|# ¿ Mar 5, 2013 22:22|
|# ¿ Feb 3, 2023 08:06|
Next week's Thunderdome prompt: I have a theme in mind. Whoever gets closest to it wins!
|# ¿ Mar 8, 2013 03:46|
The Garrity Incident
Ruth Bower, private eye, and Alan Grey, her assistant, turned off the damp sidewalk into Clicks’s place. Above the door, a UFO in fritzing neon intermittently lit the fogged up windows. The bar was originally part of a space-themed casino, back when orbital island Atlantis could seriously be advertised as a pleasure destination. The casino had long-ago been divided into tenements, but the bar survived, supporting each new wave of immigrants. Bower headed for the long formica counter, not bothering to remove coat or gloves, edging aside bundled-up aliens big and small. Alan made his way, less gracefully but more apologetically, behind her.
"What's up, Clicks?" she asked the Mantis behind the bar. She’d heard his real name once, and agreed with most of his customers that “Clicks” was close enough.
"Wanna beer?" Clicks asked through his voice box. "They're cold this time."
"Of course they're loving cold," Bower said, "everything is cold." Clicks waved his antennae and clicked a few times. Bower suspected he was saying something sarcastic.
"Hot Toddies" Bower said.
"What the hell is that?"
"I don't know, saw it in a book. Anyway, as you like to remind me, you're a bartender. Figure it out." Clicks made another sarcastic gesture and turned away. “Bring them to the table,” Bower directed Alan, “it’s best I talk to Dvinsk mysekf first.”
Dvinsk was sitting at her usual table. He stood up, his blue-furred body towering above her, and gave the fluid, upward elbow wave of the Okhtor. She warily eyed the pulsating green transmitter in is ear. The transmitters kept all Okhtors on Atlantis informed of the ever-fluctuating consensus of the Okhtor Council. Obedience was mandatory. What came through the transmitter would determine the outcome of this meeting as much as anything she had to say.
"You are known, Detective," he spoke in ritualistic greeting. Bower felt a small trickle of relief. Recognition meant consequences for anyone who harmed her.
As usual, she punched Dvinsk in the arm as hard as she could, cop style. He grabbed her wrist and flipped her over the table. She had been expecting this, since it was how Dvinsk normally responded. They wrestled for a minute before he pinned her in a choke hold. She capitulated quickly and tapped his arm, but he didn't relent.
"God drat it, Dvinsk, you win, I'm tapping, I'm loving tapping!" He met her eyes and she thought she saw sadness in his serene, otter-like face. It occurred to her that consequences could be good or bad.
“You should not have gone back to the police, Detective,” he said. “The Okhtor council will not be betrayed.” And then, too quietly for the transmitter to pick up, “You disappointed me.”
“What are you talking about?” Bower spat. She curled in her knees to drive a solid kick into the sensitive reproduction nodules on Dvinsk’s belly. It was a low blow, but her sense of honor came second to staying alive.
"Alright, that's enough." Alan appeared behind Dvinsk, his taser jutting out from under a tray of steaming drinks.
Dvinsk froze, his transmitter ear flicking forward and back slowly, then gave a hearty laugh and released her.
"Ho, Detective," he said. "It isn't like you to cheat."
"gently caress you," Bower said, sucking for air. "Dvinsk, this is Alan, my assistant" Alan set the tray on the table and slid into the booth, keeping the taser pointed at Dvinsk under the table. Bower gave him an approving nod and sat down. She lifted her drink and felt the warmth against her cold hand. It tasted of rotting gasoline, but at least it was hot.
"So, an assistant? Has the Detective has finally found someone she trusts?" Dvinsk wiggled his little ears as though he were making a fine joke.
"Stop being ridiculous, Dvinsk," Bower said with a sour frown. "Why hell are you trying to kill me, anyway?”
“You abuse my trust, you sell us to the police.” His face and voice were tight, as though he could still snap at any minute.
"I’m just investigating the stolen filtration system parts" she started in.
“What do you know?”
“Why are you working for the police again?” Dvinsk asked, his fists trembling.
“Are you loving kidding me?” Bower exploded, “First you get me fired from the force, now you insist that I’m working for them? Give me a break.”
“The police say Okhtor’s stole something, and here you are, their little pet with the Okhtor friend, asking me to give you all the evidence they need….” He started to stand, but she interrupted him.
“Jesus, Dvinsk, I’m not working for the police! I’m working for Farmer’s Bureau—informally of course.”
“The insurance company?” He sat down again. “Why?”
“The merchant, Garrity, he had an insurance policy on the stolen”—Dvinsk snorted—“on the parts. I know a girl in the office, she called me, said the cops were dragging their feet.”
“Hmmm,” Dvinsk tipped his head back and pretended to be thinking, but Bower knew he was listening to the transmitter, waiting for this new fact to be discussed, debated, assimilated, acted upon. She patiently nursed her drink and kicked Alan in the shins whenever he started to open his mouth.
“We purchased some parts from Garrity last week. He said the original customer refused to buy their entire order, and he would give us a good deal.”
“No, the parts are all worthless, made poorly, of inferior materials.”
Bower nodded. “Wanted it both ways. Money from you and Farmer’s.”
“Exactly, and the police, well you know they don’t mind an opportunity to blame us for anything.” Dvinsk said, nodding.
“But he forgot about Farmer’s,” Ruth said. “They aren’t willing to look the other way when it comes to their money.”
"You'd think the police would be more interested in investigating something stolen from AtlantisCorp," Alan said thoughtfully. Bower rolled her eyes and Dvinsk shrugged his massive shoulders.
|# ¿ Mar 11, 2013 06:49|
|# ¿ Mar 12, 2013 20:59|
Rosie's Bench for the Lonely
The scale said 351.3. Again. The fourth day in a row. It wouldn't budge. Rosie got off it and back on. Please? she begged. But it was the same, the same, the same. It's a process, she told herself. I'm okay the way I am. She got back into bed and had a little cry, but that didn't really help either. She shook her head, shrugged her shoulders, and got up.
There was a little party at work. Congratulations to Grace, for being promoted to Senior Paralegal to the litigation section. She’d only been with Patterson & Patterson for three years, but she was a rising star, they said. Rosie smiled politely and stood as far from the cake as possible. She could smell the sugar, see pink little icing bows untying themselves, stretching into ribbons, weaving across the room, into her nostrils, up into her brain. Eat us, eat us, the sweet fairy voices sang. She congratulated Grace one more time and went back to her office. She had lots of emails to answer.
“Knock, Knock!” Grace said brightly pushing the office door open. “I brought you some cake!” She set an oversized piece of cake on top of the file Rosie was working on and beamed.
“Thanks Grace, but I really can’t have any—wedding diet, you know?” she picked up the plate and held it out to Grace. Grace didn’t take it.
“Aw, one little piece can’t hurt,” she said and winked. “Anyway, I was hoping you could help me out on the Castleionni binders. I’m kind of swamped at the moment.” She smiled expectantly.
Rosie wasn’t surprised by the request, Grace had been swamped a lot in her three years as a rising star at Patterson & Patterson and Rosie had always been willing to help her out.
“I’m sorry, Grace, but I can’t. I’m really busy. Maybe someone in the litigation section can help you out.”
“They’re all really busy, too. You know how much we value team players here at Patterson & Patterson,” Grace’s smile was growing nastier, but Rosie was tired of giving in. She wished dearly to point out how much of a team player Grace had been when she’d had to take time off for her father’s funeral. Play nice, she told herself. Spitefulness won’t get you anywhere. She set down the cake, since Grace still hadn’t taken it back.
“I’m going dress shopping,” Rosie blurted out. Grace’s smile changed again but it was still nasty.
“Oh how fun!” she practically squealed, “you’ll have to tell me all about it!” She wafted out the door as though buffeted by a gentle wind, leaving the cake on Rosie’s desk.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. Of course she’d have to tell her all about it. And of course she couldn’t. She wasn’t going dress shopping today. She’d already been dress shopping with her Mother last weekend. And oh, the pitiful looks of the shop girls. And oh, the withering looks of all the skinny brides, in their orgasmic confections of white tulle and ribbons, gazing rapturously at their reflections, everyone kneeling around them in adoration. And the normal-fat brides, smiling at her with open relief that at least they weren’t the fattest. Five stores and not one had a dress that she could squeeze into. And the little shop girls would discretely write down an estimate for a custom dress, higher than the budget for the entire wedding. Rosie threw away the cake.
John did met for their walk in the park at lunch. He gave her a peck on the cheek and held her hand until it got too sweaty. They stopped to catch her breath on a bench overlooking a meadow where children were playing soccer. A ball bounced up to them and John caught it easily under his foot, holding it for the approaching kid. The kid looked at Rosie with open-mouthed disgust. John glared at him and kicked him the ball.
“Grosssss!” he yelled, running away. “There’s a huge fat lady up there!” He pointed as he passed the ball to a friend. They both looked back at her and ran off laughing.
“What the hell is wrong with kids these days?” John said. Rosie just shrugged. I’m too tired for this, she thought. She was surprised to find that she didn’t even feel like crying.
“I need to get back to the office, you ready?” John finally asked.
“No, I just want to sit here for a minute. It’s nice here,” she said. “You go, though.” He gave her another peck on the cheek and went.
Rosie sat on the bench and closed her eyes. She felt the sun on her face; she felt peaceful. She drifted into half-a-dream where the sun shone through her and into her. She felt her toes dig into the soft, cool dirt, twisting deeper and deeper. Her fingers grew longer, reaching out for air. She woke up and looked down. Her ankles were gnarled and woody, her toes, roots groping across and down into the ground. The twisting growth paused as she noticed it, questioning, hovering between flesh and wood. Rosie smiled and nodded to herself. She reached her arms high above her head and gave a great yawn. Her arms soared into strong branches and green leaves sprang open, singing to the light. She soaked it in and grew and grew. She grew tall and thick and strong. She grew over half the bench, but was careful to leave room for one person to sit next to her.
John came, a few times, and begged her to come back down, but she shook her leaves gently at him until he left. Many others came and sat next to her, and she let them rest in the shade, and did what she could to make them feel a little less lonely, a little less tired, a little more okay the way they were.
|# ¿ Mar 18, 2013 06:30|
In for the dead
|# ¿ Mar 20, 2013 04:10|
I'm withholding my 500 word masterpiece until crits from last week come in.
(Not really, I just suck.)
|# ¿ Mar 25, 2013 00:55|
Also thanks for the crits guys. She turned into a tree because I was full of regret for skipping the magical realism prompt.
|# ¿ Apr 4, 2013 05:26|
To assuage my inassuagable shame for failing to follow through after calling "in" on a total of 4 (four!) occasions, I inertia ruled myself that I cannot call "in" without posting my actual entry for my next 4 entries. (This means I need to submit before the sign up deadline.) So here, making everything worse, is my rewrite of Bad Seafood's The Lion and the Jackal.
Slave and Slaver, Weave and Waver
Sharp teeth, sharp teeth on that one, the Slagland master, high on his sand-colored horse and looking down, so sharp. Those teeth, filed and plated silver, spitting image of Kuraket-the-Consumer. Smiling teeth spitting orders now, walk slaves, walk. And Old Tet, he is walking, is he not? Watch me walk, sharp tooth. Old, familiar sharp tooth. I carry you yet. Yes me, Old Tet, in these stinking robes I hide you. You fetch a pretty penny yourself. A prettier penny than Old Tet can fetch, perhaps, but it’s a shame, such a shame, to pass up a such pretty penny.
Sharp whip, sharp sun, sharp teeth, sharp tongue; a Slagland slave again, it’s true. But Old Tet will make out, I always make out. It’s the young ones should be pitied. Ground to bones and skin, to sand and blood, to death or close enough. One here, so close, he’s bound for that, sure as he’s bound to me. Stands proud yet, the beautiful fool, under whip and sun alike. Just like Akham—but no—no sense in that. Sense old man, sense. What has caring ever bought you?
But the hot, hard strength, it pulls. He bears it, the heat, the sun, the black knife rocks underfoot; bears it all in silence just like Old Tet, who’s used to bearing what must be born, but with a pride that died in me sometime back. Pride like that will get him killed, get us both killed, just as sure as it pulls me to him, pulls my hand towards….No no no, you old fool, haven’t you any sense left? Wait and live.
Like Bashta lived? Like Akham lived?
What use is sense or life, when everyone else is so drat dead? Give it to him, give it to him, your precious shining talisman. Worthless for so long, probably worth even less now, but fumble and find and pass in silence. A look, and yes, he understands. It’s in the lock, the master’s tooth, chipping, turning, opening. The chains fall loose and the pull is gone, just the chains all along, pulling deeper into the nothing. There’s nothing but—
Don’t fall, old fool! Get up, get up, drat you, drat this old head, splitting. The splitting image of Torgoth, savior maned in glory—but no, just the boy, the boy, standing tall, the young fool! Get down, you fool, get down. Kuraket rides down, and it’s all over again soon. Two gods facing off, and I see it, glinting. The chain. Torgoth is the whip now, dragging down the Consumer, grinding him into the sand. Another comes riding, and Torgoth-the-Boy takes him down roaring and there’s a sword in his hand and he takes them all down till it’s silent again.
And look at him, son of blood and sun still standing. He looks at me, says words I’ve never heard, and turns. They’re all looking now, watching him walk into the sun; to a place I’ve never walked. And they follow; because they have no where else to go or perhaps because he is worth following. And maybe I’ll follow, too. For a while.
But there’s time yet, before he sets over the horizon. Time for Old Tet to fetch a few pretty pennies.
|# ¿ Apr 13, 2013 06:28|
Thanks for the crit. I am actually reading Ulysses right now and even Joyce uses more commas than Seafood did in the original.
Your major irk point (the forgotten teeth), was actually sloppy writing. I meant to imply that he was getting the teeth and actually might be separated from the youth and the rest of the slaves since he stayed behind for them. Obviously when it comes to writing, it doesn't matter what you meant to do, only what you did do. I'm actually more embarrassed that I just flatly failed to convey such a simple idea than I would've been if I hadn't thought of it in the first place.
|# ¿ Apr 16, 2013 01:54|
THUNDERDOME XXXVII: Professional Excellence
I'm too hungover to write a bunch of color text, so here it is:
Prompt: In 1200 words or less, write me a mystery featuring a licensed professional in a made up profession. The mystery doesn't have to be a crime and the character's professional expertise must play a significant role in the story (i.e. not a throw-away fact like "oh and also she's a dragon dentist/Space-Time Causalist/Ghost Door Consultant" or whatever). NO ROPE INSPECTORS.
Judges: Dr. Kloctopussy, Sitting Here, a mysterious third judge who is a secret to all.
Deadline: Commit by Friday, April 19 at 6:30pm PST, Submit by Sunday, April 21 at 11:59pm PST
Bad Seafood Ammit, Inc.
Erogenous Beef: Border Control
Sebmojo: Doing Our Bit
0 rows returned
CancerCakes: Tempting Icarus
CantDecideOnAName: No Blue Stars, Mandatory Grandma Modern Day Monster Hunter
crabrock: The Case of the Elusive Keymasher
systran: The Obfusicator
Jagermonster: The Mysterious Law Man v. The Untouchable Kingpin
Jeza: Excerpt from Transcript of Preliminary Investigation – Case #200384
Nubile Hillock Mark Zak: Douchebag Detective
Fumblemouse Rub Me the Wrong Way
perpetulance The Invokers
Auraboks: Shady Affair(ie)s
kazakirinyancat The Mystery of the Silent House
zakucat: Murderous Dreams
Magnificent7: 50-foot spiders or zombies
Nikaer Drekin: The Prayer Steward
Kleptobot: What the Good Book Says
V for Vegas
Noah: The Coffin of Henry Wick
Voliun: Office Pains
Little Mac (missed the commit deadline): A Beating Around The Bush
Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at 00:55 on Apr 24, 2013
|# ¿ Apr 16, 2013 22:56|
I've read too many Rope Inspector Mysteries and I don't have time for another.
|# ¿ Apr 16, 2013 23:20|
Oh poo poo, man, this is gonna be easy. May I ask where you got this idea?
WRONG. Flash rule: you can't write in your Blue Stars universe. Also your must involve the sparing but significant use of a Grandma.
Thunderdome is for new poo poo.
And yeah, your story reminded me how much I like this kind of story. I still owe you some feedback on that, probably by tonight or tomorrow.
Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at 23:36 on Apr 16, 2013
|# ¿ Apr 16, 2013 23:34|
I'm in. Reluctantly.
It's not Capital-M-Mysteries, it's just a mystery. Also you just flash-ruled yourself to write about 50-foot spiders or zombies. Congratulations.
Alternative: If you post a decent sub-500 word story (it doesn't have to be a mystery) about 50-foot spiders before the sign-up deadline, I will expunge this flash rule.
Because, God, like we need more loving amateur-hour stories about zombies in the world.
Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at 17:37 on Apr 17, 2013
|# ¿ Apr 17, 2013 17:28|
Just curious, do we have to wait until after the joining deadline to submit our stuff?
No, you can submit any time. There's no reward for posting early, though, so you're better off using any extra time to polish.
|# ¿ Apr 19, 2013 21:27|
sign ups are closed!
|# ¿ Apr 20, 2013 02:36|
Well you have 5. Get to work.
|# ¿ Apr 22, 2013 02:05|
Submissions are closed.
Big ups to everyone who wrote words that didn't suck, assuming anyone did.
Medium ups to everyone who wrote words that sucked, because we give out participation grades now.
gently caress you everyone who didn't submit.
|# ¿ Apr 22, 2013 07:46|
Judging this week was less separating the wheat from the chaff, and more trying to find some chaff that might be edible if I was starving to death. Several of the stories had good ideas, but didn't pull them off through the story or writing. Others had capable prose, but were utterly forgettable. Also I read every one of your stories sober, and I never want to do that again. gently caress all y'all.
Edging ahead by writing something I read twice without considering suicide and not being hated by either SittingHere and Kaishai, was our winner: Systran, with The Obfusacator. An interesting profession and readable writing. Also everyone dies, and I like that. Good job!
Honorable Mentions: Erogenous Beef, for being slightly above average, and CantDecideOnAName, for improving his prose under the yoke of 3 flash rules.
And loser by unanimous consent with no meaningful debate: Voliun. I don't know what the gently caress happens in this story and I don't want to.
Crits coming later tonight.
Systran, call forth your co-judges and give these people a prompt, that they may absolve themselves.
Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at 21:10 on Apr 23, 2013
|# ¿ Apr 23, 2013 18:28|
In. This'll be fun.
|# ¿ Apr 23, 2013 23:24|
Critiques, Beer 1: Crabrock, CantDecideOnAName, kazakirinyancat
Stories I can bear to read again might get a line-by-line later. Also, I don't mind discussing my crits, but don't poo poo up the thread with it, either PM me or take it to another thread.
Crabrock - The Case of the Elusive Keymasher (1200 words exactly)
I was with you for the cheeky self-referential bullshit at the beginning, but then it just got downright bad. The Critiquer General is puking within the first six paragraphs, so you've got nowhere for the tension to go (and what is it with puke this week?) Then there's too many meaningless characters introduced all at once, and then this happens: "You see, this story is good because I murdered not only several members of his team, but their entire families." And then I hate you. gently caress you buddy.
CantDecideOnAName - Modern Day Monster Hunter (766 words)
You already got all the praise you're going to get, so here's all the bad:
1) A pretty boring premise. A guy with night vision, a chupacabra. Meh, I was hoping for more. You don't really develop the profession of "Monster Hunter" at all, either.
2) A boring story arc. Guy gets asked to hunt monsters, guy hunts monster, guy kills monster, guy says "I wouldn't be here if I weren't getting paid." There is zero tension in the story, and practically no mystery. Actually, as soon as John tells Martin the condition of the victims, Martin immediately identifies the culprit and is prepared to hunt it.
3) Flat characters. Who are these people? We know the most about Granny, and she's just the customer. Or possibly John's or Martin's or both of their actual grandma? I don't know. At least I know what she wants. Why does Martin want John to do this job instead? John seems to have all the information about what the monsters have been doing. But then, he seems surprised and maybe scared when Martin says it might be a chupacabra. So who is more experienced, who is in charge, John or Martin? Do they like each other? Respect each other? The relationship between these two men has more potential for conflict than Martin's confrontation with the chupacabra.
4) Dialogue that doesn't show character. I suppose that all dialogue is exposition in disguise, but yours is straight exposition. It doesn't reflect the characters, their relationships to each other, all the rich nuances of speech in real life.
You had over 400 words and two days left over, you definitely could have given us more.
kazakirinyancat - The Mystery of the Silent House (1055 words)
I liked your idea of a professional ghost negotiator/relocator, and also of a house that eats ghosts. Buuuuut, you're story has big problems with pacing and style. First, a person who works regularly with the dead would not call a place with no dead a "dead zone"--it just doesn't make any sense. Then your man goes into the house and looks around. Three things should happen here: we should learn more about the character, we should learn more about his profession, and we should feel the tension ratcheting up. You make some stabs at these, but nothing gives me goosebumps.
When I read a first person story, I like to really be in the head of the character. Every sentence should tell us who this guy is, how he thinks, what makes him tick. Here, his own internal narrative is distant--but not enough to characterize him as clinical or professional. It's pretty bland. Even in the climax, I don't really feel anything. Welp, Gerard is gone, going to open my third-eye, whatever that does, nope still nothing, okay. This story could be improved quite a bit with some characterization and clearer presentation of what exactly the main character does, as a professional ghost negotiator. Also by using commas: "Everything built atop the graves of past generations and this house should be no exception yet there it was." Say what.
Also, why didn't the house eat him, too?
|# ¿ Apr 24, 2013 02:54|
Critiques, Beer 2: Nubile Hillock, Erogenous Beef, Nikaer Drekin
Nubile Hillock: Mark Zak: Douchebag Detective
Well, at least this delivered what was promised. It actually grew on me the second time around, and this line has me giggling: "He put on his other set of Oakleys...." You've got grammar errors and poo poo, but I think you could fix them, so I'm not going to bother. There were three goofy entries this week, and this one was my fave. Hope you didn't expect a real crit, bro.
Erogenous Beef: Border Control
One of my top-three this week. Your story suffers primarily from a lack of clarity. What is the relation between hell and the dreamworld? (To die to sleep, To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there's the rub, For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come) Why patrol the border? Why let anyone cross the borders of hell at all? What happens when someone is discharged from the dreamworld? Why does Howard's badge work the doors if he can't get use them? A lot of your dreamworld is just dialogue in a white room.
You're spot on with hell being a paper-pushing job with no way out, though.
A man lying on the floor, throat filleted. --filleting is a pretty delicate activity, not remotely the same as stabbing a man in the heat of passion.
Somewhere down the hallway, a jar of marbles toppled to the floor.--I guess this is some sort of aural metaphor for the pills spilling? What were you thinking?
Her hand rested inside a tipped jar....--unless they were actually marbles? And if so, why the hell are there marbles here?
Sam tapped his sickle-shaped badge to them and they fell away. He pulled reality aside like a drape, heavenly light poured through and he grinned at Howard. “Go on, champ. You earned it.” --Is this, or is it not, the ending of Constantine, starring Keanu Reeves? It is.
Nikaer Drekin: The Prayer Steward
Lots of really boring exposition, like two seconds of actual events, all of which were painfully obvious from the beginning. The back and forth between the history of space travel and the history of Clovis remind me of a hodge-podged high school essay, not a story. Show-don't-tell is a platitude, but it's grounded in reality. When you've got 1200 words, 900 of them can't be text book explanations. You've gotta get to that poo poo out hard and fast. Preferably with some well used implication, not a loving cruise ship brochure. You went on too long for a cruise ship brochure, actually. Dialogue and action help, too.
I think you were going for a dry tone, but it just didn't work for me. A lot of your exposition could be worked seamlessly into the story (e.g. what he wore, that he didn't care about the statistical chance of death, that he preferred to chat with the passengers, etc.) As it stands, you've got a bunch of "history," and then a "ONE DAY." Also, passive voice was used too much.
He had a bright face and a voice like a warm, bubbling foot bath.
they found the idea comfortingly simple, like an insurance salesman swinging on monkey bars.
the children hoping for a few minutes alone with one of the five-ton ore drills.
Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at 04:40 on Apr 24, 2013
|# ¿ Apr 24, 2013 04:13|
Critiques, Beer 3: Voliun, Little Mac, CancerCakes
Voliun: Office Pains
What the loving gently caress? You've got three scenes here. None of them makes a lot of sense individually, and they make zero sense when taken as a whole. Mono/Momo steals (maybe?) stuff from a shopping mall. For some reason there is a Frankenstein-style monster-killing mob at the mall. Roscoe/Edgar is driving her somewhere. To kill her? There is a clot of puke involved. That, at least, I can understand. I also feel like puking. Then cops or debt collectors bicker a lot and....?
I feel like there might be a cohesive idea hidden somewhere in this muck. If you can grab hold of it, pull it out, shine it up, it might be a good one. In a story, the reader only has what you give them, and you've given us a mess. I don't mean you need to spell everything out, but you need to be aware of what you are communicating directly, what you are leaving out, and what you are implying in the gap. You need to think about your story up and down the levels: what's the theme (one should always pay their debts?), what's the thrust (a woman who has run away from her debts for too long finally pays the price?), what's the plot (she teams up with a man who despises her, ends up dead, and the crime is investigated???) what are the scenes that carry us through the plot? the paragraphs that make up those scenes? what does each sentence in each paragraph add? each word? Right now you're making mistakes on nearly every level, but despite all that, I'd like to see you try and fix it up. Thinking hard and paying attention go a long way when it comes to writing. If you redo this and post it in the Farm, I'll definitely take another look.
Ugh, why did I get all sappy there.
An incomplete collection of sentences that suck:
Turning the ignition, Roscoe looked behind and the rear view mirror.
Loud glass clanking and paper hustling later, the woman leaned toward the bags.
A glance at his watch was not enough for Roscoe to wash away his disdain, but his voice remained its gruff part though.
Even if her hands were pedicured or not, he glared at Momo.
A block looking anklet slid down to her ankle.
"Never thought I have to lose the beard to get to you though."
Like a sloppy joe sandwich, papers and maps seeped out of the folder on to the table.
Gly looked with awe when his eyes meet with the bold words, Monica Jensen, on the middle of the folder.
While grabbing the paper crumbs from the massive folder he held, he bit his lips.
He folded both arms together making up his contemplative pose.
Also, all the rest of them.
Voliun took a whole beer, so here's Beer 4: Little Mac, Cancer Cakes
Little Mac: A Beating Around The Bush
Cute idea. You've thought up a lot of different idiom crimes, which is cool. Unfortunately, you don't really carry us through a story arc. This reads more like an intro--an intro into which you wanted to cram all your clever ideas to prove that you had them. Also your last idiom is backwards, if the killer was keeping his eye on the victim, he should have left one of his own eyes behind.
You set up a mystery--why murder when the idiom doesn't call for it? But then you just as quickly dismiss it with "oh, a killer who also has MID. Now I have to catch him." Then you change the subject and never make any progress towards catching him, showing us some relatively cliche office politics instead. Boo.
Also this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eioji_QzFzw
CancerCakes: Tempting Icarus
I like your premise. I have a thing for space stations being abandoned to burn up in a death spiral. Like a fly with a flaming hard-on, you might say, though you shouldn't. Your story is also the only one in my beer 3/4 grouping with an ending. Congratulations?
For the most part, your attempts at lyrical neo-noir fall flat for me. "It was about eleven o’clock at night, mid third cycle, with the neon lights flickering and a sprinkle of vagrants in the desolate section boulevarde." Works okay. "Around me was a dirty great hunk of metal, slowly spiralling closer to Tau Ceti like a fly with a flaming hard on." Less so. At first it wasn't even clear to me that you meant he was on a space station.
I think you could do a lot more foreshadowing in your first half. Hinting enough at his situation, his connection with the girl, that you don't need a full on "See I'm not a natural space tramp" paragraph of explanation. Those three paragraphs give too much all at once. They're the whole story.
Like everyone this week, your tenses are all over the place. Tenses shift constantly in real life, things happened, happen, or are happening, maybe even have happened or had happened. Picking a tense for a story doesn't mean every sentence is in that tense. It's your baseline. Everything relates to that time. Your problem is that you have a narrator existing in the present time, who is relating a series of past events, interspersed with present observations, but your tenses don't consistently match up to which one is happening.
Didn’t bother me when we lost a day (past), my line of work I lose them all the time (present, but okay, b/c it's the present tense narrator saying something that's still true), but then we lost a week, and I didn’t have a birthday anymore (past again, because it's an event in the past). Not that I got anyone to get me a card right now, but it’s the thought that counts.(present tense, because it's our present day narrator)
I was still reeling from the situation (past-progressive, b/c we're in the past-tense story and there's an ongoing action) so I don’t make quick with an answer (incorrect present tense: we're still in the past-tense story): I get a kick in the ribs.(back to the correct use of past-tense, simple-past now b/c it's a completed action)
“Dunno what yer talkin bout, yer just woke me up,” I slur (incorrect present tense, b/c we're still in the past-tense story), only implying the arsehole at the end of that sentence. I’ve learnt calling pigs arseholes is likely to land you in the poo poo. (correct present-perfect because he learned this before the present narration. Past-perfect, i.e. "I'd learnt calling pigs" would also be correct, but doesn't work as well, since this sentence seems more like an inserted observation from the present-tense narrator, rather than part of the story. See how your selection of verb tense affects that, though?)
Problem with being a space tramp is you don’t always have full control over what you’re saying. (present, okay, it's our narrator) Things slip out.(ditto) But I concentrated hard on not letting anything else slip out (correct past-tense, we're in the story) while he beats on me (incorrect present-tense, we're still in the story). She looked like she had enough trouble without the troopers chasing her down.(correct past-tense) Chivalry ain’t dead in me.(acceptable present tense, though could go either way)
So kiddies, I hope you all enjoyed your grammar lesson. This is why you should write in a single tense until you've got it all nailed down nice and pretty in your head. Come back next week for Futures and Conditionals!
|# ¿ Apr 24, 2013 06:50|
Kloctopussy, all I'm going to say is that I did have characterization dialogue or "gossip" in the first draft of the story, and I cut it out because it didn't move the story forward as per Sitting Here's directions.
Your mistake is thinking dialogue can't do both.
Revise and post up to the Farm.
|# ¿ Apr 24, 2013 06:58|
Maybe the lawyer in my story can read Kloc's will in a sequel (after I murder her in this brawl).
I am going to drive over you in my monster truck and get away with it.
|# ¿ Apr 26, 2013 04:05|
Critiques Part 5: Systran, Jagermonster, Auraboks
Systran: The Obfusacator
Good overall concept and execution. An Obfusacator, studying for years to NOT understand language, is one of the more interesting professions that turned out. Your story didn't really jump out at me during first read-throughs, but neither did anyone else's. And yours grew on me.
Unlike Kaishai, I don't mind all the uncertainties. There are some that bother me though: is your narrator's statement that "Based on my tests with the obfuscation, I thought there was no real danger in letting it out" and the destruction that follows. Were his tests wrong? Was everyone just bluffing? I'd also like to see the narrator's reaction to the devastation. The other main problem I have is that you explain too much through straight-forward dialogue. I'm not sure your narrator did give a good enough reason to not kill him after he handed over the obfusication (and possibly also the translation?). You've got some weak prose and technical issues in there. The finger-breaking scene fell particularly flat for me.
I think this could be cleaned up into something that would really grab me and punch me in the gut. Please punch me in the gut, I love it.
Jagermonster: The Mysterious Lawman vs. the Untouchable Kingpin (1126 words)
Terrible title. Also singing happy birthday isn't a criminal violation of copyright law, but I'm giving you a pass on that one, since maybe they'll make it criminal by 2020. Disney topiaries should be an arrestable offense anyway. The plot of this story is basically "we got Al Capone on tax charges" with the names changed and Valentine's Day Massacre to spice things up.
I get no feeling for your main character at all. He is just some guy. I think you meant to imply that he is some specialist that's been called in because everyone else feels defeated, but I had to read it 3 times before I thought of that. I thought he was just the chief or whatever. A story about a man using his wits to catch a criminal still needs motivation and characters. Everyone in here is flat. You have a room full of flat cops, a flat main cop, and a flat bad guy. Actually, the bad guy's need to copy everything is interesting, but you don't do anything with it.
Your story lacks urgency, emotion, or motivation. It's literally two scenes: "Cop says he's going to arrest a guy" and "Cop arrests a guy." You have to make me care if he is arrested or not. I do not care. I think you could make this a lot tighter if you take your mysterious lawman off the lectern, and have him interact with a local liasion officer, instead. You can get all the same exposition information out, but also reveal more about each character because you're not juggling seven anonymous dudes. Likewise you need to punch up the conversation between Hollywood and the lawman. There's no reason to waste words having lawman talk to the valet. Have Hollywood himself brag about the house. Let us see the two men face off: Hollywood suave and confident, lawman laying the trap. In your version they don't talk at all!
Auraboks: Shady Affair(ie)s
Terrible title. This one didn't do it for me. You've got a solid story arc (which is apparently a loving rarity), but something about the tone and the subject just rubbed me the wrong way. Points for foreshadowing the ending in the first line, though, well-handled. You're a little heavy on exposition up front. I think you could start with him putting on his thermal goggles during a retrieval and feed us the information we need as the story unfolds. You don't need to spend 1/4 of your words explaining that "baby teeth are like crack-laced amphetamine cookies, only more addictive." You can also shorten the time spent collecting teeth, since that's actually just set up, too.
If you look at this section:
"All clear," I said, lifting my goggles. "The humans are asleep. Fruitpip, go ahead. Second floor, left window."
you see that you are saying nearly everything twice. Thermal goggles, sleeping humans, it's an easy night, but something doesn't feel right. Thermal goggles, humans lying down, no problems, but I smell trouble. You may also see that during all this, you're not really developing these characters. They are just fairies doing a fairy thing with no depth. Cut out the repetition, and you've got plenty of room to add that depth.
"Just a precaution. Wouldn't want you doing anything rash, you see." This line is about as cliche super-villain as it gets, without full-on "but before I kill you, let me tell you my entire plan." I'd like to think that if you put this aside and edited it, you would take lines like this out on your own, and give us something with more vavoom.
|# ¿ Apr 26, 2013 05:07|
Critiques: Jeza, zakucat, Kleptobot
Jeza: Excerpt from Transcript of Preliminary Investigation – Case #200384 |Word Count: 1149|
I really wanted to like this one more than I did. I like the transcript idea, but there just wasn't enough back and forth. Van Der Haart starts talking and just does not stop. And he's so insufferable! I know he is supposed to be insufferable, but good lord, make your cop take control and rein him in. For everyone's sakes. In a real interrogation, there might be some benefit to letting the suspect talk and talk--hoping he'll talk himself into a corner. But not in a story. We all have too many better things to do. Give the cop a bigger role, make him a real character, and you'll have something more than the assisted mono-logue you've got now.
For the profession, I'm not exactly sure what a Resolver does. Is he just an arbitrator? Or something more sinister? I also didn't catch the implication of the missing badge. He already admitted to being at the crime scene, so it's not like finding it there would prove he was guilty. What is it supposed to show?
You've also got some sentences that make my eyes itch:
"as a child, my family would humour me, call me 'Little King Solomon' and tug my cheeks" -- the only part of this that makes sense is calling him Little King Solomon. Humouring someone means indulging their fancies, right? So that makes it sound like he wasn't really a little Solomon?
"arguments inevitably fell upon my judgement and at university" --arguments don't fall upon judgment. If anything, judgment falls upon arguments.
"The few times in my life I had tried to navigate between that Scylla and Charybdis on my lapel had ended only in misery." --It seems like navigating between Scylla an Charybdis is exactly what a good resolver would do? Finding the middle ground between two parties? No?
You've got four big paragraphs of exposition, and at the end of it, I feel like I know this guy's life story, but I still don't know what he does! (Also I hate him, but surely you could make me hate him with just one paragraph?)
zakucat: Murderous dreams
Another one that I really wanted to like more than I did. I really love the idea of the Scrivener (who writes the dreams, yes?) and the Archivist, who keeps track of their contents. The dynamic between these two could be incredible. Professional respect tinged with jealousy? A grudging willingness to work together, since it's necessary? Each totally devoted to their job, with no sympathy for when it makes the other's job harder? Any of that and more. But you don't quite take us there.
You have several nice details, like their fading appearances, shadow-squatters, magic pen and clipboard, but these whet my appetite without satisfying it. Unacceptable in a short piece.
Also, this line is awful: The red splashed everywhere was of the same shade as the pink that dominated Lilly's dream with the candy roses and the strange strawberry sunset, but it was several shades darker and the effect could not be described with anything else other than appalling.
At the end of the day, the story maroons me in ambiguity. Obviously the Scrivener is the murderer, but why? And if the dreamers don't remember, why does it matter?
Answer these questions and repost it!
Kleptobot: What the Good Book Says
Let me guess, you're an atheist? Textbook Inquisitor seemed kind of cool at first. But then I remembered that Boards of Education don't need to steal and examine textbooks to protect the innocence of god-fearing children, because they actually control what goes in the textbooks. Then the security guard 1) doesn't seem worried at all about the books being discovered, but 2) seems to know that it's the Board of Education? So... is the Inquisitor a crazy guy? Does the Board of Education have any real authority? I dunno, this just seems like an excuse to make fun of righteous people that you don't quite pull off.
Taking out a tactical folding knife from a belt sheath, he crept closer to his target, and then stabbed down until he cut a long gash through the top of a large cardboard box marked “TEXTBOOKS” in big red letters. --That is not how you open a box, wtf.
Then he used his own strength to rip open the box--as opposed to someone else's strength? you obviously mean as opposed to the knife, but why say anything at all?
their covers full of sinful knowledge with innocuous-sounding titles: -- the sinful knowledge has innocuous-sounding titles?
With their calming blue and green colored covers and pictures of smiling children they invited impure thoughts, they invited young minds to grow prideful on things that The Lord had never revealed to them, to drag them into sin. --This sentence is just a longer version of the sentence before it.
What is the point of this story?
|# ¿ Apr 26, 2013 05:54|
Critiques: Sebmojo, Noah, Fumblemouse
Sebmojo: Doing Our Bit
Okay, a good creepy feeling successfully invoked. An intriguing profession, reminds me of Blade Runner a bit, with the fancy machine, but I want to know more. The awkwardness is well-built. I love the professional, enthusiastic, even cheery inspector contrasted against the frightened inspectees, struggling to keep up a good face. At the end it kind of fizzles out, though. I think you were intentionally avoiding the "Oh, Snap, you ARE correlated" result as "obvious," but without it, the father's appeal re: substitution feels superfluous and everything kind of deflates. I'd kind of like to see the inspector going on about his professional, enthusiastic, cheery way while shunting Mrs. James to her horrible fate. He must have done it at least a few times. Or show us one where there's a correlation, but he lets them go. Anything but a perfectly normal inspection!
Give me just a little more detail, a little more conflict and drama, and this story could really knock me out.
Noah: The Coffin of Henry Wick
A coffin that restores you to life so you can be murdered by an obsessive coffin salesman again and again?
Why is he inspecting coffins, anyway? Do people actually live in coffins after they die? Why does Henry care so much about the seal? Why does Martin care enough about giving it honestly to suffer so much?
This is just an excuse to write a bunch of silly death scenes and have a guy clawing at a coffin lid. The interesting parts are all but ignored: why have coffin-inspectors? and who else has been in the coffin to put those claw marks there? (other coffin-inspectors, probably). Spend more time developing those areas, show the death/reincarnation once, and you'll have a stronger story. Also if you give your characters more depth than "coffin-inspector" and "insane coffin seller."
Here's what I made up: Henry Wick is the longest-running holder of the Myers-Bartlett seal. His place has always gotten great ratings, year after year, but for some reason no inspector volunteers to go there twice. Now our guy is young, by the book, but he is secretly kind of excited to see these coffins, because they always get perfect scores. He gets in the coffin and is disappointed and confused. It doesn't even meet the requirements for a one-star rating! It's cramped, the satin is cheap, and what are these grooves?
Fumblemouse: Rub me the wrong way
I liked the first half of this story, but was totally lost by the second half. A Thomas the Tank-Engine fan with an extra person and maybe a Genie sharing his body? What? And why would anyone, even someone very sick, ask to be put into the body of their father, who is in jail? Other than that inane and unsatisfying ending, this story is pretty good.
Stylistically, you use too many weak verbs: was, had been found, said, looking, handle, is, is, claim, is, took, collapsed, will be, took, wind, drew, was, tend to, should be, flashed, made my way, approached, said, isn't, have missed, may be, is, know, said, summoned (ironically a person, not a magical creature), is, to be shown, is, judge, unable, led, lying, was, lay, could tell, had been required, were, had been searched, had revealed, was, looked, approached, etc.
This really muffles your story. It's like punching through a pillow.
I think you can easily cut off the first 1/4 and start when she enters Parliament (oh, also I apparently think your protagonist is female, even though you called her "sir," not sure why.) I get that you want to show her punching out a Djinn, but maybe later in the story? Or have her tell Fairfax she's been punching out Djinn's all day? You lose some of the oomph when she's reporting it instead of doing it, but you make up for it by cutting out a bunch of other oomphless words. The interaction with the genie was my favorite part, especially when the genie claimed genie/master privilege. Awesome. I feel like you had this good idea, but then didn't know where to go with it and were running out of time and just tacked on the first thing that came to mind. And that thing was stupid. No big deal. Think of a better ending (preferably with no Thomas the Tank Engine connection) and post up in the Farm.
|# ¿ Apr 26, 2013 07:03|
Last Critiques: Perpetulance, BadSeafood
Perpetulance: The Invoker
Your story has a beginning, middle, and end, and a passable premise. Unfortunately, you develop the premise in a dull, obvious way, brow-beating your readers with points that we already understood. First, this is a story about human capacity for violence, a deep, rich subject that has been explored thousands of times and can easily be satisfyingly explored a thousand more. But you barely dip your toes in. You end at "some people are inherently violent." You don't even show us this man's enjoyment of violence in a meaningful way. You just tell us he enjoys his job, and once the idea is basically forced down his (and our) throat, he realizes he can commit real crimes and that makes him smile. You've created a main character who seems to utterly lack self-awareness. He's never thought about how he feels re-enacting highly tabooed acts beyond "I enjoy it"--never considered what that meant? never questioned his place in life until he heard some dudes on a subway making the most asinine comments about their own assignments? I suppose there are people out there who live an entirely unexamined life, but is that who you really want to choose to tell us your story and show us this world?
And about that computer: surely a computer that can bring about world peace and nearly eliminate true violence would understand enough of human nature to know that telling the invoker he is a natural-born criminal would encourage him to commit actual crimes.
Your plot progression: man does performance art of a murder, exposition explaining everything about this world, man overhears life-changing statement on the subway, man talks to god-in-the-machine who spells everything out because apparently you think your readers are dumb children, man unsurprisingly decides to commit real murders.
Your prose is also too bland: in the reenactment scene, you remove us from the action by describing the crowd watching it. I appreciate that you don't try to get us all amped up with a gruesome murder scene, only to have the curtain fall and it was all a play, but I know you can describe a murder scene more dramatically than "A woman lay covered in blood, her left hand extended up to try to block the ax moving down toward her." That sentence is dead to me. "Her left hand extended up" what is she a loving robot? am I some sort of scientific observer? A woman cowered in a pool of blood, arms raised against the descending axe. I don't know, that's not great, because it's still describing the action through someone reacting to it. Best would be to describe the man raising the axe, probably. You don't even really show us the crowd's reaction, either, which is an interesting aspect of the world. Who sees these plays? Why? How do they feel about it? Then you have your exposition bit, almost entirely in passive voice. Everything just plods on mechanically until we thankfully get to the end.
Bad Seafood: Ammit Inc.
1) You named your character Dresden, which is the name of a pretty well-known wizard detective. Apparently you were unaware of this, so it is forgiven.
2) I don't know how I feel about this story. I like the idea, and I like the quirks, but it doesn't quite hang together. It feels like a zero stakes game. Even SuperDude, who might suffer from...something...if the results are bad, seems more interested in witty repartee than what's happening. And what WILL happen if the scales balance one way or the other? I think the problem is that you are too explicit about some things (e.g. when Sergei explains “Knowing evil is our business. We can’t afford to cut corners. Whenever someone like you shows up, we’ve got to be sure where they stand.”) but too vague about others (e.g. what "someone like you" means). Sure, I can deduce that he's a superhero, but why hide it? It's not a big fun surprise when I figure it out. Your explicitness and your vagueness don't conform to what the characters would be explicit and vague about, so it feels unnatural.
3) Prose before hose:
Weak. Passive. Awkward. Unilluminating. Ungrammatical. What the hell does the commonness of the name matter?
Sergei. That was the name he had been given. Not a name he’d expected to be common. He’d been told to wait for them, pick the time and the place, but for what purpose or how they tracked him down he only vaguely understood. They always had ways, he supposed. And he, too good natured to refuse.
You can easily cut the first sentence, which is a pretty dull sentence anyway: A car engine echoed in his eardrums, closer and closer, until... etc. Do you think using three sentences instead of one adds to your piece? I don't.
There was the sound of an engine in the distance. A car. It echoed in his eardrums, closer and closer, until at last it stopped and fell into silence.
He had wanted to be surprised.
You're holding out on revealing Sergei is a woman like it's going to blow our loving minds. It isn't. It's just a chick with a dude's name. Skip all this awkwardness and get to something interesting. You can cover all the name cleverness, but Sergei and Stork's in about half the words:
He had wanted to be surprised. A long tall woman in a white suit leaned against the car. A single flower in her hair ornamented a practical haircut.
This still borders on too much Witty Repartee about names.
“Not natively, no. I arrived sometime last month.”
AND BOY ARE MY ARMS TIRED
Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at 21:22 on Apr 26, 2013
|# ¿ Apr 26, 2013 20:39|
Miles handed Henry his pen back, and extended his other hand for a shake.
A woman lay covered in blood, her left hand extended up to try to block the ax moving down toward her.
She walked forward, her right hand extended as tough in an awkward attempt for a handshake.
Raising a Toast
Gly raised a hand up.
Howard forced his eyes open, sat up on a concrete balcony and raised a hand to block the sun.
Fruitpip raised an eyebrow, but didn't say anything.
“Enough,” Sergei raised her palms, still balancing the crocodile
I waited until it wasn’t looking at me any longer to raise my gun.
I raise a hand to my forehead to shield the LA sun as I step out of the Agency van.
Also you guys are obsessed with hands. There are too many to quote.
|# ¿ Apr 26, 2013 21:54|
Laney and Salim cruised down Loop 360, windows down in his mom’s old Volvo, cranking some techno poo poo he claimed was the next big thing. It wasn’t on the radio, and that was good enough for Laney. They traded ideas for the coolest spot to drink the Lone Star tallboys Laney had lifted off her stepdad, Rich.
“Let’s go up to the radio towers by my old place,” she said. “There’s a culdesac that’s like right under them. We can just chill and watch the lights blink.”
“I thought you didn’t like that neighborhood. I mean, since the—“
“It’s fine.” She interrupted before he could say the words—since the accident where your dad died. “It’s been three years. I’m fine. Let’s go.” She turned up the radio so he couldn’t argue, but as they reached the intersection, she felt her stomach twist and buried her face in her arms.
“Are you ok—what the hell?” Salim exclaimed. “Did you see that?”
“See what?” Laney asked, slowly raising her head. Of course she hadn’t seen it. Was he loving with her?
“I don’t know, there was a weird…shimmer,” he said.
“Oh come on, it was probably just a reflection or something. It’s twilight, the light is loving with you.”
She was ready to keep ribbing him, getting her confidence back after the shock of driving past the scene of the accident, when she gasped.
“Stop!” she screamed, “Stop, Salim, that’s my dad!” she pointed frantically out the window at a man turning the corner. Salim hit the breaks, but they’d already past him. The car skidded to a halt among a sea of honking horns. Salim pulled into the strip mall they were passing.
“What the gently caress, Laney, now who’s seeing things now?
“gently caress you Salim, he was even wearing his old Astro’s hoodie. They’re not even a team anymore. Who else would wear that?”
He shook his head. An old hoodie seemed more common than a return from the dead, but he knew better than to argue with Laney when she got like this. He accelerated through the parking lot, back to the street the man had turned down.
They searched for half an hour before Laney would give up.
“gently caress it,” she said, “let’s go have our beers.”
“Alright,” Salim agreed patiently, tapping at his GPS. “Let me reset this thing, this wild-goose chase got us off course.”
“It wasn’t a wild goose chase!” Laney cried. “It was definitely my dad!”
“Of course,” said Salim distractedly. “That’s funny, it can’t seem to find us.” He shook the box ineffectively.
“You always think technology is better than memory,” Laney said, “Go up to Willow St., that should cut back to the Loop.” They drove in silence until Willow ended in a barricade and darkening forest.
“What the gently caress?!” said Laney, banging the dashboard.
“I’m going back,” Salim announced.
“Back? Back where?”
“To the shimmer.”
Salim drove back, carefully retracing their route to the strip mall and then north on Loop 360. Even Laney could see it this time, a softly glowing arch over the south-bound lanes and half of the far left lane going north.
“That’s right where…” she trailed off.
“I know.” Salim looked grim. “We’re going through.”
“But it’s on the other side!” Laney flinched as Salim jerked the wheel to the left. A semi was barreling straight at them. She braced for the hit, the crunching metal and glass again, she screamed.
They careened through the arch and Salim jerked back to the right as the semi jumped back fifty feet and then swept passed them, it’s low horn blasting. They pulled over to the side and Laney opened the door to vomit on the shoulder.
It was all over the news the next day. Thousands of rifts had appeared across the globe, opening on to a strangely similar but different world. The President told everyone to remain calm, they were investigating, diplomats were being sent, things were being handled. Stay on our side and stay safe, he warned.
But Laney couldn’t stay. Her dad was over there. She took the car without asking.
Through the rift and down too familiar and unfamiliar streets until she saw her old house, painted green now, but definitely the one. Her dad’s old Stingray was in the driveway, crouching smooth and sleek as new. Not the mangled wreck she’d seen through sheets of blood on the side of the highway. She got out of the car.
At the sound of her door closing, a pair of legs trolleyed out from under the car.
“Can I help you?” said her Dad. He rolled out the rest of the way and looked up at her. His mouth slackened and he stumbled getting up. “Laney?” he whispered.
“Dad!” she cried and ran to him. He pulled her into a crushing hug and she buried her face in his chest, tears soaking through his T-shirt. When she finally pulled away, she looked up and met his red-rimmed eyes.
“I died here, didn’t I?” she asked. He nodded.
Dad shook his head sadly. “We split up, after you…after the accident. She blamed it on the car.” He pointed at it. “I couldn’t give it up. I’ve been rebuilding it ever since. She thought it was…perverse.”
“That sounds like Mom,” Laney said. She checked out the car. She’d always loved it, couldn’t wait until she was old enough to drive it. “It looks great.”
He smiled proudly. “It’s nearly finished,” he said. “Want to help?”
Laney spent the rest of the summer in two different worlds. Fixing the vette consumed so much of her attention, that she barely noticed the growing tensions, the increased paranoia, her mom’s announcement that she got a new job, guarding the border.
Overnight, the barricades were erected and all non-military, non-diplomatic cross-dimension travel was banned. Her own mom turned her away from the rift, and threatened to lock her up if she ever mentioned crossing or seeing her dad again. So Laney thought it was appropriate that it was her mom’s job that allowed her to slip across again, smuggled in the trunk when her mom escorted some big-wig for a meeting.
It was midnight when she knocked on Dad’s door, but his face was mask of horror, not delight when he saw her.
“What are you doing here?” he demanded angrily.
“I wanted to see you! I thought you’d want to see me, too!” she tried to stop the tears, but couldn’t. He yanked her into the house and hugged her.
“Of course I want to see you, but I can’t. It isn’t safe for you here.” He looked around, as though an answer would congeal out of the showers.
“How did you get here?”
“I hid in mom’s trunk. She’s a border guard.”
He nodded. “That might work then. Get in the car.” She obeyed. He joined her a few minutes later, pushed his old Astro’s hoodie into her hands. “Put that on and keep your face hidden.”
“Do you see your mom?” dad asked as they pulled up to the check point.
Laney looked around. “That’s her over there,” she pointed. Dad nodded and nudged the Corvette toward her. Her mom saw them then, and the anger in her eyes was deep and cold. Dad rolled down the window.
“Lis,” he said quietly, “please, I need your help.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?” she hissed at him.
Laney leaned forward and pushed back the hood of his Astro’s shirt and looked at her mom. Her mom’s anger crumpled off her face and for a moment she looked totally shocked and open.
“Laney,” she whispered, and reached out, brushing Laney’s cheek. But then the anger crept back, feature by feature, even deeper and colder than before.
“I have to get her back across,” Dad said.
“Did you have to put her back in that car.”
He looked at her squarely, set his jaw, and said “Yes, Lis, I think I did. I think that’s why I’ve been rebuilding it all these years.”
She looked startled, then sad.
“You know what it means, then?”
She turned to Laney again, anxiety twitching in the corners of her mouth. “How is your Mom now, Laney?” she asked.
“Good,” said Laney. “She got a better job, got remarried, guy named Rich.”
Laney’s other Mom nodded slowly.
“Merger then, probably.” Her and Dad exchanged a look. They both looked like they were about to say something, but then her mom punched the button that lifted the barricade, and they were shooting through.
Her dad laid on the accelerator like he was racing for his life.
“Dad, what did she mean by Merger?” Laney asked. But before her dad could answer, the squealing of breaks filled the air and Laney was thrown to the side by the impact and the last thing she heard was crumbling metal and breaking glass before her head hit the window and everything went black.
She opened her eyes and blearily registered her moms' two faces, torn with identical worry. Another blink, and there was only one, cradling her head, asking if begging her to wake up, to be okay.
"Dad?" she asked.
Her mom shook her head no.
|# ¿ Apr 29, 2013 04:01|
While we're on the subject of magazines, have the other people who got accepted by the Thunderdome mag been paid yet? Because I haven't and "Mid April" is starting to ring a little hollow.
I don't expect to see money from this, ever.
Also, in with my submission to Spaced! Outrageous Stories from Outerspace!!
|# ¿ May 3, 2013 22:00|
Yo guys, this is THUNDERDOME, not your loving live journal. Shut up and write a goddamned story.
|# ¿ May 5, 2013 23:10|
To the editors of Spaced! Outrageous Stories from Outerspace!:
Enclosed please find my submission to your incredible magazine, a 1,146 word short story titled...
The rings of Saturn arced over the horizon as L.V. gunned her hoverbike into overdrive. She clung to the edge of the cyrovolcano, it’s first warning eruptions misting her goggles with a fine spray of ice. She used her left-hand prosthetic—an old surgeon’s model—to wipe them off. The grappling hook on her her right arm clamped tightly to the bike’s controls. She hoped the storm was blurring the view from the methane miner they were about to liberate. With a miner, the Union would finally have enough power to run the factories at full capacity, ending the false scarcity driven by the monopolist’s greed. Hell, CorpStat might even increase her bounty again if she pulled this one off.
She couldn’t see the twins through the thick orange clouds and cyromist, but Ben and Becky were racing around the other side of the mountain. They’d come in first and draw the guards attention while she slipped Neil in from the back. loving Neil, she thought. He was always such a weasel. But he was the only member of the Union who could run the mining unit.
L.V. heard the blast of gunfire as she cleared the icecloud. There were Ben and Becky, alright, dodging bullets shooting from the squat cube of the miner, perched on a pathetic puddle of methane. Neil jerked around to look, causing the bike to lurch to the side. She leaned against the motion, expertly righting the bike as they shot out of the storm. Between Neil and the storm, the ride had been almost as rough as breaking bulls back in El Paso, and considerably less fun. At least it was too loud for him to talk.
An explosion rocked Ben’s bike and sent him skittering across the surface of the lake. Jesus, were they suicidal? If the methane caught fire, they’d all be dead! She opened the throttle all the way. With Ben down, it was now or never. She launched her grappling hook at the hatch, catching the handle. She reeled in, hauling the bike, herself, and Neil to the door. The handle turned easily in her grip. It must be her lucky day, someone left the door open.
“Let’s go!” she cried, leaping into the Unit. Neil followed her timidly, but she didn’t have time to worry about that—she hadn’t expected him to be much use at this stage anyway. Following the map she’d memorized weeks ago, L.V. bolted onto the foredeck. 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!
The second guard turned and rushed her. She flexed a muscle in her wrist and five scalpel blades instantly tipped her fingers. She raked them across the guard’s exposed face and he went down, clutching his bloody eyes. Feeling the wire on her hook go suddenly slack, she spun back to the first guard. He held a long serrated knife in one hand and her hook in the other. He grinned at her.
“Missing something?” He asked.
“Not really,” L.V. said. She retracted her blades and made a few effortless loops with the hook’s wire. She raised her right arm and the lasso undulated in the air above her head like a halo. With a flick she sent it over the man’s head and shoulders, before pulling it tight. The man gaped and his knife clattered to the ground. She tied up the two guards, gave the all clear, and sent Becky to check on her brother.
“That’s why you don’t mess with the cowgirl,” she said, nodding in satisfaction.
Then she felt the cool mouth of a gun pressing against the back of her head. gently caress, she’d forgotten about the engineer. But when the gunman spoke, it was in a voice she recognized only all too well.
“But I like messing with cowgirls,” Neil said. “Especially ones with such a high price on their head.” L.V. groaned.
“It’s almost too easy,” he continued. “Just wait here for CorpStat’s retrieval ship, hand you over, collect the cash, and retire.”
God, he really was a first-class idiot.
“There is no retrieval ship, Neil.” L.V. said slowly, so there would be a chance he’d understand.
“What are you talking about?” he said, rapping the gun against her skull. “They’ve got to come get the miner before the volcano erupts!”
“If they were going to get the miner, they would have got it already. Open your goddamned eyes, the volcano is erupting. They ran the numbers, and decided it wasn’t worth the risk.”
“But they can’t! There’s people—“ His voice ended with a wet thud, and L.V. felt the gun drop away. She whirled, scalpels extending, and came face to face with the biggest black man she’d ever seen. He took a step back, but didn’t lower the two-foot long wrench he’d used to dispatch Neil so effectively.
“I do believe,” he said, “that this means of production should be controlled by the workers.”
“drat straight!” L.V. grinned and stuck out her hand. “L.V., a.k.a. the Cowgirl.”
“Dr. Richard Bomber.” As they shook hands the floor shook beneath them. Becky and Ben raced up, and L.V. was relieved to see both Ben and his bike functional. L.V. grabbed her hook and tied it back onto its reel. Truth be told, she had missed it.
“Time to go!” L.V. shouted. The sound of shrieking metal filled her ears, and suddenly the floor wasn’t flat anymore. She stumbled against Bomber, who propped her up and steered her to the door. A ceiling panel crashed down, exposed wires dragging sparks against the floor.
“Shiiiit!” screamed L.V. No time to try to save the miner now. “Everyone out! Take the guards!”
“But they…” Ben started to protest.
“They were just doing their jobs. Union won’t kill a man for that. Leave this traitorous bastard though,” she said kicking Neil.
A huge woosh came from the volcano, sucking up the air around them. The ice was coming down in sheets when L.V. and Bomber jumped on her hoverbike. The twins were already 100 yards ahead of them and running fast. She hit the gas as hard as she could and they sped away from the collapsing miner.
The explosion roared behind them. L.V. looked back and watched the unit go up in a glowing mushroom of flame. The shockwave rattled the ground as it grew. It was a drat shame they lost the miner, but now that they had Bomber, she was sure she could get another one.
“Hold on!” she warned. He held on and leaned in as the it hit, helping to balance out the bike.
“Yeeeehaw!” L.V. whooped as they rode the wave of heat across the rocky desert, Saturn gleaming huge in the sky above them.
|# ¿ May 6, 2013 06:13|
Cancerous shitcrit. Why aren't you doing Seb? Because he was after the deadline and because gently caress you that's why.
Thanks for the crit! It is really helpful--you hit on a lot of things that I knew were generally weak and showed me why. And you caught several things that I completely missed (Ugggggh, of course her hoverbike would be named.)
|# ¿ May 7, 2013 15:39|
In for trouble.
|# ¿ May 14, 2013 05:30|
Her punishment is to write a POEM about some Indian dude's ear. She also knows what that's about.
I like that dude's ear.
|# ¿ May 15, 2013 02:41|
DrKloctopussy has committed a crime and must be punished. She knows what she did.
I hate poetry and I hate you.
Waiter, with half an ear missing
Once he, maybe, commanded armies: wading
Through a field of cinnamon, blood, and banners
Waving thick as wild flowers. Scimitar raised,
Was a spy caught eavesdropping: punished. Or a
Lover: lent it, listening under Starry
Nights. But now he touches his earring coyly,
And hands me my change.
|# ¿ May 17, 2013 06:31|
The structure of this sentence comically implies that the viewpoint character thinks of himself as an overgrown graveyard.
That reminds me on this sentence from a Gawker article on violence in Chicago:
"It's likely you didn't even know these people were dead, just like most of your friends and family."
|# ¿ May 17, 2013 22:38|
|# ¿ Feb 3, 2023 08:06|
Emily cast a furtive look up and down the hall before closing the door to the office she shared with her fellow doctoral candidate Cheng, Measurement of the Muon Neutrino Inclusive of yada yada yada. She poured a cup of tea from Dr. Kendrick's teapot, a heavy but well-balanced cast-iron pot in the Japanese style, decorated with delicately painted cherry blossoms. The leaves floated and sank in the cup as Emily tried to sip around them.
Drink the tea in quiet contemplation.
What we she even thinking, doing something so silly. Even if Dr. Kendrick swore by it, Emily felt ridiculous. She'd made tea in the heavy pot hundreds of times since she took it from Dr. Kendrick's office, but she'd never been desperate enough to try to read the leaves. She was desperate now. It had been six months since she'd made any real progress in her research. Six months of blearily nodding and making non-committal noises to her new advisor, her parents, her dwindling number of friends.
Swirl the tea three times counter clockwise. One,
"How's your dissertation coming?" Dr. Kendrick had asked, IV's sprouting from her arm, and a breathing tube strapped across her face. "I'd like to read it."
"It's going good," Emily had lied. "I'll bring you the draft next time I visit."
She never managed to produce a draft. She didn't visit.
She'd retreated to her studio apartment and bottles of cheap wine. Trying to find the connections she needed. Particles, particles, particles. Inferencing neutrino max hierarchy something, something, something. Why had she thought she could make it as a physicist anyway. She should have stayed with Mark and become a stay-at-home mom.
When she saw the maintenance men coming to box up Dr. Kendrick's office, Emily had slipped in and taken the teapot. She didn't entirely know why, but she couldn't bear to see it stuffed away in some warehouse.
Turn the cup into the saucer.
The mug clattered against the plate, Emily's hand shaking as she released it. At the same instant, Cheng burst through the door, mouth open. He looked at the cup and stopped.
"What are you doing?" he said.
"Drinking tea." Emily said, feeling the heat rising to her face.
"With your cup upside down?"
Emily shrugged and stuck out her chin. "I'm going to read the leaves," she said, trying to make it sound like the most normal thing in the world.
"You're kidding right?" Cheng looked disgusted. "That's hardly scientific."
Emily just shrugged again.
"I guess some people just aren't cut out for this stuff," he said, grabbing a pile of papers off his desk. "I'm off to the lab."
Emily sat in her chair, shaking with the effort to hold back her tears. Stupid Cheng. Dr. Kendrick always said he suffered from an overly-literal mind, she tried to comfort herself.
Look for patterns.
Finally, she flipped the cup back over and peered in. Nothing, just a random scattering of leaves, as meaningful as stars in the sky. But wait, was that a rabbit, maybe? and the letter A? a boat, a pigeon, a hat? She reached for the book she'd received in the mail that morning: Tea Leaf Reading: Omens and Portents, inscribed "For Emily, may your omens and portents always be good, and your path always clear. With love, Dr. Susan Kenderick."
|# ¿ May 20, 2013 04:44|