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M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Cerise, please.

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M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Color: Cerise
Noyaux de cerise
Word Count: 1112

Kristoff had held out long enough. He would drink this night.

He had been keeping tabs on the news. Media attention on the city’s missing women had started to quiet down. It would have been easier to go after the vagrants – the city certainly didn’t lack them. City didn’t care much for them either. He had a go at a homeless man before – the taste was repugnant. Kristoff swore he would never drink from another.

For him, it was the blood of teenage girls that filled him, although the occasional nubile twenty-something sufficed. The cliché of his drinking habits were a perennial source of derision during Society gatherings, but over four centuries of the same prey had long drowned out any embarrassment he might otherwise feel about his drinking disposition. A young girl’s blood had that nuance, a kind of terroir that he couldn’t be find in anything else. The taste of innocence was ambrosia to him, and it was futile to fight against taste.

It was half past two. A few minutes into scouring the streets, he found sustenance: a girl walked the street alone. In spite of the moonless night and dim streetlamps, Kristoff saw her as though she was lit by daylight. He was relieved to see that the girl was neither disreputable nor drunk – qualities which polluted flavor. She was either in her last year of a high school, or possibly a freshman. It struck Kristoff as odd that a girl her age was walking alone at this time of night. Wasn’t she even wary of the unsavory mortals of this hour? Even worse, she was engrossed in her smartphone, barely paying any heed to the streets. No matter. She would be grateful that he would make her end painless.

The girl wore a tartan cap, a pea coat, and jeans. All of them in dark, muted hues, save her scarf. It was a vivid violet, tinged with a hint of red. There was something deliciously alluring about the scarf. In the night breeze, it waved invitingly at Kristoff, as though beckoning him to peel it off and expose the lithe neck that awaited him.

The thought sent Kristoff into a frenzy. In a span of second, he swept a span of three blocks, before seizing the girl from behind. His left hand clamped over the girl’s mouth, while his right snaked above her waist and over her arms, trapping them. Kristoff bit down on the scarf. Jerking his head in a way would have afflicted whiplash on the living, he tore it off, then sank his fangs into the girl’s neck.

After a prolonged fast, blood always seems to taste sweeter, but what now flowed into Kristoff was unlike anything he had dared to imagine. A feeling of warmth and euphoria swept over him. He felt his eyes roll back and lost himself in a flourish of gratifying dreams that flooded his consciousness. When the reverie ended, he forgot how many dreams he had dreamt, let alone what the dreams were. Except for the last one. The last one was a nightmare.

The nightmare made him to come to, and he immediately sensed a chill, numbing sensation seeping into his fangs. He willed his fangs to retract, but they remained adamantly embedded in the girl’s neck. More disconcerting to him was the awareness that he was no longer trying to drain the girl, yet his fangs involuntarily continued to draw fluid.

Panicking, Kristoff shoved the girl away from him. A spurt of blood jutted out as he wrenched his fangs free from her neck. The girl dropped, but caught herself with her hands as she hit the ground. Kristoff stumbled back, then touched his blood soaked fangs. He still could not retract them, and he began to feel his entire jaw stiffening. He looked at the blood that his fingers had wiped off. The color was not the red of human blood. It was the color of the scarf.

Kristoff looked at the girl, who groggily collected her smartphone, and what remained of her scarf. He took a step towards her, and felt his muscles stiffen. Upon his next step, he collapsed. The girl was now standing over Kristoff. With considerable effort, he twisted his increasingly stiffening body to look up at her. She held a strip of her scarf against the spot where Kristoff had bitten, silently staring down at him with unblinking eyes of contempt.

Kristoff writhed in fury. He attempted to yell at the girl, but with his mouth locked agape, he only managed a pathetic hissing noise, and it was not long before he was unable to muster even that. Gradually, his writhing diminished until he was finally still. The girl continued to stare at him for a minute before kneeling down and bringing her smartphone up to Kristoff’s eyes. A bright light shone out, and she confirmed that his pupils constricted. She stood up and walked a few steps away. Although no longer in his sight, Kristoff could hear the soft taps of the girl’s fingers as she dialed a number on her smartphone. Kristoff heard the ringtone, and then an answer.

“Sylvie?”

“Bring the van. I’ve got him. Pick up point at Keefe and Seventh.”

“Done.”

Sylvie pocketed her smartphone. A few minutes passed before a white van swung by, parking beside Sylvie and the paralyzed vampire. From the side, the van bore the sign: WALTZ MOBILE DENTISTRY LTD. On its license plate were the characters “VNHL5NG.” A heavy set man stepped out, and walked over to Sylvie.

“Well, poo poo! Didn’t think we’d catch the fucker this soon. Nice work! You okay? I’ve got the IV dip ready if you need it.”

“I’ll get back to you on that. Let’s chuck this douchebag into the van first.”

“Douchebag, eh? He pissed you off that bad?”

“Didn’t even have the decency to try and seduce me. Wrecked my scarf as well.”

“The cerise one?”

“Yeah.”

“What a dick.”

“I know.”

“Hey, take it easy and head into the van. I’ll get him secured in the restraints. I picked up bubble tea for you as well.”

“Thanks! Wait. There’s a place that sells bubble tea after two in the morning?”

“Yeah. It’s that twenty-four café that opened up last week. They do bubble tea as well. I’ll show you where it is as we head back.”

Sylvie made her way into the van, while the man hauled the limp vampire and restrained him into the back cell of the van. When he was finished, he made his way back to the driver seat, and drove off while Sylvie sipped on cherry bubble tea.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Lessons learned: A weak finish got you served a beatdown by your hacked off limbs. If your anti-hero is going to fail, at least eclipse him with a worthy antagonist.
Action plan: Cauterize the flesh stumps. Don yourself with battle prosthesis. Fight again.


Much obliged on the critique. No confirmation just yet to do battle for week LI, but perusing threads for possibilities.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In with Stuff you did as a kid that you're ashamed of

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Small Game
1000 Words
Based on the thread: Stuff you did as a kid that you're ashamed of


Alex tiptoed through the grass as he cradled his rifle. With his pith hat tilted against the sun, he looked at the cat ahead of him, lazily sprawled out and unaware of him. He pumped his rifle, aimed, and fired.

A stream of water blasted out, followed by a shrieking sound that pierced the neighbourhood.

“Gotcha!” Alex shouted triumphantly.

The cat shot up and darted across the lawn. As Alex twirled around to follow the cat, his pith hat, which had belonged to his grandfather, slipped over his eyes. When he tilted it back up, the cat was gone.

Alex sighed. As much as he loved the Super Soaker that he got for his birthday, it was so boring not having anyone close by to have water gun fights with. The next best thing was “water hunting,” which was beginning to feel less and less fun. His got yelled at when the old witch lady two houses away complained to his father after he sprayed her poodle dog, which never shut up. From then on, his father ordered him not to shoot anything outside of their backyard, or else.

Alex decided to check out their backyard apple tree, thinking that he might shoot an apple off with his water gun. As he was crossing the lawn, he saw a flash of brown flit into the tree. He began pressurizing his water gun as he made his way towards the tree. Under the canopy, he looked up and saw two sparrows hopping from branch to branch, chirping rapidly. One seemed to be slightly larger than the other. Alex gradually raised his Super Soaker as he waited for a lull in their frenetic movement. Seeing them pause, Alex aimed and pulled the trigger.

As the Super Soaker blasted another round of water, Alex strafed his rifle side to side, catching both sparrows in one stream. At the first touch of water, the larger one took flight. The smaller one gave its body a brisk shrug, but stayed perched on the branch. Alex looked at it quizzically. He pumped his water gun again, expecting the sparrow to make a break for it. He fired at the sparrow again. The sparrow shrugged itself again.

“Why won’t you fly away?” Alex wondered out loud.

Pressurizing what water was left, Alex emptied the remainder of the Super Soaker at the sparrow.

“Come on. Fly!”

The sparrow gave a flutter, jumping off the branch, then down onto the grass. Alex put his Super Soaker down, then knelt down by the sparrow. Hesitantly, Alex brought his fingers close to it. Seeing that it didn’t flinch, he gently stroked its feathers. He brought his fingers down to the sparrow’s feet, and excitedly gasped as the sparrow latched onto to his thumb finger. He held it up to his face.

“You’re still learning to fly, aren’t you?” Alex whispered. “I didn’t know. I didn’t think a water gun would… I’m so sorry!”

Back from his house, Alex heard his father calling out for him. He looked up at the apple tree again. If he could get the sparrow back up there again, maybe everything would be okay. He had never climbed a tree before though, and with a bird on his finger, he didn’t want to risk getting himself, or the sparrow hurt. If he could somehow launch it back up…

“Listen,” Alex whispered, “I’m going to swing my hand up to give you a boost. You’re going to have to jump off and get back up. After that, all you have to is wait for your mom or dad to come back, then everything will be fine!”

Alex stood up, causing the sparrow to flare out its wings for balance. He stretched his arm out and began swinging it up and down, gradually widening the depth of each swing. Finally, he lowered his hand down as low as he could, then threw his hand up. The sparrow fluttered its wings, but kept its grip on Alex’s thumb.

“You’ve got to do this!” Alex whispered, “I would you take you back to my house if I could, but if my dad found out... No, you’ll make it.”

Alex tried again. This time, the sparrow jumped off, but came nowhere near any of the branches, before landing back on the ground.

“Okay, that was better. You just need to keep trying and then you’ll—“

“ALEX!”

Alex turned around just as his father was swinging open the door of their house.

“I’m sick and tired of having to call you in for dinner. What are you doing anyway?

Alex shuffled slightly, putting himself between his father and the sparrow.

“I… I was trying to pick off an apple with the water gun”

“That’s stupid. The apples aren’t even ripe! Leave them alone, and get inside!”

His father slammed the door. Letting out a deep breath, Alex turned back to the sparrow, which was still standing on the grass. With a worried look, Alex took off his pith hat and balanced it
upside-down against the trunk of the tree. He had the sparrow grasp his thumb again, before softly nudging it into the hat.

“I have to go for dinner, but I’ll be back, okay?” assured Alex, “I’ll get you something to eat when I come back!”

Alex rushed back home for dinner. At the supper table, he tried to eat as fast as he could, but was scolded into eating slower. Finishing his meal, Alex grabbed a box of crackers from the kitchen cupboard before making his way out of the house. Opening the door to the backyard, he saw the hat by the tree where he had placed it. Standing over it was the cat he had previously soaked.

“NO!” Alex screamed.

Hearing his scream, the cat darted away. Alex rushed towards the apple tree. With a feeling of intense dread, he looked into the hat. It was empty.

Alex dropped down against the apple tree and began to cry.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Surprised to have jumped from dishonorable to honorable mention in the span of two stories, although it feels like I took the easy way out choosing a thread that played to my strengths. Much obliged for the crits, Erogenous Beef.

Need to research this week's topics to assess whether I have the right armaments for this fight.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Oreo Hunter
991 Words

Three rules to follow if you’re jackin' in to Mecca Voodoo:

1. What plays in the hub, stays in the hub. Trade. Groove. Pray. Whatever you do here, don’t be spoutin' about it flesh side.

2. Nobody stirs poo poo. Council ain’t give a drat about what beef’s goin' on between the North Coast and South Side, or that some Sweat hosed some Tomb’s sister. This here’s a respectable hub. You come here, you best be gentlemanly about it.

3. Unless Council clears you, blacks only. MV has and always will be for the Brothers and Sisters, and security will biometricize your rear end to be sure.

Course, no stoppin’ fools tryin’ to mess with the rules. “This is why we can’t have nice things.” gently caress that poo poo. ScryHound and the Scour Crew been keepin’ things sacred since CatastAPOC. Ain’t no sucka who hasn’t been made to pay for fuckin’ with MV. Like the last chump we dealt with.

Four months back, muthafucka was here with Psychlone. Nasty stuff. It ain’t take much to lobefuck a brain to stew. I’ve seen hubs turn ghost cause of this poo poo. Vidcap catches an avatar with South Sider getup coding PsyC to a shot of U4ium. Served it to the North Coast Lieutenant. Need I remind ya’ll that the N/S Truce Talks was happening at this time?

Some sonuvabitch leaks the vidcap. Pole War IV gets underway, but Council calls for three days of chill while the Scour Crew investigates this poo poo. Crew confirms avatar had South Side signature. But ScryHound tells everyone to rewatch the vidcap. Sucka gesticulatin', but it ain’t South style vocab he’s gesturin'. Jack-in address is proxy-façaded by fancy tech no one’s seen before. Now ScryHound ain’t the type to dress in tinfoil, but even he says there’s some conspiracy poo poo going on, and it’s enough to get North and South to lower their guns.

Like I said, this muthafucka used some fancy tech to proxy-façade their rear end, but don’t make it untraceable. Took a few days, but Scour Crew traced the jack-in to a shithole apartment in San Angeles. Council sends muscle to pay the box a visit flesh side. Turns up empty, but a perceptive muscle sights a cam out on the street turned to the box. Scour Crew hacks it and checks the archive footage the day the LT’s brain turned goo. Here’s where it gets interesting: vid shows a chump jackin in from that room. He’s a cracka. Scour Crew does a double-take, but the jack in/out times on the vid match the in/out times to MV. Whatever tech this hacka had, it was good enough to spoof MV’s biometric check, and that ain’t an easy feat.

Council convenes a meeting with North and South’s top crew. Evidence gets presented, and they’re just about ready to post a dual-bounty. They want the rear end of this white muthafucka, even if they gotta split a cheek a piece. ScryHound talks them out of it, says his clairvoyant vibe knows this whole thing was set up to scuttle the truce. Post bounties, and this sucka’s gone for good. So he tells North and South to act like they don’t know about this. Keep the truce talks goin’ but posture like the gloves’ll come off at the next provocation. ScryHound’s knows that’ll tempt the muthafucka back.

Two weeks fly, and Scour Crew picks up a jack-in with some fancy proxy-façade. Muthafucka came back the day South Side had a christenin' ceremony for their Chief’s nephew in the Bazaar sector. ScryHound and his best Scour Crew go in. Everyone’s keepin' it discreet, scopin the crowd. They sight a South Side avatar scoutin' around by one of the sensorium kiosks. Ain't look right. Scour Crew runs a signature check on the guy, and it comes back North Coast. Nice touch with the double bluff. ScryHound and a Scour Crew homie walk up to the hacka. Went down like this:

“Yo, got a bet with my main man here. Who you think’s takin’ plat for the G-Zero Royale?”

“Say what?”

“Ya gotta hand it to See-4, that dawg’s got some fresh beats. Especially his last track. What’s it called again?”

“How the gently caress should I know, nigga? I ain’t some goddamn pedia. Now get the gently caress off outta—”

Before the fool finishes, the Scour Crew homie whips out his neural blaster and lets the hacka have it. The beam of light it shoots looks like weak poo poo, but you catch one bit of that ray, you’ll wish you had both kneecaps busted instead. Chump goes down screamin. ScryHound hauls him up.

“Alright motherfucker. This bullshit ends now. Who sent you?”

“I… I don’t know what ya’ll talkin about.”

Scour Crew guy shoots another ray at the hacka. Somewhere around the globe, some punk-rear end is spittin' blood outta his ears.

“Stop! Oh God! Stop, man! I… I got the orders from North Coast… it was retaliation for the hit on the LT.”

“You lying sonofa… Set the blaster to max.”

“What!? I’m tellin the truth! Check my signature!”

“Your signature is poo poo, same as your biometrics. We know your rear end ain’t black!”

“But that’s… H—How did you find out?”

“I ask the questions motherfucker!” Scryhound grabs the blaster from the Scour Crew homie and shoves it under the hacka’s chin.

“NOW WHO loving SENT YOU?!”

My bet is this is when the punk-rear end muthafucka shat his pants. Chump is about to say somethin'. Then all of sudden, his eyes goes white, and he goes limp. Scryhound’s pissed. He tosses the avatar at the wall and it shatters.

Never did find out who sent the hacka. Scryhound and the Scour Crew got props by the heads of South Side and North Coast. Three weeks later, truce broke down and they went to war. gently caress that poo poo. So long as people know you don’t gently caress around in MV and get away with it, things are cool.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

I expect to incur the simultaneous wrath of both the story crafting and history gods.

However paltry, if not offensive, my offering will be, I am in.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Red and Black
1192 words

The end of civilization smells pleasant. We have the Palace to thank for that – it’s been on fire for the last two days, filling the air with the aroma of its woods. Not quite frankincense, but fitting to the occasion: at least one hundred thousand of us have been slaughtered thus far. I will be added to the numbers.

***

On the twenty-second day of Muharram, the Tartars surrounded the city. I was in the House of Wisdom as the trebuchets pounded our city walls to dust. I stayed at my desk, translating the final thoughts of a Roman emperor. Around me, I overheard some of the others talking about escaping the city. I rebuked them:

“Right now, ‘the ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of martyrs.’ Unless your inkwells are dry, there is no reason to die early. Now get back to your qalams!”

They ignored me, as they usually did. I knew many of them whispered behind my back that I was borderline kafir because of my love for books, regardless of origin. None of them had the courage to say it to my face though. Many had tried leaving before the caliph issued the surrender. The Tartars cut off their escape, then cut them to pieces.

***

The Tartars rode into the city on the seventh day of Safar. The first screams roused me from my desk. I hobbled over to top the arch balcony that overlooked the city. Our streets were being drenched in red. Women. Children. Elderly. Lame. No one was spared, save a few of the fairer women. I wish I could say theirs was a better fate.

Behind me, I heard the shuffle of sandals as Yusouf joined me by the balcony. Looking at the massacre, he shook his head.

“They are the scourge of God, sent to punish us for our sins.”

I turned to face him.

“Oh really?” I scoffed. I pointed to a scene at random: A Tartar dangled a screaming infant upside-down in front of his mother, as soldiers took turns raping her. With his free hand, the Tartar drew his sword and cleaved the infant in two. He then began to eat the body.

“Explain to me, Yusouf, what kind of sin befits that from God.”

Yusouf fell silent. I brought my cane up to his face, forcing him to take a step back.

“Do not tell me that these barbarians serve God’s purpose, or God help me, I will thrash you with this.”

What further conversation we might have had was interrupted as an arrow pierced the air between us. We retreated into the House just as more arrows rained down. Within the House, we heard a commotion coming from the main entrance. The remaining scholars were frantically trying to prop bookshelves against the doors.

"Truly, the time of God when it comes, cannot be delayed," uttered Yusouf.

I wanted to smash Yusouf’s head, but reflecting on the work I was translating, I steadied myself and hobbled back to resume my study of that pagan emperor’s thoughts.

***

Contrary to Yusouf’s quotation of the Book, the barricade delayed the inevitable by about a day. It gave me enough time to finish my translation. Not a bad book to read before death. One passage resonated with me:

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. [In my commentary, I added: “They will even try to butcher you.”] They are like this because they can't tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own—not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine.

I heard the crash of bookshelves being tipped over, followed by screams, then the thud of several footsteps. A sudden quiet took over, before a call came out in a strange Arabic accent:

“Those of you who wish to die relatively painlessly, come to the foyer now.”

I made my way down. A soldier spotted me and ordered me to join my colleagues huddled by the entrance. Nine soldiers menaced over us. I counted our own numbers: we were a mere twenty-nine from the over two hundred that once served the House. Ibrahim the astronomer was the one who had screamed. Two of the scholars attended to him as they attempted to keep his intestines from spilling out. A moment later, our numbers dwindled to twenty-eight.

Heavy clomps made their way from the inner library towards the foyer. The soldiers stood to attention as a horse carrying the most hideous of the Tartar arban strode through. Beside him walked a nervous looking Chinese man. The commander surveyed us. As he caught sight of my leg and cane, he sneered.

The commander issued a rapid string of blunt syllables. When he finished, the Chinese man spoke:

“We offered you the chance to surrender with your lives spared. Your caliph forfeited that offer. The weakness of your God is obvious. Do as you’re told for your final hour, and your deaths will be merciful.”

The commander grinned at us with gap-filled teeth. Another set of ugly syllables spat out of his maw.

“There are carts outside this building. Begin by filling them with your books.”

His horse took a poo poo on the carpet before galloping out. We began to gut our library.

***

We are outside the wall. It looks like they are taking us outside of the city to be killed. We wonder why, having seen thousands of our dead still rotting within. No one dares to ask the Tartars.

Those of us with strength take turns wheeling out the carts carrying our books. We march eastbound towards the Tigris. As we near the river, I hear the gasps of my colleagues. My eyes are weak, and I fail to see it at first. When I do, I fall to my knees.

The Tigris is black. Piles upon piles of books from the other libraries have already been cast in, stretching from one end of the river to the other. Over a millennium and a half of knowledge spanning the four corners of the world is bleeding out into its waters, never to be known again.

I scream.

The commander dismounts and kicks me in the head. As I lay on the ground, I reflect back to the Roman emperor.

The wrongdoer has a nature related to my own … the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine.

The thought repeats in my mind, and I start to laugh. The Tartar commander hauls me off the ground, as I continue laughing. Looking at me, he laughs too. He stops laughing when I spit in his eyes.

“You fools will never know the world, or God, as we did. May God drat you to the eternal shadow of ignorance!”

I forfeit the luxury of an easy death. My hands and feet are chained to four horses. They pull.

I do not scream.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER


I'm not satisfied I hit the flash rule, and for that reason I demand a flash rule right off the bat for the next prompt. The problem I feel is that he's less of an rear end in a top hat from flaunting his knowledge, and more out of being abrasive. It's also conspicuous that for an Islamic scholar, there's no reference to any of the great thinkers from his own culture.

The ghost of Edward Said should be haunting me for this piece.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In and requesting a flash rule.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Holiday Break
1160 words

Exams were over. Christmas was coming. Nothing suggested to Crusader Christian Fellowship that anything but holiday cheer was headed their way.

In the after-school hours of the college auditorium, the fellowship of twenty-seven broke out in rousing singspiration. After Max the worship leader finished with the opening prayer, there was an awkward moment of silence as everyone waited for Tobias the fellowship director to begin Bible study. He wasn’t in the room. Just as Vince volunteered to call and check on him, Tobias plodded in, his head hung low. Jane walked up to Tobias and placed her hands on his shoulders, to no effect. His eyes remained fixed to the floor for some time before he looked up and addressed the fellowship.

“Brothers and sisters, I have sad news. As you all know, ‘Cookies and Caroling’ has been a Crusader tradition since our founding, and Antioch College has always warmed to the reminder of what Christmas is really about. Last year however, a complaint was filed to the Club Director. Apparently… someone was offended by it.”

“Offended by what?” guffawed Rick, “Sue’s singing? Or Todd’s baking?”

“Hey!”

“This is no laughing matter, Rick. This… individual sent a letter to the Club Director accusing us of imposing our faith upon her through our ‘religious propaganda’.”

Several cries of “What!?” and a “no way!” were uttered.

“Now because this involved last year’s Christmas, the club union postponed ruling on it, almost forgetting about it altogether. But with Christmas upon us, the issue came back to light and reintroduced for deliberation.”

Tobias looked to the ceiling before letting out a heavy breath.

“We’re not approved for ‘Cookies and Caroling’ this Christmas."

The fellowship erupted.

“Absolutely ludicrous!”

“What is this world coming to?”

"This is horsesh— poop."

Tobias raised his hands.

“Everyone please settle down!”

“We already bought all the ingredients for our baking,” sniveled Gwen, “what are we supposed to do with them now?”

“We can still bake and share cookies around campus. However, under no circumstance are the cookies to be shaped or decorated in any way suggestive of a scene or character from the Nativity.”

The fellowship erupted once more, before a composed voice silenced everyone.

“There is no darn way that anyone dictates how I make cookies for God.”

All eyes turned to Mallory. She looked at Tobias with a determined stare.

“No one’s dictating anyone’s cookies,” Tobias assured, “I negotiated with the club union and we can still make Nativity cookies however we want—”

“But no nuts?”

“—Right. Steve. We can make Nativity cookies. Nutless. But if we do, we’ll only be allowed to be eat them here.”

Everyone but Mallory groaned.

“No, no, no! We can still make it work! In fact, I think this will encourage us to invite people to the auditorium this year. We’ll still be able to share songs and cookies!”

“How would that make it work?” argued Mallory, “the point of ‘Cookies and Caroling’ is to be out proclaiming the good news. We’re not doing that if we’re caged in here. It goes against everything we stand for as Crusaders for Christ!”

“Mallory, I know you’re upset. We all are. But sometimes, we have to make sacrifices.”

“No. We make sacrifices for Christ, not against Him. Especially not on His birthday.”

“Well actually,” mused Steve, “most scholars think that Jesus was most likely born between Mar—”

Mallory silenced Steve with a glare. She turned back to Tobias.

“This is God’s holiday we’re talking about. His holy day. How can you let Crusader Christian Fellowship be shoved around like this?”

“I’m not letting them shove us. I tried reasoning with the union, and I prayed really hard that they would make the right choice.”

“I don’t doubt that you prayed, but you have to remember: prayer without action is meaningless. I mean, seriously, you nearly let the Muslim Association pressure us into changing our name this summer. A name we’ve had for over twenty years!”

“I… I was trying to be conciliatory.”

“You almost wiped out our identity.”

No one talked for a moment. Jill broke the silence, coughing lightly before speaking.

“Mallory… what do you suggest we do instead?”

“Forget what the union says,” Mallory replied firmly, “we go on with ‘Cookies and Caroling’.”

Anxious murmurs filled the room.

“If we do that,” Tobias warned, “we could lose our club status.”

“So what?”

“T-That would mean losing our monthly stipend. We’d also lose permission to hold fellowship anywhere on campus.”

“‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s’,” replied Mallory, “What did we learn from the China documentary? Is Christianity happening in the government sanctioned churches? No! It’s happening in hidden, dank basements. In rooms a tenth the size of this one, crammed with fifty people or more. Ask yourselves: does Crusader Christian Fellowship depend on club unions, or on God?”

The question prompted some nods of approval, while a few rubbed their chins. Others frowned.

“Don’t you think this is rather extreme?” ventured Liz, “it’s just songs and cookies after all…”

“It’s not just songs and cookies,” voiced Jeff, “it’s ‘Cookies and Caroling’ for God. And I think Mallory is onto something. Think about what’s happened this past year: our Good Friday display was cancelled because it featured ‘too much blood’. Did the club union listen to us when we voiced our concerns about the Halloween rave? And now this! We need to show everyone that no matter what we face, the only thing we fear is God.”

“Jeff, please don’t imply that the campus is out to persecute us.”

“Oh I’m not implying it. Unless you’re blind, the evidence speaks for itself.”

The fellowship broke down in argument as people talked over one another. Tobias stood mortified, unable to say anything. He raised his hands, trying to get everyone’s attention. Only one person noticed.

“Everyone quiet.”

Everyone did. All eyes turned to Mallory again.

“The fellowship director has something tell us.”

“Yes, er, thank you, Mallory. This is obviously an issue that we feel very strongly about. Because our emotions are running high, let’s wait until the end of the day before we pray on it.”

“We need to pray,” replied Mallory, “but we need act as well, and fast. Please tell everyone what you intend Crusader Christian Fellowship do for this Christmas”

“I… I don’t know yet.”

“Toby, we really need someone who does know. I know this has been really stressful for you, so maybe it’s best if someone else take over as director, at least for this month. How does that sound?”

Tobias looked to the floor.

“Sure. I guess that works.”

“Alright. Hands up all in favour?”

Tobias couldn’t bring himself to see the hands that went up.

“Then it’s settled. We’ll vote for an interim fellowship director for this Wednesday’s meeting. Vince, make sure you e-mail everyone who’s not here today about it. Toby?”

Tobias lifted his eyes.

“Let’s get started on today’s Bible study!”


[edit]Sonuvabitch, missed one word that I wanted italicized. Hence the post fuckery[/edit]

M. Propagandalf fucked around with this message at Aug 18, 2013 around 18:46

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Imagination phase of Starkhall Training Academy for Truancy Investigations and Corrections (STATIC) is complete. An envoy of judicators has been dispatched by the Thunderdome Tribunal to conduct an on-site inspection. Suffer their indignities. Approval is vital.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

To whoever has been making the deadline effective PST rather than EST, I thank ye kindly.

Trackers
1429 words
Flash rule: All departments must have acronyms that work - Failed (sorry)

The lights are dimmed as the projection screen shows the grainy image of a man in military regalia. His right arm crosses his chest as his chin juts at the sky. As his picture flickers up front of the class theater, the blare of brass and percussive instruments courses through the public address system of Starkhall Training Academy for Truancy Investigations and Corrections. Candidate 15 of Division 2, stands chanting with her fellow candidates as Starkhall’s anthem closes with its final lines:

Children are Resources
Children are Future

Preserve our Resources
Preserve our Future

Preserve Yourselves


The music fades out and the projection screen rolls up. Cold light refills the room. The D2 instructor walks to the front of the classroom. Dressed in the traditional Starkhall cassock and cap, only the small antennae behind his left ear distinguishes him from instructors of generations prior. He crosses his arms behind him before facing the class.

“Sit.”

The candidates take their seats by their gunmetal desks. Before the instructor can speak again, something causes him to turn aside. He cranes his neck and reaches behind his left ear, before turning back to the class.

“We will be reviewing the errors on Examination K3. However, Candidates 9 and 15.”

15 stands up, speaking in exact unison with a voice behind her.

"Instructor."

"Both of you are to see the headmaster at his office immediately."

"Yes instructor."

15 pivots and moves towards the door. The other candidates keep their eyes straight forward. From her peripheral vision however, 15 sees the edge of a smirk from Candidate 32. She waits by the door until 9 joins her, before they march side-by-side down the hall.

***

15 feels herself pale. This is the first time she has been called before the Headmaster. Three months ago, 22 was called. A different 22 returned to take her place. Nothing more was said. As she marches alongside 9, she feels an overwhelming urge to talk to him. It is 9 who breaks the silence first.

"I can feel my heart beating."

"We should not talk."

“It does not matter. We have every reason to be proud today.”

“What makes you say that?”

“We are being accelerated, of course.”

15 nearly breaks her march.

“H-How do you know?”

“The examinations are complete. Do you doubt your scores?”

“I do not presume to know my results.”

9 let out a sigh.

“Sometimes, you can be too cautious, 15. There is no question that I am second ranked in our division. There is no question that you outrank me. Now there may be questions as to whether you outrank the entire academy. But I do not presume when I tell you that your examinations were flawless.”

15’s face begins to fill with blood. She suddenly recalls the smirk from Candidate 32.

“I observed 32 as we were being called.”

“And?”

“He… presented a manner that suggested our meeting with the headmaster would not be as auspicious as you believe it to be.”

“32 is an idiot. He will be reallocated, assuming there is a school that can accommodate his worthlessness.”

15 purses her lips to fight off a smile.

“So 22… the previous one. She was also…?”

9 stops in his tracks. 15 turns to see 9, his shoulders slunk.

“That was different… Her performance was… inadequate.”

The remainder of the march passes without a word.

***

They reach the marble door of the Headmaster’s office. It is the only door in the academy that has no buzzer or card reader. The figure of an iron falcon gripping a ring in its talons forms the door knocker. Above it, a segmented circle encased in metal covers the eyehole. 15 takes the ring and bangs it against the door. The circle shutters open, emitting a green light.

“Candidates 9 and 15 reporting.”

The shutter snaps shut. There is no immediate response. 9 turns to 15

“We may be assigned to separate districts,” 9 extends his right hand, “should we not see each other again, I wish you the best.”

15 takes 9’s hand.

“I hope that will not be the case, but yes, the best to you as well.”

The door swings open. They pull their hands apart. A man in a red cassock steps out, scrutinizing them. He turns to 9.

“Get in.”

15 marches alongside 9, but the man in red holds up a hand.

“Candidate 9 only. Candidate 15 to wait.”

15 sees a look of uncertainty pass over 9’s face. She steps back as 9 follows the man inside. The door swings closed. 15 waits.

***

15 is ready when the door swings again. The previous man in red points to her.

“Now you.”

15 follows the man through a short corridor, before arriving at the headmaster’s office. The headmaster wears a cassock, but his cap carries a skirt running along the back and sides, reaching past his shoulders. His elbows are propped against his desk, the palms of his hands together, his finger trilling against one another. Behind the headmaster is a television screen, currently off, that makes up the entire back wall. 9 is nowhere to be seen.

The man in red walks in with 15 behind him, and halts.

“Headmaster. Candidate 15.”

The headmaster nods. The man wheels around and marches out. 15 stands uncomfortably as the headmaster continues to trill his fingers while inspecting her. Eventually, he motions at the chair in front of her.

“Sit.”

As 15 takes her seat, the headmaster reaches to pull open a drawer.

“Roll up your left sleeve.”

As 15 does so, the headmaster brings out a machine that looks like a sphygmomanometer, a miniature telescope, and a typewriter haphazardly connected together by various cables. The headmaster wraps a cuff around 15’s wrist, before aiming the telescope gadget at her face. 15 blinks rapidly as green light temporarily fills her eyes. A robotic voice chirps from the typewriter, followed by the rapid chatter of print against paper.”

CALIBRATION COMPLETE. SUBJECT READY FOR TESTING.

The headmaster stands up.

“The screen will come on. Do as it tells you. I will be watching.”

The headmaster exits the room. A minute later, the room lights turn off, and the television turns on.

Administering STATIC Final Examination, Serial 2B.

Part One: A video will play depicting a public venue with individuals. Maintain uninterrupted eye contact of ten seconds on all suspected truants. Image displays in 3… 2… 1…

* * *

The screen turns off with the end of the examination, and the lights return. 15 is exhausted. The headmaster walks in carrying a glass of water.

“Drink?”

“Yes, please, Headmaster.”

As 15 takes the glass, the headmaster continues.

“Effective today, you are no longer Candidate 15 of Division 2.”

She pauses midway in her drink.

“You are hereby accelerated to begin field training.”

She accidentally breathes bubbles into her glass. The headmaster is not amused.

“The training begins once you are finished your water. You have but one task before you are dismissed for the day. We will be heading outside to the academy training grounds.”

Finishing her glass, she joins the headmaster as they leave the office, escorted by two men in red cassocks. They walk out of the building to the grass field of Starkhall’s academy training grounds. From a distance, she notices a group of three individuals already on the training grounds. As she draws closer, she makes out two of the men in red cassocks. The other is 9. His hands are tied to his back as he stares at the ground. She forces herself to march to steadily. At her approach, 9 looks up. The look of surprise is followed by a wistful smile.

“So, you were accelerated.”

With her eyes averted, she nods. The headmaster points at 9.

“This boy is no longer Candidate 9. He should not have been a candidate. He is utterly corrupted by Heretic Joysing’s falsehood. He is an abetter to the truants. Depriver of Starkhall’s resources.”

She barely registers the sensation of her right hand being opened as the headmaster places a piece of heavy cold metal in her hand.

“He is an enemy. Correct him!”

She weakly lifts the pistol and aims at the boy she once knew as 9. He looks at her and sighs.

“My name was Vaughn. What is yours?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Find out.”

She pulls the trigger. He slumps to the ground. A moment passes before she feels the hand of the headmaster on her shoulder.

“Congratulations, Tracker 15B. You will do Starkhall proud.”

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Early bird for the worm? Or underdeveloped embryo?

In with:

Looking Glass Self and Company
(992 words)

Stephen stares at her the way he does with every other woman: through her reflection. Behind the window of the subway car, periodic lampposts streak the otherwise pitch darkness of the tunnel. It is a small inconvenience against his safety to gaze without notice. Without offence.

The train approaches the terminal station. Darkness surrenders to lit billboards that mar the reflection. Stephen waits as everyone exits. Through the window, his eyes trail the woman he saw but once, and never will again. When she disappears up the station stairs, he steps out, crosses the platform, and steps into the train departing the other way.

The train is sparsely seated. Stephen glances at the passengers as he walks down the train aisle and sees a woman reading. He studies her, but for too long. She looks up from her book. He averts his eyes, anticipates her worst suspicions against him, and hurries on.

Stephen reaches the last train car. A woman catches his attention. She sits by herself on the side seats, next to the train doors, focused on her tablet. No one is blocking the window across from her. Smiling, Stephen walks past her to take the seat at the far left end of the row, and looks into the window.

He admires her. She remains focused on her tablet, preventing him from appreciating her eyes. Stephen sighs, tapping his fingers over his knees. He blinks once, then in rapid succession when he sees her looking at the window. She’s smiling too.

“Hello.”

Stephen stops smiling.

“You realize I can tell you’re staring at me, right?”

Stephen draws a sharp breath as he spins towards the woman, only to find that she’s still on her tablet. His eyes dart back to the glass as two eyes stare intently back at his. When he realizes it is no longer a reflection, the woman in the window walks over and takes the seat right beside his reflection. Watching the window, Stephen slowly stretches his hand out and sees it pass through her. He feels nothing.

“Please don’t do that.”

Stephen snaps his whole body back.

“Relax! I don’t bite! Not like you would feel it if I did.”

He glances to the other passengers. No one notices what’s happening. The woman in the window waits for a reply, her smile waning in the silence.

“You don’t talk much, do you?”

“What are you?”

“Well that’s rude. But it’s a start.”

“A ghost?”

She sighs. “Sure. Why not. Can we talk about something else?”

“What do you want?”

“I’m curious to know what you’re up to.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, looking at girls all the time.”

Stephen’s eyes widen.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh please. I’ve watched you for a long time now. Don’t tell me you’re just looking at the lights.”

“I look at the lights.”

“Haha. Seriously though, what’s your deal?”

Stephen says nothing.

“Is it like a voyeurism thing? If it is, it has to be the softest core of voyeurism ever.”

Stephen gets up.

“Hey! Don’t be like that! I’m not trying to make you feel bad.”

“Yeah? Well this is humiliating.”

“If it makes you feel better, you have more class than a lot of guys I’ve seen.”

“Leave me alone.”

“Hey come back!”

He walks out of view of the window. He looks for a spot where his reflection isn’t picked up by any glass and stands there. A voice comes after him from the walls.

“Just because you don’t see me, doesn’t mean I’m not here.”

He refuses to respond.

“I prefer being able to see the people I am talking to. Would you come back to the window?”

“No.”

“At least until the next station? I’ll leave you alone after that.”

Stephen hesitates.

“Please?”

He plods back. The woman in the window remains seated where she was, looking back at him. Watching himself from the window, Stephen flops back to his seat next to her. He crosses his arms.

“I’m not talking about why I look.”

“That’s fine. I have an idea as to why.”

Stephen glares.

“Do you… talk with anyone?”

“I’m talking with you.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I despise small talk.”

“It doesn’t always need to be small.”

“It doesn’t get further than that. Not for me.”

“So you’ve tried before. Unsuccessfully?”

Stephen looks down at the floor.

“I don’t need to try. I already know.”

“Know what?”

“What’s on their minds when they look at me.”

“And that is?”

“Contempt.”

When Stephen looks back to the window, he no longer sees her looking at him, but beside her, at his reflection.

“Why do you think that?”

Stephen flashes the empty air beside him with an excruciating grimace. When he turns back to the window, the woman is neither look at him, or his reflection.

The train dings and announces the next station.

“We’re done here.”

“I know I said until the next station, but can we still keep talking?”

“To satisfy your curiosity?”

“No. I just want to—”

“You’ve pried enough. Think whatever the hell you want of me, but at least I’m not hurting anyone.”

You are hurting.”

“I DON’T CARE. DON’T EVER loving TALK TO ME AGAIN.”

Stephen becomes aware that he’s standing with his finger quivering at the window. He looks around the train. All eyes are on him.

“Oh God. I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to frighten anyone. Please… please don’t call security.”

“Are you okay?”

Stephen turns to the voice. The woman with the tablet looks at him with concern. He glances at the window and sees what he thinks is her reflection.

“No. I mean yes! Yes, I’m fine.”

“Did something happen?”

“It was nothing. Just a bad daydream. I didn’t mean to cause trouble. I’m getting off here anyway.”

The train door opens. Stephen walks out, feeling everyone looking at him.

He flees from their eyes. From their judgment.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Whew! I didn't notice until today that my name wasn't even on the contestants page, and wondered if I had somehow transgressed some grievous sin to not be included.

The result is a... relief? Chalking up another piece of competent prose that's inherently wayward.

Darn.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

At the risk of a second loss with a half-baked idea, I'm in. I don't want to break my writing streak yet.

Critiquing scares me more than writing, so please haul me out of my comfort zone and yoke me with a story.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

sebmojo posted:

[quote="Nikaer Drekin" post="414167744"]

Two weeks passed and it happened again.



The Lumps
900 Words

Charlie entered the apartment suite to find holes in the walls, holes punched all over, his cousin Milo peering deep into one of them. I get the sense you were trying for a rhythm of three here, but with holes punched all over, why waste time only starting with just "in the walls"? Maybe: "holes in the walls, holes in the floor, with his cousin peering into one of them"? Drywall was strewn around in chunks and fine powder, some of it resting on the pine-green carpet, some sunk in. The carpet was ripped up in certain spots. The floorboards showed through like raw layers of skin under a torn scab.

“What the hell’s been going on here?” Charlie asked.

“Finally, Charles! I didn’t think I could fend them off much longer on my own.”

“Wait… fend off what, exactly?”

“The Lumps, for Christ’s sake!” Milo said, his thick glasses nearly hanging off his nose, the only ring of hair he had left teased out in wild tufts. I know you're staying true to the picture, but this is an odd place to put this description. “They’ve popped up everywhere, it’s some sort of infestation.”

“Like rats? I’ve got the number of an exterminator who got rid of termites for me last August. I think he handles rodents, too.”

“No, goddamn it! I thought it might be an animal, but look at the walls. They bulged out and the only way I could stop it was to tear them up.”

“The walls… bulged.” I get the deadpan feel of this response, but I still think it works better with the question mark

“Yes, God, I thought that was the worst part, but then the lumps started moving, like when a snake swallows a mouse. You can see it writhing below the rubbery scales—still alive, still in such awful pain…” I went to YouTube to watch Python eats Rat Alive because I initially thought this was meant to be a cartoonish image Milo was bringing up, in which case "such awful pain" stuck out as odd. I still have my reservations that being stuck alive inside a snake is "awful pain" but maybe I'm underestimating the digestive acids of snakes.


Charlie stopped Milo there and led him to the plush recliner in the corner. Milo sunk into it and put his head in his hands. Shaking, he began to sob without tears.

Then his ears twitched. He sprang up from the armchair and rushed out of the room, knocking Charlie down in the process. Charlie followed verb feels weak him to his study where he saw Milo repeatedly bashing a wooden chair on against the rug.

Charlie tried to see the lump Milo was attacking, but the man’s frantic motions and the flailing furniture distracted his vision. The chair flew up and down, knocking the end table over and tumbling the clay lamp on top of it to the floor. There was a loud crack, and the chair fell apart until Milo was left holding two of its legs, whacking them on the floor like a giant’s drumsticks. this is a strange simile, or did you mean "giant drumsticks"?

“Charlie!” he yelled, “It slithered away! We need to call in an expert right now, or these things will never leave.” Charlie agreed, telling him to wait there, lie down for a bit, while he got a professional on the phone.

The professional turned out to be Dr. Campbell, a local psychiatrist. The two restrained Milo and carted him off to Campbell’s small mental institution. Milo swore to God that the lumps were real, that they’d overrun the apartment if they weren’t purged away. The evidence of Milo's work on the apartment speaks for itself already. Having him swear that they were real feels redundant Charlie and Dr. Campbell didn’t look back at him. - Not sure what this sentence accomplishes - unease in making eye contact with what they consider to be a crazy man? Or were you suggesting their dismissive attitude to Milo's ravings? Either way, the sentence feels out of place.

At the hospital, Dr. Campbell outlined to Charlie his proposed treatment. To elaborate, he brought out a thick book and titled Mental Abnormalities of the Common Man and slapped Slammed? The book has weight. Having it "slap" makes it feel light it down on his desk. Its title was Mental Abnormalities of the Common Man. A bright yellow sticker on the cover read “Now with graphic illustrations!” and the author was listed as Dr. Edwin Campbell. Unjustified inference, but I am picturing the cover and subsequent illustrations in the style of a Dr. Seuss book.

Charlie felt a wave of queasiness queasy.

“This book leads me to conclude that poor Milo’s deficiency is caused by an overactive amygdala,” Campbell said. “His intense, latent emotions are manifesting themselves as these phantom ‘lumps,’ as he puts it.”

Charlie nodded. His stomach turned.

“You didn’t see any such thing, did you?”

Charlie took a deep breath. “I wish I could say for sure, Doctor. He was standing in the way. I can’t entirely trust my own judgment on it.”

Campbell put a hand on his shoulder. “Trust mine, then. My recommendation would be an intense hypnosis treatment—with your go-ahead I can start right away.”

Charlie was no doctor, so he gave Campbell his approval.



Subsequent reads of this section baffle me the more I read it:

1. Unless Charlie is his only living relative, I find it weird that he has this authority over his cousin.
2. The book's pitch is supposed to be that it has "graphic illustrations!" How would a "overactive amygdala" come across graphically? Is it hideously inflamed? Discolored? Unless the brain is physically misshapen, how do mental abnormalities come across as graphically in the first place? I am more inclined to view the book with filled with cartoonish illustrations, in which case, the "graphic" adjective seems out of place.
3. Charlie's physical discomfort and doubts aren't clearly defined. At first, I felt his unease was based on his distrust of Dr. Campbell and his book with the bright yellow sticker, but he seems to concur with Campbell's judgment without any meaningful resistance. Then I thought maybe his dread was towards how his cousin would be treated, but he's feeling queasy and his stomach is turning before he even knows what the treatment will be about. I cannot make clear sense of his discomfort.

Over the next three weeks, for several hours a day, Milo was shut in a dark room and strapped to a chair that leaned back to point toward the ceiling. Campbell drugged him so that his muscles relaxed and his eyelids would not close. Projected spirals twisted on the ceiling and the chair spun Milo in the opposite direction. Loudspeakers mounted to the walls blasted incessantly:

THE LUMPS ARE IN YOUR MIND

YOU ARE THE SOURCE OF THE LUMPS

THE LUMPS ARE FROM INSIDE YOU

Repeating, without end, until it became Milo’s only reality.

Much later, Campbell called Charlie and informed him that Milo’s mind was clear, that he had been sent home and was ready to see visitors. Charlie left right away to check how he was doing. On the way over, he bought a “Congratulations” card and a box of gourmet chocolates. The pacing starting from "Over the next three weeks..." feels as though everything is run at fast-forward, which is jarring towards the pacing

He knocked on the door of the apartment. When nobody answered, he tried the knob and found it was unlocked. Quiet calm flowed across the suite. The only sound was the hum of the radiator. He called out for his cousin but received no reply.

He walked into the bedroom but stopped short. Milo sat propped up against the wall, a stain of glistening blood starting at his stomach, flowing through the white shirt and soaking into the carpet all around. His eyes were dim, his glasses resting on the floor. He had a long knife in his hand.

Milo’s eternal silence was broken only by the bold, red words on the wall, Mixing two sensations here: How does something auditory get interrupted by something visual-based? scrawled by a finger:

FROM INSIDE ME



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


A number of sentences struck me as clunky, and I don't feel that my sentence corrections are adequate - a full rewording seems in order. The main issues that jump out at me are the "next three weeks" which brings an awkward pace shift, and Charlie's concurrence with Dr. Campbell feels hamfisted.

I am still adjusting myself to critique mode, and in this mode, this piece felt less enjoyable. I can thank this piece for leading me to be better acquainted with the feeding methods of snakes though.

M. Propagandalf fucked around with this message at Sep 8, 2013 around 09:12

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

No Respect
308 words

Something is wrong with Master. I counted sun going up and down. Once. Twice. After twice. Master not out. I am hungry too.

I whine and scrape door. Wait for Master to come out and yell “Shut up!” and hit me with stick. Stick scares me. But I am more scared of no Master. Hitting is not as painful as stomach. Master gives me food. Master is good.

But Whiskered Ones bad. One black, one gray. They watch when I get hit and tails go swish-swish. Whiskered Ones rub against Master and get rubbed back. I rub against Master and I get slapped. Why does Master keep them? I want to bite tails off Whiskered Ones. Where are they? Like Master, no show too.

Still no Master out. Did Master leave while I was asleep? I know Master will be very mad if I go inside house. I am not allowed. But food is inside, and hunger is very bad. Sorry Master, but I will enter house.

I find window open, but screen behind. Climb up, push screen, squeeze through, fall in. House has fuzzy floor. Feels nicer than grass. I pee.

House also has smell. Reminds me of dead Long-Eared One I found before. It was good food. This food too? I follow smell up stairs. Smell is stronger behind part opened door. I push it.

Found Master. Missing face. Found Whiskered Ones. Eating face.

Whiskered Ones see me. They try to get past. Neck of black one is in my teeth. I shake my head until no more noise from him. Gray one got away, but I will find her.

I drop Whiskered One and go to Master.

Master, I am sorry for thinking your smell was food. I am not Whiskered One. I am good.

Master.

I lick His hand. I pretend it is warm.

-----------------------------------------

I take it this is common knowledge, but if it needs an explanation:
http://www.straightdope.com/columns...at-their-owners

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Out.

Not to avoid the possibility of being successive thrice poo poo-crowned, but work out of town this weekend, FTL, and GMT will probably take me past deadline.

I do have something in the works based on the prompt. I'll send it to the Farm.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Critical penance.

Lord Windy posted:

Do it with a rockstar - 269

You’re the best! Around! I think to myself. I’m rocking it out to a crowded audience, Nothing’s ever going to keep you down! Google shows as "Nothing's gonna ever keep you down."

“Do you?” Came a voice from one of the stall in the bathroom. I hate working here. How did we switch from a crowded audience into the bathroom? There's also inconsistency with what's italicized with this piece - it seems like you were originally going only for the lyrics, but then included the thought processes.

“Do you wanna?” Same voice, just a little shriller. Why the repetition?

“Do what?” This one was the next stall over. A tad more exasperated than me.

“Do it with a rockstar?” I'm exasperated that it took this long to get to this point.

Feet shuffled around and toilets flushed. Two young girls, younger than me pranced out over to the sinks.

“Do you wanna go home instead?,” The one with red hair and shrill voice pouted. Flashing her eyelashes in faux sympathy as she washed her hands.

“My cats are all alone.” The brunette looked flushed and spoke quickly. She clutched her phone tightly. Even I could tell that was a weak excuse.

“And there’s a chicken waiting on the stove.” Red-head’s hands rose above her head dramatically.

It felt like minutes of Brunette just glaring at Red-head.

“Do you really want to go home Sarah?”

“No,” Sarah sighed. She pulled out her lipstick. Dark red goes well with her hair.

“Of course not,” Red head gave a big smile. She dried her hands and went about fixing up Sarah’s hair. “This will be a great story someday.” We reached the point about doing it with a rockstar, hmm and haw and for seven lines more, and arrive back where we started.

Sarah left first. Red came out close behind, slipping me a twenty and giving me a knowing wink.

I smile back and pocket the twenty.

Where is this story going? Why do the characters matter? If the dialogue between the red-haired girl and brown hair girl had been switched or spliced, I feel like I'd barely be able to tell the difference. Honestly, even though the seeing character (bouncer?) does nothing, the bouncer seems more central to this piece than the seeming ditzs.


CantDecideOnAName posted:

Prophet of Death (705 words)

“You’re the prophet?” I was aghast.

The girl nodded. She was filthy, a child covered in caked-on mud and scratches, with the bright blue eyes of a madman. Bright blue eyes are a sign of the insane? But what if you're taking Melange? I had expected a woman—or a man, even—shining and beautiful and strong, closer to angel than human. Not this half-grown attempt.

“You?” I repeated.

“Why is that so hard to believe?” she demanded, crossing her arms. “I am the prophet. What proof could do you need?”

I grimaced. If she was the prophet, there was no use in lying to her. If she wasn’t, then she would come back later cleaned up to fit my expectations. “You weren’t what I was expecting. Go home, girl. The only proof you could give would be a miracle.” So I realize the seeing character is not the star attraction, but I imagine he's a character with some weight for being able to decide who is and isn't a prophet, unless the girl is completely overestimating his prophet detection authority. With that said, the internal thoughts here are strange. What kind of lie is he talking about? That he's not prejudiced towards the disheveled? Why would it be an issue if she were to come back later "cleaned up to fit my expectations"? The internal logic here doesn't seem well-formed.

I started to close the door when she lunged at me. The carpet tripped me up as I backed away and before I knew it I was on my rear end on the floor, with this enraged child straddling me and pressing a skewer to my face. Where the hell had that even come from?

“Home?” she hissed. “Whatever home I had is a mud-filled crater. Those who enslaved me are dead, their town in ruins. You don’t believe that I could kill that many thousands of people in one night? What more of a miracle do you need?”

The skewer was shiny and new, from what I could see of it, and the tip of it rested just below my left eyelid. Her hand was steady despite the rage in her eyes.

“Give me shelter,” she demanded. “Surely you know I am being hunted. Aren’t you one of my own?”

My heart was pounding in my chest. I tried pulling away and she shoved me to the floor, withdrawing the skewer. I watched it for a moment but she simply held it at her side.

“I won’t kill you,” she said. “There is no reason to kill the devout.” The anger was gone from her, controlled, and for a moment I glimpsed something greater in her, a dangerous power that was cold and uncaring, a cosmic eye that would see all and burn all.

“Am I devout?” It was all I could say.

She stared at me distantly. “Would you follow me?”

I shivered. Would I follow her? Seeing character's internal thoughts feel like clutter at times. This is one of them.

I was saved from answering by the appearance of a man with a shotgun. My neighbor, a part time bounty hunter and full-time gun nut.

“Stand up nice and slow, lady,” he ordered her, pressing the barrel against the back of her neck. “I know who you are from the news, and I don’t want any funny business.” He glanced at me. “You okay, Mike?”

I nodded numbly. She got to her feet, the barrel of the gun leading her up and away from me.

“Hands where I can see them, girl.”

She spun, weaving out of the range of the shotgun. He fired too slowly, As a critical moment of action, this feels weak. Something like "He missed his shot..." would fit better and she had him pressed against the wall with the skewer in his neck before I could get to my feet. The skewer had gone stabbed into his artery, and there was blood sprayed across the white wall. I scrambled up as she wrested the gun from him and aimed it at his face. There was no anger in the action, no desperation, no malice; she acted as one who was merely doing what had to be done.

“I am the fire that burns the forest and brings forth new growth,” she said. “I am the wave of lava and ash that scours the land and gives it fertility once more. Could you stop an avalanche with a single tree? I am the harbinger of new cycles, and I will not be recaptured and dragged back to a life in chains by a mere man.”

She pulled the trigger, but it wasn’t only his head that exploded. It was as if she had fired ten shotguns in unison, shredding his body and painting the wall with gore, covering her head to toe with splatter. My heart skipped a beat when she turned to look at me with cold eyes, hot blood dripping down her face.

“I need a shower. May I use your bathroom?”

I bowed. “Of course, prophet.”

This piece has an odd mixture of Aerith and Bob that I think could be made more seamless, unless the incongruence was meant to be comedic, which I don't feel is the case. There wasn't anything that I found memorable, except that the seeing character's asides were sometimes grating.

I'll try to work on more critiques. My competency as judge is questionable, so challenge me as you see fit.

M. Propagandalf fucked around with this message at Sep 16, 2013 around 22:02

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Kaishai posted:

Diamonds
(873 words)

The couple came in on a Thursday night, after work hours. They held hands, and as the door closed behind them, the heated air of my jewelry store picked up the scents of his fresh shower gel and her tea-rose perfume. I like this detail of distinction. I stayed in my chair behind the back counter and kept my greeting to a quiet, "Good evening," and a smile, leaving them free to smile back--hers showed teeth, his didn't--and then ignore me in favor of my merchandise. While I appreciate to continual contrast that's played between the couple, this feels unnecessarily drawn out.

My eyes fell to the broken bracelet I'd been repairing, but I eavesdropped without trouble. The shop wasn't what you'd call large.

"These aren't diamonds," the man said; his voice came from near the display of rings to my right.

"It doesn't have to be a diamond. I like color."

"I want to get a diamond for you."

"Thomas." She spoke his name sharply.

"I can afford it."

Surely an old argument. "A familiar argument." would feel more succinct. I raised my estimate of how much money I would make on this sale.

She said, "But if I'd rather have a ruby or an emerald--that's important, right? Otherwise I don't know why I'm here."

Thomas held in his reply for several seconds. "At least look," he said at last. If I could hear strain in the pitch and rasp of his words, surely she could too. "Before you settle for less."

They looked. For fifteen completely silent minutes, they studied my diamonds. I watched them from the corner of my eye, my prong pusher hovering over a loose sapphire. Thomas's hand drifted twice toward the small of her back, but he stopped short of touching her. Hoverhands with his fiancé? Ouch. Her hands were balled in the pockets of her oversized white jacket.

Thomas murmured something I didn't catch. She jerked one shoulder. He left her and approached my counter, summoning another tight smile; I set the bracelet down. He said, "I'd like to know how much some of the engagement rings cost."

Behind him, the woman moved back to the display of colored-gem rings, her posture changing now that he couldn't see: her shoulders slumped, and her neck bowed. I focused on Thomas. "You might be surprised by the cost of a good emerald," I told him.

"Not you, too. Please. Susannah deserves the best I can--"

Thomas's mouth kept moving, but a body hit the front door so hard that the sound of the impact overrode whatever he said. A figure in a canvas jacket and ski mask stomped the two strides to the center of the room, where he pulled a gun from his pocket. "You! Throw your purse here and get down!" he yelled at Susannah, and then, after she flung her shoulderbag at him and hit dropped to her knees, he turned my way. "Money! Rocks! Now!" He aimed at Thomas. Then at me. Sentence feels clunky with the actions of Susannah and the robber being mixed together. I think separating them between their respective characters would be more appropriate.

Shock had numbed me, and but I noticed in a distant way that while Thomas was trembling, the robber's whole frame shook harder. Despite my calm While not conflicting with being numb, I don’t think calm is appropriate here. Paralyzed, or perhaps petrified? my own fingers wouldn't hit the right register keys.

Thomas shifted his weight. The robber swung the gun back to him. "Keep your loving hands out and don't move."

Susannah said, "Drop the gun."

She still knelt on the floor. But since the robber had turned from her to focus on Thomas and me This part is obvious, so it can be slimmed. Perhaps “Distracted by his attention on us…" she'd drawn a Glock from under her jacket. Her steady hands pointed the muzzle dead at the man's head. Her brown eyes fixed on what could be seen of his face.

The robber made his choice in an instant. Instead of complying, He turned his weapon toward her.

Thomas lunged as soon as the other man moved, tackling him and grabbing for his arm--they thudded onto the carpet as Susannah threw herself flat, and a shot hit the wall and sent one of my framed photographs of diamonds crashing down. Thomas yelled. I yelled. Thomas got hold of the robber's forearm and slammed it against the floor with crazy energy if a qualifier is really needed, "slammed it hard" seems like it would do. The man dropped his gun, and Susannah scrambled for it. She had it in her left hand; the robber rolled Thomas hard into my counter, hard enough that Thomas lost hold of him, and then he gained his feet and ran. Susannah held both guns on his back, but she let him go.

When the sounds of his escape faded out, This seems unnecessarily obtuse she set the weapons on the countertop with hands that had started to shake.

Then Thomas was up and reaching for her, folding her into his chest so tightly I couldn't see much of her other than her hair and her arms, wrapped around him like steel bands under white leather. "You idiot." I don't know which one of them whispered the words. Favourite part. Her fingers dug into his shoulderblades.

I took deep breaths. I picked up the cell phone next to the register. But before I dialed, I said, "Ma'am? Sir?"

Thomas turned his head to look at me; Susannah didn't move.

"I hope you'll take any ring I sell in thanks," I said. "Whichever one you want."

Susannah's short, uneven laugh brought a curve to Thomas's mouth. He pressed his lips to her crown, and as I called the police, they went on holding each other within the rings that mattered.

Minor nitpicks, but I enjoyed this.


systran posted:

At the Market in Alabama 948 Words.

I noticed some inconsistency between ing and in' with the verbs. Also:

quote:

That ain’t entirely right, because I heard the one that was leadin’ the shouting say, “You ain’t supposed to have a,” and he put his hands up like quote marks in a book--he must have been a college-schooled negro--, “whites only counter. You should serve us like anyone else like they doing at Woolworth’s!”

I would have expected the boy to start speaking with "refined mode on" right from the get-go, but instead he turns it on specifically for the manager. Aside from that, there's nothing else I can fault with this. I'm not schooled in Southern state speaking, but the voice is convincing, (I won't excuse him for using "a count" instead of "account" though). The ending is something I could picture MLK Jr sharing with pride.


Jeza posted:

Walter Grant - 645 Words

I don't feel I have enough to give for a line-by-line crit, except perhaps "the agglomeration of the distended corpses of cats and the bruises from familial fists imparted." is glaringly purple. My issue is that, in terms of the prompt, the spotlight doesn't feel like it falls on the character being seen. Sure we get a number of neat idiosyncrasies about Walter Grant. But the spotlight feels like it falls on the seeing character. The corrections officer may not be involved in any physical action, but his/her actual obsession over Walter Grant is taking centre stage. I am less invested in understanding Walter Grant than I am in understanding why this corrections officer is so OCD over Grant.



I'll try to edit this post to include the last crits later.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

God drat does this make me want to extrapolate on Kate Beaton's comics.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In and Courting Disaster...





with this misbegotten title: Crime in the Queen's Court: Win, Place, or, Die

With the judges permission, I would like an exclamation mark to follow that "Die"

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M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

It's looking like I'm going to be toxxing myself for the next entry. If I can finish before the night based on PST, I'll post it here, DQ be damned. Otherwise I'll ship it to the Farm.

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