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Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

In.


12

You don't let yourself think about what you're doing; with Grace in such danger, your brain barely works anyway, and her frightened face is all you see as you launch yourself at Ms. Gannet. You slam into the teacher with as much strength and speed as adrenaline can give you. She jerks the gun around and fires, but the bullet only rips through the edge of your anorak, and then you're both on the ground and you're pinning her gun arm to the dirt. "Get it!" you shout at Grace, and your little sister stomps on Ms. Gannet's wrist until her fingers spasm and let the weapon fall.

Grace grabs the gun and takes aim. Ms. Gannet stills and lets you get to your feet, then into the car. Grace keeps the gun trained on the teacher as long as she can, then she's in the passenger seat and you're driving in reverse as fast as you dare. That's not very fast. You have time to see Ms. Gannet scramble for your cell phone before that part of the trail is out of sight.

As soon as possible, you turn the car around and make slightly better progress. "You have to hurry!" Grace yells right in your ear. "She'll call the cops or something!"

"I can barely drive and we're on a mountain! Shut up!"

You know she's right. It will take the police some time to arrive, but what will happen to you when they do? Do they throw minors in jail in China? Your hands shake on the wheel.

But strangely enough, the path smooths out after the next turn. Your tires no longer crunch on snow. You could swear you hear music--and then you hit the brakes on the rim of a beautiful well of green spreading out below you: a valley. Shangri-La.

You and Grace walk into its warm air hand-in-hand. People wave as you pass through orchards; they offer you sweet fruit. A man in a yellow robe meets you under an apple tree, and his face is neither old nor young, though his beard is white. "Please, child," he says to Grace, "will you throw your gun away?"

Grace flings it as far from herself as she can, and it vanishes into the grass. The man says, "Thank you. We sensed your desire to flee from violence, and so we opened our haven to you."

You and Grace take turns telling him the whole story. He shakes his head in sorrow at its end. "The woman was right. She could not have entered Shangri-La. But if she had, she would have found no wealth here she could understand. What will you do now, children? If you wish, you may stay, and share the treasures we possess."

"Our mother--" you begin.

"She would be welcome to join you."

Grace beams and pulls her phone from her pocket. "Ms. Gannet didn't take mine. I'm calling Mom right now!"

Your mother catches the next flight to China, and soon your family is together again in a magical place of beauty, harmony, and peace. Although you didn't find Mr. Zopper's treasure, you've discovered greater riches--and in Shangri-La, you have no end of time to enjoy them.

THE END

Kaishai fucked around with this message at Jul 15, 2013 around 03:11

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angel opportunity
Sep 7, 2004

Total Eclipse of the Heart

Signups are closed

Match ups and flash rules posted.

Feel free to up the ante on your individual brawls by betting avatars etc.

angel opportunity fucked around with this message at Apr 26, 2013 around 03:05

autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007



Fun Shoe

Maybe the lawyer in my story can read Kloc's will in a sequel (after I murder her in this brawl).

JuniperCake
Jan 26, 2013


systran posted:


JuniperCake vs. Cancercakes
A misunderstanding must be a driving point in the plot.


Well well, this feels like some kind of karma for taking one of Cancercake's stories and then failing to deliver during the rewrite challenge. Since I failed to do that rewrite, I think it is only fair that you get the first shot in our duel.

Cancercakes, make up an extra flash rule for me and I'll follow it. Be as merciless as you like.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Dear Mr. E. Beef:

I understand we are to compete at producing works that must contain at least one incident of a repugnant nature. As I have admired your abilities in storytelling for some time, I am most pleased to meet you in the arena, knowing that whoever wins, I will have had the honor of facing an opponent worth my respect.

That said, after I wipe the floor with you I'm going to force-feed you maggot-riddled cheese at the end of a rusted fork removed from the rear end of a two-week-deceased bum who stuck it up there to try and retrieve the corpse of a gerbil so long dead it had begun to liquefy.

Fondly yours,

Kaishai

P.S. This occurrence will advance the plot of my future bestseller, If I Beat Erogenous Beef (Spoilers: I Did).

autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007



Fun Shoe

Kaishai posted:

Dear Mr. E. Beef:

I understand we are to compete at producing works that must contain at least one incident of a repugnant nature. As I have admired your abilities in storytelling for some time, I am most pleased to meet you in the arena, knowing that whoever wins, I will have had the honor of facing an opponent worth my respect.

That said, after I wipe the floor with you I'm going to force-feed you maggot-riddled cheese at the end of a rusted fork removed from the rear end of a two-week-deceased bum who stuck it up there to try and retrieve the corpse of a gerbil so long dead it had begun to liquefy.

Fondly yours,

Kaishai

P.S. This occurrence will advance the plot of my future bestseller, If I Beat Erogenous Beef (Spoilers: I Did).

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


Nubile Hillock posted:

Maybe the lawyer in my story can read Kloc's will in a sequel (after I murder her in this brawl).

I am going to drive over you in my monster truck and get away with it.

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


Critiques Part 5: Systran, Jagermonster, Auraboks

Systran: The Obfusacator
Good overall concept and execution. An Obfusacator, studying for years to NOT understand language, is one of the more interesting professions that turned out. Your story didn't really jump out at me during first read-throughs, but neither did anyone else's. And yours grew on me.

Unlike Kaishai, I don't mind all the uncertainties. There are some that bother me though: is your narrator's statement that "Based on my tests with the obfuscation, I thought there was no real danger in letting it out" and the destruction that follows. Were his tests wrong? Was everyone just bluffing? I'd also like to see the narrator's reaction to the devastation. The other main problem I have is that you explain too much through straight-forward dialogue. I'm not sure your narrator did give a good enough reason to not kill him after he handed over the obfusication (and possibly also the translation?). You've got some weak prose and technical issues in there. The finger-breaking scene fell particularly flat for me.

I think this could be cleaned up into something that would really grab me and punch me in the gut. Please punch me in the gut, I love it.

Jagermonster: The Mysterious Lawman vs. the Untouchable Kingpin (1126 words)

Terrible title. Also singing happy birthday isn't a criminal violation of copyright law, but I'm giving you a pass on that one, since maybe they'll make it criminal by 2020. Disney topiaries should be an arrestable offense anyway. The plot of this story is basically "we got Al Capone on tax charges" with the names changed and Valentine's Day Massacre to spice things up.

I get no feeling for your main character at all. He is just some guy. I think you meant to imply that he is some specialist that's been called in because everyone else feels defeated, but I had to read it 3 times before I thought of that. I thought he was just the chief or whatever. A story about a man using his wits to catch a criminal still needs motivation and characters. Everyone in here is flat. You have a room full of flat cops, a flat main cop, and a flat bad guy. Actually, the bad guy's need to copy everything is interesting, but you don't do anything with it.

Your story lacks urgency, emotion, or motivation. It's literally two scenes: "Cop says he's going to arrest a guy" and "Cop arrests a guy." You have to make me care if he is arrested or not. I do not care. I think you could make this a lot tighter if you take your mysterious lawman off the lectern, and have him interact with a local liasion officer, instead. You can get all the same exposition information out, but also reveal more about each character because you're not juggling seven anonymous dudes. Likewise you need to punch up the conversation between Hollywood and the lawman. There's no reason to waste words having lawman talk to the valet. Have Hollywood himself brag about the house. Let us see the two men face off: Hollywood suave and confident, lawman laying the trap. In your version they don't talk at all!

Auraboks: Shady Affair(ie)s

Terrible title. This one didn't do it for me. You've got a solid story arc (which is apparently a loving rarity), but something about the tone and the subject just rubbed me the wrong way. Points for foreshadowing the ending in the first line, though, well-handled. You're a little heavy on exposition up front. I think you could start with him putting on his thermal goggles during a retrieval and feed us the information we need as the story unfolds. You don't need to spend 1/4 of your words explaining that "baby teeth are like crack-laced amphetamine cookies, only more addictive." You can also shorten the time spent collecting teeth, since that's actually just set up, too.

If you look at this section:

quote:

"All clear," I said, lifting my goggles. "The humans are asleep. Fruitpip, go ahead. Second floor, left window."

Fruitpip flew past me, and in through the open window. Moments later she returned, smiling widely.

"Double haul," she said. "Kid lost two teeth in one day. We're on a roll tonight!"

It had been a good night. We weren't prepared for that. When ToothTime sent their top security fairy and best retrieval specialist alone, that usually meant they smelled trouble. But tonight we had already taken care of nineteen houses, and in every one of them the humans were already asleep when we got there. All but one had a window conveniently open, too.

"How many houses do we have left?" I asked. "Two?" Something didn't seem right, but I couldn't put my finger on it.

"Just one, right across the street," said Fruitpip. "Looks like we'll get all our targets tonight, and be back before dawn too!"

I nodded, and put the thermal goggles back on.

The last house was just like the others. Three heat signatures, all of them lying down. Two on the bottom floor, one on the second. And of course, an open window.

"Clear," I said. "But make it quick, I smell trouble."

Fruitpip raised an eyebrow, but didn't say anything. She did her thing, and soon we were headed to the portal back to Fairyland.

you see that you are saying nearly everything twice. Thermal goggles, sleeping humans, it's an easy night, but something doesn't feel right. Thermal goggles, humans lying down, no problems, but I smell trouble. You may also see that during all this, you're not really developing these characters. They are just fairies doing a fairy thing with no depth. Cut out the repetition, and you've got plenty of room to add that depth.

"Just a precaution. Wouldn't want you doing anything rash, you see." This line is about as cliche super-villain as it gets, without full-on "but before I kill you, let me tell you my entire plan." I'd like to think that if you put this aside and edited it, you would take lines like this out on your own, and give us something with more vavoom.

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


Critiques: Jeza, zakucat, Kleptobot

Jeza: Excerpt from Transcript of Preliminary Investigation – Case #200384 |Word Count: 1149|

I really wanted to like this one more than I did. I like the transcript idea, but there just wasn't enough back and forth. Van Der Haart starts talking and just does not stop. And he's so insufferable! I know he is supposed to be insufferable, but good lord, make your cop take control and rein him in. For everyone's sakes. In a real interrogation, there might be some benefit to letting the suspect talk and talk--hoping he'll talk himself into a corner. But not in a story. We all have too many better things to do. Give the cop a bigger role, make him a real character, and you'll have something more than the assisted mono-logue you've got now.

For the profession, I'm not exactly sure what a Resolver does. Is he just an arbitrator? Or something more sinister? I also didn't catch the implication of the missing badge. He already admitted to being at the crime scene, so it's not like finding it there would prove he was guilty. What is it supposed to show?

You've also got some sentences that make my eyes itch:
"as a child, my family would humour me, call me 'Little King Solomon' and tug my cheeks" -- the only part of this that makes sense is calling him Little King Solomon. Humouring someone means indulging their fancies, right? So that makes it sound like he wasn't really a little Solomon?
"arguments inevitably fell upon my judgement and at university" --arguments don't fall upon judgment. If anything, judgment falls upon arguments.
"The few times in my life I had tried to navigate between that Scylla and Charybdis on my lapel had ended only in misery." --It seems like navigating between Scylla an Charybdis is exactly what a good resolver would do? Finding the middle ground between two parties? No?

You've got four big paragraphs of exposition, and at the end of it, I feel like I know this guy's life story, but I still don't know what he does! (Also I hate him, but surely you could make me hate him with just one paragraph?)

zakucat: Murderous dreams

Another one that I really wanted to like more than I did. I really love the idea of the Scrivener (who writes the dreams, yes?) and the Archivist, who keeps track of their contents. The dynamic between these two could be incredible. Professional respect tinged with jealousy? A grudging willingness to work together, since it's necessary? Each totally devoted to their job, with no sympathy for when it makes the other's job harder? Any of that and more. But you don't quite take us there.

You have several nice details, like their fading appearances, shadow-squatters, magic pen and clipboard, but these whet my appetite without satisfying it. Unacceptable in a short piece.

Also, this line is awful: The red splashed everywhere was of the same shade as the pink that dominated Lilly's dream with the candy roses and the strange strawberry sunset, but it was several shades darker and the effect could not be described with anything else other than appalling.

At the end of the day, the story maroons me in ambiguity. Obviously the Scrivener is the murderer, but why? And if the dreamers don't remember, why does it matter?

Answer these questions and repost it!

Kleptobot: What the Good Book Says

Let me guess, you're an atheist? Textbook Inquisitor seemed kind of cool at first. But then I remembered that Boards of Education don't need to steal and examine textbooks to protect the innocence of god-fearing children, because they actually control what goes in the textbooks. Then the security guard 1) doesn't seem worried at all about the books being discovered, but 2) seems to know that it's the Board of Education? So... is the Inquisitor a crazy guy? Does the Board of Education have any real authority? I dunno, this just seems like an excuse to make fun of righteous people that you don't quite pull off.

About technique:
Taking out a tactical folding knife from a belt sheath, he crept closer to his target, and then stabbed down until he cut a long gash through the top of a large cardboard box marked “TEXTBOOKS” in big red letters. --That is not how you open a box, wtf.
Then he used his own strength to rip open the box--as opposed to someone else's strength? you obviously mean as opposed to the knife, but why say anything at all?
their covers full of sinful knowledge with innocuous-sounding titles: -- the sinful knowledge has innocuous-sounding titles?
With their calming blue and green colored covers and pictures of smiling children they invited impure thoughts, they invited young minds to grow prideful on things that The Lord had never revealed to them, to drag them into sin. --This sentence is just a longer version of the sentence before it.

What is the point of this story?

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


Critiques: Sebmojo, Noah, Fumblemouse

Sebmojo: Doing Our Bit
Okay, a good creepy feeling successfully invoked. An intriguing profession, reminds me of Blade Runner a bit, with the fancy machine, but I want to know more. The awkwardness is well-built. I love the professional, enthusiastic, even cheery inspector contrasted against the frightened inspectees, struggling to keep up a good face. At the end it kind of fizzles out, though. I think you were intentionally avoiding the "Oh, Snap, you ARE correlated" result as "obvious," but without it, the father's appeal re: substitution feels superfluous and everything kind of deflates. I'd kind of like to see the inspector going on about his professional, enthusiastic, cheery way while shunting Mrs. James to her horrible fate. He must have done it at least a few times. Or show us one where there's a correlation, but he lets them go. Anything but a perfectly normal inspection!

Give me just a little more detail, a little more conflict and drama, and this story could really knock me out.

Noah: The Coffin of Henry Wick

A coffin that restores you to life so you can be murdered by an obsessive coffin salesman again and again?

Why is he inspecting coffins, anyway? Do people actually live in coffins after they die? Why does Henry care so much about the seal? Why does Martin care enough about giving it honestly to suffer so much?

This is just an excuse to write a bunch of silly death scenes and have a guy clawing at a coffin lid. The interesting parts are all but ignored: why have coffin-inspectors? and who else has been in the coffin to put those claw marks there? (other coffin-inspectors, probably). Spend more time developing those areas, show the death/reincarnation once, and you'll have a stronger story. Also if you give your characters more depth than "coffin-inspector" and "insane coffin seller."

Here's what I made up: Henry Wick is the longest-running holder of the Myers-Bartlett seal. His place has always gotten great ratings, year after year, but for some reason no inspector volunteers to go there twice. Now our guy is young, by the book, but he is secretly kind of excited to see these coffins, because they always get perfect scores. He gets in the coffin and is disappointed and confused. It doesn't even meet the requirements for a one-star rating! It's cramped, the satin is cheap, and what are these grooves?

Fumblemouse: Rub me the wrong way

I liked the first half of this story, but was totally lost by the second half. A Thomas the Tank-Engine fan with an extra person and maybe a Genie sharing his body? What? And why would anyone, even someone very sick, ask to be put into the body of their father, who is in jail? Other than that inane and unsatisfying ending, this story is pretty good.

Stylistically, you use too many weak verbs: was, had been found, said, looking, handle, is, is, claim, is, took, collapsed, will be, took, wind, drew, was, tend to, should be, flashed, made my way, approached, said, isn't, have missed, may be, is, know, said, summoned (ironically a person, not a magical creature), is, to be shown, is, judge, unable, led, lying, was, lay, could tell, had been required, were, had been searched, had revealed, was, looked, approached, etc.

This really muffles your story. It's like punching through a pillow.

I think you can easily cut off the first 1/4 and start when she enters Parliament (oh, also I apparently think your protagonist is female, even though you called her "sir," not sure why.) I get that you want to show her punching out a Djinn, but maybe later in the story? Or have her tell Fairfax she's been punching out Djinn's all day? You lose some of the oomph when she's reporting it instead of doing it, but you make up for it by cutting out a bunch of other oomphless words. The interaction with the genie was my favorite part, especially when the genie claimed genie/master privilege. Awesome. I feel like you had this good idea, but then didn't know where to go with it and were running out of time and just tacked on the first thing that came to mind. And that thing was stupid. No big deal. Think of a better ending (preferably with no Thomas the Tank Engine connection) and post up in the Farm.

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.

systran posted:


Bad Seafood vs. chairchucker
AVATAR CHALLENGE Everyone knows chairchucker is the diamond in the rough. What wondrous prose could he produce if he actually took the 'Dome seriously?


I guess we'll never find out.


systran posted:


The winner of this 1v1 gets to give themselves an avatar of their choice OR give a losertar of their choice to the loser (I will pay in case that isn't clear).




My prediction is that either way, Bad Seafood is getting a new avatar.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk

I'm going to put up a new av (their choice, or they can leave it to me) for the winner of the Fumblemouse/Noah brawl. Fumblemouse because he's a dewy-eyed newbie (and knows how to take the cork out of a wine bottle with a stick) and Noah because he's a fuckin' trooper and owned the poo poo out of Martello not once but twice. Time to shed that losertar buddy.

Fight well.

CancerCakes
Jan 10, 2006

WORST WIZARD, THUNDERDOME
LOSER


JuniperCake posted:

Well well, this feels like some kind of karma for taking one of Cancercake's stories and then failing to deliver during the rewrite challenge. Since I failed to do that rewrite, I think it is only fair that you get the first shot in our duel.

Cancercakes, make up an extra flash rule for me and I'll follow it. Be as merciless as you like.

Write a non-cliche happy ending.

Martello
Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW


sebmojo posted:

I'm going to put up a new av (their choice, or they can leave it to me) for the winner of the Fumblemouse/Noah brawl. Fumblemouse because he's a dewy-eyed newbie (and knows how to take the cork out of a wine bottle with a stick) and Noah because he's a fuckin' trooper and owned the poo poo out of Martello not once but twice. Time to shed that losertar buddy.

Fight well.

I already offered Noah a new losertar for the second time he "owned" me. If he doesn't come up with a request soon, that offer will expire.

And I'll be handing down judgment for your duel with Bohner soon.

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch


Oh right. Forgot about that. I'll take whatever. Probably will regret it like systran.

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


Last Critiques: Perpetulance, BadSeafood

Perpetulance: The Invoker

Your story has a beginning, middle, and end, and a passable premise. Unfortunately, you develop the premise in a dull, obvious way, brow-beating your readers with points that we already understood. First, this is a story about human capacity for violence, a deep, rich subject that has been explored thousands of times and can easily be satisfyingly explored a thousand more. But you barely dip your toes in. You end at "some people are inherently violent." You don't even show us this man's enjoyment of violence in a meaningful way. You just tell us he enjoys his job, and once the idea is basically forced down his (and our) throat, he realizes he can commit real crimes and that makes him smile. You've created a main character who seems to utterly lack self-awareness. He's never thought about how he feels re-enacting highly tabooed acts beyond "I enjoy it"--never considered what that meant? never questioned his place in life until he heard some dudes on a subway making the most asinine comments about their own assignments? I suppose there are people out there who live an entirely unexamined life, but is that who you really want to choose to tell us your story and show us this world?

And about that computer: surely a computer that can bring about world peace and nearly eliminate true violence would understand enough of human nature to know that telling the invoker he is a natural-born criminal would encourage him to commit actual crimes.

Your plot progression: man does performance art of a murder, exposition explaining everything about this world, man overhears life-changing statement on the subway, man talks to god-in-the-machine who spells everything out because apparently you think your readers are dumb children, man unsurprisingly decides to commit real murders.

Your prose is also too bland: in the reenactment scene, you remove us from the action by describing the crowd watching it. I appreciate that you don't try to get us all amped up with a gruesome murder scene, only to have the curtain fall and it was all a play, but I know you can describe a murder scene more dramatically than "A woman lay covered in blood, her left hand extended up to try to block the ax moving down toward her." That sentence is dead to me. "Her left hand extended up" what is she a loving robot? am I some sort of scientific observer? A woman cowered in a pool of blood, arms raised against the descending axe. I don't know, that's not great, because it's still describing the action through someone reacting to it. Best would be to describe the man raising the axe, probably. You don't even really show us the crowd's reaction, either, which is an interesting aspect of the world. Who sees these plays? Why? How do they feel about it? Then you have your exposition bit, almost entirely in passive voice. Everything just plods on mechanically until we thankfully get to the end.

Bad Seafood: Ammit Inc.
1) You named your character Dresden, which is the name of a pretty well-known wizard detective. Apparently you were unaware of this, so it is forgiven.

2) I don't know how I feel about this story. I like the idea, and I like the quirks, but it doesn't quite hang together. It feels like a zero stakes game. Even SuperDude, who might suffer from...something...if the results are bad, seems more interested in witty repartee than what's happening. And what WILL happen if the scales balance one way or the other? I think the problem is that you are too explicit about some things (e.g. when Sergei explains “Knowing evil is our business. We can’t afford to cut corners. Whenever someone like you shows up, we’ve got to be sure where they stand.”) but too vague about others (e.g. what "someone like you" means). Sure, I can deduce that he's a superhero, but why hide it? It's not a big fun surprise when I figure it out. Your explicitness and your vagueness don't conform to what the characters would be explicit and vague about, so it feels unnatural.

3) Prose before hose:

quote:

Sergei. That was the name he had been given. Not a name he’d expected to be common. He’d been told to wait for them, pick the time and the place, but for what purpose or how they tracked him down he only vaguely understood. They always had ways, he supposed. And he, too good natured to refuse.
Weak. Passive. Awkward. Unilluminating. Ungrammatical. What the hell does the commonness of the name matter?

quote:

There was the sound of an engine in the distance. A car. It echoed in his eardrums, closer and closer, until at last it stopped and fell into silence.
You can easily cut the first sentence, which is a pretty dull sentence anyway: A car engine echoed in his eardrums, closer and closer, until... etc. Do you think using three sentences instead of one adds to your piece? I don't.

quote:

He had wanted to be surprised.

“Are you…Sergei?”

“The one and only.”

Sergei shut the door to the car and leaned against it. Sergei stood long and tall. She was also a woman.

You're holding out on revealing Sergei is a woman like it's going to blow our loving minds. It isn't. It's just a chick with a dude's name. Skip all this awkwardness and get to something interesting. You can cover all the name cleverness, but Sergei and Stork's in about half the words:

quote:

He had wanted to be surprised. A long tall woman in a white suit leaned against the car. A single flower in her hair ornamented a practical haircut.

“You're Sergei?”

“The one and only.”

“I wasn’t aware Sergei was a feminine name around this country.”

“It isn’t, but you can’t choose your parents.”

Sergei smiled, but Dresden didn't notice. Her hand bag had just winked a slow yellow eye at him.

“And that's a crocodile?”

“Stork prefers being called by his name”

“And that would be Stork?”

There was a moment of silence.

“You know-”

“Enough,” Sergei raised her palms, still balancing the crocodile, “Not that this isn’t a fascinating conversation, but we’re wasting time. My name is Sergei, thanks to my parents’ high Russophilia, and this is my assistant Stork, thanks to me. How do you do?”

This still borders on too much Witty Repartee about names.

quote:

“Not natively, no. I arrived sometime last month.”

“Boat or plane?”

“I flew.”

AND BOY ARE MY ARMS TIRED

Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at Apr 26, 2013 around 21:22

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


Extended Critiques:

Noah posted:

Miles handed Henry his pen back, and extended his other hand for a shake.

perpetulance posted:

A woman lay covered in blood, her left hand extended up to try to block the ax moving down toward her.

Bad Seafood posted:

She walked forward, her right hand extended as tough in an awkward attempt for a handshake.
...
Dresden signed and extended his arm.

Raising a Toast

Voliun posted:

Gly raised a hand up.
...
Gly raised an eyebrow.

Erogenous Beef posted:

Howard forced his eyes open, sat up on a concrete balcony and raised a hand to block the sun.

Auraboks posted:

Fruitpip raised an eyebrow, but didn't say anything.

Bad Seafood posted:

“Enough,” Sergei raised her palms, still balancing the crocodile

CantDecideOnAName posted:

I waited until it wasn’t looking at me any longer to raise my gun.

Jagermonster posted:

I raise a hand to my forehead to shield the LA sun as I step out of the Agency van.
...
Eyes closed, chin down, Hollywood raises a bent index finger to his forehead.

Also you guys are obsessed with hands. There are too many to quote.

autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007



Fun Shoe

Noah posted:

Oh right. Forgot about that. I'll take whatever. Probably will regret it like systran.

systran has no regrets

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk

Martello posted:

I already offered Noah a new losertar for the second time he "owned" me. If he doesn't come up with a request soon, that offer will expire.

And I'll be handing down judgment for your duel with Bohner soon.

Okay, I'll sort something else out.

Speaking of brawls:
Circlejerk Thunderbrawl phase deux Boehner, Martello

A children's story with a talking pig.

600 words. Due midnight Sunday PST.

sebmojo fucked around with this message at Apr 26, 2013 around 22:13

Kleptobot
Nov 6, 2009


Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

Kleptobot: What the Good Book Says

Let me guess, you're an atheist?
[...]
What is the point of this story?

Tried to write something satirical, but if this is the impression you got then it looks like I hosed up big time. Ah well, on to the next challenge...

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

sebmojo posted:

Okay, I'll sort something else out.

Speaking of brawls:
Thunderbrawl Boehner, Martello

A children's story with a talking pig.

600 words. Due midnight Sunday PST.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk


YOU HAD YOUR CHANCE

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

sebmojo posted:

YOU HAD YOUR CHANCE

aint no talking pigs got poo poo on my talking pig. Y'all just wait.

I have thousands and thousands of words scattered around in various bits regarding Mr. Sebastian and co. I'm just rather stuck with all my novel writing, possibly due to using Thunderdome as an excuse to procrastinate

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

I got it wrong. Look, I'm well aware I got it wrong and uh, I got it wrong.


THUNDERBRAWL: Erik Shawn-Bohner vs. SurreptitiousMuffin



Bohner, I'm calling you out. You talk the talk, so walk the walk with me. Grab my challenge by the balls. I'll even throw a special collar on myself to make it interesting:

My entry only must be completed and posted within 6 hours of the prompt being posted. Furthermore, Bohner will be choosing the prompt.

Come and fight me, tiny hairless baby man.

SurreptitiousMuffin fucked around with this message at Apr 27, 2013 around 05:44

autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007



Fun Shoe

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

Come and fight me, tiny hairless baby man.

Erik Shawn-Bohner
Mar 21, 2010

by XyloJW


Fine, you think you can step toe to toe with the master?

THE Master?

1000 words. One detail from your childhood that's traumatic and real. The rest can be all bullshit, and you don't have to tell anyone what it is, but it has to be a deep, dark secret. That thing you lay in bed thinking about at night. You know it colors your perception of the world today, yet you deny it because you just don't want to face the actual horror of your life.

Six hours if you want to, but I'm not going to be able to do it by then.

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

I got it wrong. Look, I'm well aware I got it wrong and uh, I got it wrong.


Rook to A2

The little enjoyable human being boy makes friends by the milligram, red ones that go up and white ones that go down- smiles, frowns and what might be the burning-plastic smell of dopamine receptors on the fritz. The mechanic wears a red-and-white jumpsuit, and never smiles unless he needs to. His teeth are red. The white is worse: little jackhammers that break holes in the skull and let in the smoke-that-makes-it-hard-to-think. Zugzwang: it's a chess word, it smells like burning tobacco and fussy men in plaid coats. It's a crossroads where every road leads to a cliff.

You have to ask yourself where this is going. I already told you: it's going over a cliff in a robin-red '89 Corolla. Shania Twain got melted into the cassette player, and now all she does is scratch and scream. The little enjoyable human being's a terrible driver but it's not like crashing takes a whole lot of skill. He's good at crashing, as he's so often reminded.

It's a warm bath and a vegetable knife, because nobody makes straight razors anymore. The knife has a red plastic handle with a little sticker on it. It smells faintly of onions. He'll end up crying in the bath because it hurts and above all, he's scared of pain. He's fighting fire with smoke already, no need to make things worse.

It's half a bottle of supermarket painkillers that ask 'enough?' He's had enough pills to last a lifetime but he's not sure they're enough to do the job. He locks the bathroom door and comes out two hours later, reeking of salt, bleach, violence turning in and out. Zugzwang! Almost jolly, if you ignore all the edges. It smells like tobacco and the wrong milligrams. One pills two pills, red pills new pills. He takes too many and ends up in the corner, holding in the bone-shakes and not knowing who to call. The address book is empty anyway.

There's more roads going out into the dark, all smelling faintly of burning tobacco. That's the beauty of zugzwang: the freedom to make bad choices. He does the only thing left: breathe deep, say ten hail marys and step out into the smoke.

Some Strange Flea
Apr 9, 2010

AAA


Pillbug

When you say the deadline is Midnight EST does that mean I have more or less than 24 hours as of now?

angel opportunity
Sep 7, 2004

Total Eclipse of the Heart

You have 30 hours and 17 minutes as of this post.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk

Martello posted:

And I'll be handing down judgment for your duel with Bohner soon.

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.

As a result of some conversation on IRC, I had a flash rule that I had to have Space Vampires in this story. 989 words including the title, except if I edit it some more now that it's here in front of me.

Nature Abhors a Vampire. In Space.

First contact was made at 0432 hours on Sunday morning, Azores time. Captain Jack had decreed that the ship run on Azores time in honour of David Lee Roth, whose grandmother was born there. First Lieutenant Todd, who was on watch at 0432 hours on Sunday morning, (Azores time) had, in private to Captain Jack, questioned this decision, suggesting that maybe just calling it Greenwich Mean Time would be simpler since they were basically the same time zone except that the Azores were at a latitude that suggested they wouldn’t be, which was really confusing if you didn’t know that they basically shared Portugal’s time zone. Captain Jack had confined him to his quarters with orders not to come out until he’d listened to Van Halen’s entire discography except for the ones from 1986-98, because it’d be a cold day in Hades before he’d consider the Sammy Hagar line up to be Van Halen.

At 0400 hours First Lieutenant Todd had emerged from his quarters thoroughly educated on the David Lee Roth years but no more a fan of Van Halen than he had previously been, ready to take his shift. At 0432 hours (Azores time) there’d been a tapping on the Starboard viewing pane. First Lieutenant Todd hadn’t noticed it because spaceship windows are really thick. He had, however, noticed when a beam of light was shone onto his slightly after midnight snack.

He looked up to see a man standing on the window. 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. He was also waving and trying to say something to First Lieutenant Todd, but what with the whole really thick window situation that was mentioned earlier, and what with First Lieutenant Todd not being able to read lips, he had no idea what the sharp dressed man was trying to say, and just shrugged helplessly, as one does.

The chap who was standing on the outside looking in frowned, furrowed his brow, and then produced a large permanent marker from somewhere within his cape and started writing on the window, backwards so that First Lieutenant Todd could read it which is quite difficult and time consuming, and while he’d been writing it, Seventeenth Lieutenant Rebecca had arrived on the scene. Since Seventeenth Lieutenant is barely even a rank worth mentioning, I’ll be referring to her as Becky from now on.

“G’day Sir,” said Becky. “I’ve noticed there’s an impeccably dressed man standing on our window. How’d that come about?”

By now, the man outside had finished writing his message. “Please let me in, it’s quite cold out here. Also hello I come in peace. Take me to your leader. But mostly the bit about letting me in.”

“He writes very well considering he has to write backwards while standing in the vacuum of space without any kind of protective equipment,” said Becky. “Should I fetch the Etch A Sketch?”

“Please do,” said the First Lieutenant, “and I’ll get you to do the writing as well, as I always have difficulty getting those things to work properly.”

Becky went and retrieved the Etch A Sketch as requested, and, following his dictation, responded with “Hi who are you and how is it that you are able to survive in the vacuum of space without protective equipment? Also that is a very nice suit you have on.”

“You can call me Boris,” replied the outsider. “I represent a race that is very similar to the vampires of your folklore.”

“So, vicious bloodsucking monsters?”

“Whoa,” wrote Boris. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!!!!!” He got a little carried away with the exclamation marks. “That is an unfair misrepresentation of historic events.”

“Historic events? What do you mean?”

“Those writers always focussed on the negatives of any interactions we had with humans, like maybe someone got a bit carried away and there were unfortunate deaths,” said Boris. “And they never emphasised enough how well we dressed, or how good we are at counting. Well, most writers, anyway. Norman Stiles is a saint.”

“You know,” said Becky to First Lieutenant Todd, “he’s got a point about how well dressed he is, but I think on the whole it might be best if we just leave him out there. Also we actually don’t have any way to let him in.”

“Good point,” said First Lieutenant Todd. “OK, dictate this.”

“Sorry,” said the Etch A Sketch, “but due to cost cutting measures in making this ship, we don’t have an airlock so we can’t actually let you in.”

“Bollocks,” said Boris, although he didn’t bother writing this.

At 0536 hours on Sunday morning, (Azores time) the sun came back out from behind the planet they’d been orbiting, and Boris was disintegrated, suit and all. Which is a shame really, because it was a very nice suit, if a little too flammable, and Boris was really very good at counting, a skill which he’d unfortunately not had the opportunity to demonstrate to the on duty crew. Had he had that opportunity, and had cost cutting measures not prevented the construction of an airlock, it is possible that first contact might have gone a little better. As it was, the Space Vampires were quite upset at the disintegration of their diplomat, and despite the human delegation pointing out that sending their delegate to a small mining ship without any kind of protective equipment was kind of dumb, the Space Vampires were decidedly put out and refused to sponsor humans for an entry to the Galactic Olympic Games.

Which was a shame really, because the humans had a really good tiddlywinks team, and might have proven a decent match for the Space Werewolves. Oh well, there was always next decade.

Martello
Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW



gently caress off

Martello
Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW


Noah posted:

Oh right. Forgot about that. I'll take whatever. Probably will regret it like systran.

el oh el

CancerCakes
Jan 10, 2006

WORST WIZARD, THUNDERDOME
LOSER


So glad I bothered to make my own avatar...

autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007



Fun Shoe

Angry Wroxeter Blues 1193 words

Geoff slid off the escalator’s last step and shuffled to the left; surlier passengers pushed him aside entirely. His jaw could not drop any lower. The Colonies were absolutely stunning, and their technological prowess was almost on par with England’s. Almost. His first contact had left him wary: the in-flight biscuits had been too soggy, and the television’s accent-replicator was middling at best. Still, there seemed to be electric lighting and the airport’s construction was positively structural.

He stood transfixed by the light filtering in through the arching roof. People moved all around him, dragging luggage and holding babies and talking in a babelsworth of voices. He felt like a stepping stone in the streams of his boyhood Wroxeter; immediately he choked back tears and forced himself to forget why he was here.

Someone kicked at his shin; he spun around. Someone else shoved him from the opposite direction and a first connected with his face. He fell backwards hitting the escalator’s emergency stop button with his head and setting off alarms.

Security was there, guns drawn. A tall, muscular-but-paunchy man pulled him up.

“The hell do you think you’re doing you twink? Think you can just waltz in from England and push our escalator buttons? We don’t roll like that. Me and my boys, we hate the Queen so much we file her face off our pennies. So if you’re gonna be goin’ around causin’ all sorts of problems, you can walk right back up those steps and get on a plane back home!” The man folded his arms across his chest after he spoke, his teammates gave him a slow clap.

“No, you don’t underthtand!” His swollen face made it hard to speak.

“I wath attacked! Mugged! I need a barrister! I mutht appear in the highetht courchth!” Geoff said, almost breaking into hysterics.

“Did these muggers take anything?” the officer asked.

“Well, no. But they punched me and tugged at my suit.” Geoff was drooling all over himself trying to speak around the swelling.

“Here in Canada we don’t report suit-tuggers. Unless you wanna go charge them with assault, which takes a very long time and is extremely complicated for a foreigner. If you still want a barista there’s a Starbucks at the West end.” The officer pointed down a mostly empty corridor.

Geoff checked his attaché bag a final time; there really was nothing missing. He sighed, dismayed at his arrival but glad that the country had a legal system so evolved that one could solicit a barrister at the airport. His conscience tugged at him, though – would a public barrister be of any use in the higher courts?

The little office was quite imposing, Mr. Starbucks having officiated his practice with a large green seal. Geoff took a seat at the first empty stool. The associate spoke from behind the counter.

“Sir, you have to order at the BAR.”

“I’ll never pass that exam, hopefully that’s just legal jargon,” Geoff thought to himself.

The girl was wearing a very becoming clerk’s uniform, her apron and hairnet ensuring that Mr. Starbuck’s books remain in a state of utmost perfection. He marvelled for a moment at all the refreshments that were made available to the clients, but then realized that when dealing with people whose mental faculties were not as evolved as those of the English, it’d be best to have as many refreshments as possible.

“How can I help you, sir?”

“Well, I was just assaulted!” said Geoff, producing his driver’s license and credit card.

“Can you believe it! I would like to file a complaint, or a case, with your Prime Minister, or perhaps the Governor General!”

“Does a double macchiato with extra foam sound good?” the clerk asked.

“Yes, lovely, but I do wish to put forward this case.”

The clerk was already messing about with cups, hardly listening to Geoff.

“We can put in a complaint with corporate, I guess,” she said.

“Corporate? You think this case will need corporate lawyers?” Geoff was pleased with how quickly his case had advanced to the highest rungs. Truly an enlightened place.

Machines hissed and clattered and his drink was slid in front of him. The clerk took his credit card but left his license alone.
“Here, fill this out.” She slid a paper towards him. Small, white and of a fine cardstock, it was emblazoned with Mr. Starbuck’s personal letterhead. Geoff meticulously filled out the details of his case.

“So, what brings you here? You on vacation?” the barista asked, cleaning out steel containers.

“I guess, you could say that, though the vacation is rather permanent I’m afraid. It’s more of a relocation, by personal choice of course, you understand.”

“I guess we all got somethin’ to get away from. Must be nice to just up and leave like that. Listen, I’m off in about an hour. Wanna meet me at the bar and we can talk about it? Misery loves company, right?” she said.

“Yes, yes of course! Splendid idea, marvellous really!” Geoff said.

“But right now, you gotta go, I got customers.” She pointed at the empty corridor behind him.

Geoff was on his fifth pomegranate martini when the barrister joined him. She was dressed in a simple sweater and jeans now, hardly a sign of the legal profession about her. He ordered her a drink.

“Honey, you’re gonna have to make that a whiskey,” she spoke to the bartender.

“So, lay it on me, what’d you do that’s so bad you had to move here?” she said, taking the shot of whiskey the second the bartender poured it. She gestured for another.

Geoff sipped at his martini, the alcohol almost too strong over the pomegranate.

“Well, I had this problem back home. An obsession, really. I suppose one could call it an addiction. I’m not sure if the colonies have this particular confection, but in England we called it Robitussin.”

“Cough syrup? You were addicted to cough syrup so you moved?”

“Well, yes. But, oh I really don’t want to say this. I suppose, well… I’d go on binges you see? I’m quite uncontrollable on binges. I’d end up near school yards, tempting kids with bicycles. I’m really a splendid mechanic…”

“You’re a pedophile and a junkie!?” The lawyer shrieked. The bartender pretended not to notice.

“But you’re supposed to be impartial! What kind of court system is this?” Geoff stood up to leave, but the barrister took this as a confrontation. She kicked her stool aside and threw a punch at him.

He dodged, just barely, and his open palm hit her cheek with a loud slap. The limp wrists really helped, he found. She stood, fuming, and the bartender was mashing the silent alarm beneath the bar.

Security had him handcuffed and halfway up the escalator when he realized he’d never been read his Miranda rights.

“I need a lawyer! This is an outrage! An affront to all decency!”

One of the cops jabbed him in the ribs.

“You better keep it shut the whole way home, Frenchie, or you’ll be missin’ more teeth than the Queen ‘erself!”

Martello
Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW


Martello posted:

gently caress off

THUNDERDUEL: SEBMOJO vs ERIK SHAWN-BOHNER

ESB - no alcohol or swearing, and the protagonist has to be an upbeat person with a positive outlook on life. Include a Bar Mizvah.

sebmojo - no cyberpunk or technoir or whatever the gently caress it is we write. Protagonist needs to be a pregnant female. Include a Muslim call to prayer.

Old Toys by Erik Shawn-Bohner

You managed to make the protagonist upbeat while still making the story sad. Good job you depressing, alcoholic, negative-minded bastard.

The Bar Mizvah is cursory, a background note. You already told me why, and I'll give you partial credit for at least making it an event and not just something mentioned in passing. Still, you could have done more with it. You had ~250 more words, why didn't you use them to expand on the theme a bit?

Jess clearly has cancer. You did a nice job of showing it instead of just telling us. But there's a lot that you didn't tell us or show us. Who is this woman that she has this past relationship with Jake's father? Were they neighborhood kids who played with Ninja Turtles together? I'm just not feeling the backstory there.

And what the gently caress is this
Are you some kind of commonwealth-spelling fanfic writing anusgobbler? Holy gently caress.

The end leaves me with a bit of a sad feeling, which is good, but it's nice that Jess is doing things for people in her last days.

Overall it was a tight, competent story. Not that I expected anything else. But it ultimately doesn't live up to its potential.

In Flame by sebmojo

So this was late I guess, not that it mattered since I was asleep well before the deadline. I'm just gonna ignore it because I can do whatever I want.

You really embraced the prompt and ran with it. Shabina wasn't just pregnant, she was pregnant. It wasn't incidental to the plot, it was the plot. Lacing the Shahada through the story was very effective. It reminds me of something I wrote years ago in college with a priest remembering his life with the Pater Noster laced throughout. You did it much better though.

The tension is definitely there. You can feel Shabina's inner turmoil, see Jack's misery and sorrow at being dumped.

There were a few missteps, though. You spelled Shabina "Shabine" once, missed a few quotation marks, some other typographical errors here and there. I completely identify, since I submit everything right on or over the wire. But a single editing pass would most likely have fixed all of those problems.

I'm not sure about the ending. It's almost too tidy. The extremist cousin blows up the coffee shop, getting rid of Jack and possibly killing Shabina, almost certainly aborting the baby. Does it really matter that the cousin saw her there now? If she was still alive but had to go back to Sayyid it might have had a little more tension and 'what's gonna happen next' quality at the end. It's not that I don't like the ending now, I just think you could have played it a bit differently.

JUDGMENT

The winner is sebmojo. His story had more emotion, more action, was ultimately a better read. Enjoy your street cred or whatever you get from winning this poo poo.

bitch

Jagermonster
May 7, 2005

Hey - NIZE HAT!


Black Griffon posted:

THUNDERBRAWL ENGAGE

CancerCakes vs. Jagermonster

Pick a picture from the PYF Awkward/Ugly thread and write a story about "a day in the life" of the chosen unfortunate(s). I want something that's either hilarious or has a genuine emotional punch. Anyone can write lazy sarcastic satire about a sweaty nerd, you have 450 words to give me something more.

Word stinkyhole: 450
Due date: 23:59 GMT, Sunday April 28 (sooner is better)


Best Worst Office Party Word Count: 391
Picture: http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...9#post413627018

Nancy smirked as the Birthday Boy walked into the conference room. Her half-assed party spread lay haphazardly strewn about the conference room table. She protested her duties as the official Office Birthday Party Organizer with a chocolate Bundt cake and four foot-long ham and cheese subs. Let Bill complain to Mr. Forester about the lousy party. Maybe he’ll make some other secretary take care of this poo poo. Jackass Forester never even bothers to stop by these things anyway.

“Happy Bir'day, man,” Dave from Maintenance, the only other attendee, grumbled.

“Happy Birthday, Bill,” Susan muttered from her corner perch. Enjoy your day old discount grocery store cake and white bread value subs.

“Oh man!” Birthday Bill squealed. “Chocolate Bundt cake! I love these!” He swiveled his head back and forth, showing Nancy and Dave his stupid grin. “My mom used to get these when her friends came over to play bridge. They’d never eat all of it and the next morning I’d polish it off watching Saturday Morning cartoons! Blast from the past,” he chuckled. “How’d you know?”

Nancy shrugged and noticed she was smiling too. So what if he likes it? He got a cake he likes instead of the usual birthday cake from the bakery down the block and she pocketed the 10 dollar difference. Win win.

“And Suuuuuuubwaaaaaay!” Bill grabbed one of the subs and held it against his chest.

Nancy laughed and involuntary clapped her hands. No way. Nancy hated the usual greasy pizza everyone shoveled into their faces at these parties, but thought she was the only one.

“Looks like I’m not the only one who was getting a sick of eating pizza every time.” Bill winked at Dave. “Eat fresh!”

“Mnyeah,” Dave said through a mouthful of sub. He hadn’t even waited for Bill to show up to grab one and start devouring it.

“Thank you, Nancy,” Bill said, beaming. “I really appreciate the thought you put into this.”

“My pleasure.” She realized she meant it, despite her intended sabotage.

Bill took a deep a breath. “I wish for more personalized parties like this!” He dramatically blew on the three unlit candles.

“Happy Birthday, Bill,” Susan said from the doorway.

Susan’s birthday was in a couple of weeks. Maybe Nancy would ask her what kind of cake and food she wanted in lieu of the usual.

Jagermonster fucked around with this message at Apr 28, 2013 around 16:04

Jagermonster
May 7, 2005

Hey - NIZE HAT!


Dr. Kloctopussy posted:


Also singing happy birthday isn't a criminal violation of copyright law, but I'm giving you a pass on that one, since maybe they'll make it criminal by 2020. Disney topiaries should be an arrestable offense anyway.


Thanks for the crit.

Kaishai pointed that out too. That was the fantastical profession part - that in the near future IP laws would tighten to criminalize things that now only incur civil liability, and there'd be some sort of cooperative international enforcement squad. Lame, I know, especially considering how much leeway the prompt provided, but I'm a lame IP litigator and that is unfortunately where my mind went.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


systran posted:

Erogenous Beef vs. Kaishai
Something revolting/disgusting must happen during the course of your stories and it must advance the plot.

Because of the above, I gotta put a Not Mind Safe warning on this fucker. You brought this on yourself.

Hersteinnssaga (1594 words)

“Captain, there’s things in the woods!” Old Oddur trotted out from the tree-line towards a man unloading a rowboat. “Your sister caught one.”

Hersteinn Eíriksson splashed ashore. “And the men are gawking? There’s still plenty of work on the ship.” He buckled his scabbard and swung a sack over his shoulder. “Show me.”

They tromped through pouring rain to a boulder. Beneath an overhang, a small fire gnawed on green pinewood and twelve men stood huddled to the rear.

Dripping, Hersteinn dropped his bag of axes, adzes and shovels. “Resting time is over. There’s still salt to land before the squall hits.”

“The squall’s here, little brother. Or were you rowing through bathwater?” Thórdís wrung out her hair. “There’s no honor in a drowning death. While you toyed with oars, I had sword-work to do.”

Hersteinn pushed through the men. A scrawny, filthy child squatted beside Thórdís, its long black hair tangled and matted. Yellowed eyes peered out between dirt-blackened fingers.

“Stay back, brother. It bites.”

“One alone? A scout?”

“Two others. They tried to run when we saw them. Those fought. This one cowered.” Thórdís nodded to a tree. At its base, big Bjarni urinated on a tangled pile of limbs.

The skræling’s stomach growled.

“It’s hungry.” Hersteinn opened a barrel and dangled a piece of salt fish before the creature.

“Hauling tools and feeding beasts.” Thórdís folded her arms. “Sagas will sing your glories.”

The thing sat up on its haunches and snatched the food from Hersteinn’s fingers, hair falling away from two wrinkled teats as it reached up.

“It’s a woman, sister, not a beast.” He offered another slice. “We’ll need water and forage before long. If you hadn’t leapt to swords, we could learn much from her.”

Perhaps they’d fell trees in trade for salt and metal. If not as friends, as slaves. With their timber, Hersteinn would make a dozen longships and sail the precious wood home to Eíriksfjord. A glorious fleet.

Thórdís threw up her hands. “First you feed it, now you want its help?” She turned to the gathered men. “Did we come here for glory, or to succor skrælingjar? We should be hunting for its camp.”

The other men murmured agreements, dark eyes glanced from captive to captain.

“Feed it, then follow it home.” Hersteinn glanced at the pissing man. “Bjarni! Put away your dick and burn those things.”

Bjarni snorted. “In this rain?”

“Wrap them together with stones.” Hersteinn ground his teeth. “The sea will take them.”

“I wouldn’t row out again, captain. I’ve seen clouds this dark once before.” Oddur stared into the fire. “The Wild Hunt rides them.”

Hersteinn turned towards his boat. A hundred paces out, their longship bucked upon the sea like an unbroken stallion, fading from view as the storm strengthened. Without salt and food, winter would starve them back to his father’s hall, with neither glory nor wooden wealth. “Warriors who fear water. Are you men or housecats?”

Thórdís shoved him. “Go on, brother, show us how to conquer waves.”

Bjarni delivered a bloody, weighted bundle and Hersteinn dragged it to the rowboat with cruel, mutinous laughter at his back. Out at the longship, he dumped the bodies into the thrashing sea, lade the rowboat until waves lapped its rim and shoved off towards the rain-obscured shore.

Lightning silhouetted huge riders smashing through the squall, pounding hooves cracked the storm-stained sky. A wave swelled and dashed Hersteinn overboard. He fought the sea, but his furs dragged him down.

A horn-helmed giant on an eight-legged steed burst through the rain and halted. Odin plunged his hand into the waves and pulled up the bloody bundle, grimaced and turned his crackling stare to Hersteinn.

You befouled warriors destined for my Valhalla, but your time is not yet come. Son of Eírik, mend your men and manners. Sail away from this poisoned forest, for it holds no glory or wealth - only death. Or else run before the Hunt as our dog, your muzzle forever pressed into the filth of the world.

Hersteinn spat out saltwater, pointed to his ship. Odin struck the sea, spurred Sleipnir and the riders vanished into the sky.

A wave scooped Hersteinn ashore. Hands closed over Hersteinn’s shoulders, pulled him to the rock, laid him by the fire.

A cup doused his lips with water and Oddur pushed a fur under his head. “Rest, captain. Bjarni will take first watch.”

#

A boot prodded Hersteinn’s ribs. “They’re gone, captain.” Oddur stooped over, offered a hand.

“Who?” He jumped up. “Thórdís?”

“Bjarni and your skræling vanished before dawn.” The old man coughed. “Your sister took the rest to hunt them.”

Hersteinn buckled on his sword. “Why didn’t you wake me?”

“I like my throat uncut.”

The hunting party’s muddy bootprints wound between tall pines still dripping with last night’s rainwater. Thick morning fog wafted between the branches.

The trail encircled a giant fir. Behind it lay a bulging, fleshy sac. A severed tube trailed from it and shredded purple flesh lay beside the chewed-off end. Boot-shod feet stuck out from an orifice. Bjarni’s.

Hersteinn choked back bile. “What is that? Is he dead?”

“I’ve seen something like it, when birthing calves.” Oddur knelt beside the protruding feet and grasped an ankle. “He’s alive.”

Bjarni wriggled inside his prison. Hersteinn drew his sword and sliced the sac open. Covered in slime, the scout clawed free and gasped for air.

Hersteinn wiped the man’s face clean, poured water on his lips. “What happened here?”

Bjarni hissed, opened yellow, reptilian eyes and lunged for Hersteinn’s throat. Oddur slammed a stick into the scout’s chin, knocked him away. Bjarni landed on all fours, snarled and scampered into the forest.

Hersteinn rolled upright and ran. “After him!”

The scout paused on a knoll and wailed, then vanished into the fog.

Oddur stopped and frowned. “This trip is disastrous. Captain, I've known your father since boyhood. Even he would retreat.”

“No!” Hersteinn punched a tree. “I sail with a dozen men and return with one? Who would follow me after that? We return with men and wealth, or not at all.”

Another scream pierced the fog, long and high, and Hersteinn shivered. Monsters emerged from the mist, men’s bodies twisted with diverse heads and limbs. They encircled the pair, roared, clacked mandibles, hissed.

A shriek from above. A nine-armed insect dropped from the trees, smothering them in web.

#

Entombed in silk, Hersteinn counted paces, but who knew how many legs his bearer possessed? Around him, feet crunched needles, then grass and the cocoon grew brighter, warmer.

A strange-voiced cacophony buzzed outside and the ground slammed into his back. He lay in his prison for a long while, limbs cramping.

Footsteps halted near him, hands pulled him upright and tore away silk.

A crude cage enclosed him, bones lashed together with sinew. Stitched-hide tents stubbled an evergreen-encircled meadow, not-men stumbled between them, some naked, others wearing patchwork fur or woven grass.

Thórdís stood before him, unchanged, smirking. “I was afraid we lost you to the woods, brother.”

“We?” Hersteinn struggled to free his arms, in vain.

“These skrælingjar are predators, like me. And, like predators, I needed only to spill some blood to lead their pack.” She knelt down, tearing away more silk. “Like them, you will serve me. You will go back to Eíriksfjord with your ship’s belly full of my people. Burn the houses and bring us their ships and swords. Leave no one alive to warn others of the blood queen’s coming.”

Hersteinn rolled onto his back, arms free and shoved himself against the bone wall. “You cannot make me sail.”

Thórdís’ eyes flicked aside.

Oddur knelt in a neighboring cage, hands and legs trussed. Outside the bars sat a bony skræling woman, taller and broader than the one they’d captured.

Thórdís ululated. The woman unfolded her lanky limbs and strode into the cage. She tied a cloth over Oddur’s face, pressed it between her legs. He pulled away, but she grabbed his hair.
Her vulva unhinged like a snake’s jaw, engulfed the man’s head, shoulders, body. Only feet dangled between her crotch. She rolled onto her back, swollen womb rising high above, and she squeezed her legs together, trapping the squirming man.

Hersteinn doubled over, retching.

“That is the skrælingjar gift, their pride and strength. The others have already been touched.” Thórdís grinned. “It’s your choice. Sail as a man, or I call another mother and pray this gift does not destroy your wits.”

The captain stood, clutched the bars and stared at the camp. How many were there? How many warriors would he need to expunge this evil? He could raise fifty, perhaps. Not enough.

Dark, wild clouds thundered in the sky.

Hersteinn smiled, turned to Thórdís, opened his arms. “Your brother serves, blood queen.”

She embraced him and he crushed her neck into his shoulder. “But I do not serve you.”

He squeezed out her breath and dumped the body on the floor. He tore off his pants, took a dagger from her belt and carved runes into his penis: Odin.

Unmen rushed to the cage, rattled the bars, brayed steaming hatred at him.

He knelt and thrust in his bloody tumescence. Come, Hunt, see the depravity we’ve wrought. Come and cleanse this wretched earth.

The bars broke. As claws dug into his eyes, hooves flashed over the horizon.

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Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Come to Dust
(1,190 words)
(Flash rule: Something revolting/disgusting must happen, and it must advance the plot.)

The horses sensed the infant simoom first, five miles yet from the oasis Ethan and Howard had wanted to see. Ethan marked the growing heat without knowing what it meant. He got an inkling when the wind drove the breath from him, and then his sweat-darkened mount threw him to the sand and fled with half their food and extra water; Howard's bay carried off the rest, while Howard sat up where he'd landed and shouted curses after the animal as though that would help.

Ethan grabbed his cousin's shoulder and pointed at the low, sloping cliff a hundred or so meters distant that they'd been using as a sight guide. "Shelter!" he shouted over the hissing air.

The cliffside didn't offer much protection from the sand or from the heat that dried his damp shirt in seconds. Ethan huddled against the stone nevertheless, turning his back to the simoom. Wind and grit scraped flesh from his neck. He could hardly breathe or see; the storm smothered the sun. He inched sideways, scrabbling for an outcropping that could shield them better. Howard's grip threatened to break his other hand.

His fingers dug into more sand--sand, not rock; he pushed his whole hand through a gap in the cliff. Its dull edges dug into his wrist, but he felt open space beyond. He grabbed at those edges and pulled, pushed, dislodged a stone and sent sand scattering. He hit the crumbling wall with his fists and shoulders, then with his feet as more of it fell. Howard shoved him aside and threw his greater bulk at the gap, forcing a way through.

Ethan followed. Broken rock tore at him through his clothes, and the blood cooled his cooked skin. The air in the cave was old, stale, hot, but not hot enough to kill: he sucked in a lungful. He fell to his knees, coughing up grit.

Water sloshed in Howard's canteen. Ethan fumbled for his own and drank less than he wanted, but more than he should. For several long minutes, the men sat and breathed.

"Still got the flare gun?" Howard rasped.

Ethan felt for it and found it on his belt. "Yes." He sighed. "We just have to wait."

Howard flicked on the lighter he always carried. The little flame bounced light off the walls around them, revealing that they sat at the head of a corridor leading deeper into the cliff. And on the walls, cut into the stone--

Words.

Ethan staggered up and pulled out his own Bic. Words? The incised lines had that regularity. The same swoops and curls repeated themselves several times within the reach of his light, but he'd never glimpsed a language like this. Greek, Phoenician, Sumerian, Arabic--he would have recognized any of those, any script that might make sense.

Howard's light slid from view as his cousin rose and moved down the corridor. Ethan walked close behind. Writing lined the man-made hall, beginning at least a foot above their heads, as he saw when he held the Bic high. The ceiling was natural rock; the floor, packed sand. But such details no longer mattered to him once he reached the end of the hallway.

The six pillars spaced around the chamber didn't reach the ceiling: they were decoration, carved with secrets he might never know. Four bowls--copper?--sat at the corners of a very deliberate cairn built of darker stones than could have come from inside the cave. The bowls held things. Ethan noticed that much, but not what, not yet.

"Jackpot." Howard half-knelt, half-fell beside the cairn with a grunt and switched the lighter to his left hand. With his right, he grabbed and moved a stone.

"We shouldn't. We should let a museum do it." Ethan's protests were halfhearted. "Here, you hold the lights."

At least he would be more careful, he told himself. Howard sat back and grunted again in impatience while Ethan shifted rocks as delicately as his shaking hands permitted. Then even Howard was silent. In the grave, on a bed hollowed from sand that had preserved her for unknown years, lay a woman. Her skin shared its color with dried dates, was drawn taut against her high cheekbones, high forehead, tiny mouth. Long wisps of black clung to her scalp. Her robe had once been a deeper blue. The knife at her side held a bright edge; the chain draped across her chest and shoulders had lost none of its golden luster.

The contents of the bowls were death offerings, then: smoothed turquoise pebbles, ancient seed pods, powder that might have been incense once. Dried, dark residue clung to the fourth.

Ethan whispered, "She's beautiful."

He eventually took his Bic back from Howard. His cousin seemed more entranced than he, staring at their find. Ethan wanted another look at the pillars. How could the writing be so different from anything he knew? If he could only translate it--he surely couldn't, but if he could--

Cloth rasped on sand; he glanced Howard's way, and so he saw his cousin grab the gold neck piece.

Howard failed to be delicate for the thousandth time in his life. The man touched the corpse with his heavy fingers, and dried flesh crumbled under them with a wisp of dust visible under the flame. The robe sank in as the ribs beneath collapsed, but Howard didn't stop there. He pulled his hand out of the body. He reached for her thin neck.

"Stop it!" Ethan tackled Howard, his lighter dropped and forgotten. Howard's light flew away; everything was dark, his cousin's rancid sweat overpowered the strange odors of the tomb, and Ethan wrestled with a sudden monster made of muscle under fat.

Howard's hands closed on his neck. Howard rolled them over, onto the corpse. The fragile skin tore and disintegrated under Ethan's back, the remaining ribs gave way as easily as a feather bed, her lungs and heart were the powder on his skin, and the grip of her knife jabbed into his side.

He twisted and pulled the knife from beneath him. He shoved it into Howard's gut and jerked it up. A wash of hot liquid hit him first, then the slippery intestines, and Howard's hold lost its strength. Ethan gasped and inhaled a woman's remains. He pushed his cousin away.

Then stabbed him again--in the heart, or near enough. Just to make sure. He crawled a fair distance from the corpses before he vomited.

It took a while to find one of the lighters. He almost had his breath back by the time he did. The tomb didn't smell of the dust of ages anymore, but of blood, bile, urine, and perforated bowels. Tears cut through the filth on Ethan's face when he saw what was left of the woman.

He arranged Howard's body beside hers; he placed the stained knife between them. Then he flicked off the lighter and crept back down the corridor to wait: for the storm to end, for help to come, for some hope of understanding.

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