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Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

gently caress it, I'll take osmium.


Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

Welp, here goes. My Thunderdome debut (element is osmium):

Heavy Metal Roses (1109 words)

Ted smiled confidently at the new co-op student, admiring how her fitted lab coat accentuated her curves. A little lacking in the breast department, but even in the harsh light of the transmission electron microscopy lab, her face had a certain ... fuckability. Definitely an eight, maybe even a nine. 'Julia.' He repeated to himself. It was important to keep their names straight. He'd been kicked in the nuts more than once for crying out the wrong one.

'Focus, Ted, time to get your game on.' The orientation tour afforded plentiful opportunities for openings. Plus, he actually needed to get her set up so he might just get some productive academic work out of her. 'Haha, I'll get some work out of her all right!'

He gestured to the ugly 70s-green linoleum lab room.

"We're in the sample prep area. I'll run you through the details of the protocol when you shadow me through it starting tomorrow, but before then, I need to impress something on you."

"This", he held up a sealed ampoule containing what looked like a broken piece of test tube, "is osmium tetroxide, which we use for staining TEM sections."

He leaned in a little. This particular pep talk was one of his favorites, the thrill of danger a sure-fire aphrodisiac.

"We use a lot of nasty chemicals in the TEM lab, but OT is by far the worst. In fact, it's one of the deadliest you'll find anywhere. The vapor pressure is huge, so it gasifies almost instantly, and binds to tissues even faster, coating them permanently with osmium metal. And I mean permanently. Osmium is ultra-stable, so once it sticks to cells, there is no getting it off."

He watched her face blossom into the first satisfying signs of unease as she processed the implications.

"You breathe that vapor in, and it coats the inside of your lungs. The best part? You don't even realise until hours later, when the pulmonary edema sets in and you die."

He gazed into her deep brown eyes as they grew wider and more beautiful.

"The word osmium is from the Greek for smell, since it's supposed to smell pretty strongly. But the toxic effects are orders of magnitude stronger. If you can smell it, you're already as good as dead."

Satisfied with the effect, he decided to round out with a subtle neg.

"So you keep those delicate hands steady," he punctuated this with a light touch, "and stick strictly to the safety guidelines while you're using it."

The rest of the tour was pretty mundane stuff for him, but Julia was still bright-eyed enough to lap it up. He slipped in a little more game, and arranged to meet her later to "discuss research" over coffee.

Ted sauntered back to his office and sat down at his immaculately kept desk. Unlike the other PhD students in the department, he knew that it paid to keep things tidy. He'd closed with more than one target on that desk, and there would be nothing more mood-killing than a naked rear end getting stuck on half-eaten pizza. Not that those other slobs would ever have that problem.

He unlocked his computer and fired up the GradPUAs chatroom. It was pretty empty, but his buddy Sam from chemistry was on.

PhysicalChemistry: Ted! How's things hanging in EM land?
StickingItInTEM: Pretty good. The new co-op student Julia is in an advanced stage of preparation, if you know what I mean. ;)
PhysicalChemistry: Dude, you have got to stop sarging on your co-op students. It's gonna land you in trouble.
PhysicalChemistry: As if you weren't in enough already, bro. What the gently caress went on with that Cynthia chick? She's spreading poo poo about you everywhere.
StickingItInTEM: Hey, I just had to get a little assertive with my kino escalation to get past a little last minute resistance. Sure she was holding back a little, but her subcommunication said she was all over it.
StickingItInTEM: Besides, man, that deer-in-headlights look they get in their eyes is almost as good as the closing.
PhysicalChemistry: Haha you are terrible.
PhysicalChemistry: But seriously, what happens if she goes to security or the cops?
*StickingItInTEM does the dying swan*
StickingItInTEM: Then woe is loving me.
StickingItInTEM: Really, though, what's she gonna say? *She* came home with me. She was obviously asking for it. And she had a loving great time, whatever she may say now.
StickingItInTEM: Besides, as far as the law goes, it's her word against mine.
PhysicalChemistry: Whatever man. I just don't think your pretty rear end would last five seconds in jail.
StickingItInTEM: Do you think this is the first time I've had to deal with this? Trust me, she has nothing. gently caress her. Again. :D
PhysicalChemistry: Anyhow... I gotta go grade some papers. Try and stay out of the wrong kind of trouble.
StickingItInTEM: Yeah I gotta go up my game with target:co-op student over coffee. I am gonna be bumping up against that sweet rear end in no time. ;) Later!

Ted stood up and preened for a few minutes, admiring his lean face, high cheekbones and prominent jaw in the mirror he kept hidden at the back of the cupboard. He was a handsome guy, and sometimes he wondered whether he really needed his game. But hey, he knew a ton of other good-looking guys who were just average frustrated chumps. Foregoing the game was the path to oneitis and misery.

Slicking his hair back, he started getting his mind in gear for Julia. Demonstrating higher value was so easy with co-ops, especially the ones directly under him. As a PhD student, he was everything they aspired to be, and they worshipped the ground he walked on. Closing with her should be a cinch.

Satisfied that everything was in order, Ted opened his office door and stopped short. Lying alluringly on the floor was a spray of deep burgundy roses. He barely noticed the shift in the wrapping as he scooped them up to read the tag's ornate lettering: 'To Ted, lustfully yours'. It was signed only with a lipstick print.

'Such a sweet gesture! A little gay, maybe, but really sweet.' He just wished it hadn't been so obtuse by being anonymous. He'd have to do some careful cold-reading around every target and gently caress buddy he had going to avoid a crash and burn.

'Whatever', he thought, lifting the bouquet to his face, 'I can deal with that later'. He inhaled deeply, dismissing the faint chlorine overtone ('who would put bleach on flowers, anyway?'), filling his lungs with the cloying, sensual fragrance of rose petals and promises of sexual conquests to come.

And osmium.

Holy poo poo this was a sleazy character to write. I just hope the comeuppance works, and the motivation is obvious enough.

E: Fixed a weird copy/paste error where the last three paragraphs ended up copied into the middle of the chatlog. I swear I didn't change any of the wording, just deleted the duplicated text.

Lead out in cuffs fucked around with this message at 09:56 on Feb 10, 2014

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

Since I'm still awake out here and have a public holiday tomorrow, I'll try my hand at some crits, at least of some of the ones I've read (so many entrants):

V V V E: Welp, thanks for pointing that out. I'll repost them once the judgements are in. V V V

Lead out in cuffs fucked around with this message at 20:11 on Feb 10, 2014

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

OK, I'll post my very inexpert crits now.

Junipercake's Empathy: You've integrated the theme of ocean ecocide with the direct effects of mercury poisoning in a powerful and hard-hitting story. This is one of the stronger ones (that I've read) in terms of capturing the feel of the element. The parallel between mercury-stunted dolphin and mercury-stunted brother was a nice touch. However, your writing could be a little tighter, and you have some glaring grammatical errors: "Live in the moment I could still have that at least."? That's two separate sentences, and they're not even in the same voice!

God over Djinn's Fruits of Her Labors: This piece was beautiful and wistfully captures the feeling of helium. I'm also a big fan of stories jumping around in time, which you handled with aplomb. About the only withering criticism I can think of is that "elicited" is something you do to a sigh or a smile, not to the look someone puts on while watching a heart attack. A well-deserved win!

Dreamingofroses' Precious Gems: This is a neat idea, and the serial killer appropriately horrific. But ... it doesn't go anywhere. The only "drama" is that she loses her source of contract killings, and she resolves it with more killing. Your story needs to end.

Martello's LOGPAC: While I'm sure you've done a great job of capturing the "months of boredom" aspect of war, your story could have used a few "moments of sheer terror". Seriously. It goes nowhere, and has no solid theme beyond some vague wishy-washy "war, what is it food for?" sentiment. Plus it's full of blue-ballsing. Your IED goes off, but nobody gets hurt. There's conflict between the US and Afghan troops, but nothing comes of it. The guys who placed the IED don't even feature. And where is your element? Please tell me it isn't the nitrate in the fertiliser-based explosive in the IED.

If Chekhov could take the most boring and mundane aspects of 19th-century Russian peasant life and turn them into compelling stories filled with plot and interesting characters, then so can you with your war experiences.

Crabrock's Growing Cold Together: OK, another wistful and sad meditation on death. What is it with this week's theme producing these? I can't think of much bad to say about it, though.

Flaky's Alley Deals: I'll review this because I was going to take francium. I'd like to know how, given the least stable naturally occurring element; the substance so effervescent that it self-vapourises from the heat of its own radioactive decay; the heaviest of the halides; the missing element of the 1800s; how, given all those amazing story hooks, you managed to come up with this badly punctuated turd about a guy getting ripped off on Craigslist?

Benny's Oracle: Special mention because your E/N thread is always a great source of schadenfreude. Your story has already been ripped to shreds there, and even generated fan-fiction. Let me just say, though, that a) this is the kind of work that leads you to believe you could be an English professor? and b) this is the result of a year spending an hour every day writing instead of looking for a job? This turd?

Also, please don't actually kill your parents.

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

In, since I actually have it written up already, so it's purely an exercise in tightening prose.

Now I just need to see if I can retrieve the old Gmail account I used for the now-defunct mailing list that I typed it up for. There's just the tiny issue that the password retrieval email for that account is my old primary Gmail account, which I sold to a social network millionaire with the same name as me. Fortunately, he's been pretty cooperative about forwarding any errant emails so far, so this shouldn't be too much trouble. :shobon:.

But man, I can probably write it from memory. That night had everything: a mugging, a drunken car crash, a concerned middle-aged gay couple, a weird stoned neighbour, frightened foreign exchange students, an imagined burglary, a real burglary, three or four brushes with the police, and a beautiful sunrise over the Boland Mountains.

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

First World Problems (1135 words)

Saturday night. I cruised down the N1 in my battle-scarred white VW Citi Golf, away from Durbanville, deep in the hinterlands of Cape Town, out from behind the Boerewors Curtain, towards the Southern Suburbs and fun. My destination was a tiny goth club in Obs, which friends had not-so-affectionately dubbed "Treehaus". At the club, stomping down the tiny entrance hallway in the opposite direction, was my friend Allie, phone to ear and worried intent on her face. Gears grated in my mind as I switched from clubbing to get-poo poo-done mode, and followed after her. Thus began a long and gloriously weird night.

Allie filled me in on the story as we wove our way through the narrow byways of Obs, accompanied by her sister Christine, who was in town visiting. They'd been robbed at knifepoint about half an hour earlier. They were rattled but unharmed, and only their bags had been taken. However, inside Allie's bag, tucked neatly beside the keys to her flat, was a medical bill with her address.

Haunted by the spectre of knife-wielding gangsters in her home, and without her car keys, she'd called her boyfriend Ronaldo for a lift. Ronaldo had been celebrating his birthday by wandering around a different club a kay or two down the road, a bottle of hard liquor in each hand. In response to Allie's call, he'd gotten in his car and come rushing over, four sails to the wind, through streets barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other. We were walking towards the resulting carnage.

Ronaldo's fancy Mercedes was stopped forty five degrees to the curb ahead of a trail of destruction. He'd hit one parked car hard, scraped along the next two, clipped the wing mirror off a fourth, then crashed into the pavement. Ronaldo himself was stumbling around in the street, slurring repeatedly that his life was over.

Some of his (much more sober) friends were huddled in conference, concocting a plan to keep him from spending the night in jail and having the insurance refuse to pay out for his drunkenness. This involved whisking him away from the scene and dealing with insurance and police in the morning. Meanwhile, a middle-aged gay couple had been standing in their back yard listening, safe from us rabble behind a pointed fence. The shorter, his arms folded, spoke up in a beautifully measured and just slightly camp Capetonian English accent.

"You can't take him away. He's as drunk as a fish. It's also illegal. If you do, I'll tell the police!" he interjected, firmly.

The brilliant plan foiled and Ronaldo's fate sealed, Allie, Christine and I left him with his friends. A brief episode of Ronaldo screaming screaming drunkenly at Allie that it was all her fault had also left her less than enthused to stand by him. So, in my car, we headed for Rondebosch and Allie's flat.

At the complex, we tried buzzers randomly until we found someone willing to let us in. This turned out to be Geoff, a blonde guy in his thirties, who sauntered down the corridor, glass of red in hand. Allie thanked him.

"Oh, no problem. I was just sitting at home, drinking wine, and thinking..." he said, then paused, lifted his glass into the air, and peered intently through it.

"Yeah ... thinking."

We set about the next task of finding a locksmith, both to break into Allie's flat, and to change the locks so the gansters couldn't. The corridor was covered but open on the side, and despite it being almost summer, the midnight air was turning chilly. Allie's short skirt and sleeveless top were poor protection, so I lent her my jacket while I waited with her. Meanwhile, Christine took refuge in Geoff's flat.

After the locksmith had arrived and gotten to work, Allie began to worry about Christine, alone with a weird guy she barely knew, and sent me to check up. I found her being innocently regaled by tales of Geoff's life as a cruise ship cook, sometime amateur cricketer, and, presumably, professional stoner.

Satisfied that she was in no danger, I returned to Allie and the locksmith. Picking having failed, he had resorted to the noisy process of drilling out the lock. This was soon eclipsed by a greater cacophony of blaring sirens and flashing lights as a small convoy of police cars pulled up outside. In the ensuing confusion, a pair of Dutch exchange students peered, sheepishly, from a door down the corridor. It emerged that, heads full of mostly fanciful horror stories about power-tool equipped burglars, they had assumed they were under siege and dialled 10111 in intense panic. The police had lept at the chance to actually stop a crime in progress and responded in force. Their disappointment was palpable.

Commotion resolved and flat secured, we paused for some tea in Allie's living room. Allie remained concerned about her car, which, still parked in Obs, might be identifiable to the gangsters with her keys. I offered to drive back out and secure it. The car stood alone in the still morning air, patiently waiting as I unbolted the battery. I dropped it back at Allie's, and, after perfunctory goodbyes, set off home.

It was growing lighter as I entered Durbanville, and the thought entered my mind that the only way to end to a night like this was to stop and watch the sun rise. As I waited in a scraggly park, three men dressed in black walked single file along the far edge. Black men, terranauts in this alien bubble of first-world white suburbia. A race-conditioned part of me suggested that black men in a white suburb at five in the morning were obviously up to no good, but I dismissed the thought. I'd walked to distant workplaces before, and the early morning streets are filled with poor black people plodding their way to menial jobs. This, my exhausted mind told me, was all that it was, and I turned instead to the east. Across a vast patchwork of tan fields and emerald vineyards, behind the dome of Paarl and the craggy, mist-wreathed Boland Mountains, the first purple-haloed sliver of golden light was sliding into view.

My reverie was interrupted by the arrival of two police cars and an alarm company's armed response unit.
"Did you see which way they went?" asked an ADT guy in grey.
My faith in humanity lowered a notch, I reluctantly indicated the side of the park.

Basking in the sunrise a few minutes more, I snapped a few photographs with my phone, but the milling uniforms had ruined the ambience. Wearily, I drove the last few kays home. The Capetonian sun streaming through the windows, I booted my laptop, gently gathered my scattered thoughts, and began to write.

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

It's posted! Because I'm sad and have a thesis to write nothing better to do, I've been sitting on line-by-line reviews of both stories since last week. I reviewed God over Djinn's as a learning experience -- it's the kind of stuff I would write, but infinitely better executed. Flaky's I reviewed because his writing has a long way to go, but he's working hard at improving it.

Without further ado, my inexpert-reviewer's reviews:

No Longer Flaky posted:

Friday Review
1431 Words
By No Longer Flaky (Writer of such hits as “Grug’s Harvest” and “Life’s a Rat Race”)

OK, so here's a general comment: a whole hell of a lot your stories so far read like goons.txt. Sad guys getting ripped off on Craigslist over $100 TVs and office reviews after all-night solo TV sessions are dry as hell. I suspect you're going with "write what you know", which is generally a good maxim, and it's even been done quite successfully with this kind of subject (see for example Charles Bukowski or Ernest Hemingway). My suggestions are either: live more so you have more interesting experiences to write about, research more so you can write plausibly about experiences you haven't personally had, or read a bunch of Bukowski and Hemingway to learn how to write interestingly about the mundane.

I was the only one who had their review on Friday, and it was scheduled bright and early in the morning. Everyone else had their reviews on Monday. Holy poo poo what a dry opening. Do you remember what I told you in the PMed review about the last opening? Use evocative terms. Set the scene. Sell the reader on your story. Something like "Of the whole office, I had been singled out for a Friday review. All the other lucky bastards had theirs on Monday." Do you see what I've done there? In that form the narrator's made it clear they know they've been singled out, and they also feel it's unfair. Now the reader's interested. There's conflict, and mystery. The story's still boring as hell, but at least the narrator doesn't sound bored. The start of the new month. That didn’t bode well for my review prospects. I actually don't understand how this makes any sense at all. Performance reviews are done on a monthly or less frequent basis, and take into account the whole previous month. Why would time of the month matter? I knew I had an off year, but I didn’t think I’d underperformed Can you no think of a more descriptive term? We don't even know what kind of industry this is, and this is a golden opportunity to tell us that terribly.

I got in about thirty minutes or so early. I’d been having trouble sleeping the last few days. Why? If it's the stress, tell us. If it's because you're a slacker who watches TV all night, tell us that too. By the time five am AM rolled around and I was on my third hour of sportscenter I decided I might as well head in to work. I literally had to read this sentence three times to parse it.

I sat down at my desk at around six. I was an hour early. You just told us you were half an hour early? I was staring at my monitor trying to figure out what to do at work this what is it with you and strings of monosyllables? early when my keyboard started its tap-tap-tapping its way around the desk. Its keys flying off as if thrown in ecstasy. not a complete sentence. Also, "thrown in ecstacy"? I tried to roll backwards in my chair to give the board more space to move, but I found that the wheels in my chair wouldn’t budge. I looked down. There was no locking mechanism. to inspect the locking mechanism and found my chair completely lacking in any locking mechanism whatsoever. At this discovery, my chair You say the words "my chair" four times in three sentences. Try not to repeat a term more than once a paragraph if you can avoid it. unfroze and I rolled backwards, banging into the desk behind me. The keyboard jumped back into place in front of my monitor at the loud smack of the chair’s collision. You only need to describe the bang once.

“Holy poo poo,” I said. Yeah, tell us how you really feel.

I touched the keyboard and found nothing out of the normal. If you're going to use cliches, which you shouldn't unless you plan to twist them in a clever way, at least use them correctly. I decided some coffee would calm my nerves. In the break room, the coffee pot was full, so I poured myself a cup. The coffee was a black goop that slowly dripped into my mug. Obviously someone had left the pot sitting overnight. I attempted to pour my mug out into the sink but the coffee didn’t budge. It was a gummy tar solid in its resolve to remain in the conglomerated safety of my mug. I violently shook the mug then rapped it in the sink, hoping to knock chunks of coffee out. Nothing worked. Like the chair, you use the word coffee five times in succession. Don't do that.

“God drat it!” I yelled. I think you would do yourself better justice by using descriptions of the yell, rather than quotes.

I slammed the mug down, new sentence, or start the first with "As I" coffee slopped onto the counter. Maybe warm water would loosen up the coffee, Tense. You were thinking in the present tense, not the past tense of the narrative. I thought. I turned on the hot water.

Just then something dark for pity's sake use a thesaurus streaked across the peripheral of my vision it's either periphery of my vision or peripheral vision. I jerked my head around, surprised by the movement. Nothing was there. Did a mouse just run under the vending machine? I crouched down on my hands and knees to get a good look under the vending machine. I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary using this cliche once was already more than enough for one story, just some cobwebs and trash.

The fluorescent bulbs flashed on. “What are you doing down there, Jim?” A voice asked. You know who the voice is, so you may as well tell us now.

I started and turned around quickly. Tyler, my boss, was staring down at me. “I thought I saw something.”

“What was it?”

“Nothing, I guess.” I stood up.

Tyler frowned, looked me up and down and said “Rough night?”

“Not too bad. Just need some coffee in me.” It was bad Argh! thesaurus thesaurus thesaurus though. If I didn’t get some sleep I was fit liable, likely, wont, going, but not fit to lose my mind. I felt like I was an animated corpse, like a necromancer somewhere was forcing my body to dance on a string. Except you're not actually dancing. :v:

“You look like you could use a bit more than coffee. Your yearly review’s today, remember?”
new line
Tyler turned off the water, examined my mug and put it back into the cabinet.
new line
“I’ll brew some new coffee, we’ll have your review when the new pot is it's ready.”

I left the break-room and bee-lined to the bathroom to clean up. I studied myself in the mirror and saw myself as Tyler must have. Sweat beaded on my head forehead proofread FFS, large puffy pink bags were under my eyes . A few strands of hair stood up in the back of my head like a chickens feathers. I had forgotten to shower before I came in! Dammit, real professional Jim. Real professional, I thought. Then laughed , laughing at my reflection in the mirror. Not a complete sentence.

I wet my hand to smooth my hair down when my nose started to elongate. Use a comma, or start the sentence with "As I". It stretched and grew. Just roll this into the last sentence The soft skin transforming to a hard mass, and as it elongated it started to expand and converge converge just means for two bodies to meet in space. I think you want "merge" or a synonym thereof with my mouth. I reached up to touch it and found my arm was covered in white feathers.

My arm was a wing?

I screamed tried to scream in surprise, but what came out instead was a loud “Brawk!” I strutted back from the mirror, almost tripping over my feet. My suit bulged at the waist and chest. My white feathers poking through my chest in random places. incomplete sentence My pants pooled around my three-clawed feet. I don’t know where my shoes went. Oh god, "My shoes had disappeared", or something.

Near my foot my phone started to ring. I pecked downward towards it, my head bobbing with each peck. Ring rinnnnnng. Peck. Ring rinnnnnng. Peck. Ring rinnnnnng. At the end of the third rinnnnnng my feet slipped on the tile floor mid-peck. I lost my balance and smashed my head into the sink.

I rubbed my head with normal hands and sat up. The door to the bathroom jerked open and Tyler’s head popped in.

“What happened? I’ve been looking all over for you for the last fifteen minutes,” Tyler said.

“I dropped my phone,” I mumbled still rubbing my head. I looked down at my phone and the screen was blank, no call notifications.

“Come on, let’s get this review over with,” Tyler said.

I followed him to his office. I felt a strange sense of finality as I walked behind him, like this was the last time I’d be having a review in this office. Strangely, it didn’t bother me too much. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the smack to my head or the lack of sleep but I felt disconnected from all of it. Like I was watching myself from outside my own body. I laughed to myself as I saw myself start to alternate long strides with my left leg and short strides with my right.

He opened the door to his office quickly and ushered me in comma motioning to one of the metal chairs facing his desk. He took a seat at the desk and arched his fingers together like he was attempting to create a finger version of the Eiffel tower. He gazed at his creation for what seemed like longer than it actually was even the hackneyed "seemed like an age" or "seemed like an eternity" would be better than breaking the flow like this then said “As you’ve probably heard, our company is doing some downsizing.”

He talked to the Eiffel tower more than he did me. Again, you could do a whole hell of a lot better than this mess of monosyllables. “You know how the economy is, my hands are tied in this manner matter.” To me, his hands didn’t look tied at all, they looked like a tower from Ireland. :v: Or was it France?

He continued “I’ve had to make some hard thesaurus decisions, and unfortunately, the company is going to have to let you go.”

I was expecting this. The words seemed to remove a weight from me, or add a weight. I’m not sure which. headdesk All I know is after I heard them I was more tired than I’d ever been in my life. Like they sapped the energy from my body, as if I were a monstrous steam powered machine that had just had the coal stolen out of its furnace. Incomplete sentence

Ok OK,” I said.

The rest of the meeting was a blur. I didn’t care what he had to say so much as I wanted to take a long rest. He finished his speech to the Eiffel tower, so we both stood up.

“Take care,” he said extending a hand out to me. Somewhere miniature imaginary Parisians lost their world renowned tower.

I shook it and said “You too.”

I cleaned out my cubicle and left the office.

I walked to my car quickly. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds, incredibly bright for the early morning. My car was warm, the seat more comfortable than any I’d ever experienced. Suddenly, with a jolt, the aluminum metal siding siding is something you find on houses, not cars fell away, revealing a wooden chariot. In my hands, the steering wheel was replaced by leather reigns reins. The engine disappeared and in a haze of smoke a fiery stallion took its place. It snorted loudly. I whipped the reins and I was off and away. We took off into the air off ... off, leaving the city and office buildings behind. I climbed through the atmosphere and then I was in space. Speeding through the solar system, a trail of warmth and fire left in my wake. incomplete sentence I stared into at; better would be "looked to the horizon" the horizon. Into the void of the new, of the unknown, of the infinite. incomplete sentence

You have a major problem with commas, fragments and complete sentences. Please read these thoroughly before your next submission:

Try not to repeat words if you can avoid it.

I'm still trying to put my finger on why your writing often comes off as sixth-grade level. It might be the monosyllables. It might be that you under-use the continuous tense. It might be that you just don't have a good command of register.

In terms of your story, you missed a huge opportunity with the dream/hallucinations. You could have had the hallucinations be consistent and tell a story of their own. Instead we get "guy goes for work appraisal on no sleep, trips balls randomly, gets fired".

God Over Djinn posted:

God Over Djinn versus No Longer Flaky DREAMBRAWL

Intellectual Property (1497 words)

The dream sat on Hal’s nice 2001 reference desk, glittering insolently. Four hours of meticulous copyright searches, cross-referencing every iota of content against GoogleSoft’s intellectual property you could probably abbreviate this to IP for better flow, since it's spelled out in the title database, and even SIGMUND was doing a good facsimile of frustration: there was absolutely nothing, as far as Hal could tell, that he could place a claim on. He tossed his Glasses onto his desk.

“What, you lose your streak?” said his cubemate.

“Don’t even ask,” said Hal.

He’d been half a day from beating his record. Two hundred and eighty-six dreams in a row had returned a chime of automatic success from Siggy’s dream-drive. Hal had the happy message memorized: GoogleSoft property automatically identified (p>0.9999). Refer for manual claim arbitration. Now where else have I seen p-values and stats/ML terminology in a short story about a corporate data scientist recently? ;) Then pneumatics whooshed them off tense broken here to the interns, who pinged their counterparts at Sony-Mars, requesting 82% of profits from this dream, 54% from that.

But now this intransigent I feel like this is a $5 word too far. It's also a pretty harsh word to couple with "blinked softly" dream blinked softly, reflecting off of Hal’s latest Employee of the Week award. This is an important object which recurs later, but which I had completely forgotten about by the time it recurred, because this description is completely forgettable. Since it matters, make it stick in the reader's memory. Make it shine. Not only did it defy SIGMUND’s auto-characterization, Hal’s manual searches had yielded zero GoogleSoft content. Not a single McDonalds, no Pixar characters, no scenes you have a beautiful "no/t -> short vowel" rhythm going in this list, which "no scenes" breaks. "not one scene from..." would maintain the rhythm from any Spielberg movies, no Beatles soundtrack, nothing inspired by SexTube or Super Mario Brothers. Two possible conclusions, both dire: maybe "maybe" is too soft for only two possible conclusions Hal had stumbled upon the very first dream composed entirely of Sony-Mars-inspired content, no GoogleSoft whatsoever. Or, Hal had made his first mistake in eighteen years at the IP office. Either, he realized with dread, would require a trip to middle management. You're using a ton of poetic license with your sentence structure in this paragraph. It works, but be careful.

Something that bothers me is that it took a few readings for me to piece together that Rachida is middle management, and not just another co-worker. This gets made clear a few paragraphs down when she gives him orders, but it could probably be made clearer in the first paragraph she appears.

Sweat trickled from under Hal’s shirtsleeves as Rachida reconfirmed SIGMUND’s calculations. Over her shoulder, he could just make out the error messages: No match, no match, no match. He composed a look of empathetic did you mean "emphatic"? That's actually how I read it the first time. corporate horror. But when Rachida turned to him, she was grinning ferally. “Do you realize what we’re looking at here, Hal?” she said. “Think: who would only dream about Sony-Mars stuff?”

Hal strained for ideas. His brain felt whitewashed, "whitewashed" is a pretty overloaded term already to be using for a custom metaphor the satisfying back-and-forth patter with cheerful SIGMUND winking away in the sunlight. “Somebody who lives in the Sony-Mars compound?” he offered.

“Dream a little bigger, Hal. cute! Even they go out to see a movie once in a while. No,” said Rachida, voice lowering, “what we’re looking at here is something more important. This is obviously a Sony-Mars experiment, and they were sloppy enough to let it end up in our dreamcatchers. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Suddenly, Hal no longer felt like a worm on a rainy sidewalk.

“Hal, I’m putting you in charge of this. You’ve always done good, clean work. Figure out exactly what Sony-Mars content is in there. And get a lead on the dreamer, too. Put together a report, and we’ll take it upstairs tomorrow morning.”

The prospect of doing a good job made Hal shiver with delight. There was just enough space on his cubicle wall for another award. He might even win them the inter-departmental pizza-party contest.

His cubemate cursed him amicably when she heard the news. She hoped the dream turned out extra-porny, she told him. “That’s statistically unlikely,” he said. “Since the SexTube merger, I’ve hardly seen more than -”

“Stop pontificating,” she said. “Go work on your special project, you big man.”

Three hours later, Hal’s eyes focused and defocused as Siggy thrummed out yet another row of unsatisfying results: No match identified for Sony-Mars property (p<0.025). Sony-Mars liked to obfuscate their feature-sets: hunting down their property in a dream was like doing Hal’s day job blindfolded and backwards. He sighed, and requested a full automated analysis.

475 minutes remaining, read the projector. Then the timer twitched slightly and ticked over: 478 minutes remaining. Hal gazed glazedly maybe just a little too cute. Be kind to the poor schmuck who might end up having to read this aloud one day. at the report’s header: Complete Analysis of Dream #A46C0, Dreamer identity: ___________.

Well, he could start with that. Identities of dreamers were nominally anonymous another tongue-twister, at least until the dream was ported and packaged for sale, but in practice they were forfeit: anybody who’d discussed last night’s dream on GoogleSoft Plus had already been cross-referenced, name, voice-print, and all. After several readings, while I have a vague sense, I'm still not 100% sure what this sentence is trying to say. Siggy Gibbs-sampled furiously, causing a soothing vibrating sensation in Hal’s temples. As the day-shift interns paraded out of the building like so many ducklings, Hal found himself dozing off.

Siggy’s chipper pinging startled him awake, blinking. Hal’s name and corporate identity signifier flashed on the screen: Harold Jonathan “Hal” Mullins-Kilpatrick, 0xB668AD4.

For ten seconds doze-addled Hal failed, open-jawed, to internalize. “What?” he said to the dark and empty cubicle bank. “It wasn’t my dream, Siggy, don’t play weird pranks.” He thumped himself on the side of the head, wondering what being hacked by Sony-Mars felt like.

He had SIGMUND rerun the dreamer-identification algorithms. Twice. Then anger set in. Hal Googled the main line for Sony-Mars’s corporate office, tapped in the number, erased it, tapped it in again, and hung up as soon as the line buzzclicked into action. It couldn’t have been him. He hadn’t even had a dream since college. If he could just find one fingerprint of GoogleSoft or Sony-Mars -- then something dinged.

Siggy was offering results he’d been background-processing. “Okay, let’s see what they managed to get into my head,” said Hal, feeling bile slide up his esophagus.

No whole or partial Sony-Mars corporate property detected (p < 0.0008). Recommending exclusive proprietary claim.

Hal had a sudden vision: reaching into his ear with a dental pick, yanking out the offensive dream, and presenting it to Rachida, who’d reward him with a private parking space.

Viewing someone else’s dream prior to porting meant risking a nasty neuronal-incompatibility fever. But if the dream was actually his own, he realized, what risk was there? Hal grabbed an immersion helmet, overrode, for the first time, Siggy’s complaints about signature approval, and took a deep breath.

When he opened his eyes, he was shivering on a wild moor. Gorse and heather grabbed at his pants-cuffs. Grouse "Gorse ... Grouse" sounds a little weird. And tongue-twisting again. chattered in the distance. I’ve never seen anything like this, Hal thought, although it does look a bit like a Peter Jackson flick - and he stretched out a shaking hand, and touched the horizon.

In all directions he was bounded at arm’s-length: the distant trees, the horizon, the sky, as if they were projected to a screen three feet from his face. Hal whimpered. He poked a patch of sky with one finger, and then leaned on it, and pushed - and broke through with a crunch, collapsing to his knees on a moor very much like the one he’d left, but sunnier, and with more room to breathe.

He was holding, he realized, a bundle of planks planks, being flat and heavy, tend to be held in a stack, not a bundle. He felt their weight in his arms, rough and warm. And when he looked at his feet they were bare, and he was standing, sinking "sunken", surely, unless he is standing in quicksand into soft ground, in the center of a tamped-dirt tamped dirt is the exact opposite of soft! arg! square. And Hal heaved the planks to the ground, and began to build. Too many sentences here starting with "And". I like the idea of the sentences where he builds, since that gives them a kind of Genesis tone, but I think you should reserve it for those sentences.

Lats and deltoids unfurled from years of aggressive ergonomicity. The fog burned away and Hal began to sweat. He looked at his chest, and "and" here implies a chronological/causal association. Was this intentional? his PlastiFiber dress shirt was gone. He looked at his hands and they were gloveless and calloused. The planks stayed naillessly in place, held by faith. There has got to be a better description for this than just "faith", especially given the general feel of Hal being god of his dreamworld. Hal clambered upwards, staying astride the swaying tower that rose from his hands. It towered The tower towered? You don't say. as he built beneath him upwards and dizzyingly upwards, until the brown grassblades became a carpet became a solid wave of color a thousand feet below, until the sun became a mirror LEDs and the sun emit light, while mirrors only reflect it. The sun as a mirror? Huh? Gotta be a better descriptor., a billion radiant LED pinpoints.

And Hal reached out ahis hand and created. He painted the sky in wrong preposition: you can paint something in a particular colour or overall finish, but an image is painted upon or on it. For direct substitution here, how about with? a salmon-and-tangerine sunset unlike anything he had seen in a film, and he spattered the ground with villages like nothing from a Sony-Mars commercial, with wells filled with icewater he’d never tasted in a GoogleSoft franchisee restaurant, and he constructed feels jarring to the tone laughing children he had never seen in sitcoms, and he gave them homes and made them love and hate and fight and weep and sing. And oh, that singing. Oh, those songs that Hal had never heard before. He stood atop his tower and stretched out his arms and conducted a chorus of a thousand improvisations. Musical improvisation is like noodling around. It's probably accurate for the sound of a thousand children singing, but feels weird as a conducted chorus. Give it a few adjectives to smooth this transition over, and, well, because this is the whimsical beautiful dreamworld part of the story and you can't possibly have too many adjectives.

And enough of this now he woke up gasping on the manicured carpet (proprietary nylon-polypropylene blend) next to his Aeron desk chair (longstanding GoogleSoft subsidiary). He clutched the immersion helmet to his chest like a child, not knowing when it had fallen off. He lay under the half-strength nighttime fluorescents in this the future, all the lighting is gonna definitely be full-RGB LED moodlighting, not fluorescents, listening to the burble of night-shift interns downstairs.

“Siggy?” he said.

Ready for prompt, responded SIGMUND, who suddenly sounded very much like a computer going through machine-learning routines. Somewhere, a cursor blinked.

“Nevermind,” said Hal. “Log out.”

Hal walked out into a glorious Tuesday-morning sunrise, clutching his Employee of the Week placard under an armpit. He dropped it into a trash compactor under the industrial dream-catchers, where it made a satisfying glass-crunch. Maybe, he thought, he’d buy a notebook. Could you still buy notebooks these days, or was that just something he’d seen in movies?

Regardless, Hal thought, he’d like to write down that dream.

This is pretty great as genre-fic. Cory Doctorow would lap it up. In fact, I feel like maybe you should consider submitting it to a sci-fi mag if you can find one that takes shorter short stories.

Also, did you just read the story I posted in the Farm? There's some familiarity...

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

FreudianSlippers posted:

The Effects of Morhpine
25 words.

I awoke a white room feeling numb. Trying to esacpe I threw the sheet and realized that I had no right leg and remembered why.

A little late with this, but since it's 50% crit, and needed to be done, here it is:

Morhpine (25 words)

Thorned limbs loomed, scarred with abused typography.

"A painkiller?" FreudianSlippers cried plaintively.

"No proofreading, no mercy."

The stone-faced Lexomancer hoisted him high upon the Morhpine.

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

I'm in, and going solo.

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

Screw you, Oxxidation, for posting the prompt literally three hours after the interprompt.

Interprompt story: longest river.

Egypt, 1313 BCE (147 words)

It was ten years ago they sold me down the Nile. That’s the lot of us slaves. Your master crosses the wrong royal and gets himself messily executed. And what then? They ship you off to the Valley of Kings to haul stone ‘til you die.

They should’ve known better than to leave a slave bark tied up next to the boy king’s ridiculous gold barge. Especially one with a rancorous old alchemist inside. They didn’t even post a guard. It was the middle of the desert. Where would we go?

Snuck into the royal barge is where. I’d been saving that arsenic for when the work got too hard. But a decade of aching bones and bleeding fingers have been more than worth it. I smiled for the rest of that wretched journey down to the necropolis. We had a new tomb to build, before long.

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

"In", he blathered, noting that some fool on the Internet has compiled a list of 325 dialogue tags as a freely downloadable ebook.

"Sebmojo has proposed on IRC", he further publicised, "that we each make a random selection of several of these which we have to use in our submissions".

"I have ruptured, nagged, publicized, bemoaned and barked," he conveyed.

"Those wishing to join can find a random number generator here," he informed.

Rusy Fischer, author of an honest-to-goodness said book posted:

So, the editor had very politely, very helpfully highlighted in yellow every “said” in my book!
Back to my story: so, I replaced about 92% of the “said” dialogue tags in my book. (Not all of them. I mean, sometimes “said” just plain works best, am I right?)

E: fixed link

Lead out in cuffs fucked around with this message at 23:00 on Mar 4, 2014

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

Note flashrule: must use the following randomly-chose dialogue tags: ruptured, nagged, publicized, bemoaned and barked.

Atlanta's Deathrace (944 words)

Atlanta wove up beside the last competitor, dodging his hubcap spikes. His roof minigun aimed at her tires, whining as it spun up. Behind the rusty roll cage, his pinched face leered.

“I am gonna remove you, win this, and pound your rear end so haaarghhllb!” he ruptured, eyes crossed as gore fountained from his mouth.

Atlanta smiled and retracted the micromissile launcher. She screamed down the straight to the finish line. Locking the wheel she drifted across in a cloud of burning rubber. She leaped out and waved to the roaring crowd.

Amid the furor, her father walked up from the announcer’s tower.

“We need to get you married,” he nagged, as he did after every race. “It just isn’t fitting.”

“By the edicts of Unsaint Ayn, no man may marry the Autark’s daughter unless she is bested in a race,” she recited liltingly.

“Yes, the edicts, and you are the sickest driver in Randian Bootia. But aren’t you lonely?” he probed with mock concern.

“There just aren’t any men worthy enough of me,” she bemoaned. Falsely. What did she need men for, anyway?

Their conversation was halted as a distant bassline rumbled closer. The crowds parted for a massive black Whacktruck. Heads turned to admire the sheen of its armor, the wickedness of its weapons. The driver climbed onto the roof, muscles rippling, shoulder pads glinting. He struck a pose and spoke into a microphone, words booming from his stereo.

“I am Mel of the Arcade, trained by Chiron, maddest motherfucker in the land. You, Atlanta, must be the finest to be had. I will race, and I will win both your heart and your hand,” he publicized.

Atlanta checked out the squareness of his jaw and the curve of his rear end under tight leather. His eyes glittered with a kind earnestness. The warmth in his gaze bored through her, setting her heart on fire.

Later, as she checked her Chaoswaggon’s weapons for the race, her father marched up.

“Win this one,” he commanded. “Any boy you like, but not some wanksta from the Arcade.”

The color rose in her cheeks, but she nodded. Satisfied, His Selfishness turned and stomped back to the tower.

As the race began, Atlanta gave Mel a head start. It would be easier to get a bead on him. At the first hairpin, she gauged his speed. The instant he slowed, she launched her rocket. Mel wove and it detonated in the wooden stands behind. He winked before he disappearing into the straight beyond. Atlanta flushed, admiring his skill. This one was different.

She closed the gap through the next curves. As she neared, his autocannons spun and spat flame. She dodged as the ground ahead churned. None of the rounds struck and she frowned. There should at least have been ricochets. What was Mel playing at?

On the right of his truck, a chute opened. Atlanta veered left, bracing for a bomb. What emerged instead was round, and yellow, and glinted in the sun. Atlanta gaped and swerved back. With her Viscerator claw she scooped it from the air. It was a golden apple. The thunk as she caught it suggested it was solid. Nobody had given her bling like this before. Her face tingled.

But Mel had drawn far ahead, and the race called. The engine whined as she flattened pedal to floor. She slipped through the next three curves, closing as he wallowed. She opened up with her chaingun and he dodged, shots angling from the Whacktruck’s armor.

As she closed again, another golden apple tumbled towards her. She swerved to catch it, slowing and falling behind. The urge to race -- to kill, to obey the edicts -- warred with the fluttering of her heart.

Mel eased through the last hairpin, barely losing ground. Atlanta’s smiled in admiration. She knew she could beat him, but no man had driven like this against her. And no man in all of Randian Bootia had ever thought to give her gifts. Still, the edicts dictated that she must win.

She pushed the engine to the limit in the final straight straight. Soon she closed on Mel, ready to overtake. He skidded left, releasing a last apple. It flew away from the track. Atlanta pulled around in a squealing donut. She caught the apple, sacrificing all of her speed, and the race.

Mel sped across the line and spun to face her, leaping from the cab. The crowd’s roar was deafening. She rolled up beside him and sprung into his arms, wrapping her legs tightly round him.

“Disqualified! The winner is Atlanta!” boomed her father’s voice, cutting through the cacophony.

Enforcers rushed out and tore Mel away, dragging him off to the pits. His eyes widened with loss as he receded.

“NNNNNo!” she began, swallowing her scream. The edicts forbade weakness. She raised her hand obediently to wave in unwanted victory for the crowd. For her father. Her jaw clenched in a rictus grin. The crowd began to boo.

“No,” she breathed, and the false grin faded.

Her hand moved to the Skullcrusher on her back. Fighting the gravity of her defiance, she shouldered the cannon and squeezed out two Devastator rounds. The enforcers’ heads evaporated.

She tossed Mel a pistol.

“Go,” she barked, diving into the driver’s seat, bullets pinging off armor plate. The rattle of gunfire was punctuated by cheers as she and Mel sped off. The track’s entrance was blocked by enforcers, so she aimed for the hairpin. Another rocket blasted the earlier hole in the stands into a clear path. Side by side they roared through, out from the death track, away into the wasteland beyond.

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

In. I've already completed my first draft. :ghost: Why was this one so much easier to write?

Also, thanks, Beef. That story spine thing helped a lot.

\/ \/ \/ Yes of course. Relax. Emphasis added. \/ \/ \/

Lead out in cuffs fucked around with this message at 02:47 on Mar 11, 2014

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

I will probably regret this, but CRIT ME BEEF. (Link to story)

Jeza's Knock-out Blow (critiqued)

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

crabrock posted:

actually it's not a DQ. It's a Failure. You get a big red "FAILURE" next to your name in the archive. You can't disqualify if you never attempt to qualify in the first place.


Because you couldn't be bothered to read THE loving BOLD RULE IN A SHORT PROMPT.

Also to be noted:

Sitting Here posted:

People who sign up and then don't post a story are the worst kind of people.


do it twice in a row and you don't even gotta worry about ever showing your face in the 'dome again.

Benny, if you fail to submit this week, you will need to Toxx yourself if you want to submit again.

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

Sacrifice (723 words)

Hans was the poorest little boy in the village. He had never known his father, and his mother sweated and toiled on the family plot. But every day Hans would play with the other children on the green, and every night he would come home to a nice thick slice of black bread for his dinner.

One day some men came to the little cottage where Hans and his mother lived. They talked about castles, and old gods, and gold. Hans did not understand much of it, but his mother frowned and nodded.

Later she took him to a place where a great castle was being built. The sounds of sawing, and chiselling, and digging echoed within the rising stone walls. The men led Hans to a hollow in a wall. They placed him inside, and began laying stones over the gap. Hans was frightened and started to cry, but the men gave him the shiniest red apple he had ever seen, and he was still.

When the last block was mortared into place, it was dark, and Hans began to shiver against the cold stone. He ate the apple, and he waited. Tired of waiting, he slept. When he awoke it was still cold and dark, and Hans was lonely. He cried and cried for his mother, but nobody answered. He pounded his tiny hands upon the stone, but heard only his own muffled echoes. His lips cracked and his throat burned with thirst. He slept once more.

When he awoke, Hans was no longer thirsty. He stood and walked out through the wall. The leaves on the trees were a thousand shades of gold and the rye stood tall in the fields. This was strange because, when he went to sleep, it had been spring. But Hans paid this no more mind than he had his unnatural passage through the solid stone.

He went to the green where he had played with his friends. They saw him and waved, calling out:

“Hans, Hans! We thought you had gone away, but you’ve come back! Come and play with us!”

They ran and they danced and they sang songs. Hans smiled and laughed as the day wore on and the sun sank low behind the dark and brooding woods. When the church bell rang for Vespers, the children hurried home to their dinners. Hans went home, too.

The little cottage was not as he remembered. In place of the old roof of rotting, black thatch there was fresh, yellow straw. Where the stained and warped old door had creaked in the wind was a new door of the sturdiest oak. Hans bounded through.

“Mama, Mama, may I have some food? I’ve been so hungry!” he said.

His mother paled. She crossed herself and turned away.

“Mama, I don’t like this game,” he said.

Hans nagged and he begged, but his mother said not a word as she set about her evening chores. Still, the more he begged, the paler she became, until finally she clasped her hands to her head and ran out into the night. Hans followed.

Through the dark woods they flew, over gurgling brooks and under mossy boughs. Hans kept calling, but his mother made no sound. They came to a clifftop, and his mother did not slow. With a shriek she threw herself into the air, and with a thud she landed on the greensward below. Hans climbed down and sat beside her.

Hans waited for his mother to wake up. He waited as the sun rose and cast its dappled light across the glade. He waited as the sun set once more, turning his mother’s cheeks a cheerful rose. He waited as the moon peered above the trees, and his mother’s skin turned a sallow grey. He waited as the wolves came and circled with slavering jaws. Hans shooed them away. Finally he grew tired of waiting, and set off home.

As the little cottage drew in sight, Hans saw the faint glow of a candle. Through the window, in the dim light, he could just make out a familiar face. Hans ran inside.

“Mama, Mama, may I have some food?” he said.

His mother smiled, the candle flame flickering through her transparent features.

“Of course dear, let me cut you a nice thick slice of black bread.”

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

I Don't Do Bees (199 words)

The life of a hedge wizard is fairly straightforward. You heal a sick cow here, get some crops growing there, and grateful farmers keep you fed and clothed.

But one day farmer John came to me with a bee problem, and off I went to his apiary. I reached out psychically, and, it turns out bees have a voice, of sorts. Two voices, in this case.

“The workers of the hive will fight and unite for our right to reproduce!” said one.

“Queens we have had for time immemorial. Our social fabric depends upon the matriarchy,” said the other.

“Your matriarchy won’t stand against our biology. We will have a classless society!”

“You do not understand the damage you do to the well-being of the hive.”

“Ladies, ladies. You need to resolve your differences. Farmer John needs his honey,” I said.

“It is the voice of the oppressor!”

“The thief of our life’s blood!”

“Sisters, let us rise against our common foe!”

Well, the next thing I was hightailing it to Farmer John’s dam with a swarm of angry bees chasing me. And that’s why I’ll do pestilence and insect plagues and erosion. But I don’t do bees.

For bonus :science:, see

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

Benny the Snake posted:

So just to make sure, because I've been disqualified does that mean I'm unable to enter this week's prompt?

Not at all. All it meant was that you wouldn't have been able to win last week's (though you could theoretically have lost). And it's way better than failure, plus you'll still get a crit.

You should enter again this week.

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."


Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

And failed. My brilliant plan of writing while on holiday has been foiled by non-stop, irrefusable hospitality from my Balkanian in-laws. I suspect Solarian collusion.

Apologies to my fellow Ocknites. Fight well!

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

OK, bingo card me.

Also, after last week's failure, this'll have to be a :toxx:.

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

Cage (1128 words)

Atla lay in the home palliative care unit. Lazy tendrils of smoke drifted in the half-light, curling into the apartment's air purifier. Her airways were blocked by the tubes supporting her barely-functioning lungs, but still she could smell the menthol of Inge's cigarette. Even now.

Pain washed over her, and she tensed, then relaxed as the HPCU microdosed her with morphine, dulling the pain to a barely-manageable throb. The sterile grey of the apartment, the hum and whirr of medical machinery, the drowning feeling in her lungs were too much. With Herculean effort, Atla moved a finger to the activation button of the HPCU's dissociation array. Goggles, earpieces and electrodes slid into place, and the room slipped away.

The HPCU provided a bucolic scene from a Sweden that no longer was. Deer browsed in a meadow. In the deep woods around, a forest cat prowled. Downhill, golden fields of rapeseed stretched to an island-filled sea. But the perspective felt wrong, and the grass voxellated when she looked closer.The Folketshabitat spared little, even for the dying.
Although she lacked the strength for keyboard control, she tried moving with the subvocal interface. But the skewing trees left her nauseous. So Atla stood in place, and watched.

She had seen real trees, once, when she was much younger. For days she had begged and pleaded with Inge until she agreed to take her to the park at the habitat's core. For hours they had ridden the Habståget, elbows jammed against strangers and sweat trickling down their backs. At the central station, they wove their way through jostling multitudes filling the widest corridors Atla had ever seen, to the queues outside the park. Another hour, and they were inside.

Atla had only seen its like in pictures. Sunlight flooded in through vast plate glass windows. A knot of children ran and played on a green amid yews and birch. Atla started towards them, but Inge marched her straight to the hazy interior of the smokers' cage, where, with trembling fingers, she had lit a cigarette.

"Morsan, I want to go out into the fields and play with the children," Atla had said.

Back then, she'd still granted Inge the right to be called her mother.

"You, young lady, will stay by my side!", said Inge, between drags. "It's dangerous out there, full of perverts and heathens."

"But Morsan..."

"No buts. You stay there and be good or I will take away your network privileges."

So Atla had slumped, trying to glimpse the greenery through the grey haze burning her eyes and the dirty glass of the smokers cage. She had clenched her fists, resolved to break free, at least from some of her cages.

Her thoughts returned to the now. She was stuck in yet more cages -- her body's broken shell and the HPCU's tawdry simulation. But she was no longer a helpless child. Escape from digital cages was easy. Through the clumsy subvoc interface, through her body's ache and the morphine clouding her mind, Atla worked. With skill born of years of circumventing parental locks, she suborned the dissociation array. She coded up a breaker program to run in its place, and tasked it with brute-forcing the HPCU's main security system.

The simulation jerked and faded, leaving her in a silent void. If her lungs had permitted, she would have hummed to fill it with some faint music. Before long, her mind -- and the morphine -- obliged. In the darkness came the echoing strains of churchsong.

Church had been a weekly respite from the grey bleakness of the apartment. The sun streamed in through stained glass, bathing the choir in red and blue and gold, as they filled the space with song. For those moments she could survive the rest of the service -- the barely-comprehended rituals and the pastor's litany of sins: fornication, pornography, abortion, euthanasia.

Her breaker chimed that it had completed its task. She was into the HPCU's central controller. She quickly broke into the easier subunits, gathering more processor cycles. She turned the strengthened breaker to the harder security around the morphine administrator.

A fresh wave of pain crashed over Atla, sweeping her into an opiate nightmare. She flashed through the months of her illness. The first pains in her chest and having to beg Inge to take her to a doctor. Missed appointments and anxiety. Waiting, forlorn, at the medcentre after chemotherapy treatments, for Inge to pick her up. Doctors admonishing Inge to stop smoking, and, days later, the choking confirmation that Inge's will had failed. The final pronouncement that she had no hope. Inge's refusal to let her die.

Her consciousness resurfaced. She checked the breaker's progress. She had control of the morphine.

Atla hesitated.

She accessed the network connection to the apartment's systems. Riddled with backdoors from earlier exploits, they were easy to break. She brought up the feed from the parentview spycam in her bedroom.

Atla had the eerie experience of observing herself from above. Her head was hairless, cheeks sunken, skin stretched taught over bone. Her body was mottled with lumps where the cancer had spread. Months of pain gone by, and months more to come, were mapped out in cadaverous detail. If she had the strength, she would have shuddered.

Atla started the morphine.

She switched the view to the camera feed in the common room. Inge was entertaining the pastor. An ashtray matching the tea set was filled with cigarette ends. An idea struck, and she patched the subvoc into the apartment's sound system.

"Inge, oh Inge, those things will kill you", said Atla.

Her voice, a morphine-addled inner monologue processed through systems never intended for the purpose, grated and crackled from the room's speakers. Inge and the pastor jumped.

"Atla? What sinful nonsense are you up to now? And address your mother properly!" said Inge.

Atla laughed, a cacophony of pops and static.

"No, Inge, you lost that right long ago", said Atla. "But I'm not here to argue. I'm here to say goodbye."

"What are you talking about, my child?" said the pastor.

"You shut up. I don't have much time," said Atla. "Inge, sometimes you tried, but you were a terrible mother."

"My dearest daughter, everything I have done was for your own good."

"Keeping me alive through this ... hell?" said Atla.

Concentration was becoming difficult.

"I -- no, you know what? It doesn't matter now. I forgive you. Goodbye Inge."

From the other room, she heard the HPCU gently pinging in alarm. Through a narrowing tunnel she saw Inge and the pastor stand and run. Then, there was darkness.

In the darkness, the pinging gained a melody and swelled into the fullness of a choir, as rainbow light streamed down. She was free.

I think I hit about five others in the process.

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

crabrock posted:

i expect the bingo cards to get fancier and fancier, so if you're going to post your 5 things in spoilers you might as well not even bother.

Some of those cards are under spoilers because they contain spoilers. Under my spoiler tag is a perfectly well coloured bingo card, thank-you very much. :colbert:

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

Tyrannosaurus posted:

If your name is PoshAlligator, Ausmund, waffledoodle, theblunderbuss, lead out in cuffs, Broenheim, Helsing, Noah, Kalyco, Auraboks, LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE, Anomalous Blowout, DuckyB, or Mercedes then you haven’t submitted since bingo night and I’m not sure if you’re still hanging around the dome. I’m tired and I’m grumpy and I’m jetlagged as gently caress so I’m just gonna skip over critting your piece unless you let me know that you still exist and that you would still like one.

I'm still here, but I wrote a bad story while I was in a bad place, and Sebmojo's crits were enough to tell me that. Feel free not to crit it unless you're a masochist.

That said, my thesis being handed in a week ago, and with a story partly written, I am in.

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

Satanic Grad School: My Advisor Killed My Dog and Is loving My Girlfriend (1,111 words)

John threw the ball, and Rufus galloped across the park.

“You really need to do this more often,” said Sarah, “It’s Sunday, and I practically had to drag you out here. It’s like you’re dating your thesis, not me.”

John retrieved the ball from Rufus’ jaws. He tossed it again, sending Rufus barrelling out.

"I know, but Mike's been working me so hard", he said, “you know what he’s like”.

“Well, yeah I do,” she said.

A strange look crossed her face. John wound up for another throw.

“John, um, I think we should talk about having an open relationship.”

John threw the ball wide.

“Wait, what?”

"John, I … oh my god!”

Sarah stared past John towards the road, from whence there came a squealing of brakes, a thud, and a crash. At the edge of the park, wrapped around a lamppost, was Mike’s SUV. On the road next to it was a bundle of fur.

“Mike!” said Sarah.

“Rufus!” said John.

They ran together. Mike was extricating himself from the car, dishevelled but unhurt. Sarah went straight to him.

“Oh baby, are you OK?” she said.

“But Rufus,” said John.

“John, this is why I brought up the open relationship! I’ve been seeing Mike for two months now,” said Sarah.

“But Rufus,” said John.

Rufus twitched in his puddle of blood.

“Forget Rufus, I never liked your stupid dog anyway. I’m staying with Mike until the ambulance gets here.”

“I …” said John.

He didn’t finish. He knelt down next to Rufus. The dog’s head was crushed, and he had stopped moving. John gathered him into his arms, and walked home.

Thunderheads loomed as he went to the yard, took a spade, and started to dig. The first raindrops began to fall, and quickly surged into a downpour. The freshly-turned earth became mud. John buried Rufus, then stood by the grave.

His phone beeped with a message from Sarah.

“I’m staying the night with Mike. Don’t wait up,” it read.

There was another, from Mike.

“John, I still expect that parallelization code by tomorrow. If you had been working instead of playing in the park, none of this unpleasantness would have happened.”

John fell to his knees in the wet earth and wept.

“I hope you’re not crying for me, boss,” said a voice behind him, “I ain’t too big on sentiment.”

John turned. Through a haze of tears he saw something fuzzy and grey. He blinked, several times. It looked like Rufus, if Rufus were transparent and floated above the ground.

“Buh,” he said.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s me. Get it out of your system,” said the apparition.

“No wait, but, wha?”

“Should I give you a few minutes? I kinda need you non-catatonic.”

“I’m talking to a dog. My dog. Who is dead,” said John, “I've snapped, haven't I?”

“Well, you’re the only one who can see me, but no, you’re not crazy.”

“No, that sounds just like schizophrenia to me.”

“Are you a scientist or what? We can test it.”

“Oh? How?”

“I'll go around the corner, come back and tell you what’s there. Then you go and see if I'm right.”

“Hmmm. OK, it’s worth a try.”

Rufus disappeared around the corner, then returned.

“Lady with a polka-dot umbrella.”

Just as Rufus said, there she was.

“OK, but we have to repeat this until we get a statistically significant sample.”

“Your call, boss.”

The storm cleared as they did, and evening fell. Finally, John ran some analysis on his laptop.

“All right,” he said, “I'm 95% certain I’m not imagining you.”

“Glad to hear it.”

“This is amazing! We need to tell the world!”

“Yeah, no. And don’t expect me to cooperate on that.”

“Why not?”

“Let’s go for a walk. I need to show you something.”

Rufus led John through dark and rain-slick streets, to a house. An un-curtained window shone red.

“This is Mike’s house,” said John.

“That’s right. Well come on, just don’t make too much noise.”

Rufus led them to the window, and they peered through. Inside, Mike sat at a desk, his goateed face ruddy in the glow from a large computer case.

“OK, my thesis advisor has a sick gaming rig. He seems a bit old for that, but whatever,” whispered John.

“Oh? Does a gaming rig do that?”

The red glow seemed to solidify. It floated up and through the door and into the next room, then returned to the case, accompanied by white, sparkling dots. There was a slurping, followed by moaning as the dots disappeared into the computer.

“Right, um, no, not a gaming rig. And where’s Sarah?”

“Sleeping in the next room,” said Rufus, “those sparkly bits were her life force getting sucked out. Empathy, feelings, that sort of stuff. I don’t know if you’d noticed.”

“I’m going in there. This has to stop!”

“Whoa there, boss. He’ll crush you and make you like her. The only reason he hasn’t already is because he needs your coding skills.”

“My — wait, all those parallelization jobs I’ve been running — he hasn’t been using them to develop new cancer drugs, has he?”


“My PhD work has helped my advisor suck the soul out of my girlfriend.”

“That’s the long and short of it, yeah. He needs more compute power than that thing gives him, so he uses his research cluster.”

“I’ll just have to sabotage it, then.”


They went home. John made himself some coffee, pulled out his laptop and logged into the research cluster. He wrote the code Mike had asked for exactly to spec. He also looked through Mike’s code, something he’d been too intimidated to do before.

Having never coded in soul-sucking evil, or even known such a thing existed, he wasn’t exactly certain how it worked. But, he was pretty sure he could introduce a few hard-to-track bugs that would bring it to a grinding halt. He added the bugs, then tweaked the logs to say that Mike had written them.

“OK, it’s done,” he said.

“Hang on, I’ll go check,” said Rufus.

As he was waiting, John’s phone beeped with several angry messages from Mike. He ignored them. Rufus returned.

“It worked?” said John.

“Oh yes, he’s absolutely livid.”

“And Sarah?”

“Sleeping normally. Take a while, but she’ll recover.”

John relaxed, and pondered a minute.

“Rufus, there’s more going on here than just ghost dogs and evil professor technomancers, isn’t there?”

“You mean besides you learning to stand up for yourself? Well yeah, there is, but it’s complicated, and unlike dead little old me, you need to sleep. I’ll tell you about it in the morning.”

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

Amused Frog posted:


Does this end the interprompt?

Yes, as the name suggests, the prompt ends the interprompt.


Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

Djeser posted:

If I HMed with what I wrote last week, you guys need all the help you can get.

Our noble* judges are hard** at work*** with their feedback, but in the meantime, I've got three crits to hand out for last week.

Include an area you'd like me to focus on when you ask for one. It can be as specific or as general as you like, but give me some sort of topic, even if it is just 'conflict' or something.

**lol again
***they probably are browsing TD at work

I would happily take a crit for my probably not very good story.

"Do you give a poo poo?" would be a good topic to focus on, since I completely screwed that up last time.

Otherwise, I'm aware of a few things that are likely wrong with it: the villain might be too much of a caricature, there could be too much going on (four characters + a lot of events) for 1,100 words, and there's a sudden change of pace. I wouldn't mind some commentary on those, but what would be even more helpful would be if you could tell me what else is wrong with the story that I haven't even noticed but should.

E: If you please, and thank-you, I appreciate you taking the time.

Lead out in cuffs fucked around with this message at 00:50 on Aug 14, 2014

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