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  • Locked thread
Jan 9, 2012

When SEO just isn't enough.
Under the Museum
1400 Words (not including title)
Spoilered prompt: PoshAlligator (574 Genre Art; note Wiki's definition of the term)


“Ah, the girl from the university? Yes, I think I recall being told you were going to stop by. What was your name again, dear?”

“Sophia Mallado,” I replied.

He clicked the mouse a few times, his eyes darting over the monitor that stood on the wooden partition between us. He frowned.

“Only I thought you were meant to be coming in on Thursday?”

“Really? I’m sure I told the lady on the phone Tuesday.”

His bearded cheek began to wiggle slightly as he chewed at it from the inside.

“It’s this cold I’ve had,” I continued, wrinkling my nose. “I’m surprised she could hear what I was saying at all.”

His lips turned into a smile. “Yes, there’s been something going around I think.”

“Will I have to come back? I’ve come a long way. I only have a room booked for tonight, and I’m not sure the grant will stretch.”

His hand shot up to his half-framed glasses and he adjusted them, the smile still on his face.

“Oh no, I’m sure it will be quite fine. Sorry to worry you like that, I’m sure we can fiddle the system around. Not that anyone checks up on us much down here anyway.”

His cheek wiggled slightly as he looked over my identification, but I quickly waylaid his fears by popping on the glasses from my jacket pocket. “Contacts,” I explained.

He led me to a large service elevator and we rumbled down into the depths of the museum. He apologised for not introducing himself.

“Of course I know who you are, I’ve read a lot of your papers Dr. Percival.”

He seemed genuinely pleased by this, but couldn’t resist twitching his head and correcting me. “Professor Percival, actually. But please, Kevin is fine.”

I should have known, inwardly cursing myself for getting comfortable. Kevin didn’t seem put out though, and began to ramble on about his work without much prompting. “Some interesting data,” “waiting to hear from the IOT journal,” “my highly respected novel on the subject.” I placated him with a few generic comments as he led us through further corridors, and tried to orient myself with what I knew of the museum layout, and to add these undocumented tunnels to my mental blueprint.

“This is it,” Kevin concluded, stopping before a set of dull, brown double doors, with chips of paint missing from the bottom. “Ready? It’s quite different from just reading about it I assure you.”

I nodded.

He adjusted his glasses again and smirked. He pushed open the double doors widely so I could follow through, and led me into the Jaruthian Chambers of the Goddess.

The first thing that hit me were just how many bodies were present. On paper a hundred and fifty six people doesn’t seem like a lot, but seeing them all packed together in only a few rooms of space is something else. The chambers were all pink metal and carvings, opulence and jewels, but they were just reconstructions, as Kevin reminded me. Look at it from just the right angle and the falseness is clear. Not to mention large portions of the walls were finely polished glass, so the whole thing could be more easily seen by the viewer.

The last moments of everyone present in the chambers at the time of the solar flare disaster were captured perfectly. A woman near where we entered popped out at me, her dress clearly one of poverty, thinking she could find refuge in this once sacred place. Two children, tiny things, were pressed against her, protected from the sight of their doom forever. Almost like she’d known, though the flare was near instantaneous.

Each pose told a story, a guard with his chest puffed out, partway through addressing a mass of people, another guard in the shadows, clutching a photograph, now yellowed, of a loved one, taking a break that would just be a moment.

The avatar of the goddess herself was in the central chamber, sat on a throne of crystal carved into flowers, with her eyelids just barely covering her eyes shut. She looked as if every muscle in her body was loose and relaxed, calmly waiting. Endlessly waiting.

“New wave genre art is what some of the restorers started calling it,” said Kevin, breaking the silence we had both lapsed into. “All their records lost. Culture forgotten. Even the goddess is just Chinese whispers these days. All we have is this scene, these people, frozen. There’s not much difference.”

“Not much difference? But these are real people.”

“You’d think you wouldn’t forget that, wouldn’t you? But you do after a while.” He looked away from me.

“And they’re all dead. Just one hundred and fifty six corpses as an art installation.”

“I think of it more as a memorial. Also, they’re not dead, not really. But they’re not alive, either. Somewhere in between. Completely frozen in their final moments.”

“Could they ever be revived?” I leant towards a bearded man with wide eyes and large, dilated pupils.

“Theoretically yes, but the science dictates they would probably just decay to dust instantly.”

“It seems wrong somehow.” I moved through an archway and Kevin hummed after me, our footsteps echoing on the marble floor.

“Well, you tell me, you’re the one writing a paper on ‘ethics in art’, after all. I just do my job, upkeep and analysis and all that. Between you and me you’re probably right. There’s a reason the plans to showcase it have been in limbo the last ten years.”

“That’s not just because of protest from the Children of the Goddess?”

“Well, you know what those COG fanatics are like. They’ve tried to abduct the avatar’s body a few times. They still think she’ll live again, on account of the missing goddess stone on the throne, they say.”

I turned around, taking in the whole scene from our new angle opposite the doors.

“I wonder how they felt,” I said.

“For them it was just a normal day.”

“I mean on Station VI.”

“Oh, yes, well, they didn’t completely fail. They saved something of the planet, even if it wasn’t quite how they intended.”

I slipped the familiar, battered notebook out of my pocket.

“I’d be happy to answer any questions.” Kevin had his eye on the book.

“Is there a bathroom I could visit?”

Kevin stuck close to me we took the short hallways to the bathroom.

“I’ll just be out here,” he said as I went through the door.

It was a good job Kevin Percival had been assigned to show me around. I hadn’t even considered what I would have done if a woman had shadowed me into the bathroom.

I sat on a closed toilet seat and flipped through my journal. It had all led to this. I slid a worn photograph of my great, great, grandmother from a sleeve at the back. Found in the back of an unfamiliar and deceased relative’s storage, it was the only photo I had. My nose looked like her’s, I thought, and it seemed our hair would be similar if she wasn’t wearing it in that old fashioned way.

I took out my phone and called the front desk.

“Hi,” I said confidently with a sparkle in my voice. “I’m from IOT publishing, I’m looking for Professor Percival.”

Kevin seemed agitated when I came out. “I shouldn’t really leave you down here on your own, but I’ll only be a minute, it’s very important.”

I gave him my warmest smile. “You don’t have to worry about me. I’ll just take some notes.”

Without Kevin hounding me I was free to inspect the chambers, but even then she proved difficult to find. That was good in a way. Even in death, or whatever this technically was, she was elusive. I liked that.

Great, great grandmother was cloaked in the far chamber from the door, her nose giving her away.

I checked Kevin wasn’t about to walk in, and then patted her down. A hidden pocket in her cloak revealed it: the goddess stone. Getting it out was difficult, as the cloak was caught on her rigid leg.

“Thanks,” I whispered.

I made for the exit and turned to look at the scene one last time.

The frozen gaze of the avatar seemed to be locked on me.

I shuddered, and left to find Kevin.


Banjo Bones
Mar 28, 2003

Faces in the Dark - 1,380 words. 025 Library Operations

Until she became a librarian, Lucy had never considered the fate of so many library books. Most were never checked out or even opened. Occasionally, she would take one off the shelf and open it to let it breathe a little. She would take in the fragrance of the yellowed paper, flip through the pages, and slide it back into place. There were thousands of books like this: millions of words, so many endeavored thoughts poured out onto so many bound pages, never to be seen by anyone.

The feel of crisp paper and physical weight was slowly fading away. What few books still being read were now uploaded onto computers. Some tragedy that was unknown to most people had slowly crept up over the years, and Lucy was among the few to take note of it. The aroma and the yellow pages were now locked behind cold, uncaring LCD screens.

Looking past the reference desk, Lucy had a view of the front reading area. A young couple stood near the edge of a bookshelf, quietly chatting and giggling over something on one of their smart phones. An elderly man reclined in an armless loveseat reading a tablet. A group of school boys gathered around a workstation enthralled by a computer game.

One little girl sat at one of the old long study tables that were lined with green office-lamps, reading a young-reader mystery novel. The little girl happened to glance up at Lucy as she was looking her way, gave her a friendly wave, and refocused her attention back on the novel. The little girl, Mary, stopped by a couple times a week, even during the summer. Each time she visited, she dumped a stack of the books into the return bin and checked out another stack.

Outside, rain spattered against the old-fashioned jalousie windows. The trees in the nearby park strained against gusts of wind.


On the drive to work the following week, the radio give a storm warning, and that residents in the tri-county area should be prepared for power outages.

Shaking off her umbrella at the front entrance, Lucy went to her seat at the reference desk and began to sort through budget spreadsheets and ordering forms before returning her attention to an old copy of Sewell’s Black Beauty. Mary approached her desk, carrying a brand new reading tablet with a pink protective case.

“Hey, Lucy!” said Mary. Her bright chestnut eyes were magnified by her thick glasses.

“Hi Mary! Whatcha got there?” Lucy forced a smile. Her eyes were fixed on the tablet Mary was holding.

“Look what my dad bought me! He didn’t want me to lug all those heavy books around. He said they would hurt my back. I’ve got every single edition of Girls’ Detective Club now! I don’t have to check out books anymore!” She held up the tablet at arms length for Lucy to see.

“That’s great! I hope you’ll still come by and say ‘hi’ though. Also, there’s still lots of great stuff to read that maybe you won’t be able to find on that, so try not to forget about books altogether,” said Lucy.

For an instant, a hint of inquisition passed over Mary’s face, as if she knew that Lucy wasn’t thrilled with her new tablet.

“Ok, I won’t!” she said. A white flash of lightning shone through the windows. Mary was startled and dropped her tablet.

“Whoa! Getting pretty nasty out there, huh?”

“Yea-” Mary stooped down to grab her tablet and the roar of thunder cascaded around the building. The little girl shrieked and cowered under the lip of the reference desk.

“Hey, hey,” Lucy walked around to the front of the desk and knelt down beside Mary, placing a hand on her back. Mary leaned into Lucy.

“I hate this storm!”

“Oh, it will be over soon. It’s just making a bunch of noise. Before you know it the sun will--” The overhead lights in the library flickered, and then blinked out.

Hushed voices and even some giggles echoed throughout the lobby. Rows of ghostly faces were illuminated in bluish-white light of the LCD screens. A pang of anxiety that quickly turned into excitement passed through Lucy.


Three days later, gales of wind still hammered against the side of the building. The power was still out. The red emergency lights had grown too dim to read by, so Lucy and the custodian, Gabriel, an aged man with thick forearms and deep crows feet beside his eyes, started bringing in candles, electric lanterns and gas lamps. The faces, once illuminated by the harsh white light, were now lighted by a soft flickering yellow light.

There was a distinct absence of tablets, laptops and smart phones. The patrons of the library began to pull books off the shelves.

It was a mess at first, but it was a beautiful sort of mess. Piles of books were left stacked atop the study tables and the reference desks. Candlelight flickered underneath the red emergency lights as people read and whispered to one another. The encroaching technology invading the library was held at bay, supplanted by not only by the dark and books, but an easiness, a focused calm that had been lurking beneath the surface all along. Lucy never had to reshelve so many books before. For the first time, the long study tables were nearly filled with people, all reading books. A quiet intensity permeated the library as the storm raged outside. There was a certain camaraderie Lucy found in everyone taking shelter from the storm, but also in taking out and reading the old books.

Although it was dark, this was the sort of library Lucy remembered when she was a girl Mary’s age, and had imagined working in all along.

“Good news,” said Gabriel as he helped Lucy stock books back onto a shelf, “power is supposed to come back on today.”

Lucy feigned relief, and excused herself as she made her way to the utility closet. The library was old enough that it used a fuse box instead of a modern circuit breaker. Lucy began to tug at a fuse and twist it until it finally gave. It was surprising how firmly lodged into their sockets the fuses were.

“What are you doing?” said Gabriel. She could barely make out the outline of his silhouette as he stood at the door to the closet, aiming a flashlight at her.

“I just wanted to--”

“Are you messing with the fuse box?”

Lucy remained silent, she was cornered holding the fuse in her hand.

“What’s that you have there?” he said while slowly approaching her.

“A, uhm--” She curled her fingers around the fuse.

“Please give that to me.” His voice was even tempered, a calm monotone.

“Gabriel, don’t you think it’s better like this? Don’t you feel like this is the way things should be?”

“The way things should be? I don’t know what you’re talking about. Please give me the fuse, Lucy.”

“No!” Lucy stepped back and her back was pressed into the cold concrete wall.

“Lucy, you’re going to hurt your--”

“For once people are actually reading what this place is full of: Books. I’m tired of all the computers, screens. Look out there! Does anyone look like they need anything more than that? It’s perfect like this! This storm has fixed everything.”

“If you don’t hand me that fuse, I’ll have to call someone.”

“I’ll give you the fuse, but do you agree with me, or not?”

“I--” Gabriel paused a moment, “It’s been ok, a little scary, to be honest. But people are going to do what they’re going to do. Read books or screens, or whatever. You pulling the plug on everyone isn’t going to change anything.”

Lucy opened her palm, and let Gabriel take the fuse.


The storm died down. The sun came out. The power was back on.

Surrounded by people staring into screens, Mary was back at the long table reading a Girls’ Detective Club book.

“Hey,” said Lucy as she walked by, “what happened to your tablet?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I kind of just liked reading books instead of that thing, you know?

“Yeah, I do.” Lucy smiled and continued on into the stacks.

Aug 20, 2011

I got tired of being a loser so I spent money to not be a loser anymore.
The Fantastic Collection (Words: 937 - Subject: 708 Galleries, Museums, Private Collections)

James' eyes would glisten with pride as he launched into his routine speech.

"Now I hope you folks are ready to be amazed because what I have under these sheets behind me will astound and astonish even the most scrupulous skeptic."

He would make a grandiose gesture towards the covered glass cases he had so carefully constructed years earlier.

"I have collected these items through years and years of painstaking pioneering, terrific trailblazing, and extraordinary exploration! And all for you! So that you may see what wonders of the world lay hidden right beneath your very nose."

His voice would echo across the high mountain brush and his wry build would dance across the stage, framed by the mountain range far in the distance.

James had a smile that could light up the desert and he was no stranger to anyone for long. He had made his living unveiling his finds for decades, and every time he began his speech he had the same enthusiasm and vibrancy as his very first performance. Now things are a little different though, the crowds are smaller and the collection is fewer, but the glisten in his eye hasn't changed at all.

A single family had bothered to stay for the entire speech today, and all but their youngest seemed bored. The boy watched avidly as James pulled the sheet off his first display. James was starting to show his age in his movements but his voice still filled the air and inspired grandeur.

"This, ladies and gentlemen, is George Washington's famous friendly fiddle. He used this instrument not only to entertain and inspire his troops but also to mesmerize and befriend wild bears! In fact it's even rumored that we only won the revolutionary war because the British were terrified by the sight of George riding into battle atop a massive grizzly!"

As the sheet fell to the stage the little boy's jaw dropped, resting in the glass case just a few feet from him was George Washington's fiddle! The fiddle's strings were corroded a bit and bow had no string at all. It may as well have been trash but the way James spoke about it made it seem like a priceless artifact. He wrestled his brothers phone out of his hands despite a cry of protest and quickly started recording the show. His brother started to take it back when James caught his attention, unveiling the second case.

"Here we have a magical modern marvel, a device that, when worn, allows the wearer to instantaneously know how any given machine works! Unfortunately even today nobody has found a way to activate this device and its inner workings remain a mystery." He said this all through a smile so warm the boys couldn't help but smile too. "What a wondrous device!" they thought.

James moved to the next case and rapped against it lightly. His eyes met with the boys', as bright as ever.

"Now this next piece... Most people refuse to believe exists even when it's right in front of their faces! Under here..." he ripped the sheet away from the case with a flash and revealed what looked like an old dirty tooth.

"This is a tooth from the fabled Bigfoot, found just a few feet from where you stand now! This amazing archaeological achievement is one for the archives! Most everyone doesn't even think he's real, but right here is the genuine article."

James swept to the last case, taking care not to trip over any of the sheets on the stage. He quietly rattled something under the last sheet before carefully extracting something from the case.

"And finally I have what is probably the most awesome piece in my current collection, a true treat. This metal whisk will, when waffled, whisper wonderful notes to a old song I'm sure you've all heard before!"

James' motions were deft and surprisingly agile, he swept the whisk through the air in intricate patterns and amazingly enough the first few bars of Claire de Lune could be heard humming from the tines. The boys looked on in wonder and now even their parents were paying attention. The youngest boy finished the recording and quickly posted it to his favorite video sharing website. James replaced the whisk in its case and gleefully invited the family on stage to take a closer look at the exhibits. After a few dozen minutes of ogling and laughter James bid the family farewell and covered his displays back up, moving them back inside a little shack to the side of the stage to keep them out of the weather. He sat down in an old rocking chair and began to wonder if anybody might show up for tomorrow's show.

Nobody showed up the next day, or the day after, or even the day after that, but the next day there were 5 families. The day after that there were 10, and after that were too many for him to keep track of! James was filled with satisfaction, knowing that he could continue to do what he loved and that people were still interested in his many odd and fascinating artifacts. He even acquired a few new pieces in the following days. In his final years James kept in touch with the little boy who had revived his show and willed that his collection go to him. The boy gladly accepted and, to pay respect to a man who had brought joy to so many, moved the collection to a permanent indoor museum where the artifacts continue to delight and amaze and grow in popularity.

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.
Fifty minutes are still on the clock!

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.

Love Like a Deep River (733 words)
(Dewey Decimal Number: 714 - Water Features)

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at 23:58 on Dec 9, 2014

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Crits for last week are here; I'll post them all in thread after Kaishai's bought the hammer down so it doesn't mess up the place.

Jul 18, 2011

Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.”
1391 Words

docbeard fucked around with this message at 15:48 on Dec 29, 2014

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.
Fifteen minutes remain. Eighteen stories are in. Thirty-nine entries were pledged. Three have confessed failure.

Those numbers add up to a lot of shame if some of you don't hurry up.

Mar 21, 2013

Grimey Drawer
wordcount: 1371

Higher Education

Elizabeth took a deep breath and knocked on the Narratology Professor’s door. In her other hand she held her essay, wrapped in a protective plastic cover, with its scarlet-penned C minus at its corner and also, psychologically, on her forehead where it refused to be ignored every time she saw her own reflection.

She waited in the hall, hoping the sign that listed Professor Alberhaven’s office hours was, in fact, a terrible lie, a prank pulled on undergraduates, and that he wasn’t actually there at all. The silence that followed her knock allowed to her to daydream about dropping out, taking another course more suited to her liquid talents, perhaps something to do with meteorology, so she could become a god on a lovely, quiet, totally lifeless planet, where she could reign divine over Rocks, Gases and Interesting Sorts of Weather.

A stentorian voice called out, “Enter, ” and the imaginary sun of the imaginary Planet Elizabeth went nova. She felt foolish. Of course he was there. You don’t get to be faculty without being ever present, even if only between two to five, Monday to Thursday and four-thirty on Fridays.

Elizabeth pulled at the door and peered around the edge. Inside, a vast tree with its roots in chaos and its branches in perfect symmetry grew in the center of of a small office. The tree beckoned with a single, finger-like branch as cosmic wind ruffled the multiverse of its leaves. “Come in, Elizabeth, please,” said the susurration.

Elizabeth entered, and began walking towards the trunk, staring at the carpet directly ahead of her. The colorful swirling patterns became colorful, swirling primordial chaos and Elizabeth hesitated before she put her sensible loafers into the abstract miasma. She looked up, and saw the tree returning to the shape she more readily identified from Mythic Narratology lectures as Professor Alberhaven, sitting behind a large oak desk. One of his roots had morphed into a comfortable chair for visitors, and when he gestured to it in a welcoming way, Elizabeth sat, still clutching her plastic folder to her chest. The floor seemed warm to her feet.

“Ah, Elizabeth,” said Professor Alberhaven. “How can I be of service?”

Elizabeth coughed two tiny coughs. “It’s about my Essay, Professor. The one on Cross-Dimensional Effects of Inter-Pantheon Seduction. You, ah, gave me a C Minus, and I... well, I ….” Elizabeth avoided his kindly, professorial face, and stared at her own shoes, noticing the carpet in front of them transmuting from raw chaos into a deep, luxuriant flame-red shag. She steeled herself. “I’m afraid I don’t understand. I worked really hard on it, and covered the literature, and thought I came up with some really interesting models…”

The professor smiled pleasantly at Elizabeth. “Ah,” he said. “Elizabeth.” He got up from behind his desk, and began to pace around the room, pausing only to glance at a picture on one shelf of a smiling woman dressed in flames . “Let me guess - first time here at the University of Ontological and Teleological Divinity. Grade A student, promoted from the ranks, as it were. Mother was a gorgeous handmaiden, Father was a swan, or a shower of gold, or something like that?”

“A goblet of champagne, actually,” mumbled Elizabeth.

“A goblet of...well, really. That’s just ripe with metaphor, isn’t it? Well done to your father. Top marks.”

Elizabeth said something beneath her breath, inaudible but tangibly reminiscent of the impossibility of cuddles and the lack of bedtimes stories that goblets of champagne offered. The professor carried on as if he hadn’t heard. Elizabeth listened distractedly, her toes feeling uncomfortably hot.

“So, you’re from good stock. But you seem to have missed out on one of the foundational principles upon which our august institution stands. We here at the UOTD like to think we provide a well rounded, comprehensive and above all, practical education for the up and coming deity or demi-god. The stuff of legends, as our advertising puts it. Now, your essay was a fine piece of work, don’t get me wrong. Lots of graphs, I recall. Many, many excellently rendered graphs.”

Elizabeth took her essay out of its protective cover. She ignored the shiver that the bold, red C Minus in sent through her and instead opened it to the fourth page, which contained several graphs of the range by which the repercussions of various acts of infidelity between gods could be felt, sorted by class of god, the length of their marriage, and several other criteria. “Thank you,” said Elizabeth. “If you see here, I researched and found out that…”

“No one has more promise than a student with many graphs,” said Professor Alberhaven. “But we have high standards here. The highest. What this essay has failed to take into account, and it’s a glaring omission indeed, is the practical side of things. This essay has no, if you’ll pardon the expression, skin in the game. The practical side is entirely lacking.”

If the back of the chair hadn’t been there, Elizabeth would have fallen over. “I’m sorry, Professor, you can’t mean I’m supposed to, what, seduce someone!” Her entire face flushed and a bead of sweat trickled down her forehead.

“I’m afraid so. Deities are not creatures of logic, they are exemplars of passion, of the rawest and basest natures that comprise Life. A pantheon is not a committee, gathering to check out the latest research and make informed, evidence based, decisions." The professor chortled to himself and loosened his tie. "Is it getting a bit warm in here? Never mind. No, it's rage, and fire, and lust and hubris and revenge and all that good stuff. Can you imagine primitive storytellers gathered around a campfire telling the ancient tale of the time the sun and the moon had a rational exchange of views? How terribly, terribly tedious! Oh dear, look Liz, can I call you Liz? There's some tissues on the desk."

Elizabeth found the tissues and blew her nose. She breathed deeply a couple of times and wondered at the scent of smoke. "I'm sorry,” she said, “I was going to be strong, but...I thought I was being helpful. If you look at the reaction coefficient compared to the pace of the psycho-narrative, you can predict to the minute the time of the,”... sniff….”divine act of retribution." She pointed to one graph in particular. “Here! See, if a tree god cheated on his fire deity wife twenty two days ago. The narratological repercussions would build for a few moments and then strike around about, well, now.”

The desk in front of Elizabeth burst into flame. She could no longer see the professor behind the sudden smoke, but she could smell singed hair and eyebrows and wood. The heat was too much, so she lowered her gaze to the floor, which had, again, become twisting chaotic shapes emerging as tongues of white hot fire. Elizabeth heard the professor over the roar of the fire. “Oh dear,” he said. “Sweetie? Please, sweetie! She meant nothing. Not the leaves, baby, I just had them autumned. No, no, it burns!”

It was too much for Elizabeth. She burst into tears and the divine rain began to fall. First little droplets that sizzled off into steam, then thin streams that ebbed and flowed against the fires and finally great heaving buckets that lashed the burning desk in wave after wave. Steam filled the air, and then it too was washed away. Elizabeth saw the professor, sitting across from her, bald, and burned a dark mahogany.

“Well,” said the Professor, breaking into a grin. He licked his wet lips. “A touch of champagne, too, how delightful. It would appear, Elizabeth, that I owe you a boon.”

Elizabeth snuffled a bit, but had completely run out of cry. She clutched her essay even tighter and looked up at him hopefully.

“Perhaps we should have a look at that grade again. After all, I cannot help but appreciate the potential practical applications of your research. Tell me, have you thought about a major yet?”

“No,” said Elizabeth.

“I hear there's a vacancy in the departmental sphere of Climate Change. You’ll love it there! Lots and lots of graphs.”

Apr 12, 2006

The hour was late and Septimus was surrounded by the remains of half a dozen candles. The low light of his current candle flickered and died and then his room was as dark as his mind felt. It was as void of form as he was of inspiration. He lit another candle, dipped his pen into the ink, and pressed the papyrus sheet to say the words that he felt in his heart.

And then nothing. He just couldn’t get those words out. Couldn’t put his feelings into writing. She hadn’t liked his last bit of poetry. This one needed to be perfect.

Maxima, he began. Her name taunted him. What words did he have that could describe a woman such as Maxima? She was such a wonderful lover, such a beautiful women, such a tantalizing dream that played over and over in his mind. She was wretched muse, though. Or, rather, she was a wonderful muse and he was simply a wretched writer.

“Darling?” his wife called out from the bedroom, “Will you be coming to bed soon?”

Septimus snapped his pen.

“Oh my gods!” he groaned, “I’m trying to focus, Octavia! Focus!”

Octavia stifled a giggle with her pillow. Her husband was such a sensitive, silly man. Especially so with when it came to his poetry.

“Would you like me to look over it?” she said, “Maybe I could-”

“No!” he screeched, “You know can’t read it until I’m finished!”

Octavia thought of the box of poetry she had stowed away under the bed. In ten years of marriage she had had twice as many lovers. Many of whom had been quite verbose. This was clearly Septimus's first go at infidelity. It was adorable to witness. As she drifted off to sleep she made a note to look over her old love letters in the morning. There should be plenty there she could use to help inspire her husband.

Jul 12, 2009

If you think that, along the way, you're not going to fail... you're blind.

There's no one I've ever met, no matter how successful they are, who hasn't said they had their failures along the way.

A Heart of Broken Glass
1385 words

(774 Holography)

Thirty-five floors up the Nugent Pharma spire, Geraint opened a door into darkness. This should have been a cake walk, he thought, make a pick-up and leave. So why did the place look abandoned? Crouching, he waddled forth, keenly aware there was no one on his left to cover him. He’d had long enough to get used to not having a partner, yet the expectation remained.

Mysterious forms loomed out of the darkness. His veins thrummed with adrenaline as his eyes struggled to pierce the shadows. No good. He tapped his visor, which projected 3D wireframes directly onto his retinas. The edges of objects leapt forth. Cubicle walls and office detritus. The knot between his shoulder blades relaxed.

A man’s leg laid on the floor ahead, severed cleanly at the knee. The foot still wore its expensive leather shoe. A streak of blood lead away. Its former owner, he surmised, must have dragged himself away. He touched the blood. It was still tacky. Fresh.

Standing, Geraint noticed a gouge curving around the site, up the walls, across the floor, even a faint line on the ceiling. Looked like a razorwhip. Bad news. Only the hardest, or craziest, carried those. His right palm itched. An impossible itch, considering a razorwhip lopped off his arm at the elbow a quarter-century earlier. Augmetics don’t itch.

He produced from his pocket a matte black sphere the size of a golfball. He muttered “Malika, come.” The sphere lit up and drifted out of his palm. Projectors energized. The translucent form of a German Shephard shimmered into being. The holohound chimed in greeting.

"Good girl," he said. He pointed to the leg. “Malika, identify.” The holohound sniffed at the limb. She chimed. “Malika, go search.” She began wandering the halls of the cubicle farm, holographic nose to the floor. It was silly. The nose detected nothing, just as his arm felt nothing. And yet, in both cases, the cause was the same. He missed his arm, and Malika’s brain missed her whole body.

Eventually, the hound pinged him. He found Malika sitting by the rest of the unfortunate limb donor. The man had clearly been already bleeding to death from the leg stump, but his flensed chest told the story of a second encounter.

"Mysteriously dismembered corpses. I wonder what else Montoya forgot to mention about this simple errand, eh, girl?" He scratched Malika between the ears, magenta sparks crackling up his augmetic fingertips. She didn’t necessarily know she wasn’t a dog anymore, and sometimes he forgot, too.

The holohound flickered into a guard stance, her luminous form changing from purple to crimson. With no time for thought, Geraint's reflexes flung him into a roll. He twisted as he went, unholstering his sidearm. The floor where he had crouched split, the same slash bisecting the guard’s corpse. Geraint pulled the trigger, his instincts directing his aim. The gun clicked. The end was shorn off, shiny metal gleaming in the dim light. He was had. The pit of his stomach fell thirty-odd floors to the ground.


A hand lamp lit the area. Through the glare, he could make out asymmetric tamer’s armour. It was a woman he knew well. He sighed.

"Hey, Tabitha."

After a moment which felt hours-long, she stuck out a hand. He took it and got to his feet. "Didn't think I'd see you again," she said. Malika's transparent body flashed slowly between red and white, a warning display to compliment her aggressive posture.

"Malika, friend. Recognize Tabitha Davis." The holohound chimed and resumed her purple colouration, taking a seat two steps to his left.

"Only a matter of time, I suppose. Same line of work and all. Speaking of, I see your work ethic hasn’t changed.” He nudged the corpse with his toe.

She snorted. "You here for the Ventimiglio girl?"

"I’m here to pick up a package. Which, yeah, happens to be a nine-year-old girl. You?"

Tabitha stowed the razorwhip on her hip. "I saw that contract. Pay wasn't very good."

"It's not about the money, Tabs. It never was."

"Idealism? Well, come on, then. I'm here for her, too."

“I thought the pay wasn’t very good.”

“It wasn’t the only contract.”

“Someone else wants this girl? That’s comforting,” he muttered.

They walked through the dark office. No one rushed forth to oppose them. Geraint’s missing palm itched. Some people felt rain in their bones. Geraint felt bad luck in his phantom limb.

Tabitha jerked a thumb towards Malika. "How long are you going to keep that poor mutt as a brain in a jar?"

Malika followed a few paces behind them. Her tail wagged back and forth, electric thrumming in the air. "I love that dog."

Tabitha scoffed. "When the hell did you get so sentimental? You should let her go. Move on. This isn't healthy."

Geraint affected a casual friendliness. "I'm stubborn. Maybe you noticed during all those years together? Speaking of, I got a question for you."

"I know what you want to ask, and you don't want the answer. Let's just get that girl and go our separate ways."

"You never change, do you? Just push everyone away. You bought me that dog, Tabs. You even named her, for God's sake."

"People in our line of work shouldn't get close. It was a mistake to get involved, Geraint. You know that, right?"

"Why did you leave like that? No note, no goodbye, you just weren't there one morning. You broke my goddamn heart, Tabs."

Tabitha’s face was unreadable as she kicked open a stairwell door and plodded up the stairs. He knew running into his ex-wife would be awkward. In his heart, long a furnace of anger, he found only a cold, empty pit.

After a while, Geraint followed her up the stairs, Malika at his heels. Above, the chatter of gunfire and screams. The sound of Tabitha's razorwhip carving through walls and bones set his nerves on edge.

She was waiting on the fortieth floor. A dead man fell from her hands. "Do you remember that job in Tacoma?" She didn't face him.

"I do," he said.

"I lost a lot of blood. I wasn't thinking straight. You shouldn’t’ve said yes."

"I was in love, what else could I have said?"

Her shoulders rose and fell in a silent deep breath. "The girl’s room is up ahead. A4013. Take her home."

"Home to her poorly-paying family? When the hell did you get so sentimental?"

"I didn't want you get hurt, Geraint. That's why I left." She turned to face him. "We were better partners than we were married. It should have stayed that way."

She gave him an awkward, perfunctory hug and passed him a keycard before vanishing into the depths of the stairwell. The air in the hall was very dusty. Geraint rubbed at his eyes until the irritation went away.

He used the card on its door. A young girl lay on a bed within a medical shroud, tubes and leads hooked up to her. He pulled the curtain aside.

"Hi, doggy," she said, smiling at Malika. The purple holohound trotted up and allowed the girl to pet her. She giggled at the static crawling up her fingers.

"You like doggies, huh? Me, too." He began disconnecting tubes from the girl. "Are you Regina?"

"Yes, sir."

"That's a nice name."

"No, it’s not. I hate it. It sounds dumb."

"It sounds very pretty. Do you know what Regina means?" The girl shook her head. "Regina is Latin for Queen. My dog here, her name is Arabic for Queen. Malika, play cute."

The holohound chimed and shrunk, becoming a small puppy. Geraint scooped the puppy up and gave it to the girl, picking them both up.

"I like her, mister," she whispered. "I always wanted a dog of my own."

Geraint held the girl close as he walked her to the elevators. "Well, Malika here is a good dog. She's brave and strong and she'll never leave your side unless you tell her to."

"Never ever?"

"Never ever. You don’t have to feed holopups, all you have to do is play with her and give her pets. Can you do that for me?"


"Good. Watch out for her tongue, though, it’ll give you a good shock if she licks."

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)
Aphrodite and Hephaestus


Lily Catts fucked around with this message at 10:46 on Dec 7, 2014

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
E: removed, revising

Ironic Twist fucked around with this message at 02:36 on Sep 10, 2014

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


Rare birds
1175 words

I was happy in life. I was content. I just had one problem: someone was stealing all the birds from my albums.

It happened slowly at first; an owl here, an eagle there. Every day a different bird. Monday I lost my scarlet macaw. Tuesday, my favorite ostrich. Wednesday, a red-tailed hawk. A pair of goldfinches finished out the week.

I can say one thing, at least the thief had some consistency: only one picture was affected each day. But the number of birds in a photo was no defense. Soon whole flocks were going missing.

By then I was spending hours every day searching through my albums, trying to track down what had disappeared that day, searching in vain for a pattern to the disappearances.

That's when I called my librarian friend.

"I'll be right over," he said.

A bluebird had vanished that morning. The branch he had been perched on stood empty, framed in the middle of a clear blue sky. I showed to him.

"Fascinating," he said.

But he had no answers.

I called in a photographer.

"That's a beautiful landscape," she said.

"It was an egret returning with food for her chicks," I said.

And she had no answers.

I called a data security specialist. Someone was deleting my stored photographs without my consent! Or at least altering them.

"Um," he said after he arrived. "This is my first time handling a security problem with something paper. I usually deal with computers."

"Oh, I don't have any of those," I said. "Can't stand them. Too much trouble, too impersonal. I still write my own letters. By hand, I mean. I don't even like to make a phone call if I can help it."

He didn't have any answers, either.

I was getting desperate. Birds were disappearing faster and faster. Half of my photographs of birds were gone! That's when I had an idea. I looked at the books on my shelf.

Captain Flint on Treasure Island had a bare shoulder. Owl had vanished from most of the pages of Winnie the Pooh. The seagull on Watership Down. The Ugly Duckling. Ping. Six and twenty blackbirds. Alice's Dodo. Nearly every bird was missing.

I'd had too many sleepless nights. I called in the police.

"When did you first notice the photographs were missing?" the woman asked, sounding bored.

"Oh, no, the photos are all still here. It's the birds that have disappeared." I opened to a birdless page to demonstrate.

"Hmm," she said. "Do you have any photographs of these books before... this incident began?"

"No... I really can't imagine that would work. Wouldn't the birds just vanish from that photo as well?"

"I can't say, ma'am. I don't see this sort of theft very often."

"Is there nothing I can do? No precautions I could take?"

"I really couldn't tell you."

She had no answers, either. But she did leave a card. A detective agency.

Non-Euclidean Locators: "We Think Outside The Box"

That didn't sound promising, but I was running out of options.

"Well, Miss Jenny, it doesn't look good."

Adan S. stared blankly at me with one glass eye, his other eye closed, behind a wide desk. He was wearing a blue baseball cap and a "Karma for Camels" t-shirt.

I was sitting in a too-tall chair in a small, dusty office that had seen better decades. The ceiling was painted dark blue with day-glow stars stuck on. The walls were coated in some kind of pale stucco with dark stains running down to the floor. "That's coffee," he said, seeing my gaze.

"What does it look like, then?"

"Let's start from the beginning. Yes, you have pictures. Yes, they're being tampered with. But that's as far as we're able to get."

"Why is that?"

"There's some kind of... block." He shrugged.

"A block? What do you mean?"

"Miss Jenny, can you tell me... Are any of the subjects in your photographs departed?"

"I took them over the course of decades. Most of the birds must have died by now, I suppose."

"I was afraid of that." He leaned back in his chair, left eye closed, right eye pointed up at the ceiling. "Did you get permission to photograph them?"

"I took the shots when and as I could. Don't tell me the spirits of these birds are... resentful. I don't even know how to ask a bird's permission! And why me? No one else has this happening to them." I must have sounded tired and exasperated. "So, you're a psychic detective, then? You talked to them? They told you that?"

He scoffed. "Birds can't talk."

"Parrots can."

"That's not really talking." He sighed. "Look, I've told you what we know. It seems like you did something to upset them. What happened around the time this first began?"

"Well, I first started noticing the disappearances in early June. I was going through old photo albums. I don't know how much sooner it started before I first noticed they were going missing."

"Nothing changed for you, then? New job, new house?"

"No, I've lived in my apartment for years. But I did have a shoot in Africa early this summer. I've been working on a manuscript based on it ever since, actually.

"Hmm," he said, tapping his right eye.

"Please don't do that."

He ignored me. "So, next step: bring me the most affected album, the manuscript you've been working on—" he saw me about to object and waved his hand "—or at least some emotional pages from it, something written and rewritten, and personal artifacts from your trip. Ideally something worn and something carried in your hand."

"And that will help you find the answers?"

"It'll help me find the questions. Now, in the front they can schedule you to come in again. I believe next Tuesday has an opening. Oh," he called out as I was leaving, "cash only!"

They called me back in a week after I brought those in, said I needed to "atone" for my "improper collection." That I would need to find a quiet, natural place, and wait. That was it. "You'll know when," Adan told me.

So I sat on a big tree root in a forest outside of town, waiting. Nothing happened. The wind blew. I could hear the sounds of the forest, occasional distant birdsong. The sun fell out of view.

At dusk, a crow landed on the branch above me.

"Hey there, little guy," I said quietly. I felt ridiculous talking to a bird, but I continued. "How's it going?"

He seemed to shrug, tucking his head down between his shoulders.

"You going to sleep?"

He shut his eyes.

I didn't say anything, just sat and watched. He breathed slowly, chest moving in and out. The moon rose above the forest and turned everything to silver, and he was still sitting there.

"I'm sorry," I said, and left.

The birds never did come back. But at least after that, they stopped disappearing. And I decided to take up landscape photography.

(090 Manuscripts and Rare Books)

Apr 25, 2011

I'm a suave detective with a heart of gold in hot pursuit of the malevolent, manipulative
and the deranged degenerates who only want their

748 - Glass
(Nothing in the story can break.)

Lovestruck as a Window Washing Lifeguard
1287 words

This isn't a love story. This is a story about Fate.

The first time I met her, it was in the reflection of a window. I was working at a Pool Club at the time, 2010. Lifeguard, though I doubled as a Janitor because... well. I was a senior, 220 pounds, and I didn't talk back. Doesn't take a rocket scientist. The window was the tinted one attached to the owner's office. Just think -- had it been a regular window, I might have not seen her shuffling past.

It was her face that got to me. No, not her face. It was the the bleach, polka-freckled stain running from her face down to her arm. It was not an ugly mark. It was as if the pigmentation did not want to scar her face, so it cut off between her jaw and her cheek.

It was mark was what caught my attention. I turned to look at her, so distracted that I thought nothing when she stopped on a dime and turned to look at me. She smiled, sheepish. I caught how the mark curled, taking the shape of a crescent moon. It smiled at me, too. I looked away. She was gone when I looked back.

I convinced myself it was Fate when she passed me a month later. I was on trash duty when she shuffled past, plastic sandals squeaking with each step. I saw the mark, saw her dropping a carton of cigarettes and thought 'this is Fate'. I convinced myself it was my Fate to catch up to her outside of the Club. Sure felt like Fate to me when she smiled at me and I smiled back.





...Fate wanted this to be awkward, I told myself. Fate told me to shuffle from foot to foot like a damned idiot and, for a moment, completely forget why I was even there. Hands shoved into my pocket, right brushing against the carton. I pulled it out. Menthol. It also wanted me to say "You dropped this" but I laughed and said "Here" instead.

Her eyes gleamed. "Thank you." She snatched it out of my hands.

I ran my hand through my crew cut. "Hey, it's no problem." She lit up almost immediately, chucked a match. The girl blew a ring, sort you see in Looney Tunes. I laughed. "You don't look the type to smoke."

"Do I?" She blinked, opened the carton again. "Do you want one?"

I promised my parents I would never smoke. Fate wanted me to accept. I took one, placed it between my lips. She snapped her fingers and the flame floated from her closed fist, like her hand was a lighter. I said, "Nice trick." She smirked when I hacked up a lung.

"I've seen you before," she said. "You were washing a window and you were staring at me."

I waved smoke from my face before responding. "Heh. I-I don't remember that," I lied like a lying liar. "I remember you though."

Hazel eyes considered me, judging me. "You remember me? Or do you just remember my scars?"

The color drained from my face. Nodding, I held the cig between thumb and index. It tasted like mint. "Scars? I thought-I remember them but, like, not just them?" I paused. Not because I was taking a hit but because of the egg shells I was walking barefoot over. "Has anyone told you that the mark smiles when you smile?"

She looked confused at first. Then it clicked for her and she smiled. "No. But I understand what you mean." She flicked the butt with her index finger. She wasn't smiling anymore. She considered me again. "Today is Day 195, right?"

I blinked. "...It's July 15th?"

She nodded. Fate threw a curveball. "Do you want to hang out?"

"Sure?" I said, without thinking.

"I will only be here on Day 226. After that, I am leaving. You seem like a nice boy. I like you."

Okay, Fate was getting weird with me. I squinted. "...Thanks?"

She nodded, smiled. "Your shoe's untied."

I looked down. It was still tied. That's when I saw her match from before, unlit. She was gone when I looked back up.

Honestly, I forgot all about the meeting. Day 226 was August 15th. It didn't matter though. I found her after hours, in the picnic area. She was sitting on the edge of a chest. I recognized her, smiled, a bit unnerved.

"Hey." I said. "What are you doing down here?"

"I thought we were hanging out." She said. It wasn't a question, and the look on her face said as much. I walked over to her. "I knew you would be coming down. So I waited."

"...Waited for how long?" I asked, then shook my head. "Look, I'm just... I'm still working

"That's okay. I'll wait here." She hugged her legs to her chin. She wore a sundress that ran down her legs. "I'll just look at the nature down here."

...Maybe she was shier than I thought. I smiled. gently caress it, I told myself. Glancing at the surrounding, I find a lonely volleyball and, a good distance away, a soccer net. "I'm looking at this volleyball and do you know what I see?"

"Not...a volleyball?"


I grabbed the ball, holding it between my hands. I gestured for her to move. She didn't. The ball hit the inside of my foot. Her black hair swooshed when the ball flew past. I was losing my touch; the volleyball clipped the corner of a picnic table and rolled off, not even close to the net. I grimaced. She said, "Nice trick."

I laughed, walking back over to her. "Nah. I'm losing my touch. I was better in middle school; wanted to play Soccer. Now I'm working here."

"...I don't know what that is?"

I squinted at her. For a second I thought she was talking about the Pool Club, but when she canted her head at the net, I knew what she meant. "Soccer? Futball? You've never heard of it?" I laughed, shook my head. "Man, have you been living under a rock?"

She turned to look at me. She looked at me like I just insulted her mother.

"You don't want to know."

Her voice turned grave.

"Even if you could believe me, you wouldn't want to know."

I laughed again, tugging at my collar. "Try me?"

Her face registered a look of expectant annoyance. She pulled out the carton of cigarettes again. "Do you remember how we met? The window?"

I nodded. "Yeah?"

"And do you remember how I dropped my cigarettes? And how, just know, I knew you would be coming down here?" When I nodded again, she sat forward on the picnic table. "What if I were to tell you that I planned all of that?"

"What do you-" I asked, but she cut me off.

"What if I were to tell you that I knew we are meant for each other? That, on day 227 just before midnight, four years from now, I will stand at your doorstep and ask to come in? What if I were to tell you that I don't even swim here, that I only joined this club to meet you? What would you say?"

"I-I'd say you're full of poo poo." I said. I didn't mean to say it. I just said it.

The girl nodded. She got up. "I should go."

"I don't even know your name." I said.

She turned back to me. She smiled. "My name is Fate."

Today is September 1st, 2014 It is midnight. Somebody's knocking on the door. I can see her mark through the peephole in my door. This is where the love story begins.

Aug 2, 2002
The Glass House
1400 words

crabrock fucked around with this message at 06:30 on Oct 28, 2014

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.
:siren: Submissions for Week CVIII: The Dewey Decimal System are now CLOSED! :siren:

A last-minute surge tamped the shame level of the round down a trifle, but Sithsaber, Obliterati, perpetulance, Meinberg, Anathema Device, PootieTang, CommissarMega, JuniperCake, God Over Djinn, cargohills, Swarm, and the wildest turkey got lost in the stacks. The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed two :toxx: candidates on that list. PootieTang and JuniperCake, you have two hours' leeway; use it well.

If any of the aforementioned parties submit within twenty-four hours of the deadline, I'll still critique their stories. In the meanwhile the judges will be reading the fiction that made it to our desk.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

right heres some crits mostly if I don't say anything its because I like what you're doing except when it's not, of course


clever tarantinoesque lampshade porn meets annoying footnotes.

God Over Djinn posted:

Experimental Fiction (1588 words)

Hey. It's me again, Simon J.

Humbled and, in a matter of speaking, crushed by my last foray into fiction, I thought I'd try something different. See, even if I could grasp a pen, at the moment - the most quotidian tasks become impossible, cooped up in these casts - writing the perfect story would be beyond my ken. But a thought has wormed its way into my writerly brain: if I can't write the perfect story, then why not simply not write it? And that's what I, Simon J., am here today to do. yes, yes, but nope.

So, in this story - not this story, but the one I'm not writing - we have a kid. She's nine. She lives in the iconic American Southeast, somewhere with summers so humid that the gnats stick to your face. Somewhere with fireflies, and thunderstorms, and cattails, and sweet tea, and half-starved dogs chained up in the backyard, and meemaws who die in their recliners and don't get found for three days. The sort of place worn smooth and reified by someone who didn't quite live here long enough to get it.

And her problem is, she's clever.

Well, not exactly. Plopping a character down in the American South and making her smart - making her crippled by cleverness - reads superficial, to me. Unconsidered. But that's far from the biggest issue. Here's the one that I, Simon J., lose sleep over: writing a conflict as simple as that, smart girl versus stupid environs, makes me, Simon J., feel like an rear end in a top hat. Why write something that doesn't at least look like I sat up thinking about it? How else is anybody going to tell me apart from the next idiot who couldn't think of anything better?

Simplicity's fine, but it's gotta be some postmodern wabi-sabi poo poo before my ego shuts up about it. and nope

So the kid can't just be clever in an unforgiving South. She's also sincerely jealous of anybody who can throw a baseball more than two dozen feet. But that jealousy is all mixed up with an equally sincere sense of guilty superiority, wherein she thinks that everyone she knows - particularly her father - is a tremendous fuckwit, but also knows that it's a venial sin to think such uncharitable things. She's aware of this superior feeling, but she doubts its basis in truth - although, on her worse days, she thinks that this very doubt is a sort of concession to her ego's desire for superiority, as in, if she weren't innately superior, she would feel too threatened by that prospect to allow herself doubt. So: the star student, who lets herself say "My paper is crap" when and only when she's spent a hundred hours working on it.1 cf Allie Brosh (i'm liking the agonised involution here, echoes the endlessly overelaborated structure)

How was I, Simon J., planning to convey2 this? Well, that's the wonderful thing about not writing it: what I don't know how to do, I can leave as an exercise for the reader.

So, anyways, in Act 1, the kid manages to win some minor triumph by dint of cleverness. I, Simon J., set her up for a revelation that leads to her downfall - the revelation that there are other people willing to validate her nebulous Southern-bred sense of superiority. I was thinking a spelling bee, say, one for which her Southern relatives decidedly do not show up3, but at which she has some small success4, perhaps at the expense of a particularly irritating baseball-chucking boychik. And she ain't happy about it - until some teacher takes her aside, and explains the potential value of her cleverness - basically, takes her down a notch in her recursive ruminations on guilt and intelligence - and she buys it. Hook, line, and sinker.

Now, here's problem number two. I, Simon J., don't think that any child ought to be punished for believing in a fiction so innocuous as 'you might be able to do some good, in spite of it all.' But for dramatic purposes, our kid must get her injust desserts. Now, frankly, gently caress dramatic purposes, them buggers having led me into more not writing than any other single cause. I do believe personally that the ineffable is better left uneffed, and I'd rather let readers labor under the realistic expectation that everything comes out more or less random at the end. But fiction, according to its readers, at least, has to embody a justification of its own relevance56, so on to the crux of it, then. Poor kid.

So she takes this notion, and decides to do good with it. After all, most of her prior hangups were based in a crippling sense of uselessness, a meta-awareness that all of this endless rumination on self-consciousness, guilt, self-conscious guilt, &c, was itself useless, and that her very awareness of this was a better argument in favor of her general uselessness than she herself could ever produce.

Anyways, it ends up with her weaseling her way into a trip to the feed store her father owns, which stands as a symbol for her father's general good graces: it's the one and only thing that he, as a gruff Southern chappie, unabashedly loves7. And she, standing paralyzed behind the counter - in paroxysms of what she is not sure whether is delight or concern8 - notices, being as she is, rather clever, something. Her father has miscounted; he has in fact undercharged someone, a sallow, boozy, leering, Southern someone who even now stands before the counter. I was thinking that it might even be the Daddy of the nasty baseball-chucking feller from Act 1, who may even himself have joined in on the general denigration of our luminary kiddo on the occasion of her spelling-bee win. And the kiddo, who does not hold a particularly convivial attitude towards her Pa, nonetheless sees - in light of her newfound charitable attitude - opportunity. She merely needs to overcome a lifetime of doubt over her own perceptions and abilities, open her mouth, and say: "Hey, Daddy, you didn't charge that guy enough."

Which, after an extended rumination9, she does.

So, here's the third problem. For all of the appropriate emotions to emote themselves into their slots, this period of anguished rumination has gotta be extensive and believable. I, Simon J., ain't quite up to the task. After all, the fall did scramble me a bit. But imagine that you've read the story to this point, and you're totally convinced by this poor kid's agonies. You're willing to accept that half of her brain is refusing to basically tell her Papa that he's a fuckwit, seeing as the question of whether or not it's sinful to think he's a fuckwit is so loaded for her that she can't even begin to speculate on it; the other half is delighting in the prospect, having just been awakened to the possibility that being overtly intelligent is something other than other-than-honorable. And you're willing to accept that the win effected by the latter half was not a cakewalk.

And our maiden pipes up, and says "Pa? It's actually twenty-four dollars sixty-three."

Her Papa ignores her. This galvanizes her reserve. "Pa," she says, tugging at his sleeve, "It's twenty-four sixty-three. Not sixteen twenty-nine."

Pa growls at her, and and continues his conversation with the (not much of a) gentleman in question. But the gentleman has noticed the kid, and he ceases conversing, peers at her, and creaks: "What did ya say, kiddo?"

"I said," she says, drawing herself to her full four feet two, "that the price comes out to twenty-four sixty-three." Then she retreats, noticing, as she does, that both men are glowering down at her.

The gentleman directs a look, full of unspoken history, at the Papa. "God dammit, William Locklear," he says, "I've told you a thousand times, I don't need your filthy charity."

Then the gentleman pulls out a pistol and shoots our narrator's protesting Pa, right through the brain-pan, leaving the narrator spattered in blood and little gobbets of self-doubt. And, you know, horrified at her sudden expulsion from a tidy little spiral of doubt and self-loathing into a far nastier one, like recovering from the phugoid mode only to find yourself in a spiral dive. Much as I, Simon J., found myself a mere few weeks ago. Seems sudden? Well, call me clinical, but a sudden impact with the ground has a way of making your spine eject through your rear end in a top hat.

Ahem. I apologize. After this many words, I find myself bushed. I must to bed, and thus I must be brief. What I'd like to say is this: I hope you didn't find the ending to this story - the one I didn't write - too unsatisfying. I can see why you would. Nobody likes an untidy ending.

Although, on reflection, I suppose that you can't blame me. For the ending, I mean.

After all, I didn't write it. ookay, so this is moderately crit proof by virtue of its experimentally inflected nature using brecht's verfremdungseffekt to simultaneously under and overplay the drama and you hit the weird and elaborate marks you're aiming for and your psychological noodle plucking is involved and involving and the tarantino flipflop is excellent; but the footnotes, just no. The last one is good but would have been better in the story. Interesting work though, might have scraped an HM in a weaker week.


1 A very different impulse from the one that makes me say, 'this story is crap'.


3 Being, as they are, philistines - a concession to my completely insane desire to indulge every literary stereotype about the South.

4 She wins without studying, because she read the final word in one of her endless library books.


6 Rather to fiction's detriment, in my opinion.

7 With the notable inclusion of his daughter.


9 Mostly focused on whether her Pa was actually right when he said "Don't talk smart to me, young lady."


gently caress get on with it, but actually pretty great. Very precise hm?

Morning Bell posted:

Tennessee Blues (1383 words)

Laura woke to a trackless, featureless marsh always be wary of the the 'white room' start, it's a transparent metaphor for writers block and the sharp smell of cigarette smoke. The van was making its way down an uneven road, rattling the drum set in the back, nice image, though could be more vivid and she immediately wished she’d stayed asleep. Ratboy had one hand on the steering wheel and the other hanging out the window, tribal tattoos exposed to a grey sky. He was chewing gum loudly. When he wasn’t smoking, he was usually chewing.

“What time is it?” Laura muttered.

“Hey?” he turned to her with a massive grin. Snippets of a Neil Young song came from the radio between stretches of static.

“America at it’s best” he half-sang the state slogan, ignoring her question. “It’s not so bad, hey? Shame the pricks refuse to drive on the Queen’s side of the road.”

Laura was in no mood for his jokes. They’d only been on tour for a week but it already had the markings of a disaster: small apathetic crowds, merch sales from that show in Jackson didn’t even cover costs, and Ratboy would stagger onto the stage blind-drunk dull cliche phrase each night, but not before creeping on half the girls in the room in his broad Australian drawl. There was something especially pathetic about an Australian band called “The Memphis Wailers” on tour in southern America. Back in Sydney, naive and young, Ratboy convinced her the name would sound exotic. Now, it felt hokey and wrong. Sure, he was having a great time - high-school dropout from Australia’s arsehole, laughingstock of the girls back home, had been laid twice this week - but to Laura, the men were uninterested, the girls were hostile, and the land was both. Was it her ridiculous blue hair (never should have dyed it)? She’d gained weight, felt awful in these too-tight jeans, was that it? Ratboy had a winning smile, a tan, and plenty of hours to spend in the gym, and Laura felt like she had very little going for her at all. Her America was empty and barren, and she felt alone. i think this was the point at which i wrote gently caress GET ON WITH IT fyi

She felt anxious about their long drives. About being around Ratboy all the time. She felt especially anxious about the two kilograms of cocaine he had stashed in the lining of his spare guitar case. this is what we call a sweet drop, let it breathe She’d think about it over and over, her thoughts descending into a maze of nightmare what-ifs. On the bad nights (and they were mostly bad) she would like awake for hours and shudder.

Last week, when they flew into LAX and Ratboy gleefully told her he’d found a way to make an extra buck and help out with the tour costs, she was suspicious. That night, when he disappeared for hours, she was furious. When he returned and showed Laura the contents of his backpack, she had slapped him across the face, and was a hair’s width away from walking out of the room and booking the first flight back across the Atlantic. never a fan of 'CHARACTER ALMOST DID THING' How could he do this? He knew about her past! A favour for a friend, he said. We drop it off in New York and make a mint, he said.

She’d been clean for years and it’ll be fine, she told herself. It was almost six years ago, you’re thirty, 'SHE' vs 'YOU' is real messy here a big girl now and you’re in a better place, Mum’s OK now, you have a job and a band, your poo poo is together and you’ll be OK. You’ve been through rehab once and that was enough. You can handle this. The tour needs the money. Don’t think about it. your characters and their setup is robust, but you're kind of over explaining here, find cleaner and tighter ways to put this across

Laura wiped the sleep from her eyes and opened the glovebox. “We’re out of smokes” she said, her tone curving upwards although it wasn’t a question, and turned to stare out the window. The marsh rushed by, still water, jagged reeds, no houses, no people. She felt like she was trapped in a bad dream - if she’d just shut her eyes and open again, she’d be back in bed in Darlinghurst. She did so, and she wasn’t. nice

--- with a few tweaks you could start the story here, y'know

They were an hour out of Knoxville when the sheriff pulled them over. He was just like Laura imagined American sheriffs to be - a scarecrow of a man, aloof in his aviator sunglasses, a slow drawl. He was looking at Ratboy’s license after being told Ratboy knew how fast he was going. It was very fast indeed.

“Name, son?” he asked.

“Ratboy” Ratboy replied.

“What did you call me, son?”

“He’s Shaun Williams Lonsdale”, Laura interjected, before Ratboy said something dumber. Jesus, it was there right on the licence. Ratboy’s usual grin was nowhere to be seen - he looked pale and small. Those bags of cocaine were in the guitar case and her heart was pounding.

“This your boyfriend, ma’am?”

“We’re cousins”, she replied. “We’re on tour. We play the blues”, Ratboy added, helpfully gesticulating towards the stack of drums and guitars behind him. There came more questions. Australian? Staying in Jackson? You folks have a rock and roll per-for-mance?

“You folks mind if I take a look round your van?”

“Uh, sure, mate!” Ratboy said a little too eagerly. Laura grabbed his hand and squeezed. Ratboy tore it out of her grip.

Five minutes, a cursory glance, and a speeding ticket later, they were back on the road. They didn’t speak for an hour.


That night, they played to a basement bar that reeked of beer and sweat. The crowd was a thin gaggle of hushed voices and unkempt beards, eyes watching their every move from under baseball caps. The show was passable. Ratboy disappeared as soon as they were off-stage and Laura was left to drag her drumset back to the van on her own.

She was smoking a cigarette by the van when she met the gaunt man. His young brown eyes bore into hers and he spoke in clipped sentences with a southern accent, disarming and light. He liked their first album. Two more cigarettes, and soon they were in the back of the van pressed up against the guitars, and her tongue was in his mouth.

“Listen, it’s still early. I know a great party not far from here, if you’re, uh…” he said as he pulled away. She nodded, eager, the usual anxiety turning into excitement. This might not be so bad.

He pulled out a small box from his jacket pocket and spilt the white contents on a guitar case. He fished out a credit card and began to roll up a dollar bill.

“No, no, no” Laura said. “Oh man, I don’t need this.” He looked up at her quizzically. “Dude…” she began to explain, but was cut off.

There was a bang as something slammed into the van’s side. Raised voices (was the high-pitched one Ratboy?) came from outside, sharp, aggressive. Laura pressed her finger to her lips and the man nodded, bent over dollar bill in hand, inhaled. Another bang, ten seconds, and then the wailing of a siren. Laura felt the blood drain out of her face. They lay motionless together, heart pounding, hands entwined. Another thud and Ratboy was pushed against the van again, someone in a sheriff’s hat behind him (the one from before? She couldn’t tell). She could see Ratboy’s face up in the window from where she lay, and his nose was bleeding. Traces of red and white, alternating, glowed in the distance.

She heard a voice bark, something about the van. poo poo oh poo poo. see, this is all really well done.

She scrambled for the spare guitar case, grabbed her keys, was ripping the sharp one into the lining. The gaunt man watched, eyes wide terrified, as she pulled out bags of white powder, started stuffing them into her jacket. Only a few small bags in here. She could grab it all. Then again, she could not - leave one or two, forget about idiot cousin for a while. Teach him a lesson. OK. Leave a couple. Need the rest.

They crawled towards the front, opened the passenger side door a crack, and slithered out. She heard Ratboy’s voice pleading on the other side of the van, heard another thud and a scream, could feel the bags heavy in her jacket. She felt twenty-five again. Can’t let a night like this go to waste. She grabbed the gaunt man’s hand and they started running. Yeah. cut the first half, tell us what happens next - ratboy doesn't really do anything and until the last couple of paras neither does your protag. But lots to like in your setup and plenty of well-described detail.


Club sandwich creek run

gently caress get on with it also learn to paragraph annoying interstitial flashback competent words, dm

It had been 6 hours since he had burned down the gas station and there was still a faint smell of the fire about him. Good opener As he hauled himself up and over the guard rail of the old covered bridge he thought he heard the sound of a police siren in the distance. After a slight moment of hesitation televisionitis, this sort of detail can generally be cut unless you're going to make something more of it he relaxed his grip and dropped into the stream below. It was mid-July, and the air was dense and humid. The cool water that came up to his chest eased the ache in his bones and washed away the sweat and dirt that was caked on his skin. Downstream of the bridge the water was shallower, and for the next hour Joe Dalton scrambled down the creek bed until he was further from his home than he had ever been before. this is a tight para


The land Joe Dalton grew up on lay a quarter mile north of the town of Andersonville. His childhood home had once been part of a large plantation, but no one had worked the land he and his father had lived on for a generation or more. One of the last things Joe's father had done before his death was build a large carport with a corrugated steel roof so he'd have someplace to put his dying Ford pickups and a pair of dirtbikes. Joe's father died when the boy was nine, shot in the woods north of Andersonville for poaching on private land. No one ever told Joe what his father did for money, but before he died he had taught Joe how go fishing with an old car battery and a set of jumper cables. this is not. dude you were just running away from some poo poo don't be all info dumping me.


There were more than a few folks who, as Joe grew up into a mountain of a man not unlike his father, couldn't help but notice that the boy had a proclivity for wrongdoing. ugh As a freshman he was already the largest boy at the local high school, but instead of pursuing football or wrestling, Joe dropped out after a semester and could often be seen driving double ugh, this is bland passive and flabby along the backroads in his father's truck, with the rack full of his father's rifles. He was a keen shot. are you quoting from his cv However the few times he went out hunting with the sons of his father's few friends they complained that he drank too much and had no interest in shooting anything other than beer cans or birds. By the time Joe Dalton would have been a junior in highschool, his homestead on the old plantation had become a place few people in Andersonville ventured, not out of any outright fear, but rather of the deeply unsettling presence that had seemed to settle over the place. welcome to loving adersonville hope you like miasma The trees around the property were covered in thick, dense spanish moss that blocked any view of the house from the main road. Occasionally a neighbor would drive by and hear the sound of a 12 gauge go off or the revving of a dirt bike engine, but over the years people saw less and less of Joe. FFFFFFUCKIN GET ON WITH IT


When the Sunoco on North road burned down, Joe was not the first suspect. Had the young sheriff why not give him a name, those are things that people have not acted simply on a hunch, or a premonition, or whatever you would call it, Joe Dalton might have had a head start he could have made something out of. Instead, the young sheriff arrived at the Dalton place only a few hours after the crime to find the place empty. The Fords and the dirt bikes were in the carport, and none of the guns seemed to be missing, but what the sheriff did notice was the absence of even a single pair of shoes in the house. Furthermore, in the early morning air, when the damp humidity sets down on Andersonville like a thick quilt, smells have a habit of lingering in the air long after their source has absconded. And on this particular morning, Joe Dalton's house was still filled with a distinct smell of burning. either give us an actual scene (=> interesting characters doing and saying interesting things) or cut this to the bone, holy hell who cares


Joe Dalton moved weak out of the creek and onto dry land and listened. No sirens. That was good. He reckoned he was still close enough to a road that he would hear approaching squad cars, but that he was deep enough in the woods that the only choice the sheriffs would have would be to hunt him down on foot. And Joe was certain that there were very few men left in Andersonville who could stalk game the way his father had taught him, and of those few, none of them were sheriffs.


For an hour Joe walked along the shores of the creekbed. dum de doo When he came to a split in the stream, he turned east and walked into the forest. He followed an old, overgrown path for a mile until he came to weak a clearing that was almost completely hidden by the thick moss that hung from the trees. In the clearing, the dirt path turned into a long sandstone pathway that led up to the porch of a large, white plantation house that was covered in thick tendrils of ivy. The windows along the first floor were boarded up with sturdy wooden planks. Joe pulled a heavy, iron key out of his pocket and unlocked the front door. Inside, the foyer led to a series of large, high ceilinged room that had long been emptied of furniture. The house had been used by Joe Dalton’s father as a secluded place to stay when he went out hunting in the woods around the county. Joe had hoped there would still be canned food and guns in the house, and he was lucky enough to find a Marlin rifle and some canned tuna in a box inside the old fireplace. He slung the rifle over his shoulder and picked up the crate of cans. He then went upstairs into the old master bedroom that looked out on to the front walk. Joe went back downstairs and pulled down one of the old canvas window curtains and went back upstairs and wrapped himself in the curtain and went to sleep. holey moley that was dull. either give him a challenge to surmount or give us some interesting observation or something. your words are adequate, but they're not telling us why we should care yet.


Burning down the Sunoco had never been Joe’s plan. He had only broken into the station to empty the cash register. But at the moment he was short on patience and not thinking clearly. tense Of course, Andersonville had never brought out the best in Joe, and on that night he felt as if the dark presence of all his father’s animosity towards the town was hanging over him. this is teh telliest tell that ever telled. IN THAT MOMENT I FELT AS THOUGH THE THEME OF THE STORY HAD TAKEN ME OVER AND THE GOTHIC NATURE OF MY SOUTHERN UPBRINGING MADE ME DO THE SORT FO THING YOUD FIND IN A SOUTHERN GOTHIC SOTRY After Joe Dalton emptied the cash register, which he had smashed open with a fire extinguisher, he grabbed a box of matches and some lighter fluid and burned the building down. As he was running down the road in the direction of the bridge he turned around only once to watch the flames licking at the overhang of the front awning. you're jumping around in time, but not using that to tell us anything interesting about the characters


The two sheriffs had crossed the bridge and circled back around Andersonville twice, but still they found no sign of Joe Dalton.


“He ain’t getting far on foot” the older of the two men said. He had a paper dixie cup in the cupholder for his tobacco spit.


“Any dip?” the younger officer asked. The older sheriff pulled a tin of Skoal out of his breast pocket and handed it to his partner.


The younger man had been in favor of going door to door around the town, seeing if anyone might be hiding Joe.. But the older man knew that there wasn’t a single person in Andersonville who would shelter a Dalton. NUTHIN HAPPENED 'anythin happenin' SAID THE FIRST CLICHE SHERIFF 'nope' SAID THE OTHER CLICHE SHERIFF


On their second trip around the town, the older man took a sharp right off of the main road and on to a dirt path that was choked with Spanish moss. After several minutes he switched off the car headlights and eased off the accelerator. He took one hand off the wheel and pulled down the shotgun from the ceiling rack and rested it across his lap.


“We ain’t bringing anybody back to the station” he said. The younger man looked off down the dark road ahead. A bead of sweat formed on his forehead and ran down the side of his head and dropped onto his lapel.


Joe Dalton knew that the sin of his father were also his to bear. tell me more, telly mctellerson After he had grown out of his childhood naivete, he soon came to realize that for many people in Andersonville were happy to have a new Dalton man to hate. Joe had done himself no favors in this regard, and his proclivity aw naw you dint just use proclivity twice in a sub2k story, tell me you didn't towards poaching and other crimes had left him with no friends in the town. Now, sitting huddled up in the bare bedroom of the crumbling old house, the rifle held to his chest, he thought about the townabout what teh story was about. He could not remember a time where he hadn’t walked the streets of Andersonville without the feeling of stormclouds hanging over him. The dark presence that filled the fields and streams and woods of the county had always been a comfort to him, and like his father he often sought refuge in the dense woods and the old, overgrown plantations. He felt a desire to go to sleep like he had never felt before, as if in doing so the soothing uniformity of the surrounding darkness would envelop and subsume him, making them one and the same. He allowed himself to close his eyes for what he thought was only a moment, but he snapped back awake when he heard a sound from the front of the house. It was a sound that he could only describe as boot heels scraping on sandstone WHICH IS WEIRD because it was actually the sound of bluebirds on a crisp october morning he had a neurological condition u see.

yeah, this is bad, though i can see you writing better. it's like you wrote DARK FORBODING SECRET on the forehead of your spirit animal then took breaks every five minute to like grip its ears and gaze into its wise eyes DON'T TRUST SPIRIT ANIMALS i guess is the lesson there?


Anathema Device NO TITLE tsk seriously don't do that, titles are very important and you get to create a tiny haiku like poem about the story if you wish

What is it with the lardy starts, plus sort of a lardy middle and the characters are painted with a cute little gravediggers shovel-style trowel


“You kids stay inside at night,” Grandfather told me and James when we moved into the manor house. “None of that gallivanting about like you’re used to. You two be good role models for the twins. And you!” he turned to me. “You stay away from that old witch. The court said she was to have nothing to do with you.”

Back then I still thought it was worth arguing. “The court didn’t say I couldn’t see Memere! ‘Visitation with permission,’ they said. Your permission.”

“Well I’m not giving it!”

For two years I’ve done as he said, but Anne and Kelly are old enough to remember now, and it’s time they meet Mom. Grandmother and Grandfather are shouting for us. We wait, still and quiet under the branches of the old willow, but Memere doesn’t come. throwing a bunch of names at the reader is a challenging way to start a story, and you don't really pull it off.

“Should be go back?” James asks. He’s uneasy about this, has been from the start. You'd think he -- two years older than me -- would be braver, but he's always followed my lead.

“No,” I say, stomach roiling, heart racing. “No, let’s do it now.” this is very draggy

We walk softly between the pale gravestones. Mom’s is white marble, shiny in the starlight. Wrong, all wrong, but it will do. We sprinkle salt around the grave, and James squeezes my hand for luck just before the circle closes.

I kneel in front of the headstone, whiskey bottle held out, and think of my fear, of Memere’s absence, of how very much I need my mother. My throat grows tight and painful. My eyes well up. I will not cry. Please, Mom, come to me. I brought you an offering. Please…

Carefully, I open the bottle and pour a shot onto the grave. “Please, Mom,” I whisper.

“You bring me poison?” the shade says. “How unlike you.”

I brought you what I knew you’d come for. I lean back, pulling the bottle away from her grasping hands. They pass through mine, cold and slimy under my skin. “It’s traditional.”

She lunges again, clawing at my throat. I can’t breathe past the slimy, rotten sensation of cold in my throat. Gagging, I force the words out. “Back! Heed me now, shade! Harm no one here, for I come with an offering, and you will not receive it unless you heed me!”

She stumbles back under the force of my will. “What do you want?”

My mother. “Answers.”

“To what questions?”

They bubble up and catch in my throat until I gag on the lingering taste of rot. I lean over and spew bile across the slippery, whiskey-scented grass. James steps forward. “Stay outside the circle,” I croak, waving him away. He hesitates. "Keep the girls safe." He withdraws, holding them back. Even heaving on the ground I have some protection, and I clutch the whiskey bottle to my chest.

But the shade comes forward and crouches beside me. I feel her cold touch on my back, rubbing awkward circles as I have done for her on a hundred hungover mornings.

“You came,” she whispers. “You finally came to see your old mom.” And it’s so Mom - the quick change of mood, the subtle rebuke. My body spasms with silent sobs. My tears sink into the dirt of her grave.

A fitting offering for my mother: bile and whiskey and tears. great line

“Mom.” Tears leak into the corners of my smile, fill my mouth with salt. and nice observation “Mom, I brought the twins to see you. Look!”

She walks to salt-line and stops. “Don’t trust me?”

“Not all spirits are as friendly as you, Mom. We couldn’t know how you’d be.” You tried to choke me, remember?

“Let them come over the barrier, then. I want to see them properly.”

James turns to me, and Mom spits in my direction. “So they look to you for orders now? You always were a bossy little brat.”

Even before I shake my head, James is pulling Kelley and Anne back. “Mom,” he says. “This is the only thing they’ll have to remember you by. This and stories.”

And, wonder of wonders, she sits cross-legged on the grass and talks to them while James holds their hands. They are scared and quiet, and Mom quickly grows frustrated with their short answers. this is a clever and justified flipflop, but don't hand wave it like this. you could have got a lot of juice out of what she said, and it's not like you didn't have words to lose When she turns on me, all her patience is gone. Her eyes are fixed on the bottle.

“What answers did you come here for?”

“When you died. Why? Why go to that rear end in a top hat?” My cheeks are raw from crying, my eyes swollen and tight.

“Because I couldn’t afford to drive to a real doctor,” she says. You couldn’t afford to die, either, and leave us all alone.

“Why go at all? Was the thought of another child so horrible?” my voice is hoarse.

“The twins were still nursing when I got pregnant,” she says. “I never expected two, you know? And I didn’t have money for birth control, but you’re supposed to be safe while you’re breastfeeding. Ha.” She draws an illusory breath. “And I just couldn’t handle another, not with them so young. Not with your father off somewhere. And he was right down the road.” A long pause. “Memere, she told me not to go to him. Said she could help.”

But you went anyway, and then you died. The last question burns like the bile had, coming up. “Did you want to abort all of us?”

“Oh.” Her eyes finally turn from the bottle and meet mine. “Oh, oh honey. No, never you guys. I just couldn’t handle it right then. But never you.”

Summoned spirits can’t lie. I’m shaking all over, but her attention has turned away. “They’re coming,” she says. “Listen, James. You’re going to have to be everything to those girls. Make sure they’re loved.”

“What about me?” I whisper. Haven’t I loved them? She turns back with a malicious smile.

“Oh you, honey, you have another path.” She cackles, the orange moon rising behind her. It lights her all in shades of yellow, like the jaundice has finally caught up with her. “Now give me my whiskey, and run.”

I pour the whiskey into the sodden grass. Her shade dissolves into the air as I clamber to my feet. “You heard Mom,” I tell the others. “Run.”

We flee before the flashlights as they sweep the graveyard. “What the hell was that?” James asks, when we’ve won some distance. “You said the girls should meet her. You never said she was gonna be like that. Or that you’d talk about how she died.”

“She was always like that.” I look him square in the eye in the moonlight. “And haven’t you ever wondered…?”

“Of course, but in front of the girls? They don’t need to hear stuff like that.”

“They’ll thank me for it when they’re old enough to understand.”

Kelley begins to cry. James soothes her as he says, “For now, they’ll just have nightmares. Face it, that was about you and what you needed from her.” I sputter, overwhelmed and too angry to form words. “Look, I’m sorry,” he says. “But Mom told me to look after them.”

“What in the name of God are the four of you doing outside at this hour?” Grandmother demands, flashlight blinding us.

“Laura tried to raise Mom’s shade,” James said. “Sprinkled salt and poured whiskey into the dirt, said some funny stuff.”

The brilliant circle of grandfather’s flashlight focuses on me. Behind it, he’s a vague and shadowy. “You’d subject your siblings to that Godforsaken witchcraft? I know you hero-worshipped ugh the old witch, but I thought we’d taught you to be a respectable young lady. I won’t have that around the little ones, I will not!” your dialogue for the gf is v weak

James, you little sneak!

“You want me away from Kelley and Anne?” gently caress, I hate crying. “Fine. I’ll go.”

Grandfather raises a hand to grab my arm, but he’s old and slow, and I’m already running. “James,” he barks. “Get her!”

The last thing I hear from them is James saying, “No. Let her go.”

- - -

When I let myself into Memere’s house she’s watching the static on the old TV. She doesn't look around.

“You didn’t come.”

“James finally stood up for himself," she says, and I know she's been watching over us. ehhhhhh i like this more on a closer read, but you don't really pull it off as a story. the twisted love/hate with the mother works ok, but the grandfather is a blustering cipher, memere is a non-entity and the kids could be comfortably cut. also the weight of the revelation isn't conveyed in any meaningful way, though i can see that it might be with better words surrounding it.

Apr 25, 2011

I'm a suave detective with a heart of gold in hot pursuit of the malevolent, manipulative
and the deranged degenerates who only want their


I'm sad. I need a laugh. Tell me a joke. A story with a punchline. 150 words. Boo hoo.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk


Guinness13 The Hunt

Someone’s seen cabin in the woods, and has used the experience to fashion some effective horror-style tensioning, but lame and purple ending

This was a google doc with no permissions so I can't line crit it (don't do that). On a closer read, I'd stick with my judgebelch: this is a decently written but achingly cliche yarn, that ends by killing the protagonist in a puff of WGAF. Make us care about it if you're going to do that, or better yet don't.


Entenzahn Tapper Ware

Dreadfully cliché Hammer Horror, but effectively written. Another main character kill.

Eliza didn’t move. Overseer Bradys’ red, bushy beard was faintly visible in the glimmer of his lantern and if the rumors about Patty’s child were true, if he caught her out at night, there would be worse things in store for her than a whipping. So she kept still and hid behind the tree and she sighed a breath of relief when he finally turned and went the other way to disappear towards the cotton plantations. you're backloading teh context here, which I don't love, but i guess teh para gets across what it needs to.

There was no noise besides Brady’s receding footsteps I VERY LOATHE THIS CONSTRUCTION, and as her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she couldn’t see anyone around or inside the Tapper mansion either.

She left her hiding place.

Sneaking through the open is tense a delicate balance between moving fast enough to avoid patrols and slow enough not to trip, or be spotted. Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you ain’t. don't use folksy diction in this kind of description unless you're going to use it for everything Eliza reached the west wing of the mansion, slumped against the wall and listened for any signs of alert. When there was nothing, she went round back and crouched in front of the back door on the patio.

She got out her hairpiece this is a wig which makes this sentence rather Daliesque not sure if that was your goal and started to work the lock. tension without stakes is a risky way to start. Why not just tell us more?


“You’re in a good mood today,” Eliza said. She detached a bunch of lints from their bolls and threw them into the sack on her back.

Moses stopped whistling to throw Eliza a grin. Her husband had always liked to sing and hum and make music while they picked cotton, but today he didn’t do it to distract himself. what

“You know David, Master Tapper’s son?” he asked.

“I’ve seen him around. Pointing at stuff, being important.” She made the gestures as she talked. “I imagine he ain’t much better than his father.”

Moses threw a quick glance over his shoulder.

“Nobody hears us,” Eliza said.

“Just makin’ sure.”

Eliza realized that they’d stopped picking. She moved to the next plant.

“So anyway,” he said. “Word is there’s been a row between his and the Master’s. About us slaves. Rumor’s little Davey is one of them abolitionists.”

Eliza let out a laugh. “Sure.”

“Talks a lot about freeing them black folk. Us, you know? I THINK THESE CHARACTERS BOTH KNOW THEY ARE BLACK, AUTHOR And his pa just gets mad and slaps him across the face.”

“And now you think he’ll get you outta here?”

“Maybe not now,” Moses said. “But he’ll take over some day, won’t he?”

“Better keep picking that cotton until then,” she said. What a silly thought. The son of Norman Tapper, a friend of the slaves.

But then Moses had disappeared. And all anybody had to say were rumors about him being last seen at the Tapper mansion. She couldn't ask the overseers. What if Moses had secretely been freed? But would he have left her behind?

He’d been gone for two days. Came morning of the third day, he sat on the floor next to her, like nothing happened.

“Moses? Where the heck you been, mister?”

“Gone,” he said. He wasn’t quite there. show/tell The look on his face was focused, but not on something in front of him. Eliza wasn’t even sure he was talking to her.

“You feelin’ alright?”



He didn’t reply, and that was all he ever had to say about what happened in those two days. When she brought the topic up again, he just ignored her. He did so most of the time anyway, now. And there was no more singing, or whistling.

There was no more love.

Every night, when she’d want to lie with him, he’d shrug her off. When she asked what was wrong, he’d grunt. The warmth from his eyes was gone. He never hurt her, or even seemed dangerous. But this wasn’t the Moses she’d fallen in love with. This wasn’t her man. reasonably effective so far, dialogue mildly clunky but ok


Her fingers hurt like hell from the day’s work, but she managed to get the door open. The mansion makes it sound like it was just one room was quiet inside, the constant tick-tock of the clock sounding like artillery fire in the silence. Eliza snuck through the kitchen into the entrance room. She’d never been inside, and what little information she got from the tight-lipped servants didn’t help much. She knew there was a second floor, where the family slept, and a basement, where they kept their supplies, and which was always locked.

The door to the basement creaked just slightly. Eliza stopped. Did she just hear noise? There was only her pounding heart now. The stairs, barely lit from the moonlight outside, remained still.

The kitchen and the back door were just a few feet away. She could easily walk back outside. Dash across the front yard and sneak through the bushes until she arrived back in their shoddy cottage.

Back with her empty shell of a man.

She pushed the door to the basement open. okay, so your back and forth structure is working well now.


“They say wicked things go down in that mansion at night,” Patty said with those big eyes of hers almost popping out like they always did when she gossiped. “Voodoo.”

“Voodoo,” Eliza repeated. “The Tappers do Voodoo.”

Patty nodded enthusiastically. She dipped a dirty linen shirt into the water basket between them, wrung it and started to scrub it across the washboard.

“Sounds like a buncha hokey pokey to me,” Eliza said.

“Maybe it ain’t voodoo, but something’s wrong about that place. There’s rumors.”

“I’d be surprised if there weren’t.”

Patty stopped scrubbing. “So you don’t want to hear them?”

Eliza shook her head and scrubbed her own laundry while Patty continued: “Whatever happened to your man, it has something to do with that mansion. They say folk disappear there at night and come back all weird-like. You ever talked to one of the servants? Odd people the lot of them. Something wrong with their heads.”

Eliza snorted. The mansion was a tiny rectangle on the horizon, a few dots from lit windows here and there. It really did look a little frightening in the twilight. Maybe that was just Patty filling her head with nonsense.

“Can I do something to make him the way he used to be?”

Patty shrugged. “I think you best run while you can. I tried to, but...” She gave a pained smile and left the rest unsaid. Eliza didn’t notice. She stared out towards the mansion.


The basement was dark, and the silence was oppressive. Eliza could faintly make out shapes, but no more. She felt her way across the wall, looking for a source of light, and bumped into a table. Thin metal lay on a wooden plate.

“Father never comes here,” a male voice said.

A light went on. David Tapper had entered the room behind her.

“He thinks this is a storage, and storage isn’t his responsibility. He’s quite predictable like that.”

More people came down the stairs. Two black servants. Another one.

“Moses?” Eliza said.

The slaves had distant looks on their faces. Moses didn’t flinch at the mention of his name. He didn’t recognize Eliza, or he didn’t care. They moved towards her without a word, while David stood in the door and watched.

Eliza grabbed a tool from the table and took a swipe. The surgeon knife cut into Moses’s cheek, drawing a bloody line across his face. He didn’t scream, but he slapped the knife out of her hand, took her by the hip and slung her across his shoulder.

As she was lifted up, she saw what was on the tables around her. Knifes. Hooks. Hammers. Notes, full of scribbles and arcane symbols. Cups and vials. Some devices that Eliza didn’t recognize. There was a giant pentagram in the middle of the room, and a bloody chair on top of it.

She decided to scream, too late. Moses set her on the ground and put a strong hand over her mouth, while others held her firm. David stepped closer as she squirmed.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt you. Pain will be part of the process, but it will be brief, and then you will be free. Like the others.” He smiled. “They will all be free, but you will be one of the first.”

They strapped her to the chair. They gagged her. The slaves lined up to oversee the process. And as David Tapper moved in with his tools, Eliza looked at Moses, then closed her eyes and waited to finally be with her husband again. huh. that works better on a re-read; lots of infelicities in the language, but it actually wasn't a protagonist kill and you have some good clear motivations and a protagonist that acts, plus a nicely twisty premise (though it's verrry Hammer Horror.i can p much see vincent price leering at me in a moderately expensive suit


Erogenous Beef

Liking the jutjawed Canadian cop but then wtf spooky magic you could have got to satan quicker, he gets all the best tunes
Scattered, Smothered

Deputy Earl’s i wonder why i thought he was canadian (possibly was drunk) cruiser spun out and burrowed into a snowbank down the side of Route Six, and the perp’s taillights vanished into the blizzard. He swore and clambered up to the road. Knee-high snow buried both asphalt and shoulder.

Back down in his car, his radio burped up static and died. Earl swore on the one hand i want to know what he actually said for the character and the specificity, on the other hand it would slow things down and written swearing is never that interesting. and smacked it. The sheriff would be pissed, but Earl cared less about losing his job than admitting he’d lost his edge. Since his wife’s suicide, he’d caught little more than shoplifters.

A familiar V8 thundered up the road; only Earl’s brother-in-law owned a truck that loud. He leapt in front of it, waving. A row of lights brighter than heaven itself blazed through the blowing snow and the truck stopped short, its bumper inches from Earl’s chest. Jake stuck his Ford-capped head out the window. “I oughta run you down, you fuckin’ wife-murderer.”

Earl swung himself onto a running board and yanked on the door. “I’m commandeering your truck, so open this door.”

“Devil gotta commandeer my soul before I let you in, Earl.”

Earl unbuttoned his holster.

“You gonna shoot me, same way you shot Mary?”

“So help me God, Jake, I’ll have your truck impounded before the sun’s up.”

Jake’s mustache twitched and he unlocked the doors. “You ride, but nobody but me gets to drive her. Where to, Mister Deputy, sir?”

“Towards the old Waffle House.” good dialogue yes

The truck blasted through the snow and Earl scanned the road, searching for tire tracks - struggling to divine where the perp had gone, but the blizzard erased the road’s secrets. yikes, how sesquipedilian! Jake stared straight ahead, his jaw set hard. Neither man spoke.

The last time Earl’d been in this truck was two years ago. Despite the winter, the cabin wasn’t half as frigid back then. It’d been Earl’s bachelor party, Jake was his best man, and the two feet of seat-leather between them was occupied by more silicone than a Chinese phone factory. this is a super terrible simile mbrother also silicone != silicon Today, bitter silence slouched in that same space, draping its arms around the two men like a drunk being carried home. On its lap reclined the ghost of a dead girl. oo that's better

Eleven golden squares shone through the snowfall and the truck pulled up beside a squat Waffle House. Bright light bloomed through fogged windows, ice gleamed on clean bricks, and swamp bracken huddled close around the hut.

Earl’d passed this place daily for months and, every time, plywood had blockaded the storefront. Jake beat out Dixie on the wheel with flopsweat dripping down his nose. what? flopsweat is when you're embarassed about loving something up...?

Earl swung the door open. “You stay here.”

Jake shut off the truck. “I ain’t freezing my stones off waiting for you.”

Inside, hell-hot air blasted their faces. The place reeked of fry oil and burnt coffee, and a barstool-pocked counter ran the length of the room, unattended. The door slammed shut behind them and the restaurant was momentarily silent as death, then muzak blared and ice broadsided the windows.

A teenager with coiffed hair and a scrubbed-clean face emerged from the kitchen. He wore a pressed blue shirt with the Waffle House logo on the breast and, when he spoke, his stentorian voice rattled the room, more befitting a king than a kid. “What can I get for you?”these two paras are great

Jake hunched over the counter without glancing at the boy and mumbled, “Joe.”

The kid nodded. “Deputy?”

“Need to ask you a few questions, son.”

“Why don’t you come around back after I fix Mister Jake’s order?”

Earl stepped through the swinging doors to the still, silent kitchen; even the lunchroom muzak was muted. The pans were hung up, the fryers were cold. Out front, the kid set a steaming mug next to Jake, exchanged a few smiling words and shook Jake’s hand, then entered the kitchen. you pay that off really nicely later A whiff of bad egg heh rankled Earl’s nose and, as the doors swung shut, the teenager crossed his arms and glared. “What do you want, Earl?”

“Don’t talk to me like that, boy. That’s an order.”

“I don’t take orders from murderers, especially a coward who shoves a pistol in his wife’s hand and pulls the trigger himself.”

Earl took a step back, speechless.

The light in the kitchen faded, and, in the gloom, the teenager’s smiling eyes shone. “You know I’m right, Earl, down in your heart of hearts.” i don’t quite know why the entrance of the devil into the story feels so incongruous here, but it does.

Earl turned on his heels and pushed the kitchen door. It didn’t budge. He threw his shoulder against it and bounced off; the door was solid as a wall. He turned back to the kid. “Who the gently caress are you?”

“I’m your best friend.” The teenager slid an arm around Earl’s shoulder, eased him further into the kitchen. “Anything you want, old boy, name it. A drink?” The teenager drew a bottle out from behind his back. “Wild Turkey, your favorite.” aw, okay maybe i was too harsh first time round though your foreshadowing is clunky it's there, and this is a neat scene

Earl backed away. “I don’t want a drop of that poo poo!”

The kid nodded to the lunchroom. “You want me to fix it so Jake’ll come ‘round for cards again?”

Earl grunted. It’d take an act of God to make Jake forgive him.

“Oh, we can leave him out of this.” The kid sighed. “Maybe you want Mary back?”

“No!” He never would’ve married that bitch if her pa hadn’t put a shotgun to his head.

“Of course not. Who likes lying down in their own bed and smelling moonshine from some halfwit she’d banged? Or the kaleidoscope ew, no of Axe and aftershave on her neck when she’d give you a welcome-home kiss. Miracle you didn’t shoot her sooner.”

“You shut the hell up!”

“It’s not your fault, Earl. That’s what you want to hear, right? Once you worked up the nerve to ask for a divorce, she threatened to tell everyone about her special friends. Single or no, how could you look anyone in the eye if they knew she’d sucked a hundred cocks behind your back?”

Earl closed his eyes and breathed deep. He saw it again: Hot words in the kitchen, she’d recited every pothole in the road of his life and then they’d smashed every framed picture in the house in a hurricane of threats and punches. He’d kicked down the bedroom door, and she’d waited with a lamp in her hands, swung at his head when he came in.

The kid tapped him on the shoulder and he opened his eyes. He was there, in the old house, in the wrecked bedroom. Mary stood frozen, lamp in hands, just as she had that day.

The kid stood beside them. “This is it, right? In thirty seconds, you’ll throw her on the bed, put the gun in her hand and force her to pull the trigger.”

Earl willed his arm to move, but something held him still.

“Oh, did you want a second chance, Earl? It’ll cost you.”

“Who the devil are you?” He was going mad, seeing things.

The Devil smiled. “You’re not crazy, Earl. You’re just a hard-working man trying to get your due in a cold world. What kinda life would you’ve had if it weren’t for that harpy?”

“A better one!” The words fell from his mouth before he could think. “I would’ve been someone.” Rich, maybe; important, certainly.

“Men would’ve taken their hat off to you as you walked down the street.” The Devil sighed. “But some things just wouldn’t get out of your way.”

“That’s why I shot her!” He swallowed. Not that it’d made things better. One year on, he was half out of a job, friendless, almost homeless. But he could fix it…

“One more chance, Earl. A new life awaits, I promise you.”

Time resumed. Earl stumbled forward. Mary swung the lamp and it shattered on the wall. He ducked and held up his hands. “Honey! Calm down now, let’s talk—“

She threw a fist and his jaw cracked. He grabbed her shoulders and threw her on the bed. “I said calm the gently caress down!” He shook her. “Listen to me!”

“Me, me, me. It’s always me, Earl.” Mary spat in his face. “I ain’t signing nothing, and you can’t make me.”

“You will give me the respect I deserve for once in your fuckin’ life.” He drew his pistol and pressed it against her cheek.

She eyed the gun. “You ain’t got the balls, boy. That’s why you’re stuck in a dead-end job in this no-horse town. You’ve never had the balls to stand up for nothing to no-one, lest you’re waving a piece around.” She yanked the star from his uniform. “That’s why you got this, ain’t it?”

Earl shot her square between the eyes and fell face-first into the floor of a brightly-lit Waffle House kitchen, gasping for breath.

The Devil stepped forward and clapped. “Satisfied, Jake?”

In the doorway, Jake paled and pointed at Earl. “You’ll fry for this.” He turned and ran for the truck.

Earl jumped up, whipped out his gun and shot his brother-in-law. Jake toppled and blood pooled around his head.

The Devil leaned over the body. “That’s a done deal, Jake; Earl’s gonna get his due.” this is very clever

“One more time,” said Earl. “I can change it. I’ll give you anything.” i think this is actually the interesting conflict in the story and you skip over it

“That black soul of yours isn’t worth a fart in the wind.” The Devil cackled. “And I promised you a new life, didn’t I? I keep my promises. A cop in prison, Earl. Every filthy dog from Mobile to Memphis is gonna make love to your rear end.”

Earl stared down the devil and turned the pistol to his own head. riiiiiight ok. So this is a bunch of neat bits that don't quite come together; good chitchat with the bros, lots of keenly imagined word-juice for the characters, having the devil in there is terribly on the nose but he's a p drat good devil (clever double play, dude's got nice form). But the ending sort of pops like a bubble and makes it v hard to care.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk


Oxxidation: The Vigil
Phenomenally slick but I think you messed up with the cosmic horror angle, I wanted the strange in the mundane

He’d gone out to pump more gas for the generator, his lantern held out to banish the shadows of the gas station overhang, when he’d found himself at the cornfield on the edge of town. It wasn’t where he’d intended to be, but it was where he stood. Twenty acres of dead stalks, their husks bent double from the weight of their own desiccated leaves. The wind picked up, and the fields took notice and rattled like a curse. aw yeah that's the stuff.

He had grown up here, in this town, among the sweet corn and the marshlands and the small wet things that would leap from puddle to puddle underfoot, but now rain had gone, one more strangeness of many, and his flesh didn’t know how to cope. It cracked like a lake bed under his stubble, on his lips, in the webs of his fingers. Charlie’s bicycle lay some dozen paces to his left, and he paid it no heed; it had been tarnished and faded by the sun. slightly over elevated diction here? i will be keeping watch to see that it remains consistent The weeds had tried to claim it before they’d shriveled and died as well, leaving their remains between the spokes.

The sun, small and afraid, moved on its axis, and the shadows of the cornstalks bent toward him. He stepped back and returned to the car, placing the lit lantern on his seat before getting in.

He and Elle lived among the shotgun houses, where the streets were small and broken and the thin shadows would twist with the daylight, latticing the road. He kept his high beams on to burn the darkness away as he drove, occasionally passing the charred skeleton of a house that had kept a burner on or a hot plate running. Their house was sage-green and the windows looked out blindly. nope He carried the gascans out back, put them down beside the cellar door and the generator, and then went back around. The wood of his front porch was so dry and shrunken that the boards cried like animals.

Elle prided herself on a clean home. White moldings, cane furniture, a glass-eyed stag head on the wall. The rooms laid out like dominoes, with Charlie’s bedroom at the very back. He kept all the doors shut and had bolted and boarded the cellar door from the start. The shadows down there were so thick he thought they might leak. tidy line

Elle had made dinner, a stew from bottled water, canned beef, beans, mushrooms, noodles. They sat down and ate; they’d stopped saying grace. She was in a robe, her flesh hanging loose on her bones, scentless except for the faint tang of her tangerine hand cream.

“Edith visited today,” she said. “She drove here.”

His spoon stopped mid-clink. “That so.”

“Her car was all packed. She’s leaving town.”

“I’m surprised it took her so long.”

“She didn’t want to leave her house behind. It belonged to her grandmother’s mother. Maybe even further back than that.”

“It’s a pretty house.”

“Neil,” she said. “We might be the only ones left.”

He contemplated a spoonful of stew. this is a nice moment.

“I think Edith has the right idea.” Her voice was quiet but firm; she’d been rehearsing the words. “This might not be going on everyplace. The car’s doing fine, there’s plenty of gas, I could start packing now-”

“You’re right,” he said. “Of course you’re right. I just need a little more time.”

She’d been tensed up, leaning over her bowl. Now she sagged again. “I know. I understand.”

He pushed the bowl away, and remembered the crunch of sweet corn between his teeth.

He filled the generator. He changed the batteries on their lanterns. The night crept in, thick as silk, blotting out all the world outside. He took his place in the rocker by the front window, staring at his reflection in the glass, his face a sleepless ruin. Behind his reflection was the reflection of Elle, sitting in front of the useless TV.

It was because of the TV, and Charlie, that they’d made it through the first night. He and Elle had been watching Wheel of Fortune when they’d heard the floorboards creak, and there was Charlie peering around the doorframe, small and wide-eyed. They’d let him sit between them and fallen asleep to the gentle chatter of game shows, awash in lamplight. When they woke up most of the stations had already gone dead. The late-night news continued to play for a little while, the anchors so wide-eyed and waxy that they looked like mannequins, and that was how they’d learned about what had happened to the dark while they’d slept, that every shadow became an open mouth. shadow as metaphor to shadow as weird magic event is a jump that i think you need to either prep for better or have the surprise as a more integrated part of the story Then the rain left, and the clouds, and the stars, and the moon turned bloated and yellow and strange.

The rocking chair creaked metronomic across the floor.

Elle had gotten up. She laid her sweet-smelling hands on his shoulders and asked, “Do you want to light the candles tonight?”

“You do it.”

“You have to go in there sometime, Neil.”

“I know.”

“It wasn’t your fault.” Her fingers massaged him gently.

“It was.”

The massage stopped.

“Elle.” He stared at himself in the window. “You should leave tomorrow. Follow Edith. I’m just holding you back.”

For a long time there was silence, and the reflection of Elle’s hands dangling limp behind him. Then she started to weep. He turned in his chair and saw her shuddering there, choking back her own breath, her cheeks glistening and wet. He rose and wrapped his arms around her. Her tears soaked through his shirt.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and the delicate wings of her shoulder blades convulsed. “Just put up with me a little longer. I know we can’t stay here.”

She sniffled and nodded against his chest. They parted.

“I’ll light the candles,” she said, and walked off, wiping her face with her sleeve. She took her lantern, took a matchbook off the end table, and made her way ugh across the house, the arid wood protesting every step. you're starting to wear on my with yer high-falutin word typin' He sat back in his chair, heard Charlie’s bedroom door click open, heard it click shut, and waited.

And waited.

His mind, grown choked and slow from heat and time, snapped into life all at once, and the force of it galvanized him. He spasmed out of his chair and snatched up his lantern just before his legs took off and carried him away, and when he stood before Charlie’s bedroom door he tried to grasp the handle but his hand sweated and shuddered and he failed to turn it once, twice, three times and then he bent and slammed his shoulder against the scarred wood until it finally cracked and flew open.

They’d left the room untouched. Charlie’s bed was made, the thin blue bedspread folded under the pillow. On the squat dresser were two candles flanking his last school photo, his smile forced, his hair slicked down with water. The room was dark. The candles were unlit. An unlit lantern lay on its side. Elle was not there.

He smelled tangerines.

He didn’t know how long he stood on that threshold, or when he had taken some twine and knotted it around his lantern and Elle’s so that they both hung from his neck, but he was aware of the suffocating dark as he stepped outside, his strange pendants bobbing around him like will-o’-the-wisps. He picked up the gascans, and believed he heard the cellar doors shudder. The isle of light in which he stood grew smaller, its edges writhing. He popped the cans open.

He was not here. He was walking through the corn, his shoes caked with loam, lifting up the rich green ears with a practiced hand, nodding politely at the migrant pickers who knew he trespassed and didn’t care. Then he saw him walking in front of himself, Charlie’s small hand encased in his own as he told his son about which ears were ripe, and how they tasted, and the small insects and fungi and other things that thrived there. Then the corn grew dry and he could no longer hear the croaking of frogs or the liquid cry of the loons and he saw himself collapsed on the dusty earth and howling Charlie’s name amidst the devouring shadows of the corn. He passed it by and wondered what was this shape, this myth.

He was in Charlie’s room. The gascans were gone. He held a matchbook in his hand. He pulled the blanket off Charlie’s bed and held it close. The floor was sodden with gas. He knelt in it, felt it soak through the knees of his pants; the fumes rose, his eyes watered. Charlie’s blanket curled against his chin, dry and scentless as dust. He wrapped his arms around his hands converged, a match in one, the matchbook in the other, and struck until he saw light.

The gas caught aflame with the sound of an exhaled breath and within seconds his outline grew indistinct. Fire rushed from Charlie’s room, streamed down the stairs like liquid, crawled over the television and up the walls. It encircled the house and the cellar doors collapsed almost at once under their heat. Other houses began to catch, and others still, and the dead grass between them, and the dried marshes, and the shivering corn. The dry earth fed itself to the flame and the sepulchral night was filled with a great crackle as the blaze spread further, further, leaping up to the gasoline-yellow moon as though it meant to ignite the sky and banish the darkness forever. some delightful word arabesques & pirouettes & what have you, but it's not sure what kind of story it wants to be. Plus protag kill x3 what is it with southern gothic



Too clumsy to foot it in a week this strong, ill-fitting closer dm

Old Growth

“This is Liza Blake, reporting,” she said. Jake, her cameraman, and Richard, the one-man sound and light crew, made sure that they recorded everything to the specs that she demanded. “Behind me lies the recently discovered remains of a colonial plantation, abandoned for who knows how many years. Today, we’ll be going in, and showing you what remains.” this is a super dull opener

She nodded to Jake, who cut the recording, before moving to replace the tape. “I’ll do the voiceover when we get back home,” Liza said. “Let’s just get some panning shots, maybe a couple interiors, then we can get out of here.” wow this is super dull too is this a thing we're doing now

Richard grinned. “Thank God for that,” he said. “This place gives me the creeps.” TELL ME MORE TELL-CAPTAIN

Jake lifted the camera up, settling its heavy weight onto his shoulder. “Oh, don’t be so superstitious. Just a bunch of empty buildings,” he said.

“Buildings with history, though,” Richard said. “And not pleasant history at that. If any place is going to have ghosts, it’d be someplace like here.”

“Enough chatter, you two,” indeed Liza said. “Let’s get this shoot done.” Her voice brooked no dissent, and soon the three were walking into the plantation proper, past crumbling walls, consumed by vegetation and moss and mold. The once-stately grounds were now being consumed by the rising tides of the swamp.

“Your contact ever say why this place was abandoned?” said Richard.

Liza shook her head and studied the surroundings with another look. “Everything looks pretty intact, too.”

“You’d think,” Jake said, “that after this long, the structures would have collapsed. But everything is still standing, despite the…”

“Decay,” Liza finished.

“Like I said,” Richard said. “The creeps.” this is ultra dreary dialogue

Liza nodded towards one of the closer standing structures. “Let’s check out inside. We’ll head to the main house last. We’ll want to get a lot of footage of the interior there.”

The three made their way ah, 'made their way', my least favourite most hated vague movement descriptor over to the structure, little more than a shack compared to the main house. Richard stepped in first, shining his lights over the interior, before Jake moved in to capture the sights. The darkness swallowed up everything beyond the light’s radius, and the day seeping in through the open doorway. The wood of the walls was seeped through with moss and mold and fungus, toadstools sprouting from every surface. you're going for a slow build creepiness but the characters are so bland and motivations so dull it's really not landing

Richard shone the light onto a bundle of cloth on the floor. “What the hell is this?” He moved closer and the bundle shifted. “Oh gently caress,” he murmured.

Shuffling emerged from the darkness and more figures began to creep from the black. i hope i don't need to tell u why this sentence is bad Liza turned to run, but a blocky figure, dressed in overalls, blocked the doorway. A massive hand slammed against the side of her head and she crumpled to the ground. AND THEN SHE KNEW NO MORE

Liza awoke in a dark room, lying on a soft mattress that threatened to swallow her completely. The fading rays of twilight pierced in through the windows, casting everything in shadow. She slid off of the bed, unbalanced and uneasy on her feet. Her head throbbed.

She moved over towards my pupils are pinpricked with hatred and staring right at you meinberg the window, growing more steady with each step. She gazed down, realizing that she was in the second floor of the main house. Torches blazed below, adding their light to the surroundings, givinging cool word did you make it yourself everything that dull, orange cast.

Figures, dressed in the same outfit as the man who assaulted her, you could probably be clunkier here but goodness me milled in the shadows, clinging to the darkness. Her eyes widened as she saw Richard and Jake in the distance, immobile on the edge of the swamp.

“Your boys done wrong,” said a voice from behind her. “They’re outsiders, and we don’t care for outsiders around here.” CLICHE VILLAINOMETER IS PINGING LIKE CRAZY CAPN

She spun to face the speaker, a man dressed in an antiquated suit, green, but stained brown around the edges. He favored cliche his right leg and used an elegantly carved cane with a silver handle to support his weight. “We don’t care for reporters either, as a general rule,” he drawled. “But we can smell the dirt on you, darling. We can smell you pure.”

Liza stumbled back a few steps, her back to the wall. “What do you want from us?”

“Well, ya see,” the man said. “Our god ain’t an angry god. Our god is a hungry god.” this is a leap, and assumes we know what sort of story we're reading already The man stepped in closer and she saw that the suit was not green. It was covered in lichen, inching up over the collar and the cuff, bleeding into his skin. “You should watch, darling.”

She caught her breath, frozen in the decision, to run or to face what was happening. She let out her breath in a shuddering sob and turned to looked out the window, gazing at the procession of brutish figures loping towards where Frank and Richard were laying. In the fire light, she caught the shine of manacles around their wrists and ankles.

“A sodomite and a Jew,” the main said. “Good sacrifice, to show our devotion to our god, and the purity of our lines.”

Frank and Richard stirred and struggled, though Liza couldn’t make out the details. The loping figures drew in tight around her two friends and she lost sight of them in the press of flesh.

“They must be made sacrament,sacred is the word i think you seek, sir of course. We wouldn’t want our god to consume such impurities unprepared, now would we,” the man said.

She pressed her palms against the glass, feeling her hope slip away as the figures pulled away. Frank and Richard lay motionless synonym, still and frozen in the flickering light of the torches, their indistinct features lost in the hazy light.

“A good night, indeed,” the man said. He stepped in closer, his cane clacking on the floor.

“Two sacrifices for our god and a fine young lady to see that our next generation is born.”

She turned to face him, searching his shadowed face for his eyes. “I’m not going to work with you, I’m going to call the police and I’m-”

He reached forward and touched Liza’s cheek. The touch was wet and warm and his hand was marked green, the skin host to who knew what kind of fungal colony. She recoiled away from that touch. She reached into her pocket and drew out her cell phone, but the man moved with a sudden speed, knocking the phone from her hand with his cane. The tip slammed down onto the cell phone with an audible crack and she pulled back further.

“Now, now darling, ain’t no one coming to rescue you. Don’t worry, though, you’ll be learning your place real soon. Everyone learns their place, because everyone has a place here,” the man said. He smiled. The smile ripped across his face, from ear to ear, and razor sharp teeth shined in the darkness.

She turned and ran. The man glided forward, his body rippling, form disgorging from itself as it seeped into the wood of the walls and floor and ceiling. Waves of motion spread outward as vine-like tendrils of the fungus reached forward to grasp at her. She pulled at the strands, and pushed herself forward. this is effective horror, though as m'man t-rex observed it's creepypasta with a lick of lichen-coloured s gothic paint, innit

She stumbled in the dark until she found stairs and sped down into the foyer of the house. She pushed open the doors as the spreading presence grew closer and closer, suffusing the air with the scent of its spores.

She emerged grr into the cold air of the night. The brutish figures ahead stared at the bodies of Frank and Richard. She couldn’t drag her gaze away. yuck Closer now, she could see their skin taking on a green hue, like the mold was pushing out from their pores. A low, keening sound echoed from the swamp and the house behind her answered the call.

The brutes turned towards her, revealing eyeless fungal masses shaped vaguely like humans this grammar is weird. They lumbered towards her, heavy steps thudding. Again, she ran, her boots squelching the mud as she dashed to the van.

The brutes swarmed around the van, but the engine revved to life and she peeled out in reverse, smashing them before the force of the van. this summer: VAN FORCE She drove out, heart thumping in her chest. A cough seized in her throat and spores splattered onto the windshield. She drove on. The road ahead lay dark and uncertain, scarred and broken by the atrocities behind her. this ending isn't terrible but there are way too many clanky clunky bits in the rest of the piece. do better, m. berg.


Great precision and detail choice, a cool narrative eye and a story that actually integrates this mystical hooha properly. HM/W

Nethilia posted:

Come Little Children

When Caleb Johnson disappeared at the start of another hot Louisiana summer, Janie Harper could tell few adults thought it mattered much, especially her papa, the mayor. I think this would work better with maybe one less concept in it, plus it's effectively a double negative - "few adults thought it mattered, and one of the ones who thought it mattered the least was her dad (who was mayor)" The Johnsons had six kids and one on the way when Caleb had gone missing; Mrs. Johnson could barely getting one sitting up before the next was on the way. nice turn of phrase “She won’t half miss the fool boy once the next comes out,” Papa had muttered during Sheriff Phelps’s visit, when he thought Janie’s ears weren’t listening. “Probably barely noticed he was gone.” I liked this one a lot more than my co-judges, but I am with them that this opener is kinda messy and cluttered; always give your first few paragraphs a couple of careful edit passes and make sure the character intro and setup has room to breathe

Folk paid no mind to Mrs. Johnson’s quiet grieving tears or the way his father had barely looked at the plain, pine coffin—empty, since it was assumed Caleb had drowned in the creek. Papa made Janie sit still the whole memorial since she was his only child, and she had to set an example of good behavior. Each time she squirmed, Papa pinched her hard enough to leave little red bruise knots under her dress; she would have cried, but that would have got her spanked later at home. There wasn’t much else after the service; the Johnsons weren’t part of much and Caleb likely would become nothing but a warning against wandering into the creek alone. rocky start aside I like the control of your rhythm and turn of phrase.

The whispers came back when Bessie Sims went missing mid-June. Grownups clucked their tongues at the sad state of affairs because Bessie was generally adverb check, hoo boy yes, passed in spades (<= not racist). this is a great example of good voice in descriptive prose - the scrutiny of the community is economically implied a good girl. Still, it was whispered, her mother’s father was Negro and Bessie a quadroon—the mere words a scandal on their lips. Mrs. Sims’s sister swept her out to New Orleans the day after the service. When Janie had asked what Papa meant when he hoped “that mullato gal’s” vacation was indefinitely extended, she got several hard swats with his thick leather belt and had to stand on the back porch—welts stinging and face hot— to think about her smart mouth before supper.

It wasn’t until Nathan Weaver—of Weaver’s General Store—went missing right after the Fourth of July that the grownup’s whispers went from gossipy and dismissive to downright frightened. Something was wrong if Nathan was missing—he had two good parents, both solid respected members of the town, and there was no reason for him to just up and leave between his house and the store. Patrols started for the first time to find the Weaver boy; Sheriff Phelps led his force with their bloodhounds through the whole town for five days before Mr. Weaver said the lack of closure yuck modernist anachronism was giving his wife nerves. The freedoms of a child’s summer were sharply ripped away after Nathan’s memorial. Parents kept close eyes and tight hands on their kids in a way that no one could remember in a generation. There was no sneaking out to snatch a breath of fresh air during long summer sermons at First Presbyterian, trips to the swimming hole, or quick scampers down to the store for ice pops—or any store anything for a week while Mrs. Weaver was taken to a facility.

By early August, right after Elsie Phelps was gone—she just didn’t come in for lunch, even when Mrs. Phelps had hollered herself hoarse trying to call her inside— you're a little overfond of the emdash, maybe something to dial back Janie was uncomfortably sick of it all. Sick of getting scrubbed down in a hot bath; of having her hair twisted up in rag rollers; of having to spend a wasted hour or more between her parents in the pew behind the family as the preacher droned on about another lamb of the Lord called away and parents got more scared. Janie’s hair was already up in the cursed rag rollers by sunset two days before the service, damp water meandering down the back of her neck as she watched her mother iron clothes and her father sip his evening bourbon. the detail here is excellent “I don’t want to go to any more services for missing folk,” she sulked, lip stuck out.

“We have to go, Janie dear.” Mama’s hands shook as she glided the iron over the neat black ribbon that had been sewn to the bottom hem of Janie’s second best church dress.

“We don’t even know they’re really gone. No one’s been found.”

“Children don’t just leave home,” Papa took another swig of his bourbon. “Sheriff Phelps and I are close friends, and it wouldn’t be proper for the whole family not to all be there.” There was a tension in Papa’s voice that had been there since Nathan’s loss. Janie’s mine flickered to hearing Papa tell Mr. Weaver that good children like Nathan weren’t like Bessie and Caleb and she caught her tongue in time.

“It’s just a funny summer,” Mama said, turning the dress over, “especially with so many sweet children gone.”

“It’s funny,” Janie muttered, “that no one did anything to try to find anyone until Nathan, since his daddy matters to folk round here more than Mrs. Simms or the Johnsons.” authorial voice a litttttle too apparent here, maybe find a way to put it in more kid-like terms - you've made the point about the hierarchy of social importance several times, and better As soon as the words were out, Janie clapped her hands over her mouth, eyes darting towards her father. Papa’s eyes thinned, and he set his drink down and started to unhook his belt. Janie sobbed once.

“Eugene, please—” Mama said tightly. “It isn’t easy for a girl of nine to spend her summer in and out of funeral services. She didn’t mean it—she’s just a child—”

Papa gave Momma a look that made her eyes slide down, then motioned for Janie to come to him. Janie swallowed her sobs, even when Papa snatched her across his knee and yanked her underpants down. She tried not to yelp as the first sting of his belt smacked across her bare bottom, but she couldn’t fight it at any of the others. As she was hiccupping and pulling her underpants back up Papa told her, like usual, to stand on the back porch to think about her smart mouth and sassback. Backside against the wood, Janie Louise, right next to the kitchen door—and if she moved even an inch there’d be fresh swats to go with the six still stinging her backside.

Janie pressed against the wood as soon as she was outside, fighting pained tears and trying not to think about the stinging red welts. Even if the licks had broken the skin, they would go down in time for the funeral. Papa was too good at knowing how hard to hit so it didn’t show much. you're conflating butt-paddling and surreptitious abuse in a way that rings a little anachronistic - wasn't beating the crap out of your children an openly-accepted SOP back in the 50's or w/e? kids were still being beaten in school in the mid 80s in NZ and I can't imagine the south was that much more enlightened about such?

The pain was ebbing when Janie saw a flicker of a shadow sliding through the trees, and heard a haunting song that made her chest tighten. Moments later there was another flicker, this time followed by a boy’s laugh. It was Caleb, his voice light like all the cares in the world were gone. Another flicker; another haunting note—and then Bessie Sims burst forward from the trees, her arms around Elsie Phelps’s waist and both girls giggling. You’re It, Elsie!” Bessie squealed, like she hadn’t been missing for over a month.

Janie didn’t catch herself before she was halfway down the back stairs, mouth agape. “Bessie! Bessie Sims!” she hissed once she was close enough.

Elsie’s eyes went wide as she and Bessie turned to face her. “Janie? You see us?”

“Yes—and I heard Caleb too so he might as well show himself!”

There was a rustle before Caleb and Nathan both stepped out from behind a tree. “You too, Nathan?” Janie whispered, and Nathan nodded meekly. “Where y’all been? Everyone’s been half locked up this summer cause of y’all disappearing. Folk think y’all dead! They even held services for everyone—except you Elsie, cause you’ve only been missing three days, but service is in two and—just, where in God’s name...?” this is neato, the way it just slides into magic; it's something that many people tried this week and this is one of the ones I think managed it most adroitly, because you've already grounded us so exactly in the real we trust you when you take us into stranger stuff.

Bessie tugged her own tight curls. “We went with her.”


Before Bessie answered Janie saw a cloaked figure, sliding among the trees I think I like that it's so unexplained (though with obvious pied piper echoes), but I probably wouldn't give you the benefit of the doubt if I hadn't liked the rest of the story —and the haunting notes again, so thrumming that Janie couldn’t ask more about it as her heart pounded. “But why? Why run away?”

Caleb dug his bare foot into the dirt. “Daddy can feed the others more if I’m gone.” He took Bessie’s hand, and she squeezed up to him.

“But Nathan, your daddy runs the store, and Elsie, your daddy’s—”

Elsie squirmed in the dim twilight, and mumbled faintly about family that came over too often, shared her room, and made touches that her parents ignored; something was not quite steady in her eyes as Nathan put his arm around her shoulder.

“It’s really better with her, Janie.” Bessie blinked. “You’ll like it, promise.”

“Going missing like this makes grownups scared,” Janie whispered, even as her heart began to beat to the music.

“Grownups should be scared when they do children wrong,” Nathan looked at the gliding shadow, his eyes alight. “There’s a reason you want to go. It’s the same for all of us.”

Janie bit her bottom lip nervously, watching the others start to follow.

“Janie!” Papa’s sharp voice cut through the muggy summer air. “Did you move off this here porch?” Janie’s spine stiffened and the welts on her legs stung reflexively.

Nathan stepped forward and touched his finger to Janie’s nose. “C’mon, Janie.” He smiled in a way she couldn’t remember from before he left, and he turned and bounded towards the twilight. “You can be It.”

Janie took a look at the back porch, staring at the silhouette in the back door’s light and the belt in its fist. implicit depersonisation is nice and subtle; he's basically the apparatus of kid oppression innit Then she took off running after Nathan, and Papa’s angry yells faded as her friends’ laughter grew louder. aw yeah. I like this a lot

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 07:30 on Sep 1, 2014

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

crabrock posted:

Thank god someone can finally write an opening sentence. And hey what do you know some excellently well-chosen and precisely ordered words to go with it. W

A Castle if She's Willing

I wouldn’t call Oakgrove a ghost town, all the ghosts left to haunt elsewhere. a slick and tight opener It is always dusk in the town square; every run-down estate the same shades of grey and blue. All the trees weep, not just the willows. The people will come back. They’ll realize the past is the past, a blood stain can’t rise from the floor and kill you. These houses have so much potential, it’s a shame to let a little disagreement ruin a whole town forever. I like this opener a lot, but it's a lot of thoughts that don't quite fit together.

Growing up, I planned to raise my family here. And I still do. I don’t care that there is nobody else around for as far as I can scream. I sunk every last cent I had to buy my family’s property back from the bank. Quit my job at the factory up river and threw away my respirator and gloves. We will start from scratch, my wife and I. I will have a dozen children, and each of them will have a dozen more. We will work the fields and die young, but we will have rescued our legacy. economical goal setting for the character, important when there's no real action in the story

I've done all I can do up to here, now I need a bit of help from my mother. She never approved of anything I did, only looked up from her knitting to tell me what a failure I had been. But all of my brothers are dead, and if she wants to see this house filled with a gross of her kin, good line she will relent and restore our lands and wealth. She may be more amicable now that she’s dead.

I push my toes lightly into the porch to keep the rocking chair in motion. The wood is so warped and replete hm nope with jutting knots that as soon as I stop pushing, the chair grinds to a halt. Just like everything else in this town. I keep pushing, sending little squeaks out into the sadness. The constant motion is soothing, especially now that I can’t move much with this iron ball and chain attached to my leg. great wtf drop

Greay e or a make up your mind, greedy guts columns rise from the rotting porch. What The little paint that is left is peeling like the bark from a tree infested with beetles. nice image I look out to the tree in the front yard. Planted by one of my forefathers, it is now large enough to cast a shadow over the whole house. Blue glass bottles hang from the branches, filled with milky-white liquid, scattering the light of the setting sun. They twinkle and sway, and they dapple good word the house with little blue smudges of light. so you're setting up a regular drip of what the hells that you're going to knock down, which provides the momentum that takes the place of any actual action

The squeaks come more rapidly now and are joined by my groans. Nasty, horrible groans. My muscles tense and I hold the bottle tight in one hand, and the rocking chair arm with the other to balance myself as I release and fill another bottle. The chair comes to a standstill.

I use my hands to funnel a handful of rusty soil into the bottle, and cork it. I tie a string around the neck, and set it next to the others. Tomorrow, before the sun comes out, I’ll carry them out to the tree and swing them into the branches. I stand, pull up my fly and head into the house.

I step around pots on the floor that collect tears from the perforated roof. It was a sad day, and many of the pots are more than half full. Between the pots are lit candles, and in the center of the room a large moonshine jug that holds my dreams. Every night, after I finish filling bottles, I come into the house and pray to my mother’s spirit to lift the curse on our land.

After a night of prayer and fitful sleep, I add six new bottles to our family tree. After, I head out to the charred remains of the fields and work the plow. Nothing grows but ash and charcoal. They gray skies atease rain, dude is transcending language here but only tears come down. The trees rustle with a gust of wind, and I hurry back to the house before the Earth sobs. I wipe what tears land on my cheek away with my sleeve. I do not like the acrid taste.

I sit in my rocking chair and fill two more bottles, looking out to the horizon where I can just make out the stacks of the factory. They spew out more sadness, adding to the pall that darken Oakgrove. I think about my fiance in her apartment. I forbid her from joining me out here. This is a man’s responsibility, and a man’s work. I will not leave until I’ve restored this land and made it whole again. That’s why I chained myself to this ball and threw the key over the hedge. If I can’t grow peanuts by the time my canned food runs out, I will starve. Of course, I didn’t tell her about that part, just to come meet me in six months. there is a strange loopy integrity to the pile of images you're building up here, which is why you're getting away with the fact that it's only just a story

I hope she finds me enjoying peanuts, and not in Hell with my mother.

The Earth’s tantrum subsides, and I head back out into the field. My plow is covered in soot and sludge from when I dropped it in the char. I plow another row of the field, and retrace my steps, dropping seeds into the trench. I’ve tried fresh seeds, old seeds, plants that I got to sprout in pots on the front porch. Everything that touches this dirt dies. My only recourse now is to keep putting the seeds in the ground, and when the curse has been lifted, they will grow. It’s backbreaking work with heartbreaking results. That’s why I keep my hopes and dreams in a bottle. I don't dare bring them out to the field with me, where they will be polluted and eventually smothered.

So I don’t think, don’t hope, don’t fantasize in the field. I only work. I toil without reward, and no respite in my future. I can’t stop if I want the curse to end. I feel the stares of a thousand judging souls, heaped upon my back along with the plow: “Work until you can’t work no more. Till that land two-hundred spring’s worth. Drag that iron ball til your ankle bleeds and push that plow until your hands blister. Pray to the spirits for forgiveness, beg your mother for your pardon."

And so I work. To what end I am not sure, but knee deep in black grime, I look toward my house and imagine it a castle. aww whammo. as you likely know I love this sort of deep metaphor poo poo, but drat if you don't pull it off; almost nothing happens, as such, but questions are asked and answered and the quality of the prose maintains the equipoise between what is stated and what is implied.


Noah: drat son, that’s p fine. The slow-building energy of his yankee insanity is cluttered by a bit too much incident, clunky writering and some poorly chosen details, but dang if it doesn’t land a great punch.

Noah posted:

What Comes Next

Twenty miles out from Edisto Island and Adrian Wilson, a northerner, was already fearing the worst. Listing the situational elements in his head: a flat tire, a decrepit auto garage, and a fading sun, Adrian saw the gruesome fates of him and his friends in the near future. He shook from the uppers he was still on from the cross country road trip, feeling responsible for falling for such a simple pitfall. this is a thrumming Harley of an opening para. holy poo poo wtf is gonna happen next, im askin myself

“I don’t think any of you understand what’s going on right now,” Adrian said. Behind him, his best friend Sam surveyed the map, while Allison and her boyfriend Daniel had a quiet but forceful argument about the fate of their missing spare donut. I think you could have filtered this more through his perceptions; dramatic irony is gonna do the work for you, you don't need to help it along by soft pedalling their IDIOTIC DISREGARD FOR THE HORRIBLE DANGER THEY ARE IN

He stood on a two lane road with no lines and crumbling from erosion, holding the insidious trap—a rusty nail. On one side of the road was the tall grass and reeds waving in the wind, weeping willows dotting the horizon above them. On the other, a darkened auto garage, with a red ‘open’ sign still visible through the dingy glass. nice details

The situation wasn’t impossible, so long as he was one step ahead, Adrian thought. Distracted by the visions of horrors to come, and his heroic response, he barely heard a distant conversation over the cacophony of cicadas and crickets. Sam had finished looking at the map and had gone up to the dimly lit shopfront, and had engaged in conversation with a clerk. clumsy

Adrian hurried to the pair, “Jesus Christ Sam!”

Sam and the mechanic turned in alarm.

“As I was saying, we ain’t got any tires, but I can patch and pump the sucker, and I gotta make sure there ain’t any sidewall damage, but I can probably have you on the road by sundown,” the mechanic said through yellowed teeth. Adrian couldn’t believe his eyes as his premonitions coalesced into reality.

“Yeah I don’t loving think so, bub, I’ve got Triple A.”

The mechanic nodded sagely as Adrian pulled out his cell phone. Within minutes of being on hold, Adrian had thanked the service representative profusely and said he absolutely looked forward to being helped as soon as possible by the nearest tow operator. also clumsy.give Adrian a (deranged) plan and have him start executing it like you do later

Adrian slipped the phone into his pocket and smirked. A faint, familiar ring of a landline came from beyond the shop front door. A phone started ringing inside the office.

“You’ll have to excuse me,” the mechanic said. He shot a quick wink Allison’s way and went to answer the phone. Adrian’s face sank and he watched the mechanic walk unhurried into the shop, tap on the window pane emblazoned so obviously with a Triple A vendor sticker, and casually jaw on the phone.

“You just bought me two billable hours, son,” the mechanic said. “You might wanna have a seat and sit a spell.” I thought he was in the shop?

Adrian’s sweat had his shirt sticking in all the wrong places, nice and he could hear his voice getting more shrill.

“That’s loving bullshit.” Before Adrian could continue shouting Daniel put himself in between the two and was pushing Adrian back.

“Dude what the hell are you doing, calm down,” Daniel said. Weaving his head, Adrian could see the mechanic walking away, and Sam expectedly following him. Distilled panic gripped Adrian’s core what is he a nuclear reactor (actually he kind of is) but clarify your metaphors, you've bought yourself some space to be quite purple so use it as he imagined the mechanic smothering Sam with a fuel soaked rag just out of sight.

“Are you listening to me?” Daniel said.

“Don’t go anywhere with that loving hillbilly,” Adrian shouted, pushing past Daniel. Sam turned again, giving Adrian an open mouthed look.

“What the gently caress is wrong with you,” Daniel said.

”Don’t split up, don’t go out of sight, how many times do I have to say this?” Adrian shouted to no one and everyone.

“Aww hell, I seen that look before, you better get your friend under control before I have to call the police,” the mechanic said. Adrian’s shouting caught in his throat as the situation started spiraling out of control.

“Oh please, we’re so sorry,” Allison said, finally coming up weak onto the gravel front of the auto garage. The shuffling of all five of them in the rocks overpowered the cicadas’ song.

“Sam do not let him get inside that door,” Adrian said. His eyes furiously scanned for the optimal route around his friends, internal calculations making his head hurt.

“You god drat meth heads get the hell off my property,” the mechanic said and turned for the door. Adrian lunged through the gravel, trying to find footing but his legs felt strangely numb and soaked with sweat. Allison grabbed the back of his shirt, holding him long enough for the mechanic to rush inside and lock the glass door behind him.

“Oh god, it’s all loving over now,” Adrian began chanting. He knew as soon as the police showed up, a relative of the mechanic no doubt, even probably an off-911 call, they were in for it. No one would see them again, he had to think, think, think. He ran to the car, swinging the driver door open, reaching to turn it on but the keys were missing. He sprinted again into the open garage, slamming through tools and wall racks.

“What the hell, what the hell,” Allison repeated.

By the time the police car had rolled up to the garage, Adrian had overturned several tool boxes, producing a jack and a tire iron, and had successfully wrenched off the flat tire. He was in the middle of trying to apply a tire patch with arms that shook like branches in a storm, that he didn’t notice the officer carefully step closer to him.

“Son, put the tire iron down and lie face down on the ground,” the officer said. It was too late, Adrian thought. Frozen in place, he eyed the deputy, who had one hand in front of him, and one hand reaching for his pistol. Between split vinyl blinds, the mechanic watched the scene from behind dirty glass windows.

He couldn’t let the deputy get his gun out, it would be all over. One by one the deputy would cuff them, and drive them on a dirt road, between the willows and grass, and to some decaying shack where no one would hear them above the cicadas. But so long as the deputy didn’t get his gun out, Adrian still had a chance.

With only one recourse, he threw the tire iron at the deputy, who instinctively braced and flinched. Throwing his hands to his gun, he unclipped deftly and began sliding it out of the holster this is a strangely prolonged set of actions, unless you're implying that time is slowed down coz Adrian is high as balls when Adrian collided with him, sending them both to the ground. Adrian clawed at the deputy’s face with one hand, and the other went for the gun, knocking it into the chalky rocks.

They rolled together, trying to separate simultaneously that they still tangled on each other wut. With youthful flexibility, Adrian pulled his knee to his chest and pushed off against the deputy, sending the man backwards, and propelling himself along the ground. Adrian and the officer popped up in the same instant, with Adrian firmly grasping the pistol in two hands.

The mechanic ran out of the shopfront with a rifle leveled at the young man.

“You don’t know what you’re doing, put the gun down,” the deputy said. “Just put the gun down, slowly.”

Adrian swung back and forth between the deputy and the mechanic. The deputy held his hand out to the mechanic.

“Easy, easyyy, son.”

Coming up behind him, Allison placed her hands on Adrian’s shoulder, “Please put the gun down.”

Adrian seized up startled and jerked his face.

“Don’t loving touch me!”

When Adrian turned his head, the deputy lunged, his boots sinking into the gravel, the rocks scraping sharply. Adrian felt suffocated, the shock of it causing him to fire upon the charging officer. The deputy made a gurgling sound and crashed into the loose stones, landing on his side, heading pointing towards the group.

The mechanic squeezed the trigger, missing completely. Adrian whirled on the ashen man, exploding his chest with another revolver blast. The cicadas were silent in the moments after the exchange, but even before the dust could settle they had struck up their song again. The deputy’s boot sank to the side, limply producing the familiar sound of gravel shifting.

Adrian’s breathed WUT in short, gasping spurts. After several eternal seconds, his arms began shaking so violently that he could no longer hold the pistol at chest level. Letting his hands fall, he paced between the two bodies. In his mind he had replayed the scenario over and over in his head, no two instances ever ended the same, and he realized that he never got past this climactic moment.

He would have to move fast, right, very fast, he thought. There might be relatives?

Coworkers? An entire posse? He could drag the bodies into the garage pit, that would hide them from passerbys easily enough. Then he could put the police cruiser into neutral and push it into the tall grass and reeds off the side of the road. Scrambling to the mechanic, he tried to put his hands under the armpits. Pushing back into the ground, the mechanic’s body was much heavier than he anticipated and his feet slipped. That was okay, he thought, I’m not alone. I just need Daniel’s help. He looked up at them, standing close together by the sedan. Standing there, unmoving.

Adrian stood, gun still in hand, shaking violently. Rigid as statues, they gaped at him.

“Help me! Why won’t any of you loving help me?” HAHAHA that's such a great closing line. I liked this story a lot, though it could have done with a much more careful editing pass; but strong, crazy stuff.


Grizzled Patriarch: Slick, well-controlled horror; basically grown up Goosebumps, though, innit?

Grizzled Patriarch posted:

Cobwebs (989 words) title is v ehh

It was probably some animal that crawled up in the walls and died. A possum or rat looking for a cool place. Baker hoped so, anyway. Once he’d been called out to a home where the owner had passed in her sleep and nobody noticed for almost two weeks, until the smell got bad enough. and rather a dull opener, though I guess that's the motivating incident

Baker rapped his knuckles on the screen door. “Miss Harper?” A little river of sweat was already trickling down the small of his back. He tugged at his shirttail and glanced around the porch. It was bare except for a lawn chair leaning in the corner. Spiders had woven a tangle of webs between the rusted legs.

He was getting ready to knock again when the knob turned. An old woman stood in the shadow of the doorway, out of the blinding sun.

“May Harper?” should have given her a cool foreshadowing name like ARACHNETTA MCLOLTH, QUEEN OF THE SPIDERS

The woman nodded, but didn’t say anything.

“My name’s Ernie Baker.” He pointed to the badge on his belt. “I’m with the Cobb County Police Department. We received a call about a strong odor coming from your property.”

Miss Harper scrunched her eyebrows. “A odor?”

“Yes ma’am. Do you mind if I take a quick look around? Maybe see if an animal got itself trapped in the attic, something like that?”

Miss Harper licked her lips and glanced over her shoulder. “Ain’t got an attic.”

“Just a few minutes ma’am, I promise.”

“Alright, just a few then. I was about to make myself a glass of tea. I could fix a little extra, if you’d like.”

Baker grinned. “That sounds perfect.”

The smell greeted him right away, stale and musty with a sharp stink like spoiled meat. It smelled like an animal’s den. A forest of useless pine-tree air fresheners and flypaper strips dangled from the ceiling. Every corner was thatched with enormous cobwebs. Here and there a roach scuttled away from the light. this is telegraphing pretty heavily where you're going, so I hope you've got some surprises planned

Miss Harper passed through the front room into the kitchen. Baker pulled a chair and sat, watching her rummage in the cupboard for a pair of glasses. She looked fragile, shrunken inside her oversized sundress. She sat the glasses on the counter, then paused for a moment to peer at a strip of flypaper hanging over the kitchen window.

Baker squinted. He saw Miss Harper pluck something off of the flypaper and slip it into her mouth. beep beep ba beep boop beep telegraph coming through beep old lady is evil spider monster stop guy is doomed stop He leaned back in his chair, feeling suddenly lightheaded, a bit drunk. A moment later Miss Harper set the tea down in front of him.

“I hope you like yours sweet,” she said.

He looked at the glass. Little flecks of dust bobbed on the surface.

“Actually, do you mind if I use your restroom real quick?”

Miss Harper gestured down the hallway. “First door on your right.” When she smiled, the makeup around her lips cracked and spalled away like rust. nice image


Baker leaned against the sink and daubed at his cheeks with wet tissue paper. Black spots floated across his vision. It was the damned heat, or the smell. Maybe both. For a second he considered just calling it a day and letting animal control deal with it.

Something underneath the sink caught his eye and he squatted down for a better look, knee joints clicking in protest. He turned the piece of metal over in his fingers. A nametag in the shape of a cartoon bone. It said “Maxie.” The tag was looped around a ragged scrap of nylon, and a bright, deep gouge shined across the front of it. Baker stood and laid the nametag on the edge of the sink. see, all your words are very solid in this; it's just there's an annoying lack of imagination in the backroom.

When he returned, his glass of tea was still sweating on the table, but Miss Harper was gone.


There was a loud thump in the hallway. He spun around and glimpsed the pale soles of Miss Harper’s feet disappearing around the corner, as if she were crawling along on her belly. Baker’s hand moved to his belt, fingers popping the button-snap on his holster.

The door at the end of the hallway was ajar. He nudged it open with the barrel of his pistol and peered down into the dim basement. Wooden stairs groaned warnings with each step he took. The stink was growing worse, so thick now that he could taste it.

Sunlight filtered in through a foot-long window, illuminating the snarl of webbing that blanketed every surface, each strand of it as thick as twine. Fibrous sacs hung along one wall—gobbets of bone, feathers, fur. One of the shapes was larger. Baker edged just close enough to make out the shape of a dog, its brittle hide drained and sunken. He remembered the nametag. “Maxie.” BBBBUT THAT MEANS THAT OLD WOMAN IS.... SOMETHING.........sinister......

Something made a faint, wet sound to his left. Baker leveled his pistol in its direction, then felt his arms go limp. “Jesus Christ Almighty,” he whispered.

A man sat against one of the support beams, pinioned to it with ropes of webbing. Baker knelt next to him. His skin was pale, a tracery of bluish-green veins splayed out across his cheeks like lines on a road map. Froth bubbled on his lips and from his nostrils. His eyes quavered, unblinking, tears welling up at the corners.

The man’s stomach bulged, flesh stretched tight as a drum. Something roiled inside, dark shapes that slid just beneath the surface.

There was another sound, then. Skittering in the rafters. Baker felt a pinch between his shoulder blades. He took a step forward, a syrupy, venomous warmth already spreading through his arms and into his fingertips. His grip loosened and the pistol landed in the dirt beside his boot. He slumped against the support beam and turned to see the thing drop from the rafters, trailing filament like a marionette.

In the corner, Miss Harper was unfolding. yeeeeeeeup. I wanted you to tweak one of the clichés here; cf meinberg, who had his protag get away but be infected. 'guy goes to creepy house, sees creepy things, gets killed' isn't really a story. but no real criticisms of the writing so that's good isn't it


Kaishai: True life ghost story with your usual exacting precision. HM

Kaishai posted:

Still Water

(782 words)

Jefferson parked at the end of the gravel drive where no other car could pass him, but no other car would be coming this way. this is a nice way to do metaphor, where it's completely mundane but has a vibration of something more significant His kin would be at the cafeteria for hours, remembering the dearly departed over potatoes and cornbread. He slid out of his truck and slammed the door. The bugs kept on singing as though it were normal for him to be there.

Four days ago, Mary Mae Hodges had died. Three days ago, Jefferson had learned from her son that the old lady had cut her land into parcels and given them all to her children, except for one, and she'd reserved that one for the grandnephew she'd blamed and despised.

"Why?" Jefferson had asked over the phone.

"Mama could be a bitch," his cousin Jace had said. "Bless her heart." it took until my second read to realise how splendidly horrible this was, btw

The dusty pebbles of the path crunched under his boots. He took a swig of his bottled lemonade. Sweat greased his face, and it didn't have a drat thing to do with the heat that wrapped him up in damp and suffocating arms. Past the farmhouse, past the vegetable garden withering from neglect, half a mile deep into the fields, he saw the crown of a tree sticking up five feet from the ground. It had grown. Imagine that: the place wasn't just the same as it had been thirty years before. nice, economical voice here He waded through the weeds strangling the trail to the piece of land he now owned.

The gravel pit.

It cut deep into the ground, and the tree growing from the edge of its swampy bottom stood three times his adult height; the dead leaves of years had made dark tea of the water. Rubble and grit covered the slope leading down. Noon sun blanched the jagged walls full of pockmarks and protrusions. Mica chips buried in the stone threw the light back with brilliant cruelty.

All of it--Jefferson remembered all of it, and he knew he'd been wrong, and nothing important had changed except that he'd come down alone. Nicole wasn't waiting for him under the tree. Nicole wasn't floating in the pool.

"Ought to be deep enough," she had said. "You ready?"

"You sure you're up to it, Nic?"

The water had crawled a long way from the old shoreline. Kneeling, Jefferson trawled the muck with his hand for tadpoles. Only slime came up, rotten grass that smelled like death. He listened for frogs, but the air had gone silent.

"I'm sure I'm less of a chickenshit than my little brother!"

"How 'bout you prove it? And I'll prove I'm a gentleman."

Up high on one wall, Nicole had once carved her name with stolen garden shears. The N had crumbled, but the rest had survived time and weather. Jefferson hunted for a piece of native chalk and climbed up to rewrite her mark. But once he'd done it, he swiped at the uneven white slashes with his hand. She should be gone and free.

The rocks under his feet shifted, and Jefferson skidded down on his belly, grit grinding into his black suit, and his right foot plonked into tea-water that was colder than it had any right to be. He scrambled up. A breeze rattled the leaves in a way that made him think of laughter.

The white N was still there.

Jefferson's foot stayed cold through the drive back to his motel. I like the impressionist restraint of the cleanly imagined details you choose to give us

His sister chased him in his dreams through rain that could have drowned the Ark, that broke the corn they ran through, that dragged shingles from the house, that filled the world. Over his shoulder he glimpsed black eyes, puffy braids, a grin. He pounded across the grass as it became mud. Then slime. Then the slippery bark of a sodden bough. The rain had swollen the pool below, but it still held the smell of decay.

"What you got in mind?" Nicole asked from behind him.

He said, "Ladies first."

He woke at a crack of thunder as heart-stopping as a breaking neck. But when he looked out the window, the night was clear. The moon lit his way back to the farm where his cousins were sleeping and back through the years, to the edge of the pit. and that is how you change a scene ladeez an gemmun

The pool whispered its lies to him. The branch hung inches above the water, closer now than it had been then. The water reflected midnight, dark and deep. It promised to wash away his sweat of fear. Mud and decomposing bark stained Jefferson's funeral clothes as he slithered his way down the tree from its crown. this sentence profits from being read out loud.

Were the wild eyes on the surface of the water his, or hers?

You ready, gentleman?

Jefferson jumped. on the one hand not very much happens, on the other it is a sly and brutal evocation of an emotional hellspace and the protag death (what is that, five deaders we're up to now?) is the full stop on the end. This wasn't my choice for winner because I liked crabrocks brainbending magic realism more, but it is a fine piece nonetheless.


Hammer Bro: Is this gonna be a thing where the demones are aktually reel. And will there be ANOTHER SPOOKY HOUSE (lol at sinister cinnabar sky) … huh. Doesn’t quite land it, and loads of clunky words (persimmon! Cinnabar! Absquatulatory!), but not as cliché as I feared. Kind of begs the question of the Evil House though doncha think.

Hammer Bro. posted:

The Peponphage (1590 words)


"Done with baseball so soon?" Jude asked.

Gabby piped up, "Hank hit it out of the field but it landed in the Pumpkin Palace so we sang to distract the demon and Aaron got it back."

"Hold your horses," Jude replied. "Demon? Pumpkin Palace?"

"That's where Lucky Pete lives, but a demon lives there too so you can't go nearby unless you sing a song to distract it," she explained.

"Pete Gosling? He's from this part of town?" Gabby nodded solemnly. Jude continued, "Which house is his?"

None of the kids responded, instead fidgeting nervously.

"Never mind, it's almost five. Time to head home." ease up on the said bookisms, chief; though they're not too egregious here, it's a bad habit to get into. I hope you aren't going to keep using them! I have ... a condition. Trust me. Just use 'said'.


After he dropped the last child off, Jude returned to Cucurbita Grove to look for Lucky Pete's house. Three months of babysitting, and he hadn't a clue that Pete hailed from hereabouts. what?

In retrospect, it was easy to see why they called it the Pumpkin Palace. The house was painted a dusty carrot, with irregularities where the walls caressed the interior. Vines meandered across the roof and intertwined about the stem of a chimney, completing the illusion.

Strange he'd never seen Pete here. In fact, he'd always assumed the old place was abandoned. But there were a lot of uninhabited buildings on this side of town, and Pete did have a reputation as a hermit.


Inesa was coming home late. The Gosling house came up on the left; she'd heard about the baseball incident from Gabby. Despite her fullest intentions, she couldn't help but sneak a glance at it.

The house stood out like a sore thumb cliche against the sinister cinnabar sky. lol Its flaky yet delicious exterior spoke of neglect and self-imposed solitude. She couldn't suppress a shudder. Why did her mother have to live in Cucurbita Grove?


Mademoiselle Guze, as she insisted Jude call her, rocked upon her chair, looking especially quaint in her white shawl and lofty hat.

"Yes, I know all about Lucky Pete," she replied. "Second son of Old Nick, that one." wait so jude knows about lucky pete enough to go looking for him but also needs to ask some lofty biddy about him?

Jude urged her to go on. Inesa glowered.

"Pete moved to this town a few years before you were born; married a local girl not long after. Thusia was her name. Lived together a few years, then one day she up and leaves town. Didn't even divorce him, just left. He holes up in his house a few months, then the fire hits." don't really care about this infodump fyi

"The lumber mill fire?" Jude offered. fff

"That's the one," Mademoiselle Guze confirmed. uuuuuu "Whole building was rocked by an explosion and engulfed in flames. Burnt mostly to the ground by the time the firemen arrived. A dozen dead, twenty injured, and Lucky Pete was just sittin' there, smack in the middle of it, fresh as a spring chicken."

She paused momentarily. "'bout a year later, he finds oil just east of the wreckage. Gets it registered with the county proper. 'round that time people started callin' him Lucky Pete. He must be rich now, though he still keeps his own company."

Jude thanked her, then followed Inesa into her house.

"You know that house bothers me," she whispered. ccccccc

"I was just curious," he explained. kkkkkkkkk She wasn't pacified. "Don't worry," he continued, "I'm satisfied now. Besides, we've got the harvest festival to start thinking about."

That got her to smile.


By this point, by what point you haven't had a point yet everyone was preparing for the festival. Dancing, drinking, music and merriment for a whole weekend. Inesa was to play fiddle with the opening band, but that wasn't for another four hours.

Jude ventured out to Cucurbita Grove and strode purposefully up to the Pumpkin Palace. He pretended to knock, then looked behind him. Nobody was watching. He hopped from the deck to the side yard. From there, he circled around to the back door. why does he care you haven't told me why he cares or why I should yet

Cautiously, adverb check fail, cut he tried the knob. It turned, but the door didn't budge. His heart began to palpitate. You won't be caught this time, he thought as he groped for his pocket knife. You've been good with the community service. Judge Minos has taken a liking to you. He slipped the blade between the crack and slid it upward. Besides, you met Inesa babysitting. That's hardly punishment. Click!

He inched the door open, crept inside, closed it quietly behind him, and waited a moment for his eyes to adjust. The place really did look abandoned.

A dust-covered newspaper lay atop the kitchen table; the sink showed no signs of moisture. He scanned the den, looking for something he could not define. The familiar urge to explore coursed through his veins like a poison. I am actually liking the pathological urbex dude coming out here, but i'm still baffled by his fascination with lucky mc luckerson

Nothing in the study, either. One more room, something whispered within him. He wandered up the stairs and looked across the hall. That one.

Jude opened the door and was overwhelmed by the smell of begonias. He blinked momentarily while he returned to his senses, and found himself kneeling in the dead center of the room, the hazy orange of sunset filtering through the curtains. All around him were cryptic scrawlings and fractal swirls. Go now! Turn left. Don't look back.

Had someone spoken? He looked around and saw an old-fashioned dress on the bed, draped across a sack of potatoes. A burlap mannequin? A scarecrow. Bundles of dried leather. A fine wig. Fingernails. Nightcrawlers? No, nothing animal.

"That's my wife," drawled ggn a voice from behind him. Jude's head snapped around to face the interloper. no, jude is the interloper, the other dude lives here

"Been married twenty years, though you couldn't tell by lookin'," Pete continued. bllrrg "Of course, she don't get out much these days."

Jude started to explain himself, then saw the shotgun.

"Why don't you come downstairs and we'll have a little chat, nice and civil-like?" Pete suggested. FHHRHSASE

Jude had no choice but to follow. Pete leveled the barrel at Jude's chest and stepped backward, gesturing onward. Jude snuck one more glance at the bed.

Across it lay a girl about his age, with chestnut brown hair and radiant golden skin. Her arms and legs were manacled, pinioned to the bed by rusty links of steel. Her eyes met his in silent sorrow; what may have started as supplication withered into resignation. He walked downstairs in a trance. well that's at least effectively weird and creepy

"Now you know why they call me Lucky Pete," the man with the gun began. AAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH "See, they don't teach you this in school, but the vows of marriage are sacred. To love and to serve, 'til death do us part." He sneered. BAM BAM BAM I JUST loving SHOT YOU "The trick is to keep 'em alive. But that ain't so hard once you have a proskartereo pump."

Part of Jude's mind was frozen. Another part of it raced fervently.

"Seein' as you was kneelin', I don't think I need to worry about you blabbin'. Ain't a word of this gonna reach nobody, that right?"

"Right," Jude responded KICKING YOUR CORPSE NOW automatically.

"Good. Now scram. Me and the missus got some communin' to do." Pete laughed, MY FEET ARE GETTING SORE a deep bellow that resonated in Jude's bones.

Jude stumbled out the door, staggered down the street, fumbled with another door. When did he get in bed?


Inesa stared at her fiddle. She hardly noticed the crowd. Did he forget? Is he hurt? Is he out sneaking again, oh god, he said he'd stop. Doesn't he care?

The evening passed in a blur. All she knew was that Jude had to explain himself. No weaseling out of it this time.

As was always the case with Jude, her resolve faltered.


"Son! Inesa is at the door!" Jude's mother shouted. STUBBED TOE THANKS A LOT

"Just a minute!" he replied, IT MIGHT BE BROKEN rubbing life into his face. His limbs were heavy. Maybe he was still tired from the festival.

The festival! Jude tossed aside his blanket and rushed downstairs to meet Inesa.

Her arms were crossed and her lip trembled. He sensed the phantom of determination in her. "Where were you last night?" she pleaded.

"Sick!" he blurted, YOU ARE HORRIBLE, EVEN IN JUSTIFIED DEATH YOU BRING ME PAIN not far from the truth. "I don't know what came over me, I just laid down to clear my head, and now it's daytime."

His mind was still racing.

"You could have at least told me; you know how important my music is to me." She still hadn't fully forgiven him, but he could see the thawing in her eyes.

"I know, and I apologize. I'm feeling worlds better, really I am. Let me make it up to you." Her stance shifted. "I promise that the next two days will be the best two days of your life."

She smiled tentatively.

"Just give me, uh, an hour to prepare, then I'll meet you at your house."

"Okay," she nodded, this time smiling from the heart. I AM ENVISAGING A LITERAL SMILE OPENING UP ABOVE HER LEFT BOOB IT IS P GROSS

After she left, Jude dashed into his room and begun tearing it apart. Two dollars under the bed, a twenty between the mattress. His father's old rifle was still in good condition, maybe that would fetch a few...


Jude hadn't lied. The next two days were the greatest, happiest, sweetest days of her life. He'd never been so openly affectionate with her, nor so considerate, holding her hand and opening doors. She didn't know what had come over him, but she liked it.

She didn't entirely believe his story about being sick, but she had forgiven him. Clearly something had changed. Maybe he finally realized how much she cared about him. Maybe he'd finally learned to express the same.

The sky was a brilliant persimmon lol again as the sun slipped behind the hills that evening, and Inesa couldn't think of another place she'd rather be, nor a different person she'd rather be with.

Jude squeezed her hand. "Inesa?"

Her heart pounded. He reached into his pocket and dropped to one knee.

"Will you marry me?" ooooookay. so your horrific abuse of saidbookisms has been correctly punished, but really what is this story actually about? I presume urbex fella is gonna imprison and black magic inesa for her luck juice or w/e, and that's fine (if creepy) but so what? why should I care?

[quote]Bromplicated: ANOTHER OLD HOUSE COOL I wonder if it’s gonna be spooky; hrm, yes and no. This is a closely shaved set of story bits that don’t quiiiite match up, but making the house into a character works rather well. Cheesy ending, though.

bromplicated posted:

House of Memories - 1,324

The old house talked to Lyle. He and it were the last ones that remembered all the bygone days. Even though everyone he knew from those days was gone, the house preserved them, kept them from being lost to time. When she was still alive, his Mom had said, “If these walls could talk,” and they really did, now that everyone else was gone.

let us learn this stuff, rather than just telling us? was a wreck: The foundation was cracked; the once white walls were now licked with rot, and its windows were covered in lichen. your punctuation is wonky here

Still a young man as far as years went, Lyle’s once fair skinned face now had the complexion of burnt toast, with icepick scars and little sores that never healed. He was rail thin with feathery black hair that had started to grey. His knobby elbows looked like doorknobs through his thin plaid shirt that lead to veiny forearms with taut, wiry muscles. He stood back from the porch, eying the house up and down. He bounced up and down on his heels and kept putting his hands in and out of his overall’s pockets. The dead house loomed over him, like it was rendered through a fish-eye lens. whose pov is this from? decide whether you're omniscient or tied to Lyle and stick to it unless you have a really good reason.

Beside him stood his family’s contractor, Barry. He was red faced, reminiscent of some species of rodent, with snow white hair encircling a bald, sunburned crown. His thumbs were pressed behind suspenders straining aside his bulbous belly. His cheeks ballooned as he puttered air out from his lips, turning his gaze to Lyle. Lyle looked to Barry like he was lost in a dream; the young man’s sad grey eyes seemed to look right through the cracks in the foundation and into the bayou and beyond. it's maybe a bit melodramatic, but you are doing a good job of laying out the telling details.

“Zoning office said you got six months to get it up to code, or they’re tearin’ it down,” said Barry. Lyle scratched his left arm through his shirt. “Don’t know what business they have doin’ that. All the way out here, it’s not an eyesore to nobody. Thing’s a piece of history.” They stood in silence for a while. The chirps and hoots of cicadas and loons crept in around them. Barry studied Lyle’s scowling face. “poo poo son, I’m sorry.” Barry put a hand on Lyle’s right shoulder, and felt him tense up, so he lifted the hand back off. good blocking “You probably got all kinds of recollections wrapped up in there--” Barry continued speaking, but Lyle wasn’t listening anymore.

He was trying to listen to the house. Beneath Barry’s speech, and the sounds of the woods, he heard it moan. The house wanted to die. It wanted to surrender to entropy, wanting to sink back into the soft green earth. He shushed through his teeth, trying to soothe the house. He wanted to tell it that he was going to fix it, heal it, make it just like it was all those years ago when things were simple.

“Young man like yourself, sure you’ve got time and energy to pour into her, but a thing like this, boy, it’ll pull you down with it. What’s gone is gone.” Lyle was still listening to the house; it had stopped moaning. “Sun’s going down. You want a ride back into town?” said Barry.

“Thank you, Barry, but, I’ll be stayin’ here.”

“This ain’t no place to be stayin’ Lyle. Shoot, I’ll put you up.”

“I’ll be staying here.” Lyle crossed his arms, straightened his back and nodded towards the house.

“Sleep? In there? You’re crazy, son. There’s black mold, poisonous spiders, all kinds of nasty poo poo in there. Place looks ready to fall down!”

“The place is my home, Barry.”

“Alright,” Barry started back towards his rust colored ‘59 Chevy pickup, “well, let me give you something before I go.” Barry pulled out a double barreled twelve-gauge and a box of shells from the truck’s bed. He unlatched the breach, peered down the barrel, then snapped it back shut. “You know that shanty town on Washington? Well, few days ago law came in, made ‘em clear out. All sorts of undesirables running around the woods now with no place to go. This’d be a real nice place for them to stay, black mold or not.”

“You don’t have to be giving me that, Barry,” Lyle said as he took the shotgun and inspected the breach himself. “Awful kind of you, though.”

“You’re a lot like your daddy was: Stubborn as all hell.” Barry got back into the truck and started it up. “I’ll be back in a few days, see what you’re up to. You take care, now.” Lyle shouldered the shotgun and nodded. this is a really nice passage of dialogue


Lyle lay on a mattress on the floor of his parent’s old bedroom. He had found some old letters written in chicken scratch handwriting by his father to his mother, and was reading them by a kerosene lamp. They were from when his father was roughnecking back in Texas. Some of the letters had black thumbprints on them. There wasn’t much to them; just his father going on about how good the money was, how they’d have enough for a house soon, how he missed her. Lyle’s eyes grew heavy and he started to drift off.

He was lying on his side, propped up on his elbow when he woke up to what he thought was the house talking to him, but it was someone else in the room with him. A girl in her twenties with a dirty face was crouched beside him, looking right at him as she was reaching into his pants pocket for his wallet. Across the room was a young man in his twenties pointing the shotgun at him. nice drop

“Just keep your hands above your head,” said the young man. it also makes barry the villain of the piece IRONIC

“My wallets in my jacket,” said Lyle to the girl. The young man holding the shotgun smiled, his teeth were black and yellow. She pulled out the few dollars that were in his wallet, tossed it aside and stepped back. “Now what?” this is also good because of the underplayed drama

“Kneel down on the floor, and face away from me,” said the young man. Lyle did as he said, and cupped his hands behind his head. He heard the young man take a few steps closer behind him. The girl whispered something to him, and he told her to shut up under his breath. The house moaned.

Lyle reached back without looking, and grabbed the shotgun with one hand. The young man tried to wrestle it free.

The shotgun went off next to his ear.

Lyle felt blood trickle down the side of his face. All sound was replaced with a high pitched whine. He wasn’t hit. Buckshot had sprayed across the room, and exploded the kerosene lamp which had caught the mattress and the old curtains on fire. “Help me put it out!” cried Lyle, he couldn’t hear his own voice. The couple were gone. Lyle tried to smother the fire with a blanket, but it had already spread across the room. Beneath the roar of the flames and his own coughing, Lyle heard the house creak. “No!” he shouted to the room around him. “I can still make it better!” Tears streamed down his face. His fathers letters were caught in the blaze, and he watched as the edges curl up as the flames consumed them. The smoke was too thick to breathe. He made it out of the room. At the bottom of the stairs he saw the shotgun and the young man lying beside it. His lower leg was bent sideways at the knee. Lyle made it down the steps, and pulled him out the front door, past the porch and onto the lawn in front of the steps. lyle's p chill I like him.

Lyle watched the house burn. All the memories of his life were licked up in the flames, and floated away as dying embers. As the roof gave way and crumbled, he could hear what the house was saying clearly now: It was saying that everything would be alright. man, you built up a lot of good will with excellent words, tight dialogue and nice characters, then blow it on a wet fart of an ending. as it is this is a collection of good bits that don't quite make a story. keep trying.

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 05:22 on Sep 1, 2014

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Obliterati posted:

The Rivers Still Run
Words: 1565

Grandma was bouncing the boy on her knee, a little harder than usual. Her chair rocked back and forward in time with his rolling laughter. Dusk was stealing into the house, and the rain fell through the dwindling sunlight, tapping on the roof, probing for gaps. The Devil was beating his wife that evening. he... was? is this a thing? Huh.

“So what do we do when we meet a kelpie, Junior?”

The little boy scrunched his ruddy cheeks and giggled. “We run away, Grandma! We don't listen to its imm-prih-cay-shuns.”

She pinched him gently and he squealed. “'tis no joke, child. Why do we run?”

“Easy,” said Billy Junior. “Because it'll take you down with it.”

“Good boy.”

The door opened. Father came in, the mud caked to his pants and his face lined with the strains of the day. are you saying he is covered in poo “Are you filling the boy's head with devils again, Momma? The preacher tole you to cut that out.”

Grandma pushed the boy gently. “Off and play. Don't you forget, now.”

“I won't, Grandma! Can I hear more?”

Father cut in. “No more, for God's sake. To bed, son.”

Junior's face fell like a bag of bricks. He pushed himself off Grandma's lap and stood up as tall as he could. “But I wanna know about kelpies and that stuff! I love those old stories.”

“You already heard too much of this superstition, boy. To bed! Now!” Father moved towards him, sending Junior scurrying away up the steps. As the creaking sounds receded up the staircase, Father took his chair before the crackling fireplace. “Why you gotta ruin him with all that old country nonsense?”

“I'm telling him what my granny tole me, son. Boy has to know.”

“Know what? Don't tell the boy about devils he ain't ever gonna meet. You're just scaring him.”

“Good. He should be scared.”

Father snatched up the paper on the table. “Plenty to be afraid of here already. Real problem round these parts, your drat horse spirits?” He snorted. “You've lived here all your life: how many you seen, huh?”

“Ask your father. He met one.”

“Oh hell, Momma. You're losin' your memory, you know that ain't right. Pappa drowned. They found him face down under the jetty.”

“That's what I just tole you,” she said. that is a loooot of words to convey 2 things: granma thinks kelpies real, drowned husband: father does not.

When Sunday came around, Father told them about a change of plan.

“There's a new preacher out of town,” he said. His head was buried in the hood of the car, and his words came out muffled, echoing through the engine. “Maybe this one can put an end to all this devil talk.”

Grandma put an arm around the boy and pulled him to her side, leaning on her stick for support. “You said that about the last two, son. There ain't no devils in the boy. What're you going and doing this for?”

Father pulled himself upright. “I think he can help you too, Momma. You gotta let go of all that.”

“I never thought I'd raise such an ungrateful boy. Maybe I'll just stay put.”

He opened the door and pushed the seat forward. “You do as you please, Momma, but the boy comes with me. Junior! In!” Father beckoned with an outstretched arm, and the boy squirmed out of Grandma's grip. He cantered to the car and folded himself into the back. Father pushed the seat back and turned to Grandma. He didn't speak.

“Perhaps,” said Grandma, “I will come after all. I should see this man of God who thinks he can handle the kelpies.” She shuffled over to the passenger seat, but before she could open the door her son was there. He laid a hand on her shoulder.

He opened her door. “Thank you, Momma,” he said. “I promise it'll be okay.” “No-one can make such promises. Now let's be away and hear your drat preacher.”I find this dialogue enervating in the extreme fyi to the point I wish it would be drowned by a kelpie

“Momma!” The car rolled out of the drive and along the dirt track to the main road. Junior sat quietly and read comics like always. if you find yourself writing 'boring thing happened like it always did, reconsider


By the time they arrived, the preacher was already in full swing, his voice cracking with cries and imprecations. 'cracking with cries' is not an english phrase He looked younger than he sounded, his lineless face scanning the wrinkled and bent congregation like they might bolt. His fine pants were soaked in the water of the river, its eddies flowing around him like he wasn't there, but he paid them no heed.

“What are we but sinners? Wrecks, unmanned in the storms of the Almighty. Who amongst ye has sinned?” He smiled, teeth gleaming in the afternoon sun. “Come forward, and find redemption in His waters!”

Father stepped forward, an arm firmly on Junior. “Reverend, I beg your counsel for my son. He has listened to too many tales of spirits and devils, and I-.”

“Devils? What are these devils?”

“He's been told of the spirits of the old country. Of the-” he paused, “the kelpies, spirits who can take the form of man!”

A murmur swept through the crowd, and was extinguished with a wave of the preacher's hand. He paused for a moment, and nothing was heard but the rippling flow of the river. The assembled farmers waited on his word. He drew breath. “There is no such thing as a kelpie,” he said. “Such tales are blasphemy.”

“Like hell, preacher!”

They all lurched towards the sound. Grandma had her stick in front of her like a spear, stabbing her way through the throng. She was moving faster now, each step a little further than the last, building up speed. “One took my Jack at this here river! Don't you deny it.”

The preacher grinned again and shifted his weight, pawing at the riverbed for balance. is he doing a handstand, obliterati “Are you sure it wasn't a grumpkin, ma'am? Maybe an Indian ghost?” He made a face, and his flock laughed cold and sharp no, this doesn't work at all as a turn of phrase - calling a . “Tell me true: did you see this beast?”

“No, but-”

“Let me tell you about devils, woman. The legions of Hell are numberless, their plans a myriad, rising from the Pit. To lure you into temptation, idolatry, and paganism!” His nostrils flared like tent folds. “You, boy, you must not be lured into such filth! Kelpies, hah! Christ the Redeemer hath, in his sacrifice, banished all monsters from the face of the Earth. There is only the Enemy.” He spun in the ankle deep water, churning foam as he cast eyes over them all. “All your souls are imperilled by this heathen. Give me the boy, and I shall bring him to the light.” yeah yeah whatever? this story is basically DEVILS YES DEVILS NO DEVILS YES flummery with lots of dull padding around it, isn't it?

Father turned to Grandma. The eyes of the multitude lay upon them like a weight. He reached out. “Momma, you should listen to the man. He can help us, help you-”

“Cold iron! Ain't no man of God denies that evil walks the earth.” Grandma brandished the stick. “We are leaving. Take me home, sonny, afore I do something I regret. That man ain't laying one hand on my grandson.”

A hush of whispers spread through the crowd as Grandma covered the last few steps to Father and Junior. With an effort, she crouched down before the boy. “Don't you listen to that fool man, sweetheart. He don't know nothing about kelpies.”

Junior looked back at her. His bloodless face shivered, and he looked at his feet. “'salright, Grandma,” he said. “I know they's just stories.”

“William Junior, don't you talk like that-”

Father laid a hand on her shaking shoulder. “You know I love you, Momma.”

“I know, son. Take us away from here. For the boy's sake.”

The preacher glared up at them, eyes afire. “Then flee, sinner! Go where you will, but I shall be right here!” He turned to the herd. “Away with you all. You shame yourselves by permitting this outrage.”

Grandma tugged the boy's shirt. “Come, Junior.” He stood there another moment, but she yanked him again, harder than usual, and he came. The three of them turned, and walked together up the bank and away from the river.

“The child,” the preacher said to their retreating backs, “is welcome here whenever he wishes Salvation. If he is not saved he shall meet devils, in time.”


Away from the bank, the preacher and his river were hidden behind the rising hill. They walked back to the car in silence ahead of the rest of the congregation, Father glaring at Grandma all the while. When they got to the car, he leant on it rather than open the door. “The shame of it,” he said. “Cussing out a preacher like that! I put up with a lot, Momma, but you're letting yourself go real bad. Just because Pappa got drunk and-”

“Don't you dare, boy!” She rapped him with the stick and he cursed. “Your pappa weren't no drinker. If he could hear this slander, he'd rise from his grave and strike you hisself!”

“Don't be a fool, Momma! The whole drat town knew he-” Grandma grabbed his hand as fiercely as a vice and he stopped mid-flow. “Wait,” she said, “where's Junior?” They turned back behind them.

No sign of the boy. No third set of footprints. Father looked at her, and her eyes said it all. He broke into a jog, then a run: he galloped back across the field towards the riverbank, accelerating.

An animal sound rose on the afternoon heat. No-one else would swear to it later, but Grandma heard it just fine. okayish ending, but this one did not fill me with joy.

Fumblemouse posted:

wordcount: 1290

The end of the line

The screen door of the trailer slammed shut, and Jerry couldn’t help but notice Sal didn’t let it slap her rear end on the way out. He stood by the door, watching her wiggle angrily down the steps, and then wiggle angrily along the dirt path to the makeshift parking lot.

“But baby,” he called out to her departing rear end. “Let me explain, you know that ain’t right.” His voice petered out and if Sal or her rear end heard him they gave no sign. She pulled her car keys from her jeans, wiggled angrily into the front seat and sped off along the dirt road to town, pausing only to flip Jerry the finger as she reversed out. tight and sassy opener

“Well, sheeit,” said Jerry, glancing around the trailer park and not seeing a soul. He thanked Heaven for small mercies and was about to return to the depths of his trailer when another door opened in an RV across the way. The head of Miss Wichita appeared, all blonde curls and long neck and looking in his direction.

“Everything all right, Jer?” she called.

“Right as rain, Miss W,” said Jerry, smiling and waving. “Sheeit,” said Jerry, ducking back inside with speedy nonchalance and closing the interior door.

Jerry drew the blinds and sat on his bed. In the gloom of the darkened trailer, he could still make out the offending pair of his cousin’s panties on the floor. “Christ,” said Jerry to himself and possibly Christ, “I guess Mama was right. No good deed does go unpunished.” He picked them up, let out a sigh, threw them into the washing hamper at the far end of the trailer. Slam Dunk. slam dunk doesn't mean that he lay back on the bed, eyes closed, wishing the world free of women and the trouble they brought. if you'd tweaked this to make it more dick-centric you could have made the end much clearer

There was the sound of metal hitting stone outside his window. 'there was the' is a yuck passive construction but I guess I will allow it this time Jerry made a gap between two blinds with his fingers and peered out. Miss Wichita faced away from him in a kimono-style robe, struggling with a lawn chair in the afternoon sun. He watched her through the slit for a while, enjoying the way the kimono let the light through at certain angles and Miss Wichita’s silhouette became gorgeously apparent. She gave the lawn chair a final push and it clicked into shape. Jerry watched. She bent over to place its feet full on the ground. Jerry sighed. She stood up, looked to either side, and then dropped the kimono, revealing a shapely, naked derrière. Jerry gasped.

Miss Wichita turned to look directly at his trailer. Jerry whipped away his hand and the blinds snapped shut. Had she seen him? Were the blinds still moving? Jerry touched them to keep them steady. He heard nothing but his heartbeat for a full minute, and then, at the edge of his hearing, the creak of a lawn chair being sat upon.

Jerry felt thirsty all of a sudden and moved off his bed to open the icebox. The tiny cube spilled a small amount of fluorescent light into his darkened trailer. The icebox contained precisely no cans of beer. “Sheeit,” said Jerry. nice little vignette


“Whiskey with a beer chaser,” said Jerry to the bartender of the Stag’s Head

“You sure you want another?” asked the bartender. Jerry thought he looked young, but these days everybody looked young to Jerry.

“Pretty drat sure,” said Jerry. “Hang on, let me double check.” He finished the dregs of the previous beer. “Yep - still do.” haha

The bartender poured a shot into a glass, then filled a beer glass from the tap. “Everything all right?” he asked.

“My girl Sal gone left.” Jerry swung slowly on his barstool, left, to right, to left.

“Ooof,” said the bartender in sympathetic windedness. “Your fault or hers?”

Jerry found that he had drunk enough to want to tell the tale. “She found a pair of panties in my trailer that weren’t hers. Sheeit. I don’t know what she thought.”

“I’m pretty sure I got a fair idea,” said the bartender.

“No -you don’t get it. It was my cousin - they were hers. I lent her the trailer a couple of weekends ago when we were in the mountains because my aunt just won’t put up with her greasemonkey boyfriend.”

“So you did nothing wrong?”

“Well, her d-bag of a boyfriend never showed. I get back and she’s still there, crying and drinking, and one thing led to another and…”

“Your cousin? Folk like you doing a hell of a job freeing us from the hill-billy stereotype.” I think you could have done a better job with putting this into vernacular

“She’s only my second cousin. Family poo poo, it’s complicated. Jeez, women, though. If it’s not your drat cousin its some blonde across the way sunbathing in the all-together. I didn’t know where to look when I came out here. Just focussed straight ahead - there’s beer to be drunk. You ever just want to say ‘the Hell with it’ and throw in the towel.” again, more specificity here would have helped the ending

“Can’t say I ever have,” said the barman, polishing a glass. “You thought about calling your girl?”

Jerry was on the verge of describing the abject impossibility of finding her if she didn’t want to be found when the door to the Stag’s Head opened. The bartender looked up and kept looking. Jerry swivelled round on his barstool. Miss Wichita stood in the doorway. She was wearing tight jeans and a checked shirt tied up beneath her cleavage, showing her midriff. midriff is one of those words I always want to use then regret using Her hair curled blondely haha around her shoulders. She smiled at Jerry. Waved. She came walking through the bar, and Jerry could see that she didn’t wiggle at all. She swayed.

“So, what are we talking about?” she asked Jerry. “Weren’t it a lovely day today? I got so much sun!” To the bartender she said, “Whiskey with a beer chaser.”

insert 100 words of miss W being an actual character here


Jerry remembered the drinking. And then he remembered the rest of the drinking.

After that he didn’t remember so much. Just flashes here and there, like lightning when there’s no rain. There was some walking, the road back the trailer park, leaning on Miss Wichita like she was a walking stick. Jerry thought that next there was some kissing, he could definitely remember some lips and tongues and maybe teeth. And then she’d asked him something and he’d answered in all, drunken honesty. In Beero Veritas! What the hell had he said? INDEED WHAT

The trailer was an oven when Jerry opened his eyes at last, baking in the noonday heat. His throat was a gravel road that little trucks of spit tried unsuccessfully to travel when he swallowed, and his forehead beat painfully to the sound of the knocking at his trailer door.

Jerry remembered that she’d asked him what he wanted. And he’d told her, straight up, and she’d moved her head slowly down his chest, kissing as she went.

“Jerry!” said his Aunt’s voice between rattling bangs. “I’ve had Sal crying at me all night. What the hell have you been doing?”

“Unh,” said Jerry, half falling out of the narrow bed. He picked himself up and made his way towards the door, then stumbled over a dislodged sheet. With one foot he kicked it away and then opened the interior door.

Outside, through the screen, Jerry’s aunt said “Oh, for the Lord’s sake, Jer’, put some clothes on.” She looked him up and then down and then screamed. She backed away down the stairs and almost twisted her ankle on the final step.

Jerry look down at himself, saw the smoothness, the faint blush of new, pink skin. He pushed open the screen door, and came down the stairs, ignoring his aunt. The RV across the way had driven off in the night. Jerry walked over to its empty patch of dirt and stood there, letting the sunlight fall all over him. this is actually a pretty neat and evocative ending, and I think you weren't far off nailing it; just would have taken a few tweaks and a bit more, uh, shape to miss W to give some context for the weirdy shmeirdy magic stuff.

Sitting Here posted:

The Forest
1473 words

Life was sweet, and everything was fine.

Me and my little brother’s dominion spanned the field of grassy gold, and the very edge of the forest. We ruled with laughter and pounding feet on the warm earth. We ate sun-warmed blackberries that grew along the tree line, never daring to go deeper into the wood.

Life was sweet. Sometimes I thought of our parents, wondered where they were under the flawless blue sky.

Everything was fine. Sometimes I saw glimpses of things in the forest. Half-remembered faces, the beige siding of an almost-familiar house. this is splendidly weird and gripping already so gj there

“Do you ever wonder if there’s anyone else here?” I asked him one day as we rested in the shade of a pinkly blooming cherry tree.

“Why would there be? We don’t need anyone else here,” he said.

“People aren’t just around because you need them,” I said, but I was uncertain. There hadn’t been anyone there with us before. I thought of our parents, but their faces were dim and indistinct, like shadows behind frosted glass.

Michael only smiled at me. Life was sweet and everything was fine, so I laid back on the soft moss beneath the tree and let the swaying branches and sighing leaves soothe me to sleep. lovely wordage.


Get away from me,” a voice shrieked. I sat up, dripping sweat, and looked around. I was still under the tree. Michael was still next to me. He was smiling.

“What was that?” I got to my feet, sure that someone had finally come for us from the dark heart of the forest, which was the one place Michael and I did not go.

“You,” Michael said softly.

“Liar,” I snapped. “I think I’d know my own voice.”

My little brother only shrugged.

I looked toward the forest. My heart skipped a beat. For a fraction of a second, for only the briefest of moments, I had seen something massive and white and terribly out of place through the trees.

I blinked and it was gone.

“Hey, stay away from the woods, kay?” I told my little brother. Goosebumps pulled my skin into a tight jacket around me. good line

He shrugged again. “It’s only bad for you to go there.”

“What do you mean? Did you see someone?”

“Maybe, maybe not,” he said in a singsong tone. “I’ll tell you can catch me!” He lept to his feet and raced off across the long, golden grass, away from the forest.

“Michael!” But he already was halfway to the horizon.

I raced after him, the wind blowing my hair back like a cape. I ran for miles, tracing the grassy curvature of the earth.

When I caught up with Michael, he had his back to me. He was staring at a distant smudge on the horizon.

“What is it?” I asked, catching my breath. I hadn’t known I could run for half a hemisphere.

“The forest,” he said quietly. His little face was solemn.

“You led me in a big circle!” I said in a mock accusing tone.

Michael shook his head. “It’s all around us. It’s the whole world”

“What is?”

“The forest.”

Goosebumps rippled up and down my arms and back. I took Michael’s arm, tried to pull him back the way we came. “Then we’ll stay in the middle of the field. We’ll stay where we can’t even see the forest.”

Michael let me lead him back the way we came, slower this time. Soon, there was nothing on the horizon but waving yellow grass and blue sky.

“I’m tired,” Michael said.

“I think we’re far enough now,” I said. “Lets have a rest.”

We laid down side by side in the long grass. Life was sweet, and everything was fine. awwwww I am feeling encroaching sads


When I woke up, Michael was gone.

I started to run. It had come for him, I knew it. Whatever terrible, wrong, half-forgotten thing waiting in the darkness beyond the trees had come for him, taken him from me as I slept uselessly. good adverb

The forest appeared, distant and hazy on the horizon again. Every now and then, the sky above it would warp. choose a different word here, it doesn't read as a kid The blue would fade to white, then back to blue. Soon, it was less like I was rushing for the forest and more like the forest was coming at me, massive and unstoppable as an unholy freight train.

The sky flickered. Blue, white. Blue, white.

I found Michael standing at the edge of the forest, chewing his shirt collar.

“I thought we said! I thought we said no going near the forest,” I gasped as I came to a stop beside him. “Don’t you see the sky? It’s dangerous to be around here. It’s probably all, like, radioactive or something.”

“What’s in there can’t hurt me,” Michael said through a mouthful of damp shirt.

“Every little kid thinks nothing can hurt them,” I said. “But mom and dad aren’t here to…” I trailed off.

Michael looked at me. “Who?”

My head spun. My skull was a dam about to burst. Something was trying to get out, like a baby chick pecking at the inside of her egg. Places and faces and terrible truths pounded at my insides.

“Lets just go back,” I begged Michael.

“You can’t,” he said simply.

“What do you mean? We just came from…” I had turned around to point at the massive expanse of prairie land we’d run across. But instead of a boundless horizon, I found more forest. Our grassy field was little more than a meadow surrounded by tall trees and the black spaces beneath them. this layering of creepy dream logic is working really well

“You have to go in eventually,” Michael said, nodding to the forest.

“But everything is so sweet out here,” I said. “Everything is fine the way it is. Why do I have to go in there?”

“Because,” he said. Then his face split into an impish grin. “You can’t catch me!”

He ran to the edge of the sunlight, and then he was gone.

I followed my little brother into the forest. It was like any other forest at first, all loamy smells and humming insects. I could hear the quick, dull thud of Michael’s little feet ahead, so close I should’ve been able to see him.

But the world flashed white, blinding me. My face hit a wall.

Thump thump thump thump went Michael’s little feet.

The whiteness was everywhere, more terrible and massive and inevitable than the darkness or the endless forest. This was the something, the terrible truth that stalked the edges of me and Michael’s world.

Thump thump thump thump. Someone called my name.

“Michael!” I screamed, but there was only white, and now some red sliding down the white in little rivers that divided into even smaller streams, but mostly the terrible, glossy white all around me.

There was a world-splintering crack! and then unfamiliar faces were coming at me. Horrible, lying, masked faces.

“Give me Michael back! Michaaaaael,” I howled.

The faces grew arms and torsos and the world of white resolved itself into a tiled room. The faces said my name. Their arms tried to gather me up from a tub of tepid water. My forehead pulsed with pain, and blood trickled into my eye.

“Michael,” I sobbed, letting myself settle completely into the terrible, bitter world, where nothing was sweet and nothing was fine.

“I know, I know,” my mother murmured, holding me close. Her eyes were pitted, terrible things. Her face was etched with grief lines, wrinkles so fresh they looked painted on. My father leaned in to dab a towel at the place where I’d broken skin beating my head into the white tile wall.

“Let me go back,” I begged them, trying to pull away.

“You can’t go back. Michael can’t come back.”

I inhaled. I exhaled. I let the world come back to me, one sense at a time: the room temperature bath water, the distant sounds of the neighborhood outside. The smell of kids’ shampoo, the real gentle stuff mom always bought for Michael.

I let my parents pull me out of the tub, wrap me in a towel, take me to bed, where my mom and dad and I sat and we talked and we cried, and I hated them for doing all of the things a person does when they are trying to let go.

I have never truly left that field. I go there every night, just before I fall asleep. In my mind, I call up pictures of waving grass, the flavors of sweet berries, and the feel of warm wind in my hair.

It's all very empty and lonely for right now, but I know that if I keep dreaming, my little brother will come back to me, and life will be sweet, and everything will be fine again. I like this a bunch as is prob apparent, but I'm not sure the end quite lands. give me something stranger. and it's not southern gothic in any appreciable way so tsk for that I guess

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

Mataku, everything you love will die

On a clear day from the Douglas house, you could see the North Island. On a very clear day, you could see the plume of smoke from Some's Island: the little colony off the coast where they rounded up the cholera victims in big pens, then fed their corpses into a great furnace. If the afflicted didn't have cholera when they went in, they'd have it soon enough. The green arms of Wellington harbour reached out to swaddle the damned place, but they couldn't hide it entirely. It left its marks painted on the sky in shades of black and grey. tight and nasty wordcrafting.

Alan Douglas lowered his binoculars. The country was rotting from the inside out. Too many soft-skinned hand-wringing politicians, too much sin, too many damned Maori. He hadn't survived the Urewera campaign to lose the world later. He hadn't left Galloway, crossed half the world, lost his brother and wife to sickness for his new world to fall into degeneracy. God's beautiful country, twisted and made ugly by the ministrations of man. the risk in this kind of character is caricature, of course, I shall be watching closely for this error and applying correction

The Maori had a tale they told, of how the North Island was a great fish, and its mountains and valleys were formed by men with knives and clubs, who had killed it out of jealousy, and had twisted its body beyond recognition. How right they were, in hindsight. Man cannot hold something beautiful in his hands without breaking it.

Alan had broken many things with his hands. He'd broken his wife's arm when they fought over his drinking, and he'd broken his brother's nose when they fought over his wife. He'd broken native houses open and dragged women and children screaming into the streets. He'd broken the young native man who'd tried to be brave. Broken him hard, with the back-end of his rifle while an old dark woman screamed at him to stop. Wailed her on damned knees while Alan instilled some discipline into the brat. The blood turned the dirt into mud. The boy weltered in it, smeared his hands and face with his own blood. As Alan turned to leave, he heard a single word.

“Mataku,” said the boy. Fear, affliction, geas. Everything you love will die. He grabbed Alan's ankle, hoisted up the pant leg, and smeared mud onto the bare skin. Alan kicked at the boy’s face, shattering bones. He left him lying in the dirt.

It came for his brother first. Callum was a hale young man and a prospective officer in the Queen's army. The sickness took him slow. A little dizziness at first, then a pain in his bones, then blood in the lavatory, then blood under his fingernails, pushing up from underneath his skin as if the fleshen monster inside were trying to break free. The doctors were powerless to stop it. They sent for men in England, but the letters arrived far too late. He died in his bed, gasping, eyes wide, thick veins painting an ugly blue map of his neck. His body was too ruined for the mortician, so they buried him - closed casket in the same ground he'd fought for.

Alan's bones ached, rousing him from memory. His skin had grown taught and spotted. He had to wake up at all odd hours to piss. Last night he had bumped his thigh against a table edge and opened an old war wound. It bled for hours: he'd taken his old diary and flicked through the pages to find comfort, and found them smeared with mud, and blood. The words were in his handwriting, but they were not his own. Mataku, they said, everything you love will die. Again and again for the full span of the book. DID YOU JUST MISQUOTE STEVEN KING YOU MOTHERFUCKER AUTOFAIL

That night in his sleep, he saw a great fish rising from the ocean depths. A leviathan dredged up with nets and hooks, then butchered on a scale so grand the scars made valleys. An ocean of blood flowing through the valleys, drowning his brother, and his wife, and their unborn son. Blood will have blood. In the morning, the diary was pristine, untouched, and held nothing but an old man's worries and musings. He threw it into the fireplace. The smoke from his chimney went a rich black, staining the sky. I am having a discreet little wordboner over here, don't mind me. good words have never been a struggle for you, but there is a good coherence and integrity to the images and the ways you describe them; blood, smoke, ash, weapons, wounds

Ten years to the day after his brother's death, his wife had fallen while hanging clothes. Edith was a quiet woman, who had understood his temper and returned only love. She had worked hard to heal the scars left in his heart by war. The doctors blamed it on some womanly spell, which would pass with time. Then she fell again, in the kitchen - a pot of boiling water spilling over her face and arms. Alan rushed her to bed. For the next three months she rose rarely. She became gaunt, and every night her sheets were stained with blood.

By the end, almost nothing of the woman remained. Her body was twisted and frail, wracked by spasms that made her shriek throughout the night. Alan did not call for the doctor. He had given up on them. He went into the forest so he could not hear her, though her voice carried on in the wind, further than he thought possible. His father had told him of the bean nighe, who wailed in the night to foretell the coming of death. He had not expected it so literally. He returned in the morning to find Edith dead, and the floor sticky with blood. It was thick enough that his boots left prints. It had run from every orifice, as if she'd been torn apart from the inside out. maori ebola?

When the mortician cut her open, he found a baby boy inside her. He had died with his mother, drowned in blood. She'd been hiding the boy from Alan early on, and by the later stages they'd merely taken the small bump as another symptom of her illness. Four months. Alan buried the boy unnamed in an unmarked grave. He did not weep. He steeled himself, then went home and set the house alight. It burned poorly and took several hours. Once it was ablaze, it choked the sky with dark smoke. As he watched, something rose up through the flames, shrieking: a pair of ghoulish faces drawn in smoke that flew up and off into the night. Behind them, something rose to block out the sun. A leviathan, all mountains and valleys carved in hatred, trailing enough blood to drown the world.

He'd wept then, only when he was sure nobody was watching. He wept for three days and three nights, until the dirt ran to mud with his tears. He smeared the mud on himself and howled, then walked into the forest.

He went north, to the town in the Ureweras where it began. There was nothing left. The soldiers had cleared it away, and sent the inhabitants to work in the cities. Alan returned home to the South Island, and built himself a new house on the hill. He spoke to nobody, and visited Nelson only for supplies. He howled in the night, and over the years he felt himself grow weaker. The dreams got worse, until they followed him into his waking hours?. Mountainous fish rising from the depths of oceans of blood, and a boy lying in the dirt whispering mataku, everything you love will die.

He grew a garden, but the flowers wilted. He brought a dog, but it ran away and he found it dead in the forest, torn open by a boar. On one winter's day, he took a razor blade and opened his wrists. The pain held no fear for him, but before his eyes, the blood retreated back into him, and the wound closed. He took his old field musket and put a bullet in his head, then awoke the next morning with his clothes soaked in blood and grey matter.

Mataku, everything you love will die. Do you love yourself, Alan?

He tried to love himself, to look back at the beautiful life he'd lived, but he saw only suffering: an ocean of blood and violence behind him. No glory, no wealth; just ugly sick death in all directions.

He took a chair and placed it in front of the house, then took his binoculars and looked across Cook Straight. whaaaaat It was a very clear day, and he could see the plume of smoke from Some's Island. He loved this nation, for all its faults. He loved the world, or he would never have fought for it. He saw the smoke rising from the great furnace, and slumped down in his chair, and wept. bangin. this verges on being another vignette, but manages to drag us along its twisted and midnight path of despairing images through sheer intensity. good work.

[1447 words]

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Fuschia tude posted:

The Devil You Don't

Mabel's suitcase slammed into the top of her head as the truck screeched to a halt.

Someone was standing in the middle of the road. He was shirtless, barefoot. His jeans dripped wet and soaking in the downpour.

Even though she wished Abby would go in her place, Mabel climbed out of the truck, flashlight shaking in her hand. She was the reason they had been kicked out of the retreat that night, only 2 days in. The fight with the rear end in a top hat Swami didn't have anything to do with Abby, but she was her ride, and so they were both here, winding their way down the mountain after midnight, their things stuffed behind their headrests in the cramped cabin of her boyfriend's truck. But at opening ceremony the other facilitators had said they needed to be open to new experiences, and she decided if she was going to learn at least something from the experience, it would be that. slightly clumsy backloading of exposition, but I think you just about make it work and convey a decent wodge of character info 2

The man didn't say anything. He just kept his head down, staring between his feet.

Mabel stood on the wet asphalt. Her light cut weird shadows across his face. "You all right, mister?"

Then he jerked up like he was kicked, looked straight at her, and bolted off into the woods.

"Jesus Christ!" She stumbled back into the car.

"What happened?" Abby asked. "I can't see poo poo in this fog." what? I thought you just said it was raining

Mabel leaned forward and put her head in her hands. "He turned and he looked at me, and when he looked at me, oh jesus Ab he ain't had no EYES." pov weird here?
"What?" Abby stared at her friend. "You all right, girl?"

Mabel looked up with red eyes. "I'm serious, Abby."

"Well... what do you mean, like, just holes in his face?"

"No. White, like nothing there, just dead."

"Maybe it's just some kids out running around, playing dress-up, funny contact lenses, you know? TV show contacts. I seen them before. White, black, they got every color. Made outta sunglasses stuff, I think, so you can see through it."

"Maybe," Mabel said, sounding unconvinced. She sat back up in her seat, clenching her hand rests. "Let's just go."


The town at the base of the mountain was dark when they reached it. They drove through empty streets, passing homes vacant and decaying, the only signs of life vines climbing up the sides.

"Must be a power cut or something," Abby said.

"Huh, what?" Mabel tried to look like she hadn't been dozing off.

"I'm not losing you over there, am I, Mabey baby?"

Mabel rubbed her eyes. "No, but..." She looked out her window and screamed.

Abby slammed on the brakes for the second time that night. Down a side street, something long and white and four-legged turned around a house corner and was gone. "A dog. It's a loving dog, Mabes."

"No. It weren't walking like a dog. Those legs don't bend like—"

"Jesus Christ." Abby held the wheel in a death grip. Her eyes burned holes in the windshield. The conversation was over.

Mabel stared out of her side window as they started moving again. Once or twice, she thought she saw something else. A glimpse of something white moving. She didn't say anything.

And soon they were back on the open road, cruising at 80 MPH under a dark sky.


They were 25 miles away from the town when the hail started. It was coming down hard, hammering the truck roof in a roar, and the truck's wheels were starting to slip on the road. Abby decided to pull over and let the storm pass.

But the hail kept growing in size.

"poo poo," Abby said. "Jake'll be pissed."

"Nothing you could do." Mabel looked out her side window again. There were in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by crops stretching off into the distance. The plants waved and shuddered in the hailstorm. And something was gnawing at her.

"Ab," she said. "It's been a while since we passed anyone. Those dumbasses in the mountains were the last ones, weren't they?"

They had passed a car full of teens weaving left and right, hooting as they swerved just in time to miss the girls' truck. One of them was leaning out of the window and nearly fell out when they blew past.

"I think so..." She looked over with a squint.

"But that must have been hours ago, now. Nobody since? Why not? Not even no trucks? They drive all day long."

"And it ain't day no more. Look, Mabes..." Abby rubbed a thumb into her forehead, her eyes closed. "We're not on a big interstate. We're on a two lane loving highway between Nothing and Nowheresville. So nobody ordered a special delivery at three in the morning. Who gives a poo poo."

"I..." Mabel shook her head. "I don't know—"

"No, you don't know, but that don't stop you." Abby stared straight at her. The hail hammering on the roof and coating the truck bed, slowing now, was the only sound in the cab. Mabel wanted to crawl under the seat.

"It... It just don't seem right." She was on the verge of tears. "I just... I got a bad feeling, is all."

"Mabel Jones," Abby said. "I have heard entirely too much about your feelings for one night. And I am tired as poo poo. It sounds like the hail's letting up, now. If I let you drive the rest of the way back, will you shut up about them?"

Mabel nodded, biting her lip.


They sat a couple more minutes in silence, waiting for the hail to stop.

Mabel got in the driver's seat and started the engine. "Don't tell Jake," Abby said.


They got to his house just after four.

"Park on the street," Abby said.

"I can't believe the power's out here, too."

"Why not?" Abby asked. "Hailstorm, remember?"

"I just don't like how this feels."

"Mabel, what did we say about those feelings of yours?"

"Quiet," Mabel said. "Aren't there usually crickets out? Or even birds, this time of morning? There's nothing."

As if in response, a gust of wind waved the trees around them. The still-wet branches dripping water onto the ground and the truck. Then it was silent once more.

"I'm going in." Abby got out and grabbed her duffel bag, her chin thrust out. "You coming?" And she walked off.

Mabel watched her go around the side of the house and disappear. Then she sighed, turned off the lights, took her case, and followed after her. i'd mock your 'let's split up we'll cover more ground that way' plotting here, but you've sort of justified it in how much these two are on each other's tits. still, it reads a little weird given how freaked out mabel is.

It was dark inside. Abby couldn't even light a candle for her?

It didn't really matter, Mabel knew her way around. It was warm and musty inside, even more than usual. Starlight peeking in from side windows turned all the furniture into dark blobs. She dropped her suitcase in the hallway and shut the back door.

She headed to the couch in the living room, but stopped halfway through the dining room. There was a sound coming from the kitchen, something like rustling, or popping.

"Abby?" she called out. The sound stopped. "Jake?" you do an okay job of building up the tension, and lord knows I like descriptions of snippily passive aggressive exchanges between people on road trips, but I'm not really sure what the point of the story is yet?

Still no answer. She started backing up, slowly at first. Then she caught a glimpse of something stark white slinking out of the kitchen, and she turned and ran.

Something told her to get down, and she went flat on the floor. A white shape so like a hexagon? slammed into the bannister post at the bottom of the stairs with a thunk, then wobbled on its too-long legs. Mabel grabbed her suitcase, legs under her, swung it heavy in an arc and hit the thing right in the side. It bounced off the bannister onto the floor, writhing silently. But she heard more movement upstairs.

She opened the back door, shut it behind her, and ran back to the truck. The tires squealed as she drove off. She didn't know where she was going, but it was not here. I am p baffled as to what this story is about tbqh. girls go for a drive see weird stuff, the end. mostly competent prose, on the upside.

Phobia posted:

1165 words

Poppa always told me never to go into the marsh. We lived on a farm but we didn’t farm anything. Poppa was a Vicar and the home was passed down to him. The marsh was past the dead fields, over a ditch that stretched long past the far. Momma also told me never to past the marsh but she didn’t talk much after Poppa hit her.

You might be asking yourself how could he do such a thing. I’m telling the truth. I am the daughter of a Preacher, after all, and lying is a sin. But a man of God, laying a hand on his wife? He did it only the one time, admittedly, the same night I ran into the marsh. It was Momma though. She got real cross at Poppa. She told him there was something wrong with me. She couldn’t deal with it. It was just too much, she said. Poppa tried to be reasonable with that warm tongue of his. He told her that I was their daughter. She agreed, and then she wished I was never born. Then Poppa slapped her. i'm basically liking your Cormac McCarthy on a bad day stylings here

I wasn’t scared. Just couldn’t stay and watch Momma cry. I didn’t put on my shoes, I just ran out of the door. I could hear Poppa call after me but I did not listen.

It was strange. I didn’t even consider bad word choice Poppa’s words until I was knee-deep in shrubs. I remember that there was a full moon and I stared up at it. The view overlooked a small lake, and the moon reflected off of the water.

“Pretty view, ain’t it?”

Voice came to my left. I turned to look and found a Hog. It’s body was of unfinished leather and rotting meat. He smelled of decay. I wasn’t scared then either.

“Ain’t it past your bedtime, child?”


I could see it was pleased, about what I couldn’t tell. He took a sniff of the air, squealing, before flashing me a grin. His teeth were as sharp as needles, caked with what I could only reckon was blood. It laughed. What came from it did not sound anything like laughter. The blubber in it’s IT'S IS ONLY EVER SHORT FOR IT IS maggoty cheeks and it’s IT'S IS ONLY EVER SHORT FOR IT IS swollen belly reminded me of a stout man. It considered me for a moment, darting his i thought you said it was an it? inky eyes, licking it’s IT'S IS ONLY EVER SHORT FOR IT IS snout with it’s IT'S IS ONLY EVER SHORT FOR IT IS moldy tongue. Even then I wasn’t scared.

“May I ask a favor?” When I said nothing it continued. “Could you bring me a swine? Freshly cut? It has been a long time since I’ve had pork.”

“...Aren’t you a swine yourself?”

“Aah, don’t you know child? Us hogs will eat anything. I am of a particular pallet palate though. Bring me some fresh pork, fresh. Chop it into bits if possible. My teeth, they aren’t what they use to be. Tomorrow evening, same time. Could you do that for me, child?”

Didn’t take long for me to nod.

“Good girl. Now you head home. It’s awfully late.”

I arrived back home. Momma and Poppa were asleep and I went to sleep right after. Everything was real quiet. Momma and Poppa couldn’t bear to look at me.

I could tell Poppa still loved me, but over the past year he stared at me like a man of God stares upon a false prophet; dripping with confusion and doubt but full of righteous indignation. Like I wasn’t his little girl anymore--like a devil gobbled me up and was wearing my clothes. He gave me the benefit, huh? I’ll give him that much. He was a good man, or at least tried to be. And I really hated him for that.

I went out around sunset. Poppa just nodded when I told him I was going out. Couldn’t even tell you if he saw the cleaver or the sack. He didn’t take his eyes off his book. I confess I may have read this one too fast when I judged, but i'm actually quite liking it this time round, even though IT'S IS ONLY EVER SHORT FOR IT IS

The nearby farm was only a skip and a hop away. Once I reached it, I hopped the pen. The piggies were corralled into several pens. I was worried that I might attract attention, but I could hear the pigs squealing from down the road and I reckoned that would do just fine. I picked the one that was fast asleep. I made short work of the pig. Slit it’s IT'S IS ONLY EVER SHORT FOR IT IS throat to keep it silent. Cut it just as the Hog requested. I was covered by the time I was finished. Filled the sack with the pork and guts, threw the cleaver inside and got out of there.

Hog whistled when I arrived. It stood at the same spot as the night before, like it never moved. I unzipped the sack, placed it under his snout. He sniffed deep like he was devouring the air. He made short work of his meal.

“Excellent. Juicy. I appreciate your kindness.”

“Anything for a friend,” I said.

“Har. You’re no friend of mine, child. Don’t get any ideas.”

I plopped down on the ground as it started lapping at the bones. I stared up at the full moon, fingers playing with my short locks of hair.

“But a cute girl like you, killing a piggy like this? I’m surprised. What would your parents think?”

I finally lowered my head to look at the disgusting Swine. I smiled. “Frankly? I don’t give a rat’s rear end what they think.” tone is wrong here

Hog kept on smiling, but in his dark eyes I could see a glint of melancholy, a hint of pity, but something else I couldn’t recognize. “You hate your mother and father, don’t you?”

I didn’t even respond. I just laughed. That was enough answer for the swine.

“Did you know that human is my favorite delicacy, child?”

I shook my head. “Hogs eat anything, don’t they?”

“Smart girl. Do you think you can bring me some?”

“Heh. What are you suggesting? That I just cut up Momma and Poppa and serve him to you?” nah, you lost me

The hog did not respond. It just grinned at me. He was hungry and I was eager to feed him, so I went back home and killed Poppa and Momma. Then I fed them to the hog. nope

That was the the story I told the police when I turned myself in.

Should have seen the Sheriff had no clue what to make of this story. I repeated it to him three times. They held me in jail for a day or so. They never found Poppa or Momma. They didn’t find the cleaver or the sack. They checked her clothes and the house. They checked the field and the marsh. Eventually they just gave up. Sheriff chalked it up to a mental break after experiencing the loss of my father. As much as they hated to admit it Besides, how could I do such a thing? I am a the daughter of a Preacher, after all, and lying is a sin. The same Preacher who lived next to a farmer who owned over a dozen pigs. And I don't have to remind you about what Pigs eat, do I? no, that was dumb. pity; first half was solid.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Phobia posted:


I'm sad. I need a laugh. Tell me a joke. A story with a punchline. 150 words. Boo hoo.

V for Vegas
Aug 31, 2004

Put my name on the list o' shame.

Jan 26, 2013
It's terribly late but here it is.

(Wordcount: 1184)
Standing Vigil

The soldiers used to talk about their homelands that were so beautiful and green just like this place once was before the war. They never said so to me, of course, but they said it to each other. I don’t think it ever occurred to them that I was even capable of having an interest. The fact that I could was a surprise to me as well.

I stood at my post, in front of a torn metal edifice that served as the compound’s entrance once upon a time. It was hardly that now, as much of it had collapsed in the wake of repeated severe tectonic and atmospheric disturbances. There had been a great number of those ever since all the soldiers had left. I noted the events as peculiar anomalies for the region.

I wondered where the soldiers had gone; perhaps they went home to their lush fields and vibrant forests. I had no way of knowing for sure, so I kept doing my job. No one told me to stop.

The perimeter had to be kept safe and the lives of those who lived here must be protected. It was a very important job, and a duty I was compelled to follow eternally.

Yet, it struck me as a particularly bitter sort of failure that there were no longer any life forms here to protect.

I was not useful anymore.

Discussing matters pertaining to one’s execution of duty was permitted between units. So I made an inquiry of the unit in charge of the storage facilities. I asked it if had any ideas of what I could do to fix this.

The clerk unit didn’t seem to understand at first. It scanned me for longer than was due protocol, but I did not inquire about the delay. It might take offense if I indicated that I did not think it was executing its function properly. It was not allowed for us to be friends like the soldiers were of each other, but that was no reason to be rude. After a time, the clerk unit stated that maybe if the soldiers better liked the conditions here they would return. The compound was derelict and the surrounding expanse was desolate and not suitable for occupation.

It had some seeds and a primer, and said a construction unit would have the necessarily equipment to execute this kind of task. Though we both knew that we were the only two units left in the facility and that no construction unit would be available. The clerk unit returned to its business in the ruined storage, and I left in silence with the materials in tow.

My treads slowly brought me through the dust covered landscape. It was still technically part of the compound’s land, and so I was not in violation of my duty patrol it.

I wasn’t sure of how to proceed as this kind of job was outside my scope. But if it had a chance to bring the soldiers back, I had to try. First, I used the tools that were mine to make holes in the ground. But the holes my tools made were much too big, and irradiated. I remembered the soldiers saying once that radioactive material was not preferred by organic life, so I realized that this wouldn’t be appropriate. Eventually I decided that poking at the ground and pushing it around with the cylindrical end of my arm instead of firing it. I managed to plant a few seeds and waited then to see what would happen as I stared at the ground.

The sun, a bright spot in the sandy haze of sky above, went through its routine cycles on schedule. Yet, nothing arose from the ground.

I didn’t mind. For the clerk had been good to give me lots of seeds. So I experimented with locations, mixing different amounts of soil and particulate matter. I drilled water from the ground and tried different amounts. I could learn by trial and error, and I was focused on my task.

It was a miracle, that first sprout peeking shyly out from underneath the soil. My one success after innumerable cycles of failure. I executed my duty in protecting this life form, using my hulking body to shield it from excessive sun and wind. Its life was sustained by the water I retrieved from deep within the ground. I introduced myself to it too, even though I knew it would not converse with me. Yet just because it would not talk back, didn’t mean it was incapable of appreciating speech on some level. I did not know of it's true capabilities as much as the soldiers knew of mine, so who was I to judge.

The tree grew under my watch; knobs of branches twisted themselves up into the distant sky. Soon it had friends too, other trees like itself growing under the endless cycles of the sun.
I thought that perhaps the soldiers would return soon as the green expanse grew. They would think this place home and I could listen to them again. Maybe even one of them would talk to me, give me commands from time to time and I could be useful again.

So I resumed my vigil, guarding the trees under the cycles of days, seasons, years, decades, centuries. I did not sleep but wear and tear on my systems required periods of self-maintenance that required me to be inactive for periods of time. Every time I activated myself again, I saw that the forest had grown relentlessly without showing any signs of slowing.

At some point, the sun became obstructed by the canopy above. The forest was large enough to not need my direct tending now and so I just kept guard as per my duty.
The compound looked nothing like it did before. The forest had reclaimed it with plant matter twisting itself around the metal ruin. I decided that I liked the new look of the place.

Over time, the tree’s roots grew large and thick around my chassis as well. I could break away, tear out from the growth around me but I refused. I would not hurt the tree and it was not so bad to be affixed in place. I had spent nearly my entire existence as a loyal sentinel after all.

Yet something was different now. The forest had become noisier as of late, as other life that weren’t plants crawled out of the wood work. I witnessed little life forms that dug holes in the ground, others that scurried up trees and while others slinked delicately around bushes. They were poor conversationalists despite my best efforts but I still enjoyed watching them come and go.

The wait was enjoyable now. The trees stood silent with me as we watched the forest teeming with life. I knew that we would be here when the soldiers returned and we would welcome them heartily. Until then, we would not be alone. Life here would march forever on.

I could ask for nothing more.

Mar 21, 2010
Muffin writes an interprompt story

When I died, my body went six feet down into the black earth, and my soul went further. Down through tree roots and dinosaur bones, down through oil and diamonds and fire until I reached the place where Anubis sat.

"So," I said to the looming jackal-headed behemoth, "the Egyptians were right, huh? What happens now."

"BAD MAN GO TO HELL," screamed Anubis.

"Wait surely there's a process-"


Well, he had me there.

Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.

Mercedes writes an interprompt story

"Muffin," I said, "You can't defend Earth from a meteor with a sick uppercut."

Muffin cracked his knuckles and widened his stance. "Shut it darky. You getting in on this?"

He got me there. "What, you think I wear this gi because of my need for cultural diversity?"

He sneered at me. "gently caress you and gently caress that Egyptian robe you got on. We punch at the count of three."

Aug 2, 2002

Aug 2, 2002

Aug 2, 2002

Mar 21, 2010

Mar 21, 2010

Mar 21, 2010

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards

Nov 18, 2003

I don't think you understand, Gau.
I enjoy competent, thoughtful results no matter the speed.

Aug 2, 2002

Gau posted:

I enjoy competent, thoughtful results no matter the speed.


Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

crabrock posted:


vv :argh: vv

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 06:48 on Sep 2, 2014


Nov 18, 2003

I don't think you understand, Gau.

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