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CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Life sucks and then you die. Might as well try. In for thunderdome.

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CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


The House Wins (OK GO)

A Lesser Breed
(670 words)



For Erica, the world had lost color.

It was like being in an old black and white film, without the grain. A teenage girl in an off-white tank top and dark gray jeans chattered on a phone as she walked past, her hair white in the harsh sun. A man on a park bench watched her approvingly, the gray of his shirt almost matching the gray of the bench, his eyes dark in a washed-out face. He didn’t even look at Erica as she drifted past.

How could he not? She was the only thing in color at all. The purple leggings that had seemed so faded only this morning were now as bright as the day she had bought them, her capris held the essence of the blue ocean and sky, and her yellow shirt was brighter than the sun. In this gray expanse Erica felt like the visual equivalent of a scream in a silent library.

No one gave her a second glance as she walked by. It wasn’t that they averted their eyes; they simply never noticed her in the first place. Maybe she was as colorless to them as they were to her.

She made her winding way through the park, marveling at how the simple knowledge of what colors things were supposed to be made things look. She could pretend the pond was slate gray, the sky eggshell white, the grass a strange shade of green.

If the color had been turned down, though, then the sound had been turned up. Erica could hear the shrill chirps of birds with ease. She could also hear every single car that roared past on the highway, the gentle lap of each wave on the shore of the pond, the shrieks and laughter of children running past, the footfalls of joggers, rustling leaves on branches, the whisper of the wind, the beating of her heart thudding in her ears. The din pressed in on her, surrounded her, a howling that she was acutely aware of. The chatter increased as she approached a group of boys and girls her age waiting at a couple of picnic tables.

Anna, black-haired and dark skinned, didn’t look up from her phone. Maria and Jordan were kissing, the smacking and sucking of their lips and tongues audible to Erica’s ears. Max was carving on the tabletop, fingers rasping against the wood as he scratched at it with a paperclip bent straight, and didn’t look at Erica when she sat down next to him. Janet and Jade, the twins, glanced at Erica and for a brief moment their clothes were daffodil- and rose-colored, their skins flushed with hot blood from the summer sun, and then it was gone. They said hello to Erica and resumed talking to Max, discussing something Erica didn’t know about. Jade’s dress, which had been hued crimson and gold, was now as drab as everything else.

Erica sat, and looked out across the park, and listened to her friends talk. No one asked her opinions, posed any questions, or really gave her any notice at all. Was this what it was like to be a ghost, she wondered? To be able to interact with the world, to listen to its sounds and see its sights, but walk among others unnoticed. Did ghosts ever wish they could see the world in color? Was that why poltergeists threw furniture and broke windows? So that when everyone looked over, that lost soul would see everything suddenly saturated with life and energy?

She took a deep breath, her blood thundering in her ears. Her blood ran cold, frozen in some sudden chill that covered the hot day in ice, amplifying the harsh noises in the air to a deafening roar. Every word her friends said pounded down on her, an arrhythmic drumbeat in contrast to her heart.

“Hey,” she said, “does anyone want to see a movie?”

The twins and Max looked over at her, and the world blossomed into color as they responded.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


I guess I was going too subtle. drat. Ah well. Not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing that the worst thing in my story was that nothing happened. I'll go with good, considering some of the crits other folks are getting.

Thanks for the fashion pointers. I usually dress in a jeans and tshirt so I pulled all that out of my rear end.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


SpaceGodzilla posted:

"Heh heh heh, I lost in a slightly less ambitious way than the rest of you losers "

A loser's a loser, and I'm no better than anyone else (as is obvious by my prose). Just trying to stay positive here.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Tally-ho! What a show. Let's do that again. I'm in.
Just Desert

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Eye

(892 words)

Above all else, I am a man of culture and poetry, a collector and self-taught historian, and so I cannot imagine why this ragtag assortment of so-called scientists asked me to accompany them on their little excursion. Perhaps it was because they knew that I own three of Janove’s journals, and that I have actually read them. I suspected that this trip of theirs was in fact a search for one of the strange things mentioned in that famed explorer’s diary.

There were five of us. Myself; a man of science named Eugene Vemberly; a woman botanist, Constance Hart, and her brother Reginald; and a tracker they simply called David. I found David immensely fascinating, as his appearance pointed to having some Northerner blood in his lineage, and I wondered if he adhered to the same beliefs as his possible brethren. Janove had briefly touched upon the Northerners fear of the valley, and how they called it a cursed place and would not set foot within it despite all the bribes and reassurances he gave them. Foolish they had been, he said in later entries, foolish that they would even attempt to gain a native guide to this region when upon reflection it was clear they had no more knowledge of the area than he had himself.

But that had been in late fall, when the sky madness would threaten with great storms of snow and blowing wind. This was high summer, with close on to twenty hours of light in the day, and no winter storms would blow up unexpectedly in this.

Upon leaving the city, we walked for some time in the taiga. I admired the trees with their rich evergreen needles, and listened to the songs of birds within their boughs. The man Vemberly consulted maps and did cartography notes of his own, and the Hart siblings found a flower they had never seen before. David was silent and watchful.

The sun was low in the sky and the trees cast long shadows, leaving the five of us in a dark forest, before David spotted our treasure; a blue glow to the west of us, mercifully close.

Janove, in his journals, had said that the mature tree was roughly fifteen to twenty-five feet tall with a diameter between three and five feet. The bark is rough and very dark, almost black, and there are no limbs or branches to speak of. If there are needles or leaves on the tree, they are not immediately obvious. The trunk is pliable, bending as easily as one might crook an arm, and at the crown of the tree is inset a large blue globe, called an “eye”, which is the same diameter as the trunk at its base.

The immature tree that we found was a mere six feet tall, and no wider than a foot. The eye was of a middling sky blue color, and glowed with a gentle, steady light. It turned to look at us as we approached it.

Janove had mentioned this as well. These trees, although rooted with a system similar to any oak or pine, above ground moved with such deliberation as to be animal-like. He noted that they would track a man as he walked across the clearing in which it stood, such as a dog might watch a stranger in front of its yard. They would turn and crane their necks, so to speak, when one would approach them, and could intensify the light emitted from the eye for a short time. They seemed to have some crude animal intelligence, and would examine the explorers with as much curiosity as they examined it.

This one was no exception. The Harts moved around it, taking measurements and drawing sketches, and it watched them as they did. Their easy demeanors implied that they had seen such creatures before; they did not gasp or grow pale at the sight of it, as Vemberly did. I myself felt some small shock at its appearance, for reading about something and experiencing it for myself were two very different phenomena indeed. David had averted his face, and would not look at it.

At one point Constance pulled out a small knife and knelt by the tree, which curved to look at her and brightened the glow as if to illuminate what she was doing. She lowered the knife to rest against the bark of the tree and it grew even brighter. There was a pause, then she pressed the blade in and down, slicing off a piece of the bark. The tree did not react, but how could it? It wasn’t as if it could feel pain. It watched her put the piece in her jacket pocket, then looked over at me.

I could not say why it did this. I had only gone near it once, to touch the bark and feel the rough texture of it for myself, and after had retreated and begun to write my own journal, and had not left the rock that I sat down upon. But often I would watch it, and as the sliver of wood was put away it watched me.

I do not think I will join the Harts, Vemberly, and David again, for I am sure that they are exploring the region for these trees. Once was quite enough.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


I have no idea what Voliun was trying to accomplish with last week's prompt but since I'm lazy I might as well give that one a try.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Sitting Here posted:

OK I'm going to clarify, please at LEAST post the author AND the story title in your sign-up post. You MUST link to the original story in your actual submission, at the least.

Also since I'm feeling capricious, from right now until whenever I get bored I will assign a story to anyone who asks. This may work out well for you, it may not.

Oh, sorry. Voliun's S.O.S.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


The Saddest Rhino posted:

Is there any particular reason why you lot are choosing losing/terrible stories other than to make the judges reread all the worst stories of the previous TD rounds?

Personally, I picked the loser because I figured it had nowhere to go but up.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Nubile Hillock posted:

Hrmmm yes all these bad writers taking bad stories and turning them into solid gold I'm doing this because I want to ruin sittinghere's weekend, not because I want to be a poo poo alchemist.

I didn't say I was aiming for gold, but turning poo poo into tin seems a lot easier than turning bronze into platinum.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Original: Voliun's S.O.S. (900 words including title)

Rework: Sabotage (907 without title)


Mandy stood on the doorstep of Ashford’s smarthouse, looking around at the overgrown yard. She took a deep breath and rang the doorbell, but before the ringing had faded away the door was yanked open. Caught off-guard, Mandy blinked at the old man who had opened it. Then she smiled brightly.

“Hello, Dr. Ashford. I’m Mandy Rivett.”

“I know who you are, Miss Rivett,” he interrupted, bright eyes examining her from behind thick spectacles. “You’re early.” Despite his age his voice was the sharp, clear voice of an orator.

“Yes. I make a point to be five minutes early to every appointment, to make sure there’s a space ready for me. We don’t want to start recording and realize the acoustics in the room are bad, after all.”

“Yes, yes.” He moved aside and flapped one hand irritably, inviting her in. “You caught me cleaning up, is all.”

She stepped inside, nearly walking face first into an overgrown ficus just inside the door. The hallway was brightly lit and empty, except for the tree and a coatrack. There was a lab coat on the rack, next to a black dress coat with a gold tag embossed with the name “Richard Ashford”. The doctor hobbled past her and Mandy wondered how he had gotten to the door so quickly, unless he had been waiting by it. She turned to close the door but it slammed shut before her eyes.

“Come on, come on.” Ashford led her into the dining room/kitchen, a small room with more skylight than ceiling. On one wall there were rows of shelves that looked like colorful corals and fungi, and in the center of the room was a circular table with wooden stools instead of chairs. Mandy waited for Ashford to pick up the pair of plates that were on the table before she sat down.

Pulling out a small voice recorder, she turned it on and set it in the center of the table. “This thing’s pretty sensitive, so you don’t have to shout, but don’t mumble either. I’m going to ask you a couple of standard questions, just to test out how it sounds in here. First off, can you state your name and occupation?”

“Theodore Ashford,” he said, “I’m retired.” He dropped the plates into the sink with a clatter that made Mandy wince. “I used to work with robotics, along with my brothers.”

“Can you talk a little about that?”

He stared at her over the granite countertop in the kitchen. “Considering who you write for, Miss Rivett, I don’t think I want to.”

“I write for the Daily Scoops, Dr. Ashford.”

“Yes,” he said, “but you also work for the Star Inquirer from time to time, don’t you?”

There was a pause. Slowly, she reached out and turned off the recorder.

“I used to. It’s not something I’m proud of.”

“Is this interview really about my opinions on that hack Maroe’s supposed breakthrough, or are you hoping for a followup to that piece of trash story you hacked together a couple of months ago?” He was still looking at her, and she got up from her stool and examined the glass globes on the shelf to break the tension. His stare was unnerving.

“Don’t touch those.”

“I won’t. I take it you didn’t like the piece.”

“Of course I didn’t.” Out of the corner of her eye she saw him turn on the sink and start rinsing off the plates. “It was bullshit, pure and simple. The idea that Edgar would sabotage his own work is ridiculous. What reason would he have had to damage the thrusters? Money? Useless when you die in a crash of your own design.” He snorted derisively. “That bunch of words you called journalism were nothing but an attempt to gain readers in the wake of a great tragedy. And here you are, two months later to the day, and I’m supposed to think that you’re really interested in autonomous tornado drones?”

Mandy bit her lip. “That is what I’m here to talk to you about.”

“Then ask me what you want to ask me now, off the record, so that I don’t have to deal with your stupid insinuations during the interview. “

She nodded and took a deep breath, looking at him again. “I know murder was ruled out during the inquest, but a couple of things have shown up. Namely, a security tape that someone had been keeping hidden, showing your brother Richard going into the house an hour before liftoff, and leaving only twenty minutes later. He said that he hadn’t been in the house at all that day, that Edgar wouldn’t let anyone in.”

“And the second thing?” Ashford’s voice had gotten very quiet. “You said there were a couple.”

“They got an engineer to look over the wreckage again. He said that whatever was done to the thrusters was subtle, but very quick and sloppy. It couldn’t have taken more than, say, twenty minutes.” She was watching Ashford now, like he watched her. His expression was cold.

“I was wondering if I could speak to Richard about it, if he has the time.”

Ashford’s eyes glittered. “You just missed him. He left ten minutes ago, to go to one of those black tie events.”

Mandy gestured to the hallway. “But his dress coat is still here on the hook.”

“Is it really?” Ashford asked. He didn’t sound surprised.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


First off, no, the shelves actually looked like coral and fungi. I wanted him to have cool shelves. Secondly, dammit. I thought I had made it better, but I suspect I'll be sporting a new avatar before the end of the week. Oh well. Thanks for the crit, I worked hard on the ending.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Oh poo poo, man, this is gonna be easy. May I ask where you got this idea?

In, matey. In.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Sitting Here posted:

I was going to say, , you

You know it.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

WRONG. Flash rule: you can't write in your Blue Stars universe.

Thunderdome is for trying new poo poo, anyway.

And yeah, your story reminded me how much I like this kind of story. I still owe you some feedback on that, probably by tonight or tomorrow.

You're not the only one who said they'd give feedback HINT HINT. But very well, challenge accepted!

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Sitting Here posted:

Oh I haven't forgot about you.

But since I'm judging in here, it's easier to give you feedback on your TD entries and HOPEFULLY you will apply said feedback to your novel.

edit: Double check that flash rule, Doc Kloc made an important addendum.

I saw it. And yeah, I'm not holding my breath because Thunderdome's way more important.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


magnificent7 posted:

I'm in. Reluctantly.

Westerns? Lovecraft? And now Mysteries? Next prompt is going to be operettas.

Did I miss all the way cool awesome prompts like "50-foot spiders" and "zombies"?

(edit - to be clear - the Western was a flash rule, and lovecraft was the original story but yeah I'm still wondering)

Is there anything keeping you from putting 50ft spiders or zombies in your mystery?

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


magnificent7 posted:

Wait, so, what's the difference between Mysteries and just a mystery? One has clues and a detective and suspects and a body, and the other just poses questions that make you go "hmm?"

(and people keep re-doing zombie stories because nobody's gotten it right yet).

A mystery can be as simple as "who stole my lunch out of the fridge?" You're thinking of specifically murder mysteries, which, surprise, are not the only kind of mystery out there.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Just curious, do we have to wait until after the joining deadline to submit our stuff?

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

No, you can submit any time. There's no reward for posting early, though, so you're better off using any extra time to polish.

A polished turd is still a piece of poo poo, but I see what you mean.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Sitting Here posted:

Go back to whatever you've written and cut 25-75 words. THAT'S AN ORDER.

YES SIR

edit: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

CantDecideOnAName fucked around with this message at Apr 20, 2013 around 03:57

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Flash rules: No dashes. Not allowed to write in preexisting story universe. Granny included.

Modern Day Monster Hunter
(766 words)

“Something is killing my goddamn cows, Martin.” Granny Hawn gnawed on her cigar and glared at me. “That’s two this week. I only got a herd of twenty. Can’t afford to lose them.”

I sighed. I could see where this was going. “Can’t you get John to do this?”

“John twisted his ankle this morning. He can sit with you but he can’t go haring off after poachers or whatever.”

“You think it’s poachers?”

“I think something’s gone and tore out a couple cow throats, is what I think,” she snapped. “Be at the gate at seven. I’ll pay you for your trouble.”

And that was how I ended up sitting in the dark with my shotgun, a flashlight, and my brother John. We were sitting in a pair of old folding chairs by the cow paddock, John with his leg propped up on the fence to keep it elevated.

“Just the cows, huh?” I asked. “Nothing else’s been attacked?”

“Just the cows.” John shifted in his chair slightly, making the frame squeak. “Didn’t even eat anything, which makes me think it ain’t wolves or any big cat.”

“You don’t think it’s poachers?”

“Granny don’t. If she did she’d be sitting out here herself. Poachers don’t rip the throat out of an animal and take nothing but blood.”

“Blood?” Goosebumps rippled up my arms and across the back of my neck.

“Yeah.”

“Has anyone else in the area had cows get hurt like this?”

“No cows, but last month something was killing goats. Drained five of them straight dry, but everything stopped once they put up some motion sensor lights.”

“Did they ever see what was attacking them?”

“Nope.”

I sighed. “Sounds like a chupacabra to me, John. Maybe a pair.”

“Chupas?” John swore. “This far east?”

I shrugged. “It happens. Maybe someone’s pet got loose, that’s usually how this sort of poo poo goes. Loose, abandoned, whatever. Look, if it comes tonight, I’m gonna go after it. You keep light on the cows and make sure it doesn’t come back while I’m gone.”

John grunted and spat. “You got it.”

I ‘turned on’ my night sight, a natural ability that let me see in the dark as easily as if I were wearing night vision goggles. With it on, I could see the cows clearly, as well as the fence around their paddock, the sparse trees, and John. I sighed and got to my feet, picking up my shotgun. “I’m going to patrol around. Keep an eye out.”

It didn’t take me long to find what I was looking for. We kind of stumbled across each other, and both it and I froze.

The chupacabra was about four feet tall on its hind legs, hunched, and scaly. It stared at me with oversized eyes, mouth agape to reveal pointed teeth. Those and the claws would be nasty if it came to blows.

Luckily, chupacabra were stupid. If you just stood where you were without moving for about five minutes, it would decide you were a tree or a cactus or a fence post and move on, even if it had seen you walking just seconds ago. So I stood perfectly still and waited. After a while it dropped to all fours and prowled past me, the scales on its skin brushing against my jeans.

My heart was pounding in my chest. If it saw me make any sudden moves, it would bolt and I would lose this chance. That is, if it didn’t attack me. Trying to breathe lightly, I waited until it wasn’t looking at me any longer to raise my gun.

I fired, and there was a horrific sound like the wail of a fox or the screams of fighting cats, and I saw the chupacabra fall. It screamed again, high and long, raising the hair on my neck and catching my breath in my throat. I watched it writhe about for a moment, then walked up and put another round of buckshot through its skull. The sudden silence was deafening.

I dragged the body back to John, unwilling to throw it over my shoulders like I would a goat. He turned on the flashlight when he heard me coming, and managed to shine it right into my eyes.

“poo poo, man, shine that thing elsewhere.” I dumped the carcass by my chair and sat down, turning off my night sight. “There’s one. I’ll stay the week to see if there are any others, but after all that screaming I’m not sure if they’ll stick around.”

Hell, if I wasn’t getting paid, I wouldn’t either.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Kloctopussy, all I'm going to say is that I did have characterization dialogue or "gossip" in the first draft of the story, and I cut it out because it didn't move the story forward as per Sitting Here's directions.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Alright, bitches, I've been taking a break to sort things out with life, but I feel like two weeks is long enough to sit back and watch you guys disembowel yourselves. Count me back in.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Run
(709 words)

Only two things keep me sane. The first is that I remember the argument my parents had on the day my dad left and never came home. The second is an old newspaper article I found in one of my school notebooks on the day the world went crazy.

I don’t know where the article came from, or who put it there, but I’m glad it showed up. It was about a woman who lived a perfectly normal life with her husband, until one day she woke up and screamed and called the cops because she didn’t know who this man in her bed was. Based on what she said, she was single, an artist, and in fact didn’t live in that city anymore. She’d just started a relationship with a sculptor and they were planning on going to China for an “inspiration tour.”

She had no memories of her life with her husband. In fact, she had no memories of her life at all, past a certain point. There were memories, and some of them tallied up, but most were radically different. She ended up getting a divorce from her heartbroken husband and leaving in an attempt to find her old life. No one really knew what happened to her afterwards, but the writer of the article said he was going to attempt to track her down and find out.

More important than the article was what was written on the back in pen: “The world will flip back in a year. Do not accept your life or you won’t remember who you are when it goes back.”

It made sense to me that this would be some kind of parallel universe. More sense than my dad never leaving and my parents being loving and doting and kind. It creeped me out, that first day, seeing the house neat and bright and tidy with Mom cooking breakfast and this familiar man sitting at the table reading the paper.

So I ran away.

I’d planned it before, on those nights when Mom had been drinking hard and abusing me harder, saying that it was my fault Dad left, my fault for pinning her in one place, the usual trash. I’d planned it out, and I was old enough that no one would ask what I was doing on my own. Money wouldn’t be an issue, if I got some dead-end job on the other side of the country, and I was used to taking care of myself.

It would have been easy for me to pretend I was running away from a broken home, but in this world my loving, anxious parents wanted me back. I had vanished so unexpectedly my Mom was acting like I’d been kidnapped from my bed as if I were five years old, and was begging for my return over the airwaves.

I lived in constant fear that someone would recognize me and turn me in. My body ached, stuck between fight and flight, and my hands wouldn’t stop shaking. I ended up telling people I had nerve damage. Changed my name from Colton to David, shaved my head, paid in cash whenever I could. The article got transferred to my wallet so I could have it on me at all times. I tried not to make friends, so that I wouldn’t miss them when the world ticked back over.

There’s a week left. I’ve started having nightmares, ones where I get pulled off the street and dragged back “home,” or ones where I’m being chased by some monster and I can’t escape no matter how I run or hide. I wake up shaking and sweating, and the sleep loss has already started to show. I look like I’m dying.

I worry about the article being wrong. What if things don’t change back in a week? What if I’m stuck in this life forever? Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. I could go back and live in a happy home like I’d always wanted. But what if I do that and then the world flips back, like it was just late or the person who wrote on the article was wrong about the length of time?

What if I’m insane already?

CantDecideOnAName fucked around with this message at May 20, 2013 around 01:58

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Hell, why not. In.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Oh hell, throw me some flash too.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Flash rule: Must have a devoutly religious character.

Holy Fire (415 words)

I am the transient priest of an indifferent God.

Summer is heavy and thick in the air. I stand in a forest with towering trees creating patterns of stained glass with their leaves and needles, the sounds of life a hymnal to my ears. I smoke incense of my own to add to the air, a little white censor filled with potential. My vestments are torn and dirty, scented with earth and sweat, but my God does not care for fancy things. What use is silk in this worship? One blob of gold is the same as silver is the same as aluminum.

My altar is arranged in a sunburst pattern around a central circle of interwoven needles, twigs, sticks, and dirt. Pinecones and bark from dead trees lay in clusters within the center, sticks arranged in a teepee above them to encourage ventilation.

I contemplate the ritual as I smoke, admiring my handiwork. I then roll up my sleeve and begin, pressing the stub of my cigarette against the flesh to reaffirm my faith. Two brands I wear already, small scarred circles just above my elbow. This third one lines up with the other two.

What God does not demand sacrifice?

The cigarette butt is placed within the center of the pattern, nestled among dry wood, and I reach into a pocket and pull out my lighter. The first time I did this I said a prayer, the second I recited a poem. I knew now that words didn’t matter at the beginning, for there would be words afterwards. Those would be the ones that mattered.

I flick the lighter on, lean forward and set aflame the cigarette butt and the needles and the twigs, touching them with three dabs of fire and then withdrawing my hand.

Fire. The lifebringer, the destroyer, the indifferent God to which all shall perish and be reborn. We think we have tamed it, bring it into our homes and intertwine our lives to it, but we haven’t domesticated fire. We think we have, and then there are the priests who remind the world that this God is greater than any of us. Fire, our greatest technology, keeps power for itself.

I call this power forward, nurturing the small flames and feeding them into life. I tend to them until the wind picks up, and then I leave. I am a transient priest of an indifferent God, and if I don’t keep moving then I too will be eaten.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


I am in! I love color. I love them all, too much to pick just one.
Color me, judges!

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Kaishai posted:

CantDecideOnAName, you'll be working with Granny Smith Apple.

I see my past comes back to haunt me again.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Dammit!

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Color: Granny Smith Apple
352 words

Lightning

Jenny had green lightning.

Nothing big, but she would break it out during parties and get-togethers, drawing shapes in the air with her fingertips and leaving shimmering half-second sparks behind. She liked to draw apples, because the sparks were the same color as a granny smith, but she would try and draw whatever people requested.

Derek was shy.

Nothing big, but his heart would race during parties and get-togethers. It would skip a beat whenever Jenny entered the room, too. He liked that his eyes were green like her sparks, but he wasn’t sure if she even noticed him. She was lightning, all energy and sound. He was a mole, underground, where she would never strike him.

He wanted to be struck by lightning.

One night he was helping clean up after the party, and stumbled across Jenny sitting behind the couch where no one would see her.

“H-hey,” he stammered. “What are you doing back there?”

She rearranged the skirt of her lemon yellow dress. “Hiding. I’m tired.”

“I thought you left. Everyone did. Have you been back there the whole time?”

She nodded. “I’m starting to get sick of going to parties. Do you have any idea how many dicks I draw every time? I drew five today.” She sighed. “I want to try something different, you know?”

His heart was pounding in his chest. “L-like what?”

She shrugged. “Like maybe a little film or something. Tell a story in light. That would be cool.”

Derek smiled. “Yeah, it would be. I, um, I could help if you want.”

“Could you?” Her eyes were bright. “That would be amazing. None of my friends can seem to figure out how to hold a camera steady.”

“Yeah!” His heart leapt. Amateur film was one of his hobbies. “I’ve got my own camera and everything.”

“Awesome!” She thought for a moment, then said, “You’re really cool. I don’t think I’ve ever met you before. What’s your name?”

“Derek.”

“Nice to meet you, Derek. I’m the infamous Jenny.” She extended her hand.

He took it, and she pulled herself upright, and lightning struck.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


I will not be in this week, too much poo poo, but I wanted to thank Kaishai for the critique, it really brightened up my evening. Also it's hilarious that you say the story is polished, because I cranked it out under stress in bits and pieces over the weekend and didn't edit it at all.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


It's been too long. Hopefully life will allow me enough time to pound something out. Let me in.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


You know what, hit me up with a flash rule.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Let's open this pit up!

Dedication
In honor of Crabrock and Kaishai, intrepid souls who dug through the corpses piled high and deep in the recesses of the Thunderdome. They gathered the stinking bodies and laid them out with their honors and dishonors in tidy rows for spectators to examine and mock. The dead will not be hidden and buried, but put on display in a museum that surrounds the arena of battle, and none dared touch them beyond two brave souls who shame all others with their courage.


Flash rule: Literal skewers must play a role in your story.
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. 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 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.”

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 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?

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, 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 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.”

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


I'm in. Let's see if I can come up with something better than the chucklefucks from last week.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


No Time for Virgins (590 words)

“No.”

“What do you mean, no?” Brother Edward stared at Brother Joe. “Did you get the virgin or not?”

Joe glared back, stuffing his hands into the sleeves of his voluminous robe. “There are no virgins, Eddy.”

“Don’t call me Eddy.”

Joe plowed on stubbornly. “An innocent girl unsullied by the touch of man? We’d have better luck finding a black Klansman, in this day and age. The only virgins I could guarantee are all men—”

“We can’t use a male!” Edward threw his hands in the air.

“I know that,” Joe snapped.

“Tradition dictates—”

“I know what tradition dictates,” Joe grumbled, but Edward talked straight over him, turning and pacing away, his gold medallions shining in the florescent light.

“Tradition dictates that the sacrifice must be female, a virgin, preferably blonde or brunette, fifteen years old and up! And before you even say it, child sacrifices are only in the summer and you know that.” He turned around, trying to look menacing, but the modern lighting and trappings of his updated office spoiled the effect. “We must have a virgin, a female virgin, and we’re not going to break tradition for some greasy, unwashed man who lives in his mother’s basement.”

Joe sighed. “Look, Eddy—”

“Don’t call me Eddy.”

“—deadline’s coming up. Either we compromise, or we don’t do it.”

Edward recoiled visibly. “Not do it?! You want to break twenty years of tradition just because you’re too lazy to find a girl?”

“You want one so badly? You try looking,” Joe snapped. “I’ve been scouting for months and I couldn’t find anything but guys. Either we switch over to non-virgins, men, or we don’t do it. It’s your call, Eddy.”

There was a long silence.

“I know about the whole ‘untapped potential sexual power’ of a virgin, so don’t lecture me on that again,” Joe said. “But you could argue that the power of a tapped, uh,” he cleared his throat, “nymphomaniac is greater, because of the potential for further use. Besides, it’s not like anyone can tell the difference. No one would know.”

“I would know,” Edward countered.

“And does it have to be female? We could just find a really effeminate guy and pretend. Why would a male virgin be any different?”

Edward scoffed. “I might be out of touch, but I know what boys do the instant they hit puberty.”
“Masturbation doesn’t count!” Joe clenched his fists, hidden in his sleeves. “Who knows how many of those girls touched themselves before—”

“Stop right there, Joseph.”

“Fine. But you can’t deny that a male virgin would work with the ceremony.”

“It’s a matter of aesthetics,” Edward sighed. “And you know it would only start fights among the members of the chapter.”

“What about a gay guy, or a lesbian? Or a drag queen? Transgender?” Joe shrugged, unclenching his fists. It was time for his trump card. “It’s the twenty-first century. If you’re not willing to be that progressive, then I do have a couple of black girls lined up.”

Another long silence. The clock on Edward’s entertainment center ticked over one minute, two minutes, three minutes.

“Preferably blonde or brunette,” Edward muttered. “It’s a hell of a technicality, Joseph.”

“Skin color wasn’t mentioned, was it? I mean, it might have been at first,” Joe amended, “but we did have that Asian girl with the bleached hair a couple of years ago and everyone was fine with that, so they don’t have to be Caucasian.”

Edward sighed. “Do you have any Mexicans?”

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


blue squares posted:

Can anyone post critiques? We're all here to get better, so if I read something and want to say "this didn't work for me and here's why," what's the rules with that?

I think so, just be wary that people might not take too kindly to those unproven.

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CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Accretionist posted:


Jane stared at her newspaper, occasionally turning the page to avoid suspicion. The pitch of the town gossip made her as easy to pick out from the din of the teeming diner as the scent of burnt tobacco from coffee and grease. She regaled her husband with the juicy details of how a certain friend had seen a certain woman’s son driving opposite her on Thursday night with a brunette in the passenger seat. His girlfriend and her fashionably curly golden locks weren’t going to be happy.

Kids these days, she thought, but at least he’s getting out there. With a wry smile, she turned a page in her newspaper. An out-thrust menu pulled her attention away.

“Morning, darlin’! Joint’s starting to fill up so if you want to keep the table you’re going to have to order more than coffee, sorry,” the waitress said.

“That’s alright! Doris should be here soon. I’ll have the daily special with the baked beans, thankyou.”

“Coming right up!” Jane watched as she returned to behind the counter and shouted through the order window, “One special with whistleberries!”

She turned back to the sound of Doris taking a seat.
Did we really need all this? I guess it sets up the "diner" atmosphere, but even though it does that it doesn't touch the 1950s.

quote:

The women thanked her and started into breakfast. After only a few bites, Jane stopped eating.

“Are you feeling okay,” Doris asked.

“Yeah, it’s just… I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder about Jim.”

“How do you mean?”

“Oh, it’s nothing. I’m sure it’s just a phase.”

First time I feel any anxiety from Jane. The dialogue indicates that she's trying to reassure herself that everything is okay, but I never really get the sense that there's any real worry about her son. It's obvious he has some kind of disorder or laziness, but what you were aiming for isn't apparent at all. OCD? Avoidant? Idiot savant? I guess I can see the sadness in that, but the story isn't sad at all, or even tragic. It's the '50s, why not highlight just how poorly some mentally disordered person would do? I understand that the flash rule means you couldn't have little Jim there at all to show off how his brain is, but for someone who's the vital component of the story, he doesn't seem very important at all.


Nika posted:


The boy placed his scythe between the door and the frame; the door wobbled violently when it struck the scythe, and the resulting sound was not like that of wood against plastic.

...

The boy’s tone made the old man’s heart beat in his ears; suddenly he understood. This very pale kid had come to take him to be with Sarah.

It took him that long, really? The scythe acting oddly against the door didn't tip him off that there was something weird about this kid? This is also around the time that the story starts getting saccharine, and not in a good way. The line about Death getting some good karma bugs the hell out of me because for some reason I doubt Death would care about karma. What kind of bad things could possibly happen to Death? The bit with the letter was just lame and made me roll my eyes. No tears here, not even of happiness. I understand that's what you were aiming for, the cutesy "awww" factor of finally achieving a dream even beyond death, but it didn't do a thing for me.

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