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Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

I'm in. Been waffling all week. Better get wet or get out.

Also, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_P%C3%A9tomane.

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Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Homecoming/A Lightless Sky

Chess took the dental bridge out of his mouth and carefully scratched mark number 9,131 into his wall using the metal end. “Silver anniversary. Where’s my gift, warden?” he murmured to the camera. He put his teeth back in, crossed his legs, and closed his eyes.

The Southport Correctional Facility appeared first, a perfect reproduction in the mind's eye. Breathe. The inmates, the guards, the staff, each one walking, talking, eating, making GBS threads. Breathe. Grass, dirt, stone, roots. Breathe. Elmira to the north, filling with buildings and people and lives. Freedom. Breathe.

On the other end of the camera feed, Dale drained the last of his coffee and swiveled his chair. “Readings are good again. The Battery looks settled. I’m going to grab a little lunch. You want anything, Stan?”

“Nope. Wife sent me in with leftovers.” The Operator shifted his bulk out into the hallway, heading for the mess in the next building over.

Chess floated in a meditative state. The words of his Abbot echoed across decades, the last he'd heard before leaving Sanctuary to make right what he had done. “When you imagine, you empower. Empathy is the best of the human condition.”

For the first time in more than twenty years, his cell door opened. Brunette, leggy, and wearing black, she said, “Alfonso Alvarado?” His skin was pale and he was so much older than the picture, but those black eyes were the same: penetrating. Chess nodded. “We’re here to break you out. Come with me.” She held out her hand. His shook as he reached out for it.

In a whisper, he asked, “Are you real or imagined?” Fingertips brushed. He took hold and she pulled him free. Breathe.

The power shut off when he breached the cell door. For a moment, the darkness was complete. Power returned; the prison hummed as the backup generators kicked in, but the lights outside remained off, visible through barred windows.

She led him by the hand. Thigh-thick cables sprouted like tree branches from the trunk of his solitary room, itself encircled by an enormous machine. The halls were empty, the cells void of contents.

“What is this? Where are the people?” His voice, gaining strength, rang in the hollows.

“Gone. With you here, they don’t need anyone else. The whole unit has been converted for your output. That’s why we’re getting you out. Without you as their ‘Battery’, New York will be without power until they can get the conventional plants running again.”

He stopped walking, but held on tight and yanked. She whiplashed around, crashing into him. “What the gently caress do you mean? This is a prison! My prison.” She skinned leather, pulling a .45. He brought his knee up into her stomach, kicking out as she sagged and catching her wrist. The gun clattered down a grated stairwell. “People don’t power states, mija. I’m not some battery.” He twisted her arm, locking the joint.

“The truth,” he demanded.

“You’ve been locked up for a long time, Alfonso,” she gasped. “The government tells no one, knowing they violate their own laws, but they have captured the power of imagination to fuel this country. The people in prison, in solitary, they sit and imagine; most produce a few hundred Megawatts per hour. You produce more than a hundred thousand, the only one they've ever found who does. They don’t need the others anymore in this grid.”

He let her go. Breathe.

“The window is closing, Alfonso. They’ll have people here soon. The only reason we’ve gotten this far is Southport runs on a skeleton crew. They only have one prisoner – you.”

“Call me Chess, mija. I'm not that man any more.” They ran.

In the control room, Stan frantically flipped through the security feeds they had neglected. “Dale! Get the gently caress in here!” he shouted, praying his friend was back in the building. Jake and Thad, the guards, were collapsed and unmoving at the complex entrance. A Buick Regal with a vinyl top idled in front of the Battery’s containment facility.

He watched, helpless, when a man stepped out of the Buick as Dale came around the corner, returning from the mess. The Taser caught him in the chest and he fell. The man zip-tied the Operator’s hands and feet. Stan grabbed his gun and sprinted for the exit. “Ohgodohgodohgodohgod-“

He reached the pair at the exit. “Stop!” Stan leveled the gun at them. “You can’t leave.”

Chess looked him in the eyes. Breathe. “You won’t shoot me. You need me.” He took the gun from the man’s shaking hands and held it down by his side.

“I know you. I've watched you for so many years. Imagine, the whole state will be without power. The damage would be catastrophic.”

“Don’t listen to him, Chess. They only care about their Battery.”

He closed his eyes and imagined. His grandchildren, cold and shivering in the depths of winter. Breathe. Industry and business shut down. Breathe. The lights of Elmira, Buffalo, New York City, extinguished. Breathe. Coal smoke painting the sky. Breathe.

Four breaths. Could one man, one killer, do better than to provide light, heat... life to more than 8 million people? He walked out the doors and looked up at a cloudless sky, the February sting prickling his skin. So clear. The milky way, perfect in a lightless world. Breathe. A whole land, his to grasp again. To take hold and master, to dominate, to use for his benefit. He would use it.

He would use it up.

“Take me home.”

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

I failed to post my word count. It is 936. I would add it in, but I hear you get the soap in a sock treatment if you edit your posts.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

I'm in.

Thanks for the crit, Starter Wiggin.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

sebmojo posted:

Pipe up if I haven't done you and you want a crit on your story from last week.

A crit sounds great.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

The Inside Job (1195 words)

“You’re not getting into Heaven, Mr. Sankowicz. Dozens of class three and four mortal sins and no repentance listed in the file,” the angel said. A gold plaque shone in the ever-present light of God: “Border Agent of the Month.” It hung on the wall behind a polished mahogany desk.

Al ran a hand through his thinning hair. “I’m willing to go in on a day pass or visiting hours, anything.”

The angel shook its head. “No. There is no day pass, no visiting hours. This isn’t a mental health facility, it’s Heaven. Please, don’t make me call the guardians to remove you, sir.” The opalescence of its eyes swirled, without pupils and unreadable. Al shook hands with the bureaucrat, then walked out. He ambled along the street of gold, back aching in a low throb, to the border with Hell.

He turned to examine Heaven. Jasper walls shone crimson with the fires of the barren waste behind him. People popped into being at the boundary in a steady flow. Most had the wide-eyed look of the recent dead and walked towards the gate for processing; a few didn’t bother, trudging away from the giant cube into endless Hell. Each wore a simple white robe and a pair of leather sandals.

Heaven before him, Hell behind. He’d lied, cheated, stolen, even killed back in the war, but this time he would keep his word.

The slow indignity of colorectal cancer, his second bout after a remission, led to a reunion with Evelyn. She’d joined AA, found God, worked hard to make amends. It could have been nice if he hadn’t been dying in agony. They’d split up fifteen years back, their relationship the second victim of a one-car collision. Evelyn had walked away, but not Maggie. Six was too young. “Drunk driver hits telephone pole, one dead,” the page four article had read, another commonplace tragedy. His little girl would have left a trail of broken hearts behind her in college. Mags had been a beautiful child. Al gritted his teeth.

The blame he’d carried for years had faded in a haze of morphine during the last days. She’d made him promise, begged him with tears streaming, “You find her, Al. You find my baby and tell her I’m sorry and that mommy loves her.”

The promise galvanized him against the malaise of being Hell bound. Those who appeared with a halo were able to walk right past the admittance lines, bypassing all the screening. He walked north along the wall, seeking the quiet lands between the gates, and waited. A young man with big, blue eyes arrived with an audible pop. “Am I dead?” he asked.

“I’m sorry, son,” Al said, swinging a large rock into the teen’s temple and knocking him down. A couple of quick jerks and the robe came off. He tore it into long strips, then bound and gagged the unconscious body. “I hope you can forgive me. I have a little girl inside that I need to see. Someone should be along soon to help.” He plucked the golden ring away and settled it above his head.

He walked back to the gate, past the waiting lines of recently deceased, and through the Members entrance. A pair of guardians flanked the pearly gate; each had a sheathed sword buckled over its hips. They gave him a nod as he passed through. Al kept his head high, body relaxed, and face smiling as he nodded back.

No sirens, no alarms. He figured on at least half an hour before they were on his trail. A block in, he turned a corner and took off at a jog. A weight pressed all around him, grew steadily heavier.

Every street was the same. Featureless gold walls, floors, and ceilings. Doors set regularly. A choir sang in the distance, audible in the otherwise silent halls. He picked a door at random. Inside was a field of luxuriant grass. A small group, all of them in their prime, sat underneath an ancient oak on a checkered blanket. The scattered remnants of a meal surrounded a wicker basket.

Their conversation stopped as he approached. He fidgeted under the combined scrutiny. “Hi there. I just got here and was hoping you could tell me how to find someone.”

A woman stood. When she spoke, it was in a language he didn’t recognize, but the meaning came to him regardless. “You must have missed your orientation. Just call one of the public terminals and do a search.”

“Yeah, I did. Where are the terminals?” The weight was crushing him.

“Terminal,” she said. A touch screen materialized in the air. “Who are you looking for?”

“My daughter. Her name is Maggie Ann Sankowicz.” Al joined her, looking over the woman’s shoulder. Her fingers tapped in the name. Three pictures appeared, each girl in her twenties.

“Which one?”

His heart stuttered. The middle photograph: those green eyes, the curly brown hair, dimpled cheeks that he always thought she’d grow out of. He tapped the picture and a slip of paper reading “Ω 45771” came out. He took it.

“Just take one of the elevators.” He blinked, face blank. “Any of the double doors.”

He thanked her and stepped outside. A trio of guardian angels spotted him from down the hall. “We’ve got him, sector α, 22000 block. Stop where you are, sir!” Instead, he sprinted away and the weight doubled, staggering him. A promise to keep. The double doors slid open at a touch. Inside, the only feature was a blank screen on the back wall.

“Elevator, take me here!” He held up the paper to the screen. Nothing happened. Rapid footsteps echoed outside. He slapped a hand on the screen. It buzzed at him. He drew Ω 45771 with his finger as the flaming tip of a sword slid between the doors. A loud clunk sounded and the elevator moved upward. Al fell to his knees.

The doors opened to an empty hall. The weight, the horrible weight. He crawled out. Sirens sounded, flashing red lights descended from the ceiling, regular sections of the walls reformed into reliefs of his face with “Wanted” underneath.

The door across the hall had the right numbers. He banged on it, unable to reach the handle. It opened and his little girl stepped out, all grown up. “Dad? Dad!” she fell down beside him, wrapping her arms around his prone form.

“Mags, I love you so much. I can’t stay, they’re coming for me. Your mother, she’s sorry, and she loves you, too.” An oath fulfilled. He prayed, asking forgiveness for leaving Maggie alone, a true act of contrition after a life of only the most perfunctory belief in God. The weight lifted.

The ever-present light flowed together, gained form. “I am the Metatron. We forgive you, Albert. A soul cannot gain admittance after death, but We are prepared to offer you a place here. Join our hosts, defend right, promise Me your loyalty.”

“Could I see my daughter?”

“Angels may traverse these halls. There will be time enough to visit loved ones.”

“I promise.” The transformation was glorious.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

I'm in.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

What the World Has to Offer 937 words

One day, Cat decided that the world would be better with more people like her, so she looked for someone she could change. She searched throughout the Man-village until she came upon Dog, a big beast clad in motley brown and black and gray waiting obediently outside a hut. Cat poked and prodded until he agreed to follow her for the day. “You don’t know what life can be, Dog. Come with me and I’ll show you what the world has to offer. Be your own dog, not some Man-slave.” The pair left the village and headed for the grassy plains.

Soon, they came upon an anthill with a double-line of ants, one group hefting tiny bits of food and the other marching into the tall grass. “Come along, Dog. We’ll follow the ants and find a tasty morsel.” Cat talked as she strutted. “See how weak they are? Only the strong should survive. Barely able to carry the tiniest crumb and, worst of all, Queen Ant will take all the food she wants. That’s what comes of being a follower instead of a leader; you do all the work and only get the scraps.”

“But Man takes care of me. I help him and he helps me,” Dog replied. The pair approached a bright hummingbird, dead and crawling with ants. He sniffed it. “Still fresh.”

“Then it’s mine!” Cat crooned in delight, swiping the bird for herself with a clawed paw. She shook the ants away and devoured it. “See Dog, if you only take and never give, you’ll always have whatever you need,” she said around a mouthful of feathers.

“Sorry Cat, I’ll try to do better,” Dog said, but while Cat was absorbed with her meal, he put his front paws up on a nearby tree trunk and took a clementine in his teeth. Tearing open the soft rind, he dropped it where the bird had been. “Here you are, tiny ants.”

Meal finished, they ventured deeper into the trees and soon they came upon a field mouse. Small and gray with its furry tail stuck under a rock, Cat licked her chops as little Mouse struggled. “Mouse is trapped. What luck! I’ll eat well today.”

“But Cat, wouldn’t it be better to help Mouse and gain a friend instead of a meal?” Dog asked. Mouse nodded vigorously at the suggestion.

“Friends? Pshaw! I don’t need any friends, I’m everything I need. You should learn, Dog, or you’ll never be happy like me. Gratitude is fleeting; just rely on yourself.”

“Sorry Cat, I’ll try to do better,” Dog said, but before Cat could eat up the fuzzy rodent, he lunged forward and snatched Mouse in a single bite.

“That was MINE!” Cat yowled.

“I thought you said it was best to take, not give. I’m just trying to learn from you,” Dog said around a mouthful of Mouse. Cat spat at him and left, walking towards the river. When she was out of sight, Dog let Mouse out of his mouth. “There you go, friend.”

Mouse sat up and bowed her head. “Thank you, Dog. I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me,” she said. Dog said his goodbyes and left in search of Cat. He found her drinking at the river and watching Beaver build a lodge.

“Beaver, why do you work so hard? The sun is warm and pleasant, you should relax instead,” Cat said.

“I’m building a better home for my family so they can be happy,” Beaver said, thumping his tail on the ground.

“Stupid beaver, a family only drags you down. Come on Dog, let’s take a nap. Working hard is a waste of time. It’s better to let the things you want come to you.” Cat climbed a large boulder, stretched out in the sunshine, and promptly fell asleep, but Dog trotted over to Beaver.

“Would you like some help, Beaver?”

“I’ll never turn down an extra set of paws.” Dog fetched sticks throughout the afternoon while Cat slept and the lodge was finished that day. Beaver’s tail thumped in excitement as he ushered his family into the new den. “You’ll always be welcome at my home, Dog.”

Dog thanked him and left to check on Cat.

Cat slept soundly throughout the afternoon, but awakened to a scaly scent. Snake had come upon Cat, who was dozing on his favorite sunning spot. He slithered over the groggy feline in a flash and wrapped himself around her. “You’ll make a fine meal,” he hissed.

Cat meowed and struggled again the constricting coils. “Dog, where are you?”

“I’m here.” He hopped onto the boulder.

“Help me, Dog. Snake is going to eat me!”

“But Cat, you said only the strong should survive. I’ve learned what you’ve taught and now I won’t let you boss me around.”

“But Dog, you’re my friend. I’ll always be grateful if you help me.”

“You said you didn’t need any friends and I think your gratitude will only last as long as you need my help. Maybe you should get yourself out of this mess.”

Cat struggled for breath. “I’ll promise you anything, just help me. This isn’t my fault, why should I suffer?”

“I’ll help you, Cat, on one condition. Follow Man with me and I’ll show you what the world has to offer.”

“Yes, I promise, just stop him!” Dog growled at the serpent, baring his teeth. Snake slinked away in search of easier prey. Cat kept her promise and joined the house of Man, but always held herself aloof, for no creature can change its nature.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

I'm in.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

ZorajitZorajit posted:

I'm not in this week. I'll provide three line-by-lines to any takers.
Yes, please.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Only One Brother 1199 words

Matthew looked down at the corpse and took another swallow of beer. He clambered onto the table into the center of The Apostle Inn where the body lay. ”James was a good man, a loyal friend, and he could drink most of you under the table.” The gathered mourners raised their glasses. “I’ll always remember the time we caught that badger and let it loose in here one Easter. You lot all screamed like a bunch of ninnies while Eve chased it out with a broom, calm as the day is long. She never took shite from you and she certainly didn’t take any from that badger. To our dear James, you’ll always be in our hearts, and to his lovely wife, slàinte!”

Slàinte!” the crowd shouted back.

By the bar, Paul wrapped his free arm around Eve. Tears shone in her eyes. “Drink, Eve. It helps,” he said, and followed his own advice.

She faced him. “I’m not sad, Paul. I’m happy the bastard is dead. Thank God I look like a grieving widow, but don’t mistake my tears.”

************

“We shouldn’t have done it,” The youngest brother said in a low tone. “We’re going straight to Hell, Matthew. Jesus Christ, when Eve asked, I’d have done anything for her, but I regret this.”

“Shut your Goddamned mouth, Paul. We can’t talk about this here. We can’t talk about this anywhere.”

************

Drunken fools. He and Eve had been the last ones in the Apostle after a night of hard drinking two years ago. They’d turned the Open sign to Closed and bolted the door. One night alone had led to hundreds sneaking, hiding, and loving.

In the end, it had been her words that changed everything. “You’re the man for me. I can’t go back to James. No more, no more,” she’d sobbed. “You have to kill him, it’s the only way we’ll ever be free.” The blacked eye and purple ribs, an echo of his own childhood, had spoken as strongly as the words.

************

“Outside. Everyone is in here for the wake, we can talk there,” Paul said. He opened the weathered oaken door with an unsteady hand and they stepped outside. The din of drinking songs, speeches, and clinking glasses faded as the door shut, leaving them only the quiet patter of spring rain for company. They walked along the slick cobblestones in silence, past fiery gas lights and houses, to the church. Matthew unlatched the gate and they entered the hallowed place.

Tombstones filled the grassy grounds. Matthew led them deeper, to the empty grave near the back where the light was dim. “Well?”

“I’ve got to confess, brother. It’s my only hope for salvation. I asked you for the poison, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be implicated,” Paul said, his words slurred.

************

“Brother, you’ve got to stop this. You’ll kill her if you keep it up. Eve is as tough a woman as I’ve seen, but another bad blow to the head like this and she’ll not wake up.” Matthew washed the blood off his hands in a bucket, then wiped them dry.

James sat on a stool. Long hair obscured his face as his head hung down. “I love her so drat much, Matty-boy. You remember when we first met and I made her that garland of wild asters and anemones? She looked so beautiful.” His voice was faraway.

Matthew snapped his fingers in front of his brother’s face. “You listen to me, James! Stop. Drinking. You’re just like Father and, if you keep this up, Eve will end up like Mother.”

James looked up and the demon was in his eyes.

************

“No. I’ve already lost one brother, I won’t lose another.” Matthew grabbed Paul by the arms as he swayed. “They’ll hang you.”

“Better an earthly death than a spiritual one. I thought I could do this, but I’m not that kind of man. You take care of Eve and The Apostle for me when I’m gone.” He broke his brother’s grip, but as he did, he slipped in the wet soil and fell. The open hole beckoned and when he hit the bottom there was no movement.

“Paul? Paul!” He scrambled down and checked for a pulse. Blood covered a large stone, but no more welled from his sibling’s skull.

************

Eve left. The condolences disgusted her. The beer tasted of ash on her tongue while his face still lingered there. Outside, the rain was coming down hard and felt pleasant on her upturned face: peaceful, cleansing. She turned down the street and headed for St. Mary’s, the only other place she felt at home. The great double-doors were well oiled and opened easily. She walked down the length of the aisle and sat in the front pew.

Great Lord, I pray to you for forgiveness on this holy day. I’ve sinned and I know how terrible a sin it is, but I’ve also done what was right in my heart and I believe you’ll forgive me for it. Maybe one day I’ll even find it in my heart to repent, but right now all I feel is anger, so I guess what I’m praying for today is the strength to let go of that anger. In your Holy Name, amen.

She could feel a lightness to her steps as she walked out the doors.

************

“Eve, oh God!” He had climbed out of the hole, covered in blood and mud, and cried. After a few minutes, he’d gotten up and wandered to the church entrance, looking for any kind of guidance.

“Matthew, what happened to you? Where is Paul?” She was staring at him.

“I don’t know, I don’t know. He’s dead, Eve. He fell in the grave. Oh Lord, he wanted to confess and I said I wouldn’t let him. I couldn’t lose him and now he’s dead. If only I hadn’t brought him here. If only I hadn’t grabbed him!” He was wailing, ranting.

“You did this? You killed my Paul?” She flew at him in a rage, knocking him down, and then fled for The Apostle, crying, “Murder, murder!”

“No, Eve. It wasn’t me, he slipped!” Matthew shouted, but his cry was lost in a crash of thunder.

************

The people of The Apostle Inn fled out into the night in search of the murderer, following righteous Eve. They followed her right past the alley at the side of the building where Matthew slumped in despair. As the last one filed by, he looked up and the demon was in his eyes. He stood and went inside for a drink as his father always had when things were dark.

On the table, James took a breath as the poison wore off. Matthew did not see, for he was looking down into the swirling gold of his beer. The eldest brother slowly sat up on the table and turned. He walked over to Matthew, who was hypnotized, and laid a hand on his head. “I have seen much in the land of death, brother. I am risen and, in the name of the Lord, drink no more. Where is our brother?”

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Gau posted:

THALAMAS YOU ARE WORTH NOT ANOTHER WORD, ELSE I'D CALL YOU KNAVE. I CALL YOU TO BRAWL. YOU WANNA BE A WRITER? LET'S loving WRITE.
Well, that does it. First you insult my abusive hypno-Jesus and now you refuse to call me a knave. I accept your challenge, you fowl-mouthed penguin of a man. Let's tango.

Who will step forth to judge these shenanigans?

Also, I'm in this week with a rule.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

The Firemen 1199 words Flashrule: Your story must include a burning house

Alan’s body flooded with adrenaline as the smoke alarm blared. He sat upright in bed and, in a moment of crystalline clarity, checked the clock: 3:46 AM. Caroline stirred beside him. He grabbed her shoulders, yelling, “Babe, wake up. The house is on fire.” He went to the door and flipped the lights. Thick, black smoke spread across the ceiling. In seconds, he had his robe on and threw his wife’s at the bed.

The doorknob was cool to the touch. Alan yanked the door open and covered his face with a sleeve. Smoke billowed into their bedroom. “Caroline,” he barked over the alarm, “call the fire department, then go out the window. I’m going to get the kids. Do you understand?”

Caroline, dazed, pulled her long, black hair out of her face and dressed. “Be careful, Alan.”

Alan dashed down the hall in a crouch towards his daughter’s bedroom. Cool doorknob, safe to open. “Matty?” He turned on the lights.

“Daddy?” Pink walls, My Little Pony dolls everywhere. She was safe.

“We need to go, princess. Take my hand.” Caroline was waiting on the lawn. “Wait for us at David’s window!” Flames licked at his roof. He went back in; the heat was intense and he had to crawl to get beneath the smoke. The doorknob to David’s room scalded his hand. Sirens cried distantly; his son would be dead before the firemen could save him.

Wrapping his palm in terrycloth, he rose to his knees and opened the door. An inferno followed, setting him ablaze. He rolled on the ground and smothered the worst of the flames. The room’s ceiling was on fire and David lay under the bed, motionless. Alan crawled to his son and dragged him out. “Dad?” he croaked. Alan opened the window, the influx of fresh air causing his robes to burst into flames.

“Go, son. Go!” David heaved himself out the window, his lanky teenage frame falling to the ground in a heap, and was dragged away by Caroline.

Alan fell out right behind him, a human torch. In seconds, his entire body was aflame. He screamed at first, but the pain lessened soon as his body went through the Change.

The firemen pulled up in two engines and started spraying down the remains of his home. A third truck arrived, a concrete box on eight wheels, and two men in fire-retardant hazmat suits stepped out holding watersprayers. They pointed the nozzles at him. “Sir, you need to come with us to quarantine. Stay back, folks. One touch is enough.” Their voices were tinny, modulated by microphones in their suits.

Caroline grabbed the kids and pulled them away. Matty started crying and asked, “Mommy, why is Daddy on fire?”

David wrenched at his mother’s grip, shouting, “No, no,” but the smoke inhalation had left him weak and he couldn’t break free.

The two men in suits circled Alan, corralling him towards the concrete box. He was in shock, unable to make choices. “Sir, if you don’t comply with our request, we will destroy you as allowed by law.”

His wife’s voice got him moving: “Go, Alan. Leave before you Light us, too.” She sobbed, body collapsing under the weight of her grief, but she still sent him away. He walked to the truck and the firecatchers locked him inside. The container was unlit, but the fire that surrounded his body illuminated the space. There was no seat.

Punching the concrete walls was strangely satisfying and painless. Nothing hurt but the constant, feverish burning. Never thought he’d end up just one more drat dirty firebug. His family, forever out of reach. Who would they find to coach David’s football team this year? He would miss Matty’s recital. All of the recitals. Too much time to think. Four gas stops, one long bridge, and the doors finally opened.

“Get out.” The two firecatchers were pointing their watersprayers at him again. He stepped out onto a rocky beach at dusk. Alan scanned his surroundings: concrete buildings and rocks, an island. A bridge leading back to mainland USA with two large water cannons at the end. Firebugs. No plants, trees, animals, people. Just the endless ocean.

“You can’t do this, I’m a US Citizen. Take me back. I’ll pay you. The insurance money, I had a nice house. My family will be missing me.” He could hear his voice growing higher. Whining. The firecatchers fingered their weapons and glanced at each other.

A hand wreathed in flames landed on his shoulder. “Boy, you’d best come with me. Sorry ‘bout the new guy, gentlemen.” The voice rumbled, like stones grating together. Alan turned and looked up. The firecatchers seized their chance to leave.

“Magnus Olivier. I’m the Big Man around these parts, keep things runnin’. Welcome to Florida.”

“Alan Lewis. Thanks, I was kind of losing my head back there.” Magnus was naked, hairless, and on fire. He didn’t blink or breathe, but he could remember from biology class that they had to eat fuel to keep the fire going. He would have to find something to burn. It was so much more real than the horror films.

“Happens to everyone their first day. Look at it this way, it’s like you’re retired. Oh no, you wait right here. Jasmine, don’t!” Magnus ran down the rocky beach toward a woman, who was headed to the waterline.

“Don’t try to stop me this time, Magnus. It’s been sixty years; I’m finished. They’ll never find a cure and I won’t follow you.” Jasmine walked into the water. Her flames guttered out in seconds and she melted to dirty ash, illuminated by the setting sun.

Magnus settled Alan in a building by the shore, refusing to say more. The concrete was comfortable. Not cold, and the hardness was fine. That night, a voice woke him. “Dad?”

“David? What are you doing here?”

The words came in a rush. “I followed you in Mom’s car. I couldn’t just let them take you. I hired a man in a boat to bring me here, but he wouldn’t wait, so we’ll have to find our own way out. You may be a firebug now, but you’re still my Dad. Why is everyone out on the beach?”

“I don’t know, but you’re going back home to your mother. Let’s go talk to Magnus. Don’t touch anyone.” He guided them in the darkness.

On the beach, Magnus stood on a boulder, surrounded by hundreds of flaming forms. “Brothers and sisters, tonight we claim our birthright! Liberty. Equality. Freedom to live a real life, not this worthless existence on lifeless rock! When the boat reaches the mainland, you must Light as many people as possible.” Alan sent his son for the bridge guards at a run. “They will no longer be able to oppress us. Do not balk at your duty, for…”

Magnus flew off the boulder as Alan tackled him around the waist. They wrestled to their feet. The Big Man was massively strong, but years coaching football gave Alan an edge. He battled Magnus to the edge of the ocean.

The saltwater was icy fire on his skin, then there was nothing.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

The American Game 1267 words (Gau brawl)

“You like that, fag? You like some big man hands on you, huh? You like it? You listening, enjoyable human being?” Bobby punctuated the last word with a final shove, pushing the smaller boy into the waiting gym locker wearing nothing but a towel. Daryl slammed the door shut while Stu and Bobby high-fived. “Yeah!”

“Fuckin’ enjoyable human being,” Bobby said.

“Let’s go, dude,” Daryl replied. Hunter banged on olive painted sheet metal, trying to force his way out.

Stu looked around the empty locker room. “Yeah, let’s get out of here before Mr. Miller gets back, Bobby.” He and Bobby grabbed their backpacks and headed for the exit.

“They won’t touch me, especially not today.” And Daryl knew what Bobby said was true; he was the star quarterback, today was their shot at State, and he was the Sheriff’s son. He could do anything he wanted. The two of them strutted out into the hallway. Their letterman jackets each had the Rupert High Fighting Bantam on the sleeve in red and gold. Daryl hurried to catch up.

At the double-doors, Daryl stopped. “Oh poo poo, I forgot my bag.”

“You’re on your own, bro.” Bobby left, heading for his usual table where Cindy waited. She was already decked out in her cheerleader outfit like the rest of the squad.

Stu looked back and forth, then shrugged. “Sorry Daryl. I don’t want to miss lunch before the big game.” He turned away. Daryl couldn’t help but admire his broad shoulders as he walked away. Stu played offensive guard and spent a lot of time in the gym, hoping to score an athletic scholarship next year.

As he walked back to the locker room, he thought on his own future as a wide receiver. He was tall, had fast hands, quick feet. Coach said if they could get him to commit on the field, he could be good. Maybe go pro someday.

Daryl poked his head into the locker room. His bag sat on a bench in front of the locker where they had shut in Hunter. He could hear the other boy crying, the soft sounds carrying in the empty space. He grabbed his backpack and sat down on the bench.

“I’m sorry.” Daryl reached out and lifted the metal tab. The door flew open and Hunter fell out, landing hard on his knees. “Are you okay?” He reached out his hand.

“Of course I’m not okay!” The smaller boy smacked the hand away. He rewrapped the white towel around his waist and wiped his red-rimmed eyes.

Daryl stood and looked down at his feet. “I’m sorry,” he repeated.

“So what.”

“But.” He paused. “Look, I don’t feel the same way they do about you, but you don’t get respect if you don’t act right.”

Hunter looked him in the eyes and laughed, then stood up and went to his locker and got dressed. Daryl felt his face heat up as the towel dropped, and he left.

There was just enough time to eat lunch before the bell. When Bobby and Stu asked if he ran into Mr. Miller, he said no.

When the final bell rang, Daryl went out back because he knew Hunter wouldn’t be going to the game, and that he walked to school. He saw cornsilk hair blowing in the winter wind and jogged. “Hunter, wait up!”

“Why, so you can beat me up? Wait, no, you’re going to shove snow down my coat so I have to walk home freezing.”

“What? No! I just want to talk.”

“So talk.”

Daryl shoved his hands in his pockets as they walked on the side of the road together. Cars drove by and he could think of nothing to say.

Hunter stopped and looked over at him. “You should come by the center some time.”

“What center?”

“The LGBT center.” They walked a little farther. “It’s for straights, too.”

“Oh. Oh, poo poo, I have to go, I’m going to miss the bus for the game. Bye, Hunter!” He ran.

They won the game. Daryl caught the winning pass and Coach said his picture might end up in the paper, which was even better. Bobby and Stu went out after the game in Bobby’s Camaro, but Daryl’s father took him home.

“Can I talk to you about something, dad?”

“Sure, son. You boys made me real proud out there today.”

“I. I did something I’m not proud of. To Hunter. At school.”

“That enjoyable human being kid? What the Hell did you do-”

“Bobby and Stu…”

“You boys leave that kid alone. Judgment is for the Lord.”

When his father was done, he sat gingerly on his bed and looked at his posters. He looked at Jerry Rice and Michael Crabtree. He remembered Grandpa Elijah, who had watched every 49ers game with him since he could remember. Grandpa Elijah, who had fought in the war, who was missing an arm, and who said that love was about who you fought for, not what you said, which was why football was the American game.

That weekend, he was grounded. Every morning, he came down for breakfast. His father burned up eggs and toast for them, then sat down to read the paper, except on Sundays when they had pancakes and went to church.

On Saturday, his father read to him that the LGBT center had burned down the night before. On Sunday, he read that the Sheriff’s investigation concluded the people inside had been drinking and there were two fatalities, with a third boy who had lived. Then, they went to church, where he learned the story of Lot.

Hunter was not at school on Monday. People talked in quiet groups about the fire. Bobby and Stu had dark circles under their eyes and barely spoke.

After school, Daryl walked along the side of the road to Hunter’s house and found him sitting on the stoop. “Uh, hi.”

“What do you want?”

“Are you okay? My dad read in the paper about what happened.”

“How can you even ask that?” Hunter jumped to his feet and ran forward. “I’m sure your friends already told you all about what happened!” He shoved Daryl, knocking him into the hard, icy dirt.

Daryl scooted back. “Wait, I don’t even know what happened. Is this about Bobby and Stu?”

“Yes! They’re the ones who firebombed the center from their stupid car and now my friends are dead.” Hunter sank to his knees, covering his face.

“Oh geez. Oh gently caress. Hunter, I don’t have anything to do with that. My dad took me home right after the game and whooped me good when I told him about the thing with the locker and I’ve been grounded all weekend. Look.” He turned and pulled up his shirt, showing a row of purplish switch marks that had just started to fade. “You can’t mean they set the fire.”

“Well, they did. I saw their faces before they drove off. When I told the Sheriff, he told me that I’d better keep my mouth shut or he would pin the whole thing on my ‘enjoyable human being rear end.’”

Daryl stood and half-turned his body, getting ready to run away. Instead, he reached out a hand to the other boy. Hunter took it and got up, saying, “Thanks.”

“I’ll fight for you,” Daryl said.

“Yeah? What could you even do?

“I’m friends with them. I’ll get them to talk and then we’ll go above the Sheriff. Call in the FBI or something.”

Hunter hugged him, wrapping him up, and asked, “Why?”

“Just something my Grandpa said. I think we could be friends.”

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Noooooooooooooooooo! drat you, Gau, and your delightfully evocative imagery.

I'll be watching you.

No, really. I'm going to do line by line crits on your next three entries. That way, when I've found all your weaknesses (and absorbed all your strengths), I can challenge you again and crush you into the blood soaked sands of the Thunderdome like the insignificant stuffed tiger that you are.

God Over Djinn, thank you for judging and for the crit. My initial reaction to losing was crushing despair and the desire to stop writing for a week or two while I recovered.

Then, I realized that this is the loving Thunderdome. I'm IN.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

How much, baby?

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Djeser posted:

Flash rule for Thalamas: Your story is about two friends. One is male, one is female, and there is zero romantic interest between them.
Just what the doctor ordered.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Land of the Setting Sun 1000 words Flash Rule: Your story is about two friends. One is male, one is female, and there is zero romantic interest between them.

Mae-hui raced the Jeep through the empty streets of Pyongyang. Everyone with courage and the heart of a traitor was outside Ryongsong Residence; she should be inside its walls. The city streets fell away and she let herself breathe as the highway asphalt stretched out in front of her. She punched the Jeep up to 150KPH, pushing it to the limit, and turned on the radio.

“-casualties in the tens of thousands as the crowds press through the minefields. This station cautions-“

“Ahhhh!” She smashed the button, turning it off. At 160KPH, the frame began to shake itself apart like a dive bomber coming in for its final approach. Maybe that’s what she was, just a kamikaze pilot in a losing war, already too late to make a difference. At the top of the hill before the palace complex, one of the tires blew. The Jeep rolled over once, twice, and before she blacked out, her final thought was, I’ll protect you, brother.

In the darkness of her dreams, she saw him standing in an endless, featureless plane. His uniform was crisp and perfect, zipped up the front. Pyong-nam looked so unassuming, a Korean Winston Smith. He walked towards her, but in this place the distance never shrank.

Her only friend. Where everyone else demanded perfection, he offered comfort. Where her teachers asked that she work harder, he only asked for her eternal love. Pyong-nam. Supreme Leader. He stood in front of her now. His mouth opened.

“Brother?” Brother, brother, brother. Mae-hui struggled to flee as the echo of her voice crashed all around, but couldn’t move. He did not reply, but his mouth opened wider and wider until the jawbone dislocated. The structure of his face changed, elongating, becoming reptilian, and scales grew over its surface. His body transformed into that of a serpent and he leaned forward.

“I must consume, sister, or it will all end.” Pyong-nam lunged, engulfing her.

She woke hanging by her seatbelt, looking through a cracked windshield, her face wet with tears. No, the rearview mirror was broken and askew, but it showed the tears were blood. A head wound. Roaring filled her ears, distant and terrible, and she shook her head, which only made her splitting headache worse.

The seatbelt was jammed. She grabbed her knife and sawed through it, falling to the ground, then crawled out onto the highway and stood up (when had that become so hard?). Looking at the wreckage, the front-right tire had blown and the Jeep had rolled at least six times. Her watch indicated she’d only been out a few minutes.

Mae-hui tore off the long, right sleeve of her white shirt and bandaged the gash on her forehead. She turned to face Ryongsong. Innumerable people filled the grounds and the sound of their rage carried over the distance to the crest of the hill. Each wore the symbol of the rebellion, a red and white headband.

Less than a kilometer to the tunnels, she could run that distance in three minutes on a good day. On a flat track. Uninjured. She sighed and started walking, heading for a stand of cherry trees at the southern end of the complex, stopping only to grab her jacket.

Twenty minutes later, she swept dirt and leaves from the top of a trap door and opened it. The backup lights painted the walls garish red. She adjusted her H&K MP7 and started walking. Five-hundred meters, then a guard. Today was April 15th, the Eternal President’s birthday, Day of the Sun, which made the password, “Sunfish.”

“Honored sister.” The guard saluted, his hand shaking.

“Call someone to take me to my brother.”

“Immediately.” The guard spoke into his radio.

Walking through her childhood home, she felt disgust. The one place and one day she had always thought inviolable were being violated in the worst way. The biometric lock on the war room door opened for her palm and she stepped inside.

Pyong-nam sat in his chair at the head of the table. His uniform was unzipped and he held a bottle of Hennessy in one hand and a pistol in the other. “Sister, join us. We were just discussing our problems with the south.” He spoke with great care and in a timbre like dark honey, just as he’d been taught, but it was slurred. The four leaders of the armed forces sat at the table. She let her MP7 rest on her chest and sat down.

General Hwang spoke up. “Supreme Leader, the traitor South Koreans have a quarter million troops marching through the DMZ. Kaesong, Wonsan, and Hamhung have been taken by the rebels. We must escape and establish a government in exile, or we’ll-“ Pyong-nam shot him in the head, splattering the walls red.

“Does anyone else want to run? This is my country! My people! Leave us.” They left at a run.

“I made contact, brother. The Russians will take us in.” He didn’t even ask about her.

“No! I’m going to make them pay.” Spittle flew. He waved the gun. “Now that those cowards are gone, I’m going to launch the nukes, destroy the South Koreans, and detonate the ones we have buried along the DMZ. They can’t shoot all of them down. One big party before I die.” He took a swig from the bottle.

“You can’t.” Mae-hui stared at him in disbelief. “You’ll kill millions, cause a worldwide disaster.”

“Can’t? Can’t! You’re just like the rest of them! I am the Supreme Leader. Me, not you, sister. You’ve always been jealous.” He pointed the pistol at her.

“Brother, don’t.” And that’s when he shot her in the chest.

It felt like the world’s hardest punch when it hit her Kevlar vest. Pyong-nam turned away and started typing commands into a computer. Mae-hui took hold of her MP7 and pointed it at the back of his head. I’ll protect you, brother, even from yourself, she thought, and pulled the trigger.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

I'm in and I brought an old photo album!

Who wants to flip through it with me and reminisce?

...

Guys?

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Starter Wiggin posted:

One of you basic baby bitches, step up to brawl already! I hunger to redeem myself and you chucklefucks are my ticket.
Them's fightin' words.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Emergency Contact 1384 words Elements: Elephants, an old photo album, hands

Cora walked to the curtain and twitched it aside when she heard a car pull into the driveway. She watched through the window as her daughter stepped out of a new sedan, one she hadn’t seen before. Susan dressed in a blue power suit, but she still had taken the time to accessorize with a bright, yellow scarf. Cora hurried to open the door. “Darling, how are you? It’s so nice to see you, such a surprise.”

“Mother, I’m good. It’s nice to see you, too.” They leaned in for a hug at the same time. Cora could feel her looking at the living room. Just looking at it right over her shoulder. “Sorry for just dropping by. I had a call from your psychologist, he said you missed your last few appointments. I thought I should come check on you.”

“Well, I’m fine, dear. I just didn’t feel like I needed to go anymore, so I stopped. Why on earth would he call?” She looked her daughter in the eye and held steady in the doorway.

“You listed me as your emergency contact. These are court mandated appointments, mom.” Susan stared right back, clenching her jaw. “What have you done to your living room?”

Cora shuffled away from the door. “I suppose now that you’ve seen it, there’s no stopping you. Would you like a cup of tea?” She walked away, leaving Susan to examine the living room, and turned right into the kitchen. She switched on the gas burner and put the kettle on. The polished, copper kettle had been a gift at her graduation from Cambridge in ‘56, before she’d come back to Virginia. Practical and beautiful, she admired the inner fire of the metal while she prepared the teacups and tray, lost in its curves.

“Why are your old knickknacks all over the place?” Cora shattered the teacup she was holding when she dropped it to the ground in surprise.

“We should put a bell on you. That was one of my set from your great aunt, bless her soul!”

“Stay still.” Susan grabbed the broom and swept up the pieces. “Sorry.” The kettle whistled and Cora busied herself with fixing the tea.

“It’s alright, darling. I’ve been sorting through all of the things Tia and I brought back from our travels; she left me quite a few. Oh, we had some amazing times the last ten years. Madagascar, India, Japan. That African safari where we rode elephants.” She picked up the tray and brought it into the living room, then set it down on the tea table. She had never guessed things would get so out of hand. There were stacks of framed pictures, handmade jewelry, carved wood and jade, masks and animals, beer steins, wine bottles, sketches and paintings: every kind of memory taken home from the wilds. It all fit somehow with the half-dozen bookshelves of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction that lined the walls. “To think a car accident in the States- And here I am rambling. Sit, sit.”

They picked up the tea cups, lovely Shelley chintz. “Mom, I can’t do this right now. I have a meeting in forty minutes and it’s twenty minutes away. You need to promise me you’ll stop this and go.”

“People go to counseling because the things in their heads are stopping them from being who they want to be. I’ve already been everything I ever wanted. There’s nothing left for me now that it’s just the two of us.” She remembered her grandmother talking about the old country, about the Family, so close; brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews. Now the Family was attenuated, the sound of a coin dropped on stone at the end of a tunnel - valuable and sweet, but far away.

Cora felt bittersweet pride when she looked at her corporate daughter, a woman who needed no one. “You sound like you’ve given up, mom.”

“Dear, I didn’t do anything wrong.” She sipped her tea, back straight. Perfect posture projects poise, she recited in her head, and set the cup down.

“You made an enormous scene at the hospital. They had to call the police to remove you.”

Cora turned away from her daughter. “You know why I did that. She was dying. Tia was my best friend; that’s like family.”

“She was. But you still have to go to the appointments or you’ll go to jail,” Susan pleaded. She grabbed her mother’s arms and turned her around. “Mom, you can’t do this. It’s been months since she died, you’ve been doing so well. I know this is hard and I’m here for you.”

“You don’t know! It’s not the same, Susan.”

Cora cried, the sobs shaking her withered frame, each one a torn page. ”When your father died of cancer, we had a lifetime together and we got to say goodbye. It’s so much easier to let go when you get to say goodbye.”

“Then find a way to say goodbye.” They held together, contact a form of healing. She’d always told Susan that touch had power. When the tears stopped, Susan reached for a large album bound in green canvas, World Travelers stenciled on the cover.

It was Tia’s old photo album, the one where they put the best pictures out of the thousands the two of them had taken with their old film cameras. Tia used to say, “The digital ones aren’t real, Cora.” They looked through it together, mother and daughter. Each picture was like reliving a snapshot of time, flash frozen from the firmament. The day they’d gotten traditional Henna tattoos, a couple of old biddies, how they’d laughed. Susan had never even heard about the camel races, but the pictures were there to prove it.

“Mom, why did you stop writing poetry?”

Cora looked up. “What, dear?”

“Why did you stop? I know you’ve been asked a hundred times over the years, but I’ve never asked. I always figured it was because of dad.”

“I just ran out of things to say, I suppose. People do that, sometimes.” Cora stood, made her way over to the first bookshelf, the section that contained her volumes. Her life’s work, a few dozen books.

“I have to go or I’ll be late. Please, don’t skip the next appointment. When they called, I convinced them that you’ve been under the weather.” Susan hesitated, then opened her pocketbook and handed Cora a piece of paper from inside it.

“This is just like my old writing paper, darling,” she said. And it was. Cream colored, thick, rough. The sheet was quartered and worn soft with age, the edges rounded, a hole in the center from being folded and refolded so often. She opened it. Her own handwriting scrawled across the page, so beautiful in the old days. Her hands shook now, making her writing as quavery as her voice.

“You never published it. I must have read it a hundred times over the years. I always keep it with me. You gave it to me that night we sat up with dad, the night he died.” The last words came out choked. Cora read the poem she had written for her daughter, grown and strong and watching her father die.

Midwinter’s grief (bears) the bite
Of deep cold and long nights, but
Warm heart(h)s to thaw the ice will
End the (hibernation)
Tulip’s long slumber
New growth from old
(And wakefulness)


“You were there that day and every day after for as long as I needed you.”

“You’re my darling girl, Susan. A mother should always be there for her child, even when she’s grown.” Cora clutched the poem to her breast, feeling warm and happy.

“And I should be here for you. You said you stopped writing because you ran out of things to say. What about goodbye?” Susan looked at the objects all over the room. “Tia always loved it when you read her your poems. Why not say goodbye by writing new ones for her? Instead of forgetting her, remember her.”

Cora’s hands trembled. “I do have a few ideas rattling around, but my hands…”

“I’ll come over and you can dictate. We can do afternoon tea, look through old photos.”

“That… That would be nice, dear.”

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Rebirth 1349 words (brawl with Starter Wiggin)

Casimir drove home with the windows down and the stereo turned up. The Offspring cranked out “Self Esteem” as he hit every familiar Spokane pothole along Monroe Street. A year in Las Vegas chasing dreams, a year back home, and today he had worked a split shift. In the middle, he’d gone in front of a judge and signed his final divorce papers. He’d lost his dog in the divorce. It sounded like a joke. Cas parked in front of the rented house he could no longer afford. His parents were taking him in for a while, just until he got back on his feet.

They had his guns. He’d asked them to stop by and pick them up the night she’d left. It had seemed prudent.

At least he could cook.

The night passed. A good steak, a Romeo y Julieta, and a bottle of Ardbeg kept him company on the couch while he gamed.

He rolled over and slapped the alarm off at eight, then grabbed a bite to eat, a cup of coffee, four aspirin, and a quick shower before work. Cas grinned into the mirror, brushing his teeth, and swiped a clear streak through the fog. In the reflection, he caught a flash movement leaving his bedroom. He jerked his head after it, shouting, “Hey!” Grabbing a towel, he chased into the hall, but found no one. “Hello?” A jingling sound taunted him, but a search of the house revealed nothing.

Out of time, he sent a text to his step-father asking him to check on the house, snatched his bag, and left for work

Robin waited for him at the curb. She wasn’t cherry red. gently caress cherries.

She was red like a sunset, a burning coal on the blacktop. He keyed her on and took off at a gentle rumble. The Offspring picked up where they’d left off, launching into “It’ll Be A Long Time.”

Cas pulled out onto an arterial and headed south, then realized he must have missed the turn when the street sign read wrong. He flipped the car around and drove back, then stopped, cursed, and flipped around again. He took the first right, then a left, and a right.

He spotted the mall in the distance and made his way there, then turned onto the central street. As he drove, he saw there were no people in sight. No one on the sidewalks, no other people driving. No animals in sight, not even the usual crows or sparrows. He turned the stereo off. The drycleaner had a different sign, their logo revamped into a jazzy blue number.

The street signs should read Division, not Expo. He was completely lost.

Overarching all, he saw the calm blue sky dotted with clouds. He steered into the lot of a coffee shop and parked. The smell of rotting quiche hit him when he entered. “Anyone here?” It felt stupid to ask. He grabbed a local paper. The date was from November, months old. The front page picture was titled: Riverfront Park particle collider grand opening. There was no particle collider in Spokane. He checked his phone. No Service. His earlier text had failed.

“Ha. Hahaaaha. Ahaha! No way.” He stepped outside into the fresh air and took a deep breath. The businesses were different in small ways. It was easy to miss when he drove by them a few hundred times a year. Cas picked out details - Shawn’s Auto-Service instead of Shaun’s Auto-Service, Wong’s was Juan’s. He ran across the empty, eight-lane street to a gas station and took a lukewarm sweet tea and a paper map of the city.

Unfolding the map revealed a new Spokane, city streets with different names laid out in strange, new patterns. Even geographic features like the Spokane River had shifted. He took Robin’s t-tops off, strapped them down in the back, and pulled out his keys.

The ring had an extra key. It was long, brass, with a square top. A clock tower and tent were embossed on the metal, the logo of Riverfront Park. He didn’t know how he’d missed it that morning. Strange.

Robin purred like a six-cylinder cheetah. Cas let her loose on Expo, barreling down the barren streets at a hundred and ten with a whoop. He spent the day exploring the bizarre version of his hometown, listening to music, and trying doors to random houses. The power was out everywhere. He picked up a length of tubing from an auto supply store and used it to siphon gas from cars. Grocery stores reeked of rotten produce and meat, but they had enough of canned food to last his lifetime.

The days passed. It took a while to bring the cigars he found back to the right humidity level, but the scotch was great immediately. Oddly, they both lost their savor in the sunshine. Cas found he didn’t miss the video games. He spent his time driving, meditating, exercising, foraging. He figured this Spokane was a parallel universe and wondered if he’d ever get home, or if he even wanted to go home. It was peaceful here. And lonely.

One late afternoon he tried the radio on a whim. The FM just spit out static, but the AM still had one working station: the emergency broadcast. His own voice came out of the speakers. “Cas, you’ll hear this when you need to. Come to Riverfront Park. The collider is underground, use the key.” The recording looped.

He drove downtown along the streets that were just starting to become familiar and parked on the grass in front of the iconic pavilion constructed for Expo ’74. Searching the area revealed a metal door set in concrete. A plastic sleeve taped on the outside protected a note in his own handwriting: “Use the bathroom.”

The key fit. He unlocked the door and entered. A large, framed map hung on the wall. The facility was huge, the collider two floors below. He went to the bathroom where a letter waited for him.

Cas,

This dimension collapses at 5:32 tonight. I’ve included the calculations at the bottom of the page for you. I’m sure you have a lot of questions, and I’ll leave those for the ones who come later, but for now, look through the mirror.


He stopped reading and looked up. The mirror was like a window to his own bathroom. He saw himself walk through the door and get in the shower from weeks before when all this had first happened.

You have a choice to make. Climb through, put the key on the ring, and hide. Tonight, you’ll cease to exist and all this starts again.

Or, you can go downstairs and shut off the collider. I can’t make myself do it and I think you feel the same. There’s no way to be sure, but I think it will bring the people back and restabilize this place. It’s been a while since grad school.

Cas (#1)


A pen sat on the sink. Calculations scrawled across the bottom of the sheet, along with notes from a dozen others. One claimed to have driven as far as Dallas and back without seeing a single person. He looked up at the mirror and heard the shower turn off. A world of people, missing their lives, and him getting to live his as many times as he wanted. The last few weeks had been so satisfying, so life affirming, and he knew he could have this back home.

His watch read 5:27 PM.

Cas took off for the collider at a jog. It had been years since he’d worked in a lab, worked with any kind of particle collider. A perceptible hum filled the air as he ran down two flights of stairs.

Instructions had been taped to each of the dials and levers, inked in marker, and he jogged from station to station. 5:31. Ten seconds. He flipped the last switch and the hum died. 5:32. A flash of light, then nothing.

He rolled over and slapped the alarm off at eight.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

STARTER WIGGGGGGGGGGGGIIIIINNNNNNNNNN!

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Starter Wiggin posted:

Hello yes it is I who is the basic baby bitch.
I'm out this week. In with a toxx next time.
Also humbly requesting an extension on my brawl (literally being hospitalized is a good reason OK? OK.) so that I'm not a full bitch.
I'm alright with it if crabrock is. You know, as long as you are okay with me putting you back in the hospital when the time comes. All full of holes and such. From the showdown.

Heh.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

After 7 weeks in a row without a win, loss, or mention of any kind, I'm ready for a little R&R in Bartertown, so I'm taking the week off from writing. Gau's getting the first of his 3 crits this week (assuming he doesn't punk out like last week). Who else wants one?

In the spirit of the Thunderdome, I'm offering detailed crits to the next two people with the guts start a brawl. Martello, if you're interested, ask and you shall receive.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

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Tyrannosaurus posted:

Why we can't have nice things.
Can't you read? I've got a busy loving week!

Why would I be scared when you can't even do a push up?!

How do you even reach the keyboard? I bet you have to have someone help.

I'm gonna feel real bad putting your species back into extinction. Real bad. Honest.



Ohhhhhhhhhh yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah!



That being said, I really do have too much on my plate this week. I accept as long as the deadline is two weeks out. Otherwise, I won't have enough time.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Gau

Gau posted:

Alight, Good Soul (1125 words)

Jamie Ballard sat behind me in the sixth grade, and she used to pull the feathers out of my wings. It was a game: she’d pull, I’d turn around, and then I’d be in trouble. So, pulling a feather out on an actual bird hurts a lot and can result in bleeding. Do your research. It wasn’t any better on the playground. “Come on, Peter!” they’d say. “Fly for us!” It’s probably worth noting that my name isn’t Peter. On worse days, they’d call me Tinkerbell. Neither of these characters have wings.

“You’re not that different, Ike,” Oh, okay. Some worldbuilding – children are randomly born with wings here. Otherwise, this would be way, way different. my mother would say. “You’re a little boy too. Just try to get along and play.” I’d stare into at my meatloaf and nod.

“I’ll tell you, son,” said my father, “you smack those bullies one good one, and they’ll never bother you again.”

“John!” protested Said-bookism check… Passed. my mother. She placed her hand on mine and looked into my eyes. There we go. You look into eyes, the abyss, water, but not meatloaf. “Bullies are just people who are hurting inside.” She smiled sweetly. “Really, you should feel bad for them.”

“It’ll be better when you’re older,” said my father. “Adults don’t act this way. You’ll find your own way to earn respect.” Banal platitudes, aw shucks dad.

I’d heard this before, of course. I don’t understand why parents say these things to their kids. What was I supposed to do, look at the kid who pushed me off the top of the slide and say “I’m sorry your daddy hurt you?” Uh-huh. That would earn me another round of hell. Seems melodramatic.

We had this conversation on almost a daily basis. I’d once heard my parents arguing about whether or not to send me to a private school for people with Human Wing Mutation. My mother objected; even I knew we didn’t have that kind of money. I was certain I wouldn’t fit in there, either.

When I’d walk home from school in the snow and rain, I’d wrap my wings around me to keep out the cold and wet. I felt like maybe, if they were just a big bigger, just a little thicker, they could keep out everything else. It would just be me, safe from the pain and ridicule. This is a great idea, but it would pack a lot more punch if you’d show instead of tell. As is, it comes across as angsty.

The rest of the time, my wings just got in the way. They’d bump and knock things over. I’d get mud and gravel in them and have to preen for hours. This seems more like the result of being bullied than them getting in the way. The worst part, though, was that they didn’t even work for their obvious purpose. With these wings, I couldn’t fly.

I’d seen people with HWM on TV, beautiful people with wings like an eagle or a dove. I read the Hero Hawk comic book religiously. I wanted nothing more than to be like them when I grew up. While they soared above the world, I was stuck on the ground. I think that’s what eventually got to me. Yesssssssssssss

So, here I was, standing on the second-story roof of my school, looking out on the playground. My body had begun to change, muscles and hair sprouting from the unlikeliest of places. My wings surprised me with their new span.

I can do this, I thought. It’s finally my time. I can fly.

I beat my wings a few times for practice, then stiffened them like Hero Hawk did when he wanted to just glide. For the first time in a long while, I really smiled. I ran and swan-dived off the roof. The wind filled my wings. My heart soared. I was flying.

-

I woke up in a hospital bed. I’m sure I would have been in a lot of pain, but they’d already put the IV in my arm. Even more than when I’d jumped, I felt like I was above my problems. I struggled to focus, and found my mother’s face.

“M-mom?” I stammered, my tongue too big for my mouth. “What happened?”

“Oh, honey,” she said. Even if I couldn’t see her tears, I could hear them in her voice. “I wish you’d talked to us.”

“There was no reason for this,” said my father. “We should have taught you better.”

I twisted my face in confusion. “I don’t understand,” I said. “I was flying. How did I end up here?”

“You have a concussion,” said my father. He shot an accusatory look at my mother. He can’t see her tears, but can tell what type of look his father is giving? Is he starting to wake up more? “You can explain it to him,” he said.

My mother took my hand in hers. “Ike, you...you don’t understand,” she said. “You might not be able to fly.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Your dis-your gift, it’s rare,” she explained. “Humans aren’t built to fly. We’re too heavy.”

“But...I’ve seen it,” I said. “Hero Hawk flies!” At this point, the dialogue is feels clunky and unbelievable. No teenager would say this.

Hawk Hero is a comic book,” said my father. “The truth is, we should have told you this sooner. Some people with your disorder can glide, but most spend their lives just like you. On the ground.”

Even through the medication, I could feel my anger growing. It burned through my heart and into my face. I yelled; I don’t remember what. I wanted them to go, to never speak to me again. They obliged me and left. This paragraph feels like a missed opportunity for some good imagery or some good character interactions with strong emotions. You talk them through all the boring plot stuff and gloss over the exciting bit.

The doctor came and went. So did a psychiatrist, who wanted to make certain that I hadn’t been trying to kill myself. I thought it was obvious that what I wanted was actually quite the opposite.

-

When I’d come home, my parents introduced me to a website for people like me called “Grounded Angels.” They thought it would be helpful for me to share my experience with others who had the same problems. I saw a counselor and moved schools. None of it helped. Telling.

Most of the Grounded Angels wrote long, impassioned diatribes at each other about how their depression was natural, society was wrong, and the bullies were just haters. It was okay that we couldn’t fly; we were angels even as our feet remained on the ground. My counselor tried to sell me on the idea that Things Get Better. Someday I would Grow Up and find my Self Esteem and People Would Love Me For Who I Am. Nice.

I was smart enough to recognize these lies; I’d been fed them by my parents for the better part of a decade. Good tie in from earlier. I dreamt of flight, of that moment when my wings caught the wind. I overheard my parents discussing surgery to remove my wings. I could go to college on a fresh slate, unburdened by my “gift.”

I unfurled my wings in the wind, gazing out at my future from this height. Graduation was just weeks away. Beyond that, I could see my life. Even if I had my wings removed, they’d done their damage. I’d never be like other people. I was too damaged to pretend. Extending my primaries, I leapt from the top of the water tower.

Never to touch the earth again.

Your title isn't a good fit. I have trouble thinking of a teenage suicide as a good soul. A strong title should grab your attention, which this does alright, and should gain greater meaning (not necessarily a double meaning, though it can be nice) by the end of the story.

I enjoy how you take your idea of humans with wings, a popular theme this week, and apply the human condition of ruining all good things to it. It made the story feel real. However, your character growth consists of child who grows up thinking he’ll be able to fly, learns the hard way that he won’t, and commits suicide. What message do you have for the reader, give up on your dreams? How about getting a pilot’s license or a revolutionary new tech to help people with HWM? In the end, there's no one to root for.

Mainly, you need to work on showing instead of telling. You tend to tell us, then show us afterwards. Stop. Just show us in the first place. It’s more interesting and your story will be stronger. When you go back and start looking for cuts, look for that first.

There are five instances of the phrase “said my father” in the story; one for every time his dad talks. Just sayin’. Mechanically, the writing is mostly sound.




Oh, and Tyrannosaurus: Macho Madness is comin' straight at you. The fork in the road. Yeah. A shining star in the sky. Oh YEAH!

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

I'm not going to dignify this with a response.

Other than this one.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

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Starter Wiggin posted:

OOOOH THALAMAS, NO LONGER AM I THE BASIC BABY BITCH. THAT HONOR HAS RETURNED TO YOU.
Big talk for a man that ain't been judged yet.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

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drat it, crabrock. I'm leaving for Montana in three hours and won't be back until Monday night. They don't have internet in Montana. This is known.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

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Erogenous Beef posted:

As a reminder, this is due in roughly 36 hours.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Kinapak the Ijiraq 1246 words

I remember how mama always told me that papa died in a plane crash, except when she drank, then she always called him a cheating bastard. Since I was eleven at the time, I thought she was mad about Monopoly, because we used to play a lot of it - there wasn’t much to do in Greenland. I remember how my jealousy grew alongside her belly. I remember my sister being born. The shaman blessed her and mama said to me, “Ahna, you are my wise little girl, and you have to promise me you will always take care of Sesi.” So I tried.

At the time, I didn’t know I would have to take care of mama, too.

Every morning I cleaned the house before school and every evening I stopped by the little grocery store on the way home to see the owner, who gave us expired bread and produce and sold us baby formula. Mama took care of Sesi during the day. At night, she drank and reminded me to take care of my sister while I cooked dinner for the three of us. “You wouldn’t have to do any of this if that cheating bastard were still here, Ahna.” When she passed out, I pulled the bottle from her hands and covered her in a blanket.

“I hate you. We were fine before you came along.” Sesi waved her arms and legs. I fed her a bottle and burped her, then put her in the crib papa had built for me. She was so little under the worn blanket, with a mop of dark hair like me, but icy blue eyes like papa. Sesi curled her hands into tiny fists and fell asleep. “I’m sorry,” I whispered.

I grabbed my parka and opened the door. The wind bit through the layers. Overhead, the Northern Lights swirled green through the autumn sky and the moon hung full and bright. The night was free; I strapped on my snowshoes and left my sleeping family for the quiet solitude of the ice sheet.

In the silence, I found a VW bus secreted in the hollows of the hills, hand painted yellow and black, a big smile on the front and a stinger on the back. My magic bumble-bus. An immense gust of wind blew out of the van when I opened the door, accompanied by the smell of oily leather and sound of clicking bones. Dozens of amulets rattled together; they hung from hooks in the ceiling, each one taken and carved from whale or wolf, bear or reindeer. I climbed inside, sat in one of the weathered seats, and reached for a bear claw hanging by a leather thong. As my fingers closed, a man spoke from outside, and I whipped my hands behind my back.

“Are you lost, little girl?” He sounded big. He sounded like papa.

“No! I’m not lost.” I leaned out of the bumble-bus and looked around.

“Well, if you don’t need a guide, maybe you need a friend. You can call me Kinapak.”

I jumped out and followed the sound of his voice to a pair of faint, red eyes looking out from the darkness of the hillside. “I’m Ahna,” I said, voice shaking, and picked up a nearby rock. “If you’re my friend, come into the light!”

“Of course,” he said, and stepped into the light of the moon.

Kinapak was tall. Or short. Some days he was handsome and others toad-faced. Some days he was a snow hare, running across the ice fields like a shot while I tried to keep up. He was a lumbering bear, carrying me on his shoulders while I roared at the top of my lungs and then broke down giggling. He was a reindeer, and we rode across the land, exploring hidden caves and lost valleys. He taught me how to track animals, small and large, by starlight. The days belonged to mama and Sesi, but the nights of that winter were ours.

“Kinapak, why do your eyes fade a little more each day?”

“I am dying, little one.”

“You can’t leave me, papa bear.” I thumped his pelt with my fist, but he only smiled, huge bear teeth shining in the moonlight.

“It will be alright, Ahna.” He sat down on the snow and put me in his lap. “I am very old and spent many years in that prison. You freed my body, but my spirit is still trapped and I cannot take sustenance. Each day uses the silla, energy, that I have left.”

“I won’t let you die, Kinapak. You have to take care of your friends.”

“Then you must free me and do it willingly, regardless of cost.” He set me aside and the shadows of his form flowed into a familiar reindeer. “Climb up.” We rode to my bumble-bus, where we met and left each evening. “Find the sealskin amulet and bring it to me. I cannot enter or I will be trapped again, but I will guide you.”

The bus was always ten degrees warmer than the frigid ice sheet outside. I sorted through the amulets, dozens of them, and found it hanging from the rearview mirror. A ball of sealskin, sewn shut, with a half-dozen bits of bone dangling from it. Kinapak’s voice whispered, Ahna.

I took it.

I remember the horrible screaming in my ears when I first clutched it. Stepping out into the snow, blood dripping from my hand as the small pieces of bone cut into my palm.

Ijiraq, ijiraq, child stealer!

The calm when Kinapak wrapped his hands around mine. “Open it up with this.” He gave me a knife. My hands shook uncontrollably, but he steadied them as I cut open the pouch. Thirteen petite, human teeth tumbled out onto the bloody snow, each one a stolen life.

I sank to my knees and could only watch while Kinapak whispered, “Find me,” and left, his eyes glowing a little brighter in the darkness. When I could stand, I scooped up the knife and destroyed amulet, and started walking.

At the house, Sesi was gone. The tracks led north: wolf, then reindeer. Mama was bruised, drunk, and raving. “You promised, you promised.” I got her into a parka, grabbed papa’s old rifle, and led her to the bumble-bus.

“Mama, stay here. It’s safe.” I left her there. I was eleven and angry and, at the start of that spring, I could track a dandelion seed on the wind. Kinapak couldn’t hide from me.

He fled across the ice sheet, Sesi in his arms, and I followed, rifle in my hands. I ate what I could catch and drank melted snow. That day, I camped under the shadow of an inuksuk, a stone marker, and dreamed of a crossroads. My family stood on one side, Kinapak on the other. That night, I found his lair.

“You lied to me!” I shouted.

“I’m a liar, but I’m also your friend,” he said, standing over Sesi. “We can be together forever. Just us, you and your papa bear.”

“You stole my sister.” Her eyes were blue like glaciers, like papa’s, and I knew where I belonged.

I remember how the shot hit him in the chest and he fell over. I remember how I followed the guiding spirit of the inuksuk, using the knife and amulet to trap the evil ijiraq. I remember Sesi’s first tooth, first step, first word.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

The time draws nigh, Tyrannosaurus. I'm going to bed, but I'll be here in the morning.

Ready.

Waiting.

Drinking coffee. Possibly eating toast. Correcting typos.

Thalamas fucked around with this message at Jun 4, 2014 around 06:22

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Gau

Gau posted:

A Ghost in the Desert (700 words)

Story Picture

Koltor knew the ghost was still there and even the strongest magic could never banish it from his thoughts. They had sat here, in the middle of an endless desert, for a day and a night. The ghost never spoke, even when Koltor had screamed, pleaded, accused. It smiled when he was happy, frowned when he was sad, and pointed to the horizon when asked a question. Fascinating. Tell me more.

The sun burned overhead during the day and Koltor was terribly thirsty. After sunset, the desert became cold and he knew hunger. At dawn, a horse appeared on the top of a dune in the distance. Koltor ran across the sand to the horse. He swung up onto its back, gazing across the desert. Any direction was as good as another, he thought, and so he put the sun on either at or to his back and rode. This is surreal and comfortably terse.

The ghost followed him, walking next to the horse. As the sun ascended, they came across a bizarre, lifelike effigy hanging from a pole. Koltor dismounted and approached. The workmanship was incredible; it looked just like a real person. Lifeless, but realistic; Koltor shuddered and turned to leave. The ghost pointed at the effigy, and it descended to the sand. It continued pointing, and Koltor looked at its face.

Koltor’s had few memories of his mother. She had died when he was young, and only a few hazy images of smiles below loving eyes remained in his mind. Show. And yet there she was, in this desert. Her smile, her soft face, her beautiful hair - entirely identical. The eyes - the eyes were dead. Nice switch from her/positive to the/negative. There was no love there. You start and end this sentence with “there”, which just feels weird.

A one lol tear fell from Koltor’s eye. He cursed and mounted his horse. What demon was this to play such cruel tricks on him? He must leave this damned place. Telling. The horse carried him onward. This paragraph is clumsy and needs tinkering.

For a full day and night, he passed these lifeless mockeries. Dude don’t sleep. Horse don’t sleep. Some he knew well, some not at all, but he came to realize that these were all of the people he had known in his life. There were thousands; at times he struggled to navigate his horse through and around them. Then, at dawn, there was one last effigy. Koltor fell to the sand upon seeing it.

It was his father. It hung there in judgment of the son. This is a huge perspective jump that takes me out of the story. The eyes followed him, gazed through him to his sins, his regrets, his fears. His soul burned, like so much liquor sitting on an upset stomach. It needed out. As God Over Djinn mentioned, this is some evocative description.

The ghost extended his its hand toward Koltor, motioning him to rise and get back on his horse. He did, and as they rode away from the rising sun Koltor began to speak.

The wrongs flowed out one at a time, his life story played out as a story of the evil he had done. There was much to tell, and they rode for days and days before the entire story was told. As they rode, Koltor noticed the ghost became more substantial. Its face, once formless and vague, took on familiar characteristics. It began to leave tracks in the sand next to the horses. As he spoke, Koltor felt his thirst fade and his hunger leave him. His skin, reddened by the sun, hardened and no longer felt heat or cold. Ch-ch-ch-changes.

Koltor finished his confession. The world had begun to fade This is the second time you use fade in the last few sentences.; Koltor saw the ghost, now barely translucent, take the horse’s lead and guide them over a final hill. In the distance, he could dimly glimpsed a wide shore and an expanse of sea. And then Koltor fell forward, and was no more.

-

Two figures stood on the shore, the first and last Koltor had seen in the desert. They were no effigies, though; their eyes burned with life and knowledge. They smiled warmly as the ghost approached. I even enjoyed your adverb.

“Welcome, son,” said one.

“I have been waiting so long,” Is there a reason it isn’t we? said the other. “Will you come with us across the sea?”

The ghost took a coil of rope from the horse’s saddle and a long pole from the shore. “Yes, mother,” it said, “but I have one final burden.”

“We will wait.” The ghost slung the dried effigy over its shoulder and began its journey toward the sunrise.

Much stronger title this week. I like that there is a hint of the ending staring me in the face. The combination of the story and picture make for a good fit with the previous entry.

Crisp, clean writing. The repetition of the sun continues to bring to mind the desert setting, but doesn’t feel redundant. The story is stark, strange, and has a satisfying payoff. There is one sentence that sticks out like a sore thumb. Here it is, paired with the sentence beforehand:

It was his father. It hung there in judgment of the son.

You go from his to the son, and it doesn't work. Other than that, the rest is little stuff that doesn't detract much. This is an enjoyable read.

The last thing I have to say is that it would suck to be the horse. That is all.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

docbeard posted:

I feel the need to stretch my critiquing muscles, so the first three people to ask get line-by-lines.

Returning the favor by critting someone else's story is encouraged, but not required.

Also, I'm in.
I would like a crit of my recent brawl (but not until after judgement). Thanks!

Speaking of crits, Martello, yours is on the way tonight.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Martello

Martello posted:

Urban Greenspace

762 words


Marlena stood and sprayed the rows of green and red and gold. Zucchini, Serrano chiles, and golden Amana heirloom tomatoes glistened, wet diamonds winking in the sun. She pumped the handle of her manual sprayer, building up pressure. Intriguing visual imagery. Glistening. And pumping. Building up pressure. Curious as to where this is headed.

“Spraying piss all over our vegetables again? You gross bitch.” On the first read, this comes across as crass and shocking. On the second, it fits. Cassie grinned at Marlena from the doorway, Dolly Parton concert t-shirt over her work skirt. Jacket, shirt, Where are all these shirts coming from? I say cut one. tie, Keen flats, and bra had all been shed between the front door and the balcony. She clamped her fingers around her nose and stuck her tongue out. Two bottles of River Horse Summer Blonde hung from her other hand. At this point, I’ve used the internet to confirm that human urine can, in fact, be used as a legitimate fertilizer for plants if diluted, learn what Keen flats look like, and find out where that beer was made (New Jersey). It helps make the setting specific, but also requires some legwork.

“You can’t even smell it, dumbass.” Marlena shook her head and sprayed a row of eggplants. “It’s a twenty to one dilution.”

“It’s loving disgusting, is what it is.” Cassie stepped out onto the balcony and kissed her on the cheek. Then she reached down and gave her other cheek a squeeze. Nice. I like the interaction between them.

Marlena giggled. “Cut that out. Trying to work here.” She started in on the cucumbers. “And not only is urine a great fertilizer, it’s saving us a ton of money. Think about how many flushes I save because I’m willing to sit on a Towa however many times a day.” She raised an eyebrow and looked Cassie in her blue, blue eyes. “And we’d save twice as much if you’d lower yourself to do the same.” Alright, I’ve thought this through and, at first, I just thought, sure, urine fertilizer, but now I’m thinking of urine jars. Ew.

“Hey, I make most of the money around here.” Cassie flopped into a lawnchair and opened a bottle of beer with her Devils Oh, New Jersey again. keychain opener. “I can waste it instead of acting like a cavewoman.”

“Gimme one of those.” She snatched the Summer Blonde from Cassie’s hand. “Open yourself another one.” Marlena knocked back a good slug. Sweet malt, lemon and orange, clean and crisp as a breezy summer day. This reads like an advertisement. It sounds like a fair assessment of the beer, but it’s too clinical to fit well in the story.

“You like it?” Cassie opened the other bottle and took a sip.

“Great choice,” Marlena said. She tapped her bottle against Cassie’s. “You ready for dinner?”

“Not yet. Let’s just sit for a little while.” Simple and clean.

Marlena settled into the other chair. Both women sipped their beers and looked out at the sun, orange fire dipping below the Philadelphia skyline. Camden’s dirty, And now the location is overt. brown suburban sprawl spread out before them up to the river. Concrete hi-rises, soot-stained brick townhouses like their own. Sirens wailed fitfully. A man and a woman were having an loud argument in Spanish from the next building down. Smoke from a dying apartment fire smudged across their view of the Delaware.

“You know,” Marlena said. “It’s so sad to see how beautiful the river looks when you know how polluted it really is.”

“Uh-huh,” Cassie said. She took a long sip of her beer. “We live in a shithole, baby. Kinda the price of staying debt-free while I work up to partner.”

Marlena shook her head. Second time she’s done this in the story. “I’m not complaining about here, exactly. It’s the whole world, almost. Poison in the air, water, soil. But it’s really easy to see here. You know someone was shot in a drive-by just three blocks away today?” This whole section was so satisfying, but I wish you could cut this last sentence. The punch of the whole paragraph is so much better without it.

“I didn’t.” Cassie took a pack of Marlboros from her skirt pocket and shook third shook of the story one out. “That’s the kind of thing I almost don’t even want to know about. Makes me think we should just bite the bullet and move across the river.”

“I don’t wanna lose my Jersey residency, and I don’t want us to go into debt.” Marlena sighed and held her bottle up to the sunlight. Clear visual here. “I just wish my writing was making us any money.”

“It will, baby. Someone will catch on to your genius eventually.”

“Sure.” Marlena laughed. “I’ve been published once in a queer spec-fic rag. Not exactly the most marketable credit.”

Cassie scowled and blew smoke out her nose. “I didn’t invite you to be my kept woman so you could compromise your artistic integrity to be marketable.”

Marlena blinked her eyes at Cassie. “Kept woman? I’m the one that keeps you, you bitch.”

Both women laughed and settled into a peaceful silence. Rework the second half of this.

“I don’t know,” Marlena said after a few minutes. “It’s just like we live in this wasteland of slag and pollution and, and ugliness.”

“Then this is our perfect little garden in the heart of the waste.” Cassie flashed her brilliant white teeth.

“That’s pretty good.” Marlena saluted with her beer. “Maybe you should be the one writing. I’ll go do your job. I bet I can lawy’ with the best of them.”

“You’d eat them alive.” Cassie put out her cigarette in her empty beer bottle. “I think I’m ready for that food.” Strong character interactions in the finish.

----

smoke, salt, fat, meaty
cliches are only bad when
they don't taste divine

eggs, benedict, oh!
what did old arnold do to
earn this legacy?

cliches taste divine
when benedict arnold smokes
this old legacy

Your title is a mix of two words that don’t normally go together. Paired with the characters of Cassie and Marlena, two people who wouldn’t normally go together, you create a world around the ideas in the title and bring them to life. The story is detailed, the dialogue is natural, and the character interaction is clever.

You don’t do anything with it, though. It's a delightful slice of life, but that’s it, and ultimately it left me unfulfilled.

Nice job writing what you know; your research (or good old fashioned knowledge) added some interesting facets. I liked your beer references. Mainly, because I like good beer.

Reading this story the second time is more fun because (in my head) they both have Jersey accents from the beginning. That is all.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Erogenous Beef posted:

Tyrannosaurus wrecks.

Well, I'll be damned. Nice brawl.

I'm going on a road trip for the next two weeks and will not have any internet service for most it. See you folks for Thunderdome 99. T-wrecks: I'll write you a crit when I get back. Pick one of your stories - this brawl or another entry.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

I'm back from my trip, I'm engaged, and I'm in.

Tyrannosaurus, your crit will be up this weekend. Gau, you'll get exactly as much as you deserve.

No more. No less.

I'm watching you.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Tyrannosaurus

Tyrannosaurus posted:

Spring
532 words
"Amazing Grace"

The hospital was to be quarantined until either the doctors found a cure or everyone inside the building was dead. There would be no leaving. There would be no outside contact. There would be no exceptions. This was all made very clear by the bullhorn broadcasts and the military guards. But, like all things in third-world countries, Don’t tell me. You’ve done a good job of creating a setting. Show me this is a developing nation instead. there was always room to negotiate if one had a good enough bribe. The tail end of this feels clunky.

Benito had a promise.

“They are going to try a new drug cocktail on some of the patients,” he whispered to a guard through a keyhole Ahaha a keyhole? in a backdoor, “I know where they keep the list. I will make sure your wife gets on it.” The bribe is interesting and believable.

And that was enough to get a letter out.

***

Dear Elena,

Do you remember what you told me before I got on the bus? You said to me, “Don’t die out there. Don’t forget about me.” I can say with confidence I have not forgotten! I have kept your picture with me everyday[sic?]. The one of us outside the butcher’s. You told me it was the best picture you had ever taken and I agree. Tripod on a timer? Never has anyone looked so beautiful next to so much dead meat.

I don’t think I will be able to get out another letter. I don't even know if you'll get this one. But, if you do, know that I am okay. Please do not worry, my love. I am at peace. I have had plenty of time to pray and I am not scared anymore. The pain is not so bad. This is sweet.

I will be waiting for you. I will introduce you to Jesus and to all the saints. We can embrace then and you can tell me how stupid I was for leaving. You were right as always, my love. As always. I should never have left you.

I’m sorry I’m for not sending back the photograph. It will undoubtedly be lost in my passing, but I need it. I need to see something beautiful. The pain is too much sometimes. And the ugliness of this place can be frightening. It can make you think horrible thoughts. A little inconsistent in theme and fact; he tells her the pain is not so bad and tries to comfort her two paragraphs up, but the opposite here.

I pray a lot. Second time this is mentioned. Pray pray pray. Maybe I think this disease is a good thing. For me, you know? I was not proper. I would not have lived a good life. No. This was part of God’s plan so that I might find His grace. Had I been a better man I would have never left our village. I would have married you.

Forgive me the pain I have caused you.

My heart forever,
Benito

***

There was blood and coughing and convulsing. And lots of pain. But as Benito lay dying he dreamed of Elena’s future and that made it almost bearable. In his imagination he saw her courtship to a handsome gentlePleased to meet you I’m a man of wealth and taste. He saw her wedding. Her children and her grandchildren. Her life long lived and full of joy. He smiled and was happy and then he was dead. He died without a clue that his final, beautiful thoughts were of things Elena would never get the opportunity to experience.

For Benito had sealed Elena’s letter and Elena’s fate with a kiss. Noooooooooo
The discord between the title of Spring and the shock of the first sentence is clever and drew my attention. You create an interesting setting that’s been done before, but you create a character and specific scenario that are unique within the setting.

The letter becomes the focus of the story. While I feel the brief change in voice partway through ultimately detracts from its effectiveness (whether from the wavering feelings of the protagonist or some other factor), it establishes a great character relationship and a backstory between Benito and Elena. I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Did he leave to do bioresearch and things went bad? Is he an innocent tour guide, caught in a terrorist attack?

But nothing happens. Elena dies. Does the world die, too? The payoff is weak sauce. Your song, Amazing Grace, is all about the revelation, coming to terms with what was right there all along. Benito does that in the letter, realizing he left behind the love of his life and now he has to set her free, which is a fine message, but it’s not horror. In the end, the writing is good, but the story lacks too many essential elements.

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Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

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Hunter’s Moon 900 words

In the pre-dream twilight I hear my family; the tinkling laughter of my son, bells in the desert wind, and the accompanying sigh of Karen telling him that daddy is here. Petrichor fills my nostrils, the earth drying even as the sun falls below the horizon of orange and red mesas, the colors and striations of the stone mirrored in the high cirrus clouds above. I turn, following the music of their voices, feeling the grit of sandstone beneath my feet, and spot them dwarfed beneath an enormous arch of rock, at least fifty feet high. Centered in the arch, the moon rises, pregnant with white light.

I look down and see an amphitheater for God spread out below: a gently sloping, sedimentary bowl, gradually angling into a drop that makes my knees weak. In the way of dreams, there is no running – I am there, and her arms are warm and soft and achingly good. Hunter nestles against my chest. Karen whispers in my ear, “October eighth.”

----

“Sir, are you okay?” The bitch is shaking me. Can’t she read the sign? If not for the sleep paralysis, I’d stop her, but for now all I can do is open my eyes. “I think he’s having a seizure.” Her eyes catch mine. They are glacial blue, watery, and she freezes when the realization hits her that I’m awake.

“Leave him alone, honey. It says here not to touch him. He’s got narcolepsy.”

Her cheeks burn red and she grabs her husband, leaving without another word.

The second hand on the wall clock ticks along in my peripheral. Waiting. October eighth. I’ve always had vivid dreams during episodes, most narcoleptics do, but rarely the same ones. My limbs start responding again.

“Falling asleep on the job again, Mike?”

“You know me, always taking naps in the middle of the store.” I flash a poo poo-eating grin at my manager, Hans. We’ve met up for cigars and scotch a few times.

He looks over the bottles of wine and liquor I have out on demo today. “Well, keep up the good work.” October eighth. I’ve been searching the internet. Utah is a long bus ride.

“Hey Hans, I’m going to need some time off.”

His eyes widen. “Pour us some of the good stuff, then. I’ll buy.” On an early Thursday afternoon, the shop is empty. I grab a bottle of Oban 14 year off the shelf and crack the seal. The cork pulls free with a squeak and a thwoop. “Is this about-” At twenty-five, Hans is a good kid. Nice intuition.

“Yeah.” I pour a couple of tots, liquid amber, fourteen years in the making. “To the youngest antiques.”

“To great tastes.” We tap the small, plastic glasses together and drink. The flavor bursts, but I look to Hans and wait. “Sweet, smooth. Peaty, but not as much as others. A little… salty?” I nod. “Honey and citrus.” Slower now, he sips again. “Oak and smoke. Another fruit. I give up.”

“Figs. It’s figs. Nice job picking up the notes of salt. You’ve got a good palate, Hans.”

“Thanks, old man. So when do you need some time off?”

“Soon. I’ve got to be there next Wednesday. I figure it’s a couple of days down and back, so all of next week.”

Hans rubs the back of his neck. “You’ve got the time, Mike, but…”

“I need it, Hans. October eighth. I’ve got to be there. Delicate Arch. I don’t know why, but the dreams have to mean something. They’ve been gone twenty years now. My son would be your age if he were alive today. Twenty years, my friend. I don’t know if I’m cracking up or what, but I’ve got to go.”

“gently caress it. We’ll cover for you. How are you getting there?”

“Well, I’m sure as poo poo not driving. Taking the Greyhound.”

“You know, I’ve never been to Utah if you want company. I can drive.”

----

In my dreams, it’s always empty; in reality, Arches National Park is anything but. Tonight, the sunset is thirty minutes before the full moon rises and there are people everywhere. After two days in Hans’ Geo Metro, I know all about his little boy, his divorce, his life and now he has an education on Billy Joel music.

“Here.” Hans hands me my water bottle. The trailhead marker reads that it’s three miles roundtrip, an elevation change of five-hundred feet. “You up for this, Mike?” I just start walking.

The rim of the bowl is crowded with people. Photographers with tripods. Families on vacation. The shadows change constantly and every time someone stands under Delicate Arch, the photographers yell at them to move. Food wrappers crackle. We wait.

And when the moon comes up it is to the left of the arch, not centered like my dream; the people fall into a hush, pure silence. It is beautiful, the Hunter’s Moon, the moon for which we had named our son, and I recall the few years we had together. It glides smoothly, a disk of pale ice skipping along a sea of black, each star a pulsing life in the Milky Way spilled across the Utah sky. But there’s no dream, no magic vision. Hans asks, “Was it like your dreams?”

“No, kid. But it was worth the trip. Let’s head back down to that brewery in Moab.”

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