This is all theblunderbuss's fault. I'm in.
|# ¿ May 1, 2014 19:23|
|# ¿ Sep 25, 2023 16:48|
This is all theblunderbuss's fault. I'm in.
As theblunderbuss was being too nice to flash rule me after I told him I already had words written before I signed up, it falls on me to demand it anyway. Bring it, etc.
|# ¿ May 2, 2014 10:35|
It was late in the lab. The bright bubble of light around Michael’s bench was all that was left amongst the darkness. Sample plates were stacked up haphazardly in front of him, detritus spat out by the hulking depositors, atomic force microscopes and analysers around the edge of the room. On a glowing computer screen, page after page of data scrolled past as Michael stared intently at it.
His hands felt weak with excitement, the boiling nervous energy in his stomach sending out little shocks that made his fingers twitch spasmodically. He dragged the columns of numbers around, tapped out commands, looked at the results of the statistical analysis. He ran it again, then a third time, and realised he’d been holding his breath the whole time and exhaled in a rush. His vision went gray around the edges but all he saw was the results. Statistical significance. Proof. Validation.
Michael collapsed backwards in his chair, the metal bending ominously. The theory danced in his head, clear as day and glorious in its simplicity. Here was the proof, here was the end of years of research and failure. Michael closed his eyes and started imagining the paper he’d write, the presentations he’d give, the spin-off company he could found. Prizes, maybe? Even a Nobel? Why not, it was revolutionary enough.
Abruptly, mid-thought, the vision came to an end. The helmet clamped over his eyes withdrew smoothly and Michael slumped forward. The notepad lay on the table in front of him, pen beside it, waiting just as he’d planned. Frantically he started writing, trying to capture and pin down the turmoil of memories running around inside his head. Time passed in a blur; there was only the pen, the rapidly filling pages, the thoughts tumbling out of his head and onto paper as fast as he could write. Finally he stopped, put down his pen, closed the notebook.
“I’ve done it,” he whispered triumphantly to himself. “Before it vanished.”
He was interrupted by a gentle three-tone chime and the door next to him slid open. An attendant was standing outside wearing a blankly patient expression.
“I’m sorry, Mr Hampton, but you have to leave now. If you could collect your belongings…?”
Michael nodded, swallowing hard in an attempt to get his voice back. His mouth was dry and it felt like he was swallowing crumpled paper. “Ok,” he managed to croak, sweeping his notebook up into his arms. The pen rolled off the table onto the floor, unnoticed. Behind him, as he staggered out of the tiny cubicle pod, the attendant gave him a disapproving look and picked it up.
At the front desk, another blank-face-and-blank-smiles woman handed him a form. “Could you sign here please, Mr Hampton?” She indicated the bottom of the form and handed him a pen.
Michael tried to bring the page into focus. “CR23b: COMPLETION OF PROGNOSTICATION REQUEST,” it read at the top in bold. There was a lot of small print.
“Once per lifetime… acknowledgement of risk… no warranty, expressed or implied in the prognostication given.. blah blah…” he mumbled to himself as he read through it. There, at the bottom, neatly typed in a box on its own was a sentence that made him stop and grit his teeth in a fierce grin.
“Requested Prognostication: The pinnacle of my scientific career, my greatest breakthrough”
There was a line at the bottom for his signature. He scribbled on it and walked out of the building in triumph.
Michael sat on his sofa and looked down at the notepad in front of him. The details of the vision had faded, leaving just the feelings behind. The sense of clarity, the feeling of joy when everything suddenly made sense.
His notes started out legible and neat, describing the room, the lab bench, the apparatus piled up around him. The handwriting deteriorated sharply after that, excitement pilling words on top of words, sending sentences veering across the page to collide with one another in a carnage of scribbles. Michael’s heart pounded and he clutched at the notebook, trying to force clarity from the scrawl. He peered closely; there were still words here to be made out, meaning could be teased from the page in time. It wasn’t a loss, not yet.
Trying to still the panic he skipped forward, flipping through page after page of increasingly incoherent notes. There were diagrams and formulae in here, he was sure, but they were buried under a strata of words piled over words. He reached the last page - it was mostly empty - and started reading. There was nothing written over the top of this last line; it was describing the end of the vision, the final moment when theory and proof coalesced in his mind. He read it anxiously.
“all makes sense now. I never would’ve seen it before, but it’s so obvious in hindsight. It’s”
The sentence stopped there. Panic couldn’t be held back this time, and Michael frantically turned back a page to see if there answer was hiding there. The page was unintelligible, just scribbled lines that couldn’t even pretend to be writing. He flipped back another page, then another; the writing didn’t make sense, there weren’t even any words there any more. Where before he could’ve sworn he’d seen diagrams, a word here and there to tease from the page, even a whole sentence that he’d understood there was nothing more than childish doodlings. Scribbles filled the page, spirals and loops and scratches, not words.
He turned back to the end, tears dripping from the tip his nose onto the paper. After the abandoned sentence, now just a squiggle of ink, there was a gap and then the writing continued further down the page. This was in a far calmer hand, as if the frantic energy of the rest of the notes had never existed.
“The pinnacle of my scientific career was asking the Prognosticator this question.”
|# ¿ May 4, 2014 22:04|
I'm in for this week, as I clearly have a lot of improving to do.
I bring technology indistinguishable from magic, or possibly the other way around. These things get a bit hazy, y'know.
|# ¿ May 9, 2014 14:11|
The sound of elephants
1381 words, using the prompts elephants, onomatopoeia and technology indistinguishable from magic, or possibly the other way around.
Aleph stood nervously in the doorway, looking around the room. Henrik was still sitting at his massive desk with his back to her.
It wasn’t as if I want to be here, she thought to herself. Not like I want to have to ask for help. She bit her lip and waited.
“What’s an elephant?” Henrik finally rose from his chair and turned to face his unwilling guest. One of the many quill pens tucked into the pockets of his ink-stained shirt fell to the floor, unnoticed.
“Well…” began Aleph, “I’m not exactly sure. I think it’s a kind of badger. I’ve got this much.” She pulled a piece of paper from her satchel. Henrik beckoned impatiently for it and pulled the wire-rimmed glasses down from his forehead.
“That’s not very helpful,” he noted. The paper was heavily worn, folded and re-folded. On it, much smudged, was a rather scratchy rendition of a squat, gray animal. Huge, flappy ears, stumpy legs, a tiny twist of a tail and… “What’s that on its face?” asked Henrik, puzzled. He brought the paper closer to his nose and peered myopically at it. “A beak, like a sandpiper?”
“I think it’s a nose,” Aleph offered helpfully.
“Harrumph.” Henrik pushed his glasses back onto his forehead and dropped the paper onto his desk amongst the drifts of ink-stained parchments. “To answer your question, as if it weren’t obvious by now: No, I do not know what sound an elephant makes. Now why on earth do you need to know that?”
“The Duke,” Aleph explained. “Well, his son, little Emelio. Apparently Emelio’s uncle came to visit last month and told the boy all about the circus they’ve got back home. Emelio’s smitten and won’t stop talking about the elephant at the circus. Now his father wants something to keep the boy quiet until the circus comes to visit in the autumn.”
“He commissioned a toy, I take it?”
“Yes, the finest, one that moves and makes all the right noises. Movement I can do, but…” Aleph trailed off. “Here, let me show you,” she said, reaching into her satchel again. She extracted a toy the size of a small dog and set it on the floor.
It was an elephant, a many-jointed model lovingly realised in dark-varnished wood and gleaming brass. Nestled in the heart of the toy was a captive spark dancing in a glass vial. The light it gave off flickered around Aleph’s fingers as she reached in and flipped a switch.
“I gave it a badger’s voice for now,” she explained as the toy elephant started walking. “I don’t think I’ve got it yet, though.”
The elephant stalked across the floor, ears flapping. “CRRRAAAAAAoooowrrrr!” it went, the long nose curling in the air like a serpent hunting. “CRAAAAAAAOWWWRRR!” The windows rattled.
Henrik shuddered. “It doesn’t seem quite right, does it?”
“No,” admitted Aleph sadly, reaching down to flip a switch. The mechanical elephant stopped mid-screech, nose raised defiantly.
Henrik pondered again, the two sitting in nervous and contemplative silence respectively for a few minutes. “So why come to me?”
Aleph shifted in her seat. “Well, you see… you’re the one who can talk to the Wizard.”
“Harrumph. And you just expect me to hike all the way up to the Wizard to ask him, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, can he conjure up an elephant for us?”
”I did make that astrolabe for you last year. You said you owed me for that. And I will pay; the Duke’s being generous.” She folded her arms defiantly, then a sly smile crept up on her face. “Besides, aren’t you just a bit curious too?”
Henrik grumbled inaudibly under his breath and turned away.
“What was that?”
“I said, fine. I’ll do it. Happy now?”
It took them the rest of the morning to hike up the mountain to the squat, stone and iron building. The Wizard was standing motionless opposite the doorway, a human silhouette hidden under a loosely draped robe with a tall, pointed hood. Silver embroidery covered every inch of the robe, tracing out words in an unfamiliar alphabet. Under the hood, the Wizard’s impassive face looked out at them. Its skin was matt white porcelain, segmented like a precisely cracked mask. Between the fragments metal glinted and sparks danced. Its eyes were dark pools of liquid glass, shining faintly with an inner light.
There was a faint whirr and it turned its head slightly to face them. “Welcome,” it said, in a melodious voice like a chorus of songbirds. “How may I be of assistance?”
“Wait here,” Henrik told her, walking across the room. She caught a glimpse of something metallic in his hands as he neared the Wizard before it vanished back up his sleeve.
Aleph stood awkwardly by the doorway as Henrik and the Wizard engaged in a complicated discussion at the other side of the room. She caught only a few words, none of which made any sense to her. At one point, Henrik produced the sketch she’d shown him earlier and held it out. The Wizard took it between impossibly slender ceramic fingers, turning it in front of its face. After a while, it nodded and handed the paper back. Henrik stepped away, looking pleased with himself.
“It’ll do it,” he declared. “Sympathetic magic, it said. The drawing should be enough to synthesise an informatic channel and locate a real elephant.”
Aleph nodded as if she understood and watched the Wizard start its rituals. It glided across the room - she presumed there were feet under that robe, but with the way it moved, she couldn’t be sure - and collected a staff from the corner. With the tip of the staff leaving a shimmer of light along the floor behind it, the Wizard traced out an intricate ring of sigils more precise and steady than any human could replicate.
“Don’t get near the circle,” whispered Henrik to her in an awed tone. “So much as a hair’s breadth of error and the magic will fail.”
She nodded, barely moving her head as she stood enthralled at the sight.
Finally the Wizard finished and glided to the far side of the circle. It raised the staff high and began to chant in its inhuman, melodious voice. Other voices emerged from its mouth, a chorus of overlapping and repeating chants. The air grew heavy, oppressive, and Aleph felt the hair on her arms flattening against her skin.
The Wizard brought his staff down onto the stone floor with a gentle ‘click’. There was a susurrus in the air and a shimmer like a heat haze swept out from the centre of the circle in an expanding sphere until it vanished through the walls. Then, nothing.
After an uncomfortably long pause, Aleph coughed. “Is anything going to happen?” she asked.
Henrik frowned, looking puzzled. The Wizard looked as impassive as ever.
“Aleph, forgive me for asking so late in the proceedings, but just how big is an elephant?” he asked eventually.
Aleph stared thoughtfully into space. “You know,” she said, “I don’t have the faintest idea. I rather assumed they were, oh, sort of normal sized? A big dog, or a pony?”
Henrik looked up at the low ceiling of the room they were in. “Wizard?” he asked. “What are the safeguards for conjuration in an enclosed area?”
The Wizard turned its head to face Henrik. The lights behind its eyes flickered for a moment. “Displacement,” it replied. “Orthogonal to the ground plane. A distance proportional to the impeded volume.” It resumed staring impassively forward.
“What did it…” Aleph started to ask before she caught sight of Henrik’s expression. He was staring up at the ceiling with an air of dread. “Orthogonal to the ground something…?” she asked.
“Up,” he replied flatly, pointing.
Far above them in the thin mountain air, an elephant struggled to come to terms with its new, very temporary surroundings.
Fortunately for Aleph, Henrik and the Wizard, the building was very sturdy and seemed entirely unaffected by the impact. Unfortunately for the elephant, it wasn't very soft.
“TruuuuuuUUUUU-SPLATthump?” repeated Henrik, after the echoes had died down.
“Probably not that either,” noted Aleph sadly. “Maybe I’ll stick with the badger noises after all.”
|# ¿ May 11, 2014 22:27|
Well that wasn't supposed to happen.
THUNDERDOME XCIII: The wind is rising, so we must try to live
I went to see The Wind Rises at the cinema this weekend, so now you can all suffer for my terrible taste in films.
Write me a story about flight. Powered flight, unpowered flight, birds flying, spaceflight, flights of fancy. Let your imaginations soar in the wind before crashing to the ground in the mangled wreckage of your terrible prose. I also want stories about someone with a dream, a life goal, a glorious aspiration. They may or may not achieve it, at least in the span of your stories, but they should have it.
Stories about someone who always wanted to fly/design a plane/be a bird will be penalised for cliché as appropriate. The inherent tragedy of the conflict between an engineer's artistic integrity and the commercial reality of wartime industry is optional (that means discouraged).
Some Guy TT
Welcome back to UK times, suckers.
Signup deadline: 9am BST Saturday 17th, or whenever I get online after that
Entry deadline: 9am BST Monday 19th
Word count: 1,200 words
Those who fly too close to the sun
God Over Djinn
Benny the Snake
Meeple fucked around with this message at 09:22 on May 17, 2014
|# ¿ May 13, 2014 14:28|
Slightly under 24 hours until signups close!
On an admin related note, as I need to sort Judging out and keep missing everyone on IRC (you guys and your timezones, I mean really...)
Some Guy TT: Can you /msg me an e-mail address or other method of contact on IRC please
Sitting here: Do you know if you'll be able to judge this week? If so, same question as above; if not, any volunteers for third (experienced) judge?
|# ¿ May 16, 2014 10:12|
Aaaand signups closed.
Let the crashing and burning begin.
|# ¿ May 17, 2014 09:24|
Evening of the final day. Twelve hours remaining
|# ¿ May 18, 2014 21:09|
The wind has risen, much like flatulence on a winter's day, and all that remains is to cluster around the burning remains of your flights of fancy and count the cost.
Submissions are closed
Results may take a while as we appear to have three judges from three different ends of the earth.
kurona_bright, for having an excuse relevant to the prompt, you can have an extension - you've got until we get ourselves coordinated, so probably this evening (UK time).
|# ¿ May 19, 2014 09:06|
THUNDERDOME XCIII RESULTS
After a long, drawn-out debate across three time-zones we have reached a conclusion. This was actually a good week, as far as a newbie can tell, as there were very few absolutely terrible ones.
The winner, by the narrowest of margins (coins were not involved, I promise) was Meinberg's Salt Spray and Summer Winds. You told a clean, novel story that hit the prompt very well. I personally found the backstory a bit hard to follow, but it was well liked by all three judges.
HM to Kalyco in a very close second with Fall Away. My personal favourite, the characterisation was very strong and believably hosed-up. The description of Rachel and AJ's dialogue were what brought you down here.
Another HM to Crabrock's And the stars look very different today. It felt like an easy story to read and to write, but a good one.
Malefic Marmite is this week's loser for spending 1000 words talking about a guy reading a dictionary at a bus stop. Flight and dreams are nowhere to be seen as the bloody vultures don't even take off. Seriously.
DMs to Nitrousoxide for a clunky series of action sequences and poor dialogue strung together with precious thought for plot and a resolution tacked on as an afterthought, and Jeza for writing hard sci-fi about someone trying to break speed records in space. All velocity in space is relative, this is a meaningless concept. I am irrationally angry about this story because I like hard sci-fi a lot.
|# ¿ May 20, 2014 19:29|
think ur so smart how bout u brawl me
U mot m8. Ill deck you in, swear on me mum.
|# ¿ May 21, 2014 09:43|
Crits the first
ReptileChillock - Ramshackle Estates
The time you spent writing a superfluous and discouraged introductory sentence might better have been spent getting an accurate wordcount. I appreciate, however, that this may have required you to look at your own words again and I can sympathise with your reluctance.
Your prose stumbles over itself in the first paragraph and never truly recovers; your storyline, alas, follows a similar trajectory. The flow of your writing suffers from an abuse of commas bordering on the sadistic - another pass to edit and rephrase (or even just re-punctuate) would have served you well.
The storyline lacks coherence, as the setup is too brief to give any weight to the subsequent string of barely-related action scenes that fail to tell us much at all about the character of Tobias, his motivations, plans, feelings or, really, anything. “Just who are you?” Meeple asked, but nobody knew the answer.
In your favour, the prompt was given at least as much of a consideration as the rest of the plot, which is to say precious little. Flying was involved, and there was a germ of an idea in Tobias’ childhood dreams that in a better world might have done well. I can only imagine the protagonist did indeed have some driving goal, but sadly we’re left guessing what that actually was beyond a throwaway reference to “the farm” in the opening paragraph. There is a story in there that could have been salvaged, and the scenes you set were tolerable, but I didn’t feel it hung together.
This was a borderline DM nomination from me, and put me in a terrible mood for writing the subsequent crits. You owe your colleagues an apology.
Meinberg - Salt Spray and Summer Winds
You crafted an engaging world with your story, one which I found pleasantly novel and well executed. The gods had interesting characterisation and the magic was refreshing, much like salt spray or a terribly forced back-reference.
Frerick’s backstory was blurted out in a rather truncated splurge of exposition, much like I imagine his name might be pronounced. The four brands on his arm were a perfect setup for a quick, sequential tour of how he arrived in his current predicament which you sadly let slip. The one paragraph of history you start with leaves too many questions - Which side won? What were the sides anyway? Why was he branded ‘slaver’ or ‘rebel’? Why does he have any reason to think his daughter is still alive? Some of these are answered later, but not all, and I’d prefer up-front explanation in a story this short.
You executed your story well, though minor niggles of prose and story rankled (for example: “stony” is the more common spelling; I’d suggest a colon before “five hundred and thirty-six”; why has he waited two years to escape anyway; round circles in a stone wall are far more effort to build that I imagine a prison cell would warrant). It certainly feels like the summoning of the gods was where you hit your stride, and the protagonist’s feelings come across better here.
You addressed the prompt directly: flying was clearly involved, and Frerick has a dream, and even has the decency to develop his character and change his dream at the end of the story.
Despite its minor flaws, this was a strong entry and deserved the win.
Cheneyjugend - Late Bloomer
Like a cupcake, I found this story is sweet but ultimately not very fulfilling. It was completely different from everything else this week, for which you certainly earn at least one point.
Your use of language is awkward at times: “We come to know, when the days are wet and cold, and try as he might, father’s wings cannot save all from the pummeling drops that soak the nest, that the ruder surprise is the lack of food.” is a hell of a sentence, but worse abuse of commas was perpetrated this week so I will stay my hand.
It’s hard to ascribe much character development to a baby bird, but I can’t say I really felt much of a ‘dream’ in there - I can’t say I’d describe birds flying the nest as a particularly unusual motivation, unless they were secretly penguins. Were they secretly penguins? If so, I feel you should’ve said. The flying part, obviously, was hit with reasonable accuracy.
SomeGuyTT wanted to cite you for failing to use context appropriate diction, to which I say “cheep cheep squark wark.”
Middle of the pack.
God Over Djinn - It begins at the beginning and ends at the end.
It begins at the ‘gently caress’ and ends at the ‘you’. This review starts with me, Meeple, coming to an abrupt and unpleasant realisation: I dislike meta-humour and gimmick stories, and now I’m reading one.
My initial impression of this story was “poo poo, I don’t have anything to write, so let’s see how long I can string out ‘This guy’s falling to his death, he wets himself, and then he goes splat.’” I won’t claim that’s your actual intent, but I am not the judge to whom you would want to be submitting an entry of this ilk.
The prose was very well executed, which claws it back from the edge of the precipice but fails to excuse it in my eyes. You also made only a passing swipe at the prompt.
Bushido Brown - Like a Morning Star
A pleasant little snippet of a story, but it felt unfulfilling and short. I find it hard to shake the feeling that this story was primarily a vessel for a series of bad ‘fly’ puns, which may or may not be a point against you.
You did teach me a new word, and unlike all the other stories that fall into that category, had the decency to actually explain it rather than leave me resorting to Google and an ineffable sense of my own inadequacy.
Your address of the prompt was direct and clear: the protagonist dreamt of flying, without falling into cliché. Your title, on the other hand, seems somewhat unrelated to the story.
theblunderbuss - Incandescent
I was, apparently, alone amongst the judges in liking this, which I suspect says more about my regrettable taste in melodramatic fantasy than your story.
I ended my first read of this story with a niggling confusion over what ‘she’ actually was; a second and third reading gave a bit more clarity. This strikes me as a symptom of knowing what’s going on but failing to tell the reader early or clearly enough (Meinberg’s story did something similar with the protagonist’s backstory). Better posters than I have belaboured this point already; take it to heart.
With regards to the prompt, I had warned that I would mock those who wrote about a dream to build a flying machine or become a bird. I will give you the narrowest of passes as your protagonist merely dreams of becoming a flying machine, which escapes on a technicality.
Entenzahn - Gravitational Pull
Your setting is neat but the story, alas, is not a terribly novel one. I did warn that I would mock as appropriate those who wrote stories about a protagonist who dreams of building a flying machine; consider yourself duly mocked. You showed us the setting through incidental details very well, which I did like.
As I am an enormous pedant, I will also deduct you some modicum of points for physical implausibility - human-powered flight (pedal-powered flying machines such as you seemed to be describing) was an unrealised dream until the early 20th century; the flapping-wing ornithopter designs especially never made it off the ground.
I found your language to be stilted at times; not so much over-formal and lacking contractions as merely failing to flow nicely. Run-on sentences and abuse of the common comma feature in places and no doubt contribute to this finding. A thorough editing might salve some of this.
Your aim at the prompt veered into the aforementioned cliché, but was at least accurate.
Jeza - Black Holes
As you may have already gathered, any opinions I might have had about the quality of your actual writing were drowned by my irrational anger at the core premise. Velocity in space is by necessity a relative measurement; a ‘speed record’ isn’t just a case of reading off a speedometer and high-fives all around. A few more words addressing that directly and I would’ve been left to enjoy the story; you certainly put enough effort into the rest of the science (or at least science words).
Physics pedantry aside, let us move on to the story. Amidst the technobabble there was a reasonably straight arc of a story, though it didn’t stretch very far as most of your word count was focussed on the climactic action scene. A little more emphasis on the character and less on the technology might have done you well.
You fell straight into the prompt, so I shan’t raise any complaints there.
Kalyco - Fall Away
I was very fond of this story; it was my personal favourite on my first read through and it was only narrowly pipped at the post for the win.
You snuck an awful lot of character development into a short story, and the main characters were hosed up in a very believable way. There were moments of awkwardness: AJ has a propensity for implausible long sentences that don’t flow very well on the page; you cram a lot of unnecessary adjectives into one paragraph about Rachel in the middle.
Your story addressed the prompt quite literally, with a character dreaming of flying, though I felt there was also the metaphorical dream of the relationship with AJ in there too to ensure you hit the prompt cleanly. You also win the “least bad suicide story” award for the week, given the sheer number of stories about people throwing (or failing to throw) themselves to their death.
WeLandedOnTheMoon! - Defector
Your writing style in this work felt almost childish to me, which I could entirely believe was intentional given the subject matter, but left me somewhat unsatisfied. The dialogue was hammy; again, maybe that’s intentional, but it still flowed poorly. Perhaps a contrast between the dialogue a kid might use when playing with toys and more smooth-flowing description might help, or going all the way down cliche. As it was, I couldn’t shake the feeling I’d read some kid’s homework.
Your story arc, beneath the clunky language, wasn’t entirely bad - a little character development, an ending that, though I hated the way you phrased it, wasn’t fundamentally flawed. Your idea was good and quite novel, but the execution was too flawed for me to enjoy it much. You addressed the prompt just fine, at least.
|# ¿ May 21, 2014 13:42|
Crits the second!
Gau - Alight, Good Soul
It appears that when one mentions a prompt of ‘flight’ to the Thunderdome, the immediate imagery conjured is a line of protagonists, filing lemming-like to the edge of the nearest cliff to hurl themselves to their untimely demise. A psychiatrist would have a field day with the lot of you; if I ever win again I’m minded to request stories about trains going through tunnels and cigars to see what monstrous Freudian abominations you produce.
Suppressed self-loathing and suicidal tendencies aside, I rather liked this one. Your prose is good, your characterisation of a precocious teenager is solid. I fail to find much in the writing to fault you on, so instead I’ll pick on your story itself like the childish bully I am.
The arc is pretty flat: boy is bullied, commits suicide. Though the scenario itself is novel, it doesn’t tie into the story you’re telling very much - Ike could’ve been bullied for other reasons and main thrust of the story would have changed little. The main focus is his being bullied, his inability to cope with being different from others, rather than the specifics of that difference.
On the subject of the prompt, though flying featured heavily, there isn’t much in the way of a dream to be seen - in fact, I’d say quite the antithesis.
Nitrousoxide - Always Bet on a Lady's Luck
Your story starts with a clunky description (apparently the omniscient narrator knows neither how many engines are on fire nor what lies below the clouds; I rather hope you as author do, so perhaps you might be willing to share with us), followed by equally ugly dialogue. Sadly, that characterises the majority of the rest of the story.
You compress the entirety of the motivation of the main character into one afterthought of a paragraph at the end, with a bonus aside from the narrator to the reader to jam more information into fewer words. Were I charitable, I might assume you ran out of words before you managed to explain anything that was going on with your story and, rather than go over and edit down later, decided to just amputate at the knee, pour tar on the wound and kick the patient out onto the street before gangrene set in. Should that be the case, I humbly suggest that overrunning and editing to hit the word count will serve you far better in future.
In your favour, your story used the ‘flying’ prompt in a way I hoped people would; it was a part of the world and relevant to the story. What dream existed was scant in its evidence, though I believe I’ve belaboured that point enough already.
Before I abandon ship entirely, I would like to take one final passing shot at your distressing habit of capitalising after commas. Please don’t do that. In fact, please improve your usage of punctuation in general. You join the sad ranks of the comma-abusers this week.
Tyrannosaurus - My Time Amongst the Beasts
This was a good story, bordering on HM. Your character depiction was strong, and the development very well realised.
You opened with your character sounding like a pretentious rear end in a top hat, which I assume was intentional but does tend to rub the reader up the wrong way. The “most dangerous game” twist was far too obvious, and meant you missed out on explaining what ‘mau mau’ actually was. On a first read-through I assumed it was just a native word for ‘man’ or perhaps the name of a tribe; it was only on a second read-through I got curious, googled it and realised it rather changed the meaning of the story to me. That let your story down a long way in my eyes.
Your attention to the prompt wasn’t terribly direct; I do feel this story could have been written for a different prompt entirely without it being particularly obvious.
crabrock - And the stars look very different today
This was a good story, but it felt to me like a whiff at the prompts rather than a solid hit. They were details, though relevant ones, rather than a core focus of the storytelling; like Tyrannosaurus’s story, I felt like it could’ve been written for a different prompt without anyone being much the wiser.
Besides that, you told a compelling story well, with a believably grumpy character and a humorous ending. I certainly can find precious little else to fault it on.
Phobia - The Kite Flying Blues
Ah, another tale of attempted suicide by jumping. You all seem determined to leave me a heartless, unfeeling bastard, innurred to the suffering of others by overexposure to tragedy. I would mock you, but the challenge is gone.
The tone of your story was trite and self-important. I will charitably assume this is an intentional effect to better convey the characterisation of your protagonist telling the tale in the first person, and not a reflection of you on a writer. None the less, I would advise against doing it again. Your prose appears to be suffering from a surfeit of exclamation marks. I suggest seeing your pharmacist; with a good ointment they’ll no doubt clear up in days. You did, at least, have the decency to leave the poor, troubled commas alone.
There was, to your credit, a passable strike at the prompt so I won’t dock any further points there.
Malefic Marmite - Axiomatic Wings
Your wrote at great, verbose, pretentious length about absolutely nothing of interest happening. For added irony, I suppose your character could have been reading a thesaurus instead of a dictionary. Perhaps you could lend him yours.
You failed to tell a story here. Your character waxed lyrical about some stuff that may have happened in the past, only he can’t really remember, and a cartoon that he can’t remember the punchline from.
Frankly, there wasn’t a story here. Dial back the exposition and verbosity, stop trying to impress everyone with your vocabulary and flowery prose and concentrate on actually telling a story. You can string words together without loving up punctuation and flow, so there might actually be hope for you.
You… completely ignored the prompt. I think this was the worst miss of the week, which contributed to your loss. I wanted stories about flight, not “things tangentially related to the air, like birds or something” and “daydreaming about a Far Side cartoon” doesn’t meet the criteria for a character with a dream.
Also, a fence tilted at 90 degrees would be flat against the ground. Those are some heavy vultures or a really lovely fence.
Benny the Snake - Given To Fly
You spent almost all your wordcount about describing how terrible the life of your protagonist is, which left you with very little space to actually progress a story or develop a character. I feel you’re more concerned about making us feel sorry for him than telling us an interesting story about what happens to him. If you’d flipped around the weight between background/dreaming of flying, I think this would’ve been a much stronger story.
Your prose irks me in a way it took me a while to pin down - you spend far too many words directly addressing the reader, often while trying to be clever. The opening, paragraph, for example:
”Benny the Snake” posted:
It was first period at school and Jeremy was running across the hall as fast as he could like a deer being chased by a pack of hungry, bloodthirsty wolves. Action, though you could have done this in half the words Worse than wolves, they were sixth graders. Talking to the reader A wolf would rip your throat out and that would be the end of that--a sixth grader would humiliate you in front of everyone and throw you back in the wild so he could do the whole thing over again the next day. Talking Jeremy was in full flight mode as he was one of the unfortunate ones born without a fight mode. Talking He made a hard right turn and almost crashed into another classmate before he dove into a broom closet to hide. ActionHe could hardly breathe and the dust was irritating his lungs but he didn't dare reach for his inhalerAction, as the slightest sound would give him awayTalking.
Spend more time describing action and story, rather than trying to talk to the reader personally, and you would get more engagement and have an awful lot more wordcount left for telling a story.
By this point I’m resigned to people concluding that ‘flying’ lets them shoehorn in suicide-by-falling (you bunch of miserable bastards) and think they’ve hit the prompt, and you also fit in a daydream about flying at the last minute as well so it was an alright hit on prompt - only let down by the relative weights of “how much his life sucks” vs the dreams of flying.
Nethilia - Distinct Changes
You sketched out a rather cute, amusing modern-fantasy world without digressing into world building or exposition dumps, and I enjoyed your story as a result. I must admit I failed to see why having wings was such a bad thing (omg! flying!) which did detract from its impact. I see you tried to emphasise the negatives, but it’s still quite a stretch to give up being able to fly for shiny hair or something.
There was an arc of a story here, and a character that developed (or at least changed her mind) at the end of it all. On the whole, I can’t find much to fault your story on barring a handful of slipups (“parents’” takes an apostrophe in the penultimate paragraph; “it’s possible they’re not be able to Adjusted—”) so I think you could’ve benefited from another pass at editing.
The character doesn’t seem to have a very inspiring dream, and then changes her mind so I feel the prompt wasn’t hit as hard as it could’ve been. Still, this was towards the top of the pile and close to HM.
sebmojo - Chains
There was some good imagery here, but I was left with the nagging sensation that your story was missing a lot of important bits. It didn’t reach the zombie-like lurchings of some other entries this week, but perhaps just wanted to be about twice the length.
The animosity between Rab and Henry seems to spring out of nowhere at the half-way mark, and I’m not really sure what’s going on between the angel and Catherine at the end. It really feels like you edited out some really important paragraphs somewhere along the line (I was expecting some hand-waving magic about how Catherine’s faith gives the angel back the strength he lost falling to earth, or something of the sort).
The opening is weak and your first sentence took me a couple of reads to work out who was being talked about. I had to google ‘sulky’ and it told me it’s a one-seater cart, which came as a surprise when you’re describing two people riding it as if it ain’t no thang. Moving wordcount to explaining more of the important things than describing what are really just surface details might have helped.
That aside, I think there’s a rather nice story and world hiding underneath all my complaints. It’s a shame you weren’t able to reveal more of it in your entry. Your writing is generally solid, though I admit I have no idea what you were trying to achieve with “the middle third of ‘slaves’ took flight and fluttered round the room, landing on Henry.”
Not seeing much ‘dream’ from the prompt there; the angel explicitly doesn’t have a dream, as it seems to be a completely apathetic character, and then fails to reach it anyway.
Bad Seafood - First under heaven
A not unpleasant story, but I never felt quite grabbed by it. Your protagonist is rather passive (and somewhat grumpy-teenager) about the whole thing, and rather than having any drive to become a shaman just seems to expect it to fall in his lap. I suppose you might’ve been trying to make a point about The Youth of Today, but I rather hope not because then I’d have to mock you for something else entirely.
Your second paragraph suffers from a surfeit of non-specific pronouns which makes it quite hard to work out who you’re actually referring to, given there’s a choice between three or four different people and a lot of “him”s. Later, your dialogue is a little clunky, but not unduly so. Work on flow a little bit. In general, though, your prose was quite good.
On the prompt, as I previously mentioned, I didn’t feel the protagonist had much of a dream, just an assumption that things would just fall in place how he wanted them to. As such, it wasn’t a very solid hit at the prompt, and the literal dream wasn’t enough to pull it back (see Kalyco’s entry for a similar literal interpretation of the prompt that saved itself by adding in a more metaphorical dream as well).
kurona_bright - Copied From My Handwritten Notes (a Flight Away)
Though you wrote a nice conversation, it didn’t feel like a story. There was no arc, no action, just a woman who’s sad and then sits around has resolution inflicted upon her. The protagonist is just too passive in the story to make me care about her (she really does just sit there and let everything happen to her for 90% of the scene).
Your writing was good, but I think you would’ve benefitted a lot from a more engaging and interesting story. As it was, it’s just too mundane and unexciting to get above middle of the pile.
The flying part is pretty tangential to the prompt; you could’ve replaced it with “waiting at the train station” and nothing else would’ve changed, so I feel you really missed the prompt rather hard. Like a few other entries, I don’t feel I would ever have deduced the prompt just from reading your story.
|# ¿ May 22, 2014 13:18|
I am in
|# ¿ May 23, 2014 09:51|
Minor divinity, 1,111 words
Derek was twelve when the god first spoke to him. “Pkthk-,” it said, and then the smell of burning strawberries filled Derek’s nose. “Fstrggn-gnar-yup-pkthk-.” The nonsense words piled into each other like a train-crash in Derek’s head.
After Derek finally convinced his parents he wasn’t making it up there were a lot of whispered arguments, a lot of worried glances from his mother, and a never-ending parade of doctors and psychiatrists and child development specialists. In the end, none of them found anything. “It’s just a phase,” they concluded. “He’s a growing boy. He’ll grow out of it.” After that, Derek decided that he wouldn’t tell anyone about the god again.
“But why?” asked Derek for what felt like the thousandth time. “Why me? Why this?”
“Am-showing-is-all-feeling-all-time-” The god paused its usual babbling speech. “No-word-is-,” the taste of almonds.
“Look, I don’t want it. I’m done with this, seriously. I’ve putting up with you for years. Go away!”
“Is-gift-,” said the god, its voice tinny.
“I don’t want it!” Derek buried his head in his hands. “Please? Just leave me in peace.”
“Peace-.” The god went silent for a long time.
“Yes! Peace!” Derek latched on to the word. “You understand peace? Give me peace!”
“Peace-,” the feeling of soap brushing against the skin, “-perform-process-agreement-.”
“You can?” Derek asked, jerking his head back up. “How? What? When? I’ll do it!”
“Complicated-,” began the god.
“Ugh,” said Derek, hefting the bag. Its contents sloshed. “It’s a good thing I know this guy who works at the halal butcher. He didn’t half give me a funny look though. I told him it was for an art project.”
“Halal!” the god said in his ear. “New-word-unknown-query-mystery-excitement-”
“Halal,” said Derek. “It’s…”
He was interrupted. “Unknown-query-mystery-explain-”
Derek sighed. “Religion. Food. Slaughter. Blood.” The explanation seemed enough to quiet the god.
Looking both ways, Derek ducked through the fence into the sea of weeds beyond. The boarded up windows and graffiti of the old print shop loomed above him, half-hidden in the evening gloom. Hiding from the light of the one flickering streetlamp across the road, he prised at the boards of the door until the old nails popped out. Beyond, the doorway had been bricked up, but the mortar had long since crumbled away and Derek kicked his way inside. He replaced the bricks behind him and lit his torch.
“Nice place, isn’t it? Haven’t been here in a while. Hasn’t changed much, either.” Empty bottles and rusted beer cans littered the corners of the room. “So now what?”
“Blood-,” said the god, as if it were obvious.
Derek scrunched up his nose and took the jar of blood from the bag. It was still warm, but rapidly congealing. “Does it have to be blood?” he asked. “I mean, this is pretty gross.”
“Blood-perception-connection-,” a tickling on the soles of the feet, “-contagion-link-,” the god said. “Yes-.”
Derek sighed. “Okay, okay. This better be worth it.” He took a ratty, splayed paintbrush from his pocket and dipped it gingerly in the blood. Pinching his nose against the pervasive smell, he started daubing lines and symbols on the floor under the god’s rattled directions.
Derek stepped back from his handiwork and folded his arms. The floor around him was dense with purposeful bloodstains, and the jar lay empty at his feet.
“Now what?” he asked. The god said nothing; there was only silence for a long minute. Abruptly, a chorus of bells rang in Derek’s head. His skin crawled under the sensation of thousand tiny pins and the smell of burning sawdust filled his nose. As he looked around the room in alarm the whole world dropped away.
It was like watching a painting dissolve under a slosh of paintstripper, or canvas scenery fall to a crumpled heap behind a stage. Everything he could see just washed downwards like a wave, leaving nothing but blackness behind. He looked down, his field of vision moving jerkily, but the floor had likewise vanished as had his own body. Where he’d expect to see hands, trousers, shoes there was just a faintly throbbing blue glow in the shape of a hexagonal column, rising up where his body had been. Looking back out over the scene the whole world seemed to be made up of similar columns, all tessellating out to infinity: short ones, tall ones; some softened and rounded, others sharply angular.
A little breaking-glass sound from behind made him start and reflexively turn. He looked up, and then up further still, trying to take in the towering, slender column of blue light behind him. He still couldn’t see the top and, unlike the rest of the field of pillars, this one descended down into the black depths as well.
“What is this?” he tried to ask. The sound emerged as a screeching, clawing rattle of metal on stone. He tried again. “Where am I?” This time, no sound at all, but a sudden scent of cut grass wafted over him.
A flurry of sensation washed over Derek’s perceptions. Smells collided in a cacophony, lights blinded him, a thousand separate noises clamoured for attention. He tried to close his eyes to block out the light, cover his ears, but there was no body to do those things for him, only the sensations. He screamed, and a cloud of iridescent butterflies fluttered across his vision.
Abruptly, the sensations abated. There was a pause and then a whisper.
“Is-. Gift-,” said the god, slowly and deliberately, its words clipped short. “Peace-.”
“NO!” Derek screamed, his voice finally finding its way out into the world. “Not your peace! Mine! My world! Alone!”
The blue column wavered like a heat haze. When the god spoke next, it sounded like it was coming through a tunnel. “Confusion-. Stupidity-.”
Slowly the world dissolved back into view, the blue columns and infinite black vanishing behind crumbling brickwork and piles of rubbish. On the floor in front of Derek, amidst the bloody patterns, something small and squishy and blue bobbled nervously. It waved numerous tiny tentacles and opened its mouth.
“World!” said the god, its voice tiny and shrill outside of Derek’s head. “Foolishness-human-blind-imperceptive-”
Derek looked down at the little god. He thought back to a decade of the thing’s screeching, demanding voice in his head. A decade of broken sleep and failed classes. The months before it even learned English, and the years after that of answering its every question, following its every nagging demand. The migraines and the dizzy spells, the strange looks and the awkward conversations.
He took a step forward. There was a squelch, and then nothing but blessed, glorious silence.
|# ¿ May 25, 2014 23:28|
What can possibly go wrong? Other than 'everything'. I will join the ranks of the Children of the Ore - in
Edit: I chose this one just because its stock images title is A contract is an agreement concluded by two ore more people.
Meeple fucked around with this message at 14:27 on May 27, 2014
|# ¿ May 26, 2014 23:54|
The witch gagged and half belched, “We’ll talk later.” She slammed the now-empty pint glass back down on the table. “Right now, I’m drinking.”
John took a deep breath and tried again. “How about I buy you a drink first?”
“Now we’re talking! Why didn’t you say earlier? Mine’s a pint. At least one.”
John wriggled out from behind the table and walked across the deserted bar. The bartender stopped staring aimlessly into space long enough to pour John two pints of something out of an unlabelled beer tap.
“Much better,” the witch said, when he got back to the table. She reached for the offered drink. “Cheers. I’m Senne.”
“I know,” he said. “You came recommended. I’m John.”
“I knew that. ‘S a witch thing.”
John raised an eyebrow.
“Honest.” She grinned and took a swig of beer. “If you don’t believe me, you should find a better witch.”
“They said you were the best!” John said.
“Flattery, mister, will get you nowhere.”
“Well, okay, they said you were cheap.”
“Insults won’t get you much further.” She looked down at her empty glass. “And I’m out of drink again.”
John pushed his untouched pint across the table. “So look,” he began again. “I need protection.”
"Protection from what?"
"Well," he said, "there's this girl. Anna, her name is. We started seeing each other a few months ago, only, well, her ex doesn't see it that way."
"Violent type, is he?"
"Drug dealer. He knows people, and those people have guns."
Senne sighed. “Look, I don’t do protection jobs. I dunno who told you to come to me, but he’s an idiot and you’re an idiot for listening. I’ll give you some names, you can go talk to them tomorrow and get yourself a contract with them instead.”
“Contract? What?” John felt out of his depth. “Why would I need a contract? Does it have to be all legal?”
“Legal’s got nothing to do with it, dumbass.” Senne waved a finger at him. “‘S the geas. Magic poo poo. I thought they taught you people about this crap now.”
“No,” he said.
“The geas. Issa rule. Bunch of rules. No magic affecting another without contract. Supposed to protect you lot. An’ its magic, too, enforced. I break the geas, foom!” She waved her hands in the air. “No more Senne.”
“I see,” said John, not really seeing, “Thanks anyway, I guess.” He sighed and made to get up from the table.
There was a crash at the door and the sound of gunshots. The first shot hit the wall above John’s head. The second clipped his temple as he was diving to the floor in a panic. The third smashed Senne’s pint sending shards of glass and a spray of beer across the table. The fourth hit the witch in the arm, where it flattened into a thin disk of lead and fell to the floor.
“Ow!” she said, clutching her arm, and turned to the door. “That stung, you rear end in a top hat!” She raised her hand, fire dancing around the tips of her fingers. From outside came a scream and the sound of something hitting the floor.
There was a muffled argument outside the door. John thought he heard Senne's name mentioned a few times.
"You're not under contract, Senne, this doesn't involve you," shouted a woman from outside. She didn't sound terribly certain.
“Maria?! Is that you out there? Oh you can gently caress right off.”
“The gun might’ve been self-defense, but you can’t get involved without breaking geas, Senne,” shouted Maria. “We’ll let you leave, our business isn’t with you.”
“Friend of yours?” asked John from under the table. The wound on his forehead stung and blood was trickling down the side of his face.
“loving bitch,” muttered Senne.
“Are you quite sure you don’t want the job?”
Before she could say anything, there was another shout from outside. “Don’t try and be clever, Senne, just come out and let me do my job. There’s a good girl,” Maria said.
Senne growled. “Oh gently caress that bitch right in the ear. Right, you’ve got a deal. You owe me.”
“All the beer you can drink,” said John. “But, what about the contract?”
“That?” Senne grinned broadly. “Well, don’t tell anyone my little secret, but the geas isn’t actually very smart…”
There was a scraping on the table above John’s head, and then a beermat was thrust in his face.
“Sign this,” said Senne, waving it at him. “In blood.”
“What?” he asked, staring at the soggy square of cardboard in confusion.
“Just do it. Don’t need to be pretty, just a thumbprint is fine.”
John shrugged, then wiped his thumb through the blood running down his face and pressed it against the cardboard. Above him, Senne stood up and pushed her chair back.
“Right!” she said, cracking her knuckles. “You, stay down there.” She pointed at John. “And you, you prissy little bitch, don’t go anywhere.”
Under the table, John flipped the beermat over in his hands. On the other side, over an advert for Hobgoblin Beer, Senne had written “Contract” and scrawled something that might’ve been a signature. He turned it over again, but there was nothing else on it other than his bloody thumbprint.
He heard the crackling of fire, and peeked out from behind the table just in time to see Senne, flame wreathing her body, stalking out of the bar like an avenging angel. There was a panicked scream from outside, shouts, the sounds of people running and then a series of ‘thuds’ as bodies hit the floor.
Senne walked back in, grinning ear to ear. "That was fun," she said, then turned to the bartender. "More beer! He's paying."
"Is that it?" he asked, when they were seated again.
"Oh yes," Senne said. "None of them will be bothering you again, I promise you that. I told you I was the best."
"No you didn't," said John. "You said just the opposite."
"I lied," she said, and drained another pint.
|# ¿ Jun 1, 2014 22:11|
Kalan and the horse
When Kalan awoke one morning, because he desired to understand freedom, he decided he would be a horse. And so he was a horse, and ran across the steppes with the wind in his mane and the grass rolling beneath his hooves.
Kalan-the-horse ran across the plains for that day, and slept standing in the shelter of a tree. He ran across the plains the next day, chasing the sun, and rested at the bank of a stream.
When Kalan-the-horse awoke the next morning, there was a halter around his neck and a man led him by a rope until they reached a village. Kalan thought to seek freedom, but the horse knew not how to find it, and so he acknowledged his servitude and learned to obey the man for many moons.
When the horse awoke one morning, because he desired to understand captivity, he decided he would be a man. And so he was Kalan, and put aside the halter, and was enlightened.
|# ¿ Jun 2, 2014 10:13|
Double-postin' like I just don't care...
Ay, Jeza. Ay, Meeple. I hereby call this brawl...
“I thought the whole tortured artist stereotype went out of fashion last century,” I told Hirst as I filled her bowl with the cheapest catfood I’d been able to find. “Nice to know starving’s still en vogue, though.” The biscuits were starting to look more and more appetising compared to an endless diet of instant noodles, especially after the week I’d been having.
“Mrowww,” she said back, then lowered her head and crunched her way through supper.
I munched my way through the bowl of lightly spiced cardboard at my desk, staring yet again at the statuette this Malcolm guy had given me for “inspiration”. He was a weird one, somehow weirder than the endless trickle of e-mails from would-be clients trying to persuade me to paint whatever their fetish-de-jour was. Still, he was paying well - enough up-front that I could make rent only a few days late this month - and that was something to treasure for all the headaches it was giving me.
The statue was oil-slick black, a naked man standing arms akimbo and glaring at the viewer from beneath heavy eyebrows. I wasn’t sure what kind of inspiration I was supposed to take from this, truth be told, but that’s what Malcolm had asked for and I hadn’t argued. I turned it around a few times, staring through it more than at it.
Supper didn’t last long, but I sat for a long while swirling my spoon around the empty bowl and staring at the statuette. I’d been sitting on it for two days, trying to drag inspiration from my brain onto the screen, but my mind was staying resolutely blank. I was starting to wonder whether there might’ve been something in the wormwood and opium plan after all.
Hirst broke me out of my morose thoughts in her usual way, walking across the desk and wrapping her tail around my arm. I yawned, the spell broken, and realised how tired I was all of a sudden.
“I’ll sleep on it,” I told her. “Maybe something will come to me.” She purred and followed me to the bed at the other end of what I laughably called my studio, curling up by my feet.
Sitting in the tiny attic room amidst the chalk circles, I judged enough time had passed and reached out across the city, following the black strand connecting me to the statue I’d given him. I could sense him, sleeping not far from where the obsidian focus lay. Trusting little idiot, I thought, as my awareness drifted over to his unconscious form.
With stolen fragments of dream I painted a picture of hell in his sleep. The beast hungered, ever-present in my mind as I worked. He was an easy mark, this one, his mind so thick with regret and buried pain that I barely had to dig at all.
I dredged up faces from his past - there was an ex-girlfriend, a name dripping with hurt and regret mixed with longing. I painted her face with blood and tore a scream from her lips before dropping her into his thoughts. Now his parents, memories awash with disapproval and shame; I paraded them before him, back and forth like puppets under my hands, before slaughtering them like cattle. The beast snarled its approval as I watch him twitch and shake, drifting in and out of sleep and falling further and further towards the darkness.
I slept so badly that night, tossing and turning, waking and drifting off again until the poor cat gave up in disgust and stalked off to sleep on top of the couch. Every time I’d managed to drift off, some new nightmare reared its ugly head to torment me.
None of the dreams stayed with me in their entirety on waking, leaving me with only lingering fears and cold sweat drenching my sheets. I remembered snippets, fragments, faces and sounds, and the bits I could remember left me terrified of what else I'm been dreaming.
Emily was there in one horrible fragment, blood streaming down her cheeks from empty eye sockets, leaving me heartsick and nauseous in equal measure. Other scenes drifted in and out of my my mind as I ate dry cereal: my parents, crucified and dying slowly; a sickening, metallic feeling in my mouth as I tried to stop my intestines spilling out through a gaping wound in my stomach; the world swimming in and out of focus as darkness like oil trickled over my sight.
I drowned the memories in coffee and forced myself back to the computer.
I almost had him. One more sleep and his soul would belong to the beast. I waited impatiently for him to rest again, but I got no sense of his dreams that night. The next day I drank endless coffee, paced around my tiny room, never wanting to be more than a few strides from the circle in case he finally succumbed to sleep.
I savoured the delicious taste of his tortured soul, the beast pacing hungrily in the back of my mind. Soon, I told it, soon.
I worked like a man possessed on that piece. The previous night’s broken, fragmented sleep had left me more tired than when I’d first lain down but my brain was full of dark inspiration. I hunched over my computer all morning, ate at my desk and continued late into the night. I was barely conscious of what I was painting on my tablet, it just flowed in a daze. By the time I surfaced, it was well into the early hours of the next morning. Rubbing sleep from my eyes, I staggered to the kitchen and made another pot of coffee. Hirst got a handful of biscuits thrown in a bowl; I didn't even stop to feed myself. The work called me, my fingers itched to get back to it.
I would’ve been working late into that evening too if Hirst hadn’t finally decided she’d waited long enough for supper. She made her displeasure known with a warning “mrrrp” and a dash across the keyboard in front of me. I swore and chased her off the desk, but by then the damage was done - the statuette was on the floor, broken clean in half, and the work on my screen had been flood-filled a fetching shade of flamingo pink.
I picked up the broken statue and stared at it hopelessly; the inside was gritty and matte, laced with dark red veins. I stomped up and down the tiny room in a rage, alternating between cursing the cat and bemoaning my fate. Eventually I slumped back down in my chair and started mentally rehearsing my apologies to Malcolm.
Putting the fragments of statue down, I turned back to the computer and undid Hirst's vandalism. What was on the screen made me retch with disgust. Demonic figures cavorted amongst the shattered, dismembered remains of human figures. Blood and ichor rained down on tormented faces, tortured bodies, every atrocity rendered in loving detail. It was monstrous; had I really created that? I could scarcely believe it. In revulsion I closed the file unsaved and turned away from the computer.
I'd just have to return Malcolm's advance and apologise, I decided, feeling a weight drop off my shoulders. It would be a tight month, but I’d survive. I spun my chair back around and flipped the business card he'd left me out from behind my keyboard - it was completely blank. Bemused, I sat back in my chair and closed my eyes for a moment. Sleep claimed me instantly, this time blessedly dreamless.
The beast was growling at me angrily. Too long, its hunger whispered to me. Feed me. Nervously, I retreated to the centre of my circle, sketching new wards in chalk on the rough wooden floorboards. I reached out along the link, sending my mind questing out in search of my prey. He was working still - I could taste his mind, thick and cloying on my tongue like honey. The beast growled again behind my eyes. Wait, I told it, just wait until he sleeps and he's ours.
The vision wavered, my link tenuous while he remained awake. As I clutched at the black strand with my mind, it suddenly snapped with a crack like thunder. The shock threw me physically backwards, tumbling over the floor until I landed up against the wall. Dazed, I tried to make sense of what had happened. The focus was gone, the link broken, the prey fled.
I HUNGER, screamed the beast, its anger at being denied overwhelming me. My vision swam, grew black, and all I could feel was its teeth behind my eyes, sharp as razors and cold as ice.
|# ¿ Jun 2, 2014 14:19|
I hear sirens are cool these days
Also crits the first
My optimistic plan to write crits in lunchbreaks this week has been scuppered by a sudden plague of meetings, so these are shorter and less full of sarcastic assholeness than I originally intended. If people want some more detailed crits, I could probably manage a couple over the weekend, so first two to ask get them.
D.O.G.O.G.B.Y.N. - The Elaboration
In brief: Urgh, what’s going on here? I couldn’t make sense of it first read-through; it made more sense the second time but in trying to depict a character with a head-injury, concussion and memory loss I feel equally confused. I really hate the intro, the whole “I don’t know what I’m doing or seeing” perspective irks a great deal. It reads like an authorial self-insert rant about how you dislike/don’t get the cover you got landed with.
Prose: Choppy, suffering from a crippling case of ellipsisitis… Prose like that always makes me read it in the style of William Shatner, which is not generally what you want to be shooting for. Not very pleasant to read, but no egregious typos or editorial mistakes.
Story: There’s a story and a character goal buried under there, but somehow I don’t care enough about the character to get invested in it. Could’ve done with more motivation; the “character recites this tale of things he did” style detaches the reader too far.
Prompt: Literal interpretation of the cover (though see previous comment about self-insert rant). Rather a sidelong glance at “discovery”.
Whalley - Too Soon
Mid-pack, maybe high
In brief: Oh hey, it’s time for another “Look at these wacky mythical creatures in their parody of human life, and watch how they don’t understand our world” entry. Not a fan of the genre, personally, but this one’s actually not terrible and you did tell a story in there rather than blowing your entire wordcount on “look at this wacky thing I came up with”.
Prose: Odd aversion to ‘said’, it’s all “Dialogue.” Action. “Dialogue.” The dialect was actually pretty well executed - I didn’t have to waste too much energy trying to translate from Skeleton-Speak into English, which is a far-too-common pitfall this type of story can fall into. No major blunders, though.
Story: There’s a cute little story in here, but it’s not very substantial.
Prompt: Uses the image, discovery involved. Good.
Obliterati - From the Mouths of Babes
In brief: I see you’ve watched/read Babe then. It’s a sweet little story but a big too ambiguous for what it’s trying to tell. There’s a few places where I’m not clear quite what’s going on. Is this an alternative England where sheep-pigs are a real thing, or is this the story of a little girl who doesn’t realise pigs can’t herd sheep? Why does El ask for “Leather this time” when the existing saddle is supposed to be leather? PS That’s totally not a proper English postcode, and I have no idea if that’s intentional or not.
Prose: “El used to feed her off scraps at table: Ma had put her foot down on that though and these days we just put a fourth plate out.” Probably wants a semi-colon, or a full-stop, or “, but”. Also I assume the fourth plate actually gets put under the table, which isn’t immediately obvious. Not much else to say - nothing awesome, nothing terrible.
Story: I can’t tell if the story is supposed to be “pig doesn’t get sent to the butcher” or “pig doesn’t get sent to sheeppig school, which is a real thing”. I sort of assume the former, but because it’s a bit too ambiguous I don’t get any sense of danger there. It just reads like a young girl off in her own world, only there’s a pig.
Prompt: Pig involved, check. Discovery, not really. Half marks.
Nikaer Drekin - To Commune with the Moon
In brief: Hrm, sceptical native american introduces naive white woman to the true nature of spirits, only spirits are all drunk assholes. Then they go on a date at a pancake house. It’s one of those ideas that can either be cool or just come across as “Look how wacky I am! Woooo!”. This is tilting a bit too much to the latter for me, mostly because the conversation with the moons was unpleasant to read. Also the names “Cress” and “Gibby” are horrible, which is possibly why I hated that section.
Prose: I don’t think “Buster” deserves a capital, a few more ellipses than strictly necessary, but no obvious punctuation/editing fuckups. “He flexed the muscles in his mind, opening his hidden senses.” I really hope this means the dude is actually Flex Mentallo, otherwise urgh. Pedestrian bordering on purple, which is either intentionally in-keeping with the subject matter or a terrible missed opportunity to take it completely the opposite way. Given we’re watching this from Moon’s perspective, I’m going to go with the latter and mark down a few points there.
Story: Stuff happened, only the moons are jerks. It reads a bit more like an inverse morality play than a story. Not awful, but not really gripping and I didn’t care much about the characters.
Prompt: Picture, check. Discovery, yup, moons indeed jerks. Stuck to the prompt well.
Fumblemouse - I made it out of clay
In brief: A weak opening, a neat bit in the middle, and a weak ending. Both the start and the end feel rushed and put detail in the wrong place. I like the concept, but it would’ve been nice to include more back-references to Jewish golem folk-tales, as I assume that’s what they were intended to be.
Prose: A few flat notes (hur hur) - a lot of “seemed to” and “somehow”s. I don’t like “You can see on their hats, they’re only here to ‘protect’ me.” as the reveal for the new command word - actually, I hate it. No fuckups though.
Story: There’s a reasonable story in there, but seems rushed. The ending needed more words and explanation, it felt unclear to me quite how the fourth drummer was still going, or what Rachel planned on doing next (okay, so you’ve threatened to kill your grandma, now what?). Really, I just didn’t get a nice wrapup from that.
Prompt: Picture, check. Discovery, check. Bonus points for almost adhering the IRC demand for a story about a jewish flautist sending her golem armies to destroy the church (even if I can't even remember if you were around for that).
God Over Djinn - The Sadhu of East St. Louis
High, HM maybe
In brief: That was a pretty good recovery from a weird-rear end cover, though it’s pretty hard to play “guy walks around with his arm in the air the whole time” straight. I assume the ending is supposed to imply either the protagonist achieves enlightenment, or stops caring about it and puts his hand back down, and then they all hug and make up and it’s cool. As a random aside, I had to google Sadhu which is weird because it’s the surname of one of my co-workers. I’m pretty certain he’s not an Indian mystic, though.
Prose: The first-person present tense goes well until it suddenly skips a large, indeterminate amount of time in the middle (“Now every time I go to the 7-11 she calls me Hindu Man. I am still a Christian, I want to say, but I don’t.“) which makes it hard for me to keep track of where we are. Later on we get to “Sunday”, so maybe it wasn’t that much time after all? How often does he go into the 7-11 anyway? Other than that, which is frankly only a single niggle, it’s very good writing and sticks to the tone throughout.
Story: There’s two stories here, or one story and a huge digression, and I’m not sure which is being told. There’s “protagonist wants to see his son, but is too scared to leave town (for reasons not entirely explained)”, which seems to be the real story, then there’s “protagonist walks around with his hand in the air to achieve enlightenment”, which occupies the majority of the wordcount but just peters out at the end. I feel the balance is off here.
Prompt: Picture, definite check - I could believe someone had done the cover for the story rather than vice-versa, so I like that. Discovery is a bit more tangential - if you squint, it’s there, but it’s not so strong.
Anomalous Blowout - What the Young Lady Learned
In brief: A really long setup for a “and then I got high” joke. I quite like the lampooning of terrible infodump fantasy in the opening paragraph, but the juxtaposition of cliche fantasy and modern slang doesn’t work for me (blunt, roach, etc). It reads a bit like a teenager retelling a boring fantasy story and trying to make it more interesting.
Prose: My major gripe is the inclusion of current-day slang in the fantasy setting. The narrator’s voice is so modern teenager it hurts, and really clunky in places.
Story: Though there’s a story (protag is pissed at her father, concocts plan, fucks up cos she got high) it doesn’t grip me. Needed more work on motivation and planning, setting up some tension, rather than a quick whistle-stop tour of the plot points in between all the narration.
Prompt: Yup, the cover art showed up in the climax, so that hit. Discovery is a bit “and then they discovered teenagers on drugs are dumb lol”, but not terrible.
dmboogie - Nathan Reeve and the Mysterious Pyramid
In brief: Space Indiana Jones, with even more implausible coincidences and luck. Bad sci-fi ahoy! There’s a lot of sci-fi cliche and bad writing in here.
Prose: There’s some really dire prose in here, in the hackneyed sci-fi school. Plenty of words wasted telling us how drat cool the protagonist is and how the setting works, rather than showing anything. There’s even a heroic quip and an implausible escape from having a gun pointed at him. “From the look in this woman’s eyes, Nathan could tell she wasn’t overly concert with repubility." strikes me as the pinnacle of this story, which is to say proof-read your poo poo please.
Story: Guy is cool, space is cool, Anomaly Adventurer is a cool job, then suddenly drama! Only there’s not really anything to overcome
Prompt: The guy on the cover art doesn’t look much like Space Indiana Jones, forced explanation in the intro paragraph aside. Discovery, check.
kaishai - The Ocean’s Daughter
In brief: Good writing telling a slice-of-life with nothing to grab it. There’s no progression, barely any obstacles to overcome, just a telling of events as they happen. It reads like the prologue to a novel, rather than a piece of fiction in its own right. I ranked it highly purely because the prose itself is really good.
Prose: Very good, you write well and it shows here. The visuals are crystal clear without falling into purple prose, I liked that. I don’t much like your use of dashes in the closing scene - “A new wave lifted the boat high, and when she came down again--no dog in sight, no barking she could hear over the rain.” especially. An ellipsis would work fractionally better there, but honestly trying to show the “...and then…” with that sentence structure just doesn’t work for me, and I think you should reword.
Story: There’s not much of a curve to the story, just history/backstory for ages, then pootling about in a boat, and then a storm and poo poo the dog’s dead.
Prompt: Picture, check - girl and dog indeed in boat for at least half the story. Discovery, eh, not so much. Bit of a tangential hit again.
systran - How I Learned I Was Gay
In brief: The Thunderdome tradition of inappropriate erections continues. Alternatively, “lol dicks”.
Prose: A lot of the bodybuilding equivalent of technobabble, but it sounds plausible so I’ll assume you did your research (or are, in fact, swole). The “girls are icky” parts were telegraphed way, way too hard even without the title; you could’ve dialled them back a ton and got much better effect.
Story: There’s a story here, sort of, only it doesn’t resolve so well as you just get near the end and then “gently caress it, boner joke”.
Prompt: “This cover art is so goddamn homoerotic and I hate Tyrannosaurus.” But you did write something that hit the cover and was about discovery.
Gau - A Dog is for Life
in brief: Didn’t we have Forced Dog Perspective brawl a while back? You spend most of the story showing how Dog thinks and does Dog Things in its Dog Way, but there isn’t much action. As a reader I spend most of my time trying to translate from Dog back to English, which is briefly engaging but doesn’t make a story. I did like that “couldn’t smell” was the first and most important thing Indy lost when falling in the water.
Prose: So you can write okay-ish Dog, though see previous comment that that’s not enough to carry everything. The prose isn’t ideal, though, plenty of opportunity to cut extraneous words and tighten it up. Typo at the end of the fourth para (pour instead of poured).
Story: This is the weakness, most of this is just “stuff happens” and even the end is “bad stuff happens”.
Prompt: Picture, check, though the general tone of the cover doesn’t fit your story’s visuals very well. Discovery, nope, not really.
Meeple fucked around with this message at 15:55 on Jun 12, 2014
|# ¿ Jun 12, 2014 13:46|
|# ¿ Jun 14, 2014 00:15|
Malcolm watched the flames with a frown on his face, the orange light cutting deep shadows across his brow. Sitting cross-legged on the rooftop beside him, Shauna rubbed her hands together in glee.
“Come to momma, you bastards,” she said. An unravelling braid of optical fibres ran across the concrete rooftop from the open service cabinet to the patch panel on her lap. From there a cable ran up to the jack embedded in her left forearm. “C’mon, c’mon…”
“I don’t be liking this,” said Malcom after a while. “There were better ways.”
“Not your ‘white hat’ bitchin’ again.” Shauna’s hands clutched impatiently at the air.
“Ain’t be what that meanin’, girl, and you know it.”
“Don’t care what you call it, old man, you and your ‘better ways’ is just bein’ scared of doing what needs done for the job. Ain’t what you’re here for, so shut yerself up and let me work.”
Across the street, the flames were crawling up the walls of the office block. There was a burst of staccato pops as the windows, one by one, cracked in the heat.
“‘Sides, I got ‘em,” she said, her voice rising. “Backup alarm in the server room finally tried to call for daddy.” Her hands flexed in mid-air, the visor over her left eye painting half her face with flickering light. “Got me instead.”
Malcolm watch silently.
“There,” she said eventually, pulling the cable from her arm. The visor went dark, letting the neon green sunburst of her retinal tattoo show through. “Got it, time to scram.” She stood, the mat of cables on her lap falling to the rooftop.
Shauna walked casually off to the fire escape. Behind her Malcolm lingered, watching the fire burn with his hands buried in his pockets.
“What the loving gently caress d’you go and do that for, you loving idiot?” Shauna shouted. “Calling in the fire? You want you should call the cops too, tell ‘em there’s been a data breach, maybe tell ‘em to come find us too?”
“You’d gone cut off the fire alarm,” Malcolm said calmly, leaning against the concrete wall of the tiny room. “Were the right thing to be done.”
“Bullshit! Time’s changed, old man, ain’t no place for your pussyin’ out any more.”
“There always be time an’ place for decency,” said Malcolm quietly.
“Like gently caress there is. You’re spoilt, you are, grew up when this poo poo was easy and never learned better. If you’d hosed up,” she jabbed a finger towards his chest, “when you were a kid you’d’ve gotten six months on a plea bargain. You gently caress up these days and they find your body a month later.”
She threw a memory chip at Malcolm’s feet, the rubberised casing bouncing off the floor. "There's the loving data, decrypt it and get the gently caress out of here so I don't have to put up with your bullshit any more."
"Feelin' be mutual, girl," Malcolm said. The chip slotted into a port on his arm and he closed his eyes, the world vanishing in a flash of static. Data scrolled past; he fed it to another piece of software armed with a stolen cache of encryption keys and opened his eyes.
"Data look okay," he said, blinking a few times to clear the afterimages. "Five minutes passin' and we know if it were what we needed."
"Good," Shauna said. She was leaning against the back wall now, arms folded, expression stormy behind the half-visor. Malcolm watched the reflected light of the visor as it played over her cheek, lines of text in miniature wrapped across her eye socket.
The silence was broken by a chime in Malcolm's ear. He closed his eyes again. "God were no merciful today," he said. "Data ain't being what we were there for."
He opened his eyes again to Shauna glaring down at him, fists clenched. "You're making GBS threads me," she said angrily. "Check again."
Malcolm shrugged. "Be what it is, no doubting. Keys check out, data's none but decoy."
"poo poo." She turned away, started pacing angrily up and down the small room. "We're hosed. Main data-centre's toast and Fukisha-Abrahams probably locked down their backups and offlined them as soon as they heard. poo poo," she repeated.
"We needs be finding the data or Johnson no be happy, friend or no," Malcolm said. "Said I be helping with the keys alone, but Johnson no be forgivin' me if we return empty-handed."
"Yeah, no fuckin' poo poo he won't be happy. Give me a week and I could find someone on the inside to break, or if this were a bigger job we'd be all in guns blazing and crack 'em from the inside. But no, I'm stuck with an old man with a fuckin' conscience and no time for plan B. loving hell." She slumped against the wall. "Best we can do is find Johnson tomorrow, pay penalty, take our lumps and pray he's in a generous mood. poo poo. Knew this was a bad job."
"You got no other ways that don't involve wetware or guns?" Malcolm sighed. "Always be a better way, should be knowing by now."
"Well if you think you know a better way, you can be my loving guest. Me, I'm off to go practice my best loving apologies and arse-licking face." She stormed out, slamming the steel door behind her.
“Be no worse sin in all creation than pride,” whispered Malcolm to himself as he crouched in the dark alleyway. He felt around inside the lock with the springy metal picks. “Be no escaping it neither.” A tremor ran up the pick to his fingers and the lock turned. He cracked the door open with painstaking slowness and slipped into the narrow corridor within.
A memorised map led him through a network of identical corridors and rooms until he reached a service panel, no different in appearance from any other. He slipped a cable loose from the ordered chaos behind the panel, wrapped the splice over it and pressed down. Sharp blades pierced the plastic coating, separated the wires within and clamped into place. He dropped the data-tap hanging from the other end of the splice into the cabinet and closed it up.
Slumped against the wall of the street opposite, Malcolm could've been any vagrant drifting away on vodka fumes. Under the hat, his eyes twitched behind his eyelids, and his fingers stuffed deep in his coat pockets danced.
Icons flashed in his vision as the data-tap called home, a bright beacon on a grey overlay of the surrounding data-space. Hovering nearby was a pulsing swarm of red, waiting hungrily. He let the virus loose.
Worms of red light spread through a dense forest of annotated trees. One by one the trees dimmed out as the red passed them, the code probing and failing to find its target. He turned off the visualisation, watching page after page of logs scroll past instead. The repeating patterns, fractionally varying every time, drifted past in a soothing wave.
He lost track of time. Finally the flow stopped, the lines ending at a blinking cursor, a filename. A twitch of his finger and the data started flowing. Switching focus, he backed the rest of the virus out, wiping trails behind him, leaving decoys in their place.
He opened his eyes and powered off. Hat pulled down low, he slouched off into the drizzle.
"Always be a way, got you the eyes to see it," he said to air.
|# ¿ Jun 15, 2014 23:01|
Late, but not forgotten. Crits the second
docbeard - Permafrost
In brief: I didn’t get the ending until the second read-through, so I think you were being a bit too subtle with what Tess intended (nowhere do either of them mention what I’m assuming is an attempt at cryogenic stasis; my first read was “attempting to get out to the lake above before it freezes”). Otherwise, I like it.
Prose: There’s some odd clunky phrases that detract from some otherwise very solid writing (Ty’s already called you on “The tremor from the explosion below them threatened to knock them off their feet, but it was all talk.”, but I don’t like it either, or the paragraph of history/exposition about Tess’ father).
Story: Once I got what was happening, this was good - about all I might suggest is cutting a few words on worldbuilding to focus a little more on Tess’ transition from cocky tomb raider to someone facing their death.
Prompt: Good take on an awkward cover art, and nice discovery (multiple discoveries, in fact).
WeLandedOnTheMoon! - Trophy Hunting in El Paso
In brief: I’m not really sure what was going on in your story, which is a shame as I think there’s a neat concept hiding underneath somewhere. There’s a lot of clunky writing and dialogue here, unfortunately, and so the idea is lost in it.
Prose: Pretty bad. Your dialogue lacks natural flow (try reading Daddy’s monologue out loud, it sounds horribly stilted), and your phrasing is all over the place. There’s too much for me to pick up in a brief summary, but you need to tighten up your descriptions of action and cut out a lot of extraneous cruft.
Story: The concept is neat, and there’s a bit of a story, but the way you tell it is clumsy and loses much of the impact. The ending is weird; you leave the protagonist in danger again without any resolution.
Prompt: Cover, check. Discovery, check, though not very well explained.
magnificent7 - THEM CREEPY rear end TREES
In brief: Entenzan did a much better fantasy-as-delusions story last week, which doesn’t help. It’s not an exhausted trope, but you didn’t use it to tell a story in either the delusional fantasy world or the real world. There’s also a lot of awkward crowbarring to get things to fit; Annette’s out of breath, but why would they be running in the real world?
Prose: It’s not immediately obvious what you’re doing with the interspersed italics (the first ‘bound’ looks like it’s emphasis in a sentence, not an alternative interpretation), and so they really fall a bit flat until much later in the story. I think you could’ve either cut them, or made it far more obvious that your protagonist is having flashes of lucidity. The fact that later in the story there are obvious real-world descriptions that aren’t italicised adds to the confusion - if you’re going to go with this, go all-in, or you’ll just confuse the reader.
Story: What story? As I said in the beginning, there wasn’t really any story in either world. Feeling from giants maybe, only not; daughter visiting her not-with-it father. Neither of these have anything to recommend them to the reader.
Prompt: Cover, check. Discovery? It’s a bloody big stretch to get any sense of discovery from this.
Blade of Tyshalle - For Every Moment of Truth, There's Confusion in Life
Low, maybe DM.
In brief: Probably the most literal possible ‘talking heads’ story imaginable, as it really is just heads on a webcam. Also wacky monsters! And a big reveal! This reads like an immature joke entry.
Prose: Not awful, your dialogue is campy but doesn’t grate too much.
Story: There isn’t one, it’s just a slice-of-life with talking heads. I don’t have any reason to care about the protagonist, so I don’t, I just watch her have an awkward conversation and then you throw a dumb, wacky joke at me and I hate you.
Prompt: I don’t know who the people on the cover are, because they very obviously aren’t the characters in your story based on your description. Like, seriously, your opening few paras explicitly contradict the cover art (Dad’s hair colour, presumed protagonist’s hair length). There was a discovery, at least.
In brief: Lots of slices of life on top of each other! But no actual character with an objective and a challenge to overcome, just a lot of poo poo that happens. That said, you handled the constant time jumps remarkably well - admittedly by beating the reader about the head with them - and avoided the confusing mess that often follows that sort of writing, and you wrote something genuinely interesting for all that it didn't tell much of a story.
Prose: "Sorry, I'm trying to quitting.", otherwise no obvious fuckups. Your depictions of Cedric when he was high are good, though I’d lose a few exclamation marks from when he’s got the joke towards the end. It also took me two reads to work out that the final paragraph isn’t chronologically following the penultimate one, as your blunt-hammer of a signal falls down there.
Story: There wasn’t much of one, which let it down a lot, as the writing’s pretty strong.
Prompt: I’m not sure if you were interpreting the leaves on the cover as weed, but otherwise there’s not much to say for it so you hit that. Discovery is, hmm, a bit tangential again.
Kalyco - Yellow Arrows
In brief: Portal fantasy, without actually even using the usual cliche of a naive real-worlder having the fantasy world explained to them in a massive infodump. Also why does Khalen/Khalin act like a fantasy world character and then say he comes from LA? Nothing much happened, there wasn't any motivation of characterisation to make me care, so I didn't.
Prose: Khalen/Khalin’s name changes, which is never a good start. The dialogue is a bit stilted, and none of the characters feel very different in voice.
Story: Yet again this week, nothing really happens that makes me care about the character. She wanders off under her house, ends up in FantasyLand, eats waffles, comes home again. The bit about the yellow arrows just feels way too cute and a bit forced in, like you’d decided you liked the concept before you wrote the rest of the story and were going to bloody well get it in there somehow.
Prompt: If you squint, the cover art might be relevant, but not much - I’m not sure who the guy in blue is supposed to be in your story, Teacher? Discovery, check.
Echo Cian - Twilight Blue
In brief: I rescued a jackdaw fledgeling the other day so this wins soft-spot points for me, which is about all you’ve got going for it at times. The prose was so loving purple I couldn’t tell what was going on in places, so lay off the metaphor and try actually showing us what’s going on rather than casting vague allusions.
Prose: Yuck. I genuinely found it hard to tell what was going on in places, which means you’re not doing a very good job of telling me a story. Stop trying to be flowery and poetic, just show us what’s happening.
Story: Behind the prose, the story wasn’t bad. Caleb was a bit too distant to be truly likable, though, so I didn’t care a huge amount about what’s happening.
Prompt: Cover, check. Discovery, check. No complaints there.
Schneider Heim - What My Aunt Left Me
In brief: MomSnark™ lost it for me completely, it was doing okay until then. I just can’t actually find anything much to say about this story, it’s aggressively mediocre (or suffering from being near the end of the list), sorry.
Prose: Mostly okay, but has some real low points - ‘choco’ is a weird abbreviation I’ve never heard or seen used personally, though I was prepared to write it off as a family dialect; ‘"Do you not like it?" young Aunt Cecilia said.' reads really clunky; you could stand to cut a bunch of unnecessary adjectives; stop cutting out half-way through conversations because you can’t be bothered to finish them. The dialogue at the beginning is horribly jerky in tone, it goes from “no gently caress you mum” to “oh I’m sorry, at least she made nice hot chocolate” to ‘and then we emotionally abused each other on the phone for another hour’. I just don’t find it believable.
Story: Trite and cliched, but not awful. I actually really liked the flashback way of telling the meat of the story.
Prompt: Literal retelling of the original story, which wasn’t really what was asked for. I didn’t care as much as Tyrannosaurus did about that flaw, but there it is. Discovery, check.
Bad Seafood - All Expenses Paid
In brief: +1, appropriate wordcount. -100, everything else. There’s no story here and it reads like a (bad) joke entry, though at least you’re doing better than Tyshalle or systran this week on that front.
Prose: First big paragraph is ugly as all hell; thirteen not thirteenth, clunky backstory, we spend a whole paragraph describing how important the watch is and then it just gets dropped like it’s hot and it’s gone. The writing’s generally not too bad, and in another story the tone of the narrator and the characters would be fun and enjoyable as you realised them very well in the limited space they had. Please do an edit pass next time, though (ps it’s “anti-materiel”).
Story: Aaand nothing happens again. I don’t care about the characters, I don’t really care what’s going on, because the writing’s focussing on a section in the middle where nothing much happens. I don’t even care that Ottoway would rather fall to his death than reach the end, because I sort of sympathise with him at this point.
Prompt: Yup, angel carrying dudes, I don’t see a book but the dude on the left looks disinterested enough to be Caiman. Discovery, sort of.
Sitting Here - For the Love of a Mountain
In brief: A very nice story, but the last paragraph let it down for me and thus soured it a bit. It’s a novel story and a good take on the weird cover you got given.
Prose: Last para didn’t do it for me; misspelled ‘whim’ and one huge run-on sentence bursting at the seams with commas (9, and it starts with “But” too). I get that it’s in keeping with the style you were setting, but became too hard to parse.
Story: Novel, nice, complete. I like it and there’s nothing much more to say here.
Prompt: Cover, check, good take on an awkward image. Discovery, a bit less so, unless you count discovering men are bastards. A bit weaker than some.
|# ¿ Jun 16, 2014 14:20|
CALLING MY TAG PARTNER
Disgruntled Euro Time Crew represent!
|# ¿ Jun 16, 2014 22:39|
My character was going to be a black attache case that was getting real sick of all this poo poo, and just wanted a quiet retirement in an attic or the back of a wardrobe somewhere, but Seafood said I couldn't so you'll just have to imagine how awesome it would've been instead. I suppose it would've gotten a bit awkward if someone had tried to kill my character off...
Instead you can have this guy:
Barry 'Baz' Richards is, in his own words, "just a guy who does stuff, like. It's a job, innit?" A small-time London crook and shady 'entrepreneur', he wound up in Los Grano D'oro a few years back after a spectacularly convoluted plan gone wrong (he refuses to talk about it), and has been scraping by ever since.
|# ¿ Jul 1, 2014 08:58|
Docbeard/Muffin vs Entenzahn/Meeple Tag Team Thunderbrawl: Unnatural Disaster
Given to the Stars
The hand Natalia held was damp with sweat. It wasn’t like her dad’s hand - it was rough and worn, with callouses in unfamiliar places, and dad never gripped her hand with such intensity - but it was the only comforting thing amidst the crush and the noise and the stench. Line after line of weary people, their lives bundled on their backs, snaked back and forth across floor of the enormous terminal building. An argument started on the other side of the room, voices raised in anger and fear; Natalia ducked back behind the man’s legs until it was hidden from sight.
“Papers, please,” said a tired monotone in front of them. The legs stopped and Natalia bumped into them. She peered out to see two soldiers, one holding his hand out. The man who wasn’t dad reached into his jacket and handed the soldier a sheaf of papers and identity cards.
The soldier leafed through them. “Oh!” he said when he got to the cards. “General Malten, sir! I didn’t recognise you!” He stood to attention and saluted. “I served under you on the Malabriggo, sir.”
Natalia felt the man’s hand tense where it held hers.
“I’m retired now, private,” he said wearily. “It’s just Rick.”
“Right,” he said. “Sorry you have to come through with all the dregs now, sir.”
“The dregs, private, are refugees. And these ones,” he gestured to the line behind him, “are with coming off-world with me, on my ship.”
The soldier took a step backwards. “Sorry sir. Um. Through the scanner then, please.”
Rick gave Natalia’s hand a squeeze and led her toward the archway, a white plastic frame studded with polished metal domes. As they neared it, she felt the machine like a tickle inside her head. She could feel it sniffing at the part of her brain that always wanted to stretch out and reach for distant hills, the part that let her leap and hop in the blink of an eye no matter how often mum and dad told her not to let anyone see her. It felt cold and cruel in her mind, and she shrank against Rick’s side. When it let out a blaring alarm she almost jumped out of her skin.
Soldiers rushed towards them both in a thump and a clatter of boots and guns. All around eyes turned towards them in terror, people shrank away, mothers shielded their children. “Psyker,” she heard the whispers.
“General?” The soldier who’d spoken to Rick walked through the arch, hand hovering over his holstered pistol.
“drat!” Rick slapped his forehead. “It’s me, Private, don’t worry! You can turn that thing off!” He pulled a locket out from under his shirt. “Here,” he said, “let me show you.” The soldier frowned, but waved his arm and the alarm cut off.
Rick let go of Natalia’s hand to unclasp the locket. Holding it in his hand, he pressed the edge and the pendant flipped open to show a photo of a young girl and a lock of hair, coiled tightly.
“Me and my sentimentality. Sometimes this thing sets off the detectors, they pick up the hair if they’re set too sensitive. You know how it is.”
He closed it back up and waved his hand through the archway. The alarm went off again. “See?” he said.
“Sir?” the soldier asked when the alarm had been silenced for a second time, his expression puzzled.
“Just a keepsake, Private,” Rick said, closing his hand around the locket. “She… was a psyker. Registered, of course. She’s gone now. I hope you understand.”
The soldier nodded hesitantly.
“Thank you, Private. We won’t keep you any longer.”
He walked quickly away from the soldiers, towards the big door to the outside. Natalia ran after him and grabbed his closed fist, clutching his hand in both of hers. His knuckles were white.
Space went on forever. Natalia stood in the corner of the observation lounge, nose pressed up against the windows, and stared at the distant points of light. There was a little pink one that felt fuzzy and a big fat green one that tasted of apples and hundreds and hundreds more, more than she’d ever seen before in her life.
It felt like she’d been staring at them forever when a little fast star that felt like the smell of wet dogs drifted across the sky. She watched as it grew bigger, not a star at all but an approaching ship that turned from a point into a blurry blob into a wall of machinery and blinking running lights. The wet-dog-feeling settled over her like a horrible, heavy blanket.
Rick walked between the soldiers as they led him across the docking tube and onto the interdictor SS Branhaum. More armed soldiers lined the docking bay, amidst them a tall, skinny man in a captain's uniform.
“Welcome aboard, Mister Maltern,” the captain said, the scorn unmistakable. Rick’s escort spread out to block the door behind him.
Rick sighed. “What’s this about, captain?”
“Orders of SpecInt,” said the captain with a smug smile. “Investigating rumours of smuggling unregistered psykers. Or perhaps they just wanted to know why a retired federation general is running around like some bleeding-heart do-gooder shuttling so-called Obnavrian ‘refugees’ off-world.”
Rick clenched his fists. “Those people have no homes left! Off-world, to haven planets, is the only chance they have.”
“Then they shouldn’t have harboured rebels, should they?” the captain said. “Not that they’ll reach another planet anyway, if SpecInt find any psykers aboard.”
He sneered and turned away. “Confine him to an empty cabin until SpecInt arrive.” Rick felt heavy hands descend on his shoulders.
Natalia sat buried in the bulk of the padded chair, the headset huge and heavy over her ears. Through it she could hear the voice of the pilot whispering soothingly. Emma, her name was. Natalia was proud she remembered.
“Remember what I showed you, Nat. Take us to Altoria and we’re safe home, untraceable. They can’t follow us if you do the jump because they won’t know where we’ve gone. You got it?”
“Yes,” Natalia said.
“You can see the star now, right?”
Natalia peered through the viewport. One faint star lay in the dead centre of it. “Yes. Smells a bit like grass.”
Emma laughed. “Good girl. Okay, keep smelling the grass then, and as soon as the interdiction field…”
“The dog blanket!” Natalia corrected her.
“Sorry, the dog blanket. As soon as the dog blanket goes away, you take us to that star. It’s like hopping yourself, only it’ll be a lot slower and a lot heavier. The ship’s engines will help, so don’t worry. I know you can do it.”
Natalia nodded enthusiastically, staring at the distant star and willing the smelly dog blanket to leave.
“Got it?” asked Emma after a long moment.
Natalia nodded again, the headset almost slipping off. “Oh, um, yes,” she said eventually. Around her the engines thrummed expectantly.
A small explosion shook the SS Branhaum. It wasn’t much, compared to the bulk of the warship, but given its location it didn’t need to be. It rocked Jerryck Malten as he stood on the observation deck, hands in his pockets, and smiled. It had been decades since he’d last had to sneak out of a cabin through the ventilation ducts; it was gratifying to know that federation warship design hadn’t changed much in the intervening years.
The smile broadened as he listened to the ever-present background hum of the interdiction engines abruptly trail off. Outside, through the viewports, he watched the ungainly bulk of the refugee transport pivot in space and suddenly become a streak of light, lancing out towards a distant star and vanishing again just as fast.
He smiled and waited for the soldiers to find him again.
|# ¿ Jul 3, 2014 22:51|
A deal's a deal
Baz was looking up at the overhead train track, watching the graffiti-scarred carriage rock its way across the city, when the attache case tumbled gracefully through the rain and struck him in the head. He fell backwards, sending a group of metal rubbish bins flying across the street in a clatter and a mess. The case landed a few feet away, looking none the worse for wear.
The briefcase looked vaguely familiar, insomuch as Baz was an expert on black attache cases that fell from the sky. He contemplated it as he lay on the grubby pavement, bins rattling a comedy drumroll behind him.
“You mind?” said a gruff voice from somewhere behind him. The smell of bin-stink grew even stronger.
“Not at all, mate, it’s very comfy down here,” Baz said with angry sarcasm. He craned his neck further up until a man in a hi-vis vest loomed upside-down in his vision. The fat man looked down at him, nudged him with a steel toe-capped boot.
“You drunk, boy?”
Baz tried to clamber to his feet, slipped on slime, fell, recovered again. “Do I look loving drunk to you? I…” he thought about the attache case, bit his tongue. “I fell, alright. Dropped, er, dropped my case. You seen it?”
“This?” The man held up the attache case, eyeing it and Baz with suspicion. “You don’t look much like the briefcase type, boy.”
“Yeah, I’m loving lawyer in disguise, ain’t I mate?” Baz snatched the case off him.
“If you say so,” said the man, turning to collect the fallen bins.
“Let me get this straight. You not know what in case. You not know how to open case. You not even know where case came from. And you want me buy this from you why?”
“Look, forget about the case mate, it’s not about the case. Issa mystery you’re buying, innit? Ain’t you curious? Don’t you wanna know what’s inside it? Could be a priceless artifact, like, or missing diamonds wanting reunited with their owner, or anything.”
“You are crazy, Englishman,” Dawei said. “I give you ten dollar, is no good to me but some stupid kid might buy it.”
“Ten? You’ve having a loving laugh mate. Two hundred, no less. Maybe it’s belongs to a businessman? He’ll give you top dollar to get it back, I’ll bet.”
“Twenty dollar, last offer.”
“Twenty, if you no like I call cops and you explain to them where you got case from.”
“gently caress you mate, just gently caress you. Fine, twenty, you loving cheapskate.”
Baz snatched the offered notes from the counter and slammed the case down.
“Wise man. Now gently caress off, I’m closing.” Dawei made the case vanish behind the counter and pointed to the door.
Baz slammed the door hard behind him on the way out setting the waterfall of brass bells tinkling. It was raining again, and curiosity trickled down his spine alongside the water.
Two hours later, Baz found himself scrambling down a rusty fire-escape that overlooked the back of Dawei’s shop. A steady stream of complaint and curses trailed behind him like a comet tail.
“Stupid fuckin’ chink, if he don’t value it he won’t miss it.” He sidled slowly along the handguard to get past a section where all the steps had fallen away. Wet flakes of rust dug into the palms of his hand, staining them brown. “He can give the bloody thing back and I’ll find out what’s in it myself.” The metal creaked beneath him.
“‘Twenty dolla’ my arse,” he said, then: “gently caress! loving cheap oval office needs to repair his poo poo!” as the handrail gave way under his weight, bending with deceptive sloth to deposit him in a heap on the turn of stairs below. The deep boom reverberate for a long time in the canyon between buildings and Baz held his breath, pressing himself against the metal.
After a long wait, he concluded that either nobody had heard him or nobody cared, and slowly pulled himself upright again. He winced at a stab of pain from his ankle and hobbled down the last few steps to the bottom landing. The retractable ladder down to the enclosed yard below had long since retracted into a pile of amorphous rust. He kicked at it angrily; a chunk fell off and landed on concrete below with a clatter.
“oval office,” he said, with feeling. Ignoring the complaint from his ankle, he lowered himself on his stomach over the edge of the landing until he was dangling by his fingers. The floor was still a good four feet away; he closed his eyes and dropped. It was a poor landing, a stumbling collapse into a crumbled, moaning heap on the ground rather than the graceful drop-and-roll he’d been planning on. When the pain subsided, he crept up to the back door of the shop and tried the handle. It was locked, naturally, but the key was on the inside of the lock and his elbow made short work of the glass.
“Gotcha, you fucker,” Baz whispered under his breath. The attache case was in the corner of the stock room, jammed between a box full of old porn tapes and a shelf of dusty beanie babies. “Come to daddy.” He reached out for the handle, felt the worn leather under his hand for just a second before pain exploded in the back of his head. He collapsed to the floor.
He heard heavy boots tread lightly on the floor behind him, and then an arm reached past him and the case was taken away. He managed to roll over to face his attacker, but between the darkness and the onset of concussion he couldn’t make out much more than looming height.
“Am sorry, friend. Be needing this back again. It nothing personal,” said a thick, eastern European accent. The briefcase was raised above the stranger’s head, the last thing he saw before he was once again struck in the head by its black leather.
|# ¿ Jul 6, 2014 21:24|
|# ¿ Jul 15, 2014 07:06|
As my bingo experience is not helping me here (there's no creaky old guy in a dusty suit talking about "legs 11" and "two fat ladies: 88" at all), a question. Is the centre square:
a) Requiring you to include "New babby free space" in your story
b) A free space (no story element, so you only have 4) for use by new TD entrants only
c) Free space open to all, with possible side-order of mockery if you use it and are not, in fact, a new babby
d) A free space only available to writers who have just produced offspring and are therefore trying to write at 6am after 23 minutes of sleep?
|# ¿ Jul 15, 2014 14:56|
The dreams were relentless. Every morning I woke to sweat-drenched sheets tangled around my feet, more exhausted than the night before. Every evening I dreaded the heavy weight of sleep, fought longer to keep my eyes open, to put off the dreams for a few minutes longer.
I cower amidst the ruins of the city, familiar buildings turned to unfamiliar corpses by fire and ruin. Their empty shells are refuges I flit between like a fearful animal.
Shadows stalk through the smoke, towering figures taller than the highest building. I know them mostly by their outlines. Some are merely giants, huge and hunch-backed but human in form; others have a menagerie of heads crowning their shoulders. Others still bear not the slightest resemblance to any living creature I have ever seen.
I have caught glimpses of these things when the smoke parts and I stray too close. Once I saw what looked like manifold wings draped down a giant’s back, but where feathers should have been were just eyes staring unblinking out into the fog. I fled in terror, feeling the gaze of those terrible eyes upon my back.
In the first months, I recalled little of these dreams. Later, they became clear, and with clarity came greater dread. It took me weeks before I realised what had brought them into such terrifying clarity.
It had been an idle whim that took me into the shop, a sliver of a building sandwiched between houses in a street I rarely walked. The man behind the counter was old, back bowed even as he sat, staring intently at me from beneath thinning strands of white hair.
"Ahhh. You have the eyes of a prophet," he said when I entered his shop. It was a strange thing to say, but at the time I'd thought it no more than some mystic babble designed to gull the naive. “Do you remember your dreams?” he continued.
The question startled me. I shook my head, mumbled a negative, shuffled awkwardly down a narrow aisle. His soft, disbelieving chuckle followed me.
My idle curiosity had fled, replaced by embarrassment and confusion and a lingering sense of dread. I felt the shopkeeper’s eyes on me, and couldn’t bring myself to just turn around and leave. My mind lighted on a thought - find some cheap trinket to buy that would neverless let me escape this shop and the silently accusing stare.
I cast my eyes across the oddments in front of me until they latched on a dark shape at the back, half-hidden between worn leather books. A crucifix. Coarse, black iron, unexpectedly heavy in my hand when I picked it up. It was crudely formed, an odd ring cast around the upper arm of the cross, but it seemed innocuous enough.
“Just this,” I said, laying it down on the counter. The shopkeeper looked at it in silence for a moment, then turned his gaze up to me.
"Protection. A wise choice," he said, sibilant and hoarse. "The Ophanim dislike prophets." He laughed then, a throaty wheeze that dragged on my ears. I took my purchase and all but fled the shop.
It was late evening when that realisation struck me. I looked over at the crucifix, sitting on my dresser, tried to reason it away as mere coincidence. What could it have to do with my dreams? But exhaustion addled my mind, and desperation knows little of reason.
The crucifix was icy cold, burning my fingers where I grasped it. I wrapped it in cloth and set out into the evening fog. It was only a short walk to the docks; that late, they were empty, the fog making ghostly giants of the cranes overhead.
I didn’t bother to unwrap it, just threw it cloth and all with all my strength. The water swallowed it without a trace. I expected to feel something then - relief, perhaps - but there was nothing. I stumbled home, fog wrapping around my feet.
That night sleep came quickly and was long, deep and devoid of dreams. No sweat-drenched sheets tangled my legs come the morning. I lay in bed, awake but at peace, for a long time before I finally rose.
I threw open the curtains and windows, looked out over the city. The autumn air was crisp, the sky an icy blue from horizon to horizon. I filled my lungs, the air a bracing chill in my chest.
For a long moment the world was at peace, and then brimstone stung my nostrils. As I watched in horror, the blue sky faded to a chill grey, colour draining out of it in a wave. The distant sound of early-morning birdsong grew hollow, then faded as if I’d plunged my head underwater. I turned in fear, my familiar room now taking on the cast of an aged photo, all colour gone from it entirely.
The sill of the window pressed against my back, my hands gripping it with pale knuckles. There, hovering in the air over the dresser where I’d once kept the crucifix, was the last speck of colour in the room. A thread of searing orange hovered in the air, writhing and growing as I watched. It split, become a rent in the world from which bled darkness and the chill wind of the void.
As I stared at in terror something drifted into view beyond the gateway. The rim of some great cartwheel, cast out of black iron. Beyond the rim I could see, instead of the spokes, another wheel nestled, spinning inside its parent like a gyroscope. It dwarfed me; were it a wheel, then the vehicle it bore would have towered over even the greatest ships of the navy.
I almost laughed at the absurdity of it, this monstrous wheel of iron rolling slowly towards me, when it stopped in its motion. The rim of the wheel split in a myriad of places all around its circumference like a seed pod. A thousand eyes, each the size of a man, stared out at me, unblinking in their judgement.
To this day, I cannot say if the movement that spilled me over the sill and out the open window behind me was an intentional one. All I can remember is the all-seeing gaze, the great eyes from which I could not look away, their judgement and the utter, cold certainty that I had been found wanting. Then I was falling, the world spinning around me.
When I came to, lying battered amidst the shrubbery beneath my window, the world was as it should be. The sky a pale blue, the birds chirping in the trees, the wind gusting and catching at my clothes. I never returned to my room, though the police and then the doctors assured me it was just as it should be.
I don’t sleep any more. The injections bring not rest but black oblivion, devoid of dreams, but I know what visions sleep would hold for me if I let it.
They are waiting, the ophanim and all their monstrous brethren. Waiting, and judging, till the day they cast the world into the flames.
We have all been found wanting.
|# ¿ Jul 20, 2014 21:30|
Aight I'm done here. Sound the horns. See you all come August.
To the tune of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m7tPikH0UA
|# ¿ Jul 22, 2014 12:44|
I will do six (6) line by lines, sound off if you want 1
I would like one of these. I had to cut ~500 words from my first draft this week, so I'd be particular interested in any bits you thought were still extraneous.
|# ¿ Jul 22, 2014 14:10|
I should probably remember to sign up.
|# ¿ Jul 23, 2014 23:38|
“Do you still believe in God?”
Brin turned her head. Kina was staring up at the stars, backlit by the dying campfire.
“What kind of question is that?” Brin asked. “Of course I do. How could I not?”
“I don’t,” said Kina eventually. “Any more than I believe in the stars, or the grass, or the wind. He just is.” She sighed.
“The great Umreild, Lord of the Sun, Father of the Waters, Divine rear end in a top hat.” Brin lay back on the grass and glared up at the night sky.
Kina chuckled. “It does take away much of the mystery.” She stretched. “We should sleep, Brin, it’s been a long ride. Midala library tomorrow.”
Brin raised her head again and looked down the hillside to the lights of the city below them. The spires and domes of the great temple at its heart gleamed molten gold in the torchlight.
“You’re right,” she said. “Let’s sleep.”
Kina wrapped herself in blankets and curled up by the embers. “Sweet dreams,” she said.
“I’d wish you the same, but, you know…”
“I know. Thank you all the same.”
Brin sat in the gloom, staring into the night. Beside her, Kina thrashed and moaned in her blanket, inhuman words spilling from her lips. Her own sleep was a long time coming.
“You’ve been upgraded,” Brin said, looking at a poster pasted to the wall of the Holy Library of Midala. “From holy proclamation to divine edict now.”
“‘By the divine word of Umreild, Lord of the Sun, and all that,’” Brin started reading aloud. “‘Kinala Presh, something something, named heretic and outcast and unholy in our sight.’” She took a deep breath. “Then all the usual death threats and unflattering portraits. Still nothing about you being God-touched, though.”
“They’d never admit that. Not in public.” Kina craned over Brin’s shoulder to see. “It’s not my best side, is it?”
“You look very heretical. It’s a shame their holynesses don’t seem to understand haircuts, or they might actually stand a chance of recognising you.” Brin looked from the rough woodcut of Kina, bedecked with long, flowing locks, to the current short-cropped incarnation.
“Short hair is not amongst the seven accepted styles of hair for a priestess,” Kina said with a smile. “The very idea would give them fits.”
“It suits you, though.”
Kina looked away. “Thank you,” she said.
“Anyway, enough chatter. We’re here. Did you have a plan?”
Kina looked up and pointed at Brin.
“Isn’t that the same plan you had in Astfeln, and Korinki, and Prauld?”
“You’re terrible at planning, you know that?”
“Yes.” A final nod.
Brin threw her hands up in the air. “What would you do without me?” she asked the world at large. “Fine. Let’s find an inn for now.”
"It's so dark," Kina whispered.
Brin looked out over the interior of the Holy Library. Lamps cast islands of light in the cavernous hall, but neither they nor the starlight trickling in through the skylight did much to pierce the gloom. On the atrium floor far below, torches of guards were distant fireflies.
"Not that," Kina continued. "The world here is dark. I've become used to seeing Umreild's light, but here, there's nothing."
"Here? The biggest temple in the country?"
"I know. It's strange, isn't it?"
"Strange isn't the half of it. Makes you think, though."
Kina nodded in the gloom. "I..." she started, then stumbled and fell. Her back arched like a bow, and her feet began drumming on the floorboards.
"Kina!" hissed Brin. She was already moving, one gloved hand jammed into Kina's mouth, the other arm pinning flailing limbs in place. She winced as Kina's jaw spasmed, teeth grinding into her fingers.
"Kina, Kina," Brin whispered. "Come back. It's me. Come back." She clung on as the fit wracked Kina's body until it finally faded.
"I'm sorry, Brin," Kina whispered. "I saw..."
"Shh, it's okay. Later, though. We need to get moving - someone might've heard."
Kina nodded and pulled herself up on the offered hand. They crept through an archway and up another turn of stairs.
"This?" Brin asked, holding up the leather-bound book.
Kina held the cover up to the starlight. "Ish-Maln’s Origins of Divine Presence. Yes. Garathorn mentioned it a lot in his Treatise on the Eyes of God. I think it'll help."
"Good. Let's get..."
She was interrupted by the thump of feet in the doorway behind them.
"What in God's name is going on here? Stop! Thieves!" An old man in a scholar’s silk robes and skullcap stared at them in disbelief. "Guards!? Guards!"
He took a step towards the stairs but stopped as Kina rose to her feet.
"Instala alb astash," she said, the words trickling from her tongue like splashing water. "Beregot, hass alvich yerim."
The old man froze in place, eyes staring unseeing, hand hovering in mid-air.
There was a thump, and Brin turned to see Kina collapsed to the floor, sweat pouring down her face.
"I think we should leave," Kina whispered, her voice hoarse.
"An excellent suggestion." Brin helped her up, supporting her with one arm and clutching the book with the other. "Leaving right now."
Sitting on a rooftop in the cool night air they listened to the occasional belated shout of alarm from the distant library.
"I didn't know you could do that," Brin said, after she caught her breath.
"Nor did I." Kina kicked at pebbles on the flat roof. "Until now, at least."
"Eyes and Hand of God, eh?" Brin kicked a pebble of her own, listened to it rattle down to the street below. "I suppose it's not all bad, then."
"It has its moments." Kina smiled. "Shouldn't we be going?"
Brin nodded and climbed to her feet. "You're right. Back to the inn, and out the gates at dawn. They won't bother closing the city for one book. Assuming they even believe the old man."
For two days they rode towards the coast, Kina spending every waking moment devouring the stolen book. She finished it by candlelight late one evening, closing the pages with a snap.
“Well?” Brin looked up from feeding the fire.
“It’s… something.” Kina sighed. “Not an answer, but progress. Ish-Maln writes a lot about the ancient history of the God-touched, but nothing about how to undo the process.” She lay the book down on the ground with a sigh. Bookmarks fluttered like trapped butterflies. “But…”
“More references?” Brin asked, smiling.
“More references. A scroll, Betwixt Divine and Mundane by some long-dead Eldish scholar I’ve never heard of.”
“It’s a long ride to Eld,” Brin said thoughtfully. “At least we’re already heading in about the right direction. If we keep following the Long Road we should be able to turn west for the border around noon.”
Kina nodded sleepily, wrapping herself in her blanket. “You don’t mind?”
“Of course not. Now get some rest.”
“I don’t know what I’d do without you, Brin. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Brin started to say, by Kina was already asleep. Brin tucked the blanket up around Kina’s neck and leaned forward to kiss her forehead.
“For you, anything,” she whispered.
|# ¿ Jul 27, 2014 21:33|
Because I hate both myself and the judges, in with DIE FOR YOUR POETRY.
I think this means I need a flash rule of some kind.
|# ¿ Jul 30, 2014 23:12|
This Ring of Storms
375 words for DIE FOR YOUR POETRY week.
Unnumbered those who’ve stood upon this field
With weapons drawn and pride upon their shield,
With dreams of glory bright behind their eyes,
They come to claim this throne; unearn’d, their prize.
This throne, which we both covet and abhor,
Set ‘pon the bones of those who came before.
A trophy, yes, and yet, a symbol too,
To sit in judgement, first among the few.
These striplings come, all self-assured and vain,
Convinced that here they’d stand and make their name.
They rage, they scream, proclaim injustice done,
Dispute until the end the judgement come.
They will not learn, nor strive to hone their blades,
Deny the lessons we, as teachers, gave.
We cast them out and mark their skin with shame,
And few will come contest the throne again
Amongst these coarse and callow youths one came,
He seemed no wiser, heart beguiled with fame.
But he did see, in blade and blood's cold truth,
The folly and the blinkered eyes of youth.
Beheld the lessons taught by loss and time,
In seeing, then, resolved to let youth die.
No easy death of body for him here,
But death of ego, death of pride and fear.
Unbowed, he walk’d his own dark hell and saw,
His ev'ry fault writ large upon the walls.
Sought not to blame but yet to strive and learn,
Embrace his weakness, find it strength in turn.
From dark and gloomy death such truths he learned,
Through long and arduous toil, to light returned.
Now ‘tis his turn to wear that weighty crown,
As we in turn spill blood upon this ground.
Obedient to his judgement here we stand,
Salute the throne and foe with sword in hand.
And fight the fiercer still beneath this throne,
For knowing that his skill we help'd to hone.
To all of you who stand beside us now,
Fierce hearts, fresh dreams, false hope; so young and proud.
Be humble yet, and know that truth is cruel,
That judgement hath no patience for a fool.
Embrace your dying, and in death be sure,
No glory comes before you cross that shore.
So sacrifice yourself before the throne,
To stand reborn, and weak, but not alone.
Be welcome here, in this, our Thunderdome.
|# ¿ Aug 3, 2014 21:42|
|# ¿ Aug 5, 2014 06:34|
Edit: Apparently the way to come up with a neat ending to a story in 200 words is first give up and post your failure in the thread. No longer out, but double-posting so I don't have an edit on my story post.
Meeple fucked around with this message at 00:24 on Aug 11, 2014
|# ¿ Aug 10, 2014 23:29|
|# ¿ Sep 25, 2023 16:48|
Footprints on the Sand
Aln knelt before the pile of wood and sprinkled oil over it from a small flask. He whispered the appropriate prayers and held out his hand. Fire drifted from his open palm onto the logs until the pile blazed brightly. He sat cross-legged in front of the fire, swirls of ochre earth painted across his copper-brown skin.
"From sand to sky, from dune to mountain, as the fire gave you life so may it carry your soul in death," he chanted.
He threw a handful of powder onto the fire, sending a burst of sparks dancing into the air.
"Eferit guide your soul, dad," he whispered, swallowing back tears.
Rubbing angrily at his eyes he stood and turned away from the fire. Resting on a rock was a carved wooden box. His chest tightened at the sight of it, the carvings he'd stared at for hours when it had lived high atop a shelf in his father's room. It had always been forbidden, dad's secret that he'd never explained.
"Couldn't you have given this to me while you were still alive?" he asked the desert night. "Why now? Why go out and walk the sands and leave me behind? You weren't that old."
Clutching the box in his hands he sunk to the floor. Without the ritual to concentrate on there was nothing to hold back the ache of the tears in his cheeks. They ran down his face, leaving clear streaks in the paint.
Eventually the tears dried. Aln took a deep breath and turned the box around to admire the carvings. They were strange, stylised figures and faces that were nothing like the abstract patterns that decorated everything else in the village. He still remembered the raised voices whenever Yousin, the old priest, visited their house - sacrilegious, he called it, an affront to Eferit. Dad had never cared.
"What was so important that you kept it safe for so long?"
Eventually he worked up the nerve to open it. Inside, a glass vial full of sand hanging from a chain. There was nothing else, even after he turned it upside down and shook a few lost grains of sand from the corners. They glittered in the firelight as they fell.
Aln held the vial up, letting it twist and turn in the light. "Sand?" he said. "Sand? We live in the middle of a desert and you were keeping a bottle of sand?!" He closed his hand around it and looked back at the box in disgust. "What's next, did you write me a letter to tell me that the sun rises in the east? Leave hidden carvings in the box telling me I'm secretly a fire caster? Sand?!"
He thrust his open palm out towards the desert night, snarled something wordless and angry and sent a flare of fire arcing out into the sand.
The resulting explosion scattered the remains of the bonfire to cinders and left a circle of scorched and glassy sand on the bank of a nearby dune.
"Er," said Aln. The vial in his hand tingled. Tears and anger forgotten, he looked down at it. On closer inspection, the grains of sand were not the uniform beige of the desert. Blues and greens and golds glittered in the remains of the firelight.
"What is this?" he said to the world at large. His answer was another explosion, this time behind him. He turned to face it just in time to catch the butt of a staff in his face. Stunned, he fell backwards, his vision blurring. An indistinct shape in gray loomed over him, pinned his arm to the ground with the staff and reached down to snatch the vial of sand.
"So kind of you to light a beacon," the stranger said. He turned and walked back across the desert. From where the explosion had come there was a glowing rift in the night air. Aln pulled himself to his knees in time to see the stranger vanish into the rift with a faint popping sound.
"Hey!" he shouted. "Come back!"
He staggered to his feet, head screaming in disapproval, and stumbled towards the rift. It started to close, the glowing edges slowly creeping towards each other. Reaching out in desperation he cast fire towards the closing portal. The flames were sucked into the portal but its shrinking reversed for a brief moment. When he reached it was still the size of a small doorway and he threw himself through it without a second thought.
Aln tumbled out of the portal onto a grassy slope. He barely had time to take in the sudden switch from the chill of desert night to the balmy warmth of the two suns in the sky, or the turquoise grass spreading as far as the eye could see. At the base of the slope, a familiar-looking man in a gray robe was struggling with a woman dressed in leather and chainmail. The man's staff lay discarded on the floor. Gusts of conjured fire and water flickered in and out of existence around the fighters.
Aln crept down the slope, unnoticed by either of the struggling pair. He fought back a wave of nausea and grabbed the discarded staff. He waited for a moment until the man in the gray robe rolled on top before bringing the staff down with a satisfying crack. The man slumped unconscious, and Aln had to help roll his dead weight off the woman in the chainmail.
"That's mine," Aln said after the woman had dusted herself down and thanked him. She was spinning the vial of sand from the end of its chain.
"No introductions?" She pouted at him, then tossed the vial. He barely caught it. "Fine, fine. I suppose I owe you anyway. I'm Anna."
Anna smiled broadly. "Aln? Oh now that makes some sense. Kithos' son, yes?"
"You knew my father?"
"Knew? No past tense, I know Kithos all too well, impatient wanderer that he is."
“No.” Aln looked down. "He... died recently. Walked out into the sands to accept his end with dignity rather than burden the village. At least, that's what mom said."
Anna laughed, then laughed again at Aln's sudden anger and clenched fists. "Walked out into the sands? Is that what your people do to die? Oh, Kithos must've loved the irony of that."
"What do you mean?"
"Welcome to the Sands," she said, sweeping her arms out to encompass the strange world with its double suns and turquoise grass. "A billion worlds like grains of sand in infinity. Your father walks them, as do I. As, apparently now, do you."
|# ¿ Aug 11, 2014 00:26|