EDIT: drat, beaten to the ballad while typing my response. Alright, Iambic Pentameter challenge accepted.
On this, the first challenge of the new Thunderdome thread, I step into the Dome for the first time.
I never learned to love poetry while taking the required courses on it during my schooling. Poetry's rules and constraints baffle me and leave every attempt I make at it awkward and silly. If I can't learn to appreciate it by Sunday, I will learn to hate it - I will make it my bitch.
Now for my rule. The next person who enters must write a poem based off the rules of Concrete Poetry (here's an info page on it http://www.poemofquotes.com/articles/concrete-poetry.php). Why concrete poetry? Because every amateur attempt I've ever seen at it has been awful and I want to see you fools do better.
monkeyboydc fucked around with this message at 17:52 on Jan 10, 2013
|# ¿ Jan 10, 2013 15:47|
|# ¿ Oct 19, 2021 19:13|
Man, gently caress iambic pentameter. My stressed, unstressed are off probably. It's not pretty, but here it is.
Flash Rule: Iambic Pentameter
Word Count: 415
"There's a way to split your soul from body"
the note I found inside my text book said.
"It's a simple trick that anyone can learn.
If you would like I will show you the way."
"As you begin to drift to sleep tonight,
you'll need to look for an immense, dark door.
Passing through will hurt, but then you'll be free.
Going through will be just like a death."
I found the door - walking up its shadow.
To reach the knob, I had to climb its front.
Splinters, slivers, cut my fingers and toes.
The knob numbed me like my hands were in snow.
It opened like a wake in deep water.
My chest opened then too and I poured out.
My being, thoughts, feelings like a long piss -
dilute, expand and drift to find more souls.
We sit with our coffees warming our hands.
The street out the window is quiet still.
Only we're up - not even the baker.
Our eyes are low in the heavy morning.
Water runs warm, heated by the bonfire
that makes dashes into the dark forest.
Dirt and stones stick to our many bare feet.
We're up when the night bleeds to day, like souls.
For a moment it's day during the night.
Lightning falls down on the valley below.
We point up and light splits sky like black cloth
on white screen that shears and shines from behind.
Sometimes I shrink, condense - droplets on glass.
I funnel to my source, to my body
to see how it's doing without me there.
It must be hard living without a soul.
Soon I find it sitting in a sleek building.
It has a crease etched in its brow line now.
Its tie cuts off air from reaching its lungs.
It's bent over a screen that I can't read now.
It forgets what day it is - they're the same.
It wakes with a girl who's name he doesn't
know and wonders as he walks home, what her
days are like and if she still has her soul.
Books sit, lonely now. "I don't have the time
anymore." I heard it say, Even that text book
lies uncracked, spine unbent, words unread.
This was something we used to do as one.
It sleeps on a couch, bathed in blue light from
the TV deep in a beer-sleep, snoring.
I should be sad for it, but then I think:
If this is life, then I'll choose death.
EDIT: Word Count
monkeyboydc fucked around with this message at 23:55 on Jan 13, 2013
|# ¿ Jan 13, 2013 23:52|
I'm in. Also, I'll have your crit up at about noon PST, areyoucontagious.
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2013 15:54|
Commentary for areyoucontagious's poem for THUNDERDOME XXIII: DIE FOR YOUR POETRY
The poem seems to fulfill the requirements of a ballad and it does sound like something you might hear someone sing in Ye Olde Pub. As far as structure and meter go, taking into consideration my vague understanding of ballads, it reads like a ballad too (alternating rhymes, stanzas four lines long). The meter switches up but I don't believe there's a strict requirement on meter and beats that ballads must follow. Anyways, it definitely reads like a ballad.
"For every head that He did chop
And every bone He broke
The General’s grin grew larger
And began His horse to stroke."
The above line threw me off when doing a straight read-through. It just sounds awkward, more like it’s there to make the rhyme than the perfect thing that could go there. On the other hand, I really like the rest of this stanza for the imagery
"The day grew long as the battle raged
And men looked on their Maker.
Souls plenty sent to Heav’n or Hell
As they all sought favor
Of the fierce and mighty General.
But when He found the camp
Where the foe had kept their kin
He trod forth, raised His lamp"
though thoughts are broken up by stanzas elsewhere, this was the most jarring one. In all other places where thoughts are separated like this, it simply pulled me to the next stanza. In this one, however, I paused and was really pulled out of what I was reading until I realized it’s continued in the next stanza
"The General’s great laugh boomed aloud
As he mocked the child’s play
“What foolishness jest you young boy? awkward sounding
Your flesh I’ll surely flay!”"
"The General fell into the mud
And breath’d His life’s vapor
Out into that frigid black night.
He saw Hell’s demons caper."
The above is a nice image
Like I said, it's definitely a ballad. Action? Check. Alternating rhymes? Check. Tells a story? Check.
The whole scenario is cliche though, that old "warrior killed by his pride" chestnut. Imagery was forgetful except for a few stanzas and the language sometimes reads awkwardly when suits a rhyme.
Now, ballads aren't something I seek out to read for fun normally, but I found the whole thing a bit dull, which is odd for a piece in which one man butchers dozens of people. I don't need a bunch of gore necessarily, but I'd like to imagine this scene more vividly than just, "general talks to soldiers, general charges, general kills people, general encounters boy." There's some good stuff here though, and I'd be interested in reading a poem you wrote of your own volition and not in an involuntary style.
monkeyboydc fucked around with this message at 22:09 on Jan 16, 2013
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2013 22:06|
As for Vonnegut's essay, I think three and four apply most to writing this story. It was over five hundred words longer at one point, and cutting was tough.
Everything Under Rocks (1743 words)
“We keep the generator 'bout a hundred yards out in the woods. You keep it too close to the cabin and it's noisy as poo poo – smells bad. If you put it too far it's a pain in the rear end carryin' gas out to it –” for the first time since he'd started talking, Dan looks down to lick the edge of the bible-like paper and seal the spliff he's been rolling. Only a few brown, tobacco strands twirl to the forest floor; he makes sure every bit of weed stays in. “– that and I don't like turning it off if it's too far out.”
“No? Why?” Clark looks down the aisle of trees to where the generator sits in the midst of the Alaskan wilderness, a metallic wart in the greenery.
Dan lights the spliff, rolling it, burning evenly. He takes a long hit, holds it in, and breathes out a cloud made bigger by how cold it is outside. “It gets real dark out there.” He hands the spliff to Clark.
“Since when are you afraid of the dark?” Clark takes a hit and passes it back. He could recall plenty of times he and Dan wandered at night looking for a place to smoke and drink, chucking their empties into bushes as they went – there's plenty of bushes in Washington. If anything, Dan always been the most level headed.
“It's not dark like it is back in Washington, man. The second you shut that thing off, it's darker than you've ever seen it get. You know there ain't other houses around here. The closest city is Anchorage – four, five hundred miles away.” He breathes deeply through the paper cylinder, bringing it to half-mast in a red flare. “I always tell myself I won't, but as soon as I kill that thing, I fuckin' snap, run as fast I can back to the cabin.” He holds the spliff out, offering.
Clark shakes his head. “No thanks.” He gets real high all of a sudden and can hear the blood in his skull. They were farther away from a major city than Clark had ever been and, suddenly, the idea seemed more bothersome than it had before they sparked this thing. He knew it was just paranoia, more and more he caught himself getting this way, worrying when he smokes. The isolation, the intense dark, it reminds him of when he was little, getting ready for bed.
Night terrors were a big problem for Clark when he was little. He'd lay awake for hours. There were times he'd dream his brother's Halloween werewolf costume clawed its way out of the hatch to the attic in the corner of his room. He was sure he was awake, would begin screaming, and then find his parents shaking him, only dimly aware that he was still yelling as they shook him. Clark was ten before he was able to sleep an entire night in his room alone. “Hey, wanna go check out that old cannery you were telling me about?”
Clark and Dan wander through the cannery, very much like an old, rusted out can itself now that its ceiling has collapsed and most of the machinery has either rotted away or removed long ago. It was odd to think that people had worked here and, judging by the size of the empty room, there must have been a lot more of them at one time. The village was too far away from the main artery of civilization to survive. “What did they can here?” Clark asks.
“gently caress if I know man.” Dan produces a joint from the pack of cigarettes he keeps inside his leather jacket and lights it. “Fish probably.”
There are cracks in the foundation where trees have started sprouting up through the concrete floor. “You ever seen anything weird out here?” Clark couldn't help but ask, he was a collector of sorts.
Sometimes, he'd find himself talking to people long after a party died down, in the small hours of the morning after most people were passed out drunk and before the world began to turn gray, before the first bird chirps, and then another, and then they all burst awake in song. People tell their stories then. Some lived in Seattle their whole lives and never experienced anything supernatural – as a rule, ghosts don't seem to bother with large cities, they prefer the crevices, like potato bugs you find when you turn over a big rock. The strangest stuff was usually in an old house, out in the middle of nowhere. You could always tell which stories were real.
Dan takes a pull off the joint. “I've seen people do some weird poo poo out here.”
Clark dozes, half asleep. A droning in the distance keeps him awake. He thinks it's the obnoxious garbage truck that offloads poo poo from his apartment complex every Tuesday morning, but then remembers he's not home.
He opens his eyes and peers around the cabin, hazy with cigarette smoke. Dan is passed out in the chair opposite and Dan's dad is snoring loudly on one of the cots. He doesn't know how long it's been since they fell asleep. Clark realizes what the distant buzzing is. “gently caress, the generator's still on,” he says, kicking Dan's chair – Dan doesn't move. He is out. “Dan, we gotta shut the generator off.” Nothing. I guess I'll do it.
Supplies are limited. To get to their fishing village, you have to take a plane from Seattle to Anchorage, from Anchorage to a small airport two hundred miles north, finally a float plane further north that lands directly on the lake where they fish. Clark arrived a few weeks after Dan and his family. The only thing they burn through quicker than drugs is gas, and if Clark doesn't shut the generator off they might be in for some cold, dark nights before the next time they can refuel.
Clark meets the crunch of freeze-dry earth in the zero degree evening. Each day the sun barely peeks over the horizon, rolls across the distant mountaintops for six, maybe seven hours, only to topple back over the opposite side again, leaving them in the most complete darkness he's ever experienced. He looks around, picks a tree, and begins to piss, marveling at how much steam is produced when it's so cold outside. Before he finishes, he looks over his shoulder once, twice.
A sweater and a whiskey drunk was a good choice of clothing, but he didn't plan on being out too long and he didn't think he'd be able to make the trip again if he turns around now. He walks down the row of trees, almost perfectly spaced six feet apart, each with a halogen lamp attached to light the way.
In the distance, the generator seems very small, like an angry, metal bumblebee screaming into the emptiness. Clark's surprised by how loud it hums as he gets closer. He crouches beside it and searches for the kill switch. He remembers what Dan told him about running back to the cabin after turning it off and decides he'll walk – he's not scared of the dark anymore. Finally, he finds the switch, looks up to fix the path he'll take, looks down, and turns off the generator. It grumbles and grinds to a stop. The lights lining the pathway shrink to small, orange points, the tips of cigarettes. Clark stands and, as the lights go out completely, sees someone standing against the wall of the cabin. “Dan!?” No answer. Clark turns and runs into the forest; he fuckin' snaps.
The canopy blocks out the stars, the only light source. His fingers, blindly reaching in front of him as he walks, have almost no feeling left in them. He tries to circle back to where he thinks the cabin sits. Just when his inner compass tells him he's heading in the right direction, he hears something in the woods, snapping twigs and shuffling feet, not attempting to hide its presence. It's driving him someplace old, and lonely, where it's been waiting for someone to come back.
Clark gave up screaming a long time ago, figuring he'd gone too far from the village for anyone to hear him. Every time he yells, whatever is the woods with him closes their gap, as if to tell him he needs to stop. Whatever it is, it's fast when it wants to be – he thinks of the bugs under the rock again and how fast they scramble when exposed.
He figures his eyes will adjust, but for that, you need light. He can't hear the river anymore and wonders when he'll freeze. His feet stop aching, stop feeling, they've gotten so cold. Then, right when Clark is sure he will die, he hits something that doesn't feel like a tree. He runs his hands in front of him feeling something smooth. A wall! He moves along it and finds what he thinks is a door frame, then, a door knob. Oh thank god. He opens the door and steps inside.
A soft glow lights the corner of the room, a night light. There's his bed and his posters on the walls. “This is my room.” He can't believe it. The Mickey Mouse blankets, the toys, it's his room from when he was little. This is almost worse than the dark, it's impossible. Clark turns around to leave, but finds there's no door, just his closet, full of ill-fitting clothes. There's a scraping sound behind him.
In the opposite corner of his room, the attic hatch moves aside, dropping bits of popcorned ceiling. The black square leading up looks just like outside. There's a faint scuffling and a dark mass drops from the attic onto the carpet, between him and what should have been the door into the hallway. The pile of clothing jerks, like it's full of rats. It twitches, the snarling face of his brother's wolf costume leers at him with cigarette eyes. He blinks, it's halfway to him, settling on the floor like the air escaping from under a sheet. He tries not to blink as he watches the costume pulse. It's had a long time to wait, and it's fine waiting a little longer.
|# ¿ Jan 20, 2013 05:32|
Also, thanks twinkle cave and budgieinspector for the critiques. You guys have both got crits coming your way whether you want them or not! I'd agree with both of your main criticisms, that my story reads like it's missing a page. I'm gonna put it through the ringer a few times and throw myself at some of those horror publications Budgie listed.
monkeyboydc fucked around with this message at 22:11 on Jan 22, 2013
|# ¿ Jan 22, 2013 15:28|
Sounds good to me for when I, you know, get my rear end in gear and don't gently caress up when it comes down to submission time.
The only thing that's between me and seppuku right now is the dream of redeeming myself in the dome next week!
monkeyboydc fucked around with this message at 16:57 on Jan 28, 2013
|# ¿ Jan 28, 2013 15:11|
Okay, I have to redeem myself for not submitting last week. I'm in
|# ¿ Feb 2, 2013 03:26|
Bask in the sultry sound of my voice. Wash yourselves in it!
About four minutes 15 seconds
|# ¿ Feb 3, 2013 04:08|
Alright, I'm in.
|# ¿ Feb 27, 2013 15:29|
The Maybe Machine
Word Count: 1496
It was still more night than day, the world illuminated by half-light, like it was given off by glow-in-the-dark paint, when Craig found a box that told him the future. As far as he knew, he was the only person who walked here, following the cat's cradle of steel towers strung together by electrical wires, along their zipper-path cut through the surrounding woodlands straight up the hill. It had to have recently been left there, the cardboard wasn't even soggy yet. His name was written in capital sharpie letters across the top, like a box of Christmas decorations you stick in the garage until next year.
He didn't know how whoever left this box here knew about his resolution. Months ago, Craig realized he'd somehow negotiated his life without ever seeing a sunrise. It was part of his feverishly hoarding experiences since he decided to not go to college after graduation. While his friends were scattered across the country learning about their passions, honing their arts and partying and screwing, he got a graveyard shift at Walmart because all the daytime shifts were filled with lifers – people who'd be there forever. As it turned out, he'd only followed through on the sunrise thing twice, the first day it occurred to him, and today. Craig knelt in the damp grass to examine the box.
It wasn't even taped shut, the top was just folded in on itself. Craig wasn't sure what he expected to find as he grabbed a flap and pulled – it was a bunch of old printer paper covered almost completely with a multitude of colors and many rows of miniscule text. It was really old printer paper, the kind where huge reams of it are connected by perforation and pulled through the printer on a track. The only printer he'd ever seen that used it was the one his mom had when he was little.
The box was big enough to hold three stacks of paper sitting side by side. The left most stack had a header that was written in larger text.
USER ID: CRAIG
IMPACT: MED-HIGH (GREATER THAN OR EQUAL TO GREEN, BLUE, INDIGO, VIOLET)
After that, the text shrunk and crawled down the rest of the sheet, and every other sheet from what Craig could see. The first line read:
4:47 AM (99%): Finds box. Opens box. Reads to first line.
It was highlighted deep violet. Craig looked at his watch – 4:47 AM. He looked into the forest to his left and then to his right, but it was still so dark out that he could only make out the vague shapes of the ferns and branches at the very edge of the woods. Straining and holding his breath, he listened to see if he could hear anything out of place, someone walking off or rustling around in the distance – nothing, just the buzzing overhead.
He almost left it there and, looking back, maybe he should have. Instead, Craig dragged the box to the edge of the forest. He managed to pull it behind some ferns, grabbing a handful of the pages off the top stack and stuffed them in his backpack. He'd rush home, look them over and maybe he'd come back for the rest later.
Craig had the furniture in his tiny studio apartment pushed up against the off-white walls making room for the pages spread all across the floor in columns corresponding to the day. After reviewing them, walking up and down the rows eating chips and peering at them with his magnifying glass, he'd made a few observations. First, they were almost completely accurate. In places, multiple events were listed for the same time. It seemed to have something to do with the percentage after that time. He guessed it was the likelihood of it happening. His trip to Walgreens was there.
5:33 AM (86%): Purchases 1 magnifying glass and 1 bag of chips.
It was right on both counts, he was munching on the Doritos as he combed the papers. There were a few cross-streets mentioned that he often used to get home, but he hadn't actually taken some of those paths since he detoured to go to Walgreens. A comprehensive list of what could and would happen. At first, he was overwhelmed with excitement. Craig couldn't wait to see what he could do by using these papers as a guide. His excitement turned cold and left a sick feeling in his stomach by the time he reached the next day's notes. Highlighted in violet, the only thing he'd seen in that color since the very first line, was this:
3:12 PM (91%): Struck by car crossing 53rd and Jackson. Deceased.
Fine, he just wouldn't take that way to work tomorrow. No problem. The sick feeling in his stomach grew the further forward in time he read though. After that first time he was scheduled to die, it came up more and more. He'd grabbed roughly two weeks worth of papers and in those two weeks he was scheduled to die a total of twelve times. He had to get the rest.
Weeks passed and Craig held onto the papers like a life jacket. Sure enough, he could survive as long as he avoided the exact circumstances of his death. He had to stay close to these events though. What if he went to the other side of town and changed the future so completely that the rest of the papers were no good? His paranoia grew along with a suspicion that after he avoided death the first time at 53rd and Jackson, he'd become something like a virus in a human body, swarmed by white blood cells. Some days were almost entirely filled with his deaths – the record was thirteen in a day. That day, he'd seen three cars blow through red lights, a toolbox fall off a maintenance worker's scaffold and had opted to cook at home after reading about his gruesome death from food poisoning.
Craig found he could win contests and state lotteries if he entered under the right circumstances. He sat down with a calendar and a pen nightly, searching years worth of records, writing down dates and lottery numbers so that he'd have enough money to last if he was conservative with his winnings. Great, his problems were over! It occurred to him that he hadn't consciously come up with this idea, but formed it without realizing as he read into the future. After a certain point, there was no mention of him working at Walmart anywhere. It was like the papers, or whatever generated them in the first place, knew that he would come up with this plan and plotted the future surrounding it accordingly.
Craig saved his winnings and purchased a small plot of land out in the hills several miles from his home town and had a cabin built there. Without a job, Craig was amazed at the amount of free time he had to fill. He avoided people whenever possible. He gave up and filled his day writing journals and reading.
He didn't think his writing was anything special, but he started to see mentions of it pop up in his records. A few times, the papers mentioned him publishing an essay he'd written, but never anything mentioning it afterward – whatever created these papers knew he wouldn't do it. For years, Craig thought he was seeing every possible future laid out for him, allowing him to pick the best parts, avoid death and live how he wanted, but he realized that it didn't work that way. Recently, he noticed longer amounts of time took up less and less space in his records. Sometimes, he'd do so little that a whole month fit on a single page. There wasn't much to say about his life.
Twenty years, had passed and he was almost out of paper but, with only a few months remaining, Craig knew how to protect himself without them. Only five times had Craig been killed by animals, but people had killed him thousands of times – they were the problem. To continue to live, Craig just had to live in his cottage, surrounded by evergreen trees in a room that smelled strongly of the inside of his old, yellowed, paperback books.
Craig looked around the living room at his chair, his simple desk and his table by the window. He had no photographs, no telephone and no television. The guilt he felt avoiding his family ate dully at him when he looked at it square. What had happened to his friends he used to have? Did they have families? Were they doing great things somewhere? Craig walked outside, his footsteps were muffled by a deep bed of pine needles. It felt like he had died that day after he found the box all those years ago. It was like he was never here at all.
|# ¿ Mar 3, 2013 04:30|
Alright, I'm in for this week.
|# ¿ Apr 24, 2013 15:32|
Yikes, twenty minutes late. Feel free to disqualify me but, if not, here's my entry.
Thunderbrawl: Nyarai VS. Monkeyboydc
Prompt: Story must use poison as part of the plot.
The Beach Bum and the Sea
“I’m telling you man, it wasn’t an otter.” I take another pull off my bottle of coke. It’s mostly rum actually, I don’t remember the last time I drank straight soda. Maybe the rum is the problem, but this kid is starting to piss me off. Trying to cool off, I lean back and sink my hands into the sand. It was real hot out today and the sand is still warm, but just under the surface, it’s nice and cool. “It was too big to be an otter.”
“Maybe it was a walrus or something dude, did you ever think of that?” I think the guy said he was seventeen. Regardless of how old he is, he’s wearing a tank top with the armpits drooped down almost to his waist. He’s tuning an acoustic guitar that he’ll soon use to try and charm his way into the panties of one of the three girls I found him sitting with when I stumbled across their bonfire. Young or not, he’s definitely a douchebag.
“A walrus? I know you’re not from around here, but there aren’t any walruses in Oregon. All I’m saying, is I’ve seen something weird out in the ocean around here a few times and I don’t know what it is. That’s all.” It definitely wasn’t a walrus. I remember seeing those eyes the first time, like a cat’s, glowing yellow-green out in the ocean. How many times has it been now? Three? Four? No one else is ever around, just me, when all the bonfires along the coast have burnt down to red, dying suns. It’s only for a second, and then it’s gone, but I know what I’ve seen, even if no one else ever sees it. I don’t want to get into an argument with this kid; I drain the rest of my rum and coke.
I stand up, pitch forward a little more than I mean to, before stumbling to a bunch of beach grass that’s grown up taller than my waits. Even with only the sunset behind me to light what I’m doing, I can tell how brown my pee is – like muddy water. It’s been that way for months now, no matter how much water I drink. gently caress it, nothing I can do about it right now. God I’m drunk. Zipping up, I jog back to the campfire and crash into the sand. “Hey, you know, this is where I had my first drink, when I was a little younger than you guys.” No one’s listening, but you know, maybe they are. I roll onto my back and stare up at the clouds floating through orange and blue.
Yup, right on this beach, whiskey and water. Nasty, but it’s all I’ve ever had so it’s fine by me. After a few drinks, I feel like the warmth pounding in my head and chest is on the same tempo as the pulse in the tide and the heat radiating off our bonfire. We keep chucking driftwood into it building it bigger and bigger, forcing our circle to scoot back as it gets hotter, me, the guys from home, my buddy Matt, and then a bunch of randoms we met earlier. One of the girls asked me if I wanted a drink earlier and we’ve been passing the bottle back and forth ever since. These trips we go on during summer are always amazing, but ever since everyone moved away, and I moved to Oregon, we don’t do it anymore. I don’t see any of them at all anymore actually.
I can’t get enough of it, the way the night accelerates. Nothing is dull or far away. Soon, every light pulses and spins like a thousand glass fireflies, contracts and shrinks to a single point like the picture on an old TV after you turn it off. It’s something new every time every time. It’s great every time.
I’m being pulled, someone’s got my wrist and is dragging me up the beach. How’d I get so wet? It’s hard to see what’s going on through the murk and foam that keeps washing over my head and up my nose. The sand is still wet but the ocean is only swirling around my feet now. It’s all stars and black now and whoever had my arm let go while I was still hacking up salt water. I sit up and the world spins so hard I almost tip over again. Something is slipping into the waves – a tail? “Hey!” It stops and the waves recede into the ocean again, revealing something that is definitely not a person, it stares at me with glowing green eyes, like a cat’s.
It has something that falls from its head that resembles hair, but the individual strands are too thick and flat – like seaweed kind of. Its face is a little too angular and elongated to look human, but aside from that, and its giant tail, it looks a lot like a person – it even has some very human, very exposed knockers, but it doesn’t seem too worried about that.
Are you okay?
It’s in my head, and it’s not exactly words, but like an idea that’s just occurred to you. “How are you doing that?”
It’s how we speak. Underwater, it’s difficult to communicate with sound.
“Can you make sound at all?”
Yes, but it’s not used as our speech normally. She – it – whatever it is opens its mouth and lets out a sound like a thousand bottles scattered along the beach while the wind whips across them.
“So I’ve – seen you out here before.” I start to shiver, probably sobering up.
I know. You sleep here often.
“I pass out here often, yeah.” I laugh, but this mermaid thing doesn’t seem to get the joke. “Hey, do you want a drink?” I remembered I have a flask in one of the pockets on my shorts. I pull it out of my pocket and hold it out.
She pauses, then pulls herself further up the beach (she doesn’t walk on her hind legs, but scoots along with her hands and legs, dragging her tail behind her). Sure. She struggles with the cap, I open it, and she takes a drink. She grimaces. It’s hot.
“Yeah, it definitely is. It’s whiskey. Hey, I don’t want to be rude, but would you like to tell me where you came from?” We talked until the sun started to rise behind me. She told me about huge civilizations deep below the ocean where they build poo poo out of pearl and coral and sandstone and communicate with telepathy. We agreed to meet again the next day, she’d tell me more then.
Working at the Shell station sucks, especially when I’m hung over but, I’ll be honest, the prospect of learning about mermaids makes the day go by a little quicker. I take a few pulls off my flask, steal some Doritos and, before I know it, I’m off to the beach again. I’m not drinking as much either, which is probably good – it’s hard to fend off the shakes with so little though so I find myself catching up when I meet up with the mermaid, drinking my whole day’s normal portion during our nightly conversation.
“A giant crab? How giant is this crab, Ariel?” She told me I wouldn’t be able to say her name, so I started calling her Ariel. She’s confused why, but I finally give up trying to explain Disney to her.
Bigger than a bus.
“What? Holy poo poo! That is fuckin’ fantastic.” I’m pretty hammered tonight. Brought some 100 proof vodka for the special occasion, Craziest Animal You’ve Ever Seen Night. We started theming our nightly conversations. I take a long pull off the bottle and pass it towards her.
No thank you. I don’t like that kind very much. Are you feeling okay?
I can’t hold myself up anymore and I’ve slumped over onto my side, though I don’t really know when – can’t even focus anymore. Saul, what’s wrong? She pulls herself a little closer and leans over.
It’s like there are fish hooks inside my stomach, pulling in all different directions. My stomach clenches, convulses and vomit pours out into the surf, but there’s black in it too. It swirls around and mixes with the bubbles, past Ariel and into the ocean. I try to apologize, but vomit again – there’s more blood this time, all black and sticky.
Saul, what’s going on? She’s obviously concerned, but there’s very little emotion attached to telepathy, just a sense underlying the general idea. She’s really freaking out.
“Hey – “ more puke and bile. “Hey, bring me to your house.”
You can’t breathe underwater.
My stomach convulses but there’s not much left in it, just a thin stream of hot stomach acid and blood. “Fine. Just do it.”
I think I’m about to pass out, then she grips my ankle and drags me down the beach, into the water. We pick up speed and soon I can’t tell if I’m falling through water or air anymore. For a while, it’s pitch black, but then I become conscious of huge glowing shapes in the black – creatures I don't recognize swimming past me. There’s a city, bigger than anything I’ve ever seen and glowing brilliantly before dimming,then growing dark, like the picture tube in a busted TV. Finally, something new.
EDIT: hosed up Italics tags
monkeyboydc fucked around with this message at 04:39 on Apr 29, 2013
|# ¿ Apr 29, 2013 04:23|
Oh god, I'm in!
|# ¿ May 14, 2013 15:17|
Two Kinds of Spurs
Aiden woke up worried, but excited. His mind was made up - had been made up since he broke the taboo and began sleeping full nights. Every morning for the past two weeks, he awoke feeling alive, his brain a writhing nest of glowing-neon snakes. Since, he’d known he couldn’t go back to living the way he had been; he didn’t know how anyone could follow the Government Suggested Sleep Schedule.
Aiden checked for his keys a second time – of all days, this would be the worst to get locked out of the apartment. He walked to the Caffeine Machine perched on his countertop, pressed the plastic power button, lighting it red from within and setting the machine grinding and hissing before spitting out a clear liquid into the shot glass waiting below. He drained half and dumped the rest into the sink – still weaning himself off. He walked to the laundry room, but lingered at the shrine.
Posters made up the bulk of the spectacle, showing leather-clad men on horseback smoking rolled cigarettes. There were a few Cowboy and Indian play sets on a wood table and, in the center, a pair of old cowboy boots complete with spurs Clint Eastwood’s character wore in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. His dad couldn’t believe his good fortune when he bought them at a pawn shop (along with certificate of authenticity). Aiden’s dad had been the only person who cared that stuff still existed.
One morning they’d sat together at the kitchen table, drinking their caffeine mixed with cold glasses of orange juice. Aiden’s Dad spotted him glancing towards the collection and, as usual, seized his chance to quote his favorite western. “You know, there are two kinds of spurs... “
His dad died of heart failure a few years ago, just after Aiden turned 18.
He dared to look out the window for the first time since waking up. It looked out on the six lane freeway that ran in front of his apartment, then row upon row of businesses stretching back in ranks like a shark’s teeth, then the Earth curved and structures tall enough to wink over the edge were hidden in smog and atmosphere. Towering over everything else, were the mountains, stretching from one end of the horizon to the other. For the first time in Aiden’s life, the city was as quiet, empty and lonely as the mountains were. He was the only person in the world who was awake.
Aiden had been cheating. He’d starting going off schedule about two weeks ago. In theory, working all day every day allowed him to fill his nights with anything he wanted, but after even one full day of staying awake, alternating exhaustion with doses of pure energy to make your brain hum and keep your heavy eyelids up and your body moving one half hour at a time, you arrive home with a mind burning dimly, like a sad lantern, and can’t find the focus to do much of anything. Aiden usually drank as little caffeine as he could get away with and, one night while watching a western, he dozed off.
An outburst of cars honking on the freeway outside woke Aiden up twenty minutes before he normally left for work. While he should have been worried about getting to work on time, he fixated on how incredible he felt, how his body and head didn’t slowly pulse and ache, how quickly his mind moved from one thought to the next, and how simple the decision to sleep every night, instead of just Sunday, came to him.
Until today, he’d been too afraid to venture outside on a Sunday. Aiden opened the window and was amazed at the way the world smelled, like grass and wind, all normally covered up by car exhaust. He could hear birds and see a rabbit hopping around near the roadside. He had a new idea.
What if Aiden left, but didn’t return at sundown? What if he left and never came back? He began collecting non-perishable food from the cupboards. What if Aiden went out the front door and started walking towards the mountains? He went into his bedroom and stuffed a few changes of clothes into the hiking backpack his dad had bought him. Aiden now knew what the world looked like when it wasn’t crammed into a too-small suit, and he didn’t want to go back. He grabbed his toothbrush, a book from the shelf in the entryway, tested the weight of the bag and dropped it by the door. Aiden threw his keys into his bedroom from the kitchen and walked to the door, locking the knob from the inside. He put a pair of brown Converse hi-tops on and grabbed a jacket. There was more he needed to undo, there was more Aiden needed to live than just sleeping every night, and it was away from the city and its rules. As he was about to open the door and step outside, never to come back – Aiden stopped. He’d forgotten something.
Walking back towards the kitchen, Aiden stopped at the shrine and removed the spurs from the cowboy boots. Dropping to one knee, and then the other, Aiden strapped the spurs onto his hi tops, tightening them as much as he could on each shoe. “There we go.” He stood up and walked a few steps enjoying the ring of the spurs in their metal frame. “There are two kinds of spurs, the kind that sit on the shelf, and the kind that walk through the door.”
Aiden grabbed his bag and walked through the door, outside into the warm sunshine and the empty world. His sneakers sank into the drifts of cottonwood that built up against his front step. Aiden set off, walking in a straight line towards the mountains, across the road, between businesses and through people’s yards and neighborhoods accompanied by the soft clink, clink, clink of his dad’s cowboy spurs.
|# ¿ May 20, 2013 02:14|
Oh no, I actually kind of liked that story. I can't tell what's poo poo and not poo poo anymore! I look forward to you judges bringing the pain, I gotta know how to polish this turd.
monkeyboydc fucked around with this message at 15:10 on May 21, 2013
|# ¿ May 21, 2013 14:33|
MonkeyboyDC - Two kinds of spurs
Thank you for the crit sir. Yeah, I think I have a problem putting things down that don't need to be there and leaving things out that do. Practice and reading are the only things that will fix that I suppose.
Sign ups are closed.
Oh no! I thought tonight at midnight was the deadline. Serves me right for waiting to the last minute to join. Well, good luck everyone, and to you as well Noah - looks like you're going to have a lot of work for the weekend. The time I was going to re-write will be spent, at least partially, catching up on my drinking instead.
monkeyboydc fucked around with this message at 14:46 on May 24, 2013
|# ¿ May 24, 2013 14:23|
If you want in, I'll allow it.
Oh, definitely. Thanks! Time to edit this bitch
|# ¿ May 24, 2013 15:04|
|# ¿ Oct 19, 2021 19:13|
You awake yet Noah? Well, I had friends in town this weekend and didn't get to edit this down to 2000 words last night. I logged on today and saw you're leaving submissions open into this morning. It's dirty, but I had fun writing it - so here it is.
A Girl's Best Friend
Word Count: 1978
A bird that rained rainbow feathers soared up the street. The trail of peacock and crow and bluejay feathers ran from the abandoned house at the bottom of the cul de sac, where the odd beast must have taken off. The neighborhood kids stuffed the trophies into their pockets as they followed the creature’s jerky progress up the road. At the top of the street, the bird dropped, completely destroying the Lens’s mailbox on impact.
The neighborhood kids gathered around the crash site and marveled, at least until Mister Lens cleared them away and called the police, at the sight before them. Wrapped up in a tangle of metal and string, kite and feathers - like some bizarre peacock - was an elderly woman, crumpled and still. Several feet from where she’d crashed, the kids discovered two large, metal keys. Feathers still littered the concrete all the way to the abandoned house at the bottom of the road.
While Claire was still young, her dog grew old and began to die. He was the best dog, the kind that stays right by your side when you go on walks. One time, he even put himself between her and a raccoon that they’d found in the forest, growling deep in his chest while Claire ran back to the forest’s entrance. At the age of ten, her heart broke for the first time as Josh slowly declined, his liver getting so sick that Claire’s mom and dad had to have him put to sleep.
“Where is he going?” She’d been crying since her parents told her, and barely got the words out between hiccupping sobs. The idea of taking him away, still alive, seemed too cruel.
“He’s going to a better place sweetie,” said her dad before picking Josh up under the legs (which wasn’t easy being the German Shepard mix that he was), carried him to the car, and drove away.
Imagine Claire’s surprise when, while sitting at her window the next night, she saw Josh in the front yard of the abandoned house at the bottom of the road. There, amongst the tall grass, was her Josh sniffing around like a big, brown cloud. If she’d had any doubts, they vanished when Josh stopped, raised his head, and looked straight into her eyes from his place down the street. Without telling anyone, Claire grabbed a coat, crept down the stairs (staying close to the wall to avoid creaks), opened the door (lifting up on the hinge to reduce noise) and walked into the cool summer night.
She kept expecting for him to be gone as she walked down the moonlit street to the abandoned house, that she was just seeing what she wanted to see. But no, she almost started crying again when she saw Josh snuffling around the house’s overgrown porch. She ran over the sidewalk and down the house’s weed cracked walkway – stopping a few feet before her best friend. “Josh?”
Josh turned, and Claire immediately noticed the strange key hanging from his collar. “Claire, I’m glad I get to see you again.”
This was odd; Josh had never spoken before. Claire looked around and began to wonder if she’d fallen asleep earlier and this was all a dream. She even turned to look at her window up the road, almost expecting to see herself slumped in her chair, but no, there was nothing. “Josh, how are you talking?” She was nervous to ask, afraid of the strangeness of the situation. This was Josh though, and he wouldn’t hurt her.
“There aren’t a lot of rules, the way I am now. I have to go, Claire. I just was hoping to see you again before I did.” He turned and walked towards the door of the abandoned house, the key on his collar jingling as he walked.
“Wait! Can I go with you?” Later in life, Claire might have valued her own future more than a pet, but at ten years old, there was nothing more important. Josh had been three when she was born and they’d grown up together. She wanted to keep her friend even though she had an idea that, once she went into the house, she couldn’t come back.
“Are you sure, Claire?”
“Of course.” They both knew what was at stake so, without further discussion, Claire grabbed Josh’s collar, and they walked through the door.
The house didn’t look different from what you’d expect from an abandoned house, at first anyways. There was a long hallway with dozens of doors on either side when you walked in through the front door, but Claire soon found they were locked. Josh sniffed the floor until he sat at the bottom of the stairs leading to the second floor. “Claire, I think we need to go up.”
At the top of the staircase was a white door and, once Claire saw it, she knew that Josh had been right, they needed to go through it. They walked up the creaking stairs, Claire turned the door knob (she noticed that Josh’s key glowed whenever they opened a door) and they stepped through, into a lush forest.
Josh and Claire walked through the forest for what felt like hours, seeing no signs of life along the way. Right when they were about to stop, to try and figure out how they should proceed, or if they should go back, there was a fluttering sound and a glossy crow landed on a branch just above Claire’s head. “Hey!” The crow’s shout sounded like a mix between speech and a caw.
Already not sure if she liked this crow, Claire decided she should still ask for help. “Excuse me, Crow. Do you know how we can get out of this forest and back to the house?” Josh pressed closer to Claire’s leg and she could tell he too was wary of the bird.
“Hello little girl. You realize that you are still in the house, right? I can show you the way to get to the second floor, but you’ll need that key to proceed. Only those who are supposed to be here can continue to other floors – those who have a key that is. Silly me, I flew in through a window while it was raining many years back, and have been stuck between the first and second floor ever since.”
“You need a key? Will I be able to go the next floor then? My friend is the one with the key.” She gestured towards Josh.
“Hmm, perhaps. You two were friends in life, correct?” The crow cocked his head.
“We're best friends,” said josh, a soft growl underlying his words.
“Well then maybe the key will work for both of you. It got you both inside after all, didn’t it?” And with that, the crow flew into the woods, alighting on a branch a hundred feet further in. “Well? Let’s go then.”
Claire and Josh followed the crow through the woods until they got to a door that looked exactly like the one they’d walked through at the top of the first floor, set into the trunk of a large tree.
“Alright Claire. Take the key from Josh’s collar, and unlock the door with it. Then you two should be able to go to the next floor.”
It was strange that, this time, she had to take the key off Josh’s collar, but the Crow knew the rules to this house better than she did. She unhooked the key from Josh’s collar, and walked towards the door. Suddenly, the crow flew at Claire’s face, flapping and cawing. Claire covered her eyes, and the crow’s talons tore at her hands – grabbing the key from her. Josh snarled and tried to jump to bite the crow, but it evaded him. Crow flew for the door.
Hands still bloody, Claire bent down, picked up a rock at her feet, and threw it as hard as she could – it struck the crow hard and he dropped to the ground just feet from the door. Josh was on him in a second, tearing and snarling, sending feathers flying. Josh stopped, muzzle covered in blood, when he saw a key protruding from the crow’s beak. Claire bent, and slowly pulled the silver key from the crow’s mouth. They didn’t talk about what had happened – it had been necessary. Claire threaded Josh’s key back onto his collar, and they used the Crow’s Key to continue onto the second floor of the house.
On each floor, there was a staircase that led to a door, which led to a place altogether different from the house. There was a large meadow between the second and third floors where a Bluejay tried to convince them that he had a collection of keys he could share with them because it would be so much safer to have extras, just in case. The Bluejay lied though and tried to swap Josh’s keys for brass keys. When Josh refused, the bluejay tried to take it, but it didn’t stand a chance against both Claire and Josh. They had another silver key – one to open the door, and another to proceed.
This pattern continued for a long time – between each floor they’d meet an animal who’d accidentally gotten into the house, it would try to steal their key, and either Claire or Josh would be forced to kill it. It was all birds – only they could fly in through the house’s upper windows. From each animal, Claire took several of its feathers and tucked them in her bag, reminders of what they’d had to do to be together.
As they travelled, Claire began to feel different. Her legs were longer and her hair brushed the lower part of her back. Her arms were stronger and she could travel for longer periods of time. After what felt like years, they reached the top floor – Claire was middle aged. When they got to the attic, Claire was sore and had trouble keeping up with Josh. By the time they figured out how to get to the roof, Claire was feeble and elderly. Josh, with his key, did not age at all.
The strangest part was that, there was no door on the roof. Claire laid in a corner breathing softly while Josh sniffed around, trying to find a way onwards, but there was nowhere else to go. The only thing at all was a kite stuck in a weathervane. Just when Josh became convinced that Claire would die – he realized what he had to do. “Claire, you still have all those feathers, right?”
“Yes.” Her voice was soft, like it was coming from the bottom of a well. She opened her bag and showed Josh all the feathers. Josh ran and clamped his jaws around the weathervane, yanking with all his strength until it came free – the kite trailed along with it. Josh’s plan, was to make Claire fly, using the kite, the weathervane and the feathers. There was a magic to Josh and Claire’s urgency that they weaved into the device as well. With the last of Claire’s strength, he helped her into the contraption and walked with her to the edge of the roof. Before she left, Josh gave her his key. She fell, and the wind caught her, like a kite, carrying her up the street. When the device finally fell apart, and she plummeted to the ground, she dropped not one, but two keys – hers and Josh’s.
The only way to continue on, was to open a door. There was only the front door now. Josh hoped that, if Claire’s and Josh’s keys were used on the front door, she might be returned to him and they might be allowed to continue on. They'd broken the rules though, and he wasn't sure if it would work at all. He waited, alone, for the neighborhood children to make their way to the door with Josh and Claire's keys.
EDIT: Word Count
monkeyboydc fucked around with this message at 17:11 on May 27, 2013
|# ¿ May 27, 2013 16:57|