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Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

said I'm never lackin'
always pistol packin'
with them automatics
we gon' send 'em to Heaven
In, flash please.


Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:

Idle Amalgam posted:

In, flash please.

2. Gather and Store Energy

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

In, flash and picture please

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
In, flash and picture

Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:

Pham Nuwen posted:

In, flash and picture please

7. Design from Patterns to Details

Thranguy posted:

In, flash and picture

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

...because it's hard to see, this is an apple guild: with two dwarf apples, three currents (two black, one champagne), some comfrey, and strawberries/grape hyacinth as ground cover

Aug 22, 2022

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

In with a flash, please!

Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:

WindwardAway posted:

In with a flash, please!

Use Small and Slow Solutions

Strange Cares
Nov 22, 2007


I will judge

Slightly Lions
Apr 13, 2009

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Is it too late to ask for a picture to go with my principle?

Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:

Slightly Lions posted:

Is it too late to ask for a picture to go with my principle?

That brown tree is a pomegranate. It does fruit. We're in PA, that's wild to me.

Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:

Signups closed!

Feb 24, 2023

Windfall (1486 words)

Reggie always went first. He’d sift garden dirt through a sieve, then creep to the fence and dump the rocks and insects over it. Each time, he would angle himself so his back legs had enough space to move. I’d watch him twist over to the posts, finish his task, and scuttle out through the gate.

Donna would be waiting at the barn, her wings flapping. When she sensed he was done, she’d tote the watering barrels over and make sure every bed was tended to. Then she would trundle around searching for weeds she could pull with her front pincers.

I named them. I still don’t know who built them. I guess they could be aliens, but nothing around the farm looks remotely futuristic. Maybe they escaped from somewhere, like me?

The night I found the farmhouse, I nearly collapsed through the unlocked front door and slept on the rug in front of the sofa. There was some bread left in the cupboards and jars of pickled carrots and cabbage on the counters. The fridge had cartons of fruit that were mostly still good. No computer or phone, and no photos or mail that could have belonged to an owner.

And then I saw the Farmlings through the window. My first instinct was to run. But they didn’t see me, and the house was the one place on the farm they had no interest in.

These are the notes I took on that first day, from the upstairs bedroom.:

-They move like robots, but they aren’t electronic.
-I think I may have seen things like this on YouTube once?
-They look kind of like the skeletons of giant insects.
-Powered by canvas sheets and plastic fans.
-Bodies = PVC?
-Everything they do has some purpose to it.
-They don’t have eyes or ears but they can sense using long, antennae-like sticks with glass bulbs. Barometers?
-Self-refilling “battery” system: sacks of air like bagpipes attached to small levers that activate when they’ve been still for too long. The sacks must get filled easily, considering how steep and windy the hillside is here.
-It feels like I’m living at the rear end end of a triangle.

The names came when I felt safe enough to be bored. There’s four of them: Reggie is broad and faintly regal, with a taut sail-crown. Donna looks a bit like Pegasus and has a sandworm snout capable of curling and pointing. Sandy, the harvest guard, is a crawling rectangle with a hefty balloon eye, oscillating around the silos in endless circles. Larry is smaller than Donna but still complex, a zeppelin-spider covered in spikes with a large, flat scoop protruding from his front. He’s sort of a relief pitcher and waits in the barn, coming out to take over for Donna or Reggie, or help with the harvest, or nudge someone if they start to tip over.

I’d survived the crash with nothing worse than a few healed scars. The farmhouse had books to read (most in languages I didn’t know, but some in English), plumbing, and a full store of coffee. Months passed in fugitive peace.

Then Rodney found me.

It was dusk and I was leaning against the barn, watching Donna and Reggie work in the pink-orange light.

“What the gently caress are those.”

His voice was inflection-free and matter-of-fact, like we’d never parted ways. I didn’t turn at first.

“I call them the Farmlings. They take care of stuff.”

“This is really weird, Kim.”

“It’s all relative.”

“At least look at me.”

I obliged. He was still in the ragged clothes he’d been arrested wearing, though he’d stolen a jacket from the wreckage. I wasn’t surprised he’d found a gun, too.

“You’ve been alive this whole time?” I asked.

“I managed. I didn’t have anything like this. How the hell.”

“Why do you want to kill me?” I asked.

“This poo poo is unfair,” he said quietly. “You and I were barely part of the job. Now we’re the only ones left. And you ran away the second you could. Didn’t even look for me.”

Rodney’s face fell. I turned and saw Reggie suddenly upon us, his canvas crown catching the wind and flaring like a frilled lizard. Rodney fired off a shot, pushing Reggie backward. I saw with panic that the bullet had blasted his left sail support. This left the sheet whirling for a few seconds before Reggie clattered to the ground.

Rodney could have run, but I think he wanted to see what would happen. In seconds, Donna had flown to him, catching him around the waist with her claws. He dropped his gun,cursing, and it slid down the hill into darkness as Sandy wriggled her way closer. I’m honestly not really sure what Sandy was planning to do to him, but even a walking accordion can look sinister sometimes.

I waved my hands frantically in front of Donna’s antenna, hoping she’d stop, and miraculously, she did, her nose angling in curiosity. By this point, Larry had emerged and was perched helplessly over Reggie. I made a “follow me” motion with my hands in front of Donna’s sensor, cupping the air towards myself and repeating it.

Larry swept a feeler over the scene and me, and then led me into the barn. I soon saw the poor guy’s dilemma: there was an attic room he wanted to get to, but it was in the loft, high above the floor, with no way for any of them to climb up. Donna followed me in, pushing a dazed-looking Rodney forward, with Sandy at the rear.

In the end, Larry was able to convince Donna somehow, rustling towards her and stamping his plastic hooves. With a reluctant sag, the claws opened. Rodney and I stared at each other for a while. And then, instead of the zillions of treacherous things he could have done, Rodney silently moved to the wall and knitted his hands together into a step to boost me up. The loft was indeed filled with crates of replacement parts, along with bits of pipe and wire ties.

The resurrection took just a few hours. Rodney and I had to find the right size pipe for the support and make sure it was tightly lashed. When we finished, I motioned for Donna to move, and she sidled cautiously around us so we could exit the barn. Rodney and I did our best to haul Reggie’s frame, though we almost bashed him against the door on the way out.

We slowly pulled Reggie to the highest spot on the hill we could reach in the dark, the three other Farmlings watching us from below. The two of us grabbed Reggie’s bones and hoisted him above us like an oversized kite, pushing him up in the hopes that the wind would catch.

I almost considered praying, but as if to save me the trouble, a gust finally barrelled down, and Reggie pulled away, dropping a little but catching himself on scrambling legs. The others immediately ran up to him, Donna tickling her nose back and forth, Larry waving his scoop, Sandy driving around and around in a joyful parade. Reggie’s sail billowed proudly.

When the celebration ended, I led Rodney up to Donna. “Show her your hands,” I said. He did as he was told. I did the same, wiggling my fingers. The antenna swept us both, and we stood there in the wind until we heard a soft click of recognition.

* * * * *
Rodney says Donna is his favorite now, though I think Reggie likes him the most. He’ll walk with both of them on their rounds, chatting as if they can hear, helping with the weeds. Larry is more my speed. I hang out with him in the barn a lot, sometimes reading, sometimes peeling potatoes or sorting through old seed packets. We’re working on a sort of language. He’ll hold his antenna near me like a microphone and I’ll exaggerate my hand movements so he can tell what I’m doing.

Rodney and I carry heavy loads for the Farmlings, and we chase after them when the wind threatens to carry them away. With time, we hope to make some more, maybe even one that can fly. The tools and materials are all there in the loft, and the other Farmlings are happy to stand still for us to sketch them.

It’s strange how what once was threatening now makes me happy. When the wind blows its hardest, and Rodney and I have to dig in our feet, I now see our friends pulsing with life. Often Reggie or Sandy will whir to our rescue, pushing us back uphill to more level ground.

I think this is the only thing I ever wanted: a place where we all keep each other from falling.

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

Slightly Lions
Apr 13, 2009

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


The Green Zone
1496 words

The new orchard was proving to be a problem. The drain the new root systems were causing on the rhizosphere was cascading into the moss carpet, leaving a widening swath of limp, dying green cover across the roof. This was even more of a problem since the orchard was not, technically, supposed to be there. Hayes walked under the boughs of the assorted fruit trees, breathing deep the scent of living earth, dying vegetation, and the ozone tang of the neon signage that adorned the ivy-covered walls of the urban canyon around the orchard site. If he could get the problems fixed before inspection then he’d be fine, the Authority’s first rule was always “If it works you’re not in trouble,” but if the site still looked like this when the auditors came around he would catch it in the neck, and since he worked for the The City Authority that was probably not a euphemism. It could be a thankless job, being a warden in the Green Zone.

Hayes could still remember his urban permaculture classes with Professor Pardot, the old man droning on about the history and function of the Zone and its importance to the City. “The Green Zone is a marvel of ecological engineering and urban design,” he would say, “A band of reclaimed built environment, seeded with plant life for air purification and carbon capture. It is the built greenspace to end all built greenspaces. And the few of you attentive enough to pass this program may be lucky enough to tend it one day.” Well, thought Hayes, with luck like this…

He trotted down what used to be a fire escape, in the days before suspensive mag-rails replaced them, now a trellis for kudzu-derivates. A former invasive species and an obsolete technology wedded together into something new: the very essence of the Green Zone. Or one of them. The other, of course, being to ease the lives of the rich inhabitants of the Inner City, fixing the air quality and keeping the teeming masses of laborers and industrial zones of the Outer City out of their view. The Zone was supposed to consist mostly of ivies, vines, bines, and mosses, the most space-and-resource efficient photosynthesizers available, suited for purpose and nothing more. But, wardens being wardens, it didn’t stay that way. Everyone had a side-gig, whether for income, enjoyment, or proof-of-concept: Teller had mushroom gardens for culinary and psychoactive use, Wensleydale had her hop farm, and Scotch grew the finest marijuana in the City. Hayes liked fruit trees.

When he reached street level he ducked through a curtain of flowering vines into the courtyard where he kept the rain-catchers. In theory the microclimate that prevailed over the Zone, it’s kilometers-thick band of dense vegetation creating wet, cool air pockets between the concrete jungle of the Outer City and the glass-and-steel edifices of the Inner, should be enough to keep the water cycle stable with minimal interference (“Principle five: use and value the renewable” said the Pardot in his head), but in practice there were a thousand ways it could be hosed up, so you checked manually. The levels in the tanks looked fine, but he made a note in his PDA to double-check the draw differentials for the increased biomass on the roof above.

Hayes went up the side of what used to be a line of row-houses by ladder, careful to avoid the deceptively still strangler vines. He’d seen Hawkins lose two fingers to one in practicum and didn’t need any more lessons to steer clear of the thin, red-flowering tendrils. He walked across the roof, pausing to check the ferns he’d planted back in the spring. They were yellowing at the edges. He pulled out his PDA and ran a quick spectro-scan of the soil: low nitrogen levels. It looked like he’d have come up here with some beans or other nitro-fixers. Curious, the levels shouldn’t be off that badly. He made another note and went down the other side of the building. Something was definitely wrong.

He paused on the way down to look at the glittering skyline of the Inner City. There were rumors, legends really, that if you could keep on the job and hit your targets for bio-growth and infrastructure reclamation for the full 20 year stint you’d be invited to live there. Hayes tried to imagine it: walking down streets not choked with weeds and wildflowers, going to restaurants and shops instead of relying on supply depots and emergency drops from Authority air drones. He thought of buildings not covered in creepers or carefully perforated by great trees, their planned decay forming substrate for the next generation of plant life (“Principle six,” muttered Pardot in his memory, “Produce no waste.”) Of course, he’d never heard of anyone actually making it. The average career of a warden was less than twelve years. The work was dangerous, the pay low, and private sector opportunities for a skilled graduate in the Outer City were plentiful. Hayes had been at it for eleven years.

His feet took him towards the inner rim of the Zone. Here he’d spent years carefully arranging flowering trees and shrubs: cherry blossom, honeysuckle, lilac, rhododendron. Their root systems kept the rich loam of the Zone from spilling out into the manicured lawns of the Inner City, whose cleaner air let the bushes and trees thrive. And the wealthy Inners liked the way that the micro-climate breezes blew fresh floral scents across their enclaves. He’d won a minor award for it last year. And now he found that artful arrangement disturbed. Heavy footfalls and uncaring bodies had torn their way through his installation like wrecking balls. He frowned and followed the trail.

It ended not far from the new orchard site. A small gang of rough-looking men were gathered around a machine tucked against an old Art Deco facade. Hayes stopped up short. They had the white and purple uniforms of Praetorium Security, Inc. Priv-sec toughs regularly patrolled the Inner rim to keep out the riff-raff of the Outer City and any wardens with ideas above their stations. But they weren’t supposed to come into the Zone. Hayes swallowed hard and approached them. “Hey there, boys. You get lost?”

“Nah, but you should, green-thumb,” said the largest of them. He had the three pips of a sergeant on his collar. Hayes craned his neck to see what they were tinkering with behind the big man, and a great many things became apparent at once. It was a bio-processing unit, the one for this block, but not up on the roof where it belonged. They were fairly crude matter-processors, not like the makers that were a staple of an Inner house. Their purpose was to take in waste and spit out fertilizers and complex biological compounds. But anyone who’d passed high school chemistry could rig one up to produce any number of other things: explosives, drugs, plastics. There was a steady trade in stolen BPUs, and priv-sec types were always looking for new ways to get on the take. No wonder the nitrogen levels in the local soil were out of whack and the rhizosphere was running on fumes.

“Look,” said Hayes, raising his hands placatingly, “I don’t want to report this, but we need to get that back up on the roof where it belongs. If we don’t get the nutrient gradient leveled out we could see a cascade failure of this whole block.”

“Yeah?” said the sergeant, “Maybe we feed you into a mulcher and that takes care of the problem, you think about that, green-thumb?” Well, said Hayes to himself, that’s actually not a bad idea. He turned and ran down the street, back towards the neon canyon and rowhouses. The guards pursued, they couldn’t let him spill what he knew now. The Authority wasn’t any more lenient on its contractors than its employees. Hayes leapt over fallen streetlights and dodged around moss-covered fire hydrants, heading for the entrance to a courtyard. As he reached it he dropped into a slide. The guards didn’t. They ran right into a curtain of thin, red-blossomed vines.

After a few minutes the screaming stopped and the strangler vines hauled their grisly prize up to their root clusters. Hayes spent the rest of the evening getting the bio-processor back up in its place, then slept the sleep of the righteous. A few days later he went back to the new orchard to confirm his hypothesis. The moss was surging back over the roof and on one of the trees a small pomegranate was starting to grow. Bonemeal, iron, gut flora, and the repaired nitrogen cycle had stopped the cascade. The first principle of permaculture: observe and interact. Professor Pardot would be proud, even given the… unorthodox methods. Hayes looked over the City. Try as he might, he couldn’t imagine a life on either side of the Zone. He belonged here, a creature of the green.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

In the Oak-Lot


Pham Nuwen fucked around with this message at 22:40 on Mar 21, 2023

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

Due to the insistence of my doctor, who was of the opinion that “fresh“ air and sunlight would
improve my constitution, and due to my own (I acknowledge now, naïve) view that nature and silence
would be amenable to productive writing, I agreed to stay three weeks on my half-sister Agatha’s farm,
where I would room in a loft above the barn, which I was told would be furnished with a bed, washroom,
electricity and even a connection to the internet. With these simple and peaceful living conditions
in mind I promptly packed two suitcases, gave the housekeeper instructions to follow in my absence,
and called a taxi, the driver of which earned a handsome tip by saying not a single word to me during

the entire journey, which ended just over two hours later when the taxi stopped on a dirt road between
two dirt fields, all of which were being baked by the piercing sun. Upon my opening of the taxi door
I was blasted by a gust of the foulest stench, and had the driver not immediately started pulling away
I would have considered climbing right back inside and shutting the door behind me. As it stood, I was
left choking on a cloud of dust with my two bags laying at my feet and cursing Dr Cassius (my doctor)
for leading me directly into this mess by advising me to seek fresh air. I noticed, then, an
exceedingly tall and muscular man covered in sweat and grime approaching from the direction of the stereotypically

red barn, which was perhaps fifty yards away down a path between the plowed fields. Eres el hermano?
the man was saying, El hermano? Eres el hermano? he repeated, again and again as he drew near. Sí,
I said, hermano, and I folded my arms and glanced at my bags as a signal that he should retrieve them,
and I tried for a moment to breathe in a manner (that is, very slowly) which would allow me to avoid
the smell of poo poo that permeated, presumably, every inch of the air in this place, and
which was actively, and even willfully, coating the inside of my mouth and throat and also, it was very
likely, coating my clothes and even my skin. The man stopped as soon as he heard my response, the

instant I spoke
he stopped right on the spot and did not come an inch closer. Ven, por aquí, he
said, and began walking back the way he’d come. I said hermano again, somewhat louder to be
sure he heard, but he was emphatically and specifically not looking back, and only continuing
to take long strides away from me and toward the barn and I was forced to drag my two suitcases through
the stinking dirt, which sent more putrid clouds of dust into the air, which I was forced to breathe,
and no matter the volume of my coughs and sighs the man refused to turn around a single time. When we
reached the shade inside the barn the man pointed at a set of wooden stairs on the leftmost wall, said

allá arriba in the flattest voice I’d ever heard, and then exited the barn without so much as a nod
in my direction, leaving me alone with my suitcases to contemplate the situation I, for reasons I was
beginning to suspect were utterly mislayed, had inserted myself into. What on earth am I doing here,
I said aloud to myself in the barn, and I was answered with a bleating behind me where a single sheep,
or rather, based on its size, a lamb, was tied by a short rope to the wall in an alcove filled with
soiled hay. The creature blinked large black eyes at me and bleated again. I felt some strange kinship
with the little beast, who, I was suddenly absolutely certain, hated standing in this disgusting barn

exactly as much as I did. Some time later, after I’d dragged both suitcases (entirely on my own) up
the rickety steps and into the room--which I must admit was indeed furnished with a bed, washroom, electricity
and internet, and was, despite the sloped and low ceiling, a perfectly adequate size--there was a knock
on the door, which I opened to reveal my half-sister Agatha, who promptly extended her hand, as was
her way, and said hello. She wore a preposterous denim coverall and her mousy hair was tied up in what
appeared to be a dirty red rag and all that was missing, I thought, was a long piece of straw hanging
from between her unpainted lips. We shook hands and I, showing rather gallant restraint, avoided cringing

at the centimeters-thick crust of dirt caked on her palm, but nonetheless the very instant she
released my hand the scolding began with a volley of such calculated phrases as it’s good of you
to finally visit,
and mother would be pleased you are healthy, and you are welcome to
keep to yourself as long as you like,
and I hope lamb is okay for your dietary constraints, and
I won’t expect you to talk much at dinner, one after the other, each of them barbed by her
signature deadpan tone, which, I had always known, signified utter disdain on her part. I managed to
remain perfectly calm and composed and only said yes and of course until she finally exited

the room. I paced for several minutes until my heart resumed a placid rhythm. Then I sat at the small
desk next to the small bed, and looked out the small window which revealed nothing but an empty pale
sky. There were no buildings or powerlines interrupting the clean blueness, nor any billboards or bridges
or even any trees. My ears rang in the complete silence. There were no sounds of cars driving,
there were no horns or trains, there was no shouting and no hissing of bus breaks. The air was filled
with nothing. Perhaps I will be able to write after all, I thought. Perhaps, I said aloud to
myself, everyone was right about getting out of the city. Only the sporadic bleating of the creature

tied to the wall below broke the perfectly silent emptiness, but I found it not to be an interruption
at all, instead it spurred me onward. It was perfectly correct that such a creature should make such
a sound. He (I had decided I felt a masculine energy) could not help making that sound in the same way
that I could not help scratching these black marks on paper. It was my nature to scratch these marks
in the same way it was his nature to bleat and to eat grass (I assumed) and to poo poo on the ground. He
was simply being, and I was being right alongside him, here in this silent and natural
world. I found, with these thoughts in mind, that I was able to produce page upon page, one after the

other, with the greatest of ease. Over the next several hours the window darkened to a solid black square
and I was nearing the end of a certain project I’d not made progress on in weeks. Maybe I was right
after all, I thought, about nature and silence. And maybe I was wrong, in a way, I thought
then, about Agatha’s insistence on utterly ruining any peace in my life. This pastoral visit could
be exactly what I need
, I began to say aloud to myself in the loft, but I was interrupted by the
most horrific screeching that, only after I was stunned immobile for several seconds, I realized was
coming from the barn below, and was, in fact, coming from the lamb. I stood up at once and opened the

loft door and rushed out onto the staircase landing and looked down into the barn. Down in the small
alcove where the lamb had been tied I saw Agatha and the tall man who’d led me in. The man was holding
onto a rope which ran up through a metal ring in the ceiling and then down again, and from which the
lamb was hanging by his feet so that as the man pulled the rope the lamb was raised higher. Agatha held
the lamb’s throat in one hand and in the other a large knife, and just as I laid eyes on this scene,
at the very moment I looked down, she looked up at me, and with a complete lack of expression
drew the knife across the lamb’s throat, releasing a steaming font of red that splattered into a plastic

tub waiting below. With a final gurgling bleat the lamb twitched to stillness. The blood splattered
on for several seconds as I watched, frozen. Then a sickening anxiety overwhelmed me and I shut myself
back in the loft, and I knew then that I’d been utterly wrong--that is, I’d been completely right
about everything. 

Mar 19, 2008

Look, if you had one shot
or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
Would you capture it...
or just let it slip?


Sharing Economy
1500 words

It’s not even six and Charlotte’s laying on the horn, this horrendous blaaaarrppp that shakes the whole house awake. I roll out of bed and grab the jacket hanging off my deskchair, sliding arms in while forcing feet into boots. I’d slept in trackies, planning ahead, but one look in the mirror and I wish I’d had enough time to brush my hair.

Another blaaarrrppp as I’m staggering out onto the cold tiles to the kitchen, Laura screaming shut the gently caress up from down the hall, Alexander doing his best to trip me up as he shadows my frantic rush. I toss him a biscuit, grab two muesli bars from the bowl, and dash out into the frost.

‘What the gently caress, Charl,’ I say, wrenching the passenger door open. ‘We said six thirty.’

‘I made good time getting here,’ she shrugs. ‘No traffic.’

‘Yeah, no poo poo,’ I say, pushing textbooks off the seat to climb up into her ute’s cab. ‘Why could that possibly be.’

She keys the ignition and we accelerate up the gravel drive toward the highway. ‘Parents still away?’ she asks, turning left without bothering to indicate.

‘They reckon they’ll be back Wednesday. Who knew an interstate move during a global pandemic might be complicated,’ I deadpan, and she laughs.

As she drives, we talk about dad’s plans for the farmhouse; mum’s aspirations for a pottery school using the old milking shed. The calendar on Laura’s wall counting down the days till her—our—birthday and her chance to get away from here. Eventually the farmlands give way to mining cottages and beautifully kept lawns, and the church beside the oval comes into view.

‘Here we are,’ Charlotte announces, turning to sweep past the waist-high fenceline, joining the ranks of utes and Taragos on the gravel. ‘You good?’

I look out to the oval, where rows of tents are being assembled, trestle tables unfolding underneath to bear crates of fruit and vegetables, jars of pickles and conserves, handmade wooden trinkets and gemstone jewellery glittering in the dim morning light. ‘Sure,’ I say. ‘I mean, I’ve been working retail since I was sixteen. Happy to help.’

She smirks, and cuts the ignition. ‘Come on, then,’ she says.

We reach her family’s table at the far end of the row, her mum fussing over jar placement. She looks up at our approach and beams, clapping hands together as if we were her first customers of the day. ‘The table’s almost yours, girls,’ she says. ‘Rachel, so glad you could make it, we really appreciate the help—poor Sarah’s out for the next month I’m afraid, the results came back and there’s a break in two places, but that’s Sarah, ever the over-achiever.’

‘It’s not a problem,’ I say. ‘I’m glad I could help, Mrs Hetherington.’

‘Ms, Ms,’ she insists, smile unfaltering. ‘I know! Terribly modern for these parts, but I’m a trendsetter. Now. Charl. Make sure Rachel gets her coffee, yes? And make sure she goes home with some jam! Whichever looks nice, Rachel.’

‘It’s no problem,’ I repeat, but Charlotte’s mum waves my protest off and comes in for a quick hug. Charlotte rolls her eyes and re-arranges the jars slightly, seeing her mum off after a more cursory hug and some brief, hushed murmurings between them.

And then we’re alone.

‘Your mum’s nice,’ I say.

‘Mm,’ Charlotte says. ‘I—yeah, we really appreciate you helping out today.’


‘Don’t say “it’s no problem”. I know you’d rather be in bed.’

I look away, watch people inspecting jars of pickles a few stalls over, half-willing them to come over, half-hoping they don’t. Charlotte chuckles, and passes me a jar, pressing it into my palm. I look questioningly at the jar, and then up at Charlotte.

‘Reckon you can do the coffee run,’ she says. ‘I’ll have my usual. Feel free to get whatever you want, but fair warning, we don’t have all the fancy milks this far south.’

‘Sure … ?’ I say, looking again at the jar and then to Charlotte; but by now someone’s approached to look over the jams and talk to Charlotte, so I slip out, jar in hand.


I take my time, slowly meandering through the market; surprised anew by each stall, by the sheer variety on offer. As I wander, the stalls become as thick and as tightly-packed as the punters, and I wonder where we’d fit in: for all my parents’ aspiration, there’s already three stalls for every craft and produce imaginable, and some definite favourites with the crowd.

Eventually, I find a small, hand-painted coffee cart with ‘Galaxy Expresso’ emblazoned on one side, and swallow my judgment. The barista smiles as I approach; feeling a bit stupid clutching the jar, wondering if they have any kind of eftpos. ‘You’re not Sarah,’ he says, by way of greeting. ‘But you come bearing jam, so you’re a friend here. What’ll it be, New Sarah?’

‘Rachel,’ I offer. ‘Um, whatever Charlotte’s usual is, and, uh—a flat white?’

‘That’s all?’ he asks. ‘Easy. Easy! Gimme a minute.’

I wait by the stall as he works the machine, listen to the familiar roar of the grinder, the hiss of the steam wand. If I close my eyes, I’m right back in Northcote, getting my morning coffee before school, getting my post-yoga chai. Looking out for Britt, ignoring the group chat’s questions about Dave’s party. Waiting for mum to pick me up so I don’t have to walk home alone. I open my eyes.

‘Rachel?’ the barista’s repeating, holding out two cups. ‘Flat white and skim soy latte; that’ll be one delicious jam, please.’


The jars have reduced somewhat in my absence, and there are a fair few more people making their way up to our end. Charlotte smiles at my approach, and I’ve barely put the coffees down before she says, ‘thank god you’re back. I really need to piss. You okay to hold the fort?’

‘Um,’ I say, pulling out the chair to sit down. ‘Sure, I guess.’

‘Great,’ she says, clapping me on the shoulders before parting the back of the tent.

‘Hang on,’ I call out. ‘What about the kitty? I don’t have the key—’

‘You won’t need it!’ she calls back.

I turn back to watch for customers, smiling vaguely up as they pass. I wonder if Laura’s even awake: resist the urge to check my phone, see whatever thirty-second grievance she’s thought up for her thousand-odd sycophants. Like she’s so hard-done-by; like she hasn’t spent the past month revelling in putting together a pastoral chic wardrobe.

I don’t realise I’ve zoned out until the man in front of me repeats: ‘Six strawberry, four blueberry, and uh, any pepper quince today?’

I have to turn the labels to check, but I nod and tell him we have a dozen left.

‘I’ll take six,’ he says, and before I can do the math, he pulls an enormous leg of lamb from a bag beside him and lays it out, wrapped in plastic, on the table before me.

I goggle at the meat, and look away—up to his grizzled, forthright expression. ‘Put it on Muttoncard,’ he deadpans.

‘You must love the new audience,’ Charlotte says, swooping in. She hefts the lamb up, gauging its weight, and then settles it down into an esky beside me I hadn’t noticed till now. ‘How’s Jools?’

‘Up to her neck in it,’ he says. ‘Calfing season.’

Charlotte chuckles. ‘Well. Send our love.’

He nods, brusquely, and leaves with his jams stacked neatly in a cardboard box.

I look down in the esky; beside the meat, which I can still barely look at, there are two cartons of eggs and a wheel of some white-rind cheese. Beside, there’s a basket near-overflowing with figs and lemons.

That’s the kitty,’ Charlotte explains. ‘Well. At least until the buses get in, around ten. Until then—around here, it’s a sharing economy. We look after our own.’

I rummage through the basket, sorting through the takings. ‘Oh, wow,’ I breathe. ‘All this for jam?’

‘It’s nice jam,’ Charlotte says. ‘Which reminds me—don’t forget to pick which ones you want. Once the tourists do get here, it’s open season.’

‘You get through all this?’ I boggle, looking at the array of flavours remaining.

‘Well, it’s a monthly market. And people get through their jam,’ she shrugs. ‘Who knows. Maybe next month you’ll have your own stall—I’m sure there’ll be appetite for whatever your parents decide to do with the place.’

I shake my head. ‘Charlotte,’ I say, unmoored by the generosity. ‘We’re not … we’re not only here for my parent’s mid-life crisis.’

‘I know,’ she says. ‘Still. When you’re ready to share—there’s a lot we can give back. Like I said. We look after our own.’

I smile, and take a sip of my coffee. It’s burnt, bitter, nothing like what I’m used to in Melbourne, but it’s the best I’ve ever had.

Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Chernobyl Princess posted:

Principle 11: Use Edges and Value the Marginal

Leave the Edges 559 words

“This is a waste of our time.”

“Border control is important,” said Tom. “Soon we’ll be overrun by illegals and Muslims if we don’t watch out.”

Rob sighed. It was days like today he hated this job.

It was most days, to be honest.

This wasn’t why he’d joined up. Well, the reason he’d joined up was mostly just ‘he needed a job and they were hiring’. But it wasn’t the thing that helped him continue to justify to himself why he stayed joined up.

He was finding fewer and fewer of those, these days, and was mostly left with ‘I need to eat.’

“These orchards seem to be thriving.” Just making conversation. He didn’t love the silence, but when the alternative was talking to Tom…

“Of course, they’ve obviously got all the illegals working here,” said Tom.

The drive might have been pleasant, if he wasn’t sharing it with Tom. He opted for silence for the rest of the drive.

The building that was used to administer the orchards was the owner’s home. Rob knocked, and a middle-aged woman answered. “Hello? We’re not hiring at the moment.”

“Because we’re not illegals, is that it?” asked Tom.

“Sorry, what?” she asked.

Rob sighed. He showed his ID. “Apologies Ma’am. We’ve been asked to come here to follow up reports of undocumented workers. Can we please check your records?”

“Why certainly,” she said. “My husband can show them to you, they’re in our back office.”

“I’ll go,” said Tom.

She turned around and called, “Ben! There’s some nice men here to look at our records!”

Ben arrived, and he led Tom out the back.

“Your orchard looks magnificent,” Rob told her. “It was a lovely view on the drive over.”

She shrugged. “We’ve put in a lot of love and effort.”

“Harvest time was recently, wasn’t it?”

She nodded. “We had quite a good yield.”

“Right,” said Rob. “Interesting that some of the trees on the edges didn’t seem to have been harvested.”

She shrugged. “Can’t get to them all, and it’s nice to have some fruit left over for the birds, or whatever.”

“Hmm,” said Rob. He thought for a moment. “You ever read the Bible?”

“We’re Jewish.”

“Ah, my apologies.”

“So yes, we read the Bible.”

He raised an eyebrow. “All the bits of it?”

“Once or twice.”

He nodded. “I think there’s a bit in there about not harvesting all your crop so that poor people can eat what’s left over, right?”

She frowned, but said, “Leviticus. Leave the edges for the poor or the foreigner.”

“Ah,” he said. “Poor or the foreigner. My mistake.”

Whatever her response would’ve been was interrupted by Tom and Ben’s return.

“Everything checks out,” said Tom. “Everything’s accounted for.”

“Excellent,” said Rob. “Very sorry to bother you Ma’am, and it was lovely chatting with you.”

“What did you two have to talk to, anyway?” asked Tom.

“Theology, I suppose,” said Rob.

“Theology? What’s that about?”

“Well, you’re a Christian, right?”

“Of course,” said Tom, “wouldn’t be a stinking Muslim.”

Rob nodded. “You read the Bible much?”

“Oh, I don’t really need to read that to be a Christian.”

Rob grinned. “No, I guess not.”

“Whatever,” said Tom.

Rob opted for silence for the rest of the trip, and admired the full branches of the trees on the edges.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.

Chernobyl Princess posted:

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

The First Bite

755 words

"If there's one thing that won't change," Grandma told me, "It's that if you spin past the Jukes' woods you'll find a lad in a hat of straw ready to trade apples for kisses." She said it like it was a bad thing.

So for years I avoided those woods, walked around the old fences with the wire cut off so a person could climb over easy, jumped across the creek when it wasn't bone dry, which was a lot of the time. It became habit, and I forgot why I was even doing it. Until the big storm, when I was fifteen. You know the one. Rain like I was Noah sliding down my slicks, so as I could barely see a thing, and the creek looked like a river. I was going to go the whole way around, back to the old road and follow that, which I hadn't done in forever. But that took me right by those fences.

I stuck my hand over the top, the left hand with the tracker on it, and it didn't send danger flashes to my lens like it would for a shotgun kind of property. And I thought to myself, Caleb Jukes isn't far from fine, really. He was in my schoolpod. Saw him in virt most days, in person when we had field trips. And I was on the other side of the fence before I knew it.

Caleb wasn't out by the apple tree, since he had sense enough not to be standing out in the rain. But there were apples, even a few fresh on the ground, blown off by the storm, and I stole one on my way across their land towards home, hid it in my slick's inside pocket and didn't eat it until late that night.

It tasted like the last day of summer.

Now that I knew the tracker wouldn't grass me for it I took the shortcut every now and then, when it was raining or I was in a hurry, so I was bound to run into Caleb eventually.

Grandma wasn't wrong. 

Caleb wasn't my first kiss, mind, nor even my first proper kiss. But his hands were the first ones that touched an awful lot of bits of me. That wasn't part of the deal. That was just what I wanted, rolls and frolics in the honeysuckle. The deal was just kisses and apples. Apples that tasted like a sunrise across the Mississippi, or like meeting a cousin for the first time in person, or like lying down after a full day's standing work. The Jukes, the older Jukes, they kept playing with the genes of the apple, of the ground cover, of all the plants and insects in the guild.

"What we want," Caleb told me, "Is to make apples that taste just like falling in love. If we can get that working we'll be rich men, all."

They never got it right. Not even today. But that went on for a year and a half.

Then came Deacon.

Deacon was the next oldest Jukes boy, about a year on me and Caleb, and while Caleb was fine, Deacon was full-on fit. He made the offer and I nodded. He lifted my chin and leaned in.

I lost control. We both did, and we locked eyes with fear as we both got the notification that our trackers were squealing away to our parents. We knew we were going to catch hell, but it was worth it, or seemed like it.

The apple tasted like the seconds between lightning and thunder, and it was the last one that I had from there for a long long while, since Deacon went off to A&M right after and Caleb would barely talk to me anymore. Everyone seemed to know. But he was the only one who kept caring after a week.

It was twenty-four years on I next saw Caleb. This was after I'd buried a husband and a son, after he'd buried his parents, after Deacon left the orchard for the city, doing genework for rooftop gardens. We ran into each other in town, caught up, shared odd glances. "Nowadays it's my nephews doing the trading," he said. "During the day. Popular boys. Got so I can't get any work but in the dead of night."

I don't know if he meant it as an invitation or not, but I took it for one either way.

The apple tasted like our baby's first crying breath.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

I am judge three.

Aug 22, 2022

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

459 words

I always minded my own business in the garden. I'd watch as the human spent hours tending the tiny sprouts that had sprung forth from the seeds she'd sown in the loam. The wind would hum a wistful tune as it snaked between the vines on the trellis. The human didn't seem to be bothered much by my presence; in fact, she probably appreciated it. I clung to a leaf and snatched up any pests within reach to devour them hungrily.

One day when I was on the hunt for prey, I noticed a high level of activity around the tomatoes. I snuck closer and discovered a wonderful feast of aphids spread up and down the length of the plants, and my mandibles twitched in anticipation. Slowly, carefully, I crept up the trellis, my eyes fixated on the juicy green pests, and in a flash I had grabbed a particularly nice aphid in my arms.

As I munched on the struggling bug, a whooshing from above me caused me to freeze mid-bite. A bird was attempting to make a snack out of me! I stood still as a leaf, hoping it would pass, but it dove straight toward me, and I lashed out in retaliation, batting its feet away as it tried to catch me. The angry predator made another swoop, this time causing me to lose my foothold on the trellis. I tumbled to the ground, my bright green coloration fully exposed against the dull earth.

I scrambled to my feet and prepared for the battle of a lifetime, but as I scraped the air in vain, the human rushed out from the house, waving her arms to scare the bird away. Screeching, the horrid avian took to the skies, and the human knelt down beside me and extended a hand.

For a minute, I studied my benefactor: tall and strong, like a tree, but more mobile. She made facial expressions and vocalizations, whereas trees had their own quiet language. I wiggled my antennae at her to test the air, but she made no sign of threat, so I inched toward her outstretched fingers and clambered aboard.

She lifted me up faster than I could have crawled, and stopped when her hand was aligned with the top of the tomato trellis. I observed with fascination as the aphids milled around, and then I stepped onto the plant once more. "I'd like you to stay," voiced the human, although I did not understand her words. "You keep my garden free of harmful bugs, and I appreciate it."

I waved my arms at her and she giggled. "Enjoy your lunch, little mantis."
And with that, she walked away, and my focus shifted to the tasty prey in front of me.

Aug 22, 2022

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Forgot to quote my prompt:

Chernobyl Princess posted:

Use Small and Slow Solutions

Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:

Entries closed

Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:

Week 553 Judgement

A strong week of greenery and ingenuity! I am a happy blood princess. But there can be only one winner: Pham Nuwen for in the oak-lot, proving that goblins make everything better

HM for Slightly Lions with Green-Zone, DM for Chairchucker with Use The Edges, and a loss for Windward Away with Prey

Take it away, Pham. Prompt, imo.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

WEEK 554: Sci-Fi Metadome

I've been reading science fiction since I was a little kid. It's my favorite genre, so obviously I want to watch you incompetents render it into slop and garbage.

This week, I want you to write a science fiction story. When you sign up, I'll assign you a randomly-selected title from a previous Thunderdome week, which should in some way inform your story, for example "Week #14 You shouldn't be here". You're only taking inspiration from the title, not the actual prompt itself--there's no need to go into the archives to look up that week, just write me a story about how somebody shouldn't be someplace.

I will exclude uninspiring titles like "THUNDERDOME 10TH BIRTHDAY EXTRAVAGANZA" (although actually, that could be kinda good...)

If you've already been assigned a flash, but it's JUST NOT FAIR, MOM, I DIDN'T WANT THAT ONE, you can post again requesting a REROLL and I'll pick you a new one. Each re-roll costs 400 words, so I would strongly recommend against rolling more than 3 times.

Word count: 1800 words (minus 400 words per re-roll)
Signups close: Friday 3/17 at midnight US Pacific
Entries close: Sunday 3/19 at midnight US Pacific
Usual rules apply.

Pham Nuwen

Violet_Sky - Ships Passing in the Night (week 315)
My Shark Waifuu - MYSTERY SOLVING TEENS (week 203)
Obliterati - Strange Logs (week 179)
rohan - Communication Breakdown (week 301) Magic of Bronze and Stone (week 304)
Gambit from the X-Men - Pirates! (week 372)
WindwardAway - Face Your Destiny (week 20)
Giggs - What a Horrible Week to Have a Curse (week 343)
Strange Cares - The best of the worst and the worst of the best (week 162) EVERYBODY KNOWS poo poo'S hosed (week 199)
Beef Supreme - These Sainted Days of Spring (week 293)
Slightly Lions - Gambling Degenerates (week 148)
Albatrossy_Rodent - Attack of the Clones (week 109)
Antivehicular - Taboo! (week 416)
Bad Seafood - He's Not Quite Dead (week 75)
sebmojo - SINNERS ORGY (week 159)
Yoruichi - A secret is something you tell one other person (week 455)
Dicere - The Frontier Was Everywhere (week 457)
GarbiTheGlitchress - Dead or Alive (week 64)

Pham Nuwen fucked around with this message at 00:35 on Mar 21, 2023

Dec 5, 2011

Fun Shoe

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Ships Passing in the Night (week 315)

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012


Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010


Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Strange Logs (week 179)

Mar 19, 2008

Look, if you had one shot
or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
Would you capture it...
or just let it slip?



Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Communication Breakdown (week 301)

Gambit from the X-Men
May 12, 2001

a war boy standing alone in the desert blasting his mouth with cum from a dildo
i want to try this

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Gambit from the X-Men posted:

i want to try this

Pirates! (week 372)

Aug 22, 2022

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Face Your Destiny (week 20)

Jan 4, 2013

mama huhu

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

What a Horrible Week to Have a Curse (week 343)


Strange Cares
Nov 22, 2007



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