Call me Stockholmed; I'm back in.
And I would like to see proper epic poetry. A real narrative. Long, epic simile. Iambic pentameter. Make Homer rise from his grave to come kick your arse.
If you don't, I will.
Symptomless Coma fucked around with this message at 09:19 on Jan 10, 2013
|# ¿ Jan 10, 2013 07:48|
|# ¿ Dec 7, 2022 22:59|
Challenge accepted: I'm in. Master Buson, guide my hand.
Etherwind, your prompt is mine:
And I would like to see proper epic poetry. A real narrative. Long, epic simile. Iambic pentameter. Make Homer rise from his grave to come kick your arse.
Virgil and Dante and those various anonymous dudes who wrote Gilgamesh are your guides for this week...
Symptomless Coma fucked around with this message at 09:23 on Jan 10, 2013
|# ¿ Jan 10, 2013 09:20|
I have started writing this megahaiku, Etherbreeze. By the seven hells, I shall finish it.
A brawl it is!
*heavens shake, crowd roars, salted nuts are passed out*
But what caused this challenge? Nothing more than mealy-mouthed, fence-sitting, wishy washy double-talk.
Something I have been accused of before. So, this prompt couldn't be simpler.
TELL IT TO ME STRAIGHT.
Sebmojo is welcome to judge, but I also want to see crits from STONE OF MADNESS, in his role as chief poo poo-stirrer.
24 hours enough for you? If so, the deadline is Friday, 09:59 GMT.
|# ¿ Jan 10, 2013 09:58|
Etherwind. Your pre-emptive poetic mindgames and knowledge of haiku don't faze me. Much.
The Remainder. (579w)
It's 0030 on the blackberry and my children are back in bed, as is my husband. Word is open. The little vertical bar blinks impatiently. Ian's booked the press for 0630.
A disaster has happened.
May as well start with the truth.
It's 0100 and Kevin's come over with takeaway, security-approved pizza and his draft notes. His words soar, as they always do, but they saw too high and the phrase "out of touch" still appears in my dreams, coming out of phones I answer or printed in dossiers I open. Kevin makes that joke Stalin made about a million deaths being a statistic. I'm not sure it was a joke at the time, but politicians have a habit of getting misquoted.
It's 0112 and we've destroyed the pizza together, high glycemic index be damned. Kevin asks if there's anything else he can do for me. I tell him there isn't. He should be at home, like I am.
It's 0139 and I've got the BBC, Associated Press, Guardian and TMZ open on tabs. Tabbed browsing was invented by the enemies of freedom, I swear. AP always have the easiest time of it. Pure fact, other people's actions and opinions. I decide to be more encouraging of Sarah the next time she says she wants to be a journalist.
It's 2008 and I'm being introduced to Richard Phillips who will run the campaign as he has run so many before him. I ask him, as I will in every quiet moment, the only question I have.
"How do I win?"
"That's simple. Be direct, and be you."
"Simple and easy are two different things, Minister."
It's 0202 and I'm debating the difference between sorrow and dismay using Winston's old thesaurus. It's in surprisingly good state. I think he hardly used it.
I close the book and type, sadness.
It's 0231 when I finally tire of watching Winston Churchill speeches. The phrases are so simple, but the speeches are so lofty. Words for another time, when the subject matter was a war that everyone wanted to happen. I check YouTube for videos of myself. The most popular is still the one of me tripping up the stairs at Conference.
It's 0322 and I have three paragraphs written. It's like exams again. The room is too big and too quiet, there's a pressure in this chamber that makes me want to scream.
It's 0410 and my blackberry - my personal blackberry, vibrates the desk. I have an email - just like Richard to make contact at four, after a year. He offers condolences tips. He says, I miss you. Just reply. It's easy. I slam the phone onto the keyboard, hoping that between keypad and keypad something intelligible might come out.
Millie's little face peeps out from the oak door. I didn't think she could manage the stairs, yet.
"Mum, what's happened? Why are you still awake?"
"People have died, honey. Lots of people."
"Not everyone. But have had to say goodbye to their mummies and daddies."
She steps out of the shadows. The huge study makes her look even tinier.
"Can we look after those people?"
"We can't make them better, Millie. But we'll try to help them. Now go back upstairs, and I'll make you some cocoa."
Millie nods her head. I stare at the clock, at the blackberry, at the map of the nation, and wish that everything was this simple.
|# ¿ Jan 10, 2013 21:07|
sebmojo, STONE OF MADNESS, thanks for officiating and mopping up the ink/blood/other fluids.
I think the universe wants you to write your Dactylic Hexameter, and has shaped events accordingly...
|# ¿ Jan 11, 2013 09:28|
I love it. As I love your (now sadly defunct) haiku.
But you don't need to go with any more than my layman's definition of epic metre. Give it the content, not the form: invoke the muses! List the ships! Unleash the charybdis! &c.
|# ¿ Jan 11, 2013 23:14|
While you're here, a quick question. You specifically requested really long similes like Homer did, and given an unlimited word count I'd be fine with that, but I'm having to keep it below 1000 words. Will you accept stuff more compressed like:
It absolutely does, sir. Specifically, I want you feeling you have the freedom to use the long simile that many people here will disqualify themselves from. Don't kill your work over it, but one thing I want you specifically trying is a big narrative simile. Take this great Homeric tribute act from Philip Pullman in Northern Lights:
No one spoke for several seconds. Then came the voice of the Chaplain.
"Ah," he said, like a thirsty man who, having just drunk deeply, puts down the glass to let out the breath he has held while drinking. "And the streams of Dust..."
Doesn't that just let you know exactly what he means? I want at least one of those.
|# ¿ Jan 11, 2013 23:57|
I wasn't me. Would that I were so bloody active.
|# ¿ Jan 12, 2013 22:42|
You gotta fight!
For your right!
Yes indeed, my opportunity to write a haiku about death has been hard won. I can only hope the result justifies the effort.
Saga Of Bird-Dog (500w)
The cold North Sea ravages
Protecting its oil
Wind whips the moors' mist
It gathers and rises, there!
A glimpse of the sun
Wheeling animals play, but
One remains alone
Bird sits on a wire
Expired telephone cable
Basking in the light
Bird scans horizons.
It sees further than us, and
There is much to view
Chaser becomes chased
Dances of death and life, as
Sparrows play their game
Bird looks for some shade
In between rocks, discovers
The creature called Dog
The pair is wary
Circling like boxing men
Dog cocks wanton leg
A gesture of friendship, ahh-
But it is smelly.
Bird pulls up its breast
Stern ochre feathers, raised beak:
Bird and Dog make friends
(of disparate size and shape)
A crude alliance
The avian sight
With canine speed and power
No creature's a match
Bird-Dog ranges far
Striking out across the fields
A green tapesty
Thanks to nose and eyes
They come upon a barrow;
Ancient kings abide
Bird is circumspect
Dog senses buried gifts…here!
It's a finger-bone
A pack of hounds, hunting
Muscled from the fight
Dog's tail is half mast
Ancient hierarchies control
He must surrender
Bird dislikes the hounds
Rages, flaps, flashes his beak
The hounds tilt their heads
Fury is unleashed!
A flying flurry of pecks
Blood stains the barrow
Bird-Dog rules the land!
Feathers and feet are enmeshed
In chimeric dress
This all men believe:
Violence is a friendship's forge
Hate; love's crucible
Bird-Dog's two is one
The halves unite on the plains
Under northern sun
Dog listens to Bird
Tales of lands unreachable
Sands and seas and smells
Autumn is coming
Green turns to brown behind backs
As the world slows down
Bird-Dog watches leaves
Dog thinks they are a game, but
Bird has heard the call
Pattern the darkening skies
The emigrant flock
Dog is excited
Adventure's dreams before him
Moisten his nose
Bird must away, but
The journey's long and seaward-
Dog must wait alone
The flock family
Welcomes and sweeps away
To broad sunlit coasts
Dog retreats, below
Tarpaulins battered by wind
Dreams of the barrow
Bird has months of light
Atlantic breezes warming
The watering hole
The jackals howl, through
Their african teeth, and then-
Bird remembers Dog.
The journey's a test
Bird plunges through fronts of cold
Holding a white gift
The northern rocks hide
No Dog nor sense of canine
In those frozen fields
Then, a distant sight
No more than the smallest speck-
Is Dog, a statue.
Bird nudges Dog, but
There is no flicking of tail
Nor panting response
Winter has claimed Dog.
Birds know it was ever thus:
Friendships have their time.
Bird leaves its tribute
The ferryman's deposit:
A tiny finger-bone.
The Dog lies in state
Guarded by the barrow's shade
The Bird keeps vigil
Cling to Dog and Bird, and hail
The unlikely pair:
Saga of Bird-Dog.
Chimera of northern lands
And terror of hound.
Symptomless Coma fucked around with this message at 23:10 on Jan 12, 2013
|# ¿ Jan 12, 2013 22:53|
Betrayed they both had been, and now the beast
There's even some (Heaney) Beowulf in there. You are some kind of crazy poetic juggernaut, man. I think you should take this down to your nearest Spoken Work night and show them real talk.
On Thunderbrawls: My tuppence is that they only really 'work' if they're special, and that's only if you get the sense that the thread is watching. If they're not, we might as well play email chess. Same goes for a sub-thread, I don't think everyone would check it. Sure, it's good to find more excuses to write, but this thread can only provide so many at a time. My vote would be one brawl allowed per week, one round maximum, in this thread.
|# ¿ Jan 13, 2013 08:59|
And after this furore, you'd better do that. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
And Seamus Heaney did alright with his Beowulf, didn't he? You took the maw of my prompt and shoved a hairy clenched fist into it.
|# ¿ Jan 14, 2013 10:34|
Alright, this poem is bumming me the gently caress out,
And well it might. I'm afraid my crit isn't going to be that detailed because I haven't found enough time to organise my thoughts, and I'm not sure many of my judgements are fair and accurate. So find yourself a salt-shaker, and get ready to pinch.
Well, I'm pretty bummed out too. You've happened to take death at its most unvarnished, most common, and most relatable. It's quite easy to laugh of a cthonoic horror piece, not so much this. Depending on your definition of morbidity, you might have failed the prompt but for the last three lines, but if this week's taught us anything it's that sometimes, good writing comes first. This is some of it.
We could all have done with avoiding the word death. It reminds of that Louis CK bit, "using the phrase 'the n-word' is much worse, because you've made me say it to myself". I was drunk at your funeral is a hammer-blow that immediately lets us know what's going on, through out own small deduction. The language is very straight, and gives us a great sense of place, as it does in the final stanza. It's some of the stuff in the middle that catches me out, because I can't be sure it's the same poetic voice - a widowhood of the soul is jarringly high-faluting and anti-prosaic. The next line delivers the same effect (a new way of thinking of the moment, that disturbs us a little), but far more directly.
What's going on in this piece? Essentially, we're poring over the small details that make up a mourning. This is at its very best when it's something unconsidered, and weakens slightly in the second stanza - it feels all too familiar in a piece packed with unexpected moments. This is a good point to give a nod to the title, though. There's been a mini-trend towards obtuse titles in the dome which is all well and good as long as they throw light on the piece. "Every Day After" is pretty standard, but it frames everything perfectly.
A debatable category since it's blank verse, but with BV a control of rhythm is arguably even more important. The last three lines are perfect, forcing the reader to bring things to a gentle close. bring / Brings is the king of these for me, perfectly articulating that sense shock as we realise a noise has become a signal, and conveying meaning and (geez) getting some healthy onomatopoeia in there. The drip enjambment is a chilling accompaniment. Other lines feel like they've been a bit arbitrarily spaced, but it's blank verse and you can't win 'em all.
Look, I'm afraid I can't give you a great crit here so I'll just say something broad; this works best when the images are things we haven't seen before, when the language matches the voice established from the outset (and isn't seduced by "poetry"), and when the formatting lets particularly horrific images unfurl themselves across a line break, rather than being too jarring. This is all an aside to the main point: the subject matter is harsh, the structure used to express it raw, and it works. I'm not surprised you stopped there. I couldn't have made it any further.
|# ¿ Jan 15, 2013 23:56|
Oh, I'm in on this. Yes.
|# ¿ Jan 30, 2013 08:38|
Gon' do this, for real this time. In.
|# ¿ Feb 6, 2013 22:57|
Hard and Deep (Word Count: 430)
Yes yes, very clever.
|# ¿ Feb 8, 2013 13:35|
Jack saw the word SILENCE in serif letters, and old conditioning made him check himself for the briefest sliver of time - just long enough for the Stacey to slam the griot of Crime and Punishment into his temple. He might have laughed, but the officers of the Culture Praetoriat didn’t prize a sense of irony.
He stumbled back into a mobile shelf of discs, head flickering with visions of Raskolinov’s axe-blade buried in his skull.
“Sooka!” he found himself saying. He rubbed his eyes and looked up just in time to see the Stacey bearing down on him with another griot. He swung the shelf around him, sliding it across the library floor. It clattered into the assassin, and Jack heard a low, confused moan. He remembered his own first taste of physical pain in the field; how it had seemed like a revelation, how it had been edged with a sense of danger.
“You,” said the Stacey. “Kill you. Mis-sion.”
It sounded as though the words had been cut from an earlier time and patched together. Then Jack heard a whirring and saw the Stacey’s fist rise above the shelf. The air around the fist shimmered and a piercing tone rang out, making his eyes vibrate. He heard a crack and looked up. The glass lattice webbing the griot library’s ceiling rippled with thin lines, then fell away, sending the huge plates raining down around them. He rolled under one of the desks and covered his eyes as the glass splashed across the floor around him. Beneath the crashing, he heard the crunch of approaching footsteps.
The Stacey was moving gracefully across the debris. The paradigm had shifted, and Jack called up his latest combat philosophy. It was hopelessly out-of-date, so he used five seconds to consider the three facets of his situation. The Levers of Action were too simple to be useful - sending a Stacey, an assassin modified to half-comprehend cultural works, was a clever move. She could not be bent, bribed or outrun. The Self - well, Jack was currently under a desk, too enclosed to use weapons. Powering up his suit might be dangerous in a semi-methane atmosphere - and anyway, while the Stacey had been confused by physical assault, it had also brushed it off. The Environment, then? Jack’s foot brushed a stack of griots beneath the desk - and there it was. He slotted the venn of his three data points into place and the situation’s new combat philosophy became clear. Obvious, even.
He grabbed at the pile of griots and flicked through them to find something that might slow her down: Tom Sawyer, The Railway Children, American Psycho- he flung the green slice along the floor. It struck her legs and she grunted, falling to the floor. When she raised her head, her gaze was intense and angrier than before. She crawled across the broken glass towards him.
Jack cursed himself for not thinking more about the book’s content, and scrambled out the other side of the desk on bleeding knees. He came up to find the Epic shelves in front of him. He looked down the hall, and the section he needed-
The propelled weight of the Stacey slammed into his back, producing a mighty crack. They crashed into the shelves, sending the plastic griots cascading around them, filling their minds with battle and glory. They rolled and scraped and scratched and punched, clawing each other as Gilgamesh and Beowulf and Aeneas. Jack’s training told him to get away, to fight at a distance, but on the plains of Troy one does not flee. Finally, the trickle of griots stopped, and Jack shook his head and kicked out at the Stacey’s face. Her grip loosened; he pulled away and stumbled down the aisles, looking for the section from his plan. The piercing sound rang out again around him, louder this time, shattering windows and sending powder-glass flying at him. The view of the library vibrated, but as he stumbled through the dust, the shelves of Romance swam into view.
The Stacey’s heavy footsteps were no more than a couple of metres away. If this isn’t alphabetised, thought Jack, I’m dead. He flicked through the rack, felt a strong hand on his throat spinning him round and he grabbed at the pink plastic blur on the shelf, the griot he thought would save him-
He slammed the griot into the Stacey’s face. She stopped, for a second. The last shards of glass dripped around them. The Stacey’s eyes narrowed, assessing her target. Then her face softened, as she spoke with a patched lilt:
“It is a truth-”
She sputtered, twisting her expression.
And Jack took his gamble.
“Please, Miss Bennet, you forget yourself.”
Her knees sagged: “It is a truth universally ac-” and the Stacey sank to the floor, as the contents and themes of Pride and Prejudice colonised her neural net. She lay in a twitching heap, as Jack turned to leave the griot library.
On the way out, he logged a new combat philosophy: epistemology.
|# ¿ Feb 8, 2013 18:51|
Sounds like somebody's found their method.
|# ¿ Feb 11, 2013 16:06|
STONE OF MADNESS have an upgrade.
Hear bloody hear. You might also want to have a hot bath after this is over.
Symptomless Coma fucked around with this message at 17:47 on Feb 11, 2013
|# ¿ Feb 11, 2013 17:43|
Oh god, this week is going to be a tough one.
Let's give it a go, though. I'll do it.
I think we should put the results of this week out as a very ill-advised anthology.
|# ¿ Feb 12, 2013 18:37|
Just so everybody knows, this was harder than Poetry Week.
In The Kingdom. 1049w.
After a certain point, Top Trumps didn’t seem to cut it. Both Lucia and I knew all the values, of course - buying her the Zoo Animals pack was my weak attempt at a joke - but it had ceased to be funny. So they sat on top of our furs while we ate beans in the dark, trying to think of something to say. It was our fifty-fifth day in Siberia, and the Amur tiger was nowhere to be seen.
“Surprising we haven’t seen one,” I joked. “I mean, it’s not exactly camouflaged in the snow, is it?”
She smiled. Out of boredom, out of darkness and cold she was able to conjure that smile.
“In college,” she said, “they told us not to use rhetorical questions.”
“We-ell, they probably thought rhetoric was a little complicated for mammalogists. The school of arachnology is far more subtle.”
“Far more squishable, you mean.”
She grabbed one of the meagre samples I’d collected on this trip and held it over her mouth.
“Lu, those are my colleagues! It’s been too long since we had your mom’s cooking, clearly.”
“Oh yeah. Well she’s hardly in love with spiders either, is she.”
“Tsk, babe. Rhetoric.”
I wagged a finger, and she threw a handful of siberian brush at me. I grinned and threw a clod of dirt at her. We were most unprofessional.
I hadn’t known of the arachnologist/mammalogist wars when I first met Lucia, in the dolorous canteen of the American Zoological Conference, 1992. I was trying to gulp down a stale sandwich, she was trying to find a payphone.
“If you’re getting takeout, cut me in on it?”
She laughed - she had this loud laugh that could cut through restaurants, parties and even the staleness of a conference suite - until she saw my badge.
“Serket? What’s that?”
“The north african spider journal. I’m on assignment. Don’t worry, it’s hardly the New York Ti-”
“We shouldn’t really be talking, you know...”
As gravity pulls us down, she said, so a force older than any of us must push the spider-lovers and the mammal-lovers apart. If you took a collection of animal geeks and let them have a varsity rivalry of their very own, you would get something like this: zoo funding battles, papers presented attacking each other, and the endless argument we played out, in mock outrage, that first night together.
“Fact is, Andy, a mammal could kill an insect-”
“If a mammal could find it, sure.”
“I must introduce you to my anteater someday.”
“How cute, needing something to be furry before you can work with it! How many teddy bears have you still got?”
Later on, she claimed we were like Romeo and Juliet.
“But you’re Juliet,” she mumbled, and rolled over to sleep.
The thin tent never quite blocked out the dawn, but filtered the light into a green beam that woke me in confusion. As always, Lucia was already awake and working. Spring sunlight played across her bare neck as she repolished the lenses of her binoculars, forever facing out into the trees. I considered laying in to watch her-
“I know you’re awake,” she said.
“Are you sure you’re not just a hunter with a conscience?”
“Perhaps. There’s breakfast on the stove.”
Thank God for breakfast. Thank God for beans, warmth and the taste of home. Every five days, I would trek down to Sedelnikovo for supplies and treats, but the gooey trays of baklava made us feel even further from home. In the long days while Luccia scanned the trees for a sight of a migrating Amur tiger, the sole focus of her work for five years, I tried to learn cyrillic script from a translation of Moby Dick I’d found in St. Petersburg. I’d just got the point where Queequeg falls ill when Lucia said something I’d been wondering for some time.
“You should go home.”
“This place isn’t for you. You’re not helping me.”
“You knew I couldn’t help you!”
“Well, that’s certainly true.”
We had few rules, but not mentioning the results of our visit to the clinic was one of them. Why play the blame game, we’d said. Apparently, oblique references were permitted. I swung my bag onto my shoulder, lifted the canvas flap, and stepped out onto the snow.
“Where are you going?”
“To make myself useful.”
I hoped I could, at that.
Siberia is, in fact, beautiful, but not in a visual way, not in the way National Geographic would suggest. It’s more of a emotional beauty: the trackless landscape doesn’t care whether you walk it or not, why you’re there, what you have to see or say. Lucia is single-minded in her pursuit of the Amur, and she had expected the landscape to deliver accordingly. I had sat with her for nights and days, waiting, listening to endless redrafts of her conference paper: “the Amur, or Siberian Tiger,” she would intone, “cannot solely exist in captivity. The animal is adaptable enough, the ecosystem diverse enough, that a native, nomadic population is possible. And I have the proof.” Here she would pause - “is that a bit overwrought?” I told her it was not, not if she really did have the proof-
A patch of snow moved of its own accord. I crept forward towards the tree where I’d seen movement, then rounded it as quickly as I dared. A set of footprints, pawprints, dotted away over a ridge and just behind it, there was the peep of a tuft of orange fur. I stood on tiptoe, and saw a pair of eyes penetrating mine for the briefest second, and then the great orange head turned, the Amur’s body bounded away into the trees. I looked down, cursing my camera left hanging in the tent, and I saw something that truly made me stumble.
On a rock, in the snow, wiggling eight thin legs, was a creature I’d never seen before. The legs were striped but snowy-white like the ground, tapering up to a small body. With a single tuft of orange fur. Not a tiger, but close. I reached for my collection pot, scooped the first specimen of Troglocheles Romeo into its new home, and set off back to the camp. Not baklava, but close.
Symptomless Coma fucked around with this message at 13:42 on Feb 17, 2013
|# ¿ Feb 17, 2013 13:39|
In without properly considering it, like an Aries would be.
|# ¿ Feb 19, 2013 11:41|
WEEK 34: Thunderdome: The Musical
Yup, this is good and a thing that I'll do.
|# ¿ Mar 26, 2013 09:36|
To the tune of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p6PcFFUm5I
I’ve been told to take it all in one gulp. We practised with a plastic wine glass, which I thought was a bit patronising until my trembles made me spill it down my jumper. I thought god, I’ll never live this down, which made me laugh hard enough to spill the rest.
As I hold on to my cup of the real thing my hand takes a surer grip, as though it knows the import of what it’s holding. Surely that’s ridiculous though; if my hand knew what I know about sodium pentobarbital it would throw the cup across the room, and possibly punch the orderly in his stupid sombre face. He’d take it, too – his blank expression matches his white gown in the illusion that he is a piece of equipment. Mum and Dad wait outside, sent away so that they won’t stop me in the act, and the human cup holder waits in here, all so that I can do my part of the process.
“So, are you a doctor?” I was never good with tension.
“Ah, not exactly. I am more of a technician.” His voice has that singsong Swedish quality, like life’s fine and the air is clean, and Good Storage will solve all the world’s problems. gently caress him.
“A technician? Like you fix boilers in the morning, and do this in the afternoon?”
Bastard. He won’t even smile.
“No, just... just this.”
“Just this? So how many have you done today?”
“T-we’re not really supposed to talk about that.” He smoothens his collar like it’s a job interview, like my opinion of him matters in any way.
“Just a job, right?” Despite the pain, I smile as I ask.
“Just a job. Better than telesales.”
“No kidding! That’s why I’m here.”
He gasps, before his sees me grinning.
“Sorry,” he says. “People are generally a bit more serious.”
There’s a single tree in the garden, strategically placed to be visible from my seat. A young cedar, I think, though it occurs to me that now, I’ll never know, despite Dad’s best efforts to teach me. On the wall by the window there’s a picture of the Milky Way, impossibly big and yet squeezed onto a cheaply framed print. I imagine that if you could magnify that picture, really blow it up over and over then it too would be a picture of that tree, and a picture of me and the jumper and the orderly in his gown and Mum and Dad outside the door in their Sunday best, dressed for a funeral they are uniquely able to predict. The tree and the galaxy sit together like hieroglyphs, a sentence made of objects, forcing their meaning upon me. I clutch at the think strands of wool, grandma’s knit, and I feel like her; sitting at the end point of a narrative someone else started writing two years ago in that GP’s office.
Light catches and pools in the glass, and dances on the face of the orderly.
“Try to be strong,” he says.
And what? I think. But in that liquid, clarity reveals itself.
With a smile, I chuck the poison back. It slides down to its destination, oily and thick. So languid in its travel, as though it has all the time in the world to kill. My throat tickles as I imagine the gentle ice spreading through my body, suffusing the pain, embracing my cells and singing them gently to sleep. Fight’s over. The heart, running for twenty-six years, finally getting its reprieve. Lungs relaxing and deflating and the pain, two years of pain, being satisfied and released. The blazing sine wave that runs through my mind quietening and dying. I can see all these things in that second, and I smile.
The orderly gasps, and Mum and Dad practically fall into the room. Mum gazes at me, her face frozen. I grip the seat tightly enough to tear it off. The orderly opens his mouth to speak-
The Milky Way spins on its faraway axis-
The liquid sinks into the carpet-
“Dad,” I ask.
|# ¿ Mar 31, 2013 15:30|
a turd of a story
Many thanks for the crit. I have to say that I let the lyrics lead things rather than the video, and I was stupidly determined to write something about Dignitas and then try to fit a story into it, which never ever works. I can't believe that I still let that happen. There are references to an ominous 'diagnosis' but I guess that isn't enough.
Thanks for the compliment at the end, even that I've hosed up since he doesn't actually kill himself, he just chucks the cup on the floor and imagines its effect - "the liquid sinks into the carpet" / "is this darkness or the dawn?".
But hey, it was fun to do. Look out for something utterly non-boring and dialogue-free, next week.
|# ¿ Apr 1, 2013 07:40|
uh oh! Are you sure?
|# ¿ Apr 1, 2013 15:42|
Just as I was about to thank you in the Farm (thank you), you go ahead and turn it into a bloody prompt! Brilliant stuff.
In, in, in, in.
Question: do we need to quote the Borges line directly, or just bear it in mind?
|# ¿ Apr 2, 2013 13:36|
I really enjoyed this one, I hope it shows.
Missing In Venice.
Even with her mighty engines in reverse,
the ocean liner was pulled further and
further into the canal.
Rashomon's Vector (895w)
So old that she would have looked totally out of place but for the gantries and buildings that wound around her gunports, the skyscraping battleship Rashomon lay in state. Anne had begun to regard it with a feigned indifference, as any twelve year-old should. Nevertheless, it did provide a useful shortcut through the broken part of the city that was their home.
Her brother picked his way amongst shattered glass behind her. She could feel his hesitant movement; the desire to follow her mixing with his fear.
She wanted to turn, but something in her, maybe her mother’s parting words, kept her from comforting the boy. There’d be no comfort in their years ahead in the camp.
Rashomon was the emblem of that state of affairs, as unchanging as their lives, its metal hulk as bound into the mordant land as they were. She did her best to avoid its hulk, a subconscious boycott.
The refuse pile was more fun than lessons were. Hand-work, though dirty and baked in the sun, was closer to Anne’s talents than school. Either something was rubbish, or it wa-
A dull, metal folder. Peeking from a pool of slime, caked with rust, but etched with the kind of ornate details than an industrial item shouldn’t have. She pulled at its metal cover but it wouldn't budge, as though the wire binding was too thick for the holes in the pages.
It was hardly bigger than her hand, but when she hefted it, it had the weight of something that wouldn’t have been easily misplaced. She glanced at the title-
-and shoved it under her jumper.
Ash slid along the frosted sheets and shouted after his sister, but she skipped past the great painted R without turning. She clenched that metal block to her like it kept her heart beating, the way he’d so often seen her hold it in the months since she’d first brought it home, tossing it onto her bed.
“Anne, what is it?”
The blast-glass echoed his voice back like a taunt, the squeak of a six-year old in a thousand year-old city. Something moved behind a pipe, six building-sized decks above, so he pounded up the steps.
As he climbed, the Rashomon became colder; winds whipped across as the protection of the skyscrapers fell away and the cloud approached. From somewhere in that mist, he heard his sister’s panting, and followed.
The ship became more ornate, but cluttered with barbed wire and barriers. Warning signs from the protectorate showing icons of children with sad faces covered every surface. But with each barrier, there was always one breach; a tiny cut in the fence, a crude step, and Anne’s booted footprints following the path. Ash now understood months of midnight disturbances, the sounds of the front door shutting and his sister telling him he’d seen nothing important.
She’d hit him, the only time he’d tried to look inside the metal block. He’d found it in their fridge when he was looking for their last rat. The cold metal hadn’t moved but for a squeal, and she’d rushed into the kitchen, screaming at him not to touch. He’d never seen it again.
The book felt heavier, but the pages had begun to loosen against the cooling, contracting wire so she pressed on, finally smashing through the bridge door. As she wedged a metal trunk into a bracing position against the door she saw Ash’s face, confusion in his eyes and a question forming on his lips.
She’d tried to keep him out of it, keep him innocent. The book had made that need clear. As the altitude cooled the book further, she wrenched it open, and the familiar but alien symbols appeared. As promised, they corresponded exactly to the icons on the panels around.
Ash hit the door at full speed and felt as though the door hit him back harder. Through the little porthole, his sister pulled at levers and dials, occasionally dropping back to stare at the metal symbols in the book.
The symbols were something nightmarish. Even through cracked glass they pulled at his vision, collapsing in on themselves.
He banged his freezing fists on the door, bloodying them, and his sister continued her work.
At the centre of Rashomon’s controls was a button, inside which was a needle, she knew. She pressed it and felt the heat of blood welling up, then dripping into the workings of the ship. From somewhere below, metal roared in satiety. She wished her brother could have heard that roar from far away, dismissed it as another crumbling tower, and gone back to sleep.
Ash gazed at the other page of the book - a towering schematic of the ship, stretching up the fifteen decks they’d climbed, but also stretching down... Ash saw decks that were no longer nautical, were something misshapenly industrial. Belching exhausts, engines with cruel tearing spikes, and something organic – the pipes took on a sinewy, tentacular quality.
The mist around cleared to show the broken skyscrapers, the living places of their refugee families. The glittering towers of the protectorate on the distant horizon shifted, moving backwards as the fortress-ship lurched forward, and Ash realized with horror-
-and Anne saw with glee-
-the skyscrapers of their homes lurch forward along with them, as Rashomon dragged its urban carapace out of its nest.
|# ¿ Apr 7, 2013 09:40|
Symptomless Coma, "Rashomon's Vector":
Many thanks for this! Especially your last paragraph, that's brilliant. I spent so much time trying to fit events together that some real clangers have slipped through.
I wanted to answer your questions really quickly (and ask one), to see if they change anything, because I think if I can get it right I'll take it further.
Your take is right, except for in the last line I'm trying to imply that Rashomon is bound into the ruined city, and that when it starts the city comes with it. My question to you - is that idea so weird that it has to be stated more explicitly than that? I'm still addicted to being vague. A part of me thinks it's clever.
Vagueness - Ash is a device to add artificial vagueness, but Anne doesn't fully know what the book is either, just that it'll change their lovely fortune in some way. Again, I take it I didn't get this over properly, right?
Anne's mother's words - This was a way of not having to say "their mum's dead". I thought it would be interesting to just drop that there and let people wonder, assuming its some admonishment against babying Ash... but is there no room for uncertainty?
Is the answer to all these questions the same? It is, isn't it?
Symptomless Coma fucked around with this message at 19:43 on Apr 8, 2013
|# ¿ Apr 8, 2013 13:28|
In with a submission to that classic biannual journal, Time Travellin' Weekly!
|# ¿ May 2, 2013 21:46|
I love my idea and hate my main character and sort of want to kill him so I can go to bed.
|# ¿ May 5, 2013 23:06|
Yo guys, this is THUNDERDOME, not your loving live journal. Shut up and write a goddamned story.
Submission to the esteemed editors of Time Travellin' Weekly.
Holy Day. 978w.
“The most important thing,” the waistcoated man said, “is no interference. You know in the cinema, when they tell you to turn your phone off, and you don’t?”
My wife giggled, and I sighed at the tour guide’s obvious patter.
“Well, they’re showing a film. This is the real thing. That’s why you’ll see it at the top of the forms.”
His affable gaze hardened, and another icy wave washed over the speedboat.
“No devices. No talking. And absolutely no breaking character.”
I looked down at the yellow form I’d been handed:
TANERA MOR TOURS – THE REAL THING.
I THE UNDERSIGNED DO HEREBY ACCEPT LIABILITY FOR AND WAIVE STATUTORY RIGHTS PERTAINING TO THE-
The text disappeared in legalese as I felt Jane tug the kirtle – some long shirt - they’d given me.
“Daddy, do they eat people?”
“No dear, they d-”
I checked myself. Parents have a special kind of truth for moments like this.
“Well, nobody’s ever heard of someone getting eaten. But if a little girl were noisy and disobedient, who knows what might happen?”
Jane gasped and rubbed the birthmark on her neck: that weird crescent moon she’d been bullied at school for. The wife shot me an angry look, as if I’d single-handedly hammered another nail in the coffin of Liberal Parenting. I’ve never known why the accepted cure for family friction is a holiday – an extended stay in a confined space, with your family.
Waistcoat was still babbling, though his tone had risen back to an inoffensive verbal froth.
“Of course, the most important thing...”
Woden, kill me.
“...is to have fun!” He clapped his hands together, and the families applauded. The speedboat kicked another jet of spray through the air, and fell silent.
Naturally, we had to pass the Exclusion Zone under wind power. With the motor off, we slipped gently around the rocks without a sound. For the first time since setting out from Coigach Station we allowed waves to rock the boat, rather than using the boat to overrule the waves, and in spite of myself I loved every second of it. While the tour group huddled below deck and fiddled with souvenirs, I stood on the prow and felt properly Viking. The sun fell behind the distant rocks of Tanera Mor and I prayed to the new gods we’d been given that we could stay in the cove. It might have been a holiday I could endure.
Endurance feels manful, feels like a thing worth doing. Taking your boy out into the woods to make his first kill, sleeping under the stars; activities I’d filed away over the years for a boy we never had. No, the commandment from Leslie (waistcoat had a name, it seemed), from the wife, and from Jane was have fun.
So ‘fun’ we had, when we finally stepped onto the island itself. Believe the brochures: it feels like nothing else. The second my foot touched the beach it felt like “seconds” didn’t exist. The lapping sea slowed like it was thickening, then stopped. My stomach lurched, and I looked around to see fellow tourists grimaced as their bodies tried to adjust to the zero time enclosure. The wife grinned.
The fun consisted of four days of trudging around barrows, posing for tour-approved pictures next to statues of gods I couldn’t pronounce, and leering at the natives from our watch huts. I saw a man of no more than thirty, despondently trudging behind a girl. I wanted to tell him: give up now. Wait a thousand years and nothing will have changed, trust me.
Finally, we were led to the gift shop. The wife pored over “authentic” jewellery (procured I don’t know how) while Jane waved some hessian blur too close to my face.
“It’s a doll.” I’m rather good at this game.
“No daddy, look. It’s me!”
I could have been hunting. Christ, I could have been sleeping. But the girl kept waving this thing in front of me. Tanera Mor, the island frozen in a quieter time, and all I’d heard since disembarking was yammering voices, demanding-
I smacked the doll out of her hand. Yeah. I've lived to regret that. Jane ran out of the shop, wailing. This behavior is typical of her, but it sent waistcoat into a frenzy. We burst out of the shop just in time to see a ponytail flick above the brow of a hill, and she was gone.
Nobody had told us exactly how big Tanera Mor actually was, and it took Sharon – that’s my wife – and I six days to circumnavigate the rock in search of our daughter. The tour company wouldn’t come with us, instead pointing angrily at a 4-point type line in the contract about ‘caregiving’, so I got my wish. We picked berries, slept under the stars, and mostly wished we could have our phones back. On the sixth day, Sharon crested the hill in front of me, and froze. For a moment, I thought she’d hit the other end of the zero time field. Then she spoke:
I trudged up the hill. Sharon’s voice trembled.
“...they aren’t supposed to have cities...are they?”
On the plain before us was the largest collection of huts I’d ever seen; grids of huts, interlocked and extended. Covered in ribbons and flowers, being whipped in the Scottish breeze but still lively. It was a city at festival, with every street pointed like a wheel’s spokes at one hub. A tower. Every building had the same design – on the tower it was largest of all – and I recognized it instantly.
A blotchy, indistinct, but unmistakable crescent moon.
A procession emerged from the base of the tower. On a litter, covered in flowers and, to Sharon’s gasping horror, holding a cruel-looking child-sized sword, was Jane. Her hair matted, her face drawn hard.
“That’s him,” she said. “The man who struck my image.”
|# ¿ May 5, 2013 23:18|
Very cool. In like an overcurious cat.
|# ¿ May 21, 2013 20:06|
I really enjoyed this week. Two sins in one.
The Dog Who Fell In Love With A Gun
If, on one particularly promising Sunday, you were to divert yourself from your usual morning walk around the parks of East London and turn down into the industrial streets of Bow, you would find a whole other society entire nestled beneath the one you knew. Ask any citizen of the late night or early morning, kebab chef or postman, and they would tell you: the dogs own the night. If you were to linger at those places where the corners are dark and the roofs do not leak, if you were to develop a certain keenness of hearing; you might hear the stories they tell each other.
I have lingered long enough to ask them: can such stories be true? They all give me the same response: a quizzical tilt of the head as if to say what is true?, before loping off to comb the bins for treasure. I find myself agreeing with them.
They tell of a certain Dog, long ago, who simply could not master its own ignorance. You will have seen many dogs appear foolish – yapping and wagging at you in the street or whilst taking a turn around the park, though you scarcely know them – and yet, have you not found yourself giving them your biscuits, playing with them, becoming their friend? Dog-kind understands that foolishness has its place within wisdom.
This particular Dog, however, was a pitiably ignorant thing. It would sit for hours beneath the shuttered windows of a fishmonger’s, yipping for scraps, though the owner had long since gone to bed. It would try to stake out its territory in the park, turning its flea-bitten face this way and that to scare away intruders, but would always be thwarted by another, identically flea-bitten face growling up out of the water whenever it looked. Always it tried to carry out the chief duties of dogkind, but always it was thwarted.
The other dogs of the land watched its behaviour with amusement. “There he goes!” they would rumble at each other. “Off to chase his own shadow, no doubt!” They would squat in ranks along the canals and watch this dog diving into the river after a particularly annoyed-looking duck – for dogs have as much of a sense of spectacle as anyone.
One particular morning, the Dog’s morning duck-hunt went spectacularly wrong. This duck, who had been feeling victimised, summoned the rest of the flock and instead of running away, turned on the poor Dog in feathered fury. The Dog fled, panting and burbling beneath a torrent of pecks and scratches, until it struggled onto the bank, at the feet of its fellow dogs. They jeered and made quacking noises at him. A dog trying to quack is quite the worst sound there can be.
The Dog struggled to its four legs, and shook out its matted fur. A shower of dirty water sprayed in all directions, covering the dogs. At once their laughter turned to anger. “You are no dog!” they growled. “You are not even a duck! Get lost!”. They nipped at his mangy tail, chasing him down the street and away from their kingdom.
And this is how the Dog found himself at a deserted bus-stop, streets and streets from what it thought of as home, lost, and unloved. It settled down beneath the bench in the dirt, laid its head on its paws, and flicked its tail. It envied the cunning of its brothers, and even of the ducks, who had their own waterfowlish sort of wisdom.
“Why won’t anyone listen to me?” it howled.
There was a strange, metallic rasp, like an old gate, and a voice said, “Hey buddy. I’ll listen to you.”
The Dog, startled, jumped up and banged its head on the bench. It looked over and saw where the noise was coming from.
“Are you a... plastic bag?”
“No, idio-I mean, friend. I’m in the bag!”
The Dog crept over to the bag, a thin orange thing, and gingerly opened it with its long nose. Inside was a stubby black metal tube, with a kind of handle coming off at one end.
“Hey buddy,” said the thing.
“Hello,” said the Dog. “My friends all kicked me out because I’m ignorant. What are you?”
“An outcast like you,” said the thing. “Some people cannot bear the responsibility of having a gun.”
“What’s a gun?”
“A very powerful object,” said the Gun. “Whoever holds the gun is king. Everyone listens to him, and all his friends have to include him. It’s the law.”
The Dog wagged its tail in excitement. “Does that mean...”
“Yes,” said the Gun. “Together, we can do anything we want. Just pick me up.”
It was a bit of a to-do, but eventually, the Dog had the Gun in its mouth, with the tube-bit pointing ahead like a snout. The Dog felt rather silly, but the Gun said, “you look terribly important. Now, where shall we go?”
Just then, a bright red bus pulled to a stop before them. “I’ve always wanted to ride one of these,” said the Dog, “but dogs from the street aren’t permitted.”
“The King,” said the Gun haughtly, “is permitted. Just wave me around so people know who you are.”
The Dog jumped aboard and swung his new snout around in what he hoped was a grand fashion. All the people in the seats seemed to stiffen and fall silent in some kind of salute, so the Dog trotted up the stairs to the upper deck, and sat in a seat at the front. It had grown up seeing everything from the ground, and from the seat on the bus it was like flying over the land it had been chased and pecked and rejected by.
“Much more like it,” said the Dog.
Just then a little girl jumped forward, ignoring the cry of her mother, and petted the Dog. The Dog yipped a little with delight, for it had not been touched in kindness before, but the Gun hissed and clicked his chamber.
“She doesn’t respect you,” said the Gun. You can’t let that happen!” So the Dog turned and growled, making the girl turn back to her mother’s arms.
“These people don’t understand us,” said the Gun. “Let’s go.”
They hopped off the bus and walked down the road. Wherever the Dog turned its head, people stopped and stared.
“See?” said the Gun, “they know how powerful you are. We can do anything!”
Truly, the Dog did feel all-powerful with the Gun in its mouth. It did not feel any less ignorant, but it supposed such things were not a concern of the Very Important. All around them, a kind of honour guard were forming: men and women in black suits wearing reflective jackets crouched on either side of the street, talking nervously into little boxes. The Dog supposed it should say something momentous and important, but it could not think of anything to say – and then it saw something that plucked a primal chord in its soul.
Far down the street, no more than a speck but looming huge in its nostrils, was the butcher’s it had spent long nights howling against. And it was open. The mingling meaty smells dragged it down the street, and in an instant it was at the door.
“Take what’s yours,” said the Gun.
The Dog waved its metal nozzle at the round butcher, who jumped, then ducked behind his counter. He emerged with a long string of sausages, and threw them out into the street. The Dog saw the briefest expression that the thought was a mixture of sadness and confusion – but those sausages pulled at the dark parts of its heart and it followed them into the street.
A crowd of other dogs, dogs that had spurned him, had formed around the sausages. They stared at them, and the Dog saw how desperately hungry they all were. At once, the Dog sprang forward, waving the Gun with greedy fury and snarling like a hound of hell. The dogs fell back, the honour guard fell silent, and the Dog felt its anger and power swirling inside it.
Then it looked down at the coil of sausages. It decided then and there to eat every last one in front of its subjects, to show them all its power. It loosened its grip-
The Gun cried, “no, wait!”-
-and the Gun fell out, clattering onto the floor. From the pavement, the Gun did not look so regal at all; just a rusty, stubby L of metal. The Dog’s feelings of power and anger melted away. All it saw were the sausages. Ignoring the Gun’s angry shouts, the Dog tucked in. Soon, it felt a strong hand on its back. It turned, and saw the butcher. His eyes had the same friendliness as the little girls, and he nodded. The butcher turned, and the Dog found itself following. It could faintly hear the Gun’s muffled protests as it was taken away, but the Dog decided to let it go. A king’s power and a Dog’s ignorance were all very well, but perhaps they did not belong together.
Symptomless Coma fucked around with this message at 12:52 on May 26, 2013
|# ¿ May 26, 2013 10:20|
Moral: Here’s the thing, you don’t have one.
Be careful what you wish for. Your fault for giving a spot-on crit, you beautiful bastard.
The Dog Who Fell In Love With A Gun, Version Two
If, on one particular Sunday, you were to divert yourself from your usual morning walk around the parks of East London and turn down into the meat-packing streets of Hackney, you would find a whole other society nestled beneath the one you knew. Ask any late-night clubber or early morning postman and they would tell you: the dogs own the night. If you were to linger at those places where the corners are dark and the roofs do not leak, if you were to develop a certain keenness of hearing; you might hear the stories the pack tells.
To the pups they tell the story of a certain Dog, many seasons ago, who broke the cardinal rule of the pack. I have asked them if this rule has a name, and they only shake their heads, as if it would be ridiculous to give a name to the fundamental nature of dog-kind, before loping off to comb the bins for treasure.
There once was a young Dog who always wanted more, and had the misfortune of getting it. When the pack would run the streets for food, taking what was needed and carefully sharing the spoils, this Dog would linger at the feast, looking for more than his fair share. If times were poor and food was scarce, the Dog would complain that he was wasting away. “I am growing,” he would say, “and I need more food than you!” If the pack were blessed with a bounty of half-finished kebabs, the Dog would say that he had found them earlier and was saving them anyway, so he should probably be rewarded.
The other dogs of the pack scoffed at his remarks, but they tolerated him. “He is young,” they would say, as they sat in conference beside the canal. “He will learn that he needs the pack more than the pack needs him.” And so they were patient, though the Dog griped and growled at every opportunity.
One day, the Dog’s greed got the better of him. The weeks had not been kind to the pack, and the Dog was convinced that others were hiding food for themselves, for he could not believe that the others could be so pitiably hungry as he. He broke away from the pack and made for a butcher’s shop, a place the dogs had forbade themselves from visiting, and he growled and snarled at the butcher. To the Dog’s delight, the butcher reached down behind the counter – but when he came up, we was brandishing a newspaper. He chased the Dog from the shop, and down the road. When the Dog found his way back to the pack, they were furious. “This is why that place is forbidden to us,” one dog said. “When we take more than we need, we do not belong.”
The pack nodded. “You put us in danger,” they said, “and you must leave.” They turned their backs in solemnity. The Dog growled. “Fine! I don’t need you holding me back anyway. I’ll be better off alone.” With that, he skulked off down the alleyway.
And this is how the Dog found himself at a deserted bus-stop, many streets from his old hunting-ground. He settled down beneath the bench to consider his next move.
“I’ll show them,” said the Dog.
“That’s what I like to hear, old son,” said a voice. It was a strange, metallic rasp, like an old gate.
“Who’s that?” said the Dog.
“In here, buddy.”
There was a thin plastic bag tucked neatly behind the bench. The Dog nuzzled it open. Inside was a stubby black metal tube, with a kind of handle coming off at one end.
“Hey chief,” said the thing.
“What are you?” said the Dog.
“An outcast like you,” said the thing. “Turns out some people just can’t handle a gun.”
“What’s a gun?”
“A very powerful object,” said the Gun. “Whoever holds the gun is king. Everyone listens to him, and all his friends have to respect him.”
The Dog snorted. “Don’t have any friends.”
“With a gun,” said the Gun, “you don’t need ‘em. Just pick me up, and you’ll see.”
It was a bit of a to-do, but eventually, the Dog had the Gun in its mouth, with the tube-bit pointing ahead like a snout. The Dog felt slightly silly, but the Gun said, “You look like a million bucks. Now, where shall we go?”
Just then, a bright red bus pulled to a stop before them. “I’ve always wanted to ride one of these,” said the Dog, “but dogs from the street aren’t permitted.”
“The King,” said the Gun haughtily, “is permitted. Just wave me around so people know who you are.”
The Dog jumped aboard and swung his new snout around in what he hoped was a grand fashion. All the people in the seats seemed to stiffen and fall silent in some kind of salute, so the Dog trotted up the stairs to the upper deck, and sat in a seat at the front. He had grown up seeing everything from the gutters, and from the top of the bus it was like flying over the land that had rejected him.
“Much more like it,” said the Dog.
“This is just the start,” said the Gun. “You’re in charge now. Look around.”
The Dog looked down the bus and saw the passengers staring at him. They all had the same frozen look but one; a little girl who smiled and walked down the aisle to him. She reached out a tiny hand and stroked the Dog’s mangy fur. The Dog shivered in delight, for it had not been touched in kindness before, but the Gun hissed and clicked its chamber.
“She doesn’t respect you,” said the Gun. “You gonna take that?” So the Dog snarled and shook the metal tube, making the girl run back to her mother’s arms.
“These chumps aren’t worth it,” said the Gun. “Let’s go.”
They hopped off the bus and walked down the road. Wherever the Dog turned its head, people stopped and stared.
“See?” said the Gun, “they know how powerful you are. We can do anything.”
Truly, the Dog did feel mighty with the Gun in its mouth. The look on the little girl’s face when he snarled had been familiar somehow. He had no name for such things, but it made the Dog think of long nights without food and shelter, when the future was uncertain. He knew then how much he had been wronged.
He thought of all the things which had ever done him wrong and as if his hate were made manifest, he saw a familiar face in the road ahead: a postman, who had taken particular pleasure in throwing a stone at him some weeks before. The postman only had time to gasp before the Dog was dashing towards him, waving the Gun, veins pumping with violence.
The chase flowed through many streets before the Dog grew weary of the postman’s pathetic shouts, and something else grabbed his attention. On either side of the street were stalls overflowing with meats and goods, and the Dog’s chase-worn body cried out for sustenance.
“You know what to do,” rasped the Gun.
The Dog needed no encouragement: he leaped onto the nearest stall, waving his metal. Families screamed and ran, leaving the Dog with the bounty of meat, alone.
As he was tucking into the food, there was a bark. He looked up and saw the pack he had left, staring at him reproachfully. He saw, as he had never seen before, how hungry and stretched they looked. How pathetic.
The hungriest-looking one spoke: “Leave this toy of yours alone. Something that makes the humans cower so has no place with us.”
“Why not?” said the Dog. “Unless you are...”
“Afraid to use it,” whispered the Gun.
“...afraid to use it. You are afraid to take the human’s food. That is why you do not deserve it. Leave me!”
The pack bowed its heads. “You have everything, but you have learned nothing.” They slunk away down the road.
The Dog ate alone for a time, filling his belly more with more meat than he thought possible – but the more he ate, the hungrier he felt. There was a hole that could not be filled.
His ears pricked up at the sound of heavy, four-footed steps. A Wolf slunk down the path, smiling, and bowed its head graciously.
“A fellow hunter,” it said. “Greetings.”
“Get your own,” growled the Dog. “You have nothing I want.”
“Ahh,” said the Wolf, “but I know the one thing you lack.”
“Hear him out,” said the Gun. “Power knows power.”
“You have all the things you want,” said the Wolf, “but one. The pack does not respect you, because you have not shown them the power you possess. Share your food and give me the Gun, and I will show you how to get the one thing you have ever truly wanted.”
The Dog remembered how the pack had cautioned against dealings with wolf-kind, but then he remembered how fearful and weak they were, and realised that such beings as wolves were his new equals, so he agreed. After the Wolf had eaten its fill, it manoeuvred the Gun into its mouth and gave a toothy grin. The Dog thought he heard the faintest sigh of pleasure from the Gun.
“What are we going to do?” said the Dog.
“A demonstration,” said the Wolf.
Further down the road, the two hunters caught up with the pack. The Wolf bounded in front of them, and the pack snarled at their enemy.
“I told you!” said the Dog. “I told you I was powerful! I told you not to mess with me!” He shook his head, in the manner he’d learned to use the Gun.
But the wolf did not shake its head. It steadied the metal tube very carefully, levelling it so it pointed towards the youngest of the pack, a pup of no more than a season.
The Wolf shifted its jaws, and-
The Gun let out an unnatural scream of ecstasy, the sound of every ounce of blackness in the world singing. Deathly smells scented the air. The pup yelped and flew backwards, a sick spray of crimson covering the Dog’s face, bathing him in his own rage.
As the blood matted his fur, the Dog saw the horror of everything he had done, the anger that came from his loneliness, and as one the pack sprang upon the Wolf. The Dog was first and fiercest of them all, because he saw in the Wolf the worst of himself, and his jaws bit into the Wolf’s flesh as though he were trying to tear out the rotten parts of his own heart. The Wolf snarled and fought, but was no match for a pack which had lost a brother. The Wolf cursed the Dog’s name for his weakness with its last breath, and was no more.
The Gun lay upon the floor, smoking and silent, and the pack stood around it.
Once, just once, did I ask the dogs of Hackney the question: does this story have a happy ending? They tilted their heads at me as if to say, “ending?”, took me down a certain alley that I could not find again, and showed me their most precious and shameful treasure; a L-shaped piece of metal, dull and deadly, an unperishing reminder of the perversity of power.
[edited because I called Hackney Bow one time, sorry]
Symptomless Coma fucked around with this message at 07:08 on May 28, 2013
|# ¿ May 27, 2013 14:09|
Sneaking in at the back, with:
401 BC: Mithridates, a soldier condemned for the murder of Cyrus the Younger, was executed by scaphism, surviving the insect torture for 17 days.
What an awesome bastard.
|# ¿ May 31, 2013 17:32|
Deadline. Submissions closed.
gently caress. gently caress.
Here's the story - I finished it, I really did, then decided to sleep on it because I'm sick of being picked up on stuff I should have caught in editing. And I live in the UK so I thought EST was Western or whatever the hell it is because you all have madeup time rather than good old upstanding GMT.
So, I'm sorry.
I accept I may not be able to win. But I went big on this one, and if any of you three can find it in your cold, cold hearts to spare a crit, I'd really appreciate it.
401 BC: Mithridates, a soldier condemned for the murder of Cyrus the Younger, was executed by scaphism, surviving the insect torture for 17 days.
A Hero's Reward. -1350w
"I am Artaxerxes II of Persia, whose reign is through truth, and I am here to grant you release."
Though I can't see anything beneath this crawling blackness, I know the voice for true. My torturer, my saviour, my king. His rumbling cadence barely carries above the lapping waves and the buzzing insects, but I strain to catch the first human voice I have heard in seventeen nights.
"You smell like poo poo, you know."
The first time I saw him, I would have killed just for this acknowledgement. We were on the practice field, the six hundred of us soldiers, when a silhouette appeared on the ridge beyond.
"Who's that?" I said to the man standing beside me.
"That," said the soldier, "is who we're here to babysit."
"THAT'S Artaxerxes? But he looks so small."
"You don't become king by being the biggest, idiot. Otherwise we'd have Cyrus."
I blushed. Cyrus the Younger, whose name you did not speak in camp unless you wanted a flogging, was the reason we were there, clashing steel and hurling javelins into targets in the merciless Babylonian sun. Cyrus the Younger's continued existence was Artaxerxes' worst nightmare. What brother has not caused his sibling pain?
Banners and servants clustered about the King, like vultures to carrion, hoping to feed on his aura. I longed to be one of those vultures. No, I wanted to be the object of their affections, the rich flesh.
I hefted my javelin, the only weapon I had shown any prowess with since father's largesse had got me and my brothers into the royal bodyguard, and snapped my body like a whip to hurl the thing out toward the royal party. It slammed into the dust, far ahead of the others of our troop. I could swear I saw the King nod, and I felt my body rise with lightness and power.
My body feels light now, bobbing on this stagnant pond, but this is the effect of the punishment they call The Boats. I'm still sane, but only because I keep reciting the reality of my situation to myself: that my body is sealed inside this floating coffin, two boats bolted together with only my head and limbs poking free. That my stomach is bloated from the parasites and the force-feeding. That a mask of flies cover my face, drinking the milk and honey I was bathed in. That I am the one who killed Cyrus the Younger, and this is my reward.
Their army at Cuxana was twenty thousand; ours, twenty times twenty. And yet we waited. We'd trained and marched and slept for two weeks to get into striking distance of Cyrus' troops, only to camp on a ridge overlooking his hired Greek army, and wait. Artaxerxes would wait for a river to change its course if crossing it were a risk, some said. He walked our camp of six hundred every morning with a face like one of his marble busts: not a hero, but the piercing analytical gaze of a statesman. Every day that passed without attack saw more envoys running between the camps. Every one of Cyrus' messengers, all uncouth and lowborn, was personally met by the King and taken into his tent. While those people decided the fate of the armies, I waited at camp like the good soldier, and felt myself hollowing out.
My stomach is now full of worms. They catch the scent of all your poo poo in the boat, your days of force feeding coming to their natural conclusion, and burrow into you, make their kingdom inside you. For the last days of your life, you become their provider and benevolent god, and then one day, you die. Perhaps among them, some leader worm rises up, a particuarly brave parasite, and rouses its fellows so they all set off, an army looking for a new frontier.
Cyrus led the attack himself. Not surprising from the martial brother, the one who people said had killed a bear. His force swept up the hill as dawn broke, heading straight for a killing blow - for us, the royal guard. Artaxerxes had us in ranks along the ridge.
"We have the superior ground," he said. "Do not act until I order."
Beside me, my brother muttered, "a chance for a little family glory, eh?"
I saw the bare head of Cyrus, high in his golden saddle, charging up the hill. I felt the rigidity of that accursed javelin. That feeling of lightness of power from the practice field overtook me, and I knew what I was born to do. I coiled my body in an arc, put my mind in my arm and whip-cracked the shaft into the air. It made a perfect arc, then buried itself in the face of Cyrus the Younger, pretender-king of Persia. The army saw nothing but a javelin emerge from the ranks and an enemy general fall.
Artaxerxes summoned me to his tent that night, showed me a heap of treasure and a golden scimitar.
"Your reward," he said, "for conveying the horse trappings of my kill to me."
"Sire, I merely - your kill, sire?"
The King laid his hard gaze upon me, the one I had seen from so far away.
"Did I not slay the pretender, soldier?"
"I - you did, sire."
From the dirt, Cyrus' rictus grin gazed at me, mocking.
I can see him now. Artaxerxes brushes the insect mask away from my eyes and Cyrus the Pretender is there, spectral, moonlight pouring through the hole in his cheek. Artaxerxes puts a flagon to my lips. "Drink, liar." He leans over me, his face as hard as it was in the camp. Drops of the liquid touch my tongue and I gag. Wine. Ugh.
I could never hold my drink, or my secrets. In the aftermath of Cuxana my secret deed followed me like a pack-mule with Cyrus' face, mocking my coward's heroism. The golden scimitar at the foot of my bed like an ornament I couldn't show.
I swallowed my own fate in the banqueting hall in a lake of wine and pride; my brothers, boasting of their training prowess to each other, mocked me again for mine.
"The javelin!" The oldest one snorted. "Father should have entered you into the Olympics with the Greek perverts!"
The wine and my shame compelled me to speak and sign my death. For what brother has not caused his sibling pain?
"That javelin," I declared, "slew Cyrus, the bear-killer."
"Ah, you poor fool," he said. "That cannot be. It was Artaxerxes who killed him. What could be more fitting?"
"It was not!" I shouted, and I realised I was standing. I saw with horror that Artaxerxes was in the banqueting hall. Surveying, again. I claimed my destiny.
"You see before you the hero of Cuxana. Let the people never forget the name. Mithridates!"
There was a terrible silence. From across the hall, I stared into the eyes of Artaxerxes, of he whose rule is through truth, and he gave me nothing but his judgement.
And now, at last, he stares back. Still the statesman, but he has attained a softness. Artaxerxes II of Persia is not large, but has grown to encompass pity.
"I come bearing your pardon, solider. I have two gifts for you."
He places a delicate white flower upon my lips.
"Hemlock," he says. "Eat it, and die."
I already know that I cannot. Not because I am afraid, but because I fear the coward's death. Unremembered.
"The second gift is truth. That I know what happened on the field of Cuxana. And a promise: one other man will be instructed as to events who can be trusted not to repeat them. He will be your witness in whatever celestial courts there may be."
Artaxerxes II looks sad, worn. Through the haze of flies I see him as he really is, the statesman, the pragmatist. Not the killer.
"Finally, I give you something a King has no right to give: his thanks. You saved me from fratricide."
He lays a hand on my rotten head, then strikes his oars into the water.
"Claim your death, hero. You have earned it."
I close my eyes, swallow the hemlock, and at last feel peace.
Symptomless Coma fucked around with this message at 12:36 on Jun 3, 2013
|# ¿ Jun 3, 2013 06:53|
Thanks for doing this - you didn't have to, considering the volume of entries.
Gonna take it to the farm and nudge it over the line.
As a GMTer I'll have to hold firm here. But the rest of your comments are definite improvments.
Symptomless Coma fucked around with this message at 07:50 on Jun 4, 2013
|# ¿ Jun 4, 2013 07:31|
Sounds like someone's forgotten the taste of their teeth. Luckily I have the cure for amnesia right here (spoiler: it is my fists).
Your prompt is: Blow By Blow.
You will both write about a fight between two participants. Writing fights is a tricky business as it usually does double duty in a story - providing some kind of inherent visceral thrill, while advancing the plot. You will certainly be judged on how well you do the first (beware purple prose, but make me feel it), but since you will not have much plot to speak of, your second task is characterisation. No pointless duel be this, for you will have to make me want one combatant to win, and make me feel genuinely sad when they don't. That's right, they can't win.
sebmojo, I spoil your spoiler - neither character can use their fists. Whether they find a weapon, or turn out to have claws instead, is up to you.
Twinkle Cave, you will use the word 'craft', in any sense you like, and love it.
Gents, have at it.
|# ¿ Jun 4, 2013 08:21|
Alright alright, break it up you two. I've got a lot going on today and I don't want to rush this, so expect critique in the next 24 hours.
Go and wash the blood off. You disgust me.
|# ¿ Jun 5, 2013 09:05|
|# ¿ Dec 7, 2022 22:59|
I am in.
|# ¿ Jun 6, 2013 08:24|