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Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

sentientcarbon posted:

Thunderdome LXXV: He's Not Quite Dead

Slipping in before the deadline closes later today.

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Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

#23

The Artist

Nights are the best for viewing him. During the day, punter after punter comes through and gawks or takes photos, which is pointless because there are far better images available in the gallery shop, and he just lies there. In the nights though, he's more active. I don't know why and I can't talk to him to ask him, but he paces the box, exercises, speaks to himself I think, but the box is soundproof.

It didn't used to be this way. I've watched him become more inanimate since I began. He'd pace around all day or do press-ups when I first started. Now, he spends the days lying on his back. Some people have even claimed he's not really in there and it's a dummy or manikin or something. I'm here all day and all night though, and it's still him.

As for the punters, I see the same look of admiration day-after-day, and I can feel it creep across my face late at night still. It isn't the exhibition that they're impressed by, it's the artist's dedication. We're only in the seventy-ninth year of his encasement, but people have been turning up in droves since the third or fourth from what management told me when I began.

We didn't used to keep precise visitor numbers, but I asked if we could when I noticed the crowds getting larger year-on-year. Management said we could and it turns out we've had more visitors every year since recording began. The fiftieth was an exception; numbers almost doubled from the year before as people came to see the halfway mark, but the fifty-first's numbers were still up from the forty-ninth's.

Nobody else looks at the figures, and the only reason they started keeping them was fear of losing me, I think. Most attendants leave after a few years, but I've stuck around for decades now. I started in the thirteenth year of the exhibit and kept requesting to be put on duty for it. I got my way because nobody else wanted to be in charge of what was easily our most popular work, and it requires working nights too. I've been here nearly as long as him, but people aren't impressed if you're just standing around on the ground rather than suspended in a glass box. There's nothing flashy or showy about standing on the ground.

Something about the artist's dedication keeps people fascinated. People can't believe somebody has actually done something like this. You get critics, of course, saying "he's just lying in a box. I could do something like that." But they don't. Nobody does. Everybody puts things off. "There's no rush," they figure, "I'll do it next month, or next year, or next century," and then they just drag on, doing the same thing year after year forever.

I'm no better than them. I've done nothing with my life. The biggest commitment I've made is staying with this job for thirteen years. It's the same admiration for the artist that's kept me here though.

There's just under twenty-one years left of the exhibition now. I don't know what I'll do when it ends. I've felt like I've had purpose this entire time. I don't want to go back to the day-to-day, empty existence of everybody else. I don't want to spend the day waking and seeing the same faces, spend the weekends seeing my parents, grand-parents, great-grandparents, scores of ancestors, who knows how many cousins? The exhibition has given me something to grab hold of, and I dread the day it ends.

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

Oh and that's 594 words.

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

In.

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

Dead Eye - 89 words

Years of searching led the crippled child here. In the saloon, he called out the man who shot his father.

The murderer spat back. "Left your daddy dead and your arm withered, boy. What chance you got now?"

They faced each other in the street, dripping sweat and scorched by the noon sun. Birds circled and doors slammed.

Two shots rang out. His father's killer fell to the dirt, a hole between his eyes. The crippled kid reached to his own throat and tried to hold in the blood.

=========================

Gonna try to do some crits of the short stuff too because I want to make people feel bad.

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

crabrock posted:

I will crit 1 person who seb isn't critting. This better not lose me 250 words.

I'd rather Seb critted it but I guess you'll have to do.

The Artist

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

Entenzahn posted:

Yes please

First time I ever wrote a story, I'll take any feedback I get

edit: Ah gently caress.

I feel bad for jumping in so quickly so here, have my first Thunderdome crit.

Entenzahn posted:

#24

Sport of Kings
747 words

Twenty seconds to go and they were still five points behind. Johnny Botambo was in the pitch with the other 24 players of the Ghana Panzerfausts, all huddled around their coach. "Right guys, we've got the entire field before of us and not much time. So here's the plan.." [Guessing this should be a full ellipsis. You need to make sure mistakes like this aren’t appearing, especially this early on] , the coach waited for a few seconds and the whole team erupted in laughter. There was no plan in goreball. "Okay, but seriously, go out there and score. You're embarrassing me." [I actually like the subversion here and you’ve now set a tone to expect.]

The Panzerfausts gave a shout and wandered [That’s a very casual way for them to travel. You don’t think they could have been more active than “wandering”? Did they forget about what they were doing and managed to end up back in the game by chance?] back onto the field. Their opponents, the U.S-Kickers, brandished shiny swords and modern guns and in the case of Drony McBot, robo-mascot and star scorer of the team, machine guns and a remote signaler for anti-personnel rockets. Ghana relied mostly on outdated World War 3 technology [Yeah, I don’t know what World War 3 tech looks like. I can imagine the US team because you’ve given descriptions and information, but Ghana? Who knows?]. Johnny lined up behind Noah "Crusher" Mambase, their kingwhacker. It was his giant hands that held the ball at the start of the drive, and it was his hands that had to carry or pass it into the deadzone. This was basically the only rule of goreball so people took it very seriously.

All around Crusher[Stick a comma here so you don’t get people reading about Crusher Ghana’s tanks like I just did] Ghana's tanks, giants encased in Kevlar and heavy metal, brandished rusty cleavers and bulletproof shields with which they hoped to keep their kingwhacker safe [Okay, you’re talking about all this military technology and then suddenly use “tanks” in a gamey way, like the big armoured guy who can take a hit. When I read this in context I started thinking about actual, honest-to-God tanks and then they were holding cleavers and had bulletproof shields and I was all “what shouldn’t a tank be bulletproof anyway why does it have a shield” and then I read it back and I was all “ooooh” but I don’t want to do that so make it clear and be sure you’re using words that give the correct impression in context]. Johnny on the other hand was long and frail, the leaper of the team, and armor would only weigh him down. He tried to blend in with the gunners and flankers and kamikazes around him [I know what Johnny looks like now but not what the gunners and flankers and kamikazes look like and all the descriptions I’ve had of Ghana’s team so far are big guys wearing armour and now this nerd is trying to blend in with them and I can only see it as comically ineffectual. This comes back to the need to the need for some description of the “outdated World War 3 technology”] and nervously played with the grenades on his belt.

Cheerleaders unloaded their assault rifles into the roaring crowd. The red cloud of blood was their signal to start. [I guess this seemed like a good idea to highlight the deathlessness in your head but really? Do people not feel pain either (if they don’t then you need to establish this before you do something like this)? This seems more like a terrorist attack.] Guns and swords and shields and rocket launchers were raised and somewhere a drone beep-booped and bullets started flying. Their offensive line was strong and numerous and pushed the enemy halfway across the field until their right flank was hit by an exploding kamikaze that catapulted three Ghanaian players out of the stadium.

Enemy tanks quickly rushed the weak spot and as Ghana's players shifted to meet them they were caught off-guard by another kamikaze on the other side. The line imploded. Crusher turned around and hurled the ball towards Johnny moments before his head was cut off by an oversized steak knife that read 'Everything is bigger in Texas'[I like the description of the battle so far and snorted appreciatively at the steak knife. A good snort] . "Leap [Comma. Go and learn about commas or proofread your work more if you already know about them] Johnny", roared Crusher's head, "leap like you've never lept [I thought you’d typo-ed “leapt” but then I remembered your spelling is American anyway so I googled it and “lept” is apparently an archaic form. Anyway, use “leaped” because this doesn’t fit in with the rest of your words] before". Tanks were sprinting [I was about to be all “tanks can’t sprint what’s going on?” but then I remembered that tanks aren’t tanks, they’re tanks. Do you see what you’ve done to me?] towards him. Eyes wide in terror, Johnny took a grenade off his belt, counted to three and threw it to his feet.

He barely managed to hold on to the ball as his broken body whirled through the air. Across the field [comma]another explosion occurred and the American leaper surged past him, screaming "The Pain" [Is this the title of a song or should that be ”the pain!” there?] over and over again. Proper leaping was all about the correct technique, thought Johnny.

The clock expired just as he landed a few inches short of the deadzone. His bones and intestines were broken [Broken intestines doesn’t sit right. Couldn’t his bones be broken and his intestines be something else? Like strewn around him or spread across the dirt?] but most of the other players had forgotten about the match and were facing to bloodshed [Facing to bloodshed? What does this even mean? Facing the bloodshed? So after the cheerleaders unload assault rifles into the crowd to signal the beginning of the match, suddenly everybody is like “shed a tear for those lost…”] in the middle of the field. Johnny clenched his teeth and wobbled pathetically towards the deadzone, inching ever closer. He lifted the ball with his good arm. Slowly edged it closer. Just as the ball touched down Johnny heard a beep-boop and the roar of machineguns and it exploded in his face.

One referee gave the score. One called it short. The third one had joined the brawl in the middle of the field. [That’s funny. I like it.] Boos and cheers echoed from the ranks equally. The referees shrugged and waved the audience towards them. They didn't have to ask twice. Waves of people washed over the stands and clashed on the field to settle the dispute, mingling with the few goreball players that where still standing. Specks of flesh and blood polluted the air as the cheerleaders opened fire to support their teams. Tanks [Every time I read this now I’m getting annoyed] broke bones and spines while kamikazes strangled people with their own intestines. Drony McBot ordered a precision-strike that destroyed part of the western stadium wall and hurt a few innocent bystanders.

The dust settled after an hour of carnage and a handful of Ghanaian fans and players were the only ones still conscious and standing.

"Score for Ghana", croaked a referee, wriggling on the ground as if that would unbreak his spine any sooner. "Match ends with a 5-1 victory for the U.S-Kickers." The Panzerfausts cheered. Johnny beamed as they lifted his smoking, broken body and carried him off to celebrate. [There are only “a handful of Ghanaian fans and players” left. This cheering and carrying malarkey seems beyond them but you could probably make a joke about that fact.]

Pros:

You kept the jokey tone throughout except for one possible "faced the bloodshed" thing.
I laughed a bit.

Cons:

I've already highlighted the bits I thought went too far above (the cheerleaders) and this has been mentioned in your original crit but you took the prompt:

quote:

I want you to give me a glimpse into a world where no one ever need fear death, and how this would redefine what it means to be human.

and wrote an (admittedly humourous) story about a disgustingly brutal type of American football. On top of that you had some clear typos that you should have spotted with a thorough readthrough. Also, those loving tanks.

If this was the first story you've written then goodish job with your prose but next time actually write something that meets the prompt. "Redefine what it means to be human" does not mean "create the Thunderdome from Mad Max" (not sure what inspired you to do that in the first place). Your story can be as good as you like but if you're not writing what people are asking for then they're not going to publish it/give it the awards/pay you for it. You can write whatever you want whenever you want but this is not the place for you to then stick it.

If this was a death it would be... that guy in a group of soldiers who keeps making wise-cracks and breaking the tone in a gritty war film, then everybody is secretly relieved when he steps on a landmine.

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

A Dirty Job - 909 words

Detective Davies had called in sick. I’ve cleaned that man’s vomit off walls and his diarrhea out of cubicles. The man never calls in sick. Norovirus, blood poisoning, swine flu, he’s on duty. If he was calling in sick then I knew something was wrong, and I was the man to find out what. I finished cleaning the locker room and went to see my supervisor.

“I need to head out and check on Davies. He called in sick.”
“So?”
“I’ve cleaned that man’s vomit off walls and his diarrhea out of cubicles. The man never calls in sick. Norovirus, blood poisoning-”
“I get the picture George. You’re not leaving.”
“What if something’s happened?”
“Not your problem, George, and it sure as hell ain’t mine.”
“So that’s how it is, chief? What happened to looking out for each other? What happened to never leaving a man behind?”
“Don’t give me that crap, George. I’ve got to order in more stock today. We’re nearly out of bleach and the detectives complained they saw another rat in their break room.”
“Damnit, Chief!”
“And don’t call me Chief, George. It’s Barry. Can you get out of here and check the toilets on floor three? They’re out of order again.”
“You’re out of order, Chief!”

I’d had it with this guy’s crap. The whole drat department was full of half-job Harrys, men who’d wipe a urinal once and call it clean. The whole drat place was getting a foul stink.

The last thing on my mind was fixing those toilets. I went straight to the fifth floor and into the personnel files. One perk of the job is getting keys to every room in the building. Ten minutes later I had Davies’ address. Five minutes after that I was on a bus to his apartment.

Nobody answered the buzzer, and when I jimmied my way in I found what I’d known would be there all along. Davies’ body was lying crumpled at the bottom of the stairs, a knife in his back and a puddle of blood on the linoleum.

Blood on the linoleum. None on the walls. None on the carpeted stairs (a nightmare to get out). Just the linoleum. Easy, wipe-clean linoleum. Anybody else would think that was a coincidence, but I’ve been working this beat long enough to know professional work when I see it.

A rummage through his pockets netted me his wallet and I spread its contents over the kitchen table. Loose change, picture of his girl, receipt for a bar, stamp book. Stamp book? Who uses stamps nowadays?

I flipped it open. One was gone. The laptop on his kitchen counter was giving me the eye. I opened it up and soon found what I was looking for.

It was sitting in the Recycle Bin. Somebody had tried to get rid of the evidence but not gone far enough to outwit an old bloodhound like me. Just a single document titled “Letter of Complaint - Kitchen Rat”. I printed it out and headed back to the department. I’d got my man. I needed to confront the Chief.

It was just past noon when I got back and the Chief’s office was deserted. I swore and ran to the break room. “Where’s the Chief?” I yelled to the two other members of cleaning staff in there.
“Barry?”
“Sure. Barry.”
“I think he went to get lunch.”
“Lunch! Of course!”

Lunch for the Chief meant one thing: a sandwich from Eduardo’s. The slimy jerk would get a sub and then head to the bar across the road to eat it. Unfortunately for him, the only bar he’d see today would be in a jail cell. Which he’d be inside. After being arrested for murder. The murder of Detective Davies.

I caught sight of him just as he was crossing the road. “Freeze, Chief!” I yelled. He turned just in time for my fist to slam into his fat, sloppy gut. He went down like the sack of poo poo he was.
“Jesus Christ, George!” he wheezed as he lay on the floor, “what the gently caress is wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with me, Chief? What’s wrong with you? I know you killed Davies.”
“I don’t know what the gently caress you’re talking about.”
“Oh yeah, Chief? And I suppose you don’t know anything about this either?”

I shoved the letter in his face. It was from Detective Davies to the company the PD’s cleaning is outsourced to, complaining about the rats, the constantly blocked toilets and the open hostility of the staff. I was referred to numerous times, but this was bigger than just me.

The Chief’s face dropped. “Hardly proof,” he said, “we get dozens of complaints like that every month.”
“Oh sure. We do. But does head office?”
“You still can’t prove it was me!”
“Can’t I, Chief? No blood on the walls? No blood on the carpet? Just on the linoleum? It was perfect, Chief. Too perfect.” I had him now and he knew it.
“You son of a bitch!” he screamed, still lying at my feet, “do you realise what you’ve done? I was keeping this department safe! I was keeping this department clean!”
“Then it’s too bad you got your hands so dirty, Chief.”

Three days later, the cleaning company had been shut down and I was unemployed. It didn’t matter though. I was the Janitor, and keeping this city clean was a full time job.

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

In.

Does this end the interprompt?

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

I'm getting in inside the 12-hour, extra 250 word mark, but I'm not going to use them because I'm not a whiny baby (I might be a whiny baby). I wrote this yesterday (UK time) and went through it again this morning because if you had any other brief or were submitting for a call from publishers why would you send it on the last day?



A Year to Change the World
- 1025 words

The city lay before them. Strange how a single star can steal the eye, and change the shape of the night.

And nights had been identical until now.

Their battered van entered the city unseen as dusk hit. Micro drove while the others slept. Micro always drove because only Micro knew where they were going.

Tonight, it was open air. The van stopped in a park and they unloaded. Word got around as it did in every city. None of them left the park but when they were ready to begin the crowd reached halfway to the gates. Half an hour in and it was spilling onto the streets.

They met a year before. Michael, Mac, Lisa and James found a violinist playing in a bar with silence all around him. When he finished an uninterrupted, hour-long set, he introduced himself as Micro and walked off stage.

Michael didn't stay to applaud. He ran across the room, through the door Micro disappeared into and caught him in the alley. They went to another bar. Mac, Lisa and James joined them and they set off at dawn.

Since then, every day was the same.

They arrived in a new city at dusk no matter the distance. They'd play through the night, owners and law enforcement ignoring closing times as venues became packed far past capacity. Every morning, they left, each city disappearing behind them as the sun touched it.

Tonight, Micro was incredible. Every time they slowed, he'd wait a minute, allowing each of them to flourish to the audience. His talent spilt to the others, as it did every night, but each evening they felt it more. Michael and James would pass a riff off to each other and into some new, entirely improvised duet, fingers dancing across the frets. Lisa's bass echoed in hearts as electricity danced between her fingertips to make every string sing. Mac could see the patterns in his drums' taut skins. He could turn the wind in the trees to a thunder clap, a tapping foot to an earthquake.

And when each had had their turn, there was Micro, pulling the audience back to him. It was music that played on every cell of your body. You remembered crawling on all fours as your mother watched. Pride at your first word. First kisses, first loves, first losses. Crying at funerals. Wars on TV. Everything. When they were done, Michael, Mac, Lisa and James knew things had changed as they knew things did every night they played. They could feel it in the crowd.

That night, for the first time, Micro spoke after a show. "I need a drink," he said. Michael went with him while Mac, Lisa and James finished packing.

They sat, each with a large, cold glass of beer, in the only bar they'd found open. Apart from them, it was empty. Even the bartender had disappeared. "It's the same every night," Micro said. "Every night we play, then we leave. And people might remember the gig, but what do they take from it? Do they change when we play?"

Michael stayed quiet. He didn't know what to say. Micro rarely spoke and, when he did, it was never like this.

"The next morning, in every city, people go back to their jobs. They say goodbye to the people they love and walk out the door. Every meal they eat with their closest and dearest could be their last and they ignore it. They all stay the same."

A cold stone grew in Michael's stomach. Every moment he'd been with this band had been joyous. Micro had brought them something they'd never known before, but to know he felt like this about what they did was awful. "That's why you play?" Michael asked.

Micro carried on as if he hadn't heard him. "I'm not even Micro really. I'm Junior. My name's Junior. Labelling me as the progeny. Labelling me as lesser."

"But the music. It's beautiful. It's amazing. Have you seen how people stare? How they act when we play?"

Now, Micro acknowledged Michael. He looked him in the eye and paused for a moment. "So what?" he said. "So what if they care while we play? I need more than that, Michael. The world is a terrible, terrible place. They can't just listen and leave. They can't just go back to doing what they did before or me playing for them is pointless. Me being here is pointless.

And Michael shut up. Until then, he'd believed in the change he felt in the crowds. When he talked to Mac, Lisa and James about it, they said they felt it too. But to sit here and hear Micro say it was false was a violation. If Micro felt that then it must be true. They finished their drinks in silence. When they left, Micro walked in the opposite direction to the van. Michael didn't follow.

For two days, they waited for Micro to return. They stayed in the same city without playing. They barely talked.

On the second night in their cheap hotel room, the setting sun shining through faded curtains, Mac spoke.

"We can't go on. Not without Micro," he said.

"It doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel the same," said Lisa.

"We should give up. Go home," said James, "flip burgers."

And Michael's doubt left him. His friends had believed in what they were doing. The faces in the crowd hadn't been a lie. They didn't have Micro, but they still had their music, could still make that difference. And that's what he told them.

On the third day, they left the city at dawn and arrived in another at dusk. They set up and they played, without Micro, but with belief in their music. The crowds weren't as big as when Micro was with them, and they didn't play as late as when Micro was with them, but they could still see the difference in the faces in the crowd.

Their van left the city as the sun rose on a new day, just like any other. It was done. Not well, but close enough.

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

The formal introductions were complete. Twelve agonising hours of careful scent manipulation, low-range vocalisations and perfectly orchestrated body language.

Now, the courting began. It had to be delicate or she'd be scared off, but take too long and she'd get bored. Every action was crucial. Nothing could be overlooked. A leg bent just so, a lip carefully curled. So much effort, but no panting allowed. To pant is to show weakness.

Finally, finally, she acquiesced. He was exhausted. Utterly drained. But he couldn't fall at the final hurdle. He approached, jaw clenched, muscles screaming.

"Boo-boo! Milton! Not on the rug!"

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

In

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

Okay. I'm in and failed last week so I guess that's a

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

Thunderdome Week CVIII: The Dewey Decimal System

Topic: Geology, Hydrology and Meteorology

Tipping Point
1399 words

Dirt was smeared across Manya’s face. Her hands and forearms caked in it. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and left another streak, plastering down hairs that escaped from her ponytail.

‘The sun’s nearly at peak,’ came a voice in her ear.

‘I know. I just want to finish this ditch.’

‘It’ll still be there this evening.’

‘I’ve got another twenty to do this evening. I don’t want to fall behind.’

‘Manya, we’re months behind. We’re going to be off target by years at this rate. You need to calm down about it.’

Manya didn’t reply. She splashed more water into the pit in front of her and smoothed out the hardening edges. A light breeze swirled ash from the ground, some landing in the pit and becoming a black sludge. It wouldn’t last. The sun would bake it within a minute.

‘I’m not coming and carrying you.’

‘I’m on my way.’

The last thing she did was drop in the hygrometer. The heat exhaustion hit her when she stood. She stumbled, blinked up at the sun and turned to base. The walk that took 45 minutes this morning took an hour and a half back. The plains of ash stretched ahead of her through the heat haze, obscuring the grey, burnt hills in the distance. Hot and stale gusts of wind blew around her, sticking ash to her face and tangling it in her hair.

The only thing close to a landmark in the uniform grey was the expanse of white rock that capped their base. ‘White to reflect the heat,’ Corbin would sing as he swept the ash off each morning. And it did. The entrance was right in the middle. Stupid, Manya thought, making people walk across half the thing to get inside. It meant the last hundred metres back were always the worst. The sun was already searing hot, blindingly bright and made it feel like the whole landscape could burst into flame all over again. The white rock made it unfathomably worse.

‘Are you back yet?’ came the voice.

‘Just outside. Open up,’ Manya managed.

‘Christ’s sake, Manya. Don’t stay outside so long.’

The hatch opened and Ali’s head appeared. ‘You look awful. Get inside.’

Half an hour inside and she already felt better. Water, cool air, an electrolyte pack, everything a dehydrated body needed. A knock on the door preceded Corbin. ‘How was today’s death march?’

‘Come with me tomorrow and find out.’

Corbin grinned. ‘No way. Much happier in the dirt.’

‘How’s that going?’

‘Perfectly. Textbook terraforming. Same as yours.’

‘But no results?’

‘None. I don’t know why you still ask.’

Manya rolled off her bed, ‘because there will be one day. I need to check my numbers.’

‘I looked for you. Zeroes across the board.’

‘I’d like to see myself.’

Corbin shrugged. ‘Go for it. Maybe your pits have magically filled with water in the last five minutes. Maybe Ali went out and pissed in one.’

The two-hundred metre cap gave them enough room for a 100 metre excavation. 90 of those were taken up with air purifiers, moisture retainers, water filters, automated hydroponic systems, equipment storage, medical supplies, emergency rations, vitamin supplements and, most importantly, their seeds.

That left ten for three tiny bunks, a shower in a closet, and the monitoring room, which had all three of their stations side-by-side, plus a small table next to a food dispenser. Manya sat at her station and started pulling up the figures. Corbin had been right: zeroes across the board. Almost two years of digging pits and not one had retained a drop of moisture.

He had followed her into the room. ‘Told you,’ he said. Manya just nodded. Corbin had given up and wanted her to do the same. He still did his job but he had no hope it would actually work. Manya had been checking his numbers every day and he hadn’t slacked once. If he’d missed one day she could blame him for the lack of water in her pits, claim it had been there but had drained into the earth around them. His work was impeccable though. Solid foundations with nothing for water to leak into, the perfect material for her to work on top of.

As for Ali, her work went off without a hitch. She monitored approaching winds and hot and cold fronts, saw humidity rise and fall, clouds drift back and forth, even the occasional rainfall, but any moisture didn’t stick around. The ash didn’t hold it even with Manya’s pits.

All three of them had gone over Manya’s work and found no fault. Everything said their efforts should be paying off, but every morning the stations spat out the same numbers. No ground moisture, no water, no way to grow a thing. The landscape remained inhospitable. Uninhabitable. The seeds remained unsown.

Ali and Corbin were nothing but understanding, they knew Manya was doing everything she could, but she still felt she was letting them down. Her part of the project was failing. They’d die out here with nothing and Earth would stay dead.

At 15:48, temperatures started dropping. By 18:02, it was cool enough for Manya to head out. She spent another four hours working until the light faded and it started getting dangerously cold. Ali was pestering her over the radio again, so Manya finished the pit she was working on and hurried back to base, the cold air pushing her to run and stay warm.

Night softened the landscape. The burnt, desolate plain could be anything under the glow of the moon. A lake, grassland, a beach if you stretched your imagination enough. Manya preferred to stare at the sky though. Watch the stars and the moon in the too-clear air. She was staring up at them when she tripped, dropping her bag and equipment in a wind-blown pile of ash.

She swore and started scooping everything up, spitting out ash and trying to shake as much off as she could. Once she thought she had everything, she carried on to base. Ali let her in as she shivered in the cold.

The next morning, Manya was already at her monitoring station when Corbin and Ali stumbled in. ‘Eager beaver,’ muttered Corbin. Manya didn’t reply, just continued staring at her screens.

‘Come on then, what’re you looking at?’ Ali asked once she’d got her breakfast from the dispenser, ‘you’d normally be out there digging already.’

‘I’m not sure,’ Manya said, ‘I’ve got readings but they’re weird. I wanted you two to have a look.’ She spun a screen to face Ali, showing the hygrometer reading from the first pit she’d dug.

‘0.1? Holy poo poo, Manya!’

‘Praise the lord,’ Corbin muttered from the table, ‘a drop of water, humanity is saved.’

Manya didn’t say anything. She brought up the readings from the group of pits the first was part of.

‘All of them? All of them are at 0.1?’ Ali asked, her eyes widening at the screen.

‘Yeah,’ said Manya, ‘unless something’s gone wrong.’

Now, Corbin was interested and joined them at the screen. ‘This might actually be something. It’s slow going but it’s a result.’

‘That’s not all though,’ said Manya, and pulled up the figures showing the pit average across their entire sector.

‘Everywhere? We’ve got that everywhere?’

‘Something could be wrong with the hygrometers.’

‘With every single one? What’re the chances of that?’

Manya let a smile break through her scepticism. ‘I still need to check properly, but here’s what’s really weird.’ She pulled up a single hygrometer’s number.

‘0.1 again,’ said Corbin, ‘so?’

‘This one isn’t in a pit. I must have dropped it last night on the way back to base. I realised when I got back and was going to deactivate it this morning when I saw this.’

‘Not in a pit?’

‘Yeah. No pit. That’s just the background moisture.’

Ali and Corbin exchanged glances.

‘I think,’ said Manya, ‘we weren’t measuring water in the pits because it wasn’t staying there. It was too spread out to be detected. We’ve been watering the whole basin. It’s hills all around, right?’

‘Yeah, about ten miles in each direction,’ answered Corbin, ‘we can’t have changed all of that though.’ He looked at Ali, ‘can we?’

‘Only one way to find out,’ Manya said, grinning, ‘load up on hygrometers. You two are joining me topside after all.’

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

In with Iain Banks.

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

Hammer Bro. posted:

Amused Frog - Just a personal distraction, but why the stylized single quotes as opposed to the dumb double quotes? I was scientifically interested, in a detached fashion, up until you mentioned that Earth was dead. Then I was more emotionally invested (but not really until then). Hook me sooner, and I would've enjoyed the overall more.

Late to answering this but two people commented on it soooo.

The stylisation instead of dumb was just what the writing program I used kicked out. The British quotation marks I just didn't think about. I've used both but normally use doubles. I guess it just slipped out for some reason.

Anyway, this week's:

Tales for the Nursery
1200 words

It was a beautiful dawn in Toytown. Sunlight spread from roof to roof. Birdsong drifted on the breeze and the earliest risers drew back the curtains.

It was all broken by a baby’s screams and the sound of torn fabric.

Five years later, five years of dawns that had never been the same, Andy woke after another night full of dreams. His parents had been there, Hugsy the Doctor was there, and they stared at him in horror. Then there was a ripping sound, blinding, agonising pain, and Andy awoke to a dull ache in the stuffing between his legs.

His days were spent at school. Lessons on hugging, getting the perfect smell when baking, flower picking and embroidery. The students laughed and played together at break times, and everybody’s work was colourful and perfect. Except Andy’s. Time after time he took home burnt cookies, dark, harrowing stitchwork, and his hugs were always uncomfortable because of the way he’d move his hips.

The teachers sent home letters first, then visited his parents when he still didn’t improve, but nothing changed. Tutors became uncomfortable with the way he stared and stopped turning up. He couldn’t concentrate when his parents tried to teach him, haunted by his nighttime visions of them. Worse still was being taught at the kitchen table, his mother’s hustle and bustle around him. He asked to read in the imagined quiet of his father’s study, but it was forever locked to him.

Then the day of the incident came. Andy was kneading dough in baking class, pressing his fists deep into it and holding them there. This part he enjoyed, but as soon as the dough was in the oven he lost interest. The other children gathered around each oven, one at a time, to appreciate the smell of baking bread or cookies or cakes while Andy stared out the window.

But today, he caught sight of the baking teacher, Anne, leaning over with her eyes shut. She was sniffing at a classmate’s apple pie, smiling appreciatively, and he felt something new. A tingling in his belly and the same ache that he woke to each morning. He didn’t realise he was moving until he was behind her, pressing against her in a strange parody of their hugging classes.

It was a first for Toytown; a child was sent home from school.

Lying in his bed, Andy could hear the murmurs of his parents through the gaps in his floorboards. Doctor Hugsy was with them, his paws making a racket as he awkwardly tried to drink tea.
“We thought it best to talk to you,” said Andy’s father.
“He was sent home from school today,” said Andy’s mother.
“Yes, yes, I heard,” said Hugsy, “you’re worried he has the drive.”
There was a shocked silence. Whatever the drive was, Andy could tell it was bad.
“At the time,” continued Hugsy, “I thought the extraction was successful, but it’s possible we missed some small portion.”
“Oh no,” said Andy’s mother, beginning to sob.
“Don’t cry, dear,” said Andy’s father, “it’s not that bad.”
“I’m afraid it is,” said the doctor, “we’ll need to repeat the operation.”
Now, Andy’s mother wailed out loud.
“Techniques have improved. I’m sure we’ll be able to do a full extraction this time. You still have the original?”
“Locked in my study,” said Andy’s father over his wife’s cries.
“I’d like to take a sample of it. If we can piece together the exact composition, it will make identifying any affected stuffing that much simpler. We can pencil in Friday for the operation.”
At this point, Andy stopped listening. He covered his head with his pillow to block out the cries of his mother and any details of the horror that lurked in his father’s study.

His parents kept him off school for the rest of the week and kept him in his room. He watched the other children from the window, but when their parents noticed him watching they dragged their sons and daughters away to play inside. Doctor Hugsy visited most days, bring different bags with him each time, and he could hear hushed conversations downstairs. They must have been in the study though, as he couldn’t make out the words.

Friday crept closer. Andy was still locked in his room, sandwiches brought up to him three times a day. He’d try to sleep, but he’d wake up feeling like his stuffing was about to burst out, dreaming of the doctor and his parents over and over. He dreamt of the study too, the door opening as he approached, only to reveal his parents and the doctor laughing together, or a blinding white light and the memory of pain, or more and more doors, stretching forever onwards until he didn’t remember whose house he was in.

Friday morning arrived. The sun was as bright as always, the birds sung in the trees, but the oppressive mood that had hung over Toytown since Andy’s birth felt heavier than ever. No curtains were opened. Children were kept home. The town might not have been told of the Ragdolls’ struggles, but they could feel them. Apart from Doctor Hugsy, not a soul moved between the brightly painted woodblock houses, nor a single car down the yellow roads.

The knock downstairs made Andy jump. He was waiting by his bedroom door. There hadn’t been a sandwich this morning or the night before, and he knew this was a sign. He could hear each creak of his stitching when he moved, every padded step of his parents around the house. Then he heard footsteps on the landing and knew it was time.

The door opened inwards, hiding Andy behind it. The pillows under his duvet were arranged to look like a sulking child was beneath it.
“Andy,” said his father, “it’s time to get up.”
His mother suppressed a sob.
“Come on, Andy,” continued his father as he stepped into the room, “wakey wakey.”
Andy stepped from behind the door and pushed with all his might against his father. It wasn’t much, but it unbalanced him. He lost his footing and stepped on the marbles strewn beside him, slipping and falling on his back.

Andy hadn’t waited to see if it worked. He threw a toy train at his mother, hitting her in the face and cracking a button eye. Then he charged and drove his elbow into her midsection. She stumbled backwards into Doctor Hugsy and they both rolled down the stairs in a tangled embrace.

Andy dodged his father’s grasping hand. He leapt over his mother and the doctor at the foot of the stairs. He was running for the study.

The door was open. There was a table inside, covered with a white sheet. A set of surgeon’s tools on a tray next to it. A jar with something unnatural floating in it. Andy grabbed the jar, raised it above his head and threw it straight down at the floor. Glass and foul-smelling liquid spilt everywhere, but a small, pink lump lay in the wreckage.

His parents arrived at the door in time to see Andy pushing the small, meaty thing back between his legs.

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

Fanky Malloons posted:

Since sebmojo went to all the effort of hunting me down and telling me to enter this week, and since I no longer have the excuse of being trapped on a tiny Japanese island with a poo poo internet connection, I'm in with Gran Torino.

I nearly didn't. I nearly stopped myself. But then you come in and claim my film.

I'm going to regret this because I've got better things to do, but it's a showdown.

In with Gran Torino.

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

My crit for this week.

Thalamas posted:

The Passion of St. Elmo 1000 words

The briefcase was exactly the type of thing for which he’d juice a man with two-hundred-thousand volts in the back this level of specificity seems like you're trying to get exposition in just because and James “Papa” Biaggio had just handcuffed it to his wrist. “You guard this with your life, Elmo,” the mob lawyer said again, "the mob lawyer". come on you can get the point across better than this.

“Sure, Papa.” His cell whistled the theme from Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo. “I need to take this – for the party.”

Balloons. “Yeah, everything was as promised,” Elmo said. They should be downstairs with Molly anyway. He’d picked them out a couple of weeks ago: silver and pink. And now this switch of tone seems like you're trying to add mystery after throwing exposition down our throats.

Goldie’s voice smoldered, even over the phone. “Good. One more thing. There’s someone looking for you, name of Coyotaje.” She paused, then whispered huskily, “He knows your last name. Keep your eyes open.” Elmo tongued his front-left tooth, a silver remnant of his luchador days after leaving seminary. What they wouldn’t have given for his first name back then. okay a set up. This actually works with the above bit but I'm annoyed about the initial exposition

“Thank you, ma’am. Goodbye.”

“Problems, Elmo?”

“Just the balloon company. Calling to thank us for our business, wish a happy thirteenth to the birthday girl.” Okay that's fine

----

The balloons actually made her feel a little better about the black eye. She tied a couple onto her backpack; the colors matched the streaks in her hair. Elmo must have picked them. Beside her, the new driver shifted from foot to foot. “Papa ain’t gonna be happy about that shiner, kid.”

She never had a chance to retort. When the elevator dinged, Elmo and Papa stepped out. She walked forward. Papa reached out toward her, but Elmo sprinted, a non-descript briefcase cuffed to one hand. “Molly!” they shouted. Gunshots cracked behind her and the driver’s blood fountained past, covering her father in gore.

Elmo slammed into her, wrapped his right arm around her waist, and pivoted his whole frame. As she whirled around, she glimpsed men in black, SWAT on the front of their vests, and then she was sliding across the waxed floor of the lobby on her rear end into the adjacent hallway. The echoing thunder of gunfire never stopped.

She ran her hands everywhere, checked for blood. The balloons orbited lazily above her head in the recirculating air.

Action, yeah!

----

While the barrage took Papa in the throat, he struggled to rebalance after the throw, then launched forward, tucking his shoulder into a roll and coming up next to Molly. clunky, make the action more obvious or fluid The kid’s face was ghostly pale, except for the purple and green surrounding her left eye, which matched a few of the colors in her hair.I get that this is supposed to be a different perspective (at least I think it is) but the repetition is annoying

“Molly.” Her eyes were locked onto the blood pooling around her father’s corpse. “You got my balloons.”

“Y-yeah.”

“Molly, we have to go. Now.” He reached out his hand and stared at the flattened mesas of his knuckles, unable to meet her eyes. The brush of her fingertips on his palm loosed him and they ran for the fire exit. I see what you're trying to do, make the shock affect him, but he was clearly in control a second ago. Why not have her fingers brush his palm and then he tells her they have to go?

----

She tried to keep up, but Elmo towered over her, and her feet barely touched the ground. He kicked open the fire door. Three SWAT members stood so close she saw the surprised looks on their faces when Elmo grabbed the nearest by the throat and crotch, that briefcase still dangling, and raised him overhead. “Hraahhhh!” It seemed ridiculous, a showman’s yell, but he slammed the full grown man and all his gear into the others. You're right. This does seem ridiculous. Why were they just hanging there ready for him to pick one of them up when they'd just shot a guy? He flicked his arm to the side and, when he laid into the pile of bodies with his right fist, the crackle of electricity filled the air.

She’d heard rumors about why they called him St. Elmo’s Fire. Okay well that happened. Maybe it's something in the prompt. Anyway, it wasn't too bad.

----

He never saw the fourth officer coming.

The impact of the bullets smashed him into the building. He slid to the ground and willed Molly to stay hidden, but the kid stuck her face out and narrowed her eyes as the man passed by. Then, she tiptoed behind him and filled his mask full of pepper spray. Okay, so she isn't helpless, presumably that's what the black eye indicated

He scissored the legs out from under the bastard and gave him a good dose of shock therapy with the stun gun.

“Elmo, you’re alive!”

He let the kid help him up to a sitting position against the wall. “Bullet proof vest.”

She threw her arms around him. “You’re the only one I have left.” So first she's alarmingly competent and now dealing with mass death around her with careful analysis of the situation. Or something

They walked and jogged choose one through the alleys of Los Grano D’oro, inside the maze of concrete and steel in the center of the city. He talked to keep Molly distracted from the bloody footprints he left behind. right blood doesn't leave footprints that long, okay

“How’d you get the shiner?”

Instead of answering, she asked, “Why would they kill my dad?”

“Hell, Molly. Did you get that fighting about your dad’s job?” She nodded. “Well, it’s true. He worked for the Syndicate.” I hope the prompt was for hackneyed stories

----

She practically dragged him out of the alley, knocking over some smelly garbage man smelly garbage men? Brilliant adjectives there. in the process when Elmo overbalanced. They hurried away, ignoring the noises from behind. A bullet had torn through his upper hip and his back was a mess of bruises.

“What’s in the briefcase?”

“Something valuable. And when I deliver it, we’ll live someplace quiet. Together.” Weathered oaken doors fronted the Fourteen Holy Helpers Cathedral. She pulled one open and they staggered inside. There's very little sense of movement across the city or that they're even heading for a destination. I'm sure you could have done better with more words but you didn't have them.

A bombshell in a long jacket sashayed out of the north tower. “Who’s this with you?”

“It’s the kid, Goldie. His kid. Her name’s Molly. You’ll need to keep her safe until I come for her.”

“What?” They both spoke at the same time.

“Molly, it’s dangerous where I’m headed. Will you trust me?”

“Yes.” There was nothing else to say. hahahaha. No.

She gritted her teeth as Goldie drew her eyes along every inch of Elmo, taking in the bruises and blood. “Can you still deliver, Domingo Silver?” Elmo Domingo nodded fiercely. Light from the stained glass window of St. Erasmus glinted off the silver tooth in his grin. Goldie threw Elmo a set of keys. “The El Camino out back.” They left, trailing a lone, pink balloon. Don't like this either. Awkward and clunky

The last time she ever saw Elmo, he was walking away, briefcase in hand. You already had what felt like a final line and now you have another

Having read the prompt, I don't think the things I don't like about this story are because of it. There's some stuff I do like but the bits commented on I didn't and they dragged it down. There's some corny dialogue, some clunky sentences, but a decent idea that doesn't quite get delivered with the words you have available. Maybe without a word count, a couple of run overs and crits you could have a pretty entertaining short story here.

Not dreadful but not good, could be enjoyable with work.

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

And the story for this week!

And I Just Want
921 words

The bin blossoms. Flames mushroom out of it when a bottle of lighter fluid explodes inside. The punks dance around it like savages. They should know better. There’s nobody else in the park, just me and them. We stay out of each other’s way for an easy life.

Come morning, the melted plastic carcass of the bin gives off a foul stench until it’s taken away by the council workers. They unscrew its base and haul it off in the back of a van. Before they leave one comes up to me and says I need to head off too or they’ll call the cops. I’m doing nothing wrong but it’s easier not to argue. Another compromise.

Leaving, I pass May. I see her every day. Long dark hair, brown eyes. She’s beautiful. Reminds me of an old girlfriend. May comes to the park each day, walks through on her way to work I guess. Sometimes she’s here at lunch. I don’t know if she’s ever noticed me. Why would she? I look a mess. Torn coat. Matted beard. I don’t know how dirty my face has gotten and I haven’t been able to smell myself for years. That means it must be bad.

The park in the day is beautiful. Kids run and play, people smile in the sunshine, there’s something good and wholesome in the air. No wonder they don’t want me around. I get kicked out most days. I come back to spend the night.

Today I go downtown instead, try and scrape together money for a drink. I don’t get it. Somebody spits at me when I ask if he can spare a buck. I yell that I was in the army but I never was. Somebody else gives me ten dollars and says nobody has respect for veterans anymore. I ask him for twenty and he walks away, shaking his head.

Back at the park it’s me and the punks. They’re just drinking tonight. Drink and drugs. Smoking and drinking God knows what. I don’t know where they get the money. Hold up liquor stores, and mug and steal and shoplift. Probably. Scum that should know better. Bring back the draft for people like them.

Every night they stay until the sun’s up. I’ve seen them fight each other and hold up people. They’ve got knives. I shouldn’t stay here but the only other place is under the bridge. I won’t mingle with those people. I’m not like them.

A group of the punks head towards me so I get off my bench and start walking. They yell after me but I don’t respond. I round a corner and head into the bushes, crouching down and hoping they don’t see me. It’s humiliating.

The next day is a good day. Nobody tells me to leave. I sit on the grass and watch people all day. I doze. On a day like this I don’t even want a drink. Somebody’s kid walks over and starts talking to me. I start telling him war stories but his mum drags him away. Don’t talk to people like him. That’s what she’s saying. I look at my overcoat, the stained clothes, the plastic bags in my pockets.

But it’s still a good day because May arrives at lunch. I watch from across the grass. She’s laughing and tossing her hair back. She’s a good kid, May. She’s done well to get where she is.

That keeps me going through the afternoon and into the evening. The punks don’t even come to the same part of the park as me. It’s a blissful night until I hear the scream.

I want to leave it alone and look the other way. Stay where I am and not worry. Keep my easy life. Except the scream has a familiar tone to it. One I’ve heard laughing before.

I know that May works nearby. I started following her once. Twice. And I know she works late sometimes. I’ve seen her cut through the park. But she wouldn’t be so stupid. She couldn’t be. She’s better than that. I run through the bushes and trees until I see the punks by the light of a lamppost.

It is her. I’m sure. But she’s talking with them. She’s not screaming anymore, if she ever did, and she’s not running. I don’t understand. Is she with them? Is she one of them? She should know better.

Then one of them takes a swing. Hits her right on the side of the head and she goes down like a felled tree. And that’s when I charge. I can’t have an easy life. Look at me. I’m done. I run across the grass as they’re leaning down to look at their handiwork. I jump on the back of the one that took the swing and bite into his neck, sinking my teeth in as deep as I can.

It takes a second for them to react and when they do it’s like lions when a steaks thrown in their cage. I’m pulled off the first punk and take a ribbon of skin with me. There’s a blow to my head and the world spins. I can’t see out of one eye. Blood is dripping down my mouth. Something collides with my leg and there’s a crack. I scream. I cry out. I can feel tears.

And through them, I see May running. Nobody’s chasing. They’re all on me. And the park fades away.

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

In with 2 and 12.

Had to have a showdown with the winner, didn't I?

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

I'm going to have to drop out this week too.

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Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

Phobia posted:

INTERPROMPT

An acquaintance of mine was in El Salvador for two weeks and now they have a stomach bug. They can't eat anything.

So to make them feel better your prompt is " FOOD GONE WRONG! " 150 words.

7 billion chefs

--- swam through the cosmic silt and approached the egg his mother had lain untold era ago. It hadn't hatched, and why let a good thing go to waste?

He drew close and sank his enormous jaws through its crust until something on its surface caught his eye.

"Oh gross. Ants," he thought, and spat the blue-green planet into the darkest depths of space.

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