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Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Hey, I'm in.

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Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


In exile
1109 words

Cairn's father bought something unusual to his home one day. It was a boy, wearing bright clothing that was hopelessly in tatters. His lips were pursed, as if there was wet dung under his nose. His eyes were dry with tears.

"Father? Who is that child?" said Cairn, sizing up the boy and frowning.

The boy spoke before his father could. "I am Rudolph, the rightful king of Ahagun." His voice quavered. "In exile."

"Rudolf will live under our roof," said Taurn, Cairn's father. "From now on you will be brothers, Cairn."

"We're not friends with Ahagun," said Cairn.

"That is still true." Taurn regarded Rudolf with a neutral eye. "But Rudolf is here as a favor to a brave man I once owed, who died bringing the boy to me. You will treat him as if he was your own mother's child."

"He looks soft and weak."

"You will not talk to me as if I were not here," Rudolph snapped. "Address me like a person!"

Cairn's long arm straightened, his fist smashing into the boy's face. Rudolph staggered backward, planting his right foot behind at the last moment before he fell on the floor.

"You hit me," said Rudolph, holding down the hysteria in his voice.

"I did as you asked," said Cairn.

He was still grinning when his father, who was not, punched his face in.

* * *

They were sitting on the grass, watching the other boys play with blunt spears.

"When I come of age, I will return to my kingdom, slay my uncle, and take back the throne."

Cairn laughed. "When will that be? You've barely any hair on your face."

Rudolph stroked his chin. He had grown in the summers that passed, but his face remained that of a boy's. He held the Ahagunian sword close to his side, a gift from Taurn. "My father wasn't a very good king. That was why my uncle killed him. Nevertheless, it is my right."

"Is it really important?"

"I am the rightful king."

"You could forget about being king. Live with us. We could dye your hair and get rid of that unsightly black. Better that than dead with a knife on your back in Ahagun soil."

"They believe me dead. If I come back, I could overturn the court. There are still people sworn to my father. To me. I could stage a coup of my own, bloodier than my uncle's."

"You think you do not belong here."

"I..." Rudolph's posture softened. "Your people have been kind to me. But were our situations reversed, would you not yearn of home? Of your own people?"

"Then I know something we can do," said Cairn. "Tomorrow my father will go hunting for a feast. A boy of Valdor only comes of age after he has killed his first boar. You can come with us."

That night, Cairn spoke to his father about his plan.

"Are you certain?" said Taurn, stroking his beard. "Rudolph has never been out in the woods. I do not wish to put him in harm's way."

"He is hardier than he looks, Father," said Cairn. "You have seen his swordwork, have you not?"

"I doubt if it could hurt a boar's thick hide. This isn't a jaunt, Cairn. He could get killed."

"He doesn't believe he belongs here," Cairn said. "He wants to go back to his kingdom and enact a mad plan to take back his throne. He'll get himself killed. Wouldn't you help me free his mind with it?"

Taurn narrowed his eyes. "Get him ready tonight. We set out at dawn. He will have his own spear, but he must listen to everything I say."

* * *

Cairn sweated underneath his leather jerkin. Rudolph fared worse--the treacherous undergrowth made it perilous to walk, and made him weary. Cairn walked close and gave the young king a few words of encouragement.

"In my kingdom we hunt wild animals with dogs and bows," said Rudolph. "Even my arms wobble from carrying this spear." He had insisted on bringing his Ahagunian sword, slowing him down as it kept getting tangled in vines.

"Just stand back and watch Father handle everything," said Cairn. "If it comes for you, just stick that spear in its face. The cross guard will keep it from going further."

"Come over here!" said Taurn. "It's very near." There was a growl, and a thundering sound that grew louder and louder. "Behind me!" he said, bringing his spear over at the approaching boar.

From the darkness their prey leapt, slavering madly. Cairn froze, looking at the boar's huge tusks with wonder before remembering to level his own spear. Rudolph shook beside him, his grip floundering.

Taurn stepped forward, his thrust catching the boar in the gullet. It thrashed and gurgled, still moving forward. With a mighty squeal, it pushed Taurn back, and he fell.

The boar's ferocious visage loomed. With a yell, Cairn extended his own spear as Taurn struggled to get up. The boar had pinned him with its front legs, mad with rage.

"Rudolph!"

The young king thrust his own spear, aiming for the boar's eye. The point went in with a wet sound, but Rudolph's own strength wasn't enough to keep the boar off Taurn.

"Run," said Taurn.

"No!" said Cairn. "Hold fast, Rudolph! Rudolph?"

Rudolph slid his grip forwards and twisted away, drawing Ahagunian steel. He slashed at the boar's face with a series of cuts, carving red lines on the wild animal's face. The boar reared back, which allowed Taurn to scramble away. Taurn pushed forth with his spear, and the boar made an earsplitting cry until it died on its feet.

"I am sorry, foster-father," said Rudolph, helping Taurn up.

"For what?"

"I couldn't kill it with my spear alone. I am, after all, not your people."

Taurn smiled. "That doesn't matter. You are my son."

* * *

Rudolph stood with the sun rising behind him, facing the home he was about to leave. The sword hung from his hip like it belonged.

"Bring a spear to remember our people by?" said Cairn.

"Kings aren't forgetful," said Rudolph.

"Won't you change your mind? You could wait another summer," said Cairn. "Or two. A beard would help disguise you."

Rudolph smiled. Cairn had a full beard already, and they were of the same age. "Sadly, my blood is of the fairer kind. Goodbye, brother." He turned and walked away.

"Brother! I know you'll rule well! So try not to die!"

Cairn watched him leave until the sun coaxed tears from his eyes, until his father Taurn dragged him back home.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


I'm in, because I need practice on how to spell my characters' names consistently.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


To You, 50 Years From Now
360 words

On the TV, a scientist proclaimed the apocalypse.

"...population growth is unsustainable by our very planet. In fifty years, I estimate that we will all run out of food."

The talk show host was smiling. "And what will happen then, Professor Plavinsky?"

Plavinsky stared dead at the camera. "Driven to starvation, the human race will yearn to eat itself. But we all know that's impossible. We will simply starve, and run out of energy, lying on our beds, our desks, our roads--"

Bryan turned off the TV with the remote. "It's the same in every channel."

"And to think we implemented a one-child policy fifty years ago," said Mary, lying beside him in bed.

"It isn't right," Bryan said. "Think about it--the human race is going to end not because of violence, like those damned carnivores, but because we keep loving like rabbits. Immortal rabbits. Elijah and Enoch!"

"It'll be all right, dear," Mary said. "Have faith. Fifty years is a long enough time for us to find a way."

Bryan stared at his wife's growing belly.

"Our child. He'll save us, I hope."

Mary frowned. "She. How are your folks treating you?"

"Like poo poo," Bryan said. "All hundred-seventy of them. Say I don't care for the line. Say I'm ruining the child's future by denying him--or her, thank you dear--the wisdom of my ancestors. You?"

"They're a little more accepting, but my great-great-great-great grandmother spoke in a very patronizing tone." She mimicked the voice. "'Mary, child, you can reach us anytime you need our help. Please don't ever hesitate to ask.' It's got that unspoken 'oh, I know you'll ask our help the first time the baby soils herself, but if it makes you sleep better at night'."

"Himself."

Mary shrugged.

"Our baby will grow up to be an engineer. Build a space colony for human habitation. Or a rocket to colonize planets."

Or she'll--he'll--be the world's first killer," Mary said.

"Please, dear."

Mary rolled her eyes. "Whatever. At any rate, we have a deadline of fifty years, so we have to make this work."

Bryan pressed his ear on Mary's belly. Inside, immortal cells divided and grew.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Thanks Fanky and Rhino.

Oh, and I'm in for this week.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


A Close Call
992 words

Harriet stared at Iris's corpse sprawled in the middle of the road. It was face-down, its neck loose and broken. It was a couple of blocks from the Kensingtons' house, which was just along her street.

"Are you okay?" Officer Graves asked. "Maybe we should contact Margaret."

"Mom's away. I don't even know where she is," Harriet mumbled. Her stomach churned as she walked. She had seen many photos of corpses in her mother's study, but not the real thing.

She squatted down and shone her flashlight on Iris's face. Dead eyes stared past her. She reached for the girl's long blond hair, then drew her hand back. Don't leave any prints, her mother would always say. Harriet's thoughts were lost in the rumbling of a truck in the distance.

"Their door was open," Graves said, standing beside her. "She was taken without struggle. Nobody saw anything until the body."

"No sign of other trauma," Harriet said, finding comfort at the sound of her own voice. "She was... she was terrified in her last moments."

Who could have done this? It was a small, quiet town, where people knew each other fairly well.

"Did you know her?" Graves said.

"She was in my class."

"Sorry."

Harriet shook her head. "I'll help with the case. Though I can't promise anything."

"Okay. We'll check for prints, but it'll take a while for results to come up. Call me if you find anything on your own."

Harriet stood up. When she looked back, they were already putting the body away.

* * *

Harriet brewed tea using a bag instead of her usual loose leaves. She walked to her room, frowning at the locked door opposite it, leading to her mother's study. A curt note was taped on it. Don't worry about me, it said.

She left it there, in the off-chance that she could do what it said.

She plopped down in front of her desk. A desktop computer hummed to her right.

How did Mom do it? Harriet had never helped in her work, though she acted the part of a personal servant. She would cook her mother's meals and clean up after. Sometimes she would even drag her to bed after passing out on her desk.

Harriet grabbed a bag of index cards. They were a constant fixture all over her mother's study, taped on the wall, the whiteboard, the desk. She wrote anything and everything about the case.

An hour later, and she was still staring blankly at her pile of thoughts. Nothing was coming to mind. How was Iris taken from her home? Not how, why? Kidnapping? Then why was she killed? Why did they dump her on the street? How it could happen in the middle of the afternoon, without anyone noticing? She separated the questions from the facts and opinions, shuffling and reading the piles over and over.

Something clicked. She swiveled to the right, brought up a map of their town, printed it, and started attacking it with her pen. Here was Iris's house, and here was hers, three houses away. The body was found here, in another street. She drew a circle around the points, indicating arrows where the killers could have fled to. They were shrewd enough to get Iris to open the front door without suspicion.

"Maybe..." she voiced a budding thought in her head, "they didn't intend to kill her."

Did Iris die trying to flee? It could explain the body's curious placement. It would've been easy for them to dump the body farther away. Or make it disappear.

She twirled her hair with a finger. Iris wore her blond hair long, while she kept hers short. She wrote that down and shuffled the index cards. Blond hair. Broken neck. Terrified. Face-down. Kidnapped along our street.

She called Officer Graves.

"Did you find out anything?" Graves said.

"Yes," Harriet said. "Iris was a mistake. I'm their real target."

* * *

The next morning, Harriet was still in her pajamas when the doorbell rang. The peephole showed a man in gray overalls, with a truck idling in the background. She opened the door.

"Delivery for Ms. Florence," the man said.

Harriet blinked at the truck. "Hmm? I don't think my mom's--" her words were cut off by the man moving behind her, pinning her neck with one arm. In his hand a wet cloth descended on her face.

Harriet shone the tactical flashlight on her assailant's eyes. He gasped and loosened his grip. Harriet bent forward, throwing the man overhead, rolling with him down the steps of the porch. She came out on top, pinning the flailing man down with a joint lock.

"A little help here!" she yelled. Officer Graves popped out of the side bushes, training his gun on the man. More policemen emerged from the other side of the street.

The truck's engine roared, and it sped away, open doors swinging. It screeched into a halt on the corner of the street as police cars cut it off.

"That was risky, Harriet," Graves said as the police cuffed the delivery man.

"I needed them to come for me," Harriet said, brushing the dirt off her clothes. "They were most vulnerable here."

"Figured we'd mail you to your mother in pieces," the delivery man said. "Maybe we'll just do it the other way around. The next delivery's gonna be real!"

Harriet stared at him, wide-eyed.

He was still laughing when the police took him away.

* * *

Harriet lay down on her bed, wrapped in a blanket. She was still shivering.

"I've posted some guards on your house until this mess dies down," Graves said over the phone.

If it does. "Thanks."

She made a new call, her deep breathing timed to the numbers she pressed. It was a number not listed in her contacts.

"Mom, pick up. Please. What have you gotten yourself into?"

It rang without being answered.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


I'm in with Moe anthropomorphism.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


The Obvious Solution
848 words

Prompt: Moe anthropomorphism
Flash rule: Story may not involve anyone under the age of 40.


Kenjiro stumbled inside their house, a convenience store bag dangling from one hand.

"Welcome home, dear," Inori said, shutting the door behind her.

"Dinner. What's dinner?" Kenjiro slurred. He laid the bag on the dining table, revealing a six-pack of beer cans. Two had already been emptied.

"I texted you, didn't I? I made Napolitan today." Inori removed the plastic covering on the meal she had set on the dining table. Kenjiro didn't always go home. She counted herself lucky tonight. You have more gray hairs than your husband, her mother kept telling her. She stashed away the remaining beer cans before he had the sense to drink more of them.

"Napolitan, eh?" Kenjiro's clumsy hand couldn't grab the fork. Hiding her thoughts behind a smile, Inori took it and began to feed him.

* * *

Kenjiro was half-slumped over the dining table. Sometimes he would sleep there, suit and all.

"Inori. Dear."

Inori took off her apron, having finished washing the dishes. "Do you need something?" He used to yell, when they had been younger.

"The episode. Did you tape it?"

"I did. I don't think you should be watching it tonight, though. It's Friday already." Inori had tried watching the late-night cartoons that her husband consumed like a part of his diet. They used to fight about it, but Inori decided it was better for Kenjiro to watch cute girls doing cute things in the safety of their home. Reality had a way of messing with expectations.

"Not going to work. Chief's been yelling at me. Not selling toasters fast enough. Hate them."

Inori sat down in front of her husband. "Do you really hate those toasters, dear? They're the ones feeding us." And making you drunk.

"Yeah. I've had enough. Tell the chief I got a cold." Kenjiro rested his head on his arms.

Sighing, Inori grabbed a piece of paper and a mechanical pencil. She started drawing. It would help, her marriage counselor had told her. She used to draw a lot in school, learning from the comics she used to read. Some of her classmates liked her art, but her teachers didn't, and that was that.

"Look. I drew Toaster-tan!" She slid the paper across the table. Toaster-tan, the Toaster Girl. The girl who's also a toaster. She wore her hair in a bun and an apron with a smiling sun on it. Her red-hot hands warmed bread up, to fill your mornings with crunchy delight!

"Huh." Kenjiro tilted his head to look. His bored face twisted in delight, then desire. "Toaster-tan..." He drooled on the paper.

Inori reached out and wiped her husband's mouth. "Do you like it?"

Solemnly, Kenjiro met her eyes. "Make her younger." He sent the paper back.

Inori smiled, hiding her bafflement. "Okay."

Kenjiro perused the revision with approval. "Beautiful."

"Maybe you should turn in, dear," Inori said. "I'll have to wash your clothes, you know. Chief wouldn't like it if you showed up in a crooked tie, would he?"

Kenjiro held up a finger. "One last thing."

"Yes?"

"Her boobs should be smaller."

* * *

What Inori had thought was a one-off thing became a daily deal. Kenjiro would fill his stomach with beer and arrive home late, demanding a Toaster-tan bribe to go to work in the morning. Inori spent her days drawing, filing away the rust in her long-dormant art skills. Toaster-tan's hairstyle became girly twintails, and she grew an electric cord as a tail. Inori began to draw four-panel comics, weaving short narratives out of her own spur-of-the-moment creation. She invented Bread-kun, who would grab Toaster-tan's hands to heat his cheeks.

Kenjiro brought them to work. Little by little, he started brightening up. While he could never stop going home late or drinking along the way, their nighttime conversations grew longer.

"We have a new girl at work, she looks just like Toaster-tan," Kenjiro said.

"Even the hair?"

He laughed. "Of course not. No way a woman would wear that!"

She didn't, and her smile was brittle. I would've done it for you, she thought, if it helped.

* * *

One day, Kenjiro arrived home early. His face was ashen, though he was sober. He covered his cheek with a hand.

"I got fired," he said.

Inori almost choked on her reply. "Why?"

"I... I grabbed Matsutaka's rear end. Told her I was plugging her in. To warm me up. Like, like Toaster-tan would for Bread-kun."

Gently, Inori peeled back Kenjiro's hand, revealing a red mark on his cheek.

Kenjiro blinked. Never had she seen him with tears. Not even on the day she said yes. Why did she?

"I'm sorry. I'll work hard at the next job. You're my one and only Toaster-tan, dear."

She pushed him away, savagely. She opened her mouth, scrambling for the first word of fury she could fling his way. But she found nothing. All emotion out of her had been smeared on paper like graphite.

"And I thought it would work," she said, staring at the new batch of comics she'd drawn on the table.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Welcoming Party
246 words

Ralf entered the hall, expecting a welcome. Warriors leaned in their chairs. Their bellies were swollen from the night's feast.

"This will be your new home," the Valkyrie said behind him. Her armor glistened; Ralf couldn't quite look at her.

"Cool, I guess." He felt tiny, imagining thousands of eyes staring at him. In fact, no one seemed to notice his arrival. "So, where can I sit down? Does the mead taste as good as the songs say?"

"I assure you that it does," the Valkyrie said. "But the day is long and you shall have your fill of it later." Laughter began, sweeping the hall. Bodies untangled themselves from where they lay, picking up weapons.

"Great." Ralf tested his axe's weight. It spun beautifully in his hand. He had used it since his mortal life. "I'm gonna like this."

The Valkyrie smiled. "One more thing. They know you are a murderer of children, Ralf Vandersen. It is marked on your skin. The rules have brought you to this place, but it will not protect you from its denizens." The crowd swelled around them, faces dark and shrouded. Leering.

"Those without honor will be the first to charge come Ragnarok, kicked like dogs." The Valkyrie walked away, her radiance fleeing Ralf.

"Welcome to Valhalla," one warrior said, burying his axe at Ralf's side. The wound knotted and healed, but many more bites followed.

The day couldn't end sooner, he thought, wondering how the mead tasted like.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


In with Lithium.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Element: Lithium

The Lightest Metal
1141 words

Iris wiped her sweat off the guitar's strings for the third time when a pot-bellied man barged into the cramped backstage room. His entrance let a blast of noise in from the band onstage. Iris shot a glance at her phone beside her, praying for Jane to reply.

The man fell into a folding chair, hunching over the backrest like a gargoyle. He looked like a biker who had rolled through dirt.

"At least close the door," Iris said. "Please?" When the man didn't respond, she closed it herself and returned to her spot. The mounting stress made her playing weak and troubled. Where was Jane? This was her gig, her idea. Iris had tried calling her a few times, to no avail.

She noticed the man turn in her direction, staring at her. She stopped. "Excuse me? You're creeping me out."

The man blinked. "Sorry."

The look on his face made Iris want to apologize herself. "I'm just strung up." She strummed a chord, chuckling at her stupid pun. "Are you performing tonight, too?"

The man's shoulders drooped. "I am."

The door opened slightly and a face popped out. It was the bar manager. "Lance. Man. Where's your band?"

"Gone," Lance said. "But I have the gig. I'm still performing."

"Where's your guitar?"

Lance turned up his palms. "Don't have it."

The manager made a disgusted face. "Bullshit. Band on stage's halfway through their set." He turned to Iris. "I'm moving you up on schedule. I'll double your pay if you double your set. Where's your partner?"

"I've been trying to get her." Iris wagged her phone as if she was about to hurl it. She was close to the brink.

"I need to keep the noise going out there. Do something or I'll throw you both out." The manager slammed the door.

It was then when Iris's phone beeped.

mark called and asked me to fill in. playing at bugsy's instead. sorry <3

Iris cocked her arm holding her phone, frozen in one tense moment. She let it dangle to her side. Smashing her phone wouldn't help. She should have seen it coming. Jane had formed their little partnership as a way of getting back at her ex. Right. First word of need from Mark and she comes scrambling to help, rest of the world be damned. What of her poor, friendless guitarist indeed?

Iris sank in her chair. "I just got ditched."

"Looks like we're in the same boat," Lance said.

"I have a guitar, though. What happened to you, anyway?"

Lance looked down on the ground, shaking his head.

"Could it be... that you got kicked out by your own band?"

"Yeah. Girl problems. Don't ask."

"And they took your guitar."

"More like smashed it. Then they threw me out of the van and drove away."

"That's harsh." Maybe you deserved it? Iris thought to ask. But there was enough meanness in their lives already.

"Let's find out what we can do," Lance said. "Can you sing?"

Iris shook her head. "Not at all. That was supposed to be Jane's job."

Lance's eyes gleamed, as if she had flipped his switch. "I can."

Iris sized him up carefully. "You play metal, right? I just thought you looked the part. No offense."

Lance smiled. "Spot on. Mostly the 80's stuff. Farthest we went was 1991, with The Black Album."

"I'm sorry, but I've never dabbled in it. I was supposed to play Taylor Swift with my friend, but so much for that idea. That's not all I know, though." Iris played a ditty, fingers coaxing sweet, sylvan tunes from steel and mahogany. "Dad was a frustrated guitarist. He overcompensated with me, I guess. I've been playing guitar since I could read."

"But you've heard a few of the songs, at least?"

"Yeah. I'm just not sure if I can nail the style down."

"Lend me your guitar for a bit? I'll teach you some songs. You should be able to pick them up."

Iris folded her arms. "I still haven't agreed to playing with you."

"Truth is, I think you need me more than I need you," Lance said, turning his seat around. "I mean, I'm totally in deep poo poo with my band and all. But I've done this a hundred times. Let me help you."

Gingerly, Iris handed her guitar over. Lance's large hands worked with a keenness that could only come from years of experience, tuning down the lowest string. "It's just like this." He did a riff. "Then before the chorus, do this. For the chorus, back to the first riff."

A ghost of a smile formed on Iris's face. "What about the solo?"

"Phrygian dominant. Slow or fast, do whatever you like."

Lance taught her more songs, and they passed the guitar between them for Iris to try them out. The tunes were discordant, but the phrasing made them pleasing to the ear.

Later, the manager popped up again. "The band's cleaning up. Can you do it?"

Doubt flashed in Iris's face. "We need--"

"Yes," Lance said. "We're playing together."

The manager looked at the two of them and shrugged. "Soundcheck in five, then." He left.

* * *

Iris thought the ground was going to swallow her up, even if the stage was just a foot above the floor. Her guitar felt leaden in her hands. Lance's stool creaked, but the man was grinning. At least no one in the bar seemed to pay them any attention. They weren't very rehearsed, and she hasn't actually heard Lance sing yet.

"Hi everyone, we're L and I," Lance said on the mic. "Due to some problems with bands and bitches, we've decided to merge." Cringe. He nodded to Iris.

With a deep breath, Iris began with the riff she had been taught, funneling the awful stuff in her heart into it. Lance joined in, his gravely voice filled with menace, singing about desolation and abandonment. A topic etched in their bones.

They fought, sparring with notes and rests, bickering in their marriage of melodies, their adversity reaching equilibrium. Jane floated briefly in the swirling miasma of Iris's thoughts. She plucked a note off-key, and transitioned to a furious lick without missing a beat. If only Jane could see her now. Being mad felt so beneath her.

The last chord sent Iris's ears ringing in its fury. The audience responded with mild applause. Her first victory. They followed it up, burning through their material like wildfire.

The manager gestured at them from the side. Do the next set?

Lance grinned. "Let's do your stuff?"

"Do you even know the lyrics?"

"It's pop. Doesn't matter."

Iris rolled her eyes. "We're going to get thrown out for this." But she strummed the chords anyway, and Lance reared up, beginning with a roar that filled the bar, and beyond.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


I'm in.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


I'm in.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Look them in the eye
1163 words

Eunice was the only one seated in the classroom, while everyone else checked the exam results pasted on the blackboard. It was all beneath her notice; she was writing her history essay, which wasn't due until next week, confident of the bonus marks she would receive.

It was also a reason not to look up. At the distrustful, envious glances the other kids shot her. They wouldn't dare to speak against the top of their class (by a mile), but she might as well be telepathic. It wasn't hard to imagine faults in her--her curly hair was unruly despite her best efforts, and she never, ever looked above someone's waist when speaking to them, if ever. Cheater, the louder whispers accused.

It wasn't the reason for her shame.

I'll ignore them. I'll be above them soon enough that they'll never hurt me again, she reaffirmed. But when, when?

Eunice saw a familiar pair of scabby knees, hovering before her. "You aced them again," Philip confirmed.

"And?" she replied without lifting her eyes off her paper.

"They're talking again. Can I wait with you at the gate? Just in case, you know," Philip offered.

It's not like I can't defend myself, Eunice thought. But what if she had to? She didn't want to be moving again. She'd lose Philip, who offered "protection" in exchange for her ancestors' myths. Not help with schoolwork, a partnership she wouldn't bring herself into. Just stories.

"I'll ask Mom to come early. You won't have to wait long," she conceded.

* * *

They sat on the steps, huddled to one side. Amidst the din of school buses picking up students, Eunice continued her essay on her lap. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Philip square his shoulders, returning glares from their classmates who passed.

"Tim's coming. He might try something," he whispered. Not that Tim would, probably. Philip was proud of his black belt.

"I hate him. I hate how he hates me," Eunice hissed.

Philip shrugged. "You know why, though? When you transferred, he was the first to try talking to you. And you ignored him, like he was invisible," he recounted.

"It's not like I'll see him after a year, anyway," Eunice said. She could see and hear Tim stomping his feet on the steps as he passed. When the boy turned his head, Eunice ducked.

Minutes later, a car screeched into a halt right in front of the gate, its window rolling down to reveal a regal face framed in auburn ringlets. For the first time in the day, Eunice smiled. "See you tomorrow," she told Philip, taking the steps two at a time.

* * *

Eunice reclined in her seat, having finished her meal. "Mom? Do you like it here? Living here, I mean," she blurted out the words.

Her mother put her glass of wine down. "Why yes, I do, is there a problem, my dear?" she replied.

"I want to move up grades. You know I can do it. Why, well..."

Her mother blew out the candles one by one, until the center one remained. "Tell me everything," she encouraged. The flames painted a picture of calm on her olive face.

Eunice told her mother about her situation in class. The shunning and all.

"Have you tried talking to your classmates?" her mother probed.

"What? No, of course not. You know what could happen..." Eunice reasoned.

Her mother twirled a lock of hair around her finger. Eunice envied her mother's hair, how it obeyed her completely. "You do know we can control it," her mother stated kindly, but firmly.

"But what if I get mad and lose it?" Eunice fidgeted. It had almost happened before. An incident in a playground. A child, lying bent on the sandbox, stiff and crying. A yelling mother. Her own mother, furiously apologizing, holding her hand so tight it bruised. The one time she tried making friends, and look where that got her.

Her mother shook her head. "You're older now, my dear. It won't be like that anymore. But you need to try before you can say you've done everything you could. Giving up is no way to live, even for us. Look them in the eye. It'll be fine," she assured.

Eunice smiled. "Thanks, Mom. Um, can I have some of your wine? Please?" Eunice requested.

"Only for tonight," her mother consented.

* * *

Coming from the bathroom, Eunice returned to her seat only to discover her bag's gaping zipper. Fearing the worst, she dug her folder out and looked for her essay. Gone. And to think she had been ready to face the class with her mother's advice. The devils.

"Looking for something?" Tim jeered, walking towards her. He dangled the pages right at her face. Eunice made a grab for it, but Tim pulled her essay away.

Eunice brought herself to full height, lifting her head. Philip was already out of his seat, and she waved for him to stop. There are two ways to do this, she thought. An easy way, and a hard way. Only she couldn't tell which was which. She thought about her mother. They've moved so many times, and this was the happiest Eunice ever saw of her. If not for herself, then...

"Tim," Eunice proclaimed, wielding her tormentor's name like a shield. Green spots danced in her eyes. She willed them away, steadying her breathing. "I know you don't like me at all. You think I'm some stuck-up girl who's too up in her head to talk to her classmates." The words came pouring out of her. But it could still go either way. Her hair swirled, the monster in her wresting against the yoke of her will.

"I'm sorry," she apologized. She whirled around, addressing her classmates in the eye. "I just don't know how to talk to people. I've been hurt before, so I stopped bothering. So, yeah. I kind of pushed you away. I don't actually want you to hate me. So if you please, can we start over?"

Everyone stared at her, perfectly still. A wave of panic rolled over her, and Eunice hung her head right at the very moment Tim burst out laughing. Rip, rip, he tore the paper into bits, scattering it on the floor. He took his seat and acted like nothing happened.

Philip made for Tim. "No!" Eunice commanded, shaking her head. "No," she repeated, dropping to her knees to pick up the pieces. Their next teacher would come any time now. Philip helped her instead, his face red with suppressed anger.

"Why didn't you let me?" he pleaded.

"It doesn't matter. I could write it again," Eunice mumbled.

Anna walked over to her spot. "We'll help," she announced. Anna, who had made fun of her hair. "Sorry," she added.

Tim watched the entire class on their knees, picking up and disposing his handiwork. Eunice met his eyes; they were clouded in defeat.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


I'll do a line-by-line crit of two entries from the previous prompt. First come, first serve.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


CRIT ME BEEF

Whalley posted:

Capital Offense Good title

Banknotes blazed on the nighttime beach. Putrid smoke clung to Chester's hair. An ink bomb popped in the flames, sending sparks and debris flying. Chester had made sure to sit far enough away to avoid any of the dye marking him or his clothes, tying him to the crime. His skin was still sticky from prosthetics. If it was summer, he would dive into the waves, using the salt water to scrub clean. He still might. The cold water would serve to shock away some guilt.

Chester's dog scratched at her ear, quizzing him with a glance. "What do you do now?" Wait what is the dog talking?

Chester explained the nuances of insurance to the dog. The bank would recover all the money; nobody would lose their job. He reminded the dog of the hours spent studying security protocols. He pointed out the mask he wore under his balaclava. The prosthetic muscles under his shirt. The stolen getaway car. He had even masked his voice.

"You thought of everything," wagged the dog's tail. Ooooh. So she's not really speaking. She was his only confidant in crime; his only loose end. She held still, then barked "Good boy."

He hurled the vocoder box into the ocean. It blooped a small warning as it splashed through the water's surface. "Be careful."

-

Chester feigned shock when the higher ups at Wells-Fargo called with news of the bank robbery the next day. He promised to return from vacation early. They informed him the thief had trashed his office. Worse, whoever it was had tried to hack into the manager's computer and destroyed a lot of important records in the process. He asked if anybody had been hurt; amazingly, the night of the robbery only had one guard scheduled. He would recover from his concussion in hospital with no ill effects. Chester waited on the line as head office hung up.

"Seems like the embezzlement investigation just hit a snag," beeped the static morse of the receiver. "Somebody ruined the proof that you're a dirty thief."

Chester looked to his dog. She slept on a rug, unaware that the phone had made Chester feel guilty. He threw the phone into the trash. He could always buy another.

-

"Guess who's nervous," bled the cut on Chester's cheek. He hadn't cut himself shaving since he was sixteen. He wiped the red trickle from his cheek with a handkerchief and met the police officer's gaze.

"I bet it's you. I bet you're guilty," scratched the cop's pencil in response. "Do you have anybody who can corroborate your statement?"

"Only if you can speak dog." Who said this? Was it actually said? Chester shifted his weight, only to freeze in horror as the leather of his chair farted his secret "The dog's in on it."

The police officer chuckled, oblivious to the subtext Chester heard in every noise. "It's okay. My chair does the same thing."

Chester tried to look relaxed. "Any leads yet?"

"A couple of repeat offenders match the description your guard gave us." Beep boop, said-bookism not found

Chester felt his face flush with misplaced pride. He hadn't meant for his disguise to look like anybody specific. He thanked the officer and walked him to the door. They exchanged business cards and parted ways. Chester turned as the door clicked shut. He'd have to do something about that rat chair.

-

The dog waited with a ball in her mouth as Chester got home from work. "You're going to need to be extra nice to me," she slobbered onto his polished tile floor. "Take me for walks or I learn to use the phone."

Chester put down his briefcase and sighed. He knew the threat was pointless, yet guilt agreed with the sentiment. He scratched behind her ear and changed into running shoes.

"Am I good, girl? I mean, am I safe? Am I going to get away with this?"

"Of course," she panted at the sign of the leash. "You're the smartest, most clever human in the whole world."

He attached the leash to her collar and opened the door. "Sometimes, I wish you could talk."

-

"Bank Bandit Caught," printed the headline on Chester's morning paper. The words sung out in triumph. Two weeks of reading every news publication he could find released in three words. He felt like whistling; he just got away with robbing a bank. He skimmed the rest of the article and patted his subconscious foresight on the back. The week before his robbery, he'd turned down a former felon's business loan application. A former felon with a history of robbing banks.

"He was probably going to go legit and start a cyber security business," accused the article, "and you ruined that. Twice, now."

An innocent man was going to go omit to prison. Worse, it was someone the newspaper claimed he'd met before. Chester pictured visiting prison and asking to see the man. The imagined guilt and recognition he felt, when faced with a familiar face, made him shudder. Could he really live with himself?

"Sure you can," reflected light from the windshield of his new lamborghini capitalize in the parking lot.

"You deserve this," creaked his new leather chair.

"You're worth even more," beeped the email reminder on his new phone. It was a message from upper management. The destruction of information during the robbery was irreparable. The investigation into the supposed embezzlement at his branch would be permanently closed. Why would management stop investigation if he had embezzled enough money to buy a Lamborghini? I'd think he'd be held in suspicion for the rest of his job, at the very least.

Chester sipped at his coffee. He brushed the newspaper into the trash, its information consumed. His things were right. He spun the car keys on his finger, the jingle shaking loose the mental image of the victim of his white collar crime. He'd earned this life. He looked at the photo of his dog he kept on his desk and smiled. He was a good guy, at heart. He just wanted what was rightfully his. As time went on, Chester found the objects around him stopped declaring his guilt so much. After all, if they spoke up, he'd just buy a new one.

Man robs bank as a cover to destroy evidence of his embezzlement. He feels guilty about the whole thing, and then suddenly he isn't. I still think it's a gaping plot hole for the company to give up on investigating him. I mean, he bought a new Lamborghini right after the crime, and it was his office that was specifically trashed. That would be a sharp alternate angle to the case, wouldn't it?

There is a good sense of tension in whether Chester would or wouldn't be caught. However, it just resolves itself without him having to do anything on his part. This would have been better if you included a hitch in his job. At least we would know an actual possibility in which he could be caught.

The prose is good and the said-bookisms are well-integrated (despite the glaring omission in some passages), but Chester just gets what he wants without doing anything for it. That's not thrilling at all.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Thanks, Beef! I really appreciate it.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


My offer from last week still stands. I'll do a line-by-line of two entries. First come, first serve.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


'K.

CommissarMega posted:

Me next, please. I want to know how I managed to survive the Thunderdome
Sure.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Muffin's crit

That took a little longer than expected. CommissarMega, I'll do yours tomorrow. I need to meet my daily quota of children's cartoons tonight.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


CommissarMega's crit

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Echo Cian posted:

Set it to anyone can view.

Sorry, fixed it.

And I'm in.

Schneider Heim fucked around with this message at Mar 22, 2014 around 02:05

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


The Playlist You Didn't Know

[removed]

Schneider Heim fucked around with this message at Dec 7, 2014 around 10:52

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


I'll be doing more line-by-line crits. Now, to take a leaf from Beef's book, I'll ask that you do someone else a line-by-line, then put the words "crit me Schneider" in front of the post. I'll be searching through the thread with that text. I'll post again once I've gotten enough.

Expect one crit per day until I'm done with requests.

If you really want to improve your writing, you'll have to learn how to read someone else's work critically. It'll make you better at analyzing your own work, and you'll be helping someone else with theirs! It's a win-win.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


CommissarMega posted:

This sounds like an amazing idea, thanks! For us just starting out on our writing, would you suggest we just look at the Thunderdome losers, or can we choose on our own? I won't be critting mine, obviously.

Ideally you shouldn't be picky. In my experience I find it harder to crit stories that are generally decent/good because their flaws are less obvious. Bad stories will help you explain in no uncertain terms why a story is bad and how it hosed up.

If you want to continue this discussion, then take it to the Fiction Advice thread.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Okay, that's about enough crit requests.

Sitting Here, tenniseveryone, and docbeard, expect crits to follow in the next few days. I completed Act V of Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls just so that damned game doesn't get in the way.

Also, we are still giving away flash rules to any masochists. Who's a masochist? You, who have signed up.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Sitting Here's crit

Trying a thing here where I do a top-down approach to critting (macro crit first, then line-by-line).

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Thank you for the in-depth crits, God Over Djinn and Echo Cian! You guys are really raising the bar for them.

Just an idle suggestion, but it would be really cool if we compile or link generalcrits in the OP or someplace convenient.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


tenniseveryone's crit

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


docbeard's crit

Not much of a line-by-line, because my comments were more on the macro level.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Props to last prompt's judges sebmojo and WLOTM for putting up with tortoise me.

I won't be doing line-by-lines this time because of IRL poo poo, but I'll still find time to crit everyone's stories.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Week 86 Crits for Cache Cab, Thalamas, HopperUK, Some Guy TT, Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi, Chairchucker, Nethilia, ReptileChillock, Whalley, tenniseveeryone

Cache Cab - Wall's Well That Ends Well
Talent: Smoothing wallpaper(?)
I wasn't sold on this one. I found it really dumb that the mob would only recognize Frank only when they've looked at him for more than five seconds. With so many people, it took them this long to notice? Kind of unbelievable for a cop to blow his cover out of petty insults, too.

Thalamas - Homecoming/A Lightless Sky
Talent: Imagination
There are twelve "Breath." sentences in this story. You overdid it. I can't think of a vaguer talent than "has a really good imagination". Maybe you could have used that talent to, you know, have your main character imagine things. In this story it's only something that gets him into trouble, which would have made it interchangeable with any other talent. One judge liked the battery gimmick but I beg to differ--it's just there as a McGuffin. The woman spouts some exposition and kind of disappears in the last part of the story. Chess's characterization is inconsistent--is he a bad guy or what? Whatever.

HopperUK - Sorcha and the Mirror
Talent: Cleaning glass
A well-defined, specific talent that gets put to good use. Has an actual goddamn character arc, for crying out loud. (All of you losers read and learn.) It has a fairytale quality to it that doesn't yell for the reader to notice. Great ending that ties the first and last lines together.

Some Guy TT - Little Benny Learns His Lesson
Talent: Sleeping??
Narcolepsy is not a talent. Some of the judges wanted to DQ your rear end for naming your main character Benny, just so you know. I thought this was a lazy story--Benny is tsundere for Bea, then thunderstorms come and scare him and he 'fesses up and she teaches him how to sleep fast (as if this is something that could be taught) and now he's all thx Bea I wanna marry u and I think about how this could have been a fully-fledged story with more showing and less telling and less dumb gradeschooler narration but it isn't cute at all. The turn from "hating Bea" and "liking Bea" is too abrupt and that's why I'm mad, because you had a ton of loving words left over to make that work. I suspect you read the DFW story that God Over Djinn had linked, and what you took away from it was that writing in really long sentences would make your story good, but nope. I pushed this for loser.

Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi - The Fun of Flying with Squeegees
Talent: Cleaning highrise windows
Solid. If I have a complaint it would be that Javier's voice is a bit too self-assured, as if he was never in any real danger. He was very talky internally and externally, and that killed the suspense. The lack of emotional rapport I had with Javier killed your chances of reaching the high pile.

Chairchucker - Wouldn't If You Were On Fire
Talent: Spitting
Funny talent, unfunny execution. You went overboard on the meta humor. Just once or twice would have been fine. Your last scene turns the story into caricature in not a good way. Had the potential to be sweet.

Nethilia - Scrubbing the Evidence
Talent: Washing stains
The other judges really hated this. Boring was what they described it. I'm only half-inclined to agree, in that you have an actual story (which can't be said for the others this week), but it had a weak start and didn't pick up until Tara got hurt. Maybe you should have started in the playground instead, and fill us in quickly. The other bad thing you did was that you revealed Danny's talent only when it became convenient. You need to hint that in advance, and subtly so that we don't call it out the moment Tara ruins her uniform. Otherwise you will look like you're cheating and bullshitting out of a corner you've written yourself into. And wouldn't dad notice that Tara got hurt during dinner?

ReptileChillock - Le Tour de Franzia
Talent: Buttchugging
I'm not sold on the idea that buttchugging can be something people can get good at. And the fact that your protagonist dies from the act means that he isn't good at buttchugging, after all. Story's amusing, at least.

Whalley - Peel Out
Talent: Overtaking
We were torn over this. I was the only one who liked it. You showed that Jill has a talent, but that alone doesn't win the race. The "ring" twist is a little sweet but it honestly comes out as a cheap consolation prize. A nitpick: You mention an Audi and Mazdas, but we don't know what sort of cars are they, and it's jarring because you mentioned a Supra by name.

tenniseveryone - Footlong
Talent: Making sandwiches
Having critiqued your last story, I can say that this is an improvement. You've held my attention from start to finish. The ending, however. Like Nethilia, you sprang this twist without warning that it feels like a lame sucker punch. Come to think of it, you did this in your previous story! There are ways to bleed for Subway that aren't dumb. Please learn how to separate paragraphs.

Schneider Heim fucked around with this message at Apr 6, 2014 around 06:34

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Week 86 Crits for Entenzahn, Masonity, RunningIntoWalls, God Over Djinn, docbeard, Tyrannosaurus, Starter Wiggin, ZorajitZorajit, Kaishai, A Tin of Beans

Entenzahn - The Maintainer
Talent: Fixing things
This was quite funny. I don't mind the craziness, because you set the tone early on with the chair-disassembling. The pacing is brisk and the story takes everything in stride--a lesser work would have stopped to gloat over the Hitler twist. However, it's only good for a few laughs.

Masonity - An ant in the sap
Talent: Insect-tracking and bride-stealing (Or so we are told by the author, which means it's true. Maybe.)
Next time, don't preempt your story. If you feel the need to do that then you don't trust your story enough to pull its own weight. That said, this was a poorly written mess. A character spouts exposition in the very first paragraph. Don't do that, your readers don't care about any of that poo poo yet. Make them care first. And even then, there are better ways to write exposition. Your characters exclaim a lot, too! If you do that, it'll kill the effect of exclamation marks! And it makes your characters sound like overexcited twats! The story also feels terribly crammed with stuff--there are five scenes and they dilute the overall plot. I think the limited wordcount kept you from writing the story you wanted to tell. You need to learn how to cut scenes and words.

RunningIntoWalls - Dollar Bill Lane
Talent: ?????
Incredibly boring. First, you never tried to endear your main character to the reader. So Tess collects money. Who loving cares. Look at your first paragraph. It's as dry as an encyclopedia entry. Give us something, anything to empathize with Tess. In this case, the second paragraph where she loses her stuff. That's something! Why not start with that? Then you could fill all the details from paragraph 1 as you go on, and only if they are relevant to the story. How do you know what to leave in? Put yourself in your reader's shoes. Would you be bored reading this? Prose can be dry and monotonous, but it should never be boring or irrelevant. This is barely a story, and that's why it lost.

God Over Djinn - The nearest exit may be behind you
Talent: Picking orders
I'm not sure what to feel about this story (I don't even get the title, which makes me feel dumb about it). The prose is good, but I don't really see the point of it all. What did Sean learn? The story seems to literally cut off in the middle. I'm reading, anticipating the catharsis to come, and then I reach the end and go, "that's it?" I like the dreary, detached tone though.

docbeard - Trading Songs
Talent: Remembering songs
I liked this enough to nominate it as HM. The setup was great, though it sort of falls off after the second half. Why did Emile appear just like that? Even for fairies, it's a little bit contrived. The ending saves it, though. I just wish there was a better excuse for them to meet so that Colleen could stick the knife in.

Tyrannosaurus - A Quick Drop and a Sudden Stop
Talent: Tossing rings
Good. The ending was a little weak, though. It really felt like Norah became a Coke bottle or something, and it's not like you ran out of words to write a better one. Coleman deserved better. I liked how you made the backstory unobtrusive.

Starter Wiggin - He's Not Heavy, He's My Brother
Talent: Hunting
Okay, so let me get this straight. Randy has a petty grudge on Bo and arranges to have him drugged up (like whoa), then feels bad about the whole thing and drops it altogether? That was a hell lot contrived. It's as if you were in the middle of writing a mean character and decided, "aww, this isn't right", and pulled your punches. Shame, that would have made for a better story. There aren't even consequences for Randy, either. So what was the loving point of all this?

ZorajitZorajit - Obsolete
Talent: ?????
I love giant robots but this bored me. Another pointless story. (sebmojo's crit tackles why) It reads like a cruel joke on someone nobody cares about. Or is that the point? You tease us with your setting, but that doesn't make for a story. Sounds like you wanted to tell an entirely different story but couldn't fit the prompt so you went with this instead. I'm sorry, but if you're writing a genre piece about someone in a side character role (in mecha, mechanics aren't exactly the stars of the show), you're working with a big handicap in making it interesting. This isn't interesting.

Kaishai - Cracks
Talent: Cracking crabs
Solid, grisly (guy deserved it though). Refreshing to read a story where a creep gets his comeuppance without some lecturing bullshit.

A Tin of Beans - BIRD TALK
Talent: TALKING TO BIRDS
I don't know why the title is in all caps. I liked the light tone, it managed to be funny without going overboard (hi Chairchucker!). Resolution's a little weak, though. I don't know if it was intentional or you just ran out of words. For all the effort the annoying woman made in harassing Jane, I'd think she wouldn't be satisfied with a simple verbal statement. And wouldn't Jane lose out in the end? If I were the woman I'd make good on my threat in turning her siding to marble. Whatever, twit twit.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


I'm in.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Two Fools
907 words

The orange taunted Lizzie, refusing to transmogrify under their wands. The other tables were having better luck.

Audrey shrugged. “Try again?”

“You’ve been doing it wrong,” Lizzie said. She mimicked her partner’s stance, angling her wand slightly downward. “We don’t need to perfect the form, just a close approximation. Are you sure you’re thinking of a pomelo?”

“Sure as sure!” Audrey said.

Lizzie rolled up the sleeves of her coat. “One more try.” Raise, flick, and say the words. This would have been easy with anyone else. But of course, Witch Agnes had to pair them up, “so that Audrey could learn from the top of the class.”

She doubted it was working.

“One, two, three!”

There was a flash of light, and Lizzie’s hope died in her heart as the citrus transmogrification produced an apple instead.

* * *

Lizzie kept thinking of the fool girl as she walked back to her room after class. She didn’t understand how anyone could have difficulty with the simplest spells. Some of her friends had been performing cantrips as soon as they could speak. Audrey was good enough in non-magical subjects like maths and languages, so she had some brains at least. But the real test of a witch was in, well, witching subjects.

What was most infuriating was her bright demeanor--someone without an ounce of magical talent had no right to act like that! At least act ashamed about the lack of it!

She almost bumped into the girl in front of her as the foot traffic stopped. Lizzie had forgotten it was Club Recruitment Week, and seniors crowded the main hallway to coax and hoodwink them into joining their clubs. All she wanted was to go back to her room and make up for the time wasted by Audrey’s bumbling. She pushed herself against the incoming crowd and ducked into a small corridor.

Except it wasn’t a shortcut Lizzie had been expecting. The shouts and voices had faded out after the first few turns, and the architecture of the corridor started to look different. Older. Even the air had a musty smell to it.

Lizzie whirled at the only sound louder than her beating heart.

“Lost?” Audrey said, smiling that infuriating smile.

“Why are you here?” Lizzie hissed.

“I followed you. You looked kinda lost.”

“I can handle myself fine.”

“Sure, but don’t you want to find your way back faster? I’ve experience in these kinds of things.” Audrey pulled out a crumpled-looking map from her bag. “The school doesn’t look big on the outside, but it’s like triple the size inside.”

“Huh? All witching schools are like that. What school did you come from, anyway? Bathory Girls School? Majou Gakuen?”

Audrey’s smile dropped. “I came from a regular school. You know, a secular one.”

“Secular? You mean, no magic?” Lizzie said.

“I’m one of those million-to-one girls who were born without the ability to perform magic, but are able to learn it. I’m no good at all, though.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Let’s just think about getting back to our rooms.” Audrey shone a penlight on the map. “We took this shortcut here, and by the actions of a certain someone, we ended up… here.” She pointed at a grayed out section. “So if we take this route, we’ll find ourselves right at the doorstep of our dorms.”

They followed the path. It led to a sliding door hidden in the wall.

“Let me check first,” Audrey said. She opened the secret door and peeked out. “Clear. Let’s go.”

Moonlight shone through the windows as they sneaked about. Wandlight shone from one corner of the hallway. Key in hand, Lizzie dashed to her room, unlocked the door and darted inside.

She heard Audrey fumble and drop her key from the next door.

“Miss Aronovitch! Do you know what time it is?” It was Witch Agnes, her voice echoing across the hall.

“Sorry, Witch Agnes. I got lost again,” Audrey said. Lizzie pictured her smiling at the hawkish woman.

“What’s so hard about following the allowed pathways for first years? Why do you insist on such foolishness? At this rate, you'll have to repeat a year!”

Lizzie leaned with her back on the door, listening.

“I need to practice my spells, Witch Agnes. I’m falling behind, as you know. Taking shortcuts would give me more time to study.”

“You’ve just earned yourself a detention, young lady. See me after your Friday classes.”

“Yes, Witch Agnes.”

For once in her life, Lizzie chose not to be the smartest girl in class. She bolted out of her room.

“Wait! Witch Agnes, wait!”

The disciplinary officer turned around. “Miss Ronah. It’s already curfew. Go back inside your room and I’ll forgive this outburst.”

Lizzie stood her ground. “I can’t. The truth is, I got lost with Audrey. In fact, I led her astray in the first place. So you'll have to punish me as well!”

* * *

“You shouldn’t have done that, Lizzie,” Audrey said. They were writing I will not wander off into forbidden passageways on the blackboard together. It would erase itself when they filled it up, until their two hours were spent.

“And leave you alone?” Lizzie said. She was trying to make her writing pretty, but Audrey’s text kept overlapping with her flourishes.

“I don’t care if I repeat a year.”

“I do. And starting today I’ll be tutoring you, so I’ll be hearing none of that.”

Audrey smiled and kept on writing.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Week 86 Crits for nickmeister, perpetulance, The News at 5, Anathema Device, Fumblemouse, Auraboks, Nitrousoxide, curlingiron, The Sean, crabrock, Sitting Here

nickmeister - The Curator
Talent: Curating refrigerators
Uh, what. The story starts off as sane, then goes ridiculously off the rails. The climax is cheesy. It ends abruptly in a cop-out, too. I wasn't amused at all by this.

perpetulance - Almonds
Talent: Smell
Widow poisons her husband's murderer. There aren't any twists and turns to this, which makes it dull and boring. The first paragraph can be cut--it's weak and you could allude to it when Isabell is talking to the oracle.

The News at 5 - Sisters of Sarah Jane
Talent: Doll-making
So... she got raped by her dad? That's dark, man. At the very least, you didn't write this with shock value in mind. What sucks more is that Sarah is a passive protagonist--a bad thing happens to her, the end. She doesn't have a real character arc, and the story only seems to start when the dad wakes up (which is right at the middle).

Anathema Device - Walk
Talent: Walking(??)
On one hand, this story has a character arc. On the other hand, it's completely dull and there are no real stakes to speak of. You don't give us enough to care about Lisa wanting to walk. There's a difference between a character wanting a glass of water because he's slightly parched and a character wanting one because he's dying of thirst. The prose is flat and dead, too. You could have made this work if you tried.

Fumblemouse - Clean Cut
Talent: Cleaning
Amusing. That's an awful, terrible cat and I love him for it. It ends up weird, though. Did he kill himself...?

Auraboks - Paper works
Talent: Rock-paper-scissors

This would've been much better if Peter had a handicap. We're told and shown that he's invincible in rock-paper-scissors, so what's the thrill in a guy effortlessly winning three hundred (and one) times? We don't get to know much about him either, other than he's such a glowing altruist. Is that interesting?

Nitrousoxide - A Garden to Forget
Talent: Cutting paper
Dull and entirely forgettable. Your formatting is sloppy, some paragraphs are merged together. If I have to say what was wrong with the story, the epiphany wasn't noticeable. Zach gets the idea of using his talent in making paper stuff to make a garden instead of trying to plant a real one like his wife did. This is supposed to be an important part, but the presentation's so flat that I had passed it over a few times and didn't realize that was your climax. The story's totally dry and doesn't look like it's trying at all. It's your job to grab and hold our interest. Don't rely on us do that for you.

curlingiron - Tranquility
Talent: Identifying songs
I quite liked this. I think the internal monologue is a little annoying, even if it sets the story's tone. The characters are one-note, which isn't that bad considering the story, but I wished to have seen more of them. You could have done a lot more if you really fleshed this out.

The Sean - Arrangement
Talent: Arranging furniture
The first two paragraphs are in present tense, but the rest of the story is in past. Pick a tense and stick to it. There isn't much of a conflict because Lillian never seemed to be in real danger. (The resolution is eh) The ghost is amusing--I actually rooted for him because he's not a smug piece of poo poo?

crabrock - Sweet Dreams
Talent: Something dream-related
I didn't really get Fouad's talent here. You explained the effects of his dreams but danced around the subject. The prose is good, I wish I thought of that line about the mother and the radio, but I'm not really a fan of "bad things happen to the protagonist, the end" type of stories. What's so important about him, anyway? The piece reads like an SCP entry, take that as you will. At least it works.

Sitting Here - In lieu of
Talent: Getting screwed over by lackadaisical roommates
This was posted as a story, so I'll treat it as one, then. There's a little fairy tale vibe to the story, though it peels off a few times ("and/or" probably shouldn't be used if you're aiming for that). The ending doesn't satisfy--if she's still in the garage then there wasn't really a point to this, was it? So what does the girl learn? What happened to that neighboring house? Feels a waste if it was mentioned and then immediately after the line "What happened to the girl after that, no one knows." follows.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Congratulations, curlingiron! Now PROOOOOOOOOOOMPT

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


I'm in.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Lucky Charm
1198 words

Miho listened to her friends' account of winning the lottery.

"When Haruki and I went to claim our prize, there was a snaking line leading out of the lottery office," Aya said.

"So in the end, we only won a tiny amount," Haruki said.

"How could so many people win the lottery?" Miho said. "Was there a computer error?"

"No, we really won," Aya said. "We all bet on the winning number. It's in the news. They say it's a case of extreme good luck, and more and more people are getting it."

Miho stared at their towering cups of coffee. Aya's had so much whipped cream it seemed like an oversized ice cream cone.

"If it's a disease, do you mind infecting me?" Miho said.

"You could try kissing Aya," Haruki said with a wink.

Laughing, Miho kicked him underneath the table.

* * *

"What happened to the American?" Miho asked the cashier.

"Philip? He went back to the States," said the cashier. "I don't know the specifics, but he suddenly got a huge inheritance or something."

"Wow." She repeated the word in her head as she took her seat in their usual table. The coffee shop was small and cozy enough that she practically knew everyone who frequented it. Except for the recluse at the corner with his laptop (every cafe had one).

"You look dazed," Aya said. Haruki was out of the country. He had just quit his job, too.

"More people getting charmed. P-kun got hit. Shame, he was kinda cute." Lucky Charm was the name the press gave to the phenomenon. Nobody knew how it spread, and its very nature defied science. Yet here it was, touching both of Miho's friends while snubbing her.

"Wow. It's really spreading, huh."

"So where did Haruki go exactly?" Miho asked.

"He's in Zimbabwe," Aya said, stirring her iced latte.

"Why would he go there?"

"Charity work, he said. He's been on a road trip, visiting towns and striking oil everywhere. The catch is that Zimbabwe didn't have any oil reserves until now."

"Unbelievable. Your boyfriend is a walking pot of gold. What about you?"

Aya sighed. "I'm trading stocks. I doubled my money in three days. If this keeps up, I can quit my job, too."

Miho blinked. "I guess it isn't a job worth keeping after all. Good for you."

"Between this and getting yelled at all the time, it's a no-brainer." Aya rested her elbows on the table, smiling at Miho. "So, how are you?"

"Me?" Miho shrugged. "I'm just the same old boring me."

"Oh, come on. Have you done any vocal covers lately?"

"Not in a while. I'm not into it right now." Not with you guys being so lucky and all, Miho thought.

"Shame. I wish you'd do this song that just came out." Aya placed her phone in the middle of the table and played a video.

Miho nodded to the music, listening idly. Her coffee slush collected in a puddle at the bottom of her cup. When she got home later she couldn't remember the title or tune of the song. She didn't bother to ask.

* * *

The next week, Aya and Haruki had an arm around each other.

"We're getting married," Aya whispered.

"Figure that two's better than one when it comes to saving the world," Haruki said.

"I'm happy for you," Miho said.

"Really? You don't look so nice today," Aya said. "Are you okay?"

Miho nodded. She was just okay. Not hitting it out of the park, or striking gold, or any of those stupid expressions for being charmed.

"Miho, are you crying?"

"Huh?" Miho dabbed her face with a handkerchief. "Oh, poo poo."

"You've been off lately. Why?" Haruki said.

Miho looked down in shame. "I feel like you're just going out of your way to meet up with me. To think you could be doing all sorts of awesome things with your luck, and you're wasting time with me instead."

"This is what friends do," Aya said. She reached over to pat Miho's shoulder. "You shouldn't feel--"

Miho flinched back, her chair screeching against the floor. All heads turned at her. "Sorry," she said. "I don't feel so well today."

Any longer and she was going to explode in front of her friends. They weren't at fault. She started crying again outside.

* * *

Miho lay on her futon, staring at the blank ceiling. It needed a fresh coat of paint, but she didn't have the cash for it. Aya and Haruki were practically multi-millionaires now, but she'd rather jump off a bridge than ask for handouts. She was just a friend. What was she compared to a thousand starving children in Godforsakenland?

At work, her supervisor had quit last week. They were due a presentation on Monday. He had given her a stupid speech about following your dreams and doing what you love without regard for money. Some people.

She pulled the sheets over her head. She looked at her phone, illuminating her self-made cave that she had to turn the brightness down.

We hope you feel better, Aya texted. Can we talk tomorrow?

Miho hadn't replied yet. If she did, would they still be meeting? Or would they have given up on her already?

She got up to get a glass of water and noticed that her laptop was still open, displaying her inbox. Miho opened Aya's email about the song, listened to it, finished her water, got up to pee, muttered gently caress it, and recorded a cover. That always made her feel better.

Before she went to sleep she texted a single-word reply: Sure.

* * *

"Sorry."

They all bowed at the same time. Aya snorted a laugh.

"Good to see you again," she said.

Miho kept her eyes down. "You too."

Awkward silence.

"You first," Miho said.

"We've put off the marriage," Haruki said.

"What? Why?"

"We didn't want to get hitched without patching things up with you first," Aya said. "We feel like we've been bragging to you, and it's the reason why you've been down. And that's terrible of us."

"I'd like to apologize too," Miho said, looking up. "I was afraid you guys were ditching me. It's happening elsewhere in my life, so I can't help but feel down about myself. Sorry."

"You owe me another apology," Aya said, her face dead serious. "You posted a cover without telling me? Me, your biggest fan?"

"That was just last night," Miho said. "What about it?"

Aya showed her the video from her phone.

Miho counted the number of digits twice. "A hundred thousand hits?"

"Comments are saying it's your best yet. And we agree," Haruki said.

"I don't believe it."

"Maybe you got--" Aya began.

"Hold that thought." Miho procured a coin. She flipped it. Heads. "All heads," she proclaimed. The next one came up tails. "Nope, sorry."

"Who cares? You're our friend, Miho. We're not leaving you just because we got super-luck or something. You understand that?"

Miho smiled. "Yeah."

When she got home, she flipped the coin a few more times. It came out heads, then tails, over and over.

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Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Origin
100 words

"You can't submit this, Sally."

"But mom, it really happened."

"Sally, you shouldn't write about something just because it happened."

"But it's interesting! I really saw David attack our classmates with his peen. He was scary!"

"It's in bad taste! Please rewrite it. I won't let you submit something awful to class."

Sally's face darkened. "Yes, mom."

In the end, she turned in a proper, decent story about their vacation to the Grand Canyon. Her first story turned up elsewhere, in the sinister canals of the Internet. To Sally, it was the beginning of her long ascension to the Thunderdome.

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