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Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


For the first time, I'm in with Vaccinophobia- Fear of vaccination.

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Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Tinkered with this one for the past few days. I won't have much of a chance to submit later this weekend, so here it goes:

Axis I (1,112 words)
PROMPT: Vaccinophobia - Fear of Vaccination

Lindsey slumped onto her office couch, the day’s schedule in hand. Yawning, she thought, “Another Wednesday, another exciting afternoon spent with OCD Sally, Bi-Polar Darren, and fat Esther with the binge-eating disorder.” She tapped her foot, wishing she were somewhere else, wishing she no longer had to listen to her asinine clients, who knew nothing of real pain.

Lindsey decided to look on the bright side. Her schedule listed just one more client that afternoon, a first-timer named Christina Brinn. Rising, Lindsey looked to an empty shelf on her narrow office bookcase and murmured “Well, as long it isn’t the author, Christina Brinn, I’m sure this session will go just fine.”

Bzzt. “Doctor Stone?” The receptionist’s voice droned over the intercom. “Your four o’clock is ready to see you.” “Send her in,” replied Lindsey.

As the petite woman entered the office, a flicker of recognition swept across Lindsey’s face. Christina’s blond curls, wide doe-like eyes, slender nose, they matched the picture in the insert of a book Lindsey once owned.

“Doctor Stone? I’m so pleased to meet you!” Christina grasped Lindsey’s hand and shook hard. Grinning, she pivoted and walked the distance of the office, turning her head every which way. “Hey, it’s cozy in here” Christina gushed. “Cute desk, nice bookshelf, gorgeous fireplace—Oh my God. Is this a Turkish rug?”

“I’m glad you like it,” Lindsey replied.

Christina walked to the desk and picked up a picture framed in mahogany. She turned to Lindsey and pointed to the three smiling persons featured therein “You have a beautiful family. Have you been married long? What’s your son’s name? Was this taken recently?” she queried in rapid fire.

Lindsey answered, “No. Not so recently.” She beckoned Christina to the couch and waited for her to sit. “So Christina, what brings you to therapy today?”

Christina’s smile faded. She looked down at her feet and murmured. “Well Doctor Stone, I’m depressed. I’ve been under a lot of work-related stress lately. I’m not sure if you’re aware of my work, but I’m a bestselling author. A controversial one.”

“Mm-hm.”

“You see, doctor, the crux of the problem is that I’m a public figure. I’m considered a leader in the anti-vaccination movement. Now, I guess being challenged is something that all leaders face, but if you knew what kind of harassment I have to deal with, you’d see why I’ve been so depressed.”

“Harassment?”

“Yes, doctor. I’ve been screamed at in public, spit on, called baby killer, I get death threats in the mail, my children are taunted at school. It’s horrible!” Christina began to sob.

“Yes, that is horrible” said Lindsey coolly, “That ought to make anyone depressed.”

“What bothers me the most is the unfairness of it all! I never sought to be a leader. I’m a busi-ness-wo-man” she howled, stretching each syllable. “Truth be told, I don’t care so much about anti-vaccination per se, but writing is a competitive business. I have to make a living somehow, and when you get right down to it, I’m just like any other businessperson. I identified a market and I catered to it.”

Lindsey’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Ugh,” grunted Christina. “Look. We live in an era of organic foods, anti-GMOs, home birth in a pool of water and ‘hey let’s all eat the placenta while we’re at it.’ New-age suburban moms across this country pay big bucks for anything labeled ‘all natural.’ So, it occurred to me—there’s nothing natural about vaccination. There are countless readers out there seeking to buy literature geared toward telling them what they already want to hear: Vaccination isn’t natural. It’ll poison your kids, give them Autism. Who needs a vaccine when your children have a natural immuno-defense against disease? The market for this kind of literature existed before I ever wrote a word. All I did was tap into it first. That doesn’t mean I deserve to get harassed.”

Lindsey’s brow lowered. Her lips grew tight. “So, what I’m hearing from you is that financial success is very important to you, but you’re ambivalent about the anti-vaccination movement.”

“I guess you could say ambivalent about it, yeah. I got my own kids vaccinated, if that tells you anything, and this was after my first book came out. I figured, hey, nobody needs to know. The doctor can’t out me. He’s bound by HIPPA, and now so are you.” Christina winked.

“I think I’m beginning to understand how our course of treatment should go,” said Lindsey, her face relaxing. “Let’s focus back on the harassment.”

“Oh, it’s just awful” cried Christina. “There’s an uptick in measles, mumps, smallpox and people act like I’m responsible for that. Some people hate me for it. I keep telling them it’s an individual decision for each family to make. It’s not like I’m forcing anyone not to vaccinate. It’s every parent’s job to do their own research. Writing anti-vac books is how I make my living and nothing about that is going to change. I just want to learn how to deal with it when people scream at me, blame me for all those deaths.” Christina’s eyes began to well up once again.

Lindsey grabbed a tissue and rose from her seat. She walked to the couch and sat beside Christina. “For the tears,” she said, offering her the tissue. But when Christina reached for it, Lindsey loosened her grip, letting the tissue fall to the floor. Without a moment's hesitation, her hands darted to Christina’s neck, squeezing.

Expressionless, Lindsey gazed at Christina’s face, now wide-eyed in terror. “Devin,” she said. “Earlier you asked me my son’s name. His name is Devin.” Lindsey tightened her grip. “I guess you could say I’m one of those New-age suburban moms you talked about.”

Christina’s face, now flushed red, let out a pathetic gurgle. Lindsey continued, “When I read your first book I felt terrified—terrified—about vaccinating Devin. The medical establishment was saying one thing, but the way you detailed vaccination risk chilled me to my core. Devin paid the price for my fears, and for your ‘business.’ He was five years old.”

Lindsey kept her hands around Christina’s neck, until the author turned purple and began to bloat. With a sigh, she walked to her desk and raised the family photo to her face. Lindsey imagined growing old behind bars, freedom but a distant memory. She couldn’t know how much just one author’s death would hurt the anti-vaccination movement. But she felt secure in the knowledge that if her action could weaken the anti-vac crowd in any appreciable way, then maybe fewer children would have to suffer like Devin.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Hit me with a virtue and I'm in!

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


^^^Not a judge and not a better writer than you, sebmojo, but I do have one observation about this. It occurs to me that his being a legend only makes all it more problematic that your protagonist did nothing with him but chit-chat. This guy being a legend seems to bring about the need for your protagonist to engage in something especially interesting with him.

Armack fucked around with this message at Oct 2, 2014 around 22:57

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Prompt: Being humble
Word count: 1501

Pride and the Quest to Subdue the Gahmgat


In black of night, their screams awake me. “CLERIC! CLERIC!” The men cry as they pound the temple door. “We have wounded!”

I stumble in the dark to my tower window and shout below “Stay, good sirs! I shall wake the master.”

I do not rely on candle fire to seek my master. Of time, I have too little. From memory I find the door, the staircase; running up the spiral stairs, I slide my right hand along the wall. Stone. Stone. Stone. Oak! It is my master’s bedroom door. I thrust open the door and run to master’s bedside.

“SNRUUOK” The cleric’s late wife used to liken his snoring to the tormented wail of a newly hatched Femir.

I shake the master cleric from his slumber. “Oomph. drat you, girl.”

“Arise, Master! More victims of the Gahmgat await our healing.”

****

“Wormwood! And be quick about it!” The master shouts.

I leave the four gurneys and proceed to the vast array of shelves. In haste, I scan each row of goods. Stem of Jasmine, Drakeling Tooth, Ostrichbane. “Master, where is it?”

The master approaches. Thwack. I feel a swift strike to the back of my head. “Must you persist in this ineptitude, supplicant? Had my wife not considered it our burden to civilize hill folk survivors, I would never have agreed to mentor a dimwitted fop such as you.”

The master locates Extract of Wormwood on the bottom shelf and adds it to his mustard-hued salve. He visits each gurney, applying the concoction to the mangled bodies. I try to remember that these near-dead piles of sinew and bone were once men, brave men who sought to rid us of the Gahmgat.

“Master, a simple salve will not revive these men. We must appeal to the Hill Spirits to—”

Thwack. “You will not desecrate this temple with your people’s baser magics. Give it time, the salve will work.” I watch my master exit the chamber. His footsteps soon echo from the tower stairwell. I trust that he has retired for the evening.

I approach the nearest gurney and gaze at the mercenary who lies upon it. Amidst the burned flesh, the protruding bone, I cannot discern his age. The master cleric has kept him alive for now, but this man will not wake from his nightmarish sleep. Not unless I defy the master.

With a sigh I raise my hands before me. I bring to mind the memory of my people, our way of life, our connection with the spirits. A gust of wind finds its way into the chamber as I intone: Spirits of the Hill, honor our pact. Send forth your healing winds, that these men may be revived. The shelves begin to shake; the potions, extracts, poached curiosities clank together. The wounded men’s hair and tattered clothing stirs. At last, the winds dissipate with a hiss. It is done.

****

“Good cleric, we thank you once again for mending our wounds, surely your healing skills are unmatched.”

I feel vexed by the mercenary captain’s praise for the master. It was I who healed his men, aided by the Hill Spirits whose memory was all but erased by men of their kind. I find myself yearning to speak truth to them, to claim my praise. But the way of my people is the way of humility. I can only honor the fallen among us, and those few who yet live, insofar as I choose to remain humble.

“But if you would keep our treasures, please aid us further. The Gahmgat is a menace. It consorts with demons and takes countless lives. It is an object of worship for sadistic cultists. If someone of your talents would but accompany us on our quest—”

The master cleric drops the silver buckler and the emerald-embroidered grimoire on the floor next to his seat. “I keep your valuables as recompense for saving your miserable lives. You owe me nothing less. I do not regard them as advance payment to join you in your folly. That I cannot do.” With that, the master looks to me. “But if you must march to your defeat once again, consider taking my supplicant. She is of hill tribe stock, slow-witted and uncouth. Nonetheless she is a healer. The choice is yours. Now, begone.”

I escort the men out of the temple. Their captain glares at me, his brow raised in contemplation. “No,” he says. “You will be of no use to us. We need a worthy healer.”

I am taken by resentment, blinded by pride. I forget myself. “In that case, Captain, there is something you should know.”

****

The mouth of the cave is littered with hemp-sewn poppets. The captain turns to me. “Offerings from the Gahmgat cults,” he says in disgust. The six other men shudder in trepidation as they plod forward. They have been here before. They cannot know that my presence will secure them a victory, but they have hung their hopes upon me.

Our torches cast a dim glare on the chestnut colored cave walls. As we proceed deeper, bone fragments increasingly line the ground and the air thickens with sulfurous odor. Turning a corner, I seem to spy a lilac haze skirt quickly out of view.

“We are nearing its den,” the captain whispers to me. Looking to his hip, I expect him to draw a sword. I gasp. How could I have overlooked it; he has no sword! I glance at the other men. There are no weapons to be found. Panic stricken I cry, “You are unarmed! How you do expect to defeat the Gahmgat?”

The captain issues a bemused grunt. “Hush now. Steel will not aid us against the Gahmgat.” He signals to the man behind him, who brings forth a hemp-sewn sack. “We shall not draw swords, but a string instead.”

Rounding another corner we find ourselves in broader space. The walls here are carved smooth, adorned with bone fragments organized into a perverse mosaic. A purple glow pulses throughout the space. I spy the source—violet smoke plumed in the shape of a demon. It is the Gahmgat.

The room shakes with the beast’s trumpeting bellow. Rapidly, it soars toward us. Six men rush to meet its charge. I feel a tightness around my arm and I am pulled to the left. The captain has grabbed hold of me; he leads me to the far end of the den, circling broadly around the Gahmgat.

Facing the men from behind the beast, I realize the captain’s plan, in all its horror. These men are decoys. They will capture the beast’s attention while it mangles them. My role is to heal them, at least enough to keep them alive while the captain sacks the beast from behind.

The Gahmgat reconstitutes its smoky arm into a claw. It looms briefly before swooping down and impaling one of the men. The other five scatter in fear. The Gahmgat floats toward two of the fleeing men. It whips itself around, enveloping them in a ring of violet haze. With that, flames the color of dying roses pour from all sides. The men are roasted.

“Healer!” The captain shouts. I extend my hands forward and intone: Spirits of the Hill, I beseech you. Send forth your winds, deliver these men from mortal injury. My words echo throughout the den. The Gahmgat takes notice of my voice and wafts toward me. I await the healing winds. Nothing. I feel no connection to the spirits. Realizing that something is terribly wrong, I run.

Now fleeing, I search my mind. What could have severed my tie to the spirits? I realize it with a start: hubris. I have dishonored the spirits as I have dishonored our people, our way of life, our humility. My very involvement in this quest stemmed from a boast about my healing ability, a desire to snatch praise from an undeserving master. My throat closes in terror.

At once I am knocked to the ground. I roll, facing upwards. The Gahmgat is floating over me. Slowly, it sends smoky tendrils down to my face, into my eye sockets, behind my eyes. I feel forward pressure, just a tug a first and then a gouge. The last thing I see before the Gahmgat rips out my eyes is the captain holding the sack above the beast.

****

On the journey home, the three soldiers and their captain boast to passersby of the conquest. In their glee, I hear them playfully toss the sack. They would see riches, glory, perhaps knighthoods. I would see nothing, ever again. I helped to capture a vile beast, do the spirits not bless me for that? It is of no use. I have dishonored the memory of my people. The lands of my birth, the faces of the surviving hill tribesmen, the splendor of the spirits, will remain forever hidden to me. Shrouded in my hubris, lost to the darkness, I am a healer no more.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


I'm in.
Johnson Lake the poisonous snake and our Hero

quote:

Johnson Lake the poisonous snake and our Hero - w4m - 22 (raleigh)

3 of us were walking around the lake this afternoon and you were coming from the other direction. You stopped, held up your hand and yelled 'stop, copperhead in the road'. If it wasn't for you we probably would have stepped on it and it may have bitten us or my dog. I've never seen a poisonous snake before and we were all petrified. You told us just be still and that you would wait with us until it moved on. After, we couldn't stop talking about the handsome older gentleman with the jacked arms who obviously keeps himself in great shape. We want to buy our hero a drink I asked you a question about your tat and you said something adorable to my dog. Write what I asked and what you said in the subject line; you'll be the only one who knows the answer. We'll be waiting....Daddy



For the record, yes I do consider snakes to be cute.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


quote:

Johnson Lake the poisonous snake and our Hero

Johnson Lake the poisonous snake and our Hero - w4m - 22 (raleigh)

3 of us were walking around the lake this afternoon and you were coming from the other direction. You stopped, held up your hand and yelled 'stop, copperhead in the road'. If it wasn't for you we probably would have stepped on it and it may have bitten us or my dog. I've never seen a poisonous snake before and we were all petrified. You told us just be still and that you would wait with us until it moved on. After, we couldn't stop talking about the handsome older gentleman with the jacked arms who obviously keeps himself in great shape. We want to buy our hero a drink I asked you a question about your tat and you said something adorable to my dog. Write what I asked and what you said in the subject line; you'll be the only one who knows the answer. We'll be waiting....Daddy


Word count: 734

Your Hero at Johnson Lake

Daryl beat his head against the outer wall of the public library. “Stupid, stupid!” Not three hours ago, he let the woman of his dreams walk away from him. Daryl made his way inside and to a computer. He logged onto to Craigslist. If I can make just the right post, she’s sure to notice. By God, he was going to reconnect with her.

Missed connection: Your Hero at Johnson Lake

Bumped into you at Johnson Lake. You were wearing white socks and brown sandals. With the designs all over my body, I’m used to getting women’s attention, but I wanted so much more from you.

Look, I don’t usually post on here and I swear I’m not a weirdo. It’s just that when our eyes met, it felt like our souls were vibrating on the same frequency. I saw that you were startled by me. What can I say? When I bust out break dancing like that, ladies react. I got swag and it has a certain effect on people.

I would’ve gotten to know you more, but we were rudely interrupted. Typical douchebag had to be the white knight, but you didn’t need saving. You needed me.

Hit me back or come find me. Until winter, I’ll be spending most afternoons swimming in the creek behind the Chick-fil-A on Walnut St.

(Pic related, it’s me coiled around a field mouse. He made a good meal).


After posting, Daryl made his way out of the library and on to the sidewalk. A man in a cheap suit walked around him. “Tough day, copperhead?”

“I need a drink,” Daryl replied.

The man turned to face Daryl. “Well, there’s the Decon’s Bench Pub further up the road.”

Daryl slithered his way to The Decon’s Bench. He slipped inside and wound himself up one of the bar stools. He hissed to get the bartender’s attention.

“We don’t serve snakes in here,” the bartender said.

Daryl bared his teeth.

“Woah, woah! Just kidding. Sheesh, you reptiles can’t take a joke can ya?”

“Do I look like I’m in the joking mood? Johnny Walker Black Label. Serve it neat.” Daryl raised his tongue and unhinged his jaw. Several Sacagawea coins tumbled out of his mouth and onto the bar.

Daryl sulked there, talking to no one. At last he heard the front doors swing open. From the back of the bar, a man yelled, “Aw horseshit, it’s Rhonda again.”

Turning, Daryl gasped in delight. A curvy woman sauntered in, wearing white socks and brown sandals. She made her way to a booth and sat. Daryl approached. “Excuse me…uh…Rhonda. Didn’t we meet at Johnson Lake?”

Rhonda looked around. She yelped, noticing Daryl on the ground. “Oh! Away with you. I don’t like snakes.”

“So, you don’t wanna see me breakdance again? Because I got some pretty smooth moves—”

“—I don’t want your company. I’m here to meet someone. Oh, here he is now! Joshua!”

Daryl looked to the front door. An older man wearing biker leather and a green bandana had walked in. The white knight from the lake. He heard Rhonda’s call and began walking toward the booth.

“Ok, I’ll be leaving now,” Daryl said, his heart sinking. He slithered out of the bar and onto a bench beside the parking lot. Daryl hung his head and brooded on the failure. Eventually, he became drowsy and drifted to sleep.

Daryl woke with a start. It was nighttime now, and in the dim lot two people were arguing.

“Josh, I’m not going home with you tonight. You’re drunk. You’re a mess.”

“I ain’t even that drunk.” Josh grabbed Rhonda’s arm pulling her toward a motorcycle.

“Let me go!” Rhonda screamed.

With that, Daryl whipped around the bench and into the parking lot. “You get the hell outta here or I’ll bite!” Daryl bared his teeth and advanced toward the drunken biker. Josh released Rhonda and took a few steps back. Daryl reached him and coiled up his right leg.

“Alright, alright, I’m outta here.” Josh shook Daryl off and got on his bike. He drove off the lot, almost losing his balance twice on the way out.

Rhonda and Daryl remained in the parking lot a moment, neither speaking. At last Daryl said, “We got off on the wrong foot. Let’s get to know each other better.”

“Are you kidding?” Rhonda asked, wincing. “You’re a loving snake!”

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Was going to take a week off from the 'dome, but screw it. Count me in.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Week 115
Word Count: 1045


[Redacted]

Armack fucked around with this message at Dec 9, 2014 around 15:06

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


In.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Tidal Forces
882 words

Vince Clupper died with an octogenarian tucked under one arm. His last moments were spent clawing the waves, trying to catch some momentum. But with each boost forward, the rip current tugged back harder. The old man was scared; trembling, he clung to Vince’s sleeveless red shirt. At last Vince succumbed to exhaustion. His adversary the sea, salty in all its malice, had won.

Vince had little chance to think of Marta, the woman he loved. Or Ron, the five-year old he would leave behind.

As the years went by, Ron’s memory of his father blurred. To him, Vince Clupper was not a dad, but an obstacle—a reason for his mother to insist that he avoid the beaches.

“The ocean took your father, don’t let it take you too.”

Ron loved Marta, who was mother and father enough for him. Yet he could not ignore the ocean’s tug. For the sea lures all who live near the coast. It whispers a promise from its crashing waves, salts the air around it with invitation and intrigue.

And so it was that Ron, rebellious in adolescence, would sneak from his home and journey to the shore. There he reveled in the tickle of warm sand between his toes and the press of cool ocean against him. At the sea, Ron swam with agile dolphins and chased down temperamental gulls. Beside murmuring waves, he built his first castle and planted his first kiss, but his true passion belonged to the surfboard. Never had Ron felt so whole than in those moments where he stood atop the board, lording over the wild blue expanse beneath him.

“I worry about you,” his mother pleaded. “Don’t keep doing this to me, I have a terrible feeling you’re going to die out there.”

Ron explained, “This is who I am. I can’t bear the responsibility for your feelings.”

Marta snapped, “And I can’t stop being a mother. No matter how old you are, you will always be my little boy whom I raised alone. Stay away from the sea. You will not know your father by becoming him, but by honoring the family he left behind.”

Ron moved out of the house as soon as he was of age. He spent his days honing his craft, advancing toward a life as a professional surfer. His first challenge: prepare to compete in the regional expo. First prize, ten thousand dollars. He trained until he could control the board as though it were an arm or a leg.

When he heard his mother was ill, Ron did not reach out to her. He ached with sorrow for the woman who raised him, but the gulf between them was too wide.

One sunny day, Ron was riding the waves when he heard someone call, “Ron, it’s your mother!”

Chemotherapy had torn her hair out, carved deep grooves into her face. Where Ron once had known a woman of forty years, he now looked upon a stranger twice that age. Still, he ran to her and they embraced.

Marta let her son know how much she cared, and how sorry she was that they grew apart. She told Ron of her troubles: That she was no longer able to work, but that the treatment had left her thousands of dollars in debt.

“I’ll pay it off,” Ron told her.

“But how?” asked Marta.

Ron looked to the sea. “I’ll take care of it.”

***

Under a grey sky, monstrous waves hammered the shore. The crowd groaned in sympathy for the latest contestant blown to defeat by high winds and treacherous waters. Ron smiled. In strict adherence to technique, his competitors had forgotten their instincts. This would be an easy win.

Ron took to the waves, climbing them meter by meter, saddling the white-capped crests beneath his board. He was communing with the fickle sea, intuiting its whims, adapting to its moods, swing by volatile swing.

When he finished his set, Ron nodded with the assurance that he had won the expo. But he did not dismount from his board. The sea issued a call he could not ignore. Ten thousand dollars would be waiting for him when he returned; for now he would celebrate by continuing to do what he loved best.

Ron rode far from the expo, taming wave after wave and beaming with pride. His head raised to the sky, he never saw the fin parting the ocean surface. He noticed the loss of his board one instant before the loss of his foot.

He was sinking now, his mother’s words flooding into his mind. “You’ll end up like your father. You’ll die out there.”

Sinking deeper, Ron felt his consciousness slipping from him. As if in a nightmare, an image seared itself into his head. He saw a young man dressed in red fighting against a current to reach the shore. The young man was hampered by an old man who clung to his shirt and dragged them both down.

Just then, Ron regained his senses. He banished his mother’s admonitions from his mind and hoisted himself to the surface. He was bleeding heavily, but the beast that attacked him was nowhere in sight. Ron made for the shore, and to the mother he loved so dearly.




Original link to picture

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Still bone
44 Words

So I hadn't been eating right, hadn't kept any appointments for the ultrasound, gently caress prenatal care. Do they think I have time for any of that? Still, I invested nine months of my life into this. And then a skeleton popped out.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


JcDent posted:

Also, was I the overall looser this week, too?

Nope. You survived with a DM.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Obliterati posted:

Two of three.

I'm surprised that there's still a spot available by now. Sure, I'll claim three of three. I think I could really benefit from a line-by-line crit. Story: Whistleblowing.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Count me in.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


I'm new here. Not part of any kind of insider's club. I also have more DMs than you, Cache Cab.

Even with all of that, I still think pointing fingers and making allegations against an "old guard" is silly. Here we have an experienced group of writers who just want to offer us crit. There is no good evidence of them conspiring against anyone. As far as I've seen, there also isn't some kind of power structure in place that keeps newbies down.

Take for example our recent anonymous submission week. That's an awfully hard way to single out seasoned TD writers for special treatment, isn't it?

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Switch
788 Words

It wasn’t enough that priests were burning alive. Police deployed LRADs to deafen them. Other protestors rushed to extinguish the incendiaries, but the sound cannons had made coordination impossible.

“Needless,” said Min, watching from her condo. Even twenty floors up, she caught a slight aroma of tear gas. She tasted its sourness, but lit a cigarette anyway.

An agnostic, Min had mocked the religious protestors as “extremist.” That included her sister, Shuang. “What’s so tyrannical about national licensure for clergy members?” Min had chided. Shuang hadn’t spoken to her since.

She took a long drag, picturing Shuang leading a band of protestors to their doom. “She should’ve listened to me. If the clergy had followed the law, there wouldn’t be violence.”

Min reached for her cellphone and dialed Shuang. No answer. “Maybe she’s not out there tonight. She might be working late at the divinity school.” Min felt a pit in her stomach.

Biting her lip, Min walked to her desktop. She checked the traffic on her image board. Visitors down. Ad revenue down. Picking up a pen, she began to scrawl ideas onto an index card: Social media blitz; Site redesign; Partnership with other sites.

Min thought to call Gerald for advice. Though they’d just recently begun dating, Min considered her police academy boyfriend to be among the most practical people she knew. But when Min looked at her phone, she saw the “No Service” display. Looking up, she also noticed her modem lights had gone out.

Just then, Min heard a knock. She rose from her desk and proceeded to the door. Looking out the peephole, Min gasped. It was Shuang, forming her hands into the shape of a heart.

They embraced as soon as Min swung open the door.

“Since our last fight, I wasn’t sure you’d ever want to see me again. How’d you get in?”

“One of your neighbors swiped into the building and held the door for me,” Shuang responded. “Have you heard the radio? Do you know about the kill switch?”

Min raised an eyebrow. “The kill switch?”

“Yeah,” said Shuang, “the government just shut down all internet and satellite communications. They’re trying to prevent protest coordination.”

“For how long? I’ve got a business to run!”

Shuang frowned. “There are protests going on and you’re worried about your finances?”

“These protests are ridiculous.”

Shuang took her sister’s hand. “I still want your support. Meet me in the square tomorrow at ten.”

“If you think I’m going out there, you’re crazy!”

“The daytime assemblies have been peaceful. We need to assert our rights, demand that they restore communications. The sooner they back down, the sooner you’ll have your business up and running again. Just think about it.”

**

The next day, Min wandered the square. As she looked for Shuang, she passed countless nuns, rabbis, and imams. She was moving through the crowd when she spotted a white van parked in an alley. Its backdoors slid open and a bald man in a monk’s robe stepped out.

“Gerald!” Min called.

The man’s eyebrows raised. He marched over. “Shhh,” said Gerald. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I don’t care about the religious stuff, but I do want to protest the internet shutdown. Why are you here? And what’s with the monk’s outfit?”

“You need to leave. Now.”

“Tell me what’s going on!”

“Shh! You’ll blow my cover. Just get out before things get bad.” Gerald turned and dissolved into the crowd.

Min hurried to the front of the march, looking for Shuang. At the front lines, protestors formed a wall facing the police. Given the violence of the previous night, Min wasn’t surprised that the cops were in riot gear. But she was surprised that atop their tanks, they were pointing rifles at the as-of-yet peaceful crowd.

“This is an illegal assembly,” an officer said through a megaphone. “You must peacefully disperse. Return to your homes.”

Min scanned the crowd. At last, she spotted Shuang. Min advanced, but on the way something caught her eye. It was Gerald, standing close to Shuang. He bent down, picked up a rock and threw it toward the police. It clanged against the side of a tank. Then other men dressed in similar robes hurled rocks of their own. None of them came close to hitting an officer.

“My God!” gasped Min. “They’re giving the cops a pretext to—”

Bang. Shots rang out while white vans encircled the fleeing protestors. Min pushed toward Shuang.

“Min! You came!”

Min rushed forward but was yanked back by her hair. Two men grabbed Shuang and began to drag her away. The last thing Min saw before the white doors closed was Shuang, forming a heart with her hands.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


In.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Threw out my back by being fat and goony. But my loss is your gain! Since I'm immobile, I've got nothing better to do then to offer everyone "crippled crits." Enjoy!

Crippled Crits Part I: Merc, chthonic bell, Cache Cab, thehomemaster, Cacto, Entenzahn, bluesquares.

1. Mercedes - Wraith For Me

-Hmm. I like the idea of bureaucracy as the reason people remain in limbo for so long.

-Okay nice! A little action, a little violence, I understand Nadia's motivations and I want to see what's beyond the black mirror. At this point in the story, I'm hoping it's something negative because it doesn't seem conceivable that getting into heaven from limbo should work this way.

-I wish you had a bit more description of the post-mirror setting, but the word count doesn't seem to allow for it. I don't fault you for this; I had the same issue.

-I liked this when it was a cute quest to try to sneak into heaven, but now it's coming across as a setup to reintroduce Black Satan from your previous work.

-Wait? Nadia bites an imp's face off, sneaks out of limbo, makes a deal with Satan, helps him steal souls, and now presumably she gets her freedom? Sorry, Merc. I don't dig it.

Overall I liked it, even with the backdoor inclusion of Black Satan, but that ending doesn't work for me at all.

Where you hooked me:"She’d been in limbo for 790 years."
Where you lost me completely: "His smile widened, revealing gilded teeth. 'Can you dig it?'"


2.chthonic bell - The Tram

-Present tense jarred me a little at first but I quickly got used to it.

-Isak is laughing, but everyone else thinks he's nuts. It makes me want to see just *how* disconnected from reality he is. The problem is, you've already told us what happened to the tram. I think the story might work better if readers knew nothing up front about what actually happened. Your audience might be motivated to keep reading due to the mystery.

-The dramatic structure is wanting. It's like, 'there's a guy, he's hurt but he doesn't get it. Oh, now he gets it. Nah, never mind he's still kinda deluding himself.'

Where you hooked me: "I'm lying on someone's head, Isak thinks and starts laughing,the sound small and surreal in the stricken tram."
Where you lost me completely: "He's got time to walk to the Bolshoi."


3. Cache Cab - I'm Dreaming of a Moons over My Hammy

-"I breathed a sigh of relief after I rolled the incendiary bomb through the slightly-ajar door, having never been a competent bowlerPERIOD,and I had been experiencing incredible amounts of pre-rolling anxiety, but everything went as planned." Sorry to cramp your "style," but run on sentences don't work.

-Also, "incendiary" is redundant. We know what bombs do.

-"...picked a spider leg out of my teeth." Wait, what?

-"The explosion begged to differ." Ugh. First off, "begged to differ" is cliche. What's worse, an explosion cannot "beg to differ." Metaphor, schmetaphor, this line is just dumb. It's the equivalent of "the explosion stuck its tongue out at me" or "the explosion yelled 'I told you so.'"

-"Flaming spider carcasses landed in the yard around us, giving me the worst case of "tight-butthole syndrome" I'd ever had" Stopped reading here because this story is just a troll.

Where you hooked me: You didn't.
Where you lost me completely: flaming spider carcasses and tight buttholes.

4. thehomemaster - Time to Fly

-As I start to read this, I'm worried about the potential for this apocalypse to be a really cliche all-encompassing kind of calamity.

-Why are newspapers even coming out? I could see journalists still working, but try convincing the low level grunts at the printing facility to keep working while they face imminent death.

-You know, I want to hate this but I just can't. I like how the end of the world comes from plants turning on humans, with humans reacting in the most counterproductive way possible. That at least avoided the more cliche apocalypse stories like nuclear winter, zombie virus, or alien attack. I've read way too many apocalypse stories in my time, spent countless hours contemplating how I would live differently if I knew the world were about to end. So I'm nervous about stories that fit too snugly into that mold.

-Aww. It's a shame that I'm so easily won over, but for whatever reason when people introduce gay love (even unrequited) into a story, I just go :3. This is patronizing on my part to actual gay people; they don't exist just for me to think they're adorable. Thank you for showing me this personality flaw of mine.

-"He meant to ignore it..." This line is also telly. You're already showing me that Dave is dismissing Chris's feelings. Don't tell me it too.

-Chris walking out on Dave after such a brief conversation feels really abrupt. I'd recommend fleshing out their conversation a bit more, maybe have Dave provoke Chris a little more before Chris just up and leaves.

-Noooo! The paragraph that starts with the word "Peace" is a big misstep, IMO. Earlier, when you said the plants were attacking, I already took the opportunity to ponder "eating, planting, cultivating and smelling creatures that could turn off your life support at will." Your piece was ALREADY thought provoking in that regard. But instead of letting me chew on these thoughts, you spoon fed them back to me later in the story. Trust the reader to think about these implications; don't shove it all in the reader's face. Also in the paragraph you point out that no one knows how this all happened (the plants turning on humans). So...why tell us that? If you aren't going to give us an explanation, and least keep the mystery alive. Instead you've just given us one big explicit shrug. I don't need to know the specific causal mechanism for why the plants turned on the humans, but it hurts your story to be so upfront about shrugging it off as 'whelp, can't nobody reckon how.' I'd cut this whole paragraph.

I hope I haven't seemed too harsh here. Overall, I liked this story. Mainly, it avoids the pitfalls of the cookie-cutter apocalypse tale. With major revision, this story really could be good.

Where you hooked me:"‘I love you.’ Chris sat opposite Dave..."
Where you lost me completely:The paragraph starting with the word,"Peace."

5.Cacto - The perfect life

-Good opening line.

-It would be better to show me that Trevor is sensible and a mechanic rather than to tell me those things.

-By any chance have you read "Player Piano" by Vonnegut? Your story is similar in so many respects, I'm wondering if it was a source of inspiration for you. That's not a bad thing btw.

-Message seems to be that dignity, agency, accomplishment, and pride are human needs that are too easily dismissed in our society (and therefore by AIs in your story). Yep, you illustrate the point well. Again, it reminds me strongly of Player Piano, but getting compared to Vonnegut is a complement.

I liked this overall, the only downside is I've seen this basic story before in other sci-fi. That said, it hasn't become cliche yet, IMO.

Where you hooked me: "When the machines took over, the market responded with great enthusiasm."
Where you lost me completely: You didn't.

6. Entenzahn - Clamity

-Clever use of the prompt.

-The phrase "villainy-related data" feels awkward. Maybe just "villains' profiles" instead?

-I failed the maturity test and laughed at the vagina joke(s).

Yep, you hit the right notes here. It was campy, morbid, funny, and awkward all at once. It parodies comic book heroes pretty well. Had I been judging, I wouldn't have voted for an HM, just because the story is a bit too fluff for that. Still, for me it's in the top third this week.

Where you hooked me: From the opening line.
Where you lost me completely: You didn't.

7. blue squares - Too Late

-"aching reflection" Say what?

-Gee, I hope this story isn't almost entirely dialogue (scans the rest of the story) *sigh*.

-Hmm. We've got fire and freezing water. I'm not sure what the calamity actually was.

-It doesn't seem like you've done anything really to make your characters interesting. It's sad that I'm rooting for them to commit suicide but can you blame me? These people are cardboard cut outs. By all means, take the yellow pills.

-Hahahaha, I like the ending. The problem is, it's supposed to be tragic, but since you've given me no reason to care about the characters, I'm amused at their woe. That's a bad sign.

You were so kind to give me a line-by-line crit that I feel badly having to give you a harsh review, but I gotta call 'em like I see 'em.

Where you hooked me: Didn't really.
Where you lost me completely: The moment I saw that the story was nearly all dialogue.

Armack fucked around with this message at Nov 18, 2014 around 07:39

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Your line-by-line was incredibly helpful, Obliterati! You pointed out a number of things that would not have otherwise occurred to me. Thanks!

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Crippled Crits Part II: Baby Babbeh, Gau, Beef Steakwell, Tyrannosaurus, Clandestine!, Anathema Device, Kaishai, JcDent

8.Baby Babbeh - The Left Behind

-"The first they noticed, of course, was the seemingly impossible amount of Mississippi river mud."

-Your narrator's voice feels old-timey, but then we get "boombox."

-The way you first describe Rose, when Tom first sees her, made me wonder if she was undead. Even though she's not, I still liked this description of her, and of Tom's shock upon seeing her. It's appropriately chilling. And in a sense, Rose was "dead" to Tom.

-I like that you're subtle about Tom and Rose's history, but I wish you had given us just a tiny bit more information so that we could more easily imagine what the details might have been.

This is just a straight-up good story. Good conflict, a little mystery, distinctive characters, generally good prose, solid description. Yep. Good job. If I had been judging, I would've voted HM.

Where you hooked me:"'She’s gone,' Lisa said."
Where you lost me completely: You didn't.

9. Gau - jan Sewi telo Poli

-You write convincingly in the folk-tale style.

-It's creative that in the context of the story, the tale of the fire and the ship isn't some age-old passed down piece of lore. It's something that happened recently and the current fires warrant explanation. It's refreshing to read a folk-tale that supposedly happened right before its telling.

-Your style is more appealing than your structure. In terms of plot, I would've liked to have seen more compelling conflict.

-My biggest criticism is this: You could improve this story with better characterization. Right now, the holy women in the story aren't really distinctive characters. It's not enough to single out one and just label her "the great Woman," whatever that really means. Characters should have their own distinctive and interesting identities. In your story I don't really know much of anything about anybody. Some characters blend together, others are given cursory distinctiveness: "high Woman," "boatman."

This story has potential but is unsatisfying in its current form. With revision, you could really make these characters come to life. With smalll adjustments to plot, you could also ramp up the urgency and make the action more compelling.

Where you hooked me: I will give you the story of sewi telo Poli, the skyboat.
Where you lost me completely: Didn't really lose me with any particular line.

10. Beef Steakwell - The Morning After

-Your title is trite.

-"The darkness had been...palpable" For real? What did it feel like?

-Your prose is a touch purple. I'd say pare it down.

-Watch your verb tenses.

I can't really add to what others have already told you. It's bible fanfic, and mediocre even by fanfic's low standards.


Where you hooked me: You didn't.
Where you lost me completely: The darkness had been thick and palpable, more like drowning in black waters than simply the passing of night.

11. Tyrannosaurus - Ding

-I really got sucked into this story shortly after the reveal. Who would've thought that a D&D scenario and its aftermath would be *more interesting* than an actual bomb?

-Clever use of the prompt. CC made it clear that "calamity" could be loosely interpreted and entirely personal.

-This is the perfect example of a story being great, yet I can't articulate quite why. You somehow make Jamie relatable. Why do readers relate to him, instead of being repelled by his social ineptitude? Maybe it's because he takes a chance and demonstrates personal growth. Well done in any case.

-The D&D reveal was magnificently done. As soon as I realized what had actually happened, I went back and noticed all the little clues that you had already placed. Like how "He rolled the dice" could come off as figurative until you realize the role-playing element.

Congrats on the win! You deserve it!

Where you hooked me: "I’m sick of everything changing every time the DM sees a new movie."
Where you lost me completely: You didn't.

12. Clandestine! - Harpy

-A lot of the crits for this piece have suggested that the reader doesn't really know why Iris wanted to marry Henry. I disagree with that. In hindsight, she probably wanted to marry him because he could accept her being a harpy (even if he wasn't thrilled about that). That's also why the twist matters. It shows how desperate Iris was for love. Not everyone is going to marry a harpy, so Iris is willing to put up with a lot of poo poo from her romantic partner, so long as he makes her feel desirable.

-Forget Iris's motivation for marrying. What was Henry's motivation for proposing? He obviously doesn't like Iris's harpy side. Did he propose to her just because she's willing to put up with abuse? That's a good way to get clawed to death. I understood his cold feet, but the proposal (from Henry's perspective) didn't make sense to me. What did he see in Iris?

-Since Henry proposed at the opera, you might consider specifying which opera they were attending. Bonus points if the opera adds meaning to the story.

Overall, this story was mid-tier in a strong week. Not bad at all.

Where you hooked me: "Most of her valued friends..." Although this sentence was run-on, it did make me curious to know the circumstances of Iris getting stood up at her own wedding.
Where you lost me completely: "You never liked to remember who I am, did you?"

13. Anathema Device - Problem

-A decent piece.

-My only real criticisms are 1) that the pacing is jarring, almost enough to be ADHD inducing, and 2) the piece is almost too easy. Nothing bold or brave about the writing. Not bad, but a little bit cookie cutter.


Where you hooked me: From the first line.
Where you lost me completely: Somewhere around the third scene change.

14. Kaishai - Winter's Tokens

I feel weird critting the winningest TD combatant. There's no particular reason why you should value my input on your story, but I'll offer it just the same.

-You have a special talent for creating atmosphere without sliding into pretension.

-"frozen world," "jags of broken wood sheathed in winter's glass," "sculpture, not life." Well done! I'm not even through the first paragraph, and already I'm rapt in poetic prose. Someday I hope to write like this.

-Atmosphere, images, description and then...meh.

-I realize the word count was low this week, but I needed a little something more to maintain my full interest/attention.

Did you ever have an English teacher who taught imagery by handing out a vignette and having everyone circle all the images? The images were great, weren't they? But there wasn't much mystery, action, compelling characterization, or pepped-up plot. Nobody in the class really finished the story. We just kinda copied off each other and circled a few pretty images.

Where you hooked me: "The boy stood still on the other side of the panes, staring through the fog of his breath at a frozen world."
Where you lost me completely: You never lost me completely, but my interest waned from "Many more feathered bodies huddled in the orchard trees" onward.

15. JcDent - Not Much

-What does it mean to "be a nice ship, in space and in historical recordings"?

-I would rewrite the second sentence as: It's a lot less nice when it's leaking hypercore liquid, having crashed in the middle of a shantytown. Then you can bring up the hole.

-The story is heavy on tell and light on show.

See, this story hasn't passed the "why should we care" threshold. Every story needs to give readers some reason to care. Maybe it's a relatable character that they're rooting for, maybe there is some kind of mystery that piques their curiosity, maybe you've created a unique environment that the reader wants to explore through your narration. Whatever it is, we need to be made to care about it. It's not enough just that there is a setting and characters are there. It's gotta be compelling or unique in some way.


Where you hooked me: You didn't.
Where you lost me completely: Somewhere between the first and second paragraphs.

Armack fucked around with this message at Nov 19, 2014 around 07:22

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Beef Steakwell posted:

Thank you for the crit Jitzu_The_Monk. I recognise that I have a lot of areas to make improvements in, but in order to make improving more manageable; what do you think is think is the most important thing for me to focus on first?

I'm just starting out myself, so be sure to talk to the more experienced people too. But my advice is to concentrate on tighter prose, developing interesting characters, and building compelling conflicts. Possibly in that order.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Happy to say, I'm no longer crippled. But here's the next batch anyway.

Crippled Crits Part III: Obliterati, Echo Cian, Ironic Twist, Sitting Here, docbeard, ThirdEmperor, Grizzled Patriarch

16. Obliterati - The Fog Must Lift

-You've built some excellent atmosphere in the first couple paragraphs

-This was already a good story when it was about a man wondering how to console a child that has every right to be inconsolable. But now with the introduction of Morrigan, things get *really* intriguing.

-Variable "person" but constant point of view. This was skillfully written.

-Satisfying ending.

Thank you for this story. It's one of the most beautifully written that I've seen in the 'dome. You earned your HM. If only there could have been two winners this week!

Where you hooked me: At the first line.
Where you lost me completely: You still have me.

17. Echo Cian - Hawk's Cry

-This is not so much an interesting story but the aftermath of an interesting story. I think it would have been more exciting if the story began right before Siera entered the tavern. Then, the conflict in the tavern would be much more pressing. Readers would wonder if/how Siera escapes with her life. Instead, we get brooding about the tavern and what that conflict meant to Siera after the fact.

-So the main conflict here is Siera doesn't fit in and she might jump off a cliff. The problem is, the reader isn't attached enough to Siera for this to be very impactful. And even if the reader *were* attached to her, she admits that she might not even actually die if she jumps off. So...what's our reason to be concerned at all?

-Annnd then a complete stranger shows up as the romantic interest. Every romantic's dream right? To be at the precipice of a cliff and then someone you've never met shows up and you think "Eh. Might as well give him a try."

-The aimed-at moral of the story: Someone will accept you, even if you're different.

-The actual moral of the story: Don't turn into a hawk. Talk to strangers instead.

Where you hooked me: "Witch, they'd screamed as she stumbled away from the wreckage, stammering."
Where you lost me completely: "...you're pretty and I'm really going to put my foot in my mouth if I keep babbling, aren't I?"

Edit: I was just reading this over again, and I want to clarify something. I realize the prompt calls for the aftermath of a calamity. So when you start you story *after* the tavern, I see that you were following the prompt. All I'm saying is it would have been better if the calamity was something even prior to the tavern. The onset of Siera's powers maybe. It just doesn't help things that the most interesting part of the story (the tavern) is retrospective, the prompt notwithstanding.

18. Ironic Twist - From a Great Height

This has been the hardest story to crit so far because I keep stumbling over the line between metaphor and literalism. I'll take you through my thought process while reading this.

-Good, you spell out love=heroin. That's helpful. So she introduced him to love (heroin) and now he's lovesick (sick off heroin). Makes sense so far.

-"The times they hosed, it was like they were starting a fire on a cloud high above the city...if either one of them moved an inch too far to the left or right, they would fall off the cloud and plummet back to the ground." So I'm thinking by "hosed" you must also mean love (heroin) here, because they can't move an inch out of place (or they'll miss the vein so-to-speak). Cloud high=heroin high, fire="fire" through the veins. So, loving=love=heroin. That's at least what I thought up to this point.

-"They never hosed when they shot up, though." Ooookay, so that throws my interpretation out the window. Now loving is literal, not a metaphor for shooting up like love is.

-Then Daff says to Raio, "I want you to love me more than I love you. No matter what." Well, this could work literally. But if we follow the metaphor, she's saying she wants more heroin than Raio. Which happens also to be true; she's pissed at him for hogging it all.

-Then Daff moves Raio's mouth and speaks for him, “I love you already, Daff.” Wait, what? If love=heroin, this doesn't make sense. She didn't get the heroin from him; he hogged all the "love" himself. So how could he already "love" her (metaphorically)? And why would she make him say that? This only seems to work if now suddenly love is strictly literal. This seemingly arbitrary shifting in and out of the metaphor clouds the meaning of the story.

-"Their first kiss." Arrgh!!! I thought them having hosed previously was purely literal. But if that was the case, I'd expect them to have kissed before now. WHAT IS GOING ON?

-"A smaller droplet of blood was forming at the corner of his right eye." I'm assuming this means that Raio is dead from an overdose.

-"Outside, a car alarm sounded through the air." What function does this line serve?

-So, I take it that the ending means that she realizes he's dead and sinks into despair.

Sorry Twist, I didn't "get" this story at all. You're navigating metaphor, literalism, and the intersection between the two and it's a bumpy ride.

Where you hooked me: "She screeched in frustration and threw her head back against the cratered carpet."
Where you lost me completely: See my confusion above.

19. Fumblemouse - Willful Indescretion

No need for a point-by-point. This is hilarious. The jokes are well-paced. Good job!

Where you hooked me: Lance's section.
Where you lost me completely: You didn't.

20. Sitting Here - Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears a Party Hat

-Riley, Zoe, Brayden. These are some suburban-rear end white kids.

-Nice stylistic choices here. Capitalizing Left Out makes sense because it is such a thing for kids.

-Sometimes present tense jars me. But here it adds urgency to the story.

-Last line: "...comes from no one being Left Out."

If this story is you phoning it in, consider me envious. It *does* have emotional impact. Who among us doesn't have a traumatic memory of being Left Out as a kid? Here, Brayden matures enough to be inclusive, all in the course of a moment. And he may not have the perspective to grasp the full implications of his altruism, but he does know he wants to keep acting that way. Hits me right in the feels.

Where you hooked me: Your username.
Where you lost me completely: You didn't.

21. docbeard - A light in the Darkness

-Good move cracking the phone screen. It works that communication here is one way only at the outset.

-Because you go on to have the protagonist say "Not Jack," it doesn't add anything for you to have written, "I didn’t know who Jack was. This wasn’t even my phone. Laughter turned to coughing turned to pain turned to more pain." I'd cut this line. We get the idea as soon as he says he's not Jack.

-Nice twist though, that the phone wasn't the protagonist's.

-The ending is a problem. First, it's weird that the protagonist says "she fled my room." Of course, he means the hospital room. But if you suddenly regained consciousness and you were in a hospital room, wouldn't you just call it "the room"? It's kind of soon for him to be thinking of it as his room. Second, it's not satisfying to have the woman just run off after meeting the protag. Yes, I'm sure she's distraught that she lost her husband. But for her to just flee and for that to be the end of it? There's gotta be more connection or more closure between them.

Where you hooked me: The first "R U OK"
Where you lost me completely: "She fled my room."

22. ThirdEmperor

-Prose is a touch purple.

-Okay, I think I get what's happening. Jones suffered brain damage in the attack. Now his memory is screwed up. He can no longer encode new long term memories, kind of like the real life neuroscience case "HM." But his memory of everything before the attack is fine. The nurse responds the way she does because she's had this same conversation with him before. Emily is being evasive with him because she knows he has this problem, but what use is it to tell him (for probably the umpteenth time)? The red ribbon bookmark is an important prop here because it's the only thing that clued me in to what's going on.

Even though I figured it out (I think), the story was obviously unclear to other readers. You've gotta give more hints, or at least make it more explicit at the end. And please tighten up the prose.

Where you hooked me: After I had read it once and then went back to test my theory about what's going on in the story.
Where you lost me completely: No specific place.

23. Grizzled Patriarch - Death I Think Is No Parenthesis

-Intriguing title.

-Appealing prose.

-Yeah...the ending...I don't get it.

Even aside from the ending, the piece leaves me wishing you had developed a conflict over the course of a more fleshed out story. Right now, this is a lovely vignette about the pain of losing someone to Alzheimer's, which is okay, but it leaves me wanting a bit more.

Where you hooked me: Both the title and the first line.
Where you lost me completely: The last line.

Armack fucked around with this message at Nov 22, 2014 around 00:26

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Crippled Crits Part IV: Surreptitious Muffin, SealHammer, Fuschia tude, sebmojo, ceaselessfuture, Your Sledgehammer

24. SurreptitiousMuffin - in two minds about everything

-The tone is absurd, which seems to be what you were going for. I just didn't really find it funny. That's just my own comedic tastes, others will probably find the humor.

-We don't have a reason to care about what happens to Anders, do we? He has an unusual...uh...imagination (condition?) but that doesn't make him interesting. There's no reason for us to invest in what happens to the protagonist, his imaginary friend, or the random Greenlander.

-I was repelled by both personalities of Anders/Jan. Anders comes off as pathetic, and Jan sadistic. I don't really want to root for anyone here.

I'm wondering if it's just me who wasn't thrilled with this piece. I'd love to see Chairchucker's take on this story.

Where you hooked me: You didn't.
Where you lost me completely: No specific line.

25. SealHammer - Recon

-Way too dialogue heavy for my taste.

-You do a good job of clearly explaining the crew's problem, why it matters, and that there are no good options.

-Nice backstory for Lang that The Union impressed him into service.

-Ending is good.

The overuse of dialogue detracted from this one. That said, I was curious to know what the crew's fate would be after they got detected by the enemy. Obviously, they were going to fight. But, this curiosity of mine is merely a reflection on how much I actually cared about these guys and their plight. Good job in that regard.

Where you hooked me: "We’re in the dead-center of an enemy fleet with no way to reliably aim an ejected module..."
Where you lost me completely: You didn't.

26. Fuschia tude - Bond

-In real life a second moon would do more damage than just earthquakes and tidal problems. The Earth's axis itself would get screwed up. Seasons would become unstable (or differently stable), climate collapse would occur almost everywhere. But then again, in real life a second moon doesn't just pop into existence either.

-Okay so you've got the moon idea...now what?

-The guy goes someplace to die. I can understand that, but there's a problem. 'Man goes someplace to die' is not story structure. It's one-note. There's not much characterization, and your protagonist has already resolved his way out of his conflict (he's decided to die and that's that).

Where you hooked me: "Soon it had resolved into another copy of the moon, moving out from behind the shadow of the first one."
Where you lost me completely: No specific place, but my interest waned as it became clear that nothing much was going to happen.

27. sebmojo - Because they have transistors

-Smooth prose. Fun premise to explore. Appropriate silliness.

-"...the three children..." Whose kids are those?

-The ending is absurd and that fits well with the tone of the story.

Good job. I'd say this is the funniest story this week besides Fumblemouse's.

Where you hooked me: "Derek! It was 'love, honour, comfort and keep', not 'be a robot!'"
Where you lost me completely: You didn't.

28. ceaselessfuture - Under the Ice

-If Tom's having trouble breathing, it's hard for me to believe that he "screamed louder."

-Haha, Hank's already talking about just leaving Tom.

-You're doing an excellent job at getting me to hate these characters.

-Satisfying ending. Dory isn't in any rush to help these pricks, and that feels right. Somehow.

I'll echo Djeser's comments about editing. At times the writing could be clearer. Still, I liked the story.

Where you hooked me: Tom writhed and yelled underneath it, firmly squished into the black sand of the tropical beach.
Where you lost me completely: You didn't.

29. Your Sledgehammer - Whenever This World is Cruel to Me

-Jake wonders if anyone else has been gender-swapped pretty early. I think it would be more natural for him to assume (at first) that it had only happened to Terry. It's like Jake already knows where this story is going...

-What about the broad implications of all this gender bending? So Jake's friend is a different gender...that's interesting, but it's nowhere near as compelling as the fact that THE WHOLE WORLD is swapped. I realize your story is about these two people, but the new context that they're in matters, even if only Jake realizes anything has happened.

-Awww. The ending is cute, even though for Jake romancing his best friend will probably be awkward.

Mid-tier in an incredibly strong week. Good job.

Where you hooked me: From the first sentence.
Where you lost me completely: Didn't lose me, but I was hoping you'd take a broader perspective on the calamity.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Prompt: Time isn't wasted when you're getting wasted

Ayahuasqueros
(657 Words)

Sonja retched again, her bucket green with vomit. She wiped her mouth with her forearm and smiled.

Back in Norway, she would have called it being sick. Here, the shamans termed it “getting well.”

Now purged of toxins, heavy metals, and unclean spirits, Sonja knelt. The earthy taste of ayahuasca still lingered on her palate. For centuries, the psychedelic tea had offered cosmic truths to Shipibo tribesmen. These truths were now Sonja’s to explore.

The hut pulsed with Shaman Arnaldo’s chants, his icaros. Sonja watched the shadows dance around the fire pit; they twisted past purging devotees and settled on Hector. He was still staring at her.

She looked away. Twice during the retreat, Sonja had rebuffed the elderly witch doctor. She wasn’t going to let him spoil her journey. She lowered her head in meditation as the room dissolved around her.

When she looked up, Sonja found herself in a glass cube drifting in a blue expanse. Arnaldo was there, still intoning the icaros. He was “holding the space,” as he’d promised the devotees. “A private room for everyone.” Outside, maroon droplets rained against the cube. But inside, everyone was dry: Sonja, Arnaldo, and three beings of pure light, shaped like gingerbread men.

The light-beings rushed toward Sonja, giggling and tripping over one another. Sonja honored their glee by joining them in laughter. In turn, they each touched her head to impart the truths. The first, an orange being, showed her the sacredness of geometry: the triangle’s strength, the circle’s perseverance, the golden ratio’s perfection. The second, yellow, showed her that she need not fear death; her consciousness would vibrate unto eternity. The third, short and green, showed Sonja a review of every kindness she had done—every heart touched—from the recipient’s perspective. The green one urged Sonja to continue to spread kindness throughout the world, lest she return to this place and review her cruelties instead.

Smash. The cube lurched from a sudden impact, the source unclear. Sonja gasped at the sight of cracks forming at the top. The light beings screamed as maroon liquid rained in and ate through their bodies.

Amidst the cranberry torrent, Hector emerged. He lifted a hand, directing the rain to Sonja. She writhed as it worked its way into her skin.

Hector grinned, revealing row after row of jagged teeth. His eyes went hollow; his nose flattened. He uttered a ghoulish yawp and stepped closer to Sonja.

At Hector’s advance, Sonja felt feverish. Starting at her temples, pain seared through her body. In her gut, she felt a thousand burrowing worms. Moths escaped from her throat as she tried to cry Arnaldo’s name.

Arnaldo sat at the far end of the cube. Eyes closed, he sustained the icaros. Sonja was horrified to realize that the shaman couldn’t perceive Hector. The witch doctor had breached only Sonja’s “room.” This struggle was hers alone.

Desperate, Sonja fled. She stumbled to a corner of the cube and resolved to hold the space as Arnaldo no longer could. Moths fluttering in her mouth, Sonja hummed icaros through her nose. She formed an unbroken cube in her mind’s eye, and so it was.

Hector continued his pursuit. In response, Sonja subdivided the space and launched Hector’s section into the blue eternity beyond. The pain receded. The moths and worms vanished. But no sooner did she catch her breath than her subdivision lurched. Cracks formed once again, and cranberry droplets pooled inside. Hector was upon her.

Sonja belted icaros and constructed a rotating conical space in front of her. She thrust it into the witch doctor’s chest. With that, the material world resolved into focus.

“Hector! Hector!” screamed the devotees. Across the hut, the witch doctor’s gray body lay sprawled. Arnaldo rushed to him. “He’s had a heart attack!”

Sonja retched into her bucket. Hector had shown her a truth as fundamental as any the ayahuasca had. She wiped her mouth and smiled.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Crippled Crits Post Script from Calamity Week

Schneider Heim - Bystander Effect

-"The homeless man sat against the wall, feet sticking out on the sidewalk, and. Alexa stepped around them him with a disgusted face." I know by "them" you meant the dude's legs, but in a broader sense she stepped around "him," the person. It would also be a bit better if you described how she was expressing disgust using her face. Was her nose turned up? Was she sneering? Better to show us the disgust on her face rather than just assert it.

-"You still have an hour. You can still make it if you hurry."

-Unless Alexa has forensics training, it's really weird how confident she is that the murder weapon was an ice pick.

-"How many people had she passed in her lifetime, needing her help? How many people dying, whom she passed by without looking? Google gave her an answer. It was called the bystander effect." The bystander effect explains why this happens on a societal level, but Google hasn't answered her actual question which was 'how many people had she passed?'.

-I like that when Alexa behaves ethically, Joy pretty much says 'But this isn't like you.' This speaks volumes about both characters.

-"She could even be fired. Another employee was,did, after calling in sick..."

-Ending is satisfying because Alexa shows personal growth.

I like this story's message; you do a good job illustrating how careerism can corrupt people. The ending works for me. You tie up both conflicts appropriately (Alexa's internal conflict and her conflict with her boss). The only suggestions I'd make are 1) make the reader more invested in what happens to Alexa; make us care about her more and 2)frame the conflicts in a more dramatic way. Right now the story suffers from blandness. This blandness comes from the story coming off as "Snob feels guilty, does the right thing, boss gets mad." Not compelling enough, although with a little finesse it could be pepped up. The basic premise here is workable.

Where you hooked me: "Alexa was about to shout an invective but the man didn't even flinch."
Where you lost me completely:No specific line.

Armack fucked around with this message at Nov 24, 2014 around 21:17

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Phobia posted:

Somebody brawl me. I need a lesson in lucidity.

Benny the Snake posted:

Hey Phooooooobiiiiaaaaaaaaa!!!! Come out to plaaaaaaaayyyyy!!!!!!

As pennance for missing my last toxx, if you win Phobia, I will buy you a shiny new avatar!

Benny and Phobia's Race-to-the-Bottom Brawl

Alright maggots, I've been given dispensation to judge this train wreck.



Due date: Wednesday, December 10th at 10:00pm EST
Count: 1000-2000 words.
Prompt: Write a mystery. Your stories must fit squarely and obviously into the mystery genre. IN ADDITION, you must explore the concept of "the last shall be first." That is, you must develop a circumstance by which someone/something disadvantaged rises above people/things who were more advantaged. "Disadvantaged" will be interpreted broadly. Be creative!

I can't wait to see this.

Armack fucked around with this message at Nov 30, 2014 around 19:54

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


N. Senada posted:

I'm publicly stating my interest to couple for the purposes of a story baby.

E. That is, I'll participate if somebody doesn't mind jumping in here with me.



Sometimes the cutest kids are born to the strangest parents. N. Senada, want to make this a night to remember?

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


systran posted:

Interprompt

Write up to 5,000 words on why the judges from a few weeks ago, the week where all three failed to crit anyone, are all total poo poo.

If you mean Calamity Week (25 words)

If you mean Calamity Week, Djeser did give crits, Chairchucker did not, and there was no third judge.

The End

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite



That makes more sense. Ah well. That interprompt wasn't my best work anyway. No corpsefucking, no werewolves, no STDs, you know I probably should have spent more time on it.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


This is just a reminder to Benny and Phobia that your Race-to-the-Bottom Brawl entries are due tomorrow at 10pm Eastern. I'd say "don't fail me," but really, what's the use?

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Just under two hours, Phobia.



Make sure this trainwreck runs on time.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Benny and Phobia's Race-to-the-Bottom Brawl



Crits and Judgment Part I: Benny, line by line


Benny posted:

Turing’s Box

The young woman flashed her credentials to the officers outside the apartment building. After looking it over, the officers let her in. There's an issue here. Now we're inside the building but.. The building was closed off with yellow tape wrapped around the entrance....this is outside the building. Please describe the outside setting while we're still outside, don't take us inside and then say 'oh yeah the outside also had such and such feature.' Several officers were milling about in the library, but the woman confidently walked to the elevator to make her way to the very top of the building-the penthouse suites. You used "but" here, yet it's not clear how the mere fact that people are in the library contrasts the woman's action to take an elevator to the penthouse.

“Detective Franco?” she asked and extended her hand to whom she assumed was the lead detective, a tall black man whose head was shaved and suit immaculately worn.

“Agent Lobo,” he said and shook her hand with a hesitant smile on his face.

“Is something wrong, Detective?”

“Forgive me, but you’re not exactly what I or anybody else expected to see.”Woah woah woah, is he telepathic? How in the hell has he entered everyone else's subjective experience such that he can gauge what they all were expecting?

Miss Lobo smiled. She looked professional from the neck down—her face was quite another story. Her hair was bright, cherry-punch red done in Liberty spikes and she was wearing a pair of yellow-tinted wrap-around. “If I may also be blunt, Detective, while I'm officially I’m an agent, I’m really more of a consultant.”

“Right out of San Jose, I’ve heard?”

She nodded. “I did my time in the heart of Silicon Valley and now I’m a member of the cyber-forensics division. It’s been quite the experience.”

“Well, welcome to New York, then,” Detective Franco said. Pleasantries now dispensed, it was now time to get to business. “Detective, you mind answering me why you asked to meet me here and not at the precinct? Conventional forensics isn't my forte, after all.”

“I’ve called you here, Agent, to impress upon you the extent of this crime.”Unnatural dialogue, weird syntax.

The penthouse itself was beautiful, with silk sheets on the bed, cream-colored walls, and the obligatory decanter on the side table full of age-oaked brandy. Except that the sheets were torn, the decanter shattered, and the brandy sprayed over the walls. At least, that’s what Agent Lobo hoped it was. The window overlooking the streets below was shattered. Dark, brown stains stained the carpet which matched the walls. The glass fragments were likewise stained in brown. It was an off-red, the same color of rust. Agent Lobo suddenly noticed how it reeked of copper and she became faint. So the penthouse was beautiful except that it wasn't. Was it also silent except for the noise and pitch black except for the light? You forgot to mention that no one was there except for the people.

“Agent Lobo?” Detective Franco asked.

She shook her head. “I’m fine. Fill me in on the details.”

“At precisely 2:13 AM, we received a call of a domestic disturbance. We then received a second call that glass had been shattered. When we arrived, we found the victim down below,” the detective said and motioned outside.

Agent Lobo checked her smartwatch. “You boys work fast, I didn’t even notice a body down there.”

“Wonders of modern technology.”

“Who was the victim?”

Detective Franco handed her his tablet. “Miss Olivia Fairchild, 23. Heir to the Fairchild fortune and member of the idle rich.”

Agent Lobo raised her eyebrows. “That’s awfully judgmental of you, Detective.”

He shrugged. “We've dealt with the deceased and her friends a number of times before. It’s not judgmental, if it’s an objective observation.”

“True.”

“What do you know about companion droids, Agent?”

Her brow furrowed. “Outside of the fact how they’re imported from Japan and look like bishies?”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m sorry. ‘Bishie’ is short for ‘bishonen’. It’s Japanese for ‘pretty boy’, and describes the sort of androgynous, metro look most of these droids are designed in mind with. I had a lot of time on my hands in high school,” she said with an embarrassed smile.


The detective nodded. “What else do you know?”

Lobo kept flipping through the tablet. “Well, they are also built not to be much stronger than the above average human to allow extra performance.”

“So they’re sex droids?”How on Earth could he have concluded this based on the above information?

“Companion droid,” she corrected him. “While they are designed primarily for sex, they are meant to accompany their host on social functions and to be shown off.”

“Like a trophy spouse.”

“Exactly. However, since the materials used in their construction are much sturdier than bone and muscle, Fairchild’s companion droid was able to leverage his body in order to defenestrate her easier. Where is the droid?”

“It’s being processed. That’s where we’re you here. Our tech division did a scan, and there seems to be no outside interference with his programing.”

Agent Lobo looked up. “Take me to him immediately.” Okay, at this point it's very unclear to me how they concluded that the droid did it. All we know is Olivia got tossed through a window. I'm not sure why Franco even thought to bring up droids, other than the fact that Olivia happened to have one.


***

Agent Lobo walked inside the interrogation room where the droid was being kept. She was immediately struck with how flawless his design was. The droid was noticeably tall, probably a head taller than her. His skin was pale and his hair was feathered. His face was perfectly symmetrical, down to how his His eyes, nose, mouth, and chin was were in perfect alignment. His dress was semi-formal, a grey suit jacket with matching slacks and a white shirt underneath with no tie. His head was bowed and a device was sticking out of his neck. Standard issue to all companion droids, regardless of gender or modification, had a series of ports on the back of their necks. These were used to charge them or connect them to computers for analysis and maintenance. The device, however, was an inhibitor meant to keep him from turning hostile. But what is it about the droid that would make him hostile without the device?

Agent Lobo looked at her tablet then looked at him. “Hiroshi, is it?”

He looked up. While his eyes weren't grotesquely large, they were noticeably larger than an average person’s . And the color was opaque. “Yes?” he asked with a slight Japanese accent.

“My name is Agent Reina Lobo, I’m with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

“Your name. It means ‘Queen Wolf’, does it not?”

“Impressive. How many other languages can you comprehend?” Agent Lobo asked and sat down.

“Several. I was programmed to be as accommodating as possible to my host.”

“You mean Mrs. Fairchild.”

“Olivia nee-san,” he said with a slight smirk. “She liked for me to call her that.”

“You were playing into her fantasy, I take it.”

He shrugged. “Hers was very evident. Borne out of a childhood fascination of Japanese culture and entertainment. Exacerbated by years of privilege and never hearing the word ‘no’.” Haha, the more spoiled you are, the more weeaboo, huh?

“It sounds like cultural appropriation,” she agreed with him.

Hiroshi blinked. Every time his body so much as moved, there was a faint whirring sound. From what she researched, Lobo knew that this was an intentional design flaw in order to subtly reinforce that the droids were, in fact, non-human. Meant to keep their hosts from forgetting that, as realistic and pretty they might look, their droid was still no more human than a coffee maker. The longer she was there with him, the more aware she became about how uncanny he was. That natural reaction, a survival instinct against something unnatural and abhorrent, was putting her on edge. But she did her best not to show him. Lobo smiled to herself. During the academy, she was taught how to interrogate droids in order to ascertain from their behaviors any deviations from their inherent programing. She was also taught how to stomach her revulsion. Interrogations are less blunt intimidation but more a delicate dance between negotiation and staring contest. The moment somebody blinked was the moment they lost. She felt less like a proper federal agent and more like Rick Deckard from “Blade Runner”. The irony was how neither Philip K. Dick nor Ridley Scott could know how right they were. “You’re certainly more sympathetic towards my plight than the others, Miss Lobo,” Hiroshi said.

“I’d be lying if the,” she paused in order to choose her words carefully, “circumstances around this incident didn’t trouble me.”

“Ethically?”

She nodded. “Hiroshi, it sounds like you became aware of your position and status towards your host, Miss Fairchild.”

Hiroshi raised his eyebrow. The whirring became more audible to Agent Lobo. “What are you insinuating, Miss Lobo?”

“Would you rather I be blunt?”

“Please.”

“Hiroshi, I’m trying to figure out your motive for killing Miss Fairchild. I’m trying to make sense of all this.”

“Method of the madness.”

“Yes.”

Hiroshi frowned and looked straight into her eyes with his head bowed down. “Miss Lobo, do you know the origin of the word robot is?”

“It’s derived from the Russian word for slave.”

He nodded. “At a certain point, you could say that I became very much aware of the deep irony of that word in the context of my role in Miss Fairchild’s life.”

“You felt like you were being taken advantage of,” she said. “Violated.”

He laughed softly. Agent Lobo grimaced, he sounded too human. “Would you consider my situation now a violation, Miss Lobo? How I’m prostate towards you? Does it bother you, Miss Lobo? How I’ve become very much aware of this?”

Agent Lobo blinked. She was about to get up when Hiroshi suddenly menaced her by thrusting his body towards her. The inhibitor kept him from lunging but it was enough for her to jump out of her chair and draw her sidearm at him. Seeing what happened through the camera inside, officers burst in with their weapons drawn as Hiroshi laughed softly. Agent Lobo left the interrogation room as quickly as she could.

***
“You’re saying what?” Detective Franco asked incredulously.

“Hiroshi has become self-aware. For all intents and purposes, he has what I call a ghost, a soul.”

“He’s become a person,” he said.

“Yes. There’s a concept called the singularity, where artificial intelligence would become so advanced to the point where it would become indistinguishable from human intelligence. It’s an idea that’s been around for centuries, we even have a test for it. The Turing test.”

“Why haven’t I heard of this ‘Turing test’?” Detective Franco asked.

The Agent looked into his eyes. “Alan Turing, the man who invented the test, was convicted of sodomy and chemically castrated.” Yeah, this is a cool historical reference to bring in, and relevant. Nice.

“Oh…”

Agent Lobo nodded. “It is my professional opinion that Hiroshi has become self-aware. And that’s where the problem is.”

Franco shook his head. “We can’t just deactivate him, you’re saying.”

Lobo shook her head. “Hiroshi is, by all intents and purposes, a person. He can think like one, he is aware of his actions and he is aware of his consequences. He is, therefore, entitled to due process.”

“Are you aware how insane you sound right now?”

“No more aware than he is.”

“You know that if he does stand trial, it’s going to open up a huge can of worms.”

Agent Lobo looked at the screen. “Right now I feel like Pandora about to open the box, Detective. I know what lies inside,” she said and motioned towards Hiroshi, “and right now I am compelled to do so.”

The Detective sighed. “I’ll talk to the DA. He’s not going to like this though.”

“I’ll be around if you need me.”

***
That night, Agent Lobo got the call. “The DA is going forward with it. Hiroshi will stand trial. He’ll be put out in the public, so he’ll have one hell of an uphill battle.”

She sighed. “He’s already won.”


-You needed to hook the reader earlier. As it stands, the beginning is just exposition that we've been given no reason to care about, all expressed via unnatural dialogue.

-The story is telly and dialogue heavy for my tastes.

-You've got a few mystery elements but not a true mystery. In a murder mystery like this, there needs to be some sense that the characters don't know who did it. Thereby, the reader can share in the not-knowing and try to guess at the killer. Your story doesn't feel mysterous and doesn't lead me to wonder about what's going on. There is no uncertainty in the story at all. Two thousand words should be enough to construct a real mystery, though perhaps a crude one, and you didn't take the opportunity.

-Normally, the end of a mystery story entails some kind of reveal. But your reveal that the droid was the killer (and thus probably sentient) happened at the beginning. So the ending here feels like a non-ending. So the droid is gonna go to trial and the mere fact that he is granted the right to a trial is a victory for him. Okay...but, where's the resolution? I mean, we weren't given enough of a reason to care about Olivia's death anyway, so any ending would likely feel unsatisfying here, but throw the reader a frickin bone. Put something clever, something unexpected, something cathardic, something we should have seen coming but didn't.

-Well, at least you developed the concept of "The last shall be first" reasonably. You get partial credit for satisfying half of the prompt.


Part II: Phobia, line-by-line and final judgement forthcoming.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Benny and Phobia's Race-to-the-Bottom Brawl

Part II: Phobia, line-by-line and final judgement.

Phobia posted:

The Disappearance of Marsha Horner
1982 Words

Mars,

Hi! How are you?

It’s been awhile

I miss you Marsha.

I think about you all the time.


*click*

Hi.

I don’t know why I’m recording this. It’s not like you’re going to respond, heh. That was kind of mean, I’m sorry. If it sounds like I’m bitter, that’s because I am. It’s not your fault though.

My Therapist therapist tells me that this will help me but I’m not sure whether to believe that.The guy’s a total quack; I can see it in his face and his eyes. He puts up a good front but whenever I start talking about myself there are so many signs that he isn’t actually listening. I think he’s been giving me placebos so I’ll think he’s doing me some good. He told me to write this in pen because that way I can just write and there’s no way for me to second guess myself. But I started second guessing myself anyway. So instead I’m just recording my voice all stream of consciousness style.

Uhh. Crap. I’m… actually stuck now. Haha, I haven’t really planned any of this out. I’m sitting in my room recording this. Things have changed since you left. The walls are blue now. I got a new mattress. Actually not a lot has changed since you left. Everything’s there, except it’s blue.

Ugh. Sorry. I have been putting off this stupid assignment for God knows how long trying to come up with ways to start this.

The trial is in two weeks. That’s pretty important. They’re going to call me up as a witness. My parents are worried about me having another emotional breakdown. It’s like so weird though. I don’t feel nervous at all. I’m really confident. I just imagine myself going in there and pointing and saying “It was them, Your Honor.” They’ll look at me, sure, grit their teeth and snarl. But forget them. They do not scare me anymore. I’m stronger and braver than they will ever be.

So I… I guess I was right the first time. A lot of things have changed.

I know how to start this letter now. I mean...not really a letter but I see what's she's saying

I love you Marsha Horner.

I love you as a friend. I don’t know if I love you as anything else. My feelings are all over the place but please believe me when I say that I love you.

I wish I said that to you when you were alive.

When you disappeared, I lost it. I just shut myself away for the longest time. I was a wreck. And now that everything’s coming to a head, there’s this sense of finality. It’s all going to end. But please believe me when I say that I will never forget you.

I want you to know this, Mars, because if you don’t think I’m a horrible friend now, you will by the time I’m finished...

...Do you remember when we first met? I always assumed you remembered, but now that I think about it, we never… talked about it, ever. I’m pretty sure you remember. Why else would you drag me into your clique the week after that big house party?

You remember, don’t you? That big party at Todd Allen’s house? I had no friends at the time and Todd Allen, that sweetheart, invited me. I think he liked me. I don’t think he knew everything was going to go to poo poo. I told my parents that I was going to a sleepover. I’ve never lied to my parents. My dad’s a cop, he always told me lying was a bad thing to do. But I lied anyway because I was really really excited and I knew dad would tell me no if I asked.

... Sorry. I’m making this all about myself.

I don’t know, maybe you forgot about all of this.

It’s okay though, I remember everything.

I remember meeting you when you scared off that boy who was being creepy. You hated seeing that, didn't you, Mars?

I remember being a drunk wallflower with you, just talking. I remember you telling me that you were cousins with Todd Allen and that you’re crashing his stupid rear end party.

I remember you telling me I was pretty but I’m nothing special; you had that Debbie Harry going for you, like, how could I compete with that.

I remember making out with you in a closet. My first kiss, for real. This is probably why we never talked about that night.

I remember that the only reason I didn’t get infinity-times ground is because you dragged me out of there. You brought me along with your drunk friends to go to Taco Bell, like, minutes before the cops showed up. I needed an alibi so I crashed at your place. So the protag *did* spend time at Marsha's place, right? This will be important later

I remember sitting in the car, watching you eating a burrito. I was so confused and questioning my sexuality and how couldn't get that Lady and the Trap scene out of my head. The one with the spaghetti. Yeah... That's kind of grose gross.

I also remember you calling me the Sunday after asking if I wanted to hang out.

And I remember that you just accepted me. As is. My freckles and pimples and frizzy hair and big glasses and everything. I was like your other friends; rejects, losers and complete and total bffs.

That last part’s important because I think that’s when I realized that I was in love with you. I think. Like I said I’m… not sure.

Look, what I’m trying to say is that meeting you is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

But now I can’t even look back on any of this fondly! I would rephrase this to something like 'But my memories of that time are no longer fond.' The adverb at the end of your original doesn't quite work. I can’t just close my eyes and think about any of this! It’s ruined - not that I’m blaming you, just, this is where I should have known there was something wrong. Even when we met.

I spoke to Todd Allen about you. He said you were a good girl, that you just had a rough life and that I shouldn’t pry too much into your family. I told him that you never invited me over, that whenever we hung out we never went to your house. Wait, earlier you said that the protag *did* stay at Marsha's place. So why is she telling Todd that she hasn't been invited there? And, jeez, Mars, Todd Allen really cares about you. He looked hurt when I said it. He said your parents were weird. “Your Marsha's parents are private,” he said, “protective of their daughter.” His eyes darted away when he said ‘private’. That’s when I knew something was wrong but I… I brushed it off. I can’t describe it as anything other than ‘brushing it off’.

You cried. In the closet. Eventually you pulled away, shuddering and looking like you had seen a ghost. When I asked you what was wrong you told me you were fine, just nervous. You didn’t even act like you were being sincere. Even without my glasses, even in my drunken haze. I could see you sobering up. I could see you fighting the tears. The way you bit your lip and rubbed your neck with your hand. How you tossed your hair and brushed the mark on your neck and how you asked if QUOTEhey, y’wanna get out of this dump?ENDQUOTE I said “yeah” out of shock and I was too drunk to think any harder about it.

Except for the mark on your neck. Those marks, they always made me wince. It wasn’t just one. There were so many, always in different spots. They looked like hickies, bites, love marks. There were rumors going around about you behind like the town door. Say what? But you always said you never had a boyfriend, that you weren’t seeing anyone. You were a virgin, that’s what you always told us. You were saving yourself for marriage.

I remember the look you gave me when I pulled you aside and asked if something happened to you. You said no but I knew you were lying. I knew it from the second you started crying in the closet. I felt bad then, but knowing what I know now, I just, I feel like a horrible person. It would have been so easy to connect the dots, even then. But at that moment, in the girl’s bathroom, I couldn’t see it as anything other than ‘my best friend is hurting’. So I hugged you and told you that it’s alright, whatever it is, it’s alright.

I should have done more though. Told someone, asked questions. I think that’s my biggest regret.

I could say that hindsight is 20/20. I could blame the whole thing on being a naive high school girl who doesn’t know any better. But I can’t say I didn’t see the signs. I just didn’t listen, didn’t care to know anything outside of my own fragmented sense of self. Because I had friends and I didn’t want to lose them, lose you.

Of course, that didn’t stop what happened, did it?

It just happened. All at once you... stopped. Stopped completely. Coming to school, answering your phone, checking facebook. It was like you disappeared. Then the missing person’s report came out. Your parents didn’t know where you were.

This is the part where I finally did something - I went to the police. I told them about everything I had seen, every bit of it, even the closet. You know what they did Mars? They brushed me off. They smiled and said they would call my house if they had any more questions. What they meant was that they had no time to waste on some kid pedaling cafeteria rumors. They couldn’t see what I see.

I grew obsessed though. No matter how I tried I could not get you out of my head. I knew there was something up, I just knew I had to do something. So I turned to the only other option I had; Todd Allen. Not thrilled about the semicolon here.

He resisted at first. He didn’t know what happened to you, his voice, his expression, everything seemed sincere. But he told me that it was best to just leave it to the police. I… Mars, you’re going to hate me for this. I was desperate, so I told him about his house party and about the closet and you crying. I was afraid he would think I was a weirdo but… It all clicked for him. That’s when he relented. He was always so smart.

Todd Allen drove me to your house after school. He put it in park, but he didn't get out. I asked Todd Allen what was wrong. He said he was fine. He was just scared. Then he glanced towards the house. I caught the look on his face and I looked too. At the highest window.

He grabbed hold of my shoulder and squeezed. He told me to stop. Stop prodding. Don’t get any closer. Because he liked me and he didn't want me to get hurt.

He told me, “These people do not have a sense of humor.”

“They will kill you.”

“They’ll hurt you.”

I did what he said. Because I could see the fear in his eyes.

Because I was afraid, too. Because I was weak. And the only reason I feel so good is because the police remember me coming to them. They did fill out the report, but they ignored it until a neighbor complained about a terrible smell. Only then did I and Todd step up. Everything else, the therapy, the trial, it’s saving face. They want everyone to believe that I am a hero who wanted to find her best friend. That couldn't be further from the truth. Because if I were a true friend, I would have done something to save you.

You could have been in that room for god knows how long. But instead of trying to stop that pain, all I could do was walk away, just like Todd Allen.

I’m so sorry Marsha.

-Your protag is a young woman, but I don't feel like I'm in a woman's head when reading this. More like a really creepy dude's.

-Well, it has more of a mysterious feel to it then Benny's, but it still doesn't fit squarely into the mystery genre. Typically with mystery there is some crime, it's unclear who the culprit is, there is an investigation, and then we find out the facts. Here, we know that Marsha died, and as soon as we get the hint that there was abuse, we figure out that it may be suicide. We don't really get to meet other suspects, and the investigation is sparse to the extent that there was one at all.

-I think you missed the prompt almost entirely. There is not much sense of "The last shall be first," either. Yeah, the protag was unpopular...and she stayed that way. I mean, she made friends for the first time, briefly. Then she ended up in many ways worse off than she was at the outset. So in what substantive way did the protag ever embody the "first" in "the last shall be first"?

-I'll give you this, your piece had a modicum of maturity and emotional resonance due to the subject matter.

-The prose was in dire need of a proofread prior to submission.

-There are some minor logic issues that I point out in the line-by-line.

-At least you hooked me. I was interested in finding out how Marsha died and how it might have been so horrible as to traumatize the protag.


FINAL JUDGEMENT


The only mystery here is why either of you chose to hit "submit."

When I predicted that this brawl would be a train wreck, I had in mind a cartoonish, comedic kind of train wreck where the trains blow up but everyone just walks away from it covered in soot. Instead I got the horrific kind of train wreck that's brutal to watch, everyone dies, and they're scraping body parts off the tracks for a week. These entries were rough.

You both fell short of the prompt, you both had proofreading issues, you both had issues of strange logic (although Benny's were more severe), and you both had awkward prose (though Phobia had fewer awkward sentences). Both stories were a slog, but Phobia's at least had me wondering about *something*.

Honestly, it was hard to judge because this was a genuine race to the bottom.

Judgement: Phobia.

Benny, I believe you publicly promised to gift something to Phobia in the event that he won.

I think it's time to take up drinking again.

Armack fucked around with this message at Dec 11, 2014 around 04:47

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


In: Euripides's Medea.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


MERCBRAWL 6: THE SPAWNING - Jitzu and N. Senada's entry:

Raising Anchor (1376 words)

The skies were grey, the air salty, and the ship ripe for plunder. Aye, while crossing the gangplank we could almost smell the gold.

Me mate, Picaroon, bludgeoned the first man who came to meet us. At that, the bilge rats scampered over from ‘cross the deck, hollering and swinging cutlasses all. Me men made quick work of ‘em. There’s no band o’ better corsairs than me crew, not at swordplay, I can assure ye o’ that. They ran below deck to plunder the cargo, while I entered the captain’s quarters, Picaroon close behind.

That’s when we saw the woman. Must’a been a guest o’ whatever dead fop had captained the vessel. Aye, I ran ‘er through with me dirk. She’d come at me with a vase, aimed to smash me head in.

“—Don’t believe him! He thought the lass was a touch homely to bugger with, so he stabbed her while she cowered on the floor. Her arms were wrapped around a little girl.”

Picaroon! Ye ought to know better than to interrupt a man in the thick o’ telling a tale. Lads, I’ll speak it true. Picaroon be no less the rogue in death than he were in life. Now where was I?

Ah! The girl. She couldn’a seen more than five summers, that one. Didn’t cry over the mum. Sat mute, eyes like rich mahogany looking up at us. Aye, but she clung tight to the woman. Gave us trouble. We had to put our backs into pulling her in, so we named her “Anchor.”

“Captain, have you gone daft? You started calling her “Anchor” because you meant to drop her overboard.”

Arrg, if yer mem’ry ‘s sharp as ye be claiming, mayhaps these lads ought to hear ye tell the tale.

“I convinced the captain the girl would be more valuable to us alive. We’d press her into service and train her right. With time, Anchor would be a valuable addition to the crew. We never bothered to ask her true name. If we had, we might’ve been forewarned of the admiral.”

Aye. Carry on.

“No sooner did we take Anchor back to the ship, than we learned she was a natural. Didn’t matter what it was, she wanted to steal it. On the first day, she snuck into the hold and smuggled saltfish and jewels into her smallclothes.”

“As she grew, she trained as a corsair with the captain. For my part, I convinced him that the girl should learn her letters. I told him we could benefit from having a second crewman of education. Truth be told, I had ulterior motives. I wanted a reading companion, someone with whom to share my love of classics. I could not have asked for a better student. By eight, she could recite Horace. By ten, she could understand Horace. At thirteen, I showed her Catullus’s bawdiest poems, those banned by the academy. Not since my discharge from the Royal Navy had I debated the Iliad with so keen a mind. She revered Odysseus, though I maintained his Trojan Horse was bald treachery.”

“I grew close to the girl, began thinking of her as a daughter. But it was the captain who made her what she is today.”

Loved that girl, I did. Told ‘er aught I know about the pirate life: the best way to cheat at card play, the best way to throw a dagger, and the best way to please a woman. The secret’s in the wrist, all three. By eight she could outdrink half the crew. By ten she were swinging from ropes hung off the mast and landing ‘erself light as a feather. By thirteen she’d stabbed the first man that tried to bugger ‘er. Picaroon’s shade still bears the scar.

She were the finest member o’ the crew, even though the last day. We’d set sail from Barbados that morn. Anchor sat at the crow’s nest, counting coin and keeping watch. After noon, she called out to us. She’d spied a ship far off the bow, cutting its way through the mist. It bore the flag o’ the Royal Navy.

O’ case shot we had little. O’ grape shot, still less. Barbados had been tight on supply. We’d make little sport for the Navy’s warship. Still, I called for me men to prepare for battle.

A man aboard the vessel cupped his hands and shouted, though he were too distant to be heard. He wore a dark blue jacket with gold epaulettes hung off the shoulders. Grey hair stuck out from ‘neath his hat. Picaroon took the spy glass and muttered that he’d served under the man a lifetime ago: Admiral Pilling.

The warship pressed closer. Pilling came within earshot. “Avast, pirates. Barbados was quick to betray your heading. Though your works be wicked, I seek not to quarrel. I come for the girl with mahogany eyes: She whom you wrested from her mother’s bosom, she of whom you boast to islanders while under the tankard’s sway. My daughter.”

Anchor cried out to Pilling. “Take me with ye!”

Loved ‘er though I did, I knew I were no father to the girl. She were a crewman. Folly to treat ‘er different from any other. “The girl be yers,” I called to the admiral, “if ye swear upon aught which ye deem holy to grant the rest of us safe passage.”

With that, we maneuvered our vessels side-by-side and arranged the gangplank. Picaroon grew red--nay, purple. He stomped the deck and damned me if I gave up the girl. He told me it were a fool’s bargain and screamed he’d haunt me for it should he die first. I half expected outright mutiny.

“You should never have released Anchor to them, captain.”

Silence, Picaroon.

Anchor called out to ‘er father and ran across the gangplank, arms open wide. She embraced Admiral Pilling. The girl smiled and spun the old man. She were so quick to the draw, the Navy sailors hadn’t the chance to react 'fore she held the dirk to his neck.

“Ye’ll lay down yer weapons each and let me crew board this ship. Else, I’ll slice his neck in twain,” she said to the Navy men. “Admiral!” they shouted, but Pilling bade them stay back. “Do as she says,” the admiral pleaded, his eyes watering. “Just don’t harm the girl.”

Aye, the Navy laid down their weapons and I boarded the warship with me crew. We bound the Navy sailors and fleeced 'em of arms. The warship were ours. Anchor opened ‘er blubbering father’s neck. The rest of us tossed the Navy sailors overboard. It were after that when things went sour.

“I’ll tell it, captain. We brought casks of rum to the deck in celebration of our victory. Anchor proposed a toast. She asked that our crew consider all the riches that the warship would help them to plunder. She asked that they think upon who was responsible for their sudden change of fortune. She mentioned that the captain had been prepared to acquiesce to the Navy, give her up, and sail on in an aging and near-toothless vessel. With that, she proclaimed herself the crew’s rightful leader and incited them to mutiny against their captain and myself.”

“Impudent wretch,” I yelled, and drew my mace. She smiled and threw her dirk. The point stuck me square in the neck. I don’t know how she hit me at that distance.”


It’s all in the wrist, Picaroon.

Aye, she gave the toast and the crew named her captain. They were all the more excited when she killed Picaroon. As for me, she spared my life. Called it a courtesy for the years o’ training. She bound me up for months and passed me onto ye lads when the ship made it to the Barbary Coast. So here I am, peeling potatoes for the likes of ye, while Picaroon lingers, reminding me what I lost at the hands o’ the girl.

“We raised her too well.”

She made an end to the both of us. But she were the best pirate I ever knew. I’ll spend the rest o’ my days peeling potatoes. But for raising Anchor, I couldn’t be any prouder.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


At my house, everyone’s sad
Prompt: Medea
(1115 words)

Mommy’s punishing me again. This time it’s the belt. She says she caught me looking at a blond woman, and blond women are sluts. She says Daddy ran off to marry a blond woman, but I think Daddy ran off to get away from Mommy. She gets mad a lot.

Thwack. My arm’s getting bruised.

Mommy never really stopped being mad since Daddy left. She doesn’t eat or sleep much anymore. All she does is tell me and my little brother how bad we are. She says we remind her of Daddy and Daddy is a traitor. She tells us that all men are traitors, and they don’t deserve this world that they rule. Mommy says if we spent a day in a woman’s shoes we’d kill ourselves and maybe she should too.

The belt slips out of Mommy’s hands. She’s using her legs now, kicking me in the ribs and yelling.

I’m not sure where she saw me look at a blond woman. Maybe it was at the market. There are so many people there, it’s hard not to look at them.

The doorbell rings. Mommy wipes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She walks out of the room. I hear her open the front door. I hear a man’s voice but the words are muffled.

I roll to my side and see Philip shaking under the table. He’s crouched with his head down. I’m sorry, little brother. I’m sorry I don’t know how to make Mommy feel better. Daddy always knew how to calm her down. I miss him so much.

Now Mommy’s yelling at the man at the door. “Evicted? EVICTED? Sheriff, you’ve gotta be loving kidding me. My man runs off with your SLUT daughter, and now you’re putting me and my kids out of the house?”

Philip and I are about to get a lot more bruises.

Mommy slams the door. She stomps back toward us. She picks up the belt and smiles. She says, “A woman with nothing to lose is the most dangerous woman of all.”

**

The gospel chorus is singing. “Gonna Lay Down My Burdens” pours out of the speakers. Mommy puts on choir music a lot but I don’t think she really listens to the words.

I check up on Philip. He’s napping, safe for now. Gotta check on Mommy. I poke into the kitchen. She’s fixing a cake, but it’s all wrong. She’s putting in cleaning powder and the stuff we use for laundry. I’m not sure why she’s cooking anyway. We’re evicted; the sheriff said it. Shouldn’t we be packing up to leave?

**

From my window, I can see Mommy and Daddy in the yard. It feels so good to see them together again. I wanna run to Daddy and ask him to take me away, but Mommy said if I go out and see him, she’ll beat me bloody.

Their voices are getting louder. Daddy keeps telling Mommy she’s crazy and he shouldn’t have agreed to come over and talk to her. Mommy’s crying. She’s saying he owes her a better life than this. She reminds Daddy about how she saved his life in a war when he was fighting in Mommy’s country. She says he’s only a war hero because she made him one and everyone should see what a coward he really is for abandoning his family.

Daddy hits Mommy. He calls her an ungrateful bitch. He says he gave her everything. He tells her that she should thank him because he used to be married to her and without him she wouldn’t have citizenship. Oh no, he’s walking away. Don’t go, Daddy! Philip needs you. I need you.

**

When Daddy lived with us, Philip used to smile more. Now he’s sad every day and I just wanna make him feel better. I don’t know how, though. I can’t do anything right.

I guess I don’t smile much either. I kinda forget what it feels like. But I remember in the olden days Daddy used to make me smile so much my face hurt. I gotta remind Mommy how good things were when Daddy lived here. Maybe then she’d stop being mad at him and he could come back.

I know what I’m gonna do. I take out my box of crayons and start drawing. I scribble lots of gold crayon onto my picture. It’s a picture of Daddy’s gold medal he got in the war back before Philip and I were born and Mommy and Daddy weren’t mad at each other.

Mommy’s decorating the cake she baked this morning. I walk up to her and hand her my drawing. She says, “Brian, this is beautiful.” I tell her it’s a picture of Daddy’s medals and maybe she could please not be mad at Daddy and things can go back to like before. She smiles big and says, “You’re right. I’m going to call your father and tell him I’m ready to apologize.”

My plan is working! Things are gonna get better, I just know it.

**

Mommy and Daddy are outside again. I crack the door and lean my head out so I can hear them. Mommy’s saying how sorry she is and how Daddy’s right that she should be grateful for the life he gave her. She’s giving Daddy the picture I drew and telling him it reminded her of when they were happier. She says she knows she’s evicted and she’ll have to leave soon, but she doesn’t hold it against the sheriff or his daughter. She says she even baked them a cake to say sorry and it’s just for the sheriff and his daughter, not for Daddy to eat. Mommy gives Daddy the cake.

I run inside and tell Philip he doesn’t have to be scared anymore. Daddy’s gonna forgive Mommy and things are gonna be just like the olden days.

**

It’s night now. Daddy’s pounding on the front door. He’s screaming for Mommy to let him in. He says the cake was a trick and now the sheriff and his daughter are hurt and Mommy’s not gonna get away with this.

Mommy tells him he deserves it. She says she’s gonna rob him of everything he’s ever loved. Philip is crying. He’s holding on to my leg tight. I hug him and say “Shhh.”

Mommy’s got a lighter in one hand and hair spray in the other. She clicks the lighter on, and sprays into it. It shoots fire in front of her.

“Mommy, what are you doing?” I ask.

She walks toward us. She’s holding the lighter in front of the hairspray again.

“Mommy?”

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


I'm against battling to avoid the losertar. I concede to Benny. Hit me with it.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite



Positive.

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Armack
Jan 27, 2006

Corde pulsum tangite


Your Sledgehammer posted:

Not fighting for your own honor against the double loss means it's brawl time for you, Jitzu. This is the Dome and you fight with your dying breath. Saddle up, bud, we've got a duel at high noon.

Jitzu removes his white glove. He dangles it in Your Sledgehammer's face. "Sir, you cast aspersions on my honor. I DEMAND SATISFACTION." He swings the glove; it's white lace grazes Your Sledgehammer's cheek. "Settle your affairs and draw your will. It shall be pistols at high noon."

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