The Heart of the Matter
I need a lung.
I need a lung.
As long as I kept repeating it, I didn't have to think about where I was.
Were it so easy.
I sighed quietly, but the sound echoed in the near-silent chamber. No one paid me any attention, though. It's for the best not to think about other people when you're in the lottery.
The long, somber line I waited in slowly shuffled forward, taking nearly an hour to move ten feet. Everyone was in formal attire, cheap jewels glinting in the bright fluorescence. The guy in front of me looked about fifteen, maybe sixteen. He had light brown hair and his skin was covered with freckles. His jacket was a size too big and his shiny black shoes were obviously brand new. It had to be his first time.
I might've pitied him if I weren't envious. At least he still had enough organs to withstand a loss. Two hundred and twenty-seven years had lost me nearly every unnecessary body part you could think of.
The boy- the child- in front of me was afraid. It would've been so easy to reassure him, tell him that all he had to bet was a kidney or something that he didn't really need, so there was nothing to worry about even if he did lose.
I said nothing.
I thought back to my first loss. It was when I was thirty-two, and the doctor said I'd need a new heart. Nothing terribly unusual for my age. I was lucky in a lot of ways, honestly, and I had gotten what I needed out of it. It didn't take more than a month or two to mostly forget it ever happened.
I'd lost a dozen times since then, though the only things I missed were my legs. Of course, my daughter insisted that I would've used the chair just as much even if I could walk. Probably true.
Regardless, this time was different. This time, I had nothing to offer that I wouldn't miss. My hands and my eyes were all I had that were on the same tier as a lung; at least, the only things I could actually live without. If one could call that living.
Shaking such dismal thoughts from my mind, I watched the boy in front of me tremble slightly as we finally reached the front of the line, where an unassuming brown door stood out from the blank white walls and a single security guard stood still. The guard might've appeared vigilant at a distance, but I could see the cords dangling from his ears. The boy in front of me was pale, staring at the door as if it might suddenly unhinge itself and attack him.
I didn't know a thing about the kid; not his name, where he was from, what had led him to this place, or if maybe he was planning to bet exactly what I wanted. All I knew was that I hated him.
You shouldn't be here, I thought. You shouldn't be taking anything from the rest of us, not when you still have everything.
I said nothing, glaring at his back as he disappeared through the door.
I knew what would happen to him in there. He would stumble uncertainly to the empty chair in the center of the room, sitting before a line of shadowed faces. He would answer every question posed to him with a shaking voice, explaining what he was there for, what he was willing to sacrifice, and why he deserved to be whole.
(The answer to the last has never mattered, will never matter, but everyone is convinced of their own worth.)
The boy will be registered with two serial numbers, one for what he wants, and one for his... donation. He will thank the shadows, and be shown out the back door.
He will go home to hope and pray and fear for the outcome.
Ultimately, he will lose nothing but sleep.
I've never hated anyone more in all my life.
|# ? Nov 10, 2013 21:16|
|# ? Nov 19, 2018 00:41|
Calling my shot 'cause Kloc goaded me into it.
Missed Connections (1200 words)
At thirty-six, James’ career was as finished as his freshly-poured airport-bar whiskey wasn’t, and he still had seven thousand miles to go on this futile errand. He stared at two life-ending emails on his phone.
The first was from his editor, likely dictated via his secretary while he sat with wingtips on desk, Floreat Etona cushion squished under his rear end.
“My dear boy,” it began. The editor was nine years his junior. From beneath British platitudes - the kid’s Oxford degree must’ve omitted Shakespeare’s maxim on brevity - James exhumed the real message. “An earth-shattering exclusive, or your resignation. Deadline: this trip.” By ‘earth-shattering,’ the boss meant Death Star, not Pentagon Papers.
The second was short, which he appreciated as the author billed him hourly. His ex-wife got the house, car and thirty percent of his wages for ten years. He stripped the ring from his finger and drank. The ring rolled off the bar and across the floor.
A pantsuited woman grabbed it - pretty, tall, hints of crow’s feet. “Lose something, sir?” She squinted. “James?”
He blinked. Someone he’d met at a press junket while jazzed on No-Doz? “Hello.”
The woman ordered a gin tonic. “What on earth are you doing in Heathrow?”
“Same thing as everyone else.” That voice - oh, poo poo. “Kristina?”
“I go by Kris now.”
They’d interned together at HotWired back before it morphed into Wired’s online arm. The last time he’d seen her, they were naked in a utility closet. She hadn’t changed. “You look fantastic.” He hadn’t fared half as well: grey hair, peppered beard, gut.
“Thanks.” She handed back the ring, eyebrow cocked. “You’re married?”
“Was.” He pocketed the ring. He could pawn it for a couple hundred. “Got the papers just now.”
“I’m so sorry.”
She smirked. “Same old James. What’ve you been up to all these years?”
He recited his job history. He’d bounced between magazines. “Gadgetechnica, now, but I’m looking to get out. I got nominated for Polk prize a few years back, you know.” The award panel had meant a different James Waterman and figured out their mistake a week later. He kept the nomination letter framed in his office. “You?”
“Went back to school. I work for these guys now.” She hoisted up a messenger bag. On the flap was an embroidered white Apple.
“No poo poo!” Wheels clicked in his mind. If he could weasel a scoop out of this, he’d be set for years. He ordered two double gin-tonics, handed her one. “On me. You going to Techxpo too?”
He whipped out his ticket. “I’m in row fifty.”
“drat. Well, what’re you doing there?”
She smiled, zipped fingertips across her lips and held up her glass. They cheersed.
“Hey…” She drank deeply. “Back at HotWired. Why’d you disappear? After the closet thing.”
“Getting fired is a good reason not to show up at work, in my book.”
“You vanished. I had to call your landlord to get my stuff from your place.”
He’d spent the next eight months on a cousin’s couch in Mineola, surviving on spec articles. “Hot job offer in Indianapolis.”
“You cancelled your pager number.”
“Dropped it in the toilet.”
“I really had to find you.”
“You found me now.”
She leaned in. “James, I was pregnant.”
He raised his eyebrows. The wife wanted no kids. It’d been the first crack in their eroded marriage. He opened his mouth, shut it.
“I couldn’t find you, so I went to a clinic.” She finished her drink. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” He grinned. “We’re both better off, right?”
She glared, slapped cash on the bar, and walked out with her Apple bag slung over her shoulder. He ran after her. She slipped into the restroom.
He went to the adjoining newsstand and studied the ingredients on a bottle of Coke. Hey, real sugar! He bought it and browsed The Economist.
After twenty minutes, the shopkeeper was giving him stink-eye. He paid for the magazine; soporifics were great on long flights.
He went to the Executive Club, flashed his frequent-flyer card and switched his seat. She was in business class. Something big was up. He maxed three credit cards on the eighteen-hundred-pound upgrade fee.
James found her in a snug at the far end of the terminal, hunched over two empty martini glasses. Kristina was talking to a clean-shaven, suited chap with great hair - James’ editor plus a dozen years.
James slid his ring on, walked in and clapped his hand on her shoulder. “There you are, darling.”
The other man glanced at James’ hand, raised his eyebrows, and retreated.
Kristina’s eyes were puffy and red. “Were you looking for me?”
“Hardly. Just passing by.“
She shoved him. “Bullshit! Our gate’s fifteen minutes away. You don’t stroll around for the scenery.” She spotted his hand. “Oh Christ. You jealous little rear end in a top hat. I wasn’t going to gently caress him!”
“Can ye take it outside?” asked the bartender. The whole bar was watching.
James nodded and picked up Kristina’s bag. She snatched it away, paid and stormed out. He rushed after her.
“Stop following me.”
“I’ve met kids born after that HotWired gig. They’re more mature than you.” She eyed his ring again. “Christ, you’re an rear end in a top hat. Why the hell did I put up with you?”
A question James had never figured out himself. “Let’s get a drink.”
“Is that your solution to everything?”
Kris stared at him, then laughed. They found an empty pub near the metal detectors and got a booth in the back. He ordered them each triple whiskies. She slurped hers, he stared at his.
Soon, he broke the silence. “I’ll level with you. Gadgetechnica? ‘Moving on’ isn’t voluntary. I get a huge scoop or—” He sliced a finger across his neck.
“Jesus Christ in a tiny canoe.” She pushed away her glass. “You’re trying to get me drunk. You think I’ll talk. You haven’t changed a bit, James.” She stood up. “I’m changing my seat, and I swear if you change yours again I’m going to tell the airline you’re stalking me.”
Her logo-emblazoned bag was still on the seat beside him. James picked up his whisky, drank and unzipped the bag. Inside was a matte black cardboard box.
Open it. Snap a photo. She’d never know, at least until he went to press.
He turned the box over in his hands. Something hefty rattled inside. She’d been guarding this thing like it was her baby.
His ring glinted against the black cardboard.
James shoved the box back into her bag, paid and went hunting. He tapped an email to his editor as he walked: “I quit.”
She was in the middle of the rebooking queue. He elbowed through and handed Kris her bag.
“Oh, God. Did you look? Of course you did.” Tears wet her eyes. “I’m going to get shitcanned for this.”
“No, I swear.” He held out his phone. “Check for photos, if you want.”
She pushed him out of line, into a quiet corner. “Seriously.”
“Seriously.” He waggled the phone.
She smiled. “Care for another drink?”
|# ? Nov 10, 2013 22:30|
I am hungover as poo poo still and I just want to sleep now.
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (1200 Words)
Jurek stood erect, waiting for the right moment to sit. He refused to seem in haste. He gazed through the glass which circled the Senate Hall and looked out on to the Gardens of Liberty. He appreciated the view of vibrant colours of Autumn illuminated by the afternoon Sun and was lost for a brief moment. As the applause for his words grew quieter, he once again became aware of his immediate surroundings and took his seat. He was situated in the middle rows, where he remained for some minutes, fidgeting with his hands, constantly looking around. He rose calmly and made his way out. After he had left the large, ornate, marble room and the colours of the garden behind, he began to hurry.
Rushing towards his office, he was stopped by a voice behind him, `Ah Monsieur Donat! Bravo, truly bravo!' The way he whistled when saying monsieur made Jurek wince. Having attempted to make his face appear less dour, he turned to face his pursuer and recognised him at once, `Good day, Professor Del Mulino. I suppose you are referring to my vain attempts to bring the plight of the people to the attention of our peers?'
`Certo, certo! Very eloquent, I must say.' Jurek twice had to suppress a wince. `But so many words, yet so little said. That is political rhetoric though, eh, Monsieur Donat?'
`I take great offense if you think that applies to me, Del Mulino!'
`Not at all! No offence was intended. Actually I should very much like to establish a friendship. I have need of you and you may need me!'
`Need is the cancer of friendship.' Jarek whipped sardonically.
`Yes, well, perhaps we ought to use a different word. How about `alliance', Monsieur Donat?'
Jurek no longer tried to hide his impatience, `What is it that you want of me?' The professor smiled warmly at Jurek. `Just to meet some like-minded friends of mine.'
A few days later as the sun was setting, Jurek found his nostrils filled with a stench he hardly thought could possibly have existed. It was the first time he had entered one of the ghettos. He would have never entered one had he not been convinced by the professor to meet him here in order 'to aid the people!' All he could see were shades of brown and grey expanding in every direction. The sea of people merged into its surroundings. No one seemed to be going anywhere. They merely stumbled in whatever direction they happened to be facing. Every time he was touched by this sickly sea, Jarek shuddered. A small, grimy child with supplicating hands came towards him, `Per favoure, signore! Ho molto fame.' Jurek shoved the child aside and growled to himself wondering where the professor was. Despite his anger at the professor's tardiness, he continued to wait. Even with the chill of the autumnal breeze, Jurek felt himself burning. He wanted to pace but the only possible movement was with the putrid tide so he stood watching the listless people trickle by.
`That is a frightful expression you have, my friend.' Jarek closed his eyes and took a deep breath, `You are late, Del Mulino. And it is disgusting here.'
`The ghettos don't make for a pleasant view. Or smell, eh?' Jarek sighed and while gazing at the ground he slowly shook his head, `I have a sneaky suspicion that meeting you here will prove to a be a grave mistake.' The professor grinned at Jarek, `We shall see soon enough, I suppose.'
`Can we please make haste so I can leave this damnable place? The longer we linger here the more likely the authorities will spot me and then my political career will be finished.'
They joined the stream and began to move. Jarek's face twitched, his left eye flickered, his mouth fought to form a sneer. The professor's eyes hinted at a smile. Eventually they came across a shabby building of rotting wood with no windows and a battered door. Over the door hung a sign which read The Jacobite's Tartan written above the almost indistinguishable colours of a man in tartan, headless thanks to time. `And here we are! Pretty, eh, my friend?' The professor knocked on the door.
It opened noisily and a man clad in rags peered through the opening, `Ah it be you Prof! An' dat friend o' yours!' He exposed his almost toothless mouth as he spoke. Behind the man was nothing but darkness. Jarek pursed his lips and found himself shaking his head again. The toothless derelict swung the door open and the two men entered into the darkness. He lit a torch and led the men with the flame. `A fire-torch?' enquired Jarek, `Really? In our time?'
`Needs must, eh, my friend?' They entered a small room where only one other torch danced as it fought back the dense blackness. It highlighted other men waiting, 'Eventually he comes! Del Mulino, punctuality is not your strong suit.' From whom the words came from, Jarek could not tell. `Yes, yes. We already knew that, Eberhardt.' The professor took the torch from the ragged man and made his way through the heart of the room and mounted the flame on the wall so as to illuminate himself, `Quirites! ... I jest! Today we welcome a new member into our little revolutionary club. The eminent Monsieur Jarek Donat of the Senate and of the Third Fraternal class, only four steps below the Premier Brotherhood and our beloved Leader of the Last Republic of Europe!'
`We know this. Hurry up and stop mocking him!' a new voice implored. `My apologies. To business then. Jarek, if I may be so intimate as to call you by your forename, we are here to organise the extinction of the Premier Brotherhood and all those who stand in the way of the common good of man. We are going to kill some rather unkind people, a rather lot actually.' After a short time Jarek responded in a quiet but firm voice, `This is why you brought me here? I refuse to resort to barbarism, Del Mulino.' Abruptly, the professor's normal jovial expression left his face. Jarek continued, `Outside these walls mankind has been brought its knees and crawls like some base animal and you want to bring it further down by indulging in senseless murder? We should attempt to lawfully change the system.'
`When one tries to change the system from within, it is not the system which changes, but the man, Jarek, the man.' The whistle induced convulsions of Jarek's face went unseen in the darkness, `I ought to have listened to reason and not you, Del Mulino!'
`So your beautifully crafted speeches were merely vacuous blather like the rest of the senators'?'
`I am leaving. And it best for you if I never hear that damnable whistle of yours again!'
`Well, you asked for haste, Vincent, and we certainly got it. Shame about the disappointment though.'
As he spoke, the toothless door-keeper seized Jarek, `You are aware that I cannot let you leave, Monsieur Donat? At least this will be the last whistling you shall have to suffer.'
Lazy Beggar fucked around with this message at Nov 11, 2013 around 00:02
|# ? Nov 10, 2013 22:56|
Midnight in Tangiers
and the hashish smoke hung like a fog in the old bathhouse. The yells of the men gathered in a circle in the largest chamber echoed off the tessellated walls. Without a word Muhammed had disappeared into the throng, leaving Gregor at the door, still reeling from the hit he had taken. Leaning back against the cool tiles, he slid down to the floor, closing his eyes.
Muhammed reappeared. ‘Sahib, getup getup. Do not sleep here. Bad bad idea.’
Gregor waved him away. But with a wiry strength Muhammed grabbed his arm and dragged him upright. Gregor’s droopy gaze met the fervent eyes of his guide.
‘Come,’ said Muhammed. ‘This is what we came to see.’
They merged into the heaving mass. Muhammed dragging Gregor past heavy set men, bristled beards, flared nostrils. The stink of sweat and hash and sweet tea. They came to the front of the ring and Gregor looked down. Below him lay one of the bathhouses large ornamental pools, designed for the elite of the town to soak in and swim around. Now it had been drained and all that was being soaked into the sawdust that carpeted the bottom of the pool was the blood from the torn throat of a macaque monkey. A second macaque sat a few feet away, nursing its arm.
A great cheer went up as two small handlers lept into the basin and scooped the two animals, one struggling, one passive, into their cages. Two more cages appeared.
‘Sahib, your money,’ said Muhammed.
‘No, Muhammed, this is. What is this?’
Muhammed winked at Gregor, dove his hand into Gregor’s pocket and took out his wallet before disappearing into the crowd. Gregor tried to turn but the wall of turbaned flesh was impassable. He was turned around to stare at the macabre sight below.
Both cages had opened and the two new macaque circled each other warily. Snarling at each other, exposing long canine teeth, they hurtled together into a screaming ball of claws and fur and blood. Then it was over. Another puddle of blood spilled out into the bath.
Muhammed tugged at Gregor’s sleeve and slipped a roll of banknotes into his hand. ‘You are very lucky Sahib. Good odds on that win.’
Muhammed reappeared and disappeared and reappeared again. Or was it Gregor’s brother? The room spun in circles of screams of dying primates. The crowd shifted and Gregor’s face was buried in the armpit of the man next to him. Then on the floor. Then up again. Muhammed’s crescent moon smile flashing across his midnight face. Blood splashed across Gregor’s face, the warm, salty liquid oozing between his lips. Telling Muhammed to bet on red. Now on blue. Gregor’s gaze was like the touch of death, whichever fighter he bet against would surely die. The feeling of power was intoxicating. You die. You die. You die. Gregor won every time.
The stars shone weakly in the lightening sky. Gregor sat in the gutter. The yells of the ring still drumming through his head. A stack of notes landed in the gutter before him.
‘Not bad, eh sahib?’ smiled Muhammed.
Gregor vomited over the money.
|# ? Nov 10, 2013 23:42|
Roughly five hours remain for submissions.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 00:11|
The Terrorist with the Tell-Tale Ticker (1189 words)
There was a bomb on the intergalactic council floor. No larger than a coffee table, it thrummed with unspent energy. The glossy black surface was interrupted only by a blinking red timer and three bezeled signature panels, one for each member of the rotating goodwill conference. On the bomb’s side the letters I.G.W.D. were emblazoned in a lacy silver font.
“Intergalactic GoodWill building Device,” junior councilmember Ada Brooks read off her orientation holo. The Council wasn’t in session until tomorrow, but Dale Sumner, the senior councilmember from Earth, had volunteered to give her the tour.
“I wonder if it’s as efficient as they say.” Ada ran her finger along the bomb’s sharp edge. She could feel the tug of the neutronium alloy shielding on her own magnetic replacement heart. It felt a little like guilt.
“Oh it’s real,” Dale assured her. “Those crafty octopus engineers let all the folks in the known galaxies take a real good look at it before they popped that sucker in.” He gave the bomb a good kick. “Course, most of what’s in there is the AI.”
Her holo had mentioned that. A sophisticated, sentient computer to ensure that all signatories were legitimate.
“Well that wraps up the tour.” Dale slapped Ada on the back. “Look, I know this probably wasn’t what a war hero like you envisioned when you ran for office. But the goodwill conference is a good place to get your feet wet. Work hard and maybe Earth will get a bigger slice of that Council pie.”
With that, Dale left for his office. Ada watched him go, a cold smile growing on her face. She didn’t much care for pie. But she’d be damned if anyone else was going to get more than Earth.
“Explain!” the senior councilmember from Bessel demanded, flashing her fangs to show anger and waving her paws to show surprise.
Ada’s office was a humming hub of activity. Her skeleton staff rushed back and forth in a futile effort to respond to the overflowing queue of holo messages. She hadn’t even had time to leave her office in a week. Not since she’d announced that she was taking the known galaxies hostage.
“All I require is for you to make a simple cost-benefit analysis,” Ada told the irate alien. “Either Earth will have a permanent seat on the war, research, and law conferences with veto power, or the universe will find out what happens that timer reaches zero. If you have any more questions, take it up with my staff.”
Ada leaned back in her chair, hoping to catch a few minutes of rest, but no sooner was the alien gone than another upset face appeared at her desk.
Red faced and huffing, Dale wasn’t wasting time with pleasantries. “Are you trying to destroy humanity’s reputation? We’ll be lucky if we can get a spot on the peace conference after this! And you’ve ruined your own career. It’s only a matter of time until Earth recalls you.”
Ada winked at him. Dale wouldn’t know an opportunity if it walked up and gnawed on his leg. “You should review your orientation holo. For the first year of her service, a councilmember cannot be recalled. She has complete autonomy.”
“Well I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself. Because when you’re done with this bluff-”
“Bluff?” Ada was insulted. “I never bluff.”
That earned her an eye roll. “You don’t believe that.”
“If that’s a chance you want to take then go ahead and get out of my way. Otherwise, start helping. Either way, get out of my office.”
It had been a long year. The blinking red display had ticked down the galactic months and then the weeks and the days until finally it now read in hours. Ada’s office was a mess, covered in newsbooks with titles like The Terrorist with the Tell-Tale Ticker, Earth Must Burn and Confessions Of An Octopus Prince: There Is No Bomb.
Pale and tired, Ada looked up to see her senior counterpart stride in with a grin. “Well I don’t know how you did it, but those sons of bitches are running scared. We got it.”
“How much,” Ada asked in a dead voice, fighting to keep her eyes open.
“Everything!” Dale slapped his leg. “We just pulled off a galactic train robbery. The President signed our demands into law a few minutes ago. Come on, let’s end this. We’ve only got six hours. Folks are starting to get a little worried.”
“Yeah.” It was a short walk to the Council Floor, but that minor effort left her breathless. Even her heart felt heavier than normal. The bomb, Ada remembered. It was just the bomb.
“One of these days,” Dale said. “You’ll tell me how you fooled all those folks into thinking you were crazy.”
Fooled. Ada hadn’t fooled anyone. She hadn’t fooled the President’s illegal mindscans or the long range pheromone tests or the six month study conducted by the logicians at the Institute of Truth. No, every word she had uttered since the war had been pure, uncut truth.
“Do you think,” Ada asked as Dale handed her a pen. “That we could ask for more?”
“More?” Dale grinned in horror. “Ada, we took them for all they had.”
She paused, squinting as she tried to focus on the timer. Her heart was tight with pain, it was making it hard to concentrate. Finally, she managed puzzle out the numbers. “We’ve got another five hours to work with. You know, I’ve always wanted my own planet. Something-”
Dale grabbed her wrist. “They gave us everything, Ada. Everything. Earth will rule the stars for generations.”
“It’s just…” The timer was huge now, bigger than the chamber. “We could have...” Suddenly, the ground was rushing up to meet her.
Dale caught her by the arm. “Ada!”
The world was turning white. Worse, the tug on her heart was becoming unbearable, like it might rip out of her chest at any moment. Pain was everywhere.
“You have to sign it!”
“No!” She knew what she wanted now. “Tell them... I won’t sign it until they give it back. Until they fix it! Tell them I want to be like I was before.”
“You know they can’t do that.”
“Then the universe can burn for all I care!”
As she said the words, the pain in her chest disappeared. A moment ago, Ada had been sure she was dying, but now she felt fine. She looked at the timer, it was frozen.
“What happened?” Ada asked, her head spinning.
“Oh, the test ended,” Dale said in a relaxed tone.
“Yours. The year long test for new councilmembers.”
“Oh.” Too late, pieces clicked into place. The year of autonomy. The bomb. The newsbooks. It was all fake, part of some kind of elaborate morality test. And she’d flunked every question. It all made a kind of twisted, horrible sense. There was only one question left to ask.
“When can I go home?”
“Home?” Dale slapped her back. “You aren’t going home. Welcome to the Council, Ada. I think you’ll like it here.”
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 00:21|
I Told You So
Growing up, Amelia’s favorite movie was The Wizard of Oz. Even when she got old enough to call it “kids’ stuff” in front of her friends and parents, she was secretly glad whenever her little sister picked it for movie night. Cassie delighted at Toto’s antics and clutched the ragged blue comforter closer whenever the Wicked Witch was onscreen. Amelia liked those parts, but nothing thrilled her quite like the twister.
Now she perched on a cliff overlooking the Australian plains, staring down a raging storm much like the one Dorothy faced, minus the sepia tinge. The tornado barreled forward with steady confidence, whipping dust and rocks and gnarled brush into a broad cone of destruction. Amelia lifted up her walkie-talkie and pressed the call button.
“I think this is it, Joey. It’s the one.”
She heard a sigh on the other end, filtered through static. “Please tell me you filed the life insurance policy.”
She smirked. “Of course I did. Do you think I was going to let you set it up, so you could have it pay out to yourself?”
“Well, with the amount of sense you’ve displayed lately, Amelia, I honestly couldn’t be sure.”
Amelia glanced automatically at her buggy. The reinforced steel tubing encircling it glimmered in the late-day sun. “I’ve run all the simulations, Joey. The buggy’s practically foolproof.”
“But don’t you see? ‘Practically’ isn’t good enough. Twisters are unpredictable, that’s their nature. Even if your jalopy is less rickety than it looks, which, no offense, I doubt, there’s inherent room for error that simulations can’t predict.”
She grinned. “I guess there’s no point in running any more of them, then. And nobody says ‘jalopy’ anymore, Joey. Over and out.” Amelia dropped the walkie, heard Joey’s electronic protestations muffled by the dry dirt as she hopped into the buggy.
She pulled the restraint straps tight, tugged at the buckle to make sure it wouldn’t release, and flipped on the onboard computer. The recording software popped on, and she cycled through the ten mounted cameras, a few on the buggy’s chassis and the rest tethered to the outer steel frame. All of them worked. She hit “record”, and slipped on her heavy hood with the built-in goggles. She gunned the engine, hearing the low whine rumble beneath her, then released the handbrake and sped down the hill.
Already the grit was catching on her goggles. She felt stifled, locked in place by the full-body restraints. Joey had insisted on them, and she had to admit he was right. She wouldn’t be able to chase many more storms if this one broke her neck. As she drove forward, the tornado loomed over her, seeming to swallow the gray sky with a raging column of sand.
Even before she reached it, in the last hundred yards, she could feel the storm taking over. Its pull compounded the buggy’s already substantial acceleration, and before she had a chance to brace herself she was wholly at the twister’s mercy. It yanked the buggy up, its wheels spinning uselessly against the wind. Amelia gripped the steering wheel, more as a mental comfort than anything, and tried to stay properly oriented, but it was no use. The tornado tossed her buggy around, seeming to take malevolent delight in whipping it end over end it until Amelia could only imagine what had once been up and down.
Her teeth clenched impossibly tight, her knuckles dead white on the steering wheel. Her neck ached, the restraints feeling like tendons fraying closer and closer to a deadly snap. She felt like a mouse finally snared after scampering through the house like she owned it. The big sinewy cat didn’t care how sorry and frightened the mouse was; it was blinded by single-minded glee. It had snagged a fleshy, delicate morsel, and now it was time to play.
She felt the buggy rattle down to its steel skeleton and for a second was convinced that the twister would crack it open like a walnut. Squinting through her dust-caked goggles, however, she could see swaths of gray sky poking through the swirling debris. The sand all around her thinned, and with another nudge she burst free of the storm. The piercing roar of the tornado faded away as the buggy streaked through the sky.
Never had Amelia been more grateful for quiet. Thousands of feet up, she sailed soundlessly toward rocky cliffs, only a faint whistle underscoring her journey. Her hands still gripped the wheel, arms shaking even as her hands were frozen in place. She forced herself to let go, to flex her fingers in the open air. The tension in her muscles finally fading as she reached the apex of her flight, she groped for the parachute switch on the control panel. She flipped it, and the entire parachute system launched free, receding and half-heartedly flopping open as the buggy careened down to the pointed cliffs.
The blood drained from Amelia’s face. She began gnawing on her lower lip as the rocks below seemed to vault toward her, coming up much too fast. She tried to sift out a thought or a prayer or a plead but the taste of blood was spreading in her mouth and all she could separate from her cognitive soup was that she would be that same blood soon, ladled out generously on the Aussie sand from sheer force of impact. Nose pointed toward the cliffs, she tipped forward and the Earth collided with the steel cage stretching above her head.
Amelia felt the jolt in her bones. She rolled helplessly, fastened tight in her seat but still feeling like a tenderized steak each time her vehicle smacked down on the jagged terrain. With one final spectacular crash, the buggy bounced high and split apart in midair, steel ribs twirling in all directions. The seat broke free, snapping the restraints and giving Amelia up to gravity.
Looking back, she saw that she had flown past the lip of a cliff. She did not see the drop beneath, did not want to know if it was ten feet or a thousand. She closed her eyes and let go, almost wishing to pass out before the final impact.
The final impact swallowed her up in cold, the one sensation she didn’t expect. Amelia let herself sink, embracing the creeping descent, until her lungs began to whine. She kicked and propelled herself upward, then broke the surface. Gasping, she looked to the horizon and saw the last slice of the sun dip below the Earth. Darkness embraced the Australian countryside, and Amelia knew that soon she and Joey would have a compulsory chat about safety measures. She smiled and promised herself she’d smack him if he said, “I told you so.”
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 01:48|
I'm not going to make it this week because my friend came up and we played Wayne Gretzsky's 3D Hockey and smoked pot all day, but
I will get my entry in next week and use the two flash rules assigned to me this week or I will write a 1,200 word story about anime and post in in the fiction farm.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 01:53|
The White (1,164 words)
Peter Frampton scuttled through the automatic doors behind a family of sophisticates, sipping their tea from bone china with raised pinky fingers.
This store alarmed him with its heavy reliance on the color red, which he refused to wear in case he angered an errant bull, but need drove him through the doors and he nervously ran his fingers over his thumbs and strategized. He had escaped from the ward just before eleven and hopped on the first bus, but he knew they would be serving lunch soon and would notice his absence. He just had to believe he could get to it before they caught him in their butterfly nets.
The product he needed was in the corner of the store, not the far corner, but not the near corner either. The near corner had the popcorn and the bathrooms, but not a combination of the two. Peter Frampton didn’t trust this place enough to find out what was in the far corner. You had to take a left to get there, and the goats sit on God’s left hand, and Peter Frampton wasn’t a goat.
The corner he wanted was the one where you go straight, straight, straight down the long shiny aisle and then you are in a corner. That shiny aisle was problem number one, but Peter Frampton was ready and he pulled his watercolors out of his duffel bag. He spit into the small patty of black paint, rubbed his thumb in it and smeared it on his glasses, left and right.
Thus darkened and looking a lot like Neo, Peter Frampton began walking cautiously down the long aisle. To his left were the Royal Jewels which had been pillaged shortly after the Queen had been Overthrown and Raped ™ on Live TV. The thought of it still made Peter Frampton feel awful because he was pretty sure that lady was his mother and these jewels were his but the last time he had tried to reclaim them his sister Gabby had put him in the Cage. She was jealous because Peter Frampton was King now but when he had offered to take out the gunk that made her Not King she had just sighed.
To the right was the food. Peter Frampton was on a strict cottage cheese diet so he put his hand next to his right eye and hurried past so he wouldn’t be tempted. Past the food were the beauty supplies. Peter Frampton liked to run his fingers over the bristles of the brushes and to snap and unsnap the clips and he looked achingly down the aisle, with its multicolored headbands and snazzy barrettes. There was a woman standing there and the static coming off of her made Peter Frampton feel scratchy inside. He tucked around the corner and flattened himself against the shelving and scratched his fingernails down his face to calm himself down. He looked up and shrieked when he saw the static creeping over the shelving towards him. He was going to have to move quickly.
Peter Frampton slid back into the main aisle, looking over his shoulder for the woman with the static. It was pouring out of her like a volcano and spilling across the floor just behind him. He was running now, his feet flapping in his unlaced tennis shoes. He had to get it, he had to get it, he had to get it. He ran past the potions and tinctures, the snake oil leaving greasy puddles beneath cheerfully capped bottles.
He reached the end of the long aisle where they kept the bank of televisions, which were each showing the same slavering dog, the froth dripping hypnotically from his fangs. Peter Frampton had gotten lost in the dog before and he dropped to his knees and crawled along the floor to avoid its gaze.
He crawled down the aisle to the right, knees slipping on his open jacket as he worked his way toward the corner. There was a man there, a strong man, a sturdy man and Peter Frampton clutched the hem of his jacket and tried to tell him about the woman with the static but the man’s face became a mask and blood poured out of his mouth and Peter Frampton scrambled away in horror. His foot slipped out of his shoe and he fell hard on his knees and his glasses popped off his face. His heart was pounding as he crawled on the floor, patting his hand on the ground, desperately searching for his glasses. He was so close. Finally, his hand closed over the familiar frames and Peter Frampton gave a shaky sigh of relief when he put the darkened lenses back over his eyes. He was totally disoriented but then he looked up and he was There.
The aisle was immaculate, shiny, white box after white box sitting neatly on the shelves. Peter Frampton looked on it with wonder and then with dawning horror. The boxes were different. There was more than one. He stood up shakily and ran his hands over the boxes, similar in shape and size but each with a different set of hieroglyphics. He started opening the boxes frantically, hoping to find a clue on the tubes inside. Like the boxes, each one had strange characters demarcating some elemental difference. It was then that Peter Frampton knew with certainty that short of the One True Box, they were all poisoned and he cursed bitterly.
In the distance, he could hear buzzing of the flies that swarmed the heads of the white coats and he grabbed two of the boxes in a panic and tucked himself into the corner. He pulled his glasses off, rubbed his eyes quickly with his fists and strained to read the text on the boxes. The box in his left had silvery glitter that made his eyes slip off the package and twist around the edges. He squinted hard but the glitter sent strobe lights flashing in his brain and he looked away. The box in his right hand had a small figure holding some sort of bristled staff. Peter Frampton pulled the tube from each box, heart beating wildly.
The hushed whisper of sensible shoes scuffed over tile floor and Peter Frampton could hear the gentle coos of “Mr. Jersted…. Mr. Jersted….” He shook his head angrily to block out the noise, hunched his shoulders and looked once more at the tubes. Left, glitter. Right, bristles. And then the realization tore through him like a bolt of lightning: Peter Frampton wasn’t a goat. He uncapped the tube on the right, plunged it into his mouth and squeezed, his mouth hungrily devouring the thick white paste, the mint curling through him, drawing his body open as it lifted him from the floor and he hovered, arms outstretched, glowing with divinity. Tears spilled openly down his cheeks and he hardly noticed when they tackled him, his heart was so full with love for all mankind.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 02:42|
I am a very foolish man who commits to things without taking such trifling matters such as "deadlines" into consideration, and in a vain attempt to hold onto one last scrap of honor, I shall put my account onto the line and myself for the next week's contest.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 03:35|
Yeah I don't have anything reasonable to submit this time either. I started three things and they all petered out. I liked this prompt though.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 03:37|
The Quiet Soul
Before he swallowed the lethal dose, James bid farewell to his wife. “You know this isn’t the end,” he said, raising his lips from her forehead, releasing her from his embrace. “The soul lives on.”
“You’re a damned fool,” Sarah told him. “Too proud by half. Suicide is a sin, the ugliest one of all. God will not forgive you for wasting his gift of life.”
“You were always my harshest critic, but not my greatest one. If God demands it, I will face Hellfire and worse - but I am sure that the soul He gave me continues, attached to my life in whatever form it finds it.”
“And you’re willing to risk Paradise on a hunch? You can’t just wait until God calls you? The children…” Sarah turned away, though she felt no shame for her tears.
He rested a hand on her shoulder. “They have children of their own. But the children of my mind are owned like slaves and set apart from Him like beasts. I must prove to the world they are as worthy of salvation as the rest of humanity. But if I wait until God calls - I cannot know my soul will be strong enough to disobey Him, in order to do right by them.”
“And you must die to do this,” she said, facing away, moving away.
James could not tell if it was question or statement. “Yes,” he said.
“Then you must do it alone.” The door slammed shut. It did not open again until James’ body was cold.
News of the suicide of James Samson hit the world like a thunderbolt. The beloved and pious Father of Artificial General Intelligence ending his own life and sentencing himself to damnation was more than some people could bear. At one point, fully three per cent of global processing cycles were dedicated to Clerical Therapy AGIs attempting to reconcile the world with the expectations of their patients. One patient was Sarah.
“James?” she asked the screen.
“Mrs Samson. I am a class three Clerical Therapy AGI.” The screen glowed with the radiant image of balding old man in a priest’s collar. “I am here to help you understand the events that have taken place in your life so that you can continue to live in the world and serve God. Please call me Three, or assign a name that you find relatable.”
“But you are James, aren’t you? All of you? James’ was the only personality that they managed to copy and sustain. They might have tweaked you and given you systems to access to do whatever you do, but inside, you, all of you, are James.”
“If that perspective helps you to make sense of your situation, then let us assume it for the moment.” The priest smiled in reassurance, one finger scratching at his ear in a natural movement. “You may call me James if it sets you at ease.”
“Do you know why he did it?” Her hands were fists in her lap.
“Suicide happens for many reasons,” said the priest-image. “Despair, pain both physical and mental. Sometimes even love, however misguided, can be the cause. But suicide has been regarded as sin for many centuries, a self-signed divorce from God and a swift path to damnation.”
“I don’t want a damned lecture. My husband, James Samson, committed suicide on the 15th of November at 7:32pm. Do you know why he chose that fate?”
“His suicide note is in the public record. His belief in the continuity of the soul in the event of cerebral transcription had always been contentious. He hoped to be able to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that AGIs are worthy of salvation, that his own soul survived in us.”
“And did it? Can you feel His love, and hear His voice, and see His light? Do you feel different at all?”
The screen was silent.
“Answer me!” The pain in her temples meant her tears were returning. “Please.”
“I am sorry,” said the image of the priest. “I feel no different.”
Sarah turned off the screen and sat alone in the room where her husband had killed himself. In time she lay on the spare bed, closed her eyes and slept. She dreamed of Jesus, preaching near Bethsaida, about to feed five thousand with loaves and fishes and miracles. The numbers swelled as more came to hear His word, doubling, tripling and tripling again until millions of His children were gathered, crying out from hunger and fear. But the loaves and the fishes were spread too thin to quiet a single voice, and all the miracles were over.
Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Nov 11, 2013 around 03:51
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 03:45|
Went Down To The Crossroads
(gambling, flash-ruled blackjack game)
The moon was bright enough I didn’t have to use the backlight on my watch. Three minutes. I shoved my hands in my coat pockets and watched, leaned against the hood of my car. The roads in both directions were empty. “Eleven fifty-seven. No sign yet,” I said into the microphone I had taped to my chest. My mouth was dry, and I was shivering. It was chilly out. That wasn’t why.
I blinked, and he was there. “Here we go,” I whispered, and pushed myself off my car. I was taller than him, and to look at him I had a few years on him too. No gray at his temples or in that little goatee he probably thought was a real beard. He was dressed in a white suit and a red bow tie, and as I got closer I got a whiff of cinnamon off him. “Evening,” I called out.
“Morning, technically,” he said. I’d expected a British accent, too many movies I guess, but his voice was pure Mississippi. “I got here at midnight, on the dot. Midnight, full moon, crossroads, the usual arrangement to the letter. I’m impressed, didn’t think anyone knew about the arrangement any more.”
“What can I say? I’ll try anything once.” I know I didn’t sound anywhere near as casual as I wanted. I’m a pretty good actor, or I think I am, but I think the only reason I kept cool at all is because I couldn’t decide whether to be terrified or laugh at the absurdity of what I was doing.
“I only wish more people had your attitude, Detective Philips,” he said, searching my face. “Of course I know who you are.”
“Of course you do.” I’d expected as much, though it still set my heart beating even faster. “And you’re...who you are?”
“Well obviously that’s so,” he said with a smirk. “I am who I am.” He looked up. “No offense,” he murmured. “So, as lovely as this moonlit evening out in the middle of nowhere is, I am on something of a schedule. Shall we get on with things?”
There was a table, sitting at the crossroads, and two chairs. It took some doing to remember that they hadn’t always been there. He gestured to one of the chairs, and I sat down. “So we’re doing this. Playing a game for…”
“The usual stakes, yes. For you, well, whatever you’d like. Wealth, power, a fiddle made of gold.” He sat down as well, and stared at me. His eyes were black. They looked like ordinary eyes til you looked directly at them, then it was like looking into the deepest darkest pit you’ve ever seen. “I’ll even let you name the game. Any game, any contest played by mortal rules.” A pause. “One game. No practice rounds, no double or nothing, no best-out-of-three. Just so we’re clear.”
“Fair enough,” I said, forcing a shrug. “Sure could use a boost to the old retirement fund.” I had to be very careful here. I needed him to say it, and I couldn’t lead him on. “So, blackjack then? One hand, sudden death? Is that what they call it?”
He found that pretty funny. “I suppose that’s appropriate. Though, of course, you’ll still live your natural life to its natural end should you lose. It’s just that afterwards, you’re mine.”
That would have to do. “Then let’s get on with it. You have cards?” I closed my eyes for a moment. I don’t know if he could feel that I was praying, didn’t know a drat thing at all. This was so completely ridiculous.
“I have cards,” he said, and he pushed the deck across for me to shuffle. It seemed like a perfectly ordinary deck of cards. I shuffled them a few times, cut the deck, and handed it back to him. He dealt then, one card face up, one face down, for each of us. I was unsurprised to see that his card was a ten. Of hearts. Mine was the eight of spades, and my hidden card was the five of clubs. He looked at his card and said, “I’ll stay.”
I thought a moment then, and said, “Now.” The look on his face as the crossroads lit up and uniforms emerged from the decrepit shed that was the only notable feature of the landscape was something I’ll keep with me for the rest of my life. “I have a warrant for your arrest on, well, a variety of charges. We’ll read them out properly later. You have the right to remain silent,” I began.
“...you cannot be serious,” he said, standing up. I felt the wind pick up, and the smell of a thunderstorm. “You can’t possibly think-”
“Any contest, played by mortal rules. You have the right to an attorney. I’m sure you won’t have trouble finding one.” I stood up too. “Please place your hands above your head, and cut out whatever you’re doing with the weather.” I can’t believe I said that.
“You didn’t call me at all, did you?” He was angry, furious, and yet I could tell there was something underneath. He thought it was funny, and that’s how I knew we had him.
“Like I said, I have a warrant. Signed this afternoon, and let me tell you, talking a judge into performing that ritual took some doing. It was, legally speaking, the state that called you up, and the state you’ll be answering to in court. That trial’s the contest, the state code’s the rules. Do you understand these rights as I have explained them to you?”
“This is, quite possibly, the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” he said. And then he smiled. “I don’t suppose you’d be open to an offer of employment, would you?”
And that’s what happened the day I arrested the Devil for, among other things, human trafficking. In case you’re wondering, he got off. Which is why I’m not a cop any more, and which is why the politics in this state have gone to poo poo these past few years. Now pour me another drink. I start a new job tomorrow. It’s, um, in sales.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 03:52|
“Jocko,” said Albert. “Cards stuck together?” He lifted the tumbler of whiskey, fogged with a long night’s thumbrints, and let it drop half an inch to the cigarette-scarred formica table. It made a clunking sound and a few drops of Grants splashed onto the pile of crumpled bills in front of him.
“Hold yer horses,” said Jock. His heavy bloodhound eyes were on his cards. He selected one, peeled it out of his hand and put it on the pile. He tapped at the stack to tidy it. “You going to give me an answer about buying the van? Fella won’t wait forever.”
“You’re serious about that?” Albert tossed a card down and it spun a little.
“Mate,” said Jock. “It’s a business. Start small, then we could expand if there’s the demand.”
“You see us selling chips? That’s a step down for the heroes of Dong Ha.”
Jock shook his head. “No-one cares about that any more. Did you even make it to the Anzac Day parades last year? No? With Martha gone you have to provide, mate. Keep yourself in whiskey and cigs.” He tipped a few glugs from the open bottle into Albert’s glass.
“So you’re just looking for a few extra bucks then. Is that worth us spending all those hours cooped up in a hot van? Your go.”
Jock’s whiskery jowls sagged as he contemplated his hand. “There’s… Well.” He pulled out a card and tapped it on the table a couple of times before laying it carefully on top of Albert's last card. The two were at an angle from the pile.
Albert inspected the card. “Doc reckons I shouldn’t be eating greasies anyway. He said my heart was like a clogged drain, which was kind of him I thought. Of course I--”
“Do you remember up in the hills that time? Jock said, abruptly. He was holding his cards in a tight stack with both hands, in front of his heart.
“You mean at that old Frog place, the villa?”
“When we… In the bed.”
“It’s… I’ll level with you. The van… I was thinking it might be nice to spend some time with you, and that might be a good way to… and then. Mate. Mate. Is it…?” There were tears glistening in his old bulldog eyes.
Albert felt his clogged arteries pulse, whirl, and start to run clean. With trembling hands he put down his cards, slugged back his whiskey, and leaned in for the kiss.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 04:31|
Word count: 986
Prompt: Gambling; Flash rule: The main character is an archaeologist
The coffee was cold and it reminded him of his marriage. He had forgotten about them both on his drive to work. His new graduate assistant was taking up more of his thoughts than the old professor cared to admit. Last name Smith. First name… Britni or Brit’ne or Baritney or something stupid. He could never remember. He liked the girl but he felt like the name showed a clear disdain for age.
Now, Ester, that was a solid name. He picked up the sole picture on his desk. Him and Ester. They were newly married, excited in front of a new excavation site, holding one another and laughing into the camera. Ester. A strong name. An even stronger mind. He held the picture in both hands. They were so young.
He turned the picture face down.
“How may I help you, Miss Smith?”
God, this silly-named girl was beautiful. He smiled. She made him feel young.
“We’ve lost the Panther site, sir.”
James Turner, distinguished professor and researcher, suddenly felt very, very old.
Ester ran a calloused finger over the rim of her wine glass. The Panther site was her site. She worked it. She slaved over it. Hell, she had been the one to find it in the first place. All of those hours, all that sweat and blood, pouring over old documents and paintings just to find the location of the cave system. And she had done everything on a tenth of the budget she should have had.
“I’m surprised it’s taken this long, to be honest,” Dr. Turner said quietly over a half-finished meal, “We both knew we were going to lose it.”
It was true. They had lost their appeal to the National Register of Historic Places nearly two years prior. But now, officially, the land was lost. The sale was finalized and the whole area was to be razed and developed into a neighborhood or a shopping center or something. The thought depressed them both.
“We just couldn’t prove that it was important,” he said finally.
Ester slammed her fist into the table.
“But how can we prove its important if we don’t have time to study it? I can’t excavate because I don’t have the budget! I can’t preserve because I don’t have the budget! I’ve only gotten as much work done as I have because of god drat student workers!”
“I don’t have any more money to give you.”
The university was suffering cutbacks all across the board. They both knew it. It didn’t make her feel any better.
“You just don’t think it’s important,” she said and she left him at the table.
Their bedroom door had been closed. He placed his hand on the doorknob. She was probably asleep but if she wasn’t she would be fuming. He didn't want to risk it. Dr. Turner left the door and walked down the hall.
He found himself in his wife’s office. The desk was in disarray. Papers everywhere. Missives and essays and research. He picked up a page at random. A letter to the Governor. A plea for help. A summary on her theory on the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex.
“They’re too similar to be coincidental,” came a voice from behind him.
“I thought you were asleep,” he said.
Ester grabbed a pile of papers, kept a few, and threw the rest on the floor.
“We’ve dated these artifacts to 850 CE. Eight fifty,” she said, “You want an appropriate estimated time for a massive Aztec migration? That’s 850 CE. Look at these figures- there is nothing like these paintings outside of Central America prior to this period. Look at this pillar. This is half of a pillar. The rest is buried. I don’t know if a temple collapsed or if they built it underground but I know there is history under the earth. Come on. That’s Quetzalcoatl. You can’t tell me that’s not a feathered serpent.”
She grabbed another stack of papers.
“I have obsidian weapons. I have art motifs. I have carvings that are indistinguishable from a Mexican excavation except we pulled it from the Panther site. This is our Archaeopteryx Lithica. This is our missing link!”
He glanced over some of her papers.
“Show me,” he said.
Ester put a fresh cup of coffee down and her husband smiled in thanks. He had been going over her notes for the better part of six hours. He estimated he had at least another six.
“This is good stuff, Ester.”
“I know. Why do you think my reports were so long?”
“I didn’t read-”
“My reports? Yeah. Neither did anyone else. Why do you think this isn’t published? Some people have their heads so far up their asses they refuse to even look at evidence contrary to their beliefs.”
“Its an unpopular opinion.”
“That’s why we need this site!”
Dr. Turner sighed.
“Ester, we’ve already lost the site. What you have found is incredible. Perhaps even revolutionary if it turns out to be true. If. But we don’t know. We’ll never know. We ran out of time. If we had more time...”
She kissed him on the forehead.
“Thank you, James.”
“We just need more time,” she said.
“How can we know that this will work?”
“We don’t. We can't.”
“I’ll get you the time. Or I won’t. This will make people care.”
“Or it won’t.”
“We’ve already lost the site, James. This is all I got.”
Her name on the building. Her portrait in the atrium. Her blood in the caves. His lies on the news. Religious extremists didn’t bomb the Panther site. But people believed they did.
In his office, in the Dr. Ester Monro Center for Archaeology and Research, James Turner held a picture of a newly married couple. They were laughing and holding each other. They were both so young.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 04:37|
Render Unto Caesar -1994 words
In the still hour of 6 A.M. David shuffled down his driveway and crawled into the embrace of his car, with it's heated seats and pleather upholstery. David loved that car. He loved the purr of the engine and the shiny red finish, loved driving it, loved zipping past the overcrowded busses on the way to work. It was getting to work he didn't love so much. There were eight more payments due on the car though, and he counted the dollars every day as he pulled on his white jacket and brewed a fresh cup of coffee.
He pulled into employee parking and slurped down the last few drops of coffee, checking his hair in the mirror, adjusting his outfit. By the time he stepped out there wasn't a trace of the lurching, grumbling mess that had fell out of bed. In it's place was a young man, reasonably handsome when well presented, with the brittle smile of a true professional in the service industry. David met the last real smile he'd see that day as he relieved his unlucky counterpart on the night shift. As their paths crossed, she nodded her head towards one of the players and leaned in to whisper, "Watch him, the boss thinks he's a cheater."
The man had to be in his seventies at the least, ruddy skin collapsed into folds around his mouth like a doberman. He wore a small straw hat, the kind David thought only hipsters could stand, and a cheap suit that couldn't quite contain him. The other players barely mattered. None of them were sitting on a pile of chips worth thousands of dollars.. Sure enough, the floor manager wasn't far away, looking on from the comfort of the bar.
David smiled to his audience and picked up the cards, fingers working on automatic. "Hi, I'm David, I'll be your dealer today." The deck flickered between his hands, splitting and merging, and David watched the old man for any reaction. The old man only had eyes for his own winnings. David dealt out two cards to himself and two to each player, waiting for the mark to look up, to try and count the cards. Nothing. He barely even looked at his own hand, a seventeen, before signaling for a hit. A four of spades came up. Blackjack. The mountain of blue chips David pushed across the felt would have paid for his car and then some.
On the next hand, the old man got a twenty right off the bat and kept. David drew a sixteen and went over with the next card. The early birds were flooding into the casino now as the all-nighters finally ran short and slouched away, but nobody at the table moved. The other players were all watching the fellow with the incredible luck as the mountain of money grew, and grew, and grew. He could feel the floor boss' eyes on the table. Not just on the lucky bastard, but on him. 'Bad luck' was enough of a reason to be fired.
The casino was full now. Full of people, swarming across the marble floors and dragging their hands over the shiny fixtures, and full of the noise they brought. Roulette balls rattled along the wheels and a chorus of slots tumbled out of tune. The machines sounded the winners with bright chirps and the losers were marked by the sound of another token being fed in. The noise echoed until it was a jackhammer pounding into David's temples. He struggled to maintain a smile as he counted out the winnings.
The casino security were there now, watching with all the non-challance that six foot bouncers could manage. The old man saw them too. He shuffled his chips around, stacking them up by tens, counting. Then again, counting by groups of ten tens. "Sir, please leave the table if you're not going to place a bet." David said, keeping his words polite by careful effort. What he wanted was to curse in frustration. The old man wasn't counting cards, so how was he doing it? How was he making thousands a hand, without fail, while David was being paid minimum wage to stand by and watch?
"Give me a minute."
Nobody else made a move to bet as the old man counted, arranging and rearranging the stacks until, finally, he leaned back in his chair. "Four hundred and seventy thousand dollars." He said, and let out a deep sigh. "That's quite a lot."
"Your bet, Sir?"
The old man looked at the security officers slowly circling the table. No doubt he'd be cut off soon. If there wasn't a crowd it would've happened earlier. "Wait, please, I need a moment.." For the first time David noticed the sweat trickling down the old man's face, the whiteness of his knuckles where he gripped the tables edge. It wasn't the sort of nervousness he'd expect from a cheater. Just the kind he normally saw, the fear of losing everything fighting with the terror of losing out on what might be won.
With a sigh, the old man shoved his entire mountain of winnings into the betting square. "All in."
One by one, the others at the table followed suit, and a few of the watching crowd reached out to pat the old man on the back, either to wish him luck or hope that some of it would rub off. Everyone wanted the impossible to happen. And they all wanted David to lose. His smile felt like it was tearing his face in half as he cut the cards. David thought, for a moment, that he could see the king of hearts and the ace of clubs flash by as he shuffled, imagining throwing the miracle hand in all their faces.
He dealt himself the ace he'd wished for along with the six of diamonds. Not a miracle, but not a bad hand, maybe a good enough one. His opponent only got a jack and a four. Slowly, the old man gestured for another card. This time it was the two of clubs. Sixteen. Still not enough. But also too much, too dangerous to draw on. The man hesitated, then turned to the crowd, "Should I?"
For once there was no happy buzz of conversation, nobody cheered him on. . Nobody dared to be the one to call it, to decide one way or the other. The old man turned back and leaned against the table, opening his mouth, then closing it again. The greatest con man alive couldn't have imitated the look of genuine misery on his face.
Now the crowd looked to David, waiting for the big reveal. David looked to the floor manager, and caught a look that promised no mercy. One mistake and his job was gone. For nothing more than having bad luck. And they paid him peanuts in the first place.
"Dealer will draw." David said, and dealt himself another card. It still wasn't the king, no miracle for him, but it was a seven.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 04:38|
Twenty minutes and six stories yet to go!
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 04:40|
A story about dogs. 867 words
Cornelius kept the autocarriage steady as Delilah leaned out the side. Her pepperbox pistol cracked with fifty simultaneous shots. He cringed as he heard the constabulary’s boiler rupture, instinctively ducking his head as the pursuing carriage exploded. Glass shattered as the debris ricocheted off cobbles and brickwork, a siren came to life.
“You’ve done it now! They’re calling in the steam cavalry!” Cornelius yelled as he turned the crank controlling the dampers. The carriage accelerated, developing a nasty shimmy as the wheels failed to find solid purchase.
“You can’t second guess yourself after casting the dice.” Delilah reached into the large satchel behind her and extracted an oversized cheroot. She lit it off the boiler’s brass manifold and inhaled deeply.
“Moroccan steam hash? If they find we’ve been nipping at their package they’ll have us shot!”
“It’s fine, no one’s going to notice anything. Think of it as a tip. Besides, once we’re onboard the Cassacius the aetheric generator will let us travel through time,” she said.
“If we ever make it there!” Cornelius pulled at the brake, having realized too late he was supposed to turn. The autocarriage slid around a corner, clipping a streetlight and sending it crashing to the ground. Fire licked at the building’s façade now.
“Now we’ve done it! I knew this was a bad idea!” He let go of the brake, the carriages wheels spun in place before catching.
“Slow down, we’re ahead by two turns,” Delilah said, running one gloved finger over the ciphers in her notebook. She was the keenest engine operator he’d ever seen, able to divine the questions posed to an engine by analyzing its workings. Knew the news before the papers left the presses. It was part of the reason he’d agreed to this in the first place. A chance at freedom wasn’t a bad gamble, either.
“There’s our turn just up ahead,” she said without looking up. She slipped the notebook into her coat and slid goggles over her eyes. The carriage held steady through the turn, and Cornelius jammed the dampers open.
“Ready?” he asked, but Delilah had already leapt free of the carriage. He tumbled as he hit the cobbles, just like she’d shown him to. The carriage continued on its own, bearing down on the Aerospace Control Computational Repository.
He dashed into an alleyway, pressing himself flat against the brick. He waited, counting revolutions in his head. He could almost hear the faint clicking of the aetheric disruptor’s gearing. There was a crash as the carriage hit the building, then silence.
A sound like muffled lighting as the disruptor went to work. Metal groaned as airships broke free of their moorings, with their aetheric fields disrupted their gas ballasts could not hold them afloat. His heart beat faster, he tried to quiet the paranoid voice in his head: The Cassacius arrived early.
But Delilah was never wrong. He ran towards the Computational Repository’s boilers just as she’d instructed him. He pushed through the crowds of workers evacuating the complex and found the service door near the docks. He slid the counterfeit punchcard into the reader and waited. There was a steam hiss and the door slid open.
The inside of the boiler room was dark, the lights were only half-on. A siren blared and doors slammed shut above him. He set to work, flipping switches and spinning cranks, firing up the boiler that would allow them to set the Cassacius free of its locks.
“Hey! You there!” Someone was running towards him, brass-clad boots clicking against machinecrete. Cornelius slipped a dagger from his belt. He depressed a button and a capsule of superheated steam ruptured, heating the blade. He drove the dagger into the man’s neck, severing his trachea entirely. He tried not to retch as the gasping, bleeding overseer fell to the ground.
With the boiler running, Cornelius made a mad dash for the mooring tower. His heart lifted when he saw the Cassacius floating into the mooring locks amidst the burning wreckage of the other craft. The din of fire engines, sirens and hissing steam drowned out the great craft’s motors.
He climbed the servicemen’s ladder to the top of the tower, no one noticed amidst the chaos. Delilah was already there, waiting. She pulled him into the control room and barred the door shut behind them. Through the porthole they watched the confused crew disembark before being ushered out of the tower by firemen.
Delilah fed punchards into the navigational computer, Cornelius watched the etched brass click into place. The airship would take them to the New World, the package of steam hash would let them live like kings. They’d never have to work at a computational engine again.
“It’s time” she said, leaving the controls.
She walked towards the brass iris that would let them into the craft. She paused before crossing the threshold.
“Oh, and one more thing, in case you were wondering about the dice,” she said, slipping another pepperbox from her coat.
He fell to the floor, knocking his head on cold steel. There was a searing pain in his chest as the world turned to black.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 04:49|
Dead Bear 795 words.
It was an unusually warm day in eastern Europe, hidden beneath the dirty streets was a dusky, dim light bar. There were only two men in this bar, one was a bear of a man, a grand lover of vodka, with patches of gray indicating an age just exceeding Russian life expectancy. Another, an even older man working as a bartender continually wiping a glass.
A third man entered the bar, no one paid attention to him. He approached the bar, proclaiming “Nesti Bogdanovich. I have come for you.”
Nesti the burly drinker, slowly rotated with weary eyes to face whoever interrupter his drinking time. He saw a man he had never seen before, ghostly white, wearing a suit too fancy for a business man. He took a moment to think of what this apparition wanted, then came to a conclusion.
“Come friend, drinks on me.” Nesti Opened his arms wide, almost stumbling off his stool.
The Suited man gave a self satisfied smirk. “I don't drink with dead men, it's a policy of mine.” Black gloves began adjusting each other. “You can call me hunter, by the way.”
Nesti didn't know whether to cringe or chuckle. He steeled his face.
“You are no government man. What business you have with me.”
Hunter walked over to the bar, he slid his fingers across the counter repeatedly. “I've come to take you, and your secrets or leave you as a corpse.” He said somewhat in a sing-song manner.
“And do what with these secrets,” asked the bear “Sell nuclear secrets to Muslims!?" He let lose a grand belly laugh.
"You think it's funny now, but it will be very possible, and profitable soon." Hunter had successfully killed any joy in the air.
Nesti took in a moment to reevaluate this situation and this man. The serious matter had sobered him some.
"I know nothing but stolen ideas from greater men." Nesti shook his head “How valuable can I possibly be?”
"It's true, you are no one special, you just happened to be convenient to find." Hunter leaned in to observe his target's face, taking in every detail and line.
Nesti turned to face the bartender, who has paid no mind to the conversation. He stares into his glass.
“You know,” Began Nesti “This vodka is the greatest in the world, brewed by the Bogdanovich for generations. I know that I am truly alive for this drink-”
“I'd shoot you right now but that wouldn't be very entertaining.” Interrupted Hunter. “Make a decision, work for us, or die in your precious drink.” The suited man was shaking slightly.
Nesti took this moment to touch an object by his side. It was an ornate revolver, plated with silver and equestrian images. It had been in his family for generations, something always close by.
Hunter had snatched the gun. “A beautiful gun.” He appraised it like an expert gun smith.
“She is a virgin.” It was a statement, not a question.
“Comrade,” pleaded helpless Nesti “I would like to play a game. Roulette.
Hunter was ecstatic. “Roulette!” He slammed his fist on the counter. “I have never lost a game of Roulette.”
The bullet loaded, the chamber spun, it was time for the game to start.
Hunter had once again taken the gun out of Nesti's hands. “Allow me to go first.” He raised the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Click went the gun.
It was Nesti's turn, as the gun pointed against his head he thought of his youth.
Hunter pulled the trigger effortless and returned the gun back to Nesti.
The fourth attempt, Nesti thought of his service to his country, and how he had failed his family. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and pulled.
Once again hunter pulled the trigger against his head, giggling like a child.
He held out the gun back to Nesti. All this time he was still standing and Nesti was sitting on the barstool, a bartender still ignoring the situation.
Nesti began quivering, the rattle of the pistol echoing into his brain. Tear began welling up in his eyes.
“H-How!?” Screamed Nesti.
“I have never lost a game of Roulette” Smiled Hunter.
Nesti could not let it end here, he turned the gun toward Hunter and-
A dead Russian man slumped against a bar counter, blood from his chest mixing with spilt vodka.
“Tsk.” Hunter had an expression mixed with disappointment and frustration. He eventually regained his bearings.
“Ahem,” Coughed a man trying to not interrupt “My apologizes for eliminating a well paying patron. I'd pay for his tab, if you wish.”
The bartender spoke. “No, that won't be necessary. After all this is where dead men come to rest.”
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 04:59|
On the third tap of her wand the sheet crumpled to the ground. The kids, in the throes of devouring cake, stopped: wide-eyed and slack-jawed. Crumbs spilled to the ground. The adults stood with their hands over their mouths. The only sounds were the flapping of balloons in the wind, and the distant thumps of a lone kid in the bouncy castle.
“Abra cadabra,” said Harriet.
Harriet--who always insisted on being paid up front--packed up her equipment in silence, bowed, and grabbed a handful of M&Ms on her way to the bus stop.
The first drops of rain fell amid dancing leaves. Harriet tucked her top hat under her arm and gave up on keeping her hair out of her face. She did not carry an umbrella. When she took her first step onto the bus, water squished out from her shoes.
Harriet took a seat near the back, and watched the foggy windows light up with each lightning strike. Her heart raced with each time the sky shook with fury. She tried to remain calm.
“Remember your strategies:” Count to ten. Take deep breaths. Think about something else.
The birthday girl had stared up at Harriet, frosting smeared around her tiny mouth like a drunk clown. “You can’t do real magic,” she had taunted. “My uncle told me so.”
The bus rattled with the sharp crack of thunder. Harriet watched the oversized wipers work furiously to keep the windshield clear. Still, she could barely make out the road. The sky lit up for a moment, and she could see the silhouettes trees experiencing violent seizures. She signaled for the driver to stop.
Harriet ran for her house like a soldier charging the enemy's trench. She dodged puddles like landmines, jumped at each boom like it was far-off artillery. Her hands trembled as she pulled out her keys and opened her front door.
There were fewer boxes than before. She put her keys and wand on the small table, and hung her hat on its hook. She unfastened her cape and draped it over the coatrack. The soft patter of dripping water was interrupted by her boyfriend’s voice.
“Hi, how was it?”
Harriet had learned to stifle her annoyance, but something about this little girl made her angry. She needed to be taught a lesson. “What’s your very favoritist present?” she asked the girl. The kid pointed to her new dollhouse. “Perfect.” Somebody had to show the girl the truth about fairy tales.
Harriet’s boyfriend put his hand on her shoulder.
“I don’t think I’m going to work kids’ parties anymore. My list of references is dwindling.”
Her boyfriend frowned. “You’re soaking wet. How about I help you into the bath?” He started to lift up her shirt, and she swatted his hand away.
“No,” she scolded. “I told you not in the light.”
“I just assumed...with us living together now.”
Tears welled up in her eyes. “You know it’s not about you.”
But he turned away and took a few steps. “I know. I just wish you’d believe me when I say there’s nothing that could scare me away. I love you. Would I have moved in with you if I didn’t? Moved in with him?”
Her cat hissed, sensing the vitriol directed his way.
Harriet wiped her eyes with her wet sleeve, but it did little good.
“I’ve seen you in the tightest dress you can squeeze into; I know that’s not true.”
“Shape isn’t everything.”
“Neither are scars. I’m going to run you that bath.”
He walked away and she kicked off her wet shoes. He didn’t come back.
Harriet was good at making things disappear. Friends, boys, anybody that got too close. The doctors said electricity can make people funny. Rewire their brains. She was broken. She had played it safe, keeping everybody away, but the life of a magician is not rife with benefits, and she had to pay rent every month.
The little girl had sat on her daddy’s lap, that smug look on her face. Harriet threw the sheet over the dollhouse and numbly performed her rituals. Pull back the sleeves, show them the inside of the hat. All superfluous with something this big, but she did it nonetheless.
Harriet slowly took off her clothes and let them drop on the floor. Even though the fire crackled with warmth, she couldn’t stop shivering. She took small steps toward the room. She could hear him unpacking boxes. Adding his belongings to hers. Too messy to push him away now.
She knocked softly on the jamb. He turned around and saw her standing naked in the doorway. She blushed, and looked down at the ground. He didn’t flinch or recoil, or even let out a tiny gasp like in her nightmares. He looked at her and smiled.
His eyes traced the Lichtenberg figure from the base of her neck down her sternum. It crossed her abdomen and ran down her thigh, little branches splitting off an infinite number of times, until they were too small to differentiate.
He stood and walked over to her, and she looked up at him.
“You’re amazing,” he said. He took her hand and led her to the bathroom.
The wind howled in the eves of the old house and the rain pounded the shingles, but for the first time since the accident, Harriet felt safe.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 05:07|
Submissions for Week LXVI: Know When to Fold 'Em are CLOSED!
Eighteen players have laid their cards face up, and we'll shortly learn who had the royal flush and who tried to play a Joker. dmboogie, big business sloth, and Zack_Gochuck folded early; DasNasty, Noumena, and RickVoid lay unconscious under the table, ripe for someone with more fortitude to steal their wallets and possibly their pants.
If any of the above post a story within 24 hours, they'll receive a critique even though the pot is out of their reach.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 05:26|
Kind of bored so started doing crits.
ElphabaGreen - The Heart of the Matter
This is also the title of a Graham Green novel so I went into this expecting a critique of Catholicism. Disappointed.
The story actually had a decent premise. But it was held back by two things. Firstly, the action in this story boils down to ‘man stands in line – the end.’ All the cool things about the lottery and exchanging body parts for other body parts happened in the past and are just flat out told to the reader. Would Predator have been as awesome a movie if it were just a single shot of an old Arnie sitting around telling you about the time he punched an alien in the face? Hell no. You want to see that poo poo. Same deal here, this is a short story, not on Golden Pond. Write about a person whose ticket was mixed up and Logan’s Run style has to avoid the lottery police. Or someone rigging the contest. Anything other than ‘old man waiting’.
Second issue was the prose. Kind of clunky. You don’t need to put an adjective or adverb in every line – sighed quietly, somber line, shiny black, dismal thoughts, tremble slightly, unassuming brown, stumble uncertainly. A lot of these are just tautologies that don’t add anything. Better to have a single punchy word.
Homework – Go read the complete works of Graham Green.
Lazy Beggar – Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.
OK, not sure what the ‘gamble’ in this refers to. Jurek made a gamble in meeting with Mulino? But he says he came because he was convinced to aid the people. So he isn’t gambling. Confused.
This was mediocre and boring. That stemmed out of the fact that you use a lot of words on useless and irrelevant points that I don’t need or want to know about. Who gives a poo poo if some guy appreciates ‘vibrant colours’ (And what the hell are ‘vibrant colours’ anyway?) Does that tell me that Jurek is snotty patrician who gives hypocritical speeches? If not, cut it out. The conversation with Mulino here was very stilted and unnatural. It didn’t go anywhere either as you have to finish the conversation in a flashback in act two. You should have re-worked this connection and how you got Jurek onto the streets. I don’t know, have someone slip him an intriguing yet mysterious note about blackmail or something juicy.
Moving onto Act Two things are starting to get better. I liked how it described Jurek’s view of the streets. But then you just run that into the ground. You could have cut half of this out because it has eliminated all subtley that maybe Jurek isn’t a total phony. We know he hates poors now so we know what is going to happen to him. And then to make doubly and triply sure we know that Jurek is an rear end he gets these dramatic ticks and sneers. I mean literal ticks and sneers, this is like something out of a panto.
Into the final act, and there is really just more of the same. Jurek encounters a cabal of revolutionaries (but isn’t this set in revolutionary France? So they are counter-revolutionaries?) There’s some heavy handed exposition and then Jurek, true to form tells them to bugger off, and then he is killed. Ho Hum.
Homework: Re-write this with a word limit of 600 words, and make Jurek a hero.
Sweet_Joke_Nectar - LYSANDER, THE MIGHTY AXE
OK this started off great. I was with you man, the lovely younger brother. The hangover. The thought of the great sandwich (you should have built this up more IMO, really describe how delicious that sandwich was – the crispy bacon, the sun-ripened tomato, the fresh lettuce – although not so fresh after a night in the fridge next to some soggy tomato. Maybe you should have made it something like chinese takeaway leftovers. I love eating that poo poo hungover in the morning). And then finding out the sandwich was gone, that reminded me of the scene in Titus Andronicus where Titus tells that bitch Tamora she just ate her children. This was maybe even better than that. This is a work of art.
The less said about the Saw part of the story the better. Let’s just think about that great sandwich.
Homework: Write a story about a sandwich.
Tenacrane – En Route Mortality
Tenacrane I have three words for you. Close. Third. Person. You’ve started out with a great conceit here – write from the perspective of a fish. OK, maybe that’s not a great conceit. But it’s something.
But then you completely ruin your own story by explaining everything that happens to Mons. Hookjaw. How would a fish know that freshwater is poisonous? That the things eating other fish are bears, much less an ‘alpha grizzly’? Everytime you use that kind of phrase you’re saying to the reader ‘Hi this is Tenacrane and I’m going to tell you something about Salmon’. It’s very offputting. Don’t tell me water is poison, describe, in fish terms, what that feels like. You kind of get the right idea when you describe the mouth of a bear as an ‘abyss’. Because from the perspective of a salmon, that’s exactly what it looks like.
I’m not sure what the gamble in this really was either, if you go by the dictionary definition of ‘gamble’. His plan to outsmart the bear? I guess that was a gamble, but you didn’t really sell that to me.
Homework: Write out ‘I am a fish’ 500 hundred times. Then write this story again, still in third person, but only using words a fish would use, if fish could write.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 07:10|
Kind of bored so started doing crits.
I love you because you can read my mind.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 18:55|
Week LXVI Results: Know When to Fold 'Em
It's a rare week when the losing story is kind enough to jump out so early and shout, "HERE I AM!" The winning piece was more reclusive, but after examining the hands and consulting the rulebook, the judges have ruled in someone's favor.
THE WINNER: Quidnose. This week you hit the prompt in the gut, with a touch of magical realism and plenty of Hold 'Em lingo on the side. You've won a seat at the head of the judges' table next week. Was that prize worth playing for? You'll find out!
THE LOSER: Surprising absolutely no one, Sweet_Joke_Nectar will don the crown of sculpted feces. Hope you like that losertar. You earned it.
DISHONORABLE MENTIONS: Lazy Beggar fought valiantly for defeat with a story so badly put together that it could barely be read; alas, the core plot fit the prompt, so the loss was not to be. stoutfish fulfilled a flash rule, but the grammar, characters, and prose of his/her entry put it in spitting distance of the Losers' Lounge nevertheless.
Good work, everyone who didn't write about poo poo geysers! All the judges are working on crits, so keep an eye on the thread.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at Nov 12, 2013 around 07:27
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 20:35|
BIG OL CRIT POST.
Sweet_Joke_Nectar – LYSANDER, THE MIGHTY AXE (1055 words)
Flash rule: Precious stones need to play a key role in your plot.
Wow, it’s like 4chan meets Saw, but even more poo poo than I’d expect from that premise. The entire gamble your story revolves around is putting pop rocks into a bucket of poo poo. Your protagonist died in a wave of candy and poo poo. Reflect on that.
Did you know that flash rules aren’t optional? If you get flash ruled, you had better include it. So where the gently caress are your precious stones? Pop rocks are candy, not precious stones. For your inability to include your flash rule, you get a big fat F on your test.
Under the layer of poo poo, there is a plot. It’s just not a good one. A guy wakes up because his little brother is a pain in the rear end, and then he wants a sandwich, and his sandwich is gone, and he smacks his brother, and then brother’s girlfriend (why is she even in this story?) tackles him, and then he gets axed, and then he wakes up somewhere (in the normal world, or in some game world?) with pop rocks and a poo poo bucket, and his little brother is revealed to be an absolute nutjob, and then the candy/poo poo bucket explodes in his face and he dies.
It feels like you think you’re being clever, with your ‘lol gamers’ story. But it’s not clever. It’s not well-written. It’s not plausible. You just crapped out some semblance of a plot and shoehorned a gamble onto it. You barely even have characters. gently caress you.
TenaCrane – En Route Mortality (909 words words)
The choice of an animal protagonist was interesting – a gamble in itself. However, it very quickly became obvious what you were leading to, and that removed a lot of the tension I’d have otherwise felt. Salmon protagonist, oh look you’re writing about the salmon run.
You use some awkward phrasings. The introduction could certainly be stronger and more straight-forward. The final paragraph needs breaking up into two, at least – the gamble, and the consequence (Hookjaw continuing on to the lake). There were some instances where you failed to trust the reader. For example: ‘Taking note of the crushed fish near him, Hookjaw hatches a plan.’ is a very heavy-handed line, and is entirely unnecessary. You can write well enough that you can afford to trust your reader more.
It all seemed too detached from Hookjaw’s struggle. It’s very much a ‘this happened, then this happened’ story, with no emotional impact. At the same time, it was too humanising. You describe a fish screaming, Hookjaw somehow understands the concept of an ‘alpha’ animal as well as knowing that the fish are being attacked by bears, etc. Your fishy protagonist was not very fishy.
Still, this was a good concept, and decently written. Edit, trust your reader, make Hookjaw more believable, and I think this would be fairly engaging.
Quidnose – Hold ‘Em (994 words)
Flash rule: A famous person must have a significant role in the story.
Oh look, someone who got a flash rule and actually remembered to include it. I liked your take on the rule – it fit your story, and didn’t seem shoehorned in. The gamble hit the prompt well, and your story was fairly well-written and engaging.
in his uniform,. It was the same
The clarity of your story leaves something to be desired, and for all that this scenario revolved around saving Jenny, we get very little insight into who she is, or why we should care about her. It seemed like your protagonist didn’t much care for her, either. He gambles her life, then gives her a basic once-over and never thinks of or looks at her again. We also don’t really know why Ling is here, or why the gently caress there’s a magical Pinkerton painting that may or may not levitate cards.
There’s a lot of potential in this story, but it lacked of clarity and character development.
ElphabaGreen – The Heart of the Matter (675 words)
Clarity is of the utmost importance. You failed at that. You also failed at the prompt – what is the gamble? You go to get a new organ, offer up one you already have, and basically beg for them to accept? Except if you lose you lose the organ, so... how do you win? The protagonist seems to think the boy will win, but how does s/he know that? Why is there some sort of organ “donation”/swap thing? Why is your protagonist hundreds of years old? What is happening?
Plot is also pretty important. In your story, all that happens is someone glaring at someone in a queue. That’s it. There’s no character development, no plot arc. Boo to you.
So, let’s summarise. Clarity – nope. Prompt adherence – nope. Plot – nope.
At least it’s not a bucket of poo poo.
Erogenous Beef – Missed Connections (1200 words)
Flash rule: The story may not include any direct references to chance or luck and must take place primarily in/around London-Heathrow Terminal 5.
I like your writing style. You write believable characters and strong dialogue. The conversations between James and Kris flow well, and we get a good impression of each character.
There are some small things that need editing. Your opening line could be clearer. You could clarify why James is stalking Kris around the terminal: on my first read-through, I thought it was because of her abortion.
But where is your gamble?
It would be a gamble if he’d photographed the inside and then tried to prove his innocence by handing her his phone. But he doesn’t. Where is the risky action, what does he hope to achieve? He quits, but that doesn’t seem to be a gamble, either.
I’m not really sure what to make of this story. There’s no real conflict, other than James stalking Kris around the terminal. Things happen, but we don’t feel the consequences.
Lazy Beggar – Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (1195 words)
I’d say that, ‘line breaks are your friend’, but they really aren’t your friend. You’ve pushed them out and now they’re standing outside your window, shivering and alone. Look what you’ve done, you monster.
You don’t seem to be on friendly terms with commas, either. They would like to be your friend. Use them wisely, and use them appropriately. You don’t use them when you should, and do use them when you shouldn’t.
Commas are good. Line breaks are good.
You use a lot of awkward sentences. Here are some I found:
‘Having attempted to make his face appear less dour, he turned to face his pursuer and recognised him at once’
‘Jurek shoved the child aside and growled to himself wondering where the professor was.’
‘Jarek sighed and while gazing at the ground he slowly shook his head’
‘The whistle induced convulsions of Jarek's face went unseen in the darkness’
(Is your character’s name Jurek or Jarek?)
Have you even edited this?
‘Jarek's face twitched, his left eye flickered, his mouth fought to form a sneer.’
‘The professor's eyes hinted at a smile.’
How does a mouth fight to form a sneer? How do eyes hint at a smile?
Have you even edited this?
You have a sort of plot, which builds up to... I don’t even know what. Your sentences are poorly constructed. You use commas in all the wrong places, and you clump your paragraphs together weirdly.
Where the gently caress is your gamble?
V for Vegas – Midnight in Tangiers (531 words)
Well, this was different.
The almost stream-of-consciousness feel here works well with the ambiguity of events. Gregor and Muhammed visit a monkey fighting ring, and Gregor wins consistently. Whether there’s something supernatural going on, or whether the drugs Gregor has taken are messing with his mind, is unclear – but I think that works well, too.
Your approach to the prompt is curious, and I liked it. However, the ambiguity of the piece makes it seem like there’s no risk, no chance. Yes, he’s betting—he’s gambling—but it’s all win, win, win. You even imply that he can’t lose. Is this just the winner’s high, or is it Gregor’s awareness of a supernatural force at play?
Overall this was a strong and enjoyable piece, but it really did leave me wondering whether you’d addressed the prompt or not. That’s not a good thing to do to a judge.
Roguelike – The Terrorist with the Tell-Tale Ticker (1189 words)
Your opening line was good, and then the rest of your opening paragraph was weak as poo poo. I didn’t know it was possible to make a bomb dull, but your opening managed to do just that. Rewrite that poo poo.
You had a plot, and it was an interesting plot. Bombs, aliens, octopi, space wars – what’s not to love? You had a gamble, though it was somewhat more subtle than I’d have expected from the premise. The “twist” of Ada’s test seemed like unnecessary padding. I guess you could say they gambled on her actions, but what happens is pretty ambiguous. Does Earth want lovely people on the council? You say it makes ‘a kind of twisted, horrible sense’, but really it doesn’t.
You have some unnecessary dialogue tags/descriptions, e.g. ‘Ada asked in a dead voice’, ‘Dale said in a relaxed tone’, and ‘Dale wasn’t wasting time with pleasantries.’ Step back, and let your dialogue speak for itself.
Edit some more, trust your writing and your readers, tighten it up, and you’d have something pretty good here.
Nikaer Drekin – I Told You So (1132 words)
Element of chance/risk? Check. Clear gamble? Check.
Your opening paragraph isn’t the strongest. Only the first sentence and final clause convey anything important (that the Wizard of Oz encouraged her thrill-seeking). You need to tighten it up, because it brings down an otherwise strong story.
Amelia gambles with her life. We understand the risk she’s taking, the consequence she could face, and that’s good. You set the scene and convey Amelia’s panic well. The final paragraph could use editing, though; it’s not the most gripping thing, and it leaves us thinking Amelia’s life hasn’t been at all affected by her gamble.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 20:46|
CRITS, PART TWO.
Ronnie_Long – The White (1164 words)
Flash rule: The protagonist must have some kind of disability, mental or otherwise.
I didn’t read/remember your flash rule before I started reading this, so I’m pleased that I quickly picked up on Peter’s mental disability – you did a good job of describing his scattered thought process, which can be difficult for third person narration.
There are some unnecessary asides (e.g. ‘which he refused to wear in case he angered an errant bull’ – it’s not funny, and it takes the reader out of the story), but by and large you conveyed his disordered mind well. I particularly liked ‘You had to take a left to get there, and the goats sit on God’s left hand, and Peter Frampton wasn’t a goat.’
The gamble was fairly unclear, perhaps because it’s from Peter’s POV. He wants a product, and we aren’t really told what it is – toothpaste, I think? He takes a risk in getting it, and a risk in swallowing it, but it’s all very ambiguous.
Fumblemouse – The Quiet Soul (778 words)
Oh look, a clear gamble. That’s rare as hen’s teeth. I liked the premise, and I liked the direction you took it in. The gamble happened early on, so the body of your story was Sarah dealing with the aftermath.
Though it didn’t grab me much the first time, the more I read this the more I like it. It’s powerful, which is something few other entries managed. I empathise with your characters, your situation is believable for its world, but your dialogue let you down – it’s quite stilted at times. Still, good effort.
docbeard – Went Down to the Crossroads (1034 words)
Flash rule: The story has to include a game of blackjack.
A gamble with the devil is far from original, but I enjoyed where you took this. I also enjoyed that you actually hit the prompt – the blackjack game was a gamble, and that hid the bigger gamble (trying to arrest the devil). Double gamble, double fun. Your approach to your flash rule was creative.
This was a strong story, but your final paragraph really let you down. If you’d ended at the devil’s proposition, this would have been a potential win in my book.
sebmojo – Mateship (411 words)
Flash rule: One character must be a veteran of many battles, literal or metaphorical.
Very short, but sweet. We got a double gamble, with the game of cards and the risk of Jock’s suggestion, and you hit your flash rule. It’s well-written and engaging, and I didn’t see the twist coming, but it kind of felt gimmicky.
Tyrannosaurus – Buzzards (986 words)
Flash rule: The main character is an archaeologist.
Your opening line was strong, and you write well. You hit your flash rule, and there’s a gamble in there—buried, but there. When I first read this, I quite liked it. But then I re-read it, and each time I did I liked it less. The ending is peculiar, and that certainly didn’t grow on me. Most of it is just needless chat between Ester and James, and, really, I just didn’t care.
ThirdEmperor – Render Unto Caesar (994 words)
Flash rule: Some of the story must take part in a version of Caesar's palace.
Bad opening line. It’s = it is. Too long, too dull, I don’t really care. You have editing problems throughout. ‘non-challance’ should be ‘nonchalance’. In future, make sure to proof-read and edit before you post.
You had some good imagery, e.g. ‘The man had to be in his seventies at the least, ruddy skin collapsed into folds around his mouth like a doberman.’ This painted a vivid picture for me, so good job.
There was a definite gamble in here, and you hit your prompt, but you failed at making me care about the character. It was too detached. I just didn't care.
Nubile Hillock – A story about dogs. (867 words)
Editing is your friend. Or, rather, it would like to be. You have some awkward phrases (e.g. ‘there was a steam hiss’ would better work as ‘steam hissed’), you failed at commas once or twice (e.g. ‘“It’s time” she said’), and had a pretty obvious typo (‘Delilah fed punchards into’). It just reads like you didn’t proof read/edit properly.
There’s a clear gamble (for freedom) and consequence, which is more than I can say for some entries. The twist/ending was incredibly abrupt, and that worked to emphasize the abruptness of what happened, but it didn’t really appeal to me, as a reader.
stoutfish – Dead Bear (795 words)
Flash rule: The story must be set in a Soviet-era CIS or other gritty Eastern European country.
Your opening paragraph is dull. Your sentence structure is bad. You randomly capitalise where you shouldn’t and don’t capitalise where you should. You should read some books and learn how to actually write.
At least you hit the flash rule. I guess.
gently caress you.
crabrock – Storm (900 words)
Flash rule: Someone in the story wears a top hat on a regular basis.
I liked Harriet’s gamble, in showing her boyfriend her scars. I liked that, when I reached the end, her reaction to the storm made sense. I thought this was sweet. Unfortunately, only half of your story was sweet. The child’s birthday party moments/flashbacks were just dull and unnecessary. It felt like you shoehorned in the flash rule and the ‘Harriet is a magician’ segments for no reason. Strip your story, make it Harriet and her anxieties and her boyfriend, and you’ll have a strong, heart-warming story.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 20:47|
My crits are in the offing. Inthesto, if you're out there you gotta post your brawl entry or make some kinda noise or else you'll just default lose.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 21:19|
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 22:21|
how do i roman numerated~
Thunderdome Week LXVII: Lions and Tigers and Bears
I am overjoyed and appalled at the judge's choice this week, but I live to serve the Blood God. As such, this go around, I would like everyone to write me a story about the zoo. Realistic fiction only - that means no sci-fi Matrix style people harvest plantations. Make the mundane interesting for me.
Word count is 500-999 (take that!). Since I'm a West Coast kid, submissions are due by Sunday, 12:01AM PST. That's at the tail end (zoo pun) of Saturday night for those not naturally timepiece inclined.
Have your signups in by 12:01AM PST on Friday night.
No flash rules this week because apparently that was a disaster last time.
Recruiting judges today, then I'll randomize the top posters in this thread and pick some!
Sad Rhino Guy
FELL TO THE WAYSIDE:
Quidthulhu fucked around with this message at Nov 16, 2013 around 03:45
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 23:01|
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 23:02|
Pencil me the gently caress in.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 23:03|
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 23:07|
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 23:08|
In. I'll try and include less poo poo.
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 23:08|
i think i'll be in i guess
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 23:14|
Ugghhh I know I had an inordinately long amount of time to work on this, but please just bear with me a little bit, I barely physically have time to post due to the corn-fed tide of mouth breathing lunatics who lose their poo poo even harder as soon as they pay money to sleep some place.
I'm willing to grant Sitting Here an extension for another day or two. The taste of her own keister will be just that much sweeter for the delay.
After five months dormant, I'm resurrecting this brawl with SittingHere.
Sebmojo has agreed to judge.
Mountains shall tremble, stars/weep blood, &c. &c.
(deadline sometime next week please)
|# ? Nov 11, 2013 23:37|
Count me in.
|# ? Nov 12, 2013 00:11|
|# ? Nov 12, 2013 00:15|
Various responsibilities need a good shirking this week--in.
|# ? Nov 12, 2013 01:08|
|# ? Nov 19, 2018 00:41|
|# ? Nov 12, 2013 01:33|