Flipped a coin, turned up heads. I'm in.
If you're on the edge on whether you want to join or not, go ahead and jump in.
Just be sure you properly display my burnt, smouldering corpse over the city gates when I lose. I won't settle for anything less.
|# ¿ Aug 7, 2012 15:17|
|# ¿ Aug 17, 2022 01:19|
It's time to ruin everything forever.
Starched Earth (677 words)
Ian Harrison, doctor, reporting. Date, [WITHHELD], early morning, both suns creeping up past the horizon.
Terraforming appears to have been a complete success. The constructors are currently disassembling, jumping tomorrow, leaving us watch over the Farm, the cultivators. Accelerated climate modifiers in place, our first harvest should be collected, frozen, and deepshipped in approximately six months, Earth estimate.
In the interest of economy, future transmissions shall be kept brief, only updated as significant circumstances warrant. The full contents of my notes will, of course, be present for examination upon completion of my shift.
Harrison, signing out.
Ian Harrison, doctor, reporting. Date, [WITHHELD], midday, seasonal ocean boil subsiding. I apologize in advance for any static interference.
Project progressing even faster than anticipated, cultivators filling the silos now. The Greenhouse is going over the samples—routine procedure, I assure you—making certain our bounty sees no adverse affects, grown so far from home. Hypotheses vary, mine personally: optimistic.
Harrison, signing out.
Ian Harrison…doctor, reporting. Date…the date is…[WITHHELD]. First evening. Second…sun…
The bulk of the first harvest…indeterminate variables, Dr. Langley speculates windfall, the corrosive ocean storms…the first harvest has proven fruitless. Nearly all samples exhibit toxic contamination levels unfit for human consumption. Secondary, tertiary samples submitted…all conclusive. Furthermore, the silos have become tainted, useless until properly sterilized.
Only the potato yield seems unaffected. Tests are underway to determine whether they might...find some method…
You know, I never…
Harrison. Signing out.
Ian Harrison, doctor, reporting. Date, [WITHHELD], late morning, suns in parallel.
The potato crop has multiplied sevenfold, spreading to the other quadrants. All silos, not contaminated, are presently filled to excess. The staff is debating what is to be done with the despoiled, favoring depositing it in the ocean. Viable means of cleaning the contaminated silos is still pending.
…They are indomitable little things.
Ian Harrison, reporting. Date, [WITHHELD].
Apologies for the delay, communication blackout. Solar storm hit mid-transmission, scrambling the signal, and the generator died during a second attempt.
Johansson commandeered over half the silos in an elaborate, makeshift potato battery. Currently, 40% of the Farm, 20% Residence, and the entirety of the Greenhouse are powered by it. Despite this miraculous recovery, the majority of the staff have become despondent and reclusive.
The number of potatoes continues to increase exponentially, reasons unknown.
Harrison, reporting. Date, [WITHHELD].
Presently, potatoes account for 90% of the arable land, 80% of our power. The still-contaminated silos have been filled, equally functional as batteries as their sterilized brothers.
Despite my best efforts, isolationism among the staff has grown increasingly pronounced. Langley, in particular, has taken to keeping his office locked at all times, and has not been witnessed leaving.
I have started naming the potatoes, a means of passing the time. Not the family I’d imagined having.
Langley is dead. Johansson informed me, my first human contact in…some time. I named a potato, in Langley’s memory, but Johansson reacted violently, smashing it, spewing such obscenities as I am loathe to recount, obviously distraught at the passing of a companion. Nevertheless, I found his behavior unacceptable, and proceeded to quell his tantrum.
I have named a potato in Johansson’s memory, next to Langley II.
I am running out of names to give to the children. I refuse duplicates, and worry the younger generation shall start to feel neglected.
Survey suggests I am the only human remaining about the Farm and Greenhouse, Residence locked down. It strikes me presumptuous, naming the next few after members of the staff, but I am rapidly running out of options.
My health has been steadily deteriorating. Malnourishment, I...think?
The children are upset. They worry constantly, telling me to eat, as if I could resort to cannibalism. Their unwavering faces are all that keep me going some days. There are still so many of them to name.
Langley II is asking about his older brother. I don't know what to tell him.
|# ¿ Aug 8, 2012 18:23|
It was the hour.
Broken lanterns illuminated the great cage, goons hanging from every bar, between every cranny. Their unwashed mouths carried the hum of the electrical current through the coarse fibers.
The chant broke out.
"Some dudes enter, most dudes leave!"
"Some dudes enter, most dudes leave!"
"Some dudes enter, most dudes leave!"
"Some dudes enter, most dudes leave!"
"Some dudes enter, most dudes leave!"
Martello, Stuporstar, and Nautatrol descended upon the combatants amidst the tribal beat, the cries for blood and death.
It was time. It was judgement.
|# ¿ Aug 10, 2012 05:04|
I have tasted death, and found it a terrible thing to grow fond of.
EDIT: That Pipes! is one superdude.
|# ¿ Aug 14, 2012 04:20|
Cynthia (499 words)
They died smiling, all of them, each confident theirs was the right choice. Now the charred earth, the ashen sky, was the only indicator any of them had ever lived.
That, and the persistent need for an oxygen apparatus in the above ground.
“Just saying, ought to be grateful.”
“Oh ho ho, I’ve heard this before.”
“You don’t act like you heard it before.”
The first of the two exited the ruin, the once-basement of some decrepit grocer, family owned for six generations, the rest of the sign illegible. The hole in the sky was drifting, finally, enough to resume passage without getting fried. She brushed aside the rocks and the rubble, and the second followed after.
“You rather be dead?”
“Why do you ask me that question, mom, you know I hate that question.”
“Would you rather be dead?”
“No, no, of course not.”
“Then quit complaining. Be thankful you even have a tongue that can complain. Tongue that didn’t turn to ash and sand in a particle bath.”
The next safe zone was only a couple miles, but the bulk of the suits slowed them. The neighboring enclave would be in reach by early evening, if they kept good pace.
“Honestly, you kids. I was excited when it was my turn.”
“I don’t even know him.”
“I didn’t know your father.”
“I don’t even know what he looks like.”
“Didn’t know that either. Turned out alright.”
“Right, right, because they’re all as wonderful as dad.”
“Not what I meant, that is not what I meant.”
The daughter turned from the road, briefly, only to be caught by her mother’s hand.
“Should be happy. Honored.”
“Honored? I’m obligated. I’ve been obligated since I was twelve.”
“You both have. We all have.”
“So nobody gets a choice, and we’re all supposed to swim with it?”
“That’s how it works. How it’s been working.”
“Ah, yes, the Greater Good, preserving humanity.”
“Young lady, now you will stop this. Right now.”
She shoved her mother’s hand from her shoulder. They stood apart, masks fixed on one another. A minute ticked by in silence, her breath slowing with her temper.
“I…I understand the necessity of it, just…do I have no say in this? My own life? My own future?”
Her mother let the question float awhile before answering.
“Life’s never dealt anyone a fair hand. Not any of us. Maybe that’s the point of it all. Do the best you can with what you’ve been given. And we, well,” she turned, gesturing to the earth, the sky, “We haven’t been given a lot. But it’s not about what you’ve been given. It’s about what you do with it.”
Her mother extended a hand.
“You have to meet somebody. Somebody, somewhere. At least meet him. Nothing’s official till your 21st.”
She swayed on her feet, studying the contours of her mother’s gloves, stiff and crinkled. She sighed, and accepted the embrace.
“Just don’t let him be some idiot.”
“…Keep your expectations reasonable, Cynthia.”
|# ¿ Aug 15, 2012 17:37|
Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant.
|# ¿ Aug 18, 2012 19:57|
This is where living on the other side of the world comes in handy.
I get to sleep now and wake up to how horrible an author I am in the morning.
|# ¿ Aug 19, 2012 16:27|
I am also surprised Muffin didn't take this.
|# ¿ Aug 20, 2012 05:51|
Fortune and glory, man. Of course I'm in.
Bad Seafood (I guess? declare intent loud and proud, son!)
I'm self-deprecating, not self-defeatist.
|# ¿ Aug 20, 2012 13:38|
Well, I wrote something sort of depressing again. Stuporstar, don't read this if you're still on painkillers; or, alternatively, do read it only on painkillers. Probably makes my prose read better.
And for the purposes of a full disclosure, I could not be more of a WASP if I tried.
Brittle Butterfly (1,463 words)
The rain fell sparse upon the Earth the night my brother died. I could not cry, so Heaven cried. Even in Hell, Allah is merciful.
I could not hold his hands in my own, for his were splintered, fingers torn, palms dangling from the wrists by flaps of skin and sinew. I could not look into his eyes, for they, too, were gone, charred and bloodied. This is how I had found him. I could only whisper into his ear.
“Fee amaan Allah.”
In the protection of Allah.
“Inna lillahe wa inna ilaihe raajeoon.”
We belong to Allah, and to Allah we return.
We were born alone into this world, my brother and I. It was he who named me, and I, him. Sahar. Sleeplessness. Isam. Security. Now at last, Sahar would sleep soundly.
Nothing on his person was astray, but tucked behind his ear, a cigarette, white, and crumpled. And unlit.
“Sahar. I swear to you. I will find who did this to you.”
The Prophet Muhammad—peace be upon him—condemns a woman wearing the clothes of a man. Yet we had no money for the Hajib, and wherever we went, the boys would never consort with a girl. But, “Allah is understanding.” My hair cut short, my mouth kept shut, I was still young enough to pass for my brother’s brother, if only just. I used to watch in silence as he tripped over the words we had practiced together, words that sounded so natural from me weaving unevenly on his tongue. Now, it was to be my turn.
The boys had gathered in an outlet off the market square, between the carpet sellers, calling to me. I waded through the crowds, the traffic of fabrics, the fluttering Khimar. The eldest boy extended his hand. I took it.
“Isam. You looked lost. Distant. Is the sight of helicopters really so distracting?”
Helicopters. The soldiers. From the north, a country called Russia, I had been told. They had begun arriving recently, here to save us from the “Dushman,” though I do not know what that is. No one can understand them.
“It is not important.”
The eldest boy cracked a smile, laughing, and the others with him.
“Isam! Always, so silent, so serious, and now a voice, like a songbird! No wonder you should keep such a thing to yourself.”
“Please. I have no time for this.”
“So harsh, Isam, though I suppose that is not so different. What brings you to market today?”
“Ah, Sahar, yes. Saw him alone yesterday. Unusual, for either of you. Where is he?”
“He is...he is resting.”
A wary silence consumed the boys.
"…Do you mean-"
From my sleeve, I produced the single cigarette.
“I found this, behind his ear. My brother could not stand even the smell of incense. Do you know where or why he would have this?”
The eldest boy collected the cigarette from me, studying it. Another boy, suddenly discomforted, retrieved from his pocket a box in cheap paper packaging, foreign letters printed flat across the surface, and from there pulled a cigarette of his own. Held together, they were the same.
“What is this? Where did you get those?”
“These? Cigarettes. Like the soldiers smoke. The Russians.”
“Is that Russian? Those letters?”
“I believe so.”
“Where did you get them?”
“Another boy. Diya. His father’s house is open to the soldiers. They keep their supplies there. Sometimes he retrieves a thing or two. His father does not know. The soldiers do not know either.”
“Allah knows,” I said, irritated.
The boy looked to his shoes.
“Diya, he likes to impress. He will retrieve anything. But only for a trusted friend, or the trusted friend of a trusted friend.”
“And how does Diya know who is trusted?”
The boy took back his own cigarette, tucking it behind his ear, close to his cap.
“Jazakallaho ahsanal jaza.”
Diya’s father was a rich man, and pious. His house was to the west, near the mosque, closest to Mecca. The house itself served as garrison for the soldiers. I could not enter, but had no need. Diya spent his afternoons behind his father’s house, by the fountain, in the shade of the poplar.
“Ah, ah, a visitor. Assalamo alaikum wa rahmatullahe wa barakatohu.”
Diya was not so young as I had been lead to believe. They called him a boy, but really, he was almost a man. His voice carried like silk on the wind, his eyes dull and tired, but his lips curved in a practiced smile.
“Wa alaikum salaam,” I returned his greeting, accepting his hand.
“Well now, well now, you are certainly a fairer boy than I have ever seen.”
“…I am here on an inquiry,” I took the cigarette from behind my ear.
“And your voice, like a stern melody.”
I stared at him a moment.
“It…is a source of much embarrassment, to tell the truth.”
Diya’s eyes narrowed.
He gestured for the cigarette. I handed it to him, and he produced a lighter. There was a click, and the cigarette caught, burning faintly, a thin trail of smoke drifting to the sky. Diya held it to his mouth, and breathed deep.
“I thought, at first, you might be older. Perhaps only bigger. Fret not, fret not, age and experience will shape you yet.”
Alhamdo lillah. Alhamdo lillah.
“What is your name, friend?”
“I am Isam. Only Isam.”
“Isam, Isam. It is a good name. I am Muhammad Diya Kamal, though if you carry this,” he took the cigarette from his mouth, tracing the air with it, “You already know this.”
He offered the cigarette back to me. I took it, in curiosity, then held it to my own lips, breathing in as Diya had.
Fog and fire choked my throat. I spit the cigarette out, coughing, holding my neck. Again, Diya chuckled.
“An acquired taste, perhaps.”
“I…I am sure. But…but this is not what I am here for.”
“I have a brother. A boy named Sahar. That was his cigarette. Did you know him?”
Diya scratched his chin.
“Sahar. Sahar, Sahar…yes, yes I did. Your brother? An odd pair, you are.”
“What did he come for?”
“Trinkets. They all come for trinkets, the soviet exotics in storage. Not my idea, but their smiles warm my heart.”
“Stealing? From the Russian stores?”
“The soldiers bring many things I am sure they will not miss. I do not touch the weapons or the bullets. But the magazines and coffee, the cigarettes, and toys, even.”
“…Toys? The soldiers bring toys?”
Diya nodded, expectantly. He reached down, retrieving something from beneath the cool of the bench, handing it to me.
“I do not understand it myself. They have crates and crates of them. I decided to only take a few.”
It was a curious object. Lime green and rigid, yet smooth to the touch, and a most peculiar shape. Like a butterfly, with a silver neck, and a leaden wing.
“Toss it upward,” Diya suggested.
It caught in the air, and spun, fluttering gently to the ground.
“It is more entertaining from a great height, I think. Your brother thought so, too. I took only two, but gave him one. It looked to make him happy.”
I stared at the butterfly as it lay, cradled in the sand.
“Jazakallaho ahsanal jaza,” I bowed to Diya, leaving him to his toy.
I walked a great distance, to the edge of the city, to think. I had seen no such thing in my brother’s possession. Had another boy seen him, and killed him, and taken it for his own? Had a soldier spied him playing with a missing toy? What soldiers brought toys to a foreign land?
My thoughts were interrupted by the helicopters. The sky became filled with them, gray and heavy, spreading outward in every direction. The soldiers were deploying. On some, the doors slid open, and it began to rain.
Green butterflies. Hundreds of them, dancing, descending slowly from the flock of steel birds.
Something was wrong.
I ran out a ways and stopped, just short of the field of false butterflies. They were the same as Diya’s, green and imbalanced, but no trace of silver. I wanted to reach out, to touch one, but something inside me stayed my hand. There was a rock at my feet. I kicked it towards the thing.
There was a crack, like thunder, broken glass, and a spurt of smoke and flame. The sight, the sound of it toppled me, shielding my eyes, my head.
At last I looked back. A smoldering circle, charred black, was all that remained of the rock or the butterfly.
I seek forgiveness from Allah.
|# ¿ Aug 23, 2012 20:55|
This was the best Thunderdome.
Would subject myself to again.
|# ¿ Aug 27, 2012 02:52|
Good thing Martello's stepping down this week.
I can't imagine anyone surviving him and Sebmojo running the cabal at the same time.
Dodged a bullet.
|# ¿ Aug 27, 2012 05:39|
I think this is the part where Stockholm Syndrome settles in.
|# ¿ Aug 28, 2012 05:22|
Which are real, by the way.
for butterfly bombs
Gonna need a or a to tell me whether an Afghan street urchin would be quoting the Quran in Arabic, or whether the Pashto or Dari translations are used instead.
Islam designates Arabic the language of Heaven, if I recall correctly, and the purest form the Quran can be read in. Translations exist, of course, but the ability to read and recite passages in their original Arabic would be a common enough thing in the region, particularly among the devout.
On the topic of Afghans and quotations/common phrases relating to Islam in Bad Seafood's story, speaking in Arabic is on the money. Some Afghan men were sentenced to 20 years in prison for translations that did not include the Arabic alongside the other languages, so keeping the original text--along with knowing it--is considered very important.
Most of the Arabic salted and peppered throughout my story are short prayers and expressions ("Fee amaan Allah," for instance, is something you say to someone you won't be seeing again for a long time), so they'd pop up a lot in local usage. Even if you were illiterate, you'd hear them enough to get the gist of it.
“Inna lillahe wa inna ilaihe raajeoon,” is said at funerals, receiving bad news, and looking for lost things.
“Jazakallaho ahsanal jaza,” is a thank you.
"Assalamo alaikum wa rahmatullahe wa barakatohu," is a greeting.
"Wa alaikum salaam," is the reply to the above greeting.
"Alhamdo lillah," is an expression of appreciation, typically to Allah.
“Astaghferullah,” is an accepted shortening of a longer prayer, "Astaghferullaha Rabbi min kulle zumbin wa atoobo ileh," which is a request for forgiveness.
Also, Isam is a unisex name.
FINAL SCORE: grape leaves
|# ¿ Aug 28, 2012 11:05|
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Or kills you anyway, just, you know, later.
Judge sass never helped anyone do anything
Or earlier sometimes, even.
You also wrote "Were" instead of "Mere."
And then I read it again and realized I misspelled tomorrow.
And "Weeks" instead of "Week's."
And you didn't capitalize Stanislaw Lem.
And you never return my phone calls anymore.
|# ¿ Aug 28, 2012 18:19|
A thousand words and a handful of false starts. Actually had to pad this out to make the word count, which probably shows.
Last One Out, Hit the Lights
The photograph trembled in Alan Campbell’s grip, the lower right corner crumpled under the weight of his thumb. A young boy ran through his memory, down the corridor lined with boxes on identical iron shelves, into infinity. Somehow still, he’d always managed to find his father.
“Hmm? What is it, Alan?”
“What’s this place?”
“…It’s the moon, Alan. Surface of the moon.”
That sparse expanse of basalt against the black fabric of space, the Earth hung low between them, just beyond the quiet hills. It was beautiful to him. The most beautiful.
“That’s why I have to see it for myself.”
“…Really. Not to be nitpicking-”
rear end in a top hat that he was, confined and content to live life secondhand in books and in documentaries, leeching off the experience of others, Sebastian could never understand the compulsion to know, to know personally, that burned in Alan’s heart.
“-But that’s it? Pretty steep investment for a bit of scenery you’ve already got tucked away in your pocket.”
“You just can’t see it, Sebastian. You’re not looking for it.”
“But I have seen it.”
“I’m not talking about this,” Alan tapped the photograph, gently.
“Neither am I.”
It was a brave new century for mankind. The space tourism industry had never been more affordable, more accommodating to the man in the street. But even so, the low-hanging fruit of a lunar vacation was beyond the grasp of Alan’s father’s meager pay stub, try though he might. Alan stared with a rekindled contempt for his classmate, privileged, but indifferent to the gift he had been given.
“It’s not particularly impressive, really. Whole lot of nothing. Empty dunes and-”
They’d had to tear them apart, him and Sebastian, noses and shirts bloodied. But the photograph survived, unblemished, a quiet comfort to him in those dark times.
Alan Campbell had worked this whole life for this moment. Every position, every paycheck. Dead end opportunities, thankless jobs with absurd obligations, anything that paid. His apartment was Spartan, his pleasures few, calculating, collecting interest on as much as he could afford. When the bottom fell out of the economy, it was with tears in his eyes he held the ticket, his ticket to the moon. The very last ticket ever to be issued.
“Alright Mr. Campbell, you got yourself about four hours oxygen there. Give a holler on the radio you want back in early, else I’ll come looking automatically in about three.”
The captain waited awhile before turning, wearily, taking Alan’s prolonged silence as affirmation. The hatch shut, sealing off the last man who would ever set foot on the moon.
Alan’s grip tightened on the photograph, his eyes blurred, blinded by the tears. He grit his teeth, shuttering, and took the photograph in both hands. He peeled back his thumb. He’d punctured clear through the corner and hadn’t even noticed.
The photograph stretched.
A tear appeared, and began working its way down the center fold.
The photograph was reduced to scraps and splinters within seconds. Alan Campbell fell to his knees, tearing what remained into smaller and smaller pieces, but they were never small enough.
Since the Lunar Tourism Board had first opened shop, to the day their financial director was forced to admit they might have a funding deficit, approximately three billion people had set foot on the moon. Each and every single one of them had been immortalized, for all time, in the field of footprints that now covered the moon. Different sizes, different brands, imprinted forever, on the surface of moon. On the surface of his moon.
The once sterile sea of rock and craters, each with their own pattern and shape, had been smoothed, flattened, under the weight of three billion tourists, the uniform treads and competing brand names clustering, spiraling off in every direction. Everywhere Alan looked, he could see only footprints.
He turned to the Earth, rotating softly beyond the horizon. An all consuming rage boiled within his veins as he looked upon it.
“YOU DAMNED PARASITES. YOU’VE RUINED IT. YOU’VE RUINED EVERYTHING. YOU POISON EVERYTHING YOU TOUCH. IT WASN’T ENOUGH. IT’S NEVER ENOUGH.”
He clenched his fists, fingers digging deep into the palms of his suit. His eyes narrowed, fixated on his hated home planet.
“Mr. Campbell, sir? Everything alright?”
He’d left the radio on automatic. The captain’s voice, that distinctive monotone he’d come to know from the short spaceflight, jostled him from his anger, briefly, only to surrender him to another, subtler fury, a dark realization setting in.
“…It’s nothing, captain. It’s nothing.”
“Awful lot of nothing. Awful loud, too. You sure you okay?”
“I’m fine, captain.”
Alan’s breathing gradually returned to normal.
“I’m absolutely fine.”
He’s spun around, at the captain’s voice, as if someone were behind him. But of course, he was alone. Him, and the footprints. Him, and his own footprints.
Alan knelt down, running his fingers through the grooves he himself had left, and no one else. He read the brand label, proudly reiterated with every step. He began to count his steps, backwards, back to the ship. The captain had already opened the hatch for him.
“Scared me a minute there. Had a book, and everything. Getting to the good part when out of nowhere you come on.”
“Sorry. Sorry about that.”
“Sorry? You done, or something?”
“Yeah. I’m done.”
The captain raised an eyebrow.
“…That’s it. That’s all you came for?”
“I’ve traveled further for less. If it’s all the same to you, I’d like to go home now.”
The captain pondered Alan’s words a moment before responding.
“Well, doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to me. I’m out a job regardless what time you clock back. Either way,” he extended a hand, “Thanks for one last trip.”
Alan said nothing, taking the captain’s hand before settling into his seat. The distance remained the same, yet the journey back felt considerably shorter than the journey there.
The moon swung on.
|# ¿ Sep 2, 2012 02:52|
From a secluded Tibetan monastery, I return to the cycle of death and contempt.
But preferably contempt, this time, because death is harder to reschedule.
|# ¿ Sep 11, 2012 17:03|
Jagd (993 words)
Kurt Lindahl was a time bomb.
“It’s no use getting angry,” he’d say to himself, straightening his collar, fiddling with the cuffs of his sleeves in just such a way. “No use, no use.” For twenty years he’d said that. Every setback, every embarrassment, labeled, bottled, and stowed away somewhere deep and quiet.
“No use, no use.”
His girlfriend admired his stoicism about the whole thing. That’s what she’d liked about him, she supposed. So he needn’t worry, there’d definitely be someone else out there.
“No use, no use.”
His boss knew he’d understand, the economy what it was. A valued asset, yes, yes, but so sorry.
“No use, no use.”
His clothes were still damp from the freak rainfall that had lasted all five minutes it took him to reach his car, clearing up immediately with the turn of the key in the ignition.
“No use, no use.”
Kurt sneezed, rubbing his nose, as the ethereal deer rammed into the side of his vehicle.
“No use, noaSHIT!”
The car fought the breaks, skidding to a halt just short of a tree. Kurt’s breath came terse, his hand over his heart. After a minute’s protracted silence, he blinked, and got out of the car.
The deer stood shimmering, a skeletal white with black horns, looking down at him. A certain sympathy mixed with contempt brewed softly in the red coals that burned where its eyes should have been. Kurt reached out, without thinking, when a sound, loud and boisterous, pierced his ears. A hunting horn. The deer bucked its head, and disappeared into the woods.
Kurt turned to look at his car. The damage was hefty, but the car should live. Probably. He ran his fingers over the hood, the windshield; the side view mirror snapped off cleanly in his hand.
A brief search of his pockets told him he’d forgotten his cell phone.
The horn sounded again, accompanied by the distant sound of dogs and hooves. Then again, closer.
They found Kurt standing alone in the middle of the road, fixing a non-existent cufflink, the remains of his side view mirror tucked under his arm.
“That yours?” he jerked his head slightly, clam and measured.
They were dressed in midnight, their own features black and smoky. They rode on horseback, and about their feet the hounds paced, murmuring, inches above the ground. Their coats were laden with provisions, and in their hands, across their laps, were hunting rifles, antiquated, as if stolen from a long lost century. There appeared to be several of them, yet as they slowed, assembling, a churning mass of mist and shadow, it was difficult to tell where one rider, one horse, one dog, ended, and the others began.
“A HUMAN. DOES IT KNOW THE WAY?”
“Oh yeah, your pet,” Kurt released his sleeve, taking the mirror in both hands, “Hit my car.”
“IT IS CLOSE, THEN. THE TRAIL IS NOT LOST.”
“Hey, hey, HEY,” Kurt stepped to the side, blocking their path. “Where you going? Don’t forget about me.”
A silent sigh spread among the riders.
“IT WANTS SOMETHING. IT ALWAYS WANTS SOMETHING.”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s right. I want something. What’s your insurance information?”
An entirely different silence now held the hunting party.
“Uh huh. Insurance. Where is it?”
“…WE DO NOT-“
“Oh, no, no, no, you see this? You see this?” Kurt kicked his bumper, a little harder than had intended. “This sort of thing don’t pay for itself, no, no, I want to see papers. Some ID.”
A lone horse and rider splintered forth from the group. The horse was taller than any Kurt had ever seen, and the rider, taller still.
“HUMAN. YOU WOULD DO WELL NOT TO FORGET YOUR PLACE.”
“Forget my place?"
Kurt smashed the mirror against the highway.
“Forget my place. Forget my place, forget my, no, no, gently caress you. gently caress you, all you assholes. What is this? WHAT IS THIS? Dick around with the little guy, is that what it is, you piece of poo poo? You piece of poo poo motherfucker? You think you can just waltz on by like it ain’t a thing, while you and your little slumber party stay up all night, get drunk, terrorizing wildlife? I bet you do this every night, what is this, a fraternity? Some freemason bullshit? Where the hell do you get off? No, no, this poo poo does not, no, NO.”
Kurt pointed sharply to the rider in the saddle.
“I want your name. I want your name, your ID, your contact information, everything. You are not getting out of this, so help me God, you are not getting out of this.”
The rider stared at him, his hollow eyes tracing deep into Kurt’s soul. Then, without a word, he dismounted, reaching within the folds of his coat.
“Alright, alright, that’s more like it.”
Kurt spent several minutes copying down the papers, the numbers the rider had given him. “Berchtold, huh? Don’t get that one too often these days.” The rider stood behind him, expressionless, jotting down Kurt’s own information in a little book.
“Okay, that should do it.” Kurt clicked the pen a couple times in succession. “And you have mine.”
“Yeah, yeah, look, I… I’m sorry, I said a few things…”
“IT IS NOTHING.”
“No, no, it’s not, it’s... one of those days, you know?”
“Right, right, well,” Kurt laid his hand on the hood, “Car should move. I’ll be in touch... have a nice night.”
The rider had already mounted his horse, signaling to the party. Their numbers congregated, congealing. The hunting horn sounded, bold and true, and away they went, dwindling, merging into the darkness between the trees.
Kurt said a silent prayer as he started the engine. The car complained, but did as it was told.
Several minutes down the road, he realized he’d left his pen at the scene of the accident.
“No use, no use.”
|# ¿ Sep 14, 2012 19:43|
The words "No mercy for the weak, Also please put all chairs back up on the tables before you leave" Adorns the sign, written in blood. Also motor oil because that sounds pretty metal to.
The pens are like right over there.
|# ¿ Sep 15, 2012 08:13|
Literature is dead.
We are all accomplices.
|# ¿ Sep 16, 2012 15:23|
Alright, moving up in the world.
I'm declaring three winners this week to take over judging while I'm away hunting down derelict judges and making them pay.
That description is actually one I've had kicking around in my head for some time. It was nice to finally have a use for it.
Bad Seafood - Jagd
I operate on Koreatime, so we are almost on the same page here.
Right, well I'm out of the house and I'll sort the prompt out tonight. Because I live in a crazy timezone, that means check back tomorrow morning.
|# ¿ Sep 17, 2012 04:24|
I'll be reading all submissions aloud to determine their quality.
Though I am a little surprised that we are not required to record our poems and post that rather than just post the words. Isn't poetry suppose to be spoken not read.
My apartment isn't soundproof, so if the neighbors or Jehovah's Witness knock and complain about it, consider your entry disqualified.
|# ¿ Sep 17, 2012 05:54|
+1 just for this.
His Popehand strong
But also -1 because seriously.
|# ¿ Sep 17, 2012 13:38|
It weren't no thing for Toan'
God gently caress poo poo drat flippety bastard dumbass
To type a gripe he'd honed.
The judges he cursed,
"This contest's the worst!"
In language not his own.
Henceforth all complaints will be subject to limerick response.
You have been warned.
|# ¿ Sep 19, 2012 00:36|
So that's Jane Austin.
Were any of you aware in his not-youth Kurt Vonnegut filmed a road movie through the Great American Mindscape? It was a lot smaller back then. Still is.
Along the way he played a bit part in several amateur poems yet to be written. I would very much like to see some of those poems now.
The next three submissions should feature a clearly Kurt Vonnegut, or someone like him, in an entirely incidental appearance.
Of course, you needn't do that, but what have you to lose?
|# ¿ Sep 19, 2012 18:34|
|# ¿ Sep 22, 2012 04:00|
Well what do you know.
Surreptitious and I picked the same bad hat.
Wasn't. Am now.
I think Bad Seafood may be trying free verse (indiscriminate swearing).
|# ¿ Sep 23, 2012 05:09|
If Erik's doing what I think he's doing, I'm afraid I'll have to fold this one.
I can't even say why, or I might spoil the surprise.
Late free verse crits coming up.
|# ¿ Sep 24, 2012 18:24|
Alright, then I have a single question. I'll edit it out of this post after it's been resolved.
A good hint about the regret line: it's not that I'm going to retaliate for not joining. People will just regret missing their chance at being a part of it. So, go on then. Sign up.
It has been resolved.
|# ¿ Sep 24, 2012 19:02|
Alright then you snake oil salesman you.
|# ¿ Sep 24, 2012 19:18|
Terrible Free Verse Is
By Bad Seafood
Those who’d chosen,
The British pith helm of a gentleman wanderer,
Would’ve received bonus points for their share,
If only they had.
If only they had.
His Papal Majesty
It is a fine and glorious thing
But no Poped collar? Opportunity weeps,
In a difficult flow to follow.
A tale of treachery,
And birds (humming birds?),
In the crown of the queen.
A submission suitable, but for one crippling flaw:
A nameless ode is an odious thing.
By Jon Joe
Your hat does its job but lacks proper
Your words carry statements but little
Another nameless entry shameless,
Out of line.
But Kurt Vonnegut was an interesting chap,
So points for that.
Prowling of the Night Raider
Well that was
The Convict Ship
I’m partial to the sea, you see.
Such imagery distills in me
Of life as it was
When land where it weren’t
On a manmade stage in a distant age,
A driftwood palace in the lull of the moon.
When All Else Fails on the Campaign Trail…
I wish that I
By Bear Sleuth
Kurt Vonnegut in an MMO
Is worth the price of admission.
Kings and Vagbonds
By Sitting Here
Can’t quite say how I feel about this.
I read and went
I wish I’d brought
Set to the apocalypse.
You write better English
An international illiterate, as I,
Salutes your pain
Steel From Stars Beyond
By Black Griffon
But not without worry or hurry
By Erik Shawn-Bohner
Your last words
Say it all.
The only one
You need to find
A little rough but that's the
The Untimely Death of Missy May
As forewarned by the label.
As a reader, I value more
Tension and pacing.
Milly Goes to Work
Except sometimes (not this time).
The morning before
Is often much more
Of a trial than the trial
That comes after.
|# ¿ Sep 25, 2012 17:07|
You've got it, man. Grits. The real chutzpah.
My poetry has been called a lot of things. Twee. Verbose. Too clever for its own good.
You had no shot at winning, the very real possibility of losing, and you said okay because you liked it that way.
It's that kind of loose canon, reckless and unconventional police work that lands you constantly in hot water with the boss, BUT HE'LL BE DAMNED if you didn't get the job done. It's the right kind of attitude to have, and you sir have it.
I felt your entry conveyed rather well the idea that the hardest part is actually the part right before the hardest part, which is a sentiment I share.
Gonna be honest, I'm not quite sure what these means, but I guess I'll take it as a compliment?
So sort of what I'm trying to say is, "I got it." Unless I didn't get it.
Either way, a pretty okay poem.
|# ¿ Sep 26, 2012 17:56|
Regular Earharts (825 words)
Marco had always made good coffee. He was a scoundrel and unapologetic fascist, but it was enough that Lucy could stand to bear his company.
“They cultivate them in Brazil, you know. I’ve seen the fields. It’s quite beautiful.”
She held the cigarette to her temple, a practiced interest in her expression. She no longer needed to remind herself to nod at the end of his sentences. Nothing Marco said ever stuck, but she let him have his moments. Stirring her coffee, she smiled, warmly, excusing herself.
Even on mornings such as this, Darcy preferred to keep to herself. Her eggs were scrambled, burnt, the coffee medium grade, at best, but serviceable. She chewed quietly at a piece of toast as Lucy returned, crumpling the unused cigarette in the ashtray.
“He offered you another one?”
“He always does.”
“He’ll have to run out one of these days.”
“Somehow I don’t think he will.”
Lucy looked up to her sister.
“So gloomy today. It’s your birthday. Couldn’t hurt to smile a little, could it?”
“It’s your birthday too.”
“That’s beside the point. Come on, buck up.”
Darcy hesitated, before trying her best.
“…Well, we’ll have time to work on that. Got something special planned for today.”
“Safe, I should expect.”
A prolonged sip was all that answered her.
The farm itself proved a short breath from the apartment bloc, only a couple of minutes by the car Darcy refused to let her sister drive, delegating Lucy to navigation. A sparse wind sent a ripple through the passing fields, and out front of the house and the barn stood a young girl in a yellow dress and a stern expression, an aviator’s cap pushed up on her forehead, a large sunhat in her hand.
“Been expecting you. You’re late.”
“Excuse me?” Darcy exited the vehicle, wincing, shielding her eyes from the sun.
“Mama said to dock your pay if you were late again. Papa thought likewise.”
“I’m sorry, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Darcy, please,” Lucy exited from the passenger side. “I’ll handle this.”
The girl’s expression wavered a little.
“Lucy? That you?”
“I’m here, I’m here. This is my sister, Darcy. I’ve mentioned her before, I’m sure.”
“Told me you had a sister. Didn’t think it was that kind of sister.”
“Yes, well, the cats out now I’m afraid. And Darcy, this is Addie.”
“That’s Adeline Fitzgerald to strangers, stranger.”
“…Of course. It’s…nice to meet you, Adeline.”
“Addie, where are your parents?”
“Out. Why I’m standing here waiting for you.”
Adeline removed the aviator’s cap, and handed it to Lucy.
“The Bird’s out back, where it always is.”
“Ah, good. Darcy, would you kindly?”
Behind the barn sat a scrap hangar, where a modest aircraft awaited them. WWI in make, refurbished, converted for crop dusting. Lucy turned, presenting it with a little flourish. Darcy stopped dead in her tracks.
“The Bird! The name is a little on the plain side, but it doesn’t seem to mind too terribly much.”
“You can fly an airplane?”
“Well, yes. After a fashion. Mr. Fitzgerald’s a better teacher than he gives himself credit for.”
Lucy flashed a smile. Darcy was still adding things up.
“You mean to tell me all those days you-”
”Do you even have a license?”
“Not…exactly. It’s sort of an…under the table…arrangement.”
“Why are you showing me this?”
“Well, it’s your birthday.”
“Our birthday. Would you like a ride?”
Darcy recoiled a few paces, her expression muddled, close guarded apprehension mixed with the unexpected onset of longing.
“Remember when you—when we—were six? Said you wanted to fly. Like a bird in the sky. Like father in the wars, though not IN the wars, particularly. Well?”
Darcy approached the aircraft, running her hand cautiously over its body. She tapped and felt the front propeller, turning it slightly. It was some time before she turned back to her sister.
The cockpit had had been enlarged, lengthened, made for two, though it was still quite cramped. There was something about the noise it made as it took off that gave Darcy pause, but Lucy assured her it was nothing.
“Aaaaand here we are.”
They soared only a few dozen feet, maintaining close comfort to the ground, but it didn’t matter. Lucy smiled at her sister’s own wonderment.
“Is this difficult?” Darcy asked, fearful, but excited in equal measure.
“Not once you’ve the hang of it. Dangerous, though.”
“Oh yes. Low flying aircraft are always dangerous.”
“Why fly low then?”
“It’s what Mr. Fitzgerald pays me for, at his age and all.”
Lucy fiddled with the controls. Small tanks along the wingspan let out a hiss in unison, and a stream of chemicals, pesticides, almost invisible.
“…You don’t think he’d taught me to fly for free, did you?”
An infectious chuckle overtook the fliers.
“Happy birthday, Darcy.”
“You too, Lucy.”
|# ¿ Sep 27, 2012 19:33|
The rest of you chucklefucks need to finish up your stories and get them entered too.
|# ¿ Sep 27, 2012 20:22|
Looking forward to that rejection letter.
|# ¿ Sep 28, 2012 04:38|
You call your dishrag The Thunderdome, you'd better have a rejection letter, and it better be the most soul-crushing thing I've ever received.
Look at this confident fucker, thinking he'll get a letter.
|# ¿ Sep 28, 2012 04:44|
Definitely looking forward to that rejection letter.
|# ¿ Sep 28, 2012 05:47|
Reformatted, resubmitted. I don't know if that's allowed, but they can't shoot me for trying.
|# ¿ Sep 28, 2012 15:49|
I'm on board, but probably for the last time in awhile.
I think it's more the part where everyone's over seventy but it turns out that's just the new thirty. So they're old, but not really old. A technicality.
That's a cliche?
See also, thousand-year-old vampire little girls. Completely legit, you guys.
|# ¿ Oct 2, 2012 20:55|
|# ¿ Aug 17, 2022 01:19|
The Birdhouse (678 words)
“Oh God, oh god.”
Goose seized up, blood on his breath, his eyes sweeping hazily over the room for something he would never find.
Stork did his best to prop him up, but at his age the strain was too great.
“Goose? Really now?”
Evening had settled in, the Caribbean Sea shifting gently against the bead of the shore. The paper lanterns clashed something dreadful with the rest of the décor of the resort, but even Stork had to admit there was a certain charm about them.
But Goose could only complain about the card he’d pulled, the ace of spades, his new code name scrawled across the surface in red ink.
“Goose is a fine animal. A proud animal.”
“In what country?”
“In any country.”
“I don’t like it.”
“Don’t have to like it. Just have to get used to it.”
Nightingale reshuffled the cards, the arthritis in his hands making the task a bit difficult. Stork offered to take them, but Nightingale shook his head, his jowls, finally pocketing the deck.
“Goose. Mother Goose. Christmas goose. Duck, duck, goose. I don’t like it.”
“Oh, well, I do think you’re being a bit harsh there.”
Owl spoke soft and clear, but could do little to hide her Minnesotan accent, born and raised. She’d come down here to die, she joked, but with the mission what it was she wasn’t too far off the mark.
Nightingale tapped the pink tablecloth. Stork thought it called for attention, but it soon revealed itself little more than a nervous tic.
“Alright, now. We all have our names. We all have our jobs. The file is supposed to be-”
Nightingale halted, a terrible coughing fit overtaking him. Owl patted him on the back.
“Thank you, thank you kindly. The file is supposed to be moved tomorrow, tomorrow night. So sleep well, for tomorrow we die.”
Owl chuckled. Goose and Stork sat apart, unimpressed.
“That’s not funny,” Goose said, the ice clinking together as he refilled his glass.
“That’s…that’s…not funny…at all,” Goose wheezed, his breath harsh, and then gone. Stork had done all he could to stem the blood flow from the bullet wounds, but it wasn’t enough.
“You. I trusted you.”
Stork hobbled to his feet, his finger shaking, pointing towards Owl. Owl stood back against the polished oak door, the gun still smoking.
“I don’t understand.”
“I’m trying to say I like you.”
“I don’t understand.”
Nightingale and Goose had already left. Stork mustered his best smile, to Owl’s confusion.
“Oh really now, Stork, we’ll too old for that sort of nonsense.”
“Nonsense knows no age, my dear Owl.”
Owl spread her fingers against her glass, her gaze hesitant. Stork leaned in, and placed a single kiss on her wrinkled brow. Owl blushed, her hand to her cheek.
“Oh, you dog.”
“Not a dog. A stork. And you know what they say about storks.”
Again Stork smiled, his eyes disappearing in the fold.
He wasn’t smiling now.
“You shot him. Why did you shoot him?”
“You heard Nightingale this morning. Said there was a turncoat among us. Well, put two and two together, it had to be Goose, didn’t it?”
“Really? Well, I think it’s you.”
Stork reached for Goose’s gun, and collapsed to the floor. Owl rushed over, concerned, her own gun fumbling in her grip. As she reached him, Stork rolled over and pulled the gun on her.
Owl didn’t cry. She simply smiled.
“It’s Madeline, dear.”
Stork pulled the trigger.
“It’s a nasty business, this.”
Nightingale shook his dead, the files Stork handed him now tucked under his arm.
“Did you know her long?”
“Really. But who has the time for that, in this day and age.”
Nightingale lifted himself from his seat, his clockwise rotation towards the door nearly finished, when Stork raised a hand to stop him.
“Nightingale. Who was the turncoat?”
Nightingale’s eyebrows softened.
“I’m glad you asked.”
Stork reached to fiddle for his hearing aide, not realizing he had heard the cock of the gun just fine.
|# ¿ Oct 6, 2012 08:28|