Hey, can I get a discord invite too? The one higher on this page is no longer valid
|# ? Apr 14, 2022 03:36|
|# ? Jun 28, 2022 15:14|
I am challenging Nae to a brawl!
I accept your challenge and I agree that I need lots of time because I am inexplicably really busy, so a post May 21st end date is my jam!
No weak sauce, huh? No lentils?
Alright, I want a story set in some kind of night food market. Your story must be set entirely at night and entirely within the food market, everything else is up to you. (Actually, one more constraint: I want your story to focus on at least three characters, none of whom have met before the start of the story.)
Per request the stories must be written in third-person omniscient, and I want this used to good effect! You have 2000 words and until midnight May 21st in whichever of your timezones falls last.
rohan fucked around with this message at 00:12 on Apr 15, 2022
|# ? Apr 14, 2022 03:38|
|# ? Apr 14, 2022 17:00|
Stone Blow Heart Hammer
— Thanks Emily Dickinson. I forgot your name, Mrs something
Word Count: 885
Tender soft stone wraps my heart with pinpricks tattooing, shattering, I have not become. I am nothing new and nothing old but still I live
How do I live you ask? In doubt.
It’s not confusion putting me six feet under trapped in my pine cage. Confusion often goes with doubt but I know what I do not know. I know I do not know how to be free.
I have not lived despite this heart pulsing sending floes of concrete to my limbs, my trunk, my body floating off for daily, hourly, weekly, minute temperaments that assemble nerve endings, capillaries, muscles, tendons, joints, skin, bone, hair, pools of eye juice—fetid eyes—not to see with but to know I am, at the least, continuing
I speak of the mind. The mind a body unto itself with no way to know or feel where it begins or ends, except when forced to stop and countenance an opposition. The end of what we are now, what we were and unknowing of what we will be telling us to go no further. Go no further, but on you go against my advice. That is my advice. Go on, I say, despite not wishing to say it to myself.
I speak to my hands, nerve endings, capillaries, muscles, tendons, joints, skin bone hair and they tell quiet now, you cannot know, for tender soft stone wraps the heart of minds, worse, it is at mind’s core. Neurons connecting, lights on and off, and below and above, my coffin flying over cities. I cannot maintain my view. Stone drags me down.
I am alive.
Every moment a hammer blow against thought. It’s not always bad. Electric paddles reawaken the heart of those momentarily passed on. Realisation comes as a shock and we see what we could not see before. Every moment striking me. Awareness strikes. Of what? It does not matter for I am back to my old ways once again. Tender soft stone wraps my heart.
You know where I’m going.
I try to raise a light. Come to my hand, torch. Let me lift you and shine a path for me to follow. Thought leads to another yet it is thought that secures me to the only place I have ever known; destruction of a moment gone.
Tender soft stone wraps my heart and it beats between stone’s grip. My mind pulses its stony hold, it’s the only way it can know how I feel. My mind is a bedrock with cracks throughout ready to crumble like ancient clay. The torch I’ve raised is my future. If only I could see myself and know what happens when both mind shatters and heart shatters. Would your grip of stone still be so resolute, would it slack and ease or would you constrict me more? What even would I be? I pray to gods I don’t believe in my thoughts would break. My heart would fly. We would be at peace. No more I cry! Release your grip
I feel more free when that hammer lands. Smashing, destroying. What? I do not know. All of me? I am gone. Am I gone? Has my heart been smeared with impact to nothing? That I do not know. I know I do not know that
What happens in that moment when mind holds the heart, cradles it like a newborn, crumples it like a note from a leaving lover? A hammer falling.
Lost loves telling me I’ve been forgotten. Lost loves, memories that never existed but were felt, love neither real or known but felt and now damned. I cannot rebuild but I know I do rebuild and will rebuild, I have no choice. And my coffin is now caught not six feet under, not flying above the cities’ lights, but beneath the earth itself. The whole earth. Somehow beneath it all, beneath and among it all. I have been lost to aeons. I am nothing but myself to be found.
Pressures weigh. I am heavier again with limbs, hands, nerve endings, capillaries, muscles, tendons, joints, skin bone hair all made of gravity.
I do not have my torch but there is a light. The pressure has caused awareness, awareness to be known, I hope, I pray. It is a cycle over and over, and that is light. I can see now. Breaking, smashing, freeing, fission or fusion there was a spark and for the briefest moment I could see. These are... There are? These are or were... These mere traces, gone, forgotten, now they are and forever will be of what was imprinted on fetid, liquid eyes
Tender soft stone no longer wraps my heart but a growing heart wraps around a tender soft mind. I can see the remnants. Electricity flowing. I am a child. I am youthful, free despite my years being almost at an end. I am what's gone.
It is not pain, it never was. It is not release, it was neither that. It is a destruction that happened between both. A moment, not in time but in self. It is the moment I am.
The stone was always soft. That is what I do not know and will forget again. I will forget again. The stony grip was always soft.
|# ? Apr 14, 2022 21:36|
Inevitable Death Week Judgebleats
This is at its strongest when it is at its most specific, so not giving the protagonist a name is probably a bad choice.
There's a weird low tech vibe here. Tapes, radio, lack of modern entertainment. And, for that matter, not being in regular contact with anyone, not being missed. Is this a world so dense with spaceships that a distress signal could have mattered? What is the mission anyway? Are they explorers or truck drivers? I found myself distracted by these kinds of questions.
Dry as hell. Mostly works, although I don't quite buy the ending, don't buy the information surviving the event.
Nice. I don't terribly care for the ending, switching point of view doesn't add much. But overall this is a nice piece of complex world building.
Mixed feelings here. As an impressionist work this is pretty good but it doesn't hold up to the analysis it pretends to invite. I mean, I get the feeling this guy is deeply connected to organized crime, is a hitter, so why is he bothering with petty armed robbery? Mid I guess?
Always good to see a Western. A pretty good one, except that I think it goes back and forth a bit on Isaiah's backstory: he's riding in his youth but needs to be taught to ride now, he is sometimes an outsider and sometimes the most inside their life: there's no sense of who he was before the diagnosis.
Overwritten and abstracted. I hope that this is a character voice here, but it's not interesting enough on its own, needs something a lot more raw to contrast the clinical.
The man called M
This is a bit of a backslide. Tense problems are back in force, along with other proofreading issues, and the pacing is a huge mess, with key moments happening 'offscreen' and a weird bit of dialog that could only work as a callback but you don't have the setup.
Sort of off-prompt, the character is still struggling most of the story. Penicillin is a poor choice here too, since its at once is easy to rediscover, and requires refrigeration. And the story is sort of empty too, nothing but the genre here.
Another sort of off-prompt story, a competent but largely without anything new to say animal viewpoint story.
And here way have getting cute with the prompt. Well-drawn characters, but not really satisfying in the end.
This is a weird one, because it is at its heart a story about suicide that doesn't quite seem to realize that, so it had too much of that to work as a sort of ironic supernatural twilight zone thing but not enough to have anything much to say about, you know, what it's about.
Okay, yeah. This is the stuff. Not just a solid emotional core, but one that is perfectly integrated with the other elements of the story.
Also good. Charming. I don't really have a problem with the characters' reactions, I assume these people knew they were in a very high risk position already and have come to terms with it, and, like the winner, there is a real emotional core that makes the story work.
|# ? Apr 15, 2022 09:38|
|# ? Apr 15, 2022 21:17|
|# ? Apr 16, 2022 04:23|
this is not a post saying i'm in
|# ? Apr 16, 2022 06:40|
this is just a test, i'm not in
|# ? Apr 16, 2022 07:15|
Well you're too late anyway. Sign-ups are closed.
|# ? Apr 16, 2022 08:31|
|# ? Apr 16, 2022 18:55|
The cold metal of the operating table stabs at my skin. I try to adjust my gown for more coverage, but my hands won’t listen to me. I’m paralyzed: drugged into submission. This way, I won’t be able to interrupt the operation.
But I will be able to feel the pain.
Doctor Broadwings studies me through icy eyes. “What seems to be the problem, young lady?” He has a deep, somber voice, one befitting the darkness of his feathers. He also has a surprisingly good bedside manner for a bird. Most avian doctors dive straight into the tearing without asking questions first.
“I’ve been told I have anger problems,” I say.
Doctor Broadwings clucks his beak, mimicking laughter. “Who told you that?”
“Do you think you have anger problems?”
“I’ve got a lot of problems.”
“Very well. Let’s take a look.”
He puffs up his chest and tilts his massive head. They don’t make surgical masks for birds, even the man-sized ones, but Doctor Broadwings wouldn’t be wearing one if they did. His beak is his most important tool.
My gown is open in front, exposing a canvas of smooth flesh. Doctor Broadwings presses the pointed tip of his bill to the indent below my sternum. My body tenses, preparing for agony, but I feel nothing when he pushes in and drags a bloody line through my skin.
“That didn’t hurt,” I say.
“The pain comes later,” he replies.
“Will you let me know?”
He clucks again. “You’ll know.”
With my chest open, Doctor Broadwings can begin the procedure. I read about it in advance, so I’m only mildly surprised when he sticks his beak in the hole and starts rooting around. I don’t know exactly what he’s looking for, but I have some ideas about what he’ll find.
After a few minutes of unhurried scrounging, he pulls out. A leather belt dangles from his beak. Its wide buckle caresses his chest feathers as he shows it to me. “Do you recognize this?”
I swallow hard. “It was a belt I had as a kid—an expensive one. I lost it somewhere and my parents got mad at me. I was always losing things…”
“Guilt.” He drops the belt into a metal pan. When the buckle hits the surface, a wave of pain vibrates through my body. I bite my lip to stop myself from screaming.
“You felt that,” he says. I nod as best I can. “Good. Let’s continue.”
Next, he pulls out a dog collar. It’s old and dirty, frayed from years of use. “My first dog,” I say. “He used to attack our other dogs, and I was always scared he’d really hurt them.”
“Fear.” He drops the collar in the tray; the tag hits with a clink. Pain ricochets through my bones. This time, I can’t hold in my scream.
Each time Doctor Broadwings lifts his beak, he shows me something I haven’t seen in years. My sister’s make-up trunk, my first business card, a weight-loss book: envy, frustration, and shame. Humiliation is there, too: the tap shoes I wore when I stumbled on stage. Loneliness follows, the keyboard I used in countless late-night games. Each one hurts more than the last, and pretty soon I’m sobbing openly on the table.
“How much longer is this going to take?” I say through clenched teeth. “Haven’t you found everything?”
“There’s very little left,” he admits.
“So where’s my anger? Where’s my rage?”
“Oh, that?” He gestures past the bed with his wingtip. “You left that at the door when you came in for help.”
With my limbs frozen, all I can do is turn my head to look. The door is open about a foot; there’s a pile of broken glass on the other side. I don’t need to get up to recognize it. It’s a shattered wine glass, the same one my mom hurled at my dad when I was five. I don’t need to touch it to feel the torturous, acidic pain.
Teeth clacking, I pull myself together just enough to speak. “You knew it was there the whole time….”
“So why are you still looking inside me?”
“Because I’m looking for—there!” A black streak of light, he dives into my torso and yanks something out. A pale, tired blanket spills from his beak, one with satin edges so worn that only a scrap in the corner remains.
I try to reach out and touch it, but all I can do is sob. “My blankie….”
“Sadness,” he says. “You used to cry into it when you were a little girl.”
I nod, eyes bleary, and my gratitude is immeasurable as he gently rests it in the metal pan. The pain that follows is a slow, inexorable tide that floods me to my very soul.
“Is it over?” I say.
He shakes his head. “Now we have to put everything back.”
“But then I’ll be angry again! Why can’t you leave those parts out of me?”
“Because you can’t live without them, I’m afraid. But we won’t put them in the same way—we’re going to rearrange them.”
“You’ll see,” he replies. “But I should warn you: this part is going to hurt.”
I choke back a sob, then bite my lip and nod. “Okay.”
Now the real work begins.
|# ? Apr 17, 2022 01:27|
One Walks the Anexium Pathway Again
I drink deep from the pewter goblet. The liquid tastes foul. I’m sure this must be bog water. My stomach immediately burns. Worst of all, I feel vulnerable. The shaman intones in deep baritones an incoherent yet rhythmic chant. As I wrestle with the knot growing in my stomach, I lose my sense of place. The runic scribblings on the walls grow brighter. I start to feel moist, then dripping with sweat. The heat becomes unbearable until I find my hands melting into the floor. “What is this?” I scream, feeling the bottom of my mouth continue to melt with the rest of me. I’m unsure if I still have a voice as I drip apart. The shaman replies, “You asked to find the Anexium Pathway. Did you assume it was just a literal cavern?”
It takes great effort to keep focus. I greatly fear if I lose focus over the moment I may come apart for good. “To understand the ethereal plane, you must relinquish your control over the material, “the shaman demands. “You are more than just your body. Your soul is of a god. The Old Gods relinquished corporeal forms to expand not unlike an insect from a cocoon. For even you are still an insect in this grand tapestry.”
I imagine flexing my muscles, attempting to pull my essence together slop by slop. This is not the first time someone has attempted to manipulate my mind over the course of 2000 years. Slowly pieces of myself come back together like mud slapped on a pile. When I feel together enough, I attempt to shout again: “I only wish to speak to them. I don’t seek to be one.” The shaman says nothing. There is no room anymore. Only the infinite expanse of literal space. I feel wide and small. There is darkness and refractions of colored light filling its void.
I barely contain myself before feeling a powerful presence before me. A powerful wind from nowhere trying to further strip my being away, no more than the wind carries a leaf. A deep voice reverberates from my soul. “Seek and you shall find. Another generation has taken my throne?” My…head? I think what is my head is pounding. I feel in my gut the vibrating from their speech. “Who are you?” I hear booms and see my body undulating. Is...is this its way of laughing at me?
It finally showed itself. The sight of it hurt to see. It’s gaze absolute and piercing, stabbing at me. A perfect symphony of inscribed rings revolving around a single unblinking eye. It is draped in a glistening down of feathers. Beautiful and horrifying in equal measure. There is no corner of my mind in which I can hide. It sees all clearly. “What are you?” I cry. I’m bouncing in my own head, the pain excruciating. “The next step.”
“If you truly are of the old gods then I demand answers!” I shout, frustrated that I’m but a toy in their hands. “Were you the one that brought me to this plane from my home? How do I go back? Why have I been brought here? What are you now? Just loving why?” I scream into what feels like a void, judged by an unblinking eye. I feel my body undulating again in what I’m sure now is it laughing. “You’ve come this far to ask such simple-minded questions?” the booming voice ponders aloud. The reverberations from its voice make me believe it now sounds insulted.
The revolving rings around the great eye stop and form a target pattern around its center. Bright tentacles extend out and stab me into what I think was my eyes. Whatever question I can bother asking I’ve already been given an answer. I don’t feel the presence grants me knowledge because it genuinely wants me to know but to prove it can show me. My eyes can only keep opening wider. I see moments. I exist in every one of them simultaneously. Both bystander and perpetrator. In one moment, I am a bird flying above the terrain, focused on finding the next meal. I feel the pulsating life of billions of the world’s insects. In another instant moment I am a murderer shamelessly killing frightened prey in cold blood. All of these feel equal. Simple energy passing from one place to another, sometimes in small quantities other times larger. It’s all overwhelming.
I have only now realized all my previous efforts were feeble. Over the course of my over lived life, I gained the strength to shatter mountains. The will to mobilize armies with my voice alone. I was worshipped as a god. These facts felt petty compared to the wisdom I was bombarded with. I was but a child believing I could swim because I floated in a shallow pool. “Whatever world you knew before this plane is gone to you. But come with me and I will show you another way forward.” The burning sensations give way to a feeling of nothing. The last of me evaporates into its light. “We are burdened with the cruel task of being born again,” it tells me, its voice now reassuring. In this moment I feel connected to this presence, and I learn its truth: it too once sought a way back, though it has now long forgotten what there was to ever return to.
|# ? Apr 17, 2022 02:10|
Like Yesterday 721
The guards were taking me to ultra-prison, which all things considered was a pretty bad position to be in. “Hey bro,” I said to the nearest guard, “what’s the charge again?”
“You’re a dangerous dissident,” he said. “We fear your innovative ideas, and the only way for us to silence your stunning thoughts is to lock you up.”
“LOL, nah,” said a second guard. “It was the murders.”
I didn’t remember murdering anyone, but the memory’s not what it was, these days. I mean, it’s weird, it’s like, I can’t remember what I did yesterday, but I can remember my prom like it was yesterday.
Like, a yesterday that I actually remembered.
I most vividly remember the after party. The prom itself was… it was fine I guess. My date looked real pretty, but it was awkward and we just stood and chatted or sat and ate. For the after party, we snuck… sneaked? Snuck sounds better. We snuck into the fire station. Like, not an active one. But some of the guys brought kegs and people were daring each other to slide down the fire poles, and my date turned out to be a spy.
Like, an actual spy. OK so you know that TV show where the kids are actually cops? Or, there’s some cops who pose as students. It was like that. Except she was a spy. I still can’t figure out how to the feel that my prom date was a spy. And also an adult. That’s messed up right?
But anyway, we were doing lots of shots at the party, and playing drinking games involving sliding down the fireman’s poles. One dude cracked his head open, I think maybe someone pushed him? And the next thing you know there was an occult circle and someone was using him as a human sacrifice to summon Elvis Presley.
My mum was a bit mad afterwards, but she always overreacted a bit; I mean, she was also concerned about me playing Dungeons & Dragons, or listening to rock and roll music, or performing live experiments on our pet dogs, which they survived most of the time, so we didn’t end up having to replace them too often, and you can’t stand in the way of science, right?
But anyway, we successfully summoned Elvis Presley, but then my date grabbed him and shoved him into the trunk of her car, which maybe it should’ve been a red flag to me that my date had her full license, and also an Aston Martin with bulletproof glass that she could drive by remote control, and there were a bunch of buttons that she specifically warned me against pressing when she picked me up, but hindsight is 20/20 I guess.
So anyway, they drove off and I never saw them again, except when she ran over the two guards who were taking me to ultra-prison.
“Hey,” I said.
“Get in,” she said.
I was torn, because on the one hand she was a spy and ditched me at the prom and stole our successfully summoned Elvis. On the other hand, I really liked that car, and she still looked really pretty. I got in.
The inside of the car reminded me of when I’d last been in the car. I mentioned the buttons she told me not to press, right? Well, I did accidentally press one of them. Both times, actually. Last time she just said, “all right, but don’t do it again, or we might have issues,” whereas this time she shook her head and said, “now you’ve done it,” which is true I guess, I definitely did it.
Anyway, the trunk opened and Elvis fell out. So I guess the current Elvis related crisis is technically my fault, and some people are mad about that, but people overreact, I mean they also got mad when I murdered my neighbours.
Oh, there you go, now I remember that happening. Just had to think through it, right? It’s like, associating certain smells with memories or whatever, or in this case associating Elvis with a busted open head and a human sacrifice. I guess I successfully summoned him this time too, although I really expected him to come through the portal near the human sacrifice. What can you do ey.
|# ? Apr 17, 2022 13:24|
The Hyena; or, the Bar Exam
I gained twenty-five pounds prepping for the bar exam. It was significantly less than I’d hoped for and, based on the appearances of the people in front and behind me, I was coming in on the smaller side by quite a bit. I rubbed my belly nervously. The man in front of me had a particularly powerful, prodigious gut that hung over his belt and strained the buttons on his dress shirt. The woman behind me was wearing a dress that could have been the sail to ship. Both of them, beautiful, enviable, yet as we marched forward in the queue, snaked as it was through the parking lot of the stadium, I passed bigger and better bodies until my companions were as dwarfed as I was to them.
It took hours to get through the line. The man in front of me stepped up to the ticket counter, presented his ID, signed the health waiver, and the woman behind the counter asked, “Glue, three-hole punch, or staples?”
“Staples?” the man said, surprised.
The woman stamped his test form. And there was a groan from everyone who witnessed, myself included. The man took his test with shaky hands, crestfallen, already dejected despite the incredible work he’d put into his stomach. He must be from another, more enlightened state. One that removed or never had the old Jim Crow option.
“Glue, three-hole punch, or staples?” the woman asked me.
“Glue,” I said. Difficult on the digestion but easier than staples. And less likely to accidentally lose a piece than three-hole punch.
She stamped my form.
We silently filed into the stadium. Our desks were in the nosebleed section. By my count, only a few hundred more would make it inside this year for the exam. Down below, I could see those who arrived early and who’d been forced to wait in the sun fiddling with various canteens and thermoses, weighing the need for hydration versus keeping an empty stomach versus keeping a stretched-out stomach. In the tunnels, in the stairways, waiters in white shirts and red bowties mingled with masked security guards and members of the press.
Finally, as the last seats were filled, as my neighbors arranged their sauces, as I finished sharpening my scissors, as the sun began to set, she arrived.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Spotlights picked up her helicopter, solid gold with the glowing white seal of the Courts emblazoned on both sides, as it came down onto the middle of the field. She stepped out, raised her hands, and the stadium roared to life with wild shouts and thunderous applause.
A waiter darted across the grass to hand her a microphone
“Greetings!” she cried, her voice booming through every speaker. “I know you all are hungry for knowledge so I will be brief. To quote Shakespeare who was in turn quoting the brilliant Socrates, ‘To speak the law, one must first eat the law!’ Today we carry on that tradition that has stretched back into antiquity and has maintained democracy since we executed those first sets of kings! Tomorrow, you all will be different. Some will be judges, some lawyers, others police. Others still will return to their old jobs but not a one of you should hang your head. By simply being here, you are embodying the greatest strength of humanity. That is to say, you reach bravely, without fear, without hesitation, without knowing what is or isn’t in your grasp. Seek greatness. Eat well. And God bless you all.”
She returned the microphone, bowed to ferocious applause, and flew off in her helicopter. Waiters filed through the aisles, carrying silver plates filled with law texts, and dropped one off on each person’s desk. Guards took up positions, working in pairs, one with a rifle and the other with binoculars. The stadium’s priest led us in a blessing and then quickly went over the rules. Every part of the law must be eaten in two hours. Cheaters would be immediately executed. He raised his holy rifle to the air, fired a single shot, and we began.
I used my scissors on the spines first, scrapping the glue and sucking it off the blades. Better, I figured, to attack the most difficult part first than when my belly was full of paper. I was careful, though, to make sure some remained to bind the pages. The woman who was behind me in line and who had chosen three-hole punch, screamed as a gust of wind took one of her sheets. Unable to leave her desk, she could only watch as it floated through the stadium. She wept. Her dreams deferred if not dead.
A giant timer was broadcast on the stadium’s center screens. I ate page after page. I alternated my sauces, ketchup here, mustard there, sriracha, a dab of honey, anything to break up the taste but not, in of itself, become irritating to eat. After an hour, I was almost exactly halfway through my texts.
And then I started laughing.
I remembered talking with my uncle and his friends, they’d all passed the bar themselves, and I asked what the test was really like. After a moment, my uncle said, “Hyenas eat bones.” I didn’t get it. He told me, and his friends assured me, that I couldn’t until I’d been through what they’d been through.
As I chewed another page, I got it. An animal like that, like the hyena, will devour whatever it takes to survive. So it is with the law.
|# ? Apr 17, 2022 18:48|
Your Body Changes in Strange Ways
Mom and Dad were squawking the day I was supposed to turn into a bird.
“He’s gonna be a blue jay, the annoying little brat,” Dad said.
“He’s a dove and you know it. He couldn’t even kill that spider last night,” Mom said.
Pa was a falcon. His talons scraped into his porkchops as he tore into them. He hated everything, ate everything, and loved to circle the neighborhood and land on stranger’s cars and peek at their windowsill.
Ma was a cuckoo. She didn’t like the stigma around them, so she usually called herself a songbird.
“Do I have to be a bird?” I asked, but the question was ignored.
“Our son isn’t a drat dove.”
“A jay’s better?”
“You hate the jays next door.”
“Better than doves,” he said.
I couldn’t eat my food. There were claw marks streaked across the meat and I wasn’t hungry .
“Jimmy became an eagle,” Pa said. “Be that,” he said, addressing me.
“I don’t want to,” I said.
Dad sighed and Mom hopped onto the table and laid a claw on my hand. “Honey, I know it’s hard, but it’s better than you think. I was nervous too, but when I got my wings and finally got able to fly, well, it made everything make a lot more sense.”
“When I could finally dig my claws into those drat rats, God, that was the best feeling,” Dad said.
Mom glared at him, and he shrugged his bird wings, and peeked at his pancakes more.
“Honey, we’ll always love you, no matter what bird you become.”
“Mom, what if I don’t become a bird?” I said.
“Everyone thinks that,” Mom says. “Maybe I’ll be the exception. Maybe I’ll be the one who doesn’t have to do this, but honey, that’s the way life works. There’s some things we don’t get to choose and we just have to accept that.”
“Mom, I’m not hungry,” I said, pushing the plate aside.
Mom hopped over to me. Her bird eyes looked into mine. They were a dark pinprick, reflecting my face. Mom said I looked like her more when she was human, but there were no pictures of them before the birdification. I had blue eyes and she did once. Maybe I’d be a songbird like her, she once said, and I had to stop myself from telling her she wasn’t a songbird.
“That’s fine honey,” she said. “You can go up. Get some rest. And leave your window open.”
I went to my room. The window was already open since I snuck out last night. I couldn’t sleep, so I went over to Jeremiah’s and we played video games and I told him I was scared. He said he understood, but it’d be okay and being a bird wouldn’t be that bad, and I said it wasn’t because of that.
“I’m scared that I’m not a bird.”
“What?” he said.
“I don’t think I’m normal,” I said. “I feel weird every time.”
“When I couldn’t sleep, it wasn’t because of the bird thing. It was ‘cause of you. I, I didn’t want to see you as a bird. I wanted, I don’t know, I wanted to be next to you, as a human. I wanted to feel you. I never, I don’t know, but I wanted to feel you on my skin. Not on my feathers. I don’t get it, I don’t, but all I knew was I didn’t want to be bird and I wanted to be here and,”
Jeremiah pulled me close and hugged me and then put his face close to mine and kissed me.
And those memories streaked in my mind. His breath against my check, his fingers running against my arms, the humanness of it, and I stepped up to the window. The winter breeze smashed against the bare skin of my face and I wondered what it would be like with feathers, but then I remembered Jeremiah’s lips against mine, and how that would never happen again, and I didn’t want to be a bird. I wanted to be a person with another person, a boy with another boy, and I understood that now, I understood on those evenings when I snuck out and smoked pot with Jeremiah in the park, it was because I wanted him, I wanted to be close to him, closer than I could imagine, and I understood but I would be a bird and would have to settle for scratching him with my talons instead of petting him with my fingers.
And so I sat at that window and looked at the sky and I glared at the God I didn’t believe in and I told him no. I knew it meant nothing, that there are things in this world that have to be, but I didn’t care. I said no and I fell asleep repeating no in my head.
I woke up in the morning, went to the window, and stared at the morning sky. I would understand what it was like, Mom said, when I could fly through it. I would understand it wasn’t so bad.
Dad peeked at my door and shouted, “What the hell kind of bird did you become?”
The cold breeze slipped across my skin and I smiled when my fingers turned the knob.
|# ? Apr 17, 2022 19:40|
A glistening jellyfish moon crowds the velvet sky
dusted with salt stars,
Moonrays glint frosty on curling waves that crawl,
roll and hop like dogs
hunting the shore
Dark sand slithers on my feet and seaweed waters wash my cryptic etchings
I am here to feel her presence
I wait for her name to ride a seathrown zephyr to my ear
I wait for the moment of knowing
When the spume spattered wind enters my chest
and cools my burning heart
Then I will know she is with me
Ships float silent as ghosts, sliding between worlds of sea and sky
a billion fishes squirm and feed in the deep,
and untouched stones wait somberly,
and bones are strewn like seeds on the ocean’s bed,
And where is she? At sea, visiting the sleeping ships?
or brushing green fingers across glimmering, wriggling scales?
or resting beneath the water’s weight, her head on an anemone?
For me? I’m here!
Breathe your sea-green breath onto my heart,
drape your kelpen hair across my eyes
and press your lips of brine on mine
Tell me you are here!
Scribe your name in luminescent algal blooms,
guide the fickle wind through shadow spiraled shells,
bathe me with a rogue wave!
Split the clouds with jagged white!
Like an oyster chewing sand I wait,
I breathe the night I taste the salt,
cadent waves slap my shins, green clings between my toes
Clouds swallow the moon and the world is emptied
Shadows slurp the sand, I feel their blind licking,
the wind hovers like a wet fog,
I’m a bare ash dripping in a stagnant void,
waiting for her sign
Then, light returns!
The moon like a white sword cuts the onyx clouds
a shimmering pearlescent blade slashes
etching an icy line through water and shore
I follow the lightline like an arrow pointing
I track the pallid gleam across the glinting waves, the oilbright sand
and at the white path’s end I find
In the lunar glow mere strides from me,
a living shell of golden green
maroon and amber, seafoam,
lucent opaline calcium spiral
On a mound of sand, its pedestal
in a ring of light, its stage
her prints glint on its looping surface
her whispers circle its coiled chambers
She has answered me there, in the shining shell!
I detach my feet from the hungry sand, she is near,
three steps to cross worlds, she is here!
I kneel at her altar, cupped hands
I bow, dipped in moonlight,
I slip my fingers under
Cool and glistening, heavy as love
heavy and dense as a blue star,
dense and thick and undulating warmth
warm gripping my fingers wetly,
skin on skin squirm dermic lightning
Eager flesh, alert and verdant
Her salty lips? Her tongue? Her eye?
intimate press, wet and twitching, seeking on my palm
Alive! A life living within
explores without the spiral’s mouth
Is it you? I dare to ask in fervent whispered tones
She seems nod her umbre head, her stalks awake and quivering
and gusts of wind and sudden waves applaud her regal beconning
I lift her to my livid face, my quaking lips, my moonlit eyes
I sense within that boneless guise, my love, back from the other side
It’s you, my dear, my love, my queen, my ever only always!
I knew that even ocean deeps could never keep you from me!
You’ve sent me whispers on the breeze, caressed me through the waves,
and now you fuse with mollusc kind to be mine once again!
She reaches out her rippling flesh, she wants to touch my mouth
where often as a woman she would trace her fingers round
I draw her near, I smell the sea, I see the moon so vividly
I feel her tickle, tentacle, I taste her ocean, salmuera
she’s coming in
I know it’s her
I open wide
I take her whole
she and I
are of one soul
I wait to drink
her holy brine
a probing thrust
We are one!
We are one once again! When I breathe it's your breath, ah! I can’t let this end!
One more step, oh my dear, it will wed us forever,
one mere moment of pain to unite us eternal
Just keep still,
hold your breath,
close your eyes,
just a pinch,
just a bite,
just a blink and you’re mine!
Through, my throat, to my heart, to my black secret depths
find your way through my veins, fill my bones, glow my eyes,
You’ve been so long at sea and now back finally
Yes I’ve taken your shell, but your new shell is me!
Glimmering carapace, hollow in my hand, I drop it where I found it, lonely on the sand
The washing azul sea does call, but no longer knows my name
the deep is empty of familiarity,
bizarre, thrashing, liquid entity,
and my empty shell is full
We watch the sky together,
the horizon, that fine line, between dark and other dark,
is split with molten gold
|# ? Apr 17, 2022 21:49|
A Poor Player
“The penguin’s a gomikuzu because he lives like a gomikuzu! That’s why he can’t fly!”
A bereted man paced back and forth in a field of blue, menacing a man-sized penguin with a giant microphone. He paused to press it directly against the penguin’s ear.
“Do you hear me? That’s why he keeps failing! That’s your loving motivation!”
The penguin removed his head to reveal an astonishingly attractive man underneath. The handsome man looked bewildered, a look mirrored in the unsure prancing of a nearby muscular-legged flamingo. I just stood there, hoping against hope that the bereted man would remember to yell cut, just this once, so I could stop rolling.
But he never yells cut.
The man is Sash Cronen, he’s the director of this spectacle. He’s a two-time Sundance Winner on his first big-budget project. The handsome man in the penguin-suit is Scott Isaacs, the most sought-after leading-man in the business. Cronen glanced at his phone and winced.
“Aw gently caress, we’ve shot long enough... alright, everyone break-off for lunch. But I want you all back in forty with your heads in the game. Remember, this is very high-concept and meta. We’re elevating the genre, we’re transcending the ordinary. The magic will happen soon.”
That’s as close to ‘cut’ as we ever get, so I switched off my steady-cam and limbered off the body rigging. Dozens of technical hands standing farther from the blue-screen also moved to stow their equipment. Each figure was weary, with hollow, downcast eyes. One word was obviously haunting every one of us. That word was flop.
A multi-million dollar bomb was about to go off in our faces. One we helped build.
I wanted to quit but I’d settle for some air. I looked for Bethany in the crowd and waved her towards the studio’s exit; she saw and made way. Side-by-side, we moved with the crowd to pass a hallway festooned with security cameras. The astronomical expense of the film necessitated extra precautions. All the best possible everything was here. Between us and the EXIT doors were two security guards who looked, and acted, like bridge trolls. They were both, I’m sure, barely suppressing intrusive thoughts of homicide as they frisked us. We should’ve been acclimatized to this paranoid groping by now, but we weren’t. We resented it.
Outside the sunlight beat down on the studio’s back-alley, lighting up the pavement like a white-stage. The other technical hands shuffled outside. Some found shaded areas to sprawl out, and some lounged against parked trailers. They chatted about how much weed they were going to smoke later. Bethany and I wandered to our regular spot, a secluded wall near a loading dock whose corrugated exterior read STAGE 2. It’s quiet here, except for the whirring of the omni-present, overhead security cameras. We’d bide our time here until the food caterers were ready. I barely uncapped my thermos before I had to vent.
“This is a nightmare, everything’s wrong and we’re all going to die,” I said, straight-faced and deadpan.
Bethany studied me with her tranquil brown eyes. She’d been so calm throughout this ordeal. She’s the lead costumer who designed the suits. Between takes, she’d work to keep the flamingo’s plumage lively. She joked about being a Flamingo Fluffer. Everyone else was frayed, coping by whatever means necessary to keep it together, while she was a rock.
“Everything dies,” she teased.
“Not of shame,” I explained in low tones, “This is gonna be worse than Cats.”
“You don’t think we’re going to... elevate the genre?”
“I cannot believe Cronen’s actually like that in-person. I mean, all the time.”
“And you think everything’s wrong?”
“Everything. Who thinks a penguin-who-wants-to-fly-movie should be live-action? CGI sure, but live-action? Who pays out for Isaacs and buries him in a penguin-suit? We don’t even need half the equipment we have, and all this extra security is turning us against Cronen. Film's supposed to be a collaborative process, but we’re all off in our own worlds, trying to stay above water. The ship’s sinking and I’m probably gonna quit soon.”
“You act like it’s intentional.”
“No, it’s... Cronen’s a bad fit. All the man really knows is death. Weird, miserable death. His two Sundance wins were for, what? A surrealist ghost-story about lesbian soulmates physically haunted by the actual phantoms of their exes? And that gonzo mokumentary about the suicide survivors? A man with that background shouldn’t be doing a cute penguin-who-can’t-fly-movie.”
“Forget death a sec, our movie’s really about life. You know how awful life can be sometimes?”
“...Life’s messy, meaningless and full of failure. I get that. Films can reflect that, productions can’t. The penguin can fail, we can’t. ”
“What was it you hated most about Cronen? That he never says cut?” Bethany nudged, pointing at the omni-present cameras overhead.
“Where do you think the real show is?”
“You... think we’re the real show? And, like, Cronen’s intentionally killing his own production just so he can make a behind-the-scenes thing about its failure?”
“The man is a known surrealist,” Bethany explained, “They’ll exaggerate any form, any medium, to depict life as is.”
A motorcade of anvil-headed men riding vehicles shaped like kamasutra figures bustled towards the loading dock, their anuses sputtering exhaust. I didn’t really believe Bethany, but at least I wasn’t completely miserable anymore. poo poo, maybe all this’ll actually be worth playing out.
|# ? Apr 18, 2022 01:37|
Bob the Bike builder’s Homosexual Bike
The following is a story written by an AI, who was given every story in Thunderdome.*
Bob is a gay black man who lives in an aboned bunker, a bunker made entirely of bone. He makes bikes for closeted gay men for a living. One day, a closet came with one of his bikes.
“Help! My bike needs to be repaired or else a gay British boy will die!”
“Is he 18teen years old?” Bob asked, sexually.
“Yes, why?” The Closet asked.
“Then I’ll see what I can do,” Bob said, also sexually.
He starts repairing the bike. He has had so much of a fascination with bikes that he married one. Bob’s Bike-lover came downstairs.
“Lover, what are you doing?” Asked the Bike-lover.
“I am repairing a bike for an 18teen year old gay British boy,” said Bob-lover. Bike-lover has been with Bob ever since Bike-lover was harassed by potatoes. Bob saved him by throwing a potato so hard that it exploded. This is a Call of Duty Reference.
The next day after Bob worked on the bike he went downstairs. He saw that the bike was now a man.
“Ock,” said the Man-bike. This is a Thunderdome Joke.
“Sir bike, why are you a man?” Asked Bob.
“Because the gay British boy is fated to die.” Said Bike-man.
“I am an Atheist,” said Bob. “I do not believe in fate.” He then went and built the gayest bike ever. It shot out rainbows and its horn sounded like an orgasm. Since its future owner was British, it also had a tiny Union Jack for repair purposes, and also a British flag.
“Perhaps this gay bike will defy fate,” said Bike-man.
“By the way,” said Bob. “You haven’t told me or my lover your name.”
“Since I was just born, I do not have a name.”
“Okay, since you do not have a name, your name is now Dave Bikeman.”
“So I need to bend it like Bikeman, then?” They both laugh.
Bob and Dave Bikeman went over to the gay British boy. Since Dave Bikeman was a Bikeman, he can go as fast as one horse.
A few minutes later, the gay British bike was delivered to the gay British boy.
“Thank you gentlemen,” he said. “Now I do not have to die a horrific death and me and my lover can have sex in secret.” They all laugh. Except for the Janitor. He is sad.
Just then, Bob got a call from his Bike-lover.
“Bob-lover, I am pregnant,” said Bike-lover. It was the first male pregnancy from a bike. Or from a male at all.
After taking Bike-lover to the hospital, he gave birth to a healthy velociraptor. This is a The Man Called M joke. It is bad. If any children are reading, do not tell a The Man Called M joke.
Afterwards Bob and his family lived happily ever after. Until they didn’t. This is a Thunderdome ending.
*It is not actually made with an AI.
|# ? Apr 18, 2022 04:14|
Strange and New
I always hate crossing borders, and there was one coming up. I told Janis to slow down, then undid my seatbelt and leaned out the window. I watched the sky. There was a change ahead, a discontinuity between the flag-blue above and the static-grey ahead. I raised my binoculars and tilted then focus until the blurred dots snapped into a v-formation of birds in flight. I tracked them through the sky, watched them cross that border and change, feathers becoming plastic, black eyes replaced with red cameras following laser trackers. I ducked back into the car.
"Heads up," I said.
"What's ahead?" she asked.
"Madlands," I said.
"Techno, at least," I said. There're plenty of madlands where the old Volkswagen would stop working at the border.
"How big?" She slowed down for the upcoming curve.
"Can't be huge or we'd have heard of it," I said. "We should be able to cross before sundown." Important. The most important thing about traveling. When you're awake you can dissent from the local consensus. Fall asleep and you might as well raise a white flag. There's a cooler full of warm Red Bulls in the trunk, and as a last resort a baggie full of pills that were sold to us as methamphetamine.
We had to do forty-eight hours awake through Mississippi near the start of the trip. Rough times. If we'd nodded off before we hit a better pocket the ambient hate might have gotten into Janis, or else I might have turned into one of their stereotypes, found a bomb in my hair or something. Bad times.
We crossed the border and the car's satellite radio sprang to life, a hundred channels of k-pop and numbers stations. Better than AM gospel and brimstone. We weren't inside for more than a few minutes before we had escorts, a small flock of robotic jays.
We passed a hitchhiker, a wiry man with chrome sunglasses, a straw hat and an old meme t-shirt. Passed him again a mile later, either the same guy or a twin. The third time he drew a gun and fired a warning shot. He took aim at the front tires.
The spare was five different realities ago. Janis stopped the car.
"Sorry about that," he said, holstering it as he got in the back seat. "Wasn't going to hurt no one, 'specially not with them up there watching. But we don't get many visitors." He put his hat in his lap. "Name's Ezekiel, but most call me Zeke."
"Yusef," I said.
"That's a mouthful," said Zeke. "I'm gonna go with Joe if you don't mind." I didn't argue with an armed likely lunatic. "And your woman?"
Janis snorted. "She's nobody's but her own. Janis." I said.
"Where you from?" said Zeke.
"Florida," I said.
"Last I heard most of Florida was baseline." Zeke tapped his foot. "As baseline as Florida ever was, at least."
"Old news," I said.
"The Orlando-Clearwater war went wide," said Janis. "Neither side could make progress on the front, but their memeplexes tore right through the rest of the state."
"drat," said Zeke. "And you're headed west?"
"We are," I said.
"Rough travel that way," he said. "Wastelands, mostly. And the Bee Crusade trying to tame them. Get caught there and they'll be trying to draft and convert you. Vegas is still mostly as it was, but good luck getting there."
"We're going further west than that," said Janis.
"Not Hollywood," he said. "You don't look that kind of stupid. So the other place." He shook his head, in affected sadness. "It's not real."
It is, though. I've seen it, in the last set of satellite photos before patches of low-tech reality knocked out every bird not in geosynchronous orbit. In Marin County, right across the bay where it was supposed to be. A freaking spaceport, and the only post-consensus reality better than what we had before.
"You're better off staying here," said Zeke. "You'd fit in just fine, a healthy pair like you. If you don't turn out to be androids. We'll check on that first thing in the morning." He held up his arm, with the evidence of a series of horizontal scars. "Tendons every time for me, but when we tested my brother it was servos. Saddest day-"
Janis swerved hard at the exit, the first place where she could without hitting a guardrail. The car spun around and came to a stop, and we both got out of our seats as fast as we could. Zeke was thrown sideways in the back seat, and took a few seconds to get out, but he did, with the gun out. He pointed it right at me.
"Now that was just rude," he said. "We don't need rude here."
"Wait," said Janis. "I'm the one who did it." Zeke turned to her, but kept the gun where it was.
"Sounds like something an android would say," he said. "I've never dismantled a woman android yet."
She started walking towards him.
"Stop," he said. "Not one more step." She kept walking. He fired the gun.
A mechanical jaybird intercepted the bullet, exploding into a tangle of plastic and wires. Red laser dots traced around Zeke's face for a full second. Then it burst like a melon under high velocity pellet fire.
We saw two more of him on the road before reaching the border.
|# ? Apr 18, 2022 07:23|
i am become something new
to describe an angel is to paint a river, it is impossible without stripping away dimension in time to an extent where the end result is recognisable/unrecognisable. Angels are not noun-creatures, they are verb-creatures; they roil, oscillate, warp, flow. To see an angel is to drive past a vineyard and see the shadows of your beloved dead zoetrope behind the vines. It is impossible, but I died and God did not notice, so I will try to describe to you an angel. Here is her name:
twotwist no fixed point, white wall whirling, smaller than expected, song of weeping/clarion/bells, soaring like a jackknife, screw, weep, twice again she turns then death, emerge lilac, fruiting death, ivy twisting into stone, water dripping onto stone, build a hollow and lay down hungry roots, drink at the table til the water runs black praise-to-god
i have seen many angels but i have seen twotwist the most, she emerges dark and reeking from dirty water, i have screamed at my warden not to leave still water lest is foul, they tell me i must drink but whenever i drink i take in twotwist and her roots grow deeper into my chest, i scream to her sister findme nexus praise-to-god but i hear nothing, the angels only come when they wish to come and they only wish to come when it hurts
i am not an angel but if i were i would be unpaintable praise-to-god, twice-dead nothing dancing praise-to-god, the rotten fruit of twotwist growing inside me until the branches pierce my lungs and emerge from my throat, rend me then, deglove me oh god, make me verb-beast, i would open myself on the bladelike curve of her cheek and become something red and new, become open, become flow, become unknowable, become the unpaintable river, become twice-self nothing dancing praise-to-god, reborn twice-self nothing praise to god, water-not-fire, no fixed point praise-to-god and then death twice again, twotwist-opened like a saveloy left too long in the pot, praise-to-god always
wander now i am death/i am not death, i hope this is satisfactory/i know it is not, forgive me but there is never enough red to paint water, never enough ivy to hold my walls together, nothing but the lovely lines of god whirling worldwise
|# ? Apr 18, 2022 07:30|
A vast undulating plain stretches ahead of K, white as sand; she sits at its edge. The plain holds infinite possibilities but its emptiness reveals nothing. It waits for someone to dare make a mark on its untouched surface. After years of thought, K dares. She places the machine onto the white surface in front of her: the pen at its prow quivers in readiness, and she enters the machine.
The story is her cheese toastie daydream. Warm, comforting, happiness guaranteed. She wants to share it, to give others warmth, comfort, and happiness, and that means, unfortunately, interfacing with the machine. Its metal body and patchwork gears are unknowable to her, all she can do is turn the crank. Taking a deep breath, she grabs the wooden handle and summons the beginning of the story. It’s as sharp as a movie and envelopes her senses. Overhead, blue sky peeks through a canopy of orange leaves. Dead leaves crunch underfoot. The air pleasurably stings his nose, not enough to pull up his woolen scarf. He’s walking, the aroma of his coffee mingling with the decay of leaves, the chatter of others massaging his ears. Ahead of him, on a green bench, sits a woman whose face glows bronze in the sunlight. They will fall in love.
As K imagines, the machine jolts to life. The handle vibrates and she begins to turn it. It offers resistance at first, working out the rust. As K explores the scene, turning the crank becomes easier. Black words spill forth onto the white plain; K grins at the sight. She is creating!
But then. Is the bird in the tree above them a pigeon or a crow? The handle refuses to turn until she chooses. Worry starts crawling into her skin. Where did this bird come from? Why did its undetermined nature jam progress her story? To gain perspective, she leaves the machine and reads what it has printed on the white plain. “It was a nice sunny day in late autumn…” Worry seizes her heart. This is not her story.
Well, no, that’s not entirely true. The same elements are there– the man, the park, the woman on the bench– but the sense, the image is gone, replaced by black-and-white words, all harsh lines and thin curves. The words talk about the scene but they are empty, devoid of the feeling she is so effortlessly able to summon in her own mind.
It must be the fault of the translator. K glares at the machine, scanning its brown-gray-purple body for any settings she can adjust. There are none. She rips the page out of the plain in frustration, leaving the maw of white untarnished once again, and reenters the machine. She grips the handle, less girl at a wishing well and more captain of a sailing ship. She summons the image again and pushes it out into the machine. Write, she commands.
Taking a deep breath, she summons the beginning of the story. It’s as sharp as a movie and envelopes her senses. Overhead, blue sky peeks through a canopy of orange leaves. Dead leaves crunch underfoot. The air pleasurably stings his nose, not enough to pull up his woolen scarf. He’s walking, the aroma of his coffee mingling with the decay of leaves, the chatter of others massaging his ears. Ahead of him, on a green bench, sits a woman whose face glows bronze in the sunlight. They will fall in love.
Is she insane? Doing the same thing again and expecting a different outcome. She doesn’t need to exit the machine to see that the words it’s written are as insipid as before. Angry at the stupid machine for turning her beautiful world to trash, she cranks the handle again and again. The machine prints over the previous words, turning both versions of the story to unintelligible mush, but she doesn’t stop. The machine obliges until a cat jumps into her lap, demanding she return to the outside. Her arms are tired anyway, so she leaves without a backwards glance at the steaming machine.
The next day, she approaches the white plain. Almost-white plain. Where she expects to see a disaster, she sees a miracle. In front of the machine is an image, a picture made of yesterday’s furious words. Sparse characters form the pattern of leaves overhead. A semi-ordered pile of letters sketch out the grass and the people in the background. The most dense collection defines the woman’s face, down to her freckles and her wooly hat. The image has the machine’s influence in its angular, black-and-white quality, but it’s recognizably her story.
K rubs her face. She moves the machine forward, one more step into the not-quite-emptiness. Then an alarm rings: time to go to work. It pulls her away from the machine, from the plain. She reaches out, then vows to return tomorrow.
|# ? Apr 18, 2022 07:37|
Skinny Dipping (673 words)
Following the rains, once the city drank its fill, Cassie would strip naked and head up to the roof of the apartment complex where she lived. She always took a cigarette, tucked behind her ear. She liked to smoke and look down on the traffic far below.
She wasn’t, ordinarily, a particularly reckless person. She lived alone and modestly and well-within her means. She went to work and sometimes the movies, and always arrived on time. She kept a guitar, a gift from her folks. She often played it badly. But when the clouds rolled back beneath those steely, gray-blue skies, the scent, the taste of fresh rain still lingering in the air, she felt a kind of impulse she couldn’t quite explain. She needed to be up there, where the ceiling met the sky. She needed to be vulnerable, shivering and alive.
She’d sit there by the edge, her legs dangling over, her feet slowly stirring the surface of the water. This time there were birds. She supposed she didn’t mind.
“Here’s to ya, friends,” she said, tipping the cigarette in salute.
It’d rained for days this time, submerging the whole city. Ten stories deep, distant skyscrapers like islands. Through aquarium-like windows, the people watched and waited. Down below the streetlamps illuminated the deep. There on sunken motorways, a luckless few still traveled, sealed inside their cars, circling the drain.
Cassie had never learned to drive. She'd never seen the need back then; now she was too busy. She was a city girl. The hospital she'd emerged from, every home she'd lived in, every school she'd attended, and every job she'd ever held had all been within three miles of each other, mere minutes by train. There were malls as well, barber shops, theaters, and churches. You never had to leave, unless you wanted to.
She lit up, cradling the flame against the cold. A shudder ran through her. She partook, and exhaled.
There was a traffic jam today, all arranged like colored coffins. She couldn't see the drivers, nor did she need to. She'd seen them up front, at crosswalks and lots. She'd never seen a driver in the city who looked happy. They were tired and irritable, impatient, and compact. But from this distance, the cars were just cars. Mysterious rectangles, perpetually late. The light turned green and several crept forward. The underwater world seemed to move in slow motion.
A lone taxi cab began to back up. It shimmied as it withdrew, knocking those nearby. Muffled car horns filled the abyss. The vehicle reared up, balanced on its back wheels, its headlights searching for the surface. Finally it took off, swimming through the space between buildings, leaving the road and the others behind. Cutting through the water, the cab climbed higher, a measured ascent to ease the pressure. Like a golden-striped fish it circled and circled, until at last it burst from the sea. Cassie watched with detached amusement. The roar of the engine scattered the birds, leaving her lonely up on her perch. The driver, for his part, couldn't believe it. He rolled down the window to breathe in the air. Then he saw her and turned a deep red. "Ma'am," he offered, tipping his hat.
"Here's to ya, friend," she gestured in kind, a wry little smile at the edge of her lips.
Surveying his position, the man sped on, accompanied by the sound of his radio returning. Far below in the streets, the others swam too. This way and that, they vanished in the deep.
Her cigarette finished, Cassie snuffed it inside an old flower pot the landlord kept up there for that explicit purpose. Her smoke break was over. She should turn in. Standing up, her hand to her shoulder, she rotated her arm as she walked towards the door. Reaching for the knob, she hesitated. Glancing over her shoulder, she looked back to the waves. The waters would recede. Tomorrow would return.
She took a deep breath, and ran for the edge.
|# ? Apr 18, 2022 08:01|
|# ? Apr 18, 2022 08:16|
Blue, blue, blue
Everything is floating, all of it. All my things are floating around me. They spin, like lugubrious tops, slowly wobbling as they rotate in the humid air. I regard them, patiently.
"This is all your fault," she says with a sad laugh. “Before you came along the gravity was much better."
I'm silent, there's no point replying when she's in a mood like this.
Besides, she’s rotating too, just like everything in the room we are sitting in. Were sitting; since our chairs lifted off the ground our limbs are splayed out, waving seaweed-like. I’m upside down now and I look at the tips of my long uncut hair brush the carpet. I should have vacuumed, I think.
“If you just spent a bit more time on things that mattered,” she says. She pauses as though to prepare herself to catalogue the things that matter, to bounce each thing over to me in the thick atmosphere within which we are spinning, oh so very slowly. As she pauses, she rises.
“I should have vacuumed,” I say into the pause. The words drop out of my mouth and hang in the air, rotating slowly. We look at them together, at their shimmering fluidity, me from below, here from above.
“Yes,” she says at last. She’s nearly at the roof now, curling up into a ball, limbs now tucked in tight. “I just wanted you to do the things that mattered, and you didn’t do them.” The last words are muffled by her folded arms in front of her face.
I know then that she is going to float away into the swirling sky, and that’s why we put in the skylight all those hours ago, and that knowledge makes me sad. There’s a whirling pool of sadness in my chest but I can’t see her to let it out before she goes, and that makes me even more sad. I am stretching out my hand now, my long pianist’s fingers with their unbitten nails stretching all the way to unvacuumed carpet. I can hear a noise from the ceiling above. My fingers touch the carpet with a crack of electricity and I hiss, but the push starts me moving, bringing my view around.
She’s crammed into the skylight, almost perfectly round. “There’s space down there,” she says. “Stay down there where there’s space.”
I don’t want to. “I don’t want to,” I say.
“Stay down there where there’s space,” she insists again. Her voice is harsh like snips cutting thin tin, like a goat, like too much pepper on a tomato. “Stay down.” She’s thinning, elongating, stretching out through the window. I didn’t do the things and now she’s sliding out of the window and into the outside.
I don’t want to stay down.
I don’t want to not do the thing that I don’t want not to do, I decide.
There’s not much time. I don’t have much time any more. My legs are below me now. I’m kicking. I’m floating, like the kettle, which is floating and rotating, like the chairs, floating rotating, like, her, like the bed, where we pressed our backs together while I didn’t do the thing, but now I’ve not got much time and I’m rising, I’m rising, I'm going to do it.
The air is very thick and I’m spinning my way up through it, slower and slower, and I’m reaching out with a hand that’s very long and curling round, and rotating, and floating its way towards her, and I know she knows I know that I didn’t do the thing but I know she knows I want to not have not done the thing and she’s deciding, one thought at a time, one bone at a time, one muscle at at time, and she’s nearly rotated her way out of the skylight but there’s something in the way she looks down through the sky light from out in the sky that she’s rising towards and in that look I say: I will, I do, I shall. “I will,” I say. “I do,” I say, “I shall,” I say.
And I’m not sure I actually said the thing or thought the thing or did the thing but she heard the thing, which was rotating inside me and is now rotating inside her and she stretches out her long arm and at the end is a hand, and at the end are her fingers and at the end are her fingertips and they almost not quite almost touch my floating fingertips, almost, and they almost and they and they and they and they touch, with a snap of electricity, and then we are floating, up, together, spinning, around, together, towards the blue, blue, blue uncertain sky.
|# ? Apr 18, 2022 09:26|
Week 506 Judgement
So, what is surrealism? I don’t know, but I did, of course, and despite my protestations to the contrary, have some idea about what I was hoping for this week. I think surrealism is about using the fantastical to make you look at something mundane in a fundamentally different way. By taking reality and making it unreal, the surreal should show you something that you otherwise could not have perceived.
Most of the stories this week did not do this. The most common weakness was stories that had surreal backdrops, but the story itself was boring; nothing much happened and the surreal backdrop didn’t actually matter. That said, the surreal imagery you conjured up was mostly very well done, making this a tricky week to judge. The middle and upper end were tightly bunched, and the bottom end wasn't that far behind.
Now, onto the bad news.
The man called M is DQ’d for wasting my loving time. This was by far the worst thing submitted this week but it is so far from being an attempt at a story that I refuse to consider it alongside the other entries.
flerp and sebmojo should be DQ’d for entering without signing up and lateness respectively, but because I am nice I will let them both away with it as long as they each crit a minimum of three stories from this week within the next seven days as penance.
Earning the loss, for a story that they at least put some effort and thought into, but unfortunately didn’t quite work, is JetSetGo.
hard counter gets a DM for a similarly worthy attempt, that unfortunately turned out hella boring.
At the top end, we have four stories that used their weird to good effect. The surreal aspects of the top stories either added characterisation, provided stakes, provided context for the characters’ goals, or were just really cool. SurreptitiousMuffin, sebmojo and Tyrannosaurus earn HMs, and--
Thranguy wins! Strange and New did a great job of creating a whole surreal world with very few words, and still had meaningful characters and something to say about life. Very nice work.
|# ? Apr 18, 2022 21:59|
Crits for Week 506
Mrenda - Stone Blow Heart Hammer — Thanks Emily Dickinson. I forgot your name, Mrs something:
I had no idea how to interpret this the first time I read it. But then I decided maybe it was about a person experiencing their death and reincarnation, and I read it again with that interpretation in mind, and liked it. The way it’s written makes it hard to follow, but I liked the way it forces you to read it slowly, and think about what each bit might mean as you go.
I’m not sure what the story is trying to say, or whether it is actually trying to say anything. But for a dreamlike piece like this being so wide open to interpretation feels appropriate.
Nae - Immersion Therapy:
This one isn’t very satisfying to read because it ends halfway through the story. Bird doctor is pretty weird but the fact that he’s a bird doesn’t really matter - the story would be exactly the same if it was a human with a scalpel. The story also lacked stakes - the only reason given for the protagonist to be undergoing this procedure is several people have told her she’s got anger problems, so I’m not sure what she stands to gain by undergoing this painful treatment.
JetSetGo - One Walks the Anexium Pathway Again:
Hmmm, so in this an unnamed protagonist goes to visit a shaman in order to undergo a ritual that will allow him to speak to the gods. Then the protagonist trips balls, either literally or metaphorically, meets god, experiences a bunch of poo poo, and then (I think) gets reincarnated.
This didn’t hit the mark for me. We don’t learn anything about the protagonist or why he wanted to talk to god, so I don’t really care what happens to him. There’s a lot of psychedelic imagery but I’m afraid none of it felt particularly original. It feels like you had fun writing it, but none of the imagery ties back to or underscores what’s going on for the protagonist or his quest, so it’s just background.
Your protagonist had a surreal experience, but I did not.
Chairchucker - Like Yesterday:
I’m a sucker for lol wacky stories, so I enjoyed reading this, but I don’t think it went anywhere. It starts with the protagonist seeming to have lost his memory, but the ending doesn’t really tie back to that.
Tyrannosaurus - The Hyena; or, the Bar Exam:
This is kind of boring I’m afraid. If you took away the fact that they’ve got to eat a bunch of paper and the Chief Justice flies around in a gold helicopter, then all you’ve got left is some exam nerves and the protagonist deciding they can do the thing after all. I also don’t get the punchline. But, it is well written and the imagery is very vivid.
flerp - Your Body Changes in Strange Ways:
Alright we definitely have a pattern emerging this week. This story has the same issue as several of the ones above, in that if you took away the weird backdrop there’d be almost nothing left. The fact that they turn into birds (as opposed to anything else) doesn’t actually mean anything. This one did at least have a sweet emotional core, which I appreciated.
derp - Caracole:
So I think this about two lovers, separated by death, being reunited through the magic of oysters? I guess that’s nice? Lots of nice sea imagery, but not a lot going on otherwise.
hard counter - A Poor Player:
In which two people have a boring conversation during their lunchbreak, the result of which is that one of them feels slightly better. Barely a story. I think quite a bit of thought went into this, but it didn't quite come through on the page.
The man called M - Bob the Bike builder’s Homosexual Bike:
Oh for gently caress’s sake.
Thranguy - Strange and New:
Weird! But in a good way! And unlike many of the others this week I felt like the weirdness in this one actually connected to the characters and their (doomed?) mission to find a better life for themselves. Good job.
SurreptitiousMuffin - i am become something new:
Well this is some lovely wordage. I think it’s another death/reincarnation story? Whatever it’s about it’s definitely pretty. I feel like I say this every time you write something like this, but I needed to see more of the protagonist to pull me into the story, something tangible to anchor all the gorgeous images to.
My Shark Waifuu - The Machine:
Ok as meta stories about the writing process go this isn’t bad. I smiled at the end. To improve this I think it needed some stakes, i.e. we need to know why the protagonist needs to create, or what it means to her, in order to care about the outcome.
Bad Seafood - Skinny Dipping:
Really great imagery in this one, diving into the drowned city might be the best image of the week. But, what’s it about? Why does sitting in the rain then going for a spontaneous swim matter to the protagonist?
sebmojo - Blue, blue, blue:
In which a floating man convinces his long-suffering floating girlfriend, just by making a sad face at her, that it doesn’t matter that he didn’t do the thing, because it’s the thought that counts??
On the one hand I liked this because it’s sweet and hopeful, and all the floating descriptions are great, but on the other hand I’m not sure that long-suffering floating girlfriend should have let Mr. Protagonist get away with not doing whatever it was he didn’t do. I mean, not only did he ruin gravity, but he didn’t even vacuum, and so now they’ve got to float around in a cloud of carpet dust and crumbs and poo poo. Gross.
I think this would be improved with a bit more specificity about what the thing was, so we know what the stakes are for these characters.
I thought this one did a good job with its surreal aspects, because all the floating around and leaking out the skylight served as a good metaphor for the slow drift apart / decision to hold on to one another that happens in long term relationships.
|# ? Apr 18, 2022 22:02|
Week 506 crits
Stone Blow Heart Hammer — Thanks Emily Dickinson. I forgot your name, Mrs something - Mrenda
This one didn’t grab me - it feels a bit too static, and not quite beautiful enough in language for how oblique it is. I respect how committed it is in going for whatever it’s going for, but I’m not confident I understand what that is, which makes it difficult to judge or critique. There are moments where the prose is enough to carry it, but overall for me this feels like a totally language-driven piece where the language just doesn’t quite click. Or maybe I’m missing something.
Immersion Therapy - Nae
This is nice. Strong conceit that manages to use the language of surrealism to tell a story that feels complete, has characters etc., and can approach its theme with an efficiency of emotion that a naturalistic approach would lack. My main complaint is that I wish it was a bit more daring with the main character and their problems - we’re literally rooting around in their viscera but all her trauma feels a bit too clean, I was disappointed not to find something thornier in there.
Also a minor quibble is that the doctor ends by saying ‘this part is going to hurt’ referring to the reconstruction process, but since you’ve already set up that placing the objects on the table hurts, that line feels weak to me: it feels like the question posed by the doctor saying ‘the pain comes later’ has already been answered.
One Walks the Anexium Pathway Again - JetSetGo
Really have a hard time getting into this one. We’re not really given enough about who this guy was or what he’s going to become and the language isn’t poetic or nuanced enough for me to just be able to enjoy not knowing anything. It all just feels a bit too blunt and on the nose in terms of form while not resolving into much in terms of content.
Like Yesterday - ChairChucker
I really really really almost really like this one. It’s fun, it’s breezy, I love the conversational but unreliable voice and the way it veers between the mundane and the absurd in a way that nevertheless does imply some kind of internal logic. All the ideas here are good and funny, and the style is good on paper in that the main choices you have made feel correct, but it relies on a sentence-to-sentence ease of reading that just isn’t quite there yet. I just feel like it needed one or two more passes in editing to make it the breezy, witty read that it needs to be to work.
Sentences like these:
“I didn’t remember murdering anyone, but the memory’s not what it was, these days. I mean, it’s weird, it’s like, I can’t remember what I did yesterday, but I can remember my prom like it was yesterday.
Like, a yesterday that I actually remembered.”
The joke here is fine in concept, but the delivery is so awkward that when I read it I end up imagining how you could move the ideas around a bit so it would land, and this is distracting. Still, I found a lot to like here.
The Hyena; or, the Bar Exam - Tyranosaurus
I like this a lot. Law is a classic subject for this kind of thing - reminds me of some fragments of The Trial - and the image of all the law students munching through paper in lieu of an actual exam is great. If you were going for a specific satire here I’m not sure I understand it, though if anything I’m glad I didn’t. The image is evocative and presented with enough confidence to make me think that there could be a ‘deeper meaning’, but it doesn’t resolve itself into too neat an allegory or too obvious a joke. Strong.
Your Body Changes in Strange Ways - Flerp
Hmmm. Not sure what to make of this one. I’d be open to being convinced that it’s good, but there’s a couple of things I’m not sure about. I don’t really understand the ending - not getting a clearer sense of what he turned into didn’t work for me - and I feel like on a metaphorical level it’s advocating for a kind of arrested development in a way I’m not really sure what to do with (I imagine the connection between being queer and remaining in childhood is unintentional, but I find it hard to read any other way). I dunno man. It’s well written though.
Caracole - derp
Parts of this don’t read like a poem so much as a Thunderdome story with line breaks, but honestly that’s fine by me - poetry is much harder to critique. To put it less flippantly, while there are moments where I feel that this, as a poem, could be doing more with compression, metre, imagery, etc, the benefit of not doing that is that it is able to feel coherent as a story to a degree that most modern free verse poetry isn’t interested in being. So overall I do like it, and there are moments where the language does feel truly poetic - specifically this stanza:
I know it’s her
I open wide
I take her whole
she and I
are of one soul
I wait to drink
her holy brine
a probing thrust
The story here is pretty simple, but passages like this really elevate the surreal, gross, slimy texture of it all.
A Poor Player - hard counter
The start of this is competent, but as it goes on the annoying dialogue, nothing-y characters, and boring non-progression of it start to add up, until it culminates in a gotcha twist that doesn’t manage to make any of the rest more interesting or say anything about any of the themes that are raised. Also not to get into too much of a debate about what surrealism is, but I really think Bethany’s definition is just… wrong, and in an annoying way rather than an interesting one. Surrealism isn’t about the exaggeration of a medium, that’s pastiche.
Bob the Bike builder’s Homosexual Bike - M
If only the average Thunderdome story was actually this gay or British.
Strange and New - ThranGuy
This one is great other than the fact it kinda bungles either the ending or the setup for the ending, in that it comes out of nowhere and I don’t entirely get what it’s meant to mean. But yeah, other than that it’s sick.
I love the idea of ‘post-consensus reality’ literally unravelling America into different psychic regions, and the idea of a road trip across that is really fun. Tough thing to pack into sub 1k words, but you give enough little details about the setting to make me wish we could spend more time there, and it’s a cute play on modern discourse without being too cute (it’s not a million miles from the too cute border, but that’s fine).
But yeah, as it is the ending doesn’t work for me in relation to the rest of the story. If it’s just meant to show they’re androids, it’s a bit distractingly weird and I don’t think the idea of androids has been adequately set up - I took the guy’s paranoia as being specific to that region. If it’s something else then it’s maybe not weird enough, as it feels a bit too android-y to make you think ‘woah what’s this shocking new development’. If it’s meant to be that the paranoid guy has turned them into androids with his paranoia then that’s way too cool an idea for me to almost not notice that’s what it might be doing.
But regardless, you manage to use the space to develop a compelling world, several fleshed out characters, and a complete-feeling story that still leaves me wanting more. It’s good.
i am become something new - Muffin
Hell yeah this one is good. There were a few more language-driven stories this week, but of them this is the only one where the language really sings for me. You do a really good job of knowing what elements of this story should be ambiguous and what should be clear. It’s absolutely clear that the character is describing a ‘biblically accurate angel’, which gave me a structure with which to start getting into the language, but you leave so much more of the context to be inferred. I love that I don’t know whether this person is having a psychotic break, having a religious vision, literally transforming into an angelic being, etc., but whatever they are doing their exegesis is ridden with so much anxiety and pathos and energy. I kind of love it.
The Machine - Shark Waifu
I like this a fair bit. I love the depiction of the writing process, of pouring your heart into something and being unable to make it into what you want it to be, then rediscovering it the next day and realising you succeeded more than you realised. I specifically love the way you use repetition in the prose to show the repeated efforts to write the same thing. I felt it was maybe a bit too clear in its allegory to be truly surreal, and maybe a bit more blunt than it needed to be over all, but this was still a strong piece to me.
Skinny Dipping - Bad Seafood
Lovely little moment, great sense of place and yearning for the fantastic within the mundane. Not quite as much going on as some of the other entries - not every story needs conflict but it could have benefitted from some texture or nuance - but I still very much enjoyed being in this strange little vignette.
Blue, blue, blue - Sebmojo
The interesting thing with this story is that there is a lot of texture here, but it revolves around two central ambiguities that it has no interest in answering - why are the characters floating and what is it that the narrator is agreeing to do. I like the idea of depicting this totally generic argument that suggests the whole shape of their relationship, as if we’re seeing only the commonalities of a thousand arguments that have taken place again and again over the years. Part of me wishes there was a little more in the way of specifics to latch onto, but the absence of that creates this at first eerie and then later strangely euphoric quality that is really compelling.
|# ? Apr 19, 2022 00:11|
Thunderdome Week DVII: A Night at the Opera
The word for the week is Operatic, the foundation for a large family of subgenres: Soap Opera, Space Opera, Horse Opera, Castle Opera. You could probably do it with anything, really. The point here is to be big and bombastic, legendary and loud. Echoing the oldest stories and myths you know helps, too.
You don't need music in your stories, but this is, optionally, a music week, and we'll be taking inspiration from the music of Queen. The baseline word count is 1500 words. Pick a song from their catalog and declare it going in and get 500 more words. Or ask me for one and get 1000 instead. (Assignments start being handed out Wednesday evening.) One writer per song (unless I assign one that's already been picked for some unknowable reason), and as usual, avoid a literal adaptation of the song.. Grab some bits mix them around, and get inspired.
All the usual rules apply, no fanfic, erotica, screeds, etc.
Sign-ups close 11:59 Pacific time Friday
Submissions close 11:59 Pacific Time Sunday.
Thranguy fucked around with this message at 22:59 on Apr 21, 2022
|# ? Apr 19, 2022 01:50|
|# ? Apr 19, 2022 01:53|
Hell yeah. In and I'll take dealer's choice of song
|# ? Apr 19, 2022 02:27|
|# ? Apr 19, 2022 02:51|
While my DQ was not a proper one last time, consider this my redemption.
I will go with Crazy Little Thing Called Love
|# ? Apr 19, 2022 06:28|
no busy life chores this week (so far!) which means IN and gimme a song please thanks
|# ? Apr 19, 2022 07:17|
in with dragon attack
|# ? Apr 19, 2022 11:26|
Hell yeah. In and I'll take dealer's choice of song
Seven Seas of Rhye
|# ? Apr 21, 2022 00:44|
no busy life chores this week (so far!) which means IN and gimme a song please thanks
I'm going slightly mad
|# ? Apr 21, 2022 00:46|
Hello please song me
|# ? Apr 21, 2022 10:19|
Hello please song me
|# ? Apr 21, 2022 19:44|
|# ? Jun 28, 2022 15:14|
|# ? Apr 23, 2022 05:41|