Register a SA Forums Account here!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
  • Post
  • Reply
Jun 4, 2021

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Thank you for the crits everyone! I'll use them to improve my story!

A crit of A Quiet Life for Beef Supreme

So this piece has wonderful imagery. That opening paragraph is awesome. With such awesome imagery it's a wonder that I had no foundation to stand on when the fire hit the island. We have no idea how big the island is, we have no idea how big this fire is or what it threatens.

The prose is set up like the story should have stakes. The story structure makes it feel like this piece has stakes. But holy crap lets get a vampire in here, because there are no stakes!

What this piece has is some characters, and when not literally telling us about backstory, some good backstory. I really like how Allen just wants to be alone, how he hasn’t used his voice in so long. Allen had some poo poo go down.

But, I find that I don’t care about Allen, Jonathan or the mysterious boat guy. Nor does the inciting incident interest me, or add tension to the story. It just is. And it’s just as easily resolved.

There were moments of joy when I read, I like your prose, but overall I was bored. At the end of the story, I didn’t come off having learned anything, or have any feeling. I wouldn’t remember this story, even with the hell rule, as it doesn’t do anything interesting with the hell rule, nor does it do anything memorable in its story. However, I would remember the author, as there are some nice lines in this piece.


Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

said I'm never lackin'
always pistol packin'
with them automatics
we gon' send 'em to Heaven
Some crits... if you think my assessments are bad and wrong feel free to tell me why.

This, Here, Now by Thranguy

I enjoyed this story. I felt you over reinforced their situation within the framework of the hellrule. By the time you surprise the reader with world's not like our own, the preceding section seemed to take a bit away from those brief, but cool flashes. Overall, I think the middle was a bit bloated. I thought the ending itself was fine, and of course it was all very well written. Thought you did well with the hellrule and showed it to the reader in cool ways from the fantastic to the scientific. I'd just cut out some of the middle.

The Courage of Nearly Flightless Birds by Flyerant

In plain terms I think this story is great. I think some of the analogy gets a bit clunky towards the end, but overall there are things I really love about it that seem absolutely true and painful in a realistic way. To the initial prompt of something that has never happened before I feel like it technically delivers, but I feel like the story is just a good story that doesn't necessarily fit the prompt the way others did. But without trying to butter your biscuits, it's totally my jam.

Chasing Cars by Ceighk

This was cool, but I think I see in your story what others have said of my stories. The beginning seems disconnected from the real focus of the story. I like the character guy ou establish in JP, but the real story is the insert of the test subject.

I dont know if there is a genre for stories that are adjacent to the actual real story, but that's what this feels like and I don't mind it, I think I write stories with a shifted focus like this probably too often now that I think about it, but I see how it is a detriment to the cooler story that is embedded within the too long setup.

But you used snow brigade lol and I think that was an awesome working of the "gift" even if it feels more like it's just action thrust on an ordinary character's life (which I think kind of has it's place, but I don't think that's your intention here). I honestly think if your story began with them on the drive, you cutting out his origin bits and maybe just having him having always been this awkward person that you sum up briefly, it would have allowed more space to develop the more interesting part of your story.

It's like slice of life that has had scifi horror shunted in, but the ratio for what you get of each is off. Fun though.

Oct 6, 2021

Obliteratin' everything,
incineratin' and renegade 'em
I'm here to make anybody who
want it with the pen afraid
But don't nobody want it but
they're gonna get it anyway!

Entries are closed, just as the gates of heaven are closed to those whose names are not found in the book of life.

You may still enter if you toxx, and hey, if you drop a story without entering, what am I supposed to do, not judge it?

Have fun writing please.

Oct 9, 2012

Joseph (of technicolor dreamcoat fame) as a Hollywood Rise-to-Fame Musical Romance.

Faith and Family

1750 words

"So, what you in for?"

The Latino guy had a thick black moustache and sharp eyes set in a weatherbeaten face. He didn't sound particularly threatening, just bored. Not much to do in lockup, when it's just one large room with bars keeping them from the short corridor that lead to the rest of the sherrif's office, and another set of bars dividing men's and women's sides.

From the look of it, the talker had been here for a while. His only other companmy was the hunched body curled up on one of the benches on the opposite wall.

"It ain't much of a story," she replied.

"Anything's better than trying to get him to talk."

"I guess...."

* * *

Five years ago

Twelve kids stand on stage at the Ohio State Fair, with a range of instruments. They play a country version of Paradise City, and as they finish the crowd goes wild.

The roar of the crowd echoed in Jo’s head as they left the stage, clutching her guitar tight. It was her anchor. After every show she bought a sticker, and that guitar was a shining patchwork, a technicolour scrapbook of her music career. She was nine years old when Betty and Mac fostered her and gave her that guitar. She loved it like nothing else.

The whole band were foster kids, Betty and Mac's family. They taught the kids how to sing and how to play. When Jo turned fifteen, the kids became a band. They played some square-dances and sweet sixteens to start, but they got bigger and bigger. Two years in and here they were, playing the state fair. Thousands of people wanting to see them, cheering every song.

Maybe Betty pushed the orphan angle a bit much, maybe Mac’s own songs were schmaltzy, but it worked. Twelve kids aged seven to seventeen, tugging people’s heartstrings. Reminding them that the Lord still put good people on his Earth.

Back at the old farmhouse they called hom it was a nice night, with a clear sky that shined with stars. Sitting out around a fire, the kids laughed and joked, still hyper from the show. A constellation caught Jo’s eye. Lyra, the lyre. As the firelight danced, she almost felt like she could see the other stars bowing to it. That had to be a sign.


The others ignored her. She was one of the eldest, when Betty and Mac weren’t around they ignored her in lieu of their foster parents.

“Guys, listen!”

Eleven heads turned towards her, their chatter dying away.

“You know how Mac always tells us that music comes from the heart?”

“Yeah, so?” Ben asked from behind his thick glasses.

“Well, most of what we sing is just covers of other people’s songs. Sure, we give it our all, but it ain't coming from our hearts.”

She had their attention now.

“And Mac’s songs are good, but they ain’t ours, not really. They’re his and sometimes…” she cast her eyes down. “Sometimes I don’t know if his heart’s coming from the same place as mine.”

“What’re you talking about?” Ben again, confrontation and curiosity mixed in his voice.

“It’s easier if I just show you.”

Jo begins to sing, haltingly at first, just accompanied by her guitar, a formulaic song about not finding family until late, and being accepted but still feeling alone.

As the last notes faded, she looked up to see eleven sets of eyes staring at her nonplussed.

"I knew this was a mistake."

Jo ran up to her room, tears welling in her eyes.

Her foster siblings at least had the grace not to say anything to her afterwards, but sometimes she caught odd looks, and family dinners had a weird atmosphere when Bettie and Mac were away from the table.

The next week, on a trip to one of the big malls just outside Dayton, things came to a head. Simon, Anna, and Dan rounded on her just in front of the Orange Julius stand.

"You're a songwriter now?" Anna's eyes were cold. "You think you're better than us?"

"No! I just–"

"We know what you just!" Simon snapped. "And you can just stop. Right now."

"All you are is trouble," said Dan. "Mac's done so much for us but it's never been good enough for you."

Simon, Anna, and Dan sing Go Your Own Way. Jo pushes Dan, Anna pushes back. As the song ends, Simon grabs Jo's guitar and holds it aloft, triumphant.

"Get out of here," he shouted. "You're not part of this family no more."

"What are you going to tell Mac? Or Betty?"

"That ain't your problem."

* * *

Jo met the man's eyes, gaze steady. "So I've been drifting since then. I don't have money and a girl's gotta eat. Here I am."

"That's hosed up. Family's meant to have each other's backs." He scratched the thick stubble on his chin. "I have a friend, César, he's got a bar a couple of towns over. He's coming to bail me out, I could put in a word."

"And why the hell'd you do that for me?"

"He looks after strays, doesn't ask questions. The only good thing in my life is family. Yours treated you like poo poo. Let me and mine show you it ain't all bad?" He stuck his hand through the bars. "Ramon."


The sound of a guitar. The two sing a duet, about chance and risk and trust and blind faith. They both start doubtful, but come together during the song.

Things moved fast. Ramon's cousin César didn't just give her a job, he posted her bail. The pay wasn't much, but at least she had a place to sleep and hot meals. She soon learned that most of César's 'strays' were undocumented, and he looked after them when nobody else would.

Once, after the bar was closed and they were both three beers in, she asked him why.

"Some people are assholes. Like the people who brought me here. They bled my parents dry and left me with nothing and nobody. Everyone deserves family, even if sometimes it's one you choose. I can't give much, but if I can give some people something, then I will."

"What about when your family kicks you out?"

"You find another." He finished his beer. "And you have faith, that your family will come to their senses. Or you show the ungrateful bastards what they missed out on."

Jo bought a new guitar, and spent the time she wasn't working writing songs. But after seven months, things started going downhill. Regulars weren't coming to the bar as often, and people didn't order what they used to.

"Things are bad, Jo."

"How bad?"

"It keeps up like this? I got maybe two, three weeks."

"I didn't believe anyone would be as kind as you are, César. You took me in on Ramon's word. I got an idea, but you're gonna have to trust me."

A montage, to a soundtrack of multiple performers. Jo leads, but at least three other people also sing, including Ramon. People hand out flyers for the country music night, and a banner is raised over the bar's door.

On the country music night, a crowd thronged the bar. César had called everyone he could think of to help, even Ramon. Jo looked out from behind the taps, the guitar resting behind the small stage they'd set up. She could play it, but it wasn't her guitar. That part of her was still missing. As she was about to take the stage, she caught a glimpse of someone in the crowd. It couldn't be, could it?

"Ramon! That girl over by the window? You ever seen her before?"

"I'm seeing a lot of people. Wait, Kelly? Long red hair?"

Seeing them looking at her, the woman smiled. She was maybe twenty-five, with long red curls, and a smile that could light up the whole room

Ramon grinned. "Yeah, she's definitely sweet on you."

And with that, Jo took the stage.

"I'd like to welcome you all to our first live music night!" The crowd cheered. "I'm gonna start us off with a little something, then I'll be back after some of our other amazing singers."

Jo stands on the stage with her guitar, and sings a version of the song she sang for her foster-siblings around the fire. Her voice is heavy with emotion, and both her singing and playing are a hell of a lot better than they were.

As she finished playing, Jo saw a sudden movement in the crowd, a kid in glasses hurrying for the door. She hadn't got a good look at his face, but something made her push through the crowd after him, out into the parking lot. It wasn't just her imagination. There was the same bus that she'd ridden in so many times. She glimpsed eyes pressed up to the windows.

"Ben?! What the hell are you all doing here?"

"We heard about someone who was gonna be singing here. None of the others believed it but I figured it had to be you."

"Come to laugh at me?"

"Hell no! Things haven't been the same since you... yeah. We don't get the bookings, and I heard Mac saying something about how the soul's gone. He doesn't sing or play much any more."

Still looking at Ben, she heard the bus doors open, the murmuring of teenagers and adults alike. She raised her voice. "I know you're all wondering, and yes, it's me."

"Jo, I–" Simon started

"No. I'm gonna say something." She cast her eyes from Simon, to Anna, to Dan. "You told me I wasn't family. But you know what? Family's important. I found it here."

"We're sorry," said Dan.

"I know. You wouldn't be here if you weren't. And I want you to know, I..." she blinked back tears. "I forgive you. I found family here, but you're my family too. Ain't one more important than another."

They looked at her, stunned. Slowly, they parted as Mac walked through the group. His eyes filled with tears, he held out Jo's guitar to her. She gasped as her hands touched the stickers covering its body.

"Well now. You'd better have all brought your instruments."

The woman with the red hair stepped out of the bar as they approached. Jo gave her a broad smile.

"Kelly, right? You better not be going anywhere. The main event just arrived."

Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Albatrossy_Rodent posted:

Nativity of Christ


Codechild 801 words

“You saw the message?”

Yeah. They’d all seen the message. It was not from anyone. And it wasn’t just that someone has masked their sending location; they were readers of The Code. There was not a masking tool available that could stop them from seeing who it was from. This message did not exist anywhere except in their inbox. It was as if it had been created there. It read: Child not safe. Leave by alternate means, do not report back.

The message was from The Code itself.

They all left through the hotel’s fire escape. Alfred and Ray decided to enter the sewers and leave the city that way. “You sure you’re not coming with us?” asked Ray.

Sonya shook her head. “Not right away. Maybe I’ll catch up with you.”

Alfred shrugged, and the two men gave the code runner’s sign and climbed down the sewer ladder. Sonya tapped into the code signal nearby. One of the nearby jetboards was unsecured. It was the work of a moment to rewrite its code, make it hers. Then she sailed it back to the garage where the child had been born. Not into the garage; didn’t want to draw undue attention. She stashed the ‘board behind a dumpster. Tapped into the code signal again. That building over there – yes, there was a room that hadn’t been accessed for five cycles. No one would notice. Again, it was child’s play to convince the door’s code to accept her entry. She slipped inside, and drifted into codesleep.

She was alerted by a series of similar messages. Back and forth to each other, asking about the child. She woke from codesleep and checked her calendar. She’d been in codesleep three microcycles. Three troopers were approaching on armoured jetboards. She checked the code signal; these troopers were definitely the origin of the messages that had woken her. Messages containing words like ‘terminate’ and ‘purge’. Unfortunately, all three jetboards were secure. She slipped out of the room she’d been codesleeping in. The jetboards were far enough away that she could get over to the garage before them. She quickly crossed the road and glanced into the garage.

The child and her parents were gone, which was probably for the best. Sonya climbed up onto the roof of the garage. It wasn’t enough that they were safe on this one occasion, she decided.

The jetboards arrived and the three troopers dismounted. Two entered the garage, while one stayed outside, minding the jetboards, looking out for any suspicious people, and getting killed by Sonya. She landed on his shoulders and snapped his neck before he could make a sound.

She peered into the garage. One of the troopers appeared to be ransacking it, while from the sounds of it the other had gone into the office upstairs. Sonya sprinted silently on light feet across the garage and did a handspring off of a jetboard that was being worked on, into a flying kick into the trooper’s head. He stumbled back, then shook his head and went to draw his power spear. Sonya kicked it from his hand, then snatched it from the air and shoved it through his chest. He collapsed backwards, the point embedding into the ground.

Fortunately, Sonya saw something from the corner of her eye before the third trooper fired his power bow. The power arrow glanced off of her shoulder as she dodged to one side, under a power bench.

“You can’t stop us!” called the trooper. “Eventually we’ll find the child, and when we do, we’ll purge him.”

Sonya didn’t bother correcting the trooper. If they thought the child was a boy, all the better. She rolled under a table next to the power desk, then quickly ducked behind another jetboard. She briefly checked the code signal for something she might be able to use.

“Why do you even care?” asked the trooper.

She ignored him and explored what she’d found in the code signal.

“We will find him,” said the trooper. “We’re going to find him, and we’re going to kill him, it’s inevitable.”

“No,” said Sonya. “You won’t.”

The trooper laughed. “Why not? Because he’s the chosen one? You really believe in that?”

“Sure, there’s that,” said Sonya. She’d found the signal weakness she was after; she told the code what she needed, and the jetboard roared forward suddenly, ploughing into the trooper and pinning them against the wall. She sprung forward before he could free himself, gripped the trooper around the throat and stared into their eyes. “But also, because I personally will kill as many of you as it takes to keep them safe.” And she squeezed until the light went out in their eyes.

She felt the message arrive. Again, no sender.

Just a direction.

She followed.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


Albatrossy_Rodent posted:

Judges are
Albatrossy Underscore Rodent

I can too

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

For the Trees
Job as Cyclical Claustrophobic Woodland Horror
1,714 words

Job rested his trowel gently by the side of the grave and ran a hand across the loam, taking care to avoid the first fragile, flowering snowdrops of spring.

“It’s a beautiful sight, Uzit,” he said with a sigh. “I just wish you could see it.”

Across the forest clearing, in the shadow of the farmhouse, his daughters laughed and chased each other through the rows of freshly turned soil. Petals trailed from their three flower crowns, leaving a trail across the fertile earth they had so carefully worked. Beyond them, on the border of the treeline - thick and dark and encircling - slumped the half carcass of the great deer Job had felled earlier, an old crescent-moon scar wrapped around its neck. By morning, the carcass would be gone - his half salted in the pantry and the Forest’s half spirited away, as was right and proper.

An ant ran across the ground by his fingers and Job stirred, idly sketching a line through the dirt that caused the ant to turn back in confusion. Another line, another turn - until the ant was trapped. He laughed and swept the circle away.

Job’s fingers traced the sign of the Forest unconsciously and he felt his soul stir. The sun shone down on his family’s little slice of heaven in the middle of the wilds and - despite the ache in his heart - all was right with the world.


In the summer, Job buried his daughters. Across three nights, the girls were spirited from their beds - and on the third night, from Job’s arms in the briefest moment of sleep - through locked and barred doors, without even the slightest of sounds. He found them, after weeks of ceaseless searching, at the border of the forest. Each showed every sign of having wandered for days, less than a stone’s throw from the clearing. He dug three graves, seeded with snowdrops for the spring, and wept as he made the sign of the Forest over each in turn.

In the autumn, the harvest failed. Every nurturing touch, every ministration to the slightest sign of rot, came to naught. The earth took back its bounty and so Job turned to the bounty of the forest - but though he trod the same paths and left the same offerings, his every prey eluded him. The rustle of the undergrowth was always just out of sight. The fat leached from his frame and the growing cold ate into his bones but with stiff and fumbling fingers he made the sign of the Forest again and again and again.

In the winter, as the first snow smoothed out the clearing and built up the skeletal trees, the heavens struck. Lightning descended from a clear blue sky and tore through the farmhouse while Job tended to his wife’s grave. For a few frantic, delirious hours he was warm again - but all too soon he was left in the cold and the ash as the charred timbers fell inwards, soon to be buried under the snow.

And so, on the night of midwinter, Job packed what little food remained and hung an axe from his belt, and slipped into the forest.


Job had walked the paths of the forest all his life - but now he took the older paths. The ones marked not in cleared earth or worn rock but by half-forgotten scents and a slight tug in the gut. The ones that led to the Forest itself. Job didn’t know what it would look like, only that he had to find it and to ask it why.

Twice, he came to a perfect split in the path and twice - as he knew to be right and proper - he stood a branch upright at the intersection and let its fall guide him. When snow fell too heavily for him to see, he built a shelter by muscle memory alone. When three birds flew overhead, followed by a trailing fourth, he made the sign of the Forest and turned the other way.

The branch guided him to thin ice over stagnant ponds. The shelter broke where it should have been strongest. The birds did not warn him of danger but drove him into it.

And at night, when Job hissed curses into the darkness, something snapped a twig and drew a little closer.

The days stretched and Job’s mind stretched with them, seeking to escape the cold and the hunger. He would come back to himself at odd hours, hands scrabbling under stones to find squirming bugs, a fistful already in his mouth. In the coldest nights, when he felt the spark of his life begin to dim, the winds would cease and he would wake to another frozen morning, scattered hoofprints drawing a circle in the snow around him.

The thin ice never broke before he could throw himself clear. The shelter never crushed him. The danger was never more than he could bear. His fingers twitched, curling into half-shapes that he no longer recognised.

When he came one night to a little clearing, he found he could stand the cold no longer. He tried to make a fire, to warm the last scraps of bread and melt a little snow, yet no matter how he looked, he could find no kindling on the forest floor. A spark within him, one he had thought long dead, roared into life and he tore the axe from his belt, the haft threatening to slip from dead fingers as he swung at the nearest tree. The blade barely bit through the bark before he pulled it back and swung again, again, again. The clearing echoed with his cries, the wind dead, and he swung until his arms could take no more.

Broken, drained and revulsed by the senseless barbarism of his deeds - ragged shards of bark staining the snow - Job fell to the ground, aching for the release of tears that would not come. His body curled in on itself, axe still clutched tight.

In the cold and the quiet, hooves crunched through the snow. A badger, fat with winter stores, dropped to the snow by his head, neck snapped. Questions forgotten, all thought forgotten, Job turned his face to the heavens.

A crescent-moon scar cradled the deer’s neck, skin taut and frostbitten. One dead eye glinted in the moonlight, unseeing. No breath clouded the air in front of it. The monstrosity of it turned Job’s stomach and he recoiled, mind now ablaze. What had he done to be tormented by this beast?

And then the deer turned and Job saw what had replaced the half he had salted.

Corded vines flexed and twisted in place of muscles. Bark formed flat plates, armour against some unimaginable predator. Wildflowers of every hue wove their way around its brow, crowning it in the colours of summer. The deer stood over him, whole: half given to the Forest and half of the Forest.

Empty. Unknowable. Half-dead, a mockery of his family. Half-live, a mockery of the Forest. The whole was so much worse than the sum of its parts.

The deer kicked the badger towards him with a hoof made of stone. Job recoiled from the movement and swung, brain trailing arm. The axe bit, deep, and lodged in the wooden plates of its leg. The deer didn’t flinch, didn’t move, didn’t chase after him as he leapt past it and dove for the safety of the forest.

Trees parted for him, rocks shifted to match his footsteps and snow melted away as Job ran, only a single thought screaming through his mind: away. Legs that were more skin than muscle pushed him forwards, lungs that burned with every breath gulped down the frigid midnight air and silence, utter silence, followed him. When he burst into an open clearing the shock of it caught his legs under him and he crashed to the ground.

Burnt timber stood in stark contrast to the snow. The badger, fat and dead, lay next to a stack of kindling and logs. By the edge of the forest, the deer stood over the shape of four snow-covered graves, stone hoof pawing at the ground as snow melted away to reveal dark loam. In one dreadful moment Job saw the circle around him in the writhing of its vines, saw the lines scratched into the dirt. He saw the forest and for the first time in a long and pious life, he saw the Forest circling around him in all its terror. His fingers forced themselves into the familiar shape, joints aching and sinews protesting, as a tear ran down his cheek.

He could see the Forest in every rock and branch. He could see the vastness of its mind in the shape of the snowdrifts but couldn’t begin to see its thoughts.

Only its dreadful, miraculous offer.

On unsteady feet he rose, feeling his body devour itself to fuel his slow march to the ruins of the farmhouse. He passed by the badger and the firewood without a moment’s thought, feet dragging furrows through the snow. The trees that ringed the clearing leaned in to watch as memory guided him through the rubble, searching on his knees and only rising when his hand found the charred handle of the shovel, metal head gleaming in the moonlight.


Job rested his trowel gently by the side of the grave and ran a hand across the loam, taking care to avoid the first fragile, flowering snowdrops of spring.

“It’s a beautiful sight, Uzit,” he said with a sigh. “I just wish you could see it.”

Uzit grinned at him from under a wreath of wildflowers. Across the forest clearing, in the shadow of the rebuilt farmhouse, his daughters chased each other through the rows of freshly turned soil. Petals trailed from their three flower crowns, leaving a trail across the fertile earth they had so carefully worked. Beyond them, on the border of the treeline - thick and dark and encircling - slumped the great deer, an old crescent-moon scar wrapped around its neck.

Job’s fingers traced the sign of the Forest unconsciously and he felt his eyes well up. The sun shone down on his family’s little slice of heaven in the middle of the wilds.

All was right with the world.

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?


Flash: Maccabees 1 as Whimsical Christmas High Fantasy Adventure

A Christmas Adventure
1750 words

Most years, Timmy’s shutter would fly up as the first flakes fell, his eyes bright as Rudolph’s red nose; now, the snow was blanketing garden and reindeer alike, lit by the moon at its apex, and still Timmy had not appeared. Rudolph pawed at the snow below Timmy’s window, waiting; wondering. Had they moved, and Rudolph’s magic hadn’t sensed it? Or worse?

Rudolph was lowering himself for a rest when he heard the tell-tale scrape of wood and rusty hinges, saw his dark-haired charge lean surreptitiously out, straddling the sill. He held a vape pen in one hand, shoulder cradling a phone against his cheek.

‘Just leaving now,’ the boy said. ‘Nah, “grounded” for a week. There in ten, okay? Right—yeah—uh, me too.’

The boy slid the phone into his pocket and then edged down the tiles to drop soundlessly into the packed snow, gangly limbs slightly less graceful than in years past. Rudolph snorted, breath misting, and stepped forward. Timmy whirled around, free hand clenching into a fist; and then relaxed when he saw the reindeer.

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘It’s you.’

‘Hello, Timmy,’ Rudolph intoned. ‘You look ready for an adventure.’

Timmy rolled his eyes. ‘It’s Tim,’ he said. ‘And—nah. Not tonight, okay? Try another house.’

Rudolph lowered his head, eye-to-eye with Timmy. ‘You’re my charge, child. Why else would you be out this late, if not for an adventure?’

‘I’m not a child,’ Timmy hissed. ‘I’m too old for your—“adventures”.’

‘So I see,’ Rudolph mused. ‘Nice shiner. How’d you get that?’

Timmy blushed, turning away. ‘You wouldn’t understand.’

Rudolph’s red nose flashed once; twice. ‘Try me.’

‘It’s stupid,’ Timmy murmured. ‘David was teasing me because I still believed in Santa last year, so I said at least my family can afford presents, and then—’

‘David?’ Rudolph asked. ‘David Glasman?’


‘Well, there’s a reason his parents don’t give him any—’

‘I know that now,’ Timmy spat, glaring at the reindeer. ‘He’s just jelly because I’m getting a new iPhone, while he gets to look at candles and eat potato cakes. So of course he hit me.’

Rudolph thought for a moment, and then sniffed the air, gauging the wind speed and direction. His eyes narrowed, before he lowered his forelegs and offered the saddle to Timmy. ‘Come on,’ he said. ‘I know an adventure you won’t have grown out of yet.’

Timmy glanced up at Rudolph’s eyes, glittering in the moonlight. ‘Yeah, I kinda promised someone I’d—’

‘She’ll keep,’ Rudolph muttered. ‘Come on. Unless you’re scared?’

Thousands of years of charges, each predictable as the last. Rudolph smirked as Timmy’s expression hardened from insult to defiance. ‘Fine,’ Timmy said. ‘But this had better not be childish, okay?’

Rudolph smirked as he began to work his magic.


Timmy’s eyes shuddered open as their flight came to an abrupt end; Rudolph landing in thick mud and staggering forward a few steps, Timmy jerked from the saddle to collapse beside his steed. The air was thick with smoke, and an acrid stench stung his nostrils; his hands, scrambling for purchase as he hoisted himself up, came away slick with blood. Ahead, he could see once-tall walls of stone, crumbling under some onslaught; in the haze of smoke and dust, blurred figures struck at each other with a din he could barely discern over his hammering heart.

‘You there!’ a voice called, as a man loomed above; his voice strangely accented by the reindeer’s magic. ‘Where be your blade, boy?’

Timmy stared, openly agape. The man wore a tunic and light armour, dented and dull; his bare arms were muscled like rope coiled tight around marbled stone, veins rippling down his bronze flesh. ‘My—my blade?’ he managed.

The man retrieved a scrap of iron protruding from a nearby corpse, passing it to Timmy. The pommel was wrapped leather, the shaft heavier than it was sharp, mottled by rust and blood alike. ‘Take care not to fall from your mount, boy,’ he said. ‘We need able hands to do the Lord’s work; He will lift even those as—slight—as you.’

Before Timmy could respond, the man whirled as if to some premonition, and then launched himself into the fray, crying out as his blade tore through throat and chest alike.

‘He,’ Rudolph announced, lowering his head to whisper into the boy’s ear, ‘is Judas—’

‘The traitor?’ Timmy gasped. Ahead, Judas’ oiled muscles glistened in the light of nearby flame, his violence arrested mid-swing by Rudolph’s aura. ‘He’s—more ripped than I imagined.’

‘—“the Hammer” Maccabeus,’ Rudolph finished; the aura released, the blade striking with an eruption of arterial blood. ‘We’re still a few years off Iscariot.’

‘Where have you taken me,’ Timmy asked, whirling. ‘What kind of Christmas story has this much—this much blood?’

‘Not Christmas,’ Rudolph said. ‘We’re also a few years off your baby, shepherds, and fragrances, child. Come. They’ll have almost reached the sanctuary, by now.’

Timmy didn’t correct the reindeer as he followed through the battlefield; only half listening as Rudolph explained what had happened, what was to come. As they walked, his eyes kept wandering, unable to land on anything but bloated flesh, flickering with clouds of tumescent flies; exposed bone, reaching skyward like barbed wire; and collapsed horses thronged by crows, deciphering their fates in the spilt entrails.

Ahead, Judas and his men ascended a hill, and Timmy hastened his footsteps. At the top, Timmy saw the remains of a once-great building, ancient even in its own time: its heavy gates bent and twisted, its walls splintered and bristling with dark ivy, tendrils crushing the stone in their grasp. Approaching, they heard the inconsolable wailing of the same men who wore the blood of so many fallen soldiers.

‘They have defiled it,’ Judas roared. ‘The pagans have profaned our most Holy Sanctuary. You!’ he cried, pointing toward Timmy. ‘Take our finest soldiers and rout the infidels. I will remain and do what I can for its sanctitude.’

‘Why me?’ Timmy said, unthinking. ‘Surely you have—’

‘Because you’re the hero of this adventure,’ Rudolph muttered, in the silence of his aura. ‘Do keep up. You weren’t complaining when Dickens asked you for help.’

‘Yeah!’ Timmy exclaimed. ‘Because I know how to write—’ (‘Debatable,’ Rudolph murmured)—‘but I don’t know anything about fighting—’

‘Didn’t stop you before,’ Rudolph said.

Timmy glared at the reindeer, who released the aura. ‘I have faith in you,’ Judas intoned. ‘You’re of an age to lead slaughter.’

Timmy stared down at his rust-red blade, and nodded, resolute.

In the sanctuary, light mottled through the vine-fractured ceiling. Timmy’s chosen soldiers pressed forward, silent on their sandalled feet, as Timmy stumbled over broken bone and pottery. They emerged in a clearing, and Timmy recognised its holy significance from the way silence itself knelt respectfully on the tiles. Ahead, his soldiers mouthed some prayer, hands moving silently; Timmy was hurriedly echoing their movements when the first infidels arrived.

Simon was struck first; he fell heavily onto the mosaic, heavy shoulders cobwebbing the impact. Before he could recover, an infidel, thin sword gleaming, ran him through and pulled the blade back, impossibly clean, impossibly quick. Timmy’s hands ran wet with sweat as he stumbled backwards, into Rudolph’s hard and ungiving flank.

‘Take me home,’ he stammered, looking back up at Rudolph. ‘I can’t—I’m not—’

‘You can,’ Rudolph said, nudging the boy forward. ‘You are. Do this, and learn the cost of belief. Learn the importance of tradition. Learn the beauty of eight candles, child, burning for eight days of remembrace.’

That’s what this is about?’ Timmy cried, as the chapel rang with steel striking steel.

‘You’re a bright one, kiddo,’ Rudolph said. ‘Incoming.’

Timmy barely had time to whirl around, sword raised, to meet the infidel rushing toward him; his own blade raised in attack, reflecting the red iridescence of Rudolph’s nose. Timmy squeezed his eyes shut, his arms pulled forward by some magic—or frenzied instinct, who could tell—and felt the impact course up his wiry teenage arms. ‘Well done,’ Rudolph said, into the quivering darkness of his tightened eyes. ‘You’ve cleansed the Temple of Jerusalem. Open your eyes.’

‘I just want to go home,’ Timmy repeated, voice cracking. ‘I don’t—’

You want to go home?’ Rudolph snorted. ‘It’s barely been an hour, you absolute baby. But, fine. I’ll take you home—to your vape sticks, and your iPhones, and that girl who’s way too good for you. But—first—you need to open your eyes.’

Slowly, carefully, Timmy opened his eyes; and saw thin clouds and stars ahead, felt the dampness of fresh snow on his back as he lay on the lawn outside his window. In one hand, he felt the sharp edges of a mosaic tile, gripped tight; in the other, his phone lit up with notifications—seventeen messages, three missed calls.

‘poo poo,’ he said, closing his eyes.


The next day, Timmy found David under the jacaranda, surrounded by his friends—who cast Timmy dark looks, but eventually withdrew at David’s nod, letting the two boys talk privately.

‘Hey,’ Timmy started. ‘I just wanted to—apologise for yesterday. I was a total dick. And, uh—I know you don’t do Christmas, but I found this and thought—it’s silly, but—maybe you might like it? It’s … do you do any kind of gifts?’

Timmy reached into his pocket, and passed the mosaic tile to David.

‘A … tile?’ David asked, eyebrow cocked.

‘Yeah, I know, it’s stupid,’ Timmy started. ‘Look, forget I—‘

David went quiet, turning the tile over and reading the inscription. His eyebrows furrowed as he looked up at Timmy, face white. ‘Oh my god,’ David said. ‘Do you have any idea what this says?’


‘It’s ancient Aramaic,’ David said. ‘It’s … quite worn, but I can just make it out—look, here it says—’ his fingers tracing glyphs as David leaned in, ‘—I get half-price at your mum’s on weeknights.’

Timmy burst into a smile despite himself. ‘Yeah,’ he acknowledged. ‘I deserved that.’

David smiled. ‘Sorry I didn’t get you anything,’ he offered.

‘Are you kidding?’ Timmy scoffed, pointing at his black eye. ‘I’ve been getting some good attention with this.’

As the two boys laughed, Timmy sitting down beside David, Rudolph watched from the rooftops with a satisfied smirk. Feeling the day’s first snow on his nose, he turned to fly away; certain he’d be back the following year; certain his charge would be there, waiting, as he always had been.

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Is John in Over His Head?
Herod's daughter and John the Baptist - 1606 words

Harry Forking stepped off the elevator, rushing through the maze of low cubicle walls while holding a fussy-order Starbucks coffee. Some of the younger suckups on the executive floor said, “Good morning, Mr. Forking,” and the like – one even ventured, “’Morning, Harry” – but he breezed by them with barely a nod. He had bigger fish to fry. He had seen The Email on his drive in. It had taken all his self-control not to make a phone call that’d end that bastard’s career while stuck in traffic. He’d set his phone to do-not-disturb to avoid flying off the handle when the inevitable calls came in.

Kristin was at her desk. He walked up from her side to steal a glance at her cleavage and managed to pull his eyes upward just as she saw him. She smiled. He could get lost in that smile. “Good morning, Harry.”

He took a deep breath to calm himself. No need to set himself back with her, not when he had been making progress on such a delightful side project. “’Morning, Kristin. Are those new earrings? They complement your eyes.”

She batted her eyelashes. “They are. Thanks for noticing.”

“Well, they’re almost as lovely as you are.” He was rewarded with a slight flushing. He waited a couple of beats. “Sorry to get right to it, but can you clear my schedule until ten? I’ve got something hot that flew in, and I’ve got to handle it ASAP. I glanced at my meetings, and there’s nothing that can’t be pushed.”

Her fingers clacked on the keyboard. “That’ll be the third time you’ve pushed Jeremy Muldoon’s performance review.”

He fought a growl and kept it to a frown. “Too bad for him, but this is critical. Umm…see if he can meet me for lunch next week; I’ll take him out to make it up to him.”

“Sure thing.” She handed him his mail and messages. Of course, several pink “While you were out” slips were on top. Maybe going do-not-disturb had been the wrong move. The beehive had been smacked hard, tempers were aroused, and someone was going to be in a world of pain. All Harry knew was it wasn’t going to be him.

He entered his office and booted up his laptop. He threw his coat across a chair and took a sip of his coffee. Cold. Perfect. Another wonderful loving way to start the day. He picked it up and threw it in the garbage can. Let the cleaning lady deal with it.

He sat down and pulled up The Email. In his rage, he found his eyes skipping from sentence to sentence, unable to read the whole thing through at once. His face turned red. He started slamming out a reply to John Essene, cc:ing HR and firing him, but doubt grabbed his heart: Did he know anything? If so, what? He erased the half-written email and had Kristin set up a conference call.


Later that morning:
Harry leaned back in his chair and vented again to the speakerphone. “Listen to this line: ‘While I would never imply favoritism at high levels…’ That can’t be read as anything but implying it. I’m serious. I want to can his rear end.”

The guy from Legal said, “Because he invoked the specter of discrimination in the email, I advise against dismissal as a course of action. It might expose us to a lawsuit.”

Harry, red-faced, leaned forward and gripped the edge of his desk. “But this email is way over the line. It’s beyond insubordinate. What can we do to him? It’d be bad enough if he sent this only to me, but have you looked at the distribution list?”

The HR rep cut in, “Now, all the stuff he says endorsing his guy, what’s-his-name, things like, ‘Handling hostile clients and difficult situations, being a miracle worker, he’s the one,’ we can ignore all that. It’s just vague stumping. But Harry, I have to ask. When he states, ‘Ms. Sallie’s credentials are insufficient to be one of her new direct reports, let alone for her new position,’ is there any substance to those allegations?”

Harry took a calming breath. “Of course not. Ms. Sallie is eminently qualified for her new position. This role’s been in my reporting structure for several years. I’m the expert on who’d be a good fit, and I can say for certain she is. Now, back to the main question: what can we do about him?”

The HR rep said, “We could reassign him.”

The guy from Legal said, “Not without it appearing as retribution, which would give him a slam-dunk cause of action.”

Harry thought. “Hmm…wait a minute. He says he ‘cannot work for this unqualified employee,’ referring to May – Ms. Sallie. Can’t we transfer this son of a bitch to another department where he won’t cause trouble? Keeping the same role and paygrade?”

There was silence for a moment before the guy from Legal chimed in. “I would advise you to moderate your language regarding Mr. Essene lest it harm us in any future case, but that would be acceptable.”

Harry said, “OK, great. Let’s do this. But I want this guy out of anything that matters to the company. I want him in Siberia, in the cornfields, in prison. Got it?”


Later that week:
Harry went to pour himself another glass of champagne, but the bottle was empty. He upended it into the bucket of ice, neck down. “You want me to call room service for another one?”

“No, I’ll make myself a little something.” He watched May Sallie’s lithe form as she climbed out of bed and rifled through the minibar. “You want anything?”

“Crown and Seven.” This was insane! She was two-thirds his age at best, he had a wife and kids at home, and here he was on a business trip, doing exactly what that bastard had subtly implied he had been doing. No, it wasn’t insane. In fact, it was safer by far than their usual rendezvouses: no one else he knew was in the hotel, his family was a thousand miles away, and what happens in Chicago stays in Chicago, right?

She came back holding the two drinks, handed him his, and sipped hers. She stood at the foot of the bed. “What are you looking at?”

“You. You’re a show worth watching.” It was true; she was striking, and he had always liked them young, though over the years he had grown to appreciate the ladies having practical experience in sensual matters.

She picked up her phone, selected some choices, and music played. “You wanted a show, Harry; you’ve got one.” She took a sip of her drink and set it down, then reached over and took his hand. “Come sit in this chair.” Bemused, he did so. She began dancing in front of him, gyrating slowly, moving closer and closer to him. He reached out for her, but she playfully slapped his hand. “No touching the lady.”

The dancing intensified as she started to brush herself against him. Then her movements and actions flirted with ending the pretense of dancing altogether. But before things went too far, she whispered in his ear, “There’s something I want you to do for me, something I need, badly.”


Her tongue flicked his ear. “Promise?”

“Yes,” he panted.

“I want you to teach that bastard a lesson. I mean, really teach him.”

“I…I can’t. The lawyers say—”

“gently caress the lawyers. Well, you better gently caress the lawyers if you want to gently caress any more tonight.”

He paused, then sighed. “I’ll do it when we get back.”

She sat on his lap. “When I saw that email, I told myself right then and there: I’d have his head.” She resumed pressing herself against Harry.


A year later:
Harry Forking was trying not to shake, with limited success. The fifty-fourth floor! Was this going to be it for him? But why would the CEO lower the boom himself? He was passed through the phalanx of admin assistants, and he eventually gained admittance to the richly appointed suite.

The CEO stood behind his desk and waved Harry to a chair. “I’ve got a lot on my plate, so I’ll dive right in.”

Harry nodded and sat. “Your time is valuable, Cal.”

“Harry, I can see you sweating. First, you’re not fired.”

He couldn’t help himself; he let loose with an audible sigh of relief. “I was worried why I was here.”

“About that…you see, you used to run a tight ship in your division. Sure, you had your little escapades on the side, not that I care about any of that. But then you let things get in the way: promoting your fuckbunny to department head, constructive dismissals, and lawsuits. We can’t have those sorts of things around here. You’ve got to get your head back in the game, son. Word’s gotten around about you, and not just within these walls; it’s a small industry with a solid grapevine. This is your last chance to straighten up and fly right, no bullshit. I’m going to give you a chance to show me something. You read me, son?”

“Yes, sir, I understand. Thank you for the opportunity.”

The CEO finally sat. “That’s why you’re going to be running the Paris office.”

Harry’s expression had ranged from joy to contrition and now to confusion. Heading up that office? After this reaming?

The CEO glared at Harry. “It’s easy enough to get there. Just fly into Dallas and drive two hours northeast. Hope your wife and kids like barbecue and the rodeo.”

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


Ballam's Donkey as a Cozy Children's Scandinavian Folklore Urban Fantasy

Balam Noson and his Donkey

436 Words

Once upon a time, there was a man named Balam Noson. Balam was the National Insulter of Sweden, and his words were so harsh, he made the burliest of Vikings cry home to their mother!

One day, the leader of what will become Stockholm came over to Balam’s office. He gave Balam a special order.

“Go to the Viking raid, and insult those there. I will reward you handsomely!”

Balam, who was strapped for cash, was eager to get a good payday, so he rode off on his Donkey. Sure, it would’ve been faster to go by moose, but his Donkey was his reliable partner.

While on their way, Balam’s Donkey witnessed the lightning of Thor himself, so he was startled. Balam, angered that he was almost thrown off, beat him with his walking stick.

Later on, Balam’s Donkey was frightened by a trick played by the crafty Loki. Due to almost being thrown off a second time, Balam beat him with his walking stick.

Later on, still, Balam’s Donkey was stopped by the All-father Odin, himself! The Donkey (who was the only one who could see him) bowed down in reverence. Balam, while not thrown off this time, decided that it was the last straw, so he beat the donkey again.

It was then that the All-father gifted the Donkey the gift of speech!

“Why do you beat me, master?” were the Donkey’s first words.

“You have made a fool of me, you foolish animal!” Balam yelled, not noticing the fact that his donkey could now speak.

“But master, have I ever troubled you this way before?”

Balam paused.

“Now that I think of it, this behavior is quite strange.”

After Balam spoke, Odin made himself appear to him. Awed by the All-father, he bowed down.

“Balam Noson,” the All-father spoke. “I will not deny you your destination, but I will control the words you speak!”

Balam, obviously scared, simply responded, “Umm…okay?” Afterward, Odin left.

The rest of the journey was uneventful, and Balam went to the sight of the raid. He went to yell, but while he intended to yell insults such as “Your mother smells bad!” and other insults that don’t belong in a children's story, instead he said things that praised the Vikings and gave glory to the All-father Odin! Due to Balam’s unintended support, the raid was an astounding success.

When he returned, the Leader of Stockholm asked, “Balam, what in Hel’s name happened?”

“I don't know,” he said, “but it appears that my words were blessed by Odin.”

Afterward, Balam resigned from the Insulter position and retired with his now-speaking Donkey.

Aug 16, 2014

by vyelkin
Nap Ghost
The Legend of Leah and Rachel and Bilhah and Zilpah
Reunion of Jacob and Esau as Puzzle-Focused Techno-Fantasy Adventure
1679 words

How many times, in how many past lives, had Jacob faced Esau? How many times had he delved the dungeons of this land and battled the terrible Guardian Beasts within to retrieve the Crystal Keys that would open passage to the Dark Fortress where Esau, inevitably, waited within. Jacob had no memory of his past lives. He tried to imagine the ruined fortress as it might have been the last time he faced Esau, or the time before, or the time before. He tried to wrap his head around the endless, unbroken cycle of violence that went back to the genesis of the world.

Jacob could sense the end of this cycle approaching. He couldn’t remember his past lives, but the chambers felt increasingly familiar as he approached the center of the Dark Fortress.

“Sorry, Esau,” muttered Jacob as he smashed through a stained-glass window concealing the entrance to the next—and hopefully penultimate—chamber of this tedious labyrinth.

The next room didn’t appear to have any visible exits. He couldn’t have taken a wrong turn; according to the map of the fortress, this was the antechamber to the throne room.

Great, another drat puzzle, thought Jacob. He began to search the room for signs of a hidden door.

“Hey!” Hospir fluttered over to perch on a cornice overlooking a raised section of tile. “Listen!”

Jacob grumbled at the sudden intrusion on his concentration. Hospir’s guidance often came at unwelcome times, but the little glowing dove had never steered him wrong yet, and it’s not like he was making any progress.

Jacob rose from his haunches and dusted himself off, wincing a little from the lingering pain in the hollow of his thigh. He hurried over to where Hospir had perched and looked down at the raised block, which he now realized was a pressure plate.

“It looks like it needs something heavy to press it down,” chirped Hospir.

Jacob was familiar with such pressure plates from his many delves into the dungeons of the Ancients. For their own inscrutable reasons, the Ancients seemed to prefer the ubiquitous plates for operating doors and other mechanisms, as opposed to more modern levers and switches. Body weight was the simplest way to trigger a plate such as this, and it didn’t take Jacob more than a moment’s deliberation to step onto the plate.

No sooner had Jacob put his full weight onto the pressure plate then there was a distant, metallic clunk from somewhere behind the wall. He looked around to see what had changed.
“Hey!” chirped Hospir. “Listen!”

Hospir fluttered urgently over to the opposite corner of the room, where another pressure plate had risen from the floor.

Jacob stepped off the first pressure plate and in the next instant there was another clunk and the second pressure plate sank back into the floor, blending seamlessly with the tile.

“You have to keep your weight on the first switch or the second one won’t appear!” chided Hospir.

“Thanks,” snorted Jacob. He scanned the room for any heavy objects. Stone blocks, huge vases or statues that he could push into place. Nothing. The room was bare.

Of course, that would be too easy. There had to be some way to hold the switch down. What was he missing?

Ba-a-a-a-a a sheep bleated from somewhere around the corner.

The stupid sheep again. Jacob had been bumping into sheep all over the fortress, all of them in unexpected places. Wandering the hall, at the bottom of a well, on top of a pillar in the center of the room. They didn’t end up having any part to play in progressing through the fortress so Jacob had gradually sort of tuned them out.

Then it hit him.

“drat it!” Jacob felt like curling up into a ball and sobbing on the floor. He was going to have to go all the way back to the beginning of the maze and collect all the sheep.

“Just once I’d like to get through a dungeon without having to start over at the beginning again,” Jacob moaned.

It took hours but Jacob finally wrangled all the sheep back to the antechamber and goaded them each onto the pressure plates as they were revealed. Once all the plates were pressed, hidden grottoes slid open along the walls and a pair of gigantic Laser Knights lumbered out, brandishing massive swords as they tried to transfix Jacob in the burning beams of their gaze.

“Hey! Listen!” chirped Hospir, fluttering around the head of one of the knights. “The Laser Knight’s weakness is the ruby eye in the center of its helmet!”

Jacob was too busy dodging lethal laser blasts from the knights’ helmets for a witty retort.

After a tense scuffle, Jacob was able to use the mirrored surface of his shield to deflect the deadly beams from one knight into the other—causing it to explode—before then destroying the first knight by turning its own beams back on itself.

With the knights defeated, the hidden door to the throne room revealed itself, shimmering into view in the wall opposite the entrance.

The door to the throne room was wrought in gold and locked with a gargantuan padlock. The keyhole was large enough for Jacob to fit his whole hand inside and he briefly wondered if he could have just picked the lock by reaching inside and pressing the tumblers, but decided to use the jewel-encrusted key he’d been carrying around instead. The key was obnoxiously heavy and he’d had enough of lugging the damned thing through the entire castle.

The lock shattered into fragments and the heavy bars withdrew into the walls, allowing the golden double doors to swing inward.

Hospir fluttered down and settled on Jacob’s shoulder. The olive branch in the glowing dove’s mouth tickled Jacob’s cheek.

“Be on your guard, Jacob, Esau is in there!” it chirped.

Jacob took a moment to catch his breath and gather up his courage, then took up his sword and strode cautiously into the throne room.

The light cast by Hospir’s glowing body only seemed to penetrate a few feet into the pitch blackness of the central chamber, but Jacob got a sense from the echoes of his steps and the movement of the air that the throne room was as big as a cathedral.

“Heh… heh… heh…” an evil-sounding laugh chortled in the darkness.

“Y-you don’t frighten us!” chirped Hospir.

A ring of braziers suddenly blazed into life! Their eerie, blue flames revealed a ring of stone pillars marking the boundary of a flat, circular space like an arena. At the opposite end, a huge figure covered in shaggy, red hair sat in a throne the size of a small house.

“Have you come to kill me again, brother?” chortled the giant.

“Esau, I’ve come to avenge the sins you’ve committed against this world!” called Jacob, sounding braver than he felt. Had Esau been this massive in their previous encounters?

“My sins?” Esau stood, his eyes flashed like burning coals in the darkness and he threw back the folds of his cloak to reveal a sword as long as Jacob was tall. “Is it a sin to defend the birthright promised to me?”
Esau began to descend the steps of his throne in long strides.

“You don’t remember our past lives, do you?” asked Esau. He didn’t wait for Jacob to answer. “I know you do not, because you’ve never remembered them. I, on the other hand, remember them all…”
“H-he’s trying to trick you!” chirped Hospir.

“Do you know how long our struggle has raged, little brother?” asked Esau. “Thousands upon thousands of years. Hundreds of reincarnations. We’ve been at each other’s throats since we shared our first mother’s womb! And you’ve been trying to hold me back since you grasped my heel to stop me being born!”

Esau drew his sword in a flash and leveled the tip inches from Jacob’s face.

“Shall we dance this dance again, brother?” growled Esau. “Will you cast me down until our next, inevitable battle? Or will you bow before me at last?”

Jacob could feel the Coriolis force of the spiral as it tightened around him, whirling him until he was dizzy.

His hand gripped on the hilt of his sword and the brothers stared into each other’s eyes, not daring to blink. He was ready to fight. He’d kill Esau just like he had hundreds of times before. He’d free his wives from their crystal prisons and live happily ever after… until he had to start right back at the beginning again. He was doomed, just like his brother was doomed. His victories weren’t victories, just clearing the latest hurdle on a circular track he’d been running forever. If he killed his brother now, the bitterness in Esau’s soul would just grow a little bit more, so that the next time they faced each other it would be after an even greater ordeal.

There had to be a way to stop the cycle, the violence, the endless, mind-numbing puzzles. There had to be a way to just... Stop!

Jacob suddenly felt as though a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders. His sword rang as it clattered on the flagstones. Esau dropped to his knees before Esau and apologized.

“Sorry, Esau.”


Esau was at a loss for words. It was clear that this had never happened in all their endless cycles. All the time he spent building more and deadlier defenses, raising bigger and more terrifying armies to repel his brother, sealing himself off in the center of increasingly elaborate mazes. It was exhausting, trying to fit so much work into a single lifetime.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!” Jacob wept, still kneeling, his forehead on the stone at Esau’s feet. “We never have to fight again. Please forgive me.”

Tears welled up in Esau’s eyes and he threw away his sword, dropping to his knees and wrapping Jacob in his colossal arms.

“Hey!” chirped Hospir, circling over the pair of them. “You did it! Hooray!”

Oct 31, 2005
Non plaudite modo pecuniam jacite.

Escape from Follansbee
The Story of Soddom and Gomorrah Told as Crisis Thriller Comedy
1,747 Words

“They call it thundersnow,” Bill intoned as he sipped his vodka tonic. This was instructive to no one.

“It must be getting bad out there,” Lottie offered as she glided past Bill on her way to the kitchen.

When Bill and Charlotte (Lottie) Kovach moved to Follansbee, West Virginia in 1977, Bill had been working at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel for 5 years. Their home was a modest, two storey townhouse with a gabled roof on West Virginia’s Route 2, which snakes its way along the Ohio River and its parade of mills, refineries, and power plants.

In 87’, Bill purchased the vacant lot beside their home. Over the course of the following year, he constructed a squat, gray, cinder block building to house a commercial kitchen. The newly constructed restaurant abutted flush with their little townhome. The two structures connected by way of the residence’s cellar door. Lottie’s Tavern and Grill was Bill’s love song to his bride. A long time ago.

“Bad night to be on the roads,” growled Stan from his pint glass. Nobody acknowledged this remark since there was nothing more to say; also Stan’s an rear end in a top hat.

On this night, the Ohio River held court with country music greatness. Garth Brooks looked out the window of a rented RV headed northbound on West Virginia’s Highway 2, watching reflected lights of mills on the river. Garth had come to the area to discuss a return to the Jamboree in the Hills Music Festival in July, but the truth was he felt estranged from himself. This “business” trip was an escape of sorts.

Unknown to Garth or his driver, the serpentine belt which turned the RV’s alternator had sheered from wear earlier that day. The vehicle’s battery wouldn’t carry on much longer. Meanwhile in Follansbee, as temperatures dropped and the snowstorm intensified, a water pipe burst beneath Route 2. The RV’s headlights had just enough time to hit the orange barrels before they winked out and the RV came to a stop. It was just after ten o’ clock.

“Uh … Garth? Got a problem here.” The driver, Brad Thomas, 29, had been driving Garth all week. Brad tried not to panic as he turned the ignition, but he couldn’t coax the RV to move. “I think it’s going to be some time before I can get a technician,” Brad finally confessed.

“Well,” Garth began while asking himself if this was smart, “We just passed a bar.”

Bill was watching weather reports when he heard the seal of the door break. Two men emerged from the blackness outside, one thin with a slight frame, one taller with more heft, both wearing jackets unsuited for the weather. The smaller one wore a knit hat while the other wore a black cowboy hat.

“What’s up fellas?” Bill boomed across the bar in a mix of demand and salutation. Wait, is that? No. It couldn’t be.

“We’re broke down out there and would like to keep warm here while we wait for a tow.”

IT WAS. Multi-platinum recording artist Garth Brooks had just rolled into Lottie’s. Bill had waited all his life for a chance like this. He was going to play it cool. Bill ran into Hacksaw Jim Duggan in a bar once and had a nice conversation about the Steelers. Bill didn’t even ask for an autograph. Just a nice talk. That’s the way it should be.

“Sure thing, man, can I get you something?”

Garth turned to Brad and shrugged. “Jack and Coke works for me.”

“Water.” Brad was still, technically, on the clock. Good man.

Bill dutifully set to work at the bar, quietly praying the other two patrons at opposite flanks of the bar could, for once in their lives, act normally. Stan, fat, bald, lovely Stan will hopefully stay absorbed in his cell phone and whatever interminable Facebook argument lies therein. Judy was just a drunk. And godammit Garth loving Brooks and some kid are sitting between them.

Bill returned with the orders, but couldn’t help himself. “Here you go. I … I’m sorry are you?”


“Garth Brooks?” Bill almost whispered it.

“That’s right.” Garth gave his best and warmest smile.

“Bill and I LOVE your music.” Lottie’s small body had been absolutely silent in its approach to Bill’s side. “Anything you want, hun, you let us know.” With that stated, Lottie disappeared again to continue her prep work and the bar settled into its usual silence. Maybe things will work out.

Stan meanwhile, said nothing and quietly fumed. gently caress him. Create Post.

Stan Koslowski: Playing tonite Only a Lottie’s and Bill’s loving rumor factory: The Commie Loving TRAITOR Garth Brookes. He show up here just now with some butt buddie of his and now is going to play us all his stupid poo poo songs. TO HELL WITH HIM!!!! WE KNOW YOU PLAYED FOR BIDEN CRIME FAMILYS LITTLE SCAM PARTY GARTH!! GET REAL!

Jackie Hill: Is it really him?
Stan Koslowski: YES!

George Lakios: Is he playing music? Does he have a band with him?
Stan Koslowski: Im sure he’s going to get up to some stupid poo poo but hes broke down

By 10:40pm, over 50 people in the area were aware that 29-time CMA award winner, Garth Brooks, was stuck in Follansbee with a disabled vehicle. At 10:42pm, the door swung open again.

“HERE I AM GUYS – you know how I like to follow the stories – well HERE. HE. IS” The woman was round and menacing. Her open jacket bore a large Q in stars and stripes printed on her shirt. Her phone was hoisted in front of her. “So tell us, Mr. Big Shot, how much kid blood did you drink, you sicko!?”

“Get the gently caress out. Now.” Bill didn’t yell. He had a billy club readied. His body language communicated that he’d use it.


“No you don’t.” Swing. Crack. Scream. Stumble. Shove. Closed door. Locked.


“gently caress you, Bill, I didn’t do anything. I’m just sitting here.” Bill didn’t let Stan carry in the bar or he’d say more.

“Yes, you loving did,” Lottie seethed, holding her phone up as evidence. “You’re barred. Get out.”

“I have a right-”

“OUT!” Bill turned, visibly panicked, but eager to battle his fat, distasteful patron. Stan exited.

Garth and Brad sat stunned as they both imagined the worst. Remember John Lennon? How could they be so stupid? Bill locked the entrance door, then the deadbolt, while Lottie gently tried to revive Judy whose percs had evidently kicked in.

“Sir, I’m so sorry,” Bill stammered as he pulled the plug from the Open sign, “You’re welcome to stay here, but I think it would be best for everyone if I closed while you’re here.” Garth and Brad nodded silently in agreement.

The pounding began at 10:55. Bill’s and Lottie’s cell phones buzzed constantly.

“We only got the shotgun and the pistol,” Lottie said apologetically to Brad as she handed Garth a .357.

“Grandma, is something happening?” A young woman of about 20 emerged from the storage area door. Emily, Bill and Lottie’s granddaughter, had been staying in their attic while on winter break from WVU. “People are beating on the door to the house and the windows too. There’s tons of people outside and police cars and news trucks. Wait.” She pointed at Garth. “Why does he have gun?”

“Sweetie, I’ll explain everything later, but I need to you to do something for me. You know how you were showing me that bullhorn?” Emily was an activist. “I need you to get on the roof of the bar and tell these people to get off our property.”

Bill, getting wind of the plan, offered, “We need a distraction. I’m going to grab the truck, bring it around, and you’ll hop in the bed. Can you do that, sweetie?”

“Did you do something illegal?” Emily needed just a smidge of an explanation.

“This is Garth Brooks,” Bill offered as he scrambled to empty the till. Garth smiled and casually waved with the hand not occupied with a revolver.

“Honey,” Lottie continued, “This man’s pretty famous – like REALLY famous – and Stanley stirred up some poo poo on Facebook and now we’ve got a mob.” Brad nodded in support. “Their car is broke down so they came here, but now we have to get them out of here and to a hotel or something.” It had only then occurred to Lottie to ask. “Is that alright, Mr. Brooks?”

“Yes, ma’am. Sounds like a plan.”

The plan set in motion. Emily returned to the house, got her bullhorn and headed to the roof via a set of stairs also in the storage room. Lottie, Bill, Garth, and Brad headed to the residence. Making sure the curtains were shut, Bill and Lottie led the performer of Friends in Low Places and his driver through their house to the small kitchen which opened to the back porch. Bill’s beloved 1997 Ford Ranger had thankfully been unmolested and sat parked just beyond the stairs of the porch.

Emily went off-script.

“OK, you want a show!?” The crowd gave a mixed reply. “Well it’s happening in two minutes so get your phones fixed on that door,” she shouted while pointing down to the bar’s front door. Somehow, a chant picked up … GARTH GARTH GARTH GARTH

She had done it. The coast was clear. Bill stepped out with a cradled shotgun, checking for stragglers. None. Bill jerked his head for the others to follow and the three piled into the extended cab. Bill found the driver’s seat, stowed the 12 gauge, started the truck, and laid on the horn while he pulled the truck to the back of the tavern. Emily landed in the bed with a thud. As Bill depressed the accelerator, he heard the breaking of glass. The bar ...

Barreling toward the opening of a street, Bill didn’t look at this wife. “Charlotte, take the wheel, hun. Get outta here. I love you.” Bill slowed the Ford to what he thought was a safe speed and pulled his wife across the bench seat, while opening the door and jumping toward the street.

Lottie didn’t argue with her husband’s asinine plan. She found the wheel, hit the gas, and disappeared.

When Bill’s feet hit the icy street, he splayed flat and slid into the gutter, soaking himself in freezing slush and repurposed fracking brine. He rose on bloody hands and knees, ready to get his wife’s bar back.

Dicere fucked around with this message at 06:01 on Jan 9, 2023

May 14, 2017

What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee

The Parable of the Fox and the Lions, 1510 words
1 Samuel 18-20 as British Horror Kids' Puppet TV Parody

There once was an old, mean lion named Saul. Now Saul wasn’t just any old, mean, ugly lion. He was the oldest, meanest, ugliest of lions. But he was also the most important lion, which made him the king of the lions. And since Saul was the king of the lions, he was king of all beasts, no matter how much of a no-good, old, mean, ugly, bastard of a lion he was.

But even no-good ugly bastards have children, and so did Saul. He had two daughters, Merab and Micah, and a son, Jonathan. And as is often the case with the children of absolute bastards, they were all pretty nice and kind people, most of the time. And Jonathan, well, he was as young, king, and handsome as his father was not, and everyone was quite eager for his dad to kick it and for Jonathan to take over as the king of the lions and all the other beasts.

Forgive me, dear reader, because I need to introduce one more character as well. There was a fox named David, who was a clever and lucky little poo poo, and it seemed like he could dive into a mud pile and come out clean at the other end. He’d dance and whisper and smile and laugh, and everyone loved him for all the witty and charming things this clever little fox would say.

Everyone but Old King Saul, that is, as the lion hated David’s guts. Everytime David would smile, Saul would frown, and every time David made people laugh, Saul would mutter grimly to himself. But a king doesn’t get to just do what they want, at least not for long without a visit from Madame Guillotine, so Saul couldn’t do much but growl to himself. And since Jonathan couldn’t be further from his father, he loved David.

He really loved David. Do you understand what I mean, dear reader? It’s important to the story that we’re on the same page when I say Jonathan loved David. Got it? Good.

One day, Saul decided he was going to get rid of David once and for all. And, just by chance, his daughter Micah came to Saul to confess that she had fallen madly and hopelessly in love with David and his witty, charming ways. Micah had expected her father to rage and snarl and pace his chambers in a fury, but instead he gave a soft and devious smile.

“My dear daughter, my darling, do not worry,” he said in a calm and happy voice that put her fur on edge. “Your dear father has just the solution for your problem. Of course, it would be unheard of for a lion to marry a fox, but your father has just the trick. We’ll give David a challenge, and when that clever little fox overcomes it, then everyone will agree that he’s right to marry you. Go, fetch him, and bring your future husband before me.”

Micah the lion, so elated that her father seemed to be taking the news so well, ran off without wondering why. Soon enough she fetched a confused David, and her brother Jonathan came along with them. They stood before Saul, who gave them a gracious bow. “David, you clever fox, you’re about to become my son in law! Yes, my dear boy, you’ll be a part of the family… once you take care of a single teeny tiny little obstacle. A formality, you see. I need you to bring me the unmentionables of 100 birds who’ve been harassing the beasts of my lands.”

“Unmentionables, my lord?” asked David, as he tried to buy himself a little time to figure out what was going on.

“Yes, unmentionables. Their family jewels, their most prized possessions, their hopes and dreams, their geldables… their cloacae.”

“I see. Well, a hundred is a lot, so I best be off,” replied a still befuddled David, as he tried to figure out the trick, as he and Micah left.

As soon as they left and only Jonathan was in the king’s hall, Saul howled with laughter so hard that his mane stuck out like bristle brushes. “Oh, this is too good! Too good! Don’t worry son, I won’t let that stupid little fox into our family, nor will he steal your throne, no matter how much everyone likes him. See, I have a plan - when he brings me one hundred unmentionables, my servants will sneak a handful away. Then, when he comes up short, I’ll have David executed for trying to trick me! Go on, son, but keep it a secret.”

So, of course, Jonathan ran after David, and told him about the king’s plan. “You must make sure to have more than enough unmentionables, so that there’s no way you can come up short. I love you deeply, and I would hate for you to die.”
“Ah, so that’s the king’s plan,” David replied, his cunning mind turning. “Thank you, Jonathan. I love you like a friend as well.”

So David went out, and slaughtered 200 hundred birds, and made many feathered enemies, and left many winged widows and orphans. He piled up the unmentionables in the king’s hall, a great big bloody pile of nasty bits, enough to service all the brothels in Bird Town. When King Saul realized that no amount of sneaking and pocketing by his servants would be sufficient, he had no choice to let David marry Micah.

Again, King Saul waited until he was alone with his son. “That drat fox fooled me, and stole my daughter’s hand in marriage! I’m ready to rip his throat out and tear him to shreds right now, in front of everyone!”

“If you do that, it’ll be a scandal, and everyone will think you’ve gone mad,” Jonathan replied calmly. Like many children of terrible parents, he had learned how to be the angel on his father’s shoulder. “Send someone to watch where he sleeps tonight. Wait until it’s dark, and kill him in his bed.”

As soon as his father agreed, Jonathan ran off to warn David. “My father is going to watch where you sleep tonight, and then come to kill you. You should leave the city now, and run away. I love you deeply, and I would hate for you to die.”

“Thank you, Jonathan, I love you like a brother as well,” David replied. Please believe me, I assure you he is not an idiot. “But it’s my wedding night, and I won’t leave until I’ve done my husbandly duties.”

So that night, David did as a groom is supposed to do on his wedding night. And once he was sure that Micah was satisfied and the lioness was deep asleep, he slipped out from her arms and replaced himself with a toy fox. And quickly, quietly, he snuck out the window and left for Raham.

And just like Saul had promised, he snuck into his daughter’s house. He snatched the toy fox from his daughter’s arms, and bit out its throat, and tore the poor thing to shreds. All the while his daughter looked at him mystified as to why her father was in her room, covered with stuffing, and why he slinked out so disappointed.

For two days, David was missing, and everyone noticed. After all, the fox was a charming creature, and everyone wanted to chat with him. But he was also married to the king’s daughter, so it was a bit strange he’d leave the lioness alone like that, especially right after getting married. With all the murmuring and whispering, it seemed like Saul had learned his lesson, and he would loudly announce how disappointed he was that David was missing.

When the king whines, everyone listens, so eventually David heard about this. He started wondering if he had been tricked, and Jonathan was pulling a fast one on him. Maybe the lion prince didn’t actually like him, and just wanted him gone? So David sent Jonathan a message, asking him if it was safe.

“Meet me at the archery range,” Jonathan wrote in his reply.

So that night David waited hidden near the archery range. As soon as Jonathan arrived, he kissed him deeply. “I swear to you, my father wants to kill you. I love you deeply, and I would hate for you to die. Please, trust me, and leave this place.”
“Ah,” David replied. “I get it now. Wow, I feel dumb. Talk about some missed signals. Jeez.”

“Hey, don’t focus on that right now, this is a bible story,” Jonathan said. “Anyway, you gotta get out of here!”

“Yeah, no, I get you. Just… man. This is a lot to process. Okay, well, I’ll talk to you later.”

And David left for Nob… but that’s a different story for a different day.

The moral of the story is, when somebody says they love you, they probably don’t mean it in a platonic way, and you should clarify what they mean.

Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving And something has got to give

A Fishy Solution
1645 words
Tobit as Elementary School-Set Action Comedy

It was late May, six weeks after the spring field trip to the nature preserve, and most of the fifth grade was still calling Toby Kravitz "Shitbird." The incident itself was a blur now -- it had happened so fast, the herons at the water's edge startling as Toby and his dad inched forward to take photos, and then the nasty rain from the flock overhead -- fast enough that nobody'd managed to film it, thank God, but it turns out you didn't need video evidence for your classmates to remember you and your dad getting covered in heron poop. Once Ozzie Morris had started the nickname, it had stuck, and Toby was worrying it'd stick over the summer and into sixth grade. Wasn't middle school supposed to be a fresh start?

Of course, he could have worse problems, he thought as he and his cousin Sarah took a walk around the park: about the only way she was allowed out of the house these days, with the grounding on top of the in-school suspension. "Is your dad still angry?" said Sarah, kicking a rock down the path and watching it skitter into the grass. "Does he still think I did it?"

After the bird poop, once Toby and his dad had washed off in the restroom and gotten fresh shirts from the gift shop, they'd found his dad's camera bag open with a lens missing. Everyone thought it was Sarah, because ever since she'd stolen something from her teacher's purse in the first grade (the first grade!), she'd always been "the thief" at school. Toby had overheard his dad call her "a maladjusted kid," but what else could she be, when she couldn't even borrow a pencil without people thinking she wanted to run off with it?

"Yeah," said Toby, kicking at the dirt -- not lucky enough for his foot to find a rock. "Angry at you, angry at me. It sucks."

"Hey!" called a vaguely familiar voice, and Toby and Sarah paused as someone jogged across the grass towards them: Raf Andrade, the new transfer kid from their class, and one of the few who would still eat lunch with the Kravitz cousins. "What's going on? What sucks?"

"Everything sucks!" There was something about Raf's face, earnest and open, that made Toby want to vent about the whole stupid thing: the field trip, the nickname, his dad's hospital visit... and Ozzie Morris at the heart of it, because somehow he was always there when Toby's life was going to Hell. At least he hadn't been there to see the poop stuff firsthand -- he'd been in the visitors' center, playing cards with all his suck-up friends -- in the visitors' center, with Dad's camera bag, and no teachers. The revelation hit Toby like a brick. "Oh, crap. I think Ozzie's the one stealing stuff."

Next to him, Sarah swore. Raf didn't miss a beat. "Yeah," he said, "I bet. All the teachers let him get away with murder, huh?" He glanced away for a moment, brow furrowed. "I think I have an idea."

"Like what?" said Sarah. "Tell a teacher? Tell the principal? Like that's gonna work."

"Nah," replied Raf, "better. Let's walk down to the river. There are way grosser things down there than bird poop, and if we time this right, we can really give people something to talk about."


Searching the riverside yielded pay dirt: a huge dead fish, longer than Toby's forearm and covered in mud and grime from where it had washed up on shore. Sarah pulled her sleeves down over here hands to pick it up ("what, like my folks can get any madder at me?") and dump it into a garbage bag Raf had in his backpack -- why, Toby had no idea, but he wasn't going to complain. Raf scooped some river water into the bag for good measure, then tied it loosely and slung it over his shoulder. "Ozzie always hangs out at that bench by the wall, right? Meet me in the hallway at first recess tomorrow. Wait 'til everyone's outside."

That turned out to be easier said than done. When the bell for recess rang, Toby ducked into the coat closet, feigning rummaging through his backpack while the other kids filed out of the room; as the last of them left, though, he heard footsteps behind him, and then the voice of his teacher. "Toby? Do you need help with anything?"

"N-no, Mrs. J!" Toby spun around to face Mrs. Jacobson, putting on a smile. She'd been so worried for him ever since the field trip, and he hadn't figured out how to tell her that it didn't help. "Just looking for a book! I think I left it at home."

"Are you sure you're all right? If you'd like to stay inside and read today, that's fine."

"I'm okay! Sorry!" Toby scurried out of the room and caught a glimpse of Raf waiting down the hall, backpack slung over his shoulder. A moment later, hurried footsteps from the hall announced that Sarah was joining them. Toby kept his voice low -- the hallways were empty, but who knew when a teacher might show up. "Sarah. Did you sneak out of ISS?"

"Maybe," she said, "but c'mon, I'm not missing this. Raf, what's the plan?"

Raf just gestured down the hallway, and they followed him towards the gym and the utility rooms. The coast looked pretty much clear; most of the teachers were on duty or doing prep, it looked like, and there were no bathrooms this way for someone to wander out of. Still, Toby was pretty sure they were being watched. How could they not be? Raf seemed confident, though, even as he led them to a plain door at the end of the hallway. "Stairwell," he whispered as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a huge keychain. "To the roof."

Wait, were those the custodian's keys? An admin's? Toby decided it was way too late to ask questions.

Once the door closed behind them, the three of them sprinted up the stairs, knowing they were working on borrowed time. On the roof, they slunk between air-conditioning units and industrial fixtures, trying to avoid being spotted until they reached the edge. Below them, though, nobody was paying attention; the younger kids were enjoying the good weather, and the older ones were making the most of their last few weeks of recess. Nobody was looking at the roof.

Toby slunk to the edge of the roof and looked down. Ozzie and his friends were seated on and around the bench, backpacks open... trading Yu-Gi-Oh cards, it looked like? All the better, thought Toby. Next to him, Raf opened his own backpack. "You should do the honors," he murmured, as he hauled out the garbage bag full of filth.

Toby didn't need to be told twice. He grabbed the bag, tore it open, and poured.

Toby only let himself watch the chaos for a moment, before he ducked back and out of sight, but that moment was enough. The fish had landed right on Ozzie's head, leaving a trail of gunk all the way down his front, and the rotten tail protruded from his open backpack. The other kids, spattered with brackish water and mud, had already started screaming, but Ozzie was quiet for a second... and then, as Toby ducked back behind the nearest AC unit, he started bawling, huge wet ugly sobs that were going to get snotty soon. "A -- A -- A FISH FELL ON ME!"

Toby could hear the chaos break out: a rush of voices, babbling and laughing, even over the rebukes of teachers. There was the sound of running footsteps, and then Mrs. Jacobson's voice: "Ozzie? What happened? Oh, let's get you inside and clean you up. And let's get this out of your backpack..."

Mrs. J's voice cut off, and when it returned, the tone had changed: hard, cold, serious. "Ozzie. Is this a camera lens?"


Nobody ever told Toby everything they recovered from Ozzie's backpack, but the rumors filtered out over the next week: his dad's lens, of course, but also a third-grade teacher's missing bracelet, a watch that a fourth-grader had left in the bathroom and never found, and a dozen other stolen or "missing" items. Most of them had been blamed on Sarah, and she was sprung from ISS -- and grounding. Toby's dad took them out to the movies, and when Sarah wanted Milk Duds, he didn't complain.

After the movie and dropping Sarah home, Toby's dad turned off the radio in the car as they drove. "Toby," he began, in that hesitant tone that he always took for apologies. "I've been kind of a pill about your cousin. And I've been kind of a pill at you and Mom. I've been worried, but it hasn't been fair to you, and I don't want you to think you have to act out to get me to shape up, okay? I'm going to try and be better, but next time, I want you to talk to me."

Wait, "act out?"

Toby grimaced -- caught red-handed. (Fish-guts-handed?) "Dad, I... did the school call?"

"The principal called," Dad replied. "She found her keys in her son's bag, and Raf made a full confession. Under the circumstances, she said she's just happy that justice was served, but keep your nose clean the rest of the year, okay?"

The rest of the year was two weeks. Toby figured he could manage that. "Yeah. Wait, Raf's mom is the principal?"

"Didn't he tell you? Well, I guess he wouldn't. I wouldn't have, if I were the principal's kid in a new school." Dad pulled into the driveway and parked the car. "All's well that ends well, right?"

All was well. "Shitbird" was dead, and Ozzie Morris was going to be "Fishboy" until college.

Jan 4, 2023
My story is from: 2 Kings chapter 6

Goodbye, Hello
1373 words

Paul was born with small, incompetent hands. With his umbilical cord still attached, the midwife held the child aloft for his mother to admire.

Seeing the tiny, vernix-covered digits wrapped part way around her outstretched forefinger she exclaimed: “My son is destined to be a great scholar!” with a nervous smile.

Growing up, Paul was ignorant of his destiny. He tried to play with the other kids, but his friend group dwindled with each failed excursion. They stopped inviting him to the fishing hole after too many instances of the hooked fish yanking the pole out of his feeble grasp. He was left behind on the ground as they laughed overhead in the tree branches. He was sent home from baseball tryouts because there were no gloves small enough for him.

Paul was sitting at the table when his mother arrived home. He quickly wiped away his tears, but it was too late.

“Did that grouper bully you again?” his mother asked.

Paul shook his head. [something more here]

His mother sighed, climbed on top of a chair, and took a rusty coffee tin down from the top shelf. He opened it and tipped it toward Paul. It was filled with a tight roll of bills. “I have been saving to send you to the private school up the hill. You know, for special kids. It’s not enough yet, but I could pick up more hours down at the lumberyard and save up the rest by Christmas.” She sat down and held his small hands in her thick, calloused counterparts. “If that’s something you’d want?”

Paul found scholarly work more suitable for his delicate fingers. He hardly ever dropped a pen, and there was nothing wrong with his ability to grasp Newton’s laws or fathom the microscopic structure of the cell. But most of all, each of the other kids was weird in their own way, and none of them endeavored to play sports.

Elisha was Paul’s best friend, and the most popular kid in school. He had a rockstar haircut, a chain wallet, and said words like “drat” and “whatever.” Elisha was many kids’ best friend, and throughout the school year it became more and more difficult to cram all of his friends into the treehouse they’d been meeting up in after school.

Paul practically had somebody sitting in his lap when they all tried to cram in one evening to watch Elisha play video games. “Hey Elisha, maybe we could move to the chess club house or something?” Paul said.

“No, I like the treehouse,” said Elisha.

Everybody nodded in agreement, and Paul blushed and wished somebody would just sit on him and hide him from the peering eyes of the crowd.

“But you’re right, we’ve outgrown this place. If we all work together, we can make it bigger. Everybody should go into the woods and chop down a tree, bring it back here, and we’ll make an extension big enough for us and anybody else who wants to join us. You all brought your axes, right?”

The bustling murmur of ax chat filling the room as the kids all confirmed that of course they had packed their axes.

Paul averted his eyes and stuck his hands in his pockets. “Oh yeah, me too, definitely.”

“Ok, everybody go grab your ax, and we’ll meet back here.”

Paul climbed down the rope ladder and ran not toward the dorm rooms with the other children, but toward the bus stop. He boarded a bus and took it the 10 minute ride to his mother’s house. He peeked through the window and saw that she was sleeping, and he snuck inside.

Her work ax was resting against the wall next to the door where she normally kept it. It was oiled and whetted to a razor thin edge. Once Paul had knocked it over and it’d cut straight through the floor and ended up under the house. It was his mother’s most prized possession, and her livelihood.

Paul prayed silently for forgiveness as he grabbed the oak handle and ran back to the bus stop. He was the last one to arrive back at the treehouse. Only Elisha was there.

“Oh Paul, I thought you’d fallen asleep. All the other kids have already left. You might be able to catch up to them if you hurry.”

Paul choked back his tears at being left behind yet again, and drew in a long, deep breath. “I… don’t know where the forest is.”

“No worries, I’ll go with you,” said Elisha, picking up his own ax. “I know a good spot none of the other kids know. We’ll get the best logs and make everybody else jealous,” he said with a wink. He led them to a small stand of trees near a brook and rested his normal-sized hands on the trunk of the straightest tree Paul had ever seen. “You work on this one,” said Elisha. “You bring this back and the other kids will go beserk.”

Paul smiled and lifted the ax. It’s girthy handle felt like a tree trunk itself in his diminutive hold. He gripped it as tight as he could and swung with fervor. Surprisingly, the blade sunk into the tree at the perfect angle. “I did it!” he shouted.

“Keep it up!” Elisha said, taking a wide stance near his own tree.

Paul wrenched the blade out of the tree, gripped the handle like a vice, and swung again. It sang a song of death and hit the tree again, sending a wedge of wood zipping through the air. A smile spread across his face that he couldn’t control, he must look manic, he thought to himself as he swung again. And again. He lost himself in the meditative whacking, and if only for a moment, he imagined himself being a big strong lumberjack like his mother, felling trees by the dozens. He was mid reverie when his hands became worryingly light. He spun around just in time to see his mother’s ax head disappear into the brook. He dropped the empty handle and let out a sad squeak.

“Oh drat!” said Elisha. “That’s unfortunate!”

“She’s gonna kill me!” cried Paul as he fell to his knees, desperately digging through the water but finding nothing.

“Who is?”

“My mom! It’s her ax! I borrowed it a little.”

“Whatever,” said Elisha. “You can replace it. Here, take mine.” He offered his ax to Paul.

“You don’t understand! It’s an heirloom! It’s been passed on in my family for generations! She told me it was even used to kill a king once. It’s irreplaceable. It’s priceless.”

Elisha rubbed his chin and nodded. “Go get a branch.”

“I already tried, it’s too deep!”

“Trust me.”

Paul scrambled to the nearest tree and broke off a branch. He brought it back to the edge of the water.

“Put it in and just swirl it around a little,” said Elisha. “Like you’re making a soup.”

Paul’s mother used to make soup. He loved it. He assumed he’d never taste it again, since he was going to have to go on the lam. He sighed and put the stick in the water and made his pointless soup.

The water bubbled and Paul instinctively stepped back, dropping the stick. It slipped into the brook and he looked to Elisha for guidence, but Elisha motioned him to look back and the water.

The ax head floated to the surface.

Paul bent down and picked up the ax head. He turned it over in his tiny hands, looking for the trickery, but it was definitely his mom’s ax head. “What the–” but his thoughts were interrupted by the cracking of a falling tree.

The boys jumped out of the way at the last second as the perfect tree Paul had chopped fell to the ground.

“How…” asked Paul, quite unsure how to put into words what he’d just seen.

Elisha shrugged. “We should get back to the treehouse.”

“You’re not going to tell me how you did that?”

Elisha shook his head. “We’re all here for a reason, but what matters is we’re all here together.”

Paul smiled and pushed the ax head back onto the handle.

Oct 6, 2021

Obliteratin' everything,
incineratin' and renegade 'em
I'm here to make anybody who
want it with the pen afraid
But don't nobody want it but
they're gonna get it anyway!

Because I am nice, I will leave subs open until 3 Central (2 hours ten minutes from now). They will close whether I am around to say "subs closed" or not.

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:

flash: Satirical modern vacation whodunnit!

The Temptation of Josh
775 words

The problem with hiking, Joshua philosophized to himself as he panted on the side of the mountain, was the scenery.

Sure, it was pretty. A riot of greenery set to a soundtrack of songbirds. It was almost exotic to the city-dwelling portion of the family. But after the fifth straight hour of trudging uphill the verdancy became a sort of visual drone. For Josh, at least. His father couldn’t get enough of this poo poo, which is why he’d dragged the whole family out to Shenandoah National Park for his 50’th birthday.

“This is stupid.”

Josh looked over at his cousin, Sam, who was glaring at the absence of data on his phone.

“It’s hard, yeah,” Josh said, as if he were agreeing.

“Why does your dad put all of us through this? It’s stupid. He just likes watching us suffer.”

Josh shouldered his backpack and started up the hill again. “Not true, he just likes it.”

“Dude, he’s literally wearing a shirt that says Sufferfest 2022 on it. His hat says Embrace the Suck.”

“I’m pretty sure it’s a joke with his gym bros.”

“I’ve got a plan,” Sam said. “The worst part is the food, yeah? But the campground has wifi. I checked this morning, UberEats will deliver there. We can have a real meal.”

Josh blinked. The thought hadn’t even occurred to him. “Nah, dude, the food is the best part. You ever get a hotdog that perfect level of crispy char on the outside? It’s the best. And your mom is gonna make her camping chili.”

“Canned chili with cheese and some eggs in it isn’t exactly gourmet,” Sam said. “Like, what kind of celebration food is that?”

“The kind my dad wants. It’s his birthday, right?”

They walked in silence for a while. Despite his vocal disdain for hiking, Sam was about at the same fitness level as Josh, which meant they maintained the same pace. It did make the trek a little easier, not being in total green solitude, but Sam wasn’t… Josh tried to reframe it to a positive… Sam and Josh cared about very different things.

They were in agreement, however, about the accommodations. Josh’s enthusiasm for camping food didn’t make sleeping on a thin mat on the ground less crappy. Sam had an answer for that too.

“Look, all we have to do is pretend to fall, right? You played soccer, pretend to twist your ankle. We’ll all go home and reschedule to a party that everyone actually wants to go to.”

Josh laughed. “Oh, yeah, just take a full dive off a rock when we meet up for lunch.” He mimed it, but overbalanced. He flailed and grabbed onto a tree, staring down the steep slope for a single, panicked moment before hauling himself back onto the path. “Uh, maybe that’s not a great idea.”

Most of their family was waiting for them at a scenic overlook, while Sam and Josh and the other stragglers caught up. Josh could hear them before he could see them, the enthusiastic voices of the more seasoned hikers. Those voices cheered him up immensely, giving him a little more energy to power through the last incline before the peak.

Sam wasn’t so happy. “Hey, listen,” he said softly. “Neither of us want to be here. We can’t sleep, the food sucks, it’s just going to leave us both feeling like poo poo at work next week. Your dad loves you. If you say that you want to go home, that you want to do something else, we can do it. poo poo, I checked the rewards points on my credit card, even if they don’t come with us we could go to some super swank hotel and get room service and complimentary champagne. Your dad wouldn’t care, you know he’d just congratulate us on having saved the money to do a thing we want.”

Josh finally rounded on Sam. “I’m not doing that, full stop. Look, has it ever occurred to you that this isn’t about you and your comfort? It’s about him. You can celebrate your 50’th birthday however the hell you want, but this weekend is Dad’s weekend, and if you keep trying to spoil it you won’t be able to have a 50’th birthday party, because nobody will want to come.”

Sam stared at him. “Maybe I’ll leave the bear box open tonight,” he said.

“Just go home if you want to go home, dude. I’m not playing games with you.”

Josh turned toward the voices of his family and pushed onward, angrier than he’d felt in a long time.

Oct 6, 2021

Obliteratin' everything,
incineratin' and renegade 'em
I'm here to make anybody who
want it with the pen afraid
But don't nobody want it but
they're gonna get it anyway!

Bible Judgepost

It's judgement day.

Dicere is DQed for editing and Chernobyl Princess is DQed for lateness. Both get crits tho

I don't remember a week with this much disagreement between judges. Although we each have opinions about who should have lost or DMed, a lack of consensus led to no negative mentions.

We will give an HM to Rohan, for a story about a very Hanukkah Christmas.

And this week's God is Staggy for some drat spooky prose.

Albatrossy_Rodent fucked around with this message at 08:35 on Jan 10, 2023

Oct 6, 2021

Obliteratin' everything,
incineratin' and renegade 'em
I'm here to make anybody who
want it with the pen afraid
But don't nobody want it but
they're gonna get it anyway!

Biblical Critical

DigitalRaven - Faith and Family

Hey Raven, second story, eh? Well, thanks for subbing! I hope you had fun writing. I don't like it.

So you keep switching to present tense in these italic sections. I think I know why you're doing this–to add "musical numbers" to satisfy the "musical" portion of your prompt–but when you sit down and read it, it's clunky and confusing. They read as stage directions in the middle of a more traditional narrative. I think you should have either been less creative with it (ie make it a musical just by making it about musicians) or more creative with it (by writing it the lyrics of a song or two) but your solution just doesn't work. It's distracting

So the family disowns Jo because she…wrote a lovely song? This is clearly nonsensical. The first line of your story is "what are you in for" and then the story flashes back, presumably while Jo is describing what she's in for, but then we never actually find out what she's in for.

The romance angle is oddly tacked on, and it doesn't need to be. We end by finding out the love interest is someone we never met, some rando in the bar crowd, but know who the love interest should've been? Ramon. Or, if you wanted to keep Jo gay, a chick version of Ramon. But you know, the person who's there through the entire story, so we can see how their relationship grows/adapts.

Ultimately I think you bit off a bit too much here. I think you should've narrowed down the scope, told a scene of the Joseph story rather than the whole thing. I found the central theme (found/original families) overdone and hokey without anything new or interesting to say. I do like Pharaoh as the owner of a bar full of undocumented immigrants though, that's pretty fun.

Chairchucker - Codechild

A cyberpunk Magi battling the forces of RoboHerod? That's cool, in and of itself. I'll defend this from DMing on that premise alone.

This is a very, very straightforward action piece, and very little happens that isn't violence. That isn't a bad thing per se; the violence is well-described, and all of the action is clear. I honestly wish we had gotten more theology; making God in a cyberpunk setting a sourceless, senderless code who performs miracles through technomancy is an inspired idea, probably the inspiredest idea in this whole piece. Expanding on that, and focusing on the nature of Sonya's faith in The Code could elevate this from a silly piece about What If Wise Man Was Badass?

So the goons were personally invested in killing Future Jesus? I mean, I understand they have to be evil so we don't feel bad about Sonya killing like ten of them in eight hundred words. But you had the space to fill out this world a bit, to tell us who these characters are working for, and why, to tell a full-rear end Cyberpunk Christmas, and I can't help but feel there's a little bit of missed potential.

Staggy - For the Trees

So, uh, this fuckin slaps.

This will be brief, due to the age-old dilemma of it being easier to identify faults in weak stories than strengths in strong ones. You did a great job reflecting on the themes of the Bible story while making this adaptation fully your own – a lot of the Bible narrative is monologuing by dudes named like Bildad and poo poo, and this adaptation includes no rough Bildad equivalent. Of all the stories this week, this is the one that feels the most profoundly spiritual, while also being scary as hell.

That being said, I was a *little confused* by the ending and the mechanics of the family's resurrection, but the whole thing is good enough for me not to care that much. Perhaps this version is the one that deserves to be in the fuckin Bible.

Rohan - A Christmas Adventure

There are some fun ideas here, the funniest perhaps being Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as a gruff, no-nonsense badass. Even if they'd let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games, I doubt he'd want to. It's not exactly high fantasy, is it? – but neither is the inspiration for the flash (A Boy Called Christmas) even if it does has higher-fantasy vibes with elves and spells and magic creatures and poo poo. I'll let that slide.

My biggest issue is that this isn't really an adaptation, is it? This is more like a Magic School Bus Hanukkah Special, a young adult Magic Tree House book, or any other famous kids' edutainment isekai. It's the plot of a 90's VHS you find at your childhood piano teacher's house called like Bible Kidz or something. I suspect that this is to not commit a Problematic by wallpapering the Hanukkah story over with Christmas gift wrap, but there must be another solution to turn this into a legit adaptation, right?

Admiralty Flag - Is John In Over His Head?

Yeah, this is pretty decent. Casting Herod as a petty middle manager is inspired. He acts like a king when his power is of the most boring corporate variety. I laughed at the Paris, Texas joke. I'll say this to Antivehicular down the line too: nice thematic name changes, and good job writing around the weird Biblical incest.

All my thoughts are generally positive, as they should be for such a competently written piece, but there isn't enough to really make it shine. It's a decent modernization of the source material, but doesn't really elevate it.

Balam Noson and his Donkey - The Man Called M

In Fred Clark's legendary page-by-page reviews of the Left Behind novels (, Clark talks about how the writers of Left Behind introduce a character who's meant to be the greatest investigative journalist in the the world. This is writing themselves into a hole, however, as the world's best journalist is obviously an amazing writer, a genius-level talent, while the writers of Left Behind are instead, a couple of donkey-brained idiots. So when the LB authors (bad writers) have to actually produce examples of something that the world's greatest journalist (a good writer) might actually write, it's laughable horseshit: "to say the Israelis were caught off guard, Cameron Williams had written, was like saying the Great Wall of China was long."

Anyways, you immediately introduce a character who is the greatest producer of insults in all of Sweden, whose "words were so harsh, he made the burliest of Vikings cry home to their mother!"

Now, M, since you've written a story with this man as your protagonist, you *will* be expected to write some clever insults, insults that are worthy of the expectations that *you yourself* have promised to the reader. Are you good enough of a writer to devise some of these insults? Can you come up with an insult so harsh that the burliest Vikings will cry home to their mothers?

Okay, let's find where the insults in this story about a professional insulter are! Nope…not there…not there…is that one?…hmmm….aha! Found one!

"Your mother smells bad!”

Oh…oh…for gently caress's sake.

Look, even for you this is just an astonishingly lazy story. You could have just taken the NIV version of the bible story, then did a find and replace to turn all the references to ancient Jewish poo poo into the kind of Norse mythology references one could glean by sleeping through a Thor movie, and the story would be basically the same as what you actually wrote.

"Leader of Stockholm" good God, man, call him like a jarl or something, do literally anything to give this world you've developed any sort of character.

You tell us that Loki played a trick on the donkey…okay, then, like, what was the trick? This isn't a "show don't tell" thing, like, please just tell me, what was the trick? Use literally any imagination at all to invent a trick that Loki might have played on this donkey. Anything, any trick. Please. God drat it.

Applewhite - The Legend of Leah and Rachel and Bilhah and Zilpah

I got a little worried when the beginning was just literally a Zelda game with one-to-one Zelda references and a little floating companion shouting Hey Listen and whatnot, but ultimately I think you actually managed to balance a fairly narrow tightrope here. The reunion of Jacob and Esau might be the most nakedly powerful emotional moment in the entire drat Bible, and the way you use your Zelda references to reinforce the anger built up between the two brothers is nifty; Ganon's convoluted, labyrinthine methods of keeping out Link become a metaphor for Esau's resentment. It's tricky to balance the silliness of your prompt with the earnestness of the Bible story, and you mostly managed to pull it off. I think you could have devoted a few more words to Esau's reaction, and to Jacob's decision, but that's a nitpick.

This is ultimately very similar to the narrative of Tunic, a Zeldalike game that ends on–spoilers–the hero and the villain reconciling over shared history and wisdom. But your version's better imo, the game's good and all but its story kinda blows.

Sucks you had to have the worst, most distracting typo you possibly could have (writing Esau instead of Jacob just as Jacob makes his critical decision). I'll try to look past it, but drat, it really does turn the emotional weight into "huh, a typo."

Dicere - Escape from Fallansbee

Let's be clear: this story sucks. The writing is bad: we switch locations without warning, it's oddly structured, there are characters that have no reason to exist, the characters that do have reasons to exist are paper-thin, and apparently the roads are bad but not so bad as to stop a mob from transporting themselves to an event where they could win the chance to assassinate Garth Brooks. This is a bad story.

And yet I had a hell of a lot of fun reading it. I think the sheer audacity of replacing the angel of YHWH with Garth loving Brooks is what seals it as a good time. My jaw might have actually dropped when I realized that that was the direction the story was headed. So uh…yeah, I don't hate this, somehow.

Quick question, though: do MAGA people actually hate Garth Brooks this much? Like, not that they'd actually form a lynch mob against him or whatever, but is he a sore subject to bring up with that crowd? He's seriously earned no goodwill from any of them? Please do let me know, I am very curious.

Tibalt - The Parable of the Fox and the Lions

I'm writing this before I confer with the other judges, so I don't know where this will ultimately land, but this is, as of this writing, my pick for the loss. Go read my crit of M's story, and look how mean I am about it. Yeah, I hate this more, and for pretty much the same reason.

I went and read 1 Samuel 18-20 before I read your story to make sure I got all the references, and that turned out to be a mistake, because your story just says the whole thing with, like, no changes, no additional personality, nothing to make it your own. It's *just* 1 Samuel 18-20. And why 1 Samuel 18-20? 1 Samuel 20 doesn't really end in a satisfying way, it just like, leads into 1 Samuel 21. And yet you just end it where 1 Samuel 20 ends. I guess you change the characters into animals, but does that change anything? What does their animalness change about the way we read the story, what does it say about what you're trying to say about this narrative? Jack poo poo, that's what. I get that you got a harder flash than some other folks, but you also didn't really try to incorporate it in any meaningful way, and I might have been lenient with trying something that didn't work rather than not really trying anything at all. Like, there's no horror here, it's just David and Saul with animals. And it's all in service of a joke whose punchline is "Jonathan is so gay lol." This might not be worse than M's story, but it's a hell of a lot longer. It all just feels so lazy.

Antivehicular - A Fishy Solution

If this were not Bible Week, just like, Cute Coming-of-Age Story Week, I still would've liked this. This is a fun story that makes sense, crafts distinct and memorable characters in a handful of words, and leaves on a satisfying note. The fact that this is also a pretty drat accurate retelling of the Tobit story…well, that's even better.

Of all the stories this week, this is the one that plays with the prompt the best, using the colors of your genre to paint the same picture as the source material, ultimately creating something entirely new. I think I ultimately prefer Staggy's story, but I applaud the creativity that results in a piece like this. Nice job.

DoomsdayPrepperoni - Goodbye, Hello

Now that is an obscure-rear end Bible story! I do not even remotely know that one. Okay, let's click this link to read the original story and…op, that's why it's obscure: it's boring. Has a sermon ever been delivered on "The Time a Guy Briefly Lost an Axehead, But Then Found It Again?" Maybe it made it into the footnotes of a Kidz Chick Tract about how God helps you find Mommy when you're lost in the grocery store or something, but I do gotta ask: it's not like I assigned that one as a flash, so why pick it? The Bible is a library of pillars of fire and apocalyptic horsemen and bear murders and fat dudes being unable to pull knives out of their guts because the fat rolled over the knife and all sorts of dope poo poo and you chose The Time a Guy Briefly Lost an Axehead, But Then Found It Again?

And that's ultimately the story's fatal flaw. It's a pretty straightforward retelling of the Bible's most forgettable story. It's a story that starts with very little reason to care and you didn't manage to give us one. The writing is competent enough I guess, outside of the bracketed reminder to add something more here, but the structure is off. I don't think we needed to start all the way at Paul's birth, I think we could've jumped into the action at a much later point (like Paul and Elisha going into the woods to go lumberjackin').

If Paul's mom is a professional lumberjack, why is she using a family heirloom axe as her primary professional tool? Wouldn't she be using more modern technology, or even better, a chainsaw or other mechanical tree-murder method? The explanation for why this axe is important just seems off, that could be developed in a way that makes more sense.

Chernobyl Princess - The Temptation of Josh

A story that asks the deep spiritual question "why didn't Jesus simply slap Satan in the goddamned face?" Seriously, Sam is such an insufferable douche, and I'm glad that the theme of this story is "Sam is such an insufferable douche."

This is good! Light, breezy, and fun, accurately conveys the Bible story while being its own thing in its own genre. Not even remotely a whodunnit, unless Sam was the one whodunn the crime of sucking poo poo, but I'm not gonna tsk you for that. I appreciate that you subbed, even if it's DQed.

Other awards:

Best Bible name change: Antivehicular for "Ozzie Morris" (Asmodeus)

Most tasteful removal of biblical incest: also Antivehicular, for making them *just* cousins.

Best depiction of God as something non-god: Staggy, for "The Forest."

Albatrossy_Rodent fucked around with this message at 08:48 on Jan 10, 2023

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


Week 544 crits

Faith and Family

Considering nothing happens in the opening scene, I'd cut it entirely, or at least to a paragraph or two at most.

Cut the time passing marker, too.

Watch out for punctuation. You have some comma splices, and other places that should have commas don't.

Hmm. It took me a long time to figure out what was going on with the italicized lines. I think this would work better if they were all from a single scene, rather than always jumping forward just like the main story does.

I feel like there's a core of a solid story in here, but you'd need to do a lot of hacking down to reveal it properly.



Watch your tense. It's slipping all over the place, and that gets distracting fast. Paragraph 1: "And it wasn’t just that someone has masked" you went from past simple to present perfect. You need to stay all present or all past.

You have a lot of sentence fragments. Those get distracting, too, when they harm the reader figuring out what's going on. Onomatopoeias, maybe; long descriptive phrases, no.

So, this is becoming a parody of itself by the middle. Power sentences about power items firing power items into power items. And enemies who are no match for the protagonist but throw out endless one-liners in the middle of battle.

This feels like the fifth chapter of a novel, not a self-contained story. We're dropped in the middle of a situation with meaningless NPCs to send off into the bizarrely spacious beladdered sewer with no explanation. The main character's quest is to...find? protect? some child. But we never get an explanation why that's important, or why she cares, so neither do we.


For the Trees

That's a nice image to open this.

Good imagery and phrasing all around.

That was good. And also a good interpretation of the prompt what the hell

Aside from the story and flash rule, though, I do kind of wonder about some of your executive decisions. I'm not sure what keeping the protagonist's name the same from the biblical story added. And I feel like the removal of the two observers wagering over the outcome detracts somewhat relative to the original story.


A Christmas Adventure

That was odd but kind of affecting.

Also very closely matches the prompt. I almost feel like the story & rule prompts this week are doing the heavy lifting, but then you do still have to do the writing. And this is pretty well-crafted.


Is John in Over His Head?

The tone of this piece is bizarre. There's a lot of emotions described, but in completely anodyne, boring language. A lot happens, but nothing seems consequential. People do a lot of talking, but they don't say anything except clichés and platitudes.

I don't really see the point of the whole thing, especially that ending. He wonders why he got away with it, the end. I see the joke about the place name now, but I didn't the first time I read it. Something about the delivery led me way down the garden path.

Mechanically, everything was fine. I'd cut all the Later that [time period] notes, though; they're all clear from context, or should be as long as you're writing half-awake. You clearly know how to write, but I'm not sure you know why.


Balam Noson and his Donkey

"the leader of what will become Stockholm came over" So, even though this story is told in the past tense, it's being told from a pre-Viking perspective? But...the characters are Vikings. That's such an odd choice it looks like a mistake of sloppy tense writing.

This is written in a goofy irreverant tone, which could work for this story, but all the narration is so blasé and perfunctory that basically nothing at all registers.

And then the ending is basically "nothing mattered, none of it made sense to anyone, the end." :agreed:


The Legend of Leah and Rachel and Bilhah and Zilpah

A period that should be a question mark. Doesn't look like a stylistic quirk, either, since you just used one right before. Doesn't bode well.

I feel like this story clung too closely to the flash rule. It's boring to read someone's fanfiction about playing a Zelda dungeon unless there's at least something that recontextualizes it or mixes in something unexpected. But this just plays out completely predictably, down to the annoying sidekick who never changes all gamestory long.


Escape from Follansbee

This was the first story that seems like the author really took care for crafting the sentences, aside from For the Trees. Only the narration, though; I feel like you could use some more technical work on your dialog tags.

And then something happened at the Facebook post and this story plummeted in quality, including technical execution and editing. It's like you were rushing to finish this, yet you wrote way more words than the first section. I don't get it. I don't think I've ever seen that happen before.

How apt, the story ends in a wet slush pile.

And the flash Sodom and Gamorrah seems barely there, crisis I guess, thriller nah, comedy nope. This is not remotely Coenesque. Where they would have the most surprising thing happen at each point, you picked the obvious and conventional thing.


The Parable of the Fox and the Lions

OK, this is cute. Some editing mistakes, but nothing too egregious. They are kinda distracting, though.

Not much to the story in the end, but it works.


A Fishy Solution

Eh. People decide to do things and they do them. Not much challenge. The writing's decent enough, but no part really stands out and nothing that happens is particularly surprising.


Goodbye, Hello

Hmm. This seems like it's building up to something and then it just...sputters out and dies. [something more here]

"It's girthy"

I have no idea what happened at the end there, or why, or why it matters. [something more here]

At a technical level, the sentences are usually constructed fine, but to no real purpose. [something more here]


The Temptation of Josh

There's no apostrophe in ordinal numbers. They don't represent any deleted letters because there aren't any. It's not a contraction.

Huh? The story just ends inexplicably. It is not nearly over. It's like an early chapter in a novel.

And then the flash rules? It's not satirical and it's not remotely a whodunnit. :confused:


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

Week 545: New Beginnings

Let's go with an old favourite this week. When you sign up, I'll assign you the first line of something I've read relatively recently (or at least pretended to have read). It could be a great classic of literature, something I have on my bookshelf or nerd trash pulled from the depths of Kindle Unlimited. You must use that line as the first line of your story but it won't count towards your wordcount. And to really spell it out, while the rest of your story should flow from that opening line you are not here to write fanfic or a retelling of the story it came from. That's because in addition, I'll assign a theme and a setting that you must use.

  • Opening Line: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
  • Theme: Treasure Hunt
  • Setting: Western

Get creative, get clever and above all be bold in how you interpret the three points you are given.

Maximum Wordcount: 1,500 words not including your assigned first line.

Signup Deadline: Saturday 14th 8AM (GMT) / 2AM US Central
Submission Deadline: Monday 16th 8AM (GMT) / 2AM US Central

  • Staggy
  • Chernobyl Princess
  • Antivehicular

  • Rohan
  • BeefSupreme
  • cptn_dr
  • WindwardAway
  • Chairchucker
  • Tibalt
  • QuoProQuid
  • Dicere
  • Albatrossy_Rodent
  • Admiralty Flag
  • flerp
  • DoomsdayPrepperoni

Staggy fucked around with this message at 23:21 on Jan 16, 2023

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?


here for a new beginning

Sep 14, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Sep 7, 2011

Seven for beauty that blossoms and dies


Aug 22, 2022

Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.
Woohoo, time for me to in!

Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome



May 14, 2017

What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee

I'm in

Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha


Oct 31, 2005
Non plaudite modo pecuniam jacite.

IN for A New Beginning

Albatrossy_Rodent posted:

Quick question, though: do MAGA people actually hate Garth Brooks this much?

I have no idea lol. Probably not. Some were mad he played Biden's inaugural.

Oct 6, 2021

Obliteratin' everything,
incineratin' and renegade 'em
I'm here to make anybody who
want it with the pen afraid
But don't nobody want it but
they're gonna get it anyway!


Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome



Albatrossy_Rodent posted:

Admiralty Flag - Is John In Over His Head?
nice thematic name changes
Thanks. I wanted to make sure you knew that the Tetrarch Herod Antipas' ultimate fate was Caligula exiling him to Gaul, which is where I got the whole Paris[, Texas] idea from -- thought you might get a minor chuckle out of that if you didn't know that tidbit.

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

rohan posted:

here for a new beginning
Opening Line: The pandemonium of daily life is a creeping, insidious thing, always lurking just behind the veil of your consciousness but carefully not to peak all the way through. (The physical manifestation of Twiddor's rapid descent into chaos thanks to inept management from a manbaby edgelord pounds me in the butt.)
Theme: Rivalry
Setting: Space Opera

Opening Line: He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. (The Old Man and the Sea)
Theme: Murder Mystery
Setting: Cyberpunk

Opening Line: It began with the forging of the Great Rings. (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)
Theme: Murder Mystery
Setting: Dystopia

WindwardAway posted:

Woohoo, time for me to in!
Opening Line: In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. (The Great Gatsby)
Theme: Horror
Setting: Modern-Day

Opening Line: This is the story of a man who went far away for a long time, just to play a game. (The Player of Games)
Theme: Addiction
Setting: Mafia

Opening Line: Shadow had done three years in prison. (American Gods)
Theme: Coming of Age
Setting: Virtual Reality


Opening Line: "Tonight we're going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man." (Forever War)
Theme: Forgiveness
Setting: Steampunk

Dicere posted:

IN for A New Beginning

I have no idea lol. Probably not. Some were mad he played Biden's inaugural.
Opening Line: There was a razorstorm coming in. (Revelation Space)
Theme: Prejudice
Setting: Science Fiction

Opening Line: There's a wise saying that goes like this: A real gentleman never discusses women he's broken up with or how much tax he's paid. (What I talk about when I talk about running)
Theme: War
Setting: Fairy Tale

Admiralty Flag posted:


Thanks. I wanted to make sure you knew that the Tetrarch Herod Antipas' ultimate fate was Caligula exiling him to Gaul, which is where I got the whole Paris[, Texas] idea from -- thought you might get a minor chuckle out of that if you didn't know that tidbit.
Opening Line: When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. (Travels with Charley))
Theme: Individual Versus Society
Setting: Ancient Rome

Staggy fucked around with this message at 01:05 on Jan 12, 2023

Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.

Yeah ok in.

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009



Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk


Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Also, two more judges plz, step right up

Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving And something has got to give

I'mma judge this

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:

I am judge

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.


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

Thankee kindly to the two co-judges!

Beezus posted:

Yeah ok in.
Opening Line: The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. (Neuromancer)
Theme: Lost Love
Setting: Lovecraftian

Opening Line: Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. (Romeo & Juliet)
Theme: Myth
Setting: Ancient Rome

Opening Line: It was the day my grandmother exploded. (The Crow Road)
Theme: Survival
Setting: Fairy Tale

Opening Line: I am an invisible man. (Invisible Man)
Theme: Search for Identity
Setting: Prehistoric

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • Post
  • Reply