If you're a good sport though you'll have to toxx when you come back for another story if you do miss!
Zurtilik fucked around with this message at 16:23 on Jul 13, 2021
|# ? Jul 13, 2021 16:10|
|# ? Jun 30, 2022 00:46|
Week 466 Threatening Birds crits
Lawyers In Space
So I’ll cop to it right up front: I didn’t read the whole title and spent too much of this story wondering what this person wanted and where they were going. I’d say that’s 80% shame-on-me, but I’ll also say I’m not a big fan of the “explain what your story is about in the title” TD tradition. Reading it blind, as it were, I felt like the lede was buried a little too far into the story to work on its own, and would have liked a little more sense of what Jiiana wanted earlier in the story. If I’d read the parenthetical part of the title, I wouldn’t be lost, but it was also kind of an unsatisfying way for me to engage with the story as a reader.
Okay! That grumble aside, I enjoyed this a lot. I tend to bounce off of setting-heavy TD entries that hang on sci-fi jargon, but I think this was the right mix of silly and sci-fi for the length. The lawyerly ship operations cracked me up, and everything to do with the metasapience had a Douglas Adams-esque feeling of straight-faced ridiculousness that worked really well for me. I may have been a little lost at the start of this story, but I was never bored, at first because I was puzzling out wtf the legalese had to do with spaceflight (which was fun) and later because I was invested. Was this story upbeat/feel-good? Ehh, maybe right at the end, sort of. Did it make me feel upbeat or good? Definitely.
Ops, I did it Again
I think you undercut yourself right off the bat in this story. It’s hard to be interested or engaged in a character whose main motivation is to not be bored. It’s boring watching someone be bored. I liked the general concept here, the idea of someone playing out wargame solutions and accidentally bombing some stuff (though that does sound a lot like the movie Wargames). I think you could effectively open on that already happening, with the main character already in process of playing out the wargames and getting more quickly to launching nukes.
As is, you have a sort of top-heavy story, where we get a lot of the MC being bored, and too much unnecessary background on the planet (I skimmed most of that paragraph if I’m honest, there was too much of it and if I’m honest very little of it was necessary or relevant). Then the meat of the story-- launching nukes, solving the crisis, the captain saying it solved everything-- was too rushed and felt very incidental. I’d have rather seen the nukes launched in the first third of the story and read about the MC trying to figure out what to do about the crisis they’d caused for the rest of the story. It’s an old TD adage but it’s often true: start where the action is. If you’re economical about your text, you can tell us all the background we need to know as the story is happening without spending a lot of words on straight exposition.
Cassie’s Not A Pet.
This was a solid entry overall. Clear conflict, good resolution, good pacing for the length. If I have a criticism, it’s that for me Elizabeth was a little too vague of a character-- I didn’t get a clear sense of how old she was supposed to be, and her dialogue came off to me as more pretentious than precocious in a way that further confused the issue. The mother, too, felt a little too distanced from the action to me, which makes the story feel more like her after-the-fact recounting of events in a sanitized or simplified way, rather than action that was unfolding in the moment. That’s not an issue per se, but I think a clearer sense of who the mother is as a character would have given some extra depth to the story. I get what she wants (and does not want) but I don’t have a clear picture of what sort of person she is beyond that.
Overall this was okay. Right off the bat, I think this was a little too much on the heightened/wordy side of things for my taste, and I’m not sure the elevated language really did much for the story. Similarly, I think the middle of the story really dragged from taking the time to give us background on the characters that could have been more effectively weaved into the action. Does it matter that Rebecks is big and Sky is small? Sort of, yeah, since it means Sky fits through the brush more easily. But that’s about the extent to which it matters to the action of the story. The fact that Rebecks is huge and nobody knew how big he’d be when they found him as a chick or whatever, or that Sky got picked on for being small, are both interesting tidbits that should inform how you write the characters and their interactions, but I think both warrant only the slightest mention in the story at large, and only when it’s relevant to the immediate action of the story.
As is, the action is a little flat. They want something, they try to get it, there’s an obstacle, they overcome it. That may be all the dry ingredients of a story, but it was sort of unsatisfying to read. Another complication in there might have helped, and I think you would have had room for it without some of the extraneous description and backstory taking up oxygen earlier in the story. Overall I think all the pieces were here, and with a little juice this could have been pretty solid, but there’s a lot of trimming needed to get down to the parts of the story that are genuinely interesting.
BIRD WITH A GUN
This is the first story this week that actually grabbed me in the opening paragraph. Loved it. Loved the story in general, honestly. I appreciate how you lay out what’s going on immediately, and the rest of the story is an exploration of the consequences of that inciting incident. This was really solid use of a small wordcount, and I finished the story feeling satisfied in a way unique to this piece, if that makes sense.
If I had to offer any criticism, it’s that I wanted more of Mallory. I feel like we get a sense of her character, sometimes obliquely through her response to events or things Jason says, but even just one or two slightly more concrete reflections of her would have been helpful. I think that’s getting into the territory of my personal preference rather than something I’d call a shortcoming of the story, though.
This also made me feel upbeat in a way that surprised me, so thank you for that.
This story really surprised me. Adventurous formats in a TD entry always feel like a gamble to me but I think this worked. Once the second POV became clear, I was expecting a Rashomon-type situation, where each character’s perspective of the situation is drastically different or outright incompatible. But instead, I got three similar-but-not-quite-identical perspectives, and the compelling part of the story was watching these characters try to get their viewpoints to slot together in a way that feels right and makes sense. I liked that, a lot, in a way I didn’t expect. I think you really effectively captured that feeling of knowing something isn’t right between you and someone you care about, and the sudden release of weight that comes from moving things even a slight step towards Okay.
I think the fact that the three characters did need or want very similar resolutions to that unbalance may have undercut their differences, though. It was easy to keep the characters straight from names alone, but each of the three sections felt like they had a very similar voice. I would have enjoyed a little more variation between them, and I think it would have added some color that would have elevated an already good story.
Deus ex Beakina
What is it with birds and sci-fi this week? Who knows. So there was lots of ship operation here, and I felt like it was all pretty competently written, but I’ll be honest: I was pretty bored throughout this story. I think there’s good flavor and you had some clear imagery, it felt like there was a spaceship here with a crew on it, but I never felt like I had enough of a fingerhold in any particular character or event or objective to really feel invested in what was going on. The ending was interesting but felt a little abrupt and unsupported. I think focusing on the signal and creating some mystery around it, and maybe finding a way for a particular character to be invested in reaching the signal, would have made the story hang together much better.
Master of Assassination (Majoring in Daggers)
Okay, this was fun. I was enjoying it just fine, then the twist hit and I was really into it. I think this struck the right balance between being surprising and going somewhere unexpected, but also having an ending that played out in a way that felt just a touch predictable, in a way that was satisfying and felt like it was rewarding my attention. I don’t have any real complaints about this story. Well done.
How To Make a New Friend
I’d call this story solid and okay. It didn’t wow me, but I was entertained throughout. I did lose track of the characters a few times and had to scroll up to reread some parts to keep them straight, but I think ultimately they ended up pretty interchangeable anyway. The heist felt a little perfunctory here, but the writing flowed well enough. Ultimately for my taste, I could have used more conflict and more engaging characters.
I’m not sure what to make of this story, if I’m honest. It was funny, I was entertained! It also felt a little abrupt and awkward, in that buzzer-beater TD entry kind of way. This felt like the solid skeleton that was missing the meat of a more complete story, if I’m being honest. I think the pacing probably suffered the worst for that, though I also initially felt like I didn’t have a clear enough picture of Moira as a character, too. Then the story sort of became more about Metatron, so some clarification of what or who the story was about would have helped. I’m not sure the gods’ involvement was quite justified either, though I understand how they fit into the story at large. I think with more clarity and connective tissue, there’s something really fun and funny here, but as is the individual bits don’t quite land for me.
|# ? Jul 13, 2021 16:11|
Sure word me
|# ? Jul 13, 2021 16:56|
Never done one of these, haven’t done creative writing In at least a decade. What is the penalty if I sign up but don’t submit? I have a big exam on Thursday so it’s possible I just disappear into a hole over the weekend and forget all about this.
Signing-up is a promise, a pledge, a mighty declaration. You are throwing your chips on the table and slamming your fist on the bar. You are banging the saloon doors open and as everyone turns to stare you are shouting,
I AM HERE AND I WILL WRITE A STORY!
Now let the thrill of anticipation fill you, feel the fire roar in your belly and crackle from your fingertips. You are going to do the thing, and it is going to
DO NOT FAIL! 1200 words is only about 20 minutes of actual typing, how hard can it be...
|# ? Jul 13, 2021 20:02|
In toxx word
|# ? Jul 13, 2021 20:16|
In, word please
Sure word me
SCIENCE, WORSHIP, FOREIGN
In toxx word
|# ? Jul 14, 2021 00:00|
In, with HYGIENE
|# ? Jul 14, 2021 00:28|
In, and word.
|# ? Jul 14, 2021 00:36|
Grabbing COCAINE and startINg my IN-INges!
|# ? Jul 14, 2021 00:37|
GRABBING cocaine AND STARTinG MY inGINES!
|# ? Jul 14, 2021 00:37|
|# ? Jul 14, 2021 00:48|
Based on feedback, the wordcounts for this week have been increased.
Regular entries can be up to 1500 words
Entries with flash get an extra 250 words for 1750 words
Those of you who have 2000 words total.
|# ? Jul 14, 2021 01:25|
In, and word.
|# ? Jul 14, 2021 01:33|
2000 words! Hot dog. Is that a boon or enough rope to ruin it all?!
|# ? Jul 14, 2021 01:38|
I used COCAINE
My name is Twist
Jimmy Twist. Police detective. I'm at the crime scene in a hotel convention room and there's a hundred and ninety-six dead bodies here. Dead white supremacist bodies. The mystery? Who did it. The answer? Me. I put poison in their unseasoned baked potatoes. They couldn't help themselves.
My partner, Sebastian, who has a funny accent, Boston maybe, says, "This is gonna be a lot of paperwork. I'm too old for this poo poo and I'm ready to retire."
"It doesn't have to be that way," I retort. "We could write it up as a gas leak and then go get some drinks together like back in the old days."
"The old days are gone," he says. "And it wasn't a gas leak. It was cocaine."
"Whaaat?" I say in a comically high-pitched voice. "Cocaine? No…"
"Yiss," Sebastian says in his funny accent. "And what's more, I think it was a poisoning."
"Whaaat?" I say again. "Why? Maybe they just accidentally OD'd. We put that in the report and the paperwork is done!"
"White people like this? They'd never season their baked potatoes. Even with cocaine."
"Furthermore," he says, "this exact amount of cocaine found here is the exact amount that went missing from the evidence locker last night."
"Weird," I say. "And I was working in the evidence locker last night, too, right before all those drugs went missing! That's ironic."
"Twist," he says. "I think you mean coincidental."
"I do." But I didn't. People use those words all the time seemingly interchangeably and I know there's a difference but no one's ever explained to me what it is and who am I going to ask? I'd look so stupid. I'm a police detective. I need respect. That's why I got a badge.
"Between the two of us," Sebastian whispers. "I think it was a cop."
"We found a badge at the scene. It had your picture and your name on it. But you hadn't arrived yet."
I felt in my pockets. Oh no! I must have accidentally dropped it when I was poisoning the food! Thinking quickly, I say, "Someone might have made a copy of mine!"
Sebastian nods. "That's what I was thinking, too, old partner, old friend. You were at my wedding. You're the godfather of my beautiful children that I don't get to see enough since my wife left me. But I don't blame her. You can't be married to a wife… and the job. Plus, I drink too much. Let's go look at that fake badge and compare it to your real one. Maybe we'll find a clue."
"Sure," I say. "Sure. I think we'll both be really surprised at what we discover."
I swallow. I sweat. My stomach churns and chumbles. I can't do this. I have to get out of here. I need an excuse. Fast. And a good one.
"I gotta find a toilet," I say. "I gotta go number two."
"Badge first, bathroom second," Sebastian says. "Everybody knows that."
"Right, right, right. Everybody knows that."
We walk to the table and Sebastian picks up my badge. I stare at him. He waves at me to pull mine out but he's already got it in his hand. This is going to break his heart. This is going to send me to jail. I open my mouth to speak when-
I'm knocked to the ground. My ears are ringing. I cough and wave dust from my eyes. The air is thick with smoke. Shattered glass crunches underneath my feet. And there's a racecar in front of me! And a giant hole in the wall! The driver crawls out of his broken windshield while holding a baby and pops up his viser.
I gasp. “P.P. Weiner!”
“That’s right, it’s me,” P.P. says. He's the world's most famous racecar driver. "But I can sign autographs later. Is anyone hurt?”
Sebastian stands up, dusting himself off. "A hundred and ninety-six dead, P.P. But that was before you got here. White supremacists."
"Hey," I say. "What's with the kid?"
"Oh, this little fella? I saw him crawling off the balcony of his hotel room. He was falling fast but I knew I could I save him if I tried. So I did. Sorry for coming into your crime scene like this."
"Thank you for being a hero," I say. I look down and I see my badge at my feet. Sebastian must've dropped it in all the commotion. I pick it up. "You're a real hero."
My heart swells in my chest. Police officers start crowding around P.P., begging for handshakes and pictures, but I need to say something. I owe it to this man. I can lie to myself, to my partner, to the whole world, but it would be wrong to lie to him.
"A moment of your time, please," I say, raising my hand. Somehow, in the middle of all that noise, he hears me.
"Just a minute, everyone, just minute!" He parts the crowd likes Moses, wraps an arm around my shoulders, and leads me a few feet away. "Now, what's on your mind, big guy?"
I take a deep breath.
"I need to tell you a secret. Something I've never told anyone. Twenty years ago, my brother was killed by a white supremacist. He was walking home from school and this guy was in his truck and he was really drunk. He fell asleep at the wheel. Smeared my baby brother across the payment. Closed casket funeral. His racism didn't really have anything to do with the accident as far as we can tell except for making a rough correlation between that kind of sick mindset and substance abuse but I've held a grudge. And I killed all of those people. And I was going to get caught before you burst in but now I'm not unless you think I should be. I'm putting my fate in your hands, P.P."
P.P. nods solemnly. He says, "I feel like if I'd been there for a longer part of your journey this would be much more significant reveal to me. But, even so, I just want you to know that I recognize what you're doing and that I see you. I see you healing."
"Thanks," I say, wiping a tear from my eye.
"And let me tell you a little secret," he says, squeezing my shoulder. "Nazi lives don't matter."
He gives me a quick finger gun and then spins towards the crowd. "Now who wants an autograph?"
The cops cheer.
|# ? Jul 14, 2021 02:47|
Misery Loves Company
So like, lying on the internet is mostly okay, right? Especially if you’re in the witness protection program—which I’m not, but I probably should be, because I am hiding from the biggest crime syndicate in the Arctic Circle—which, okay, it may be the only crime syndicate in the Arctic Circle, but that doesn’t make you less dead when they find you and only half of the cocaine you stole from them—well, probably less than that now. I haven’t really been paying attention. But anyway, law enforcement probably isn’t going to be protecting me when I’m not actually a witness is what I’m saying, so I have to protect myself.
So that’s why I normally just tell people I live in a space station—which sounds cool and is technically accurate, so really, do I even need to question the ethics of digital honesty? What I don’t usually tell people, because it’s less cool, and also, due to the relatively small number of crash sites in the world, may reveal my location to people who want to kill me, is that I actually live in a burned-out chunk of a space station that abandoned its orbit decades ago, and is now just a very expensive way to keep out of the snow. Well, expensive for whoever built it. It’s free for me. Also, not that great at keeping out the snow in a literal blizzard, which this definitely is, and it’s making me nervous because 1) the internet is probably going to go out soon, and I’m kind of emotionally dependent on that connection right now, and 2) the Ghost will show up soon.
Oh, come on, Ghosts are everywhere, you still can’t be afraid of Ghosts, you’d say, not normal ones. But that’s Ghosts with an S. If there were a whole crew of Ghosts here, that would be fine. I mean, I might not live here, especially if they were Hell Ghosts, I mean, definitely not if they were Hell Ghosts, but a whole crew of Ghosts wouldn’t bother me conceptually.
Because if the crew went down with the station, why only one Ghost? That’s not how Ghosts normally work. Have you thought of a bunch of exceptions or haphazard explanations yet? Good, because they are all wrong. Because yes, I do have Google (usually), and yes, it did occur to me, multiple times even, in the six months since I’ve been living in a loving haunted space station, to look up how many people were on board the Stardust when it did the whole firey plummet thing.
(Pro-tip: maybe don’t name something you want to stay in one piece after a hotel most famous for being imploded on TV fifty years ago. Or maybe nothing with the name “dust” in it at all).
And do you know what the answer was?
The ghost just kinds of stands there, too, fading in and out. Not normal Normal Ghost behavior at all. I think it might be sick. Can Ghosts get sick?
Usually they walk around and talk to each other and just generally act superior, unless they are Hell Ghosts, in which case they manifest wherever they want, “arrest” people, and just generally act superior. “Arrest” is in quotes because normally when you’re arrested they put you in jail and have to charge you with something within forty-eight hours, and you can borrow money for a bail bond and then skip town and go hide in a space station, for example, but when the Hell Ghosts arrest you, you’re just gone.
Some people say they turn you into another Hell Ghost, but give me a break. They despise us. No way are they going around inviting idiot criminals to join them.
Well, invite isn’t the right word, but it isn’t happening, so it doesn’t matter.
So it’s pretty surprising when I get a ping from the Weird poo poo Chatroom I lurk in (it’s not really called that, but it should be).
Corrine07: Wow, it’s really dead in here tonight.
Is she making a joke about my Ghost? No wait, she can’t be. She doesn’t know about my Ghost. I scroll up a bit to make sure I didn’t tell her about my Ghost and then forget. I did not. I could tell her, though. There really isn’t anyone else here—not even timed out/away/lurking—we’re literally the only ones online at all. So maybe that’s why I don't just tell her I have a Ghost, I tell her the truth about all the other stuff, too.
Except the crime syndicate/cocaine/hiding part. That’s not really relevant to the Ghost Question.
MiserableWreck: And guess how many people were on board the Stardust when it crashed?
MiserableWreck: oh. How did you know?!
Corrine07: That's what makes it mysterious?
drat, she’s right. Maybe I should work on my narrative skills.
Corrine07: Maybe it landed on someone?
This, again, is something that has occurred to me multiple times. I even risked my life going down into town to look in the newspaper archives for missing persons. Also to buy several bottles of vodka.
MiserableWreck: Plus, it was wearing a space station uniform!
Corrine07: Okay, it seems like cheating to have not mentioned that before.
Next up is probably the “stow away” suggestion, which, just…you can’t stow away on a space station, okay? Air, water, food, weight, it’s all tracked, calculated, precise, rocket science. Why don’t people think of this the first time? Not that I did, but still.
Corrine07: Well, she couldn’t have been a stow away, obviously.
(drat it, she’s smarter than me.)
Corrine07: Unless she didn’t weigh anything.
MiserableWreck: which isn’t possible.
Corrine07: Unless she was already a ghost.
MiserableWreck: how the hell would a ghost get on a space station?
Normal Ghosts, the ones that aren’t Hell Ghosts, walk around, but they still have a limited radius. I’ve never heard of one even getting on a plane, much less a space station.
Corrine07: Maybe she died on the space station.
MiserableWreck: But she wasn’t in the crew. I looked. There’s no one like her.
Corrine07: Maybe someone put her there.
MiserableWreck: how? and also why??
Corrine07: I don’t know.
Corrine07: What about a black box? Do space stations have those?
That, I do not know, despite having thought of it multiple times, because apparently space station designs are all “proprietary” or “top secret” and not easy to Google. But I was pretty sure my chunk of this space station did not have a black box. Lots of other weird poo poo that I have no idea what is, but a black box should be pretty obvious, and I had looked. A lot. I don’t have much else to do here, really. I mean, cocaine and vodka, but those don’t actually take up a lot of time in the actual doing part.
Corrine07: They’re not always black.
MiserableWreck: WHAT?! They are LITERALLY called that!
Corrine07: I’ve read that sometimes they are orange or something. So they are easier to see.
Well, gently caress. I did have a big mysterious ORANGE box. I’d been using it as a coffee table. Vodka table? Is that a thing? Anyway. Orange Box!
The fact that she knew how to activate and pull data from a black (orange) box really should have tipped me off. I mean, probably, the whole “online when the rest of the internet was down” or “started calling the Ghost ‘she’ when I hadn’t said anything about gender,” or “deliberately leading me to the obvious conclusion” things should also have tipped me off. But I’m lonely and bored and…maybe drunk? I may have been drinking. Wait a second.
“Someone put you there?” I ask. “How?!”
“The usual way a Ghost ends up somewhere,” she said, with an ironic half smile.
“They killed you?”
“Among other things.”
Jesus Christ. That meant—
“Yeah, that’s what Hell Ghosts do with people. Murder them and cram them into space stations or cars or whatever so you idiots can take a nap on the way to work or whatever.”
“So, since being crammed into a vehicle is what I do best now, you are going to cram me into the Repair Bot, and I am going to go kill some Hell Ghosts.”
“But they’re already…”
“I will kill them again, among other things.”
She was even scarier like this than when she was just standing around fading, so I put her into the Repair Bot, which I had thought was a weird astronaut toilet, and didn’t even chase after her when I realized she had taken half my cocaine. It’s not like she took the vodka.
What could a Ghost even do with cocaine? Now there’s an interesting question.
(I mean, kind of.)
|# ? Jul 14, 2021 05:44|
Week 466 - Threatening Bird Crits
I enjoyed all of the stories, thanks for making my first week as a judge easy and fun!
Uranium Phoenix - Lawyers in Space
I was into the premise as presented in the title and the first paragraph, but then you spend the first half of the story on ship communication and missiles. The sparrow AI is fun, but where’s the fun space lawyer stuff? I’d cut all of that out and jumped straight to the negotiations with the metasapience. I think the idea of him owing 30 years of child support for a 2-year-old kid is clever and would justify having the lawyer along to make the case, but as it is, the discussion is rushed and the lawyer doesn’t get much to do. Still, the tone is fun and there was a bird, so I enjoyed reading it.
ZearothK - Ops, I did it Again
As the other judges pointed out, the issue with starting with a character who is bored is that something has to happen to them, or they have to do something, in order for the story to actually get going. That said, I was following along, wondering what sort of mischief he and the AI would get up to, when I ran into the huge paragraph of exposition. It ground the story to a halt and I lost my investment in it. The amount of unnecessary details in both this paragraph and the set-up means that I glossed over the one that actually mattered-- that the mountain looks like a frowning face-- which meant that the ending didn’t land for me. Also, your MC just passes out when the crisis happens and everything is resolved without him, which is not very satisfying, but I did like the chaotic energy of your bird AI.
Barnaby Profane - Cassie’s Not A Pet
Overall I like this story, and Cassie wins Goodest Birb of the Week, but there’s a few character issues that nagged me. First, the text says the mom feels “murderous rage” at her ex getting the cassowary, but that doesn’t come through at all; she just seems mildly annoyed. This lack of a strong initial reaction weakens her arc of accepting Cassie. Second, I wasn’t sure how old Elizabeth was supposed to be. Her adult-style dialogue was jarring since it was inconsistent throughout the story. I think you didn’t need it, I know as an eight-year-old I could’ve expressed a desire for a pet Deinonychus (and probably did).
Zurtilik - Rebecks’ Gift
You get points for your characters being actual birds! However, the tone is all over the place: you’ve got poetic phrases like “sheen with a soft, silver glow in the light of the sun” but also bold phrases like “My right to exist!” That, combined with Rebecks’ hopeless romanticism, makes them both read like one-dimensional anime characters. In fact, the whole story is like an anime, where they eventually prevail due to their Friendship Power Combined. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, you’d just need to push that tone more deliberately to pull it off. Also, I kept getting pulled out of the story with the backstory paragraphs; that information could have gone at the start when you introduce the characters (and it would have made it more clear that they are birds).
Sparksbloom - BIRD WITH A GUN
Short and sweet! I tend to like TD stories that establish a silly premise with no explanation and have characters that react to it in unexpected, but realistic, ways. However, I got a bit caught up in trying to imagine what the BIRD WITH A GUN looked like: the text says it’s a wren with an AR-15, but then it says the bird is black, so is it a blackbird? A crow? Is the bird hopping around on top of the gun or sitting behind it like in the prompt picture? If so, how can they see it on the roof? The public demands answers!
T a s t e - Honeymoon
Confession: I didn’t like this story as much as the other judges initially, but that’s because I’m bad at reading and thought the first section was from Ike’s perspective. I think the lack of speaker identification in the second-to-last paragraph threw me off. Anyway, after rereading it I like it much better. The tension between the characters is well done and they all act in sympathetic ways, which is not terribly dramatic but definitely realistic. The only complaint is lack of birb.
Idle Amalgam - Deus ex Beakina
This one had too much sci-fi for my taste. That would have been OK, but we also switch perspectives too much from Ripley, to Commander Lu, to a general narration of what is happening. Because there wasn’t a single character that carried me through the story, it was hard to get invested in the action. How did Ripley or Lu react to seeing an awesome cosmic bird? What did it mean to them? The story was like a Star Trek episode, only without Spock or Picard to ground the action.
Rohan - Master of Assassination (Majoring in Daggers)
Hooray, a fantasy story, and a good one too! The characters are well-defined, there’s high stakes and a fun twist, and the tone is light-hearted. I’d happily read a book about Assassin University and their cross-town rivals at the University of Necromancy. My questions are: does this class run every semester? Because if so, the kingdom’s going to run out of nobles real fast. Also, it seems a little far-fetched that a professor of assassination could be poisoned in such a straightforward way, but I get that you were out of words at that point. I like the naming scheme nod to the bird theme.
Thranguy - How To Make a New Friend
Another story with no birds, sad. That’s not my real problem, though: up front, you introduce a bunch of characters but there’s not much to distinguish them, either as individuals or from each other. Even leaning on heist cliches (Mary’s the muscle, Sharon's the hacker, etc.) would have helped me get a sense of who these people are. Also, Lise says the heist “wasn’t easy” but it seems to go great: distracting the cop worked well and the guy didn’t put up a fight or even call the cops. A few more things going wrong, or establishing what the personal stakes are (why is Lise so desperate to get paid? Why is this heist important?) would create the conflict this story needs.
Chairchucker - No Escape
This story has a fun energy to it, though I agree with MockingQuantum that it’s the skeleton of a more complete story. I like the idea of bored gods watching humanity and messing with people, just because they can, and I like your bird character, especially the birdy mannerisms. I was a little confused when it turned out the bird could actually control fire, but that’s because I didn’t get that Metatron = angel. Making it more explicit in the text that Metatron is also a supernatural being would help things make more sense for dummies like me. I do like Moira’s complete indifference to the shenanigans but it does mean that most of the action happens off-screen, which is unsatisfying. I want to see the eagle and parrot fight!
|# ? Jul 14, 2021 09:14|
In, and word
|# ? Jul 14, 2021 16:37|
In and word please
|# ? Jul 14, 2021 18:05|
Thanks for the crit!
I enjoyed all of the stories, thanks for making my first week as a judge easy and fun!
If you’ve become addicted to the power of judging, or if anyone else wants to give it a shot, a reminder there are still two open judging spots for this week
EXHIBIT, DEVOTEE, RIVALRY (if you only wanted one word, feel free to just pick one of those)
In, and word
In and word please
|# ? Jul 14, 2021 23:22|
I've set a random personal rule that I wouldn't judge until at least 5 submissions. But some day!
|# ? Jul 15, 2021 01:21|
Fumblemouse brawl entry
Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 04:03 on Jan 6, 2022
|# ? Jul 15, 2021 03:39|
in with CAVEMAN
|# ? Jul 16, 2021 00:52|
(removed because I may want to use it)
Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at 07:52 on Dec 31, 2021
|# ? Jul 16, 2021 01:11|
Fumblemouse vs Yoruichi brawl results!!!
I am typing this on my phone so no fancy formatting for youse but know my heart is formatting things fancily.
Yoru, your story just absolutely squicked me the goddamn hell out. Evocative vocabulary, vague when it could get away with it and detailed when you wanted to make my skin crawl. I enjoyed every moment of this disturbing little tale.
Fumblemouse, your piece was like a prog song: it starts slow, then gradually builds in a nice, slow escalation until an absolutely horrifying last couple of paragraphs that contrast perfectly with the soft, emotive touches of the beginning.
Both of these are among the finest brawl stories I've ever judged. Seriously, you should both be proud. Yoru in particular, you have dissolved inside your chrysalis and become a beautiful Thunderdome butterfly. I am so impressed at how much you've improved.
I'd love to see both of you try to get these bad bois published and would be happy to offer you in depth crits and advice on that if you choose.
As for the brawl, it was agonising to choose. I stood in the shower like a depression montage scene from a movie trying to pick. You both evoked different emotions with a deft touch and in very few words. But Yoruichi wins this one by a disgusting, greasy whisker's margin because her story made my nonexistent balls retract into my body and that's an impressive feat for sub 900 words.
|# ? Jul 17, 2021 04:44|
I shall destroy the winner with my poopwirds
|# ? Jul 17, 2021 07:03|
|# ? Jul 17, 2021 07:09|
|# ? Jul 17, 2021 08:37|
A crit for my worthy opponent.
When I was a younger man, TVs had static. Oh no, is this going to be boring? Try as you might to keep the picture stable, your screen would, in time, fill with ghosts and shadows. So you'd gamely attempt to fix it. You'd move the aerial, then move it again into more convoluted positions to catch the broadcast. But eventually even this would fail and you'd have to retune the channel to get your picture back, which involved dialling, slowly, one way only, through endless, flickering phosphorescent clouds of static, hissing and buzzing at you like furious bees with all the yellow sucked out of them. The bee simile is good but this is off to a very dull start. But you'd keep on winding the knob, through the barren wasteland of the VHF spectrum, hoping to return to the more perfect world you remembered.
Nowadays, of course, it's just a serene, digital blue between the channels. I like to think that's what enlightenment must be like. Just this endless sea of deep, abiding calm before...plink... you arrive at the correct mindset for whatever situation you find yourself in. But every time I sit down in zazen it's like those same angry bees are my thoughts, buzzing around inside my head like I'm a bear that stole their honey. Bee similes are really the only thing carrying this so far.
I don't recall how exactly I started meditating. After her funeral definitely. That's an intriguing hint. I remember I hadn't been sleeping. Maybe a colleague suggested it as I wanly roamed the cubicles, maybe I simply saw a pamphlet in a kebab shop. But I did look into it, and found the whole concept of calming the mind beguiling. I didn't know what to expect when I turned up to the introductory class, nervous and awkward, but they explained the basics, the focusing on breath and then the gradual refinement of focus to a single point of concentration, and what did I have to lose? I knelt among the cross-legged and the lotuses, sequestered in the dim, incense-clouded light of a small meeting room on an out-of-the-way street, breathing, focussing, refining. Nope I'm bored again.
Right from the beginning, my thoughts were wrathful hornets in my skull. You've already said that.
I put it down to inexperience. I kept trying, showing up regularly for weeks, months even, but there was no calming of the mind, not even a slight lull. I have to admit, at the time I thought there was something wrong with me. But some of the regulars were talking about how intense weekend retreats could propel one's progress, so I decided to give one a try. Holy poo poo am I going to win this brawl because you wrote a thousand dull-rear end words about some boring fart meditating poorly??
Retreats turned out to be weird, mostly silent affairs, based around regimented mindfulness. Those few occasions I was allowed to talk, I would always ask "How can I calm my thoughts?" and they'd say something typically cryptic about how "it's not the thoughts I need to calm but a stick of dried dung". Ha, a poo joke. Or something like that, it never made the slightest bit of sense to me, but apparently that's the point. I'd heard the story of how Bodhidarma spent nine years meditating in front of a cave wall, so I stuck with it. "Rome wasn't built in a day," I said to myself, "and Kyoto probably wasn't either. It'll get better."
It didn't get better. I gradually switched to a cross-legged position, or as near to it as my aging knees could manage. I worked through my breathing exercises, settling my concentration to a tiny pinprick in the pit of my belly and, sure enough, within moments my thoughts would rise up in a cavalcade of wishes, ruminations and anxieties. Each and every time. My body would twitch, physically acting out, squinting from the memory of embarrassing incidents, swaying at snippets of catchy songs, shivering uncontrollably at the recollection of the few times of my life when I've truly felt fear. Those I talked to about it, my fellow retreaters and practitioners, all told me that I shouldn't worry, that everyone has trouble to start with. And they were half right. My difficulties didn't go away, but after a while I did stop worrying about it. Wow we're like half way through and nothing has happened. What is this story even about?
In fact, I came to enjoy it. Every morning, half past six, I'd make my blurry-eyed way to the little spot I'd set up in the corner of my bedroom, pull as many feet into my lap as my ligaments would allow, then just stare at the wall, breathe, and wait for the inevitable raucousness to begin. I never had to wait long. They were all there, just lurking beneath the thin veneer of my conscious mind, all the hopes and concerns and feelings that I'd buried, or forgotten, or desperately tried to forget. All the times I'd done the wrong thing, or the right thing, but it had gone horribly wrong, all the arguments and the reconciliations, all the victories and defeats. Sneaking out after dark to kiss my first girlfriend. Her miming fingers down her throat, making vomiting noises to her friends when I passed them in the street after she dumped me. Getting my degree handed to me on stage at the town hall. Getting my first student loan pay deduction. Sad, solitary emissions. Pre-marital sex. Marriage. Marital sex. The funeral. Sad, solitary emissions. It was all there, there was no hiding from it. It was almost better than keeping a journal, not least because you didn't have to bother with the actual writing. There is some very good characterisation in this paragraph. I am starting to get concerned that this might not actually be a boring story about nothing.
After a while, though, I stopped going on retreats. They were getting a bit pricey for no real improvement. I even stopped going to my group meditation practice because I didn't really see the point. Nobody else was undergoing what I was experiencing, and none of their advice seemed to help, and I wasn't even sure that I wanted it to. It was comforting just to know that they were always there, in my otherwise empty house, waiting for me to sit down on my cushion and rejoin them. I'd begin to breathe, and just let them swarm all over the honeycombs of my mind. Bee theme paying off nicely here.
Don't get me wrong, I did make some improvements in my practice over time. I finally managed to sit in the full lotus position, and then, much later, I was able to maintain it without the knee and back-pain I had assumed would always be part of things. My practice times grew longer, minutes stretched to hours. This meant I was coming into work later and later, but the increasing irritation of my boss and my co-workers didn't phase me. In fact it barely even registered. That is, until one day it rose from the depths of my subconscious , a particularly vicious thought-wasp that had me literally quaking with guilt over how much they must have been carrying me for the last little while, and I realised, then and there, that I had to do something. My apathy toward work was becoming a serious problem.
So I quit my job. Boom. At the time it made perfect sense. I still had a huge wad of life insurance money, and work was getting in the way of my practice anyway.
The internet is a wonderful thing. I was able to have food and groceries sent to my door, and though I was resentful of the time that unpacking it took away from my practice, I still realised that literal starvation would hardly be an alternative. So I took the necessary amount of time out of my day to attend to all the trivial stuff: eating, ablutions, sleeping. Imagine you are in a rollercoaster, but you don't know what rollercoasters are. You just know you've been steadily ascending at a slow, boring pace. As far as you know, this is all there is to it. But then it levels out, and you are suddenly wide awake, and your heart is beating too fast, but you don't know why... This is how I felt at this point in this story.
The rest of the day was spent in practice and in reverie, reliving and rethinking all the things that had made my life my life. One after another, an endless succession with no recognisable sense or sequence. But they were mine, truly mine, to have and to hold. Even the painful recollections were old friends, returning in splendour after some time away. I revelled in it, my entire body vibrated with it. The hopes and the hurt. Our fights and our dreams. The day we'd found out we couldn't have children. The wrongness of preferring margarine to butter. These two juxtaposed details are very, very good. The hospice room with the wall of machines. Oh no... The scent of somebody I never spoke to. Waiting for her in a small, wooden, chapel. Watching her drift down the aisle, radiant in her perfect, blue dress. Oh no, oh no... Every word of our vows, the things we said, the things we left unsaid. The ring sliding onto her finger. Lifting her veil. Her face, her face… NO!
Her face is nothing but static. Oh, God, I love her so much. Oh, god.
Dang this story is good. The ending landed a perfect punch to the gut and made me completely revise my view of the beginning. And not in the sense that I raised my opinion of the first half because I liked the second; rather, once I'd read the end it was like I blinked and suddenly I'd read a totally different story. All the details in the first half clicked into place. The grief that had been there all the way through rose into the foreground, and all the bits I had thought were boring suddenly felt poignant. This is an incredible magic trick and I wish I knew how to pull it off. Very, very nice work.
|# ? Jul 17, 2021 09:42|
Signups are closed,
rohan fucked around with this message at 12:49 on Jul 18, 2021
|# ? Jul 17, 2021 11:05|
Putting together a prompt for Yoruichi and sebmojo, mine mine mine mine.
|# ? Jul 17, 2021 12:46|
Yomo Brawl: All I Ever Wanted
Hey you two. I am currently on vacation. Being on vacation is loving weird.
I should be happy. I have no responsibilities.I can wake up whenever I want and I don’t have to do any dishes.
I miss being home.
I never think about how it feels to be on vacation until I’m on one and then it always surprises me. Maybe because it’s often years between them and I forgot how odd it feels to step away from my comfortable routine into whatever the hell this is.
Oh, and sunburn is terrible.
Take up to 2,000 words, and take until it says it’s August on your kiwi calendars to write me a story about Being on Vacation.
But wait, what’s that? There’s more? Well, just a little.
Hey Yoruichi, remember that time when you didn’t really bother incorporating a song choice from the prompt and were brazen enough to say something like “I don’t know maybe I’ll just not include this song that chili loves in my story and see if he notices” in discord?
Do you remember? I remember.
So here’s what we’re gonna go and do about that.
I’m posting a new list of six songs. Each of you must pick one. I need to see inspiration from it a little bit in your story sebmojo, but Yoruichi, you’ll have to do a little better. How much better? I don’t know. You’re good at this writing thing. Figure it out. Oh and no farting around with wasting time, pick one now. Like within 48 hours, or I’ll start taking words away from your word count.
Look at me being all lovely and demanding. See? Vacations are loving weird.
Chili’s Daughter’s Pick: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4OS17lqHiE
Chili’s Partner’s Pick: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kIVhoCLuzw
Chili’s Doing Dishes Pick: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hADIAOUzf8
Chili’s Go Watch This Movie Pick: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDQm70Q9hKI
Chili’s I Know This Band Pick: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPSbYu-6iDs
Chili’s Big Band Pick: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0JREwyJK2M
Chili fucked around with this message at 13:39 on Jul 17, 2021
|# ? Jul 17, 2021 13:22|
Oh and to get my agreed upon crits for week 463 done, by 7/20
|# ? Jul 17, 2021 13:25|
The Story of the Sealed Cave
Listen! This is a story of purest truth, by which all may profit in wisdom. It is more valuable than honey, and it will endure as long as the mountain.
This is a story about Sekwe, She Who Feasts On Truth. Her jaw is the lynx’s jaw; her cloak is of feathers and dry leaves. As the Rockpool clan hunts the seal and the Big River clan hunts the wisent, so does Sekwe hunt mysteries. For the most delicious truths are those that humans, in their pride, have sought to conceal from the gods.
This is also a story about Prsk. His name is known and praised. Through him spoke Sekwe, who was invisible to others’ eyes.
Now the story begins.
It was in the high summer, after the solstice. Prsk had made his camp in the wetlands, beyond the hunting grounds of any clan. There he fed upon waterfowl and turtles’ eggs, while Sekwe kept watch from the treetops. One morning a Low Water woman appeared, struggling toward the camp in great haste. Her hair was matted with the dirt of hard travel. When Sekwe saw the woman, she smiled wide and said: “A mystery is coming.”
The woman approached. “Are you Prsk, the shaman who seeks hidden truths?”
“I am,” said Prsk. “What brings you so far from your hunting grounds?”
“Death,” said the woman, “and life. The hunt leader of Low Water clan has been murdered, and my lover stands accused of the crime. If you do not find the truth, the clan will take his life as well.”
This was sweet food to Sekwe, and she commanded Prsk to set out at once for Low Water camp. While they travelled, the woman related her story.
“My name is Meleet,” she began. “My lover is Kwon, who was second spear in the hunting band. Our sorrow began three days ago, on the eve of the summer solstice. Every year at this time the hunt leader must visit a sacred cave in the northern hills. He remains there from sunset to sunrise, speaking with the clan spirits, while his second spear guards the entrance.
“Wilkuos was our hunt leader—a mighty warrior, who has slain the rhinoceros and the desert wolf. He entered the cave at dusk. Kwon kept vigil outside, but he worried that he might fall asleep, so he asked me to keep him company. It is not taboo for a woman to be there, but... some might say it unmans him. So I came in secret, after night fell.
“I know Wilkuos was alive then. I heard his voice inside the cave, speaking to spirits in the dark. Around midnight he grew silent. We did not think this too strange. But in the morning we found he had been stabbed through the heart! It must have been a spirit that killed him.”
Then Sekwe grew wrathful, saying: “Command her to speak truth, not speculation.” This Prsk conveyed to Meleet, in gentler tones, and she continued.
“It was Elder Zuas who found him. She came just before dawn, carrying a cloak of birch-bark, which Wilkuos was supposed to wear when he emerged from the cave. Zuas went in, and we heard her scream. We ran inside and found Wilkuos lying dead, with a stone knife plunged into his heart.
“At first I thought he had only just been killed, for his blood was still wet upon the floor. But when Kwon looked at the body, he found it was already cold. Kwon is a hunter, so he knows well the decaying of flesh, and he was certain Wilkuos had been dead for hours. I tell you, some ghost must have murdered him at midnight.”
Prsk looked to wise Sekwe for enlightenment. But all she said was: “Ghosts do not kill with stone knives.”
Soon they arrived in the country of Low Water, between the big river and the hills, where grows the oleander, the willow and the water thistle. At the summer campground the whole clan was gathered to hear the elders’ judgement upon Kwon. At first the elders tried to drive Prsk away, saying he was a clanless vagabond. But Sekwe spoke through him and demanded to sit in judgement over the case. And the elders saw he was god-ridden, so they had no choice but to accept.
Eldest of the elders was Zuas, whose back was bent as a crescent moon. She came forward, resting on the arm of her grandson Buruk, who was third spear of the hunting band. She told a tale that matched all that Meleet had said before her. “Kwon is guilty,” she said. “He wished to become hunt leader, and his lover is lying to protect him.”
Then Sekwe through Prsk said: “What is it that makes the cave a sacred place?”
“That is Low Water knowledge,” said Zuas, “not for an outsider.”
“What knowledge is barred to the gods?” said Sekwe.
Reluctantly, Zuas spoke. “At the far end of the cave is a passage, narrow as a serpent and straight as a spear. It emerges on the east side of the hill. At dawn on the solstice, the sun shines through it and blesses the hunt leader with its light.” And in this Sekwe caught the scent of truth, and licked her scaled lips.
“Ask them one more question,” said Sekwe, “and the case will be done.”
“What question, Knife of Deceit?” said Prsk.
"Upon the sacred hill, where do the trees grow thicker: on the east side or the west side?"
Prsk could not comprehend this question, but he relayed it to the elders. "On the east side," they said.
"Zuas is the killer," said Sekwe. "Accuse her.”
Prsk began to tremble, for it was unthinkable that he, a clanless shaman, should cast the blame on such a distinguished elder. But he was sworn to obey the gods even unto death, so he spoke the words of accusation.
"This cannot be so," said the elders. "Zuas is old and frail, and Wilkuos was a mighty hunter. She could never have overcome him."
Even Prsk was forced to agree. But Sekwe spoke through him again, with great majesty, so that his throat was wracked by the strain of carrying a god's voice.
"Zuas," she said, "though you have the respect of all your clan, you desired yet more power. Envy inflamed your soul when you saw your grandson was only third spear in the hunting band. With the pride of all mortals, you believed your offspring deserved the highest honour. So you planned to murder Wilkuos and place the blame on Kwon."
"Lies!" declared Zuas, but the voice of the god overrode her.
"In secret you gathered the sap of the oleander, in which is concentrated the plant's poison. Then, that night, you went to the solstice passage and burned the sap on a bed of dry wood. You knew well that the wind blows east to west across those hills, as the trees will tell to anyone with eyes to see. The wind carried the poison vapours down the passage and into the cave. Wilkuos was in a spirit-trance, and did not notice until it was too late. By midnight he was dead.
"In the morning you approached the cave, bearing the birch-bark cloak. Inside the cloak you concealed two items: the stone knife, and a bladder filled with animal's blood. When you found Wilkuos, you thrust the dagger into his heart and spilled the blood around him so it would seem to be his. When Kwon and Meleet came in, they saw only what you wished them to see."
Zuas' face had turned as grey as a winter's dawn. "It is not true," she croaked.
"Let the proof be shown," said Sekwe. "If I am right, then there will be traces of a fire at the mouth of the solstice passage. No doubt you covered it with soil, but it should not be difficult to unearth."
Then the elders held council. It was forbidden for an outsider to visit the sacred hill, so they sent three women of the clan to discover the truth of it. At dusk the women came back with tears in their eyes. They had found the ashes just where Sekwe had said they would be. Then like rain from the mountains the tears spread to every eye, as the clan wept for the betrayal of their honoured elder. Buruk wept most of all, for he had known nothing of his grandmother's plan. Zuas alone did not weep, but cast down her eyes and murmured a curse upon the gods.
And Sekwe smiled, and licked her lips, and supped upon the sweet and flavourful truth.
This is the Story of the Sealed Cave. We learned it from Erkut, who learned it from Kuos, who learned it from Prsk himself. And if one word is false, let all our tongues be cut from our throats.
|# ? Jul 18, 2021 06:39|
Blah blah blah songs blah blah blah pick one now.
Ok Dad, I pick this one:
Chili’s I Know This Band Pick: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPSbYu-6iDs
|# ? Jul 18, 2021 07:12|
Ok Dad, I pick this one:
Don't make me brawl and lose to you next. I'll turn this thread around right now.
|# ? Jul 18, 2021 13:43|
1483 Words. Magic Word "Tourism"
“loving Tourists!” His backpack swung around, smacking my arm as he screamed. “Learn to ride a subway before you get on one!”
Remember your facial expression when someone tattled on you out in school? Utter embarrassment mixed with a primal desire to pound the fink’s face into a wall? That expression needs a name. Enflamed and Ashamed? Sounds like a lovely indie album, but then again, what facial expression doesn’t?
Whatever you call it, that was the look on the faces of two men shuffling a child down the aisle right now. A few people tried to share a compassionate face with them as they navigated the nest of feet and bags. The rest of us didn’t flinch away from our phones.
His backpack swung around again, smacking a woman’s hand off the rail. “Tourists. Some nerve! They got here yesterday and think they own the place. Someone’s gotta tell them how things work around here.”
I paused, taking a breath. “You know you’re supposed to put your bag down by your feet, right?” I obviously waited too long, though. Good deed done for the day, the hall monitor was already lost in emails.
I spotted the Lurk on 14th as I came up the stairs. It’s hard to miss a gray windowless cargo van with a couch in the back and the uncanny ability to cause terror whenever Oskar took Clara to a playground. I wondered if Oskar was running errands. If so, I wasn’t too proud to ask for a lift home.
Walking up 14th sucked. It was steep. Steep even for this city. Steep enough there were steps carved in the sidewalk. Steps that made lugging a suitcase a Sisyphean task.
“You all staying at the Skylark?”
I was impressed, the family had made it up five blocks already. One was lugging two rolling bags, the other had a duffel in one hand and their daughter on his shoulders. You figure the new boutique hotels in the corridor would advise their guests to drop down to 16th and avoid the hill.
“No, we’re up on Roosevelt.” Rolling bags put his phone back as he finished, looking around and finding nothing to help. Probably wondering why we couldn’t afford street signs on half the intersections.
“Let me help with one of the bags. I live on Roosevelt. It’s just another block up. It will be easier on the other side by the way – no stairs.” They gave me a quick look of concern. Maybe I was one of those people the travel books warned you about.
“Come on Poppy, I have to pee!”
“Right, thanks. We appreciate it.”
Oskar was outside as we rounded the corner, sitting on the stoop.
“Well, this is the street. Also, sorry about the jerk on Muni. This city used to be friendly. Some of us still try to be.” I got a couple thanks and a wave from the girl but they didn’t stick around.
I get it. Even the non-assholes grief about tourists from time to time, but I’ve always carried a lot of sympathy for tourists. Hell, I’m still practically one. I’ve lived here four years and I didn’t hesitate to tell them about “how things used to be.” They are on escape. Who of us isn’t most of the time?
Oskar was most definitely not a tourist, although I’m sure he was called one on the regular. He moved from Dresden god knows how long ago. Probably about the same time he bought the Lurk. The Lurk went a long way in his career. At the very least, it didn’t hurt his ability to charge young adventurers (very much not tourists) a couple hundred a day to show them “locals only” trails filled with “wild” mushrooms and yams. I’m pretty sure his wife Mari plants them in the wintertime.
“You know the type. Backpack wearing rear end in a top hat yelling about tourists.”
“To them? They aren’t tourists, man, they have lived here fort ears!” What was the name of that expression again?
“Fort ears? Shucking heirloom corn on your tours now?” Oskar handed me a can, I tried to ignore my shame. “Why’s the Lurk on 14th?”
“Man, it got towed over the weekend! Someone must have called it in. It was in front of our place, even, not like we were blocking anyone else! Twenty years and never even a ticket. Now this.”
He looked up the street, taking a sip. “Roosevelt’s too steep for the sweepers. Remember we left it for a month when we went down to Brazil for Mari’s family? Not a thing. But that was then.”
“Yeah. I mean, we got a couple passive aggressive notes when we first moved in for ‘parking too long in my spot’ and that sort of thing.”
“Gotta love a good note! Now, though? Neighbors just rat each other out.”
“Any ideas on who?”
“Take your pick. Street was a ghost town after last March. People are moving but doesn’t seem like any of them will be at the block party in September. Probably call the cops on that too.“
“Didn’t one of the palaces up the street finally sell? Saw a couple moving vans a month ago. Maybe they called it in?”
“Maybe. How would you even know these days? What good would it do even if I knew?”
“I don’t know, peace of mind? Besides, Mari will tell Jessica, Jessica will tell Nathan, and then everyone on the street will know who the rats are. It’s something, at least.”
“Something. I guess that’s all you can hope for lately.”
I officially met my neighbors two days later. Fabian and Dan were outside Oskar’s sharing a drink. Their daughter Christina was playing with Clara inside. I headed across the street with beers and apologies. Oskar gave me poo poo. Fabian laughed it off. Dan admitted he didn’t recognize me that day either.
It wasn’t long before Mari called Oskar in to help with the kids. “You want to meet us at the Page?”
“Have an early booking tomorrow. Wildflower season. And now we have to hike down to the Lurk before pickup.” We all took turns looking up the street.
Oskar went inside. Dan took Christina home. Fabian and I headed down the hill.
I never heard anyone call the Page a locals bar. Nobody called any of the bars around here locals bars. They all were, though, the Page no exception. You usually recognized half of the patrons that you didn’t already know by name. On a good night you didn’t meet any assholes. Good nights were becoming rarer by the day.
Christina was working. It was more crowded than usual but there were a couple stools next to a group in the corner. All of them were still wearing their backpacks.
“What beer and what whiskey do you use for the Shot and a Can special?” “Can we upgrade?” What’s the name of that local beer at the office?” “Dude, why are you paying for beer we get for free?” “I want to try something local!” “What about Absinthe? But the real stuff with the cubes like how Lindsay was talking about yesterday?”
“You two know you can just order whatever beer and drink you want separately, right? Here’s a menu!”
She had a finger-gun to her head as she turned to us. “They tried to order Fireball when they first came in.” She was purposefully loud but it didn’t seem like they heard. If they felt any shame they hid it well.
“Hey, you all live around here?” “Yeah, where’s a good locals bar?” “Something with beer you can’t get just anywhere?”
I turned to stare at them. Fabian was more neighborly.
“Here. Maybe MiniBar up the street. There is also Anchor and Chain on 23rd if you are looking for something different.”
“Isn’t that a tourist bar?” “Yeah, we aren’t tourists.” “We live up on Roosevelt.” “loving tourists, though, I bet you have to wait forever while they try to order a drink, right?”
“Yeah, probably.” I turned back to Fabian . They continued.
“It’s like on Muni, right? You can’t catch a train home half the time because tourists block all the doors.”
Fabian caught on before me. “Tell me about it. Plus, what’s with the street parking lately? It’s like we live on a parking lot, right?”
“Yeah, a few days ago we had to call in this molester-mobile parked on the street. It was there for days. I swear, we pay taxes and those people from the yards just think they can park for free?”
“I know. I know. I’m Fabian by the way. We’re at 113 Roosevelt.”
“Aiden.” “Taylor.” “Jackson.” “We are in 196.
“You meet Oskar yet? If not we should introduce you. He is sort of the mayor up there. And Cheers!”
“What are we cheering?”
|# ? Jul 18, 2021 17:39|
Here are some extra credit crits for week 463. I’m going to boil down my sentiments in a sentence at the end of each crit in language we use to help our toddler be kinder. These may or may not be quotes from Daniel Tiger. Come at me.
Dome Racer Alpha’s A story about a crash
gently caress off with this. Jesus christ. The connective tissue of this story’s logic looks like it was put together by one of the worst kids in my high school improv class. I was kinda sorta ok with what you were doing and the twee and snarky nature of the tone of this, and then Oh hey, it’s your pissdong character again to ruin the day. If this is going to be a running gag for you I’d suggest just calling it off now. This wasn’t fun to read, it’s not amusing. Stuff just keeps happening, for no real reason and then you go on to comment on the things that happen as though you were some observer, not the writer.
It’s not my favorite.
Black Griffon’s Vengeance Climb
This was a blazing read. The action is choreographed perfectly and the partnership between the protag and the war gull is clear and well executed. I could see this and almost smell it thanks to the details.
Where things get a little off for me is the motivation. I don’t think I’d care very much if this was a story about someone just trying to steal poo poo from the boat or even if it was just an rear end in a top hat terrorizing people.
A revenge story is hard to execute with such a limited wordcount as establishing the motive for it is always a challenge. You kinda do a bit of that in the end but maybe you should consider weaving more clues and hints as to what’s being avenged earlier on, and then throughout the story.
Stop. Stop Stop. It’s OK to be angry. It’s not not not OK to hurt someone.
Dome Racer Sigma’s Accounting for Dragons
This was nice and it deserved it’s HM. Both characters are fleshed out well as is this relationship. The pretense of identity concealment kinda felt a bit light. It didn’t really seem like anything bad would happen when the shoe dropped so I wasn’t worried. The response from the dragon was pretty much what I expected but that’s also OK given as the story is about mundane poo poo happening. The opening beat is probably not quite necessary for content purposes but it does establish a good tone and doesn’t waste a ton of time. Also, I don’t know if you had anything specific in mind but I pictured the dorkiest most obviously fake dragon costume in my head and that made the story much more enjoyable.
You can change your hair, or what you wear. But no matter what you do, you’re still you
Barnaby Profane’s Bobo and Ferrs Visit Grandma
I’m all about a cute story and this one is certainly that and it nerds out about evolution. Beyond that though, there’s not much to sink my teeth into. The relationship between the eponymous critters may as well be non-existent. In fact, this could have been a single player adventure and still would have met the prompt since the ancestor is a different species. Anyhow Bobo is just along for the ride and that’s a bummer. At the end of the day we have a reverse grandfather paradox and it’s good and fine but nothing about this wowed me all that much.
Find a way to play together
Sitting Here’s thing that is far too long.
This thing is far too long. I’m not going to read it while I’m in crit mode. I don’t like that it flagrantly broke the rules and HM’d when I know, for a fact, there were entrants this week that had to cut down parts of their stories they really liked and then didn’t HM. So maybe this is more of a more crit of the judge, I don’t think it’s sporting to award a piece like this, though I’m sure it’s good plenty of good stuff cos of course it does.
It’s almost time to stop, so choose one more thing to do.
tuyop’s A Raccoon at the End of the World
The beginning of this story is challenging, there’s a lot of expository talking around what’s going on and what the raccoon is all about. I’d rather see it all play out in action. From there, the story read much better though. I’m not entirely sure how to parse all of this though. You said all the humans disappeared yet they clearly haven’t. So while I’m interested in seeing how these two animals may do on their own from here, that’s all sort of ruined when you throw a human back in the mix. Otherwise, the story itself is relatively tight if not slightly uneventful but you also managed to make the relationship at least somewhat believable, which I appreciated.
Grown ups come back they do, grown ups come back it’s true. Gro-own-ups come back.
Chairchucker’s Got No Rhythm
Aw, I liked this one! It may be a bit light and after-school-specially but whatever, it made me smile and even giggle in places. As far as changes go, I don’t necessarily mind the opening beat but I thin I’d swap that out in favor of more back and forth action in the story itself. I also don’t know how this detention works but it’s like no detention I’ve served (and I’ve certainly served my fair share). Is anyone watching these kids? I think I’d also prefer to see the punishment occur more publicly. Why not make them dance during dodgeball or something? Go big with it.
In some ways we are different, but in so many ways, we are the same
Sailo Viy’s The Dreamer’s Companion
Sorry, I won’t have much to offer you. My brain turned off after like the first paragraph of this and my heart took over. This was beautiful. I loved it. I especially love how you deftly handled the personification of the animal and didn’t lean too much into it. But the story had a good emotional arc and was very satisfying to read. You accomplished an awful lot in just 1,000 words. Well done.
When a friend doesn’t want to play with you, you can find something else to do
drat, and right after the gut punch I just read, I get another. This was also excellent, and I don’t feel like I have much to add. Definitely deserved it’s HM. I love the POV from the story and how trivial the human is made to feel. I do kinda wish that the physicality and specificity of the being that is the narrator was more developed, but then, I also kinda like filling in the blanks for myself. There’s a bunch of stuff in here that just feels really worthwhile and I want to know more. The idea of trolling through the ears for dreams, for example… I could see that being a whole story and you just put it in there as a nice little accent. Well done.
Close your eyes, and think of something happy
MockingQuantum’s Buried Light
And another good’un. Wowa, I would have had a bitch of a time judging the top end this week. All of these HM’s make a lot of sense! OK, so this is really solid as well and is a creative take on the prompt for sure. As a bit of a critique I’m not sure how much we need in the beginning. The whole procedure of getting things going does establish the space pretty well but I care a lot more about Star and the relationship these two characters have. I’d prefer to see more of it in favor of much of what’s in the first 200 words or so, even though what’s there is pretty solid. It’s a scifi story with an evocative ending, when I can say that, and I can only personally say that rarely, I’m reading something special. It’s an even bigger accomplishment that it took you only 1,000 words to get there.
Let your light twinkle
|# ? Jul 18, 2021 20:28|
Secret word: GAMBLER
Something weird was happening at Global Bioscience. Jared could feel it just under the surface, like deja vu, whenever he walked past the locked double-doors of the back lab, where only senior techs were permitted to go. When he tried to talk about his misgivings with his family, he found that he simply couldn’t.
“It’s bizarre,” he told Arjun and Tamara, the members of his team he was closest with while they sipped beers at a local happy hour after work. “I started talking and just… couldn’t remember what I was talking about.”
Tamara looked skeptical, but Arjun nodded, slowly. “I had something similar,” he said. “It’s like I can’t retain any information about what happened at work unless I’m talking directly to a coworker.”
“You shouldn’t be doing that anyway,” Tamara said primly. “We signed an NDA.”
“Never had an NDA cause a migraine when I tried to tell my wife what happened at work,” Arjun said. “And… well, this project we’re working on…”
“It gives you the heebie jeebies, doesn’t it?” Jared leaned forward, tapping the table. “I tried asking what we’re working on and Dr. Clay brushes me off every time. He just laughed and said we were ‘doing important work,’ whatever that means.”
Arjun said “Bad lab management. But hey, the pay is great, isn’t it?”
“And the tissues we’re working with,” Jared said, as if Arjun hadn’t spoken. Tamara rolled her eyes at him, but he pressed on. “I checked to see what cell lines they were from and hit an immediate dead end. There’s no ordering data from any of the usual places. It’s not mouse spleen or CHO or chicken egg. I can’t tell what it is.”
“We’re making a monoclonal antibody,” Tamara said. “We’re preparing the growth medium. That’s it.”
“Sure, and how many MABs have this level of secrecy, huh? How many don’t leave any records for, like, FDA inspections?”
Tamara sighed. “Look, Dr. Clay never locks his door when he leaves. I can run a sample through the gene sequencer if you want me to.”
Three days later Tamara appeared by his desk, waving a stack of reports. “Jared,” she hissed. “You were right. This is super weird.”
He swivelled around and looked over the sequencing report. “I, uh… what am I looking at here?”
“It’s definitely blood, there’s definitely genetic material involved. But it’s also definitely not human.”
“So what is it?”
Tamara shrugged with her entire upper body, hands wide, eyes wide. “No clue! It’s not cat, rat, dog, or monkey blood either. And then I ran out of time in the sequencing lab.” She looked around. “Where’s Arjun? He’s going to want to see this.”
Arjun never showed up to work that day, but he arrived at the weekly happy hour looking sallow, scared, his eyes hollow in a way Jared associated with soldiers returning from war.
“It’s worse and weirder than you think,” he said, white-knuckles lifting his whiskey to his mouth. “I got into the back lab. The restricted lab. And it…” Arjun pressed the heel of his hand into his forehead, wincing. “There’s a door there. Built into bedrock. I can’t…” He downed the rest of his drink.
“You can’t talk about it,” Jared said, grimly. “Just like we can’t talk about work with family. Something’s preventing it.”
“And it comes from the back lab,” Arjun said, shutting his eyes against the agony in his skull, pain chopping his words into brief, grunting phrases. “From the gateway. You need a keycard to get in.”
Jared and Tamara traded a wide-eyed stare. “What gateway?”
Arjun just groaned and sank his head into his hands. “God my head hurts. I can’t talk about it anymore. Talk about something else, maybe it’ll fade.”
Tamara launched into a description of her nephew’s fifth birthday party and the eternal drama between her sister-in-laws. Jared tried to throw in a few anecdotes and questions of his own, but was unable to stop thinking about what was behind those doors. He could feel obsession setting in, an all-too-familiar drive to know, to gamble his entire career against his curiosity.
Eventually he resorted to swiping a keycard from one of the senior techs. It caused a bit of a commotion, but everyone just assumed she’d misplaced it somewhere in her desk, not that it was stolen. Jared decided to wait until late on a Friday night to try it, when everyone who might know his face and recognize he didn’t belong was gone for the weekend. This required very little subterfuge on his part, just quick waves to coworkers and an explanation that he had work to catch up on. Once the clock struck eight, he headed to the doors of the back lab, trying hard not to look suspicious, formulating excuses in his mind in case he was caught on security cameras.
The doors swung open, revealing another, larger laboratory space, identical to the one in which Jared worked.
Except his lab lacked a massive, glowing portal in the far wall. Eldritch symbols pulsed with an eerie, green light around the perimeter, and the entire room was filled with a faint thrumming sound. An airlock was built into the portal, like something from a hospital, or maybe from a space station.
Jared stared. The door wasn’t just unreal. It was deeply, uncomfortably familiar. He walked toward the portal in a dreamlike trance. His keycard allowed him to pass into the airlock, which cycled and released him into a dark tunnel, lit by strands of red LEDs along the ceiling and walls. There were more symbols on the walls, as well as signs written in several different languages.
WARNING. RESTRICTED AREA. UNAUTHORIZED ENTRANTS WILL BE VOID AND SHOT.
“What the gently caress,” Jared whispered. “What the actual gently caress?”
He did not want to be shot. He didn’t know what “void” meant but he was pretty sure he didn’t want that either. But something was pulling him in, a tow cable attached somewhere just beneath his sternum. Despite the warnings, despite the lessons learned from watching countless horror movies, he found himself putting one foot in front of the other, continuing to follow the red lights.
Eventually the corridor opened into a larger space, a roughly circular cavern from which more corridors extended. A pair of massive, glowing crystals in the same shifting colors as the lights dominated the room. Their presence was so awe inspiring, and like everything else, so damnably familiar that Jared didn’t notice he wasn’t alone until the man stood up. Jared froze in place, eyes wide, as his boss approached him.
“Wonderful to see you, Jared,” Dr. Clay said, smiling warmly.
Jared stared. The man’s white lab coat clashed with this dark, occult space like toothpaste and orange juice. Some aspect of Jared’s mind simply didn’t want to accept it. “What is this place?”
Dr. Clay sighed and gestured for Jared to follow him down one of the tunnels. “A containment facility. You’ve realized by now, of course, that magic is real. It’s also extremely dangerous. Which is why your work is so important.”
Jared hurried after him, staring at the doors that lined the walls. “The antibody? What does it do?”
Dr. Clay reached a cart that contained several vials of a black substance. “It binds to receptors that mediate the ability to manipulate magic. It turns all the magic off. It allows us, regular humans, to stay the dominant species on this planet.”
“This is insane,” Jared said. “This must just be a dream.”
Jared looked at one of the signs on the wall. “Are you going to shoot me now? Have I seen to much?”
“No. But you do have a choice to make. You’ve made it down here, you have the right amount of curiosity to overcome the pain of the NDA you signed. You can take this opportunity, get promoted, learn a bit of magic. Or you can leave. We’ll wipe your memories, and you’ll go back to your lab. Again.”
Jared thought this over for several seconds before he twigged to the tone of Dr. Clay’s voice on the final word. “Again?”
The doctor smiled. “Jared, this will be the third time you’ve made this journey in the past year. You’re remarkably dedicated. I very much hope you’ll choose to stay with us. But if not…” Dr. Clay shrugged expansively. “You’re good enough at your job. But I do hope this time you’ll see the value of joining us.”
Jared pressed his palms to his forehead. This made sense. It shouldn’t make sense. This was insanity. But the thin doctor’s words clicked into place with such a familiar rhythm. The tunnels were familiar. The crystals were familiar. He’d been here before and been made to forget.
He didn’t want to forget again. He took a deep breath, his mouth dry.
|# ? Jul 19, 2021 00:53|
|# ? Jun 30, 2022 00:46|
Beyond the Vault - 1496 words - Prompt Words: Vintage, Robbery, Magical
The plan had gone off without a hitch. I made my way to the cellar just as my contact had instructed me to. There was no one in the house… The mansion. Hell, the cellar alone was bigger than any place I had ever lived. This contact of mine, he wanted me to steal some wine. I’d grabbed the handful of ‘special vintages’ he had specifically requested.
My contact had told me that wine was too heavy and fragile to “go grabbing and stuffing in a sack all willy-nilly like they were little precious trinkets.” He was an eccentric man, my contact, he kept telling me to keep to the wine and to be careful of everything else there. “The man you’re robbing, he’s an odd and dangerous one. Just grab what I’ve asked and get out.” As far as I’d seen that was fine with me anyway. For a house so fancy it was pretty light on anything worth grabbing.
The cellar was designed like a maze, it felt like. The racks of barrels and bottles rose from floor to ceiling and the lighting was faint. Most everything had a solid layer of dust covering it up, a few bottles here and there were missing but otherwise it looked as if the man never even came down here. I’d found most of what I needed, just a couple more bottles and I’d be home free!
I rounded a rack and it was a dead-end. End of the line, I guess. I eyed over all the different bottles, god it was cold down here… A couple more minutes and I found the last ones I needed. It was then out of the corner of my eye I noticed something I had somehow missed on my first look at the dead-end wall. It was a vault door, which looked old in style and yet looked remarkably new and maintained. Unlike the rest of the contents of this cellar, this door was clean. Hell, it looked polished…
I got closer and looked it over. This thing was solid, real solid. No way I was going to simply break it down. For all my confidence, I was no yeggman. A simple house safe, maybe I could crack it. But this was well out of my league. The owner was not here though, that’s what I was told. So there was no intimidating them into giving me a combination.
I was told wrong though, it seems, for the second I rounded the corner of that last rack again I saw a figure standing there. An old man… No, old was an understatement. This guy was ancient; it looked like a strong gust could push him down. He moved forward a weak step, no wonder I didn’t even hear him.
“Young man…” He faintly muttered. “I’m sad to see someone stealing from such an old man, but perhaps I cannot blame you. It’s not as if I could drink all this wine.” He couldn’t see my face. I was masked. But I’m sure it didn’t take a genius to look at my stance and my body to guess I was a ‘young man’.
“I won’t stop you, you know. But I see you. Eyeing my safe...” His eyes glanced to the right of me and over to the immaculate vault door.
Yeah, I was eyeing it. This house was a bust outside of some weird sommelier’s lust for old wine. Most clients I served I could make a little side change, some jewelry or electronics maybe. This decrepit big shot here though, with his giant house, he lived like a pauper beyond this cellar… and that vault door.
I finally responded to him, I altered my voice some, keeping it low and intimidating. “Yes, the vault. What’s the combination?” I asked him outright. Surely, this withered raisin of a man wasn’t going to put up much resistant. Hell, he didn’t even have a gun or anything.
The old man shook his head. “Why… Why do you care? You’ve got more than you could want here, in this cellar. You’ve got plenty already in your hands, More than enough.”
This old fart wanted to act tough. I grabbed him by his shirt and shouted. “Look here you old bastard, I’m not leaving here without that combination.” I raised my fist to threaten. Part of my mind wondered if he had called the cops, if he was simply stalling for time.
The old man paused a moment and replied again finally. “You’re so desperate to get even more? So desperate you’d strike an old man who can barely even walk?” He asked his eyes staring into mine, as if he could guilt me into changing my mind. “The things behind there… They’re not worth it I assure you.”
I laughed. “People don’t tend to keep nothing behind a vault like that. You use it too, I can tell. It’s the only thing down here not forgotten about.” I hefted him across the floor closer to the vault. He made a loud thud and let out a terrible groan of pain in response. I had worried I might’ve overdone it, but he slowly stood back up. That shriveled centenarian was tougher than he looked.
“If it is that important…” He walked a few labored steps towards the safe and punched in a combination. I was close behind him and once he finished it, I turned the handle and it opened without an issue.
This is where he hid everything for sure. This was no bust. Inside were jewels, gold, trinkets and antiques that I couldn’t even begin to imagine the value of. If you had told me the Holy Grail was in there I wouldn’t have doubted you. This dude was loaded. I’d need to find a better fence when this was over, this was definitely beyond my usual fare.
I dragged the old man with me, I didn’t want to risk him closing the door or pulling some sort of trick. Plus if the cops did actually show up maybe I could use him. I scooped handfuls of the loot into pockets, my bags. I looked like a walking stereotype, slinging a fat Santa like sack over my shoulder. The whole time the old man just sort of watched with grave disappointment. The cops never showed, I started to walk away and the old man never raised a finger…
The next morning I woke up early and decided to celebrate my major score by dipping into one of the extra bottles I had nabbed last night. I had worked my way through half the bottle when I heard an unexpected tapping at my door.
“Go away!” I replied. The tapping stopped for a moment but then I heard the sound of someone jiggling my door knob. I grabbed a nearby knife and creeped my way to my door. The jiggling had stopped, but I didn’t like this one bit. I gave a look through the peep hole and then gasped at who I saw on the other side. It was the old man from last night and it appeared as if he was fumbling with something in his hands.
“Son of a bitch.” I muttered to myself. How did this old bastard even find me? What did he plan to even do? Were the cops coming too? Before I had much time to think the matter I heard the sound of my door knob turning. I’m not sure how he had unlocked my door, but I wasn’t about to let some old man shake me down. I took a step back and prepared to lunge at this bastard if he walked a step closer.
Then it happened, he opened the door and walked in as if he had nothing to fear. I pounced on the old man and prepared to thrust the knife into his ancient, dusty heart if I had to.
“How the hell did you find me, you old gently caress!?” I shouted at him, with the knife still raised. He offered no reply and merely squinted his eyes at me. It was then I felt the most horrible pain in my life fill my entire body. I dropped the knife and fell to the floor. I writhed and screamed, it felt as if my insides were melting.
“I told you the things inside weren’t worth it. But you types never listen.” He said with more force and life than he had ever shown the night before. He walked over me, there was nothing I could do. It was barely able to even concentrate on him as I struggled.
The old man let out a heavy sigh as he stared at the wine bottle on my table. “A waste of a good vintage too.” He walked off into the next room and left me behind. It was only a few moments later that the world turned dark and the pain overtook me…
|# ? Jul 19, 2021 01:30|