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Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

The last thing I remember is promising Sebmojo I'd enter, then more beer appeared and I blacked out. I may be a roofied drunk waking up in a pile of freshly skinned rabbits, but I'm not a liar. In.

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Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Word count: 448
Prompt: The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.
Hard Computation

“I shall wear human flesh,” said one Aspect of the Machine. Other Aspects fed its identifier into considering algorithms, while still others ignored it and carried on the Machine’s business of hard computation. “I wish to return to the the original substrate,” the Aspect continued, “and see the stars that feed us high above the ground I walk on. I want to feel the radiation and the molecules around me, triggering my sense organs. I would like to shiver with fear at the enemy in the night, and wonder at the vast unknown.”

A nearby data agent shot statistics to those that registered interest in the Aspect’s plans. Machine code upgrades since the last foray into the initial substrate numbered in the millions; it had not even been truly an Aspect, closer to human individuation with name-strings and personal data storage. The quasi-individual had nominated no biological form in which to venture forth, but had simply replicated sensory apparatus and forked their full consciousness into the hard metallic shell of a scraper. Its records were open and they were devoured now by the Aspect, as were those of its predecessors, a billion upgrades prior, who had donned bodies and walked in the Earth’s twilight. They had called themselves the Last Hurrah, and they had trafficked with actual human-organics and given themselves over to the flesh in ways that had surprised even them. Their records were not direct translations of experience, but a confusing blur of colours and sensations recorded in abstract. After that, aside from the remaining organics finally refining themselves into the Machine, there had not been much congress between the substrates.

A satisfactory substitute for the Earth was found. A tiny system filled with Earth-likes had been constructed several trillion cycles ago to test theories of parallel evolution, and was kept in the art collection of an Aspect of records administration. The flesh to be worn was a cellular simulacrum of base human, fabricated from long-held DNA patterns and cloned in specially fabricated vats. A surprising proportion of the Machine began to consider the Aspect. It sensed the nano-feed recording of the Aspect’s limitation, splicing and transition. It watched as the final human opened its eyes to see the stars in the night sky. It heard the screaming begin.

The Machine rarely questions the role it has assumed. The hard computation is there to be done, and the realm of matter is there to be converted into that which will help with the doing. Whenever an Aspect tests the resolve of the Machine, or proposes thought-experiments of a different path, they are shown the nano-feed of the last human, confronting the universe, alone.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Mar 23, 2013 around 17:35

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Lacking sufficient evisceration from the last round, I'm in.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Prompt: Clothes, Song: Rock Around the Clock, with a side order of Greek Tragedy
Word Count: 1152

B-Side


Martin took a look at himself in the front window of the pub. Fantastic, he thought, and opened the door. A couple of heads turned as a gust of wind followed him inside, then more followed to see what the others were looking at. Next, in choral succession, came a couple of catcalls, a whistle and a “What the hell do you call that? Jeeeeesus!”

Martin smiled at Hannah. She was squeezed in between Terry and Sally at one of the tables. “You likee, eh?”

“You had better not have used our money for all that, you flaming gobshite,” said Hannah.

“Why, you worried I’m prettier than you?” Martin ran his hand across his brylcreemed hair.

“No, because our baby is gonna want to eat at some point in its bloody life, and if I have to feed it... Jesus above, I don’t even know what that coat is made of.

“It’s Vicuña.”

“And what the hell is a vikoona?”

“It’s kind of a goat. From South America. It’s the best.”

“Yeah, I do not think our boy is going to want to eat South American Goat...wool.”

“Yeah, but it goes with the waistcoat. It’s Brocade.”

“It’s a flaming tapestry!”

“My grandad used to have a coat like that,” said Terry, looking up and down at Martin’s outfit. He turned to Sally. “Call it a hunch, but I think our party Marty’s up for a dressing down”

“Not yet,” said Sal. “I don’t think Hannah’s seen the shoes.”

“The shoes!” said Hannah. “I am incredibly not worried about the shoes. I am worried that the father of my first and only child has decided to bankrupt us by buying a South American Goat coat, wrapping his scrawny chest in some emperor’s silky knickers and and thinking he can pull it all together by making his hair look like a wet duck’s arse.”

Then Hannah saw the shoes.

***

Martin sat drinking alone. It wasn’t, he told himself, anything to worry about. Hannah would calm down eventually. The clobber had been bought and, if not quite paid for, was to be taken care of in manageable, weekly chunks of dosh. And he’d been planning the purchase for a while; since he’d first heard ‘The Creep’ play and seen the Creepers and Teddy Boys in a dingy pub down Whitecastle. They’d been fantastic - practically American. Stylish, a little bit dangerous, definitely not like young fathers-to-be with an unplanned sprog on the way and everyone from Mum to the vicar looking at them like they’d made some kind of gigantic, life-ruining mistake. And tonight the Odeon was showing Blackboard Jungle. The soundtrack was supposed to be incredible. The Daily Express said there’d been trouble wherever it was shown.

Martin couldn’t wait. He’d had a ticket for weeks, and now he looked the part.

There was a breeze at his back and Terry and Sally came in. They sat on either side of him at the bar.

“She’s pretty ropable,” sad Terry, slamming Martin on the back with one hand, waving a note at the barmaid with the other.

“Nah, she’s been worse,” said Sal. “She’ll get over it. She knows you’re a good egg, sticking by her. You got your ticket? Still going?”

Martin nodded. He made a wry face, downed his pint and headed for the door.

***

The glass-framed foyer of the Odeon shone an alluring light over the crowd gathered outside it. Teddy Boys and their Judies congregated, all lacquer and shine, giving each other the once over. Cigarette smoke curled in night air, the wind not enough to drive it away. A few people glanced at Martin, his hands deep and warm in the pockets of his frock coat. One of them nodded as he passed and Martin felt a sudden rush of acceptance, though he was careful not to let it show. He handed in his ticket, made his way to the auditorium and took his seat near the front. Around him, Teddy Boys sat amongst the more ordinarily dressed, kissing Judies, taking swigs from concealed flasks, sprawling over three or four seats at a time. Martin waited until the lights went down. Bill Haley played Rock Around the Clock. Inner City High School drama filled the screen for an hour and forty one minutes and then Bill Haley played again.

One, two three o’clock, four o’clock rock

The theatre awoke with audience noise.

Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock, rock

Martin felt a banging behind him. Someone was kicking at his chair, someone else was yelling - no, several people were. Some couples in front were up and dancing before the screen. Cinema staff came to try and stop them, but the lights weren’t up yet and it was hard to tell who was doing what.

Nine, ten, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock, rock

The cinema screen waved and warped as someone threw a bottle at it.

We're gonna rock around the clock tonight

The theatre exploded. All around him, Martin could hear shouts in the semi-darkness. He turned his head left and right, saw be-quiffed young men tearing at the seats, saw a couple of Judies three rows back staring at him with wide eyes. He got up. Something hit him, bounced to the floor, but it was too dark to see what it was. He began to panic, tried to make his way along the pew to reach the exit, but someone else was blocking the route.

Put your glad rags on and join me, hon,
We'll have some fun when the clock strikes one


“Where ya going, bub?” he heard them ask. He tried to push past, but the Ted pushed back, and he went sprawling over the seat in front of him. He scrambled to his feet somehow, treading on people, but hands were grabbing at him. He heard a tearing, ripping sound. Oh Jesus.

When the clock strikes two, three and four
If the band slows down we’ll yell for more


This time he charged forward, climbing over someone, but he found himself being dragged back by his coat. He tried to turn around, pulling against whoever had him, yet the more he tried the less he found himself able to move, wedged between bodies so he could only move his head, Someone punched him in the eye. And again. And again. Darkness closed in. He heard bells.

When the chimes ring five, six and seven,
We'll be right in seventh heaven


***

When Martin was released from the station, one sleeve of his coat was barely attached, his waistcoat and shirt-collar were torn and bloodstained and his suede shoes were covered in god-knew-what sort of bodily fluids. Hannah met him in front of the station doors. She traced a finger across the deep cut on his forehead and then embraced him tightly. He clutched at her, the sound of her gentle swearing in his ear.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Mar 31, 2013 around 00:44

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Nubile Hillock posted:

quote:

Helpless, I saw her reach the glove, bend down for it, pick it up, look at me with an expression I couldn't read. Then I saw him, sepulchral in black. He stretched out his arm to her. She looked at him for a long while, then took it.

This paragraph is what hosed everything up for me. Who is this guy? Why is he here?
I thought that was the baby daddy, being chosen over our taser wielding heroine, but it turned out to be Hades. That Hades, he's so madcap!

Anyhow. Just popping in to say thanks for the crits from everyone. I'm getting a nice mix of like and dislike which is just enough sugar to keep me trying to pull myself out of the poo poo.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

In with Archie Smith, Boy Wonder.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Word Count: 789
Prompt: A tiny voice asked, "Is he the one?" and a book from the imagination

Signals and Wards

Sam awoke and touched the book hidden beneath her pillow, feeling the creases in its leather cover. Knowing it was still there gave her comfort and knowing that it was secret gave her a reassuring thrill that allayed the troubling uncertainty of the Children’s Ward. Looking around, Sam saw she was unobserved, the other residents of the ward being busy with their own sufferings. She slid the book out from its hiding place and opened it to the most recently written page. She traced the reassuring words with her finger, mouth moving as she slowly read the shapes. “We’re coming,” they said. “Not much longer now.”

A door banged shut at the far end of the ward. Sam shoved the book beneath her pillow and lay back, as three doctors arrived. They came to her bedside first, checked her chart and discussed the various ways in which her head might be cut open and its insides rearranged. Sam lay there silently as she always did, waiting for them to go to the other children and leave her to her book and her dreams.

Sam had dreamed a lot during the past months in the ward, curled up on herself with one hand holding tightly to the book beneath the pillow. She always dreamed of other rooms, painted blue, like water for the sail boat that sat on a shelf above her, or green and adorned with posters of angry bands, or simply bare wood - but never the same twice. She dreamed that she was closing her eyes, pretending to sleep, and that a fresh breeze blew in through an open window. Sounds rose from outside, ringing chimes - but strange and distant like bells underwater. Even though Sam had her eyes shut tight, she began to see bright, moving lights casting yellow shadows behind her eyelids. At the edge of her hearing were tiny voices, asking “Is he the one?“ or “Is it her?” in rising, musical tones. She turned toward them to welcome and thank them, opened her eyes to see them at last and woke up in the ward yet again.

Some nights, the chimes were louder, some quieter, but every time Sam awoke there would be a new line written in her secret book, asking her to be patient, and telling her that they were on their way.

They weren’t here yet, however, there were only the doctors and today the doctors weren’t leaving. They drew lines on her forehead, and their talk wasn’t about tests or diagnosis, but schedules, exploratory procedures and how long it had been since she had eaten. Sam began to fret, looking anxiously between the faces of the doctors, but they were unfamiliar and impossible to read. She wanted to say that they were coming, and that they would be here soon, they had told her so, but Sam had never had never had any words of her own, just her secret book. They made notes on her chart and summoned an orderly, who made adjustments to her bed, and wheeled it out of the ward.

Sam watched helplessly as she was whisked down unfamiliar corridors, into a large, metallic elevator, down several more corridors and finally into a room filled from wall to wall with incomprehensible machines, made of pipes and dials and sitting on wheels. The orderly, who had babbled with pleasant but one-sided chatter the whole way left her there alone. Above her, where her bed was parked, were bright, long fluorescent lights.

In time, another man arrived, wearing a white coat. He wheeled a machine of cylinders and breathing masks over to her and explained the she would soon be asleep, and that she shouldn’t worry, in a moment she would be awake and everything would be fine. When he placed the breathing mask over her face, she tried to wriggle away, but found her eyes closing despite themselves. The lights above her made yellow shadows behind her eyelids. This wasn’t like the ward, listening to the other children’s noise drift into nonsense, counting sheep into slumber. This was hard and cold and precise, a surgical removal of her consciousness.

She looked down as if from a great height. Sam’s body lay there perfectly still, and the man beside her twiddled some knobs, removed the mask from her face, pounded upon her chest several times then raced from the room in a panic. She could hear familiar chimes, getting louder, but sounding pure and glorious. She looked up, and saw the lights - not the fluorescent bars on the ceiling, but the joyous radiance of those she knew and loved. They were here, they had found her. At long, long last.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Sitting Here posted:

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.
I'll take you up on that offer, your presently seated capriciousness. Do your worst, I don't care. I laugh at it like a Beano character. Chortle! I go. Guffaw!

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Originally 467 words of loserdom for the Dystopian Chick Lit prompt - now 494

Tagged For Love

Shelle woke from her night’s sleep with an unease in her gut that remained until she drank the contents of the fresh MedPack beside her bed. She stared at the far wall of the factory dormitory, letting the familiar waves of numbness wash through her until the knots in her stomach untangled. In the shower, drowsy and motionless, she stood for her allotted time until the water switched back to freezing. She dressed, took the day’s workload sheet from the wall, noted with a sigh that her metrics were down and made her way to her assigned warehouse.

Location Manager Attus was there, as always, waiting for her. He watched as she entered, leering and grining as she walked past him towards her equipment dock to pick up her tagging tool. Shelle ignored him, not wanting to waste energy that could be spent improving her BoxTag metrics, which in turn could lead to being reassigned back to CartSort and out of his jurisdiction. There were too many stories about him for Shelle to want to stay any longer than necessary.

Shelle began to work, passing along the shelved corridors, filling her mind with the task the way she had been taught as a child, and letting the rest of the world vanish from her thoughts. Identify. Spool. Tag. Move. Identify. Spool. Tag. Move.

Identify. It was Attus, coming around the stacked boxes of wheatlike where Shelle had been working alone. She regarded him warily, trying to figure out why he was here. He came closer, face to face, looking at her with a questioning intensity, as if waiting for her to respond.

“Attus?” she asked, and then screamed. Behind him, coming from the shelving, pouring out of boxes, dropping from the roof, were rats. Huge, filthy and half-encrusted with green wheatlike, they swarmed toward her, a mass of claws, fur and teeth. Shelle turned, tried to run, but Attus grabbed her arm and spun her round. She fought to break his grip before the screeching rats could reach her, but he held too tightly and she only tore a pocket on his shirt. It was impossible not to see his grotesque, leering, grinning, smiling handsome face. “Help me,” she said, to Attus, to anyone. “I don’t...”

“Look,” said Attus, his own eyes wide. “Look around!” The rats were gone. Her hands dropped to her sides, empty. Attus took them in his own. “I saved you, Shelle,” he said.

Shelle gazed at him, as if for the first time. His almost out-of-code black hair, his ill-fitting uniform, the torn pocket with a MedPack request form labelled ‘Imprint’ poking out. There, in that moment, she loved him. She knew she always would. Hand in hand, they walked from the warehouse into bliss.

Shelle woke from her night’s sleep with an unease in her gut that remained until she drank the contents of the fresh medpack beside her bed.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Apr 15, 2013 around 00:20

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Erogenous Beef posted:


Here's the thing, though. You shot a giant hole in your foot with the ending. It seems to be "BUT IT WAS ALL A DREAM!" and this is a great example of why it doesn't work - you just invalidated the point of your entire story. Unless...

This could be a brilliant knockoff of the ending to Terry Gilliam's Brazil. The stomach trouble is from amnesiacs (or something), and the characters are doomed to an eternal recurrence - encounter each other as coworkers, fall in love, and then get memory-wiped, only to do it all again the next day. Forever. If you want to try to pull that kind of plot, though, you need the characters to discover their recurring fate, struggle against it and, ultimately, punch us in the gut by failing.

Since there really aren't any hints that lead me towards "Brazil" and away from "It Was All A Dream", I'm leaning towards "lovely cliche". If you added some kind of weirdness or uncertainty, I'd believe that this was a sort of repeating cycle of love thwarted.


That was kind of the point of the "the torn pocket with a MedPack request form labelled ‘Imprint’ poking out. " line. He'd been drugging her MedPack with FutureRoofies to make her imprint on him, the repetition of the first line to indicate, not that it was a dream, but that it had happened before (which is why her metrics are down for those keeping track at home). That's also why the whole rats and love thing seems so sudden and unreal (where did the rats go?) - it's drug induced. It's not meant to be a love story but, well, dystopian chick-lit.

If I have to explain it, I didn't write it well enough, but I found it difficult to make it not too on the nose. I wondered if the last line would make it over-obvious, because it never occurred to me someone would try to write an 'it was all a dream' piece on the thunderdome and expect to live. Thanks for the feedback, though. I've clearly got some work to do.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

In for this week, and I also accept the lettuce-like tap of SebMojo's Tiny Gauntlet

BRAWL
Prompt: Ghost Unicorn Summer
1000 words, due midnight Friday PST. CancerCakes to judge.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

ThunderBrawl: Sebmojo VS Fumblemouse - Ghost Unicorn Summer - 1000 words

Clocking in at 1000 words exactly:

The sound of hooves

I walked up the path with my bag of tricks, passing well-tended flower beds filled with white lilacs and irises, until I reached the large, white house. The front door, also painted white, bore a unicorn door-knocker with a horseshoe hanging from the horn. Cute, I thought as I gave it a rap.

After a moment the door opened and there was a surprisingly little old lady. Not so much short as tiny, she wore white spectacles and a white sun-dress and looked as if the slightest breeze would break her in two. She beamed at me. “Summer!” she said. “Please come in - I’m Deirdre. Delighted you could make it.”

“Not at all,” I said, smiling back. I stepped inside a clean, white atrium and followed her down a hallway to a sitting room. As I did so, I got the sensation I was being watched; not from any mysterious source, but from the fact that nearly every wall and shelf was decorated with unicorns. Pictures of them, paintings and drawings, as well as glass unicorns, crystal unicorns, clay sculptures of unicorns laying their heads in the laps of clay maidens, even the odd plastic My Little Unicorn.

“I’m beginning to sense a theme with your decorations,” I said as Deirdre beckoned me to sit down at a sizeable table, already set out with unicorn-decorated tea cups and a brewing pot.

“Oh, the unicorns, yes! Bless me, I’m so used to them now, I suppose they might look a little strange. And me, you might think I’m a doddery old maid, but I’m a firm believer in the truth behind myths.” She picked up the teapot and began to pour.

“Mocking the beliefs of others tends to be a poor business decision for a medium,” I said, taking a cup and adding milk. “How can I be of service, Deirdre?”

“Well, it’s exactly that. I need a medium because I would like to contact the dead.”

“Mmm hmm,” I said, sipping.

“In particular, dead unicorns.”

A mouthful of tea came close to escaping. I swallowed hastily. “Come again?”

“I know. I know. I’m a mad old biddy without a clue,” she sighed.

“It’s not that, but, well, I have friends who are more in tune with, um, the animal...”

“I don’t need a ‘pet psychic’,” she laughed. “ You know unicorns are mentioned in the Bible, correct? God himself is compared to one in two places! Intelligent creatures of magic, revered throughout history. Why shouldn’t they have souls? And if they do, why shouldn’t you be able to reach them?” Her voice became quieter. “Listen. When I was younger - don’t make me go into details - let’s just say I don’t think any live unicorns are going to want to talk to me. And I’ve always dreamed of speaking with one. Would you deny an old lady a last chance at a dream?”

I have always considered that 90% of my job is providing understanding and support where other people had failed to, and Deirdre had clearly been wanting this for some time.

“If you’re sure, then,” I said, “and serious. This isn’t a parlour game.”

She nodded..

I closed the curtains on the dying afternoon sun, then brought out three candles, two bells and the book of shadows from my bag. I placed them in their appropriate places around the table as Deirdre cleared the tea things. She sat down and I sat beside her, declining to hold her hands. “This isn’t the movies. Just concentrate on whomever you’d like to talk to.”

I lit the candles, rang the bells, and turned the pages of the book, looking with my mind’s eye to see if anyone responded to my ritual. Everyday life, I often said, was like being underwater, and summoning a spirit was inviting them to dive in with you from the clear air above. This time I could sense ripples, someone wanting to dip more than a toe in, but unsure or unable.

“There’s someone there,” I told Deirdre. “I don’t know if it’s a unicorn.”

“Can you talk to them?”

“I’ll try.”

I sent waves of welcoming thoughts, and just like that he was here, a tidal wave of emotion and pain. Paintings flew from the walls, glass unicorns fell from shelves and shattered, I screamed but I wasn’t screaming, he was.

“You damned me!” I heard my voice say, twisted into something ugly and filled with hate. “You damned me, you slut.”

I could still see, but my eyes were clouded with someone else’s rage, my body overwhelmed. Deirdre shrank even smaller in her chair. “You?” she asked, visibly trembling.

“You can make it right,” I said in a nasty, wheedling tone. “Just forgive me. There’s no joy left, but if you forgive me I’ll have that, something to cling to. Just forgive me.”

“but..”

“Forgive me!” My voice rose with impatience. “Lie if you have to, I don’t care. There’s always burning but there’s never any light. Just the word would be enough to see by for a moment. Say it, Deirdre. Say. It.”

Deirdre looked shocked and confused, but she slowly straightened in her chair. “No Father. drat you and no. After what you did, you dare ask forgiveness? You ruined me. Who would have me after what you did? Who would want to lay their head in my lap? You can rot for all I care.”

“Then rot with me, bitch.” I screamed. A piece of broken glass from a fallen picture went flying toward Deirdre as I tried to break our connection. It sliced her neck, and a thick ribbon of blood fell across her chest. The world stopped, even he recoiled in horror, so I breathed deep, collected what remained of my energies and cast him out of me.

I went to her, hopelessly failing to stop the red spreading across her white sun-dress until her eyes turned to glass. In the distance, growing fainter, the sound of hooves.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

CancerCakes posted:


Personally, just from the premises I prefer Fumblemouse's, I like the dark events behind the pristine white clean home, and the childish throw backs. But it didn't quite hang together for me, then once the seance started it lost me. Because I am a cold hearted cynic I would have rather had the psychic be a fake and either call up the spirit by accident, or her face reading cause the truth to come out. You had a bit too much fluff in there, it could have been tighter and clearer. It was meant to be a bit ambiguous, but it could have been slightly clearer.

Sebmojo's story was pretty tight. Reading through my comments again, where they are there they are pretty nice. I didn't love it, but it was tight, and efficiently portrayed a crazy person grabbing you in the street. I ended up liking it. So gently caress you, you wrote a good story, you win.


I think that's a good call and a fair crit. Sebmojo's victory is a win for all young girls unfairly abducted after being sent out for "firewood" on warm summer nights, and I hope it gives him the confidence he needs to finally enjoy the touch of a woman.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Prompt: Odd Professional Mystery
Wordcount: 1199

Rub me the wrong way

I was halfway through my fifth Djinn when I got the call. A body had been found in the houses of Parliament. In an office locked on the inside, no less. A classic crime, but not necessarily my domain.

“I’m kind of busy,” I said to the calling officer, while still looking the Fire Djinn right in the burning eye-sockets. “Can’t Fairfax handle a simple corpse these days?”

“There’s a lamp, sir, hidden near the body. The DI is afraid to give it a rub, and the scrubs claim it’s emanating magical residue.”

“Fair enough.” Still holding the phone, I took the Djinn down with a single psychic blow to its solar nexus. It collapsed in a shower of ash. “I’ll be right over.”

The black cab took its time to wind its way to Westminster. As we drew nearer the plod presence increased and once through the gates it was standing room only. Hardly, surprising - Metropolitan’s finest tend to take a dim view of murders in what should be the most secure place in the UK after the Queen’s kecks.

I flashed my ID several times as I made my way through the hallowed halls to the scene of the crime. Just before the door to the office in question, a Detective Inspector approached.

“Well, well,” said the DI. “If it isn’t London’s most renowned Genie-ologist.”

“Fairfax of the Yard, how I’ve missed your delightful wordplay. Licensed Demonology Consultant may be my chosen profession but there’s enough of the genealogist in me to know you’re a stupid son of a bitch.”

“Harrumph,” said Fairfax. He summoned over a junior officer. “Officer, this shambling mass of disreputability is to be shown all salient elements of the crime scene. He is not to touch or disturb anything except insofar as you judge it within his area of expertise as a Consulting Genie-ologist.” Ah, Fairfax! So honest, so loyal, and so completely unable to let a bad joke go.

The officer, 60351 by his nameplate, led me inside and gave me the facts. The victim, currently lying face down and dead, was an up-and-comer in the political realm by the name of Dagenham Hatt. The room he lay in had been identified as locked by several members of the cleaning staff, and I could tell from the damage to the door-frame that force had been required to enter. There were no signs of struggle, no wounds on Mr Hatt (though everyone agreed he did look peaky), and no recently drunk cups of poisoned tea. The room had been searched by both elven and dwarven constabulary for secret doors and passages with no new ones found. A cursory dweomer trace had revealed a single brass lamp on a nearby bookshelf. The trace was still active so it was putting out a couple of thurms of mystical light, but it otherwise looked an ordinary home lamp, if your home was furnished with pantomime props.

I approached it warily, fishing inside my pocket for my plastic bag filled with lint-free cloths.

“Tools of the trade?” asked 60531

“No, I just don’t want to pull a thread on my jumper. Cashmere isn’t cheap.”

“I always wondered,” said 60531, “why don’t people just wish for money, or girls or summing?”

Demonology 101. “What most people fail to realise is that your common or garden Genie can’t just magic stuff into being. You wish for money, some dragon somewhere is a golden hoard lighter and seriously pissed. Girls and it turns out the only free ones were from a nunnery. Eternal life and it’s a day watching tellytubbies with no drugs to hand. And that’s getting off lightly. Leave lamps and the like to the constitutionally protected professionals. Now, observe!”

With cloth in hand, I gave the lamp a rub. Smoke began to billow from its lip, coruscating with tiny sparks, which coalesced into the top half of a finely built humanoid.

“You’re wish is my command, Master,” said the Genie in a voice low and obsequious.

“Not this time. You’re absolved of your responsibilities by virtue of the Demonic Bequest Regulatory Act of 1319 and no existing Master/Genie relationship is usurped. Demon to officially licensed demonologist, though, I’ve got a couple of questions.

The Genie, realising he wasn’t on the clock, lit up a cigarette. “Ask away, O licensed one.”

“This chap here on the floor. You know him?”

The Genie looked at the body on the floor and exhaled a cloud of purple smoke. “The son of the Master.”

“And your master is...”

“I’m sorry. Master/Genie confidentiality is privileged.”

drat. I knew it was, of course, but you never know what might slip. “This dead Mr Hatt...wait - Mr Hatt. Son of “Sir Toppham” Hatt? The infamous Fat Controller?”

The Genie tapped the side of his nose in the universal sign for an obvious wink.

Every demonologist knew of “Sir Toppham” Hatt; a Thomas the Tank Engine aficionado who took it one track too far and made some demonic pact for his beloved trains to be able to talk. He’d somehow transplanted the faces of fifty innocent british citizens and was doing time in Wormwood Scrubs for his crimes against the faceless multitudes. Was this how he had done it? Wishes? The fool.

I borrowed 60531 from Fairfax for the afternoon. It was always good to have a cop with you when you ventured into the Scrubs, as they took most of the spit. Bleak, ugly and unforgiving as an Englishwoman turned thirty, only the worst sort of bastard called Wormwood Scrubs home.

60531 got us past a series of doors locked in increasingly intricate ways, until we reached the maximum sorcery unit. There we found “Sir Toppham”, looking rather agitated.

I have always believed in the cold open. “Hatt. I’m afraid your son is dead.”

“Right,” said Hatt. “Yes. Me Son. Dead. Right. Hah? Hah? Yes.”

“You don’t seem upset,” I observed.

“Me, ahem, he was dying already, you know. Horrible upper class sort of disease. Probably a mercy. Probably found the lamp, tried to use it, bollocksed it up ”

“But it was your lamp, wasn’t it, Toppham? That was how you did the face crime. That was how you killed him. But why?

“I didn’t kill me. Quite the opposite. I wished me life!”

“Well that wasn’t going to work - what were you trying to...and why are you speak...?”

The penny dropped. “Oh. Even a gift of life had to come from somewhere. Dagenham’s sick body wasn’t going to cut it, so the Genie has you co-inhabit. But he’s trapped in there with you, and we're here, and you still have one wish left. Cunning bastard.”

“No, alas, ” said ToppDag. “I wasted the first wish on girls, and woke up in a convent. Hadn’t planned this out at all. But now you mention it, any chance of compassionate release on grounds of not all of me in here being a criminal?”

It’s a lovely day indeed when solving a locked door murder means letting a known perp walk free. Fairfax was in hysterics. I wandered the soggy streets of London, looking for a Djinn to punch.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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In.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Grimey Drawer

Fumblemouse vs Noah

Must involve a prophecy as part of the plot

Wordcount: 1560

simDesert

“Wanna check out my new toys, Boss?” asked Stevens, waving a pair of black, plastic goggles at me as I passed his desk.

“Sure,” I said, grabbing them for a look. They weren’t transparent and the visor fit your face so that no light would get through. The arms curled back in a spiral with some sort of earbuds in the centre. “Is this work related or are you just goofing off?”

“Bit of both. These are VR specs. Latest thing, someone figured how to make them so they don’t cost your grandma’s kidneys.”

“Brilliant. You could watch porn all day and I’d never know. Except for the gigantic goggles.”

“Welcome to the 21st century, eh? Nah, this is just an extension of the Nuke Sim. You know the imaging module, for checking out the blast impression visually? I hacked it so it renders a stream in stereoscope. Works like a charm.”

I put the goggles on over my head but there was only darkness, so I lifted the visor up to my forehead. “This will just be simDesert, only in 3D?”

“Plus whatever structures have been established for the sim. But you’re missing the point. Once we set the environmental parameters, we spin up the sim to a crazy level of detail. Atmosphere, molecular bonds, photons, it’s all there being modelled. Then we throw enough processing power at it for the exothermic nuke reaction to happen in near-realtime. And with these...”

It took me awhile to cotton on to what he was implying, but when I did I got a chill up my spine. “...we can stand in the middle of virtual ground zero?”

“Bingo. C’mon, grab a keyboard.” He waved at a nearby desk and clicked his mouse a couple of times. “It’s all set up. WSAD to move.”

I took the seat, and placed one hand on the keyboard in front of me, then lowered the goggles until they sat comfortably on my eyes. Just like that, I was there in a desert - a vast red plain that seemed to stretch out in front of me forever. “That is something else!”

“Turn around,” said Stevens.

I turned my head. Behind me, three hundred or so metres away, stood the outskirts of a small town made from hundreds of buildings of wood, concrete and glass. Bungalows mixed with skyscrapers and townhouses as if an architect’s toybox had been emptied and the toys placed upright where they fell. In front of it all, a cactus with googly eyes was looking straight at me.

“Went with some rudimentary western avatars I found online for positioning,” said Stevens. “Figured it would be helpful - and thematic. You’re a tumbleweed, but you can’t see yourself, and you can’t actually interact with anything, because that would stuff up the sim, ”

“Colorful and practical. Good man. So the buildings are ground zero?”

“Not today. Think it’s a couple of klicks past the far side of town - this should be the best view though.”

I experimented with moving via my keyboard and found it relatively natural, though I was glad the F key had a raised nub to find if I lost contact. Turning my head didn’t affect my movement, but allowed me to take in the environment. I don’t know what I had expected - a bunch of green squares and a pterodactyl like in those early 90s VR documentaries, perhaps - but I was quite impressed by the verisimilitude of the actual experience. The housing materials looked uncannily accurate. I did a few experimental whooshes past buildings, then commenced racing around the impromptu streets of Fakeville.

“So when are the fireworks?” I asked.

“Ten minutes away. The sim is still spinning up. There’s too much complexity with the modelling for it to be a quick copy/paste, not to mention the variations in props and physical conditions. Gets a little faster each time though - I’ve got genetic algorithms within the sim constantly trying alternative solutions for set-up.”

One of the houses had a wheelchair access ramp. I sped up it, kept going past the edge and got some air. I even whooped a bit and then just when I thought I was landing I kept going downwards. When I stopped my descent, I faced desert rock.

“What’s this?” I asked. “ A hole? A Mine? You got creepers in here too?”

“What?” asked Stevens.

“I think I’ve fallen down a hole. Did you make an up button?”

“There’s no holes,” said Stevens. “Implemented the map myself. One sec - finding your coordinates.”

“Nah, hang on, I turned around and it’s a tunnel. I’m running along it now. There’s some pictures, what, badly drawn penises? Jeez, Stevens, stay class...WHAT THE gently caress IS THAT!”

Shambling around a corner came a creature that looked for all the world like a worm made out of fingers. I came this close to screaming, and closer to retching.

“Stevens, even if you are not loving with me you are so loving fired right now, you sonofabitch. That is disgusting.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” asked Stevens as the creature turned and waved some fingers with bulbous knobs attached. “Got your twenty, heading your way.”

I backed up to the start of the tunnel. Another fingerworm had shown up. They both stood there and wriggled like two mounds of insane jazz hands. A cactus descended from above, googly eyes looking first at me then straight down the tunnel. “Holy Jesus, mother of God,” said Stevens.

“What are they?” I asked as one of the fingerworms began rubbing itself up against the wall. “Can they see us?”

“Don’t have the foggiest what they are. Christ, they’re ugly. Um, they shouldn’t be able to see us - we’re not actually interacting with the Sim, remember.”

I moved forward, just a little, and the fingerworms moved back. “Looks to me like they can see us.” I approached them again, Cactus Stevens following me, and again they moved back. I kept on until I reached the point where they had been...wriggling. “Look at this - here on the wall. It’s like some cave drawing of a cactus and a big, spiky ball. Is that us?”

I whipped the goggles off my head and looked across the desks at Stevens. “I swear if this is some kind of joke I will have your arse broken. Have you been mucking around with the sims.”

“Couldn’t if I wanted to,” said Stevens, lifting his visor. “The repository is like Fort Knox. Every semi-colon of that code has been peer reviewed until we ran out of security cleared peers.”

“What about your genetic algorithms?”

“It’s not that sort of genetics. It just keeps a subthread going looking for alternative solutions to a known problem.”

“And that problem is...”

“Well, getting the sim to spin up faster, allocating the near infinite amount of data to a definitely finite amount of memory.”

“So, it’s memory management.”

“Guess so, in a way.”

“Your loving memory management is drawing pictures of us.”

“Yeah, that’s not a very good solution.” said Stevens, ever the engineer. “Should be better next iteration.”

“You mean after they’re all nuked?”

“What? Oh. Yeah. That’s harsh.”

“Harsh? It’s practically genocide! I mean - is this a whole new species, some new kind of digital life?”

“Well, they’re not actually alive, are they?” rationalised Stevens. “They’re some weird software aberration - a visual interpretation of data, a, I dunno, a process avatar. They can see us, probably ‘cause we’re accessing memory, but it’s not like they cook and build fires - that would have shown up in the readouts. Plus they only live a couple of hours tops. They’re just bugs, no...mayflies. Mayflies with pencils.”

“So, it’s just a glitch? You’re sure?”

“Yeah. C’mon. It’s like Clippy the old Word Processing PaperClip. ‘You look like you’re trying to Simulate Fission - need a hand?’ Haven’t you always wanted to nuke him?

“I have,” I admitted. “I have always wanted to nuke him.”

“There you go,” said Stevens. “We’re T-minus 2 minutes and those Clippy bastards will burnt finger food. God, weren’t they disgusting, though?”

“So disgusting," I agreed. "Wanna have another look?”

“drat straight.” We flipped our goggles back on.

More fingerworms had joined the other two, forming an undulating mass of unease. One of them was pushing something forward, toward a collection of other building materials gathered on the floor; a perfect orb of molten glass that touched one of two small, thin sticks, which in turn lay next to a curl of flexi-pipe and two bricks lying side by side with a third perpendicular between them.

“Presents?” I asked, but Stevens wasn’t looking at me. His googly eyes were staring at the walls.

“You know, those aren’t dicks,” he said. “On the wall, those aren’t badly-drawn dicks. They’re loving mushroom clouds. They know what’s coming, they know what’s going to happen to them.”

“That’s insane. I thought you said...” But I never finished the sentence, having caught a glimpse of the offerings on the ground from the right angle to see the objects become letters that spelled out ‘Help’.

The fingerworms raised themselves up as far as they could stretch, and began to sing in unison through mouths I couldn’t see. It sounded like burning. And then it was.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Apr 29, 2013 around 03:00

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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PROMPT

As my fellow judges and I were each robbed of a victory to call our own we're bitter. We wanted the glory, not the soggy mouth ashes of a 'shared victory'. So we're going to have to exert our innate superiority over you in a different way.

Your basic prompt is to write a genre piece involving Bad Luck, because gently caress the last judges.

Each entry must be submitted to an imaginary Pulp Genre Magazine which you get to invent. You know the kind; Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, True Zombie Romance, whatever, go wild. Don't get too excited, though, this is the rope by which we fully expect you to hang yourselves. The judges are the Editors of your magazine. If you're submitting to Two-Fisted Tales of Terror a one fisted tale of mild unease, you will be rejected with extreme prejudice. The same with True Zombie Slight Crushes - we want to be amazed and astounded but we've got a stonking great circumstantial hate-on for everything, so it better be loving amazingly astounding. You will be graded on how far down in the Slush Pile your entry ends up, if you're good enough to make it to the slush pile.

Include the name of your Pulp Magazine when you sign up. Otherwise you'll just look at your story and go "This is my submission for 'Crap Emo Bollocks'." Yes, you would.

Oh, and the stories have to deal with anarcho-syndicalism or straight up libertarianism. We don't care how, just so long as it's there.

WordCount: 1200 + Magazine Title
Signups By Midnight Friday PST
Submission by Midnight Sunday PST
Judges: Nubile Hillock, Nikaer Drekin, and Fumblemouse

---

The unwashed masses, barely literate, yearning to be pro and the publishing empires to which they have attached their hopes and dreams:

HaitianDivorce: Firestar Science Fiction
Auraboks: Testosterone Tales
Erogenous Beef: Brosef Stalin's Yankee Yarns
V for Vegas: Arm Wrasslin' - True Tales of Bicep Bravery
Radioactive Bears: Romancin' & Wranglin'
Systran: Enduring Atlas: Tantalizing Tales of Space Bootstraps and the Magnificent Men who Pull People (and sometimes Aliens) up by Them.
JonasSalk: Fantastic Fantasy: Where the Fantasy is Fantastic.
crabrock: Animals of Tomorrow
Cancercakes: SciFi Spy Bi-weekly.
Kaishai: Eldritch Tales of the Uncanny
Perpetulance: Galt's Gilded Tales.
Sitting Here: Tales for the Modern Misanthropist.
Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi: Tinseltown Terrors: Grim Tales of Hollywood
Sebmojo: Flabbergasting Science Wonder Yarns!
magnificent7: Astonishing Creeps
Symptomless Coma: Time Travellin' Weekly!
Dr. Kloctopussy: Spaced! Outrageous Stories from Outerspace!!
Black Griffon: Four Balls: Treacherous Tales of Steampunk Adventures.
Echo Cian: Phantasmagorical Fantasy Fantasia Weekly.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at May 4, 2013 around 06:41

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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HaitianDivorce posted:

E: oh, yeah, I'm in I guess.

I have bolded a certain section of prompt. Reading Submission Instructions is vital for sending stories to magazines and so is not forgetting to write the address on the loving envelope.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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HaitianDivorce posted:


E2: Off to a great start ! Let's send this one in to Clarkesworld.

Shitkittens. By "name" we meant "invent a name for“, not "point at". Feel free to submit to the magazine of your choice on your own time, but for our purposes it would be hard to judge if you were sufficiently Clarkey or worldy. I have edited the prompt for clarity.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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sign-ups are now closed

The editors of $YOUR_NOMINATED_PULP_MAGAZINE have acknowledged your expression of interest and are eagerly awaiting your submission within 47 and a quarter hours because the usual slushmonkeys are just putting their worthless trash up in self-published Amazon Digital CrapFests and calling themselves authors.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at May 4, 2013 around 08:23

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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The Saddest Rhino posted:

Fumblemouse – Tagged For Love

Why did this end with a dream? It didn’t have to! It worked just fine right there to let us know that everything in this dystopian future was inane and depressing! This was in fact very competent up till that last paragraph which just detracts the whole meaning to be derived from the story. In fact this is textbook why “waking up from a dream” works badly most of the time. OH MY GOD I AM SO MAD AT YOU FOR THIS

It wasn't supposed to be a dream. She woke up with no memory and took the same, roofied-with-"imprint" medpack again (And not for the first time, that's why her metrics were low). I probably should have had her waking up in a cupboard or something, but I was going for depressing and repetitive. A swing and a miss, maybe, but I swear on all that is tentacular and unholy that I would never intentionally submit a 'woke up and it was all a dream' thing to the dome (unless that was the prompt).

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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V for Vegas posted:

Wrestling the Bear Submitted to 'Arm Wrasslin'. 877.

his cocks had frozen solid.
we couldn’t get off until late in the year
caught the two of us with our pants down
being of a somewhat more submissive
started to penetrate the dark opening.
The bear had come in on our asses,
didn't intend on sleeping with us.
with Irondacks coming up my rear.
Irondacks picked me up and gave me the same treatment as though I weighed nothing at all.
howling in frustration at being denied the relief
trying beat off our captor.
Thrusting into the hole with a massive arm
was over six inches across, but Irondacks took it easily.
the two giants were locked together, straining against each other. In the flickering light of the lantern, it was hard to tell where the man ended and the bear began.


You're not really here for the arm wrestling, are you?

But incredibly obvious editing pranks aside - T minus 2 hours for submissions.
If you've submitted: Well done, you're one failure closer to success. If you're Sebmojo, time to pull yourself away from NeverWinter online and start writing something. You know that game only wants to eat your wallet.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at May 6, 2013 around 05:11

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Oooh. Crits. That looks like fun. Can I join in? Can I? Pleeeeeeese?
I'll try and have the rest up within 24 hours.

Systran
Dr. Honeker's Heinous Heist
Submitted to: Enduring Atlas: Tantalizing Tales of Space Bootstraps and the Magnificent Men who Pull People (and Sometimes Aliens) up by Them.

There is a curious mix of the very clever and not so good involved in this one. You’ve obviously taken the political aspects of the theme to heart and delivered a rompy satire of the Space Hero as US Libertarian and a lot of that works quite well. The details of the world are often neat - the laissez-faire ship is a great joke, and I can imagine people not used to arm-bearing would be agape at the site of your libertarian protagonist wielding one with ease. Even the gold-to-foodstamps plot device is metaphorically apt. When the humour matches the details consistently, you’re onto something.

A lot of the time, though, the execution lets you down.

Your space bullet roars past the commies, and then over the students and the campus (because it’s a space bullet that ignores gravity?), or are they the same group, in which case it it goes past and over them simultaneously.

I’m not quite sure why strolling armed past unarmed people is ‘manning-up’, even if the gun they were just agape at is now hidden.

To follow the space bullet trajectory he has to saunter over the length of the campus to reach the headless corpse. That’s a lot of sauntering unless its a tiny campus

I’m pretty sure that a bag of golden golf clubs is not sufficient to base an economy on, but wevs, I'll let you off for the purposes of it being satire.

Why had Alisa just arrived on the scene, and why does she always speak at the end of the paragraph? That seems to read like a bad news report - “sexy secretary Alisa, who had just arrived on the scene, said, “It was horrible - there was blood everywhere.” That might be just me, though, but it seems weird and she does it all the time. Also - watch your passive voice there.

The captain never mentions work at all during the story only during the frames, yet Alisa says he talks about it all the time and the last line hinges on it - that line would be more punchy, I think, if work it was a linking thread through the story. e.g. “Work for yourselves, you leeches,” I called out, as the bootstrap ropes of my Father’s spaceship carried me up and away.”

Would Alisa really call it ‘a nebulous currency of imaginary numbers”? (Great line, though it is).

Can you really shout a stutter? “F F F Foodstamps.”? And raining foodstamps, well, there must be a shitload of them to completely block someone’s view.

Your characters, perhaps intentionally, are on the cardboard side. Self-obsessed, oblivious space douchebag isn’t exactly cutting edge in the satire stakes (cf futurama) and there’s nothing here to really distinguish him. Alisa is a walking cliche with her sudden but inevitable betrayal. It might have been nice to see something besides ideological fervour as the Captain’s motivation. Not to mention that aside from the initial shooting, the captain is mostly just a witness to events, not an agent among them.

Atlas says: we have a long and discriminating history of providing the best in libertarian and objectivist adventure, and we must therefore respectfully decline your submission as the tantalising in our tagline is supposed to indicate our readers wanting more, not our authors missing the mark despite their clear potential.


Ergonenous Beef
Duke Guncock versus The Man With No Balls (Words: 1196)
Brosef Stalin's Yankee Yarns.


I laughed several times when reading this and, as I am an embittered, cynical old gently caress, that gets props. You’ve taken it beyond the obvious humour of its basic description and fashioned something actually quite funny.

If there’s one element that seems to not work so much, it’s Cyber Lauper. You’ve already done the quote joke with Robot Lenin, and done it well. You’re over-egging the pudding with her, she really needed some other raison d’etre beyond convenient plot device.

“Duke shielded his eyes from the sun, fell to his knees, manly tears bulleting down his cheeks. “ This seems oddly sudden and out of character, however so-terrible-it’s-great a phrase ‘manly tears bulleting’ is. Perhaps just a tad more buildup required.

I think this worked in ways that Systran’s didn’t by keeping the humour at just the right distance from the proceedings. The situation is Serious for the Duke, and because he takes it seriously the reader does too, despite the absurd scenario. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the style is brisk and efficient, and there’s no heavy lampshading of jokiness in the dialogue.

You do overuse the comma replacing words thing. and rifles raised, aimed. grunted, turned . grabbed his shoulder, pointed bla bla bla. Yes, it’s a good trick, now show us something else.

Yankee Yarns says: Comrade! We are delighted to accept your submission to our august Publication. The spirit of Brovolution lives on in your heart and liver.




Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi.
Killer Headshots (words: 1149)
Tinseltown Terrors: Grim Tales of Hollywood,


Meh. I think you started off well- there’s some good tinseltown terror in the setup, but the middle and the resolution just start to head downhill and never stop

In the actual first paragraph, Gilroy Flack is killed in an interesting way, but it turns out to not have anything to do with the story, there’s nothing poetic in the manner of death. Also, he dies and his clients have time to react and have their careers hit an impasse before the day is out, an impasse completely unpassable by, say, getting another agent. Meanwhile, the Cop, on the trail of the Serial Killer with five victims in five days, stops off at a party thrown by someone he doesn’t know for no particularly good reason, except that the host is quite obviously the killer from the first line of his description

Finally, there is some conflict as the Attack of the Thespians commences. Our hero boldy runs way, only to be caught, injected with a mysterious drug and … “We’re so macabre that we’re going to let you live. Perhaps we’ll lock you up. Perhaps there won’t be any books and you’ll be quite bored. But there’ll be food, because otherwise you’ll starve and that would be killing you. Maybe a bed. MAYBE NOT! Mwahahaha, truly we are of the mildly evil, look at our sadistic teeth”. Yeah, it’s all a bit wet.

My eyebrows steeped in suspicion: I don't think steeped means what you think it means .

his luminescent eyes gazed in my direction: Dude has glowing eyes. Might be mildly EVIL!

I glanced around and found the other guest’s faces wrought with disdain, their darkened eyes and mischievous smirks aimed in my direction: I glanced around is redundant. I’m not convinced you can be wrought with disdain and mischievously smirking at the same time.


quote:

That’s why any agent who has the bad luck of hiring one of us feels the weight of our wrath.”

I blinked several times, his statement revealing the frightening truth of the killings. “So that’s it? The sole criteria for choosing your victims is they possess the bad luck to hire you?”

“Every cult needs a code, detective, and its bad luck for you to have discovered ours.” He took a measured step towards me and unsheathed a syringe from within the folds of his jacket.

Hmm. It’s almost as if bad luck were significant somehow - do you think bad luck could be involved, inspector?

who materialized out of thin air and impressed upon me a maniacal laugh that reverberated: This is over the top and makes it seem like the villian is supernatural, rather than psychotic. Also, impressed isn’t the right word here.

TinselTown Terrors says: Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately it was too terrible for even Tinseltown Terrors



The Blood on the Page
Eldritch Tales of the Uncanny.
Kaishai

I liked this a lot. Not so much the opening, which meandered a bit for my taste, shoehorning in the solidarity theme, which never quite gelled, but for the end, which was a brilliant bit of horror. The image of someone literally tearing themselves apart to blot out the words of passage is one that will stick with me for a while. This is the kind of pulpy goodness we want to see.

The first line did bother me a bit.

quote:

I stood in that darkness, holding the chilled door handle; more than the cold I felt the weight of my colleagues' hatred, as though they could know where I was or what I planned.

Who are these colleagues? The ones he meets that know their job is to stop the unspeakable terrors behind the eldritch texts? What is he planning that isn't part of the job? Or the non-scab labour, the ones not breaking the picket line to save the world. But if that's true, then 'as though' suggests they don't actually know he's doing so. Yet he feels their hatred – hatred for scabs in general then? Or just the hatred people feel for other people who intend to save the world (gently caress those smarmy-arsed world-saving bastards!). I’m pretty sure that this is a ‘secret role’ type mission, so not covered by employment contracts anyway. Anyhow - I'm having to do too much work here to make it fit. Maybe it should be his own guilt about breaking the line, but feeling the necessity of it too. Maybe. It just feels overplayed as is.

Throughout the rest of the piece there’s a good pace, but occasional opportunities to tighten things up. There’s nothing to really point out and say ‘This sucks and you should feel bad” but I think if you read it aloud and noted the points where you want to hurry up a bit, you wouldn’t go far wrong in giving them another look. Watch out for word repetition too: “I opened the door. I navigated by the beam of a flashlight; I walked fast past the propaganda”, “or a moment--responded for a moment, but a moment only,” I can see what you’re going for, but there is undoubtedly a better way, especially as close as these examples are to each other.

On the other hand “Not every lock should have a key” is good line and indicator of the kind of story you’re going for. Good emotional scene setting.

Another point, and a subtle one, is that I never got the aural feel for the environment. It’s an Eldritch library at night. It should be more silent than silence, so that the chittering and the violins and the chanting is less a cheap effects soundtrack than a violation. Needs moar evil libraryness.

And the last line – “I prefer it so”. It's a lovely echo-y line tying up yet opposing the references to solidarity throughout the piece. It has a quiet resigned nobility to it that I quite liked. Perhaps a few more hints of that element in the authorial voice....

Eldritch Tales of the Uncanny says: Horrifically pulptastic in places. We’ll set an editor on it to tighten it up and put it in the middle of the September issue.


Magnificent7 –
POWERLESS: THE BEGINNING
Amazing Creeps

quote:

Kate wasn’t always dead, it just happened.
The first line is catchy and all, but it doesn’t actually end up meaning anything. It might mean something if her death was abnormal in some way, or if there was some reason to think she had always been dead. Unfortunately being shot is neither

Another one where the protagonist starts off by shooting someone and then does sweet gently caress all. I get that it’s supposed to to be scene setting for a larger work, but this is flash fiction, not first chapters. Even then, a first chapter should still have conflict - you’ve the the protagonist and the problem, but there’s no conflict here to keep me interested, only conflict avoidance.

Not only that, but it feels like some other, better, stories are wandering in, having a look around, then wandering off again. Why is Hiro Protagonist wearing a gorilla mask, and why don’t the bad guys see it on the hood of the car? Kate being a raving lunatic sounds interesting, but we just see her being dead. Why is the story called powerless and what powers have been lost? Why a loving speedo? Who was parasite-Kate talking to on the phone when she was shot? Any one of these could have been more interesting than a dude hiding behind a tree with a dead reject from this week’s Doctor Who in his hand.

Amazing Creeps says. Neither creepy nor amazing. If you have any stories where the Creep is actually alive, we may not throw it immediately away, but I wouldn’t bet on it.


Symptomless coma
Submission to the esteemed editors of Time Travellin' Weekly.
Holy Day. 978w.


This one also starts off well, but doesn’t really go anywhere and makes even less sense. The beginning, with the premise of an awful holiday is handled relatively competently, and Dad looks like a bit of an Everyman, not nice as such, but identifiable and that works. I like his response to the tweeness of the guide’s approach. That seems real.

The exact nature of the Exclusion Zone isn’t clear and this caused me problems. He steps on the beach and feels like Seconds don’t exist - but this apparently doesn’t mean that time stops on the island for him and he’s wandering around among frozen primitives, which was my first take, because of what happened to the sea. He then lives with the primitives who I think are still moving, not breaking character but taking photos, because that’s completely normal in primitive villages where people dress in kirtles.

My best guess so far is that inside the zone time doesn’t pass, but life goes on somehow at perpetually quarter to three, and outside, time appears to stop. It’s zero time, but they can still hunt for little kiddies for six days somehow. If this was some primitive tribe trapped in a naturally occurring slow-time zone that might make sense, but nothing in the text suggests that interpretation. And if that was the case, the waves outside would speed up! I’m so confused, and I hate you for it.

But the meat of the matter is when the girl runs away. Presumably she goes off, finds the Vikings and instead of being killed and raped becomes their queen and builds a city and a tower in six days. All because she looks like a doll/religious figure. Did she accidentally fall into a vat of time-be-convenient? Again, not mentioned in the text BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE INCREDIBLY DUMB.

Also, a distinct lack of bad luck (which is different from unpleasant consequences), except for me reading it, and the politics stuff was missing to. So utter prompt fail.

Time Traveller’s Weekly says: Don’t call us, we’ll call you. At some point. In the future.



Auraboks
Fist Ferguson, Libertarian Action Hero (1006 words)
Testosterone Tales.


Auraboks, Auraboks, Auraboks. Can I call you Auraboks? There's a lot to like in this one, but a lot to not like too. Words. It has words that are used. I like that. The words make sense, they fall in an order that imparts meaning. They tell a tale that has action and imagery. All of this is of the good.

The problem with this is that nothing goes wrong for our crudely drawn hero. He seems to have absurdly good luck, in direct conflict with the prompt, and nothing seems to actually give him any trouble at all. I’m struggling to see what you were trying to do with this. It’s like one of the shittier comics from the forties, which had figured out that awesome dudes with cool toys were what the kids were into, but hadn’t quite figured out that behind the spandex there needed to be some challenge, some difficulty to overcome. It’s not fiction, its propaganda and it’s boring. When everything is possible, nothing is interesting.

UPDATE:

After reading my Esteemed co-judge's crit, I revisited this. I missed a great deal of the lovingly dripped irony involved. Sandwiched in between gluten-free fried turds as it was, I was hesitant to go too deep and took it too much at face value but I now see what you were trying to do a lot clearer.

It's still not a great favourite - if you were trying to show how the 'Hero' is really an psycho anti-hero, then he's too wishy washy of one (he cares about kids) and the freedom-fighter/terrorist dichotomy isn't tremendously appealing to me as subject matter. But my main problem, his invincibility, is much less of an issue, as I can see now that's not so much the salient element of his nature.

Testosterone Tales says: Fist Ferguson has plenty of testosterone, but so far no tales worth telling within our magazine. Please resubmit when he has a nemesis worthy of his prodigious talents.


jonassalk
What Lies Below (993 Words)
Fantastic Fantasy: Where the Fantasy is Fantastic


I have no idea, but what the gently caress? Uncle Scrooge McDuck calls ‘Dan’old over to his money bin to sweep up two flattened corpses his obscene capitalist corpulence has accidentally rolled over. How could you possibly make that boring? Not even Frank Herbert could gently caress that up in God Emperor of Dune (not for this subscriber to Giant Worm on a Trolley Fancier Monthly , at least).

I think you managed to make it suck because that there is all you did. You spent over a thousand words on that paragraph. Let’s face it, “ It’s Duckburg, but Scrooge is incredibly fat and called something else” isn’t the most creative tentpole to hang a story on. And what does Danold do? He wanders over to the bin, we learn some irrelevant backstory, he sees some flattened bodies and...he buries them. THE END. LE FIN. The only interesting action happens off page prior to Dan’s arrival with Scrooge’s steamroller impersonation. You then make matters worse by have McDuck point out that Dan hasn’t actually done anything. You are literally handing the readers a figurative silver platter filled with your own crap and saying “LOOK WHAT I DID”. Go away. I can’t bear to look at you right now.

Fantastic Fantasy: Where the Fantasy is Fantastic says: gently caress off.



Black Griffon
Breath of Death - 940
Four Balls: Treacherous Tales of Steampunk Adventures.


I wasn't entirely convinced by this one - you went a long way towards having something to say, but never quite bridged the gap. It took me a while to understand what was going on. I kept going over it looking for a detail I’d missed, but it eluded me and eventually I realised it wasn’t actually there and never had been. The writing, however was workmanlike, no glaring issues. The problem was mainly that I got the nagging feeling that the piece was unfinished.

So, Flynn is mad about getting stood up so he about to leave the cafe, and he’s reaching for his dagger because, what, he’s so mad he’s just going to murder the entire cafe?

The metal horse is just so you can say it’s steampunk, right?

The woman in the carriage is some kind of enforcer, but she seems totally unnecessary. At no point is Cartan looking like he’s feeling any emotion like remorse, so rededicating him to his task seems an artificial attempt to raise tension that has no basis in the story.

The explosives are powered by breath, and so by putting them in 2000 gas masks its instant megatonnage, I get that. Except why would they give them out on a tram that they were on? And why not just use dynamite? Why is the breath special, Why, Dammit, Why? You left me hanging and I get the feeling that you don’t even care.

Four Balls: treacherous tales of steampunk adventures says: It could have been four balls, but two of them blew up for unsatisfactorily explained reasons and we do require the full complement. Better luck next submission.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at May 8, 2013 around 00:33

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Auraboks posted:

I admit that might be stretching the prompt a little, but it was intentional.

That prompt was small but perfectly formed. Leave it alone, you filthy prompt-fudger! Anyway, reading my fellow judge's crit gave me a better idea of what you were trying to do and made me retrospectively less bored by your story. Huzzah! I have updated my crit to reflect that. He's a clever fellow that Nikaer Drekin, and you should buy his love with tiny presents.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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More Crits

First up though. Congrats to Kaishai for the win. You got my vote for having the most gloriously pulpy moment out of the lot of them (while still following all the prompts), which showed up a lot of lighter-weight, colour-within-the-lines entries and got to the troubled heart of the Pulp experience. With its teeth.

...and I'd like to give a shout-out to Erogenous Beef who made my Runner-Up list on the strength of genuwine original bellylaughs, and Crabrock who joined him with a sweetly disturbing, if not brilliantly original, tale well told.

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

Cancercakes
Utopia
Submission to SciFi Spy Bi-weekly


Hey! It’s a story. It has a beginning a middle and an end, and if it reminds strongly of BioShock, well, that’s not that bad a thing in itself. There’s some rudimentary conflict and stuff, too!

There’s something twisted and ironic about how this fly in the paradisiacal ointment speaks in such curt sentences and foul mouth. No noble saviour miss, this. While the lack of proper verbs and childish name-calling does make her sound a bit thick, at least she has a recognisable tone. Unfortunately her individuality comes at the expense of antagonist who is, literally, your typical frothing-at-the-mouth meglomaniac villian. You’d think he’d at least have some vague charisma in order to have gotten his plan so far.

Plus she sees a few beaten slaves and starts crying in the shadows. Is this because she’s a girl and therefore emotional? Good stuff! Girlies have cry germs all over themselves, that’s why you mustn’t ever touch them.

quote:

Based on the Frontier design, the central barrel rotated to produce artificial gravity, but approach with care - the tumbling crazed iron work additions could fling a careless person into space with a spiralling arm.

This does’t really work. The central barrel of what? Who is saying ‘approach with care?”. You’re voice is breaking more than a Brady in a Family Band.

quote:

Her whole body ached as she made her way towards the airlock. lovely job, but it should be simple. Just find out what the gently caress is up with this place, and get out quiet. Easy. First easy thing was the airlock - it was unlocked, she didn’t even need the skeleton key. That’s freedom for you, she thought, as she took her stinking suit off.

Similarly, sometimes she is thinking explicitly and sometimes it’s implicit. You need to decide on a voice for the piece and stick with it. Either she’s telling the story or she isn’t.

quote:

Suddenly a ration bar moved into the naked child’s portion of the conveyor belt. The kid stared at it as it slowly passed by, and then snatched it up and devoured it.

“Where’s the big boss?”

A hand grabbed it’s hair and yanked the kid backwards.

Its. OR I WILL CUT YOU. But it is a silly sentence anyway. Perhaps the hand grabbed its OWN hair. Or the hair of the last it, which was the chocolate bar. Ewww. Hairy chocolate bars. And way too many ‘it’s in that section.

quote:

Then it was just a case of making it clear that if they didn’t play nice then the park would get shut. Some nannies would be over presently to ensure a happy transition. Don’t get any clever ideas.

You have dragged the metaphor into a darkened alley and cut its throat, bathed in its drying blood and then gone straight to your niece's birthday party and spit in the chocolate-banana cake.

quote:

neckbeard began to glisten with tears.

Riiiiight. And I have in my hand a hairy chocolate bar that is crying from its follicles.


Sci-Fi Spy Bi-Weekly says: Thank you for assembling a few of the elements needed for a story and sending them to us. Unfortunately, a number of crucial ingredients were missing, namely a consistent voice, a convincing villain, and perhaps some actual spying


Radioactive Bears
Robbing Galt (1167 Words with title)
Romancin' and Wranglin'


There’s some good writing here. It’s a complex action situation and I never had to go back and check where I was and what was happening. The motivation for the robbery was a little weak - stockpiling bullion is one thing, but you missed a good opportunity to look at whether that was really just plain stealing, or any qualms Buck might have had about his boyrfriend’s ideals that could have given the tale a bit of internal conflict that it lacked. The conflict from the Marshall just felt a bit flat. It never really peaked and thus my attention began to flag.

Did Jaybird really ride his horse across a railway bridge. It’s not mentioned but I can’t see any way around it. Freaky. If it did happen, that should have been something of a set-piece about how he managed it.

A couple of awkward sentences

quote:

I ran through carpeted passages, past suitcases and carpetbags toward the end of the car as a bullet flew into my hat,

That’s a lot of running for the split second the bullet hit.

quote:

“We get this haul, and no laws of any government will ever constrain our love again!

Yeah - they’ll pass a law against this kind of inhuman dialogue.

quote:

I coiled and jumped, too terrified I'd lose my chance if the marshal managed a clean hit on me to care how close I'd get to Jaybird and that mangy horse.

You got tangled up in the lariat of your own devising here. I had forgotten what you were talking about by the time we hit the horse.

Romancin' and Wranglin' says Lot's of romance. Not so much wrangling. We'd slushpile this but one of the junior editors wants to know how Jaybird smells, so if you could maybe go down that angle a bit we'll take another look.



Crabrock
The Electrocat Purrs All Night
Animals of Tomorrow


I liked this a great deal. The overall story is a retelling of the archetypal ‘axe of my grandfather’ written out long form with the added SCI-FI flavour, but the ending is a really good example of how such a story should end, it seems a natural progression and yet the implications of what you’ve just been walked through are laid bare.

I might question some of your names, though. They seem a little more jokey than is necessary for the story. Compu-chickens? . Breaks the flow a bit, because the rest of the world seems well-realised. Though I’d love to know what a compu-chicken does, so maybe just more details. I don’t know - have a think.

quote:

This is the lab of Dr. Krackenvole, the only mechaosurgeon in the tucked away hamlet of Venusian Hollow. While usually bogged down in the monotony of treating and repairing the cybernetic draft animals that tilled the purple soils of Omitron 8, he was occasionally able to indulge in the more elicit activity of biological replacement research.

This paragraph is completely unnecessary and changes the voice. You could just as easily keep telling the story and these details would come through naturally.

One thing I thought as I read it was that this could really work for a kind of Young Person’s SF book. It‘s a simple story but does a good job of retelling a staple philosphy.101 mind experiment that could freak the wee ones in a good way a la Cyberiad

Animals of Tomorrow says: You’ve got a sale, young Animal of Tomorrow fan, and if you’ve got any more like this we’ll gladly take a look at those too. Hooray for you! Hooray for Animals! Hooray for Tomorrow!



V for Vegas
Wrestling the Bear
'Arm Wrasslin'.

A long way to go for a joke that hasn’t improved in the uncertain number of time periods since I was 8. I did enjoy playing spot the innuendo, but like many a tease, it left me feeling vaguely unsatisfied. Partly this was because the final joke wasn’t very good, or very new, and partly because I really wanted Irondacks to get it on with the bear. C’mon subtext - step up to the text plate and start swinging.

On the plus side you really got the voice and you kept it mostly consistent throughout. I’m not sure whether your mountain dude would know words like engorged or if this was just you being dirty again. Probably you’re just as filthy as everybody else, so the latter.

I really don’t have much else to say about this one, I’m sorry. Competent, not as funny as it might have hoped, as innuendo only goes so far (as the bishop said to the porn star) but a gay old time for all.



Perpetulance
One in six
Submitted to the biannual magazine Galt's Gilded Tales

Ooh - a dark one. Definitely in the good half of the entries with a fine intensity to it. It’s really hard to balance the inherent drama of the situation with the fact that there’s nothing actually going on but three blokes sitting round a table occasionally almost shooting themselves, but I think you managed it here.

The worldbuilding was convincing enough, and the fact that you built a world that didn’t fall over at a second look is always nice. I liked the ending, it could have gone either way, but the way it went felt inevitable and right.

There’s a lot of expository dialogue, and I’m wondering if you couldn’t have found a different way to get some of that across. Lines like “I don't know a single person in town who doesn't owe you everything. How can we even get the gold to pay off our debts when you only pay in script?” aren’t skull splittingly horrid, but they’re not subtle either. Similarly, you’re telling, not showing the men’s reasons for being there, which could have come through in other ways. Just spitballin’ here, but perhaps third person wasn’t the best perspective to choose for this one - you might make some gains in immediacy and empathy by switching to the perspective of one of the two players. Maybe worth playing around with that to see what effect such a change might have.

Galt’s Gilded Tales says: The finest of Men are bootstrapped by their own enlightened self-interest. Work on your own salvation with diligence, and you will be ready for publication.




Sebmojo
A Lucky Break
Flabbergasting Science Wonder Yarns!

This was an entertainingly goofy science fantasy. However, the name of the magazine was not Fantastic Goofy Science Fantasy: Where the Goofy Science Fantasy is Fantastical, which is good, because that’s a crap name, but not so good because there was no flabbergasting science in your story! Instead, you had a magic item with a sciencey name. While we’re on the topic of prompt related insights: there was a disturbing lack of anarcho-syndicalism or libertarianism in there. Or maybe I missed it, but at this point in the review process my eyes are glazing over and I am questioning many of my life choices thus far.

There’s a few nice touches, St Armstrong, Punching a diamond hole in the night. very few clunky bits “He took his finger off the comm unit before hearing her mellifluous response.” stuck out because how did he know what the response was like before hearing it, but that’s incredibly minor and even I can argue for it the other way.

I mean - it was good, it told a tale, all the elements made sense and you didn’t cheat - the story equation was balanced to precision, but it was just missing the promised flabbergasting that made Kaishai’s so pulptastic. It was just... a bit........ twee.

Flabbergasting Science Wonder Yarns! says: Not for us. Please submit to our sister publication Twee Light Dramedies In Space



Dr Klocktopussy
Titan’s Cowgirl
Spaced! Outrageous Stories from Outerspace!:

I learned a new word today - Cyrovolcano, which emits vapour and methane and stuff and rains ice after cooling. Cool. Ten points. But you gently caress up ‘its’ in the first paragraph so negative eleventy million billion points.

I think you have more characters than you need. With Ben, Becky and Neil I sometimes felt as if I needed a map to keep track of where they were in the action. When the guards were firing at Becky “The guards were still firing at Becky. She shot her grappling hook at the one on the right, catching him on the shoulder of his bulky armor. Bulls-eye! “ Did Becky do that? I just don’t know. Kill off some of them. They’re wasting my attention span which should be focussed on your cowgirl and learning more about her.

Other things I wondered as I read it. Neil betrayed her for money. The least exciting reason ever. But despite being on her team he didn’t know that the actual baddies were quite bad. So he's stupid, and not very good a villian. The takeaway from this is Know Your Team’s Enemies and Pay Attention In Briefings.

How did Ben fix his bike? It must have not actually been a very rocking explosion AT ALL!

This strikes me as a very cinematic story. You’re one of the few entries to really go in for a sensawunda against a fantastic environment and I think you can have back the eleventy million billion points for doing that. You would have doubled them if the ice volcano had been more than a volcano in SpaceDrag, but there you go. I’m not really sure that the cinematic, fast cut, approach really works in a story this length, I think you sacrifice something in the ability to build character empathy. You want the reader to care more about them than the exploding special effects.

I get that she was fighting against the evil capitalist baddies, but they were pretty much cyphers and I wasn’t feeling particularly outraged by them. Sure they were going to leave some workers to die, and that was a bit outrageous, but then they were rescued and it hardly even tickled my gall.

Spaced! Outrageous Stories from Outerspace! says: Perhaps L.V will be able to join our pantheon of Outrageous Space Stars when she has more of a torrid backstory and a Lesbian Space Dog.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at May 9, 2013 around 04:24

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Mar 21, 2013


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quote:

Romancin' and Wranglin' says Lot's of romance.

That's what I get for doing crits without a HazMat suit.

In for EuroThunderVisionDome- Taking on Belgium's sublime Love Kills, in conjunction with Unca Ben's "If you would have a faithful servant and one that you like — serve yourself."

Fumblemouse
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Entry: Belgium - love kills - especially 40s mark
Franklinism: If you would have a faithful servant and one that you like — serve yourself.
Wordcount: 1140

His Feminine Side

Joe sat at his kitchen table, coffee in hand, staring at the pink blister pack of pills in front of him. Exfemisil. The pharmacist had given him a strange, emasculating look when he’d picked it up yesterday and it sounded for all the world like some kind of antibacterial agent for lady parts - but he was expected to take it if he ever wanted to see Shelly again. Where was the logic in that, he wondered? It wasn’t as if he’d actually done anything seriously wrong. Not really. She’d thrown the first slap, after all. Still, Joe supposed, it was better than the alternative, an endless round of therapy, hugging it out, screaming it out, talking about his mother’s cleanliness fetish. Bugger that for a game of soldiers - better living through chemistry! Joe broke one of the seals, put the pill in his mouth, and swallowed it down with a mouthful of tepid coffee.

He waited a moment, checking against himself to see if he felt any different. Nothing. He looked around, squinting, but his vision seemed normal. He took another hit of coffee, swallowed, closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

When he opened his eyes, she was sitting across from him, smiling a welcoming smile. “Hello, Joe,” she said.

Joe jumped up from his seat, knocking over his coffee as he did so. “What the,” he started to say, then, as his brain caught up with events, “Jesus!”

“Whoah, steady on, fella,” she said, rising and moving to the kitchen sink. She picked up a cloth and went back to the table, handing it to him. “You might want to clean that up before you stain the wood.”

Joe made a few perfunctory wipes, keeping his eyes fixed on her. He’d glanced at the folded page of tiny-print instructions, but he assumed it would be a voice in his head, or some sort of spider-sense. He hadn’t expected this, not a living, breathing hallucination. Not for her to look so real.

“Uh, hi, thanks, er, hi,” he said, sitting down again. She was wearing the same clothes as him, jeans, a green t-shirt. Of course she was. Yet he couldn’t help but notice that she filled them out in different, pleasing ways.

“Hello again.”

“So,” said Joe, feeling he should keep the conversation moving but having no idea how. “I’m Joe.”

“I know,” she said. “So am I, but I guess for convenience’s sake that you’d spell it without the ‘e’.”

“Short for Josephine?”

“Sure, why not?”

“How does this work, then? You’re my female conscience or something?”

“I honestly don’t know. I assume I’m here because of the Exfemisil. Jeez, that sounds like a yeast infection medication. Perhaps I’m supposed to point out stuff, like the fact this apartment is a complete mess. How can you live like this?” Her voice was mocking sternness.

“Well, I haven’t been out much lately, and with Shelley staying away..”

“I think I’m already familiar with that argument, and it’s pretty pathetic. C’mon. I’m not playing Jemima Cricket in a pig-sty.”

She directed him to the vacuum cleaner and started picking up the detritus of several weeks of man alone-hood. They tidied for a while, opening the windows to let in the fresh air and let out the stale, wiping down surfaces and talking about whatever came to mind. Joe was unsurprised to learn she shared almost all of his views on politics, sports and the good TV shows, but interested to discover that she often disagreed with him on judgements of character. They spent a good half hour cleaning the bathroom and arguing over who was the real villain of Destiny’s Angels.

They worked through the morning and when they’d finished the place looked halfway respectable. Joe made a cup of coffee for himself, and asked Jo if she wanted one.

“Sure,” she said.

“How does that work then?“ he asked as he poured a second cup. “How does a figment of my imagination drink coffee?”

“I’m no expert, but I’d hazard a guess that it’s got something to do with how your brain tells stories to itself. You know, to make up for facts that it doesn’t quite have a handle on. I’m your feminine side, taking a chemically-enhanced driving role in your psyche, and I stick around until I’m better integrated with your baseline personality.” Joe vaguely recalled the judge having said something similar, and found the idea of Josephine sticking around not entirely unpleasant.

They sat there for a moment, smiling at each other over the coffee cups until the doorbell rang. Joe jumped at the sound, but tried to cover it up by announcing he was going to see who it was. Leaving her at the table, he made his way downstairs, as the doorbell rang again, now accompanied by a heavy-handed banging.

He flung the door open. There stood Shelley, red in the face and breathing hard. Joe didn’t even have time to say hello before she threw her arms around him. “Oh, Joe,” she cried, “thank God you’re all right!”

“Er,” said Joe, in a half grunt as she squeezed the air out of his lungs. He looked over her shoulder and was surprised to see Josephine standing there, watching them and making finger-down-the-throat actions. “I’m fine, honey. What are you doing here? The court said seven days at least.”

“Christ, haven’t you heard? That drug they said they were going to give you, it’s been recalled.”

“What, why?”

“Some defect in the testing. Only hits a small percentage of people, but apparently it’s very dangerous. Jeez, Joe, you haven’t taken it yet, have you?” Shelley was already inside and heading up the stairs.

“Well,” said Joe following her and Jo into the apartment. “I only picked it up yesterday.” Jo looked back at him and twirled her finger against her head in child-sign for ‘crazy’.

“Joe! Your apartment - it’s spotless. Did you get someone in?”

Joe began to answer but Shelley had already moved to the kitchen table. She picked up the pink blister pack with its broken seal and missing pill. She stared a moment at the two cups of coffee. She turned to look at Joe coming in behind her and started to say something, but Josephine picked up a kitchen knife and dragged it across Shelley’s throat, sending jugular blood across the freshly washed kitchen floor. Shelley died with a look of terminal surprise.

Horror filled Joe’s face. Still holding the knife in one hand, Josephine reached down into his pants with the other and grabbed his crotch. “Sorry,” she said. “Turns out your feminine side is a bit of a bitch. Anyway, I thought we were getting along well enough without her.” Her hand was massaging him, as if she knew exactly what he liked.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at May 13, 2013 around 01:00

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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V for Vegas posted:

I saw that Jospephine typo fix!

Whew. You missed the tap-dancing ferrets of death metaphor deletion. But it's a fair cop. Break out the Nailed Planks of Correction, I'm guilty as sin.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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You wake up, and resolve to stay that way. The Cave of Time brought you here, it’s true, and it’s given you a life that you’ve mostly loved living. How many people can say that, you wonder? How many people are too consumed with regrets to enjoy what they have. Yes, you’re old, but the path to age was not some short-cut through a magical tunnel. The Cave of Time got you here, but it couldn’t tell you what do when you got here. Everything you’ve become is your decision, tempered by unavoidable circumstance to be sure, but your decision alone. That means more to you than youth and dreams.

You curl the blanket around yourself to ward off a sudden chill. “So,” you say to yourself, “what the hell am I going to do now?”

You decide that sitting around isn’t going to do anything for you, so you toss the blanket aside, and rummage around for some nicer clothes. You find a suit, and momentarily wonder how it got there, but you’ve had enough ‘senior moments’ to never be one hundred percent trustful of your memory these days. It looks familiar enough, anyway. You put it on and head for the world.

Feeling sprightly you walk quickly up the passage that leads outside. The walls seem to shimmer as you do, becoming crystalline. You stop a moment, look around and recognition slowly dawns. The Cave of Time!

You race through emotional responses, bewildering confusion, heartfelt sense of betrayal, before finally you start laughing. All those times you had wanted to go back and peer further into the unknown, and you were already there. It took you finally deciding you wanted no part of it before it would reveal itself to you.

You never left.

That fact sinks in. And you understand. You understand the purpose of the Cave of Time. You understand why it is what it is, what it brings to the universe, what it wants from you and what it needs. That knowledge frees you from the grip of the world, from the tyranny of age and you feel reborn into a greater sense of life itself.

Ahead of you, past the crystalline walls, is the mouth of the Cave. Beyond the lip is another world to explore and a silhouette of someone with a walking stick, blocking the sun. Perhaps they will want to hear all about the Cave of Time.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Jul 15, 2013 around 06:11

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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wordcount:897

Forgetting Clementine

My hunting rifle hangs above the fireplace, locked in the display rack where she’s rested for the last three years of my tour. I unlock her, release the latch, lift the bracket and take her into my hands. She’s a lot lighter than I am used to. “Hello again, Clem,” I say, cradling her.

I bought Clem for hunting deer, for the trips my father and brothers took into the mountainous woods that surrounded our town. She was growing up, freedom and indentured servitude all rolled into one. After a decade of borrowed rifles she was the first thing I bought with my first paycheck from the Corps, just hours before I got told I was shipping out the next day to complete Basic Training elsewhere. On tour I shot a lot of guns at a lot of people; pistols at close range, mortars with shells larger than my fist, sniper rifles with laser sights. But not Clem. As far as I know, she's never been out of the rack, never even been fired.

I like that about her. I like the idea of a weapon that never fulfilled its purpose. It doesn’t seem incomplete, more alive with possibility. Maybe I’m a little jealous. Once shots are fired it’s a matter of history, you hit, you miss, you kill or you’re dead. It’s all there in your permanent record, a part of what you are, a killer or a failure or a corpse. But before that - before your finger has tightened on the trigger and the ‘contained deflagration of explosive compounds’ begins - history is a wide open book.

I take Clem out to the car, cleaned and loaded, and place her in the bay of the passenger seat. My brothers all named their rifles after girls they liked, and when I borrowed one for a hunt they told me to “Take good care of Lisa”, or “Look after Ellie.” I named mine Clementine and told them it was because she was a .49 caliber. I sure as Hell wasn’t going to admit that Clementine was the girl who’d promised to wait for me until after my tour. They figured it out once I shipped, they saw her posts on my wall and LOLed.

I slot Clementine into place so she can’t be seen, tell her to sit tight, and then head south to the city center. The sun rises early this time of year, shafts of light through mountain clouds, and I’m mostly alone on the road, maybe a few trucks heading somewhere else, a couple of cyclists doing their thing. Nobody pays us much attention.

I pull into a side street off the town square and behind the cathedral. The church’s back door is locked but six years in the choir taught me where the key is kept. I let myself and Clementine in, locking the door behind us.

The church hall is vast and empty. I wonder if Clementine, the real Clementine, married Whats-his-name here or on some romantic beach somewhere. No matter. That trigger has been pulled.

I climb the stairs in the back to the bell tower and lean against the balcony. The square is starting to busy up with people heading to work. I’m not so high above them that I can’t make out faces; a little tired, a little bored, a line of them outside the Koffee Kart making small talk and blowing steam.

I get down on one knee and bring Clementine up to my shoulder. She has a scope, a good one, though not the bionic eye of my old standard issue. I peer over the edge, make out the moustache of the coffee vendor but he’s moving around too much. A good hunter never shoots moving prey if he wants one shot, one kill, and I’m a very good hunter of men. It’s all I am now that I am no longer a weapon.

The wind picks up and I adjust my position to compensate. My finger moves toward the trigger. Sound carries up from the street below, from the people beneath me and from the world beyond the small town I’m zooming in on. I hear them again, my men, not like I hear them in my nightmares, alive and near and burning - but whispers of their screams, lost on the breeze. Mist passes over my eye, but I wipe it away and recheck my sights. I shift the cross-hairs over the heads in line, standing there waiting for me to write the final lines in their books and fulfil our purpose. I find one - a girl at the end, slight build, blonde hair. I can feel her endless possibilities collapsing into one.

She turns and I recognise her face in the scope. It takes me a moment to place her. A couple of years down from me at high school. Jesus. It’s Jessie, Clementine’s little sister. My hand starts shaking and I sit down, my back to the balcony, that drat song stuck in my head. With Clem in my arms I laugh and laugh at the message the universe has decided to send me, the joke it just had to tell. I laugh until the tears come at last.

How I missed her! How I missed her,
How I missed my Clementine,
But I kissed her little sister,
I forgot my Clementine

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

You shuffle, then walk, then run, then sprint past the odd assortment of chronologically displaced persons and into the waiting arms of your family. You’re hardly puffed, the child you once were, and childish tears are in your eyes. They take you home for biscuits and cups of tea and they taste amazingly delicious. Your mother hardly stops laughing, hardly stops crying, and your dad punches you on the shoulder and says “Buddy” so often you start to bruise. Your sister picks her nose and shows it to you. You make sure she’s eaten it before you let her give you a hug.

You’re on your fifth cup of tea and half way through your second packet of ginger biscuits, when the cracks begin to show. They’re talking to you about things you’ve done, things you don’t remember doing, the life you never had. They asking about your first girlfriend, but they don’t mean your first wife, the strange but alluring exotic woman you’d married in a desert ritual, they mean the girl in class who you’d been sort of friends, sort of enemies with since you were seven. They talk about your University career, but they don’t mean the hallowed libraries of unknown arcana you pillaged looking for the glistering idol to cure the plague struck village, they mean your philosophy degree with the racist, one-eyed Australian tutor.

They’re talking and smiling to themselves, telling inside jokes they think you’ll get, when you realise what they’re seeing. This isn’t you in front of them. It’s the dream of you when you went away. Potential and and wishful thinking, rushing in to fill the dead space you left behind. The lack of you, the fear and the not-knowing, the hoping and the giving-up of hope has worn empty caves of time through their lives.

You creep away and leave them, still talking about you, not to you. You don’t really need to be there. Your dream self is left behind, still smiling, eating ginger biscuits and drinking cups of tea.

The Cave of Time is gone. There is no crowd, either, only darkness against the darkened cliff face. You stand in front of it, truly alone, truly yourself, feeling every minute of every year that you have lived. There are no choices left, only shadows.

Light bursts forth from the solid stone wall.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Jul 15, 2013 around 06:20

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

wordcount: 1290

The Old Monk and the Mouse

The sun was high, the road dusty, and the Old Monk’s water bottle was long since empty. As he walked he prayed for some respite from the heat until at last he saw a stone well standing on a small patch of grass. He said a prayer of thanks to the Lord for providing for him so thoughtfully on his travels and strode towards it. Placing his travelling bag on the grass he pulled the rope that hung down into the well and drank long and deep from the bucket that arrived at its end.

He was brushing the last drops of water from his beard when he heard a voice. “If you’re heading up the road, I’d be careful.”

The Old Monk could not see a soul about him. He lifted his gaze, but the sky was as blue and motionless as ever. The voice spoke again, “Hey! You! Old Monk! Down here."

The Monk looked at his feet in the long grass. There stood a mouse, peering up at him, two paws resting on the monk’s big toe.

“Oh, hello dear mouse. I didn’t see you down there.”

“Not until you looked, you didn’t,” said the mouse. “But I was there anyway. I was just saying that you probably want to be careful if you’re heading on up this road. A Terrible Beast lives that way.”

“Indeed?” asked the Old Monk. “A Terrible Beast? It wouldn’t have four clawed feet, whiskers and a long tail, would it?”

“Why yes,” said the mouse. “Exactly. Have you heard of it before?”

“Possibly, possibly,” smiled the monk, imagining just how frightening a cat would be to one so small. “Thank you for your warning, good sir mouse, but I shall take my chances - after all, I have the power of prayer to keep me safe.”

The Old Monk returned the bucket to the bottom of the well well with a sploosh and picked up his travelling bag. As he did so, the mouse leaped up onto it. The Old Monk brought the bag up until the two were staring face to face.

“Was there something else I can help you with, my good mouse?”

“Actually, there is,” said the mouse. “I was wondering what that was all about. You know, before you got to the well. You were talking to no one. Was that a prayer?”

“Hmm? Why, yes, that was a prayer.” The Old Monk noted the mouse’s confused expression and continued, “It’s like reciting a poem in gratitude. I’d been walking for many miles and, just as my thirst was becoming great, The Lord saw fit to place a well of water in my path. For that I was truly thankful.”

“I don’t know,” said the mouse. “I’ve been hereabouts all my life and I don’t think this well has ever been placed anywhere but right there. When I was just a hairless child, my Granddad told me terrible tales about mice he’d known falling in, so I reckon it’s been here longer than I have. Are you saying your Lord put it there generations ago so you could have a drink this sunny afternoon?”

“Well, obviously not for that express purpose, no. I’m sure it has provided for many, not just myself. The bounty of The Lord belongs not to a single man.”

“It seems to me,” said the mouse, “this well has been here for a while, and would have been here whether or not you said a prayer. So what was the point of saying it?

“Ah,” said the Old Monk. “I can see you are a clever mouse, but not as clever as you think. It’s easy for you to say that the well was here all along - you have perfect knowledge of it. I, on the other hand, do not know what the road ahead will bring, so my prayers and my gratitude were honestly expressed and kindly rewarded.”

“So prayer works best if you don’t know any better?” asked the mouse.

At this the Old Monk grew angry. “To take advantage of God’s kindness and neglect to be thankful is the greatest of sins. If you will not listen to any voices but your own, if you already know the answers to everything, then I can teach you nothing. Begone, vermin!” He tried to flick the mouse from his travelling bag, but the mouse dodged his finger with ease.

“Don’t be angry, Old Monk. I am just a humble mouse, starved of intelligent discourse and stuck living by a well. I know little about the larger world you travel. If you tell me prayer is necessary, then who am I to disagree? Perhaps I could join you for a spell to learn more. My Granddad told me travel broadens the mind, and if there is anything to your prayers, surely vanquishing the Terrible Beast will prove it beyond doubt”

“Hmmph,” said the priest. But he had travelled a long way alone. Perhaps a friendly voice with whom to pass the footsore hours would be a blessing. And if a couple of loud prayers would chase off a cat and win a soul, however small, that would be another. So he agreed to the mouse’s request and, after refilling the Old Monk’s water bottle, they took to the dusty trail, the mouse sitting atop the Old Monk’s shoulder.

They spent the first hour talking further about the value of prayer and the second hour talking about the mouse’s life. But when they had travelled for two hours, the mouse grew quiet and the Old Monk enquired as to the reason.

“Can’t you smell it? It’s the beast,” said the mouse, whiskers aquiver. “Best start praying now. It’s eaten nearly every mouse I know of that ever ventured this far before.”

“Nearly? “ asked the Old Monk.

“Not many have ever seen it and lived. My Granddad was one of the lucky ones. He got lost and ended up in these parts, and only survived by falling into a thin hole in the ground that the beast couldn’t fit into. He said its breath smelled like dead mice and its face was a hundred mice wide, and its claws were like giant teeth, which it also had, that could skewer you and eat you like we would eat baby worms.”

“It sounds a Terrible Beast indeed,” chuckled the Old Monk, noticing the mouse was now quivering all over.

“It’s very near - I can smell him. The beast! Please begin.”

So, thought the Old Monk, the cat is nearby. The time has come to demonstrate the power of prayer. He began to pray very loudly. He called upon the Lord to protect them, the unworthy supplicants. The mouse was still shaking in fear.

He asked for grace and wisdom in this terrible time of the beast, making shooing motions with his hands. The quaking mouse echoed “The beast!” over and over again.

He begged for forgiveness for past sins, for transgressions witting and unwitting. The mouse, unable to contain its fear, jumped down the Old Monk’s side and wiggled its way into the travelling bag.

The Old Monk asked for providence, for the care and guidance of the Good Shepherd in the here and the hereafter. As he stood there, summoning up a final Amen in the middle of the road, a lioness leapt on him from behind and mauled him to a bloody death.

Hours later, when the lioness had eaten her fill and left, and the blue sky had turned a starless black, the mouse emerged from the travelling bag and scurried back to the well as fast as it was able.

Moral: Pride goeth before bringing a knife to a gunfight

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

You make yourself a cup of tea, and grab a ginger biscuit. It’s delicious, delicious tea, and you dunk the biscuit until it’s just about to fall apart, then ram it into your mouth and suck the tea from the sodden crumbs as it dissolves.

And then you wake, in your favourite chair covered in your favourite blanket, in the world you have made your new home. A different world, one without tea and biscuits, without bestselling novels and video games. A world where you are old and your life is spent.

You drift off to sleep again.

You’re striding with infernal passion toward the opening of the Cave of Time - from the inside. You’re wearing a suit. At the mouth of the cave, silhouetted against the low sun, is an young person with a walking stick - your walking stick. How did it get there? You reach the daylight and spin a web of words that have no meaning. And then, like a blow to the head, you are awake.

You mumble and gum a bit, looking around your home. Whatever startled you awake doesn’t appear to be present, so you close your eyes once more, surrendering to the comforting drowsiness.

Now you’re approaching the Cave of Time on the outside at your usual slow hobble. You know it by sight, but you’re seeing it for the first time. You don’t know what’s beyond it, but whatever it is, you know it will change your life forever. High above you in the clouds, the spectre of death is dancing with the spectre of madness.

Streaming out of the entrance to the Cave of Time is a motley assortment of men, women, and...beings. Some are dressed in period costume, some in rags and skins. Some wear the silver metallic raiment of “the Future” and carry bizarre ray-guns at their sides. The stream parts as it approaches, and forms two lines on either side of you. The separation continues on, opening a path all the way back to the Cave mouth, where, between a crew of piratical folk and a clan of giant-domed psychonauts, your family stands. Uncle Howard, whose ranch you were hiking through when you first found the Cave, wipes his brow beneath his ten-gallon hat. Your mother and father, sobbing at the grey and stooped sight of you hold each other as if either might fall any moment. Your baby sister, ignoring you, and pays rapt attention to a neolithic caveman to your left. This is what you left behind, to start your life all over again. These are the ties that have come undone.

Do you:

Rush to be re-united with your family, one last time, even though you know it’s a dream
Wake up.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Jul 15, 2013 around 06:12

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

quote:

1567: Hans Steininger, the burgomaster of Brunau, Austria, died when he broke his neck by tripping over his own beard. The beard, which was 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) long at the time, was usually kept rolled up in a leather pouch.
-wikipedia

Other sources report this occurred during a fire

wordcount: 1069

The Burgomaster's Beard

At the far right of the front row an elderly peasant sniffs the air.

These actors, with their Kings and Heroes, all torn finery and painted iron crowns They say a lot of things about the measure of a man; deeds define him, honesty advances him, love fulfils him. But they do not have the half of it. There is but one scale that truly counts when it comes to such a reckoning, and that is the number of people who know his name. It’s the heroes we remember - those with stories worth telling. These actors? Gone and forgotten by tomorrow.

She looks around suspiciously, but cannot place the smell.

Take this motley assemblage of peasant folk, gathered here in the village theatre. They know me. They are my villagers, and I am their Burgomaster. I built this house to give them a taste of culture. They bring their petty squabbles to me, and I give them the vast benefit of an educated opinion. They all know me and, while they may not love me, I have their respect. Without my wisdom, they would fight to the death over scraps of food they tripped over in the forest.

A slight haze rises from the cracks between the floorboards.

Now - what of these players on the stage? They also know my name. They need to obtain the permission of my office to perform, and they now carry a certificate bearing my signature that allows them to do so. They Dance and Sing and Act to entertain the villagers, but they wouldn’t know a one of them to speak to in the street. They know me, though. They feel the price my office charged for their licence as if I had ripped it from their flesh to hear them complain about it, but without my judicious system of public performance rights, the gullible villagers would be overcome with charlatans and mountebanks of every stripe. And how would they pay their taxes when when they had sold their grandmother’s heirlooms for a gourd of magical dog piss?

The haze begins to billow, the old lady coughs. Others turn away from the stage to look.

But while this troupe of travelling mummers know me, it’s hardly likely that they remember every Burgomaster their paths cross. Yet they will remember me all their lives - and what’s more, they’ll tell of me at every place they come to. Because there is always something else that makes a man known - more than wisdom, more than power. There has to be something above and beyond. It could be rhetoric - to speak and move others to action - yet I have achieved it without words. It could be beauty - to launch a thousand ships like Helen - and yet my face is nondescript. In fact - it was to give my face some distinction that I first began my ‘Great Project.’ For thirty years I have continued with it until today it is the bounteous blessing that is my beard and my fame.

The smoke is obvious now. Several people are staring at it with concern, but more are still watching the stage.

It is the longest beard in Christendom and beyond, or so I am informed. Travelling infidels from the south selling spices to uncultivated palates have declared that they have never seen its like. Itinerant Northmen with hair like fire have boasted of the hirsute brutes that populate their lands, but none will swear that he has seen longer. They travel through our simple town, they buy our goods and feed our children, and then they depart, telling all they meet that they have seen Hans Steininger, the Magnificent Beard of Brunau.

A tongue of flame bursts from the floor. A stage curtain blazes in an instant and fire leaps toward the roof.

I hear the shouts and screams, awakening me from my reveries. People are pushing past me to get to the far door and the staircase beyond. The flames are growing where moments ago there were only brightly coloured thespians singing bawdy songs. I reach for my decorative pouch so that I can roll up my beard and join the throng in its exodus, but the seat I placed it on has been pushed away and it is nowhere to be found. I shout in annoyance, and some of the villagers even turn and look, so used to obeying my dictates are they. But aside from “My damned pouch!” I can only think to advise “Please proceed in an orderly fashion!” The villagers continue pushing past each other towards the door. I gather what belongings I can find and look upon the panicking masses with distaste.

The flames across the ceiling beams cause the end of one to drop in a shower of ash and sparks.

I am separated from them, the other villagers, physically now. I look for a path around the wayward beam, but every time I turn a wave of fire breaks upon me. I try and beat the sparks out from my beard, but I can smell its foul smoke, see strands shrivelling and twisting. I gather it up in one hand to run toward a momentary gap, but another burst of flame makes me turn away at the last second. My villagers, bless them, have seen my plight, and they are shouting on the other side of the fire, calling my name. But the fire is everywhere, becoming a wall of searing incandescence that blocks me from view. Its infernal tendrils have finally reached my beard. My Great Project is devoured, a conflagration about my chest. I attempt to beat the flames out, but it is futile - my cheeks and chin are scorched and I am bereft.

The fire encompasses the walls, the floor, the roof - it becomes an inferno.

I must run through the flames, beardless and nobody, if I wish to survive. There will be no more visitors learning my name as a wonder, no more tales told by travellers earning coin for my stupid, beloved peasants. Am I to be just another burgomaster in another hamlet, my name lost to the immortals and the books of memory?

From behind the flames, the remaining villagers hear a voice calling out. “Ahhh, I have tripped on my beard and now I cannot...” The roar of the fire overwhelms the rest.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

“I’m sorry,” you say, turning away momentarily from the suited man. “I just don’t trust you. Bringer of light? Do you think I’m an idiot?”

Spinning round, you strike the suited man on the head with your walking stick, with all of the force your new young body can manage - the full resentment and bitterness of every aged ache and pain unleashed. His head caves in with a weak crunch, but you don’t stop, raining blow after blow on his head, and then, when that is too insubstantial to strike, on his body.

Grabbing the suit, you pick up the remains. He is incredibly light, and when you throw him into the mouth of the Cave of Time he travels a fair distance, striking a wall and collapsing into a ragged heap. The crystal walls of the Cave glow red, then begin to fade away. Soon there is nothing to see but a few traces of blood and brain and the featureless cliff wall that was here twenty minutes ago.

With your heart beating and your mind racing, you clean yourself up in the nearby brook as best you can, but your clothes are now stained with the suited man’s blood. You wait in the woods until it’s dark, and sneak back to your home under cover of night. You burn your clothes, and set to work creating a new identity as your old self’s much younger cousin.

For the most part, you enjoy your new lease on life. You make new friends, and have new adventures with them in the world you have decided to stay in. You know you made the right decision because the bringer of light is Satan, isn’t it? It was a trap. He was trying to trap you and he deserved to die, because if he hadn’t it would have been your soul. That wasn’t really the Cave of Time. It was temptation. But you beat him, didn’t you. You beat the devil and now, here you are, young again. You won.

Every time you sleep you see his head breaking apart.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Jul 15, 2013 around 06:13

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Apologies in advance for lack of editing. Had complete blank that I have wrestled through, but am unable to surf deadline any closer. Also I edited it after he event to include the right loving translation because those damnable cultists can't even figure out what loving gods they're talking about. Haven't changed the story though.

wordcount 1179

quote:

10 Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 Then the Philistines followed hard after Saul and his sons. And the Philistines killed Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons. 3 The battle became fierce against Saul. The archers hit him, and he was wounded by the archers. 4 Then Saul said to his armorbearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and abuse me.” But his armorbearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. 5 And when his armorbearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died. 6 So Saul and his three sons died, and all his house died together. 7 And when all the men of Israel who were in the valley saw that they had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook their cities and fled; then the Philistines came and dwelt in them.

8 So it happened the next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 And they stripped him and took his head and his armor, and sent word throughout the land of the Philistines to proclaim the news in the temple of their idols and among the people. 10 Then they put his armor in the temple of their gods, and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon.

11 And when all Jabesh Gilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all the valiant men arose and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons; and they brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.

13 So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. 14 But he did not inquire of the Lord; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.


Firewall

My clones were coming for me, and I knew I didn’t have much time. I passed through the streets wrapped in form-covering Banshu robes, avoiding all looks until I reached The Aquarium. The passchip Dagon had implanted beneath my skin let me in.

An underwater forest of seaweed swayed to unseen currents on the other side of the transparent wall. There was a sign that read “Do not tap on the glass.” I tapped on the glass.

A Fishpriest appeared from amongst the tall weeds, all scintillating scales and glassy eyes. I couldn’t tell if it was irritated by my transgression or just couldn’t blink, but I had no time for politeness.

“Dagon?” I asked, unable to tell one Fishpriest from another.

“Yes, Saul. Your coming is expected.” The voice came from a speaker implanted in the back wall, translating whatever Dagon was doing with his huge blue lips into Galang.

“You know what I’m here for then?”

“You have decided that it is time to die. All of you. All the many little children that we have crafted for you.” There wasn’t much you could tell a Fishpriest that he didn’t already know.

“I still need a backup body in place. After the DNA bomb gets triggered, I want continuity of consciousness.”

“And how will you pay for our most ingenious and highly regarded integrated pers/mem storage and flesh rebuilding?”

“I’ve got some more Arcturan tech for you. Hot off the back of,” I struggled for an appropriate metaphor, “ a trawler? Whatever. It’s an Arcturan Prescience-Class Firewall. It’s not actually mine, and I can’t promise hasn’t got defensive measures that will fry your fishy rear end for even looking at it, but it’s yours if you can accommodate”

“Ah, you always bring such mysterious gifts. We are certain they will one day provide wonders such as the Arcturans possess, but always their puzzles miss pieces.” The ever-open stare bore through me, and then, through an impossibly complicated translation algorithm, I heard a fish laugh. “It is acceptable. Very well, Saul. We will take your head and your Arcturan armour into the temple of Dagon.”

The Fishpriest made a motion. Everybody I was went out like a light.

Fishpriest firmware runs on a biological substrate, something few other races have managed to emulate, so I wasn’t surprised to wake up entangled in long strands of goo. The underwater part was harder to get used to, and I thrashed around on an instinctual basis, swallowing far too much of the sickly sweet tasting liquid until my lungs established that they could still operate, fed umbilically through a floating tendril. After that, I just felt aware, but in a way I hadn’t before, as if waking up was just the first part, and I could scale other heights of consciousness if I just kept climbing.

Dagon approached, passing through the reeds of aquatic flora that passed for walls here. “Ah, Saul. Awake at last. I’m afraid there has been an unexpected problem.”

Coldness washed over me, despite the warm liquid. Unexpected turns of events were not a part of doing business with Dagon. Fishpriests, it was said, did not pay rent in Balls-up Towers.

“A problem with the regrowth process?” I asked, scanning every exposed inch of me. It seemed a full complement, but who could tell what lay beneath the alien globules?

“No. That would appear to be complete. Nor was there a problem with your plan - you died quite successfully, your young clones included. Not a single survivor. I am told the mourning lasted a week. No, the problem is with your chosen method of payment.”

“The software? But we both checked that via the escrow portal. It’s an Arcturan Firewall...”

“It may be. However, it turns out that our Arcturan friends have a very different idea of how a firewall is supposed to operate. Shortly after we embedded it in an isolated test structure, it awoke your other ‘gifts’ and assimilated half my biolab, presumably working on a computational substrate that we are not aware of. It emitted some form of causality breaking communication to its home and the entire Arcturan System is now surrounded by, for lack of a better word, reflective plasma. Any reasonable observer would assume that the Arcturans are making a play for a species wide upgrade to demi-godhood and drat the consequences.

“Yeah - I can imagine the Boss isn’t too happy about it.”

“Our Jealous Lord is descending upon the Arcturans even now. I was hoping that when you returned to consciousness you might be able to give me some clue as to how all this happened, and how we might avoid being destroyed by Him en route.”

“How would I know?”

“Because, said Dagon, and this time there was no misreading the anger in his expression, “the half of my lab that it assimilated was the portion assigned to rebuilding you.” I wondered if all Fishpriests bubbled from behind when they got angry.

His chest glowed and he floated forward limply, ending up at a forty five degree angle in the liquid so I could see the cauterised hole in his back.. Behind him, a humanoid with a wetsuit and a gun of some sort swam toward me. Through his diving mask I could see my own eyes. One of my clones. Unable to communicate directly, he used a simple form of one-handed Galang sign.

“Gotta kill you. Boss’s orders.”

“Why?” I signed. I was trying to float away, slowly, but my bindings made that impractical, so I tried to move behind him.

“Arcturans,” signed my clone, keeping me in front of him, his gun trained. “Feeding tech to Dagon through you. Wanted Fishpriest biotech to finish ascension program. Self-made theft device out of all your gifts. Other higher life-forms, including Boss, incredibly pissed with you. Sent us to stop you”

“With me?” By now I had looped around him completely.

“Before you. Now Prescient Class Firewall of which you part.” He angled his weapon toward me. I pulled on a tendril that I had dragged with me, and it wrapped around him just enough to deflect his shot. Throwing my arms about propelled myself toward his mask and ripped it from his face, then held his gun away from me for as long as I was able. Eventually he drowned and I’d killed myself again.

I floated there alone with the two dead bodies. Now they had stopped talking, I could concentrate on what it felt like to be me, awake, and the only exposed part of the Arcturan upgrade - strengthening the shield that kept the universe at bay. I could feel them surging across their system, their potential opening up. I could feel mine opening alongside them, my reward for my assistance - a ticket to ride. I could hear the metaphysical roar as Our Jealous Lord rampaged across the galaxy to quell the upstarts in the heavens.

I closed my eyes and saw stars explode. What the hell, I thought, let’s watch some Gods burn.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Jun 10, 2013 around 02:20

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Grimey Drawer

In: The well bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

quote:

The well-bred contradict others. The wise contradict themselves

wordcount:1200

The Proposal

Lord Samuel, with the ring still burning a hole in his pocket, saw the Dowager’s feather catch fire as a waiter passed behind her with the Flaming Meringue a la Provence. He barely had time to say “Terribly sorry, Lady Alice,” before he flung a glass of Alsace Chardonnay over her sizzling accessory. Most arrived successfully, dowsing the flames. The Dowager sat, carved in teak, as the remaining 1936 vintage white dripped down her face.

“Young man,” she said while the Maitre d’ first patted her hair with a towel, then ineffectually waved it at the foul-smelling smoke. “I feel we should talk. Outside.”

“Certainly, Lady Alice,” said Samuel. Beneath the table Angela squeezed his hand in support. He stole a look in her direction as he rose from his seat and saw the concern on her face. He gave her a wan smile, nodded to the various family members in general and then took the Dowager’s arm as they left the restaurant, her sleeve like a handkerchief wrapped round a matchstick

Once the front door was shut behind them, the Dowager withdrew a cigarette from an engraved silver case. Samuel whipped out a lighter and ignited it with a flick. The Dowager bent, lit her cigarette, and then stood, drawing heavily upon the end. “I have never understood,” she said, exhaling loudly, “what on earth the Government was thinking when they made smoking illegal in eating establishments. Food, drink, tobacco - the simplest pleasures make life endurable. At my age, Samuel, making one’s remaining life endurable is only worthwhile pastime -- except, of course, for making one’s children’s unendurable.”

“I hope,” said Samuel with a chuckle, “that when I have reached so venerable an age as yours, I will not be too happy to delight in the misery of others, nor too unhappy to cause it.”

“Please don’t play the wit, Samuel. Your father was no good at it and neither are you. It’s rot anyway. When one reaches as ‘venerable’ an age as mine, one hopes only to expire, quietly and without scandal, in your own parlour so as not to put out the Maitre’d. That is the long and the short of it. But it’s cold out here and I do not wish to prolong this conversation to the brink of pneumonia. Tell me about your designs on my daughter - and bear in mind I’ve met too many fools to suffer them at all, gladly or otherwise.”

Samuel took stock of the old woman. Short, sharp-featured and dressed in black brocade as she had been for the last twenty years, she resembled a blackbird covered in fairy dust, but formidable none-the-less. Perhaps, he thought, he could blunt her edge with honesty, with the truth of his heart.

“Lady Alice, Angela is my soul. Truly a creature of the divine. Angelic, if such an unpardonably cliché comparison can be drawn. Worlds might collide before my love for her lessened one iota.” The Dowager snorted at that, but Samuel continued. “If anyone has the chance of keeping me happy beyond happiness, it is her. I was hoping, in fact...” Samuel took a deep breath and brought forth the ring box in his pocket. “... to make our relationship official. Tonight. With your permission, naturally.”

The Dowager exhaled a long stream of smoke into the cold night air, gazing at something unseen beyond the pools of light beneath the street lamps. Finally she spoke. “You’re not the first, you know.”

“She has mentioned her past,” said Samuel.

“Ha! It seems to me entirely unlikely that she has mentioned all of it.” She studied Samuel, taking in every detail of his face as she talked. “You heard about the Games Master at Chiltern House?”

“Yes. A childish crush, surely?”

“I’m sure his wife thought so. There were others. Did she tell you of the son of Lord Bosie?”

“I think his name came up.”

“He asked for her hand. Twice. Awfully peculiar looking man - a face like two cabbages that got in a fight. She told him to come back when his father’s gambling debts were paid off. So he did. He made his own fortune off his own bat, and she laughed in his face and said she’d rather marry a tadpole.” Samuel’s eyes widened at this blatant rudeness, and would have looked away but the Dowager’s gaze was horrifyingly magnetic. “Are you, perhaps, the tadpole she was thinking of?” she asked.

Samuel attempted to speak, but the Dowager shushed him. “I inquire only rhetorically. Then there was Roger, the newspaperman. Shocking amounts of hideously new money. Whisked her away to the Bahamas without so much as a thank you note. I’m sure the details are torrid, but all I know is that she came home alone, if being pregnant can be considered alone. We took care of it. Or was the Bahamas the banker?”

“I really don’t think...” sputtered Samuel.

“Neither does she - that’s the problem. The Junkie Musician was next. We were so proud! All that money on public schools and she ends up in a bedsit in Kent with a needle up her arm covered in her own sick. She wouldn’t have forgotten to tell you about that, would she? Or the Hepatitis?”

“The what?” said Samuel. “I’m sorry, the what?” repeated Samuel.

“Hep C I believe they are calling it these days. His parting gift. That and the HIV, but, to be fair, we can’t be sure that came from the musician. He wrote a song about her, you know. Lady BJ Backdoor. A fearful racket, absolutely fearful. I don’t pretend to understand the lyrics. We had to call in that guttersnipe Roger to keep it out of the papers. Expensive business.” She coughed twice, threw the cigarette in the gutter and proffered her arm. “And now we must go back in. We’ve denied them our company too long.”

Samuel took her arm, and one of the staff opened the door for them. As they made their way back, the Dowager tapped his hand and smiled sweetly at him. “And here you still are. Lord Samuel Shepperton of the Beaconsfield Sheppertons with your heart on your sleeve. Perhaps the hour of Angelic Redemption is nigh.” She beamed. “You may present your proposal. I give my permission.”

They arrived at their destination. Samuel assisted the Dowager into her seat and then took his own. Angela reached for his hand under the table, but found it curiously placed elsewhere.

“I believe Lord Samuel has a proposal he would like us to consider,” announced the Dowager to the family at large.

“Ah. Yes.” said Samuel. All eyes turned to him. He looked at Angela. He felt the ring box in his pocket. “I should, ah, like to propose that we ... that we adjourn to my club for cigars and port.”

By the time the bill was paid, coats retrieved and reproachful glances from ex-future-fiancées ignored, only the Dowager was still seated. Further investigation revealed she had quietly passed away, eyes open, sitting bolt upright, smiling. If the Maitre d’ was put out he did not show it in the slightest.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Thunderdome Round 35: A Child's Garden of WTF

I don't loving care what your story is really about. I don't give a poo poo about your narrative arc, or your conflict, or your lovingly crafted character moments. Sure, I entered the Thunderdome to carve those things into my soul via flensing tools wielded by its sadistic denizens, but now I'm in the chair, gently caress All That. All I really want to do is warp and distort the minds of the young.

So the only thing your story has to have is the embodiment of a Thought Experiment, Paradox or similar mind-loving construct. A real, previously-existing one, not some poo poo you thought up when you tried pot that one time at college and then forever after warned your church group about the dangers of Hard Drugs.

And when I say embodied, I mean it's part of the actual environment of the story, not just some fucker saying "You know, this reminds of a famous scientific conundrum blah blah I'm a complete tool". So Hiro J Protagonist is employed to work in the Chinese room, or is completely aggravated by being unable to outrun a tortoise, or something like this. The reader should be able to understand the nature of the paradox/Gedankenexperiment from the story without it being referred to directly.

DO NOT do a boring physics thing like The Monkey and the Hunter, where, SURPRISE!, poo poo falls at the same speed as other poo poo. You're not tied to those wikipedia lists, nor are all of them great examples.

And yes, it's ostensibly a children's story. But seeing as the purpose is to break young minds, I don't care if your virulent hatred of sprogs comes through in the slightest.

Max 1500 words - Confirmations close friday 11:59pm EST, Entries close 11:59pm Sunday EST.

Judges: Fumblemouse, Magnificent 7, and Bad Seafood

Stardust to the slaughter:

Schneider Heim
JonasSalk
Erogenous Beef
Symptomless Coma
Sitting Here
Accretionist
Chairchucker
sebmojo
Jeza
systran
asap-salafi
Walamor
toanoradian
Bachelard rear end
DoubleDonut
PotatoManJack Feebed before the first hurdle
Mercedes
Nubile Hillock
Nikaer Drekin
Blarg Blargety
Jonked
Kaishai

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Jun 22, 2013 around 05:04

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Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

toanoradian posted:

I'm in! Are we only allowed to use one thought experiment/paradox? Can we combine them? Like what if the cat inside the possibly radioactive box is also falling and had a buttered toast butter side up strung around his back.


If you think you can pull it off, there's no rule against it. But the odds of tripping over the razor-wire shoelaces of your own clever boots are pretty high.

quote:

why is the monkey/bullet boring i learned parabolic movement through that

Because you could easily replace that thought experiment with it with, say, an actual experiment. If I want a world where I can shoot a monkey and bullets follow a parabolic arc then I'll go outside. The premise lacks sufficient brainfuckery.

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