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A Classy Ghost
Jul 21, 2003

this wine has a fantastic booquet
I'm in but I didn't read the prompt.


Aug 2, 2002




A Classy Ghost posted:

I'm in but I didn't read the prompt.

Busan, South Korea

Propaganda Machine
Jan 2, 2005


The city you assign me will be most unfortunate.

Aug 2, 2002




Propaganda Machine posted:

The city you assign me will be most unfortunate.

Perth, Australia

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

I knew I shoulda taken a left turn at ALBUQUERQUE

Mar 21, 2010
Not entering this week, but just so I don't forget, I'm :toxx:ing in my brawl with newt. Midday tomorrow NZ time.

Aug 2, 2002




In the distance, a kaiju barks.

:siren: Signups closed :siren:

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)
:siren: Week 169 Crits :siren:

This was an okay week. Nothing spectacularly bad or good. Mostly mediocrity and poorly-written endings.

newtestleper - Mile End
Very vignette-ish. I felt my time was wasted--he clearly knows the woman is bad news, yet he learns nothing. Horrible framing device that doesn't add anything to the story, either. Zoom in on your characters, or they'll be too distant for your readers to care.

brotherly - The Murder of Camper Lee
The subject matter is terribly cliched. You made no effort in making the reader root for anyone. This feels like someone had a bad day thanks to FPS campers and decided to write someone getting murdered. No redeeming value.

HopperUK - The Surly Bonds of Earth
This reminds me of a story I wrote. The difference is that this story was kind of good? I kind of resigned myself to watching these two characters die, but then they didn't. They were just rescued out of totally nowhere though, and that cheapens the ending. Maybe if you hinted at it earlier on, we would've forgiven you. And yet there's that alien thing which was never really expanded upon, so why leave it there? I like the ambiguity of the protagonist's feelings towards the date, though.

Jocoserious - Under the Day Moon
Too much telling here. It could've been a better tale if we got more inside Dreams' head. I think Dreams shouldn't be the main character, but Wielder, who's more competent and proactive. I thought the ambush was too obvious and Dreams finding the women by accident terribly convenient.

Thranguy - No Takebacks
The opening was a little too long. I wish this story was about whimsical space adventures instead. But they didn't tie in the main quest (so to speak) very well, only managing to off the best friend and make things awkward between the two remaining characters. The tonal shifts were also very jarring. I think this was trying to be a children's story, but I wouldn't let children touch it with a ten-foot pole, given the callous murder of one of the characters.

Sitting Here - Yielding Fruit
Trashy romance, also the woman was off-putting and creepy. Some lines made me go "ehhh", like that part where the fig guy likens someone's breasts to fruits.

Fumblemouse - Corridor 6
Didn't care for the guy at all (the cheating episode did not help at all, thank you very much), too much dull sci-fi exposition. And the ending was uhhhhhh? This was so dull that another judge had to remind me of the cheating subplot, because I forgot it right after I read the story.

Pham Nuwen - Host of Fancies
Okay, though quite predictable. I hated how it was the bard who lived, when he only had a couple few lines, and his first real act in the story was run away, which made him a jerk. I mean it was clear that you intended to write about the host at the cost of everything else, but the way the bard beat it was unconvincing and more than a little contrived. Ending's neat, though.

Grizzled Patriarch - If I Find Jack Nicholson Under the Ground
Vignette. A very pretty vignette. But still a vignette? We're used to your ways, GP, but I felt that this could've won if you gave it a proper conflict and an ending. Oh well.

Fuschia tude - Uniform
Everyone is insufferable. This is a marital drama where you question how the couple ever got married. Cindy is a complete nag, and I personally got a little pissed because Singapore is a really nice place? Where the hell did they come from? There really isn't anything to be gained from reading this.

Obliterati - Liberté, Egalité, Baiserité
The dialect keeps the story an arm's length from coherence. I didn't really understand why everyone was doing their thing--I mean the whores were protesting and the soldiers were maintaining a barricade and people knew each other from both sides, but what's the loving point?

crabrock - Piggie Steps
This was really fun. I loved the idea of Barrel Golem Man. The climax was a little underwhelming, but the ending made up for it, tying into the opening.

SurreptitiousMuffin - from atop a crown of stone
A sweet little vignette. Much better than the other two, but that's about it. Ends well, which can't be said for a lot of stories this week.

paranoid randroid - Satan Diversifies
Okay, I smiled at "Infernal Reserve", but this doesn't really bring anything new to the table outside its devilish trappings. The light tone kept me from hating the whiny protagonist too much.

Apr 29, 2007

Why would an ambulance be leaving the hospital?

Schneider Heim posted:

:siren: Week 169 Crits :siren:

Thanks chum

Oct 30, 2003

Schneider Heim posted:

newtestleper - Mile End

Thanks for the crit!

Mar 21, 2010
:siren: kiwibrawl! :siren:


through the harbour fog
the guts of Wellington
Glowed like a great morgue
where even the cops had gone.
- James K. Baxter, The Ballad of Grady’s Dream

Her arms are great and green -- decked in houses from berth to the fingertips of the bay. She is a queen crowned with stone and mortar. Her veins pump blacktop and gasoline. Her bed is cold and damp. She is beautiful. Not a classical beauty, but a handsome, regal beauty. Never a comfortable place, but things could always be worse. Things had been worse down south, though it was no fault of the land itself; from atop the hills of Highbury, Janet sat with a cigarette. The Wellington wind screamed through wooden houses.

James wasn't coming. It was no great loss. He almost never hit her, but he hadn't needed to; he did his damage with words, and with silence. He was down south somewhere now: probably Timaru. That's where his folks lived. He'd no doubt be giving them the sob-story about that ungrateful bitch. He'd be telling them that he almost never hit her. She was wayward- she spent her time with other men doing god-knows-what. She'd post a picture of herself online and they would comment on it like hounds around a bitch. Bitch- he'd liked that word. It meant she was being irrational and emotional. He was never irrational unless it was her fault.

She took another drag of her cigarette. Her phone buzzed in her pocket. Somebody was calling. The number was unrecognised, but she knew who it was. Come back baby please it'll never happen again I love you. She let it go to voicemail. The cigarette smoke drifted up, then was torn away by the wind. Her flat had no double-glazing, but it was the best she could get at short notice. She'd moved out in a great hurry- he went to visit some mates and by the time he got back, all her stuff was gone and she was halfway to Christchurch. Something smoldered in her chest the whole time. It was love; not the pretty love of magazines, but a physical blood-and-guts-and-bone experience. He loves you he said so so many times. Turn back turn back. If she turned back, the warmth in her chest would metastasise. She remembered the front page of the ODT from that day: chemical fire in Invercargill kills two. She left the paper in a roadside cafe in one of those old gold-mining towns that had seen better days.

The buzzing phone took her from her reverie. Not a call now. She opened the text. Its contents hit her like a fist. She already knew the words before she read them. I love you. Please come back. The cigarette burnt down to the filter, and she dropped it and stomped on the embers. Another buzz, another call. She let it go to voicemail.

500 words exactly

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

newtestleper posted:


Today is as Good a Day as Any, to Drown wtf is this comma doing newt do not make me frown with your title grammar just don't
500 words

There were no waves to speak of, but The rain gave the flood-water the dappled texture of reptile skin. nice line It lapped at the front fence as Stan trudged towards the shed. His little brick house sat on the apex of a lone hill, standing proud like the long red nipples on Eleanor’s perfect breasts. i'm all for hilariously jarring weird sex similes but this is a baby you should have exposed on the cold hillside like a spartan

Previously it had afforded a panorama of town, but now all was grey water punctuated by the odd rooftop. He exhaled hard through pursed lips, blowing out his cheeks like a frog. He was in a pickle, and there was no use denying it further. but he hasn't denied it yet so how can he deny it furthernewt He slammed the door shut behind him, bringing a deluge of rotted chunks of door-frame. this is a strong opening conceptually but you're really squandering it and making me grumpy with your flabby words and bad choice of phrases

Inside was nearly empty. this is really vivid, well done, it's like a movie for my mind Eleanor took everything while he was at work oh yes work, heh, it was probably a monday one day . She’d stowed it what? in another shed, one owned by some rear end in a top hat called Gerald. Gerald! Fucker even had a boat! good characterisation:gerald, fucker, has boat he is leaping off the pageThe remnants were in a pile in the corner. He guessed they stunk of mildew, but all smells were stifled by the chill breeze off the flood-water. whyyyy THE ROSE WOULD HAVE SMELT SWEET BUT I DIDN'T SMELL IT THE PUPPY WOULD HAVE BEEN CUTE BUT IT WAS IN A PITCH BLACK ROOM THE STORY WOULD HAVE BEEN ENTERTAINING BUT IT WAS BAD

He dug out a blow up paddling pool, half of a kayak paddle, and a pair of floaties from Amelia’s WHO THE HELL IS AMELIA swimming lessons. LOL IRONIC RIGHT Eleanor had stopped taking her when the tantrums had got too bad. He smiled with the barest corner of his mouth; guess she regretted that now. what so she drowned suck it blubbering daughter

There was a box too, well sealed with masking tape. He peeled it off into a ball the size of an orange, which stuck to one hand then the other until he shook it off with an inelegant argh noone is watching him don't describe his actions like someone is flapping motion.

Inside were a stack of department-store catalogues from when Eleanor modelled part-time. he flicked through the damp pages, and found one where she wore a sensible underwear set. He ripped it out and folded it into a little paper hat, which he balanced in his thinning hair. Eleanor’s face looked out from the middle like a skull and crossbones, with the leering smile of someone who knows exactly what they want. I'M FINDING IT VERY HARD TO CARE RIGHT NOW

When he dragged his gear i'm pictureing this as a giant WoW style gear like from gnomeregan btw outside he could hear the distant buzz of an outboard. Squinting, and could just make out the white hull of Gerald’s stupid boat plowing through the water, carving wide parabolas around jutting chimneys and weathervanes. Eleanor leaned out from the bow, her hand raised to shield her eyes; a histrionic gesture under the black sky. what does she want maybe she wants the story to be good she's a sympathetic character imo

poo poo. There wasn’t much time to get away from them. why does he want to get away from her, he's got no recognisable human emotions which is problematic given he's intended to be one afaict With one hand holding the hat to his head he threw the paddling pool into the deepening flood. He stepped in and it floated, for now. He pushed off with the paddle then thrashed at the water, throwing up spray and moving the makeshift vessel in a sad pov, who thinks it's sadlittle circle.

he typo heard her call his name. He stood up, fell, and stood again, floundering on thin PVC. As the speedboat neared he raised the paddle to the clouds, shook his fist and screamed.

He was Stan, pirate-king of the flood, and they would never take him alive. this is a pretty good last sentence, it feels embarassed to be in this story

yeah not a fan. on further reading I can perceive what you were aiming at with the nebbish at the end of the world flicking a v to the things that caused him pain, but really what actually happens?

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

:siren: kiwibrawl! :siren:


through the harbour fog
the guts of Wellington
Glowed like a great morgue
where even the cops had gone.
- James K. Baxter, The Ballad of Grady’s Dream

Her arms are great and green -- decked in houses from berth to the fingertips of the bay. She is a queen crowned with stone and mortar. Her veins pump blacktop and gasoline. Her bed is cold and damp. She is beautiful. Not a classical beauty, but a handsome, regal beauty. great opening Never a comfortable place, but things could always be worse. Things had been worse down south, though it was no fault of the land itself; from atop the hills of Highbury, Janet sat with a cigarette. The Wellington wind screamed through wooden houses. second bit is clunky, needs another edit pass

James wasn't coming. It was no great loss. He almost never hit her, but he hadn't needed to; he did his damage with words, and with silence. He was down south somewhere now: probably Timaru. That's where his folks lived. He'd no doubt be giving them the sob-story about that ungrateful bitch. He'd be telling them that he almost never hit her. She was wayward- she spent her time with other men doing god-knows-what. She'd post a picture of herself online and they would comment on it like hounds around a bitch. Bitch- he'd liked that word. It meant she was being irrational and emotional. He was never irrational unless it was her fault.

She took another drag of her cigarette. Her phone buzzed in her pocket. Somebody was calling. The number was unrecognised, but she knew who it was. Come back baby please it'll never happen again I love you. She let it go to voicemail. The cigarette smoke drifted up, then was torn away by the wind. Her flat had no double-glazing, but it was the best she could get at short notice. She'd moved out in a great hurry- he went to visit some mates and by the time he got back, all her stuff was gone and she was halfway to Christchurch. Something smoldered in her chest the whole time. It was love; not the pretty love of magazines, but a physical blood-and-guts-and-bone experience. He loves you he said so so many times. Turn back turn back. If she turned back, the warmth in her chest would metastasise. She remembered the front page of the ODT from that day: chemical fire in Invercargill kills two. aww yis She left the paper in a roadside cafe in one of those old gold-mining towns that had seen better days. this para kicks rear end

The buzzing phone took her from her reverie. Not a call now. She opened the text. Its contents hit her like a fist. you could find a better simile for this She already knew the words before she read them. I love you. Please come back. The cigarette burnt down to the filter, and she dropped it and stomped on the embers. Another buzz, another call. She let it go to voicemail. yeah, that's a nice piece - I think the wellington musing and the well-sketched dead relship are disjunct though - a really good story would make them rely on each other and be enriched by each other.

:siren:muffin wins:siren:

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Djeser posted:

:siren: MOJOMOUSE BRAWL :siren:

You're both good writers, so this what you get for your prompt:

Make me something out of that. Doesn't need to be a full story, but it's gotta be worth reading. 600 words, due in 5 days exactly (plus fifteen minutes for good measure), 4 AM Pacific Time, Nov 9th or for old man mojo 1 AM Kiwi Time, Nov 10th.

reminder that this is due in approx 23 hours

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)
:siren: Week 164 crits :siren:

Fairly average week, but the good stories stood out. There were some imaginative uses of the prompt, but a sizable amount used it in really bland ways (if your food put your protagonist in mortal danger, it's probably not good, because it's hard to add nuance to that).

Well, it was a challenging prompt anyway. If you feel stuck, then read all stories from one week, and see how different authors tackle the same prompt. Just read more, period.

Froglight - Objector in Red
Food: Russian pelmeni
Use in the story: Protagonist is forced to buy ingredients but risk being found out as a deserter, steps on a mine anyway
The characters dump exposition in clumsy, hamfisted dialogue. The woman is always shouting all the time. Try cutting out everything except dialogue and see how bad it is. That said, the idea isn't particularly bad, it's just the execution that ruins everything. The story just improves after they stop talking (except when Ivan starts spouting exposition off to himself that we already know).

Screaming Idiot - Unforeseen Consequences
Food: Sour green apple
Use in the story: Protagonist tinkers with the food, which brings divine wrath upon him
A retelling of the Garden of Eden. Is this advocating intelligent design? Hamfisted as hell. Missed a DM because we didn't feel like giving a whole lot of them, but I would've slapped a DM on this myself.

Bompacho - A true Christmas tale.
Food: Prawns
Use in the story: Protagonist gets banned from family Christmas lunch because of the food.
Fun, good, and used local color in a charming, authentic way. Felt like a true story, which is saying something.

Entenzahn - Blank Slate
Food: Pizza
Use in the story: Upon eating the food, the protagonist learns that he's a wizard. It's not really pleasant.
Good narrative voice, but the reset ending kinda killed my enjoyment. Heh, pizzard.

worlds_best_author - Duck Blood Soup
Food: Vietnamese blood soup
Use in the story: Protagonist causes his dad to be fired because he felt sorry ofr a bunch of ducks.
It's okay, a little preachy towards vegetarianism though. This one lacks oomph.

Guiness13 - Seekers
Food: Roast leg of mutton
Use in the story: The protagonists try to steal their sheep back from bandits.
Action. This isn't bad per se, but I think that the setting made for a dull, cookie-cutter interpretation of the prompt. There isn't anything special about the food getting the characters into a life-threatening situation because hey, food is scarce.

Thranguy - The Secret Menu
Food: Fish and chips
Use in the story: The food gets the protagonist caught up in spy shenanigans.
A fun action romp, if a bit too absurd. The other judges didn't like this as much as I did. It's thrilling, but that's about it. The characters didn't endear me or anything..

MaggieTheCat - The Singing Falafel
Food: Falafel
Use in the story: Protagonist has to make really good food to save his rear end.
Clumsy, could be a nice tale with better execution. Not bad for a first try, please keep trying!

ZeBourgeoisie - Oystermen
Food: Oysters
Use in the story: Most of the population became half-human, half-oyster beings!
This was a mess of tropes hastily put together without forming a coherent story. Things just happen just because, and the protagonist was extremely mopey and passive. This wasn't my choice for the loser but it's just ineptly-made. Don't just follow genre conventions blindly.

Broenheim - A Cake Rising in the Oven
Food: Cake
Use in the story: The protagonist's dad got killed for making food.
This wasn't bad, but I thought it was weird for the protagonist to be totally okay with how the leader guy put his dad to death, and follow in his footsteps. Is he going to be killed, too? I don't know, and I don't really care. Flour being super-valuable is an interesting idea, but I'm quite sick of post-apocalyptic scenarios at this point.

Ironic Twist - Taking Your Order
Food: Chicken burger
Use in the story: Protagonist uses the food as an excuse to strike up a conversation.
I enjoyed this one. I still can't decide if the story being entirely in dialogue was a good choice or not. However, I liked the ambiguity of the setting (I only getthat they couldn't lie), and they sort of forge a genuine human connection by the end.

Grizzled Patriarch - Chew
Food: Rice pilaf
Use in the story: Protagonist is buried in food.
DQ. If there's any consolation, I thought this was pretty okay.

Fumblemouse - Breaking the rules
Food: Japanese ramen
Use in the story: Protagonist almost gets his head smashed with a baseball bat by ordering the wrong type of food.
A rather competent tale of two foreigners in Japan. It's clumsy at times ("Ramen-ya shop" is redundant, and Jack has to culturesplain to Tom more than once), but speaking as someone who is 100% anime, this isn't bad. The ending is amusing, but overall the story lacks panache to rise above average.

Killer-of-Lawyers - Food Run
Food: Goat tongue
Use in the story: The protagonists get into a gunfight because someone thought it would be a good idea to procure food in enemy territory.
Dull. The whole premise is contrived just so we can have a chase scene, which didn't exactly rock my socks either.

Tyrannosaurus - Peacekeeper
Food: Banh mi
Use in the story: Protagonist gets fired for dining with criminals.
The gangster-talk was fun to read, and the protagonist was well-characterized in a short span of words. I really liked the ending scene.

Kaishai - In Porco Veritas
Food: Pig's head
Use in the story: The food is used as a prank on the protagonist, and it later haunts her dreams for years.
One of the more imaginative takes on the prompt. This didn't feel like a sub-1k-word story. Nothing much to say than I really liked it?

kurona_bright - Crunch
Food: Potato chips
Use in the story: The sound of the protagonist eating the food alerts someone to their presence.
Confusing, needed more context. Felt like a scene plucked out of a novel, in a bad way--it doesn't stand alone on its own.

Dr. Kloctopussy - Interview of Marja Grimsdottir, Tape One, Side B
Food: Hakarl
Use in the story: Protagonist's attempt at the food causes her horrible sister to have a miscarriage.
Quite clever to put the crime at the very end and make me think it was something else (like she murdered her sister). I'm a little torn at the framing device, though. It's well-written, but it takes the sting out of the ending. It's a convenient way to justify ending the story where it did, but I feel a little cheated about it.

Lily Catts fucked around with this message at 15:36 on Nov 8, 2015

Parkour Lewis
Apr 10, 2002

Yes I wanna play.
I really really do.
El Cuco

1347 words

We came to Guadalajara for the annual film festival. We both had vacation time built up, and Mary thought it would be a nice trip for the both of us. We'd been work friends for a long time, and this sounded like a great way for the two of us to have some time off. Some packing, a four-hour flight, and we were sitting in a theater watching some incomprehensible short film in Spanish that appeared to be about a group of caballeros building a covered wagon in the desert. It almost felt like a date, even though she'd never shown any interest in me, but I didn't want to make things awkward so I decided we should just enjoy the film before returning to our separate rooms back at the hotel. Once the film was over, we left the theater to find a street cab. I thought maybe we’d hang back for a bit and let the crowd thin before leaving. .

I heard a loud crashing sound, and when I looked behind me, the theater was nothing but rubble, with a giant… thing standing in the middle of it. I didn't know if it had come out of the theater somehow or landed on top of the building, but it was ninety feet tall if it was an inch, black and mostly shapeless, and seemed to almost have the form of some kind of animal I couldn't identify. Apparently it was really pissed off at something because it was thrashing around doing its damnedest to rip the building to pieces, sending bits of mortar and very artsy glass flying through the air to land all across the parking lot. I looked over to see Mary standing there in shock, not sure that I’d be strong enough to carry her away if I needed to.

The creature started to slowly walk through the rubble-strewn parking lot, trailing dust and bits of glass as it strolled through the crowd, grabbing up moviegoers in its mouth and jerkily swallowing them whole. Its almost wolf-like head looked around for victims with eyes that didn't exactly glow but had a deep, heavy contrast against the dark shadow of its body, a shade of purple that didn’t belong in this reality. As it searched around the lot, its eyes fell on me. It stared directly at me, cocking its head to one side as if it recognized me and wanted to kill me.

Mary finally came out of her stupor and spoke: “John?”


“I think we need to loving run. Like, now.”

I grabbed her arm and we took off down the street as fast as our feet could run, as the thing turned and came after us in pursuit. It tore through the crowd, ripping people in half as it stomped through them, making the ground shake a little as it ran and stopping to scoop up a mariachi singer into its mouth as a snack along the way. Down the street, Mary suddenly yanked me down an alley going between an office building and an old church that looked like it'd been built back in the 1800's, with ancient brick walls leading up to a large bell tower. It must have given up on us at that point, because it didn't seem to make any attempt at following us as we ran through the alley. Mary tapped my arm and pointed out a pickup truck with two men in the cab, hurriedly motioning for us to climb into the back, and we gladly accepted their charity. As the truck's engine roared to life and its tires began to spin on the street's surface, the sound was drowned out by a howl that could only be described as a demonic shriek caught somewhere between a panther's cry and a semi locking up its brakes. I'd never heard anything so horrifying in my life. And looking up, I saw that the big guy hadn't given up on us quite yet. It had jumped onto the roof of the church, with one taloned hand dug into the bell tower as it swung its head around and found us. It looked like it had gotten larger, and the truck bounced off the road a bit as it crashed to the ground and took chase, those dark, demon-tinted eyes locked on me as it ran.

Finally my voice worked again. “What in the name of gently caress is this thing?”

“El Cuco,” Mary replied. “I think it's called El Cuco, that's what they were screaming, the title of one of the films the theater was showing. An old legend about a creature that eats children when they disobey their parents.”

“That thing?! How many kids was it supposed to eat, every one in the whole drat village?!”

“It's not supposed to be that big. I don't know why it's that big, I don't know why.” She was panicking.

“I guess the children of Guadalajara were really goddamn naughty this year.”

I’d always had sort of a crush on Mary, but never told her. Now I wished that I had. She’d been at the company a few years longer than me, and showed me around when I first began working there. We’d flirted as a joke on occasion, but when we started going out to dinner and shows together things stayed strictly friends. She was fun to be around, and I never really had much of a problem with being “friendzoned”. Mary was the kind of good person that worried about other people, always checking in on people that called in sick, but nice enough not to say anything if she figured out they were just playing hooky. She remembered people’s birthdays, made cakes and threw parties. Me, I was an rear end in a top hat who barely spoke to anyone except to complain. I didn’t remember people’s names, much less birthdays, and I was stymied as to why she chose me as a friend, but she did. Mary deserved better than this, and as she shook uncontrollably in the bed of that pickup, I took her hand and tried to calm her. I didn’t know if I could be of any comfort, but at least I could be there.

As the truck entered a city park, the beast stood up on its hind legs. which appeared more human now. The head was larger, rounder, like a large black gourd. Those diabolical eyes continued to stare down at me while it pursued the truck, picking up speed and shaking the ground with each step. Mary screamed when it picked up some twisty art sculpture standing in the middle of a fountain and tossed the object at us like a spear, sending the truck rolling and Mary and I flying onto the grass of the park. As El Cuco approached, I heard the driver of the truck groaning, barely still alive. it plucked him from the cab, drew back one arm and threw him across the park causing his body to bounce off of a large statue of Minerva, leaving a stain of blood on her bosom.

The thing stared down at us with an angry expression on its face as it slowly approached. Mary was lying on the ground unconscious, and in my terror I couldn't decide whether to flee or grab her and try to drag her somewhere safe. When the nightmare stood towering directly over us, he bent down, picked Mary up off of the ground, lifted her above his head and popped her into his mouth like a candy from one of those food stands. El Cuco then put his gargantuan black head right in front of me, and said something in Spanish in a demonically comical voice. I don't speak the language so I couldn’t understand what it said, but the demon seemed to give me a scolding taunt before smiling, standing fully upright again, and turning to walk away. I couldn't do anything but watch as it began to disappear behind the city's buildings, until I finally found the courage to get up and run.

May 23, 2008


Jan 10, 2010

Welp, another section to add, ...


Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


The Perfect Man

Prompt: Kaiju in Agra, India

Words: 1493

"Waah! Raj, it is magnificent!" Priya's voice was breathless as she gazed upon the Taj Mahal, soft brown lips parted as she clung to her lover. Raj held her close and smiled down at her, a hand raising to caress her cheek.

"As a monument to a man's love for his wife should be," Raj murmured, holding young Priya closer still. "But I would prefer a love expressed in a manner that may be appreciated in life. Which reminds me..."

Raj trailed off with a playful smirk upon his lips, his hand thoughtfully stroking his mustache. Priya waited impatiently as Raj took his time to collect his thoughts.

"The Americans," Raj began, his tone airy, "have a phrase which, to me, has a certain... poetry, a certain gravitas I find most attractive. Let me see if I can do it justice."

Raj knelt before her, arms upraised, and grinned brightly, and in heavily accented English he said, "Hey baby, whaddya say me and you get hitched?"

Priya, not naturally conversant in English, paused as she took in the proposal. Then paused for a further moment as she realized it was, in fact, a proposal. She cried out and threw herself into Raj's open arms, weeping joyfully.

"Oh Raj, Raj...!" She buried her face in his neck. "I accept, I accept!"

Raj beamed and stroked his lover's back, but his look of joy faded to one of careful neutrality as he sensed the presence of the two men stepping to him from behind in measured strides. Priya looked up and gasped as she saw them.

"Go, my love," Raj whispered carefully into Priya's ear. "Get back to the hotel. I will meet you there later. Stop for no one. If I don't return to you by evening, call the number I told you. Deepak and Omar will get you home safely -- I trust them implicitly."

"I can't leave you-" Priya began, but Raj cut her off with a sharp hiss.

"Do not argue! You know my secret; I don't want you to come to harm for it." Raj softened his voice. "I will be fine. I promise you, my love."

Priya nodded, a lump in her throat. Without a further word, she ran, and Raj watched her with mixed relief and sorrow. He hoped he would not be proven a liar.

"Raj Gupta," said the first man in a dull monotone as he placed a heavy, firm hand on Raj's shoulder. "You are to come with us for questioning."

"Forgive me, I do not know of whom you speak," Raj said carefully, politely.

"You are Raj Gupta, named for your creator, Dr. Rajeev Gupta," said the second man, identical to the first in every detail. Raj got to his feet and faced the men, noting their unhealthy pallor and expressionless faces.

"Gentlemen, I am certain you are mistaken," Raj said warily, eyeing the gray men with their impeccable black suits. "I do not-"

"You will come with us, Raj Gupta, or this entire site will be razed, everyone within killed," the two men said as one.

Raj was not surprised, not really. But he was still angry. "You would end the lives of hundreds of innocents? Destroy one of the wonders of the world? All to catch one man?"

"No," they replied, again in perfect unison. "We would to get claim the perfect weapon, however."

"You are monsters." Raj's muscles tensed beneath his simple white outfit, dark eyes intense as they glared at the gray men.

"No. We are tools." The gray men tilted their heads at Raj. "As are you."

The sky darkened as a massive aircraft flew overhead, and it dropped its payload over the Taj Mahal's reflecting pool: a massive reinforced metal box that shuddered and bulged, as though whatever was inside was trying to break its way free. Raj gasped.

The crate exploded, shards of splintered steel raining across the landscape. A loathsome beast of twisted flesh and blackened metal stepped from the smoke, and it opened its razor-toothed maw to utter a shrill, unnatural roar of mindless rage.

The gray men smiled humorlessly. "The CIA's methods to fuse metal and flesh are not as... elegant as those used by your creator. But they are effective."

Raj watched in mounting horror as the beast turned to the Taj Mahal and screamed, blood-red streams of liquid fire scoring the pure white marble. Raj cried out and knocked the gray men aside and hurled himself toward the beast as fast as his legs would carry him -- and they carried him fast indeed.

"Stop! Stop, you monster!" Raj leapt high into the air and kicked onto the beasts back. "I beg of you, stop!"

The beast shrieked and whipped its reinforced tail into the ruined edifice of the Taj Mahal, razor claws scrabbling at its own back in a futile attempt to capture the tiny humanoid figure even as he ripped steel plates from its flesh with his bare hands.

"I cannot let you do this!" Raj roared, his voice no longer a gentle tenor -- it was deep and strong, a voice of command. "I demand you stop! I know what you are -- I know you can understand me!"

The beast opened its fanged maw and screamed another indiscriminate stream of biological napalm, and Raj clambered up its neck to shred the plates that protected its spine. Bare fingers burned as the beast's corrosive ate through Raj's skin to reveal carbon nanofiber muscle over titanium endostructures.

Raj gripped and tore at the delicate nerve-cable bundles in the clumsily wide gaps in the beasts spine, and the beast reflexively followed Raj's movements, guiding its spray of corrosive napalm-vomit away from the evacuating crowds.

"Why? Why must you do this?!" Raj screamed at the two impassive figures as they calmly walked toward the rampaging beast and its superhuman jockey.

"Even if we cannot claim you as an asset," one began with a tilt of his head.

"We cannot allow you to run free. You are a weapon, funded by a radical Islamic terror cell," the other continued, head tilted the opposite angle.

"To allow your freedom would ensure greater destruction. But you are cooperating nicely -- all we must do is show the beast's rampage, and the government will allow more decisive measures in hunting down your creators." The two men stated the last in unsettling unison. "Their experiments in bio-weaponry are well-known."

"Fools!" Raj snapped the nerve bundles, and the beast fell to the ground, shrieking and paralyzed. Organic napalm dribbled from its slackening gullet. "My father built me to spite them -- a machine in the image of man is haraam! I was created to deter them, to prove their wickedness! Rajeed Gupta died for building me -- and in turn I crushed that cell! I brought them down!"

"And now you wish to live in peace?" The gray men frowned.

"There is no peace for a weapon." The gray men smiled.

The gray men looked at one another, then turned back to Raj, who was industriously dismantling the beast with his bare hands. At this point, Raj's clothing had all but disintegrated, and his body was covered with deep sores from contact with the creature's blood. Bare metal showed over most of his form.

"Perhaps you are right," Raj husked quietly. He glared at the gray men and raised a trembling, damaged finger. "And I am now pointed at you."


"Omar," came the croaked question. "Is Priya well?"

The heavy-set man breathed a sigh of relief. "Praise god! Yes, Priya is with Deepak downstairs. She will be so happy to know-"

"Omar, listen to me." Raj's voice was hoarse, choked with tears. "I cannot put her in any more danger. She knows too much. Hide her, take her to America, they will not seek her there. And tell her I am dead."

Omar nearly dropped the phone in shock. "My friend, I cannot do that to her. She loves you, and you love her-"

"That is precisely why she must think me dead!" Raj wept openly as he spoke, and Omar wanted nothing more than to hold his friend, to try to change his mind, ease his pain. "I beg of you, give her the chance to live! Grant me peace of mind!"

Omar wiped his face, fighting his own tears. It was not shameful to weep, but he would have to be strong for young Priya. "Your father would be proud of you, my friend."

"No, Omar." Raj gave a weary sigh. "He wouldn't."


Raj hung up the payphone and turned around, wrapping his tattered kurta more tightly about his scarred body. He glared at the man-shaped machine-beasts that stalked toward him, gruesome forms reinforced with blackened steel, their maws dribbling with napalm.

"Forgive me, father," Raj murmured.

He threw himself at them.

Aug 20, 2014

The Shovel Warrior
WC: 1,480

“It’s early today,” Walnut said, looking out toward Ward 9.

“More aggressive, too.”

Wal watched orange-red explosions reflect off CherryC’s iris. Sometimes, the view from their Jobicile roof made him dizzy, and other times it made him want to jump. Now, it just made him tired.

“Who’s sponsoring this one?” he asked her.

“I’m not sure. I think somebody said it was a fashion brand. Maybe Dolce JCrew Gap Gabana?”

“Huh.” He watched the monster disappear behind a group of buildings before looking back at Cher. She was sitting on the edge of her folding chair, expression beatific as another building toppled in the distance. A rush of hot air billowed past followed by the smell of steel shavings.

Suddenly, Cher pointed. Wal barely spotted the five figures moving in formation across the sky, vapor trails swirling out behind their armored bodies in multicolored patterns. Camera drones buzzed all around them.

Concussive shwooms reverberated over the city. The bulk of the destruction was happening behind The GE Comcast Apple Building, which meant they had to watch the action on a nearby screen.

“Incredible,” Cher whispered.

Wal agreed, but didn’t say so out loud. Everyone thought the Warriors were amazing; it was hard not to, when every week they fought in the show for their Company’s honor and prestige. Many of them died, but many more of them were catapulted to fame and glory.

Ever since he was a kid, Wal wanted to be just like them. As he grew older, he realized that poor dickheads from Ward 32 ended up shoveling entrails, not creating them. He was born on the fringes of the city, on the shifting sands with the other poors, not on the clean, straight tarmac of the center people.

Ten minutes after the Warriors appeared, the monster was dead. Advertisements lit up the sky as drones zipped through the streets playing back the highlights and selling merchandise.

Cher stood up, shouldering her VaccuumPack. “Time to go.”

Wal grunted in response.


The stench in Eko Atlantic City wasn’t too bad. The day was hot, but the air pollution level was unusually high, and so the smog was masking the smell of rotting monster mass.

Wal dipped, slipped his Shovel down, and heaved a huge clotted mess of red and grey monster guts up into the air.

“Let her down!” Beef yelled. Wal dumped the contents of his Shovel into the back of Beef’s truck. “You make it look so easy, kid.”

Walnut shrugged and switched off his suit. “It’s the ShovelSuit. Not me.”

“Sure. Whatever.” Beef hit a switch and the truck began to grind the entrails into biopulp. Wal didn’t want to know what the Gov Men did with that stuff.

“By the way,” Beef called down, “you hear they’re adding extra shows next month?”

“How? We can’t keep cleaning and rebuilding all this poo poo.”

“They’re expanding the lotto and adding to the workforce. Fingers crossed for 26!”

Walnut powered his suit back on, but his heart wasn’t in the cleanup anymore. Across the street, CherryC sucked a huge clump of hair through her VacPack. Wal imagined what he would do with the money if his new home, Ward 17, ever won the DestroLotto and they got that sweet Gov credit for their displacement.

Better not to think about it, he figured. Wal started back up, scraping bits and pieces of the slain beast’s gore into Beef’s truck for grinding and repurposing.

As he worked, Walnut daydreamed. In his mind, the monster from earlier appeared. Fast, squat, and lizard-faced, it menaced the Ward, smashing buildings and breathing an acid fog. Only a year earlier, people favored ape-type monsters, but apparently now lizards were all the rage.

In his dream, Wal was wrapped in a power suit. The armor gleamed bright. He worked in perfect tandem with the other Warriors, zipping in and out, avoiding the monster’s reach but also the annoying camera drones. Once weakened, Wal zoomed in alone, driving home the killing blow.
He’d be a hero. A hero born from the sands of Ward 32.

Wal smiled to himself as he plopped another bit of monster goo into the truck.


“Got your stupid goggles?” Cher asked.

“Got them.”

They were lined up with everyone else, carrying only what was necessary for the next twenty-four hours. Up ahead, Gov Men were handing out credits, payment for everyone’s lost time. Afterward, they’d scan the building top to bottom to make sure nobody was left behind, but also to allow the rebuilders to replicate the place exactly. It would be like they never left.

“I still can’t believe this,” Cher said.

“I know. Who would have thought?”

“17, the center of an event! Amazing!”

Walnut couldn’t help but smile at her enthusiasm. “I know. It’s unreal.”

They were approaching the front of the line, and Wal knew that now was his chance. “Hey, Cher, I forgot something,” he said, stepping out of line.

She gave him a look. “What’s the matter?”

“Forgot my mask.”

“Go grab it, you dumbass. It’s choke-a-baby bad out there right now.”

“Sure, see you outside.” He waved as he moved back toward his cube.

The idea had come to him slowly and in pieces. The night after the DestroLotto results, Wal played a videogame that replicated the sensation of flying. The next night, he spent hours reading Warrior stats. The next day, he tested the limits of his ShovelSuit, picking up massive teeth and tossing them down the street.

When Wal got home that day, he knew what he needed to do.

Everything was in place and ready to go. He had planned for weeks, rehearsing his steps over and over. He tossed his ‘Suit into a pack and slung it over his shoulder, moving back toward the emergency staircase. Nobody would bother using the stars, since the Gov Men were giving out credits up near the elevators.

Walnut climbed, heading up toward the roof.


He got lucky.

The Gov Men were either lazy or incompetent, but either way they hadn’t bothered to scan the roof for people. Wal stretched out in his chair, his ShovelSuit halfway ready.

The entire Ward was empty, and had been for the past few hours. It was strange at first, being the only person in the whole area, but Wal started to like it.

He was above the world. He was powerful.

And then the cannons fired, signaling the start of the event. Wal finished putting on his suit, nerves spooling up.

Up ahead, near the ocean, he heard the groaning roar. Out from the water climbed a massive monster, half ape and half lizard, all hair and scales and teeth.

Wal knew it was his moment. He knew it was time. He turned on his suit, letting the gears and the steel augment his shape.

The monster began its trek, smashing as it went. It breathed fire from his nostrils, though that was more for show. Wal waved his arms and screamed, trying to get its attention. The camera drones spotted him immediately and began to buzz around his body.

The monster was doing a pretty good job. Wal wondered vaguely who was sponsoring. It was huge, easily bigger than his Jobicile, bigger than anything Wal had ever seen. He knew monsters were enormous, but he had only ever seen them on screens and from a distance.

Up close, it was terrifying.

“Don’t piss yourself,” Wal mumbled to himself.

The beast drew ever nearer. Wal backed up, giving himself a runway. He was shaking.

In the distance, he spotted something glittering in the sky. The Warriors were coming early, probably because of him.

They weren’t stealing his glory. Not Warrior Walnut’s, not today. With the strength of the ShovelSuit coursing through him, he began to run.

The monster was half a block away and gaining with each massive step. Its mouth hung open, its tongue a pulsating mass of red and blue veins. Wal’s Shovel aimed directly for its eyes.

He could feel its breath, the heavy stink, the shaking in his muscles, the fear spiking higher, and the heat from the monster’s flames.

Walnut hit the edge. He threw himself into the air.


“What the hell were you doing up there?”

Cher sat next to his hospital bed, hands folded. Wal turned his head and looked out the window. Across the street, projected twenty-stories high, was the replay of the day before. Wal saw his own face, contorted in fear, dropping through the air.

“And what were you saying?” Cher asked, following his gaze. “The drones didn’t get it.”

“Nothing,” Wal said.

Cher continued talking, but Wal spaced out. He still remembered those moments as he fell, the wind whipping up through his suit, the power lacing through his limbs, the roar of the monster, the scream of the crumbling building.

Jun 9, 2014

The Other Uprising
Warsaw, Poland
1,270 Words

"Öffne die Tür, Rabbi Klopot! Wir müssen mit dich sprechen!"

The elderly preacher slammed his book closed. The heavy tome, its ancient Hebrew only interpretable by a scholar, cast a cloud of dust around the dimly lit basement. The fists pounding at the door were becoming impatient. Rabbi Klopot looked at his creation, then to the stairs leading up, then back to his creation. It wasn't ready yet. He could not let them see it.

The visitors repeated their demand and began slamming the door, causing its hinges to shake. Klopot cleared the dust from his lungs and shuffled up the stairs. He left the light on, but locked the door. Passing through the dilapidated foyer of the flat, he reached the front door just as it seemed ready to burst open. He undid the bronze chain lock and steeled himself.

At the rabbi's door with grimaces that could kill, were two men. They wore matching uniforms, jet black with silver buttons and a crimson band on their left arms. Their blue eyes, blond hair, and angular jaws made them look eerily identical. Klopot adjusted his tiny frames and stuffed his fear away best he could.

"Guten Morgen, gentlemen! How can I help you?" he said, without an ounce of venom.

"We have received reports of...unusual noise coming from your flat, Rabbi. You know how we feel about disturbances, especially jüdische disturbances."

"I assure you, anything the neighbors might have heard was just the rambling of an old-"

Klopot was pushed aside before he could finish. The two officers strode into the room, not bothering to wipe their boots before stepping on the wood floor. The rabbi clenched his fist despite the pain in his joints. As shameful the housing in Warsaw was, it was his home, and he did not enjoy seeing them intrude.

"Regardless, we will take a look for ourselves," one of the officers said. Klopot said a prayer under his breath. It was already too late. He lacked the physical strength or the verbal tact to stop them. He would have to make it live unfinished and hope for the best. He placed himself at the door to the basement and unlocked it before they had the chance to say anything. He had to reach it first.

The three of them made their way down the creaky steps, peering through the darkness. Klopot started sweating. He had to grab the jewel from the desk and place it in its chest before they could arrest him.

"Why don't you make it easy for yourself rabbi, and just tell us what you're hiding."

"You're right, meine Freunde," As soon as Klopot's feet hit the cement floor, he attempted to dash forward. With his aged limbs however, it resulted in little more than a clumsy stumble. The officers had already drawn their Mausers, but were distracted by the great thing half hidden in shadow. Klopot had grabbed the jewel and slammed his palm into the thing's torso, falling to the ground in the process. He slammed his head on the concrete. He held onto his consciousness just long enough to see the two Nazis fire their guns in vain, only to be mashed into paste by the fists of the enormous clay golem.


"Wake up rabbi! Wake up!"

Klopot stirred from his sleep to find himself engulfed in light. The skinny arms of Uli, his adolescent neighbor, were shaking him back to reality. The basement had become an open hole in the ground. The flat had been reduced to a dirt trail, with massive footprints leading to downtown Warsaw. The next house over had been cleaved in half, with Uli's bedroom now open to the midday air.

In the distance, easily visible over the destroyed ghetto, the animated beast could be seen attacking the occupying force's installations. Gunfire rattled incessantly like corn kernels popping. Every few minutes, a mortar whined through the air, colliding with the golem with a blast, causing it to reel back for a moment, only to lurch forward and continue.

Uli's cheeks had gone red and puffy. Klopot held her and said in Hebrew that God would protect them. She pulled back and looked at him with a curious smile.

"I'm not sad rabbi," she said. "I'm happy that you've done this. We'll be free now. The time of our people has come!"

Klopot smiled wider than he had in years. The two of them stood up and began walking towards the destruction. The blood drying on Klopot's temple was not important. He wanted to see their guardian put an end to the German reign.


Kommander Ziegler barely got out a "scheisse" before being obliterated by the golem's foot. The grunts, who had long since run out of ammunition and were reduced to chucking grenades at the clay behemoth, ran around like ants as a flaming zeppelin came crashing down in the middle of the street. The golem had swatted it out of the sky like an insect. It moved like a glacier, silently wiping away everything in its path. Its objective was in sight, the German headquarters in the Warsaw parliament building.

The golem had not been completely unaffected by the Nazi's retaliation. Due to its imperfect nature, great sloughs of clay fell from its back and torso, crushing the fleeing soldiers. Its one-track mind didn't care about its own existence, only destroying its target.

Klopot and Uli were watching safely from a roof across town. As the clay defender inched closer to the capital, they saw a company of Panzers creep up the street behind it. Their treads ignored the rubble left in its wake. Their cannons were loaded. With the German war machine busy in France, only a few tanks could be spared to handle this "unexpected situation."

The Nazi major poked his helmeted head out from the safety of his armor like a gopher, and hollered to open fire. Like the fists of a god, giant shells were launched from the tanks' cannons into the back of the golem. It hunched over on impact, then turned to face the new threat. Additional fire. Reload. Fire again. Reload. Shell after shell plunged into the golem's body, forcing it backwards. Chunks of dirt plummeted to the ground like the dead flesh of a leper. In one final volley, a spherical hole was blasted in the side of the creature's head.

As though the strings of a marionette had been cut, the golem froze in place, losing its animation. The jewel buried inside had lost its power and the guardian ceased to fight back. Momentum however, remained. The explosive force of the tank shells was just enough to send the golem tumbling backwards...directly onto the parliament building. The ground shook with the violence of Armageddon. The building was annihilated under its weight. The Nazi leadership, who had foolishly cowered inside, were no more. As the old magic faded, the clay lost its cohesiveness and drifted apart as sand.

Over the cheers of the German soldiers, on the rooftop across town, Uli was crying. Old rabbi Klopot was on his knees praying. He did not cry like Uli. He knew his creation was imperfect from the beginning. If only he had been able to finish it. Then it truly would have been the hope of the Jewish people of Warsaw.

Klopot would remain on the rooftop praying until the men in black uniforms and red armbands came along and took him away. As they dragged him to the firing squad, he could only think, at least I took a bunch of you Schweine with me.

a new study bible!
Feb 1, 2009

A Philadelphia Legend
Fly Eagles Fly

Detroit, Neon City
1500 words

A groaning haunts the smokestacks, deep, bubbling in the belly of some unknown concrete fortress before woofing into the night air with a golden belch, lighting the two roadside faces like dirty stars. Detroit, neon city.

Kinsey cracks the window, shielding himself against the sulfuric vapors until the glow dies.

The man leans into the slit. “You our ride?” He asks.

They’re on the fringes of the Red Zone, where the waste processing facilities back into the ruined auto plants that speckle the city outskirts. Another mile away and Kinsey could have ignored the job altogether.

“Well,” the woman says from behind crooked and phosphorescently pink teeth, “you gonna unlock the door or what?” She’s got a fattened, split lip and an eye to match. She’s got a pretty face behind the years of abuse.

Junkies. Her man’s tongue, gums, and teeth glow an iridescent cyan, a compliment to his lady’s. For a moment, Kinsey considers peeling out and hauling rear end back to Orange Zone, back home.

He’d known casual DayGlo users in the past, even been one on special nights with enough friends and liquor, but the hazy neon bloom that surrounded you after popping a bar was fickle as fluorescent glass. Sometimes, the static buildup in your brain was too much to take, and, like a blown bulb, you’d just pop.

“Violet Zone requires an access deck to enter," Kinsey says.

“We don’t look rich enough to live in the city center?,” Cyan asks with a splatter of baby blue spittle. “I got my access deck right here. Proof.”

Cyan presses the cassette against the glass, but all Kinsey sees is the blood under his nails. He drags the plastic thing along the window as if he were etching his mark into the pane before slipping it through the crack. There’s a gun sloppily tucked into his waistband.

"Go on," Cyan continues, "pop that poo poo in."

Kinsey absolutely can not get car jacked right now; Lorenzo, his boss, would have his rear end if even he scratched the paint, or worse, took a few bullets. But losing the thing? poo poo.

Giving them the ride, Kinsey reasons, would be the prudent choice, so he slides the access deck into his dash. The cassette is still sticky with dried blood, but the white-on-black text of his flickering console jolts into a brilliant purple when it clicks in place.

Somewhere in the distance another facility starts humming, more exhaust fills the sky, and the landscape glimmers in lime green.

Kinsey lights a cigarette, and the doors unlock.


Magenta’s in the back, alternating between popping bars of her favorite pink and planting sloppy kisses along Cyan’s face. She’s the crazy type, just as liable to pull his piece and splatter his brains than she is to blow him against the backseat vinyl. The car is idling in the Violet Checkpoint, and Kinsey holds his breath while he waits to be scanned.

The purple-on-black text of the console dash flashes red and the car dies.


Magenta pulls herself from Cyans face, “told you that poo poo wouldn’t pass!”

“Just wait until I get inside and find Parrish’s,” Cyan says, “I knew he would try some poo poo like this.” He pulls his gun and places it to the back of Kinsey’s head. “Run the gates,” he commands.

Kinsey has his hand on his pocket snubnose, but the hulking security forces of the checkpoint surround the cab.

“Car’s dead,” Kinsey says, “and those gates aren’t opening.”

Instead the sky does.

A sound of devastation rolls in from the distance like crashing waves and the landscape explodes in a rainbow fury. A plume of prismatic dust and flame peaks over the skyline, then another, and another, until the sky rends against the light.

Kinsey, Cyan, and Magenta are running. The shockwaves sent the guards to the pavement when they sprang from the vehicle. Hundreds of neon comets race above their heads, hurdling above every borough and thoroughfare.

The three dodge debris hailstones as they sprint against the concrete wall, its the same wall that, as a teen, Kinsey used to lean against with friends, smoking cigarettes with his headphones on while wondering what life on the other side was like.

They run past some purple graffiti:


One of the comets flies overhead, buzzing erratically in its flightpath, and when it smashes into the wall, Kinsey and the two think it was a car sent rocketing in the explosion.

“A wasp?” Kinsey asks as they stand dwarfed by the gargantuan insect. The three fidget at the realization of a monster before their eyes. They fail to notice the heavy, pearlescent, blood rolling over their sneakers.

“It’s a bee,” Magenta says while running her fingers through the fur along the beast’s body, stirring up a cloud of indigo pollen and leaving her hand dusted in the stuff. “Only bees are fuzzy.”

The creature begins to twitch, and deep within its thorax, the sound of pistons firing starts again.

“Whatever it is,” Cyan says, “it’s about to be dead as poo poo.” He unloads six shots into the creature, and it finally relaxes into an uneasy stillness.

There’s a hole in the wall from the impact, and Kinsey looks through before slapping Cyan on the shoulder. “You know someone in there?” he asks.

Cyan nods.


Another giant insect hovers above the district with a droning so loud and purposeful that it seems to vibrate the bones of the fleeing citizens in the streets. Stepping from the passthrough, Kinsey surveys the surroundings while the two junkies bicker. Down the street a man is speared on a monster’s stinger while the creature feeds on its spread innards.

“Where’d Parrish say he stays?” Magenta asks.

“Ah, poo poo, down in the center shopping area I think,” Cyan says.

“What do you mean you think?” Magenta asks.

Kinsey eyes the grotesque creature, only half listening. “Sounds like Brighton Square,” he says.

Cyan unrolls a bar of nuclear blue and beings chomping wildly on it. Magenta picks up the receiver of a ruined payphone and slams it against Cyan’s head with a thud. “You want to call him?” she asks as the cord swings wildly. Cyan clenches his gun and Kinsey palms his, waiting for the moment. The creature still feeds down the road, and Kinsey is lost in the spectacle of it all.

Magenta grabs him and shakes away the stupor, leaving a bright indigo stain against his white uniform. Noticing the dust in her palm, Magenta brushes it onto the seat of her pants.
“It was definitely Brighton,” Cyan says with a rub of his black beard stubble.

“Then we’re going this way,” Kinsey says.

Minutes later, after hiding and ducking at the sound of the oncoming buzzers, the three approach Brighton Square. Its rainbow phantasma of billboards and giant screens pours into the narrow alley, soaking the asphalt in a strobing spectrum.

“Parrish said he lives over a liquor billboard,” Cyan announces.

The group only has a moment to take in the landscape before the power goes, but it’s enough. The ear rocking buzzing beats on their heads, and they stop at the precipice of the open space. There’s a stinger flying just above.

“When it passes, we run,” Magenta says.

And they’re off. The three are running in the dark, gasping for air in desperate gulps. Kinsey’s in front; his lungs aren’t as crystalline as the other two, but as he leaps a fallen streetlamp, his weapon falls out. He skids to a halt, and picks it up.

The other two are behind, but Kinsey sees them gaining when he stops for the pistol. “Down!” he shouts as buzzers fly interception routes against their paths.

Cyan can’t hear over the huffing. Lactic acid on the muscles of his thighs and midsection burn, but then, suddenly, they don’t. The venom of the stinger that has impaled him is numbing his body. Then he’s flying.

Magenta stops to scream and watch her man float off into the haze as they both had done together so many times. The other insects fly past the shocked pink woman. She’s crying, and not running, and that’s a problem, so Kinsey grabs her hand, still sticky with blue dust.

The smoke in the air is thick and suffocating, so they duck into the first building they come to without bothering to notice if it is the correct one. It’s safe, or seems safe, and that’s correct enough. Magenta and Kinsey head upstairs. She picks a door and knocks.

Magenta puts her thumb over the peephole.

“Harvey?” a woman asks from the other side.

Magenta stares sidelong at Kinsey.

“Harvey?” she asks again.

“Don’t open it,” a young man’s voice, angry and confused, says from behind the wood.

Kinsey tries to restrain himself, but a grunt, guttural and animalistic, like a man dying, escapes his lips. He acts on instincts.

The sound of a deadbolt turning.

The sound of gunshots in the night.

Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.
The Fall of Palembang 1,482 words

Wilson stepped out into the thick, searing air with his cell pressed to his ear. His shirt soaked through within two steps, dark skin showing through the white fabric. Amir had the silver sedan parked at the curb and was standing at the back door with a tight smile. He opened it as Wilson approached, and Wilson slipped inside.

“Anyway, we’re all set here. I’ll be across the river and at the hotel in twenty minutes.” He checked his watch. “What time is the flight tomorrow?”

Amir settled into the driver’s seat and pulled out, heading for the street.

“Six a.m.” Elizabeth said. “If you hurry, we’ll have time for a private dinner. Alicia’s still out with Ramone. She wanted to see the Monpera before we left.”

“That sounds like a plan, love. I’ll see you soon.” He hung up and settled back into the seat, staring out at the looming glass structure for the last time.

A siren blared out, loud even in the insulated car. Within moments, a steady stream of traffic poured south along the main thoroughfare. Amir flicked on the radio. A lone voice filled the car, completely unintelligible to Wilson. Amir braked hard and stared at the radio with wide eyes.

“Mr. Landreau, we need to go south.”

Wilson shook his head. “No, Amir. My wife and daughter are on the other side of the river. We’re going north.”

Amir spun in his seat and stared back at Wilson. “The government is calling for evacuation to Kujuagung for everyone south of the Musi river. Something is coming.”

Wilson leaned forward and jabbed a finger at the radio. “I don’t care what they’re saying Amir. You can either drive north or get out and let me.”

Amir sat there for a moment, looked north, then slammed the car into park and got out.

“poo poo!” Wilson clambered out of the back seat and threw himself behind the wheel. By the time he reached the Ampera Bridge, he was crawling along on the sidewalk. Pedestrians streamed by on either side, parting in front of him. Men slapped his windows, speaking in rapid Musi and pointing back south, but he just revved his engine and kept on.

The bridge was jammed solid. A banner hung flapping down over the road from the first of the two vertical supports. Wilson gunned through a gap in traffic and onto the bridge. He parked behind the line of cars and climbed out, running north. Horns blared, two men were leaning out of their car windows and screaming at each other. Then a huge, bass roar filled the air.

Wilson clamped his hands over his ears and turned. A huge shape rushed toward the bridge from the east. It moved like a bear, heavy and muscular, but it was covered in mottled grey scales like a crocodile. It must have been a mile away but it covered incredible spans with each step. He had time to turn and take two steps toward the south bank when the bridge lurched. Screams filled the air and a wave of people crashed into him. He staggered and grabbed at the rail. The creature tore into the bridge and the vertical support bowed out over the road. There was a loud crack, and it fell. Wilson leapt over the side.


He washed up on the south bank half a mile downstream and pulled himself onto the grimey shore. Wilson could see the ruin of the bridge to his west as he lay on the mud gasping for breath. The north shore burned. The creature had roamed into the city, leaving a trail of collapsed huts and shattered red-tile roofs. He watched as it lunged, dipping its head to the ground and flinging a bus hundreds of feet in the air. It crouched on its haunches, watching the bus cartwheel, before batting it down as it descended.

“Oh, Christ, Alicia!” Wilson hauled himself to his feet. The Monpera was just north of the bridge.

Wilson tore his eyes from the north bank of the Musi and spun. Boats littered the mud, and fifty feet away, a bent, weathered man, bare-foot and wearing a sweat stained shirt, was pulling one up to a post. The paint of the boat had been blue once, but peeled away, exposing the graying wood of the hull. Wilson rushed over.

“Sir!” He grabbed the man, spun him around. “Sir, I need you to take me across the river!” He pointed at the boat and then the north shore.

The man followed Wilson’s hand from the boat to the far bank and twisted out of his grip. He shook his head and let out a barrage of words, jabbing his finger south repeatedly.

“Please, at least let me take your boat!” Wilson pointed to the boat and then to himself. The man hesitated, glanced north, shook his head. He turned and limped toward the road.

Wilson watched him go, shoulders slumped. When the man was gone, he untied the rope, shoved the boat into the water, and climbed in. The engine was bolted onto the back panel, and Wilson grabbed the rip-cord and yanked. It sputtered and died. He yanked again. Again. Again.


“Come on!” Wilson jerked his head left and right, searching for a paddle, anything. He heard a splash, and the old man hauled himself into the boat. He glared at Wilson, but crouched next to the motor, fiddled with it, and yanked the cord. It roared to life. He turned and pointed on the warped bench toward the front of the boat, then he sat and guided them across.


The man stopped long enough for Wilson to hop out twenty feet out from the north bank, then turned and raced back south. Wilson waved thanks, but the man never looked back.

Hundreds of people crowded the riverfront, and Wilson forced his way north up the shallow bank. The crowd pressed against him, streaming to the river. Over their heads, he saw the beast clutching a shattered minaret in its jaw. A man dangled from the parapet for a moment, then plunged to the ground.

An explosion rocked Wilson off his feet and the air burst from his lungs. A foot crushed his hand, a knee caught him in the ribs. When he stumbled to his feet, he saw bright flashes of light over the red-tiled roofs to the north. The thing bellowed, and Wilson clamped his hands over his ears.

At the first intersection he froze. To the east, he could see the hotel towering above the surrounding one-story structures. The creature was moving east, backing away from the torrent of firepower that streaked up at it. To the west, the waterfront by the bridge burned.

Wilson drove his hands deep into the thick curls of his hair. He turned left, then right, then back.

“Damnit!” He dropped to a crouch and pounded his fist on the sidewalk. With a last glance at the hotel, he rose and ran west.

Black smoke billowed into the air ahead and hung low in the humidity.


The plaza at the foot of the bridge was a burning ruin. Blackened bodies sprawled in the street by the dozen. Wilson darted among them, looking at the ruined faces one-by-one. The wrought-iron gate around the Menpora lay crumpled in the street.

He climbed over the destroyed fence. Huge cement walls, blackened with soot, jutted out like an upside-down pyramid with a giant eagle emblazoned on the front. There was no door. Wilson raced across the stonework. Around the first corner, right on the angle, the walls turned inward, forming a narrow gap. A clump of people sat huddled on the ground. One of them shot to their feet.

“Daddy?” Ash covered Alicia from head to toe, turning her skin a sickly gray. She lurched toward him, and he ran to her, swept her into his arms, both of them shaking with sobs.

“Are you ok?” he said when he could catch his breath.

“Yes, but Ramone...” Her voice hitched and fresh tears spilled down her cheeks. Wilson pulled her tight.

“Don’t, sweetheart. It’ll be ok. Shhh.” He patted her back and whispered to her until the tears passed. Then the creature screamed and he turned and saw it plow into the only tall structure he could see.

The hotel.

The building crumbled and the thing fell on top of it. A plume of gray dust swirled up from the ruin. Something whistled through the air, and a gout of fire and debris sprang from the dust cloud. Wilson could just hear his daughter’s screams over the roar of the explosion.

The creature lay still. Flames danced over its body and the shattered building, sending smoke pouring into the sky. Wilson clutched Alicia to his chest.

“It’ll be alright,” he said in a dull monotone. “It’ll be alright.”

Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.

I will do a dramatic reading of one story. I haven't been able to participate in TD lately, and I want to add to the poo poo produced by people here.

a new study bible!
Feb 1, 2009

A Philadelphia Legend
Fly Eagles Fly

Mercedes posted:

I will do a dramatic reading of one story. I haven't been able to participate in TD lately, and I want to add to the poo poo produced by people here.

Who's writing about a giant dickmonster?

Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.

WeLandedOnTheMoon! posted:

Who's writing about a giant dickmonster?

Fuckit, I've still got three hours right, let me just throw this one out

Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.

Obliterati posted:

Fuckit, I've still got three hours right, let me just throw this one out

You write about a dickmonster and I will read the ever living poo poo out of that story for you.

Feb 25, 2014
1053 words

Deadwood, South Dakota

The Last Death in Deadwood

flerp fucked around with this message at 03:47 on Dec 29, 2015

Apr 21, 2010


Or at least use Retrograde Mini's to make cool mechs and fantasy stuff.

Slippery Tilde
A Childhood Monstrosity.

Wordcount: 1,367

*snip* Google docs.

Thyrork fucked around with this message at 20:53 on Jan 2, 2016

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
The Fish and the Barrel
1495 words

At first it was a really big cloud. Really big and really fast.

Then Robert looked up from the shadow.

There was a giant thing past the treetops, past the end of the river and the Shoreline Highway bridge at its bay. Way out at sea it towered over Fort Bragg, their tiny coastal town. Its colorful silhouette was halfway between that of a blob and a giant. It moved slowly, lumbering like a walking mountain, yet its edges were shifting, moving, thick hair dangling off all across its body. It blocked the sun, but not completely. Dim light shone through, glistening blue and purple and green and rust-brown.

After a long day of ferrying tourists back and forth between the town and its glass beach, Robert didn’t trust his eyes anymore. But no matter how often he blinked, it was still there. He absently closed the lock on his boat's chest and got to his feet. The monster moved one of its arms in a sweeping motion and a glob of something detached, a pebble, leaving glitter in its wake like a shooting star, coming closer and closer, growing to the size of a meteor until--

“gently caress!”

Robert went to the ground. The boulder soared past him and slammed into the coastline further down the river like a tiny earthquake.

Some of the neighboring fisher houses were gone, replaced by dust and splinters. Robert dragged himself back up along the railing. His hands slid off the blood-soaked steel. He was cut all over, hands, arms, face. Only then did he notice the glass shards that littered his boat, along with other trash, tin scraps and dead crabs and fish, drawing a sparkling line back towards the ocean along the rock’s flight path. An echo filled the air, like the wind whispering, “Guilty. Dirty. Guilt. Dirt.”

Other people had come out their riverside huts. They were all shell-shocked, just staring at the monster, then at the wreckage, then back at the monster, not sure how to react. But then, what do you do when something like that wakes up in your backyard?

The monster threw another, much larger rock. It disappeared to the side, behind the treeline. Headed straight for town. Somewhere behind the trees, an explosion happened. Faraway sirens flared up.

The town.

Beth worked the evening shift at the coastal diner.

Robert’s phone almost slid out his hands. It only rang once.

“Dad, what the gently caress is going on?”

“I don’t know.” He dashed off his boat, off the pier, ran for the hill across the road. The monster started to move towards the beach.

“It’s coming!”

“Listen, Beth, can you go inland?”

“I’m scared, dad.”

He reached the top of the hill, and the monster roared. Its roar carried the voice with it again, “Dirty. Guilty. DIRTY. GUILTY.” The words bounced around inside Robert's head, reverberated until he wasn’t sure anymore if he still heard, or just remembered them.

The monster raised its arms.

“Beth,” Robert said. “Get to high ground.”

More sirens flared up, police and ambulances and coastal warning systems mixing into an orchestra of alarm. Down on the beach, tiny figures ran inland, up the shallow hill, some towards the town and some towards the bridge, the top of the hill, where Robert was. He tried to make out Beth’s diner uniform among the crowd.

“Dad…” Her voice drowned in the noise.

The monster slammed its many fists into the sea. A tsunami rippled out in front of it.

“Beth! Run!”

The wave hit the beach like a liquid bulldozer. Everything and everyone disappeared beneath. The call dropped.

All that was left was the signal: the continuous beep of a cut connection. Nothing but that beep, despite the sirens and the monster and the thunder of passing rocks, nothing but that signal reached through to him. He didn’t move. The water receded from the beach, dragging the destruction along with it. Some bodies were left behind. Most of them had followed the current into the ocean.

He dropped his phone and ran.

His boat was still at the pier. His house wasn’t. The few people still left ran past him up the hill, or further inland, just anywhere safe. He swam out and heaved himself onto his boat. Checked the chest by the wheel. His gun was still there. He turned the key and the engine went live.

He blasted through the river, glass shards and rust raining on him from above as boulders pounded Fort Bragg, shattered the harbor behind him. At the mouth of the river, he turned towards the beach. A second, smaller wave slammed into his boat, almost tossed him off. The giant was on the move again, disturbing the water with every step. Robert held on for dear life. He searched up and down the coast. No sign of Beth. He circled. Further out. Behind him, the town was on fire – something had blown up the gas station. Half the buildings weren’t even there anymore. It didn’t matter. Beth had to be here somewhere. His fingers buried into the steering wheel. Another wave doused him in saltwater, burning like napalm in his wounds.

The bodies were further out. He went from one to the next. A lady in a flower dress, face forever locked in her final gasp for air. A young man in a suit, head turned at an odd angle from the impact. There were wifes. There were husbands. There were sons and daughters.


Her red hair shone like a beacon in the sea. She still wore her uniform. Robert jumped off the boat. He turned her body face-up. Her eyes were closed. Serene. Not smiling. Not crying. Just gone. The way dead was supposed to look.

She hadn’t drowned, at least.

He heaved her back onto his boat. Revival was pointless. He tried anyway. Of course, she didn’t move.

“Beth…” he said. His hand slid across her cheek.

The monster was so close that its roar almost toppled the boat.

He saw the giant clearly now: a glittering patchwork golem, green and white and brown glass held together by barnacles, and seaweed and other life growing on top of it, tiny creatures moving from nest to nest. Fishing nets swung loosely from its overgrowth, tin cans and plastic cups and other trash dangling freely.

Robert tore his boat around, going right at the monster. The waves got worse, but that didn’t matter anymore. He aimed his pistol, and shot. Tiny specks of glass chipped off where the bullets hit their target.

The waves stopped, and so did the monster.

“What?” Robert yelled. “What are you waiting for you piece of poo poo.” He fired another shot. The thing turned towards him as much as something without much of a frontside could. It reached for him with one of its giant hands. He emptied his magazine into it, but all that happened was that the glass rain cut him even more.

The monster picked him up like a doll, held him in front of what might have been one of its faces, a tiny bullseye overgrown with weed and dead sea creatures.

“gently caress you,” Robert said. He aimed his gun at the bullseye, but it only clicked, limp and useless. He pulled the trigger again anyway, and again, and then he threw the gun for good measure. It bounced off the bullseye with a pathetic blink. He roared, screamed his heart out, and then he slumped in the monster’s grip, defeated.

“Why? Why did you do this?” he finally said.

“Dirt.” The monster raised another hand. Trash dangled from it. Trash and decay. Dead fish. A turtle, trapped inside a six-pack of plastic rings. “Guilt.”

“I didn’t do this,” he said. “I never did anything to you. None of us did.”

And then there was a hush, and calm. As if the clouds had stopped moving and the world had stopped turning and the sun had stopped shining, and it was okay. And for a brief moment, nothing mattered anymore. Like the stillness of the sea, he just was. Alive.

“Loss,” the voice said.

Dangling in the monster’s grip, he turned towards the glass beach. Or, where it had been. But the glass was gone, and the colors had went out of the place. It was just another spot of water.

The sirens in the background burrowed themselves back into Robert’s consciousness. The monster regaled him for another moment. Then it let him back down, into his boat, and carefully brushed him aside as if it were pushing a child out of its way. The waves swelled back up, rocking the boat, but not as fiercely now, and the monster was on the move again, and all Robert could do was cry, and rock back and forth, and hold Beth tight to his chest as the monster disappeared towards the horizon, and his cries mixed with those of a dying town.

Jul 18, 2011

You Are Alive
1,498 Words
Dikson, Russia

(In the archive)

docbeard fucked around with this message at 15:47 on Dec 28, 2015

Profane Accessory
Feb 23, 2012

Profane Accessory fucked around with this message at 19:37 on Dec 30, 2015

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
1500 F U crabrocks
Valletta, Malta

The skyscraper-sized salamander didn’t interrupt Stella and Clarkia’s dream vacation because they weren’t having a dream vacation. Stella was way deep in the Twitter campaign for the kickoff of Valletta’s 2018 Capital of Culture festivities. Clarkia got to tag along, but with Stella preoccupied with tweets and emails, it was like seeing the sights with one eye closed.

They were in the long, narrow gash of Straight Street, which ran through the heart of Valletta like a stony artery lined with high end shops and bars. At that moment, it was clotted with people, and Stella raised her phone high overhead to get a picture of the crowds.

“You should visit Straight Street sometime,” Clarkia said. She was leaning against a wall while Stella stood in the middle of the walkway like a boulder in a rushing river. “I think you’d love it.”

Stella looked away from her phone screen for the first time in basically forever. “What? But that’s where we...right.” She pocketed her phone with a reluctant expression and went to lean against the wall beside Clarkia. “I’m sorry babe, it’s just, you know how it is. My parents are watching the Twitter feed. They expect me to work.”

Stella was part Maltese by heritage and knew a smattering of the language. Her parents had sent her and, reluctantly, her girlfriend, Clarkia, on an all-expenses paid trip to volunteer at the cultural celebrations in Malta’s tiny capital city. They’d poured over pictures of old cathedrals, ancient temples, and beautiful Mediterranean gardens.

“It’s going to be like a disgustingly cute travel pamphlet,” Clarkia had said dreamily before they left. “Two lovely lady lovers, a backdrop of elegant history.” She’d sighed.

And Stella had said, “they call it ‘the city built by gentlemen, for gentlemen,’ you know.”

While Stella and Clarkia had a quiet argument on Valletta’s busiest street, a monster was waking up. This wasn’t a super unusual thing on Malta; Stella had read in her travel packet that the occasional primordial god would crawl out from under one of the ancient temples that dotted the islands and do a bit of marauding. The largest of them had been spotted in 1987; twenty-footer with a newt’s body and a man’s head. It’d knocked over a few stoplights and defaced a few old buildings. Then it had found a McDonalds and guzzled cola and burgers until it just kind of fizzled out of existence.

The salamander appeared in a bloody slurry on the stone of some ruined temple in a nearby suburb. Its summoners had long since fled. The remains of their sacrifice was a smear of viscera on the floor. The salamander swelled to cruise ship size, and its face was flat and skull-like, covered in hundreds of gashes full of teeth. They’d promised it fat, slow, week blood; it turned its head toward the bay, toward Valletta, and breathed deep.

Everyone on Straight Street and beyond heard the roar. Stella and Clarkia pressed themselves up against the wall they’d been leaning on. Tourists fought against the conflicting currents of each other; some shoved south, toward the harbor, to see the creature that sounded like something out of Godzilla. The pleasant murmur of shoppers swelled into sounds of panic.

“Which way?” Clarkia asked, looking up and down the packed alleyway. Some people had managed to clamber onto fire escape ladders and were swarming the tops of buildings.

The faces around Stella all seemed bovine and idiotic, now that she wasn’t seeing them through her camera app, their cheeks flushed and their eyes lolling in their heads. They weren’t so much people as they were like a living wall. “It’s gonna be gridlock leaving the city,” she said to Clarkia. “All these people--the roads being closed--”

“We go to the docks, away from the harbor. We’ll row out of here, if it comes to that,” Clarkia said firmly, grabbing Stella by the shoulders and turning her so they were face to face.

“Valletta is famous for its walls,” some passerby said.

“gently caress, my phone is dead. You better Facebook this poo poo.”

I’ll row us out of here,” Clarkia repeated, softer. Stella looked into Clarkia’s eyes and nodded. They headed due northeast, and the crowds thinned out considerably. Boats were already backing away from their moorings, and there wasn’t so much as an inflatable inner tube left in the marina.

“Cla-a-arks,” Stella groaned, and pointed back toward the city’s interior. The salamander towered over the city on two legs, so huge it was impossible not to see. Wisps of black smoke curled up from its skin, and the mouths on its flat face made gnashing, sucking motions. It stepped over Valletta’s ancient walls, and the sound of falling buildings and screaming people was so loud it was impossible not to hear. The salamander waded through the cloistered walnut of a city, and blood and dust filled the air along with the infernal smoke from its skin.

Stella raised her phone, opened her camera app almost involuntarily. Clarkia slapped the phone out of her hands. It clattered across the walkway. “You think this thing hasn’t been Facebooked and Tweeted a billion times over already? You think your picture is going to somehow be special? Focus, Stella.”

The salamander had ripped off a hunk of cathedral like it was bread. Bits of chapel and the people who’d tried to shelter inside of fell from a great height as the giant gnawed first on the outer stonework, then the fancy gold-leaf filling.

Stella and Clarkia weren’t the only people who’d made for the docks. Stella saw a group of Americans stop and raise their phones toward the monster, almost in resignation. There was a chorus of digitized clicks from their camera apps, and a fresh gout of smoke billowed from the salamander’s skin. It shrieked like a collapsing steel mill and dropped the cathedral spire to swat at the new smoking hole in its flesh.

Stella ducked around Clarkia, snatched her phone from the ground, and ran for the group of tourists.

“Do that again,” she said. “All of you. Pictures. At the same time.”

“I’m tweeting this to my f-family,” one of the Americans said, her voice thick and stuttery. “So they know what--what happened to me.”

“Stella, what the hell?” Clarkia had caught up.

“I know I’m right about this,” Stella said. “Clarks, get out your phone too. Our pictures--or our Tweets, or something--I think they hurt it.” It made a loose kind of sense. The monster of '87 had gorged itself on convenience, while its larger counterpart burned under the unblinking eye of social media. She just needed to coordinate all the little eyes throughout the city.

“I’m sending out a tweet on the Valletta2018 Twitter. Hashtag Salamonster,” Stella said, thumbs furiously flying over her phone’s touchscreen. “If we can get everyone to photograph-slash-tweet this thing at the same time...I know I’m right.”

Clarkia made a show of looking around one last time for some sort of escape vehicle. The Salamander had finished chewing on the cathedral and had started on a nearby theater. It was as if the whole city had started screaming and couldn’t stop, not even to breathe.

“Look, look, I’m getting retweets already,” Stella said. The American tourists had gathered around her like lost school children. Clarkia frowned, but had her phone in hand.

“Ninety seconds,” Stella said. She looked at Clarkia. “I swear, if this works, we will spend the rest of this trip phone-free, babe.”

“I'm not the one you need to bargain with,” Clarkia said. She checked her own Twitter feed, then closed the app in disgust. Over the course of five minutes, the world had gone into an orgiastic state of speculation about the monster. But here and there, she saw Stella’s Salamonster hashtag. It would have to be enough.

With ten seconds remaining, Stella, Clarkia, and the Americans raised their phones in unison. Stella reached out and twined her fingers with Clarkia's.

“Four...Three...Two...One…” Click.

It didn’t happen in one fell swoop. A huge plume of smoke erupted from the Salamander’s skin, then another. And another. Waves of tweets went up from the half-ruined city, from nearby Paola and beyond. Within twenty seconds, the salamander was keening and clawing at itself, its skin sloughing off in giant, smoldering flakes.

It went down screeching, sprawled out over the labyrinth of walls and the churches and shops they protected, just as the UN helicopters swooped to douse the thing with tanks of scalding latte.

Clarkia laughed and threw her arms around Stella as iron-scented ash rained down on them. “A city by gentlemen, for gentlemen, saved by a gentlewoman,” she said.

Stella hugged Clarkia with one arm, and with the other raised her phone high, camera configured for a self portrait. She considered for a moment, then put it back in her pocket and held Clarkia close, kissing her ashy hair as the dust settled.

Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.

prompt posted:

Vijayanagar, India

Desperate Ground
1468 words

My father left me only one thing I kept. He travelled once to Cathay, beyond the eastern mountains. For another man, the sharp-cut jade, the teeth of dragons, might have sparked a fire that never went out: for me they were withered, consumed by my childhood gaze. It was the book I liked. My Chinese was never perfect, but in my profession a man needs many languages.

I flick through it as my agents report in. The art of war recognizes nine varieties of ground. Each man brings the same news, and each time I curse silently. Yet I cannot ignore it. Knowledge of the enemy's dispositions can only be obtained from other men. And all men agree: Vijayanagar is already under siege. The 'Nagas are trapped. Something encircles them.

When a chieftain is fighting in his own territory, it is dispersive ground. When he has penetrated into hostile territory, but to no great distance, it is facile ground. On dispersive ground, therefore, fight not. On facile ground, halt not.

I throw on a cloak and step out into the camp. It is midday prayer, but I cannot tarry. The final victory, the bringing of order, is at hand. My Sultan's tent is in the centre. Its silken braid flaps in the breeze, wafting the sharp smell of spice. I stride past the guards and fling myself face-down.

“O Sultan of Sultans, hear this one's report-”

He waves me silent with a jingling of bracelets. He lifts a goblet and drinks, slowly. It is Ganges water. As Great Sultan, Master of India, he drinks nothing else. “You too, Selim? Must everyone tell me of monsters?”

“All I have are reports, lord. What can I do but heed them?”

“Tell me then, my wise spymaster. Vijayanagar is broken. Her armies are nothing and her lands are mine. If this creature wishes to steal my last prize, why does it not strike us?”

I breathe in, inhaling the rich scent of the carpet. Ground the possession of which imports great advantage to either side, is contentious ground. On contentious ground, attack not. “It is a local legend. Yet somewhere in these words, the truth is buried. I beg you not to advance just yet: I must unearth it.”

I speak dangerously. One should never entreat the Sultan. He has conquered half of India. Now the rest shall follow. My Sultan is not used to 'no'. But I am his man entirely, risen from street schemes to the court, and am humoured in my crassness. I try to repay him.

“I will not halt my advance for children's tales. I shall take Vijayanagar.”

“Then, O Sultan, allow me to ride ahead, to dispel this rumour once and for all. I am your spymaster: I cannot ignore my reports.”

He nods. “Go.”


When drinking what he always swore was water, my father would tell tall tales. In Cathay, he said, he had seen the bones of dragons: femurs ten feet long, skulls the size of houses. He told me of great dragon slayers: the men who slew these beasts. Once, he made me drink a foul concoction ground from the tooth of such a monster. It did not cure my fever. It was time that did that. But I was young, and I dared not tell him.

The stablehand bows profusely. “Take whatever you require, my lord,” he says and spits. “Anything that hurts the loving 'Nagas is a pious act.” I take a horse and I ride.

Ground on which each side has liberty of movement is open ground. On open ground, do not try to block the enemy's way. Vijayanagar looms ahead, but in the emptiness before me I see no campfires, no traces of an army. Vijayanagar is broken, as my Sultan says. Yet the people flee, and not from him. I arrive at the crossroads. I can go on, or east, or west. Ground which forms the key to three contiguous states is a ground of intersecting highways On the ground of intersecting highways, join hands with your allies. The army will be here soon. I spur the horse onwards, southwards.

When an army has penetrated into the heart of a hostile country, leaving a number of fortified cities in its rear, it is serious ground. On serious ground, gather in plunder. I cast my eyes around the fields. They are burned. This I already know – the shattered 'Nagas hope to starve us. It tells me nothing new.

I follow the curving road. There are no refugees, no patrols. Here and there, there are deep grooves in the ground, as if a giant has dragged a spade for twenty leagues. They ripple sinuously across the road and back, following the path to Vijayanagar. All country that is hard to traverse: this is difficult ground. In difficult ground, keep steadily on the march.

The road enters a little village. It is destroyed, but it is not burned. The tracks pass through houses. The rubble is scattered. The guard tower is missing. In the distance, a massive shape looms. I pull out my eyeglass, and with shaking hands look towards it. It is the top of the guard tower, a league distant. I shudder.

But my report is incomplete. I must go on. It is a short ride to the city walls, where by rights I should be spotted, attacked. But the walls are as empty as the countryside. I ride up to the gatehouse: built for elephants, it was once grand. Now it is gone. Something has torn through.

I twist a leg, ready to dismount. A sussurant hissing echoes through the rubble: high and low all at once, deep yet sharp. Retreat is an option. I take it.


Once, my father travelled to the western sea, beyond Persia, and found dragons there too. They were different: fat lizards with wings and fire. He said it was proof of the infinite variety of the Earth, and of the terrible beasts beyond the sight of Allah.

I remember this conversation: it was our last. We quarrelled. Allah, I reminded him, was all-powerful, all-knowing. There was no such thing as a dragon, be it in China, Europe or Paradise itself! Then he was dead. I wish he had visited Vijayanagar.

The camp now sits but a day's stroll from the city walls. I tear through, shouldering soldiers aside, until I enter my Sultan's tent once more.

“My Sultan, I bring dread news.”

“drat your grandfathers, Selim! I will not hear of this foolishness!”

“O Sultan, they have abandoned the city.”

“Then why should I wait? Are there djinni too?”



I begin to scuttle backwards, dismissed, but he speaks again. “Prepare yourself. You shall ride with me, in the vanguard. You can be safe with me.” He rises to his feet and sweeps out into the camp. The trumpets begin to call. It is done.

Our march is swift. The men mutter as they pass the tracks of the thing, the wake of its path, but my Sultan says nothing. Does he notice? Can he see?

We reach the city by midday. We pass through the gates. Ground from which we can only retire by tortuous paths is hemmed in ground. On hemmed-in ground, resort to stratagem. The city is silent, brooding in its rubble. If I had not seen what I had seen, I would suspect a trap. Instead, I am blind.

The ground shakes beneath our feet and the army begins to panic. “What trickery is this?” my Sultan roars. “Selim, what is the meaning of-”

And it crashes through a temple wall, scattering boulders like seeds. The stones rain down upon us and the soldiers stumble. It is a monstrous snake, cobra-headed, and I remember the word, what the locals call their monster. Naga. It is too tall. It cannot be this tall, this long.

It whips its tail and the elephants are wiped away. It stretches, twists, and suddenly the mass of flesh is all around us, tightening. Ground on which we can only be saved from destruction by fighting without delay, is desperate ground.

O father my father, in all your stories you left me with, you never mentioned once. How does one slay a dragon?

On desperate ground, fight. On desperate ground, I would proclaim to my soldiers the hopelessness of saving their lives. For it is the soldier's disposition to offer an obstinate resistance when surrounded, to fight hard when he cannot help himself.

I laugh and draw my sword. Perhaps, father, I owe you an apology. “To your Sultan, men! Are you not ready to die for Allah?”

The roar that goes up is something primal. The line reforms. Perhaps this is a dragon. That will not save it.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.

Garugon Rises
(710 words)
Natchitoches, LA


See Archive

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at 17:07 on Dec 30, 2015

Mar 21, 2013

Grimey Drawer


Bibek sat as the lotus, concentrating on his breathing, trying to forget the demands of the village and the temple. Mountain air passed gently in and out of him. He became aware of its passage through his nose, then focused upon the tips of his nostrils. He honed his attention to a fine edge, to carve away the illusions of self, the fictions of the world.

Unbidden images appeared before him. At first he tried to quell them, to keep his mind clear, but the images stubbornly remained. A broken crutch of unknown provenance, the village of Ghandruk perched on the mountainside below the temple, a single, bloodshot eye. Mara, he thought, illusions. The dream of a mind that does not want to wake up to truth. He tried to ignore them, to sharpen his focus, but the more he tried, the more stubbornly they remained, evoking unwanted emotions and concerns, and the shame of failure.

Bibek felt hand on his shoulder, shaking him like the wind shook the carambola trees. His concentration dissolved and he opened his eyes - taking a moment to reorient himself in the newly built temple. Before him was the golden image of the Buddha Gautama, smiling and shaping a mudra with his fingers. Beside him, robed in orange and red, a monk gripped his shoulder.

"Forgive me, Khenrinpoche," said the monk. " I did not wish to disturb your meditation, but..."

Through the doors of the temple came the sound of a great roaring voice. Or perhaps a thousand voices, all screaming at the time. Bibek's eyes narrowed. "Ratnamara," he said.

"Yes," agreed the monk, but Bibek was already running to the temple doors. On the wooden balcony that lead to the meditation chamber he scanned the mountainous horizon, the roaring growing louder in his ears.

The monk joined him, pointing to the peaks behind the temple itself. A gigantic head came into view. It resembled a man’s whose forehead and face had shrunk to accommodate a shifting, seething array of eyes, the smallest larger than the head of an ox. "Ratnamara of the thousand eyes," said Bibek beneath his breath. "What has awakened him? Why has he climbed down from Machhapuchchhre after all this time?"

The monk simply shrugged.

Ratnamara roared again as it clambered over the ridge. The temple itself was not far beneath, soon within reach of the beast. Bibek prepared to bolt, but paused for a moment, confused. The monk, already heading down the path that led toward the village, turned toward his Abbot. Bibek shook his head, sped toward him, caught up, and urged him to follow the path downward. "We must rouse the villagers - get them to safety."

"Of course, Khenrinpoche," said the monk. They ran together, gathering up the hems of their robes, their sandals slapping on the rocky path.

"Forgive me for asking," panted the monk. "Back there, what kept you?"

"I thought the beast was speaking," rasped Bibek. "I could swear it said 'No one can purify another!'"

If the monk had any suggestions as to why Ratnamara might quote the Buddha, they were lost as the sound of the temple splintering into fragments beneath the feet of the beast echoed through the mountains. The pair increased their speed.

It seemed an age before they reached the houses of Ghandruk. As they sprinted through the streets they called out for the people of the village, but the tea shops and hostels were abandoned. Bibek found an old man he recognised, trying to repair a crutch alone in the middle of the street.

"Ngodup," he called and the old man turned to face him. Bibek could see the fear on his wizened face. "Let me help you," he said, kneeling beside the venerable elder.

Ngodup spat at him. "You have brought Ratnamara down upon us with your temple. Shiva has seen your perversions and sent him from Machhapuchchhre to reclaim what is his."

Bibek wiped his cheek free of saliva, a look of sorrow on his face. "Ngodup. We have performed ceremonies together. We have drunk raksi, and built houses here, together, in our village. You yourself have said Buddha was likely an incarnation of Krishna. Surely, to defeat Ratnamara we must combine our wisdom."

A fierce bellow of rage and hate echoed around them. To Bibek it sounded as if the beast was screaming 'The mind is everything. What you think you become.' Nogodup, however, looked up in terror, and saw the enormous face with too many eyes above the trees to the north-east. Forgetting his crutch, he pushed away from Bibek and limped down the road. As he left he called out "We were wrong to let you build here. Pray to Shiva there is something left for us to return to."

Bibek let him go. He searched briefly for his companion, but the monk, too, had fled. Still Ratnamara came closer, to judge by the sickening crunch of wooden dwellings being crushed.

Trees that surrounded the nearby buildings bent and broke until the monstrous figure was fully revealed. A wave of nausea broke within Bibek. There were too many legs, thick as tree trunks and not jointed the way any mammalian animal would be. Instead, the warped and distorted head sat upon a central mass of tentacles and legs seemingly flung together with no regard to purpose or utility. The skin glistened, covered with a sheen of ichor or ice, while the tentacular limbs flailed about, knocking down anything nearby.

Ratnamara approached, crushing a drink stand. Every eyeball seemed focused directly on Bibek. At this range, Bibek could see that one eye was particularly red and inflamed. Angry veins surrounded it and its edges were encrusted with pus. A weak spot, he wondered? Ratnamara screamed at him. 'You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself.'

Bibek remained perfectly still, wondering.

Ratnamara moved around Bibek in a wide circle, pushing over shacks and buildings, from the school where Bibek had learned sutras, to the simple home where Bibek had been born. Limbs curled around fallen trees, using them as clubs to beat any structures still standing into formless wreckage. One broken plank ended up near to Bibek, a splinter-sharp spear lying on the ground beside him.

The beast loomed over him, thrusting his monsterous face toward the Abbot. Bibek pictured himself picking up the spear, plunging it into Ratnamara's weeping, bloodshot eye. He would save the village of his birth, be a hero, perhaps even be forgiven by Ngodup.

“‘Do not assume you will recognise your own Nibbana,” boomed Ratnamara, the foul rot of its breath lingering.

And, at last, Bibek understood.

He sank to the ground, pulled his feet toward him as the lotus. Gathering his hands to his belly, he formed the mudra of meditation and began to breath. The stick lay beside him, ignored. He felt energy build in his belly, and he let it build. He felt the passage of air in his nostrils, and he let it flow. With eyes closed, he heard Ratnamara tearing apart the village where he had grown up, destroying the homes of those he loved, those whom he had sworn to help towards enlightenment. Bibek’s attention narrowed and narrowed again, becoming the edge of a blade, and then something even finer.

Bibek breathed. In and out. In and out.

With each breath he sliced away the world, person by person, thing by thing, memory by memory, until there was only himself and the beast with a thousand eyes. He inhaled, a swirling vortex of air, breathing in Ratnamara until it was wholly contained within him. Then, with the infinitesimal edge of his focus he delicately carved away himself, until there was nothing - no temple, no village, no beast, no self. Nothing but everything.

Finally, slowly, he exhaled.

Bibek's eyes flickered open. The temple air around him was still, the golden Buddha smiling. Bibek rose, crossed to the temple doors, and peered out at the forest below. He saw the roofs of Ghandruk, heard the sounds of village life rising toward the temple. To the northeast he saw the distant peak of Machhapuchchhre. He listened, heard the sound of the Buddha's voice, or a thousand hungry ghosts wailing, or the wind. He began the standing meditation, but was surprised to discover that he was already in a state of concentration. His awareness followed his breath, spreading out beyond his lungs to his entire body, to the temple, to the village below where the old men drank tea with goat’s milk, to the mountain ranges that surrounded him, to the world as it spun, a gleaming jewel suspended eternally in darkness.

Apr 22, 2008

New Year, new thread!

Killer-of-Lawyers fucked around with this message at 17:54 on Jan 4, 2016

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.
Left at Albuquerque
(949 words)
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Read it in the archive.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 09:48 on Jan 3, 2016

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Puerto Varas, Chile

Three Monsters

1496 Words

Every single scar has a story, but this one, this burn running from my forehead down to the top of my ear like an idiot's guide to a military salute, well, that one's special. It was back in '89, after the Wall fell but before Tienanmen. I was working in southern Chile, taking picture for a journalist called Pierce Hall. We'd heard tell of a major disturbance of some kind down, there, and he was hoping to catch General Pinochet's bully boys red handed .

“I don't get it,” said Pierce. “Everything points to the problem being right here.”

I took another drink. Working in a town descended from Germans meant actually being able to find decent beer, so I took advantage. “What's the problem?”

“I just found out,” said Pierce, “That the Caravan of Death have been spotted in the next town down. Puerto Montt.”

“What would they want there?” I asked.

“Maybe,” said Tomas, “They've gone to see the monster trucks.” Tomas was our driver and local guide. We both figured he was also informing on everything we did to the authorities whenever we let him out of sight, so we kept him close. We stared blankly at him. “You know, down at the Estadio Cinhquilhe. Big rally today, like on the radio. Domingo Domingo Domingo!”

“Not likely,” said Pierce. “They aren't the- well, I guess they are the type, but not when they're on the job.”

The ground began to shake, a lot like an mild earthquake, except that earthquakes stop after a few minutes. This kept on going, and we started to hear just about every loud sound there is: explosions, alarms, structures coming crashing down, screams. Not much gunfire. We ran out the bar and saw panic on the street. Then we saw what was causing the panic.

First, it was huge. About thirty feet tall. Second, it was green, a deep, dark, oily green. It was a lizard that walked like a man. And, not to 'bury the lede' as Pierce would have said, it breathed lava. Not fire. Lava. Running away, even in a stampeding mob, was a more rational reaction than mine, which was to start taking pictures. Luckily, Tomas and Pierce pulled me away and into their car.

The car wasn't very useful. As soon as we got onto the highway all progress stopped. Every lane was blocked from collisions between fleeing vehicles. We got out and started running on foot. There was literally no space between cars, so we, along with hundreds of fleeing Puerto Varans, climbed onto the roofs and ran on top of them. The one good think about the monster was that it wasn't all that fast, but still, it was close behind.

Just as it was about to overtake us we heard a horrible metal-scraping sound from ahead of us. I looked ahead in time to see it all: a monster truck, barreling up the highway over the tops of the stopped cars, crushing them to scrap beneath its massive wheels. Two men were halfway out the windows on each side, each carrying rocket launchers. They fired simultaneously and two things happened at once. First, the rockets flew right at the monster and hit it, hard. One hit right in the right eyeball and the other just under the thing's jaw. I watched and took pictures as it fell to the ground.

The other thing that happened, and this I had to put together later as I was facing in the opposite direction, was that the recoil force from the two rockets loaded their energy into the massive springs of the monster truck's suspension. A few seconds after, those springs uncoiled and the entire massive vehicle launched into the air, flew about fifty feet, and landed. Right next to me, and on top of Tomas and Pierce. The guy had to know going after these guys was dangerous, but I don't think he anticipated that particular end.

The force of the landing knocked me down, and though it didn't knock me out it did leave me groggy for a while. The death squad in the truck noticed me and my camera and gathered me up as they piled out of the truck, which was nearly out of fuel at any rate. I watched, dazed, as they got to work restraining it. One of them, an American, came up to me and tried to snap me out of it.

“First thing you need to know,” he said, “Is you're really not in as much trouble as you might be thinking. You'll be able to go home, and even keep some of your pictures, sell 'em to the Weekly World News or something. You understand?”

I nodded weakly.

“Second thing is I'm Ace Corbin, with the CIA, and when I saw there was a genuine photographer so drat handy, I just had to get you working. You just keep shooting while we get this done.” He handed me a camera, pretty nice for ten-year old hardware. I started taking pictures as they went about their business.

“Seems to me,” said one of them with a heavy beard, “We should just go with the old ways, stop this sort of thing from happening.”

“What old ways are that?” said Ace.

“The Cherufe is an old problem,” said the beard. “Back in the day, people knew how to keep it away. Toss a virgin in the volcano every dozen years or so and no problems.”

“We don't negotiate with terrorists,” said Ace, “ As Sainted Ronnie says. Besides, all joking aside, virgins are a bit thin on the ground hereabouts.”

“There's always kids,” said another of the squad, a man with a shiny gold tooth.

“Won't work,” said Ace. “Spent enough time dealing with Pacific volcano gods to know that for sure. They're monsters, not pre-verts. Female, virgin, decent looking, eighteen to thirty-five or no sale. Easier to just show them what's what.”

They had lashed the Cherufe in place with massive steel wire and put a harness over its mouth, loose enough to let it grumble and roar but too tight to get the lava out. And they had a massive guillotine blade suspended above its neck, ready to let wall with the tug of a rope at any time.

Ace, beard, and tooth all carried a wooden telephone pole with a sharpened steel tip. They backed up and then carried it forward, driving it deep into the monster's most sensitive parts. “That,” said Ace, “was to get your attention.”

The monster roared.

“Do! Not! Play! Dumb! With! Me!”, said Ace, backing up again and driving the sharpened caber into lizardy flesh. “I understand High Draconic like a god-damned native. You're going to tell me exactly which communist sorcerer it was that called you up. The only thing you can choose is if it's going to be right away or if I get to take my time with it.”

They continued, torturing the reptilian beast and the haze fell, replaced with the clarity of someone who's made a potentially fatal decision and is at peace with it. I walked forward, shooting photos as I went until I reached the control ropes. I let go of the camera, letting it fall to the ground and gave the rope a solid tug.

I thought I was just putting the monster out of its misery, but I picked the wrong rope. Instead, the muzzle around the Cherufe's head went tight, snapping its jaw shut. From that position, it was able to use the full strength of its jaw and snap the wires right off. Lava erupted from that massive mouth, burning and incinerating everything.

I woke up a couple weeks later in a Los Angeles hospital. I have no idea how I survived that attack, unless the monster had precise control and deliberately showed me mercy. They told me that I was the only survivor, but...

Sometimes I wonder if I really believe all of that business about dragon languages and sorcerers. I mean, there could be some more scientific explanation for the monster. But...

Ace visited me in the hospital. At least, he said he was Ace. He was unrecognizable. The first time his face was just burned and scarred flesh, but while he was obviously in massive pain, he was up, walking and talking. And the second time, three days later, he barely looked hurt at all. He had a completely different face, but it was a mostly normal one. He told me a lot of things, and I still don't really believe half of them, but the one thing he said that I do believe is that he'd kill me if I repeated any of it. As for the rest, well, I'm not sure I'd even believe any of it was real if it weren't for that scar on my face.


Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
1424 words
Alexandria, Egypt

In the reflection of the library pool, Sabriyya could see Alexandria in ruins.

Of course, the destruction hadn’t been that bad this time—the thing had stayed along the coast, trampled a few hastily-deserted Koshari stands before tromping off into the ocean, explosions of sea-spray in its descending footsteps—but this time it had come too close to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, her place of work, her home-away-from-home. Now that the people of Alexandria knew that they weren’t dealing with an earthquake, they knew that there was a safe direction to run. There had been far fewer casualties.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” she heard Colm say. He was a restorer of documents and artifacts, on loan from the Tate Britain. Colm was a weedy sort of man with a thin neck, and hands that fluttered in front of him like drunken sparrows.

She looked over at him. He was holding the cuffs of his suit pants above the water, his Italian leather shoes removed and waiting on a stone bench by the pool’s edge. “It’s downright unfathomable, in my opinion.”

Her eyes had stopped at the surface of the pool, but he was staring at the floor, into the shattered and ground up blue mosaic tiles. The footprint was five feet wide and fifteen feet from heel to toe, and it was the only type of evidence left behind. Many eyewitnesses had taken smartphone videos of the destruction as they ran in the opposite direction, but they were videos of devastation without an author. From the size of the footprints, anthropologists had calculated that the creature was over one hundred feet tall, and yet nobody knew for sure, because the monster was completely invisible.

Sabriyya looked up at Colm, exasperation on her face. “What exactly am I supposed to be looking for?”

“Miss Kadri.” He gestured with a flick of his hand at the deepest part of the footprint. “Look closer.”

Sabriyya crouched, craned her neck downwards.

It was like an optical illusion—at first you felt like you were staring at nonsense, and then suddenly—

“Oh, my,” she said. She could feel Colm writhing in excitement beside her, like a kid on summer holiday.

It was—language. Words formed in the furrows of the ground under the giant creature’s footprint, ancient symbols weaving themselves into the whorls of a callused sole. “What is it saying?” she asked.

Colm beamed. “A scene from a play,” he said. “One from Aeschylus.”

Her mouth fell open. “But—it’s not in Greek, it’s in—“

“Arabic,” said Colm, finishing her sentence. “That’s how I know it’s never been discovered before.” He strode carefully over to the edge of the pool and high-stepped out, shaking the water off of his bare feet. “Follow me,” he called over to Sabriyya, who was still standing, staring at the footprint with wonder.

Together, they walked through the foyer of the grand library and into the elevator, water dripping from their ankles. As Colm pressed the button for the second basement, he said, “Remember when I first met you, Miss Kadri, and we talked about how the original library of Alexandria burnt down?”

He reached over and stroked her bare shoulder with his other hand, and she smiled, for the first time in almost a week, since the first day of destruction had happened. “Yes,” said Sabriyya. “I told you that Caesar set his fleet of ships on fire, in order to ward off the soldiers of Ptolemy, and once the ships burned, the fire spread to the library.” She felt an inner warmth at the memory. They both were fueled by knowledge, consuming words like shovelfuls of coal.

The elevator opened, and they both walked through the dimly-lit hallway to Colm’s office. “And when I told you that there were several conflicting stories about the burning of the Alexandrian library—the Muslim forces, the decree of Theodosius, a skirmish between Emperor Aurelian and Queen Zenobia—what did you tell me?” asked Colm.

She smiled. “I believe I said ‘According to history, all roads lead to Rome.’”

“Right,” said Colm, as they entered his office. On his worktable was a thin sheet of papyrus, illuminated by a single desk-lamp.

Sabriyya stared down at it, blinking, tapping her fingers on the varnished surface of the table. “Ok, you brought me here to see this?”

“I wanted to show you something,” said Colm. “They excavated it from under the library a while ago, hid it away so no one would find it.”

Sabriyya squinted at the papyrus. “Right, sure,” she said.

“I know you don’t believe me, but is that really the hardest thing to believe at this point?” Colm said.

“And no one would show this to the head of operations? Someone found it and tucked it under an ashtray for a thousand years? And you just brought it up to me now because you wanted to recite me an ancient Greek love poem?”

“Not exactly a poem,” said Colm. “More like a map. Or an instruction manual.” He leaned over the worktable, scanned the lines of Greek text. “I followed those instructions a week ago.”

Sabriyya stopped tapping her fingers.

“And a couple days ago,” said Colm, “and also about an hour before you got here.

The dates were unforgettable in Sabriyya’s mind. She shook her head, stared up at him, eyes narrowed. “I believe you also told me once that correlation didn’t equal causation,” she said, a smirk on her face. “Do you remember that?”

“Yes, I do,” said Colm. “But that’s something mathematicians or scientists say. I deal in ancient history.” He smiled at her. “All roads lead to Rome.”

“Do you also deal in bullshit, you sod?” said Sabriyya, now openly laughing.

A faraway thump rang through the air, stomping her laughter flatter than a shadow on a wall.

She froze, stared at him again. “No,” she said.

Colm nodded.

“But—then—“ Her hands gripped the edge of the wooden worktable. “People died,” she said, her face pale. “More of them are going to—“

“Possibly,” said Colm. “I doubt it, though. People learn from experience, just like the two of us learn from—wait, Sabriyya—“

She didn’t give herself a second to think—she simply acted. Before Colm could stop her, her hands were tearing at the ancient papyrus. Colm shouted at her to stop, and she threw the pieces at him, yelling angry curses in Arabic, a language she’d thought she’d left at the doorstep of her father’s dwelling when she’d left for university.

When she finished, she turned and headed for the door. Colm grabbed her arm, and she shook him off.

“Please,” said Colm, as plaster began to rain down from the basement ceiling. “It’s not safe out there. You don’t know what you might have done—“

“The hell with you, Little Caesar.” Sabriyya spat at him, then ran up the stairs, trying to keep her balance, her stomach churning like a sandstorm.

She stood at the edge of the pool, the sun low in the sky, screams and futile gunshots resounding from far away. Three black helicopters buzzed in the air, circling an unseen target as they both watched. There was a loud crack as one of the helicopter blades seemed to clip against thin air, sending the chopper screaming to the earth.

“Look at him,” she shouted towards Colm, watching the stone skyline as the invisible thing barreled through, rampaged through, holes punching through roofs, collapsing brickwork sending up plumes of dust. It wasn’t stopping. It wasn’t returning to the ocean—if anything, it was moving further inland.

“Look. He’s you,” Sabriyya shouted again. “That’s you out there, trampling this city under your feet.”

Colm turned around to face her. His hands were in his pockets, his shoulders tight, a single bead sweat on his forehead. He looked barely blemished. “He’s both of us,” said Colm, just loud enough for her to hear.

She turned to the side, tried to clear her throat. There was no moisture left in her mouth.

“It’s worth it,” he said, unmoving. “We can gather more information in its wake than ten Bibliothecas put together.” He gestured behind her, to the library, the half-moon-shaped building wedged into the Earth. She didn’t turn around to look at it.

“This is what I thought we both wanted,” said Colm. “What else do you want me to say?”

Sabriyya looked through him, at the clouds of dust on the horizon. “Veni, vidi, vici?” she said, in a voice like granite.

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