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Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



I will write a thing.

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Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



The Climb

1,222 words (separators don't count, right?)



A crack, ground shifting, sliding underfoot, slip grab tumble fall... darkness.

****

Tomorrow was to be a good day. A public holiday. The heavens were clear and fresh today; the calendar augured well. But the ulum did not return at the feeding-time.

A desperately needed meal. The farmer volunteered to find it. The ground was still moist after the morning's rain; its tracks should not be difficult to follow.

With short spear and torch and food he set off up the slopes.

****

Drip. Something wet on his face. Drip. Throat dry and ragged. Drip. Buzzing in his ears and pain and Drip. his arm cold and damp—his eyes open, slowly, stars stabbing down from jagged blue mouth high above—darkness again.

****

His search brought him high along the ridge, where the trees met the sky. From here he could see the full terraced beds around the village, the trade road winding west, around the jungle. The dried meat and berries he ate were necessary for survival, he knew, at height.

Here the trail had been overgrown by vegetation, but at the base, a gap which may be small enough—yes, there, a feather, caught on a branch. He cut vines with his knife and pushed through.

As he climbed higher, deeper into the woods, the soil grew hard and reddish. But there were still some signs: prints had become rare, but saplings broken, lower branches missing, ground cover uprooted.

And then he found the stairs.

****

Pain. Buzzing. Lids closed but eyes brightly lit by noonday sun hot on his skin he sits up suddenly, then shudders, as nausea stabs through his stomach... slowly, slowly subsides.

The air is thick with insects biting; he waves them away, PAIN. There's something wrong with his left arm. It won't move properly. Must be broken. He grimaces, tries to stand up, using his good arm to prop himself up with the spear, holding the left arm out to the side.

The ground is rock, the walls rock, the only light the sunlight from the wide gap far above. In many places the rocks grow up or sideways, pointing, towards him, like the tusks of a boar.

A pile of large broken stones and earth below him, thickly redly wet despite the day's heat, but not nearly high enough to reach the ceiling. The cave continues ahead and behind him into darkness.

He reaches for the food pouch: gone. But he finds the torch, pinned under a wide flat rock, and slowly, one-handed, he works it free. He lights it with rock on knife, and sets off.

****

The stairs were long, thick, shallow, made from gray stone, worn, black stains oozing down. They led up the hill, their top shrouded in mist. Shrubs crowded around the base of the retaining walls, a few with branches broken low on their periphery: the ulum had passed through here.

So the farmer climbed, heading further up the ridge, towards the sun just visible through the haze, until it dropped into shadow. At last the stairs ended before a sheer slope, and the paved pathway followed it, curved out of sight. From this height, he could see nothing but clouds below.

He followed the path as it wound around the mountain, careful not to slip on the slick wet stone, then stopped. A large rope bridge was suspended before him, stretched across what must be a massive gorge, the other side lost in fog. He had no other way, and there was still enough daylight to see by, so he stepped onto the bridge...

****

Darkness all around. He has the feeling the tunnel is sloping downwards as he walks, gradually at first, now certain. The tunnel seems to be narrowing, the walls and ceiling closer, but he has not seen a hole open above to sky in some time. How long? Impossible to say. The torch is not half spent, yet.

Some side passages have led away, small but perhaps possible to crawl, but he has not wanted to try. Not while the main passage still seems promising. In most of them, the air felt dead; but here there is a slight breeze, cool air coming from somewhere ahead.

A thin trickle of water runs down the floor by his feet, sometimes on this side, sometimes crossing over. Now it provides the only sound, besides his torch and his own footprints. Even the bats he saw after first awakening have gone. And yet sometimes, there is a strange smell on the air, and he stops, and thinks he hears some kind of movement ahead in the darkness, sees something reflected in the wavering light cast out by his flickering torch; but there is nothing, and soon he starts walking once more.

****

The far side of the bridge was dark, shaded by great trees, their branches stretching out into the gorge. He wanted to save his torch—he would need it to make his way back to the village, with sundown fast approaching. And so at that moment he nearly turned back.

But his eye was caught by a patch of copper, under a tree along the lower path. On this side of the bridge, the stone walkway immediately ended at overgrown dirt trails, the left meandering uphill, the right downhill. He took the latter, crouched at the base of that tree clinging to its rocky outcropping.

More feathers. And many of them small, soft, white—not good—threatening to blow away in the breeze—in fact several of them moved, floated away into the gorge, as he watched.

Then—a sharp sound behind him—he whirled—saw a large dark shape bounding over a ridge below—leapt to give chase, clambered down the hillside, reached a wide grassy area. The shape (something in its mouth?) pushed through the trees at the far end, whoosh whoosh they snapped back into place behind it, and with a cry he jumped into the clearing, about to throw his spear, when the earth opened up, and he fell...

****

The slope of the main passage had become more dramatic, and here it turns down precipitously. His spear useless, the farmer drops it down the hole, where it bounces off a boar's-tooth formation below to clatter out of sight, beyond the curve of the ceiling. But that means it must level out below. Cool air buffets his face.

He is forced to hold the torch in his teeth, feel with feet lost in shadow to find solid hold, as he lowers himself down with his one good arm. One slip on this wet rock could send him flying; nearly does, once, twice...

He reaches the bottom, grabs the spear once more, surveys the room ahead.

Long and wide, the walls layered with horizontal lines like an old water basin. On the far side, near the tunnel leading away, a large pile of rubble... reaching up and through a new hole in the ceiling, sunlight streaming slanted through, illuminating motes of dust swirling above the rocks.

He rushes forward, ignoring the dried grasses and other fibers beside the rubble in his haste to climb out. He fails to notice one of the shapes move at the bottom of the pile. And as he climbs, it pounces, claws bared, teeth hungry, and his last thoughts are of returning home.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



I am in this so hard

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Issa Brückenau is a larger than life (in every sense) film magnate. He struck gold with a series of hits back in the 70s, before some high-profile flops in the 80s nearly shut him down. Though the studio subsists today by relentlessly exploiting its properties, Issa still sees entry to the big galas in town, usually showing up an hour late and already buzzed. He's somehow survived all this time without dying of a heart attack or alcohol poisoning; though he likes to play the fat bumbling oaf, his few friends know he has a kind of vicious cunning when he sees something he wants.

I am looking for ex-wive(s)! Interested parties please inquire PM within!

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Elective
(989 words)

Issa Brückenau was a man who knew things. But he did not know why a lanky kid was standing in front of him with a briefcase.

"This was in the backseat, sir. That guy musta forgot it."

"Yeah? gently caress it, it's mine now." The kid looked uncomfortable. "I paid for the car." He hadn't, actually, but that didn't matter. "Now quit wasting time, get back out there!" The kid ran back to the crew prepping the car for detonation.

It seemed a bit too convenient, but hell, they did need a car for this scene, and the gentleman who'd called had a car he needed disposed of, no questions asked. If there was one thing Issa knew, it was how to not ask questions. Besides, this was the kind of man you wanted to owe you a favor. So they rearranged the shooting schedule, moved the car bomb up to tonight. Nice car, too, though it had seen better days. Midnight purple Challenger. Just perfect for this scene.

Honestly, he was relieved. Money was getting tight again, and any chance to save on costs, he'd take it. That's why he came to all these shoots, even second unit like tonight, made sure the crew ran things tight, no loving 15 minute coffee breaks between takes. Hell, no second takes if he could help it, just get enough coverage from every angle, that's good enough 9 times out of 10...

"Action!" the moron in the director's chair yelled. It was his idea to film this at night; said they would save money because they could say more with less in the editing room, use lots of shadows. Well, maybe that bullshit would be true, only now they needed all these lights...

As he waited for the explosion, Issa looked over his new case: nondescript black, heavy, with a latch and combination lock, and—he checked—locked. He hoped the FX guys didn't gently caress up this time.

Boom.

The car shuddered, half-flipped into the air and landed on three remaining tires. Flames licked at the sides. The frame was bent and twisted.

The crew swarmed over the car after the shot, putting out the fire and getting things ready for the next scene. But one by one, people stopped moving, piling up around the back of the car. It would be comical if they weren't wasting his drat money. Issa grabbed the case and stood up, ready to start screaming.

Something red was dripping from the trunk.

gently caress. Nobody said anything about a body.

Issa needed time to think. He turned, grabbed his walkie-talkie from his belt, and set off towards the guard post at the edge of the lot.

"Marco, you still have that weedy gently caress with you?"

Static, then: "...uh, just left, boss. He's just crossing the street now."

"GET. HIM. I'm on my way."

The guard post was really more of a shack. It looked like it had been built in the 30s, renovated once in the 70s (that would explain the wood paneling and avocado accents), and never touched since. The man with the sunglasses and pink lipstick on his cheek sat, stoic, in a broken-backed plastic chair. Marco stood behind him, his gun not-so-subtly hidden under his shirt.

"Let's go for a drive," Issa said. Marco yanked the tall man up and out they went to his car.

---

Issa pulled his convertible into the garage and killed the engine. The bald man jumped out to shut the garage door, but Issa stopped him.

"Marco, could you take our friend into the bathroom, first?" Marco had punched him out when he went for a gun during the drive over. He was slumped over in the seat, blood trickling from a nose turned at the wrong angle. No good; that would need to be fixed.

"Sure thing, boss." Marco dragged the man through the doorway in the back.

Issa opened the glove compartment. He removed a pair of pliers, a surgical razor, gauze, a small camcorder. As he passed Marco on his way out, Issa gave him some extra pay, for "overtime". He knew he could trust Marco.

Issa walked through the office to the bathroom, where the man was strapped in place, arms tied to the rails of the handicapped stall. He was coming around, made a muffled sound behind the gag. Good.

"You've made a real mess for me tonight, you know that? But I'll make it good. I'll make it pretty." He looped the camera around his neck. "And no one will worry about a dumb gently caress nobody like you going missing." He pressed record and got to work.

---

Issa took a minute to clean up, put his shirt back on, put the tools away, pocketed the camera. He didn't notice the garage door was cracked open as he went to the car. The briefcase was still lying there on the passenger seat. gently caress it, he could call somebody to look into that tomorrow, see what was inside. Nobody would be up at this hour.

And the little problem with the Challenger. Sure, Issa knew some cleaners; but it might be simpler just to pin it on the crew, claim whoever it was had been some new hire who didn't get clear of the blast. The schedule had been chaotic enough, this week; nobody knew everybody. The last thing he needed was police attention. Especially now that he had all this new material. His clients had exacting tastes, and they paid very well.

It turned out he wasn't alone in the garage. As he was taking the case out of the car, some crazy bitch jumped him, all hair and arms, threw something in his eyes, grabbed hold of the case and bolted out the door. By the time he recovered and tried to chase after her, she was gone.

"Christ, I hate this city." He could only shake his head and walk back inside.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



In.

Do we have to write in the same setting as our opponent, or is it a purely abstract kind of opposition?

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



61 words

PootieTang, abandon hope; your therapist may help you cope.
Have you learned your loser count yet? Not so fast, now that amount
Will soon increase. Your clumsy prose is like a vacuum, sucks and blows;
Inept dreck from a gibbering wreck, or mumblings of a stoned redneck.
I may be gracious once I've won; for now, prepare to face the sun.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Well, here is a thing

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...s5fq7WIYj8/edit

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



crabrock posted:

You have 2 minutes left to submit

THAT INCLUDES GIVING ME PERMISSION ON YOUR GOOGLE DOC

OH! Sorry crabrock!

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



PootieTang posted:

FUSCHIA TUDE I'M CALLING YOU OUT, BRAWL ME IF YOU DARE

Let's face it, neither of us put our best work forward this week.

In fact let's be brutally honest, we both submitted turds. It's just as a superior being, my turds are clearly better than yours.

And you had to go and smack talk before hand, so I'm not gonna let you walk away with just that minor beating. Plus I love Chinese historical war style poo poo, so your obvious place-holder entry is doubly insulting.

You and me, mano-a-mano, for real this time.



Hand to hand? Oh, I was going to write this with my feet so I wouldn't wreck you too badly.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Entenzahn posted:

Pootietude Chaos & Order Brawl

Step 1: Pick a painting by M.C. Escher
Step 2: Use it as inspiration for your story
Step 3: Write your story so I can understand what is going on
Step 4: Stop at maximum 2.000 words (if you waste them I will be so mad)
Step 5: Edit, proofread, submit, don't forget your picture

Special rules:
PootieTang must send me his draft 24-72 hours before the deadline. If I find a ton of errors, they better not be in the final story.
Fuschia tude's story must present a problem in the beginning, and resolve it by the end.

Deadline:
Sunday, July 27th, 23.59 CEST

Awesome, I always liked Escher. By "painting", I assume you mean "print".

Thanks!

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



PootieTang posted:

FuschiaTude, any chance you want to extent the brawl by a couple hours? I just realized this is on euro time for once, where I had previously assumed I had until early morning my time. That combined with my shifts means I probably won't be able to get it sorted on the dot at midnight. (Or for that matter, my 24 hours before submission first draft rule)

Or I'll eat the loss and submit late, I'm down for that too.

EDIT: In fact, I could really do with extending it by one day, a little late to ask I know, but let me know if you're down for that.

EDIT AGAIN: In fact, yeah I'm gonna have to put all my eggs into the one day extension basket. There's no way I can get it done in time otherwise.

I mean uh, I'll mercifully grant you one day of merciful extension Fuschia, if you'll accept it. Only because I know that right now you're panicking at the aspect of my imminent textular assault.

eh, sure. I've been having internet problems so I can't say I'll necessarily be able to access online at 6PM EST on the dot tomorrow, so I'd rather get this done later that night.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Entenzahn posted:

Pootietude Chaos & Order Brawl


All right. I haven't had internet access all day and just got it back now, luckily enough.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing

image

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Entenzahn posted:

Both of you wrote passable, flawed stories. I had to pick between an incomplete, slick action piece and an emotional but rough treatment of a man's regrets. You're writers, and you need to make me give a drat, so I picked the story that was more satisfying and gave me more goosebumps, and that was PootieTang's.

Line crits will follow, but I'm in the process of moving right now so I don't know when I'll have the time.

Thank you, that's a lot more solid critique than I might have been expecting. Conveying (or creating) personality and crafting effective obstacles are definitely my biggest problems.

Don't worry, take your time with the line crits. Again, I appreciate this!

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



In't.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



The Devil You Don't
1318

Mabel's suitcase slammed into the top of her head as the truck screeched to a halt.

Someone was standing in the middle of the road. He was shirtless, barefoot. His jeans dripped wet and soaking in the downpour.

Even though she wished Abby would go in her place, Mabel climbed out of the truck, flashlight shaking in her hand. She was the reason they had been kicked out of the retreat that night, only 2 days in. The fight with the rear end in a top hat Swami didn't have anything to do with Abby, but she was her ride, and so they were both here, winding their way down the mountain after midnight, their things stuffed behind their headrests in the cramped cabin of her boyfriend's truck. But at opening ceremony the other facilitators had said they needed to be open to new experiences, and she decided if she was going to learn at least something from the experience, it would be that.

The man didn't say anything. He just kept his head down, staring between his feet.

Mabel stood on the wet asphalt. Her light cut weird shadows across his face. "You all right, mister?"

Then he jerked up like he was kicked, looked straight at her, and bolted off into the woods.

"Jesus Christ!" She stumbled back into the car.

"What happened?" Abby asked. "I can't see poo poo in this fog."

Mabel leaned forward and put her head in her hands. "He turned and he looked at me, and when he looked at me, oh jesus Ab he ain't had no EYES."

"What?" Abby stared at her friend. "You all right, girl?"

Mabel looked up with red eyes. "I'm serious, Abby."

"Well... what do you mean, like, just holes in his face?"

"No. White, like nothing there, just dead."

"Maybe it's just some kids out running around, playing dress-up, funny contact lenses, you know? TV show contacts. I seen them before. White, black, they got every color. Made outta sunglasses stuff, I think, so you can see through it."

"Maybe," Mabel said, sounding unconvinced. She sat back up in her seat, clenching her hand rests. "Let's just go."

----

The town at the base of the mountain was dark when they reached it. They drove through empty streets, passing homes vacant and decaying, the only signs of life vines climbing up the sides.

"Must be a power cut or something," Abby said.

"Huh, what?" Mabel tried to look like she hadn't been dozing off.

"I'm not losing you over there, am I, Mabey baby?"

Mabel rubbed her eyes. "No, but..." She looked out her window and screamed.

Abby slammed on the brakes for the second time that night. Down a side street, something long and white and four-legged turned around a house corner and was gone. "A dog. It's a loving dog, Mabes."

"No. It weren't walking like a dog. Those legs don't bend like—"

"Jesus Christ." Abby held the wheel in a death grip. Her eyes burned holes in the windshield. The conversation was over.

Mabel stared out of her side window as they started moving again. Once or twice, she thought she saw something else. A glimpse of something white moving. She didn't say anything.

And soon they were back on the open road, cruising at 80 MPH under a dark sky.

----

They were 25 miles away from the town when the hail started. It was coming down hard, hammering the truck roof in a roar, and the truck's wheels were starting to slip on the road. Abby decided to pull over and let the storm pass.

But the hail kept growing in size.

"poo poo," Abby said. "Jake'll be pissed."

"Nothing you could do." Mabel looked out her side window again. There were in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by crops stretching off into the distance. The plants waved and shuddered in the hailstorm. And something was gnawing at her.

"Ab," she said. "It's been a while since we passed anyone. Those dumbasses in the mountains were the last ones, weren't they?"

They had passed a car full of teens weaving left and right, hooting as they swerved just in time to miss the girls' truck. One of them was leaning out of the window and nearly fell out when they blew past.

"I think so..." She looked over with a squint.

"But that must have been hours ago, now. Nobody since? Why not? Not even no trucks? They drive all day long."

"And it ain't day no more. Look, Mabes..." Abby rubbed a thumb into her forehead, her eyes closed. "We're not on a big interstate. We're on a two lane loving highway between Nothing and Nowheresville. So nobody ordered a special delivery at three in the morning. Who gives a poo poo."

"I..." Mabel shook her head. "I don't know—"

"No, you don't know, but that don't stop you." Abby stared straight at her. The hail hammering on the roof and coating the truck bed, slowing now, was the only sound in the cab. Mabel wanted to crawl under the seat.

"It... It just don't seem right." She was on the verge of tears. "I just... I got a bad feeling, is all."

"Mabel Jones," Abby said. "I have heard entirely too much about your feelings for one night. And I am tired as poo poo. It sounds like the hail's letting up, now. If I let you drive the rest of the way back, will you shut up about them?"

Mabel nodded, biting her lip.

"Good."

They sat a couple more minutes in silence, waiting for the hail to stop.

Mabel got in the driver's seat and started the engine. "Don't tell Jake," Abby said.

----

They got to his house just after four.

"Park on the street," Abby said.

"I can't believe the power's out here, too."

"Why not?" Abby asked. "Hailstorm, remember?"

"I just don't like how this feels."

"Mabel, what did we say about those feelings of yours?"

"Quiet," Mabel said. "Aren't there usually crickets out? Or even birds, this time of morning? There's nothing."

As if in response, a gust of wind waved the trees around them. The still-wet branches dripping water onto the ground and the truck. Then it was silent once more.

"I'm going in." Abby got out and grabbed her duffel bag, her chin thrust out. "You coming?" And she walked off.

Mabel watched her go around the side of the house and disappear. Then she sighed, turned off the lights, took her case, and followed after her.

It was dark inside. Abby couldn't even light a candle for her?

It didn't really matter, Mabel knew her way around. It was warm and musty inside, even more than usual. Starlight peeking in from side windows turned all the furniture into dark blobs. She dropped her suitcase in the hallway and shut the back door.

She headed to the couch in the living room, but stopped halfway through the dining room. There was a sound coming from the kitchen, something like rustling, or popping.

"Abby?" she called out. The sound stopped. "Jake?"

Still no answer. She started backing up, slowly at first. Then she caught a glimpse of something stark white slinking out of the kitchen, and she turned and ran.

Something told her to get down, and she went flat on the floor. A white shape slammed into the bannister post at the bottom of the stairs with a thunk, then wobbled on its too-long legs. Mabel grabbed her suitcase, legs under her, swung it heavy in an arc and hit the thing right in the side. It bounced off the bannister onto the floor, writhing silently. But she heard more movement upstairs.

She opened the back door, shut it behind her, and ran back to the truck. The tires squealed as she drove off. She didn't know where she was going, but it was not here.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



& me

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Rare birds
1175 words

I was happy in life. I was content. I just had one problem: someone was stealing all the birds from my albums.

It happened slowly at first; an owl here, an eagle there. Every day a different bird. Monday I lost my scarlet macaw. Tuesday, my favorite ostrich. Wednesday, a red-tailed hawk. A pair of goldfinches finished out the week.

I can say one thing, at least the thief had some consistency: only one picture was affected each day. But the number of birds in a photo was no defense. Soon whole flocks were going missing.

By then I was spending hours every day searching through my albums, trying to track down what had disappeared that day, searching in vain for a pattern to the disappearances.

That's when I called my librarian friend.

"I'll be right over," he said.

A bluebird had vanished that morning. The branch he had been perched on stood empty, framed in the middle of a clear blue sky. I showed to him.

"Fascinating," he said.

But he had no answers.

I called in a photographer.

"That's a beautiful landscape," she said.

"It was an egret returning with food for her chicks," I said.

And she had no answers.

I called a data security specialist. Someone was deleting my stored photographs without my consent! Or at least altering them.

"Um," he said after he arrived. "This is my first time handling a security problem with something paper. I usually deal with computers."

"Oh, I don't have any of those," I said. "Can't stand them. Too much trouble, too impersonal. I still write my own letters. By hand, I mean. I don't even like to make a phone call if I can help it."

He didn't have any answers, either.

I was getting desperate. Birds were disappearing faster and faster. Half of my photographs of birds were gone! That's when I had an idea. I looked at the books on my shelf.

Captain Flint on Treasure Island had a bare shoulder. Owl had vanished from most of the pages of Winnie the Pooh. The seagull on Watership Down. The Ugly Duckling. Ping. Six and twenty blackbirds. Alice's Dodo. Nearly every bird was missing.

I'd had too many sleepless nights. I called in the police.

"When did you first notice the photographs were missing?" the woman asked, sounding bored.

"Oh, no, the photos are all still here. It's the birds that have disappeared." I opened to a birdless page to demonstrate.

"Hmm," she said. "Do you have any photographs of these books before... this incident began?"

"No... I really can't imagine that would work. Wouldn't the birds just vanish from that photo as well?"

"I can't say, ma'am. I don't see this sort of theft very often."

"Is there nothing I can do? No precautions I could take?"

"I really couldn't tell you."

She had no answers, either. But she did leave a card. A detective agency.

Non-Euclidean Locators: "We Think Outside The Box"

That didn't sound promising, but I was running out of options.



"Well, Miss Jenny, it doesn't look good."

Adan S. stared blankly at me with one glass eye, his other eye closed, behind a wide desk. He was wearing a blue baseball cap and a "Karma for Camels" t-shirt.

I was sitting in a too-tall chair in a small, dusty office that had seen better decades. The ceiling was painted dark blue with day-glow stars stuck on. The walls were coated in some kind of pale stucco with dark stains running down to the floor. "That's coffee," he said, seeing my gaze.

"What does it look like, then?"

"Let's start from the beginning. Yes, you have pictures. Yes, they're being tampered with. But that's as far as we're able to get."

"Why is that?"

"There's some kind of... block." He shrugged.

"A block? What do you mean?"

"Miss Jenny, can you tell me... Are any of the subjects in your photographs departed?"

"I took them over the course of decades. Most of the birds must have died by now, I suppose."

"I was afraid of that." He leaned back in his chair, left eye closed, right eye pointed up at the ceiling. "Did you get permission to photograph them?"

"I took the shots when and as I could. Don't tell me the spirits of these birds are... resentful. I don't even know how to ask a bird's permission! And why me? No one else has this happening to them." I must have sounded tired and exasperated. "So, you're a psychic detective, then? You talked to them? They told you that?"

He scoffed. "Birds can't talk."

"Parrots can."

"That's not really talking." He sighed. "Look, I've told you what we know. It seems like you did something to upset them. What happened around the time this first began?"

"Well, I first started noticing the disappearances in early June. I was going through old photo albums. I don't know how much sooner it started before I first noticed they were going missing."

"Nothing changed for you, then? New job, new house?"

"No, I've lived in my apartment for years. But I did have a shoot in Africa early this summer. I've been working on a manuscript based on it ever since, actually.

"Hmm," he said, tapping his right eye.

"Please don't do that."

He ignored me. "So, next step: bring me the most affected album, the manuscript you've been working on—" he saw me about to object and waved his hand "—or at least some emotional pages from it, something written and rewritten, and personal artifacts from your trip. Ideally something worn and something carried in your hand."

"And that will help you find the answers?"

"It'll help me find the questions. Now, in the front they can schedule you to come in again. I believe next Tuesday has an opening. Oh," he called out as I was leaving, "cash only!"



They called me back in a week after I brought those in, said I needed to "atone" for my "improper collection." That I would need to find a quiet, natural place, and wait. That was it. "You'll know when," Adan told me.

So I sat on a big tree root in a forest outside of town, waiting. Nothing happened. The wind blew. I could hear the sounds of the forest, occasional distant birdsong. The sun fell out of view.

At dusk, a crow landed on the branch above me.

"Hey there, little guy," I said quietly. I felt ridiculous talking to a bird, but I continued. "How's it going?"

He seemed to shrug, tucking his head down between his shoulders.

"You going to sleep?"

He shut his eyes.

I didn't say anything, just sat and watched. He breathed slowly, chest moving in and out. The moon rose above the forest and turned everything to silver, and he was still sitting there.

"I'm sorry," I said, and left.



The birds never did come back. But at least after that, they stopped disappearing. And I decided to take up landscape photography.

(090 Manuscripts and Rare Books)

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Hammer Bro. posted:

Fuschia tude - Maybe say photo albums. I initially thought (and liked better) that birds were disappearing off the covers of record albums, but leaving the rest of the art untouched.

Oh drat, that is much better.

Thanks for the crits, everyone. One day...

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Mercedes posted:

I'm going to need 3 volunteers, preferably past 'Domers that have not won a week, for a 3 way brawl... WITH A PRIZE!

First three to sign up are in.

Up. I'm in. Down me.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Market Makers (2207 for the foursome)

They were dirty and tired, their boots were cold and wet, and they were starting to lose the light. But Eleusine had a hunch. She was going to find this gold.

Calvin watched his daughter as she moved around the berm, poking and prodding the earth with a long stick. She was nine years old but she focused on the task with single-minded intensity. Sometimes he stopped and asked Eleusine where to go. Getting lost wasn't much of a worry; they were well equipped and provisioned, and carried enough supplies to last days more. But more often than not, her hunches panned out.

Calvin had started taking her with him on jobs when she was three, after her mother died. His Bessie hadn't wanted to leave Mississippi after the war, but he hated it there, and he had heard stories—long out of date, he eventually discovered—of the great wealth to be found in California, so they went. Bessie took ill and died soon after.

Sometimes there were dry spells, and that's when he put his horsemanship skills to use, taking odd jobs as farmhand or day laborer. They didn't live in any one place; they moved with the cattle and the bustle of energy and people following the arrival of the railroad and the telegraph lines. Most gold mining these days was done by syndicates with teams of miners; the land that was left was usually discarded by experienced miners for a reason, so the claim wasn't worth the paper it was written on. But the pair had had a lucky streak so far, as they'd taken on claims for those unwilling or unable to work them for themselves.

They were a common sight in the towns along the mountains. A novelty at first, the colored father and daughter gold-panners, they soon became something of local celebrities, and the stories grew. There were whispers that the girl was possessed by spirits, cursed by God or the devil, even fairy-touched. If asked, he only called her his "good luck charm," and laughed away any more pointed questions with a grimace. But sometimes, when she went quiet out in the field, when she got that look in her eyes, he wondered...

They came to a ridge overlooking a slow-moving river, cut through rock maybe twenty feet high.

"Down there," he said. She leaned forward over the edge, craning her neck, then took two steps back and sat down on the grass.

A narrow trail led down to the riverbank and Calvin had already started down it. "You're not coming?" he asked.

She was breathing quickly. "Naw," she said. "I'm tired. You can go check it." She leaned back as if she was going to sleep. He shook his head and continued down.

Within an hour they had a confirmed strike and enough to meet the terms of their contract and more.

----

Calvin completed the transaction in town the next morning, as Eleusine watched with rapt attention over his shoulder. He spent half his earnings to pay off debts, resupply and prepare for the next site. There was usually a period of feeling-out when he reached a new town, picking up on someone who might know someone who might have a claim; Eleusine was a good eye there, too. But they were setting off this time with a place and claim already in mind, thanks to a tip from the innkeeper Zacharias.

"Headed out?" the old codger asked, after they had packed.

Calvin nodded.

"Well, good luck out there. Hope you stop on by if you're ever in these parts again."

"We'll be seeing you, Zacharias."

"And you, little lady," the old man said to the girl standing behind Calvin's arm. He came around the side of the counter and leaned down to look her in the face. "You be strong and make sure your daddy stay outta trouble."

"Yessir I will," she said, gripping her father's hand tight.

"Let's get going, Ellie," Calvin said. He picked up his shoulder bag with a grunt, and they both walked out the door. A minute later, Zacharias heard a horse gallup away.

"They gone now," he yelled up the dark staircase in front of him. Heavy footsteps came down the stairs, with an uneven rhythm. The railing creaked in protest.

The man in the red-feathered hat reached the bottom of the stairs and took in the innkeeper coolly, his face an implacable stone. "You sent them where I asked?" he asked in a voice cracked and dry like drought-baked earth.

"Yes, yes I did, I gave him the map and tole him about that there claim, just like you said."

"Good." The man in the feathered hat drew his gun and shot the innkeeper, too fast for him to react, once in the chest, once again in the neck as he was falling. Then he turned and walked out, one leg stiff and almost dragging behind him, and the rising heat of the morning enveloped him like a coffin.

----

"We getting close?" the girl asked. She hugged her father tightly, despite having half of the saddle to herself.

"We got two days a travel to reach this ranch, Eleusine. Best get yourself comfortable."

She looked around. The trail here wound around the foothills, as the mountain range rose above them to the east. Brush clung to the sides of the trail and up the hill, and tree branches peeked up over the escarpment to their left, waving in the breeze.

"C'mon now!" Calvin tugged impatiently at the reins.

Ellie looked up at this. The horse chafed and bit at the reins, waving a front foot in the air, like it didn't want to go forward. "Hold on, Daddy," she said. "Something ain't right." The horse had never refused to obey like this.

Calvin hopped down. "You take the reins, darling," he said, and started to walk ahead along the trail.

Then she realized there was no wind.

The bushes ahead exploded in fire and smoke and shouting. Men rushed over the lip, out of the brush, still firing, most not even trying to aim in the chaos. But what did hit home was enough. And as he began to lose consciousness and stumbled over the side, he heard the horse fall heavily behind him, and Ellie's terrified screams.

----

He was slowly able to piece together what happened next. Apparently, a traveling schoolteacher stopping at the dead horse spotted Calvin lying by a tree halfway down the ravine. Her two sons carried him up to the wagon and they rushed to the next town.

The local doctor was overwhelmed but managed to pull off an impromptu surgery. After five days, Calvin's fever subsided; within two weeks he was back on his feet—if briefly, gingerly, before vertigo took over and he had to lie down again—and lucid enough to talk.

No one had see Ellie.

By a month in, he was going crazy. He couldn't stand any more sitting around and the Doc's endless "therapies". He had to find her.

"You'll agitate the lesions," Doc Branson warned, and "You need much more bed rest, not exertion." Calvin sold his mother of pearl cufflinks to pay the doctor for his time (despite his protests.) But he couldn't change Calvin's mind, and at last he relented.

----

The rope was thick and long and it hung heavy in Calvin's hands. He tested its strength, crouching in the shadow of the water tower by the hotel. It would hold.

He had tracked the gang here, to a mining town nestled at the mouth of a valley. Apparently they wanted her for her talent, her mining talent. The company seemed to be little more than a glorified press gang. It owned most of what passed for businesses there—and, according to travelers who knew the place, the local sheriff. He would have to do this alone.

Calvin threw the loop with a slow flourish, and on the first try it caught hold of the wooden post above him. With a initial burst of speed, followed by a jolt of pain and a swallowed curse, he pulled himself to the top and climbed over the railing.

It was a busy night. Miners came to unwind after a long day's work. Shouts and roaring laughter drifted up on the cool night air from the floor below. Men yearning for release and some way to spend their meager pay, more money than they had seen in their lives.

Calvin crept along the outside wall of the structure, trying not to make a sound on the dubious wood of the deck. Most windows were dark by now, or they might be unoccupied. Others had their curtains drawn. But the open, candlelit windows were his biggest threat, and opportunity. He tried to look inside while avoiding catching of the light spilling out from it.

Then, past the second corner, he stopped.

Eleusine was there, lying on a bed with her face turned away from the window, in a room illuminated by a single candle on the ledge. The door was open part way, but he could see nothing but darkness through it.

"Eleusine," he said, half-whispered. She jumped and looked around, eyes darting wildly. A dozen emotions flashed across her face as she saw her father at the window. She backed up to the door, pushed it nearly shut, then rushed to the window. She almost knocked over the candle in her rush to climb out.

"I knew it! I knew you would come!" she said, but he slapped a hand over her mouth.

"Shush, girl," he said. "We're not out yet. I'm sure there's men from the gang crawling all over, inside?"

She nodded. "Some in the hall. Most in the game room."

"Right. So we gonna have to go some way different."

He led her to the corner by the water tower, looked around to make sure there was still no one in sight, and swung one leg and then the other out over the railing. With that came a blinding pain in his ribs and he stood there with his eyes closed, breathing heavily for a moment, two, three. Then he started to climb down, fully occupied in his exertion.

Halfway down, he noticed Eleusine hadn't moved from the corner. She stared down from behind the railing, eyes wide.

"Come on!" He looked up at her, eyes pleading. But she just shook her head, and took a step back. He cursed, then pulled himself back up and grabbed the railing. "Climb onto my back."

She did, wrapping her arms around his neck, and squeezed her eyes tight. He began lowering himself back down again, slower this time with the added weight.

And not a moment too soon, as wooden banging and shouts of "El!" started to ring out from above them.

Someone leaned out of a window on the ground floor and started shooting. But he was drunk and nearly fell out. The two took this opportunity and ran to the water tower where Calvin's horse was tied up beside the low side fence.

They climbed on, and he kicked off immediately. They made it out of the town only to find they were being followed by several members of the gang on horseback. Any time he tried to veer to one side or another, the pursuers would press in, firing pistols, and Calvin had to turn back.

Eleusine realized what was happening. "They're pushing us up to the mines!" she shouted. She obviously knew this terrain better than he did, even in the dark. Had he gotten so turned around?

"Well then," he said, trying not to sound terrified. "Guess we gonna pay your supervisor a visit."

----

They rode hard into the encampment, and Eleusine pointed out the supervisor's building. They stopped on the far side of the structure, out of view of the road, and Calvin climbed down. He waited for the pursuers to approach, tried the door, then ran to hit it with all his weight. The door burst open with a spray of splinters.

And he met a full shotgun blast in the chest. As he lay bleeding out on the floor of the office, the man in the red-feathered cap limped forward to stand over him. "Did you really think you could make all that noise and still surprise me?"

"Yeah... you got me..." Calvin managed. His eyes rolled around in their sockets for a moment, then fixed on the window behind the man. Ellie fired at the supervisor through the window, twice, a third time. Then she shook the reins and disappeared in a cloud of dust. Calvin felt the man fall beside him, heard the surprised shouts from outside, heard that it was a long time before they were able to give chase again on their own horses. "...but you don't got her."

Eleusine rode on through the night. Every time she turned around, the riders were farther back or fewer in number. Soon she lost them in zigzagging trails along the mountain. The gold from her father was heavy in a string around her neck. Tomorrow she could cry. Tonight, she could only ride.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



I'm in.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



An appreciation of beauty


Blind Ablution
834

I just want to pay for my things and leave, but the man behind the counter can't keep his teeth straight. When he talks it's a grotesque spectacle, every other word swallowed or mashed through too many teeth or too few.

"Schorry," he says. "We're out of bobbled warter. Maybe nexth cycle."

"All right. Just these, then." He takes stock of my selection: Rope. Electric light. Breathing mask. Laserscribe. And a half-gallon of gasoil.

"You going on some kind of expedition?" he asks. At least I think that's what he says. His molars are doing a country line dance and I can't bring myself to ask him to repeat himself. I never could stomach the infected.

It's been thirty years since people started coming down with the uglies. Some say it was intentionally created, an aid to plastic surgery to make the features more malleable—when doctor was still a prestigious, well-schooled career, not a local kook with a hoard of medical texts—until it broke free from a clinic somewhere and started spreading like the flu. Others said it was an weapon: launched by China, possibly, or the Russians. If it was an attack, it was poorly aimed. Or, maybe it was only ever intended to terrify and destroy lives.

It starts small, a single spot on the skin growing or shrinking every day, like a pustule or an abscess. But then it spreads, growing across the face—always the face—redefining cheekbones, tweaking noses, sculpting brows, whitening teeth. Some people don't even know it's happening, at first. We didn't. Not until it was too late.

"Yeah," I answer. "Checking out the quicksilver mine. I'm gonna strike it rich this time for sure."

He makes a reproachful clucking sound. Or it might be his jaw dislocating. "Y'know thack place's hauntep?"

"I don't believe those ghost stories," I say. It's true, but I'm also building a story myself, constructing a simple explanation of what happened to me after I leave. He finally takes my credit and enters it into the register. I walk outside with a shudder.

//////

After I turn off the main road, it's another hour of riding along dusty trails and once-pavement, now overgrown with vines and tree roots. I finally reach the entrance, passing what's left of the guard shack, stripped of most of its glass and metal. A few graffiti are sprayed on the walls and trees, but they drop off heading deeper into the mine.

The bottom of the shaft is dangerously low in oxygen. I activate the breather and it muffles every sound with a thick furry mechanical hum. And near the bottom of the shaft, I find an old kinematic sledgehammer in a pile of old tools and clothing. It should be even more effective than my initial plan.

After half an hour of searching, I find what I came for: an area of new excavation, where the support beams are scant and poorly positioned, and beyond, the earth is raw and uncompacted, streaked with the telltale cinnabar red. I look over each of the supports standing past the last turn of the passage, spectral ribs jutting out of the ground in the electric light.

My sledgehammer rips through two of the main support posts, one on each side of the tunnel, sending splinters in an arc out onto the ground. Then I switch on the kinetic amplifier on its head, raise the hammer behind my back, and swing it straight up into the ceiling—

//////

The breather wheezes as it tries to function, clogged with dust from the collapse. I'm sealed in.

I remove the small red cube from my pocket. It's an atomic powered device, able to run a thousand years on a single charge, or at least that's what they say. I place it on the ground and activate it with a fingerprint. It begins to project onto the rubble before me. Holopics of my family start to tick over, one by one, all of them from before. Before the disease. Before it twisted their features. Before it left them bubbling and oozing and waiting to die. Before I left them. I couldn't stand to watch.

The display is silent; I don't want to give this place away to any would-be thieves. The device should give off barely more than background radiation for this area and soil depth. I try to think of a message to scribe, something pithy about the folly of man or of not taking things for granted, an epitaph for some distant future explorer to stumble over. But nothing appropriate comes to mind, and the laser-carver hangs heavy in my hand.

I try to sit down, but it turns into more of a slow-motion collapse, like something out of a comedy. My breathing comes fast and ragged, but somehow there is no pain. Slowly, haltingly, I manage to scrawl one word onto the post beside me

Look

and with the last of my strength I remove the breathing mask.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Saw you on Pratt Street - w4m
You were sitting on the steps in front of 500 E Pratt St just before noon today. We smiled and I couldn't help turning back to look at you. I was in a hurry and couldn't stop to talk like I wanted, or really get a good look at you. You probably got a better look at me. You had on a dark jacket and a gray beanie hat. I had on jeans and a black hoodie with a skeleton design--you would have seen ribs and a spine across my back.

I hope we'll meet again.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Fuschia tude posted:

Saw you on Pratt Street - w4m
You were sitting on the steps in front of 500 E Pratt St just before noon today. We smiled and I couldn't help turning back to look at you. I was in a hurry and couldn't stop to talk like I wanted, or really get a good look at you. You probably got a better look at me. You had on a dark jacket and a gray beanie hat. I had on jeans and a black hoodie with a skeleton design--you would have seen ribs and a spine across my back.

I hope we'll meet again.




Dark Purpose
514 words


In the first days, when the multitude was still raising their homes along the river, Darkness grew tired of hiding from the Light on the undersides of things and in the hollow places, and so decided to go out among man. Having no clothes, she fashioned a cloak from shadow. Having no face, she stole one from Death.

And so, wearing a hooded robe and a borrowed face, she breathed as men and walked their lands for five and twenty years. In each community, she stopped and asked for only water. In some places, the people were fearful and drove her away without offering aid, and she trudged on. She remembered this. In other places, the people were kind and generous and invited her into their homes; they gave her a portion to eat though they went hungry; they offered her a bed to spend the night though they had nowhere to sleep. And she remembered this also.

One day, after she had already spoken with the town elders and was on her way to the next part of her journey, she passed a man in a gray cap sitting on the steps of a home. He was half-asleep, but when he saw her, he jumped to his feet and spit on the ground and cursed the heavens.

"Why do you do this thing?" she asked. "Why do you dishonor the gods?"

He was a long time in answering. "You look just like my sister," he said. "But she has been dead these more than twenty years."

"Is it not good, to be reminded of those we once loved?"

He shook his head slowly. "I had nearly forgotten her face. And since that time, the sun has shimmered in the heat, there has been no respite to be found under parched and dying trees, and crops suffer the same fate in the ground."

"You do not revere Light the life-giver?"

"No. I have known nothing but death from it."

She had never heard such candor and she was struck through. She left without another word. The man watched as the gaunt form walked along the road and vanished in the distance.

She walked until the road met another, and then another. She continued past streams and forests and mountains, past settlements and other travelers, but she saw none of it, she was so lost in thought. She walked past the end of the earth and kept walking. And so she returned to the sky.

Light respectfully left her to herself, that night; and the whole land went into darkness. She saw the rejoicing of the people at this reprieve from the sun, and she said, "I am needed here." But she remembered the people who had abused and mistreated her on her travels. She decided that even they would know shade and evening, as she traversed the sky like she had the land, following and followed by the Light; but only sometimes.

And to this day, if one reaches the end of the earth in the summertime, the sun does not set.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



In me and flash me please. I deserve it.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Chairchucker posted:

Thunderdome Week CXIX: Oh! Calamity!

Fuschia tude - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpcihMC_z0Q

Bond
656 words

Brian Belchamp sat in his '87 Chevy and raised the clear bottle to his lips. Liquid fire ran down his throat and he closed his eyes. For a moment, he was able to forget the moon had ever existed, that it had ruined his life. But when he opened his eyes it was still glaring down through the windshield.

It didn't look like much from here; the same large moon in the night sky. But within a few minutes, despite seeming stationary, something appeared along one edge, a pregnant bulge, a tumor growing out of the side. Soon it had resolved into another copy of the moon, moving out from behind the shadow of the first one. Or maybe it was the other way around, and the closer one was the original; he could never keep that straight.

It had just appeared one day, a week ago, a second moon hanging in the sky, right next to the original. It was the same shape and color; the same size and material composition, too. Or, at least, that's what they said on the TV. But rather than the Earth, the scientists said, it orbited the original moon. They had some complicated explanation why it made the ocean tides go haywire, why the earthquakes came every day now. But Brian didn't understand or care about the physics.

He couldn't put it off any longer. He put the car into gear and pulled out onto the dark, slick road.

He drove for hours, passing almost no one on the highways. The clock on the dashboard had ticked over to 2:00 before he pulled into Gray Pines.

Or what was left of it. Broken wood and metal was strewn over the roads and the ruined and barren squares that had once been private yards. The stench of rotting drywall and brackish standing water hung thick in the air. The town had been hit in the surge that first day, when the tidal force hit with a wave several stories high. Most people here had died in their sleep. It had happened without warning in the early morning.

Cleanup and shoring-up efforts by the military and local governments were concentrated in more sensible places, where the people were more densely located and the work would be cost-effective: urban centers, military towns, elevated areas—without quakes. Places like Gray Pines fell by the wayside.

That's why he had to come here in person. To remember what would otherwise be forgotten, with no one left to mourn. He parked at the edge of the rubble, shut off the engine, and stepped out.

He walked through fields of debris, picking his way slowly along the lots that once held homes and businesses. Even most of the trees had been swept away in the deluge, the earth wiped clean in the floods, leaving a homogenous light brown muck caking every surface after it had subsided. Fragments of cement and roof tiles cracked under his feet, echoing down silent streets.

At last, he came to a small lot on the side of a cul-de-sac. Nothing was left of the house, only the front steps and the foundation. He had suspected from the start, hearing nothing, no call, not even a message when the networks were working. After searching the holding camps, this was his last hope; but now he was forced to admit the truth. To touch, to feel the hands on his chest, to hold in his arms... never again.

Brian pulled a small photograph out of his pocket, laid it face-down on the grass, and positioned a heavy stone on top of it.

There was nothing for him here. Any potential survivors had long since gone to the consolidation zones, leaving behind nothing but dreams and skeletons of their past lives. He trudged back the way he had come, to climb into his car one last time, and drive until the fuel gauge hit E.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Brian Wilson died for our sins

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Harmony and Dissonance
991

On a dry summer day in the year of the Ox, the great bandit leader Lang was delivered to the Viper Queen. He pleaded, tried to explain his life and his recent actions. She listened with a stony face, eyes closed, black painted lips sealed shut. Then she opened her eyes, raised her robed left arm with a smooth flourish, and killed him with a word.

A chime from outside the room marked the end of the discussion and sealed his fate. It was a large silver gong, hung from an oak arch by two metal bands, and decorated with the dragon insignia of the wind tribe from the eastern islands. A horde of courtesans and helpers flooded past the gong, into the great hall, as the condemned man was led away in chains.

Queen Xia stood to leave and dismissed the assembled throng with a wave of her hand. "No more today," she said. Two guards with stiff red armor and faces of white porcelain blocked the way behind her and stared down at the crowd.

Lang was executed at the next sunrise. But the queen still did not feel secure. In the preceding weeks, the attacks on distant villages and convoys—even those bearing the royal emerald seal—had grown bolder. Sometimes the rebels attacked even in broad daylight.

She retreated to her private quarters overlooking the evening garden. None were allowed to disturb her here; not even servant eunuchs were allowed inside. The walls of polished dark wood and white marble gleamed in the midday sun.

These rebels were personally offensive to her. Had she not brought unity and order to the coast? And the merchants were happy with the new and expanded trading opportunities. They might be unscrupulous in their dealings and agnostic in belief, but their loyalty and respect was sufficient. They tithed to the crown what was due.

But these rebels were ungrateful for what they had, unwilling to recognize what they had already gained, and unable to see what they would lose through such self-destructive behavior. What they needed was to be made an example of.

She called in Su, her master of covenants. He had interrogated Lang early in the day and she would hear his report.

Su bowed deeply to the floor of the reception hall outside, and would not enter. She instead met the old man out in the hall, and shut the carved oak doors behind her. Best to keep this custom.

He told of training methods, leadership principles, troop movements in the surrounding area. Much of this information was out of date or known to her agents already. But one thing caught her attention: Lang had spoken of a promise made twelve years before, in the time of the White Daggers.

The old man was stooped and feigned deafness, the better to overhear conversations and schemes from the other members of the court. He related the latest of this gossip now, the newest arrivals at the court and double-crosses between members. And he relayed news from the northern campaign.

"Very well," she said once he had finished. "You may stand."

He bowed and backed out of the room, always keeping his torso turned towards the Viper Queen.

Then she called an audience with Histories and the generals. General Cheng was out on campaign, and she doubted the competence of his proxy. But he could at least be trusted to convey her message to the general.

First, the matter of the White Daggers. She called Histories forward. "Tell us, chroniclers. What do we know of the White Dagger uprising?"

A tall woman, unsteady on her feet, stepped forward to answer. "My queen, it was a disturbance by the central plains villagers. They overthrew local governmental posts and infringed upon nearby cities before they were finally put down by the Queen Qi."

Queen Xia looked away at the mention of her mother. Qi had been a harsh ruler whose wars nearly bankrupted the nation. Xia had spent much of the early years of her own rule rebuilding.

She acknowledged the speaker with a long, slow nod. "What happened to those responsible?"

"Arrested. Dismembered for heresy and treason."

"That was the leaders. What about the common bandits and troops who made up their raiding parties?"

"Most were pardoned and allowed to return home. It was determined they were too numerous to track and deal with all of them, and such a plan would be impossible to carry out."

"Is there any relation between the leaders of the bandits today and the White Daggers?"

The Histories convened, arguing in hushed but animated tones for nearly a minute, until a man stepped forward. "We do not know, my queen. We will find out." She dismissed the annalists and they left in silence.

The Viper Queen turned to her generals. "I want each of you to take your troops—Han, head east; Jiang, west—and disperse. Leave an officer and his company in each city garrison; a fighting squad in each town."

"And is General Cheng to do the same?" This was Heiwin, the slouching representative of Cheng, away on the northern campaign.

"No. Tell him to withdraw and bring his forces here."

The two generals remained silent, exchanged only glances. She saw the unease on their faces and flicked her wrist dismissively. "We do not know where our enemy's operations are based. We must draw them out, make them think us weak, entice them to attack. Then, like a scorpion curled in wait, we strike at the weak points of our prey."

They had questions, but she would brook no debate or dissent. "Resign, if you prefer," she said. They did not. Soon enough, they left and she was alone once more.

The Viper Queen returned to her quarters. The afternoon breeze blew up from the garden, carrying the scent of flowers and freshly maintained soil.

Somewhere back in the palace, a gong chimed.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Gau posted:

Apologies to any Aussies, I realized about halfway through the first sentence that I have no idea how to pronounce Brisbane.

"Brizz-ben."

Also IN. Gotta keep this train a-rolling.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Your Sledgehammer posted:

Week 121 SledgeCrits

Thanks!

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Circumvolution
995 words

Paul Versi had only been in Eastern Europe for an hour, but he was already starting to hate everyone. First, the old Polish woman at the Paris train station who had to show pictures of her extended family and tell their life stories in her halting English. Then, the fat man with the terrible body odor who occupied the other side of his railcar for the better part of the day.

Travel could be exhausting, but usually—despite today's irritations—he enjoyed it. It provided a welcome distraction from the merger negotiations. And this four-day mountaintop retreat meeting with the other management should be amazing—for the scenery, if nothing else.

Paul looked up from his business paper with narrowed eyes as two tall men entered. They each wore close cropped hair, dark clothes with striped undershirts, and overpowering cologne. The skinny one grunted as he shoved a couple of bags into the ceiling compartment. Then he collapsed in a seat across from Paul, staring at the businessman with a blank expression.

Paul turned his newspaper page, pretending not to notice.

The big one was still standing by the door, picking his teeth with a knife. His build was solid, not fat but broad-shouldered, with an upturned nose and a hungry look on his face. "Stop that," he said, his brow furrowed, and slapped his arm across the skinny man's back.

"Sorry friend," the bigger man said, reaching an arm out towards Paul. "This man, he is sometime idiot. I am called Rott," he said, leaning forward, his arm still outstretched.

Paul nodded and looked back down at his paper.

The tall man sat down without missing a beat. "My friend, his name Laszlo," he continued. "What about you?"

"Paul," he replied. Didn't look up this time.

"Good. Good great," Rott said, rubbing his hands together. "So we friends now. Let's celebrate, huh, Laszlo? Get the drinks!"

So the skinny man climbed the seats and went rummaging in their bags above.

"You ever have drink Shandy?" the big man asked.

Paul shook his head.

"No?" Rott's eyes went wide. "Is special of this region!"

Laszlo popped open a bottle of beer and began pouring it into a mug.

Rott took another bottle from him and topped up the mug with its dark liquid. He stood up to offer the stuff to Paul. "Try it. Is good, man. You like it."

The mug was smudged and dented. It smelled like cheap beer and some kind of sickly sweet soda. His head started to swim just at the thought of drinking it.

"No thanks," he said. He didn't like the big one's grin.

Rott shrugged and the two began mixing and gulping down the stuff. The singing started soon after.

Paul wanted to climb into bed and disappear. This was supposed to be a sleeping car, and they were still hours away from his destination. But it was futile. When he asked them to please be a bit quieter, they acted like they didn't hear, or didn't understand. Paul was starting to think otherwise. When he turned off the overhead lights, Rott let loose a stream of unintelligible syllables and slapped the switch back on. Laszlo found this hysterical, laughing in long, high-pitched yelps like a hyena.

Paul retreated back behind his paper. He had read the stories twice already. But he didn't want to take out his laptop in sight of these two. This would be the perfect time to get some work done, too. But he found something unnerving about those two, the skinny one especially.

Laughter interrupted his thoughts. Those two were passing a phone between them and laughing. He saw Laszlo stand to get a picture of Paul's luggage above him.

"Hey, what are you doing?" Paul shot up.

The skinny man froze with a dumb expression on his face.

"No no no," Rott said, and stepped between them. "Is no problem. Is for blog. People like, is very funny. I give you blogsite?" He looked hopeful.

"No, that's all right." Paul deflated back into his seat.

"Oh, you not liking blogging?"

"No, I don't have a phone..."

Rott frowned. He wasn't buying it.

"...that's, uh, configured for a data plan out here. In this country. I'm really just passing through. I just got on a train in France this morning, actually. I've basically been travelling all day." Why did he say all that?

This time, it was Rott's turn to stare. He nodded. "OK! I write you blogsite with paper."

After a minute's searching, Laszlo at last pulled a scrap of paper out of their things, scribbled on it, and passed it over. All Paul could make out were two periods in the middle of illegible scratches.

"For when you find computer in year two thousand, HA! HA! HA!" The big man laughed, too loud, too long, once more.

Paul shrank behind his paper. Then he realized what had bothered him about the skinny man: he perked up every time Paul seemed about to doze off. He decided to test this, let his arm move slowly to rest by his side, eyes nearly closed. And sure enough, Laszlo was up and making a beeline straight for his laptop case. The laptop that held documents about the company's inner workings, that their competitors would love to get their hands on.

There was the distant squeal of brakes as the train approached its next stop. Paul could barely think; surprise was his only weapon. He was acting on pure instinct and adrenaline. As the train banked around a last turn, he used the shifting momentum to shove into the skinny man and grab the case, hit the wide man in the jaw with it when he stepped forward in shock.

He ran out the door and into the hall, through a near-empty car, reaching the doors just as they were opening. He didn't know where he was, but he stepped onto the crowded station.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



sebmojo posted:

'it's' is only ever short for 'it is'



Except when it's short for "it has".

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Benny the Snake posted:

Hey everybody! So, I love brawls. A lot. A little bit too much. So instead of making GBS threads the thread with asking, I'm gonna take it into a different direction.

To my former lostertar brothers and sisters, I am putting a bounty on myself! Win a brawl agianst me, win a new avatar! One brawl at a time, only if I accept, no refunds OPEN TO LOSERTARS ONLY. If you're down, post with the words "Benny Bounty Brawl" in bold.

Sittinghere, mind putting this in the OP?

OK Ben, let's

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



sebmojo posted:

This is nearly pretty decent,
High thunderpraise. Thanks!

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Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Fanky Malloons posted:

*I do understand why this rules exists, because people don't know when to STFU and it can poo poo up the thread hardcore and if difficult to police. I jusy don't like it

Yeah but if someone is exceptionally bad, can't they just be dealt with through the ordinary probation system already? This rule more seems likely to encourage in-thread backseat modding which is never fun or interesting to read.

Benny the Snake posted:

I'm fully aware that in recent months, through my continuous participation in the 'dome, I've been getting more aggressive and more irritating to certain persons. I'd just like to say that I'm sorry and that I'm fully aware of my conduct and attitude here and elsewhere. I'm not some kind of egotistical jerk, or at least I try not to be. I'm just a bad writer who often times gets an ego and figures out that I've messed up before it's too late.

benny stop loving talking about awareness of behavior instead of changing it, god drat

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