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  • Locked thread
Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

I failed to submit because I was so excited about New Zealander Tim Price winning the Burghley Horse Trials on the quirky but freakishly talented Ringwood Sky Boy

I'm in.

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Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Nubile Hillock posted:

Why yes sir Mister Seafood sir I would like another flash rule.
Sure thing, Brojack.

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia that Anyone Can Edit posted:

[H]ero (male) and heroine (female) [have come to] refer to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good of all humanity. This definition originally referred to martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence.
This is your protagonist.

Dirty Communist
Apr 29, 2010

THUNDERDOME LOSER

crabrock posted:

Dirty Communist, your story needs to be opened up to guest viewing.

Done. Sorry about the hold-up, I'm still learning how to Google Drive.

That link again.

Dirty Communist fucked around with this message at Oct 30, 2013 around 09:03

autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007



Fun Shoe

Butt Seadoof posted:


This is your brotagonist.

Fraction
Mar 27, 2010

CATS RULE DOGS DROOL

FERRETS ARE ALSO PRETTY MEH, HONESTLY




Dirty Communist posted:

Done. Sorry about the hold-up, I'm still learning how to Google Drive.

That link again.

You need to allow guests to comment.

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.

I'm going to write a story I guess.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


I'm in.

Roguelike
Jul 29, 2006

THUNDERDOME LOSER

I gotta submit now or I'm never gonna get this novel started.

Little Drummer Girl (995 words)

Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.


They gave me a day off tomorrow. You know I'm in on this poo poo.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


All's quiet in the dome. Too quiet. Time for a flash bounty.

A flash what?

It's a term I just made up okay shut up.

So what is it?

A flash bounty is like a flash rule, except instead of having it thrust upon you anyone can accept it. Success with your flash bounty entails certain nebulous benefits, whereas failure, well, can't spoil all the fun now can I? Although anyone can claim a flash bounty, only one person can cash it in, so this is on a first come first serve basis.

Bad Seafood posted:

Quote it if you want it.
Finally, no matter how many bounties are posted, you can only accept one at a time.

Alright, let's get started.

WANTED: An aging David Bowie as an important secondary character.

WANTED: A mythical beast from non-Eurasian mythology.

WANTED: A story inspired by this song.

Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at Nov 1, 2013 around 23:34

Jeza
Feb 13, 2011

The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them.


Bad Seafood posted:

WANTED: A mythical beast from non-Eurasian mythology.

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007


Soiled Meat

So... are individual critiques from last week going to be posted? I haven't gotten a single comment on mine.

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.

Bad Seafood posted:


WANTED: An aging David Bowie as an important secondary character.


The greatest solo artist ever in my story? Why yes, yes I will.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

In

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

In.

V for Vegas
Aug 31, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER

blue squares posted:

So... are individual critiques from last week going to be posted? I haven't gotten a single comment on mine.

Here's a comment for you - enable comments on your document.

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007


Soiled Meat

How do I do that?

Nyarai
Jul 19, 2012

Jenn here.





There'll be a dropdown box with Edit/View/Comment. Select that and done.

Nyarai fucked around with this message at Nov 2, 2013 around 00:38

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007


Soiled Meat

Thanks, fixed:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011



Entrants this week don't have to use GDoc links, though it is an option for some quick comments. If you give a link post in the thread proper too.

Also submissions closed two hours ago or something.

Echo Cian fucked around with this message at Nov 2, 2013 around 06:20

Quidthulhu
Dec 17, 2003

Stand down, men! It's only smooching!


Echo Cian posted:

Entrants this week don't have to use GDoc links, though it is an option for some quick comments. If you give a link post in the thread proper too.

Also submissions closed two hours ago or something.

Signups closed two hours ago, submissions go through Sunday.

Or else I'm hosed.

STONE OF MADNESS
Dec 28, 2012

PVTREFACTIO


The Bonedrum
717 words

The stars are settling into place; a cool mist lurks among the mangrove, and the mosquitos have come.

Beside the dwindling peat-fire Çep-Mayis flexes his limbs, stretching his fingers till they crack. A bowl in the embers at his feet contains a stew of toad and crickets, but his appetite falters, and for the moment he leaves it to cool. Across the lagoon, a sallow moon ascends; he lets its first light touch the bonedrum before he begins to play.

The rhythm is a simple one. No one taught it to Çep-Mayis – he has learned it through his years of solitude, from the silent stagnant pools, the muttering reeds. It is the rhythm of drowned footfalls, of the suction of the bog, the downward pulse of rotting matter. His fingers brush the fish-skin surface with a measured reticence, as softly as the willow scrapes the water; it takes only the merest touch.

Tonight he plays, though for months the bonedrum has lain hidden in his stash beneath the stones; a stranger must be beckoned if the meeting may take place, and the night is ripe for killing.

Çep-Mayis beats the drum, three ponderous strokes, a sound no stronger than the landing of birds; yet it carries, and (he knows) for as far as the tepid water reaches, the bonedrum can be heard. From the dampened coals a final wisp of smoke escapes, curling upwards, a tripartite frond; he guides it with his drumbeats, urging its collapse upon itself, its dissipation against the cooling sky.

Far beyond the glimmer of the lake, heavy boots sound upon the earth.

Çep-Mayis whistles, salty breath washing through his blackened teeth like the ebb-tide in the roots; his fingers plod upon the drum, and its bark is thin, as if an echo, whose source is yet unheard. He whistles the cry of the great dark birds that fly in from the west; he twists it into something else, a hunting-song, his own melody. In the depths of the dusk Çep-Mayis rocks and sways. His head and hands drift, like pad-leaves in the wind, but it is his own inner impetus that sets him in motion; he is sending out the song, a calling node, worming through the night's stillness, seeking out its listener.

A shadow glides under the silver-struck water. It is silent, but sediment boils up in its wake, like the oil-fires at the temple on the rocks (which Çep-Mayis has seen, and dared to visit, once, when the dark men's ships went away). A catfish flounces to the surface, and for an instant Çep-Mayis pauses, perfectly still. But the bonedrum has barely ceased reverberating when he returns to play, and now his song is just a fraction faster.

Çep-Mayis beats the bonedrum with the tips of his talons – the sound is like the splintering of twigs – and his free hand caresses the bronze-burnished brow of the drumbowl, plays with its loosening teeth. Time is short; he beats it away. He is tired.

A hand clutches at the rotting matter on the shore, gouging carefully into the clay; as the Cimmerian rises not a droplet is permitted to fall, but slides back to its source without a sound. He slinks between the rushes, pantherish, one great hand pressed against the pommel of his dirk; he has reason to be stealthy.

The odour of the fire has gone – but the sound of the drum is very close, and he can hear its second, the eerie shrilling of the old man's teeth; he grits his own. He is not a man to favour rites of any kind.

The islet is long and small. Conan stands astride its southmost point; already he can see its northern limit, and the little hump of reed-thatched mud that marks its centre. There, too, sits the adversary, barely distinguishable among the darkness of the matter and the silver of the moon, but there nonetheless, and his song is calling, calling.

The moonlight glints upon a blade; the moonlight glints upon a scattering of teeth.

Wordlessly, he stands; his weapon hisses in its sheath. The old man has crumpled to the ground. He rolls the body over with the toe of his great boot, and crushes the bonedrum beneath his heel. The thing is done.

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011



Quidnose posted:

Signups closed two hours ago, submissions go through Sunday.

Or else I'm hosed.

Yeah that.

I hadn't slept in two days okay.

Fraction
Mar 27, 2010

CATS RULE DOGS DROOL

FERRETS ARE ALSO PRETTY MEH, HONESTLY




The Games
713 words

We watch in silence as the younger boys perform the struggle of the hallowed Apollon and the drakaina. Akakios of the slender ankles dances around his opponent, supple as a girl. The other boy is broad of shoulder and older than Akakios; he could not win unless the gods smiled down on him. They shan’t, of course. The boys perform in the honour of the blessed Pythoktonos, and he would not permit the drakaina to win. Indeed, the tournament finishes soon: Akakios’s third arrow strikes true, and his opponent rises with hooded eyes and blood on his chin.

The banquet passes as swift as light-footed Iris. Helios’s burning chariot travels across the impossibly blue sky, high above us. Akakios crows of his prowess, surrounded by pretty girls dressed in incense and flowing chitons. His boasts are an irritation, but we may not chastise him. He is favoured by the god. I am thankful that he will not sing with us; I could not bear if he were twice-favoured. Pantaleon must think the same, for he brings his eyes to mine with a smile. I do not smile back. I see the shadow of the raven in his eyes, and I fear he will win the laurel crown.

O Apollon, noble lord, I honour you. O lord, I desire only that you find me worthy.

We are called, and so we rise. Pantaleon plays first, bringing forth from his kithara a sweetness the likes of which I have never before known. His voice is higher than the kithara’s, high and fluttery and sweet as dripping honey. He sings an ode to Phoibos Apollon. He sings of the battle, of how the god slew the drakaina. I shiver to hear him.

“Now rot here,” Pantaleon sings, “upon the soil that feeds man!”

I close my eyes. Against my eyelids, I see the scene unfold. I hear the whisper of Apollon’s arrows, the hiss of the serpent. The world rumbles under the attack. The drakaina is slow, striking with the lumbering speed of Akakios’s opponent. Apollon, swift of foot and of mind, outruns and outwits her. His arrows strike her and fall down uselessly. He loosens the final arrow from his quiver, and it plunges into her eye. She roars, bending the trees, forcing the earth to bow. But the Bright Lord does not cower away from her, and when the dust settles she lies prone across the ground.

I step forward to take my turn. I wipe the sweat from my brow. My eyes are heavy and my fingers weary. But as I pluck at the strings, all exhaustion fades away. My song rises like incense smoke. It forces itself up from the bottom of my lungs, from the pit of my stomach, from the core of my very self. I have never before felt so peaceful, so at one with – my nature, my body, my gods.

O, Apollon! O, lord. I honour you.

The music swells. My fingers dart faster and faster, plucking the song from the recesses of memory. It is not my memory, I understand, but the memory of this place. It is the memory of Python’s body slamming into the ground, the memory of Apollon’s deft hands loosening slender arrows. It is the Pythian memory, and it flows through me like wine.

I finish without a flourish. Everyone is silent. I look around, and Pantaleon meets my eyes. He is not smiling now. I stand before them and I tremble in the silence. It is heavy; it lies upon my skin like a blanket. The next boy rises, and when he passes me he lifts his chin. I do not know if it is defiance or respect, if it is understanding or dislike.

When the final notes of the final song fade into the sky, the laurel crown is brought toward us. We stand as one, watching its progress and silently yearning. The bearer is a girl who I do not know. She has wine-red lips and flaxen hair, and she holds the crown high above her. She stops, smiles sidelong at me, and then hands my god’s favour to a boy I do not know.

I feel the tears rise unbidden to my eyes, and I cannot blink them away.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

I failed to submit because I was so excited about New Zealander Tim Price winning the Burghley Horse Trials on the quirky but freakishly talented Ringwood Sky Boy

Slave
427

I couldn’t to speak without his permission. I couldn’t move. I was nothing. And yet I loved him.

He broke me in alone in his room. I wasn’t his first. I could tell. But he made it so easy. He was so skilled. So smooth. His touch was soft and reassuring. His fingers brought forth strange sounds from within me. Sounds I didn’t know I possessed. His touch barely changing. He held me in his arms, tuned me by ear, and turned my cries into music. He changed me. He made me beautiful.

I was a gift from an older relative. A gift.

Whenever he came home I was there. Sometimes he would ignore me. Sometimes for days and I would obediently, silently sit in the corner. Sometimes he would rush to me, leap into the air with me, tumble into the bed with me. I never knew his mood but I never failed to respond to his touch. And as he would make me sing his voice would join in with mine.

A gift.

He would sing. The songs were alway different. Some were born of frustration. Some of grief. Some of joy and new beginnings. Some were about women. Many about women.

A piece of property.

Layla. Lucy. Maggie. Mary. Roxanne. I didn’t have a name to him. I wasn’t called anything. So I would pretend I was really the woman he was singing about it.

Something to be used.

He took me to a party. He opened me in front of strangers. He held me by the neck and made me sing and they joined in. He passed me around. I was entertainment to them. They passed me around. It was wrong. It was perversion of what we had. They were rough. It hurt when they fingered me. Strangers tried to make me sing and I had to but it was all wrong. I could feel their inexperience. He was so casual. He smoked and talked and paid me no mind. It wasn’t special. I wasn’t special.

And not to be loved.

Someone was drunk. It was dark. I heard something unzip. And then there was piss on me. In me. It filled me. I couldn’t get it out. The next morning he found me and he seemed distraught. He took me home immediately. He cleaned me. He washed me by hand. It didn’t matter. I didn’t feel clean. Dirty. I couldn’t stop smelling it. I don’t think he could either.

I was nothing to him.

He sold me.

And yet I loved him.

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.

What up, here's a story, 971 words, aging Bowie, and another familiar face!

God from the (Tin) Machine

Violet was outrageously excited. She’d missed an absurd amount of gigs while being in hospital with several broken ribs, a pierced lung and a completely wrecked spleen, and to be able to see Bowie live as her first gig out of hospital and second ever – Maiden counted, dammit, even if she’d been unconscious for most of it – was… well, it was outrageously exciting. She was excited. Outrageously so. It was gonna be so groovy.

“Now remember,” said her mother, “no going in the moshpit. The wheelchair’s not ours.”

“Don’t worry,” said Violet. “There probably won’t be any near fatal stompings at a Bowie concert.”

“Well still, be careful.”

“You know, I could’ve reinforced the wheelchair maybe, made it more effective in a moshpit situation.”

Mother shook her head. “Doctor specifically said no weaponising the wheelchair.”

Violet shrugged. “C’mon, let’s see how far the sympathy card gets us.” Mother rolled her towards some important looking men in black suits, and Violet put on her best ‘I’m in a wheelchair’ face. It was more or less a normal expression except she sat in a wheelchair while maintaining it, so it was usually somewhat effective.

The sympathy card got them to just barely offstage. “This is dope!” said Violet. “I should get myself wheelchair bound for all the gigs!”

“I’m not buying you a wheelchair for better spots at gigs.”

“You say that now, but wait until Bowie is close enough to touch, and we’ll see what happens.”

The support act was Talking Heads, and they came on and were somewhat quirky and whimsical. “You know, gettin’ jiggy in a wheelchair is surprisingly difficult.”

“Rethinking your gig strategy?”

“I didn’t say impossible. It could grow on me. My legs aren’t getting tired, which is a plus.”

And then Bowie came on. “Hello everyone,” said Bowie, sounding all British and charming like he does. “Let’s play some lovely songs, shall we? That’d be pretty groovy. You all probably know this one.”

And then the band started playing, and Bowie opened his mouth and out came “Wait, wait, wait, were we doing that one first?” And his drummer shrugged and then Bowie said “OK why not chaps, come around for another verse one, there’s a good band,” and the band replayed verse one and Bowie started this time for real, “I know when to go out. I know when to stay in…”

And then time seemed to shimmer, and the stage shook, and Violet’s mother fell down, and-

“Well look who’s back in the land of the living.”

Violet’s mum opened her eyes. “What?”

“That was quite a spill you took there,” said an absurdly handsome doctor.

“Where’s Violet?”

“What? Who?”

“Violet. My daughter.”

“I don’t know what you’re ta-”

Violet looked around. The entire crowd, her mother included, seemed frozen, asleep on their feet. The band had stopped playing, and Bowie looked around in confusion while still trying to belt out Modern Love. “What gives, lads? This section isn’t a Capella!”

Violet wheeled onto the stage, because this seemed like as good an excuse as any to get closer to Bowie. “Looks like they’re all under some kind of spell Bowie, also can I get a photo?”

Bowie shrugged. “Anything for a fan in a wheelchair. Might have to be a selfie though, looks like all of our potential photographers are in some kind of demonically induced stupor. I’d say probably the work of Asmodeus, this seems kind of like his bag.”

And then Asmodeus emerged from beneath the stage, causing some damage to the woodwork on the way through. “Neat special effects,” said Violet.

“That’s not one of ours,” said Bowie.

“GAZE UPON MY COUNTENANCE AND DESPAIR!” bellowed Asmodeus.

“Over this way, chief,” said Violet.

“OH MY, THIS IS EMBARRASSING,” said Asmodeus as he turned around to face them. “NOW WHY IS IT YOU TWO AREN’T STUPEFIED, LIKE A GOOD BUNCH OF THRALLS? I CONTROL ALL HUMANS THROUGH THEIR EASILY MANIPULATED SPLEEN!”

“Oh well that explains me,” said Violet.

“Sorry old bean,” said Bowie, “but I’m not in the habit of sharing the stage with Princes of Hell, so could you be a good lad and shove off, eh?” And then Bowie grabbed the microphone and let out a thunderous scream, his voice lifting up to the very heavens. Mingling with his were the voices of Elvis, not Costello the other fellow, of Buddy Holly, of Ray Charles, of Paul McCartney, of-

“WAIT, MCCARTNEY?” asked Asmodeus. “THAT DOESN’T EVEN-”

And then Bowie punched him in his big fat demonic face and strangled him with the microphone cord. “Strange,” said Bowie, “the voices of the fallen thing usually works. I guess I can’t hit the high notes quite as well these days.” Then the band started waking up, and being highly trained professionals they ignored the charred remains of Asmodeus and started again from the top, and Violet wheeled back over to where her mother was staggering to her feet.

And the show was totally dope as is to be expected from the single greatest solo artist ever, and if you don’t agree with that description I will see you in the parking lot after the story you jerk, and afterwards Violet and her mum got to go backstage and meet Bowie, where there was surprisingly no hedonism or debauchery at all, and instead they did karaoke, and Violet sung Run to the Hills, although having no spleen and a still recovering lung made the high notes pretty difficult. And they all had a lovely time with absolutely no untimely interruptions from pop stars with dumb nicknames. Later Violet and her mum went home and watched some TV, but we’re kind of moving away from things of interest here, so let’s just call the story finished at this point, hmmm?

Quidthulhu
Dec 17, 2003

Stand down, men! It's only smooching!


Submission! 919 words.

Etude #44

They were almost done with the inventory when Phillip got to the back room and found the piano. Russ came afterwards, through the doorway from some anteroom nearby. “What’s this?”

“Baby grand. Pretty old.” Phillip pushed aside a wilting Japanese art screen installment and revealed it, covered in a sheet that was more dust than muslin. He pulled the fabric in one long movement, letting it crumple to the ground, and examined the instrument, peering at it through rising specks that made the afternoon light fall in sharp angles on the peeling wood. It was brown, and weathered; it clearly had not been shown any love in quite some time. Somehow, it had been spared the juvenile tagging that ran rampant through the long abandoned house. Phillip thought it was a travesty; much of what they found bordered on the side of kitsch-artistry, and the delinquents who had been squatting in the place hadn’t even had the decency to be remotely artistic in their vandalism.

Russ pushed his hardhat back and took a few steps toward him. “That thing is beat up to poo poo.”

“Yeah.” Phillip moved to the keyboard and lifted the lid. The keys were cracked, yellowed, beautiful. They might have been ivory, once, before time and environmental protection took over the manufacturing process. Somewhere, there was a plaque, or the indentation of one, that would have told him the day and place this ancient relic was painstakingly put together, string by string, panel by panel. It didn’t matter, really; anyone who had cared about this instrument had long since made peace with abandoning it amongst the multitude of sheet covered pieces in the house. It made Phillip sad, how people could walk away from artistry; but he had long since hidden that piece of himself beneath a sheet as well.

He placed his hands on the keys, gently, systematically, feeling the anticipation of their weight beneath his fingertips. An E minor scale, arpeggiated, the bass note followed by the fifth of the chord and then the full chord realized, inverted, in the right hand, leading to the root on top. And then the natural progression to the relative fifth below, the same voicing throughout, and then – what? A modulation? A change to the major, unexpected, jarring, revitalizing? Maybe another chord, the natural and expected progression a step down, continuing the pattern that had been established by Pachelbel, only in the minor; but maybe that was too obvious. Really, it was the possibility of it all; that if he gave it enough time, enough devotion, it would figure itself out. The keys almost seemed warm under his touch.

He could feel that Russ was staring at him and glanced over at his partner. “Do you play, Phil?” Russ was scratching absently at his backside.

“I did, once.” He tried a note, pressing it like the skin of a lover. It was sour, and hung in the air like a shroud, like so many covered busts in a house nobody cared about anymore. But if someone would peel back the layers of dust…

He tried another. And another. Soon, it was flowing from him: the old familiar song, Chopin, his junior recital. He wasn’t standing in a fully forgotten house in Long Island, with the windows boarded up so nobody could peer inside; he was on a stage, his coat was in tails, split halfway at the bottom, his hands smooth rather than calloused. He had practiced for months, spent more days in the practice room than in his dorm room, learned how to make the cold faux-ivory spruce of the keys ache for his touch more than his girlfriend, who had been complaining about not seeing him enough, who had wondered why it was so important that he practice on her birthday instead of spending time with her. In two months, it would all fall apart: his scholarship, his relationship, his will to make the audience hold their breath. But for that one moment in time, he was a God; the air was full of notes, like flies. Not flies: faeries. They skipped and sang and played with the audience, created beautiful borealis streams in the air, and brought new life to ink that was more than one hundred years old. And in the stale air of an abandoned house on a late Saturday afternoon, Phillip felt alive for the first time in a long time.

He played the final chord, slowly, carefully, and let the final arpeggio hang in the air. The notes lingered, mixed with the dusty and fading sunlight. For a moment, everything was still.

Russell exhaled a breath. “Nice.”

“Thanks.” Phillip stretched his hands above him, flexed his fingers. The moment and memories were racing away from him.

He picked up his clipboard. “So, ‘one piano, poor condition.’”

Russell scribbled on his paper, nodding. “Anything else?”

Phillip glanced around, closing the lid of the keyboard. “I think that screen is probably worth making a note of. It might be genuine. The rest of it, garbage.”

“Gotcha.” Russell made a few checkmarks. “I think we have one more room, then we’re done.” He was already halfway out of the room. “How do you feel about Hooters after? I know a girl who works there.”

Phillip watched him step out of the room, then placed his hand on the worn wood, felt the subtlety of the grain. He gave the piano a small pat. “Sure,” he said, then followed his partner to finish the inventory.

Helsing
Aug 23, 2003

I'M ESCAPING TO THE ONE PLACE THAT HASN'T BEEN CORRUPTED BY CAPITALISM...

SPACE!


So I had to help clean out an office this weekend and then ended up looking after my nephew. I think I'm going to be screwed.

So since I've got nothing I guess I'll multiply my failure by grabbing the remaining flash bounty:

Bad Seafood posted:


WANTED: A story inspired by this song.

I have no idea where this is going to take me but I don't think it'll be pretty.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Sharp Harmony (998 words)

Ropes of red blood streamed down the Turntables of Time, across Destiny’s Dancefloor, and pooled beneath Parca Canon’s scuffed boots. The Cosmic Deejay lay slumped across his station, bullethole through his braincase. Loudspeakers belched Kansas’ greatest hits here in the center of the universe. Outside, reality desiccated and began to blow away.

“What happened?” asked a familiar voice from the doorway.

“Lead poisoning.” Parca squinted. “Figaro?”

Son qua.” The Cosmic Deejay crossed time’s threshold from yesterday to now, mounted the booth and studied his own corpse. “Dreadful. Not a suicide, I trust?”

“You didn’t leave a note.”

“Lovely. I’ve fifteen minutes’ break, then I must go back to yesterday.” Figaro tapped the controls. “At least I had the good sense to put the universe on Shuffle before I died.”

Parca joined him and poked through the song history. Until twenty minutes ago, the heavens bobbed to dubstep; the last was a bouncy Stirling synth-and-string piece. Then the playlist jumped all over the place - Motown, nocturnes, swing, and now one of the few blacklisted tracks. “Can you fix this thing?” She traced her fingers across the controls. Soon….

Figaro swatted her hand. “No touching. This isn’t one of your machines in the workshop. Hit the wrong button and we’re all dead, or worse.” Figaro switched to samba. The stars brightened and danced once again. “That should avert the worst.”

Parca hid a smile. “Help me clean this up.”

They fetched a rug from storage, hoisted the body onto it, rolled it tight, and dragged the bundle downstairs.

The moirai’s workshop was a city-sized stone cavern beneath the center of the universe. Trillions of iPods lined infinite aisles, a name scribbled on each. They sat silently playing everyone’s fates. The deejay booth was the conductor, these machines were the existential orchestra’s catgut and brass, and Parca was their humble caretaker.

“What do we do with you? I don’t want to smell you rotting all day.”

“Deal with it later, time’s short. If I must die, whoever shot me should get their due. The club isn’t open yet, no?”

“Right. So it’s an inside job.”

Figaro nodded. “Bravo bravissimo. Is the interpreter in?”

“Michael’s probably busy.”

“He owes me a favor. This way, no?” Figaro turned.

“This way.” Parca pointed in the wrong direction. “How long since you’ve been down here?”

“Ages, it seems.” The deejay frowned. “Lead.”

She could only walk so far afield before he got suspicious, but every wasted second worked in her favor. Success could not be left to fate. They plunged deep through the racks. She knew these aisles well. Left, straight on ten rows, right. She faked a glance at her phone. “I have to make a quick adjustment.”

“Hurry.”

Hundreds of little screens flanked the aisle. She located from memory the two she wanted. Michael’s title worried her: God Will Get His Man. Ominous. She queued up Springsteen; he’d provide a good five minutes’ misdirection. Tampering with her own queue was strictly forbidden, but on the screen - Eve Of Destruction? What sadist set this up? She switched it. Queen never let anyone down. Don’t Stop Me Now.

She found Figaro staring at an iPod. “Mine’s shut off.”

“What did you expect, Mozart’s Requiem forever?” Parca would reset that one later, figure out a new playlist. She’d give Figaro something fun for his next life, not the usual eighty years of muzak. After all this, she owed him a mariachi cover of Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits. “I’ll fix it tonight. We’re here.” She pulled Figaro to a door at the end of the aisle, knocked and entered the staff canteen.

A fluffy-haired man in heeled shoes leaned against a countertop. “Morning.”

“Mike.” Parca tossed her phone to him. “Fig wants an interpretation.”

Michael sneered. “I don’t do dubstep.”

“Really? I still have that Eurovision tape,” said Figaro.

“Fine.” Michael tapped the phone. Wubs and wailing strings filled the room. “You died with lots of violins.”

“Gunshot wound.”

“Ah.”

Michael danced. Steel toes clacked against stone floor as his feet exhumed secrets buried in rhythm. In his flashing legs, an image formed. A woman, a gun upraised, her face blurred but sharpening, sharpening.

A drop of sweat rolled down Parca’s back. When was the drat song going to start?

Elsewhere, an iPod switched tracks. As the music crescendoed, the lights extinguished. Sparks flashed where feet hit floor. Were those letters the sparks traced?

The music died, the light returned and Michael bowed. Figaro’s face was grey.

“Dancing in the dark doesn’t help us much,” said Parca.

“Michael, can you do the last minute again? I—“ Figaro’s watch beeped. He sighed. “Nevermind.”

“I’ll keep hunting, Fig.” Parca held out her hand. “Good working with you.”

Figaro glared at her. “Yeah.” He slouched through the door, then beckoned her over.

She went to the door, face held firm.

“Cover my shift, will you?”

“With pleasure.” Parca swallowed a grin.

“If you need more time, just hit repeat.” The doomed man left.

Michael smirked. “Gunning for promotion?”

“Can’t fix fates forever, Mike.”

She bounded back upstairs and breathed deep. The plan had worked, the club was hers. Only one complication - did Michael know? He must. The pistol in the small of her back itched. She’d deal with him later.

Something else was off - the stage was still bloody. Tomorrow-Parca should’ve taken a break and traveled back to mop gore while today-her dealt with yesterday-Figaro.

Parca climbed into the deejay booth and stood at the mixing board of creation. On the control screen, Figaro’s samba track ticked away its final seconds. She needed more time to mop, hide the gun, burn the body. A proper playlist would come later. She hit repeat and went to find a mop.

The song ended.

#

Ropes of red blood streamed down the Turntables of Time, across Destiny’s Dancefloor, and pooled beneath Parca Canon’s scuffed boots. The Cosmic Deejay lay slumped across his station, bullethole through his braincase.

inthesto
May 12, 2010

There is a point where we needed to stop, and we have clearly passed it.

BUT LET'S KEEP GOING AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS!


Duet (887 words)

“Please Emmanuel, won't you come to bed?” Georgina's voice sounded so hollow these days, but Emmanuel couldn't be bothered to do something about it. His father's birthday was in three months, and he would have the piece ready. No matter how uncooperative the musicians or how naggy his wife, Emmanuel was going to write the best string quartet that his father heard from Heaven. His left hand waved Georgina away. His right was too busy writing notes on a staff.

“Leave. We will have all the time in the world once this is done.” For a moment, his focus snapped. The violins in his head stopped. They played far too slow. Allegro. Allegro, drat you! His mind's eye saw himself snapping the baton over his knee, shrieking profanities at the first violinist. You contemptible, low-born, diseased rat. Death is too good for a musician of your caliber! You are never to touch a string so long as you are in my sight, understood?

“Wait.” Emmanuel's bench creaked with age as the composer turned, grabbing his wife by her bony fingers. For a moment, he missed the days when they were plump and full of life. “Georgina, I need you to play the first violin.”

“Now you beg me for favors? Now you wish for your wife to tend to your wounded pride?” Any indignation left in her body came hissing through her teeth. “The great Emmanuel Fritz Bach, too busy to tend to his most beloved woman and violinist, only stops his fawning over his dead father to beg for her talents, long since buried!” She shook herself free of his grasp. Emmanuel's fingers had no strength to hold on.

“The words are from your own mouth. I am a Bach, and a Bach is a musician.” He clambered to stand. Pulling her in by the shoulders, he gave her a warm embrace from behind. “This isn't just for father. It's for all of us.” With an inhale, his lips kissed the back of her head, like they used to do so long ago. “You are the best violinist I have ever known, and every Bach in history deserves to hear you play.” He intertwined his fingers with hers. They still had some warmth left. “Don't do it for my family, or even for me. Do it for the memories of us.”

“But you are not yet done writing it.”

“Every morning at dawn, I shall take my rest and leave the sheet music for you. I will write for three months and you will practice for three months. It will be beautiful, love. Just like before.” Emmanuel knew Georgina wanted to cry, even if she was unable.

When he had finally sang the melody for her and tucked her into bed, Emmanuel locked himself in the piano room. The blood on the paper was still drying, but he had no time to wait. With labored breaths he rolled up his left sleeve, picked up the quill, and drove it straight into his wrist. Dragging the sharp point through flesh, the fountainhead drank blood. It stung as he pulled it out, but he had more important matters in need of attendance. It was time to write a violin solo worthy of a Bach. And it was time to write a violin solo worthy of his wife.

Three months later, and every seat in the concert hall was occupied. The acoustics of the chamber bounced every rumor of the last great Bach's descent into madness. Was it true that he had gone overboard this time? That he would conduct his own string quartet solo, having hand-picked all four musicians? That was nothing to say of their decaying marriage.

Emmanuel's ears were deaf to everything but the music. His baton waved back and forth, weaving the magic of his finest composition. Georgina played to perfection. The horse hair of her bow and the bone of her finger both resonated against the steel string of her violin. The visages of the Bachs before him began to materialize before Emmanuel's eyes. Johannes, Carl, Wilhelm, Anna... They were all smiling in approval. But Emmanuel was not one to take undue credit. He pointed the baton to his wife, point trembling in his vice grip.

Georgina's knuckles rattled as she played the perfect vibrato, the single note blooming in the entire hall.

There was a single second of silence before the audience erupted in applause. Emmanuel was still deaf to the sound behind him. He had honored his ancestors, given his wife the performance she deserved, and left behind a legacy. There was one last thing left to set right.

As he climbed onto the stage, he left a trail behind him. The blood continued to drip from both his sleeves, and his face was white as a sheet as he fell into Georgina's arms. Her bosom long rotted away, he collapsed into her ribs. They comforted him all the same. He looked up to where her eyes used to be, only hollow sockets now, but they still belonged to her. His vision began to black around the edges, and he couldn't have been happier for her skull to be the last thing he saw.

“Let's go to bed, Georgina.”

e: gdocs link

inthesto fucked around with this message at Nov 3, 2013 around 23:35

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

prompt: genre music
wordcount: 945

'Dimension' for strings

When the music started, Stephen Pawn’s aural augments clicked off for the first time in a decade. Bereft of accompaniment, his brain clutched at the music like a drowning man reaching for the surface. The fantasia rose around him, closed over him, oceanic. It sought its way inside him, not caring by what means. It tasted of honey and bile, smelled like flowering corpses, ran like scalpels along gooseflesh. Barely able to breath, Steven reached for his mobiTech with the industry-standard mic. He stabbed at it repeatedly, but its screen remained blank. The music unwound, flowing through his veins like heroin cut with skyscrapers.

At the piece’s conclusion Stephen shook his head, the last notes still reverberating in his skull. His augments clicked back and the soundtrack to his life continued as if it hadn’t skipped a beat, sensing his mood and lowering itself to a portentous key. He grabbed a pen, a nearby pad, wrote a large number on it and pushed it across the table.

The elderly composer on the other side raised a single eyebrow.

“I think,” said Stephen, “that you will find it a more than reasonable offer for the phonic generation algorithms”

“And I think,” said the composer, “that I am not remotely interested in anything reasonable.”

“I’m not sure I follow your meaning, Sir.” Stephen’s LifeTrack played an unusually sour note. he unconsciously tapped the side of his head.

The composer laughed. “Sir? You weren’t calling me Sir when my Monolith Quartet was offered up for option. In fact you weren’t calling me at all. I was going to offer this to you as before, but I have had a change of heart. My ‘Dimensions' for strings is going a different route.”

Stephen held up his hands in mock surrender. “All right, you’ve got me.” He flashed his best smile, the one where his eyes joined in. “Apologies if I have neglected you before. You have to realise we get a lot of submissions, and not every piece has the … unique qualities of this one. But I’m very interested.” He poked his mobiTech and this time it sprang to life, distorting for a second as the screen awoke. “How did you do the augments thing, by the way? It certainly got my attention. Some kind of jammer?” The screen distorted again as Stephen tried to bring up some standard contracts. Odd, he thought. Could be time for an upgrade.

“Ugh. Aural Augments.” Flecks of spittle accompanied the composer’s derision. “Asinine toys for those who cannot live without muzak infecting their thoughts like syphilis of the soul. I don’t have them myself, of course. I like to remain pure, both in my work and my life. I don’t even have a composm - I have an amanuensis-programmer, a little man from the village who comes in on Tuesdays.”

“Wonderful! Now, let’s talk terms.”

“I’m sorry, Mr Pawn, if I am not making myself clear. The purpose of my visit was not to sell you anything directly, merely to let you know what I have. I’ll be visiting Day Gone Records later today and My Go Now! Algo-publishers early tomorrow. S.Pawn and Associates are welcome to join in the bidding tomorrow afternoon. That should save a lot of tedious whiffling about. Just don’t insult me. Again.”

The composer swept up his portable AlgoPlay, gave a stiff half-nod, and then left the office, leaving Stephen alone with his thoughts, themselves muddied and muddled by a LifeTrack that was starting to sound weirdly atonal.

Stephen fired up his copy of Barium on his mobiTech. He tried to recreate from memory the line and curve of what he had been listening to only moments ago, but he couldn’t get the controls to follow the faint echoes of his memory. The mobiTech screen flickered repeatedly and his LifeTrack kept getting in the way, not fading to the background when other more important sounds were present. Disgusted, he crossed to the window and looked out across Times Square, at the million screens that lit up the darkening winter afternoon.

Every single screen was looking back at him. Every face in every ad was angled to towards him, mouthing the same word.

Hello.

Stephen’s LifeTrack started a fugue, playing the same melodic line backwards and forwards and sideways simultaneously. The different threads wove around one another, rolling up into each other like broken ligaments. They tightened until they were a single voice.

Hello. We’re coming. Hear us.

His LifeTrack suddenly cranked up the volume, pushing further from the acceptable mathematics of music, until it abandoned all pretence of rhythm and harmony. Stephen felt its neural bridges writhing and spasming in painful delight inside his head. His heart switched time signature, then again, and again, each change breaking down the familiar dimensions, until he saw, felt, tasted the vibrating strings that made the universe. But they weren’t strings, they were worms, chewing through the fabric of every conceivable reality, chewing through his mind, until it fell apart into insanity.

When Arturo came into the office to announce the arrival of Mr Pawn’s Three O’Clock, he saw his boss lying in a pool of his own blood. It wasn’t until the paramedics arrived that they found the pen, driven deep into his left ear with all the force the human hand could muster.

<stop><rewind><record>

When Arturo came into the office to announce the arrival of Mr Pawn’s Three O’Clock, he saw his boss happily working on Barium, tapping a strangely off-tempo rhythm with his pen.

“Send him in, Arturo,” said Stephen. “I’ve got something he’s going to go absolutely mad over.”

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Music to Draw By
(1,000 words)

On a boardwalk bench, the river meters from his feet, Martin scraped a charcoal pencil over paper. The child in front of him wouldn't stay still. He drew the line of her shoulder, and it changed; she leaned forward to see his work. His pencil wandered outside of his intention despite his effort, missing the perfect angles, shading her cheek just too dark. Martin almost couldn't blame her for running off at the sight of the finished sketch. He chased after her anyway, abandoning his empty money box.

A woman stepped into the child's path and nabbed her by the arm. "Let go!" the girl yelled.

"She owes me for a sketch," Martin explained.

"Imagine that," said the woman, and she gave the girl such a look that the child stared at the ground and pulled coins from her pocket. Martin took them, tasting a bitterness his brief sprint couldn't account for.

Released, the child fled without her drawing. Martin tucked the payment away. "Thanks," he said quietly.

"I'm Livvy," the woman said. She held out a hand; he hesitated before lending her his sketchbook. She set down the long black case she carried to page through it. "You're very good," Livvy murmured, and his ears burned. "And you're welcome. I know that girl. I've stopped letting her request songs."

Martin managed a smile, reclaimed the book, and retreated to his bench. No prospective clients waited. Turning to one of his scribble pages, he tried, again, to bring the river to life in lines and dust. Afterward he would attempt the girl--someday he'd get it all right.

To his left, sun flashed off silver. Livvy stood four paces away, and she'd brought a flute out of her case. She met his glance and offered a smile; her eyes were grey as the boardwalk wood, closing as she piped a sequence of notes.

Flutesong replaced the silence with painless perfection. He felt it beneath his skull and in his fingers, resonant in his pencil. He swept that up the paper, creating the tree that stood across the river; drew the point down and across at exactly the angle of its dragging branch.

People stopped to watch him work. People demanded portraits, and what he drew lit them up from inside, the brightest notes from the flute less joyous than they. Martin ignored his money box and the setting sun, so long as he could draw. So long as the music lasted.

It ended with the close of day; he stumbled as soon as it did. He smoothed out the jag he'd drawn and handed the sketch to its subject before he could do more damage. He found enough coins in his box to pay his rent. And Livvy and her flute were walking away.

"Wait!"

She stopped and turned. Martin saw the last of the sun on her cheek and twitched to draw it. He caught up to her. "Will you play here tomorrow?"

"I wander, usually," she said.

"Come back," he nearly pleaded. "Or tell me where you'll be, because your music, it's...." Since he couldn't find a word, he offered the money box. "I'll give you half."

The corners of her mouth lifted. "Would you give me sketches instead? One for every day I play for you."

"That's--"

"A bargain."

For him, certainly. While Livvy's song surrounded him and vibrated his bones, he disappointed no one with his art, not even himself. His fingers put his visions on the paper, each as true as her playing. During the day, he drew a hundred faces of people, the river, the city. Only his sketch for Livvy ever remained in his book when the sun fell. He gave her mountains. He gave her moons.

At home, he remembered each glance he'd stolen while her eyes were shut... and he sketched her imperfectly, the only way he could. Jitters of his pencil tangled the sweep of her dark hair.

Martin kept trying; Martin kept drawing. His art brought delight.

Livvy kept playing, but his pencil shaded increasing disappointment and distance into her eyes. Her flute sent minor notes down the river.

One day she didn't come to the bench.

Would-be clients grabbed at him and pleaded with him not to leave. Martin sketched in a fog of silence, ignoring the errors he made. When he showed the people his work, he thought they would be glad enough to release him.

"It's your best yet!" said a man, tossing ten times his old fee into his box.

No one noticed the change except himself--they still shone! Yet he heard the quiet more clearly than the praise. Martin grabbed his book and fled them all, listening hard for the sound of a flute. He stopped for breath in a city alley, and he heard the faintest hint of a song he knew. He followed its lead up flights of stairs, to a weathered grey door.

Livvy answered his knock. There was no flute in her hand, but he still heard her music.

"Will you come back to the boardwalk?" Martin asked.

"I don't think so. We had a deal," she said, "but you don't need me as a tool any more, Martin. You've learned what you needed to."

"You've never been a tool!"

Livvy said, "You haven't looked at me in weeks. You hear my flute. You don't see me."

Hadn't looked at her?

Martin opened his sketchbook, pulling out a pencil. He listened to the music in his mind as he drew at his fastest pace; the notes were quiet, uneven, but she stood still for him. Stood stiller yet when he tore the page free and put the image in her hands: herself, imperfectly drawn; herself, generous and talented and all-enchanting.

"Maybe I'll get your ears right someday," he said. "Forget the boardwalk. Would you just walk with me?"

She locked the door of her apartment behind them, her flute and his sketchbook left within.

Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.


237
Word Count: 988

09:00

What a pain in the rear end. 237 has scheduled treatments four times a day and her last one was two hours ago. I entered the hospital sweet after I washed my hands and glanced at the frail old lady who braced herself, hunched over on her knees while she used her shoulders to assist in her breathing. "Morning again Elizabeth. It's Doug from Respiratory."


"The medicine isn't working," she said, each word punctuated with a sharp, shallow gasp for air. I already knew because her nurse, Jeremy, told me an hour earlier. “It only lasts for a little while, and then I can't breathe again.”


"Well it's unsafe to give you this breathing treatment anymore than once per two hours, but I'll talk with your doctor and see if we can't give you something else to help with your breathing," I smiled and removed my stethoscope from around my neck. "Let me take a listen to your lungs."


As I exited the room, Jeremy passed me by and spun on his heels. "Bro, have you seen her daughter?" Jeremy said as he walked backward into the patient's room, bouncing invisible breasts in his hands.


11:00


I pressed the phone to my ear. "This is Doug."


"Hey man, it's Jeremy," the phone said, "When you have a minute can you stop by 237, she's at it again."


I groaned. "Give me a few minutes. I'll be right up."


Entering the room, I immediately noticed someone new. Jeremy was right. Man, her breasts were nice. "Hi there, I'm Doug. I have a breathing treatment."


The daughter nodded barely acknowledging my presence, instead content to rubbing her mother's shoulder as she begged her to breath in through the nose and out through the mouth.


"Elizabeth?" I called out to the patient and she sluggishly looks up at me. "Did the breathing treatment make it easier to breath for you last time?"


She only shook her head, appearing too out of breath.


"I have the second drug ordered up, but I won't be able to administer it until the next time I get back. Hopefully this will give you a little relief." When I finished the aerosol treatment, I turned to the breasts. "Do you have any questions for me?"


They look up at me and my eyes snap up to her face. "Are you the doctor?"


"No, I'm not her doctor. I deal with just the lungs."


She looked back to her mom. "I just want to know what's going on."


I glanced down at her chest again. "Dr. Winters will be here soon. We're about to conduct rounds. I recommend to make a list for any questions that might pop up."


"Thanks," she said.


13:30



“No, I'll be right up. I just have to finish this procedure first. Alright, see ya.” I placed my phone in my pocket and then brought the large sandwich to my mouth, taking an enormous bite.


14:00


I entered room 237 and noticed there were far more people in there than before. "Respiratory. I'm here to give Elizabeth a breathing treatment." Most of them looked up without saying anything. I made my way through the women and administered the treatments to 237.

Later, as I sat at a computer charting, Jeremy came up to me. "Did you see all those hot chicks? I think there's even twins!"

"They look a little young, Jer. You better reign in your testosterone."

One of 237's daughters ran out of the room yelling. "She's not breathing!"

Everyone within hearing range swarmed into the room. I snapped some gloves on expecting some action, but was disappointed when I saw 237 in the same spot, only now she was moaning on exhilation.

"She's not breathing!" The same daughter parroted at me. "She's making these choking noises!"

I chewed my lip as I chose my words. "She's only moaning. She wouldn't be able to make that sound unless she was breathing." Harsher than I would have liked.

The nurses left after they realized there was no emergency, but Jeremy stayed. "Elizabeth, I need you to calm down and concentrate on your breathing," he said pushing her back into the bed.

"Help me!" 237 wailed, ignoring him.

"I'm trying to help you," Jeremy said, "I need you to calm down."

Boobs rubbed 237's back and she sang to her. The singing seemed to calm her down, but the moaning was still constant.

Outside of the room, I pulled Jeremy aside. "She has too much stimulation. Everyone is all freaking out over every little thing and it's causing 237 to get all panicky."

"Let me guess," Jeremy said, "You want me to talk to the family and come to an understanding?"

"I'm glad we're on the same page." I said, patting him on the shoulder.

16:00

I sighed when I found myself back in room 237. I needed to draw some blood to see what was going on with her.

“Pardon me, I need to get to her arm.” I said to the supple twins. They scooted down near the foot of the bed. I unwrapped the syringe and went to her wrist. I frowned. "Jer, her blood pressure is too low. I can't feel her pulse. Pass me the sonar kit, would you?"

Using a gel, I lathered her arm up and with the sonar device I tried finding the pulse. The daughter was hunched over her mother's lap, softly singing the same song from earlier as her body shook with sobs. I pressed my lips together trying to tune out the distraction. I point at Jeremy and then back to the daughter and motion for him to rub her back and get her to shut up.

16:15

poo poo, her results are critical!

18:30

"...237 was needy, but she's on a ventilator now. Dr. Winters was talking palliative care. You probably won't have to go in that room much tonight."

Ronnie_Long
Jun 7, 2003

cock of the walk

Do Robots Dream of LeAnn Rimes? (998 Words)

When SIGMA Robotics first approached Shelby to do music therapy with their robots, she thought it was a joke. She was still half expecting a video of her singing to a robot to go viral.

PARSON robots were developed to work as aides to the elderly. With the rapidly aging population, there weren’t enough beds in assisted living facilities to provide care for everyone that needed it. The PARSON robot was designed to allow the elderly to remain in their homes by assisting with the tasks of daily living such as bathing, toileting, household maintenance, medication management and ordering groceries and other supplies.

In trials, the robots had performed exceptionally well, but people were dissatisfied. In surveys they complained repeatedly about the robot’s inhuman affect. They wanted the robot’s assistance, but they also wanted the robot’s companionship. SIGMA had been struggling for two years to program a personality for the PARSON robot with little success, when the CEO had seen a profile of Shelby’s work with autistic children on the news. When she described on the program the difficulty autistic children have understanding emotion and how musical therapy can help, he had seen parallels to the challenges they were experiencing with the PARSON model and had called Shelby the next day.

After working in a rundown elementary school all day with boisterous children and harried teachers, SIGMA’s office seemed almost surreal. The lab was spartan in decoration, with crisp white walls and a navy blue carpet. The staff had left for the day by the time she arrived, so there was only the faint hum of the air conditioning in the hushed office. She walked down the hall to the furthest door and opened it.

“Hi PARSON, did you miss me?” Shelby asked brightly, walking in the door and setting her guitar case on a table.

The robot considered the question before responding.

“I’m sorry; I do not understand the feeling ‘miss’.”

“What is the definition?” she asked.

PARSON referenced the term. “Miss: to discover or feel the absence of.”

Shelby opened her guitar case and pulled out her battered old guitar. She slipped the flowered strap around her neck and plucked the strings to make sure it was in tune. “I’ll sing you a song that is an example of the feeling ‘miss’, she said and she perched on a stool opposite PARSON and began to sing LeAnn Rimes “How Do I Live”.

PARSON cocked his head to listen to the music, an affectation that always made Shelby smile. He had been programmed to mimic human movements so that he would appear natural, but they only seemed to emphasize the alien quality of the robot.

It was strange experience singing to PARSON. He would stare at her intently, recording every nuance and referencing and cross referencing the information in order to create a profile of the emotion. It was a strain to remain fully focused on the emotional meaning of the song while she sang it, but she knew that if she let her mind wander PARSON could incorrectly relate the emotion to boredom.

She finished the song and put her guitar down. “Okay,” she said, “What do you make of ‘miss’?”

PARSON scanned the data he had compiled while she was singing. “I detected that ‘miss’ contains elements of both ‘love’ and ‘sad’,” he responded.

Shelby nodded. “Okay, I have another example. Listen closely to this one,” she instructed as she began singing John Waite’s “Missing You”.

PARSON listened carefully to the song but isolated the data he recovered from it. He had found that when Shelby said “listen closely” there was something unique she wanted him to learn.

Shelby finished singing. “What did you think of that one?”

PARSON frowned. “This one is more difficult. I detected feelings of ‘love’, ‘sad’ and ‘anger’, but the words didn’t match.”

Shelby looked at him intently. “Which one did you believe, the words or the feelings?”

PARSON considered. “The feelings.”

Shelby gave a small whoop of excitement and did a little dance on her stool. One of the biggest difficulties she had encountered in working with robots was teaching them to look past the literal meaning of words and trust in their analysis of the emotional content of language. PARSON had just made a huge breakthrough.

“I don’t understand why humans don’t just say what they mean,” PARSON said. “Why would say you aren’t missing someone when you are?”

Shelby laughed. “In this case, I think the answer may be pride. Tell me, what is pride?”

“Pride: a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people.” PARSON thought about it. “So, the one party injured your feelings, but because you feel you deserve respect you refuse to admit it?”

Shelby thought it over. Working with PARSON required a level of analysis that often made her head ache. “It’s like, not wanting to give someone the satisfaction of having hurt you.”

“Why would someone derive satisfaction from hurting another person?”

“It’s complicated,” Shelby explained. “If by ending a relationship you hurt someone, it means that you were special to them. People want to feel special, to feel important, so in a way causing pain can be gratifying.”

PARSON consolidated the data from that song into his database. “Sometimes I think I will never understand humans.”

She reached out and put her hand on his. “You have made incredible strides. You will get this, don’t get discouraged.” Her stomach growled. “This human has to eat. I’m going to put my supper in the microwave. I’ll be right back, okay?

“I ain’t missing you at all,” PARSON deadpanned. Shelby laughed as she grabbed her supper. “See, you are getting it!” she called over her shoulder as she walked out of the room.

PARSON spent the next few minutes cross referencing the information he had learned. Softly, he played a recording he had made of Shelby singing and then tentatively referenced her name under the emotion ‘love’.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Take Me Home
844 words

Esteb was wearing nothing but his lute when the intruder slammed his door open.

"Good Jarl!" he exclaimed, covering himself with his lute and reaching for a knife. Not that he had anything worth stealing, but poverty could make a man desperate. He took stock of his would-be thief: a young girl swathed in a brown cloak, concealing her slight form.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," the girl said, stepping in. She stank of hard travel in the country, of horses and campfire ashes.

"No you're not," Esteb said, keeping his eyes on her as she closed the door. "State your business and leave. I've got some composing to do."

The girl blinked, blushing at his nakedness. Her eyes wandered elsewhere, but there was nothing else in Esteb's cramped room but a bed, a table, and a stool. "I want to travel to the capital. Can you take me there?"

"Do I look like a guide to you? Hire a cart to take you there."

"The innkeeper said you're a traveling musician, Master Esteb," the girl said, unfazed. "I'm from far away, and I need your help to get inside. I can sing and play the lute, so I'll pretend to be your apprentice." She lowered her head. "Or be your real one, if things don't turn out well."

Esteb's hand darted to the scar on his side, what his last apprentice left for him. "Where are you from? Are you a spy? If I don't like your answer I'm going start screaming for the watch."

The girl held up a hand. "Wait! I come from a land of united states."

"Never heard of them." Had Thensa, Prasta, and Sargo forged an alliance? She looked foreign, but her command of the Argamian language was impeccable. If she really was a spy, then she would be worth an entire army.

"It would be strange if you knew. I'm sorry, but I can't say any more." She tensed up, waiting for his scream.

Esteb sighed. "If I choose to go with you, and that's an if, how will you pay me?"

"I sold my horse for coin. I'll give you all of it. If that's not enough I'll help you with your business." She looked at the worm-eaten apple on the table. "Forgive me, but it looks like you need the help."

She had a point. What did he have to lose? Gears turned in Esteb's head, grinding to a halt as his empty stomach demanded attention. He was going to regret this. "You'll have to show me that you could. Show me your lute first, if you really have one."

The girl nodded, unslinging a black case on her back and opening it, carefully undoing its metal locks. What she took out of it barely resembled a lute. It was shaped into a large bell, its finish a bright yellow. It had six strings so thin they could cut the flesh.

"That's the strangest lute I've ever seen. But at least it looks like an instrument."

"As I've said, I came from a faraway land." The girl went for the stool, when Esteb stopped her.

"Not here. Anyone can play in the comfort of one's room. Come with me to the square," Esteb said, turning his back to her as he dressed.

"If I pass your test, will you help me?" the girl said.

Esteb held up a wooden box. "You pass if you earn any."

* * *

The girl sat on the fountain's edge, her long legs dangling awkwardly as she shifted around, finding a good position. The crowd passed by without a care. Esteb trained his eyes on the box sitting at the girl's feet.

What did she remind Esteb of? A boy, freckled and innocent, fumbling a lute that didn't deserve him.

The girl tuned the strings one by one. She was steeling her nerves, Esteb knew. He had done the same before.

She nodded to him, and began. She strummed a chord, the strings making a sharp, metallic sound that pierced the bustle of the square. Her hands began to steady, the notes coming to her like old friends, comforting her.

The other half of the song emerged from her lips. Her voice was a candle about to be snuffed out, kept burning by her lute. The words were in a language Esteb didn't understand, but he could feel the meaning in his bones.

She sang of one thing, and one thing only: going home.

* * *

Esteb picked up the box, giving it a shake. He tilted his head at the lack of the sound. "Well?"

The girl shrugged, blinking back tears. "Too bad." Her voice had gone hoarse.

"The sun's too high up for sentimental songs. This isn't a campfire. You're supposed to be loud and festive."

"Sorry. I wasn't good enough." Avoiding his eyes, she stowed her lute back in its case.

"Not for them. But they weren't the ones judging you." Esteb held up a piece of silver, and dropped it in the box. "I was."

docbeard
Jul 18, 2011

High marks for compassion, low marks for survival skills





The Day The Music Died
994 Words

Alexandra woke to the smell of smoke, to flashing white lights. She made a sharp, specific gesture; the smoke dissipated, the lights dimmed, having served their purpose. She dropped from her bunk onto the thick carpet, moved with practiced care to the wall console, and called up a report. QUARANTINE BREACH CONFIRMED in flashing red. She closed her eyes, letting her exhalation come slow. A loud breath, even that, could kill her now.

She made note of the location as she reached for her visor, resting beside her bunk. An automated message was already being sent to each of her officers: “Quarantine has been breached. This is not a drill. Class One Silence protocols are in effect until further notice. Text and hand communications only. NO VOICE COMMS, not even over secure channels. We are in lockdown. Any civilians found outside their quarters are to be taken to a secure and silent location. Use whatever means necessary to neutralize any source of sound.” After a moment’s thought, she tapped gently at her console’s touch screen and sent out “All units are to remain at their posts unless responding to a disturbance. Sergeant Martin, meet me at Checkpoint 3.”

Once dressed, she stepped carefully out into the hall. Red alert lights were flashing on the walls. The settlement had once been a military facility, designed to be locked down against a very different threat than sound-seeking nanomachinery gone haywire. They’d adapted the place, much as they’d had to adapt their own lives. A strict quarantine to keep the machines out, carpets and padding everywhere, motion-control and touch screens, mandatory sign language classes, rules upon rules upon rules all orbiting one central principle: Silence is Survival. It had kept them alive for the last twenty years. Alexandra didn’t want to be responsible for missing Year 21.

She saw Sergeant Martin, tall and fair and so much younger, a baby when this existence began, waiting for her at the checkpoint. He saluted, and then sent a text to her visor. “Breach impossible, Captain. Checked perimeter personally. Ramirez too. Everything secure.” She shook her head and motioned for him to take point. Blame and responsibility could be assigned later, or not. Not now.

Martin stepped carefully forward, his needler held ready. This corridor led to one of the outer checkpoints, the known location of the breach. People did come and go from the compound, but only as necessary, in muffled hazard suits, and never in the middle of the night. Anyone here now was either stupid or malicious.

Except that she wasn’t, when they came to her. She’d sealed the inner access door tightly before going through. Elizabeth Myers, age 68, the compound’s oldest resident. Possibly the oldest living woman on Earth, and she’d never given anyone any reason to think she was a threat.

She sat on the floor, back half-turned to the inner door. The outer door was open, and Alexandra could see a bit of light. Moonlight, she thought, something she hadn’t seen in a long time. There were little flecks of light dancing around Elizabeth. Too late then, for her. Maybe too late for all of them. The inner door wasn’t nano-hardened, not that there was any evidence that the nano-hardening process worked worth a drat. One word, one noise, and they could all be dead, and the remaining survivors with them. It was soundproofed but even that had never been reliable.

Elizabeth was singing. Or talking, but the way she was swaying back and forth, Alexandra thought she was singing. She called up the lip-read analysis on her visor. I met a girl who sang the blues and I asked her for some happy news. Singing then. She recognized the song.

Alexandra sent a text to Elizabeth’s visor. “Stop now. You can still live.”

Elizabeth stopped her singing, and turned toward the inner door. She shook her head, and spoke. It’s too late. And even if I could, no. Not without music. Not any more. This was my favorite song when I was young. That young man with you. Has he ever even heard a song?

Martin shook his head, whether an answer or a simple act of disbelief, Alexandra couldn’t say. Elizabeth was already singing again. I went down to the sacred store, where I’d heard the music years before, but the man there said the music wouldn’t play.

The lights around Elizabeth became more intense, and pinpricks of blood began to appear on her skin. She winced, and twitched, but continued to sing. Martin turned away, but Alexandra stood and watched as Elizabeth sang. Her voice must be shaking, couldn’t possibly be anything like music any more. And in the streets the children screamed, the lovers cried and the poets dreamed, but not a word was spoken, the church bells all were-

Elizabeth died. Her skin melted as the lights flickered and flashed, she didn’t even have time to fall before her body was dust, was mist, was gone, converted into more airborne nanomachinery listening for its next meal. Alexandra watched to the end.

“Seal this corridor,” Alexandra texted Sergeant Martin. “Pass the word to avoid this exit until the techs can do their thing.” That could be never. There was no actual way to guarantee safety from the nanomachines. You could only seal and pray.

Later, back in her quarters, locked, soundproofed, at the heart of the compound, the safest place left, Alexandra closed her eyes. She’d lived with silence, lived in silence, for twenty years. This wasn’t the first death she’d seen, far from it.

She wondered how long she could live with it. She wouldn’t risk the compound. She knew how to get out securely, safely, in a hazard suit that she could then discard. She’d thought about it before, and maybe one day she’d do it.

“But something touched me deep inside,” she typed into her console, a message to no one. “The day the music died.”

Helsing
Aug 23, 2003

I'M ESCAPING TO THE ONE PLACE THAT HASN'T BEEN CORRUPTED BY CAPITALISM...

SPACE!


Let's just say that as I was polishing off this turd I had to remind myself that I already have a losetar. Sorry for mangling a cool prompt:

it's a bitch convincing people to like you

too many words


Every time another wave washed over her face Cynthia’s legs and arms felt heavier and the agony in her lungs got worse. The sucking embrace of the undertow pulled her down like an anchor tied to her thrashing legs. Saltwater burned as it flooded her mouth and nostrils.

The ship was almost below the waves, but enough of its flaming prow remained above the water line to cast flickering illumination on the undulating ocean tide and the broken bodies and debris floating in it. Had she not been fighting for her life Cynthia might have recognized the scene – it was a close reproduction of her second Album’s cover.

Help me! She thought desperately as her lungs began to fill with water.

Why should I?

#

Cynthia met Laurisa in a police station when they were both seventeen. Laurisa’s parents had recently died in a house fire that, in later years, would no longer seem mysterious. Cynthia was between her first and second bids in juvenile hall. They fit together like jigsaw pieces – each filling in something the other lacked.

They had only one fight, right after Laurisa first told Cynthia where her seemingly endless supply of money and good luck came from. It was hard to accept that Laurisa’s answer was serious and not some kind of exceptionally dry humour. Eventually it became clear just how deadly serious her friend was being.

“I don’t believe in God,” Cynthia said.

“Who said anything about God?”

“Can the Devil exist without God?” she’d asked.

“Christians have faith. We Satanists have proof.”

So they’d waited till Aunt Sarah was out of town, and then they’d locked the door and closed the blinds. Hand in hand they’d lit the candles and said the words.

That was how Cynthia learned that proof to Laurisa was more than just the fact that bad things happened to good people. It turned out proof meant a voice answering their candlelight invocation, and much more besides. Proof was a credit card that was accepted everywhere and never hit its limit. Proof was easy sexual access to every rockstar and celebrity who had ever died and gone to Hell – most of them, as it turned out. Proof was a fire that burned your parents alive and left you, their underage daughter, in control of the estate, no questions asked.

Maybe none of that was as unexpected as Cynthia pretended it was. Somehow hearing the voice of Satan speaking felt right, like it confirmed something she’d already suspected. Satan’s price was not what she expected though.

“I figured people would sell their souls to make it in the music business, not the other way around.”

The Devil’s amusement was palpable, even though his voice was speaking through Laurisa’s mouth.

“What makes you think I need to barter for your soul?”

“I thought that was how this worked,” she said.

“Look sweetcheeks, from now on I’m going to do the thinking for both of us.”

#

Despite having an infinite budget for studios, equipment, cocaine and other niceties Cynthia and Laurisa’s first album took a long time to get off the ground. They shared a lot of things, but their taste in music diverged wildly. Their first attempt at a compromise leaned heavily toward Laurisa’s preferences with a lot of drums and electric guitars and lyrics rife with semibiographical tales of murder and sincere invocations of Satanic power.

Cynthia could have left it there. Music was something to listen to, not something she’d ever imagined building her career and life around. If Laurisa wanted to push their album into a Death Metal direction then it hardly seemed inappropriate given their infernal benefactor.

The Devil was less impressed.

“Can’t you make it more accessible?” He asked, speaking through their pet cat.

“Accessible?” asked Laurisa incredulously.

“You know, lighter, more upbeat, maybe try something with a 4-4 structure and a catchy hook. Something you could dance to.”

Laurisa, who had sat dry eyed as they buried her family, had never looked so horrified.

“Cynthia has a lovely contralto voice, I’d like to see you make more use of that as well.” Satan continued. “And the lyrics need to be toned down. Remember the point here is to get this stuff into the right hands. If Mom and Dad see a warning label that gets a lot harder.”

#

Their success only tormented Laurisa. Every time one of their singles inevitably topped the charts it enraged her further. Even worse, none of her antics seemed to make it into the tabloids or even onto the internet. A conspiracy of silence amongst the media strangled each of her futile attempts at notoriety in the crib.

A few days before their third album dropped Laurisa asked Cynthia to meet her at a church downtown. It seemed like a strange place for them to meet but, as Laurisa explained later, it was probably one of the few places where they could speak without fear of being overheard by you-know-who.

#

Cynthia wasn’t struggling against the tide anymore. She was dimly aware of the salt water filling her stomach and making her gag, and even with her head below the water she could see the orange fireball that was rising over the ocean as the flames jumped from the prow of the sinking ship to the oil slick floating on the water.

Aren't you going to help me? Cynthia pleaded.

I’m thinking about it. How much of this plan was your idea?

What could she say? She had known about the bomb. Corralling some of their hated fans onto a ship and sinking it was something Laurisa had been fantasizing about for months. She’d had similar schemes in the past and all of them had been foiled by faulty bomb wiring or defective firing pins. This time Laurisa had been sure it would work though: she said the hidden lyrics she’d inserted into the chorus of their latest single would see to that.

I just can’t decide what to do with you. Murmured the voice in her head. I feel as though our bond of trust is broken.

I didn’t know! Please!

That part was true. Of all the stunts Laurisa might pull, inserting the words of the Lord’s Prayer into the chorus line of their song wasn’t one of them. That bit of Truth had apparently been enough to set Laurisa free from her hated fans, and it had tricked the devil himself.

One of her hands grasped something floating on the surface of the water above her. Her oxygen starved brain barely comprehended what she was grasping between her fingers, only raw instinct caused her to haul herself out of the water.

Thank you! Oh thank you!

I already lost one soul tonight. You’d probably go to heaven, and I’d never be able to forgive myself for that.

inthesto
May 12, 2010

There is a point where we needed to stop, and we have clearly passed it.

BUT LET'S KEEP GOING AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS!


Okay, I'm done with this poo poo. If the Hawks actually won over the Lakers, I would have put up with this, but gently caress it.

CantDecideOnAName, you've been a serious rear end in a top hat to me since I've joined. You've taken every opportunity to make fun of me and grind my nose into the dirt.

But oh, one of us has a loser avatar next to their name. Lemme check to the left real quick.

Right, it's not me.

Because I'm so sure that you suck, I'm going to handicap myself. It's NaNoWriMo, right? Not that I'm fully participating, but I'm still fully confident that I can pull this. I will write 500 words for NaNoWriMo, enter into the next TD, and still write a brawl entry against you. EDIT: You know what? gently caress it, I'm doing this all on a WORKDAY. Tuesday through Sunday, I'll write all the words. And I'll still dunk on your rear end.

Think you can handle this? I'm going to write three entries at once. Come at me, bro.

e: I'm drunk so I forgot: Let's brawl

inthesto fucked around with this message at Nov 4, 2013 around 04:21

Jeza
Feb 13, 2011

The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them.


Blood and Tequila - 920 Words

Even drunk, he played the guitar better than anyone. His calloused fingertips extracted from five threadbare strings melodies beyond the reckoning of normal men.

His talent earned him neither fame nor money. He drifted from cantina to cantina, town to town, playing for handfuls of pesos, though he preferred mezcal or tequila. His age was impossible to tell, though he was certainly not young. Excessive drinking and vagrancy had disfigured him. He was unwashed; his beard was ragged and unkempt; his nails cracked and encrusted with dirt. Most noteworthy of all, he was a mute. But then, what use is language for a man who only drinks and plays la guitarra?

Despite his pitiable state, he never begged. During the day, he could be found curled, snake-like, around whatever grimy bottle last night’s earnings afforded him. Nobody saw him sleep or eat. Nobody even approached him - thick shackles clasped to his ankles marked him as an escapee, his mutism a lunatic.

That evening, he dragged the chains around, like Marley’s ghost, on the dusty outskirts of Asunción, where those who saw him were not pitying enough to care nor condemning enough to report him to las autoridades.

He had already played at three cantinas that night, and was already staggering under their influence, bounding from wall to wall like some caoutchouc children’s toy. A further two had turned him away, disgusted by the reek of his stale sweat and the tequila on his breath.

The final cantina along the stretch of the Calle 15 de Agosto, La Fantasma, was an establishment almost as decrepit as he was - dimly lit by nicotine stained gaslights and filled with hard drinking, hard working men, half-hidden behind the haze of their filthy cheroots and pipes. Among such clientèle he hardly stood out, though he soon would.

There was no stage, but such things were wasted on him. He played and they listened, that was how it worked. His fingers reached for the strings, and plucked a solitary chord that cut through the smoke and chatter with the clarity of a steamer’s foghorn. Dice games stopped, conversations petered into nothing. Drinking ruins all the senses but the ears, and the patrons of La Fantasma were keen listeners indeed. And with their attention, he began to play.

The music was of an otherworldly kind, a kind that resonated not in air but in the heart. Raw, primal, forgotten emotions welled up from within his audience. They were enraptured. Drinks went undrunk, cigarettes died lonely deaths hanging loose and neglected from open mouths. And when the final strum was stilled, there was no applause. From table to table he went with cupped hands, and even the poorest among them gave generously, and with more reverence, than at church in their most humble hour.

None were left unmoved by his music - beers were salted by old griefs thought buried, marital beds were returned to with fire that had burned out decades ago, old feuds were forgotten and new ones were born, all in space of a few short minutes. None that is, save two.

They stood out in the street and waited, hearing now the discordant twangs of the guitar settling down. They had followed the guitar player as he wended his swerving course throughout the evening, and now their chance was upon them. The man with the guitar that charmed all who heard it - a prize beyond value - was finished his rounds at last. Their target stepped out from La Fantasma with bottle in one hand and guitar in the other and set off into the night. With moonlight glinting upon their machetes, the robbers followed.

They followed the guitarist as he slowly left the city streets behind and headed down a deserted country lane. It was the perfect chance, they thought to themselves, when without warning, the guitarist disappeared from view. They ran forward, pretences dropped, but could find no sign of him.

At first they were baffled. Were their eyes playing tricks on them? He must have noticed them and fled into the bushes - and yes, there it was - the unmistakable sound of chains from the roadside. With blades raised, they crept into the undergrowth, following the clanking of chains.

Suddenly, something leapt from the blackness at the throat of one of the robbers. He had time only to scream only for a moment before he succumbed. His companion ran over to help, but was met instead with a gruesome sight. Standing atop his savaged partner was a black dog, but it was no ordinary dog. Instead of paws it had horses’ hooves, and around its legs were thick shackles and chains. Its head was lupine, but with an over-large jaw swarming with serrated fangs, and red eyes that burned like the fires of hell. It howled with some unnatural skreigh, dissonant and full of feral malevolence.

The man had time to whisper half a prayer before the demon was upon him, gnawing and thrashing. The last thing he felt was the hot, heavy breath of the cadejo on his face, and the heady smell of blood and tequila filling his nostrils.

*

The guitarist bent down and dipped his fingers into the mostly devoured carcass of a robber, and with the blood oiled the strings of his guitar. Hunger sated, for the time being, he took the road to wherever it would take him, followed now only by the sounds of his chains.

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Jeza
Feb 13, 2011

The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them.


inthesto posted:

Let's brawl

I'll judge babby's first brawl. 750 words on the prompt Warmth. Interpreted as broadly or narrowly as you like, but not as some half-assed tacked on bullshit, as the central theme of your story.

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