Register a SA Forums Account here!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
  • Locked thread
Jul 18, 2011

Modern worldly poster




(Long-winded description of the previous explosion)


(Reflection of an explosion on someone's glasses)


(A second, different explosion.)

By which I mean, I'll take that flash rule.



Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

docbeard posted:




(Long-winded description of the previous explosion)


(Reflection of an explosion on someone's glasses)


(A second, different explosion.)

By which I mean, I'll take that flash rule.


:siren: starts with an earthquake, builds to a climax:siren:

Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.

:greatgift:CRIT FOR YOUR SLEDGEHAMMER:greatgift:


A great gout of vomit came cascading out of Harry’s mouth, and you could almost smell the Totino’s pizza rolls he’d surelyIf you can 'almost smell' them, he's had them, or you'd be almost smelling something else had for lunch. The gathered peanut gallery cackled so hard some of them started coughing. “Some drat fine beer, eh Harry?” one of them said. “GotGod drat,” Harry said, wiping the dribble from his beard. “That might be your worst batch yet, boss. Worse than the curry bacon one.”

Doug Leinart stood apart from the group with his arms folded across his chest. loving allspice, he thought to himself. I loving hate allspice. If you think you like pumpkin flavored things, what you actually like is allspicetense shift – cut or change. It appeared in nearly every pumpkin beer on the market and now it would have to be in Doug’s pumpkin beer, too. gently caress. You can be bad or wrong, but never be boring, Doug felt, and that was especially true in the craft beer industry. Goblin’s Punkin’ Bomb was supposed to be the fall darling of the Austin craft beer scene, and the authentic pumpkin flavor was supposed to be what set it apart, but you know what it’d taste like now? loving allspice.

All at once, the employees realized that Doug wasn’t laughing with them, and their mirth was awkwardly choked off. They stood staring at the ground or at a patch of space just past Doug’s eyes. Doug looked like a criminal defense lawyer, hair all slicked back, a pair of overly flashy sunglasses, and a pen always in his pocket. His bullshitting was weapons-grade and he’d just as soon jam a knife in your back as he would shake your hand.

He’d founded Swill N’ Kill Brewery five months prior, and he immediately cracked a lucky homer with his first creation, Pineapple Titty Twister. It became Austin’s de facto summer beer and caught the notice of Matt Shears, reigning baby-kingthe what king? of the Austin craft brew scene and the head of Drucking Funk Brewery. Matt released a copycat pineapple beer, and now all the craft beer blogs had pegged the fall season as a showdown between Doug and Matt. May the best pumpkin beer win.

I bet he throws some cardamom in with the allspice for his batch, the rat bastard, Doug thought. The failed pumpkin meat experiment would put him at least two weeks behind, which meant Matt would surely beat him to market. Doug popped his neck, then his knuckles one by one.

And that’s when realization rolled through Doug’s body, like standing up when you don’t know you’re drunk.

Pumpkin slime would be pretty easy to sneak into Drucking Funk’s fermentation tanks. Those fuckers were having a brew tour two days from now and Doug still had plenty of leftover pumpkins.

“Everybody back to work. Harry, come to my office.” Harry looked terrified even though it wasn’t the first time he’d gushed half-digested pizza rolls all over the brew room floor.

Harry waddled in and sat down. His beer-fueled girth would make bags of pumpkin slime easy enough to hide in a baggy windbreaker. His intellectual ability maxed out at a Fisher Price level, but he was loyal to a fault, like a dumb puppy that didn’t know how to fetch. Doug had never seen someone clean a fermentation tank faster, which meant he could get them unlatched and open in a snap.

“I’m really sorry about what happened out there, boss. I don’t think it was your beer, it was probably the chewing tobacco that got to me,” Harry said solemnly.
“Don’t worry about it, that’s not what I brought you in here for. I’ve got a special assignment for us.”


Doug and Harry both hunched over orange gourds with ice cream scoops, glopping out pumpkin innards into gallon baggies. That familiar wet, rotten smell from childhood wafted around the brew room.

“Here’s the key, Harry. The trick isn’t to avoid attention, it’s to draw the wrong kind of attention. Get people to want to stay away from you, that way when the brew tour moves on from the fermentation room, we can stay behind and no one will miss us.”

At this sliver of insight, Harry sprang to his feet joyouslyadverbly gaah. “I’ve got just the thing, boss! I do a really good impersonation that will weird people out.”

Before Doug could respond,Having him just do it makes it clear Doug didn't respond in time Harry began an awkward shuffle step, dragging one foot behind him. He hooked one arm in front of his chest and started grunting nonsense syllables, lolling his tongue and drooling the whole way. It was good enough that it probably would have gotten him to the front of the line at Disney World.

“Jesus loving Christ, you’re not going to do that, Harry. I don’t pay myself enough to stand next to you while you’re acting like a retard, although you would blend right in with the assholes who work at that brewery. No, here’s what I want you to do. Don’t shower for a couple of days and don’t put on any deodorant the morning we’re going on the tourin other words be a goon. Everyone will stay away from us.”

Harry looked crestfallen that he wouldn’t get to show off his thespian abilities, but he shook his head in affirmation and continued scooping.


They showed up a few minutes late as planned to ensure they’d be in the back of the group. Harry smelled like a wet dog that had eaten cat poo poo and then rolled around in filthy hockey gear. Doug had traded his typical slacks, shirtsleeves, and tie for some hipster gear he’d picked up at Good Will. He didn’t think even Matt would recognize him.

Doug could see him over there, prancing around like Queen Elizabeth. He was the ur-example of a craft brewer – a little overweight, huge beard, tats, ear gauges. Matt glanced over Doug’s way and his eyes rested on Doug longer than they should. Doug quickly but smoothly dodged behind Harry’s huge frameand this reduces suspicion?.

One of Matt’s employees was heading up the tour, and now he was finally leading everyone into the fermentation room. “Tanks 3 and 4 over there are where our fall pumpkin spice beer is currently fermenting. You folks can look forward to that one on September 15th!”You really want to use words, not digits: people say 'four', not '4'

Doug glanced over at Harry and then stopped cold. Harry was letting his lip sag, and a long string of drool was leaving a wet scribble all over Harry’s windbreaker. Oh poo poo, please don’t.

“Fermentation is the most critical part of the brewing process, and it actually involves a live organism. Anyone know what it is?”

Before Doug could intervene, it happened. Harry jerked his arms up as if he were conducting an orchestra, and noises that sounded like whales loving erupted from his mouth. All the attention in the room focused like a laser on the pair, and Harry began to jerk more violently. The three men nearest him restrained him, and Harry collapsed to the floor. The squeals became piggish snuffling noises, and foamy spittle was beginning to collect at the corner of his mouth, as if he had rabies. Doug had to admit, it was a drat good act.

Doug jumped over and started prying Harry loose. “He’ll be fine,” Doug said. “Sir, your friend here is seizing and could hurt himself,” one of the men said. fact about seizures: the absolute last thing you should do is attempt to restrain the victim and force them to the ground. This encourages them to break their own bones and swallow their tongue

“He’ll be fine.” Doug continued to untangle Harry.How? Is he forcing these mens' grip off whilst they remonstrate with him?

“Listen man, this guy needs some medical attention and-

“HE’LL BE FINE!” Doug snapped. He strained to get Harry up off the ground, and then stormed off to the bathroom with Harry in tow.This reads oddly, where one second moving him is extremely difficult and suddenly it's easy

“Jesus gently caress, what the hell was that? I told you not to do that!” Doug said as he shut the door behind them.

“But boss, now nobody will want to be near us! Everybody wants me gone and they’ll be glad to see we’re not following the tour anymore!”This almost works in its earnestness, but it still doesn't quite support the 'seizure'. If Harry was eager to please rather than just obedient...

Doug started to respond but sighed instead. He didn't respond, no need to say he didn't He rubbed his hands over his face and then looked Harry in the eye.

“Fine, you can go ahead, but you’ve got to promise me that you’ll only act a little retarded.”

Harry smiled. They shuffled out of the bathroom and headed back to the fermentation room, only to find it empty. The tour had moved on, spurred by a desperate attempt to get away from the retard making whale noises.

Doug and Harry slithered over to tanks 3 and 4 and delivered their noxious payload.


“The Most Unusual and Delicious Pumpkin Beer I’ve Ever Had” read the headline. Doug put his coffee mug down mid-sip and quickly scanned the blog article. It was about Drucking Funk’s new beer, Pumpkinsanity, and buried in the middle of the article was this little tidbit:

What’s Matt’s secret?

“Allspice, a hint of cardamom, and you’re going to think we’re crazy, but we put honest to God pumpkin goop in the ferment tank. Gives it that authentic pumpkin flavor.”Wait I thought this would make it taste terrible

Doug calmly reached into the fridge behind his desk, pulled out a sixer of Pineapple Titty Twister, and started chugging.


I said it before but flinging 'retard' around like this does you no favours. It's not even confined to your protag's voice which might have let you get away with it. Your main character is really unlikeable, and not in the cool edgy anti-hero way. Also 'retard' is not a carte blanche to have your character do stupid things for no reason. Maybe it's just part of how you've got your narrator voice using profanities itself, which as GP said in his crit for ceaselessfuture on the previous page makes more sense in a first person narration.

You've tried to write a buddy caper story where despite their best laid plans everything goes wrong. This really only works if the reader likes both characters and is thus invested in their success: it's extremely difficult to write a gripping story from the perspective of a character with no positive features or even any shades of gray. This is why the comics are about the superhero and not the supervillain: even utter arseholes like John Constantine have moral complexities and some principles.

On the plus side, the basic shape of this story isn't bad at all: it's all in the execution of a form that is particularly dependent on good characterisation. Why does Harry follow him so slavishly? Does he share a hatred of this guy? What is these two characters' bond? If you want to keep Doug as a soulless bastard, rewriting from Harry's perspective might be better.

Reading recommendation:

Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck. You may well have already read this but the secondary protag actually is severely mentally disabled: it's not conveyed through everyone calling him a retard and him doing inexplicable things. Though off the top of my head the term or something like it is used: it's just not flung around scattershot like this, and it's not played for laughs. It's done the opposite way, and the character is portrayed sympathetically. It's no obstacle to having a 'complex' character with depth and personality traits.

e: also, what crabrock said

Obliterati fucked around with this message at 16:17 on Nov 7, 2014

Aug 2, 2002

I'm gonna go one step further here, and crit just this part, because I glossed over it in my mad dash of reading: "you could almost smell the Totino’s pizza rolls"

How can you almost smell them? You're A) injecting me into your story with "you," or being unspecific. Say who could really smell them? Really, it's doug. Doug could smell the totinos on Harry's breath. B) again, if you "almost smell" then you don't smell them. it means you didn't quite get there. so in essence you're describing that didn't happen. Describe what DID happen. What does it actually smell like?

So it's either: Doug smelled the totino's pizza rolls on Harry's breath.


Doug smelled the acrid stench of tomatos and cheap cheese on Harry's breath.

Dec 31, 2006

Fork 'em Devils!

I'm in!

Nov 15, 2012

What will you say when
your child asks:
why did you fail Thunderdome?

:siren: Thunderdome CXVII – The Son of Elephant Week :siren:

This was not a good week. I say that a lot recently, but it’s true. This was such a bad, dull round of Thunderdome that we discussed the possibility of a conspiracy to annoy us with deliberately boring pumpkin carving stories. I felt drained at the end and now I don’t even want to ragecrit this, just write one long post of shaking my head in bitter disappointment, forever.

It’s like you all spent exactly ten seconds thinking about your stories before you started writing, and they were all filled with you scanning your room for inspiration, stopping at the calendar and going “pumpkins… halloween… … … pumpkin…… halloweeeennnnnn………


I’m going to repeat myself a lot here, but that’s okay because so did you.


The Pilgrims and the Great Pumpkin - Tomn
The first of many world-building entries. There is a semblance of plot somewhere underneath your infodumps, but it’s all too telly, too remote. Describing a tense battle between George Washington and the Great Pumpkin as the former tries to carve a smiley face into the latter, that’s loving awesome. Writing 1000 words of jumbled backstory and going “also a fight happened” is not.

The prose is so bombastic, the action so remote, the characters so all over the place that it’s hard to find anything to latch on to. There is no one for me to identify with because you keep jumping around between people. Focus on someone with personal goals and stakes in the plot, describe their motives and actions. Otherwise you end up with this: a fluff entry to a fan-wiki of some alternate history tabletop game.

I like the ideas at play here, but it falls flat as a story.

High-point: Pumpkin battle
Score: M&Ms but somebody sucked the chocolate off

Whistleblowing – Jitzu_the_Monk
I was going to chide you for making the pumpkin so drat incidental but now that I’ve spent a whole evening reading halloween themed pumpkin carving stories I’m glad you basically went “By the way, here’s your loving pumpkin.”

I remember your first piece and while this is still heavy on the cliches and one-sided characters it’s not nearly as bad as Axis I. You got closer to making me identify with your protagonist since there’s something he stands, fights and suffers for. You’re still obviously trying to bludgeon me over the head with some political point you’re trying to make, but it’s digestible.

There is action, but not much of it comes from the protagonist. It’s okay if you want to write about a guy dying for our sins, but then your protagonist has to show some internal activity. How does he cope with his circumstances? What does the torture do to him? How does he change as a person? Why does he choose to suffer?

That’s the biggest weakness of this piece: a lack of personality. He gets tortured, but all that happens to him is that he rationally explains how the torture works and why it happens. Don’t know about you but I probably have different things on my mind when I’m being drowned.

Sometimes I feel like the political statement comes first for you and only then do you think of characters and plot, and, sorry, but I don’t think that’s the right way to do it. Theme is a good thing to have, but you shouldn’t wrap your story around it.

High-point: Pumpkin feeding
Low-point: Deus Ex Machina freedom twist ending
Score: Girlscouts Texas Freedom Cookies!!! (with raisins)

Your zombiecalypse setting isn’t really that unique or interesting and you’re 200 words over the limit so there’s already two problems that could have been solved by cutting the infodumps.

This is a very aimless story. Your intro serves as an excuse to stuff exposition down my throat as opposed to setting up a conflict for your plot to resolve. Then your two dudes realize that they could have built killer trucks all along and in a very not shocking twist they do build killer trucks to squash zombies with killer trucks because that’s what happens in every zombie thing so why not.

A stock scene straight out of a stock zombie story, only without any personal elements or sense of urgency. At the end I have no idea where the journey should go, and I don’t care. Yeah, you try to cram some kind of personal theme of him losing his family into the last lines. Too late, motherfucker.

High-point: The first two lines.
Low-point: The part where you get to the doctor in your backstory and I feel like you’re ticking off a checklist for stock zombie things and go “Yeah, we even have that! Wow! What a zombie story!”
Score: Gummi bears, but only the green and white ones.

The pumpkin-maker (1353 words) – Cacto
This doesn’t tie together. You show me the protag's insignificant banter with some carver to set up that he’s good at making pumpkins, and then a random break-in happens and in the end I’m left with a mediocre “day in the life of” telling and a plot twist? Your protagonist has no agenda to speak of, and when he isn’t doing his chores, things just happen to him.

The judges disagreed on the role of Hannah. Some of us thought she left the protagonist when he killed to protect his formula, but then one pointed out a few things that might hint at her actually double-crossing him and, going back at it, I think that’s what happens. But the way she goes about it makes no sense and the way you tell it is not clear enough.

I think you try to do too many things here, and then you always take the roundabout way instead of just showing us. What we’re left with is an unfocused story, crudely told.

High-point: The last line kinda works I guess
Low-point: The incomprehensible backstab at the end
Score: Sugar-free bubble gum

A Curious Thing – Chairchucker
I heard you write these things straight into the reply box and I can definitely see that judging from this piece.

This could have been a winning contender if you’d put effort into it. I love stories that play with paradox concepts such as time travel, but you did absolutely nothing with it. It’s just kind of there so you can make a joke in the beginning and stall me for a few hundred words.

The ending genuinely pissed me off. It’s like you wrote this and when you were about to have them take the pumpkin back to their own time you realized that people would see it coming but you also didn’t want to think of anything better so you quickly hammered in the worst resolution ever conceived by a carbon-based lifeform and quickly forgot about it.

The wacky banter in the beginning was funny and the fact that a lot of other stories actively bored me put this in the HM ballpark. A funny jig that ends on a wet fart, but that’s all we can ask for I guess.

Don’t explain your jokes.

High-point: Mr. Perkins
Low-point: And then they take the pumpkin home and realize it was themselves who stole it! No, that’s too obvious. *looks at other screen* Oh poo poo, I respawned! *slams fist on keyboard* POST!
Score: A snickers bar, but somebody sat on it. And now it’s all melty. From rear end.

The Balad of Igor Shishkin – JcDent
I knew this was going to be a stinker when it began with Russian lyrics.

When you use foreign language in a story and there’s no translation or sense of meaning anywhere nearby the reader will scroll past it. I didn’t even look at these parts after a while. The last ones could have been English and I wouldn’t know. This is problematic to begin with, but when the story depends on this stuff, like yours does for mood-setting, you have much bigger issues.

Then everything in-between the incomprehensible stuff is world-building and I get so mad I want to send you to the Gulag. Your attempts to spice it up with Soviet propaganda humor are too one-note to lift this up for longer than half a page, at which point it just drags on.

It’s a shame because Soviets in Space is a cool idea for a sci-fi comedy, which you should have written instead of three pages of a guy sitting around and explaining to me why the Russians grow pumpkins. This picks up a lot once you finally get to the aliens and the last lines now make me want to read the actual story, but then you’re probably just going to write about the vastness of space and quote Karl Marx every other paragraph.

Such a waste of potential. It’s either a drag, or it’s incomprehensible, and then I realize that you had a much better idea somewhere in the back of your mind that you didn’t do.

Low-point: Russian lyrics
High-point: Space Soviets
Score: советский кекс

Sclerotinia – Hammer Bro.
Hello world-building, old friend! I guess you can thank me for that DM because when I was done reading this I thought it was essentially the entry above you, only everything was in Russian and even less happened.

The most telling fact about this story is that, at the end, none of us could say what it was about, or what was going on other than Adam somehow eats dirt to draw hentai or something. We couldn’t even agree if this was a story about aliens, fantasy tribes or pumpkin people. For something that contains only world-building, this doesn’t do a good job of establishing the setting.

There are some nice lines and images, but that’s it really. Conceptually this wets the bed. Apart from the general confusion we felt at the end, there is no reason to tell this as a story in a story. The only purpose of your in-story-narrator is to tell me to save this universe I know nothing about by means I don’t have for reasons that don’t matter to me.

High-point: None.
Low-point: What the gently caress are Didymellans
Score: Circus Peanuts

Ghost Stories – ZeBourgeoisie
So next to the world-building galore there were also a few entries that suffered from being incredibly boring and ending on a punchline or a twist. This was the first.

Basically your plot: some guy dies and his ghost takes a sightseeing tour.

This gets a little more interesting towards the end, when Mr. Parker realizes he’ll be trapped at the pumpkin patch forever. Even though it’s more of an “Oh Jeeeezzz” moment to him we finally get a whiff of the actual conflict of the piece. But then you immediately tell us that, actually, there’s nothing he can ever do and two lines later that’s the end.

Boring Haunted Place: Origins sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it.

Decently written. Not a story.

High-point: None.
Low-point: None.
Score: Celery

Intelligence Explosion – Sitting Here
You’ve got three very distinct elements that don’t gel: the pumpkin carving, the gore and the AI ending. Two of them would work, but the whole package doesn’t. From the perspective of someone constructing a story, I see how it makes sense: the AI is your point, the pumpkin carving is your self-identification metaphor and the violence is there so you can weird me out in more ways than going “there sure is a weirdness here” for a whole page (BLERGH btw).

It doesn’t work from a reader’s perspective. When the blood starts flowing I expect some grisly reveal about her murdering someone while hallucinating, or her being in some kind of purgatory. It’s all so creepy and gory and then the AI comes out of nowhere, a hollow twist ending that leaves me completely unsatisfied.

I feel like you went with creepy pumpkin carving and the end came to you as you wrote it. Personally the last thing I think of for a sentient AI is “face” so it all seems out of the blue to me, but YMMV and all that.

The whole carving scene and everything leading up to it takes too long. I like the mood initially but you hammer “everybody is acting weird and there’s a WEIRDNESS HERE” into me so much I just want you to get it over with. Even your characters get bored, and you drat well know what that means.

High-point: The short period where you manage a creepy vibe before I get bored with it
Low-point: The ending
Score: Peanut Butter Kisses

The Pirate's Assistant – Fumblemouse
“You know what I’d really like to read now? A story about pumpkin carving.”
-No one, ever

What were you going for here? This is a well-written but really drab and dull account of a kid making pumpkin faces with his granny. Two thirds in it turns into a cliche story of the neglected kid and then it ends on this week’s weirdest punchline.

In retrospective I like the nonchalant delivery of the last line. It’s so out of place, if you’re going to do it you might as well just commit to it. Okay. That doesn’t distract from the fact that it doesn’t fit the mood, or the protagonist’s behaviour up to that point. Or that you wrote 1300 words of deliberately boring pumpkin carving to artificially ramp up the shock value of the ending.

A weak story in a horrible week.

High-point: Despite all, the last line
Low-point: pumpkin carving
Score: Bit-O-Honey

A Mother's Worst Fear – Some Guy TT
I guess this is partially my fault since I told you to stop writing joke entries, and from what I can tell this is a failed attempt at a serious story. Well. It happens.

So why did this lose? First of all it takes guts to write a story made up exclusively of expository dialogue when the prompt strongly suggests not to do that. But when it comes down to it, I think you lost out against all the incomprehensible blather that swelled our DM ranks because we actually did understand your story, and we plainly saw everything wrong about it, which is a lot.

Your protagonist is unlikeable to a cartoonish extent. I’m not sure if you were trying to make a point about women being bitches, or if you went too far in her characterization and unwittingly turned her into an MRA caricature, but ramping down her hatefulness just a notch would make her endlessly more believable. If you treat your protagonist with respect, think about what made her the bitchy queen she has become, you get a rounder character. I promise you wouldn’t even need to infodump it all on us, but just knowing who your protagonist is and being honest about her strengths, weaknesses, fears and desires improves your writing tenfold. Then give her more to do than yell at some goon, actually think about the problematic relationships in your story and how people would try to resolve them and presto, you have a story.

Or tell it from the POV of the kid instead. Just give me someone to root for.

The plot is kinda weak in that it’s almost entirely dialogue and some key points are only there as a tangent. We scratched our head at what The Deal was supposed to be. I think it’s her not demanding money from the father in exchange for him leaving them alone. I shouldn’t have to guess at that. If it’s The Big Reveal, you have to reveal it.

So there actually is a story here, and I think with better characterization, a stronger plot than “two people yell at each other” and some finesse this could turn into a good family drama, taken from life. But you didn’t do that. It wasn’t about pumpkin carving and maybe I didn’t even hate this the most, I don’t know, Monday is just a rum-infused blur to me. But you honestly tried and fell on your face, and that deserves the loss more than some half-assed world-building piece.

High-point: Girl in the bushes at the end was a nice twist and almost touching
Score: A spoonful of cinnamon

Pumpkin Dreams – Kaishai
You wrote a pumpkin carving story, and like all other pumpkin carving stories, this pumpkin carving story didn’t blow my mind. But at least you used the pumpkin carving as a device to tell a personal story arc, and I got to spend more time with your protagonist than with the goddamn pumpkin, or the process of carving it.

Overall this is solid. You introduce the character and what she wants in the beginning, and as she goes after her goal, she learns and grows as a person. The resolution was sweet, realistic and neither too predictable nor a cheap twist. Your characters are all-around authentic and likeable, particularly Amy who swoons over Luke but at the same time establishes her independence, not just in her love quest but also in her artistic pursuits. So next to the romance this also had some nice themes of adolescence going on, tying it all up in one neatly told package.

It doesn’t rock the boat, but you set out to tell a cute little story, and you did. Flawless execution on a safe play. Easy decision for me.

High-point: The ending
Low-point: Pumpkin carving <:mad:>
Score: Chocolate bar with nuts

The Incident in Question – Grizzled Patriarch
What you’re going for is the growing attachment of a person towards an inanimate object whose safety he’s charged with. That’s not a terrible premise, but I think it needs more meat on its bones. Is the guard’s life so empty that the pumpkin takes up that much real estate on his mind? Then show me a bit about him. You need to give me more than “he stands next to the pumpkin, also here’s another description of the pumpkin.”

Like many others this week, your intro fails to set up any kind of conflict or agenda for the plot to work through. It just leads us into the circumstance of the protagonist being a museum guard, and then you have him guard stuff, and then a random encounter pops up. It takes too long, and the result isn’t interesting.

At the end I get the feeling that this is mostly a character piece, but you neglected your character in favor of describing the pumpkin a lot. Then the emotional ending of him grieving the pumpkin doesn’t work as well as it could, because no matter how often you tell me it’s important to him, I can’t feel with him when he’s a stranger to me.

High-point: Mourning the dead pumpkin
Low-point: The Wikipedia infodump in the middle
Score: Necco Wafers

Harvest Rites – ThirdEmperor
I think this story is about someone making ritual sacrifices to grow pumpkins, though I don’t know if he sacrifices stunted pumpkins or people. I’m saying that as the judge who understood the most of your story.

Like, you barely ever outright say what’s what, or what’s going on, and instead you resort to elaborate descriptions that are really hit-and-miss and then there are some crucial parts of your story where we just don’t get what you’re talking about.

And yeah, that’s it. I can’t say much else. The writing seems fine, and the mood you’re trying to paint is fantastic, and what background I can decipher from this I really like. But none of us understood what was going on here at the base level and even then it seems mostly like a vignette.

High-point: “I’m gonna eat ya” - good opening to set mood and tone
Low-point: The part where things fall off the shelves and then he stomps maggots into the ground or something and I just ?????
Score: A bag of jellybeans somebody stepped on

A Single Wish – Nethilia
This starts with a nice twist of the Cinderella story and then fails to do anything with it. Like, I get it, she’s doesn’t want to be the magical princess. It’s not enough to keep pointing at your punchline for 1500 words, you still need to work on a plot.

So in a way I guess the worst thing about this is the reactive protagonist. All the time she just watches what happens around her as she is shoved from situation to situation, not really taking part in anything while you wink at the fairy tale, constantly reminding me that “by the way this is Cinderella, but different!!”

Imagine Shrek wouldn’t have Fiona and the rescue scene and the whole love arc and instead it would just be two hours of the script going “they’re fairy tale characters but THEY FART!!!” That’s you. You are Fart Shrek.

High-point: The intro
Low-point: The ending that just kind of peters out when even you get bored of your gimmick
Score: Bacon-flavored crackers

In Memoriam – Tyrannosaurus
One of very few stories that were a genuine pleasure to read. The writing is strong, the wrestling is entertaining as hell, there’s many effective moments and the cast is all-around authentic and likeable despite its flaws.

Unfortunately it ends before any resolution is found. You begin with the deadbeat father motive and then you forget about your actual plot to go off on the longest tangent ever. I feel a little cheated afterwards, as if you promised me a personal story between an innocent kid and their charming deadbeat father and then you delivered a school trip report.

So this has a whimsiness and character dynamic that I loved, but it stops kind of in the middle. Kaishai’s entry was more complete, and that’s why she won.

High-point: Many good lines actually, like every time the father enters the scene and the entire wrestling match, especially the Shipbreaker.
Low-point: The part where I realize that it’s just going to be an admittedly awesome wrestling match for the rest of the story.
Score: Pop Rocks

Pumpking – Your Sledgehammer
Now I wasn’t fully committed to DMing this, but even then it’s just mediocre in a bad week. Let’s focus on the things you did right first: you told a story. Also you didn’t tell a pumpkin carving story.

The main motivation is clear – sabotage the competition – but then it reads like a boring version of Pinky & Brain where I don’t get the point of Pinky. He seems like the butt-monkey of an entire posse of henchmen, yet somehow he’s Doug’s go-to guy.

I actually kinda liked your choice for a protagonist. Yeah he’s the evil one in this story but he’s got this slick vibe that I really dig and he does get his comeuppance. You could have developed the relationship between the two main characters a bit more. As it is the humor is a little flat and then there’s not much else.

If anything this DM is testament to the fact that slapstick has its limits.

+1 for not getting why the pumpkin goo makes the beer taste better when it tasted worse in the intro.

High-point: Ironic punishment ending
Low-point: Seizure
Score: Marshmallows and you have to eat them raw

If at First... – kurona_bright
Basically you wrote about a goon being awkward in a conversation and then she realizes that you can get better at stuff through practice. Does this sound like an engaging pitch to you?

I mean, yeah, I guess you did the thing you set out to do, so congrats on that. But you didn’t aim particularly high. Halfway there as a character study or vignette, there’s nothing particularly interesting or unique about this.

High-point: None.
Low-point: tbh this was kind of.. even...
Score: Apple

Playing Pumpkin – ceaselessfuture
I’m halfway through until I realize that there’s a protagonist in your story as opposed to a third-person omniscient narrator. I still don’t know what it’s about. I guess this is supposed to be Simone trying to prove herself to the men, but that’s not what you show me. There’s too much talking-heads, too much pumpkin gaming, too many irrelevant observations. Show me through the eyes of Simone what matters to her and the plot.

If this is just supposed to be a story about people playing pumpkin I guess it’s fine too, but then it’s mostly just a vignette and not really worth existing. Why did you decide to write this? What are you trying to tell me? For your next story answer this question beforehand, and then focus on that.

Very heavy on the dialogue, but the banter isn’t bad. I think you know your characters well, but your plot didn’t do them justice.

High-point: Instant pumpkin mush
Low-point: I guess the fighting couple because by that point I lose any track of what your plot is trying to focus on
Score: Orange-flavored Tootsie Rolls


If you have any questions regarding my crits let me know, so I can help you be horrible the Entenzahn way.

I’ll give a free precrit either this or next week to each DM & loser. Use them for Christ’s sake. I haven’t won Thunderdome 12 times but I promise it can’t get that much worse.

Also N. Senada gets a free precrit and line crit useable at any time for being so kind as to expose himself to the impact of all these bad, bad stories.

That is all.

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Attention, would-be elementalists: the sign-up season ends in just under two hours.

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Sign-ups for Week CXVIII are now CLOSED. Will the thirty-six entrants end the tradition of mass failure following assignment prompts as surely as spring follows winter?

We'll see, but smart money isn't betting on it.

N. Senada
May 17, 2011

"Oh, you're tapped out? Tap three, play Darksteel Plate. Tap two, equip it to Platinum Angel."

"Is that it?"

"No. I play Trickster God's Heist and give it to you in exchange for that token."


Also N. Senada gets a free precrit and line crit useable at any time for being so kind as to expose himself to the impact of all these bad, bad stories.

Your Sledgehammer
May 10, 2010

Don`t fall asleep, you gotta write for THUNDERDOME

Thanks for the crits, everyone, and a special thank you to Obliterati for the line crit. The help and pointers are one of my favorite things about this thread :hfive:

But yeah, smiting my enemies and drinking the blood of the warriors I have felled and all that :black101:

Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.

So, Thunderdome new meat here. Who do I send my story to once it's ready to go? Do I just post it here with a wordcount, or do I send it in a message?

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

J.A.B.C. posted:

So, Thunderdome new meat here. Who do I send my story to once it's ready to go? Do I just post it here with a wordcount, or do I send it in a message?

Post your entry in the thread, with the title and word count up top. Titles are usually in bold. Put a blank line between each of your paragraphs for ease of reading. This is a standard submission; make yours look roughly like that and you'll be good.

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

:justpost: it. Last week's anonymous submissions were special. This week your shame will be bound to your name.

Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.

Then so it shall be.

A New Spring

(1173 words)

“Come in, Williams,” The Captain’s voice sparked to life in my helmet. “What’s your situation?”

I closed my eyes as the module shook free of the Zephyr, sending me plummeting down through the void. The straps of my seat pulled tight against the bulky suit, keeping me pinned snugly against the side, my hair floating around my helmet as we cut free from the ship’s gravitational field.

“Green here, sir,” I said. “Habitats are still secure, and our repair job on the hull is keeping the pressure level.”

“We should be green to go, then. You will begin re-entry in one hour and 23 minutes, so you have some time to review before the hard part begins.”

“We’ll see if the repairs hold up once we start dropping,” I said. “At least the atmosphere here is thinner than we originally planned for.”

“Stay calm, go over your checks, and you’ll do fine,” He said, a chirp ending the banter.

Stay calm. Easy to say when you’re not riding in a patchwork entry vehicle designed to drop buildings onto a completely unknown planet.
For all intents and purposes, I shouldn’t have been on this shuttle. Looking at the shining bolts and fresh sealant around the seat’s moorings just pushed it back into my mind that I shouldn’t have been here. Being surrounded by houses folded in on themselves, white, solid blocks with feet, hanging above me, beside me, around me, all reminded me that I was unwelcome.

It was a foolish move, pretty much suicidal. But it was all we had.


“The shuttle can’t make it,”

Marsh Daniels, the towering, tanned Martian who served as our head engineer, stood before a round table with every eye of the Preparation Crew now fixated on him. We could see the sagging in his face, the sweat on his brow, telling of the sleepless nights he had spent down in the hangar, going over the damage.

He coughed, pushing back the silence, and started again. “The impacts tore through everything in the hangar. We’ve been able to patch up the habitation module and the agricultural module, but our planet bound shuttle took too many hits to its cockpit. The outboard cameras and terrain scanners are also shot, so we can’t fix it by plating down the windows, either.”

Whispers began to run around the table. Worries, concerns, doubts, fears, filling the room like a cloud.

The Captain slapped the table, and it stopped. We stared at his grey-streaked mop of hair, unkempt from days of neglect. We saw the bags under his piercing blues. We saw the way his shoulders slumped.

“You said that the habitat module is still mission ready?”

A silent nod.

“Then we have a one-seat ride down to the planet,” He said. “The atmosphere is chemically breathable, but we can’t detect local flora or fauna without a closer look. And if we put the entire ship down, she won’t be able to make it back up.”

I raised my hand.


“I’m going to spare everyone the drama and just nominate myself now, sir.”

His eyebrow perked up. “Interesting. Reasoning?”

“My comms gear was smashed by the impacts, as well. And since what was left went into repairing the jump gate drones and sending out our SOS beacon, that leaves me with no function that can’t be managed by another crew member.”

A few whispers here and there. The Captain nodded.

“Engineering, get the man a seat.”


Check the habs. Check the plates. Check the data. Check it again. Check it one more time.

I went over each inch of tiedown strap, every replacement rivet, every rough scan of the landing zone we could make out through the cloud cover. I couldn't be too careful.

My ear buzzed. “Ten minutes, Williams,” The Captain’s voice called out. “Get strapped in.”

I looked over the map one more time before the visor cleared, making my way back to the seat.

“Strapped in.”

“Confirmed, Strapped in.”

“Connecting air supply to auxiliary tank.”

“Connection confirmed.”

“Then we'll see you on the ground,” He said, the radio cutting out to static, leaving me alone in that chair, bolted to the wall, surrounded by silence.
The rocking started, pushing through the mesosphere, picking up speed. The habitats strained against their bindings, internal supports making an echoing clack, growing all around me as we fell.

“Firing initial jets,” The voice said, cutting through static. I felt the kick of engines pushing back against gravity, dropping steadily downward, the clattering going soft. I heard the seams of the repair creaking overhead, the steady pop pop pop of heat adding to the clamor.

“Firing secondary jets,” the static relenting enough to hear, letting me brace for the sudden shock of the shuttle's re-fitted jets pushing me against my suit, my stomach turning end-over-end. I gripped at the straps of my seat and screwed my eyes shut.

Only a little more. We were so close.

The panel behind me tore open, daylight shining through the rent, howling winds reaching at my helmet, knocking my head around. Just a little more. Please.


The seat slammed against me at full force as the parachutes deployed, and I shouted in triumph. I shouted at the tear in the panels. I shouted at gravity. I shouted because I was still alive to shout.

We had made it.


“Come in, Williams,” The Captain’s voice sparked to life in my helmet. “What’s your situation?”

Sunlight filtered down from above, the habitat capsule coming undone at the seams like a blossom, the ramps dropping with enough force to shake the ground. I stood there, staring out at the plain, the trees a vibrant indigo color, animals of some unknown species skittering to the woodline.

“We've made planetfall,” I said, hearing the comms channel erupt in celebration. “Permission to remove helmet, sir?”

Silence, then, “Granted.”

My hands shook as they reached for the latch of the helmet, fingers clicking it free, the hiss of air entering the suit making me jump. This was it.

I took a deep breath, and smelled something spicy in the air. Slight traces of burnt grass, here and there. Something that burned my nostrils slightly. I took the helmet off, making sure to breathe deep to account for the thinner atmosphere. But everything I needed to breathe was there.


I stepped off the module, my feet sinking into the earth. I could see traces of a cold season here and there, giving way to a warmer rotation, closer to the red sun above. The alien winter would give way to a new spring on our new home.

“Williams, respond!”

I reached back to my helmet, speaking into it. “The winter is gone, sir,”

“Then we'll see you in the springtime,” He said back, the radio going quiet.

I left the helmet there, taking a seat at the end of the habitat ramp, and looked up into a unknown sky as the world, and our species, awoke to a new spring.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Winter Wine (764 words: winter water)

"It's cold this morning."

"It's a little chilly, I suppose. Let me fetch you an extra blanket."

"Thanks. Will you tell Damon I won't be coming in today? I need to go back to bed. How late was I up last night?"

"We gave your sister the chrysanthemums around eight, then we uncorked the 1993 Chateau Carras you'd been saving for her birthday. I think we popped the Limnio around eleven. I was in bed by one."

"Right, right, I remember. I hope Mel likes the flowers. I wonder if she can smell them."

"Are you sure you're going to be all right? You had me worried last night."

"Don't worry, honey. Everything will be right as rain in a couple of hours."

"You think so?"

"I know so."


"Morning, Corey. Where's Persephone?"

"She's out sick today. Might be coming down with the flu."

"Nothing too serious, I hope? She's been in a real funk since the crash."

"No, nothing like that. I'm sure she'll feel better in a couple of days."

"I'll keep my fingers crossed. Did you catch the news this morning?"

"No. What's up?"

"Five more people killed by zombies, and not just the elderly. One guy was a bodybuilder."

"I wonder what the prophets say about that. Was he asleep or something?"

"Doesn't look like it. He just lost the struggle. Nobody knows what makes zombies turn so savage right before they die. The zealots say it's because the soul enters heaven prematurely. I think they just freak out when they can no longer run from reality. That's how they got there in the first place, after all. Still, it's a terrible way to go."

"It sounds horrifying."


"Good evening, sweetness; sorry I'm so late. Damon sends his regards. How are you feeling?"

"Euphoric. But I think the heater's broken."

"Mm. You left the front door unlocked."

"Did I? I was so excited to see Mel, I must've forgot to lock it when she left."

"Melinoe? We haven't seen her since before, well..."

"She's a full-fledged doctor now! Isn't that nice? She looked me over and said I shouldn't worry; I'd be better soon. And then we can spend so much time together."

"That's... encouraging. Do you think you'll be all right for the rest of tonight? I would very much like to cuddle you."

"What do you mean? Of course I'll be all right."

"Good, good. Not tonight, but tomorrow I have some serious thinking to do."

"Will I see you at all?"

"I wasn't sure that you wanted to."


"Morning, Corey. poo poo, man! You look as glum as an oyster. Everything all right with Persephone?"

"She'll be over it by tomorrow. Any more incidents in the news?"

"Some cop busted a suicide ring down in Asphodel. Caught them just in time; confiscated three bottles of the stuff."

"Do you think it actually works?"

"Seriously? You gettin' all spiritual on me?"

"No, it's just... Three months ago nobody had ever heard of Winter Wine. Now there are evangelists on the street corners, preaching the 'gateway to the great beyond'. They never mention the nasty bits, though."

"The dead stay dead, man. Nothing can change that. Get your head out of the gutter; focus on the good things in life."

"You're right. Think you can cover for me for the rest of the day? I've got somewhere to be."


"Sephy? Are you home? Sephy?"

"Corey! You came back! I hope you're not mad, but I knocked over the television."

"That's all right. It can be replaced."

"And we're out of wine."

"As long as you enjoyed it."

"I -- I saw Mother today. And Father. I haven't talked to them in years."

"I'm glad."

"Ah! This wasn't supposed to hurt. You understand, don't you?"

"You don't have to explain yourself."

"Seeing all my relatives was supposed to make me tranquil and serene; prepared. But I'm still so lonely. Won't you hold me?"

"Of course, my dear."

"I'm sorry. I really am. You know that, right?"

"I know. And I'm here for you."

"Oh, Corey! Forgive me!"

"Don't talk like that. I love you, and that's the only thing that matters."

"I love you too. But aren't you scared?"

"Terrified. You haven't been watching the news lately. But that's not important right now."

"Oh! This isn't how I thought it would be. I can't stop crying. I think I made a mistake."

"You did what you thought was best. No one can blame you for that. And I'm honored you would have me with you. Give my regards to Melinoe."

Jan 29, 2009

A bit of saccharine and no one gets murdered for a poo poo recipe in this one. EDIT: Theme is Summer Air.

Summer loving 1197 words

James hated summer. The heat was pretty bad, but most of all it was the hot winds that ruined his hair and made an afternoon run a grueling chore. The air itself was ferocious, and today was the sort of day where the gale could rip a man's throat out with thirst.

James was inside, of course, in Zav's living room. It was the perfect place to write new songs. Firstly, it was up north, far away from anyone who knew him. Secondly, it was quiet, and the harmonics were surprisingly good for a pedestrian three-bedroom open plan house. Finally, it was Zav's place, and regardless of what he told himself, James thought of him as more than just a hookup.

James was watching music TV, occasionally singing along. A scrolling newsfeed was talking about fires up north. He switched the TV off. Watching it wasn't going to get a song written.

James was halfway through singing out the vocals for the new song - brutal drums, dark guitars and saccharine sweet lyrics about a man who can't think of anything except his girl - when the front door banged open and Zav arrived, sweating, in his running shorts. "Hey," James said weakly.

"Hey." Zav was six foot tall and a hundred kilos of lean muscle packed into a farmer's tan. Beyond a build that made James blush, his best feature was a cocky grin and his worst a near pathologically casual approach to life that left James uncertain about where he stood. James liked the uncertainty most of all.

Zav sat in the chair opposite James. "Nice voice. Gonna get your band to do that one next time?"

"Maybe. I'm not sure I can keep a straight face though. Summer love is such a cliché."

Zav chuckled. "Idiot." He walked into the kitchen and pulled open the fridge. "Beer?" James shook his head and Zav shrugged and fetched himself one, "Suit yourself. It's blowing a gale out there."

James grinned. "Getting hot in here, too."

Zav rolled his eyes at the terrible joke, but that didn't stop him. It never had.


Several hours later, it was just before sunset and still blisteringly hot. The wind hadn't let up and the windows were getting increasingly filthy with soot from the distant flames. Sitting in the kitchen under the airconditioner vent and smelling the smoke that made its way through the filters, James wasn't sure that he hadn't seen Zav's suburb on the newsfeed.

"Hey Zav," he called out.

"Yeah?" came the reply after a few seconds.

"Reckon that fire's coming near us?"

Zav came out of the bedroom in a towel, hair still wet from the shower. He leaned over James and looked out the window. "Nah, we'll be fine." He grinned at James. "Fence's not on fire yet."

James could almost hate Zav's grin. There were sirens in the distance, but James couldn't remember what fire trucks sounded like. "Ambos?"

Zav shrugged again. "Dunno. Look, let's see what the night brings. We can always deal with whatever comes in the morning."

James wanted to argue, but he followed Zav back to bed without a word.


James woke and it was still dark. The wind outside was furious now, and James was drenched in sweat. At some point the power must have died, because there wasn't even the slightest breeze from the vents above the bed and the air was stiflingly hot. Zav was snoring next to him, and it took a few hard elbows to wake him up. "Hey Zav, wake up. Listen!"

Zav waking was an experience. You could practically see the layers of self-awareness click into place in slow motion. First he stretched. Then he blinked and James saw blankness followed by a smile of recognition. Then the flickers of comprehension as Zav processed what James had said, and he realized what was happening. "Yeah. Power's out. It's loving hot in here."

James threw off the sheets and pulled on his boxers. "We need to get out. Can't you hear that?" he demanded. "That's the loving fire."

Zav yawned and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. "Calm down. Someone would have come to the door if we were really in danger."

James rummaged through Zav's cupboard and threw him some jeans. "Just put those on. We're leaving."

Zav pulled them on without complaint and headed for the door. "Fine. Let's go outside first and have a look. Then we can do a runner if we need to."

Zav grabbed the doorhandle and pulled it, then screamed and yanked his hand away. The door opened inward and was followed by a flurry of cinders and a burst of smoke.

"gently caress!"

James jumped forward, shoved closed the doors and yanked the curtains off the window before throwing them down onto the cinders and stamping them into the ground. Zav stared at him gobsmacked, momentarily distracted from the pain. "poo poo man, when did you get strong?"

James ignored him, distracted by the window. Outside, the street was red and orange and black, with incongruous patches of unburnt trees and grass and houses. A wall of red was pouring down from the bushland to the north. "Zav! What do we do?"

James could see some firies out there, in among the houses. They were wearing their dayglo yellow uniforms and still had their hoses, but seemed to be packing up rather than settling in to take back the neighbourhood.

Zav pointed to the wardrobe and the floor. "Get my boots - they'll be tough enough to keep the coals out for a little while. You'll have to help me with mine though - my hand's hosed." James fetched the shoes, some long-sleeved shirts and pants. "We'll have to go out the window," Zav said.

Once they were dressed, James pulled the window open and immediately the dull roar of the fire became a wall of sound bigger than any James' band had ever pulled off. The heat followed on the back of the strong winds that were fuelling the flames. Zav got to his feet and slapped the side of the flyscreen with his good hand. It buckled and he shoved at it for a moment before throwing it outside and climbing through the window.

James quickly followed. Everywhere there were spotfires, and things seemed to be getting out of control. Behind them the house was burning, and the roasting hot wind was absolutely destroying his hair. He slapped at it and sparks went flying, but the wind carried so many embers that the only way to survive was going to be to run.

In the distance, shimmering in the haze, yellow-jacketed men were running away from them, and James could just about make out a red truck as their target. "Help!" James shouted desperately, but they couldn't hear over the fires. So instead, he took Zav's good hand, looked him in the eye, kissed him as the hot winds blew and the flames consumed Zav's home, and put to air what needed to be said. Only then did they run.

Because it was summer, James was in love, and nothing else mattered.

Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.

Autumn. Air. 989 words.

Wings on Fire

The second thing Robin noticed when he woke up was Angela’s concerned face looking down at him.

“Hey. How are you feeling?”

The third thing was the headache. “Been better. My wings hurt.”

“Mmm,” said Angela. “Knitter hasn’t spoken to you yet?”

“I just woke up.” He put one hand on his mat to push himself up, but Angela gently put her hands on his chest and shook her head.

“Best not to move for now. Wait until you’ve spoken to Knitter.”

Robin shrugged. “All right. How long have I been out? How long have you been here?”

“You’ve been out for a week. I’ve been in and out, checking up on you. How much do you remember?”

He remembered a little bit. Fire on the second floor, and children on the third. Not yet old enough to fly themselves. He’d had to make multiple trips. “Are the kids all right?” He couldn’t remember how many trips exactly, or if it had been enough.

“Most of them,” said Angela.

“What does that mean?”

“After you crashed with Tommy, the flames got too hot. No one else could go back in.”

“Oh.” Robin didn’t remember crashing.

“Ah, you’re awake.” Robin slowly turned his head to where Knitter had just entered. “How’re you feeling?”

“Wings hurt. Head hurts a little too, but mostly wings.”

Knitter frowned. “Ah, wasn’t sure if you’d notice that. Would’ve liked to have broken the news more slowly.”

“First thing I noticed,” said Robin. “Broken what news?”

“Can you please help him to a sitting position?” Knitter asked Angela. She nodded, slipped an arm under him and gently pulled him up. Knitter picked up a mirror from a nearby table and held it in from of Robin’s face.

“What?” said Robin. He turned his head, trying to look behind him. Trying to flap. Knitter held the mirror out to the right of Robin, who followed it with his gaze. There, behind his shoulder was the burnt stump of a wing.

“Sorry,” said Knitter. “Couldn’t save them. They were already charcoal when Angela carried you in here. I’m good, but I need something to work with. Something alive, or that was recently enough.”

“Oh,” said Robin.

“Sorry,” said Angela.

“Why don’t you get some more rest?” said Knitter, and then left.


After two more days he was walking; Knitter really was very good. Angela stayed by his side when he went walking, just in case his legs gave way. His legs felt fine, but it was nice to have someone around to talk to, so he didn’t object.

“The leaves are starting to look pretty,” said Angela.

Robin nodded. “Will be winter before we know it.”

“Oh,” said Angela. “Sorry.”

He shrugged. “I’m sure someone will come up with something before the migration.”


The first ‘something’ was thought of by Tommy’s parents. They worked with silkworms, and in gratitude for saving Tommy – painful crash notwithstanding – they’d rigged up some silk wings. Robin grimaced as Knitter attached them to his stumps.

“It’s not a proper knit,” he told Robin, “because there’s no life in the silk. I’m just using your stumps as an anchor point. It’ll mostly be your arms doing the work.”

After the third crash, Robin had to concede that he couldn’t fly with his arms. It was just too tiring. “Never mind,” said Knitter. “Maybe we’ll get a donor before winter comes.” Robin doubted it. Usually when someone died, it was because they’d been eaten by something. Probably an owl.


“I hope you don’t forget how to fly, after spending all your time walking with me,” said Robin.

Angela laughed. “Don’t you worry about me. Anyway, never mind flying, let’s talk about something else. Look at the leaves, they’re looking even more beautiful than ever.”

Robin nodded. “They’re amazing. Autumn has always been my favourite season. Perhaps a little different this year, though.”

“Which leaves are your favourite?” asked Angela. “I know it’s cliché, but I quite like the maple leaves.”

“Yeah they’re all right,” said Robin, “but for me it’s all about the Ash.”

Angela nodded. “Yeah, they’re all right too, I guess.”


The next week, the first wave of migrations started. “Is this a bit earlier than usual?” asked Angela. She and Robin were sitting on a branch watching the fliers disappear South.

“About normal, I think,” said Robin. “You’re going to have to head off soon, probably.”

Angela shook her head. “Not until you’re coming with me.”

“That might not happen,” said Robin. “Don’t hold off too long.”

Angela just shook her head again and didn’t answer.


The next week, Angela suggested Robin visit Knitter. “I feel fine,” said Robin.

“We’re going to see Knitter,” said Angela. Robin shrugged. They went to see Knitter.

“Ah, you’re ready then?” asked Knitter.

“To migrate?” said Robin. “Angela is.”

Knitter shook his head. “Not that. Just an idea we’ve had. Lie face down on this mat please.”

“What’s going on?” asked Robin. “Angela?”

“Just do what he says,” said Angela. “Knitter knows what he’s doing.”

Robin shrugged and got on the mat. “Here goes,” said Knitter. “First time for everything, right?” He picked up his needles and got to work. Robin gritted his teeth. He couldn’t tell what was happening behind him, but his stumps felt like they were burning again. And then, “It’s done,” said Knitter. “Hope it works.”

“My wings hurt again,” said Robin.

“This pain shouldn’t last for quite as long this time,” said Knitter. “It was a proper knit. Looks like it’s gonna hold up, too.” He held up the mirror, and Robin’s jaw dropped.


The next week, Robin and Angela decided it was time to migrate. Knitter was really very good, and Robin could fly just as well as before. Knitter sat on a branch and watched as they headed South; Angela’s slender and graceful wings, and Robin’s vivid red ash leaves.

May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!

Winter/Fire, 679 words.

An Interlude

“So… he had a still in the cockpit?”
“The safest place if you want to avoid an inspection.”

The two officers took long gulps of their mo-caf. In a relatively safe distance, a collapsed mech was blazing. Flames rose high and illuminated the night. Shadows of trees and people danced, elongated by the fire, and twitching from the flickering.

“The Tyrant’s gonna have my head for this.”
“Why would he? Report mechanical failure, and it will all be OK. Will is dead anyways, so it’s not like he can be charged with something.”

The officers could feel the radiating heat of the fire. It was a blessing to feel it on the face. The night was freezing, and that much colder if the snow storm got you. Luckily enough, the platoon had camped in a small wood. The trees were barren and there was a lot of snow, but it was at least marginal shelter. And now, they even had a fire to keep warm.

“Jesus Christ, we’re the UN! You’d expect more professionalism…”
“From what we get? Everybody’s either hunkering down in their own country or turning Quisling. ‘Join the UN, fight aliens, elves and the Fourth Reich’ doesn’t have the same kind of draw these days. We take what we can.”

As if to prove the point, one private, having discovered that the snow was starting to get soggy, made a snowball. Unfortunately, that one landed on a Ugandan sergeant, and she got two others to enact some snowy discipline. The first officer sighed.

“Guess you’re right. So many enemies, so little time…”
“…even less funding…”
“…but we had to take the hamlet tonight. Who the hell knows what the elves are going to do tomorrow.”

The other officer took in the howling wind, the heavy snowdrift, and the freezing temperature – all that was now somewhat manageable near the pyre.

“My guess? Not much. The full moon is two days away, so no strong magic. They’re summer court, so it’s not their kind of weather. I bet that in this weather their pointy ears would crumble in five minutes. If they have pegasii… well, they’re like not to have those in the morning. They were definitely not planning for this.”

“The marginal benefits of the Scouring…”

The decision to cleanse the US – to the world from the AIs and the singularity, as the OrBat hAIbrid put it – was as much of a shock to the environment as it was to people. Some were naming it the Sub-Atomic Winter (giving grammar sticklers the fits), others got to calling it Ragnarok. Winter that year was unprecedentedly fierce, invoking images from fairy tales and fables: snowdrifts higher than a man, nights as dark as pitch, winds howling like the devil, wolf packs stalking humans, and a myriad of tales both old and mysterious. The spindly icy fingers of winter grasped the globe and shook something loose, something unseen for hundreds of years.

The silence was broken by the first guy: “Well, at least their pride won’t let them use Quizs for warmth…”
“Chop down trees, light a fire? Not exactly the summer court way… And even then, those elf Quizs are all hippies and potheads. Can hold a rifle, can’t swing an axe,” the other answered and raised the cup to his lips. Alas, the mo-caf remains had grown cold, so he sloshed them out into the snow, thinking it would make an unsightly brown stain in the morning. “I’m gonna get more. You want some?”

The other officer nodded. His friend collected the cup and started the trek back to the APC. Flames colored his winter gear orange, and the high snowdrift made him raise his legs comically high. The remaining guy chuckled before having to take a sudden dive.


A missile arced out of the fire and exploded somewhere above the forest. He didn’t see that, because his face was full of snow and it stuck all over his uniform. He hissed as he got up and started brushing off any clinging globs.

“loving William.”

May 5, 2010

I'm posting on my phone and can't seem to fix the formatting. Oh well, something is better than nothing.

Fixed formatting.

Through the Flames

The squat apartment building burned. The crackle of the fire was interrupted by the wail of the arriving fire trucks. The firefighters leapt from the trucks and began the orchestrated chaos of rolling out hoses, gathering their equipment, and getting into position.

Firefighter Jack Stevenson strutted into the position he loved best: in front of the reporters. Jack smiled. Luck was with him. He was wearing his best set of protection equipment today, one he had spent his free time ensuring was clean, perfect, and wholesome. He also made sure he was wearing his medal, even though the regulations said he could only wear it with his uniform and not on the job. He didn't care. The mayor gave him this medal and he wasn't gong to disrespect the mayor, was he?

Miranda Gillis went straight for him, dragging her camera man by his shirt collar. Jack almost lost his smile. He had dealt with Miranda before when she was investigating corruption in the fire department. She wouldn't stop asking him questions and digging for information. She didn't want to accept that he was great and everything was fine.

“There's no need for concern,” said Jack, “I, and the fire department, are here now. We'll take care of this and everything will be okay.”

“What can you tell us about the fire?” asked Miranda. “What information have you managed to gather on your walk from the fire truck?”

“Great question hard hitting question, Miranda. I can see that journalism degree your parents paid for is doing it's job.” Jack turned his head and addressed the crowd of reporters. “Those of you who know what background research is and have done it, know that we collect and discuss the details of the call before we arrive on scene. So it will come as no shock to you when I tell you that we know the year the building was built, they layout, and the materials used. And yes, we also know that there are people inside.” He turned back to Miranda. “So if you'll excuse me, I need to go be hero.” He turned and walked away.

“Careful not to get any soot on your medal,” said Miranda.

Jack trotted over to a group of firefighters standing outside the door to the burning building.

“What's the status?” asked Jack.

“We got two teams checking inside, but it looks like most of the people were on the first floor,” said one.

“Great. I'll head in and help out.”

As Jack went in, the fire fighter rolled his eyes and said, “Yeah, you do that.” Jack pretended not to hear.

Once inside, he looked around. The lobby was nicer than he was last here, when they condo board rejected his application. Two fire fighters were leading out a group of people. One man fell. Jack rushed to help him, brushing away the hand of one of the firefighters.

“Here, I'll help you out,” said Jack. “What's your name?”

“Frank Irwin.”

“It's okay – I've got you know.” Jack helped Frank up and lead him the eight steps to the front door.

Once outside, Frank let go of Jack and tried to walk towards the ambulance, but Jack kept hold and continued toward the reporters, smiling all the way.

Miranda saw Jack first. “You weren't gone very long. Did you find him on the ground inside the door?”

Jack winced. “Everyone needs saving at some point. Whether from a fire, or just from idiocy.”

Miranda turned to Frank. “Tell me what happened in there.”

“Well, I don't know how the fire started,” said Frank. “But once I heard the alarms go off I went down to the exit. I was almost out the door when this man grabbed me from the floor.”

Miranda's eyes twinkled. “Almost out the door on your own, huh? That's wonderful. Is there anyone left inside?”

“Um, I don't think so. I think my neighbour Summer is still inside.”

Miranda broke out in a smile. “Well don't worry. Don't you know that Jack here is the greatest hero the fire department has every had? He told me himself. He'll go back in there and save Summer. Don't you worry about that, right Jack?”

The blood drained from Jack's face. The camera's gaze seemed to intensify. The crowd's gaze seemed to intensify. Jack started to sweat. He was under the most scrutiny of his life. He would have to go back inside.

“Of course,” said Jack. “They don't give these medals to just anyone.”

Jack headed back toward the burning building. He was stopped by one of his fellow fire fighters. “You can't go back in Jack, it's too dangerous.”

“No.” Jack looked back over his shoulder. The reporters were still fixed on him. He turned back. “There's someone still in there.”
He went inside.

The heat was intense. Jack made his way to the back of the building. That's where Summer should be. A scream caught his attention. He jogged in that direction.

Jack saw her through a burning door way. She was trapped in the corner. He took out his axe and started hacking through a wall. If the door was on fire, he'd make a new one. He finally got the make shift door big enough for Summer to squeeze through.

“Thank you,” she said. “I was beginning to doubt anyone was coming for me.”

“Follow me and everything will be alright.”

Jack lead Summer toward the exit. A blast of flames stopped them in their tracks. Jack heard a creak and looked up. A flaming beam was falling toward them. He pushed Summer out of the way just before it hit.

She was trapped behind the fire, but he was free. He had a clear path to the exit. He stared at the door to the outside. He could make it out.

But he broke his gaze from the door and returned it back to Summer. He had a job to do now.

The flames danced in front of him, challenging him. He lept through them to where Summer lay. The ribbons on his medal had caught on fire. He tore his medal from his chest and through it on the ground.

He bent down to pick up Summer. "Come on, let's get out of here."

Jack and Summer emerged from the building just as it collapsed. Jack looked at reporters. They rushed to him and Summer. Question after question shouted in Jack's direction. Even Miranda shouted her congratulations.

Jack pushed them aside and walked Summer to the ambulance.

FouRPlaY fucked around with this message at 18:30 on Nov 10, 2014

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 posted:

:siren::siren::byodood:MERC-BRAWL 6: MERCALICIOUS: Surreal Halloween:byodood::siren::siren:

It's that loving time again! I'm still working on the crits cause I locked myself out of my goddamn house for a couple of hours so that will be up shortly, but in the meantime, it's prompt time!

This next round is a pretty straight forward one. Write a surreal, spooky story. The main character cannot be human. Halloween is right around the corner, so get your candy corn out.

I'm opening this brawl up to anyone who wants to participate. 2,500 words due November 5th (Yes I know it's after Halloween, gently caress you) 2359 o'clock. Here's the prize list. Winner gets to pick a Game Key from the list and any number of games from the DRM free section. Participants get one game from the DRM free section.

Who will be my four dreamweavers?

N. Senada

Winner and contestants can send me a pm with their game/book/games of choice.

Dec 17, 2003

Stand down, men! It's only smooching!

Autumn Fire

835 words

I was sleeping at night and then there was many knocks at the door. I sawed the clock said 234 AM I remember because it was all the numbers in a row and also because of all of the knocking. Misses Sarah was at the door and she was crying a lot like she could not breathe from it. She was covered in dirty and her face was dirty except for the tears also she said her house was on fire.

I was in my jamjams and I didn’t know how to come down the stairs because of the crying. All the times before I like to jump one at a time because its faster and funner but I had never seen a grownedup cry so much since then and I was ascared and also still from bed so I was crying too a little bit. Mommy said it was nice of me to be sorry for Misses Sarah but that it was all ok and I should go back to bed but Misses Sarah said it’s all fakdd and my mother made soft noises and held her hand so I knew it was not all ok because that’s when she does when I have a tummy ache and I came down the stairs with my blanket.

I don’t know where Frank Frank is Misses Sarah said she held the tea mommy made but didn’t drink it. I wanted to drink a milk with chocolate sauce but I didn’t ask mommy because she was still rubbing Misses Sarah’s hands and saying they will find him don’t worry they will find Frank Frank you need to breathe and calm down Frank Frank was her dog but he burned up in the fire because he liked to hide and howl I could always hear him from across the street. Mommy always said Frank Frank is such a dog when he is drinking which meant he was the best dog but that night miss sarah kept saying I should have kept him in tonight I should have kept him in tonight and I guess she should have because we had a funeral for a dog later but that night I said firemen help to save people like cats and it made Misses Sarah stop crying but only for long enough for breathing.

Then there was more door knocking and it was the firemen and he said there is nothing we can do misses sarah but the fire is out now and she hit his chest and said fakk the fire everything I have burneded up while everyone watched you with your hose. the firemen took off their hats and the ashes fell down to misses sarah on the ground and he told her i am very very sorry we did everything we could but we couldn’t save him but she said they were fakkers which wasn’t very nice because they had put the fire out. But I guess maybe they were that thing because they did not try harder enough to save Frank Frank from burning they just pointed the hoses instead. And also at the dog funeral I heard my mommy say the same thing to sarah’s mommy and she said it again at the other funeral after all the new crying for misses sarah.

This is the thing that is hard to thinking for grownedups because sometimes they say two things that are not the same things and I don’t know which is right because I still think the firemen are nice men. My teacher told me they help people and I saw it with a cat on TV also they let me ring the firebell when they visited my school. One time too they tried to help misses sarah by taking her to the hospital when the baby came too early. I thought the firemen would help her but I guess they left the baby there because misses sarah came back to our house without it just a wheelchair and a nightgown. Then I saw them again and thought they would help but mommy said It was all too hard for misses sarah to lose so much and even the baby when I asked what did she mean by they had found her in the river simon. So maybe the firemen really are not the nice men.

It was a very sad time and I had to wear a suit three times before thanksgiving once for a dog once for a baby and once again for misses sarah. I think that fires are bad but maybe firemen are nice but not for saving houses and babies and misses sarah only cats and for ringing firebells. When I think about that night it makes me very sad that a house can burn down and then Halloween can happen anyway even if for forever then all the candles for the jackolanterns we got were plastic ones.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet

Freedom Garden
Spring, Earth
835 Words

“Get a hobby,” the lawyer said. “Volunteer or something.” I stared at her and saw only the walls and floor and ceiling, the tightly closed window. I paced. Outside a chill rain washed away the last of the snowbanks.

The thought was terrifying. The thought was thrilling.

My soon-to-be ex’s subtle siege had kept me in the shelter for three weeks. He’d broken into my facebook and email, put pressure on my friends to tell him where I went. Nothing was safe.

“The community garden is right next door.”


The smell of bergamot suffused the garden office. Bergamot and damp earth. A bell tinkled out in the greenhouse, summoning a young man through the back door. “Hello,” he said, holding out a hand. “I’m Sean.” I stared at the hand, clean except under the nails where dirt lingered in neat half crescents. I knew how to shake hands, I reminded myself.

“Jessica.” The word caught in my throat as his hand closed around mine. Gentle. Firm. “I um...I was wondering if you needed volunteers.”

“Sure.” Crow’s feet bloomed around his eyes when he smiled. I thought of him as young, but he was probably my age. Younger than my husband or our friends. “You want anything to drink? Coffee? Tea?”

“Is that Earl Grey I smell?” I asked. He made us tea in silence, fragrant and hot and strong. My husband hated the smell of bergamot. When I raised the cup to my lips the steam smelled of freedom and the scalding tea left a warmth inside that felt like happiness.

“What do you know about gardening?” he asked.

“Nothing much,” I admitted.

We lingered over the tea while he told me what would need doing. “You’d best come back tomorrow,” he said when the cups had gone empty twice. “You won’t want to get your pretty things dirty.”

I blushed like fire.


Damp soaked my knees as I knelt in the empty bed, transplanting basil seedlings. The trowel felt awkward and heavy in my hand. I pressed it into the dirt but couldn’t break through the heavy mud.

“Like this,” Sean said, stabbing sharply downward with the shovel. The violent movement sent my heart skipping, made me pull back defensively, but he just repeated the motion, digging out a hole with a few deft flicks.

I pulled the spade back and plunged it into the dirt. The blade crunched through the soil to the handle. Vicious pleasure surged through me, and I stabbed downward again and again, loosening the dirt and scooping it aside.

My breath was fast and ragged through parted, chapped lips. I shrugged out of my jacket, set it aside. The weak spring sun touched my bare arms. Sweat coated my skin; the cool breeze turned it instantly chill, and the hairs on the backs of my arms stood up.

I glanced up to find Sean smiling at me, his eyes crinkling at the corners.

“Are you ready to sign the papers?” My lawyer asked me, as she had every couple days since I’d called her. I picked up the pen, feeling that same warming thrill, that same violent impulse I had so reveled in earlier.

I signed.


“Back again?” Sean asked with a smile. “For tea, or work?”

“Can we do both?”

We took our time over the tea. He broke a muffin in half and pushed one towards me. I hesitated to take his lunch, but he insisted. “Go on. I baked it myself with berries I grew here.”

The plump blueberries looked amazing. I broke it into dainty bites with my fingers. If I caught his eyes lingering when I licked my fingers clean, I didn’t mind.

It was his turn to blush.

“You’ll still have to appear in court,” the lawyer warned me. “You’ll have to see him again.”

My basil plants were growing new leaves. I smiled at them, gently ran a finger along the edge of one sun-warmed leaf before moving on with my weeding.


I gritted my teeth and put on my nicest white pantsuit. White for brides, white for innocence. It made me look pale, fragile. I cleaned the dirt out from under my nails and painted them bright red.

I walked into the courtroom with my head held high, and I looked the bastard in the eye while the lawyers showed the pictures of my bruises. I looked him in the eye and thought of roots growing underground and leaves reaching for the sun and did not flinch or cry or look away.

Sean found me kneeling in the back of the lot, dirt under my red fingernails and covering my white blouse. My jacket was discarded on the ground, and my pants were ruined. Mascara streaked my cheeks, which were sore from the force of my smile.

“So it went well then?” he asked, dropping to his knees beside me. His shoulder brushed mine and heat like sunlight raced over my skin. I leaned against him.

Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012


My First Beer

988 words


Dad drove his Toyota truck up the hairpin turns towards Jenks lake with only one hand on the steering wheel. A brown SUV passed us by and Dad waved. "Who's that?” I asked.

"That's the most important person in the whole park," he said as we went into a tunnel. "He's the game warden."

"What's he do?"

"He's the one who enforces the fishing laws," he said as we made our way out the other side. "And he has the authority to enforce the laws, so you'd better show him respect."

"So he's like a Sheriff?"

"Yeah, exactly," he said as we finally made it to the parking lot.

“I still don’t see why I couldn’t bring my Gameboy,” I grumbled under my breath and got out of the truck.

“Because we’re here to get away from it all,” he said and started pulling his gear from the bed. “Besides, you spend too much time on that drat thing.

“I do not,” I mumbled while unintentionally twiddling my thumbs.

Jenks Lake is located up in the San Bernardino National Forest. The lake is so high up above sea level that, while we weren't above the clouds, we were above the overcast that morning. The forest itself is comprised of almost nothing but pine trees to the point where the scent of fresh pine was overwhelming. It was towards the end of April and the lake was noticeably swollen from the rain. There was constant chattering going on, and it was coming from these dark-blue birds with feathers sticking up from their heads that made them look like they were wearing mohawks. The combination of their chattering and my Gameboy withdrawal strained what little patience I had to its breaking point.

“Dad, why didn’t you let me bring your rifle?”

"I told you because this isn't a hunting trip," Dad told me while tying a lure on the line of his rod in a series of intricate loops. "Besides, it's not right to shoot kingfishers," he added and finished his knot, "no matter how much you may hate them."

With his lure tied, Dad was now ready to fish. "Pay attention, son. Casting is a delicate art. You have to be very careful not to flick it too hard or else you'll either get it caught in something or someone. You also have to aim it right," he pointed out towards the shallow part of the lake. "Right past there is where they feed. You understand, me son?"

I wasn't listening to a word he said. I was too busy thinking about Pokemon Red Version and how I was so close to leveling up my Charmeleon into a mighty Charizard. I saw his cooler full of beer and I got an idea. "Dad, how are babies made?"

"Well, son," he began, "sexual reproduction happens when...."

"Eww, stop it," I said.

"You're not getting any of my beer," he said and grabbed one from his cooler.

At this point, I was convinced that he could read my mind. "How did-"

"I was young like you were, and I know all the tricks," he said and sat down back in his lawn chair. “Like how you can get an adult to give you anything to avoid talking about something like sex."

I slunk back down into my chair. Dad noticed and he handed me his fishing rod. "Wanna try?"

I shrugged and grabbed it. After a couple of practice swings, I pulled the bale back on the reel and let it fly. Dad patted me on the back. "Nice cast, son. Now, we wait."

After what seemed like a mind-numbing eternity, I decided to ask again. "Dad, how are babies made?"

Before he could say anything, the line started tugging. I grabbed it and held on, pulling back as hard as I could. "Hold on!" Dad shouted and helped me pull it back. Whatever was pulling back, it was huge. I dug my heels as deep as I could into the mud and pulled as hard as I could with my Dad holding me back. With one last heave, I finally got the monster above water. It was a huge trout, about twice as long as my arm.

"Grab the tape measure," he told me and I grabbed it out of his tackle box. The trout's rainbow scales glistened in the sun as I measured it. "Twenty-four inches!"

"You're a natural," Dad said with the biggest smile on his face. "We're going to have to chop that sucker up just to fit it in the freezer!"

After a while, we caught a whole bunch of fish and left as the sun set over the lake. As we made our way back, a game warden stopped us. I could tell who he was because he was wearing a badge and a Smokey the Bear hat. "Afternoon, warden," Dad said.

"Afternoon. I see you have two stringers there?"

"That's right," Dad said and held up the lines. "Me and my boy caught them. In fact, he was the one who caught the 24-incher," he said and gripped my shoulder.

The warden smiled. "Heck of an eye there, son," he told me and left.

"Dad, you did most of the fishing," I said.

"I know son."

"You broke the limit, didn't you?"

I could feel him shifting uneasily. "Yes, son."

"Hey mister warden!" I shouted at the top of my lungs as my Dad held onto my shoulder in a vice grip.

"Yeah, son?"


The warden tipped his hat and left. Dad waited until he was out of sight before he eased his grip. "You're breaking the law, aren't you, Dad?"

"What's it going to take, kid?"

I smiled at him. He knew. He grabbed a beer out of his cooler and gave it to me. "Don't tell your mother."

That was my first beer. Tasted like poo poo, but it was worth it.

Jul 16, 2014

by Ralp

Flow (810 Words)

A cold wind blew against Lysa as she rested against the tree trunk. It should not have been so cold. The girl shivered despite the furs. Summer was a long time coming these days.
Around her tents stood blowing in the dawn wind, people moving amongst them eating, cleaning and generally trying to keep warm. They had not been prepared when they arrived and were frozen in place, helpless sheep without a shepherd. But Lysa knew what had to be one.

With a final glance at the dry riverbed below her, a mere trickle running down the middle, she turned her back on the campsite and slipped away as morning came.


Water. It all came down to water. Six days march back to her village where the Reservoir was running dry. This wasn’t such a surprise, but the Flow Festival was meant to be taking place right now. This was Lysa’s first year of attendance at the sacred site, a source of celebration amongst her family, but no water had come down from the mountain. Lysa planned to find out why.

Summer meant water, and but no water meant no summer. It also meant hunger and thirst as crops would be ignored, and then the villagers. This lesson had been instilled in all children of the village from an early age. There were strict rules to follow, and a very definite order in how to handle impending water shortages. If Lysa could find the water and bring it down the river, she could save her family and friends, everyone in fact. She was sure of it.

The girl trudged through long grass sopped in dew. Her clothes were wet and cold on her skin. There was so much water around her, but no way to gather it. She bent over, took out her knife and cut away a tuft of grass. Bringing it to her lips she sucked the moisture from them. Mildly satisfied she tossed the blades into the sky where the wind caught them and carried them away. She watched them go, scattering as they went. Wind: as unpredictable as water is sure. Until now, Lysa mused.
The grass eventually gave way to icy rocks and gravel. It was nearing night and Lysa could barely see as a heavy mist rolled in. Thoughts of the warm fires and company back at the camp tortured Lysa’s thoughts as she trudged onwards, but she knew that if she found the water, if she convinced it come down the river again, the happiness would be warmer still.

Her feet finally came to a stop. She needed warmth of her own. In the dwindling dusk Lysa pulled her robes around her, crawled deep into her sleeping pack and pushed herself under a shelf of rock. Silence surrounded her, the mist suffocating all.


Lysa woke to rumbling, the ground shaking up through her. She leapt up, smacking her head on the rock above. She yelped and fell to the ground. Opening her eyes she yelped again as the Sun pierced into her sleep-deprived mind. And the rumbling did not stop.

Rubbing her head Lysa got to her feet, a throb pounding in her head and vibrations coming up through her soles. She could see now.

She was a dugout part of land, the soil sandy and strewn with logs and other plant life. Rocks littered the field. And either side of Lysa there was a cliff – or as she quickly realised, the banks of the river. The rumbling grew louder still, and Lysa looked north. Summer had come.

A wall of water presented itself to Lysa, churning the mud before it. Without thinking the girl looked for the nearest log. She spied one and leapt, precisely as the wave reached her.

Her hands grasped the wood and pulled it tight even as the air was knocked from her by the cascade. And then she was rolling, flailing, floating, sinking. She was pulled, pushed, dumped and thrown by the water. Still she held on to the wood. Lysa would feel her face break free and she would breathe before plunging again.

Eventually the chaos subsided. Lysa hauled herself firmly on top of her life support and passed out.


She woke to a prodding. Slowly Lysa opened her eyes. There was a man in front of her. A man she knew. He saw he move and grinned.

“She’s alive! Pull us in!”

Then Lysa was tugged along with the man toward the shore. The water was calmer here, sedate even. That was why the Flow Festival was held here, she remembered. She looked up into the sky and felt the sun’s heat beating down on her. She could hear birds in the trees, the gurgling of the water on the banks. Summer had come at last. She would never forget this.

May 5, 2014

by FactsAreUseless

Two halves of a Whole
1194 words

Deirdre couldn’t sleep. Even with the curtains closed she could feel the watching gaze of her death.

In her youth when she was strong and healthy she rarely saw her death. Sometimes she would catch a glimpse of a dark form at the corners of her eyes, or in the night when death was strongest she would see a silhouette of a dark form far away. But when her slight spring cough turned into a deep wracking pain in her chest and summer turned to fall she started seeing more and more of her death, until one night she woke to find it peering through her window. Ever since then it came every night without fail, its bright white eyes staring at her through the night, scratching at her window.

She finally dozed off as the room started to lighten with dawn, until a fit of coughing woke her. She coughed into her handkerchief, avoiding the bright red that stained it after she was done. She got up and went into the kitchen. Her brother was already at the table, two steaming mugs of tea in front of him. A frown appeared on his face when he saw her.

“You don’t look like you slept too well, you know the healer said you need good rest to keep your body strong,” he said.

“How exactly am I supposed to rest with that thing outside my window all night Aedan,” Deidre retorted. She sat down at the table and took the mug proffered to her.

He sighed. “I know Deidre, trust me I know. Do you think I don’t lay awake at night thinking about the death right outside our house ready to take my sister? But the better care you take of yourself the longer we’ll be able to keep it out. Please.”

Deidre looked at her brother. He was older than her, but strong and vital. He would not have to experience his death for a while yet, not have to worry about it at his window.

But she saw the lines of worry on his face, and smelled the healing herbs he so carefully combined in her tea, and could not feel resentment. She took his hand.

“Aedan, what if we don’t have to accept my death? What if there was some way to stop it, delay it, maybe even – “

“Deidre,” her brother interrupted. He was shaking his head, as he did every time she brought this up. “You know that isn’t possible. You know how it has to happen.”

She did know. She like every other child was told the story of their death. She could still hear her mother’s voice as they sat beside the fire when she was young, her mom combing Deidre’s long fiery hair that she loved so much.

“Every child is born with their death, and their death loves them dearly. But death cannot stand the fiery souls of youth and so are doomed to the live away from their children, always wanting to be near but unable to get close. But as a person’s fire dims from age or illness death is able to get closer and closer, until one day a person’s death appears like an old friend and take their hand, leading them to a place where they can finally be together for eternity.” Deidre’s mother always made it sound gentle and kind. She didn’t tell her about the white staring eyes or the scratching at the window.

Deidre got up from the table and went to get her coat. Her mom and brother might have accepted that they have to live with their death, but that didn’t mean she had to.

She was greeted by crisp autumn air as she walked outside. It was almost the fall equinox and there was a festival in the village. Vendors cried out their wares and stores sold steaming hot ciders and tea. Deidre bought a cider, grateful for the warmth that helped ease her cough, and browsed until her eye was caught by one item in particular.

It was a small silver knife, plain except for the delicate runes etched on the surface of the blade. It was about the size of her palm.

“I see you have you have fine taste lass. That blade will protect you from any evil you might come across, those runes will guarantee it.” The shopkeeper said.

Deidre looked at him sharply. “It will protect me, you’re sure?” she asked.

“I swear on me mother’s grave I do,” he replied solemnly.

Deidre bought the knife despite the high price. She had never heard of someone successfully injuring their own death, but maybe she could drive it away with such a blade. She tucked the knife into her pocket.

She stayed in the village until the sun started setting. She could feel excitement as people talked of the bonfires that would be lit soon in the empty fields. By that time the pain in her chest was constant and deep, and she had trouble breathing. She knew her brother would be expecting her in by nightfall, but all she could think of was how nice the warmth would be near a bonfire. She followed the villagers as they walked towards the fields.

As the last of the sun vanished and the air grew cooler Deidre’s cough became worst, her handkerchief sodden with red, and she fell behind the others. Eventually she had to stop altogether as a particularly bad fit seized her. Blood spattered the grass. When she finally was able to stand upright her death stood before her.

She had never seen it so close besides at the window. She could see its body was identical to hers but insubstantial and dark, like a shadow cast by the light of a fire.

“Stay away from me,” she said. She drew out the silver knife and held it in front of her. “Just stay away from me.”

Her death had no distinguishable face yet still Deidre almost felt like it looked at her sadly. It took a step toward her and reached out a hand.

“No!” she yelled. She stabbed at it wildly with her knife and struck its hand, the knife sinking into its shadowy flesh.

Deidre screamed. Icy pain lanced through her hand. She bore no wound yet she could feel the blade stabbed through her flesh. She looked in horror as her death took another step towards her.

She sobbed as she ran away. She ran blindly forward, hampered by the throbbing pain in her hand and lungs. When she looked back her death didn’t seem to be following her, but still she ran in blind panic.
Eventually she saw the dim glow of the bonfire in the fields. It was said that the bonfires of the fall equinox were protective, and she made her way to the very front nearest to the fire. Heat rolled over her in waves and sunk into her body, and for a moment she felt healthy again. But she could feel her death behind her, its breath rattling like old dry leaves in the wind, its body close against hers.

Nov 15, 2012

What will you say when
your child asks:
why did you fail Thunderdome?

And Grow Anew
1072 words
spring water

Somewhere far-off in the distance, shrouded by the miasma of a fading daze, a single thought emerged, pulsing with the intensity of a tiny ringing bell: This is not what sleep feels like.

Ben’s eyes snapped open. He didn’t have much time before the adrenaline rush would wear off. Something fell off the nightstand as he fumbled for his phone.

He dialed 911.

“Sleeping pills. Overdose,” he croaked. He gave the operator his address.

“It was an accident.”


“Please hurry.”

He hung up and rolled on his back, facing a ceiling of cobwebs. Waves of shock rippled through him. They would come. They would save him. He would be fine.

He tossed his cell across the room and put his face in his hands. Coward.

He wanted to scream. He wanted to thrash around in his bed, yell at the top of his lungs and destroy half of all the loving things in their trashy studio apartment, the bad half, the half that lived, the half that didn’t deserve to be there, stupid loving half.

Instead he picked Sarah’s picture back up and hugged it, and fought back the tears while he waited for death, or the ambulance.

Whoever got here first.


At the river. Take a splash?

Every day the message burned itself into Ben’s retinas, hours at a time. It was the only thing he used his phone for nowadays.

They had taken him to the hospital, pumped out his stomach, given him some pills and thrown him out next morning. He hadn’t insisted to stay.

He was back in their apartment, looking at her message, crouching on the dirty floor in his favorite spot between the drawing table and his dusty guitar.

There was a knock at the door. He tried to ignore it, but the insistent thumping soon mixed with his father’s voice. “Ben! I know you’re in there. Open up.”

gently caress you.

He sat down at the table. Dusty sketches of all kinds of flowers littered the top. Sarah had used to love flowers, but they’d had no space for them, so she’d resorted to drawing them.

She’d been good at it.

“I have keys to this apartment, you know.”

“Then come the gently caress in already,” Ben said.

He didn’t have to tell him twice. The door popped open and a man built like a stout oak stepped through. Ben had expected him to be furious, but his father’s eyes were red and swollen and his breath was heavy. He stopped uncertainly before Ben, then pressed his head against his chest.

“What are you doing? My son...” his father said.

“It’s spring again,” Ben said. To his surprise, his voice was shaky. He sniffled.


“I killed her, dad. I loving killed her.”

“Don’t even think that.”

“I should have been there.”

“You didn’t know what was going to happen,” his father said, and Ben didn’t reply. If he’d opened his mouth again, he’d sob. In front of his father.

His dad gave him a pat on the back and let go. An uncomfortable silence fell over them.

“Those are some fine paintings,” his father finally said.

“Yeah. They are.”


His father had insisted Ben at least visit a self-help group for his grief. The first thing they told him was to distract himself. He’d tried painting flowers, in honor of Sarah, but it hadn’t turned out well. No matter what he did, his lines always came out crooked.

Not for lack of study. He’d made practice drawings from books, read up on the characteristics of different kinds of flowers. How they grew, how their buds and petals were formed. What colors occurred naturally and what didn’t.

Looking at his pictures, he probably learned more about gardening than drawing.

So he did the other thing the group had suggested.

Sarah’s grave was sparsely decorated. A simple granite headstone, a name, a date and a framed photo. Earth. No flourishes. What little family she’d had always had neglected her, and probably hadn’t been here since the funeral. He hadn’t even been there for that. He’d never had it in himself.

“I never said goodbye,” Ben said to Sarah’s tombstone.

She smiled back at him, gentle and honest. It was a face that made him understand the cliches men said to women.

“Well, uh, I realize that you wouldn’t want me to kill myself over this. So I feel pretty stupid.” He scratched his head. “But I miss you. I really do.”

He awkwardly sat down in the soft grass in front of her grave.

“I’ve made these,” he said, and showed her one of his pictures. “They suck, but I don’t know what else to do. I’ve given the guitar away. It just reminds me of how I wasn’t there when--”

His voice broke. He took a quick look around him and only then did he allow for the water to well up in his eyes.

“I don’t know what to do. I had you for that.”

He wiped his eyes. The bud of wild peony caught his eye. It grew at the edge of Sarah’s grave.

Right in front of him, the bud opened to a tiny slit.

He examined the young flower. The soil was a little dry. Sarah had always loved flowers.

From a nearby fountain he returned with cupped hands full of water. He splashed it on the peony and imagined he could hear it thirstily slurp it all up.

It was silly. He felt a sense of protection over that little bud.

“Flowers, huh?” he said. “I guess I could try.”


Spring came again next year, and Ben visited Sarah’s grave with his father as he did regularly now. He didn’t cry. In fact, he looked forward to tending to the flowers again.

He examined the peonies, and daisies and the daffodils. He cut off dead stunts, watered the dry ones and turned to his father, who carried a coronal made from lilies and roses. He took it and carefully rested it against her tombstone.

Her grave was decorated with a colorful blanket, full of growth and scent. Red and blue, white and yellow. Soon the bees would come, and the small field would be full of life.

His dad laid an arm around him and gently rubbed his shoulder. There was a silence between them, but it wasn't awkward.

“Those are some fine flowers,” his father finally said.

“Yeah. They are.”

Feb 16, 2010

One of the funniest posters in GIP.

Just not intentionally.

the worst possible way to begin Thunderdome: I most likely will not finish my first story in time. I've been babysitting two toddlers since Friday.:negative: I am still going to finish and post my story, but I likely won't have it up until tomorrow morning.

gently caress.

Oct 30, 2003

796 Words
Winter, Air

Now that he was out of his depth John was regretting bragging about his skiing prowess on the coach up the mountain. He was struggling to track the swooping trails of Molly’s skis as they curved through the pines while still keeping his footing. He’d followed her off-piste, the first time he’d ever been off the groomed slopes. At first the fresh snow had been fun, carving against the weight of the fluffy drift.

Things had started to get hairy when they descended below the treeline, where it got steeper and the shade had let a crust of ice had formed over the powder. He caught an edge on a patch of it and veered off course, flapping his arms to try to keep his balance. He was successful, but rewarded only with a pine needle whip to the face as he barely missed a tree. He was thinking too hard, planning the turns instead of feeling them out, and he knew that meant he was skiing badly. His hangover didn't help either.

Despite a full twenty four hours of bus and ferry travel and an 11 pm arrival time, fifty-odd young Aussies weren't about to spend their first night in the French Alps doing much sleeping. Molly had been as confident at the bar as she was on the slopes. John liked her blonde hair and her perfect teeth that were only just too big for her face.

“I heard ya on the bus, good to have someone else here who knows their poo poo, most of this lot haven’t seen snow before” she said to him. He bought her drink.

“Let’s make these our last” she said, and started walking back to her group of friends. She looked back over her shoulder “See you at the lifts tomorrow at nine.”

The trip was about two things: snow and screwing. He took her advice and went to bed, thinking that with a bit of luck he might have both covered. She’d looked even better that morning, all the girls did. John loved their rosy wind-burned cheeks and the way that goggles and jackets forgave any imperfections in their faces and bodies. They looked as perfect as the fresh powder.

John paused on the lip of a steep drop, looking out over the valley. He had no idea where on the mountain he was, the lines on the map didn't mean much to him on the second run of the day. At least he could see the village below, though the cheap “chalet” hotels they were staying in looked as small as monopoly houses. He guessed Molly was back on the chairlift again, pointing out squirrels and making easy conversation with someone who wasn't him.

He held his breath before pushing off with hits poles and launching himself over the lip, still following Molly’s crisp trail. He was getting the hang of the ice now, pushing hard to cut through it instead of skittering over the top. He was lucky he had, as about ten meters ahead he saw the ground give way to thin air. There was no time to stop, so he dug in hard to the right, aimed for a tree that hung out over the bluff, fell sideways, and closed his eyes.

After what he thought was only a couple of seconds he opened them again, but he really had no way of knowing how long it had been. He felt the pain through his whole body, excruciating but dull, more like a punch than a stab. Maybe that meant nothing was broken, but it was doubtful. He still had one ski on, the other couldn't be seen from where he lay crumpled against the tree that had saved him. It looked so supple and alive, but had felt like concrete. He pulled himself up to his knees and opened his jacket to let the snow out. He could feel the scrapes of ice on his stomach as he moved his clothing against it.

He looked up the slope and saw the bright red rental ski jutting out like a javelin a few metres from where his tracks stopped. The other tracks continued, and John could picture the snow spraying up as they approached the edge, before they continuing over it at a 45 degree angle to the edge. Molly hadn't stopped in time. He looked over the edge of the bluff and could just make out a human form spreadeagled at the bottom, completely still. When he stood his legs hurt, and when he used his pole to pop his boot out of his remaining ski his shoulder hurt. There was no way he could get down there. It was a long walk back to the village.

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Chichevache posted:

the worst possible way to begin Thunderdome: I most likely will not finish my first story in time. I've been babysitting two toddlers since Friday.:negative: I am still going to finish and post my story, but I likely won't have it up until tomorrow morning.

gently caress.

A true warrior writes on her wedding day; while he is hallucinating because of the metals in the volcanic ash he breathes; yea, while he crouches over the toilet, revisiting the meals of yesterdays past. Can you do so much less?

That said, I'll crit anything submitted within twenty-four hours of the deadline. Just don't give up too soon.

Mar 21, 2010

Kaishai posted:

A true warrior writes on her wedding day; while he is hallucinating because of the metals in the volcanic ash he breathes; yea, while he crouches over the toilet, revisiting the meals of yesterdays past. Can you do so much less?

That said, I'll crit anything submitted within twenty-four hours of the deadline. Just don't give up too soon.
I like that 2/3 of these are me.

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

I like that 2/3 of these are me.

The second one is, but I was thinking of Rhino for the third case.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 00:15 on Nov 10, 2014

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Hiding Places
1154 words

E: Archives

Ironic Twist fucked around with this message at 22:40 on Dec 29, 2014

Feb 16, 2010

One of the funniest posters in GIP.

Just not intentionally.

Kaishai posted:

A true warrior writes on her wedding day; while he is hallucinating because of the metals in the volcanic ash he breathes; yea, while he crouches over the toilet, revisiting the meals of yesterdays past. Can you do so much less?

That said, I'll crit anything submitted within twenty-four hours of the deadline. Just don't give up too soon.

All of those trials are mere nuisances compared to a 2 year old and a 3 year old suffering from night terrors and poor parenting.

But for real, I am writing still and I wouldn't give up. I plan N on being here to stay. Also I want a crit.

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

The Aerial Ace and the Battle of Roswell
1195 words

Djeser fucked around with this message at 20:08 on Dec 31, 2014

Some Guy TT
Aug 30, 2011

Sakura Riders
1132 Words

The very first day of cherry blossom season, and already the wind was mighty enough for a sweeping hillside race. All the faeries turned out in their most sparkling finery to usher in the start of the new season.

At the edge of the starting line Maehwa quadruple checked all her equipment. Rudder for turning, three bags of pixie dust for quickly reversing direction, cherry blossom petal. So there wasn't actually that much equipment to check, but still. Maehwa had been humiliated at the final race last year, doing a spectacular acrobatic crash into a tree because she got too fancy. She wasn't going to let a lackadaisical attitude ruin her again.

"Hi Maehwa!" piped Gongju, cheerily taking her place at the starting line. "Can you believe it's spring already? We're going to have ever so much fun!"

Maehwa frowned. She hated Gongju and all her friendliness and amicability. It was one thing to act like that during wintertime. But this was a cherry blossom race. It was time to win.

With a blast of sparkle and the traditional warbling bugle amidst a huge burst of applause, the new season began. There wasn't actually any reason to leap off the starting point right away- the best time to jump was when the wind was at its peak. Rookies usually jumped too soon, but then that was why most fairies didn't even finish the race. After all the amateurs had left, Maehwa saw the moment. And of course, Gongju beat her to it.

"See you at the finish line!" said Gongju in a sing-songy voice, shoving off the ledge, leaving a trail of sparkling magic glitter in her wake. "Whee!!!"

Maehwa wasn't intimidated, and took a considerate moment before pushing off her cherry blossom too. The first thing she had to do was avoid distraction. Yes, they were all at the top of a beautiful mountain vista, with the winding river providing shimmering beams of light to shine the way to the finish line. The sky was awash in natural cherry blossoms, glistening in that very same light, providing a pleasant fragrance all the while. The wind, too, whooshed all over Maehwa, giving her a chilly tingly feeling. These were but mere distractions, she reminded herself, pulling up alongside Gongju, as the two emerged obvious leaders through the first leg of the flower patch.

"Hey Maehwa look at this!"

Gongju grabbed her rudder and took it hard to the side, pulling off a perfect loop de loop. Multicolored petals flew about in the breeze, creating a dazzling spring rainbow. Maehwa was insulted. Clearly this was a reference to Maehwa's crushing defeat last year. Well, there was more than just a loop de loop involved, but still. Maehwa would not be mocked.

"I'll try too!" Maehwa said, with faux sincerity.

Maehwa deliberately angled her cherry blossom just to the side of Gongju, and moved fast. Her loop de loop was perfect. Maehwa, by all rights, should have knocked Gongju off the petal. Unfortunately, right before she could pull off this clever "accident", a huge blot of pollen rammed her right in the face. Maehwa could barely maintain her bearings, and as she flung the pollen away, Maehwa could see she was heading straight down, fast.

"Here!" cried out Gongju, tossing some pixie dust downwards. Maehwa's cherry blossom reversed course and spurted up, way into the high sky. A fresh cool breeze wafted by as clouds slowly moved into new formations. A small flock of starlings effortlessly flocked with wings casually outstretched in a large lovely black pattern to contrast with the many white nimbus shapes.

Maehwa scowled. Gongju had chosen a dirty tactic. Everybody knew the high sky was was way slower, even if it was safer than flying near the ground. Well Maehwa still had plenty of pixie dust of her own- not to mention the help of her friend gravity. And from this high vantage point, it was easy to make out the finish line, crested as it was in the middle of a colorful dotted orchard, brightened by the relative plainness of the nearby forest. Maehwa readied the pixie dust, then jerked the rudder, making her go up and backwards in a quick jolt. Thanks to perfect timing, the dust reversed Maehwa's direction hard, down and forward, making her move incredibly fast.

Dangerous, to be sure. But Maehwa had the skills for it. Victory was practically assured, and she laughed feeling the harsh wind wrap around her face. Even pollen couldn't stop her now. But a bird could.

Maehwa barely managed to dodge fast enough to keep away from the diving starling's vicious beak. A quickly tossed bag of pixie dust was enough to make that birdie go bye-bye. But that left another problem. The cherry blossom now had a huge hole in the center. Maehwa was falling more than she was moving forward. She could use the last bag of pixie dust as a signal flare for a rescue. But there was no way she was going to humiliate herself again.

Thinking fast, Maehwa grabbed the rudder and jumped through the hole, careful not to bring her wings with her. With a few gaps the wings mostly covered the hole, even if they tickled something fierce. Maehwa took the rudder and attached it to the bottom front of the cherry blossom. Now it was a hang glider. Maehwa smirked. Ain't no rule against hang gliders, just as long as the petal comes with her to the finish line. Keeping the last bag of pixie dust at the ready, she flew down, grinning ear to ear as the landscape became bigger and bigger right in front her face. Soon she was near enough to the ground to check out what was behind.

Sure enough, Gongju was still way too far back. Wasting time with more loop de loops- ha! It was only then that Maehwa realized she was about to crash at full speed- before finishing the race. Maehwa pulled up until backwards, and used the last of her pixie dust right as she started falling. Right up into the air! Not a whole lot of lift, but the bare minimum necessary to get her across the finish line. Maehwa toppled into the winner's circle, the petal in scraps, her body badly bruised, but victorious.

Maehwa stood up triumphant, taking in the glorious cheers of the crowd. Then she smugly watched as Gongju sauntered listlessly into second place. This was the moment- victory! But before Maehwa had a chance to react, Gongju had run up and given her a big hug.

"That was amazing Maehwa! Did you have fun up there?"

And Maehwa replied, in what she would later claim was uncharacteristic gibberish brought on by the elation of winning-


Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition

Stormy Weather

Nethilia fucked around with this message at 08:37 on Dec 4, 2014

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Those who haven't submitted yet have three hours in which to do so!

Broenheim, Your Sledgehammer, Paladinus, and Phobia, your :toxx: have not been forgotten. We are watching.

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007

My first submission in many months:

Mr. Electroworth's Shovel Summer Earth / 1,200 words

Just minutes before I whacked my billionaire boss in the head with his own treasured gold shovel, I was thinking about my shoes. I’d scuffed them earlier in the day and I couldn’t get over it. They cost me $400. I never used to spend money like that on shoes or even give the whole affair more than two seconds thought. It’s strange how much you can change when you get some cash in your pocket.

“The real problem is the trees,” he said, waving an arm across the vista. I’d driven him to an overlook of a pristine valley where he planned to build the next great addition to the Electroworth Group Resort Properties. His bald spot shone in the sun. If I held a pair of mirrors just right I could catch my own starting to form in the same spot. I squinted in the bright day, hot, in the height of summer, the sun beating down and sweat starting to drip down the backs of my legs. It felt like little bugs crawling around on me. I held Mr. Electroworth’s famous Golden Shovel in both hands like an armed sentry. The same one he used to break ground at his first property over fifty years ago. He later had it gilded, and we’d come out to plunge it into the earth here. Mr. Electroworth didn’t like big ceremonies. There was something spiritual about the way he’d break ground. Alone, with his own hands, as if assuring himself he still had dominion over the earth.

“The trees,” he said again. “Tough to uproot, and you get so many of those nuts climbing all over them and refusing to come down. They think they can stand in the way of progress. They never learn, my boy. They’re like a weed. You think you’ve crushed them and they pop back up.”
He turned to me. Despite the heat and my own drenched armpits, I couldn’t see a drop of sweat in his thin gray hair or bushy eyebrows. He looked quite cool, actually. Not even the sun could have its way with him. “Do you know how to truly kill a weed, son?”

I rested the shovel on my shoulder. “Rip up the roots?”

“You’ll never be sure you’ve gotten them all. No. You pave over them with concrete. Now get me some water, would you?”

I spun to comply, and the golden shovel spun with me. The thin edge took Mr. Electroworth in the temple and he dropped faster than my stomach.

I’d just killed one of the richest men in the world.

Both our lives ended in that split second. Mine was just going to take a while to catch up. I stood staring at his lifeless body and the murder weapon still in my hands.

No one was around. I moved before I even considered it and seized both of his arms and began to drag him away from the clearing where I’d parked. One of his cuff links popped off into the bushes, and I wasted five precious minutes retrieving the evidence.
No body, no conviction, right? That’s what I learned from TV. I didn’t have time to be ashamed. As I pulled the body along, I remembered my first days at the office.

Welcome back banners were strewn about and everyone wore at least three different party hats. Mr. Electroworth was returning that morning from a month in Sub-Saharan Africa, scouting potential sites and hunting elephants for the cost of only $17,000 per head (double for the little ones). I’d gotten an internship there after the receipt of my PhD in 18th century Scandinavian Literature and my subsequent failure to find 21st century American employment. Many of my friends had found positions at environmental firms. At first, working for Electroworth felt like a betrayal of some essential part of myself. I’d grown up despising such companies.

When I saw the plans for a new resort at Yosemite, right at the top of Half Dome complete with elevator to the bottom, I told one of my old friends. He pointed out several reasons why the project could never get past the regulatory agencies. Relieved, I brought this to the attention of my superiors. A week later, the appropriate parties had been paid off and the project was greenlit. That hadn’t been my intention at all. But I was rewarded with a $5,000 check, and I smiled and said thank you. The money felt good.

Pretty soon, my environmental friends caught on and quit hanging out with me. By then, though, I had new friends. Richer friends. I helped establish a resort at the bottom of the Grand Canyon that reached high over the rim and could be seen from anywhere in the park. A part of me still felt it was wrong. But that part got smaller and smaller. Now I’m not sure it exists any more. Now I’d call my old friends “tree-fuckers.”

I managed to get Mr. Electroworth’s body out of sight and didn’t have time then to register the irony of using his own prized shovel to kill and bury him. The earth was rich and moved easily under the shovel blade. I couldn’t stand to see his pale face, looking accusingly at me. So I started tossing the dirt at him, and that’s what finally woke him up.

He sputtered, spit out dirt, and jerked upright, dirt cascading off him like an old jack-in-the-box from the back of the attic suddenly springing to life.

“What in the hell’s going on here?” he asked. I froze. I’d been so sure he was dead, and now I couldn’t remember why. He looked from the half-finished hole to me. “Did you...?”

I couldn’t decide whether to apologize, lie, run, or hit him again. Mr. Electroworth clambered to his feet, surprisingly spry for a man his age, and plunged his hand into his pocket. I thought at first he was going to shoot me, but instead produced a more dangerous weapon: a cell phone, no doubt to call the police.

I opened my mouth to protest and he stuck up a finger. I was so surprised that I clamped my lips back together.

“Gregory,” he snapped into the phone. “You’re fired. I want you out before I’m back.” The phone vanished into his pocket again.

He turned to me and said: “Quick on your feet. Important. Self-preservation is man’s most powerful instinct. It’s what made me the man I am. I need more of that around me. You’re replacing that limp idiot. He was always weak. Now get in the car and drive me to a drat hospital, you son of a bitch.”

I followed him toward the car, stepping into the hole along the way and nearly knocking myself out with the shovel. As the shock wore off, I smiled. I could really be one of them. I had what it takes. I saw mountains in my future. Not snowy-peaked ones; those would have to go, make way for industry. No, I saw mountains of money, all mine, and the earth waiting to be subdued.

(Question: Can I comment on people's stories? Should I wait?)

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

blue squares posted:

(Question: Can I comment on people's stories? Should I wait?)

Yes, but yes. You can--and should!--comment or crit away once results are announced, but not before.


Apr 9, 2005

"I'm thirty," I said. "I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor."

1196 words (Prompt: Summer Water)

Summer sunlight bled into the darkened classroom, teasing the youths with what they already knew they were missing. It was hot and confining underneath the shadows of the projected wave machines and the sound of soft trickling water put them on edge. Mr. Kolowski said that the windows won't be opened either, since the breeze could disrupt their experiments. "Physics would continue even in the heat," he said, raising the papers in his hand. "And so will the test."

The other students grumbled, but Bryce knew what the old man was like. He had taken Physics 11 and failed, threatening his entry into the nearby community college. He was never good at thinking too hard and sometimes his mind failed him; words and thoughts often blended together. The last time it happened was when Bryce's parents told him and his sister why they were separating, so he knew it got worse with stress. Luckily though, the College’s September semester was far enough away that he could still enroll if he passed this class now. Bryce had studied the material, more than anything he previously had in high school, but he was less than certain in himself.

As Kolowski doled out the tests, each of the students in the class prepared for them like a prison sentence. Bryce had wriggled off his extra clothes and draped his hoodie over the back of his chair, but even in his thin T-shirt and board shorts he still sweat. He had even taken off his hat, resting it on the end of the white table he and Amy sat at. Amy had already bundled up her light coat next to him and set it down to her left, leaving a clear view between them. She looked up at Bryce and smiled in a "whatever happens, happens" kind of way. He smiled back. She always reminded him of someone, but he couldn't place it. He couldn't believe she was taking this class for fun.

When the test landed in front of him, he immediately scanned the first page. Wave Interference Test, the header announced. Multiple choice. True or False. Bryce wrote his name and the date on the top of the page and took a deep breath. When Kolowski told everyone to begin, he was ready.

The waves wobbled on the ceiling, black and incandescent yellow, and floated across the paper in front of him. It was difficult writing when the page itself seemed to sway, but Bryce stuck with it. He knew the answers, unlike last semester. Interference is a phenomenon in which two waves: C) superpose. Interference effects can be observed with what types of waves: D) All types of waves. T/F Interference effects can bolster or diminish wave strength. T. Bryce wondered if the test was easier than before, or if he truly learned more. He wondered if Kolowski was taking it easy for the summer.

Then, in the corner of his vision, Bryce noticed Amy's blonde hair swaying constantly. He glanced over, seeing blue eyes staring directly down at his page.

He couldn't believe he saw it right. Bryce knew Amy was a good student, and she was a year younger than he was. The only reason she took this class was to have a head start for the next year. It didn't make sense to him that she would cheat. He turned his gaze towards Kolowski, hoping the old man didn't see whatever was going on, and pulled his test paper slightly away from Amy.

He felt her rustle. She nudged his arm with hers then wrote PLEASE faintly on the table and underlined it. Bryce glanced back at her, seeing her wet eyes. Her page had nothing on it and she shivered visibly even in the cloying heat of the room. Although he had only known her for a few months, he never imagined seeing her like this. She needed him, Bryce was certain now.

When he pushed his test back to where she could see it, she drew a small smiley-face underneath the previous message. Amy pushed her page towards his and their forearms touched, covering the messages.

Soon after, they both finished the first page and flipped in unison. The second page was more daunting: short answer questions. The previous year’s short answer questions were where Bryce lost the most points.

He found it was getting more and more difficult to concentrate. He was more prepared for this test, but the shadows waving across the page, the small black font and the thin answer areas all started to blend in his mind. He felt as if the words themselves would be carried off into the current on the ceiling. Give an everyday example of a wave interfering with another wave. He couldn't do it. All he could do was watch the lines dance across his paper.

Bryce figured he had no choice. He leaned over and glanced at Amy's page. The girl had already started writing down her responses, quickly filling out the answers. He thought that they must have been similar, in a way — affected by stress, because right now she looked focused. Each line of hers he read focused his mind back into place. He finished with her help, but regretted that he needed it.

Kolowski coughed and the two students shot their glances over. He still seemed absorbed in some kind of work, and didn't seem to notice them. When they were finished, Bryce went back to the first page and changed some of his answers. He used to cheat all the time, and he needed to make it look different to cover their tracks.

Amy rubbed his shoulder.

Soon after, everyone was finished. Kolowski gave them all a moment, then stood from his desk and collected the papers. The wave machines still hummed away, but when Bryce looked up, the network of lines looked chaotic and frantic, like a broken spider web. Kolowski walked back to his desk slowly, flipping through the tests, glancing back and forth at two in particular. He took a moment with them. A long moment.

"Amy and Bryce," Kolowski said. "Can I see you both in the hall please?"

Bryce and Amy shared a glance then followed the old teacher out into the hall. The harsh fluorescent light made them blink.

Kolowski brought out their tests, one in each hand. "These are identical," he said. "I'm not going to bother asking what happened. Neither of you are passing this test."

"What?" Bryce said.

"No, wait, please Mr. Kolowski, I don't know what happened!" Amy said, tears returning.

"Sure you do," the man said, walking back towards the class.

Without thinking, Bryce reached out and grabbed his arm. "Wait, Mr. Kolowski, it was me, I did it."

The teacher spun around and stared at the boy. Amy stared too.

"I did it, she didn't have anything to do with it."

"Amy," Kolowski said, gesturing back to class. "Back inside."

Amy nodded and mouthed a "thank you" behind the teacher's back. Bryce decided she looked a bit like his sister.

"Guess I'll see you next semester, Bryce." Kolowski said as he ripped up Bryce's test.

Bryce didn't understand why, but he felt fine. "Yeah, I guess so."

  • Locked thread