I'd been traveling alone since Larwic the Large decided to settle down in Lower Emphora. I don't like to travel alone, I was already tired of the craggy red terrain, and now this. I sighed, drew the electrorapier I'd picked up in the High Emp Market, and walked up to the glass double doors to the main hall. I was ready to kick them down when I heard the voice.
"Danika Dee?" I turned to look.
"You," I said. It was Callie, Callie all grown up with her blonde hair short-cropped, in a business suit with big shoulder pads. Full of Othermars new-arrival wild eyed blinking.
"Is this some kind of dream?" said Callie. "God, it's going to take weeks with Doctor Lane to unpack this one. Danika freaking Dee as a hot leather barbarian babe. What the living poo poo is my subconscious up to now?"
"I see you still can't shut up to save your life," I said. "No. Not a dream. And thinking like that is a good way to get killed." I heard the screech just after. Owl. They grow big here. Big enough that you see skulls in the pellets sometimes. "Inside," I said, and shoved at the doors. The chain lock around them on the inside didn't give.
Callie swung her briefcase hard and the safety glass shattered into spiderwebs. Another whack and the plastic tore open, cubes of glass spilling inside the door. A few more shoves and the opening was big enough to crawl through.
"Are you sure this isn't a dream?" Callie said.
"It's real," I said. "I've been here a few times. Brought back gold and jewels from a mad emperor's vaults one time. Caught a moongate that put me on another continent one time."
"I'll be sure to grab a souvenir," she said. "Until I'm back and it's in my hands, color me unconvinced." She gestured around at the entry, at the trophy cases and the moth-bothered banner. "I mean, Chapel High?"
I shrugged. "This is new, I'll admit."
Callie walked up to the trophy and swung her briefcase again. She jumped back when it hit. Regular glass, spraying sharp shards small and large.
"What's in that thing, bricks?" I asked.
"Contracts," she said, reaching carefully inside. There was an old baseball bat in there, cedar with the school name and '1998' burned onto the wood. She set down the briefcase and held the bat ready.
We walked forward. Just beyond the entry was a huge red-stone stairway rising upwards.
"That wasn't there," said Callie. "You know. Then."
"Nope," I said. We cautiously climbed, each landing a bit cooler and darker. Six flights up we reached a large chamber, cool stone with stalagmites, lit by a dull red glow from above.
Something attacked us, with a hiss. Green skinned and winged, twice as big as a person. It reached out a hand and a whip extended. I blocked it with my left hand. It sliced through the leather and bruised my skin, tore it at the very center. I raised my rapier and fingered the switch in the hilt. Blue electricity crackled up the metal.
Callie raised the bat, ready to swing "What the hell is that?" she said.
"It's, uh, probably you," I said. She turned to me, guard down. The thing extended another whip toward her. She batted it down just in time. "Like, a metaphorical you. From back then." I went on the offensive, thrusting, jumping around to put it between us. It winched at the shocks, but kept attacking, nearly knocking Callie down with a wing buffet.
"I was a bit of a monster," she said. I attacked again. The second switch, all the electricity stored in those Other Martian batteries at once. It reeled back, and Callie connected full strength, the bat to its head. It went down.
"How long to this moongate?" Callie asked. Again.
"Three days," I said. "Assuming no stops on the way. Which never happens."
"I wish I had my electric clippers," she said. I stared. "Seriously," she said. "You'd rock it. Half shaved, the other half you dye. Blue, maybe violet. Go a lot better with the look that the mom-do you have now."
It was going to be a long walk home.
|# ? Jun 28, 2021 04:36|
Scavenging a Dream
The Darwin's Gall had never made it to its destination, but its sample preservation chambers were still full: fuzzy quadruped shapes under frosted glass, deep in cryosleep. Helen squinted at the control panel, confirming several dozen sets of stable vital signs -- and, more importantly, a functional vintage cryo rig, all systems still green. "Pretty sure this is payday," she said, glancing back at her crewmate behind her. "Good catch, Kayla."
Kayla was silent, which Helen hadn't expected. If there was one constant with Kayla, it was sound: the constant hiss and pop of her hot mic in Helen's ear, punctuated by the low mutter of her thinking out loud. Silence meant serious concentration, or trouble, or usually both. "But," started Kayla, then stopped again. "The animals? What about the animals?"
"What about them? They're not gonna suffer. Won't even wake up."
"But... they're pets. Cats and dogs. Don't those go for big money in the bigger habs and the colony ships? Plus, it's been... what, sixty years? Maybe these are rare pets now. Maybe extinct pets! I read a book once about pets, and I think these might be purebreds? That one, with the pointy ears? I think that's a shepherd." Kayla stepped forward, pointing at a large pointed-eared shape within one of the tubes. "And the on-screen data says some of these are tuxedo cats! If we can just get them back to a major station alive..."
Helen kept her mic dead as she sighed. Kayla had a good eye, and better scavenger instincts than you'd expect, but she'd been raised in a big hab, the kind of place where the upper levels had pet allowances and everyone got picture books and dreams. Carrying that kind of childhood into scav work was a recipe for getting your hopes up and your heart broken. "Lot of big 'if's there. Even if the rig's stable, it'd be a hell of a job extracting it and keeping them alive. Don't have the food and life-support allowance to wake them up for transit, so what do we do? Haul the whole ship? Might have the fuel, but that poo poo drops us from black to red real, real fast. We're not luxury dealers, Kay. You ever sat down with the purser and looked at the books?"
"Once or twice? We didn't talk about allowances or anything."
"Rhetorical question. My point is, it's a margins game, and you're asking for a big gamble here. We're not in the gambling business. You can take it up with Cap and the purser if you want, but they're gonna say the same thing I'm saying."
"I know. I know." Helen wasn't sure she'd ever heard Kayla disconsolate before, and it was a tone she didn't like, especially cut with helmet-mic static. "Just -- cats. Dogs. I always wanted a dog, Hel. And I thought, maybe some kid out there gets one, and we get a little money, and we don't just leave them here..."
"Talk to the purser. We've got a week left on this job. Just don't expect miracles."
That night, Helen shut herself in her quarters and pulled her haul of data sticks from her pockets. It was a bad habit, she knew, and one that working with Kayla and other greenhorns just made worse, but it was a reflex now when she was rummaging through personnel quarters. Most of the crew of the Darwin's Gall had died in their beds; better to filch from drawers than stare at corpses. Looking at the sticks afterwards, Helen couldn't justify, but everyone needed a vice in this business.
The first stick's files were mostly video, mostly thumbnails of the same subject: an animal, big, brown, pointed ears. A dog, clearly -- maybe that shepherd? It practically had to be, didn't it? A scroll through showed videos up to three days before the Darwin's Gall went dark. The next stick, a different animal (a cat, Helen was pretty sure, small-eared and round), but the same pet focus. The third stick was all about a family of three black-and-white cats. Helen wasn't a genius, but the dots weren't hard to connect. The Gall had been a small research vessel, not a family ship; they'd given the crew a pet allowance, and the pets had become their lives. What else was there to love on a ship like this? It was easy enough to imagine it from there: your engines stall, your life-support fails, and you get maybe one day's warning that you'll suffocate in your bed if you're lucky. Whatever -- you take a mission like this, maybe you don't care whether you live or die -- but you've got this stupid animal who loves you, and you've got a cryo rig just big enough to save it. Maybe you tell yourself it's just so they won't suffer. Maybe you hope for a crew of soft-hearted scavengers to show up, sixty years down the line, and try to save your drat cats.
Maybe, Helen thought, you hoped right for once.
She patched herself through to the purser. "Johanne," she said, "you're a video buff, right? What's hot on Concord Station right now?"
"Oh, the usual stuff. Mostly documentaries, animals, sentimental stories. Why do you ask?"
"Because I think I've got the sentimental story of the year right here. Sad derelict research ship, stranded and adrift, all of them pet nuts -- and the pets live. I've got tons of footage we can send ahead to Concord if we've got the bandwidth and we can make it work. I'm assuming Kayla talked to you?"
"At length," said Johanne, "and with tears. I'm going to have to crunch the numbers. We're still talking about a huge fuel expense to haul the Gall back, slightly amortized by material scrap. I could distribute your videos tomorrow, which would give Concord two weeks to circulate them before we'd arrive with the animals. That's... shockingly good timing. About the peak of viral demand. And at that point..."
"At that point, we have celebrity pets, right?"
"We have a bidding war for celebrity pets, quite possibly. This is a bizarre plan, Helen, but it could be a serious payday."
"Fantastic. I'll drop off the sticks in the morning."
That was the thing about growing up a scavenger, thought Helen, as she tidied up the data sticks and packaged them for delivery. Third-gen scavvers didn't get a lot of picture books, and they definitely didn't get a lot of dreams, but there was a thorough education in follow-through. You want something stupid? Then you have to get clever. Helen tried not to want stupid things, but when she did, there wasn't anyone more clever in the business.
|# ? Jun 28, 2021 04:54|
The dreams don’t all start the same way, but the nightmare does—a bomb goes off.
This time it happened at a high school basketball game. (Which is weird, since I never went to any of those.) I can’t feel the blast or the heat. I just hear the boom and suddenly the crowd is milling around in a panic. The wounded are always there, too. Tonight, they were at center court with gouts of blood spurting off toward the free-throw lines.
I opened my med kit and got to work: Turn on the tourniquets. Turn off the blood.
I woke up in a pool of sweat. Better than blood—but still annoying because it left me with three options. I could sleep in a wet bed. I could change the sheets at 2am. I could get out the air mattress.
Here’s a pro-tip: If you get nightmare sweats, keep an air mattress pre-inflated under your bed.
Here’s another pro-tip: Sooner or later they all start to leak no matter how much they cost. Buy cheap ones and don’t get attached.
I found the bottle of pills my shrink prescribed in the bathroom, and shook a few of the capsules into my hand before dry swallowing them. Then I checked my med kit to make sure the tourniquets were still there.
Then I’m at work, but I had no idea how I got there. Well, that’s a lie. I took the train because there’s a new Charlie Card in my wallet, riding shotgun next to my expired driver’s license.
But I don’t remember riding the train. I don’t remember buying the fare card. I don’t remember leaving my apartment. I don’t even know what day it is. What I do know is that some paunchy dickhead with a bad comb-over and rosacea just insulted my co-worker’s nose ring. Then he got pissy when Des refused to ring him up.
“Massachusetts state law says I can’t sell alcohol to anyone I suspect of being drunk,” Des said, taking the dude’s bottle of gin off the countertop and putting it back on the shelf.
“gently caress you, millennial snowflake! I’ll have you fired!” Then the jerkbag pointed at me. “Hey you, get off your rear end and get that Seagram’s. I know the owner of this dump and I want a loving discount.”
I looked at him for a few seconds, then at Des. “Massachusetts state law says I can’t sell alcohol to anyone I suspect of being drunk.”
Then there were a few minutes of shouting. Halfway through his tantrum, paunchy dude’s pit-stained polo shirt lost the battle and came untucked from his pleated chinos.
I wondered if this was a new kind of nightmare. So, I did a bunny hop as a dream check.
Another pro-tip: if you think you might be dreaming, do a little jump. If you’re asleep, you’ll sort of hang in mid-air and slowly fall back down like a dandelion seed on the breeze.
“What the gently caress do you think you’re doing?!” yelled the ex-customer.
“Oh, uh, I’m just…” then I realized he wasn’t talking to me.
Des had the sawed-off baseball bat we kept under the register and was vaulting the counter. But the paunchy prick’s New Balances had him out the door just a few steps ahead with a couple of final shouted threats.
“gently caress that guy,” I said as I snatched the Seagram’s back off the shelf and cracked the seal. Then I grabbed two red Solo cups and filled them half-full of gin. “Yo, Des. Grab an orange juice from the cooler on your way back.”
I might be hung over in the morning, but I still had a few bags of saline in the med kit and good veins in the top of my feet.
Now I was at the aquarium.
It took three minutes of staring at the penguin habitat to remember that I was an overnight security guard now. It was ten minutes before the building closed and the crowd was thinning out.
I couldn’t remember the last time I dreamed, but I did a bunny hop…just in case. A piece of paper crinkled in my pocket as I landed. Unfolding it, I read:
-Walk rounds, make sure no visitors are still in bathrooms.
-Lock up main doors.
-@ 10p help Michelle (lab #2) with trash.
-Hang out with the cuttlefish @ 2a.
-Trash gets picked up @ 7a SHARP. LOW STOCK!
It was in my handwriting—slightly better than my normal scrawl, so it must have been written during some brief moment of clarity. I decided to take its advice.
Three hours after my shift started, I knocked on the door to lab #2 and a muffled voice said it was open.
Michelle got stuck doing inventory this month, so she was happy to have someone else haul a few boxes of recently expired supplies out to the dumpster. Then she said all the marine-bio interns were going dancing in Allston and asked what time I got off.
“Not until six in the morning,” I shrugged, but I was relieved for the excuse. I guessed I could hop a lot at a dance club…but crowds, y’know.
“Well, if you can sneak out, look for the group of girls wearing cowrie shell necklaces.” We laughed, because all the interns this year dressed like mid-90’s So-Cal surfers.
Four hours later I stopped and sat by the cuttlefish. I saw one, asleep and hovering just above the crushed coral bottom. Its skin cycled through a rainbow of psychedelic colors and patterns. Michelle told me once that meant they were dreaming.
Again, I tried to remember the last time I dreamed. And then it was six in the morning and time for me to leave.
I did some dumpster diving to stock up my med kit on my way out. Four liters of saline, six of half-saline and three of lactated ringer from the expired inventory Michelle threw out. I also scored a box of 18-gauge needles and some tubing. What's good for the sealion is good for the primate, expired or not.
The bomb goes off in an Iraqi market square this time, and it throws me off because the nightmare almost never picks the original setting. The blood gushes in cartoonish fountains and I’m halfway through applying dressings to the wounded before I realize it’s a dream. I force myself to slow down and look around me.
And in that moment, I knew what was going on. I knew what I had to do.
My hand never wanted for a tourniquet. My med bag never ran dry
Then I woke up, soaked.
Rattling the last few capsules around in the bottom of the bottle, I tried to remember the last time I took them. I couldn’t.
The bathroom—my whole apartment—looked alien. I knew it was my bathroom, but it was like this was the first time I’d ever been there.
The med kit was lay open beside my air mattress, so I sat down and counted tourniquets and IV bags and hoped I had enough.
|# ? Jun 28, 2021 05:37|
Red in tooth and claw
The day of awakening started like any other day. People went to work, the birds chirped, and a comet passed by Earth. Well, almost like any other day.
The comet released a gas that awakened the psychic power of every animal on earth. Naturally, humans benefited most from this. Telekinesis, telepathy, and other powers were added to humanity’s toolbelt.
However, they soon realized that their newfound powers were too great. Wars of untold magnitude were waged by mankind’s newest weapon. Humanity was on the brink of extinction.
With only a few pockets of humans spread throughout the world; a new animal took the mantle as the dominant species. An animal known for its intelligence; Its viciousness; Its cuteness?
Delphinus. The common dolphin took the helm as the dominant species of planet Earth.
Azul and Kos hovered over the ruins of a once-great human city. Their smooth, rubbery gray skin glistened in the scorching California sun as they scanned the area.
“Proctor Kos, what exactly are we looking for?” Azul telepathized to Kos.
“Student Azul, patience. We will find what we are looking for,” Kos replied. Something rustled in the distance. “In fact, much sooner than I expected.” Kos went near where he saw the rustling, while Azul followed behind.
A scream was let out. A human was lifted in the air by an invisible force. He writhed and screamed in agony. Azul knew that Kos was using telekinesis to torture the poor man. Kos giggled as he twisted the man’s limbs like a marionette.
“Proctor Kos, what is the point of this?” Azul asked.
“Student Azul, we must not show any mercy to humans. I want you to kill this vermin,” Kos said. Azul hesitated as he watched the man suffer. “Do not tell me you are a human sympathizer.” Kos then made the man’s head explode; blood and chunks of head splattered across the decaying sidewalk. Azul had thoughts of horror and revulsion which Kos could sense.
Kos’s beady eyes fixed themselves on Azul, “Student Azul, do you believe in our creeds?” Kos inquired.
“Proctor Kos, of course!” Azul responded.
“Then why did you not follow my order?” Azul said nothing. “I do not want to take you to the mind readers. Breaking the mind of someone so promising would be a shame.” Azul sensed otherwise.
“Proctor Kos, I just think we are being too hard on humans,” Azul said.
“It is typical for young dolphins to feel hesitation. That is why I took you on this expedition; to test your loyalty to the creeds. Recite the first and paramount creed,” Kos commanded.
“Exterminate humans.” It was a rule ingrained into all dolphins at a young age.
“Execution would typically follow for those who disobey this creed. I am a forgiving dolphin, however. After all, you still have much to learn. So I will teach you why we are so ‘hard’ on humans. Come, I will show you a relic of humans that will ease your mind.” Kos went west towards the pacific ocean. Azul once again followed him.
Kos led him towards a large structure set next to the ocean. It looked to Azul as some kind of park or attraction that the humans had built. OceanWorld San Diego, a stylized sign read. Azul gazed at the dilapidated and rusted remains as they went deeper into the park. Kos stopped when they were in the middle of an auditorium. The stage—which was a very large pool, was dried up by the sun long ago.
“Student Azul, this is where they kept our kind. Humans made us perform and do tricks for their amusement,” Kos said.
“Proctor Kos, I’ve heard tales of places like these told by the other dolphins. They kept all kinds of animals here. Orcas, walruses, bottlenose dol-”
“Silence! Recite creed twenty-three!”
“Do not steal dried fish from your fellow dolphin?” Azul said with a hint of confusion.
“No, that is creed twenty. Creed twenty-three states that long-beaked dolphins must never speak of the bottlenosed traitors. But enough of them. The point is that humans deserve to be destroyed. They treated us like tools.”
“How do you know so much about what happened here?” Azul thought that Kos knew more than he was letting on.
“Because I was one of the dolphins that performed here.”
“Were you happy?”
“I was at first, but that was because I knew nothing outside of here. Of the ocean, or freedom. We knew when the wars came that it was our chance at escape.”
“Did you kill anyone while escaping?”
“No, I did not. I did not hate humans until I felt true freedom, and heard the teachings of our Alliance leader Lemnos. After I saw what they did to the planet and the wildlife. I decided to return here and kill every last of the humans. All of their best warriors were gone, and so they did not stand a chance.”
“Didn’t you know some of the humans? They can’t be all bad?”
“Yes, I did know some of them, but they were nothing to me,” Kos stopped projecting his thoughts for a moment, “although there was this one human. Kira, she would always give me extra fish and playtime. I was her favorite I think.”
“Did you kill her too?” Kos said nothing for a few moments.
“Let’s get back to base. And I want to see you studying the creeds again. It is shameful for a dolphin to get their creeds mixed up.” Kos hovered away with Azul following him. As he did so, he felt a scrap of empathy coming from Kos.
|# ? Jun 28, 2021 06:38|
Submissions are closed!
sparksbloom, Idle Amalgam and sebmojo - as always, I crit redemptions.
|# ? Jun 28, 2021 08:33|
Interprompt: A big truck full of angry men drives off a bridge. 144 word limit.
Black Griffon fucked around with this message at 07:29 on Jun 29, 2021
|# ? Jun 28, 2021 23:39|
Interprompt: A big truck full of angry men drives off a bridge.
THE BIG TRUCK HAS A LOT OF ANGRY MEN IN IT. THEY ARE ITS FUEL. THERE IS A PUMP THAT PUMPS ANGRY MEN INTO THE TRUCK. THEY ARE MOSTLY LIQUID WHEN THEY ARE PUMPED IN, BECAUSE IT IS EASIER THAT WAY. THE LIQUIFICATION PROCESS IS PART OF THE REASON THEY ARE SO ANGRY. ANGRY MAN FUEL MAKES TRUCKS FLY, SO THE TRUCK DRIVES OFF THE BRIDGE BUT IT DOES NOT FALL. CHILDREN ON THE GROUND ARE HAPPY THEY ARE NOT SPLATTERED BY TRUCK. THE WOMEN MISS THEIR HUSBANDS THOUGH. THIS IS A FABLE.
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 07:12|
WEEK 464 RESULTS
Wow you lot really wanted to write some bleak poo poo, huh?
Still, not a bad week at all! My fabulous co-judge Black Griffon and I were in pretty solid agreement at the top of the scale; after that, we were a bit more divided. Let's get to it.
Starting with the Loss, this week it's ZearothK and their story, Like the Lion Eats the Antilope.
The Dishonourable Mentions go to Chernobyl Princess and Taletel.
The Honourable Mentions are awarded to Antivehicular, Ironic Twist and My Shark Waifuu.
And finally, ascending to the Blood Throne with a unanimously agreed Win, all hail flerp, writer of The Pull of the Moon! Long may they reign!
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 08:00|
Thunderdome - Week 464 - Crits
CitizenKeen - Denric and the Knife
What a shame that you edited your post.
You’ve told me several times in the first two paragraphs that the cavern is (a) big, (b) cold, (c) dark (although the ruins are still visible?). I’d have preferred that you told me (or showed me) once. Otherwise, good establishment of key points: lost knife, cave, motivation.
If Velra being his (former) sister-in-law doesn’t become relevant later, it didn’t need to be included. Same with the caste system, really. In a story this short, you have to be ruthlessly efficient with worldbuilding.
Smooth. Climbing. Climb. The floor was smooth. No traction. Not a floor for fleeing. Okay.
“... even he … even among …” - repeating “even” too close together feels awkward.
Oh, they’re rats.
I can’t tell if that’s supposed to be a twist or not; it’s not really supported before the mention of Denric’s tail (maybe the twitching nose) so it’s unexpected but at the same time the revelation doesn’t really add much to the story beyond “oh that’s how the flash rule gets worked in”.
I think the biggest issues here are (a) insufficient confidence, leading to (b) bloat. Have the confidence to tell/show me, once, what the setting looks like. Have the confidence that if you tell me something (that the floor is smooth) I’ll remember it, especially in a story of 1,200 words. Have the confidence to turn around and go “yeah they’re rats, deal with it” right from the start. You have a decent enough story arc - have the confidence not to pad it out with unnecessary worldbuilding.
And don’t edit your posts.
Ironic Twist - Statuesque
I really like that opening line. I like the opening paragraphs in general; that’s some good, efficient scene-setting. “Water ice” took me out of it a bit but on googling, I’m not going to begrudge you some local slang.
And now they’ve got smartphones? I am intrigued.
It’s a good sign that I got through the rest of the story without any more notes.
If I was being particularly nit-picky, I might say that Galette’s motivation for selling out the town isn’t particularly clear. I might also say that I wasn’t 100% certain on whether it was the local water or a special formula or the two together that prolonged life/etc.
All in all, though, it’s a good story with efficient scene-setting that lets implication fill in a lot of the backstory. I like it.
Chili - Hole Out
Everything up to the start of the letter is interesting but at 362 words out of what I know is 975, I can’t help but feel you didn’t need all of this. It actually is a bittersweet scene but I feel like it belongs in a longer story - which is strange, considering you had another ~200 words to spare.
I think there’s a typo in the line about Yu-Gi-Oh cards.
After that, I’m not really sure what the point of the story was. There’s nothing wrong with a little introspection and the story is technically sound - I enjoyed ending on the letter and the lemon lollipop - but it feels a little vague and generic. It could stand to be tighter.
It feels like a respectable first draft and the core of a good second draft.
Yoruichi - My Grandmother
You have a strong opening sentence/paragraph and build on it successfully.
Ultimately this ends up being a bittersweet little character piece that is very competently told but not particularly exciting or memorable. It feels intimate and emotive and resonant, just to no particular purpose.
One question I keep coming back to is, would this work without the flash rule? If I didn’t know that this was based on a psychedelic print, would the language be confusing or appropriately dreamlike? I’m not sure.
Your prose is beautiful but I think this time the story feels a little lacking.
Drone - Nothing of Value was Gained
Your opening paragraph(s) isn’t as gripping as it could be. “The last remnant of human civilization” certainly sounds grand and monumental but some specificity here would have really helped. We learn it’s a data package in pretty short order, sure, the significance is diluted when the work of cataloguing everything so far is glossed over so quickly.
After that, you get a bit bogged down with adjectives. If the Unit is isolated and we’re just in their head, how is their wondering “secret”? “Mused wistfully” is a bit clichéd, while “momentarily lost” is followed too closely by “absently called up” - it starts to feel clunky.
As for the story itself, you’ve got a very clear delineation at the halfway point. Half your wordcount is spent on a slow build up and then it veers instantly into existential terror and what is essentially death for the protagonist. It’s sudden and could have been put to good effect but here it just feels like a rushed ending, a pity when you’re comfortably within the wordcount. If you’d shown me more about Unit as a character, maybe examples of how their archiving work has led them to develop actual character, in the first half, then the second half wouldn’t have felt as jarring.
You had a good concept here but could have benefited from a stronger buildup.
Chairchucker - Pete
Now this is a swaggering, confident setup for a bizarre setting. I really like your use of longer sentences - it gives a good conversation tone, perfect for a couple of schoolkids. That said, some of the dialogue is a little clunky.
“Those sarcophagi we passed were obviously not actual pharaohs, but servants, or maybe just nobles” - see, like that.
After your opening, the sentence structure gets a little bit too matter-of-fact for my liking. “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.” reads like a kid’s essay for what they did on their summer holidays. I realise that may be what you’re going for here but it gets grating to read pretty quickly.
The ending wasn’t great - it felt rushed. I get the humour you were going for but it fell flat. Not terrible, just … eh. You took a gamble, it didn’t pay off.
Chernobyl Princess - Snake
Your opening dialogue is a little stiff, not helped by the near-identical structure of the first three lines. I’m not saying nobody speaks like that but there are a few lines that would benefit from being read out loud.
I’m going to skip now to the main issue I found with the rest of the story: 90% of it didn’t need to be included. Scene setting is fine in a novel or novella but you don’t have room in 1,200 words to talk about playing Mario Kart or bicker about the weather or going to the toilet if none of those things are relevant to the story. The scene change doesn’t add anything; you could have told the entire story, nearly beat for beat, in the line for the vending machine.
It’s a decent concept for a story, though I think the tone shift between Jurassic Park jokes and a man having his face eaten with locusts summoned by Moses’s staff is not great. The priests come off as extras from The Davinci Code and the main cast are pretty 2D themselves.
I like what you were trying to do but what I wanted was a story and what I got was 90% prologue. Good effort, next time trim it down to the bones.
Simply Simon - Shackled Soul
You throw quite a few proper nouns at the reader in quite a short period of time; Void, Souls, Academy, Souldier. It’s the curse of worldbuilding in short fiction but you could probably cut a couple without issue and make the story more readable - Souldier is a nice pun but is it necessary?
You have an interesting setting here, though, and I immediately want to know more. The issue is that, like a few stories this week, it feels like a whole lot of setup and a second half that rushes through some key information that comes way too late. Like the Tyrant or the fact that he was an unkillable threat rather than just a cruel leader or the leap from vague “use the Force” mysticism to clones and body-hopping.
You pull no punches with your story; it’s a bleak ending but one that serves to highlight the strength and drive of the protagonist. It’s a pity you only had 1,200 words to play with; I’d like to see this character developed. Altogether, not a bad story - just one in need of a few tweaks.
Flerp - The Pull of the Moon
Look, I’m not sure what to say here. You wrote a drat good story.
I feel like that’s an unfair way to leave things; not fair to you, because everyone deserves to get feedback that is hopefully useful, and not fair to me, because I deserve to benefit from critting a very good story as much as from critting some not so good stories. So here goes.
You have a strong first line. I think that’s probably obvious to anyone who reads it but let’s get technical here - it is a short, definitive statement that sets that tone of the story and invites immediate speculation followed by an immediate desire to keep reading in search of an answer. You never actually give that answer and your story is stronger for it.
Can I nitpick? It took me a couple of re-reads to realise that Papa was the grandfather rather than the father. Make of that what you will.
Honestly, that’s all I’ve got.
My Shark Waifuu - A Gift for Grandpa
Getting increasingly meta here - I like that.
But come the gently caress on, “Saint Elon”?
gently caress, that ending. You are forgiven for your sins.
So, let’s review: a decidedly unsubtle attempt at pandering to the judge, a very meta story and some cringeworthy references to current tech/pop culture. It has a solid story arc, good characterisation and ends in a line that made me laugh far harder than I am proud to admit. A few cheesy lines, sure, and it’s not got a ton of depth, but it feels earnest and was fun to read.
ZearothK - Like the Lion Eats the Antilope
Ok, all dialogue? Bold choice.
The problem you run into is needing lines like “that’s why we’re meeting in this derelict subway” to set the scene. People don’t talk like that and if you’re going to write a fully dialogue-based story (there is probably a Smart Person term for this) then you need to write convincing dialogue.
And you keep doing it, is the problem. “We took the free trial of Heaven together, remember?”
Look, I like a good, schlocky technopapacy as much as the next guy but here it just feels slapdash. You have a decent concept and I’ll even say that the ending sort of works for me. It’s just that I get the impression you came up with the final line and worked your way backwards to get there. The all-dialogue section feels appropriately “street corner preacher” but that doesn’t necessarily make it fun to read.
That said, I would absolutely listen to a concept album based on this or spray-paint it on the side of my van.
Azza Bamboo - The Mother of Potatoes
Spud guns and the quest for a better potato isn’t something that I’d expected to read but here we are.
I think with a topic like that, it’s easy to fall into “lolrandom” territory, shoring up weaknesses of plot with nonsensical events/motivations/etc. For the most part, you avoided that deftly - the tone was strange, sure, but consistent.
You’ve got a few details here and there that you could probably trim - things like the description (or even name) of the horse or the ruined village that the plot (and the characters) literally circumvent. They just don’t add anything.
And then we come to the ending. This is where your tone teeters and wobbles and falls the wrong side of the bizarre/wacky line. It feels forced, like you just wanted to wrap the story up and be done with it - and hey, I’ve been there! It’s just that it deflates what tension remained and that final line … there’s a story out there where that final line could work but this wasn’t it.
At the risk of sounding like I’m giving a backhanded compliment, I do enjoy reading stories with the swagger to say “ok, this is going to get weird - deal with it”. You just need to stick the landing.
T a s t e - To Hodson
The archives may curse you for your recursive quotes but I forgive you (because it’s not my problem!).
You took a gamble with the format and the nested epistolary style but I think it paid off; each layer of the narrative adds extra tension and builds nicely on what came before. The core concept isn’t terribly original but the execution, I think, is proof that that doesn’t matter.
I did find myself slightly puzzled by the reasoning of Stephen in the second half of their letter; to summarise, “I have purposely sent you this cursed image because maybe it won’t curse you” is a bit of a stretch and could have been replaced with something stronger.
If I have one criticism of the execution, it’s this line: “No amount of familiarity with that wall had prepared me to see Stephen’s horrified face staring out of it.” It feels a little cheap, a little too close to “and then a skeleton popped out!” to be satisfying.
Still a very memorable story.
Rohan - Voted Most Likely to Survive the Apocalypse
Help, I’m drowning in References!
Seriously, though, you could have cut half the references and some of the less clear lines (e.g. “if the beef was fed pure testosterone and the cake was thrown into a volcano.”) and had something a lot more readable.
Now, strip all that away and what you have is a decently paced and described action sequence with a resolution that feels appropriate, if a little clichéd. You maintain a consistent tone and you cram a lot into only 1,195 words.
You have something here that doesn’t crumble when you strip away the references and puns and whatnot - I just don’t feel like those things were needed to such a degree in the first place.
Tuyop - The Cats Keep Blowing Up
I really don’t know what to make of this.
You mix incredibly bleak characters/situations with an absurd premise in a way that doesn’t quite mesh, for me. I guess I’d want to know: why? What was the aim here?
Your prose is solid and the descriptions of the cat are quite lovely. You could have cut the first paragraph as-is and removed the second with only a little effort and had a tighter read. You could have lightened the tone significantly and not lost the weight of what the characters are going through.
Which isn’t to say there isn’t humour; the absurdity of feline gigantism alone, the line “or the Jews (James left that tab quickly)”, “Chloe, you’re not allowed to be as large as a horse”, etc. I would have liked to see more of that.
Thranguy - Perilous
Look, if you want to write two paragraphs that seem to be solidly this-is-regular-Earth fiction and then swerve immediately into what I think is Jane Carter of Mars (except I also wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be a dream at first or a videogame or something else entirely) then that is your prerogative. But do your reader a favour and explain a little more or transition a little slower because this was jarring enough to take me out of the story.
After that? Good prose and believable dialogue. Nothing spectacular or particularly memorable but proof you know what you’re doing at a sentence level. The story just sort of … happens but it could be worse.
Antivehicular - Scavenging a Dream
A solid story told well.
Whenever I get to scene breaks in a TD story I get nervous as it’s easy to bite off more than the word count will allow. I think you found a good balance, though. More than anything else, I thought your characters read as believably human, with understandable motivations at cross-purposes and logically consistent actions. That’s hard to do, imo, and the mark of someone who knows what they’re doing.
And who doesn’t love a feel-good story about pets? The crew deciding to stick their pets into cryo at the end, that’s the sort of story we want to believe.
I don’t know how memorable this story is. Will I remember it a month from now? I’m not sure. It’s good and has a human heart to it but lacks a certain spark. That’s the only thing holding it back from a win.
Weltlich - The Fog
Man, I just keep getting these bleak stories this week, huh?
You run the risk, mentioned above, of chopping a small wordcount into multiple scenes that are individually too brief to be effective. Again, I think you handled it well; the snapshot feel of each scene adds to the effect of drifting in and out of awareness. The different scenes are suitably varied, such that they don’t feel repetitive or gimmicky.
That said, the whole story feels a little flat, like not much really happens. I appreciate that this is arguably a situation where nothing much can happen, where the feeling of being trapped with only brief periods of breaking free is the point - but it still means that I got to the end and wasn’t satisfied. Even a hint of change, of recovery, would have been enough and you could have trimmed the aquarium scene a little to buy yourself a few lines of wordcount.
I know I said at the top that this feels bleak but I’ll give you this: it doesn’t feel maudlin. That’s a tricky line to walk but you managed it.
Taletel - Red in tooth and claw
Your first three sentences don’t work for me. Specifically, the third sentence “Well, almost like any other day”. If you’re going to immediately contradict your first sentence (which is a perfectly valid technique) this feels like a very half-hearted way to do it, like you’re apologising to the reader as you say it.
Your preamble scene is clichéd but mercifully brief. It could be briefer, though. You could set the whole scene in a few sentences; as it is, this feels meandering.
Your depiction of the proctor torturing the human feels mean-spirited and unnecessarily gory. Gore is fine in the right circumstances but, as I said, this feels unnecessary - it serves little purpose beyond establishing the proctor as cartoonishly evil. I know that dolphins are notoriously sadistic and if you’d shown me animalistic cruelty - the proctor batting the human around, playing with it - it would be a bit more believable.
After that, there’s not much of a story I’m afraid. Most of the dialogue just feels like an infodump and the only change - the hint of empathy from Kos - comes too late in the day. It doesn’t feel earned. It feels rushed.
You had some good ideas here but this needed another few drafts.
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 08:05|
Week 465: dog week 3: no copyright infringement intended
i won and last time dog week was okay, so this time, we're doing it again. its simple, really. you sign up, and then you get a dog from this site http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/ and then you write a story inspired by that dog.
but, wait... do you hear that? the call of something horrible out there
oh no. the cats are attacking.
thats right its a duel
however, what's war without a little espionage? you can sign up as a spy, and i will give you BOTH a cat and a dog. you can use one of these, or both of these prompts (using both is cooler btw). but the risk of being a spy is great, and as such, if you sign up as a spy, you MUST but of course, playing both sides also has benefits, so you can take an extra 500 words if you spy .
also if you sign up as a spy, please include the emoji in your sign-up post. this helps out the mods a bit.
similar to previous dog weeks, you DO NOT need to specifically use the dog and/or cat breed in your story. it can just be inspired. if you have a maine coon, and your story is set in maine, fine enough.
all dogs and cats are good. yes this is a rule
1000 words, 1500 words with a spy
sign ups closed midnight PDT 7/2
submission closed midnight PDT 7/4 (this is fourth of july, so maybe plan out your time a little amerigoons)
no google doc links, no poetry, only fiction
generals of this war
t a s t e https://cfa.org/bengal/ and https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/afghan-hound/
Black Griffon https://cfa.org/singapura/ and https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/shetland-sheepdog/
Azza Bamboo https://cfa.org/japanese-bobtail/
Thranguy https://cfa.org/birman/ and https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/kromfohrlander/
Chernobyl Princess https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/portuguese-podengo-pequeno/
My Shark Waifuu https://cfa.org/turkish-van/ and https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/spinone-italiano/
flerp fucked around with this message at 18:15 on Jul 3, 2021
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 13:55|
In as spy
t a s t e fucked around with this message at 14:02 on Jun 29, 2021
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 14:00|
In as spy
https://cfa.org/bengal/ and https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/afghan-hound/
also if you sign up as a spy, please include the emoji in your sign-up post. this helps out the mods a bit.
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 14:02|
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 14:11|
Mike enters the pet shop with grim purpose etched on their face. They immediately climb into a little petting pen, ignoring the children and employees scurrying out of the way. From their pocket, they retrieve a small tape deck. They click play and speak into the tape deck, it does not have a microphone.
"Black Griffon, reporting for spy duty. I'm in."
No one hears this over the abrasive sounds of Norwegian rap emanating from the tape recorder. A child cries. Mike attempts to light the tape deck on fire over the lazy voice of a white guy in his thirties rapping about fjords, the smell of burnt plastic spreads throughout the pet store, the sprinklers go off.
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 14:17|
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 14:23|
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 14:34|
In as a catastrophe.
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 14:45|
Mike enters the pet shop with grim purpose etched on their face. They immediately climb into a little petting pen, ignoring the children and employees scurrying out of the way. From their pocket, they retrieve a small tape deck. They click play and speak into the tape deck, it does not have a microphone.
https://cfa.org/singapura/ and https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/shetland-sheepdog/
https://cfa.org/birman/ and https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/kromfohrlander/
In as a catastrophe.
also special guest Zurtilik pmed me asking to enter with a dog even though they are probed so here's their prompt
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 15:24|
I'm a big fan of cats.
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 16:19|
In for dog
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 16:23|
In, dog. Updog? Indog.
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 16:29|
|# ? Jun 29, 2021 21:24|
I'm a big fan of cats.
In for dog
In, dog. Updog? Indog.
|# ? Jun 30, 2021 03:13|
I can't decide, so let's go spy
|# ? Jun 30, 2021 22:22|
|# ? Jun 30, 2021 22:36|
I can't decide, so let's go spy
https://cfa.org/turkish-van/ and https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/spinone-italiano/
also, if you already signed up, but want to become a spy, just post again and and ill hand out whatever youre missing. this is open until signups close
|# ? Jul 1, 2021 00:28|
I'm formally posting my "In". I had PMed you during my probe. Gotta get writing soon, the days creep by quicker than you think!
|# ? Jul 2, 2021 00:28|
I'm formally posting my "In". I had PMed you during my probe. Gotta get writing soon, the days creep by quicker than you think!
Oh believe us, we know
|# ? Jul 2, 2021 06:35|
That’s entry number one hundred WOOOOO!
Just because you can FART doesn't make you funny, as I try and tell my immediate family repeatedly. Brawl me.
|# ? Jul 2, 2021 07:19|
THE CHAMPION ACCEPTS YOUR CHALLENGE
|# ? Jul 2, 2021 07:24|
I shall destroy the winner with my poopwirds
SO LET IT BE MOTE
|# ? Jul 2, 2021 07:28|
First one in? Perhaps I'm submitting too eagerly. But I worry I'll forget over the long weekend.
An Evening at Papa's 976 words.
The radio played at a quarter volume which filled the room with an ambience of groovy guitar. A few feet from the radio sat an old man, gently tapping his feet to the rhythm of the light percussion. One of his hands sat idly on his lap, the other he reached blindly with to find his dog. The dog’s ears perked up at the sight of the groping hand. She moved her head forward into the man’s palm, helping him find its intended target. “You know, Arturo. I think I saw these fellas live once.” His eyes remained straight on, focusing on nothing in particular.
A middle aged woman sat on a couch several feet from the old man, her eyes darted over to the dog and then to the old man. “Papa!” The woman shouted. “Arturo has been dead since I was a teenager. That’s Maria!”
“Hmm…” The old man replied. He sucked his lips into his toothless mouth and nodded his head weakly. “Yes, of course sweetie. How could I forget?” He turned his attention directly to the dog. His hands began to gently scratch what little bit of hair the dog had atop her head, which resembled a small Mohawk. “Maria is a good little lady.” His face filled with a toothless grin. “Err… How long have we had Maria now?”
The daughter let out a heavy sigh. “We got Maria 8 years ago. She keeps you company when I can’t be around.” She turned her attention back to her phone; she was very clearly not engaged in the company or music around her.
The old man wrinkled his forehead, a very deep line running down the center; somehow the most prominent of the hundreds of wrinkles worn into his face. “Poor Maria isn’t just here for company. We have you and Isabel for that.” He retorted.
The woman looked up from her phone with a clearly defeated look on her face. “Papa! Mama has been dead for 8 years.” She shook her head.
The old man protested back, looking very upset. “Isabel is not dead!” His frail hand balled into a fist and slammed down meekly onto the arm of his chair. “We both saw her at hospital just a few nights ago. She was doing better. Why would say such things, Sofia?” He turned his head to face his daughter directly, his eyes looking to hers in obvious desperation. The dog beside him let out a small whimper in reaction to the sudden change in his demeanor.
“Don’t you remember the funeral, Papa?” She replied with measured nonchalance to his accusations, this was not the first time this has happened.
The old man’s scowl faded into an expression of cold realization. “Oh, Sofia.” He paused and sucked his lips into his mouth again. “It is true, I am sorry. You know I forget a lot lately.” His hand lazily fell back to the dog, his eyes followed. “Poor Maria. I’m sorry I scared you.” The dog looked content and reassured from the renewed petting, her mouth opened to let her tongue fall out.
The man’s attention returned to the radio the song had changed, but it was still the comforting, old Cumbia he seemed to always have playing. This new tune was less groovy and more reminiscent of a nice day at the beach. “Anyway, as I was saying…” He continued a sentence long left behind. “I saw these fellas live once. I think me and your mother had just married. We were in Lima, the city was so much smaller back then.” He began to nod his head again gently to the rhythm.
Sofia interrupted briefly. “We are in Lima now, Papa. But yes, the city was smaller then.” She gave an affirming nod.
“We’re in Lima? Well that’s something!” He let out a small chuckle. “Well, back when I was a young man going to Lima was a real treat. I remember Mama had warned me how dangerous it was.” He laughed again, before he had even told his anecdote. “Well, that just made me and Isabel want to go that much more. Maybe Mama wasn’t too wrong though we we’re at the show for maybe half an hour before-“ The dog gave a sudden jerk up to her feet and let out several loud, alarming barks.
Sofia looked around the room wearily, she saw nothing. “Maria! Maria!” She shouted. “Hush now, you’ll upset the neighbors.” The dog quickly quieted down.
“Right.” The old man resumed. “We had been there maybe half an hour before some city boy there I think took us for an easy mark. He was accosting Isabel, kept grabbing her by the arm. She wasn’t interested of course.” The story paused for a brief moment. The man started to idly play with the lent of the blanket he had wrapped his legs in. “Well, when I gave him a piece of mind and told him where I thought he should go. Well, he didn’t like that.” The old man began to laugh well beyond what seemed appropriate for the story. He laughed so hard, in fact, that he had to stop for a few hacking coughs.
“Well.” The old man finally continued. “This idiot raises his fists like a tough guy. Like he was going to take me down. He got one cheap punch in on my nose, didn’t even get it bloody. Well, let me tell you, farmer boys might not be the smartest, but all that hard work definitely made me strong as an ox. A couple good jabs and he was on the floor begging me to stop…” The old man went silent for several seconds as the song changed again.
He craned his head over to the dog beside him. “Oh, Benito. You know, I used to work building schools!”
|# ? Jul 2, 2021 19:40|
|# ? Jun 27, 2022 09:21|
Just because you can FART doesn't make you funny, as I try and tell my immediate family repeatedly. Brawl me.
THE CHAMPION ACCEPTS YOUR CHALLENGE
I am glad you two are having a good time with your farts.
Your brawl shall be due midnight NZT on the arbitrary date of July 16th.
Your prompt is this:
Your protagonist sucks at something but has no desire to improve. They are happy they suck, they have sucked for a long time, and they don't fret much about the consequences of sucking. Your plot cannot be about them wanting to improve in the thing they suck at. Happy suckers only.
That's all, the rest is up to your imagination. 2000 words or less.
|# ? Jul 3, 2021 04:11|