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Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
The Non
1107 words

As Vince’s Ford Cassiopeia powered down, he looked around and saw only dirt, red starlight shining down over the untouched nothingness for miles. Thoughts flashed through his head like greenbacks through a money counter: The Wasilewski Supercluster Estates, CruithneCorp, The Gonzalez Galaxy. His communicator had crapped out while he was making his way through the roiling red fog that covered the entire planet, cutting short his conversation with his girlfriend Angela. He was a little glad, to be honest—she was killing the whole Captain Kirk Columbus fantasy he had built up. Call me later, baby. Daddy’s got a whole new world to discover.

Ten feet away from the Cassie’s passenger-side door stood a group of rock formations. Vince frowned and leaned over the center console to get a better look.

There were four of them, three big ones and a little one in front. They looked like giant, ancient barstools, barstools with an excessive number of legs that were angular and veiny and made out of shiny pomegranate marble.

The sensors indicated the air was safe to breathe. Vince broke the seal on the driver’s side door and walked over to where the rock formations were. He smirked, slipped his apartment key out of his pocket and reached towards the top part of the smallest barstool. Leave a little message, he thought to himself. Should it be Forever or 4ever?

“Excuse me.”

Vince looked up.

The rock formation in front extended one of its front legs. There was a glowing white wand-thing sticking out of it, pointed at him. He froze.

“Excuse me,” the rock formation said again. Its voice was aged and rough, like Clint Eastwood smoking a tire iron. “Your name, please.”

“Uh—uh, Vince. Vince Brasco,” he stammered.

“Your planet of origin.”

“Earth. Born and bred Earthling.” Vince began to turn back to the Cassie. “Look, I need to go—“

“We insist you stay, Vince Brasco,” the rock formation said. The white wand glowed brighter.

Vince stopped, held his palms up. “Look, I come in peace—“ He shook his head, trying to remember the rest of the Interplanetary Oath. “I come in peace, and I—I—“

“I’m sure you do, Vince Brasco. We just want to tell you some information about ourselves. We come in the name of peace as well.” The rock formation set his front leg on the ground, the glowing wand still pointed up at Vince. “We are the Non.”

“Are you their commander?” said Vince. “You sound like it.”

“This voice was calibrated to grab your attention, to present an air of authority,” the Non said. “Going by your Earth units of time, I am only two years of age.”

“You speak English at two years old?” Vince said.

“Most species begin their lives with no knowledge,” said the Non. “Non, however, are born on this planet with all the knowledge they can withstand. Over our lives, we forget what we were born with—our heads grow smaller as our limbs grow stronger.” The Non motioned to the others. “These three are close to the end of their lives, upon which they will give birth, and then die.”

Vince was struggling to focus. “Why do they die?” he asked. He almost felt like the words were being pulled out of him. His face was getting hotter.

“Try to imagine, if you can, being born—and for the nanosecond in which you take your first breath, you know everything that ever was, is, and will be,” the Non said. You know the inner ecstasies, triumphs, heartbreaks and rages of every organism ever conceived as a part of our universe, as well as some that are beyond comprehension. Every secret tension, every unfulfilled longing, every tremor of delight, madness, sorrow, and anger rushes through your body at once. You would have no means to keep your sanity except to scream, a loud core-splitting scream, a sound that would resonate in a Non’s nightmares from a valley-and-a-half away.”

Vince heard a low ringing in his ears. His breath caught in his throat.

“Now imagine that sound multiplied by nine,” said the Non. “The Non that die in childbirth are the lucky.”

Vince bent over, his head spinning. “Stop it. Stop.”

“The birth of Non is a natural process, aided by our atmosphere. Organic compounds in the air we breathe cause the slow transfer of brain cells from our body to our limbs over time, as we continue to fulfill our duties as the sentient appendages of this planet. The process is escalated rapidly for a creature that isn’t used to this atmosphere, much like yourself.”

Vince stared at the Non. He had an urge to leap forward, knock the glowing death-wand from its hand, and in an instant the urge disappeared, like a soap-bubble bursting in the sunlight. The Non kept talking, moving closer to Vince with the wand.

“Hate to burst your bubble, Vince, but you—Yes, we know. Knew, know, and will know. You are part of the Un, every other creature that has come to this planet attempting to impose their force upon our race. Non can and will survive only around Non.” The Non brought the wand up towards Vince’s face.

Vince’s mouth moved and words stumbled out: “loving horseshit—shoot me?—Don’t—Don’t shoot me…” There were tears running down his cheeks.

“Just a simple audio-recording device,” the Non said. “For our records. We are not the Un, we do not exterminate everything that is not of our race. We want you to become part of the Non, part of this planet, working towards—“

Vince spun around and lunged in the direction of the Cassie, his legs collapsing under him. He scrabbled forward with clawing feet and hands, propelling himself over the ground. He didn’t know if the pounding sound in his ears was his own pulse or the pulse of this God damned planet, thrumming like a red-hot engine. Reminded him of the Cassie, the Cassie with its waxed red body, shiny hood with an angel (Angela?) hood ornament, silver wings in a sea of red, red, red—

He didn’t know how long he had been in this bed, in this room.

The spider-thing taking care of him had stuck a tube in his arm, pumping red wine into his empty veins. There was a red cloud on his skin where the tube went in. It was getting bigger every time he looked away. He felt hungover. Last call. Time to go home. But he didn’t know where home was.

Home was nowhere.

Home was everywhere.

Maybe home was here.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
So in.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
Also I want to say thanks to all the judges for their critiques of my story.

Me: "lemme just plop this Big Box o' Exposition down somewhere, don't matter where" *crushes infant*

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
In, :toxx: it up.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
I'll take one, just as extra incentive to submit.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
899 words

Aiana plunges her hand into the pot of boiling water and then asks me if I’m cheating.

“Goddamn it, Aiana,” I say.

“That doesn’t sound like a no,” she says. Steam is rising, condensing on her arm-hairs. I move to grab her, and she swipes her other hand at my face. “Say something that makes sense,” she says.


“Aiana,” she repeats. “Brent. I love you. I hate you. You say something enough times and realize it doesn’t mean anything at all.”

Her long black hair is plastered to her forehead. Her eyes are like coiled springs.

“No,” I say.


“No, I’ve never cheated, and never will.”

She raises her hand out of the boiling pot, holds it over the steam for a second, and then sticks it out in front of her, like she’s warding away something I can’t see. I stare at her hand, at the flesh made tender, cooked fingers curled in a tight fist around the hard-boiled egg. I see the valley the silver engagement ring makes between swollen skin.

Aiana lets go of the egg. It unsticks from her open hand and falls to the kitchen floor with a thuck. Her knees give way as it hits the tile and she sinks down after it like she wants to rescue it. I see her crying, and I sit down next to her.

“I’m sorry,” she sobs, her words thick and waterlogged. She won’t look at me. “I just—I don’t know anything at all. I look in the mirror every morning and expect to have a giant scar across my face, or a shaved head, or a missing arm. I’m a thousand miles away every time you walk into the next room. I’m floating in outer loving space.”

“It’s okay,” I say.

“Why?” she says to me. “Why is this okay?”

She looks up. I stare back.

“I love you,” I say, because I don’t know what else to say.

Now I’m sitting at the dining room table while she’s lying on the living-room couch, blasting some black metal music that she hates. Something that ends with -och. I don’t know how close I can get to her anymore. Still, I want to try.

When I get back home, the apartment is silent. I tiptoe into the living-room, holding the shopping bag against my side.

Aiana’s there, asleep on the couch, her hair tousled around her head like a swirling dark nest. I resist the urge to hold her, gather her up in my arms, do anything but what I’ve planned.

I walk over to the stereo, unplug her iPhone, and plug in mine. Aiana opens her eyes.

Gentle guitar riffs are filling the room now, the same soft and sliding notes we first heard over coffee two years ago. I remember how the music made everything feel like the morning after even though it was the afternoon. We can hear the steady t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t of the snare and high-hat, like a sped-up second-hand, keeping time as we move into a better future.

I sit down beside her, drape myself over her as carefully as I can. She’s watching me closely, hesitating halfway to a smile. I reach into the shopping bag and pull out the ground coffee. I rub some of it between my fingers and hold it up to her face. “Breathe,” I say to her.

She does, and I see something in her eyes change, something deepen. I can smell the burnt bread crusts, the juniper, the raw chocolate, the sweet smoke. I went through almost every sample they had before I found the right one.

I reach into the bag again, and set a punnet of raspberries down on the lip of the couch cushion. I perch one between my lips. She understands now. I hover over her face, watching her mouth slowly open. I move my lips and let the raspberry fall into her mouth, and then I dive in after it.

We kiss, our tongues circling around each other, cradling and tossing the delicate bowl of the fruit, feeling the sides collapse and expand, collapse and expand as the tartness slowly escapes, then a bit of pulp around the edges, then a bit more, until at last the whole thing scatters and floods as the tips of our tongues twirl and dance in it. Our eyes are open, and I can see the gold flecks in her green irises.

I pull back from her. She looks at me, watches me take something from my back pocket. I unfold the stethoscope in front of her, place the earbuds into her ears, and take her healthy hand in mine.

We both place the diaphragm over my heart, and I know she can hear what I feel: the steady pulses, almost in time with the second-hand cymbal of the music. A building tempo, slow-quick steps across static skin. I want her to know that I’m here, that I’m alive, and that I want her.

And as the song winds to a stop, I move the diaphragm over her heart, so she knows she’s alive as well. Even if I couldn’t feel her rapid heartbeat through her chest, even if I couldn’t hear her breath catching in her throat, I could tell how she is. Her eyes are fathoms deep, and she wants more than anything in the world to not blink.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Morris Aram is a homeless ex-standup comedian with a scraggly blonde beard who’s currently trying on alcoholism to see how well it fits. He left the business two years ago after clubs wouldn’t hire him because he pissed off a linchpin in the East Coast scene by telling her to “go buy a sex toy with a name that ends in –tron.” Has read the tattered copy of From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbor he keeps in his back pocket fourteen times. Has fantasies of being a 70’s ad exec, living and dying by his wit and wordplay. Cannot be fake-nice to people he doesn’t like or respect. Came to Los Granos D’Oro because nobody knows who he is. Yet.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
Not happening tonight. I'll go for a redemption in a couple days. My apologies all.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
*points up at pencil behind ear*

This is my rifle,

*points down at rageboner*

this is my gun,

*points up*

this is for fighting,

*points down*

this is for fun

In, :toxx: 'em and boxx 'em.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
A Cautionary Tale
100 words

Once there was a Grizzled Patriarch. Despite amassing a large sum of wealth throughout his lifetime, his addiction to Mike’s Hard Lemonade and low alcohol tolerance quickly led his entire estate to financial ruin. His family kicked him out of his mansion, and for months after his neighbors frequently saw him shuffling down the street in a stained bathrobe, a half-empty bottle in his hand and sugary malt liquor on his lips. One afternoon, he stumbled drunkenly into the path of an ice-cream truck, splattering his brains on the windshield like so many strawberry milkshakes.

The truck read:

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Anomalous Blowout posted:

:siren: :siren:

If you were in the market for a RENTBOY MERCENARY you will have received a PM. This PM will tell you if your attempts at seduction were successful or a pitiful failure.

There's a word shortage in Wroxeter!

One 'Domer compiled a bribe of glorious words, enough to pay for a whole bicycle tyre.

I will fight for the team of his choosing.

Pleasure doing business with you, Miss R3nt80i.

Anomalous Blowout fights for Team Ock, in exchange for all 100 words I won in the smacktalking challenge.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
1169 words

A young boy with coal-colored hair kicked and shuffled his way through the swamp mud. His head turned to the left and right as sharp as an owl’s, and every so often he would crouch down and fire an invisible rifle at the stands of balding cypress trees, making gunfire noises that sent the yellow warblers scattering off the lower branches like sparks. Behind every tree there was a hog-faced Southern Rebel savage. Even the thinnest tree trunks had the soldiers that stood sideways, bending and shrinking away from the light that filtered from overhead, lying in wait.

So when he saw the Confederate soldier standing off to the left, leaning against a hulking slab of rock, he crouched down and fired an invisible bullet.

At the sound the boy made, the soldier whipped into action. The boy saw the bearded man bring the gun up to his shoulder and then the boy’s legs gave out as the man fired. The boy’s chest was pressed into the muddy bottom of the swamp as the sound of the gunshot echoed through the empty swamp and mixed with the rustling of bird wings.

A voice overhead shouted out, “Did I get ya, ya low-down skunk?” Anson heard him laugh a high-pitched rattling laugh and he felt his heart explode through his chest, like it wanted to burrow through the mud. Anson said nothing, just rested his chin in the muck and took quiet breaths. Maybe if he played possum, the man wouldn’t notice. Maybe—

He felt hard metal poking him in the back. “Up,” the soldier said.

The boy rolled over and sat up. He looked at the man pointing the gun at him. He looked like every Rebel boogeyman his older brother had told him about in his letters home—round red face, broad shoulders, long grey beard and mustache, full Rebel uniform. Only you could barely tell it was grey, it was so stained with mud. And his beard was snarled and tangled with flecks of dirt. He held a long-barreled rifle in his hands, the end pointed at his heart.

They stood there for a second or two. Then the man grinned, and lowered his rifle. “Yer just about the youngest Yankee I ever saw,” the man said. “What’s your name?”

The boy stood, stared. “A-Anson,” he said.

“Anson,” the man repeated. “Whereabouts ‘re you from?”

“Up North a ways,” said Anson. “C-Calvert County.”

“Huh,” said the man. “Well Anson, sorry about the shootin’, but I got a job to do.” The man started to make his way through the swamp, then turned to look back at Anson. He motioned for him to follow.

Anson didn’t budge. “You’re—you’re a Rebel.”

“What, the voice didn’t give it away? I promise I won’t do nothin’. Here, look.” The man gripped his rifle by the barrel with one hand and walked back over to Anson. He offered it to him. “Hold it for me,” he said.

Anson reached out with both hands and took the gun from him. It was a lot heavier than he expected—he had to balance it on his shoulder like firewood. He staggered forward after the man in uniform.

They didn’t have far to walk, just a hundred yards or so. At the edge of a rounded hill, there was a small valley in front of a few stands of cypress. A thick sheet of leaf-covered canvas was tied to two branches and pinned into the ground at the other end by a couple of heavy rocks. The man ducked under the side of the makeshift tent, and Anson finally let the rifle drop to the dry ground, rubbing his shoulder. “This is a good hiding place,” Anson said.

“You think so, do ya?” said the soldier.

“Yeah,” said Anson. “I know where all the good places to hide are. Me and my brother played hide-and-seek in this swamp all the time.”

The man came out from the tent holding a bag of sunflower seeds. He popped one in his mouth and bit down, spitting out the shell. “You a hide-and-seek champion?” he said.

Anson shrugged. “I’m small.”

“Right, right.” The soldier spit out another piece of shell. “I’m a professional hide-and-seeker. Me and my best friend, Richard. Snuck up on a lot of dirty Yanks, that we did.” He laughed.

Anson felt something cold settling in his stomach. He felt the rifle at his feet, saw the sun glinting off the stock. The man saw the face he was making, and waved him off. “Oh, hell with it, boy. It’s all a game, ‘s what it is.” He bent over, wiped a speck of mud off his boots. “Problem is, everyone’s thinking about what they stand to lose, and I don’t have anything else to lose. No one remembers what the prize is.”

“What’s the prize?” Anson asked. His hands were balling up into fists, and his face was getting hotter.

The man snickered, wiped his nose. “I’ll give you a hint, boy—it starts with Maine and ends with Florida.”

He began to cackle, a loud, shattering sound. Anson’s eyes watered. He stepped forward and spit at the man’s face. It splattered on the man’s chest.

The man stopped laughing. He set the bag of sunflower seeds down. “Now what in the hell was that for?”

“You’re a hog-faced Rebel,” Anson said. “You want to start your own country and enslave all of us. You killed my brother.”

The man sat still, looked at Anson. Finally he spoke. “I don’t have the time. I just don’t have the time on God’s green earth. How old are you?”

“Nine,” said Anson. The man’s eyes were a cloudy blue, hitting him like hailstones. He looked away.

“Nine,” the man repeated. He coughed. “Forget everything I said. Forget that I’m even here. You’re the only person I’ve seen in this swamp since I shored up here a few months ago, so turn around and leave now and I promise you’ll live to be ten.”

Anson dug his heels into the dirt. “I want to live to be eighteen. So I can fight you.”

The man shook his head, stared at the tent wall.

Anson said nothing. The shadows were getting longer, and he could hear the gentle warbling of the thrushes and the sparrows as they settled back down into their nests. He moved to pick up the rifle, and the man said, “Wait. I need that.” The man tossed the bag of sunflower seeds to Anson. “Take that instead.”

Anson gripped the bag in his right hand, turned and left. He kept walking, shoving branches out of his face and stomping through muck, following the setting sun until he got back to the main trail. Then he sat down and rested his head on his knees. He looked back the way he had came, heard nothing but the wind whipping through the trees. It was only then that he noticed how hard he was breathing.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
Apparently I do better at submitting during "caps-lock title" weeks


Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Number 36 posted:

Just stop using punctuation altogether and let God sort em out

I challenge the next person who posts to a brawl

You ain't $#!+, sir.

Challenge accepted.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
Allow me to introduce myself, Number 36.

I'm Number 1.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
Against my better judgment, I'm gonna drop this here:
Trigger warning: vocal flubs, potentially terrible singing

Over and Over (Again and Again)
1273 words

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

Kristine stood at the edge of Washington Square Park, leaning against the back of a park bench where two preteen girls were chatting to each other, their voices trilling like party favors. She stared up at her sister, splayed across the billboard, the midnight sky millions of miles behind her. Melissa was laying on her side, dressed in a tight black catsuit that made her lithe silhouette pop off of the white background. Her mouth was a singularity in red lipstick, and she was giving everyone in the park below BDSM-eyes. The name Melissa Rave was written below her in black script like a fine shadow.

Melissa always introduced Kristine to others as “the musically talented one.” At family gatherings, group dates, one of two record-release parties. If she was sober, this was sometimes preceded by Melissa introducing herself as “the pretty one.” Usually Kristine responded to the introduction with a smile, a shrug, maybe a quick one-word assertion. She knew that her sister thought that she was musically talented, and that it was something that had always frustrated the poo poo out of her.

“I swear to God I’m going to break the lock on your door,” Melissa had said to her back when they were both in high school. “Just get a crowbar and bash it to pieces. I don’t know why you just hole up in your room and play guitar all day.”

“So I don’t have to hear you singing along to Genie In A Bottle,” said Kristine without looking up, “for the seventh time.”

“You don’t do poo poo,” said Melissa. “I’m going to go to LA and become a superstar, and I bet you’ll still be here, right where you left yourself, like a lazy-rear end, smelling like pot and—“ Then Kristine had slammed the bedroom door in her face.

Kristine held her guitar in her right hand and turned around. She looked out at the crowded park, all fans of her sister, people that had stuck by her even through her rough patches, her fits of desperation. There were tweens and teens in cold-weather shorts, guys holding on to their young girlfriends, young gay guys with glittery posters and signs, drag queens in long black wigs making strangled attempts at Melissa’s whistle-tone. People Melissa hadn’t remembered existed. They were all waiting.

She thought of the newsstand in front of her apartment building that displayed the weekly tabloids, their headlines stark white and simple. For almost a month after the news broke, Kristine used the back way to get in and out of her apartment, just to avoid being bombarded with the bad news on a regular basis, to avoid words like BREAKDOWN and ABUSE and COMMITTED, DIVA DOWN, RAVING MAD. If she’d had to use the fire escape, she would have.

Kristine bent low, shrank under her hooded sweatshirt, and walked to the center of the park. She stopped, took a deep breath, and began to play: Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you…”Happy Birthday, Dear Melissa…” she sang, forcing the words out.

The crowd exploded in a wave of noise and cheering, radiating outward through the entire park until she was suddenly surrounded by a mass of fans, shouting, laughing, singing along with her. Kristine began to speak, and the crowd shushed itself.

“Thanks for coming out tonight, everyone!” Kristine shouted, her voice straining.

More cheers, whoops, we-love-yous.

“It’s my sister’s birthday tonight, and I think we should do something special for her,” she shouted, holding the guitar over her head like a torch. Her arm was shaking. “What do you think?”

They lined up at the back door of her camper, parked on the street about a block away. The line snaked around the block and back around the park, nearly endless. Then they entered the camper and sat down across from Kristine as she waited, a tape recorder on the table next to her. They all sat down, and as Kristine plucked a few opening notes on her guitar, they each began to sing:

I think about you, every night, every day
I dream of waking up, don’t wanna be in love
You left a song inside me when you went away
Now I’m falling from the stars, don’t wanna hit the ground too hard

My heart is singing it oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ver and over again
singing it oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ver and over again
singing it oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ver and over again
and I can’t let go, no I can’t let go

The rain is falling on your rental car
I watch you watching me, you can’t say what you see
Now the water’s flowing down the boulevard
The lightning makes no sound, but your thunder knocks me down

My heart is singing it oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ver and over again
singing it oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ver and over again
singing it oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ver and over again
and I can’t let go, no I can’t let go

About three hours in, a guy in his twenties with blonde hair sat down in front of her and said he didn’t know the song.

“How do you not know the song?” said Kristine. “It just came out a couple months ago.”

“I haven’t listened to much of her recent stuff,” the guy admitted. He looked sheepish. “Maybe you could sing it for me?”

Kristine sat up straight, her hands gripping her knees. “Yeah,” she said, “yeah, sure, I could do that.” She set her guitar down on the floor and rested a finger on the pause button of the running tape recorder. She would turn it off. This wasn’t about her. She would turn it off, and show him how the song went.

She began to sing, her voice wavering, her shoulders tense. Her finger was still on the button, she would press it before the song ended. Before she got to the bridge after the second chorus, which she sang with her eyes closed, trembling, the words fighting their way out of her like something growing, something that needed air:

Lie awake, like I made, your mistakes
As your song runs
Through my brain
Feeling cold, lie alone, die at home, on my own
And it won’t be
Won’t be in vain

Or maybe it’ll just be insane

She finished a minute later and caught her breath, then took her hand away from the tape recorder, still running. The guy applauded. “Not bad,” he said.

When the sky slowly got lighter, Kristine walked out from the camper and waved the rest of the people in line forward. She started to play, and they all sang together, the music building and swelling as they joined each other, letting Kristine get lost in the sound, not wanting to open her eyes in case she saw herself in the massive crowd, singing along:

My heart is singing it oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ver and over again
singing it oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ver and over again
singing it oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ver and over again
and I wanna let go, but I won’t let go

She thought about them as she drove back through the city streets, the tape recorder nestled between her thigh and the center console, the radio off. She knew some people in LA, remembered some names. She didn’t know what she would do once she found her sister, or if either of them had the capability of doing the right thing anymore. What she’d just done felt right, at least.

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

Ironic Twist fucked around with this message at 19:57 on Aug 17, 2014

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Obliterati posted:


Can anyone recommend good examples of Southern Gothic? I'm not too familiar with the style and I'm in a library anyhow.

Start with Flannery O'Connor and work outwards from there. Also Ron Rash if you can find him.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Benny the Snake posted:

Hey fucker, :siren:I challenge you:siren: Loser buys the winner a new avatar of their choosing!


Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

4 hours left to sign up, TDers.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
Am trapped in local library until Sunday night please send hel--gently caress it, in.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


751 words

A shard of moonlight fell across the left arm of a ten-year-old boy as he walked forward, using slow, careful steps. He wedged the balls of his feet in between dry twigs, hopped between mud patches until there was just mud and moss. When he reached the water, he slid his right foot in, toes first, then the left. He watched the ripples as they traveled across the pond’s surface to the other end where a dark and lengthy shape floated, undisturbed.

The other children teased him as he grew older, called him porepore—ghost—for the way he wouldn't speak no matter how hard they poked him or whacked him on the back of the legs, and for his tendency to suddenly appear, moving while making no noise at all. The chieftain of the tribe would make a large show of shouting at him in public, calling him an animal and a bastard, looking back at the rest of the tribe as if to say, “Ghosts don’t scare me.

But Tuvë, one of the chieftain’s wives, took a liking to him after he had hung around the women’s quarters one day, watching them skin and prepare the meat the hunters had brought back. She told him grand, looping tales of his birth, of how the rainforest fell silent the day he came into the world, how the rain had fallen upward and the birds and butterflies dove for the earth. She called him by a name he didn’t recognize—Wawëto. “See-through,” she explained. “You are invisible. You are everywhere.”

And she smiled at him, and he smiled back.

A few days later, he was in bed with his eyes closed, waiting for another story, when a hand grabbed his throat. He heard the chieftain’s voice in the dark: I will show you to respect me and my wife.

He used the grip on the boy’s throat to turn him over. He didn’t bother to cover his mouth. If the boy could’ve screamed, he would have.

It was the chieftain’s idea to send him out into the forest, as a sort of manhood ritual. “He’s old enough to help feed the rest of us,” he told the other elders, “or at least the crocodiles.”

The boy had been in the water for three hours, maybe four. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see a dull green lilypad. He moved at the speed of the lilypad as it drifted, no faster.

The water was up to his chest now, and he folded himself towards the pond’s surface as he moved closer to the scaled island, still and floating. The crocodile’s eyes faced away from him, his tail twitching slightly.

The boy’s left hand gripped the knife as his arm moved underwater, inch by inch, passing under the tail, then the midsection, up towards the head. His arm moved at the speed of water, closer and closer—

His right arm clamped down on the crocodile’s upper jaw as he slashed with his left, burying the blade into the pale underside. The reptile’s head and tail arced out of the water towards each other, then flailed as the boy held on. He felt the dark blood blossom out, cloudy and warm against his body. The crocodile spasmed twice more, then lay back, limp.

In the morning, they found him asleep in his bed, his cheek resting on the crocodile’s severed head.

The youths of the village cheered him, danced and praised his victory, while the elders regarded him with skepticism, looking to the spirits that had granted him safety. The chieftain felt personal pride at the boy’s success, and placed a hand on his shoulder.

The boy looked up at him.

There was nothing in his stare, the nothingness that filled the spaces between the towering trees at night, the nothingness that even sound couldn’t touch. The chieftain couldn’t admit it, even to himself, that he’d felt the first stirrings of renewed fear in his life, stirrings that would give him violent and terrible dreams. He would wake up with a scream in his lungs, which would seep out of the bloody hole in his throat, ripped open by a crocodile fang, while he gurgled into the boy’s outstretched hand. His eyes would dim as they rolled upward past the boy who would lean over him and give him the same watchful look he gave him now, staring, always staring.

Staring through him—at what, he didn’t know.

Ironic Twist fucked around with this message at 01:56 on Aug 30, 2014

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
That's 750 words without the title.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
Thanks for all the detail in the crit! I think I may have a problem with over complex-ifying poo poo. I definitely tried to do too much with too little.

crabrock posted:

Ironic Twist wins the brawl against Number 36, who was a cowardly no-show and shall now see goatse whenever he visits the archive.

Now That’s What I Call butt humiliation! , Vol. 36

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

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

Ironic Twist fucked around with this message at 03:36 on Sep 10, 2014

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
STAY OUT OF THE MARSH CRITS, PART I: Kaishai, Oxxidation, Noah, SurreptitiousMuffin, crabrock, Erogenous Beef, Obliterati, Phobia, Guiness13, Fuschia tude, Club Sandwich

Tyrannosaurus touched on this already, but there was a lot of Kentucky-Fried Creepypasta this week, rather than stories that were truly in the Southern Gothic style. This played a significant part in my judging, as I was looking for stories that used the theme of Morality, namely how hard it is to be a good person in an immoral world. The stories that stuck with me the most were the ones that made me care about the characters because of how much they struggled with their own morality.

Let’s begin. Anyone who wants a line-by-line can ask for one.

Kaishai—Still Waters

One of the reasons, in my opinion, that you do so well in this arena is that your writing is so polished. And even more than that, you know what to polish, what specific details to highlight, like a white N or a wet shoe. Which is crucial when you’re dealing with a shorter word length. My first impression of this story was “why only use half your word count?”, but after reading it again, I’m convinced that it’s as long as it needs to be for what it is.

If I had criticisms of this piece, it’d be because I wanted the story to expand, because I wanted to know more about his other family members, his past, where he’s driving from. But again, it’s a matter of personal preference. Good work.

Oxxidation—The Vigil

In the end, I ended up pushing for Kai’s story, but yours was my initial pick to win. And I’m still not completely sure I was wrong about that. The language is gorgeous, and what really struck me about it was the careful release of detail at the beginning—the rusty bicycle, the lantern, the phrase “banish the shadows” that starts off innocuous and gains more meaning. It all felt like a slow, deliberate building of the story’s main concept, and it did wonders for the story’s atmosphere.

It’s a bit of a stretch to call this a Southern Gothic story, but I can see the weirdness and the struggle with morality in the story. I felt like it had more of an emotional resonance, namely due to the desolation you can feel in the characters.

The one issue I had was with the last paragraph. To me it felt unnecessary, like it was bordering on indulgent. We already know what’s going to happen, cutting it off at “He struck until he saw light” would have been more of an appropriate punch. Otherwise, good work. You succeeded in a lot of the same ways Kaishai did—in regards to details and atmosphere—which was why I thought your story worked so well.

Noah—What Comes Next

I liked this one the more I came back to it, but there are still things that bother me about it. I thought the main character, while interesting, could have been more well-rounded. He’s manic at the beginning of the story and manic at the end, and that’s mostly all we know about him. I would have liked to see more of a progression—at least an implied one—from his normal mental state to his current one. Just having him start the story at 90 mph kept me from connecting with him as a character.

In addition, I was much more intrigued by the story that you didn’t write, the one about Adrian coming down from his high and having to sort all of this poo poo out, which would have given me an insight into his friends’ personality as well. But the story you did write was certainly entertaining and engaging, and it didn’t turn into Generic Chicken-Fried Horror Movie Part Six, so thanks very much for that. You might want to come back to this one.

SurreptitiousMuffin—Mataku, everything you love will die

This story was a grand marble spiral staircase with a river of diseased blood flowing down the steps.

Everything was so exquisitely and horrifically detailed, but there was no real arc to it, everything just went down, down, down. Guy is established as a horrible human being, then has horrific poo poo happen to him with no hope for agency. Also, I felt like this story stretched the whole Southern Gothic thing, and not because of where it was located. Morality was certainly a part of this story, but the main character never tried to do the right thing, he just got punished for his past wrongs. It was more like an allegory than anything else. You know what you’re getting into when you read the title.

Also it gets a bit excessive at the end. “His dog ran away. His plants wilted. He tried to flex his arm in the mirror and the bicep sank down like a wet noodle.” Again, this is the lack of agency problem, where there’s nothing for the character to do but fail over and over again. Still, this was a beautifully written story and it certainly stuck with me. You earned your HM.

crabrock—A Castle if She’s Willing

When it came down to you and Kaishai, I voted in favor of Kaishai because while both stories were striking in their use of detail, and both did a decent job of hitting the Southern Gothic part of the prompt, Kaishai’s story just made me feel more invested—simply because her main character was trying to avoid his fate. Your main character seems mired in his personal marsh from the very beginning of his story, and the water’s fine in his eyes.

I do like a lot of things about this story, the more I read it. It’s just line-after-line of vivid decrepit imagery, from the weeping trees to the glass bottles to the Hell peanuts. But it didn’t really fit my idea of a story, because nothing changed for the main character. To me, the real story happens in a few months when he’s down to his last can of beans and nothing has grown yet.

Erogenous Beef—Scattered, Smothered

I think you did a reasonable job of hitting the Southern Gothic theme, in terms of the usage of tenuous morality and weird personalities. The thing I really take away from this story is that it seems like two solid concepts smashed together to make three-quarters of a story. The beginning is very interesting and well-crafted, and I genuinely felt the tension between Earl and Jake as they were stuck together in the cab of the truck. But then you ditch a solid plot thread—sworn enemies chasing after a perp together—in favor of the Devil’s Waffle House. And to be fair, the latter half of the story was interesting as well, but the seam where the two concepts are attached is visible and not very flattering. You would have been better served following one story or the other, not just using the evocative beginning as a stepping stone to get to the conversation with the Devil.

Some other things: Dialogue is strong and doesn’t take me out of the story, the Devil is believable but his introduction isn’t, and I didn’t mind snow in a Southern Gothic story. I wanted to HM this but the execution just wasn’t there.

Obliterati—The Rivers Still Run

No joke, this was one I was fairly impressed with, just because of how much I felt you got the atmosphere and voice right. I was genuinely excited to see where the story went and what you did with it. And then—you must have run out of time, or words, something, I don’t know which. Because the ending just felt like a gigantic “Oh, Okay” moment. The story’s just getting started when the kid gets stolen by the kelpies, like the opening scene of IT if it were excerpted as its own complete work.

There’s a lot to build on here, though. I like the entire scene at the church and I wonder if you couldn’t have just started the story there. It does feel a bit cliche at moments, but it was believable enough. If you ever develop this story, everyone could use a bit more character depth, especially the kid—if you aren’t planning to kill him off so quickly.

People talk about too much dialogue destroying a story, but I don’t necessarily think that happened here. I think you just could’ve used more room for it.


Speaking of “Oh, Okay” moments, the bit at the end where the pig convinces her to kill her parents was a giant one. I get that you wanted to conclude the story, but this wasn’t a neatly-tied bow, this was a noose.

The concept of some sort of demon-child being born into a highly religious family is intriguing, but you don’t really explore it. There’s a bit of it in the parents’ interaction, but I felt like we could have seen more of it through the narrator’s point of view. We could have received more of a grim picture of how devilish she was. Maybe if she had already known the hog for a while, like a familiar of some sort. Or some sort of origin story. I’m trying to say that this concept has more promise than you were able to give it and it’s worth revisiting.

Polish issues, but I suspect you already know that. Dialogue also seems too telling and informative for its own good.

Guiness13—The Hunt

Okay, no one yet has given you a definitive reason why you lost, so I will.

A lot of people failed at the Southern Gothic part of the prompt this week, but you didn’t even seem to take a whack at it. You gave us a sub-standard attempt at a werewolf slasher. As other people have stated, being cliche and forgettable is a bigger sin than going for something outrageous and ambitious and failing miserably. From the beginning scene where he’s warned to stay out of them thar part of the woods, to the howls in the night, to him going after his brother and getting eaten by the monster, there’s not a single part of your story that surprised me or caught me off guard. Which wouldn’t have been an issue if you had given the characters more depth and had me care about what happened to them, but you didn’t do that either. There’s barely even a reason for the brothers to be out there, other than to be monster-fodder.

Your technical skills are decent, but it seemed like you were being dragged forward by the plot you set for yourself. Try languishing in a scene for your next effort; go for depth over distance.

Fuchsia tude—The Devil You Don’t

There was a modicum of creativity here, and enough character depth to get your toes wet, which saved it from the loss. But it still has a lot of problems.

First of all, this is an instance of a story getting killed by too much dialogue, simply because the dialogue didn’t sound natural at all—it just seemed like a way to spoon-feed information and move the story forward. Read more short-stories, listen to the way people talk and pay attention to how information is conveyed.

As for the actual story, it was a hair’s-breadth away from being a cliche monster movie, and to make matters worse, the ending didn’t do anything to resolve the story. You had at least two hundred extra words and a lot of dead weight you could have cut, so I’m guessing you didn’t give yourself enough time to flesh out the rest of the story. Next time, expend more of an effort shaping the story before you write it.

Club Sandwich—Creek Run

My first impression of this story was that it read like an RPG dossier. You are literally giving us this character’s life story in a bunch of densely-packed paragraphs, rather than just showing us what he’s doing with any sort of immediacy. “Burning down the Sunoco had never been Joe’s plan.” is a firecracker of a first line, and instead you bury it under a lot of backstory that doesn’t mean anything to the reader yet.

You do some good things with language in between all of the unnecessary tense-shifts and run-on sentences. Again, just read more stories and get a sense of how people tell them. Maybe you should try doing a frame story for another effort, like someone recounting a tale, just to see if it has an effect on how you write it.

Ironic Twist fucked around with this message at 14:00 on Sep 3, 2014

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
STAY OUT OF THE MARSH CRITS PART II: God Over Djinn, Morning Bell, Anathema Device, Entenzahn, Meinberg, Nethilia, Grizzled Patriarch, Hammer Bro., bromplicated, Fumblemouse, Sitting Here

God Over Djinn—Experimental Fiction

To me, the most notable, interesting, and lasting thing about this story is how far away it is from being a story.

I get you were trying to go for something different, and I did appreciate that it landed much closer to the spirit of the prompt than some of the other entries, but for the most part I felt like I was looking at the story through a peephole, and that’s never where you want your reader to be. I vaguely liked the voice of the narrator, and I indirectly liked the story he was telling, but it just felt like the whole thing was buried under layers of meta-fiction, albeit fairly well-executed. And even the story I could make out had some believability problems. The climax of the scene, which is also the clearest event, makes no sense—why would somebody shoot a man in front of his daughter just because he undercharged him a few times? Wouldn’t we have to know a lot more about the shooter for this to make narrative sense?

One last thing: there is very, very little excuse for including nine footnotes in a 1600-word story. The few times I’ve ever read footnotes in fiction, they were a) part of much longer works, and more importantly, b) they did a much better job of expanding the dimensions of the story. Six of your footnotes are witty one-liner asides. Three of them are links to Wikipedia pages.

All said, this was different and well-executed enough to save it from a DM, but not accessible or resonant or interesting enough for an HM.

Morning Bell—Tennessee Blues

You have issues coming up with titles. And beginnings. Waking up is the oldest trick in the book and it does nothing for you here.

Matter of fact, the further I go into this story, the less of it I read that feels organic. The entire first section of the story just seems like a gigantic obtrusive terraforming of the story—you’re very clearly telling us what the characters are like, what the stakes of the story are, but you’re not showing us anything.

You also seem to have issues with deciding what the important parts of your story are. You write about the speeding ticket without having it advance the story or the characters, yet you leave out the gig, even though that’s what they’re moving towards. The ending doesn’t really resolve anything either—it’s another story where I’m much more interested in what happens after you stop writing. Try outlining your story next time.

Anathema Device—Untitled

The concept of this story is really interesting, and some of the lines within it work well. It does feel like it’s part of a larger work, though, and the whole in medias res quality hurts just as much as it helps.

I’d say the weakest part of this story is the dialogue, simply because of how much telling it does. I mean, kudos for including a ghostly parental figure that doesn’t speak cryptically, but I feel like most of the plot is being conveyed through dialogue, and that isn’t good. Try to convey character through dialogue instead.

Entenzahn—Tapper Ware

A main character suspects the white family that owns her is into voodoo. She investigates, and guess what, they are.

The plot is straightforward enough on its own. You really didn’t have to include the section with Patty to spoon feed us the whole “voodoo” thing. I would have chopped it entirely and included more character depth about Moses, in and out of his zombie state. That’s where I think this story fails—there aren’t a lot of emotional stakes. Had you shown us how important Moses and Eliza’s relationship was, and just hinted at the voodoo thing instead of smacking us in the face with it, you’d have written a much better story.

Also, the way the narrative jumps back and forth between present and past seems much more trouble than it’s worth.

Meinberg—Old Growth

Even though you didn’t lose, I think you benefitted the least from the prompt. Other people flirted with Corn-Fed X-Files, you flew headlong into it. And it really didn’t work.

I know almost nothing about these characters, I don’t believe why they’re there, and the horror just falls flat. Even on the basis of a generic slasher or found-footage movie, it doesn’t work too well. We don’t have time to get caught up in the horror of the situation, Liza just fights her way out without much resistance.

Next time, focus more on character depth and dialogue, less on straight-up plot.

Nethilia—Come Little Children

One thing about me, as a judge and as a reader in general, is that I’m not as impressed by technical skill as I am by creativity and getting at people’s emotions.

This story was certainly well-executed for what it was, but it really didn't do much for me. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of variations of this plot and these characters before. The ending is another one that doesn’t really resolve the story, just starts a new one that the reader doesn’t get to see. Nothing is revealed, nothing visibly changes.

I did feel like the end of the story was the strongest, but that was because the beginning was so telling and tedious. But the dialogue is strong. It just feels like you’re hinting at something interesting with this story that we never get to see.

Grizzled Patriarch—Cobwebs

Again, this is the whole technical skill vs. creativity thing. The other judges liked this more than I did, but to me this story wasn’t covering any new or interesting ground. I admit that technical skill is a great thing to have, but here it just works on a sentence-level. I knew what was going to happen to Baker immediately after the story started, and because I didn’t know him as a character, I didn’t care.

Good for what it is, but what it is isn’t that much.

Hammer Bro.—The Peponphage

This was reasonably different, which I liked. You have a lot of problems with clarity, but you also have a lot of interesting ideas.

I do feel like the story jumps around more than it needs to. Just telling the story from Jude’s perspective, as he sneaks through this hermit’s house, might have done more for the narrative. As it is, you’re trying to tell too much story at once, and some of it’s barely intelligible. Do you expect your readers to know what a “proskartereo pump” is? Also, it seems like a rapid shift for Jude to just adopt this hermit’s sadistic ideology by the end of the story, because there’s no build-up to it at all.

Keep this in your desk drawer for a while and revisit it when you’ve written a few more stories.

bromplicated—House of Memories

You seem to have an issue with titles as well.

An interesting story and a solid effort, but ultimately it’s anti-climactic. There’s not much of an arc to this story: he tries to protect his old house, then it burns down. Yes, the house is a character, but it’s definitely a passive character, and the two don’t have much chance to interact.

Your opening has problems with immediacy, but you set a scene fairly well. Your descriptions are solid. Maybe the scene at the beginning takes too much space away from the rest of the story?

I’m interested to see what you come up with in the future.

Fumblemouse—The end of the line

My knee-jerk reaction, after reading this story and finding out you wrote it, was “Oh poo poo, sebmojo’s going to get his wish.”

Then I looked at it some more, and I found things to like about it. Even though it’s drenched in Southern cliches, the characters are visible and believable, even if they aren’t likable. I didn't understand what the big climax of the story was supposed to be, or why Jerry was so nonplussed either way. It’s not a pleasant story, but it’s a decently-written story. It’s just hampered by a lot of the tropes you use.

Sitting Here—The Forest

If you had submitted this during a different week, it might have gotten an HM, if not a win. But you bypassed the prompt like a lot of other people did this week, and ultimately your story had its own problems.

As evocative as this dream-world is, the fact that almost all of the story takes place in it sort of hurts it. I felt like there was no visible constant for the reader to hold onto. We never got to experience who the main characters were as real people, we just saw them as their dream-selves.
Also, the question of “why go in the forest” is never answered in a satisfying way, other than “because the plot needs to move forward.”

Also, what exactly happened to Michael? Were you intentionally trying to make his death or disappearance vague, because it just comes off as frustrating.

Ultimately, a technically-sound story with a lot of interesting ideas, but it just feels somewhat under-developed, and I think that’s because you never gave us something concrete to latch onto.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
In with Play Misty For Me.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
Bowing out, my apologies.

Would rather not submit than submit slapdash or halfassed.

also I watched the movie and it was shite

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

crabrock posted:

hey i think maybe you don't understand the 'dome

There were other factors that I didn't get into but okay, say what you want to say, I'll toxx next time

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
In with a 3 and an 8 and a :toxx:, a :toxx:, my kingdom for a :toxx:

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
The Hatchet
640 words

Five years on a desert island could do a number on an expensive tuxedo.

As Frank knelt in front of the palm tree, he wore what was left of his formal wear, which amounted to a head covering he had fashioned out of his tuxedo shirt and a waistcloth he had made out of his cummerbund. With both hands, he laid a salmon in the small valley he had dug out in front of the palm tree. He had caught it with a hook fashioned from the clasp of his bow tie.

The palm tree spoke to him. Hello again, it said.

“Father,” Frank said to the tree. “I am ready to find my justice.”

Are you sure?

“Very sure.”

You know what this will mean.

Frank knew. He remembered the wonderful years he had spent on this island, growing stronger and more serene in nature, while the tree had looked after him, gave him fresh water to drink, called upon the stars to light his way at night, called upon the tides to lead fish onto his hook, had been the father he never had.

Then he thought of his stepfather, Brice. He had thought of him less and less as the years went by, but there was always that small fragment of him irritating his mind, like a pebble stuck in his shoe that rolled out of reach every time he tried to retrieve it.

Brice had put him here. Brice thought he was dead right now.

The Caribbean cruise was Brice’s idea. Frank’s mother had died a year ago, leaving Brice and his rotten stepchildren as his sole connection to her, and Brice wanted them to “bury the hatchet,” as he said. Frank liked the idea, at first. He had wanted a fatherly hand on his shoulder all his life, and while he had trouble warming up to Brice, there were times when he could almost believe they could make it as a family.

Then one night, well after a fancy first-class meal with cold cucumber-mint soup and king crab legs, Brice caught up to Frank on the outer deck, and placed a hand on his shoulder. And he shoved, hard, until he was falling, falling until he hit water, the last thing between Brice’s side of the family and the inheritance money.

It all felt so far away now, yet so incredibly close.

“I don’t want to lose you,” Frank said. He could feel tears welling up in his eyes, a last taste of saltwater.

He heard and felt silence. Then the tree spoke: I will forgive you. I always have. Your destiny is out there, towards your true home.

More silence.

Do what you must. The stars will guide you.

Frank’s shoulders slumped as he knelt there. His left hand found the hatchet at his side, the curve of sharp stone he had whetted over the last few years. Hoping, then dreading, then finally accepting this day would come.

He didn’t give himself a chance to think about it, just lunged forward and swung the hatchet at the base of the tree again and again, yelping and grunting through his tears, until the tree fell over with a thud. He let his breath rush out of him, then gritted his teeth, tensing every muscle as wave after wave of sorrow passed through.

As the waves calmed, he went to work.

Before long, he had a respectable dugout in front, just big enough to fit him.

He looked out towards the sea. It was smooth as polished glass, and the sun was setting.

He had fears, of course—how do I know where to go, how will I get there, what if I drown—but he relished in them. Every man had fears. Every man except Brice.

He smiled. They would bury the hatchet soon enough.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
In with leukophobia fear of the color white

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
Critting a story for T-Rex.

Tyrannosaurus posted:

831 words

In the shadows of Mauna Loa, towering complexes had festered and grown wild. Dilapidated megatowers stretched across hills and valleys ending only where the ocean’s waters made construction impossible. Corrupt officials and illegal construction had slowly turned the whole island into a labyrinth of steel decay. The opening provides a nice image, but I feel like the last sentence could be expanded upon a little bit more.

Dr. Morris fidgeted nervously is the adverb necessary? with his glasses. Corporate had determined that proper security was an “unnecessary use of company resources” and so his safety had been outsourced to a group of local gangbangers. this could use more explanation, how big is this corporation that they can't spend money on one or two professionals?

“If my calculations are correct,” he had argued, “The information I retrieve will lead to an unparalleled windwall windfall. of... I mean, we’re talking huge profits here. I should have at least a level two escort team.”

If,” his boss had replied.

Well, his calculations had been correct. Now all that separated Dr. Morris from a promotion was a windowless van ride back to the heliodrome field. This almost feels like too much foreshadowing, like it's now a foregone conclusion that something's going to go wrong He checked the time. Still four more hours of riding. Minimum. this says it better He took a deep breath and tried to calm down. One of his bodyguards, a fat Samoan with a neck tat of a naked women, offered him a joint.

“Ho, you want one smoke for chillax, bra?”

Morris shook his head.

“For real, bra,” the Samoan laughed, “Chu stey calm. Dis our da kine, yeah? Our island.”


The van lay on its side surrounded by shattered glass and bullet shells and blood. Two of Kang’s boys ripped open the back doors and opened fire but all the men inside were already dead. The two men gave Kang a thumbs up. He flashed back a smile that was more metal than teeth. I get that the length of the story ties your hands a bit, but it would have been nice to see the last scene ending bloodily, just so we have a proper resolution to the character we started the story with. Here, it's just "Oh, he's dead now. That's nice."

“Dis our turf,” he said.

Kang slung his rifle over his shoulder and strolled over to the van. He peered inside but didn’t immediately recognize any of the dead men. Would he?

“Dey Eastside Koa?” he asked.

“Naw, boss. Jade Ghost Boyz.”

“Ho, poo poo,” Kang said, “Wrong side of da island. gently caress dey doing way ova here?” I like the dialogue, it sounds natural.

“I dunno, boss. But dey got one haole wit dem. Lolo, yeah?”

“Huh. Yeah.”

Kang stepped into the van and bent over Morris’s body. He took off the man’s glasses and tried to look at the files on them. Google glass, I guess? Could use more description But they were encrypted. Which meant they were important to Morris. Why mention his name when he doesn't know who Morris is? Just say "the haole."Which meant they might be valuable to Kang.

“Huh,” he repeated.


It took Kang’s hacker three days to crack into the glasses. Which was an inordinate amount of time as far as cracking went.

“Dis security poo poo was top notch,” Pak explained, “High end corporate da kine, boss, for real.” This dialogue shows us what the sentence above tells us.

“And? What’s it worth?”

“Eh… Maybe...”

Pak twirled his fingers and brought up the video feed on his main screen. They're gangbangers...with a Mission Control?

“So, it still sound messy, boss. Still skips a little. Small kine distortion, yeah? But, uh, you’ll still get da idea.”

Pak twirled his fingers again and the dead Dr. Morris’s voice came out of the speakers.

“The Mauna Loa volcano remains active over... ocean hotspot… with proper application of … energy or… we could initiate a Plinian eruption. If successful, estimated casualties exceed ninety-six percent of total island population. One hundred percent of island population is not unlikely…”

“Holy poo poo,” Kang said.

Pak nodded, twirled his fingers, and jumped to another part of the file.

“The megatowers would need to be demolished… with the current population removed, tropical resort renovations could begin within hours after the eruption… thought a natural disaster… zero corporate liability… Profits estimated at... Immense profits...”

“My God,” Kang said, “Dis poo poo could make us rich.” more telling

Pak swallowed.


Kang liked the roof. He liked to sit up there at night and smoke and stare out at the city. Smog had robbed his island of stars in the night sky nice sneaky detail but from seventy stories up he could stare out at Mauna Loa and pretend the lights from the buildings were something more special. He dangled his feet over the edge, finished his joint, and flicked it. Watched it fall out of sight.

He took Morris’s glasses out of his pocket. He’d been lucky finding them. Why he shouldn’t he sell them? To whom? Surely, he’d get enough money to move away. To save himself. Maybe some of his boys, too. If he didn’t, another person would just be sent to look at the volcano. Another person would discover what Morris had discovered. And Kang would be stuck on the island with nothing. This is nice but it's a lot of telling narration.

Still, he held the glasses out over the edge.

Its It's my island,” he murmured and let them slowly slip between his fingers.

Kang caught them at the last second. I feel like you could combine these two scenes, or expand them more if you want to make the story longer.


“I agree to your price,” Kang said with a smile, “Thank you.”

The businessman nodded and the screen went black. Kang looked over at Pak and cocked an eyebrow.

“Ho, you sure dis’ll work, yeah?”

Pak nodded. He twirled his fingers.

I have found nothing…” Dr. Morris’s voice began. Kang sat back and closed his eyes. Maybe they wouldn’t believe the edited voice track but it was the best he could do with what he had. You could imply this rather than just telling us outright, or just end with him sitting back and closing his eyes.

The premise of this story is interesting and the characters are real and believable. Kang is the central character of this story, but as the reader, we don't know that until well after Dr. Morris dies in a hail of bullets. You could have ditched the entire first section with Doctor Morris and spent the extra words on fleshing out the later scenes, as well as the setting, which seems like it could have been an interesting part of the story, were it allowed more than a couple of sentences in the beginning. A more personal scene with Kang, maybe even a flashback, could also emphasize his connection to the island he's contemplating destroying.

There are some moments in the story, like the sentence at the end, where you slap the reader in the face with what's happening, rather than letting them figure it out on their own. Use the dialogue as the strength it is and convey more information with it.

I think you fit a lot into 800 words and change, but some of it came off as rushed. Use your next draft of this to add more depth to the more important parts of the story, like the setting, Kang's relationship to the island, Kang's moral dilemma, etc. Good story, nonetheless.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
Prompt: Leukophobia, fear of the color white

1243 words

Nita had had a lot of weird requests in her two years as a sex worker, and “keep your sunglasses on the entire time” wasn’t even close to the weirdest. To her, it was more odd that he wanted her to meet him at his own house. Most johns preferred the anonymity of hotel rooms.

But now, standing in Reese’s bedroom, she was glad she had them on.

The room’s walls were covered in many different shades of spray-paint: mustard, navy blue, lime green, magenta, all in long streams that crisscrossed and zigzagged in labyrinthine angles over the walls and ceiling, thinning and thickening at different points like snakes digesting their prey. Nita thought about the last cigarette she had in her purse, and how she sure as hell was not going to smoke it in here. The paint was dry, but she could smell faint fumes in the air. The only light came from a few scattered desk lamps in the corners of the room, sending beams of oblong light across the paint-spattered wooden floor.

“Something to see, huh?” Reese said. He lay on the bed in a black T-shirt and sweatpants, his hands at his sides. He hadn’t taken his eyes off her since he’d opened the front door. She felt them burning holes in her back.

“Something like that,” she said. “Like being trapped in the Berlin Wall.” Nita gestured towards a folded-up easel leaning against the wall. “You paint where you sleep?”

“Most of the time,” Reese said. He sat up. “Helps me clear my head, just having the whole setup there every time I wake up.”

“And your wife doesn’t mind?”

Reese looked to the left, started to say something then stopped. One hand grasped the bedcover. “I live here by myself.”

Nita stared at him. “Big house to have all to yourself,” she said.

“I like a lot of space,” Reese said. He pointed to the bathroom door. “You should go and get ready.”

Nita walked to the bathroom and shut the door behind her, free from his staring eyes. She shook her head, shrugging off her tight black dress as she fished around in her purse for her only cigarette and lighter. This artsy-fartsy sonofabitch was going to make her earn her four hundred dollars. She looked like Vida Guerra on a good day, she was straight-up too fly to be making Craigslist house calls. But she was in the right place to make a lot of money from a guy who wanted an “exotic shade of beauty,” so Nita would suck it up and deal.

Nita took a deep drag from her cigarette, tapping the ash out into the sink. Dude obviously had a wife—that nervous glance-over-the-shoulder was all too familiar. Scumbag wanted to get some strange but didn’t even have the decency to leave his house. Sunglasses probably just made the girls he screwed easier to forget.

She finished her cigarette and ground the butt out on the porcelain countertop, hoping Mrs. Reese would find it before he did. Creepy motherfucker.

Reese waited until the bathroom door closed, then slowly took off his sweatpants and T-shirt, his hands shaking. He tried not to look at his hands at all, tried not to notice the ragged borders circling his wrists where the skin pigment had gone away, leaving giant pale hands, lifeless hands.

Behind him, there was a full-length mirror hung above the headboard of the bed. Every girl he’d brought in here before had always looked at it with a sly wink and a naughty smile, assuming he liked to look at himself, and Reese let them think that. But there was nothing further from the truth. He hated to find himself staring back, hated to see the spots of pale flesh creeping from the corners of his eyes and mouth, trickling in blotches down the front of his chest, growing larger every time he looked. Hated how he couldn’t turn away. But Angela wouldn’t let him take it down.

He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. Everything would be all right. This was his only escape from her, from himself, and this time—

“Hey, you awake?”

Reese sat up. Nita stood at the foot of the bed, dressed in only her sunglasses and a pair of lace panties, her wavy black hair draped over her shoulders. She leaned over and planted both palms on the bedspread, an impish grin on her face. “Don’t fall asleep on me just yet,” she said.

Reese smiled back and began to peel off his boxers.

They were about ten minutes in when he stopped. Nita knew instantly what was wrong—she felt a softening within her and watched as Reese stared down at himself with a helpless look. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“It—It’s…just…” Reese couldn’t speak.

“No, it’s no problem—“

“You don’t understand,” Reese said, his mouth tightening. He grabbed at the bedcovers to steady himself. “She did this. She always does this.” His voice began to crumple, his eyes shut tight. He moaned, “Oh God, oh God—“

“Look, it’s really not a big deal, dude.” Without thinking, Nita pushed her sunglasses up onto her forehead.

For that second, Nita saw everything clearly for the first time—the swirls of multicolored paint on the walls and ceiling, the silky black sheets, and most prominently, the abject terror on Reese’s face as he stared into the mirror above the bed.

Then he looked down at Nita, and she began to scream.

Before she could move, he was on her, one hand clamped her eyes, the other grasping her neck. The scream found its way up her collapsing throat, gurgling softly out of her mouth.

She caught him.

Angela was standing against the far wall, staring at him through the mirror as he clamped his hands down over Nita’s struggling face, shouting in terror. “I didn’t, I didn’t—“ he stammered at her.

She was naked and thin. She had skin the color of bones, pale blue veins writhing and worming along her rickety limbs. Her ribs curved inward, gleamed like a picked-clean carcass. Her hair hung long and limp and fine like spidersilk. Her flesh was sickly, leprous, fit loosely over her bones, a crone in a young woman’s body.

She began to walk forward.

Get away!” Reese screamed.

She moved closer, shuffling and slow. Her face was that of his stillborn sister, the soft-lidded marble eyes, the pursed mouth, cheeks like mounds of stale snow.

Goddamnit, get away from me! LEAVE ME ALONE!

She raised her hand in front of her, shining bright, dripping with phosphorus, the hand she had touched him with so many times before, prying into his life through the cracks in his vision, stealing into his bed at night, burning marks into his skin as he moaned in his sleep. She sought to burn his flesh until he turned the color of death, pure burning death in her eyes, in all of their eyes, death everywhere you turned, so he clamped his hand over the girl’s eyes and neck and squeezed and squeezed and bent down to press his mouth to hers, steal her last breath away, only way to keep her away—

—and when he looked up at the mirror again he could only see himself.

Nita was still and unmoving under him.

He collapsed onto her, buried his face in her neck, and sobbed.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Thanks, I appreciate the feedback.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
I'm not in this week, but I would like to pre-emptively sign up for the next Mercbrawl, if that's a thing that can be done.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
200 words, quadriplegics and buried treasure.


Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
Sterling Sliver
2499 words


Ironic Twist fucked around with this message at 02:50 on Oct 17, 2014

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