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Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Dinosaurs Are People, Too (87 words because I've always been an underachiever.)

Yesterday's substitute teacher was a dinosaur. A gigantic beast, scaly and ashen, who reeked of rotting meat. He introduced himself as Saul Iskia (or something like that), but I couldn't take my eyes off his teeth. His slimy, yellowing teeth. After that I spent most of the class doodling, and only looked up when he assigned five pages of homework. I hate him and I hope he goes extinct.

One of the girls whispered on the way out, "I hope I never look that bad at 50."

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Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In for 'cause manliness.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Temperance (995 words)

"Wake up, boy! Those pig-ruttin' Entenites are at it again!"

Het blinked. Then he threw his blanket aside and scrambled to his feet. He pulled at a nearby pant leg, which only splayed the tangled mass of clothes across the floor.

"Boy!" This time from a distance.

Het winced as he dropped the twisted overalls and ran barefoot into the field.

"Look at this husk! I was just makin' my mornin' rounds when I noticed one ear browner than the others. Then, before I could make heads or tails of it, the next two started withering on the stalk. Proof! Proof, I tell you, that those blasted Entenites mean to starve us from our blessed farm!"

"But there hasn't been an Entenite spotted in Assur for months."

"Fool boy! Don't underestimate their treachery. Now's not the time. Just focus your thoughts on growth and prosperity so we can counter their curse."

Swallowing, Het closed his eyes and tried to picture radiant, golden corn. (Please don't hit me.) He imagined a whole field of it, reaching toward the sun. (I'm doing my best, I promise!) A slight tingling crept into his fingertips. Maybe this time--

"Dammit boy, I'll take care of this myself! Get back in your room and don't move a muscle if you know what's good for you."

Het's heart pounded once. Twice.

"Boy!"

He turned and fled toward the house, away from curses and corn. Away from fields and famine. And this time, away from his father.

***

"Who, pale child, might you be?"

Het whirled around, the bucket clattering at his feet.

"I'm... Feldor," he informed the brazen female.

"Well, Feldor, I would thank you not to waste my water. There is precious little hereabouts, even without interference from those--"

"Entenites," Het muttered.

"Pardon? It is common knowledge that only Emeshians can temper the environment."

"I know that!" Het exclaimed. "I was just, you know, still introducing myself. I'm an Entenite."

"Undoubtedly. And if I were to tell you that I was of Emeshian descent?"

Het swallowed his response. The woman eyed him for a moment, then sighed, "I suppose I can spare one meal for a transient troublemaker. After all, the nearest Entenite settlement is many leagues distant. My name is Koima, by the way."

***

Het nestled the half-eaten drumstick next to its harrowed sibling, gazing at it with a longing that for once he couldn't fulfill.

"With an appetite like that, one would think you had never eaten meat before."

Het lowered his eyes and shuffled the wishbone around his plate. "I've just never seen nikchecs so... docile, before."

"I suspect there is much of the world you have yet to see, child." Koima's lips drew into a joyless smile. Het didn't notice; he was too busy sneaking glances at the blood and gristle left over from the meal's preparation.

"Listen, ma'am, I really oughtta thank you for the food, but I... I--"

"Need to get back to your farmland. I know."

Het's head whipped around to face her. "But you're not an Emeshian! I mean, you can't be!"

Koima grew hushed, yet her words were crystalline. "You knew me to be Entenite just as I knew you to be Emeshian. Yet you still shared a meal with me. What does that say about you?"

"I thought it might be poison!" Het blurted. "It's just I haven't eaten in so long and the thought of meat was so good and I know I'm selling my soul but--"

"Enough."

The word was no louder than a whisper, yet Het's spine shot upright and his limbs froze mid-fidget.

"You are going to step outside of my home this instant and think about what I have done. And what I have not done. I am going to go feed the nikchecs. After that, if you are still here, you may knock on my door. I may decide to open it. If I do, we are going to sit down and have a civilized discussion like rational adults."

Het bolted out of the chair, through the open door, and past the trees until the cabin was no longer visible.

***

Het's breathing had slowed. His fists had unclenched. The grimace etched in his jawline was a shadow of its former self.

He got up, leaving the browning bed of wilted azaleas behind, and made for the general direction of home.

A shrill cry pierced his resolve.

He spun around and raced in the direction of the hovel, past fertile flowers, between solemn oaks, and around to the nikchec pen out back. There laid Koima, clutching a thigh blotted with blood and gristle.

"I am afraid I lost my temper and one of the poor beasts gored me. I will recover, but they have scattered to parts unknown."

Het stopped the quavering of his lip with a tooth.

"Now do you see? This is what happens when we lose our tempers. The animals echo our emotions, to no end of trouble."

"I..." Het stammered.

"Do not worry about me. My leg will mend and the nikchecs might return once I have calmed. The life of a runaway is not like what one pictures in youth. Go back home while there is still a roof to house you, child. Lord knows such things disappear soon enough."

***

"Boy! Where have you been?"

Het blinked, stretched, and sat up.

"I'm not joshin' you, boy, there's going to be hell to pay. But that damned Entenite curse is flarin' up again, and I'm plumb exhausted. Go see to the sunflowers before they wither into rubbish."

Het got up and dressed. His father's fists trembled while Het knotted, then double-knotted, his boots, but the man said nothing.

At the base of the wilting flowers, Het knelt, closed his eyes, and whispered, "Don't worry, sunny flowers. I'll always be here for you, even when tempers rise."

A timid breeze stirred the dust. Het rose, turned around, and opened his eyes.

His father spat.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Bwahaha! You, sir, are delightful.

Echo Cian posted:

The loser is Hammer Bro., for a story that made no sense, and nikchecs. I play word puzzles; don't think I didn't see that immediately. And now I am infuriated that I had to memorize the spelling in order to mock it properly. What were you thinking?

Agenothree, most specifically, but really the time honored SF/Fantasy tradition of taking something mundane and making it mystical by trivially renaming it.

You really wanna raise your blood pressure, Het/Feldor => Hatfield, Koima => McCoy.

Now where's my losertar, suckas? I gotta be stylin' while I'm in the Great White North. I'll torment the rest of you when I return.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER


You, sir, are a respectable and upstanding citizen. Which is why I apologize for subjecting you to the following:

In.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

You know, strictly because I want some of those other stories to read by the time I wake up, here ya go:

Regicide (925 words)

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

"This is our big chance. Albini liked our last demo tape and is coming in person to Oz tomorrow night. If we can just jazz it up, even a smidge, he's sure to sign us."

Art fished around in the cooler for another stout.

"That's your response? Don't you care, even a little?" pleaded Kai. "For Christ's sake, we're almost thirty."

"Look," responded Art, "you know I'm sick of Starbucks just as much as you are, but it's not even midnight and we've got the whole day off. Plenty of time to smooth out the rough edges."

"Rough edges? Three sets in a row and you haven't even used the same key for the solo. We can't split the studio with another roommate, and I know you don't have enough to cover next month's rent."

"Pah!" Art scoffed. "I'll go to bed after this beer. Then tomorrow we'll rock that club into the Stone Age."

Kai tossed up his hands in exasperation, stomped off toward his bed, and chopped at the light switch. Art lingered, staring out the balcony at the myriad of run-down apartments as they flickered against the darkness.

All these years of being ignored were about to come to an end. Play a gig, sign a contract, cut a record, then it's radio heaven. Then he'd get the respect he deserved; then she'd notice him. All he needed to do was focus.

Maybe a porter would calm him down.

***

"Where the gently caress have you been?" shouted Kai.

"What? I spent the night at Molly's."

"You didn't leave a note or anything! It's almost three -- that gives us at most an hour and a half to practice before we have to ship out and set up."

"Couldn't find any paper. But look, I bummed a new set of strings."

"Whatever. Just get amped up so we can run through this one last time. And for the love of god, stick to the composition we taped."

Art affixed the shiny new strings to his aging bass while Kai fine-tuned his guitar. The next morning was always an ordeal, but Molly was a demon in the sack. Maybe tonight he'd see if Lucy was at the pub. She always--

"Arthur!"

Art glared as he cranked his amp up to eleven, then gave Kai the nod. One, two, one two three four...

***

"Perfect," said Kai. "Just like that. I'm going to head over early to scout out the competition. Remember: set up's at five thirty sharp, and we're on at six."

"Yeah, yeah," Art replied, then added, "Hey."

Kai turned around.

"By this time tomorrow we'll be certified musicians. Professionals. No more yes sir, no sir, have a nice day; no more paycheck to paycheck. Regicide is going to top the charts."

Kai smiled. When was the last time he'd looked so happy?

***

"poo poo, Luce, I've got to go! It's five forty-five and I'm due at Oz in fifteen minutes."

Art slapped a ten on the bar and wheeled around before Lucy had a chance to respond. His bass was already in his car and Oz wasn't that far away. It was showtime.

When Art arrived, Kai was playing one of his acoustic numbers. Art had heard it a hundred times, but it was still pretty fresh to this audience. Kai glanced sideways at him, almost missing a beat. He tacked on the outro after the second refrain then announced, "And now we'll liven things up a bit with the other half of Regicide: Arthur Dreadmoor!"

Art trotted onto the stage, jacked in his bass, and gave a tight-lipped Kai the nod.

Intro, verse, embellishment. Key change; was it A or C? poo poo, just wing it. That always gets us by. Verse, chorus, solo -- that's where you really shine. Bridge, refrain, outro. Showboat.

***

Backstage, Kai shouted, "What the gently caress was that? Our best chance at making something of our lives and you can't be arsed to even show up on time? I'm done, Art! Done with Regicide and done with you. You've got until the end of the month to pony up rent or pack your poo poo. I don't really care which."

Kai stormed out the fire exit and into the street. Art followed partway.

"Kai," he began. "Listen. I know I don't--"

"No, Art!" Kai whirled around, his forefinger extended in accusation. "Not this time! I won't let you drag me down any further."

That stung. Sure, Art got distracted from time to time, and he usually improvised during practice, but Kai was nothing if not dedicated. Dedicated to the music. Dedicated to Regicide.

Neither of them saw the bus.

***

Art sat alone in the apartment. He let another call from Mary go unanswered. The cooler lay half open, a trickle of water leaking out the side. Belgians, lagers, porters and stouts -- the entire celebratory jambalaya, untouched.

His fingertips were bloody. It's not that guitar was that different from bass, but it had taken him six tries just to play Kai's intro correctly. Trembling, Art ejected the master tape and got out a marker. On it, he wrote:

Demo Tape
Kaiserlaud

Art collapsed onto his futon, closing the cooler with his foot. Outside, the city began its morning routine, unchanged and uncaring. For the first time since the divorce, he wept.

The sun rose on a new day, just like any other. It was done. Not well, but close enough.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER


What's up, on-time buddy? The roommate gods are generously absent, so you win a prize!

Comet Song

Edit:

Thalamas posted:

Battle of the Band

All right, one more because it struck my fancy. This one's a little less musical but a little more dramatic. I don't think I've ever deliberately composed a song before, certainly never sung one. If you'd ask me how I think I'd done, I'd say, "Not well, but close enough."

Battle of the Band

Hammer Bro. fucked around with this message at Aug 17, 2014 around 20:48

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Hee, ha, hoo, and hue. Definitely in for this one. Now where's my copy of Peace? Gotta get myself good and creeped out to set the mood.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

The Peponphage (1590 words)

The children came rushing back.

"Done with baseball so soon?" Jude asked.

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

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

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

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

None of the kids responded, instead fidgeting nervously.

"Never mind, it's almost five. Time to head home."

---

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

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

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

---

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

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

---

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

"Yes, I know all about Lucky Pete," she replied. "Second son of Old Nick, that one."

Jude urged her to go on. Inesa glowered.

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

"The lumber mill fire?" Jude offered.

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

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

Jude thanked her, then followed Inesa into her house.

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

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

That got her to smile.

---

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

Jude ventured out to Cucurbita Grove and strode purposefully up to the Pumpkin Palace. He pretended to knock, then looked behind him. Nobody was watching. He hopped from the deck to the side yard. From there, he circled around to the back door.

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

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

A dust-covered newspaper lay atop the kitchen table; the sink showed no signs of moisture. He scanned the den, looking for something he could not define. The familiar urge to explore coursed through his veins like a poison.

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

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

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

"That's my wife," drawled a voice from behind him. Jude's head snapped around to face the interloper.

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

Jude started to explain himself, then saw the shotgun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Right," Jude responded automatically.

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

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

---

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

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

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

---

"Son! Inesa is at the door!" Jude's mother shouted.

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

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

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

"Sick!" he blurted, not far from the truth. "I don't know what came over me, I just laid down to clear my head, and now it's daytime."

His mind was still racing.

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

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

She smiled tentatively.

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

"Okay," she nodded, this time smiling from the heart.

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

---

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

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

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

Jude squeezed her hand. "Inesa?"

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

"Will you marry me?"

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

A few drive-by impressions 'cause my belly's too achy for programmin'.

God Over Djinn: I dig metafiction. I also dug your meta, but the fiction was ho-hum. Breaking the mold just to not-write a cookie-cutter story. I will admit that I'm having more fun than I thought in revisiting this. You read Borges?

Morning Bell: Wait, was this last week's theme? Your timing may unfairly hurt you there, as I just finished reading a bunch of stories about bands. That being said, the last two paragraphs really brought this one together. Mischief, revenge, and recurring troubles for an addict -- all good stuff. But in the end, not terribly memorable; perhaps too much time spent wandering.

Anathema Device: "Memere" made me stumble. Without the accents, I thought it was perhaps an odd attempt at phoneticizing "memory", which didn't seem specifically significant. The "bile and whiskey and tears" line is excellent, and in general the amusing idea that whiskey was the occult offering of choice down south stuck with me.

Entenzahn: Clever; one of the better uses of irony that I recall. Although strangely, the irony is about all I recall. Something about the prose just didn't set the right tone for me. The abstract story is creepy, but the memory of the read is dry.

Oxxidation: I like the implicit apocalypse and the overall mood, but I was a little confused about the sequence of events. What wasn't Neil's fault and why does he think otherwise? And when you're trying to make the fire significant, showing how it spread rapidly since everything was dessicated, all I could think was that something else would've started a fire around there sooner.

Erogenous Beef: "Devil gotta commandeer my soul before I let you in, Earl." Nice (except the curvy quotes). Worked for me as a figure of speech, didn't even catch it at all as foreshadowing. For half the story I thought Earl thought he hadn't shot his wife and that the twist would come when he realized he did. I like what you actually did much better. However, some of Earl's actions felt unbelievable to me. A little more trepidation in dealing with the Devil (there are always consequences), and stronger goading to get him to shoot her again and it would've sat smoother with me.

crabrock, you magnificent bastard. Doubling the word limit by getting me to read it twice. This one I very much enjoyed. Decent with regard to prose, and delightfully melancholy in a way that stood out. Plus I got to the end with a question in my head I wanted answered (I don't think that happened with any other story), so I reread the first half and smacked my forehead for missing it. Then reread the second half for pleasure.

Grizzled Patriarch: You went a bit too heavy down the "she's a spider" route for my tastes. It takes away from the tension of the climax when I already know what to expect.

bromplicated: I like the idea of a guy who hears the house speaking through its natural sounds. But I just didn't feel the emotional impact you were going for, and I can't easily (now that it's past time for me to clock out) say why.

Obliterati: Also a tad too heavy-handed with the twist. Maybe if you'd mentioned more than just kelpies, maybe if it were less obvious that Grandma was good (and therefore right) compared to Dad who was mean (and therefore bad). But as soon as you mentioned a new preacher, I thought full-immersion baptism style, somebody gon' be drownin'. A little less vilification of the dad and preacher and I might've been more surprised. I also didn't end up feeling empathy for the grandmother or the boy.

Fumblemouse: I really like imperfect memories of important events in stories. But I'm not sure I can piece this one together. I feel like "In Beero Veritas" should be the key to unlocking what happens, but darned if I know what it means. I wanted to know what he'd answered, but not enough to put forth sufficient effort to find out. So the surprise falls a little flat, since I still don't know the significance of the "blush of new, pink skin".

Sitting Here: Kudos for creating an ethereal, fable-like realm in my head. The abstract and unusual descriptions hit the spot. I also appreciated the transition back into reality. But I wasn't moved like I could have been. I didn't feel the tragedy of the sister (very early on I'd decided she was the sister, although I'm not sure if that was stated/contradicted explicitly), possibly because I didn't feel enough of her attachment to her brother. He's just sort of obnoxious and contrary, and I suspect I subconsciously projected that she cares about him about as much as I did.

SurreptitiousMuffin: Didn't you write about Maori stuff last time? That pulled me out of the story for a moment, even though it's not a characteristic of this story on its own. The "texture" (some aggregate of prose, pacing, mood, and other aspects) was appropriate, but the plot felt uneventful. In the title, "everything you love will die". Dying man's curse, "everything you love will die". Everything he loves dies. The effects of him not loving himself and the implication that comes from his love of the planet are nice, but it's not enough to break the monotony of everything he loves dying.

Fuschia tude: The white things work well enough as creepy devices, but the ending is unsatisfying. The climax is we find out that Mabel was right the whole time (like we expected), and that she runs away. There doesn't seem to be any significance in this story.

Phobia: I'm usually really distracted by "it's" as a possessive pronoun, but I couldn't get over "Poppa" and "Momma". Maybe it's a regional thing, or maybe you really were referring to Notorious B.I.G. Either way, it took me out of the story repeatedly. I like the concept of inventing a fable to cover up a crime, but I don't see enough justification for the crime in the first place. (Note to self.)

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In, why not? And as a special punishment for mediocrity, this time I'm actually going to write it when important events happen. I don't think the implications have been treating me (everyone besides me) well.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Yes this is my entry, and yes it's true. I'll type it up and count the words later, but it's important that I post this now.






(Jeez that was difficult. Back much later.)

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

A minor preface with regard to fiction: I maintain that the following piece is not fiction. But it would be unwise to always take an author at face value for such claims -- at some point, they'll be lying about it. Even when sidestepping the fourth wall and insisting otherwise. That being said, I declared I'd type this, so here it is.

---

Emotional Nudity (787 words)

I think I might be cheating. You see, I went onto Wikipedia to research my numbers and saw an image on the right -- is that nekkid people? Indeed it was, and (click, click) at surprisingly high resolution. I scrolled down casually and settled on the crotch for a while, then went back up. Then the guilt kicked in.

"She's not even that attractive," was my first thought. I had specifics, but they were rationalizations. I have a girlfriend, you see. A little over two years and four months. She absolutely adores me, in a way that sometimes scares me. (I just stopped writing -- stalled deliberately. This is the hard part.) I love her, but not as much. (My hands are trembling.)

This is a thought I've been actively avoiding; not letting myself form it even internally. The days pass by in a generally comfortable routine. We get together a couple times a week, and sometimes I really do enjoy myself. But frequently I merely tolerate the encounter, waiting and wondering when I'll regain my freedom. I sometimes worry she doesn't know what actually makes me happy, as too often we spend great lengths of time doing (or more generally, not-doing) things that make me increasingly, visibly sad. When she asks what's wrong I'll reply morosely but politely, then maybe she'll get upset too but we'll keep doing whatever it was (not doing anything) that upset me.

The worst part is, I could be doing things to make her happy. Genuinely happy, the kind of joy that wells up inside you and brightens the sky, leaving a bookmark in the story of your life. As opposed to the sticky, life-preserver happiness we drench sloppily across our sorrows. But I don't.

I mean, sometimes I do these things, and when I do it's euphoric. Then the I-love-yous and the kissy noises are honest, reflected, and embarrassing in a way that warms the heart as well as the cheeks. But sometimes I think about these things, either generally or specifically, and I don't do them. Not even to do anything else in particular. Far too often I think fondly of her when we're apart but become anxious and uncomfortable even when she calls.

I'm going to go on one more tangent here, but I promise it's relevant. It's actually indirectly what I started writing about. You see, when I looked at that picture, first I became primally satisfied. Stimulated in the basal ganglia, or wherever it is, that lights up in women when they're involved in emotionally significant conversation and lights up in men when they see nudity. Then, and this is the precise order, I began feeling guilty. Thirdly, I wanted to masturbate.

Not, you understand, as a tribute to gluttony. Nor in response to the images and visions I was (currently) seeing. But to assuage the guilt.

Most of the times these days, and this is a sad reflection on the state of our relationship, I masturbate to escape; to withdraw. The fantasies are fleeting and the porn is rarely titillating, but it takes me somewhere else. Somewhere distant. Somewhere private, away from her and now.

And that's what's got me writing. I don't like that I exert my neurons to actively avoid thinking about the ways in which I withdraw from the relationship. I don't like acting like I'm happy when I'm not, or returning the mwa-mwas out of tradition. So I have a plan.

At first I thought I'd show her this story. That would make her cry, and destabilize our relationship. I even wondered if that's what I subconsciously wanted. But now I have a better idea: I'm going to make it honest.

I see her tomorrow. I'm going to spend the rest of the night thinking of something I can do to make her happy. Something that isn't part of the regular repertoire. I'm also going to bring up one thing which displeases me, should such a thing occur, instead of donning my usual mask of constant contentedness. I'm going to work my rear end off during business hours tomorrow; no SomethingAwful, no SoylentNews. And I'm not going to masturbate again until it's out of happiness; until I'm the one making the phone call and starting with the kissy noises just because that's how she makes me feel.

Apologies if I'm liberal with the prompt or over the word count, but I won't edit this. To do so would be to falsify what I've written, and I thoroughly want what I've written to hold true. And apologies for the bad handwriting -- I'll type this up when I get the chance, but right now I have more important things to do. Wish me luck.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

YOU JUST DIDN’T ‘GET’ MY crabrock's STORY

Tyrannosaurus posted:

crabrock - A Castle if She’s Willing
Yo, you made it rain with excellent sentences. Just across the board there are really neat little things tucked in every which way. That was awesome. That got you the HM despite the fact that I felt like there was very little substance to the piece. Lot of good words. Kind of weak plot. The curse thing seems a little tacked on. I would have liked more psychological motivation as to why your MC has to work the fields. Has to work the land. Has to make things right. Right now its just… he’s got to *becuz*. I just wish there was more to it.

I think you're doing yourself a disservice by being hasty. That was a poignant story about redemption or penance which explains the character's psychological motivations implicitly but powerfully. And there was nothing magical about that curse.

(I also wished there was more to it. Then I reread it, and I found the more. Those are exactly the kind of stories I like to read.)

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Aww, what? I just thought to take some notes while I read and now everybody's flingin' crits left and right? Well, deal with it.

Morning Bell - I'm with you pretty good until "This is what he saw:". That completely broke my immersion, turned what should've been fantasy images in my head to an itemized list. Cute enough challenges, but then the line "A single tear, falling upon the flowers, will turn them into dust." tells me way too abruptly that that's what's going to happen. And when it does happen (surprise, father not mentioned yet going to be abusive so Grig sheds a single tear like the last Mohican) I don't buy it, emotionally. Then her introduction feels way too forced and, wait a minute, they've never spoken before, but he knows her love of flowers and favorite color? Is he a creeper?

Pseudoscorpion - 9-3 may've known what it meant, but I got tripped up trying to decipher the first sentence. Then you swap tenses briefly; off to an awkward start. Your rapid scene changes and punctuation in a few places are still keeping me off-balance. Couldn't really settle into it. Hard stop less, proofread more.

Chairchucker - While I like the silly tone, it doesn't work for the robber's That's Gross. Perhaps 'cause he should be playing the straight man? Good presentation of the ironic twist.

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.

HopperUK - Nice first half a sentence, would've been stronger as its own sentence. I don't know how old Bess is, but I find the words "troubles" and "Daddy" to imply different levels of sophistication (probably just a personal impression). The implied setting is nice and the tone is mostly cute, but too emotionally inconsistent at times, with certain character-reactions feeling discrepant.

Nethilia - The first part does a good job of establishing a child who feels like a child and why I should root for them. The mother's objection to flowers makes sense. Daniel's doesn't. Cute revisitation of the childhood activity. The ending isn't terribly impactful, perhaps because the character's ambition is too broad. I approve of the naming convention.

Mons Hubris - Don't tell me your story sucks before I read it; now it's going to suck. The use of Great-Grandmother as a proper noun is odd, and I thought Hatsuo was a boy's name. Ack, you use mostly stylized apostrophes, which is okay (I suppose), so when you use a single ASCII apostrophe (as God intended) it jumps out. The grandmother directly says it's fine even if the girl doesn't catch anything, then the girl's in tears because the grandmother will be so upset that she didn't catch much? Odd number of quotes you've got there. That could've been mediocre if you hadn't warned me that it sucked.

Entenzahn - An anti-gravitas orb? That's the silliest thing I've ever heard! The protagonist's A-Dog-Blah-Blahs were as unwelcome when forced on me as they were to the other fictional characters. The prose felt surprisingly juvenile for the most part, and didn't develop tension nor engender sympathy.

Meeple - Hah! First line, I have been there, far too many times. I'm amused by the senile witch, but she says Oh too much. A light chuckle for the ending, and a vague smile throughout. Endearing.

Sitting Here - I'm with you so far, no complaints about the perspective nor tense. But it's a little jarring when you write two things about how she has no sense of time then another thing that begins "One day", implying a sense of time. For the most part I enjoyed it, but it felt a bit meandering, unfocused, or incomplete.

Gau - All right, I'm imagining. I imagine this, I imagine that. Hey, when did you start doing things? That wasn't in my imagination! I can't envision tsunami waves moving as slowly as you're indicating. (Heh, her vision swam.) Just going from conventional religious characters, Asim isn't going to like having the glory of god forced upon him, which doesn't lead to a particularly happy ending.

Dirtbag Diva - She was planning. Rajeev was planning. She and Rajeev were planning. The next sentence could use some work, too. I initially thought you meant that the phone alarm was all she could do to keep her shopping in check. I hate the way people talk on the internet, even if I believe they do it. But I still hate it. Really stumbled on her 4:30 resignation. First I reread the story to that point, nope, didn't make sense. Then I read the next bit and the act made some sense, but not the timing. If she's walking everywhere, how did she get from work to those people, have that consultation, then get back to work and resign?

PoshAlligator - Ooh, murderous solar flare, now I'm interested (halfway into the story). In fact, I'm not sure what most of the words to that point add to the story. (Her's!) Oh, okay, she was probably being deliberately deceitful early on. But the trick (and I need to figure out how to do this too) is how to make the subtext hide under interesting regular text.

bromplicated - "reading a young-reader" reads poorly. Generally cute, and I appreciate the sentiment. However. I have trouble going more than 32 hours without a shower. Or food. A few minor logistical issues make the premise unbelievable. And her reactions around the fuse box conversation didn't quite hit me right. But I appreciated the atmosphere, the general setup, and the intent.

Skwid - I like alliteration too, but let's keep it confined to the eccentric's speeches let it become distracting. You could probably make up a name for "his favorite video sharing website" if you don't want to use a real one. I almost started to feel for James, but very little happened then an ending was tacked on.

Grizzled Patriarch - Haunting and touching, very well worded. The telling of the enormous love maybe could've been handled more impactfully.

docbeard - I'm a sucker for space archeology. I liked the setup, but the emotions felt off. I didn't feel enough passion from Kellen to swallow her throwing her life away speech, and Jac's response, while pleasant, felt like an incongruous surprise at best.

Fumblemouse - A scarlet letter, hmm? Continue. Interesting setup and flowery, but potentially good, prose. My brain's weary, so I couldn't focus well this pass. There's an unfair disadvantage to posting late -- I've read a lot of other stories.

Blade_of_tyshalle - (Ooh, a shouldn't've.) I feel like this is the direction soap operas will be headed in about twenty years. I didn't care much about their line of work, their history, or their augments. The guy giving the dog to the girl was kind of cute, but could've been accomplished in way fewer words.

Schneider Heim - Your writing reads pretty easily and I found myself liking the characters, but I really didn't buy that a director would let a nobody improvise. The excuse of someone who stands to benefit is already devalued, but it's not even a good excuse (he's done some scripted line-acting, therefore we can improvise). That being said, I really like how the characters reacted to the trip. That was well written -- I felt the tension and emotion between them. The ending sort of petered out.

Ironic Twist - Your narrator is oddly passive-aggressive toward your reader. Then the fable is fine, I suppose, and like with fables, this thing happens, then this thing happens, then this thing happens, and there isn't a lot of emotional oomf behind it. Then the last paragraph is good and interesting. But Bambi the Ugly Duckling is a couple-page picture book, not some thousand-odd words.

Fuschia tude - Maybe say photo albums. I initially thought (and liked better) that birds were disappearing off the covers of record albums, but leaving the rest of the art untouched. Oh, good, spoke a little too soon with regard to how things disappeared. Heh, I like the sarcastic parrot remark. Hard to do within the word count, but you had a real interesting premise, followed by a deflatingly mundane birds-wanted-permission explanation. I also didn't feel much for the protagonist, even though I was interested in (the first half of) the story.

Phobia - Fair few clunky bits that could use some proofreading. You said Fate way too much, although kinda I suppose justified it at the end but it still grated. Both characters acted like wooden puppets being pushed along by the narratorial force. The this-isn't-the-big-story setup was decent, but the execution was poor.

crabrock - You tell me the child can do nothing right, but I still don't buy that a parent (whom I have to assume is average, for lack of further information) wouldn't put even the bad pictures on the fridge, or would act the way he does. The initial witch interactions have a good sense of tension. But then the doing it all wrong feels off, again (wouldn't she just stop him if it were important?). I also can't reconcile that he's drawing regular things (which are regular looking) and yet they're also ugly and horrible (but they're regular looking). Gah, backward? The twist doesn't work for me.

JuniperCake - I've read a lot of stories already, and I don't feel like reading more. So kudos for posting it even though it was well past the deadline -- that was still the right thing to do. But I'm too word-weary to read it.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

I'm doing Jack Vance and Brent Weeks. Because more stealing is more better.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Concatenation (1179 words)

It's a dangerous thing to oppose Morgul the Masterful. Almost as dangerous as it is to serve him. Felix was the fifth assistant he'd had in the last two months, and by far the most promising. Which is to say, he hadn't been killed, crippled, or stupefied during his first two weeks.

Today Felix's task was simple: coax Pota's Sedentary Golems to cleanse themselves of the Clarion Honey of Oridin. With luck, the ensuing struggle would invigorate the colossus tendon Morgul had recently unearthed. Felix arranged the golems at the center of a circular labyrinth of runes and liberally applied the tincture.

Felix watched wide-eyed as the golems began to sizzle and smoke. He leaned close while he raced to record everything in his notebook. He only had two more weeks of apprenticeship -- two more weeks with which to absorb the wisdom of a master -- before the end of the month. He focused on the way the golems struggled to purge themselves while remaining motionless. He listened to their sibilous cries of anguish. Their exertions enveloped them in crackling energies, as if they were burning with desire for purity. It took Felix a moment to realize they were actually only burning with fire. So was his notebook.

Felix slammed his notebook against the ground, but the rippling tendon and pulsating runes only fanned the flames. Book in hand, he dashed over to the distillery and upended the nearest elixir on it -- protean moth's blood.

Behind him the flames evaporated in impotent fury as the circle of runes reverberated with puissance. The tendon was taut, glowing, and absorbing the essence of everything encompassed by the runic prison. Felix hardly noticed, as he was transfixed by the meandering ghostborn that danced across the ruin of his notebook.

Morgul the Masterful came strolling in, humming to himself. His good mood vanished when he saw Felix. "You!" he said. "Why on Geras' grey earth are you outside of the protective circle?" His brows knotted in frustration, then parted in fascination. "Are those ghostborn?" he asked. Felix nodded. "Fantastic! I had no idea the colossus would summon faelings to defend itself. Excellent work, but remember your vows."

Felix nodded again. During the course of his apprenticeship, he was allowed no communication with the outside world. At the end of his term, he'd be subject to Consio's Cleansing Cantrip, leaving him with the fundamental knowledge he'd gained but no memory of the specifics.

One of the ghostborn nibbled helpfully at Felix's finger. Felix waved his hand reflexively, inadvertently dispelling the ghostborn and scattering the sorry remains of his notebook. Morgul's habitual fury returned.

Felix retreated to his quarters while Morgul sought to recreate the experiment. Felix was never privy to the intermediary steps, but he knew Morgul would be at it all night. This year's Period of Perspicacity would earn any who could produce a ghostborn one year's tuition at the academy. Unlike Felix, Morgul didn't require their patronage, but he was a glutton for prestige. Felix decided it wisest to retire early; he knew tomorrow would be grueling.

Troubling portents impressed upon Felix's dreams. A swirling gaseous being extruded amorphous appendages, drawing to itself innumerable specks of stark luminosity. Anointed in powder, the creature danced itself into a frenzy. When its revelry was complete, it dove into a viscous, ruby lake. Felix knew intuitively that the creature was undergoing a metamorphosis, but he awoke before seeing what would emerge.

Felix's veins throbbed; his head swam. The noxious fumes of his dreams still lingered in his nostrils. He opened the window and leaned outside, despite the ravenous bite of the frigid air. The sky was still black, speckled feebly by ailing stars. He replayed the events of the last two weeks in his mind.

As an assistant, Felix was expected to perform the more mundane details of the experiments. But he was always fouling things up. He'd dropped a Sphere of Impenetrable Rigidity on a cockatrice egg, shattering the egg and somehow dissolving the sphere in the resulting vapors. Morgul had been so fascinated by the glistening artifact which remained that he even forgot to punish Felix.

Then there was the incident with the potion. Morgul had claimed to have rediscovered the precise formula for Loquac's Ingratiating Elixir and, since he was soon to be rich, had given Felix a phial to consume. Felix was busy decanting, so he sat it down until his duties were finished. When he was done, he realize he couldn't tell which phial was which.

Eager to not disappoint Morgul, and secretly desirous of the effects of the elixir, Felix plugged his nose and quaffed every lavender potion on the workbench. Morgul was flabbergasted when he returned to find Felix scribbling notes. Felix didn't find his newly Titian hair all that impressive. He'd probably negated the full effects with one of the other solutions he'd ingested.

Felix returned to his senses as the red rim of the sun laboriously pulled its head above the horizon. He'd been reminiscing for the majority of the night. He closed the window and walked toward the door, subconsciously holding his breath.

As he approached the knob, he heard a beam lifting outside. Before he could process that tidbit, the door swung open to reveal Morgul the Masterful.

Morgul's smile fell the instant he saw Felix. His eyes momentarily widened in surprise, then narrowed in fury. "What are you doing up and about? You should be asleep. In bed." Felix started to explain but was cut off. "No more! I don't know if Vander the Vexing sent you to harry me or if you're more clever than you pretend, but I will not have you sabotaging my experiments and stealing my secrets any longer. Gather your things and prepare yourself for the cleansing. I release you from my employ."

---

Felix sat despondently in the common area of the academy. He knew, by way of his planner, that his employ with Morgul the Masterful had ended early, but he could not remember why. There was still one week left of the Period of Perspicacity, so the academy was not yet forbidden to the public, but without sponsorship he was without hope. All he had to his name were novice tomes, a few ducats, and the miserable dreams that had been tormenting him of late.

"I insist, it's something to do with the reduction," one neophyte said to another as they sat nearby. "When the glycerol reacts with the permanganate, protogenic sparks are created. The same sparks that Metis of the Fifth Age insisted were the physical loci around which the ghostborn congregated."

"But we've produced such sparks dozens of times," said the other man, "and no entreatment nor offering has enticed the faelings to manifest. If those truly are the seeds of the ghostborn, they're lacking adequate nourishment."

His head still lost in dreams, Felix mumbled to himself, "Protean moth's blood." He didn't even realize he'd spoken aloud until several minutes later, when the two smiling academics sat at his table.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

I did some reading, so I did some writing. Now I am sad as I am out of reading, so I must return to working. Or maybe I'll just think about video games. (Why is Star Control II so badass?)

Edit: La dee da, bonk bonk. Impressions will return after official judgments have been posted, so check back then if you're reading this now.

Hammer Bro. fucked around with this message at Sep 8, 2014 around 20:19

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

crabrock posted:

crits are hella cool, but in the future, you should wait until judgement is out to post any crits.

Knew I had my dumdum hat on this morning. Normally not in a position for it to matter, but definitely noted for the future. I'll hide them away for a bit.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

These ain't The Crit, these are just something I was doing. Seems like I've got some filmage to watch.

Djeser - Nice title. I'm well grinnin' after the first paragraph. I assume "his here's" was meant to be "this here's". Maintained the grin straight on through. The use of the Missus was obvious, the use of Noah more clever. I gotta say, this is a mighty fine first story, and I'll keep an eye out for Ballard next time I'm at the bookstore.

newtestleper - I reread the first few sentences a couple of times to make sense of them (do sentences without verbs still count as sentences?), although the last part of the last sentence would've put them into focus. But in today's instant gratification world, were I not predisposed to reading each of these stories deliberately, you might've turned me off already. Continuing on, the prose has been decent, and I develop mild empathy for the narrator as he's being not-rhetorical. The mahogany/police metaphor is well executed, and the shoe detail does a good job of humanizing the father in my mind. The jump from romantic to crass nostalgia was a bit jarring. I like the mood, but not the lack of conclusion.

Amused Frog - I don't know what the preferred convention is, but I include the title as part of the word count. Sometimes it's an important part of the story. I'll let you slide since you're honest, though. Your timing is a little clunky -- you talk about a specific day, a specific day which was ruined, five years which were ruined. Makes me feel like the specific day bits were wasted. The whole thing could benefit from a detailed crit (the sentences are generally awkward), but the switch from double spacing to single is especially uncomfortable. I love juxtapositions between light and dark like this, but the execution was... inelegant. On the plus side, now I'm listening to this song (video optional).

Skwid - The Thraddash are not in any way friendly and I'm insulted that you would insinuate otherwise! The style neither bothers me (I've seen it done before) nor particularly interests me (but better). The humanizing element (gosh, I've used that word twice in the same lifetime) feels shoehorned in. You say the gauge and Milo are dead, then explain things that Milo does. I was not at all surprised (nor moved) by contents of the mission report. Very detached.

Hammer Bro. - Your story was awesome and wonderful and it really captured the essences of two disparate authors. Also you're physically attractive.

Entenzahn - A sun? Are the more than one? (Okay, that could work out.) He asks pretty casually if Irina is around, then says she's necessary for things to feel good ever again; feels inconsistent. Decent simile. The summoning sentence reads a little awkwardly. I do like that the protagonist is consistent across dimensions. If it's first-person, how can Me Prime know that Other-me has a hidden knife? The concept is solid and the banter is decent, but something not immediately obvious is lacking. I was mildly amused while reading it, but that was about the most I felt. I was curious about the author since I frequently find time travel popping up in the books I read, but was mildly surprised to find Butcher. Stylistically I wouldn't've thought it, although I never picked up the Dresden Files. But I have been accused more than once of dressing like Harry.

Thalamas - (Good, that really was a Saturday.) Nice upping of the ante at the first scene break (I'm thinking of that Sufjan song again). There should be a comma before the ... which is a name (and slightly awkward). Then there should be a period after it (....). Third time's a charm. Wait a minute, who's the narrator if Andrew can hear the name but I can't? Did you mean "body" instead of "boy", or am I confused about Andrew's age? I did feel familiarity with the plot and I have read American Gods before, so you did succeed to some degree.

Sitting Here - Uh oh, gotta brush up on my Norse. Okay, set, now let's see if it pays off. I was going to overlook the "you're/you"s, but I'm not going to ignore the 1960's. Good use of uncannily appropriate music (especially since they're actual lyrics). Bad bias on my part; I assumed the narrator was male. (Oh, you tell the tale directly.) "and his child". It's unfortunate: I was interrupted in the middle of this one, then restarted it hours later. Then interrupted again. It's well written and moody, although not the mood I was in the mood for. But it speaks to the strengths of the story (and it was a very strong piece) that I was still drawn into it, despite these obstacles. Benny's gonna get his nose bloodied.

Fumblemouse - Caps in titles! Cute premise. I don't know that addressing me (with "you") works well with the rest of your prose. Rhyming riddle thoughts good. That's an interesting lecture on riddles but I'm not sure I, the reader, agree. Whoa, tense change. Noose of vines? Nooses are usually used for hangings. Uh, overall it was decent, but a little rough. In prose, emotional attachment, and consistency. I seem to be a little mentally distracted, and this story didn't acquire my focus like some others did.

Kaishai - I've been in a decrepit future mood (reading some Vance then gaping at the misery my prose is in comparison), so I like that you're alluding to systems well past their prime. Mira's flight seems disproportionately sudden. Oh snap! Neither does Mira! (Well delivered.) The ending, however, lacks punch. It might suffer from a bit of Why-Now? Sure there are reasons for his actions, but nothing in the bits of story I read here to make them feel like they should've happened right then.

Tyrannosaurus - Intriguing setup, and well paced. Consecutive tidbits which paint the picture without shouting it. The "I've come back" paragraph is nicely descriptive, as well. Deft indirect implication of the character's emotional state, too. (Heh, merde.) Why are all the patrons so immediately violent? The second one, at least, doesn't seem to have proper motivation. Dude in the window? Strangle him. Pushed him out the window? Was she trying to kill him? There were some well done individual bits, but the sum of their parts didn't do it for me.

Blade_of_tyshalle - This was actually pretty well written, although as it turns out I doubt I'm interested in Stover's style of prose. But the satisfying failure was a nice route to take it, and I empathized with the main character, even if he is violent, foul, and vindictive.

Benny the Snake - Have we already had a Rosa Flores, Supernatural P.I. story a while back, or am I conflating things? Which employee does that door only belong to? Vampire shenanigans? Did someone put a banana in the tailpipe of their hearse? I'm no expert on vampire physiology, but I was under the impression that most of the time their body was lacking in blood, so to claim that sawdust incites an overreaction in their white blood cells seems like a bit of a stretch. Also, that means they wouldn't be able to eat McDonald's. I did appreciate the lesson about saw mills. Acquiring knowledge while advancing the plot is a good thing. Overall decently written, and I did suspect Jim Butcher, but gritty magical realism's not really my bag (I much prefer the subtle stuff).

crabrock - Wasn't initially familiar with halyards. Britain working with Germany? Does a decent job at conveying the tumultuousness of a storm at sea and has good enough pacing that I didn't stop to nit-pick too much. Let's say enjoyable, but not memorable.

sebmojo - Intriguing and interesting. The style, presumably Calvino's, is notable. I don't have a lot to say about this one right now, though. People kept distracting me. I trust that there would be some benefit to mapping out the relative room relations of each person, and I did like the strange formula originally proposed, but I couldn't keep the mapping in my head. And while interesting, the multitude of mini-stories didn't do much to culminate in an emotional ending. Still, one of the more cerebrally interesting reads.

SurreptitiousMuffin - drat, I got hella poemed. I tried reading that with the pauses as structured, but it felt too weird, so eventually I mentally turned it into the horizontal sentences it felt like it was written as.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Mercedes posted:

I'm going to need 3 volunteers, preferably past 'Domers that have not won a week, for a 3 way brawl... WITH A PRIZE!

Oh ho ho have I not won a week. I can't even communicate things in an obvious fashion. Count me in.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Oy am I going HAM on this one. If you thought I was obtuse before, wait until I've had adequate time to research. It's going to roll off the tip of the tongue and down the sides of the cranium!

And if nobody can tell me what actually happened, I'll just go full-on ascetic and start speaking only in allegory. I'm not sure my coworkers will notice the difference.

Contab, dash-e!

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

sebmojo posted:

I’d been at a festival up the hills round Nelson, all glowsticks and puptents and oonst oonst oonst

Eleven months to go and I'm already jonesin'.

Also: Cheers, Beers, but what's with the M names? Can't be coincidence or fancy...

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Mercedes posted:

THE SHIIIIIIIIIIIT

Don't you worry. The poo poo is coming soon and the poo poo is coming hard, not all squishy-like. Why you think I ain't been entering these last two weeks? Totally not 'cause I'm developing the best computer game past and future, nah. Gonna win that vidya game of yours then go on for painfully long about how it's not as good as something from no later than 1997. Then I'm gonna go back to my scheming, 'cause while I'm totally down with Model and Controller, screw the View (not the one with the yentas, at least not this paragraph).

Oh hello there, key fob.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Thalamas posted:

I'm dropping out of the brawl. Sorry, folks.

You're taking the wind right out of my sails, man. Dropping out of a 'dome is commonplace, but brawls are a sacred thing, mano a mano (a mano a mano). What victory is there without competition? And also that thing that Mercedes said before I got a chance to say it.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

According to Plan (1899 words, for Mercedes' some-number-less-than-four man brawl.)

The emotions are gnawing at me. I did something dreadful, and I feel I must confess. Coming clean would be disastrous, so I shall write the truth of my story here, and I will hide it. Maybe after I finish the little man inside my head will relent. Or maybe I subconsciously want to be caught.

It was June 8, 1987, and I sat at The World's End, cursing my fortune and nursing my Beefeater. What felt like ages as an apprentice locksmith and I was still no closer to realizing my dreams.

Ever since I was young, I've had the ability to convince people of the truth as I perceived it. Sometimes this differed from the truth as others observed it, but the world is rarely so binary as black and white. With the right amount of candor and sincerity, even the toughest audience can be swayed. (If you ever read this, Gracie, I'm sorry.)

This talent, above any booksmarts or personal charm, is what decides a court. I'd been to enough trials that I was convinced of it. But the costs of becoming a barrister were far more than a man like me could afford, so despite what conventional wisdom would suggest, I spent most evenings back then at the pub.

Almost as if someone had called my name, I picked out a snippet of conversation from across the room. "But how are we going to open the lock boxes?" I don't know what possessed me to interrupt. Probably that Bailey's. I suppose I thought I could talk my way into a business relationship with a stranger. Next time I'm going to look before I leap.

"Sorry to interrupt, gents," I said, "but I couldn't help overhearing your lock troubles."

The man I addressed was young, clearly affluent, and would have been immediately likable had his features not been beveled in steel. His companion, a broad fellow with a square jaw and thick brows, was looking at him. He was looking at me. I'm afraid I began babbling.

I can't remember precisely what I said; something about his gaze bore a hole into my normally infallible memory. But just as the intractable tendrils of regret were snaking up my arteries, he broke into a smile.

---

Two days later, he brought the damaged unit to my shop. A few agile twists of the pick and I had the lock open. I must have impressed him, since he asked if I'd like to meet up for dinner and get to know each other better. I should have been suspicious when he insisted on picking me up at the shop, but I had already fallen victim to his charisma, and I was more naive than I care to admit.

Valerio Viccei was a force of nature. The man didn't live in a palace, but he may as well have been royalty with how others treated him. Businessmen deferred to him, women fawned on him, and luxurious cars materialized beneath him as if by divine providence. Merely coasting in the wake of his glory was more intoxicating than the alcohol ever was, although there was plenty of that as well.

We spent four weeks getting to know each other; falling under the sway of sorcery. He made me believe he trusted me completely, and for that I felt I would follow him anywhere. Or maybe that's how I rationalize it now.

I should mention that during this period I also grew fond of his common companion. David was all right, once you got past the stoicism, and I think in time I will miss him. Back then I thought of the three of us like the Three Musketeers. Now I know we were just a thief, a trickster, and a patsy.

---

Wednesday night, we met up at The World's End. Valerio had a proposition for me. David was there as usual, but at this point I'd grown accustomed to his silent presence.

"Richard," he said to me, "you're a good kid. But four years as an apprentice and what have you got to show for it? Swollen knuckles and a dingy flat. Meanwhile blokes like Gerald Grosvenor? They make more leeching three month's rent from your boss' shop than you make in a year toiling away there."

I kicked back another gin.

"It's criminal, I tell you, the way the incumbent upper class rests on their laurels and receive a king's ransom while honest folk like you work their way to an early grave."

I took a breath and formed my words carefully. "What are you suggesting?"

"I'm suggesting," Valerio replied, "that we claim a portion of what should rightfully be ours."

Lord help me, I was crazy and drunk and enthralled, but I heard him out. He wanted to rob Knightsbridge, the premiere bank of London. And he made it sound reasonable.

---

Sunday morning, Valerio, David, and I entered Knightsbridge and inquired about their safe deposit boxes. They were immaculate in their Armani suits. I'm not sure how I escaped notice in my drab slacks and overcoat. We were escorted into the vaults as the claviger explained their security procedures.

Sometimes a man can take stock of a situation, improvise, and get the desired results. Other times, he can scheme and plan until there's nothing left to predict, and things still go awry. Valerio had determined who would be working that shift, what their duties were, and when they would rotate. He even had contingencies for the extra guards that abandoned their normal posts to escort us. I worry that I attracted them with my conspicuous-by-comparison attire or some outward manifestation of my inner tension.

Valerio and David drifted surreptitiously to the rear of the group, their backs to the entrance. As casual as a conductor checking his timepiece, they pulled handguns on the two guards. One of them must have tried to resist, because it was the thump and the grunt that caught my attention.

I glanced over, not quite processing what I saw, then looked back at the claviger. He looked as shocked as I did. David closed the vault behind us just as my apparent opponent began to shout. Adrenaline took over, and I punched him in the throat. He fumbled for his baton as one of the guards entered my periphery.

Acting on instinct, I swung my empty briefcase at him. I used to be captain of the fencing team, so I'd like to think my judgment and reaction times are better than most, but Valerio continued toward me, and I clipped him on the knuckles hard enough to draw blood before I'd realized what happened. Murder was in his eyes, but he suspended my sentence and continued after the claviger instead. I sincerely regret that that man got such a beating because of me.

A few minutes later and we had them all subdued. David confined them in the far corner of the blessedly soundproof vaults while Valerio ushered in additional associates. I didn't pay them much heed, as I was focused like a fanatic on my task of picking locks. Somewhere inside me a lonely voice was crying out that this was armed robbery, but it was drowned out by the hammering of my heart.

It's a testament to the deftness of my hands that I was able to break into one hundred thirteen boxes during our operation. I was sweating like a choir boy in the vestry by the time we finished; it never occurred to me to take off my overcoat. Technically I opened one hundred fourteen, but one box was jammed. I had Valerio hold one end of it while I tried to pull, but it was to no avail. Some gentle shaking implied that it was nearly empty anyway, so I returned that container to the wall as it was of no further use to us.

After what felt like only minutes, Valerio announced that it was time to go. I ran my hands through my hair and they came back covered in sweat. Better than hands covered in blood, I suppose, although by that point Valerio had wiped himself clean. The three of us gathered our briefcases and slipped out of the vault while one of Valerio's associates kept customers out of our way and, more importantly, out of earshot.

We dispersed. Valerio left in his Testarossa while David and I took cabs. David clearly got the better driver, as I arrived at the rendezvous ten minutes behind him. The operation was a success, but you wouldn't have known it from the look in Valerio's eyes. At that moment he scared me more than any part of the heist had.

"What took you so long?" he asked. He wasn't loud, and his words came slowly, but he spoke with such deliberation that I felt like my destiny was being decided. Giving him the correct answer was crucial. Still, I grew up firmly believing in the power of sincerity, so the words were out of my mouth as quickly as if I'd rehearsed them.

"My cabbie took the scenic route."

It was the hardest thing I've ever done, maintaining eye contact with him right then. But eventually he relented.

"Fine, fine. Put the briefcase over there, then we're going to pat you down. Leave your coat. After that, you walk out the door, and we don't see each other for a week. Then go to Eliahu's. He'll give you your share."

That wasn't how we were supposed to divide the spoils, but I knew better than to object. In the grand scheme of things, the plan was a success.

---

That week passed in agonizing slowness, but nothing noteworthy transpired. Eliahu gave me far less than I expected, but I accepted it with a smile.

Valerio was nowhere to be found. I assumed he had fled the country. Something about the city lost its luster after that. The World's End no longer allured me, women were as scarce as platinum, and even the luxury cars (which I still couldn't quite afford) hardly tempted me. I still saw Eliahu from time to time, but Valerio and David had vanished from my life, leaving a strange sense of longing that I couldn't satisfy.

It was risky and foolish, but eventually I typed a letter to Valerio. I thanked him for all the good times we'd shared, and for taking me under his wing, and for all the rides in his Testarossa. I saw that car again, when I happened by one of his flats. There was something genuinely tragic about watching such a fine machine collect dust. I joked that if he sent me a copy of the keys I'd cut him a good deal on the value of the vehicle.

I gave the letter to Eliahu and trusted that he'd be able to forward it to its intended recipient. Then I went into my own form of hiding.

But as I was reading the paper today it all caught up with me, and I knew I had to say something. Thirty-four days is too long to remain entirely silent about what happened. You may consider it something small, but to me it is a victory. I have not lied in this account, but I plan for the truth of my story to remain hidden. Especially from The Wolf.

~Fred

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER


So I'm really digging what appears to be an in-depth crit of the stories as you go along, but the video's skipping worse than my Taiwanese turntable and I'm really struggling to hear any of it. I don't think that's just a my-computer thing, either. Anything that can be done so that I can properly bask in the resonant, audible glow of your wisdom?

Also the event the narrator is gloating about is not the heist. I may want to hit you up via alternate channels if you're willing to spare a little extra time on me; I'm curious as to how much exists solely in my head versus how much could be engendered in others.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Hah. I just finished the entirety of that (skippy) video, and I gotta say to the rest of y'all: get in on Merc Brawls if you can. That's one of the better crits I've thus far received and I had to pause it more than once to prevent too many coworkers from giving me the cockeyed stare. The content, both intentional and otherwise, evoked solid, very-difficult-to-suppress belly laughter.

As for the prize -- do what you will with it. I'm pretty solidly in the DRM-is-the-Devil camp, and really digging in my trenches and building fortifications. I'll see what I can do about IRC, although I'm not sure there are clients that I don't hate/work at work.

Finally, to the other three: Uhhhhhn! Yeah yeah! Err, I mean, thanks for participating. Sincerely. I enjoyed each of the stories, as well as the competition.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

True Story (71 words)

Back in high school I had a frozen Fettuccine Alfredo that was topped with a giant tomato slice. It looked like an odd culinary choice to me, but I was no chef. I popped the whole slice into my mouth at once only to discover that the tomato was actually ham.

Ham is delicious, but not when you're expecting a tomato.

I never did manage to shake the nickname.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

crabrock posted:

[close to 300 words]

Pear it down a little.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Twelve hour work days are too hard. Reverse engineering is too hard. UTC is definitely too hard, mark my words.

Gimme one of those extra-spicy virtues/viceys. And I'm claiming that -250 word bonus in advance, because more bonuses are more better. This'll be a piece of cake.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Kelvin (921 words: "wherein somewhere He sleeps, His bones grow cold with the passing of time, and an empty hearth")

No one dreams in stasis. So when Starchild Flockmother tumbled out of her cryopod, she was nine years old and her parents were still alive.

She sprawled naked across the deck, sitting at the kitchen table in her Sunday best. Catie thought about last week when she snuck into the church to surprise Father. She marveled at the size of the empty cathedral as she meandered up to the confessionals. She meant to speak, but the noises coming from within them were scary so she ran back home. When she asked Father what happened at confession he said he was doing the Lord's work. For some reason that made Mother cry.

Catie knew she shouldn't wrinkle her nice clothes, but she was so very sleepy. Surely a little nap wouldn't hurt. She nestled her head in her arms. For the first time in a thousand years, Starchild slept.

She awoke to a nightmare. Failing to stand, she propped her back against the base of her cryopod and surveyed the cargo bay. The empty walkways radiated hostility under the feeble red auxiliary lighting. Her ragged breaths were an affront to the moldering silence.

Starchild crawled to the nearest maintenance post and tried to organize her thoughts. She had practiced for hundreds of emergency situations, for plagues and famines and deserters, but she barely knew the floor plan of The Covenant. An acolyte was supposed to anoint her, veil her in the ceremonial habit, and usher her to a glorious new life amongst her flock. Instead she felt like some forgotten heathen idol: blood made of molasses, organs wrought in stone.

She managed to stand, leaning heavily against the console. Hers was the only pod to glow green. The rest remained dark, either empty or deactivated. She deliberately slowed into a pattern of controlled breathing. Where was the crew?

Her pulse regulated, Starchild hobbled toward the galley. Her timid calls died on heartless steel. The interstitial darkness was immaculate, and twice she stumbled over invisible entanglements as she followed the railing. Once inside, she gravitated toward the nearest illuminated vending machine, pushed a dusty pile of rags aside with her foot, and punched up a strawberry ration bar.

Nothing happened.

She pressed the button harder. This time she could faintly hear a click and a whir as the machinery struggled to perform its intended function. Again it failed.

In an act of desperate indignity she smashed a chair through the faceplate and reached around the wreckage to claim her prize. The wrapper smelled faintly of bitter almonds, but its contents were uniformly delicious.

Hunger was the one void in her life she knew how to fill, but the satisfaction was fleeting as loneliness and fear crept up her spine. She had to find someone who could explain what was going on.

Starchild checked the saloon. It was empty. The rec room was also deserted. She ran to the crew's quarters and forced several of the cabin doors open, but each one was barren. She was utterly alone. Abandoned.

Cat came home from school that night to find her lawn peppered with policemen. An apologetic woman in white told her that her parents had gone away and that she'd need to stay with a different family for a little while. It would be like going on vacation.

She shuffled from household to household as her legs got longer and her chest filled out. Surrounded by strangers she was forced to call "Mom" and "Dad", Cat felt isolated and alone.

After her third failed suicide attempt Cat discovered the Stewards of Now and Forever. They took her in, nourished her body and mended her soul. They gave her a new name and a new purpose in life. They rescued her from the emptiness. To be alone and adrift again was too much to bear. Starchild screamed.

Running through the dark corridors, suddenly ashamed of her nakedness, Starchild thought of all the lambs she would never see again. Sophia, Donny, Dedrick. Elanor, Rebecca, Ruth. Without their shepherd, they were condemned to limbo, an eternity in exile from the promised land. She had failed them, and hundreds of others. Disgrace constricted her arteries and burned in her throat.

Starchild staggered onto the bridge, her face a ruin of water and mucus. The displays were blank; the comm channels were quiet. Only the auxiliary lighting still functioned. Starchild smashed her fists on a keyboard and slapped at random switches. She shook monitors, punched cushions, and spat on the center console. Then she saw a note, scrawled with zealous fervor:

Only death will absolve us. The Lord is our shepherd.

Cat's doleful mother was looking somewhere just beyond her. "You're old enough to walk to school without me, and I have some business with Father mac Bóchra this morning. Be a good little girl. The Lord will be your shepherd." That was the last morning Cat believed it.

Starchild broke down and wept. She wept for her parents and she wept for her flock. Finally, she wept for herself. Torrential tears washed her sadness away and smothered the resentment she'd harbored since that day. She cried away her very identity, until the woman who remained was a stranger to her. This time there was no one to direct that stranger.

Catherine mac Bóchra brushed the note aside and methodically began flipping switches. She never was good at operating electronics, but she had all the time in the world to learn.

Somewhere in the distance, a white light flickered.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

Hammer Bro. 24.0 / 30.0

Nnnghgh. Lucky you folks I wrote the majority of these up last night. Now I'm going to go yell at computers, which behave in a much more predictable fashion (out to thwart me 100% of the time).

December Octopodes - Common problems with style (commas and apostrophes where they shouldn't be). Copious amounts of telling, as opposed to showing, which flattens the affect of the piece. "The scenes that followed ran together" -- you read my mind. You might have potential if you can make all those Proper Nouns interesting or relevant, but right now they feel tacked on and more distracting than immersive. Perhaps you've got a penchant for world-building, but there's much work to be done on the storytelling. (Oof, just read your prompt. Stating the obvious does not make one perspicacious.)

Jitzu_the_Monk - Might want to brush up on the rules with regard to punctuation and capitalization around quotes. So you've just shown the protagonist not being humble (getting vexed, biting her lip) and had her say repeatedly that she is humble. There had better be some character growth here. Hmm, okay, failure instead. A bit preachy with a liberal sprinkling of minor technical errors. A bunch of descriptors that, for the most part, did not outright offend me, but did little to contribute anything meaningful. Reminds me of the kind of stories I'll pick up between attempts at reading Literature: goes down homogeneously and quickly and is almost completely forgotten by the time my brain has recovered. I suppose your on-prompt insight is that humility is good if you have magic powers?

Helsing - So I clicked on that link, but I'm not sure how it's going to be relevant. I now hope the story will be about the '80s; that dude's hair is totally boss. Was that the intent? Agh, you didn't post a word count, but you're dangerously close to breaking it. I'm not sure if `wc -w` counts hyphens or not so I'm letting you off the hook for now. Is that third sentence training for a marathon? Traditionally, when you introduce someone not-yet-named with "when he saw her", it's for a first impression. Took me a moment to buck that expectation. The last paragraph in the first section is the first thing that has interested me; I doubt the entire volume of words before it were necessary to engender that interest. I may be wrong, but I think one of the big hurdles in cryopreservation is the formation of ice crystals during the freezing/thawing process. If we could freeze/thaw people faster (not slower), there would be less cellular damage. I actually liked the overall idea, but I don't think anyone's lack of foresight was surprising. There's some fat to be trimmed, but the core idea of harvested convicts which are also sleeping murder-zombies is interesting.

satsui no thankyou - You got your virtue ever so slightly wrong and please give your stories proper titles. You don't want me thinking already that the author didn't care about the piece. You also left out the word count (a minor no-no) and edited your post (a rather more serious gaffe). The flow is almost reasonable, but you really need to learn what "it's" means (and what it doesn't). Augh, seriously. The ending doesn't mean to me what I think you meant it to. First, I'm only assuming by trope that the sanctum door was an airlock. But even if it were, you'd said earlier that it was "too late to stop the [black hole] engine". So I have no idea what the significance of the final act is since everybody's about to die anyway. On that note, who got defended? The people who are about to be swallowed up by gravity? Also I can't get over the "it's"es.

Hammer Bro. - So sleek, so bold! Turning a story in early without using the extra word count, surely you are some kind of letter-arranging prodigy! Your out-of-story prose needs some work, though. Also nobody knows what's going on most of the time. (Edit: nor do they like what they see.)

Jagermonster - Huh. That was actually mostly well written. You might've been a little hasty at the end (a few minor technical errors in quick succession), but it read smoothly and consistently overall. Most importantly, I can tell both that Gare had a jovial and easygoing affect and also that it was significant. I won't quite say virtuous, since he didn't get killed those bandits who hadn't yet irrevocably indicated that they'd kill him. Still, highly on-prompt and generally pleasant (although probably not memorable).

LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE - Starting off strong. Kami has been somewhere interesting and is moving somewhere purposefully. Ooh, nice chilly subtlety. (Okay, it has ceased being subtle.) Another good story with a novel mechanic. I don't have a whole lot to say about this one. I liked the perpetual decay of the King's teeth. I felt you repeated a few details a little too often for my taste. There are elements of this one that I will remember, though, so kudos on the creativity and execution.

starr - Likable, but rough. You could've gotten more pop out of more specific word choices ("It had been a long flight from the nearby star system." -> "It had been a long flight from Arcturus.") and fewer already-implied details ("The passenger starship Ion 4 reached the inner solar system of Solerus around 15:00 Galactic Time, and the destination planet Orius finally came into view in the cockpit of the ship." -> "Ion 4 reached inner Solerus at 15:00 Galactic Time, and Orius finally came into view of the cockpit."). Adequate use of the prompt. Not much in the story to make me care for the characters, though, so it's no big deal when they die.

ZeBourgeoisie - I was just wondering if this was SF/Fantasy when you got to the eyes. You have a few odd word choices that don't flow well to me, and what appear to be a few errors. I know it's goofy, but try reading your piece aloud: you'll catch them. You keep mixing "it" and "her". Not sure what the judges will say as to this virtue-used-as-vice. Interesting concept and well scoped, but very rough around the edges.

theblunderbuss - "She'd never been afraid of him. Thrakk respected that. Not now, not then." structurally implies that he not respected that now and not respected that then. You'd be better off swapping the last two sentences. Several orcs died. Excellent use of the prompt, at having few words convey relatively many events. I've got some empathy for the characters, but they'll soon be forgotten. This story didn't have anything particularly novel to pique my interests.

docbeard - "to interest herself in waking"? To motivate herself to wake? Heh, I can associate with having to use crappy equipment. Intermittent technical errors. You weren't kiddin' about that 1,000 words, although your word-counting software seems smarter around ellipses than mine. You've told me a few times that fear motivates the character, but I didn't feel it when you attempted to show me.

systran - I still grinned at the ball-kick, but a little more subtlety about the wording and I probably would've audibly laughed. Cute and simple, you've probably got decent chops if that's what you're rushing out. Not much to say other than smirkable and on-topic.

crabrock - Uh, hmm. The humor was hit or miss. Makes sense given the mood of the protagonist, who has a characteristically female given name. I'm honestly not seeing why all those people crushed him and, to some extent, themselves. Seems as on-prompt as that prompt gets.

Djeser - Decent setup. Leon? Mostly endearing. A little hard to immediately tell that Noah's gun was slag because it fired (as opposed to having been fired upon). The story does what it was tasked to do quite nicely, although a little on the trite side.

Kaishai - Oof. A good take on an old concept, and very well written despite the word limit. Worst I can say is that I would've enjoyed it more if it were longer -- some of the emotions you were going for felt a little hurried.

Paladinus - Single quotes, eh? I don't think I'll be giving your story a lot of attention, since it seems like you didn't either. Pretty heavy on the technical errors and rather melo on the drama. I hope you were pressed for time.

Obliterati - Spitting to clear fog -- nice specific. Refreshing prose, decent pacing, fixed typos. Knew the statue was of Grandfather as soon as you said it was humanoid. A little more into tricking me to think he was dead would've helped the end impactfully. Enjoyable, but not lingering. Magnificence doesn't strike me as significant thematically in this one.

Anathema Device - So the zombies in general are persistent. The main character is patient. There's a bit of tension in his situation. But I don't really feel this well exploring the prompt. Also the sentient zombies and [un?]undead offspring felt more tacked on than thought-provoking.

Entenzahn - Unusual prompt you've got. I can definitely see it in action. However, I don't feel much empathy for the king (he's a jerk), and little more for the daughter (she's secondary). So jerk king loses daughter I'm not attached to; only tragic in principle.

Tyrannosaurus - Sixteen generations of Robert Forte? Tell me more. Huh. Mildly amusing, but utterly expected. Pig doesn't work, pig doesn't work, pig... doesn't work. I suppose there's nothing more to see here.

Meeple - Well, you go somewhere with it. But you hadn't well enough made me feel Vassily's anguish to make me believe an action of that magnitude. Also, seems like something strong enough to kill everyone on the planet would not result in the immediate regrowth of plant life.

Anomalous Blowout - Good man: no ban. Nice opening imagery. The story goes down easily enough, but it's hard to make readers empathize with a bad-man protagonist. I get that he wasn't really a bad man initially, and there are interesting philosophical arguments one could possibly make around such alterations, but even before the second strike I felt like the wife was better off without him. So the second strike barely rated a smirk. Acceptable use of the prompt, although this one could've led to more interesting places. But sickness sucks, so it's good you got something in. Also, not SF/Fantasy?

Barracuda Bang! - Mildly spunky, but not a lot happens. There's some dialogue, a minor reveal, and success without a sense of danger. Well written for low stakes? Be more ambitious next time -- give me some reason to want to read more.

Noah - A tricky prompt leads to a tricky interpretation. The lingering ghosts are interesting, although mostly in that they remind me of a different story I read with a similar premise. I'm not really buying that Caitlin is angry enough to commit murder, though. And the violent coughing was a detail, but how was it important?

kurona_bright - I like how the Ence rune is flaunted then explained. But not explained well enough for the misunderstanding to pack its full punch. It's not obvious enough that Earl is angry about, he thinks, being mesmerized into friendship. And although you've told me more than once that Renault (strange name for a goblin) is powerful, you presumably could've shown it better. There's, hmm, a medium amount of compassion in this story.

Grizzled Patriarch - Nice start. Intriguing and twisted thing for the lieutenant to do. It seems like Emily hasn't yet earned wisdom, though. Good for a short piece, although I would've felt worse for her at the end if I'd felt worse for her in the beginning. The suicide was brushed aside, both to the reader and by the protagonist. Also seems fairly present-day.

Some Guy TT - Yep, rushed indeed. Hard to believe Mr. Monroe would even be able to convert one other planet with his poor abilities. And that he studied rhetoric in school? Ugh, agh. Lots of ick. I'm moving on.

Fuschia tude - Hah. A documented medical case of the uglies. I like it. Some decent descriptors, and acceptable use of transliterated garbled speech. That's a strange way for a man to take himself out, though I suppose I can believe his motivations.

Walamor - Got some technical mishaps there. Decent concept of elemental priests, and I suppose I believe the motivations of the characters, but the second half of the piece feels forced. Reading from some script as opposed to having emotional reactions.

Cache Cab - Disease that was wiped out and came back? Yes. Critical thinking? Nooooo. I mean, I guess he makes some angry deductions, but if you're already late then what's the harm in proofreading? Things feel a little too normal for an end-of-most-of-the-world scenario. The logical elements all fit together, at least, although writing a bitter, angry protagonist that readers care about is a tall order.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

Some additional critters.

Clearly somebody let a crazy man onto the judging panel, as some of those opinions are wildly inaccurate.

Vampire Hexmage will pop Dark Depths instantaneously, for a two-total-mana 20/20. And Polymorph is one of many ways to get Emrakul out early. Sure you don't get the extra turn, but them sacrificing 6 permanents on their second or third turn is probably going to cause some problems, even before the 15 damage.

Also, if you're feeling indulgent (yes or no answers are fine), in Kelvin could you tell: 1) What happened to the crew? or 2) What happened to Catherine's parents?

Thanks to Muffin, Sitting, and Schneider for the previous insights.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Christ it's been too long. I hain't even had time to read the prompts I've missed, much less the stories.

Which means I'm in with whatever the current/next prompt is. And I need a flash rule. Something technical/stylistic, as opposed to plot/setting.

Hook me up. I'm going back to bed.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Haha, sweet. Can't even catch a break with blind bravado in the 'dome. What are the odds? (1 in 117?)

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

crabrock posted:

High compliments about my story. Without realizing that it was my story. Or that they were compliments.

Sweet. I'm busy as sin this week, so I'll be tossing my hat in the ring as well.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

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."

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Kaishai posted:

A claim to have made sense of one of my stories.

Hells yeah! Implied potential understanding! I'm legitimately excited. Now I'm going to make the celebratory triple-post because I think there's some kind of wordbarf limit, then I'm going to bed.

J.A.B.C. - You're using "level" as an adjective, but I initially read it as the noun phrase "pressure level". "Steady" would have been less ambiguous (although I doubt anyone else stumbled there). Write out "twenty-three". One also doesn't attribute dialogue with a capital letter: '"...you'll do fine," he said'. You might want to quote the quote of "Stay calm.", as I thought you were jumping into a present-tense narrator thought. And honestly that whole paragraph could use some rewording. I'm going to stop noting technical errors, especially around quotations. There are a lot of them.

Ah, you're fresh blood and nobody else has posted yet, you're gonna get some extra words because it's too early for bedtime although I'd rather it weren't.

The paragraph beginning "Marsh Daniels" (which is an unusually usual name for a Martian) tells us what they could see in his face, then tells us what it means. Telling removes the reader from the immediacy of the situation, and considering how much damage there was you probably don't want that. Also, you've got a few unspecific things which would work out better as concrete examples. Consider the following:

Head Engineer Marsh Daniels towered over the command table. His tanned Martian face was lined with sweat, but every eye of the Preparation Crew was fixated on him. He'd spent seventy-two consecutive hours in the hangar, going over the damage.

"The [capitalized Captain" has "piercing blues". That's awfully intimate for a cadet, unless you're trying to imply romantic interest. Also, when the whispers stopped, they were a "they", not an "it". I'm a little too tired to go over it in detail, but I feel like you have jarring shifts of mood. Some sections have repeated, chained, weary, comma-separated adjectives. Others are terse. Abrupt. Hasty.

If Williams' comms gear was smashed, how's his ear still buzzing?

I'm one to talk, but in the conversation on your third section:

"Ten minutes, Williams," the captain's voice called out. "Get strapped in." [Captain]

"Strapped in." [Williams]

"Confirmed, strapped in." [Captain]

"Connecting air supply to auxiliary tank." [Williams]

"Connection confirmed." [Captain]

"Then we'll see you on the ground," he said [That's not Williams! Is that the captain? Then who was the person before? Now I'm confused.]

More abrupt sentences followed by excessively descriptive ones. If I wanted a roller-coaster I would've gone to the carnival, but the carnival's not in town so I'll settle for an arcade instead. I'm not sure if your prose is getting worse, or if I'm just getting more tired [of it]. I can see why the judges are always so grumpy.

You've got an okay-if-simple idea in your head, but your writing suffers a lot from what I'm going to assume is haste. There are numerous technical errors and a few other hints that make me think you Wrote this piece, but you didn't Read it. As for the prose, you'd do better to limit yourself to two commas per sentence and incomplete sentences (sparingly) to dialogue.

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Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Cacto - You prefacin' your story? We don't take kindly to prefaces 'round these parts. 'specially when those prefaces put you over the word count. The phrase "singing out the vocals" is awkward, and following it with non-vocals information is a bit clunky. Your description of Zav feels like a forced insert. Maybe even following the "Hey." with a "said Zav." would've helped the flow. Or a paragraph break. I just don't like it as-is. Also how is his casual approach to life his worst feature if James likes the uncertainty it causes the most? "the windows were getting" passive voice. "Air conditioner" is two words. I'm starting to agree with the others, "James could almost hate Zav's grin." is a poor construction. He couldn't hate it, so I guess he disliked it, but instead of saying what didn't happen say what did: "Zav's grin [peeved/vexed/taunted] James." If the fires are that loud with the window open, they're close to that loud with the window closed, yet they slept through that much noise 'til this point? Bit of a stretch.

There were a few points about this one I liked. The characters felt believable and natural. I liked that the romance was present but downplayed, and you had a few good ideas with regard to descriptions (how Zav wakes up is the perfect thing for a lover to notice). The bad pun was a nice touch, too. Most of your other descriptions weren't bad, but they weren't great, either. I think there was potential for me, the reader, to feel the heat of their environment, as opposed to occasionally being reminded of it. And the plot was pretty predictable: it's too hot, things are on fire, now their thing is on fire. I'm not impressed, but I'm not offended. Characterization and subtle intimate details are the strong points. The other things are the mediocre points. And capitalize the "loving" in your title.

Chairchucker - Four lines in and I'm going to assume that your names have significance: Angela (angel), Robin (bird), Knitter (uh, someone who knits things. Wingy things). I like the anthropomorphization, although I'm not sure if Knitter is also a bird or something else. For as abstractly realistic as you're being with the rest of the piece, I don't buy Robin flying with ash-leaf wings. No major complaints, but it also didn't pass the threshold of cuteness/interest for this to be a memorable piece.

JcDent - Hah. Took me a sec to figure out to mentally confirm that you wanted noun-still, but I like the start. "At a relatively safe distance". Bit removed for things to touch "the face" as opposed to "their faces". Okay, you have a lot of awkward phrase choices. One 'i' in "pegasi". "OrBat hAIbrid"? Did this suddenly turn from a vaguely interesting premise to an MMO for thirteen year olds? The "first guy" broke the silence. I'm okay with you not attributing your quotes (be interesting for both of us to see how the judges feel about it), but don't do it because your characters aren't Important People with Names. Especially when you're dropping so many other [potentially/arbitrarily] capitalized nouns.

Let me see if I can summarize: Two or more unnamed characters are camping out by the fire. They tell stories exposing the elementary school quality collage of high school fantasy ideas. Then they go home. Normally we shoot for some kind of conflict and resolution in our stories.

FouRPlaY - Hooboy. I'm pretty sure I could write more words than you did about how using phones as general purpose devices is leading to the downfall of society, but let's see what I can manage with this story. Jack Stevenson == Steve Jackson? Ugh, I don't want to do this. There are a handful of technical errors or inconsistencies that I'm going to blame on the phone and therefore not point out. I get where you're going with this, but dang did it feel forced. Crammed-down-my-throat character growth. The unrealistic actions and banter of caricatures instantly transforms into the manly and righteous actions of... caricatures. Your story didn't have people in it. Or enough line breaks.

Quidnose - All right. So. You're trying to tell a dark story through the innocent eyes of a child. I'm going to assume you're not specifically trying to enrage us readers. Children speak in simple sentences and run-on sentences, yes. They also think very concretely. And were they writing, they'd probably spell things wrong. But you're going too far. The misspellings beat us over the head, and would only actually be present were this piece written by an eight year old. The fact that it's written doesn't appear to add anything to the story and if it were narrated by the eight year old we'd have far fewer spelling stumbling blocks. Writing children is hard. But reading this is excruciating.

Anathema Device - Nice details. The paragraph after the first break is especially descriptive of both the environment and Jessica's emotional state. Oooh, nice impression of trauma with the trowel-stabbing scene. Ah, turns out that was foreshadowing, not just juicy details. I think this one has been the first one to really make me feel the prompt. The "If I caught his eyes" line probably would've worked better as a declaration instead of a conditional statement, but that was the only minor stumble. Everything else just poured into me and warmed the aorta.

Benny the Snake - "Jenks Lake". Forgot to close a quote. "The forest itself is comprised of almost nothing but pine trees to the point where the scent of fresh pine was overwhelming." a bit repetitive. Probably would've been better as "The scent of fresh pine was overwhelming." If you look at the verbs for that and the next few sentences, you'll see is/was/was/was/was/was. Monotonous to read; mix it up some. Speaking of monotony: '"I told you..." Dad told me'. There's a case for "said". I've also been thinking about ORAS at inappropriate times, so bonus surprise empathy there. It's unclear who says "Twenty-four inches!". If it's the boy, it's not indicated, but if it's the dad then you shouldn't close the quote at the paragraph break. Overall, that was actually a pretty cute tale. Smoother than many of your other stories I've read, and without most of the usual repeated offenses. I'd still say you should proofread a little more, but it wasn't too bad overall. I smiled at the protagonist's minor victory, and I felt like there was a real relationship between the characters.

thehomemaster - Line break. "Around her" needs a comma, or it reads like the tents were hers and wrecks the rest of the sentence. Wait, they were moving about in their tents, and the same they were also frozen in place? "a mere trickle" is also awkwardly inserted. The soggy grass was the first well-constructed scene I came across. I didn't catch the sleep-depreivation since she went to sleep at dusk and woke up when the sun was bright. Sheesh, that's more sleeping than I can manage without heavy-duty curtains. "She was a dugout part of land"'s paragraph: did you reread this story at all? Are you not a native English speaker? There's a whole lot of Awkward going on. Well. Tolerable concept, flawed execution. Read it over a few times before you submit.

starr - You've piqued my interest with the creeping death. I assume this comes from actual folklore. In the dialogue some of those commas could be upgraded to periods, and some commas added besides. Generally well told, and now I am curious about the mythology on which it's based. The end is a bit of a let-down: she's still in the same position of denial she started in.

Entenzahn - Provocative start. Good way of showing a troubled character. The line about the cliches is a good one, too. Endearing and well-written. The situation was academically a bit daytime-television dramatic but the execution engendered empathy and nothing felt over-the-top. Carry on, then.

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