The Mystery Hostel
I am beginning to think there is something strange about this hostel. I am not speaking of the building itself, which is a fine old place, Gothic and dim-lit, with tall corridors smelling of dust and body spray. I am speaking rather of the hostel’s tenants. I often wonder… well, we could take the communal kitchen as an example. Every evening it fills up with the bodies of people who make use of its facilities. They prepare food. But the people are usually a completely different set from day to day. On Monday, say, they are all Israelis. Then on Tuesday, Colombians. Then the Israelis may reappear later in the week. I’m sure there is a reason, but you must admit it is odd.
You may think I am being paranoid. It is true I have been observing the staff closely. They all have their faces, though possibly the faces are not the same from one day to the next. Very well—you get what you pay for, and this is budget accommodation after all. Still, I am a little hurt that none of them have bothered to learn my name after all this time.
As for the city? The city in which the hostel is built… I am sure it is a very well-appointed city. All of the hostel tenants speak very highly of the city. One day I may visit, though I haven’t so far. The tenants give their opinions readily on the city, on the nightlife of the city, on the history of the city. It seems very convenient to me that so many points of interest coexist within a single city. Are the tenants exaggerating or confabulating in their descriptions? To what end? I have tried many times to engage them on this subject, but have gotten no response.
But I am not explaining myself as well as I could. Let me describe a particular incident that will illustrate my point.
There was a certain young man who arrived at the hostel alone. He drew my attention because he was alone, and because whenever I watched him he displayed a nervous disposition. When others entered a room he would look up with an expression of expectation or guilt. He was never completely relaxed. Even when he showered, his eyes would dart about in the small space, and his heels would lift up as though he found the texture of the glazed tiles unpleasant.
One morning I observed him eating a bowl of cereal in the kitchen. While he sipped the last of his milk with furtive lips, a group of Scandinavians came into the room, talking loudly. There were three women and two men, all tall and blonde-haired. They seated themselves along the bench beside the young man. Because the bench and the table were so small he was forced to slide out to the edge to accommodate them.
I am certain the young man had not encountered this group previously. As I said, I had been watching him closely. Yet the women greeted him, saying “Good morning,” and the men each gave him a nod.
This behaviour seemed odd to me. My attention was drawn. I sat down beside the young man, on the far side from the women, who were squeezed together on the small bench so that their elbows sometimes brushed each other and the young man.
They were talking about something that had happened last night in the hostel. A story involving alcohol, coloured paper and a karaoke machine. I listened carefully but could not piece together the story’s meaning; it was in fragments because they had all experienced it already, and were merely repeating it out of relish.
Meanwhile, as I listened, the young man also listened with a nervous smile on his face, sometimes nodding, sometimes laughing when the others laughed. Occasionally one of the women would glance toward him as if he were in fact included in the conversation.
Yet, I am quite sure he was not familiar with the events they were recounting. The previous evening I had observed him eating his dinner, looking at his phone for about an hour, and going to bed early. He had been restless and woke several times before midnight, but he left the bunk room only to urinate. Well, I am obsessing over details, no doubt. But it is in the details that I find the clues; the things that do not line up. In the crook of a smile, or the kink of a thumb sliding nervously up and down an illuminated screen…
I am digressing. Where was I? The Scandinavians were talking about their plans for the day, their visits to some landmark or other. Each time the rightmost woman’s elbow bumped the young man, he would shift a little further to the edge of the bench to make space for her. Yet at the same time he was also leaning further in to the table to bring his face closer to the faces of the Scandinavians in general. It was around this time that one of the Scandinavian men—he had a long, golden-coloured beard—was holding up a red bottle of tomato sauce inverted above his scrambled eggs. The bottle was nearly empty and he was struggling to make it produce any sauce. He sighed and his eyes met the young man’s for a moment. The young man then said, “It looks like you need to complain to the sauce cupboard manager.”
I, sitting beside him, tried to decode this phrase. The Scandinavians must have been doing the same, as they all fell silent and looked at the young man. The bearded Scandinavian looked around the table and then back at the young man, and gave a slight shrug.
The woman on the young man’s left said: “He doesn’t speak English.”
The bearded man nodded and gave a very brief but wide smile and said: “No English.”
The silence resumed. I was still trying to decode the phrase: “It looks like you need to complain to the sauce cupboard manager.” In fact I am still considering it even now. I feel that if I could unlock the contents of this phrase in its entirety I would also unlock all the secrets of this mysterious hostel.
There have been other strange occurrences. I cannot list them all here. Regardless of the situation, I try to understand and to make myself understood. Sometimes I feel lonely, especially in the small hours of the night. Then the early sleeping tenants are in bed, and the late revellers have not yet returned, and the hostel is dark and quiet. There is nothing to do then but watch their bodies shift slowly in the bunk-beds in the dark. In the past I have tried to speak to the tenants while they sleep. This is practical, as it is the only time they are quiet enough for me to get a word in edgeways. Their responses have been disrespectful, to say the least. They sweat, moan and shiver in their beds. One or two have gone so far as to bleed from their nostrils. Since then I have refrained from direct communication. Mere observation is best. Observation and patience. I still have hope that I will understand what that young man really meant, although he is checking out tomorrow.
|# ? Aug 23, 2021 04:00|
|# ? Nov 28, 2023 08:59|
Your Feet Cut Furrows in the Earth
You're on that familiar path between your desk and the cafeteria, staring down at the linoleum underfoot, when you decide to keep walking. It feels good to walk; why stop for the vending machine? Why stop for anything at all? The thought puts some strength into your leaden gait, and you walk on. Your trajectory takes you through the open cafeteria door. You'll hit the tables soon. You don't care.
Walking through a table feels like stepping into the musty air of a disused room. It takes a moment to register that you walked through -- that you have plowed through solid matter and felt nearly nothing -- and by the time you grasp it, you've reached the plate-glass cafeteria window. It feels like cool jelly to pass through, and you spare it a glance to watch it reform like half-set gelatin. You think of an Internet message-board conversation you read once, in early adolescence, about the urban legend of liquid glass. You think of how many of your thoughts are just recycled memories of things you read or heard once, and just how little your brain really makes on its own. I am not allowed to ever come up with a single original thought plays in your head. It's a song lyric, another thing not your own. Meanwhile, your feet are walking on, onto the grass and towards the parking lot.
There is the vague thought of consequences. You were on break, but someone will surely look for you eventually. The office will close. You will, at some point, be missed by someone. Won't you? You think of a hand plunged into a bucket of water, then pulled out, with the water unchanged by its presence or absence. Another unoriginal idea -- something from a high-school coach, you think. A parable for how nobody is indispensable. You have never been indispensable to anyone, and now you are walking.
Passing through cars has the same thick-air feeling as the table, but warmer, like summer humidity. You try to remember which cardinal direction you're pointed, until you remember that it doesn't matter.
Soon enough, you're sure, nobody will remember you.
You're walking south, based on the sun, but somehow you never hit ocean. After you leave the city limits and the few southern suburbs you recognize, there seems only to be endless flatland towns: gas stations, Dairy Queens, a few sad houses. Another Greenville, another Magic Mart, your brain provides, because song lyrics are all it's ever been good for. You never stay long enough for a town to surprise you; you're still walking, after all. Your leave no trace behind, save for your feet, which leave strange deep trails through earth and concrete alike. This should hurt, you think, but you feel nothing. Your shoes feel a tiny bit looser every day.
You don't feel much of anything. Your body demands nothing of you besides continued motion, and you start to forget what hunger and fatigue felt like. You start to wonder if you're dead. Is this what ghosts do? You think ghosts are invisible, though, and you don't seem to be. The people you pass in your travels look to you, smile and wave, as if you're a neighbor. You think of how nobody in the cafeteria screamed.
This should bother you, but your mind these days is a dull smooth river stone, carried onward by the currents of your walk. You're just too tired to stop. That's a song lyric, too, and this one isn't even right, is it? You're not tired, except in the way that you always have been and could never quantify. It's all momentum now.
You walk on. Your shoes are intact, but your feet swim in them, like new childhood shoes bought "to grow into" always would. The trails you leave would be knee-deep, now, if you fell in.
You stop worrying about sunrises and sunsets. What do you need them for? The flatlands are the same by night or day, and when you meet an obstacle, it shudders in your wake. All the world is soft gelatin and you are a hot knife. You no longer spare a moment's thought for how this will end.
The day that someone calls out to you, you realize you've nearly forgotten the sound of human voices, and even your eyes struggle to focus on the woman who comes to walk beside you. You're not sure what she said -- "hello?" You decide "hello." She hands you an open bottle of water, and you pour it on your face. For a moment, you can't remember that it belongs in your mouth.
"Don't worry," she says, "it takes a minute, but you don't forget. Like riding a bike! How long have you been walking, hon?"
"Don't know." The words feel foreign, incorrect, but at least the water's gotten moisture to your throat.
"Well, are you tired yet?"
You think, try to force your body into a self-assessment, and feel nothing. Your body is the irresistible force. It is a stone, sinking.
When you shake your head, she just nods, and her smile doesn't budge. She's keeping pace with you, but you don't see her legs move. "Have the water anyway. It'll help you where you're going. You'll know when you get tired."
You want to ask her how she knows this, how she sees you, who she is, but your throat seems closed and solid. You squint at her, cock your head like a confused animal, and by some miracle she understands. You wonder how many like you she's seen, but it's another question you can't ask.
"I started walking once, myself," she says. "I walked until I was tired, and then I stopped."
Beyond the ragged hems of her culottes, her legs narrow to points of gleaming bone. They hover above two pits, deep wounds in the concrete, dark and bottomless.
"You'll be fine, sweetie," your companion says. "You'll be just fine."
|# ? Aug 23, 2021 04:49|
I didn't know my life had changed. The cells were already multiplying inside of me. Would I have done anything differently in that last month? Probably. I would’ve gone on our final real vacation, I wouldn’t have gotten so drunk on my 25th birthday. I would’ve savored my last moments more: the last beer, the last sushi, the last late night clubbing. Heck, the last Subway sandwich. I look back on those days fondly, marveling at how carefree I was. All the while, the secret in my belly grew.
I thought I was being paranoid when I took the test, but no, there it was, a little plus on the stick. "Does this look like a positive to you?" I asked my husband Mark.
He went white. "Yeah," he said. "Oh my God."
This was not part of the plan. We worked long hours during the week. We went out on the weekends. We were going to travel through Europe next year. Our hobbies included running and wine tasting. We were lucky enough to live in a state with easy access to abortion.
As we talked it over delicately, Mark convinced me that, despite my worries, it was okay. We had stable jobs, we had disposable income. We’d always thought that we’d have children one day, and “one day” was now. And so, we let it grow.
The first change came when I smelled my rooibos tea one morning and immediately vomited into the kitchen sink. After that, everything tasted too strong and a little off. Dairy products were horrible, fruits were sickly sweet, and vegetables tasted like dirt. All it wanted was meat and simple carbohydrates, so I nibbled beef jerky and crackers and fretted that I was doing something wrong. I was always hungry, which made the nausea worse. We didn’t want to tell anyone yet, so Mark had to cover for me. “She’s sick, she’s sick.” It felt like the truth.
Finally, the symptoms eased and I returned to normal, normal except for the growing heaviness in the pit of my stomach. It was time to tell our families. His parents suspected when I declined to have a glass of wine at dinner, but still gasped in excitement when we made the announcement. His mom hugged me tight and his dad couldn’t stop beaming.
My parents were a different story. “Oh, you’re so young! Are you sure about this?” my mother asked, wringing her hands. “You’re still renting that small city apartment, though,” my father said skeptically. We assured them that we’d thought it through and they eventually warmed up to the idea of a grandchild. Still, on the drive home, their worries gnawed at me like rats in the night.
Mark gripped my hand in the ultrasound room as I laid on the examination table, my shirt lifted up and jeans unbuttoned. “This will be a little cold,” the tech said before she started rubbing my belly with the sensor. Staticky images rolled around the screen. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. “There’s the body, there’s the head.” Mark smiled at the images, the first evidence he had that it was a fetus and not, say, an ambitious tapeworm that had taken up residence inside me. “Beautiful,” he murmured. It looked like a malformed clay human, an alien inside me.
“Do you want to know the sex?” the tech asked.
“No, we want it to be a surprise,” Mark said, as we’d planned. Looking back, though, not knowing was a mistake. Despite its growing presence, it remained abstract, the idea rather than the thing itself.
I tried to be conservative, to convince myself that the movement in my belly was just gas, but soon it was undeniable. The parasite inside me was trying to break out. At first the movements were fluttering, small assurances that it was still in there. Soon, though, it grew in size and confidence and the movements became pronounced kicks and jabs. I gasped when it wedged a foot up underneath my ribs.
But when it stopped moving, worry took its place. Was it sleeping or was something wrong? I chugged orange juice until the sugar woke it up, then regretted my actions as the subsequent reflux and kicking kept me awake. Mark was thrilled to feel it moving inside of me, but to me it was a reminder that I was losing full ownership of my body.
The loss of control accelerated in the third trimester. My belly swelled from a discreet bump to a distended bulge. I ached. Sleeping through the night became impossible between the weight, the pain, and the inevitable trips to the bathroom. I was ready to be done, but it still had two months of growth to undergo.
To get some relief, I discarded what was left of my vanity, squeezed into my now too-small bikini, and went to the local swimming pool. The water supported me, lifting the weight from my sore feet until I was floating. I took a breath and submerged, my body suspended in animation. Is this how you feel inside me, little parasite? For the first time in months, I felt whole.
A burst of energy hit me like a hurricane. I used it to do all the preparation we’d been putting off: buying and organizing clothes and diapers and bottles and toys and furniture and the all-important car seat. When I was done, I looked at the empty room, energy draining away, and failed to imagine the new human who was about to occupy it.
My body was no longer my own. The huge mass in my belly controlled my sleeping, my eating, my breathing, my defecation. Every movement I made, I had to compromise with its cumbersome weight. Nothing was effortless anymore.
Worse, my mind was going as well. A fog descended on my thoughts, slowing them to the same plodding pace as my body. Higher-order tasks, such as navigating in the car or calculating the tip for lunch, exhausted me as much as climbing a flight of stairs. Without my input, my body was resting, settling, preparing, animal-like, for the monumental task ahead. I was now just a passenger.
It started with period-like cramps. Slowly the intensity ramped up until each contraction had me balling my fists and gritting my teeth. That night, the bloody show happened and the contractions continued, keeping me from sleeping. I wandered the dark house, unaware of time passing.
The next morning, my water broke in a disgusting gush. Mark gamely cleaned it up and packed me into the car. My next memory was of getting the epidural. “This will hurt a bit,” the doctor said. It felt like nothing.
Then, they asked me to push. I couldn’t feel my lower body, so I imagined what pushing would feel like. Apparently that was enough. I couldn’t feel it leave my body, but I could tell that it happened when Mark gasped and crushed my hand.
The nurse placed a bluish, big-headed alien, sticky from slime and gore, onto my chest. “It’s a girl,” Mark breathed beside me. It-- she-- jerked her head around and blinked her eyes open, meeting my gaze for the first time.
A switch flipped within me. I was filled with a deep, contented joy. I knew, in my mind, body, and soul, that my life’s purpose was now this thing, this child. I knew, as a matter of fact, that I could kill anyone, even Mark, who threatened the now-wailing, helpless human in my arms. After all I’d been through, unexpectedly, it was love at first sight. “Shh, shh,” I said. “Hello, beautiful.”
|# ? Aug 23, 2021 05:31|
The night is cold on the bay, so I pull my hands into the sleeves of my sweatshirt and inch closer to the fire I’ve set in the sand. The burn isn’t quite what I’d hoped for but given this afternoon’s rain it was still an accomplishment to get a reliable flame at all. The moisture still lingers in the air, a complement to the precipitation lining the bottle leaning askew in the sand at my side. I grasp its neck through the cloth and toast the beach. A long drink follows.
I toast my neighbors as well, such as they are. The beach stretches perhaps a mile or so, marked irregularly by a handful of other points of light. I count three other fires, a fraction of the typical in-season mark but surprisingly high for early October. Still, that’s three gulps I can justify, so I won’t question my good fortune. I drink in order, honoring the closest fire first before progressing toward the opposite point of the curving bay. As I begin the final ritual, however, I am interrupted when the light begins to flicker and then disappears. Irresponsible to not let the fire burn itself out properly, but not altogether my business. I raise the bottle anyway, and as I drink I hear a soft crack. Hardly anything unusual on the beach, of course, but by some property of sound I couldn’t fathom it seems to come from the water rather than the brush behind me.
While the night is cold, it is not black. I look out over the small waves and see no sign of any crack-maker. I cannot bring the moon and stars to focus on any particular point of the lakeside, but there’s light enough to make reasonable determinations. I can see the diving rock some fifty feet out from the shore, though the tall steel rod embedded into it for the boater’s benefit hides camouflaged by the hour. If a piece of driftwood had hit the rock with enough force, perhaps it would have made a crack? In any case, I’ve got another pursuit I’d sooner get to the bottom of.
I find I am somewhat more good-humored after the fire has eaten much of my gathered wood, but I’m not ready to end my night. I drag myself to my feet and set out down the beach to find more feed. The passing hours have brought with them a light wind, something more than a breeze but certainly less than a gust. It is enough to be unpleasant to walk through but clearly not enough to be dwelled upon while in the presence of a fire. To that end, I am somewhat surprised to see the furthest light on the beach blocked by two man-like masses at full height. Though I can’t be sure from this distance, it seems somehow like they are both circling the flame, each oriented to opposite rotations. Clearly, I’ve not been the only one enjoying myself tonight.
As I consider my error in not bringing the bottle along with me, I come upon a sizable dried branch protruding from some absent lodger’s rock wall. It’ll be enough to last me the night, so I set upon it with determination and after some struggle manage to wrench it free. The sudden release carries me backwards, and as my balance seems to have abandoned me I tumble onto the sand. A crack, then, and while a thought arrives that I’ve broken a piece of the branch in my flailing, it just as quickly departs when I realize the sound would have been much louder. Again, it has come over the water, and with the sand as my bed I contort my neck to look down the bay. Only the closest fire still burns, and I can make out what must be the rear profile of a man in a beach chair. He raises something and sets it down again, and I long to do the same. I rise, brush off the larger clumps of wet sand, and begin to drag the branch back to my fire.
The trip back is slow going, and in my exertion my thoughts dwell on the fires. I feel a kinship with my neighbors in the night, each of us guardians of our hearths. We have lingered here longer than the snowbirds and cottagers and enjoyed the splendor of a chilling autumn on the lake. I may not know them, but I do know them. Perhaps they even reflect this way themselves, looking out toward the south end of the bay and my own fire.
The branch breaks easily and its pieces burn bright. I celebrate my skill in procuring fuel with a drink, even leaving my hands outside my sleeves. I turn to toast the nearest fire anew only to see three figures now. All three are still, standing in a row in front of the flames. For a moment, I feel observed. I look away, in the way one does when eyes unexpectedly meet, and when I look back I find the dark is upon them. A crack again, now, but not from the water. This one lacks the softness afforded by distance, and instead carries an unpleasant harshness. Alone now, I drink again and consider my own fire.
In no time at all, I have broken the branch completely and fed the fire to its limit. The heat drives me to back away, and as I remove my sweatshirt I feel warmed throughout. The bottle is nearly empty now, but there remains enough for a few more swigs. I hear the whistling of sand underfoot, and I look to see three silhouettes approaching.
I am once again observed, but the warmth both within and without affords me more boldness. I raise the bottle toward the dark and with my other arm beckon the figures closer. I know them, after all. They’re my neighbors.
|# ? Aug 23, 2021 06:30|
Eldren are always, like, let me tell you about my white hot burning rage face-flames and you've got to remind them when you were born, got to tell them you've never felt anything else. You show them the scars you got fighting redcaps and they're all "Back in my day you couldn't just stab those wee fucks in the eyeball," and you're sure that must have sucked raw red rocks and you tell them that and they start to go on about civility and niceties and you want to put your scalpelstick through their wet socket. But you don't. Because you've got to respect your eldren.
My first time? Well, if you count mobjobs, and you sort of gotta, that would be when I was eight or so. Just cheering on shoulders that time. When I was twelve was when I helped building the stage, that counts for more. Fifteen was when it was for reals, just me and Bobby Nuckols and two lead pipes and an old-rear end redcap on the list. We sorta made out a bit after, also a first. Kissed the blood off each other's lips.
The old man was on the list, so they didn't even bother trying to try it. Any jury woulda wound up hung or hanged and they all knew it. So we went on the other list with a big 'pb' stamp. Post-bellum. Peanut butter and jail. If we live that long, which is lol. Bobby sure didn't.
That was a firebugging. They, and by they I mean the standbyers too fraid to make either list, they say both sides do firebugs as much as each other, but I don't buy it. Anyway, Bobby's duplex went up with redcaps and white hoods watching the exit with spiked bats, and it's not like we were going to let that stand.
They call it all one war. But it's not the same, hunting down listers as you see 'em one by one and real action. That was my first stand up fight, the September 7 block wars.
They give you a gun and the first thing you've got to know is to get a better one as soon as you can. It's going to be a fabjob, printed ceramics and plumbing pipe slapped together with nails and superglue. It won't aim true and it's going to backfire or explode sooner or later. Most of the enemy's are no better, so it may be a while before you can trade up with a corpse, and the worst thing you can do is grab on to some shiny hunk of steel that doesn't take standard ammo. You'll go through the cartridge in a few minutes and you're left with the world's least satisfying dildo.
Block wars are quick. They're all about that. Gather the squad, surround the target, and start going house to house. Do as much damage as possible, run up the count, then get out before they can reinforce, or before the national guard peacekeepers show up. It's easier. No need to check the list. If they're armed, it's self-defense. And if they're unarmed it's because they're too young to hold a knife.
I once had a commander who tried to be all Deus Vult, even actually said the 'Nits make lice' line. Not at September 7, this was later. It wasn't me who wound up fragging his rear end, but that just came down to chance. Opportunity.
So like I said, the standard issue rifle was a joke. Only part that worked was the bayonet. Close in, indoors, that's what you want. We shot out a big front window, knocked the grill right out of the drywall and plasterboard, and went in, three at a time. The guy inside the room was probably a boomer, white hair and red cap and a vintage assault rifle. He shot Jess, three round burst near her thigh, and I was already charging hard. Gutted him with that ceramic bayonet blade. Drove it right through him and into the wall. The rear end in a top hat spat in my hair while I was going through his pockets for clips. Made me appreciate the classic buzzcut, that did.
And then his kid came running from the next room with a kitchen knife. Grandkid maybe? We never saw his wife. I say kid, but he was my age, sixteen. I'd seen him before, he played high school basketball. I booed him on the free throw line and he still made the point.
He was the first person I shot. A clean center of mass hit, the Commander was proud. And his son Wayne noticed that, noticed me. When it was over, when we were riding back to our clave, when Jess was patched closed and strong enough to hold up two fingers and almost grin, Wayne and I started talking. And that night was, you know, my first time.
Sometimes I wonder if I'll be able to, you know. Finish. After the war ends. Most of the time I'm sure I won't live so long, or if I do it'll be because we lost and I'll have all kinds of other stuff to worry about.
One more story. You want to know about the scar, don't you. Okay. This was when I was nineteen. I'd been an officer, sort of, but they'd just reorganized the militia, we had gotten formal support from the Governor, and they flattened the chain of command. So I was just another soldier, but the men and women were used to taking orders from me. I was out on night patrol, a squad of four. Three of us in the open, Carl stalking behind in the shadows.
We were expecting infiltrators, someone planting IEDs on the roads, that kind of thing. What we found was an ambush. Carl signaled just in time.
They had us three to one, but Carl knocked that down before the first one of them could finish aiming. Then their sniper shot right back. I heard him scream on our comms.
Firefights like that you can't really describe. Maybe if they were caught on camera and you can look at each frame, but this one wasn't. Everyone was shooting, using what cover we could find. There were more of them, and they were on three sides of us, and I knew that sniper was watching that fourth. It was seven on three, then three on two, then Pollock's face caved in and it was just me and the biggest of them, and the sniper somewhere watching, and then the bullet came.
Shattered a rib and pierced my lung. At the time it was just a lot of pain and I thought I was dead and figured it was just as well, at least I wouldn't be captured alive. But then he fell down on top of me, bleeding out the chest. Turns out the sniper got discovered by a couple of irregulars and one of them had the guts to use the rifle.
I met them later. Ellie and Carrie Chalmers. Married thirty years now. Still in fighting trim even if they're not up to eight hour marches. You've got to respect your eldren.
|# ? Aug 23, 2021 06:49|
crabrock fucked around with this message at 07:00 on Dec 6, 2021
|# ? Aug 23, 2021 06:54|
Word count 958
There was something strange about the new kid. Kevin came out of nowhere; Arriving during the fall.
He wore coke-bottle glasses that magnified his eyes enough to make them seem like they were bulging out. And his clothes always seem to be falling apart, even though they didn’t look that old.
But what was really weird was what he did. He would never talk. Most kids and even some of the teachers thought he was mute, but most thought he was just shy.
Naturally, he was a target of the school bullies.
“Why don’t you talk?” Marc, the head bully, asked. However, it was more of a demand than a question.” Kevin sat there silent and stared straight ahead as if he hadn’t even noticed Marc. “I know you heard me, retard.”
“Maybe he’s deaf and mute?” Sam, a lackey of Marc, said with a sneer.
“Yeah? Well, lemme do something that I know he’ll understand.” Marc pushed Kevin off his chair. He fell with a thud. But Kevin did not react. He simply laid on the floor with a blank expression.
Marc looked at his hands to see them lightly covered with some kind of strange goo or slime. He grunted in disgust and wiped the slime onto the table.
“Here, let me get your glasses,” Sam said before he stomped on them, “oops.”
Erek, the third and final member of the gang, looked over his shoulder with a nervous expression. “Guys, I think a teacher is coming.”
Mrs. Whitehall glared at us, “What do you boys think you’re doing?”
“Kevin fell, and we were helping him up. I swear!” Marc said.
“I saw you push Kevin,” she pointed at Sam, “And I saw you break his glasses. All three of you to the principal’s office right now!”
The bullies walked towards the office while Mrs.Whitehall lifted Keving up.
Principal Walker stared at the four boys closely. “As I understand it, you three boys were bullying this young man?”
The three boys looked down at their feet, as to avoid meeting the principal’s eyes.
“That was not a rhetorical question.”
Marc sounded off in a bragging manner, “Yeah, we did, but it’s his fault for acting weird. Nobody stood up for him either.”
“Marc, Sunnyview is a place that welcomes everybody, regardless of their quirks. I would like all three of you to apologize to Kevin.”
“I apologize,” Marc said.
“Sorry,” Erek said.
Sam apologized last.
“Alright, now everybody, return to your classes,” Marc got up with a snide smile, “But don’t think your parents won’t hear about this incident.” Marc’s smile disappeared.
The bullies walked home from school. They laughed and jeered while taking their favorite shortcut. A path through the woods.
In the distance, Marc spotted something familiar. “Hey, you guys seeing this?”
Sam squinted his eyes, “That’s Kevin!”
“What’s he doing here?” Erek said.
“I don’t know, but I think it’s a perfect time for payback,” Marc said as he jogged towards Kevin.
“I don’t know, man. This seems kind of weird,” Erek said.
“Come on!” Sam said as he jogged after Marc. Erek sighed and followed.
The three boys followed Kevin’s trail but soon lost track and sight of him.
“poo poo, where did that little tard go?!” Marc shouted.
“I dunno,” Sam said.
“Hey, see that?” Erek pointed to something.
“What the gently caress?” Marc said as the three boys stared at the corpse of a squirrel. Its lower half was completely missing as if corroded or melted away. Sam grabbed a stick and poked it. The stick sizzled as if being burnt. “poo poo, Kevin’s more hosed up than us. And the principal forced us to apologize to that maniac.”
“We should get out of here,” Erek said.
“Forget it, I’m gonna teach this creep a lesson,”
“Are you crazy? Did you see what he did to that squirrel I ain’t going!” Sam said.
“Fine, I’ll find him myself then,” Marc said before trampling off.
Sam and Erek stood still for a few moments.
“Should we go after him? What if he gets lost?” Erek said.
“I don’t know, man. Maybe we should wait until he cools off and then go after him.”
They heard a scream in the distance. Marc’s scream.
The boys looked at each other briefly before running after Marc.
They found him, or rather they found his corpse. His body looked like the squirrel’s, burnt and eaten away. He was missing an arm as well as part of his head, with his exposed brain jutting out of his skull.
Sam threw up, with Erek soon following after. Then, they spotted Kevin.
Kevin’s jaw and chin were ballooned to inhuman proportions. It jutted out like a tumor. They could see some sort of liquid sloshing around inside it and pushing against his skin.
Sam and Erek screamed as they ran. Kevin opened his mouth and hurled the liquid onto Sam. Sam scremed as the liquid ate away at him. He was soon reduced to bone.
Erek tripped on a branch. He laid sprawled on the dirt, prey to the thing that called itself Kevin.
Erek shaked as Kevin stared at him with the same blank expression that he showed at school. Until, Kevin’s face shifted into a mockery of a smile.
I still wonder why it left me alive. Did it do it as a cruel mercy? To have me watching my back every second of every hour for the rest of my life? I sit still in the night, wondering when it will come for me, if ever. All I can think about now is it’s smile. It’s jutting smile that will haunt my dreams and nightmares.
|# ? Aug 23, 2021 06:58|
|# ? Aug 23, 2021 13:03|
Me waking up and realizing I never sent a story:
|# ? Aug 23, 2021 13:04|
Astronaut charlie, breathe
This is what you might call a story of two parts - the first is a very old-school sci fi yarn of planet spanning cities and massive over population and personality-less rockribbed competent men (though tbf it’s a woman in this) and the second is a much more vaporous and open-ended affair of moving from the mechanical to the organic. I like them both, and appreciate all the detail in the first half and the slightly odd but evocative language in the second, but I don’t think they really hang as a complete story - the structure is fine, but the motivation for the change is a kind of weak. This could easily be fixed, perhaps by making her effortless exit from (tbc) her entire life to date a little trickier than just wandering away during a break. I’m also a little unclear how an entire spaceship full of people and electron microscopes and crap manages to be 3 feet wide, but i’m not disposed to be too grumpy about that. However in this kind of hard scifi stuff don’t ignore those niggly questions (see also ‘radioing back to earth’)- the process of addressing them often makes a better and more interesting story.
I liked this a little less than my learned co-judge, but wasn’t sure why at the time. On a re-read i think maybe part of it is the lack of names and specificities? It’s all ‘a man, a scientist, the dad’. I know that’s in the prompt, but it does add a hard-to-read floatiness to the story. What i love about it is the oddness of the man, which is an intensely rich and thought-provoking concept. I think this could bear some expansion, and also a better ending than the extremely glib one you gave it, to give the excellent musings on memory and humanity a slightly more comfortable bed.
I confess i made an audible ehehehehehe when i assigned this prompt bc goddam HAIL THE FUCKIN SKY RABBITS and you did a really nice job of justifying and extrapolating an extremely out there prompt. That said, i do think you could have done better with grounding this in a context that made sense for the characters - they’re all extremely chill about being stranded presumably forever in an outdoor sky rabbit hutch and while the core of the story is sort of about friends and not-quite-friends, the absence of a realistic grounding makes it harder to take on their low key mumblecore drama. Still a good fun read, nice work. Hail the sky rabbits!
T a a s t t e montante
As i mentioned, this has a strong vibe of the very splendid third policeman by flannery o conner (specifically the footnotes about the works of de selby: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Selby) and that has me vigorously predisposed to enjoy it; but, although it gets the tone p much note perfect there’s not really enough meat on the bones. It’s always disappointing when an excellent gimmick or gag doesn’t quite live up to its potential as you also have to live with the sad cruel truth that you stole it from someone who might have made a better job of it TSK FUCKIN TSK. Specifically, the footnotes could have been a lot more recondite and have had more jokes, scholarly arguments, polite refusal to heed the common wisdom. I still enjoyed it though.
Splendid prompt here that basically writes the story for you, however one does still have to proceed to actually write the story and happily you did that too. This is a really fun knotty time travel alt universe yarn and I enjoyed reading, and it only really falls back into the soggy middle with its protag’s amusingly precise pirate-dar (“black leather boots! Perfect for keeping their grip on the bloodsoaked space decks of pirate ships!”). Nice piece, and the flick flack with the last line is perfectly delivered; it’s arguably a ‘insert thrilling adventures here’ *** before that, but you’ve given us enough of an indication of what those adventures entailed that I really don’t mind.
So this is charming but quite clumsy - it avoided a DM when my co-judge pointed out its charm, because before that it annoyed me no end. The main fault is your extremely poor decision to insert the insect’s speech into the middle of paragraphs full of other unnamed people talking, it’s just enragingly cluttered and bad. I also think it falls into the problem i noted before with flerp where you’re describing lots of characters as ‘the human’ or ‘the biped’. Honestly, i’d avoid this, using whatever method you see fit, you do switch to names after a little but the quicker you can ground the reader in who’s talking and what the hell’s going on the better at this length. That all said I think this has plenty of charm in the relationship between the mantis and eilie and the wonky conversation she ends up having with the two humans. Still a bit vague on why she’s killing the world, but you know, don’t want to get into shop talk.
Pham nuw, worm
This is another piece with an absolute buttload of well-observed technical detail and I think it helps make the vague ooshy gooshy prompt much more interesting and concrete. Where i think this missed a trick that could have pushed it into the hm zone was where your protag is ripped out of their virtual world - you touch on it, but if you know there’s a moment of transition and change in your story, it’s always worth expanding on that a little using vivid sense impressions. A short para of, idk, the crumpled juice packet, faded writing on the whiteboard, dustmotes in the harsh light from the flickering fluoros or what have u, would have worked wonders. Additional benefit being that you characterise your protagonist by what they observe, so it can do double duty. Solid work tho.
This was fun on first read with its wacky jack the ripper antics and gamboling seraphim and became more and more annoying on subsequent readthroughs. It’s one thing to have divine interventions all over the place but if they’re just a bunch of wtf that turns into a pile of wtf (sorry pile of sand) then each run through the story attempting to discern the point is likely to be accompanied by a deeper frown. The title is a reference to the injoke we’re apparently a party to, the detective (capitalised because they’re a Detective though that iconic status isn’t really referenced or justified) the sand is presumably a metaphor for something though i have nfi what, the Ripper is an angel, or god or something? And then it ends in a suspended metaphorical (?) public execution that is thoroughly unearned. ANNOYING for all its reasonably competent words and funny images.
Crabbles, simultaneous forces
There was a strong og sci fi vibe to many of the stories this week and this is another of them, reminescent of pratchett’s strata in this case. I kind of love how hard this leans into its bit and it was a fairly comfortable compromise winner for me. In particular it’s a great example of how to write to a hard prompt - write a story that could specifically and only be written as a response to the prompt, which as noted has just way way too much sand. There’s also a nice theme around creativity, and the way you just keep doing stuff and when you’ve done stuff you do more stuff, however intentional that might be. The second half about the name, hmm, not completely sure that lands, it might need a funnier joke but i’m not gonna make one for u so here we are. Similarly the ending line isn’t quite as perfectly implemented as the closing one, but nonetheless, good piece.
Thranguy, encrypted packets
Another story that could have come straight out of Analog or Astounding or w/e. As such it’s a little cold, with a lot of description of the sitch, and men/women/people enthralled and constrained by their machines one million light years from home. There’s some emotion at the end which we’re told about, and the cold isolation of this position does have a decent frisson, but there’s not a lot to this apart from the idea. Possibly if you’d introduced the psych system at the beginning, it might have had more punch? Decent workmanlike stuff though.
Chucker, cooped up
I’m kind of ashamed I missed that the protagonist was a lady in this, not that it matters a great deal but really mojo do try and keep up. This doesn’t go out of its way to make itself an easy read with the long convoluted sentences etc but it has considerable charm once you unknot them and the picture it paints of its small barn-dancin’ town and the protag’s long suffering attempts to get by is really well done. I think the biggest flaw is that it stops with something of a ‘and then they had nice adventures’ but we can kind of anticipate the general category of adventures and it feels like the protag and her friend have earned a nice hike or bike or w/e so that’s ok. This was just off an hm, i think, and you should be pleased with it.
the rest of my crits - as i failed my toxx i shall assign an embarassing avatar to myself to parade my shame
E: i made a donation instead
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 02:23|
UNCANNY VALLEY RESULTS
I asked for subtle, I asked for creepy, I asked for weird. Some of you delivered, some of you took a dump or told me to kill myself. what a week!
A week full of stories where nothing really happened (i like that, don't worry) but some of them, in a really dull way--
DMs go to flyerant for an overly morbid story, which, although it does have some pretty good prose, does nothing other than crawl up its own rear end and tell the judges to kill themselves. And to Taletel for a predictable shell of a story about highschool bullies.
But the loss goes to a story that annoyed us the most, about drugged up kids trying to take a dump and/or talk philosophy. great. thanks Idle Amalgam
Now on the positive side of things. The few stories that managed to be subtle and creepy and interesting this week- HMs go to, crabrock for a story that didn't really fit the prompt, but was so interesting, and had such lovely words, that it forced its way into an HM anyway. Rohan for the only story of several 2nd person stories to actually pull it off, with an interesting and somewhat creepy idea. Sailor Viy for one of select few stories to actually give me what i wanted from the prompt--unease, uncertainty, interest... bonus points for being creepy without me really knowing why it was creepy.
The win, though, goes to TASTE for what was to me the perfect entry to this contest- creepy, subtle, atmospheric, weird, it had everything I wanted! Thanks taste!
and thanks everyone who entered, it was fun to read you all
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 04:05|
Crits I guess
This was one of my least favourite, but mostly for grammar nitpick reasons that made it a little bit of a chore to read, and they're mistakes I've probably made in the past. THAT BEING SAID. I would prefer if you spaced out your paragraphs. And that includes where there's conversation. Your third block of text in particular is annoying. Also, dialogue attribution with my changes in bold:
“This is silly,” he thought to himself, “I came here to relax. I can’t be looking at my car constantly!”
“It’s Ben,” he replied, searching his memory for who this was.
Gotta use more commas in those conversations. Other than that some of the sentences just felt a bit short and simple.
I quite liked this. Did the 'surprise someone got killed' twist a bit better and a bit more meaningfully, and left us with the kind of creepy 'so what is he now' wondering.
Ego and ID: Convergence Not Guaranteed
I dunno, competently written I guess but there's nothing there except a lampshaded acrostic poem. Try to include more of a story I guess is my take.
I actually didn't hate this the way my cojudges did, so expect sterner words when they get to their crits. Probs not even in my top 2; more the soggy middle that I'd have most stories in. As my cojudges pointed out in our clandestine chats, however, if you are going to make your story predominantly conversation, you would be well served to make that conversation more entertaining to read instead of just bland high school philosophising. I did defend you a little in that I took it as the conversation being somewhat fuelled by MDMA, but given the drugs involved, you could've afforded to make the conversation a bit more colourful imo.
This is part one in a series called 'unfulfilled promise,' wherein you give us an interesting premise and then do almost nothing with it. We have an interestingly weird and well presented protagonist who is introduced to an interestingly weird and well presented vocation and then... nothing happens. We hear some vague chat about a congressional investigation and that's it. I think this could've done well if you'd developed it a bit more.
Everything You've Been Missing
Probably my favourite. Uses the second person actually well, and the twist comes as a surprise but also doesn't come out of nowhere. If I was head judge you'd be making the prompt right now, so I guess you're lucky to be spared of that burden.
The Mystery Hostel
Part two in unfulfilled promise imo, I didn't love this like my cojudges. There's a bunch of weird atmosphere which is kinda cool I GUESS but like nothing happens and we have no idea what the go is with the narrator and it's just a big nothing which for me placed it in the soggy middle with most of the stories.
Your Feet Cut Furrows in the Earth
I liked this a fair bit, I just wish you did a bit more with it. (See also: unfulfilled promise.) If you developed this more it might've contended for a mention.
This is fine I guess. Like, it's a fairly ordinary pregnancy diary. It's competently written and all.
My cojudges loved this and I just thought it was fine. Competently written but the story doesn't really do anything interesting, for me.
This, for me, is the most unfulfilled promise, because that first paragraph was my favourite thing I read, and then the rest of the story is fairly generic war stories. If you'd managed to commit a bit better to the energy of that first paragraph I would've probably had it in top two.
This is my second favourite because it was mostly just a nice story but there was this one weird thing with the light. Well written, and I enjoy 'oh fiddlesticks' perhaps more than I should.
This had perhaps the opposite problem of some of the other stories; where they had promise and no fulfillment, yours had no real promise and then fulfillment out of nowhere. Needed a bit more leading up to 'Kevin is a weird Akira-like monster' imo.
EDIT: Prompt imo
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 05:00|
here's an extra crit for Organburner because i read it and decided to give it a crit YOU CAN'T STOP ME I DO WHAT I WANT.
Hi welcome to the dome. Your story has a ton of new writer mistakes which, good news, you’re here, you’re writing, and people will help you fix. So strap in, son.
"He wondered if anyone he knew still lived here." This is telling. In flash you want to show as much as possible. Instead, have him wonder about a specific person, as that also helps build your character. “Show don’t tell” is a cliche maxim for a reason. As you get better, you’ll know when to show and when to tell.
"was the only option." Why? When working out why your characters are doing stuff, saying “for some reason” or “there was no choice” or “they decided” is a cop out. It means you wanted them to do that thing to move the plot forward, so you had them do it. Always spend a little time on this stuff. I don’t know if the town simply doesn’t have any other hotels/motels or if they’re all booked up, or if he’s not welcome at the others, etc. “he preferred to stay in five star hotels, but all the town offered was a dilapidated motel with hourly rates” says much more about the town than “was the only option.”
"decided to take a stroll down " thought the motel was on the outskirts of town. Why did he decide? What's his motivation? Again, same advice as before.
"5 minutes later" look up when to spell out numbers
"and decided to get a cup of coffee" why?
"feeling out of place" sdt. To really make this land you can’t simply have the character tell us he feels weirded out. Describe some of what he sees. Tell us about the whispers he hears behind his back, how he keeps catching people looking at him out of the side of their eye, but when he turns to face them they’re doing normal poo poo or whatever. Creep US out, don’t tell us he was creeped out.
"lightly jog" what's a heavy jog? (adverb feels superfluous)
Anyway i’ll just read the story now.
So this dude goes back to his hometown and he’s like MAN EVERYBODY SURE IS STARING AT ME, PROBABLY CAUSE I’M SO FUCKIN SUAVE AND THEY SUCK. but then he meets a woman and she’s super chatty and friendly but can’t remember his name, so they just chill for a while and she’s homeless so they go back to his motel and gently caress really loudly, then they go to the beach where he’s like “oh yeah you totally died here lol selfie time.”
This story would land better if you spent more time on the creepiness factor he felt. You kind of go THE TRAGEDY and he’s like “hrrr i can’t remember hehe.” but all that stuff doesn’t seem to tie in at all to the reasons he’s there? He says cause he cheated and had a divorce and then a breakdown at work, instead you should work that stuff into his PTSD from killing this girl in HS. maybe that’s what you meant, but it didn’t come across on the page. If you spend a little more time restructuring the beginning, where he talks about his alcoholism he inherited from this small town leading to his family hating him and his breakdown at work, we’d feel more like he carried his problems with him even when he left. Furthermore, the girl says she can’t leave, so maybe compare and contrast that with this guy. He left and was moderately successful, but he’s still trapped there because this chick is a lovely swimmer. Also is she like, still high school aged and he’s fuckin her when he’s like 30? Cause yikes. Maybe make it college instead. His parents moving away doesn’t seem to really matter at all to the story. It actually kind of makes it worse. Have HIM leave the town because he tried to get busy in an underwater cave with a oxygen breather. How did he get out? Should probably mention that, it’s unclear how he got out. The way it’s written sounds like he was a psychopath who drowned this chick on purpose.
Anyway, for all its ills, this is still largely understandable and readable. It has a flow and a pacing which work, and it tells a mostly complete story, little odd tidbits aside. I’d guess you’re safe from a loss/DM unless everything else is real good, OR the judges want to smash you for all the new writer mistakes. Over the course of the story you settle a bit better into showing rather than telling, especially when describing why she makes him feel better. You can fix the other stuff over time.
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 05:58|
can't call these 'crits' with a straight face but here are the notes i took while reading/judging the stories:
Organburner, Her! 5/10
Decent. Not too loud, not too obvious. Competent writing. Didn't really weird me out but I appreciate that it tried for the unease that the prompt asked for. Could be creepy with work.
Beezus, Creep 5/10
Oops, same story! Reading two very similar stories in a row might have colored my opinion. Didn't like that it was in space for no reason. It could have been sailors stuck at sea with the same, or better effect. Otherwise it holds together, competent enough writing. The end had some nice creep factor and descriptions.
Flyerant, Ego and ID 4/10
Very good writing, but what is the point of this? It’s just morbid. I quite like the writing, though. Second person makes me wonder if Flyerant hates me. By the end it’s pretty offputting.
Idle Amalgam 2/10
Drunk students talk philosophically, and also they are trying to poo poo so that it’s edgy. Opening with poop makes it very difficult to take the story seriously.
The first story that has tried to be subtle, which is something I explicitly asked for, so bonus points for that. Interesting concept, potentially creepy but the humorous, sarcastic kind of voice detracted from the weird vibes. I liked it overall though.
More 2nd person, but it serves a purpose this time. I like the idea of mirror people/personalities taking over, and it does try to be subtle. I just wish it wasn’t couched in highschool romance.
Sailor viy 7/10
Weird, creepy for some reason that I'm not sure about. Subtle, doesn’t end with an annoying twist. Pretty good. Gives me enough weird, unexplained elements that I start coming up with strange scenarios in my head, and it doesn’t fall into the trap of gushing out all kinds of explanations in the end. Nice.
Good writing I guess but hard to care. Another second person thing. I don’t care what happens and it’s not creepy. Just saying ‘you’ isn’t going to trick me into putting myself in this guy’s shoes. I have nothing to identify with him or identify him by. He's just some empty shell walking.
My shark waifu
I'm not sure this fits the prompt, but it hits my buttons. Pregnancy and birth freak me out. This is creepy to the extreme to me, especially the end. I’ll have to see what the other judges think to make sure I'm not a baby hating weirdo. I love that it can be read as just a normal pregnancy and birth, or as some alien parasite. Both work, with exactly the same words.
Yes, finally something weird, creepy, but not loud or obvious. Things are wrong, but it’s not easy to say what is going on. Things could be completely normal, just a guy drinking on the beach, but... the vibe and the slowly built up sense of things tells me something weird is going on. No telling, no tedious explaining. Nice. Yes.
War and guns and violence. I had a hard time caring.
This was real good until you started explaining things. A kid who doesn’t want to go into a cellar, but for an unexpected reason: he doesn’t like the light! That’s a great premise, and the descriptions are flipping beautiful. But then you drag it down by having the grandma see the same weird things. Now it's some family trait or something? That makes it seem so mundane. If you just end it with the kid bringing up the jam and eating sandwiches together, it preserves the unknown and the weirdness and specialness of it. It takes all the power and weirdness out of it when the grandma is seeing the same thing and they’re talking about it like it’s normal to them.
A monster story with flat, generic characters and barely anything but cliche dialogue. The descriptions at the end were great but the leadup was difficult to get through.
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 06:52|
Thunderdome Week 473: Make ‘Em Laugh
I’m going to be selfish in building the prompt this week, because it’s a stressful one and I could use a laugh. To that end, I’d like you to write something funny. Whether that’s a series of pratfalls or wry observations is up to you, but above all I’d like your work to make you laugh. Form, style, and length are at your discretion, but nobody’s going to be laughing 20k words into Infinite Jest 2 on Monday morning. No manifestos, please.
If you’re the sort for whom a little less freedom is much more freeing, well, it’s my birthday Saturday, and I’ll be 30!!! Ask for a random game, comic, cartoon, TV show, movie, and book reality to BRING IT IN a little bit and inspire your writing for a HUGE party.
Entries Due 11:59p EST Friday
Submissions Due 11:59p EST Sunday
Laughers: Me, Chili, ZearothK
Clowns: Chairchucker, IA, Zurtilik, Voodoofly, Captain_Indigo, Carl Killer Miller, sparksbloom, Thranguy, My shark Waifuu, rohan, talatel, Weltlich, derp, crabrock, flyerant, Pham Nuwen, Rhymes With Clue
t a s t e fucked around with this message at 02:58 on Aug 30, 2021
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 14:09|
EDIT: gimme a thing
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 14:11|
In, I'll take a random thing, doesn't matter what
E: happy birthday, TT
Idle Amalgam fucked around with this message at 16:00 on Aug 24, 2021
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 14:11|
and for my inexcusable former absence!
Edit: Also, welcome to 30! It doesn't really feel that different from 29.
Zurtilik fucked around with this message at 14:43 on Aug 24, 2021
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 14:41|
In. Hit me with something. I’ll try not to spoil your birthday by making you read total trash (and congrats)
Voodoofly fucked around with this message at 16:15 on Aug 24, 2021
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 14:55|
In! Happy birthday!
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 15:48|
I'm in. I'll take a prompt too.
Happy birthday. You should stop eating so much red meat.
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 16:02|
I’m in. Happy birthday!
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 16:17|
To the Lighthouse
In, I'll take a random thing, doesn't matter what
The Royal Tenenbaums
In. Hit me with something. I’ll try not to spoil your birthday by making you read total trash (and congrats)
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
In! Happy birthday!
I'm in. I'll take a prompt too.
I’m in. Happy birthday!
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 19:17|
In, I'll take a thing.
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 20:59|
In, happy birthday!
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 22:00|
I am in and will take a thing, happy birthday!
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 22:49|
In. Happy birthday!
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 22:54|
|# ? Aug 24, 2021 23:43|
Okay inppy birthday, I'll take a random thing
|# ? Aug 25, 2021 00:37|
In, I'll take a thing.
Paths of Glory
In, happy birthday!
I am in and will take a thing, happy birthday!
Final Fantasy X-2
In. Happy birthday!
Le Morte d'Arthur
Okay inppy birthday, I'll take a random thing
|# ? Aug 25, 2021 02:49|
in, please give me something to make fun of
|# ? Aug 26, 2021 04:25|
in, please give me something to make fun of
The Secret Agent
|# ? Aug 26, 2021 13:22|
Happy birthday! I don't need anything, but Im in!
|# ? Aug 26, 2021 21:33|
|# ? Aug 28, 2021 00:02|
In, and happy birthday!
|# ? Aug 28, 2021 00:35|
I fell asleep early now that I’m an old man but you all knew entries were closed anyway.
t a s t e fucked around with this message at 17:23 on Aug 28, 2021
|# ? Aug 28, 2021 14:46|
With a Teaspoon of Nostalgia
On a calm sunny day, the birds sang, a lazy cat laid upon the grass, and from out an open window, a cake flew.
A litany of curses followed the aerodynamic baked good as it soared across the backyard. To say it was an angel-food cake would have been generous. Cracks ran across its blackened crust, revealing a burnt, dense interior. Instead of being circular, it resembled a flat tire.
From the kitchen window, Barry vented his frustrations, and ignored his dawning career as an Olympic shot-putter of baked goods. Flour covered his veiny, old hands, and a glob of batter dotted his nose. He stood in his kitchen, a lone soldier on a battlefield made of broken eggs, dirty bowls, and an array of cookbooks whose wisdom remained hidden from him.
With a shake of his head, he spoke out-loud, “Oh, you would be laughing at me now.”
His voice echoed across the kitchen, past the empty living room, and into the spare bedroom, where dust collected on the sheets. Nobody replied, not even the dust-bunnies.
Barry adjusted his glasses and squinted at the recipe card in his hand. The handwriting on the card looked more like ancient scripture than instructions, but one ingredient was legible: a teaspoon of cream of tartar. Barry couldn’t even remember if he owned a teaspoon, and gave his coffee mug, which he had been using as a measuring device, a dubious look.
He wanted to bake a cake, but having lived quite a number of years, he knew the difference between want and need. He could quit. Nobody expected him to bring a cake, and the nice thing about that was if he failed, nobody would know. He could even buy a cake and his gesture would still be appreciated. Nobody would have to know that he, an old man, couldn’t bake a cake.
But this wasn’t just a cake. This cake was his daughter’s favorite kind of cake, and for the past forty years, she had gotten her favorite cake on her birthday. Every year, his daughter Angela would smile as she opened the bakery box. Barry laughed as he remembered one time, when her baby teeth were coming out, she had leaned so far into the box she had fallen in. Oh, had they all laughed.
And there it was again. Pain tore at his heart. The kind that felt like grasping hands, dragging his whole body down. All he wanted to do was stop time. Go back a year. Just a single year! Back when baking a cake wouldn’t have been such an ordeal. Back when things were easier.
His family had told him it would eventually get easier. That time healed all scars and the pain would fade. But, deep down in his heart, he knew that this feeling might fade, but it would always be there. The sense of loneliness, the sense of loss.
But, even with that pain, he was still a father. And he had a daughter, who for the past forty years, had gotten a home-made birthday cake. Barry looked up and declared his intentions to the heavens, where he hoped all those looking down at him would give him strength. “Let’s bake a cake!”
An hour later, his latest creation flew through the air. This time, its crust was a dark brown that crumbled away as it soared, to reveal a texture similar to that of Styrofoam. This cake flew past the fence, over the heads of inquisitive neighbors who noted this was the fifth cake to meet such a dire fate. It landed with a loud thud against the lawn and left a large divot in its wake.
Barry looked at the clock. His deadline fast approached. How could he, a lone man, approach the heavenly delights of an angel food cake his daughter loved? He had never baked in his life. If only there was an easier way?
The faint tune of an old ad he heard in his childhood played in his memory. The answer came to him. Taking out a big red box from the cupboard, he looked down and said, “All right Miss Crocker… Time to do your stuff.”
Where old cookbooks and ancient scrawled recipes had failed, Betty Crocker had prevailed. Standing at his daughter’s doorstep, he opened the box that contained the delectable delight.
“An angel food cake,” Barry said, bursting with pride. “Just like your mother used to make!”
His daughter, Angela, looked down at the cake, which politely stood there with its golden brown crust as the sweet aroma of vanilla drifted in the air. As she smiled at him, Barry knew then that the cake was well worth the effort.
And he knew that the smile he returned was genuine. He could feel the weight of loneliness lift from his shoulders, feel the way his mustache curved at the corners, tickling his cheek.
Barry looked down at the cake, and with a tinge of regret said, “Well, it isn’t as good as hers, but I think I did okay.”
“Thanks Dad!” His daughter hugged him and led him inside. In quick order, they were sitting down at the kitchen table, each with a generous slice of cake in front of them.
“If your mother had still been around, she would have been laughing at me.” Barry spread his hands, as if he was painting a picture. “You should have seen it. The kitchen resembled something more like a battleground. Flour bags everywhere, eggs and such a mess.”
He winced, as he remembered he still needed to clean that mess.
“You didn’t need to do this,” Angela said. “But I’m happy you did!”
Barry smiled as he dug into his own slice. The cake tasted like sweet vanilla and processed sugar. All the ingredients played the same note. It didn’t taste the same as the one his wife made last year. It lacked that mild tartness. He realized he would never taste that cake again. Slowly, the sense of loneliness crept into his heart.
His daughter’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “This is delicious!”
Barry smiled. He figured she would have said that even if he had brought one of his five failures. The sense of loneliness in his heart might not go away, but he still had time to enjoy the greatest gift of all: spending time with your loved ones, and sharing a piece of cake.
“Well, It isn’t as good as the ones your mother used to make. Did I ever tell you how we met?”
A raised eyebrow and smile was all it took to let him know he had told this story before, but his daughter remained silent, letting him continue.
“It was a calm, sunny day, and I was staring at the most beautiful woman in the world when she threw a cake out the window, and it landed right on top of me…”
|# ? Aug 29, 2021 15:56|
Simon - Knight’s Quest, Hero’s Desire
First impression: Comedy. Can’t have the name ‘Ungor-Discombobulator’ and then go for a serious story. So let’s see how that holds up.
Well, hopefully we do better than ‘vaguely gross food analogies.’
I like the idea of thought-slime and soul-singing, and hope the story doe something interesting with those.
“As every enlightened of the hero’s species knew…” This is clunky. I’m hoping we get, perhaps, a description of this species. In fact, any sort of description of the knight, Ungor, Discombobulator, or setting might be nice, beyond what the viscera of the Discombobulator and Knight’s wounds.
The pulpy sci-fi names aren’t doing much for me. If this is going to be humor, it needs better jokes.
Also: Bit of a plot hole, maybe. If the Ungor can instantly sing life/death to something, why do they need someone else to kill the Discombobulator? (The vivication powers don’t apply to the first combat).
This is a story about mixed loyalties. It tries to keep a light tone, and pays tribute to the (frankly) poorly written pulp sci-fi out there and the episodic style of story. There’s an attempt made in the story to have the “warring spirits” of mixed loyalties play out with the italicized prose and the regular prose, but the two different voices there are not so different as to be easily distinguishable, and certainly, neither tries to wrest control of the story from the other. The story attempts to foreshadow the Knight killing the Emperor since, in italics, the Knight has begun to question his quests for the Emperor. Problematically, this also is where the Ungor tell us how the power works, their small array of Chekov’s firearms being neatly presented to the reader either just before or just after the gun fires (such as: “Surely, this can be undone? The knight’s tone had an edge of desperation. His mind tumbled over said edge when the Ungor informed him that a death delivered by the power was irreversible.”; we are only told how the power works after the fact). By the time the narrator, in unitalicized prose, tells us “This kind of man would not reign just as the dictator he’d just felled,” we are to buy that the knight/story thinks of the emperor as a dictator, but I don’t really buy that shift. The characters here, both the knight and the emperor, are very weak; I can’t tell you anything about them other than their symbolic role and literal actions. In order for a conflict of the heart to be meaningful, you need a solid enough character to
The story is not very funny. This is because while it tries to play light fun with the names and descriptions, the story takes itself more seriously, and attempts no other jokes. The lack of dialogue and characters don’t help here either, as that opportunity for, say, a funny character or line is squandered.
The setting of this story is missing in action. I know there are planets and spaceships and the blood of the Discombobulator is white, and that the emperor’s concubine has slime-sacks, and basically nothing else. You can still leave imagery up to the reader while giving them at least a framework to work with.
The story also concludes that mixed loyalties can only be settled by… fighting? The Knight only finds solace in the battle. That’s not really a resolution to the idea that he’s not sure what is the right thing to do is. It’s not a resolution of the idea that being heroic might contradict his ideas of loyalty. It’s a cop-out, and while I can’t say its out of character (given there’s so little “character” there to work with), I can say this thematic strand is frayed and weak.
Overall, I don’t like this story at all. It certainly fulfills the criteria of the prompt in its most literal sense, but if your idea is that you can write a better story by ignoring the parts of the prompt you don’t like, I wish you’d have done that here to create something stronger.
However, your story does do something important here: It is exists. Sadly, your competitor’s story is fatally flawed in that regard.
How shameful, to be seated on such a grand throne, leering at your enemies, but when a single gauntlet is cast in your direction, to flee in terror, leaving that seat empty. To be given the grace of time, and still leave that throne vacant.
Tyrannosaurus loses by default. Simply Simon claims victory in the Simonosaurus brawl.
|# ? Aug 29, 2021 17:01|
Subject: Dad I have taken an Ambien and drank wine but that doesn’t detract from...
Tuesday 03/08/21 03:53
You have always been a good father. I always felt loved and supported but you are a real piece of work. You are a weak, milquetoast loser and I am ashamed to be known as your son. Listen.
Why do you let my terrible brothers push you around? Do you remember when we were kids (us, not you) and it was your birthday and my terrible brothers kicked up a stink until you said it was their birthday and they got to open all your presents and one of them was an electric shaver and they started horsing around and then they both had buzz cuts for the first day at school? Do you remember? Do you remember the buzz cut brothers? It was your birthday!
One of my terrible brothers (Travis) knows the pin code numbers to get into your cell phone answer machine and he plays your messages at parties. Dad, the people at your job don’t seem to respect you! There’s one where your boss is openly making fun of your lisp. You got to stand up for yourself man! I know you’re not a baker or a cop or like a painter or a
Zookeeper or anything. But what is your job? Hold on.
I just phoned Michael and he was in bed and got real mad, but he seems to think you work in a bank or ‘corporate’ or IT. I said “MIKEY, that’s like three different jobs!” This proves my point. You should have a real job.
Again, I love you dad and none of this takes away from that but, my man, you are grade-A bad beef.
You’re a f**** loser.
Last time me and Sasha came to your house and you showed us your old high school year book I was holding back tears of boredom. WHO CARES?! Also your nickname in school, the nickname they put in the yearbook was “Stu”. That’s just your name made short. That’s not a drat nickname.
Dad, I love you, but when you shout at Alexa and she doesn’t listen to you, it makes me think even the world wide web senses your weakness. She makes you look like a chump.
Stop saying that Mr T ate your balls. This one should go without saying. That’s not a meme dad. Memes are like... just get out of the stone age.
Dad, when your name appears on my phone, I beg to god that you have something to say – like something’s happened to Grandma or something (touch wood) because otherwise I know you’re going to tell me that your emails been hacked again and then you won’t know any of your passwords and your authentication key will be being texted to a cell phone you had in 2002 or something. AND ONE TIME YOU PHONED ME TO TELL ME YOU HAD BOUGHT A NEW LAWNMOWER!! Phone someone who gives a hoot, you old bastard.
I just remembered the time you called me up and said “Hey kiddo, you know where I can get some of those old white sneakers I used to have?” DAD PLEASE?! REALLY?!
I just fell asleep at my computer. That’s not your fault but I had a dream and you were in it. You were eating a huge black trash bag of cress but when I looked in there it was full of snakes. You looked me square in the eye and said “This cress is the best”. Does this not tell you how I feel about you?
Dad you have a Homer Simpson bumper sticker on your car. It’s 2021 homie. Why would you have that now? I don’t even know where you found it but you have that Garfield thing with the suction cup feet that stick to the inside windows. Where did you possibly find that in the year of our lord 2021?
Dad, I want you to be 100% honest with me. Mom called me to tell me you were going to drive up to a racetrack on Saturday and drive all the race cars with a bunch of other men you don’t know. Is that true? I went on their website and they post the photos of all the you-looking motherfuckers standing next to the cars in boiler suits doing the same tepid white-guy thumbs up together. Go on the website and really ask yourself if you want to be there. I keep staring at them and every one of these losers are so easily replicable with you that I keep thinking I see you’re standing at the back like Jack Nicholson in the old photo in The Shining.
Do you remember at Thanksgiving when you tried to be funny and got schooled by your cousin? He said he was going to put on his sweatpants and you said “Hey there Timmy, 1984 called – they want their pants back!” and wiggled your eyebrows and nobody thought it was funny. Then you said you were going to loosen your belt and Big Tim leapt up and shouted “Everyone! Head to high ground!” and everyone laughed.
I’ve just remembered that at the same Thanksgiving party, mom made a real bland joke about having a crush on Jack Hugeman in Les Miserables and you got mega crusty about it. DAD IT WAS A JOKE!
Dad you’re a great guy and I love you from the bottom of my heart but DAD YOU HAVE GOT TO WISE UP!! I’m going to go pass out now because I’m really tired and everything feels like cotton wool.
I love you, you buster.
Your good son.
PS. Oh God I just remembered the time you said ‘Hey do you remember that Japanese guy, Gangham Style, he was funny!’ and I didn’t say anything at the time but there are a minimum of 3 things wrong with that sentence. goodBYE
|# ? Aug 29, 2021 17:35|
|# ? Nov 28, 2023 08:59|
A loud pop, followed by the sound of flopping rubber in the wheel well, sent the Marshall family’s overpacked SUV teetering onto the shoulder. A half-hour later, the car still in the same condition as it was when it rolled to a stop, Harold decided he needed Harold Junior’s help to change the tire and called him out of the car. “Junior, why don’t you come on out here. Your old man could use a hand.”
Junior knew that this was coming. Whatever survival genes his uncles inherited from his grandparents, his father had not. Junior figured his father had made up for this by marrying a strong-willed woman. He had also realized that he and his sister were pretty much duplicates of their parents, and instead of rebelling against that knowledge, he decided that it was probably for the best and reluctantly resigned himself to his fate. As such, he knew his father did not know how to change a tire any more than he did. In fact, when Harold Senior had shared that they would be going to the family reunion this year, Junior registered the announcement as an omen. A portent of ill fate to come. The tire, as far as Junior was concerned, was a sign of his unfortunate intuition coming true.
“Alright Junior, we’ll need a jack, the spare, and an appropriate amount of space. Don’t know how much space we’ll have with these cars ripping and roaring down the interstate. You’d think they’d see us, and maybe slow down or… or... Maybe we should have some cones?” Senior rambled. Junior exhaled, set his Gameboy on the seat, put on his best this is going to be fine face, and joined his father in unpacking the trunk to get the tools he was sure they weren’t going to know how to use properly.
Magnolia picked up her brother’s Gameboy nigh instantly. “You know your brothers going to have a fit if you mess with his video game and I am not in the mood for you two to be at it.” Her mother, Margaret, said from the front seat. Magnolia sighed. “How can you even tell that I have it! You’ve got your sleep mask on. You were literally snoring all of five seconds ago.”
“Just put it back.”
“If you didn’t want us to fight over it, you should have gotten me one too.”
“You wanted a Walkman!”
“Put it back.”
Magnolia tossed it into the seat. “How long are we going to be stuck here anyways? Why did you even agree to let dad drag us out here.”
Margaret lifted her sleep mask and turned to look back at Magnolia. “I’ll give them another half-hour before I go out there and change it myself. You know how your father is, and we haven’t seen your father’s side of the family in almost three years. Your memaw and pepaw would not stop talking about the trip. Besides, it’s good for us too.”
“If you say so.”
“I do. Now hush. Just a half-hour.”
Her mother turned back to the front and pulled the sleep mask down. Magnolia picked up the Gameboy.
Outside, Junior and Senior stood side by side inspecting the tire. To the left of them, they had arranged everything that they needed to change the tire in order from largest to smallest as if having the tools and parts arranged neatly would compensate for their lack of know-how. Senior was rifling through the pages of the vehicle maintenance manual looking for the chapter on servicing the tires.
“Found it! Here it is! Changing the tire. We’ll be out of here in no time now. So first, we need to loosen the nuts. Sounds easy enough.”
Junior produced the tire iron. Senior took it, mounted it against a nut, and strained against it with all his might.
“Hnngghh! drat thing won’t budge. Hnngghhh! Give me a hand here, will you? Hnnnggghh!!” Senior said putting all of his weight against the bar. Uncertain in how he would help, Junior approached and pressed into his father’s back. “Boy, what are you doing?” Senior said. “Not there, get around the front and pull towards you.” Junior pulled against the bar until he fell onto his butt. Senior jerked forward in his own near collapse.
“Okay! One is loose. Three more to go! Jesus Christ…” Senior said winded from that small amount of exertion. Just then, a car door shut, and Margaret came over.
“Alright, my turn.” Margaret said.
The Harolds watched as Margaret spat into her hands, rubbed them seemingly raw, and wrenched the nuts loose with the tire iron. She stepped on, kicked, and yanked the tire iron until one by one all the nuts came off. Then she jacked the car, mounted a new tire, removed the jack and fastened the tire firm within minutes.
Junior had also suspected that something like this might happen. More than once, their mother demonstrated that she had an untapped reservoir of skill. No matter the task at hand, once she deemed it necessary to get involved, she would handle it one way or another. She walked over, gave Harold Senior a kiss on the cheek, and returned to the car. She buckled in and pulled the sleep mask down over her eyes once again.
Junior returned to the car last, after stepping down into the woods to pee. When he saw Magnolia with his Gameboy, his mother held up a finger before he could utter protest. He snatched the Walkman in retaliation prompting Harold Senior to turn around, “You two better not make me come back there! I, technically own both of those doodads and I’ll make them mine if you can’t get along!”
Junior and Magnolia paid no heed to their father and began grabbing and pulling at each other. “It’s mine – no it’s mine – who cares whose it is – give it back – it’s mine!”
“Magnolia, Junior, Figure it out!” Margaret commanded. Although they pouted while doing so, each returned the other’s belongings.
As they got back on the road, Harold Senior turned to Margaret. “I would have figured it out, you know?”
Margaret didn’t move an inch. Sleep mask still over her eyes, shawl over her shoulders. “I know you would have, honey.”
|# ? Aug 29, 2021 19:31|