My actual serious thoughts on fairy tale week: lots of really pretty stories where nothing much happened, and lots of good stories that shot themselves in the foot in the last paragraph for the sake of a punchline. Personally I wasn't so hot on Echo's: the prose was spellbinding, but I kept thinking to myself "okay, so when does the story start?"
Remember folks, a story has an arc: beginning, middle, end. If you skip that, you're left with a lot of pretty words that do nothing. If you skip the last one to crack a lame joke (either Fumblemouse or Djinn did this in another week I judged, and I was furious) you deny the reader catharsis. You get them all hard, then leave them with literary blue balls. It's depressingly common, and people seem to think it's clever and irreverent rather than annoying.
Beginning, middle, end.
Beginning: You have a character. That character has a motivation.
Middle: Something is preventing them from achieving their motivation, so they must act to remedy this.
End: They either succeed or fail, depending on the tone you're going for. Seems like a tautology, but so many writers just kinda drift off and never resolve anything. That or "BOOM, PUNCHLINE." gently caress you.
Conflict occurs because you have multiple characters whose motivations cannot simultaneously be achieved. If both Jimmy and Bobby want the Golden Drinking Horn of Bumblefuck, one of them is going to have to lose, and the story gets its energy from this tension: the reader doesn't know who will succeed or how they will succeed, and so they keep reading to find out.
It can get a lot more complicated than that, but in flash fiction (especially 500/sub-500 words like this week) doesn't have space for that poo poo. Remember: beginning, middle, end. Without that, you're a beautifully-painted house that's rotting from the inside-out.
|# ? Feb 11, 2015 07:28|
|# ? May 23, 2019 19:53|
You get them all hard, then leave them with literary blue balls.
Basically there's a deep reason for us drawing blue dicks and balls all over your stories. Balls deep. Balls Deepak Choke-Ya.
good post btw
|# ? Feb 11, 2015 08:01|
|# ? Feb 11, 2015 11:28|
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|# ? Feb 12, 2015 01:01|
Thanks for the crits Muffin and Rhino!
|# ? Feb 12, 2015 01:06|
|# ? Feb 12, 2015 03:37|
First, the thoughts as I have them.
So I didn't check what your prompt was, and that's probably a good thing. This piece doesn't stand well on its own. Overall, it was far too dry and encyclopedic. A lot of telling-style sentences, not all of which I pointed out. Because of the declarative nature (Dan did this, Dan went there, Dan felt blah) I didn't establish a connection with the protagonist, so I don't even know if his fear and surprise make sense because I'm not attached enough to try to figure it out, and I certainly wasn't engaged enough to feel those emotions myself. This felt like a series of events that just happened, and I'm not entirely sure of their significance or why I should care about them.
One goal of writing is to engender certain emotions in the reader. This is frequently accomplished by establishing some kind of empathy with the main character, then having the character act in a way that the reader would believably act were they in that situation. Honestly, the second part is probably easier than the first. If you want to indicate that Dan is getting creeped out, don't say he's getting creeped out -- have him do something you would do if you were creeped out. Assuming I had empathized with Dan as a character, I would've felt a little of his fear.
Establishing empathy is the harder part. The easiest way to go about this is to either have the protagonist demonstrate characteristics that the reader is fond of (think the noble ideals which we all should aspire to, or the precious innocence of youth), or to put the protagonist in a situation analogous to something the reader has experienced, with a believable conflict that, if happily resolved, can help them feel better in the world, knowing that there's at least one vicarious fictitious instance of this problem that turned out as it should. Your current story gives me a man who's traveling in search of gold and a shopkeep who, uh, keeps a shop. Greed is a human condition, but it's not extreme greed, and most readers don't like to think of themselves as greedy.
Finally, the world felt very empty. Not so much as it was supposed to (tumbleweeds in the desert), but more as a series of cardboard locations and scripted events that the protagonist was teleported to.
|# ? Feb 12, 2015 03:41|
|# ? Feb 12, 2015 04:48|
Well, time to get back in the game, I guess. Even though I don't know how the hell anyone can tell a good story in only 500 words. Seriously, not a clue (that's what makes it fun).
|# ? Feb 12, 2015 07:00|
|# ? Feb 12, 2015 15:03|
Sure, I'm In.
|# ? Feb 12, 2015 15:34|
|# ? Feb 12, 2015 18:50|
|# ? Feb 12, 2015 23:57|
Some critiques for Week Whatever Number Crossroads Week Was What Am I A Counting Calendar Man
Westbound - ZeBourgeoisie
The most frustrating things for me to read are the ones where you see the potential for something good, maybe even great, that just didn't quite get there. This was an especially frustrating story.
Your opening scene, taken on its own, is quite good. I love your first line, and your dialogue between Richard and Dan works well enough. I feel like I have enough to form at least a basic understanding about who these two people are, or at least the ways in which they're different from each other.
However, because of the way your story is otherwise structured, that first scene clashes with everything else. Everything else is from Dan's perspective, and I don't think that it works telling this one from Richard's, particularly given the eventual revelation about Richard's nature. That's particularly unfortunate because that first scene is the strongest part of the entire piece.
You've got a pretty clean writing style, and you do a good job throughout of showing us Dan's character, but in place of a plot, you have a bit of pointlessness. An Indian shows up at a crossroads to say HEY CHECK OUT THE GHOSTS, for no apparent reason other than to pay lip service to the prompt, and then Richard shows up in the next town, repeats his opening line (which works less well this time) and then vanishes and it is spooooooky. There's nothing binding this together, nothing giving it greater weight than just a random series of vaguely ominous events. And so your ending, rather than hitting hard, just sort of sputters out.
Uphill Rivers - Sitting Here
This is kind of a difficult story for me to critique. I think it's quite good, though it's not my favorite thing you've ever written. But it feels like it was written more as an excuse to scratch a particular philosophical or personal itch than anything else, and it's hard to find meaningful things to say about that.
Your use of detail to establish setting and mood is as strong and effective as ever, and that, I think, is what elevates this above just a bit of reflective noodling. (Not that there's anything wrong with reflective noodling, as such.) Likewise, your narrator feels like a complete person, even though I don't know much more about her than a few names of acquaintances and places, and some of her personal demons. That stuff feels like it's out there even if it's not necessarily in the story.
Where this breaks down for me, I think, is in the conversation itself. Not the subject matter, but the fact of it. It's a really weird set of circumstances, this woman all but stalking her to talk to her about her personal fears and failings, and I think you'd have a stronger piece if you committed to that weirdness a little more. Give us some sense of why she's allowing this conversation to happen in the first place. Maybe she wants it, maybe she can't avoid it, maybe it's all part of what she's going through, but I think giving us more of that would take this story beyond, I guess, a framing device for a conversation about being vs becoming and doubt and fear.
Fate, Inescapable - Screaming Idiot
I like the time loop thing. I don't mind the disjointed structure; it all made sense to me, more or less (though I think the other judges were of a different mind). You do a pretty good job establishing your world and the people within it. Your prose style is fine.
And it's all so completely pointless. Inevitability, as a theme, can work, even meaninglessness can work, but it needs some kind of context, something extra to serve as a contrast. And that's what this lacks. Take the time loop out entirely, and nothing, not one thing, about this story changes. And you know, you could have just told a story about a couple trying to escape from an invading army and failing, and I think that probably would have been fine. Not exceptional, probably not even enough to stand out, but fine.
But by adding this additional element without really exploring it, without providing any sense of struggle against it or a reason to accept it or anything about it at all, you take that fine-but-unexceptional story and completely undermine it. I don't mind being left with questions after a story, but "why did I bother reading this" should never be one of those questions.
Paper Crown - Dr. Kloctopussy
This is kind of the opposite of the stories I've read so far, in that I found the style to be a bit awkward, and the tense shift about 3/4ths of the way through certainly didn't help, but the story itself really just worked for me to the point where I don't care so much about all that.
Was the shift to the present tense on Wednesday deliberate? I could see it either way, but I don't think it quite works,
I do think the style you've employed works well at establishing just how worn-down Marly is by everything, for all that it's not my favorite thing to read. And it's that sense of being worn down, her desperation at everything, that gives her ultimate rejection of the child's plight some weight. She's cruel, she's horrible, but it's not out of malice, it's because she just doesn't have anything to give for a million reasons, and that makes her more interesting, makes her that particular sort of unsympathetic character I'm still inclined to give the time of day.
What are you going to do now? - contagonist
You could use a lighter touch on some of your descriptive language at the beginning. You're just overwhelming me with description and simile and metaphor, and it's just too much. And "like a blue screen of death", while clever, just knocked me right out of the story.
I do like the way you establish your narrator's situation a little at a time, hitting us with something new just as we've wrapped our heads around what we think is happening. Your third paragraph, the sentence about what he imagines will happen if a cop shows up, is pretty awkward, though and, again, threw me out of the story at least until I could work out exactly what you were saying.
Things start to falter at about the point your protagonist's conversation with the AI starts up. The dialogue itself is fine, but I think the conversation goes on too long, divorces itself from the action too much, and accomplishes too little. It ultimately feels like it's part of a different, if related, story.
Likewise, the scene at Joachim's grave. I can see in the abstract how it's all meant to fit, but it doesn't really flow together. We've got these distinct chunks of story that have been welded together.
I don't get your ending at all. Your AI's decided it's going to "tear apart the lies of this world", but what does that have to do with anything you've told so far, and what does that last line even mean?
Deadeye Deadbeat Blues - Entenzahn
You're kind of walking a tightrope with a story like this, but you pull it off, staying on just the right side of the divide between maudlin and genuine emotion. I love the way you convey your protagonist's awkwardness around the other man, especially the part where he feels he has to return to sit on this park bench with this stranger, because he "promised". I also love that that awkwardness, even after the two of them have shared their secrets with each other, never really goes away. The uncertain note on which things end feels honest.
This story would still have been a serious contender in a much stronger week than this. Well done.
Those Left Behind - Tayacan
I enjoy the way the relationship between the two women grows as they travel, even though it's not something either of them appears to want to happen. I think the motivations behind both of them are a little shallow, but there's just enough nuance here to keep my attention. Maryanne unconsciously falling into a mothering pattern with Elaine, and Elaine's suspicion of same is a setup that works pretty well.
Your ending is where things fall apart for me. Elaine's "welp, maybe I'll go home" feels like it comes out of nowhere, doesn't really feel earned. It's as though the story ended because you ran out of words (which may well have been the case). I'd also have liked a little more insight into why Elaine was on the run in the first place, and maybe that could have factored more into the ending. Without that insight, without something, those last couple of lines don't quite undermine the portrait you've created of these two women, but they certainly don't add anything to it.
Right of Way - Benny Profane
I don't get the "Q." thing at all, but I get what it's standing in for, so fair enough. You could probably get away with omitting it entirely; I think we'd still get that your narrator is answering questions.
You've done some solid work here, in a style that's risky. Your monologue flows naturally, and I feel like I've got a decent picture of who the narrator is as a result. The actual events of the story are slight, since all we have is a description of the specific event that your narrator is relating, with any larger context just hinted at in the margins. For me, this worked fine, but you're always going to run the risk of your audience losing patience or getting confused, and that's always going to be something to keep in mind.
Coming of Age - Savagely_Random
Hamza is a cardboard cutout bully, Rashid is a cardboard cutout mentor, and Yusuf is a cardboard cutout Bullying Victim Who Learns To Stand Up For Himself. They all play their parts, like twenty thousand cardboard cutout characters have played those parts in twenty thousand identical stories. No innovation, no surprises, nothing but a story we've all heard and seen before.
There's nothing wrong with using familiar ground as the basis for a story, but you've got to give us something to set your story apart from those twenty thousand identical stories. Otherwise, what's the point?
|# ? Feb 13, 2015 00:07|
|# ? Feb 13, 2015 01:31|
|# ? Feb 13, 2015 05:55|
|# ? Feb 13, 2015 21:06|
Signups are closed
|# ? Feb 13, 2015 23:00|
It was a cold, clear night in a city steeped in sin. I walked through the lonesome streets with a six-shooter my only ally. At the slightest peep I’d feel for the reassuring touch of her grip. In a place like this, your gun is the only thing you can trust.
It didn’t take long before I reached the ancient, decaying storefront of my usual haunt. A flickering ‘open’ sign hung outside the window near a hole that had been boarded with plywood. I banged on the door and heard the sound of heavy chain rattling. Old Tony greeted me with his typical smirk as he ushered me in. He raised a shot of bourbon to me.
“Thought you’d never show, Howie,” he said.
“I’m always fashionably late. Figured you know that by now.”
Old Tony just shrugged and went back to mingling with the crowd while I skedaddled over to the bar. The bartender walked over and asked if I wanted the usual tonic and gin. Tony plopped down next to me while I nodded at the barkeep. He had another shot of bourbon.
“Exactly how many drinks have you had?” I asked.
“Enough,” he replied.
We sat and eyeballed the curvy little ladies working the floor. Tony boasted that he could swoon all three of them right out of their pants.
“How’d that sound, Howie? One for you, one for me, and one between the two of us.”
“Kinky,” I said while nursing my drink.
As I downed yet another tonic and gin, Tony disappeared into the crowd. I debated with myself whether I should have another shot or not. My thoughts were interrupted, however, by the unmistakable sound of a gunshot.
People were screaming as I yanked the pistol from my pocket. A crowd gathered near the back of the bar. Pushing through, I came upon a bloody scene.
There, in the center of the ruckus, stood Tony. Laying next to him on the ground was a man gurgling in a puddle of his own blood.
“Tony,” I said.
“Shut up, Howie,” he said back.
Tony bolted for the exit, pushing through the crowd and knocking a couple onlookers over. Sirens blared in the distance as Tony disappeared into the night. Without thinking, I chased after him.
I saw Tony sprinting up the northwest road. My mouth sputtered questions, curses, and threats as I raced behind him. Tony was my best friend, and I needed answers.
After sprinting for what had to be a solid five minutes, Tony spun around. He trained his pistol on me.
Out of either reflex or instinct I drew my gun and fired off three quick shots. All I remember clearly is that Tony jerked before falling to the ground. Then I noticed a dull, burning pain in my side. The streetlamps became distorted blurs of orange and crimson, the buildings melted into reddish blobs, and my senses numbed.
At least I didn’t feel much when I collapsed on the pavement.
|# ? Feb 14, 2015 03:15|
One Last Bottle Before I Go
The stink of poo poo wafts around me, thick enough to chew. I don't care. The whiskey almost washes away the taste.
I remember the broad who ruined my life. She'd strolled into my office and laid into me with the mother of all sob-stories: murdered husband, lost inheritance, men out for her. Tears and smudged mascara and ruby lips panting with despair and the unspoken promise of what any red-blooded man desires.
"They used me," she'd insisted, "they killed my husband!"
"Help me get rid of them," she'd begged. "Be my hero!"
I took her on. Didn't even ask for money up front -- those big brown eyes fluttering were payment enough. She gave me names. I did the rest. One by one I went after them, watching, waiting. Every one of those bastards gave me a reason to shoot. There was no guilt, no blame -- they deserved hot lead in their bellies.
It was a setup. She wasn't a grieving widow, just some prostitute cum actress the mob hired to trick me into taking out their trash -- a tool, thrown away once she served her purpose. She was found dead in a dumpster, sliced and bloodied. I remember seeing those pretty eyes, frozen and wide with fear and betrayal even as maggots wriggled through the sockets.
Did I want revenge? Did I feel for her? Was it just wounded pride? I knew, once. Not now.
Another swallow. Bottle's low. Can't let sobriety's jagged edges pop my balloon of alcoholic comfort.
I used to be a detective. Worked with the Chicago PD. I got tired of the bullshit, struck it on my own. Used to be damned good, I thought.
I wasn't good enough.
No happy endings, no satisfying showdowns with a cigar-sucking Mr. Big and his goons. Instead there's a cancer in this city; festering tumors that've spread so far and so deep that nothing'll cut them out.
The mob doesn't need hitmen; their lawyers are bad enough. I lost everything -- job, home, hope. Those small-time crooks I plugged were replaced like nothing happened, and I live by the docks choking down hooch to numb the bleeding, infected stump where my self-respect used to be.
"Enjoy your drink, Weller?"
I look up at the hired gun with a twisted grin. He was kind enough to let me finish my bottle so I wouldn't die sober.
"Get on your knees. Let's make this quick and clean."
He's the professional in the nice tailored suit with a gun in his hand, and I'm the bum wallowing in his own filth. I obey.
Gun to the back of my head.
The trigger pulls.
A dry click. All I need.
I leap to my feet, knock the gun aside, take him down with a punch. I didn't forget everything I learned on the force.
Just kidding. The gun went off fine.
|# ? Feb 14, 2015 03:27|
Detention 500 words
I don’t know why I thought this time would be different. I looked at the slip Mrs. Smith handed me.
The door to Room 123 squealed when I opened it. I’ve told the janitor a thousand times, get some WD-40. Give us some dignity going into detention.
Mr. Thompson’s gross coffee-stained teeth grinned at me from inside.
“Well, Tracy, detention wouldn’t be the same without you,” he said.
“I didn’t do anything.”
“I love this game we play every week.” He read over my slip and his eyes widened. “Stealing a Game Boy from Frankie? Dumb move.”
I took my normal seat in the corner by the window. I liked to see the world outside. Call me a student of life. I didn’t bother explaining that it wasn’t a Game Boy, it was a Nintendo DS. Besides, who would be dumb enough to steal from Frankie?
Miles sat next to me. I could tell he had big news from the way he fidgeted in his seat.
“Spit it out.”
“Frankie’s coming. He’s pissed you stole his DS. He got in a fight just to visit you.”
Crud. There was nowhere to hide.
The door flew open and there stood Frankie. He gave his slip to Mr. Well, but his eyes sought me out. I could die right there. He walked over and lifted Miles out of the seat next to me and placed him in a different chair before sitting down. I mean geez, the strength. I hated Mr. Thompson but at least I knew I was safe with him around.
Double crud. Thompson just finished his coffee, which meant an extended bathroom break. When he left the room so did my hope of making it to sixth grade.
“Where’s my DS?” Frankie’s words were as subtle as the fist he slammed into my stomach.
“I don’t got it.”
“Bologna. I ain’t afraid to hit a girl.” He twisted me around and slammed me against the window.
I looked outside, desperate for help. There were no teachers whose attention I could grab. My heart sunk. I was going to get beat. I saw that rat Gerald by the tree, real focused on something. I couldn’t believe it. It was Frankie’s DS. He saw me pressed against the window and he flashed me this crappy smile like what could I do about it? It wasn’t about what I would do about it, but what Frankie would do.
I used the last of my air to gasp out a noise that got Frankie’s attention. I tapped on the glass and my fingertip led Frankie’s eyes to Gerald, who bolted.
I opened the window with Frankie. We were going to get that guy. I was halfway out when Mr. Thompson returned. He glared at me with a fire in his eye.
“You’ll be in detention for the rest of the year if you go out that window.”
“I know,” I said, “but it’s the principle of the thing.” And out I went.
|# ? Feb 14, 2015 19:45|
Ironic Twist fucked around with this message at Jul 11, 2015 around 19:52
|# ? Feb 14, 2015 23:23|
Her body spreadeagled on a country road, her belly sliced open, a dead snake placed inside her new gut-hole. Real Old Religion poo poo. Red hair, cut short. Arno's daughter Elsie had a haircut like that. Wanted a tattoo as well: her mother's name. His wonderful daughter, who neither loved nor trusted her teachers, or her father. Furious at all the things she didn't know. Troubled child of a solo parent. Chip off the old block.
A siren cut through the autumn air. Arno turned to see Ferguson's car dancing down the dirt road. No real reason to run the red-and-blues out in the rear end end of Cornwall, but city officers liked to let the plebs know they were coming. The car skidded to a halt, and the door flew open. Ferguson waited a moment before he stepped out with the pomp of a king in a whorehouse.
He took one look at the body, then whipped out his cell and took a photo. He tapped at the screen for a few more seconds, then put the phone in his pants pocket.
“For the missus?” said Arno, “I hear she's into some weird poo poo, but that's probably a bit strong.”
Ferguson grimaced at him. “That's above your pay grade,” he said. His fingers drummed on his pocket singing a-tappa-tappa-tappa on the hard plastic of the phone, muted only a little by the fabric.
“Fair enough,” said Arno. It wasn't, but nor was it worth his job. He nodded towards the corpse. “Same as the last one. I think our lad's got himself a hobby.”
Bzzzz. Ferguson took his phone out, read the screen, then spat. He smiled, but there was not a single degree of warmth in it. “Suicide,” he said. “Poor girl was on uh- antipsych meds or some poo poo. History of drug use. You can go home Arno, I'll take it from here.”
“Sir,” Arno said, “respectfully, that's bullshit.”
Birds sang and wind whistled, but neither man made a single goddam sound. Ferguson bit his tongue, then nodded. “Aye,” he said, “it is. Don't make it any less true.”
The corpse was Elsie's age, Elsie's build, Elsie's same drat hair. He had a type. Ferguson stared him down, then spat. He knew was Arno was thinking.
“She'll be safe,” said Ferguson. “He's not unreasonable, you know. Now go home before minds are changed.”
Images flashed through Arno's head of a stalking man in the alleyway behind the pub, following Elsie as she stumbled out the door. Following her home. She never locked the door at night, despite her father's best advice: somehow too cynical and too trusting in the same breath.”That's-” he said. He pictured Elsie spreadeagled on the road, her guts sliced open, her body writhing fat with snakes. Two milky eyes staring up at him, mouth opening and closing in silent agony.
He couldn't let it happen. Not to his daughter. Let another family suffer.
“Yes sir,” said Arno. “Understood.”
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 07:08|
Tuesday at Work
Black clouds weep over the top level of the garage. Hers is one of the few cars still parked this late. As I walk toward it, I see her sprawled on the ground, face down. Her blonde hair is sopping wet.
I crouch down and shake her. “Miss! Miss, are you alright?”
She groans and turns over, her forehead bruised.
“My name is Andrew. Let’s get you someplace dry.”
She stumbles as she rises from the ground. “Andrew?” she says. “Do you think people get what they really deserve in life?”
She’s perfect. “Yes!” I tell her. “I think so.”
She sighs and turns her back to me. She walks to the concrete border at the edge of the parking garage and jumps to get a hand along the edge. Scraping the concrete with her stilettos, she hoists herself over.
I run to the stairwell, to ground-level, and onto the sidewalk. She’s lying there in the darkness. Broken, but smiling.
Nobody can fake a smile like that. Broad grin, eyes all wrinkled up on the sides. She’s happy. Gotta be. Blonde, radiant in stilettos and a navy-blue dress. I think any man who won her heart would wind up happy too.
Eight-and-a-half hours a day, I ignore her. I have to. Work comes first; lose my focus and I’m no better than a bum living under the docks. Life gives people exactly what they earn. If a man isn’t satisfied, the onus is on him to work toward deserving satisfaction.
But thirty minutes a day, I indulge. In between eating at my desk and catching up on some off-the-clock data entry, I gaze into her office. She’s glowing, sending an immaculate aura across the alleyway from her window to mine.
I earned my window. Worked my rear end off for it. Spent seventeen years cloistered in grey upholstered walls with black trim. The old timers counseled me on how to advance. “It’s about attitude. Be eager to make sacrifices, and do it with a smile.” So I did. And now I have my window.
Her smile fades. A red-faced man approaches her. He’s pointing at her with one hand, the other holds a handle of vodka. She steps backward and out of my view.
She’ll get off work soon, walk across the street to the parking garage and drive off for the day. By tomorrow, she’ll be smiling again.
I stand at attention. “Sir! What can I do for you?”
My supervisor laughs. “Nothing, Andrew. You’re doing fine. I just came by to offer you good news. You’re getting a raise! Thirty cents.”
I clutch at my heart. “I…don’t know what to say. I put my heart and soul into my work. But thirty cents?”
“Congrats, Andrew. You’ve earned it.”
He walks away and I take a breath to still my beating heart. I’m worth thirty more cents. Every hour. Every day.
I think I’m finally ready to talk to her.
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 16:03|
The Long Nightfall
“How many times do I have to tell you, Ajax? This is my turf. Welp.”
I lift my head up from the half eaten carcass in front of me, triceratops blood already crusting over on my snout in the cold. Every day since the sky fell, it gets colder and darker. I know we can’t be too far off from the end.
Yet, this fucker can’t let me enjoy what may be one of my last meals in peace.
It’s the predators, like us ‘rexes, who are having the hardest time dealing with our impending doom. Being on top of the food chain, the world’s always been our private playground. Now playtime is over and everyone’s in denial.
I take a stride over the corpse. He bears his teeth. I just sigh.
“Come off it Milo. It’s over. Territory? Mates? None of it matters anymore. We’re all dead in a few months- probably just weeks. Cut me some slack.”
Milo lets out a roar, playing the role of “King of the Dinosaurs” just like his daddy taught him. Like if he keeps doing it well enough, it’ll save him somehow. He charges right at me, full force.
It’s a stupid move, but Milo’s always been impulsive. There’s more than enough time for me to sidestep him. I swipe backwards with my tail, knocking his legs out from under him and sending him flat on his rear end. Within a few seconds, it’s all over.
I plant a three toed foot on his chest, firmly pinning him to the dusty ground. The blood from my prey that hasn’t dried yet drips down onto his face, as he looks up at me indignantly.
“Heh. Think you’re the big ‘rex now, eh?” He huffs. “Then see if you can finish me off!”
He tries to goad me, like it’s going to be some final, epic struggle. But he doesn’t try to get back up, doesn’t even squirm. He acts the warrior king ready to fight to the death, but I can see through it. It’s his eyes that give him away, that pleading look. It takes a few seconds, but I figure it out.
He wants me to kill him. Assisted suicide I suppose.
I can’t help but smirk and shake my head.
The façade starts to crack now. “D-dammit, you cowardly little runt. Be a man and finish the job!”
I lift my foot off of him. He doesn’t leap up to attack. He just lies there, defeated, begging for the quick, bloody end that I’m denying him. I turn to go back to my meal, ignoring his demands for a glorious death that quickly turn to sobbing.
Milo’s always been a spoiled brat. That doesn’t change even once he’s broken.
He just doesn’t get that none of us- myself included -are going to get a dignified end as everything green withers and dies around us.
But at least until I buy it, I’m not wasting time on fools like him.
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 16:13|
As I watched the blood run down my fountain pen, it occurred to me that it had always been there, in a way. I had thought myself a business man, a bookkeeper above it all, working separate and apart from what Bobby Rinco’s goons did to the deadbeats I indicated were in arrears.
The cops had picked me up knowing I didn’t know much. Sure I recorded who owed what, but they were after something bigger than loansharking. They had roughed me up then dropped me off right in Rinco’s territory, thanking me, loud and clear, for my help. I’d either end up dead, a lead to chase, or find something useful for them real quick. My life was pocket change to them, to use for an idle wager.
Sure enough, some tough guy, the one now sporting an inky hole in his throat, had walked right into the street and grabbed my arm tight as the squad car pulled away. “Bobby’s going to want to see you,” he’d said. He had dragged me to through the slush and muck in the gutter toward a warehouse, ignoring my protests and explanations. I had searched my pockets desperately. I took his gun as people gawked at him bleeding out in the street.
The revolver felt so heavy at first, clunky. I wandered through the city, looking to balance the books so to speak. I found a cop walking his beat. I pulled the trigger in full view of the bystanders – a wino, a fruit vendor, some ladies speed walking to a better part of town with department stores. Afterwards, the gun felt lighter, much more so than the spent bullet.
I placed two calls, one to the cops and one to Bobby Rinco. I told both what I had done. I told both where I was, a crumbling rat hole of a boarding house off 4th. I told both I was ready to turn myself in.
I finally understood how the deadbeats in my books got themselves so deep. I was desperate enough to believe in my system, that I knew what I was doing, like a hundred names I had written down who threw money at sure things until it ruined them.
Car doors slammed outside. Guns popped like a string of fire crackers. I headed out. I hit them sideways as they focused on each other. I left none of the cops alive. Detectives would identify Rinco’s goons in bloody trench coats and figure out who they worked for. I spared one of Bobby’s boys to report back.
I had no real plan, only a desire, the same desire your average gambler has: to get far enough ahead to get away. The wager, placed by the cops, remained unchanged. That was my advantage. That was what separated me from the deadbeats. I couldn’t get any deeper in the hole.
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 16:25|
Nori is just an anagram for Noir
Nori entered another fabric store. By her count she had been to thirty already, on her quest for black yarn. Miki wanted it for her craft--she was making something again, to take the edge off her various part-time jobs, but for some reason all the black yarns had disappeared off the face of Tokyo.
The balls of yarn were packed in a tiny basket by the counter. Nori turned reds and blues and yellows in search of it. She was about to give up when the welcome sight of black turned up in her hand.
Nori smiled. The easy part of her plan was complete. She took out her phone, composing a message to Miki.
The arcade was dimly-lit, illuminated mostly by bright game screens. Nori exhaled as she passed smokers huddled over an ashtray. Cute pop and disco mixed in a cacophony of delight, powered by 100-yen coin installments. A short woman stood beside the Project Diva machine, head bowed down and swaying to music in her oversized headphones.
Nori had to tap Miki on the shoulder. "Hey," she said.
"You're late!" Miki said. She took off her headphones. "Sorry. I missed you."
"But we saw each other last night," Nori said. Her left arm started shaking, and she hid it from view. Miki often went by the name Liselotte Wish-Upon-A-Fallen-Star. Liselotte would play rhythm games in full gothic-lolita attire, complete with an open parasol. Her entire getup was handmade.
In fact, that was how they had met. A black-clad damsel in distress; a group of punks; a knight in jeans. One punch, stopping a hair's breadth from a harasser's face.
"I missed you all the same." Miki craned her neck at the swinging basket behind Nori. "Have you got something for me?"
Blushing, Nori thrust the basket into Miki's hands.
"Black yarn! Liselotte Wish-Upon-A-Fallen-Star is grateful for your service, red-haired warrior," Miki said, slipping into her other persona.
"Try unrolling it."
"Just do it."
Miki carefully unrolled the ball of yarn. Tied at the very end was a silver ring, featuring a skull and a Latin inscription. "Oh... a memento mori ring! But it's not even our anniversary!"
Nori shrugged and turned away. "We can't get married in this country, but will you move in with me, at least? I don't want you eating instant ramen anymore, or locking yourself out of your flat, or... or being away from me for more than a day."
Miki placed her hands on Nori's shoulders. "You don't even have decent clothes, you get into too many fights, and you only listen to music for old people. So yeah, I'm in."
"Liselotte Wish-Upon-A-Fallen-Star accepts your humble request. She will make your dwelling her own. Consider it the biggest honor of your banal existence, mortal."
"I changed my mind," Nori said, chuckling softly.
But Miki had already put the ring on, and wouldn't let go of her anymore.
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 16:51|
Rescue 497 Words
It seemed like an easy enough job at first. Pick up a package, make the exchange, and return the cash. My cut wasn’t bad. It paid for Chryssa’s engagement ring. For a recent grad with no prospects, it was better than nothing. A broken window and missing package later, it was all kinds of complicated.
I called in right away, for all the good it did.
“Either come up with the cash or else,” Tony said, and hung up .
Two days later, the note was on my door.
We have your pretty girl. Either you have the cash tomorrow or something ugly is going to happen to her.
No signature. Not that I needed one.
I sat at my desk, looking from the note to the half-empty bottle of bourbon on the shelf. Neither provided much consolation. Hours slipped by as fear grew in my gut like a rotten peach pit. There was one chance I could take. It was in the desk drawer, where it had sat since I bought it off one of Tony’s goons while he exchanged smirks and half-suppressed laughter with the other guards. A hell of a chance, but better than leaving Chryssa to them.
Sleep came in fits and starts and in the morning I ached with exhaustion. The day stretched ahead of me like a desert. I grabbed an envelope and stuffed it with strips of paper. Not much of a diversion, but it’d have to be enough. I left the house with the envelope in my jacket and the pistol tucked into my waistband.
It was a cool day, but I was soaked in cold sweat by the time I reached Tony’s. Andre rose like a mountain from the porch, the Russian’s skin pale against his black leather jacket. He smirked and waved me in.
Tony sat on the couch, slouched with arms spread wide. A grin creased his face when he looked up. His guards turned long enough to see me and went back to what they were doing.
“So, you actually had the balls to show.” Tony clapped and rose, chuckling.
I reached into my pocket and brought out the envelope.
“Let her go.” My voice quivered and broke.
“That’s the thing.” His face scrunched in a theatrical grimace. “We got tired of waiting. Not too much left of your girl.”
The cold I’d been swimming in turned numbing. Black flecks narrowed my vision to a small point. I heard the envelope smack the floor and the flutter of paper spilling out. Tony’s face twisted and darkened, but by then the gun was in my fist and pointed at him. The pistol jumped when I squeezed the trigger and Tony’s left eye winked out in a spurt of blood. The recoil jolted my arm over and over until there was nothing but dull clicks. The room smelled hot and coppery. Silence dragged. The pistol slipped from my hand. I never heard the gunshot behind me.
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 17:01|
Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at Dec 30, 2015 around 19:04
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 20:24|
The Old Breed
Curt sat against the apartment dumpster and tried not to move.
He’d only been taking out the trash. There were voices in the alley, a man and a woman, both young. “Stop it,” she’d slurred. “I have to go home.”
Curt had grabbed the splintered broom handle because it was the nearest thing he could find, held it in his sweating hands like a batter at the plate. They were leaning against the brick wall and the man was trying to kiss her. He wouldn’t let go of her wrist.
“Are you alright, miss?”
They’d both turned, taken stock of him, the man drunk and grinning like a simpleton.
The woman twisted her face up, like she was looking at something she’d just scraped off of the bottom of her shoe. “What the gently caress are you looking at?” she’d said.
It took Curt by surprise, just long enough for the man to step forward and shove him against the dumpster. His back caught the edge of it and he’d felt something inside of him give way. He sat down hard and watched the couple stagger out of the alley.
Curt closed his eyes. The noise of a radio wafted down from an open window—a ball game. It hurt to breathe and the heels of his palms burned, flecked with gravel and bits of broken glass. He saw someone passing by on the sidewalk and tried to cry out for help, but no sound would come. The inside of his mouth tasted like spare change.
When he opened his eyes again, a cop was shining his flashlight in Curt’s face. “Sir, you can’t be out here.” He nudged Curt’s sneaker with the toe of his boot. “Sir?” His light fell on Curt’s shoulder, the blue diamond sewn onto his jacket. 1st Marine Division. “The Old Breed.”
The cop’s voice softened. “You a vet?”
Curt made a feeble sound. Please, he tried to say.
“Listen. I’ve got a few blocks left on my patrol. If you’re still here when I finish my rounds, I’ll have to cite you. Alright?” He nodded to himself. “Alright,” he said again.
Another couple came into the alley. It had started to drizzle and they ran together, giggling, the man covering the woman’s hair with his jacket. Curt recognized them; they lived on the floor below his. He would pass them on the stairs sometimes, going to work or checking the mail. An exchange of brisk helloes.
The couple ducked into the apartment stairwell. Curt could hear one of them fumbling for the keys. He tried to crawl toward them, tried to call out, to make any sound at all. A moan came, low and full of pain.
A voice echoed in the stairwell. “What was that?”
The man poked his head out into the alley, saw Curt laying there beside the dumpster in his old jacket and his ratty sneakers.
“Just some wino,” he said. Then they were gone.
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 20:31|
Drowning in It - 488 words
One final effort brought the latch down and secured the faded green case shut. Now she was ready to leave. Everything she possibly cared about had been ransacked and promptly stuffed into the case. Only her thick rain jacket and scuffed boots were spared. They were both needed to survive the tempest outside. For days the winds have slashed through the cracks in the boards, with them torrents of freezing spray. The Lower Wharf was flooded and that meant her soon to be old home of the Upper Wharf was next.
She brought the raincoat tight against herself and tied her boots. Carefully tucked her socks and pants snugly so the water wouldn’t bother her feet. Cynthia grabbed the bulging suitcase and strode towards the door. The weight of the bag didn’t bother her as she turned to lock the door behind her. A cry fell from her as she looked at her hand. The ring was still there. The varnished silver marred with scratches. She threw the suitcase inside and closed the door behind her. It was louder than she intended and her upstairs neighbor slammed something hard into the floor in response.
Cynthia took the ring and weighed it in her hand. It’d bring her enough money to get a ticket to anywhere she wanted to be. All she’d have to do is take it to a pawn shop and haggle the suspicious clerk up a hundred dollars or so. She placed it on the kitchen table.
The strain of old wood whispered to her from the stairway. She clutched the suitcase and panicked. There was no way she could leave now. He’d come in, see her ring on the table, her clothes peeked from the inside of her suitcase, and lose it. Instead of standing there helpless she ran to the window overlooking the fire escape. She threw it open and straddled the windowsill. She didn’t hear the door as it opened over the strain as she lifted the suitcase out into the storm
Wallace stood there, eyes green with gin and lazily looked up to her. Confusion crawled slowly across his face. He took another step in and saw the ring. The confusion froze in his face. It became ice, hard and sharp.
He staggered to the kitchen table and picked up the ring. Cynthia recoiled as he walked towards her. She stood in the stairwell now, rain sluiced down her hood and over her suitcase. Wallace lunged through the window, his greedy fingers pushed through the rain. Instinctively Cynthia moved her hands up to cover herself. The suitcase covered her. Wallace clasped the case and started to twist. Her hands burnt as she tried to hold on. Slick metal slipped from her hands. Wallace lost his handle on the case too. Cynthia kicked him in his head and hurried down the fire escape. She hurdled over her clothes as Wallace wailed above her.
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 20:42|
One Day at a Time - 445 words
A hastily opened brown box rested on a dirty countertop next to a set of tools. He pushed the plunger down, feeling the warmth of the liquid squeeze into his vein. Left arm, closer to the heart by a second. The blood fought its way through valves to the heart, rushed to the lungs, then up to the brain.
Mike paused to take in the feeling. A slight rush hinted at caffeine but none of that take me down to the ballgame knockout drag down song that a good speedball provides. Burned, the shakes would come soon. His slender hand slipped into his seat. It dug away at a layer of duct tape, pulling back the tarnished steel of a loaded revolver.
Twenty miles to Greenville. He knew the locals and they knew him. Much better to try a neighboring town. His teal civic managed the road well, dry roads not taxing the aged brakes. He pulled out the lighter and started on a cigarette from his pocket. He made the trip in the near silence of a cracked window.
He parked the car on the dirt road next to a grey house and waited for the dealer to return.
The dealer slipped out of his car and made his way to the door. He finished fumbling for his keys and unbolted it when Mike shoved him from behind into the house. A hand grabbed his neck while a gun poked him near his kidney.
“Do exactly what I say or you’re going to bleed out right here. Reach one hand into your pocket and give me the money.”
Both of the men shook. The dealer reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll of bills.
“Good. Where’s the stash?”
Mike felt the twitch of a spine as the dealer tried spinning around to reach for the gun. Two shots later he lay dead or dying on the floor. Mike washed himself in the bathroom before tearing the place apart with black gloved hands. No hurry, really. Rural ranchers are accustomed to hearing the occasional sound of gunfire, and small town dealers aren’t much known for their creativity. It was under the sink every time.
He pulled his car back into his driveway, briskly moving into the house. His tools were where he left them. The television droned on softly. The gun would have to go eventually, but more pressing matters required his attention. He sat down and began his preparation. Crush, light, tighten, load, clean, insert, inject and fly. It trickled up his left arm, into his heart, and through his brain. The package might make the week, but the day was done.
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 21:10|
I hear footsteps.
They’re coming down the corridor towards my room. I wish I had a drat lock. It must be heaven to be able to journal without my drat brother coming in every five minutes to shoot arrows or flick snot. Christ, I swear he’s got nothing better to do than irritate the living crap out of me.
“gently caress off, Jamie” I yell. “If you come in here I swear I will nail your pencil-dick to the front porch.”
“It’s not Jamie,” says Daddy, opening the door and leaning against the jamb. “He’s at his friend’s for a sleep-over. Mummy’s out. Just you and me tonight.” He comes over, and I can smell booze on him. It’s not like Dad to drink.
“Close your book,” he slurs. “Now, about your dirty whore mouth.”
I hear footsteps.
I look up from the espresso machine that has burned the milk for the third time this morning. At the counter is Mr Adams, Daddy’s lawyer, dressed in one of those off-the-rack suits that try to lie about where they came from. I know how they feel.
I wave him over to the quiet end of the counter. “I can’t talk long. What does Councillor Shitbag want?”
Adams looks around my place of work and I can literally hear him sniff at it. “Your father has authorised me to increase your already generous living stipend.”
“He can throw money in that old account as much as he likes. I won’t touch anything from that piece of filth,” I say, though I’m actually kind of curious.
Adams doesn’t reply. He writes on a piece of notepaper, slides it across the countertop. Against my better judgement, I take a look, then whistle in disbelief. “That’s a fuckload of coffees!”
“Your father would appreciate you keeping yourself out of the limelight while he is involved in the delicate business of running for Mayor.
I push the paper back. “Tell him to go gently caress himself.”
I hear footsteps
The walls of the alley disappear into blackness this far from the streetlights. I am tempted to turn around, see if there’s someone there, but my gut tells me that stopping would not be wise. I step up my pace and hear the footsteps accelerate.
I am about to sprint away when someone grabs my arm, spins me round.
“Elizabeth,” says Mummy and I can hear her tears. “My baby. Don't run. I was clearing out some accounting papers and I found your journal, hidden. Oh my God - your journal. So much makes sense now. Why you left.”
“You read them?”
“I read them all. I’m so sorry.”
“Mummy?” I ask, pressure building behind my eyes. There is an intense pain in my gut. I don’t know if I feel it or hear the gunshot first. I don’t suppose it matters. I drop to the cold concrete.
“Sorry I gave birth to a blackmailing whore,” says Mummy, tossing down the pistol and walking towards the midtown lights.
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 21:20|
anime was right fucked around with this message at Oct 27, 2015 around 05:50
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 21:38|
The Best of Intentions - 500 Words
Jaime gritted his teeth and strained with all his might against the cheap wooden door. It shuddered with each impact from the other side, the boards popping and cracking. Those sharp sounds were overpowered by the screams that leaked in from the town around them. Behind him, the others that made it into the inn wailed, hearing their doom in each blow.
It was a different kind of loud when he told Beth that he wanted to stay. A buzz of terror hummed through the town, mixing with the creaks of wagons and shouted commands at horses that filled the air as many packed up to leave. “We made our life here, Beth. I want to stay and defend it.” She just looked at him with those big blue eyes and bit her lip.
A chunk of wood went flying past his head, that part of the door replaced by an axehead. The axe ripped backwards, tearing away more of the door with it. Jaime arched his head to peek through the opening, only to jerk back when another head stared back at him through the hole. The man with the painted face smirked and shouted to someone unseen, and the fury battering at the door redoubled.
It was a different painted man that was dragged through the streets when Beth came to him. Those who remained were celebrating the capture of the scout, the first joyous sounds heard since most of the town left, but Beth’s face was grave. “It means they are coming, you know. Not going to Highfort. Coming here,” she said.
“I know,” he said, cupping her face in his hand. “We've talked about this.”
“There’s still time,” she said, brushing his hand away angrily. “We can start over down south, where these people will never reach us.”
“We've made a commitment, Beth. To this town, to these people. What would happen to those who cannot leave if we all run? To all those sick or hurt in our inn?” he said.
Another shattering blow cracked opened the gap even wider, and a sword was thrust through the opening, narrowly missing Jaime. He whacked at it with his own sword, an ancient thing Beth had bought long ago to sit above the bar. The drat thing barely had an edge on it, and the blunted blow knocked both swords loose. Jaime cursed as they fell into the furniture piled at the base of the door. Beth was at his side immediately, found the sword, and placed it back into his hands, much like she had the day she presented it to him. “It will make you look so fearsome!” she said, laughing. “Just pretend you know how to use it!”
He gripped her hands with his and stared into her eyes as a tear leaked down his face. “I’m sorry.”
Whatever she said in response was drowned out as the door finally gave way and those inside shrieked their fear while those outside bellowed their victory.
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 22:10|
Murder Beneath the Mountain
crabrock fucked around with this message at Dec 31, 2015 around 14:20
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 22:15|
The cop was a silhouette in his high beams as he walked past the bed of my truck. It was filled with thick yellow plastic bags labelled RIFIUTI SANITARI PERICOLOSI in red. Medical waste from Naples. I put my hands on the steering wheel and kicked a half full pepsi bottle that I’d topped up with cheap red under the seat with my heel. He tapped on the window.
“Buonasera Signor. The landfill is back that way.”
Both of us knew it was no mistake. I’d passed the dump half an hour back. It was full of imported Milanese trash. It had looked hygienic and expensive, lit by a bruised silver moon like a dirty euro coin.
“Save your breath, Sbirro.” I swore, no patience left for formalities of corruption. If he even gave me a ticket he’d be fired or worse.
He was young and blonde. His freckles were disappearing into his flushing face.
“Capo said you have something for me.”
Inside the glove box was a pistol for rival Camorra and an envelope for his Captain. It was stuffed thick and sealed with red wax. I held it out the window. He reached half-way then stopped. His hand was shaking.
“What’s in the envelope?”
His voice was quiet and hesitant, he was even younger than I thought. Stupider too. Could have been his first day.
“Lucre. Just take it.”
Welcome to the force kid, now go take a bribe from a half drunk gangster trucker.
“I want to know. I’m from Nola. My mother died last year. Cancro.” He was breathing quickly.
“Join the club, kid.”
We normally dumped the waste between Nola and my home town, Acerra. Under bridges, by the road, we didn’t care. Cancer rates had tripled. I’d started driving when we were trying for a baby, we needed the money. The gynaecologist had found the tumour. The Camorra, the police, myself, we were all complicit in the slow death of a generation on the lava plains of Vesuvius. More dignified to burn like the Romans.
His hand still wasn’t moving, and I could see tears in his eyes. I wished he’d arrest me. We’d both be dead long before I could testify, but I should have offed myself years ago anyway. At least I’d go with hope. He took the envelope.
“Per mama.” I spat on the ground at his feet.
His fist clenched, creasing the envelope. I’d never thought about what it looks like, the moment a cop goes bent. As he walked away I took the pistol and trained it on the back of his head. I pictured his skull exploding like a volcano. Maybe if he died something would be done. Ridiculous idea. I put the gun away and turned the ignition. Best he die slow with the rest of us.
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 22:31|
Inga: Investigator, Retriever, and Rogue For Hire
Djeser fucked around with this message at Jan 1, 2016 around 05:26
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 22:35|
|# ? May 23, 2019 19:53|
She had hired me to find him. I should’ve said no, but we had history, and old habits die hard. All she gave me to go off of was a blurry photograph, a grainy film. Now I was deep within the Pacific Northwest wilderness, the evening’s sounds dampened by the layer of snow.
I looked at the bright scarlet puddle of half frozen blood, at the carcass lying in it, at the large footprints leading away. He’d been here alright, and recently. I was getting closer. The thought of coming face to face with him both exhilarated and terrified me.
I jogged along the tracks for a while, my breath coming out in thin white clouds. The footprints were large and well-defined, easy to follow, so I let my mind wander. Thought about how much I’d like to be back in my office at that moment, warm and cozy, instead of the middle of nowhere. Thought about what I’d do if- when I found him. I patted the pistol in my pocket. I already knew.
I came upon a cave. I took my pistol out and held it in front of me as I advanced. Hoped he was asleep but as it turned out, the cave was empty. It still stank of him. I turned my back on it and stood in front of the entrance, looking around. No other tracks leading away from it. Should I wait?
I should’ve looked up. Too late, I heard a branch snap above me and then 600 pounds of muscle and hair took me to the ground. I managed to turn onto my back before he pinned me to the ground, my pistol pointing right between his eyes. He bared his teeth at me, his eyes glowing with hatred and a surprising intelligence. I pissed myself.
“What you want?” he growled.
“I gotta take you in, Big. You shouldn’t have mutilated that farmer’s cattle. You’re in hot water now.”
He smiled. At least, I think he smiled, he was hard to read. “You in hot water, not me.”
He prepared to take a swing at me. I tensed up and pulled the trigger, putting a tranquilizer dart right between his eyes. Think he was expecting a weaker dose.
I called her crew in to drag him out of the woods after that, couldn’t do it on my own. Of course, they took credit for the capture and she left me out to dry. I saw him on TV a lot, they paraded him around the world. Made me feel bad; he looked unhappy. He only guilty of killing some cows before, and free. Now he’d spend the rest of his life in captivity.
I looked at the inscription on my door. G. Henderson, Cryptozoologist. Zoologist, I thought. If Bigfoot’s an animal, what does that make me?
|# ? Feb 15, 2015 22:35|