Crit for Week XXVI: Noah, "The Grumble Baboon"
No loss in Thunderdome's history has been less justified. Your story and reading are treasures. I don't mean in the "so bad it's good" way, either: if the objective of an audio story is to keep a listener's interest and entertain him all the way through, yours succeeds with flying colors. "The Grumble Baboon" is the only Radio Week entry I've come back to listen to every so often. Your voices are so great. There's a lot of unexpected, random, but effective humor laced through the piece, like Aunt Mary's windowless van and the identically voiced Franzes Ferdinand Francisco III and IV.
The down side is that the colorful voices, rapid pace, and absurdity do make the sequence of events hard to follow on the first listening. Or second. Or third. I can roughly summarize it by now, but the individual silly elements always distract me from the big picture. Even while I'm listening I can't remember anything about Martin except that he sounds exactly like Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice. It's uncanny. As much as I enjoy the horse-race-caller cadence of the whole thing (if you've never worked at a track, you've missed your calling), slowing some parts down would certainly help with clarity. The speed doesn't hurt the listening experience all that much, but it's harder to dig the story if you barely have any idea of what it is.
I suppose the conflict with the Grumble Baboon is rather easily solved, too. You could possibly argue that the pacing is a little skewed since there's a lot of lead up to a conflict that vanishes in the blink of a cheese sandwich, but all those early embroideries and digressions are fun for its own sake. I just don't care how well this follows a traditional structure when I listen.
How on Earth it was Nonsense Week that did you in when you'd written Thunderdome's best nonsense story, I cannot fathom. Come back soon and bring cheese sandwiches with you.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 08:41 on Dec 27, 2015
|# ? Dec 27, 2015 08:27|
|# ? Nov 29, 2022 18:49|
Man out of Air
The house was underwater.
David could think of nothing else, sitting in his living room chair and staring at the fish tank in front of him. Nemo and Nemo Two stared back at him from the bright purple anemones at the bottom of the tank. His daughter Sarah had named the pair of them years ago, when she was little. Before Samantha left him and moved to California with her.
His eyes went to the window, and something swam by faster than he could clearly see. He folded his hands in his lap and looked at the fish tank again. Sarah hadn’t known that they were a male and female clownfish; everything was Nemo at the time. He’d made enough money selling their offspring during the movie craze to take the family to Disneyland, and even if it hadn’t been enough to save his marriage at least it was one last good memory for Sarah.
“The house is underwater,” he said aloud, directing the comment to the Nemos. They waved their fins at him.
He started pacing, occasionally looking outside. The front porch was there, but the step ended in sandy ocean bottom. The water itself was a dark blue-green that meant it was either night or the house was down too deep to get sunlight. He couldn’t see very far, though there was a dim glow out there- not the single point of a lamp but a wide band like a city skyline through dense fog. He didn’t know what that meant.
A school of silvery fish crossed his porch, drawing his attention to the octopus on his welcome mat. It camouflaged itself to match the brown straw as he stared at it.
“This house is not waterproof,” David told the Nemos. “The bathroom ceiling leaks when it rains.”
He’d checked the bathroom ceiling after the blind panic settled into numb shock. It wasn’t dripping. In fact, there didn’t seem to be anything unusual going on inside the house at all. It was as if the tornado from the Wizard of Oz had whisked his home away and dropped it at the bottom of the ocean.
He went to the kitchen and found an unopened whiskey bottle on the top shelf. His hands were shaking as he removed the cap. He felt lightheaded. Was he going crazy, or just running out of oxygen?
The doorbell rang. David dropped the bottle before drinking any, ignoring the sharp crack of broken glass as he dashed for the front door. Surely that meant this absurd dream was over, that his house was back on Bowman in between the Marshes and old Mrs. Tennyson’s badly tended garden. Of course, it could just be the octopus. But it wasn’t. It was the deliveryman.
Or… was it?
He wore a brown cap and brown coat, and he had a parcel under one arm. But the buttons were misaligned, and the cap didn’t sit right. There was something off about his eyes, too round and too large, and as David stared at him through the peephole he realized the man had a row of thin slits in his neck that could only be gills. He stood on his tiptoes to see farther down and got the biggest shock of all; the deliveryman didn’t have any legs! Just a long, copper-scaled fish tail.
David turned his back to the door and braced against it. He made a small, disbelieving noise and shook his head to steady himself. The doorbell rang again.
“Go away!” David yelled through the door.
The merman knocked instead- shave and a haircut, two bits.
“You can’t possibly know how to do that!” David shouted, prying himself off the door long enough to look out the peephole again.
The deliveryman was missing. The package was sitting on the mat, with the octopus on top. There was a rap at the window, and when he looked over the merman was waving at him and gesturing towards the door. He watched David for a few seconds then swam back out of sight in the direction of the porch.
As far as he could see it, David had two options. Asphyxiate slowly or open the drat door and get the mail. He put one hand on the knob and unlocked it, wincing in fear as he yanked the door wide open.
The water didn’t pour in to drown him. It wobbled at the doorframe, like jelly. The merman clapped his hands, and the sound was distorted and wet. The octopus dismounted the package and entered the house, deflating as it went from wet to dry through the water barrier. David waited for it to wander past him towards the kitchen, then tentatively reached through the barrier for the package. It was not wrapped in paper but brown kelp. He gave the merman a worried look but got only more encouraging gestures.
Inside was a glass fishbowl with a mesh top. The merman pointed at the bowl, then past it, to where the Nemos were visible in their tank.
“You want them?” he asked, pointing at the clownfish.
The merman made a series of dolphin-like clicks and waved his tail excitedly.
David picked up the fishbowl. Beneath it there was a clay tablet, and words in imperfect English cut into it with some sort of knife.
No moer medycin fish. Sik childrin. Meny deth. Pleese?
“Medicine fish?” David asked. “The clownfish are extinct here? Where is this?”
The merman waited nervously. He didn’t seem to understand David’s words any more than David could understand his clicks.
“You’ve been watching me,” David said, almost in awe. “You knew I had a mating pair- that I always answer the door for the deliveryman!” He looked back at the fish tank and his heart tightened. “But they were Sarah’s… I don’t have anything else…”
More dolphin clicking and this time the merman cupped his arms together and made the universal motion of rocking a baby. His movements were becoming quicker, more desperate.
“Why me? There’s thousands of other clownfish owners out there, you could have picked any one of them to drag down here! You don’t understand! I can’t!”
The merman reached into his shirt pocket and retrieved another clay tablet and a thin bone tool. He carved it and threw it into the house. It skidded across the floor to David’s feet.
“It’s not about price!” David shouted. He staggered back to the kitchen looking for a butter knife to write his reply. The octopus was in there, soaking up the spilled whiskey. He found the knife in a drawer, and drew the first vertical bar of the N in NO on the back of the tablet.
He stopped before he got any further. Could he really cling to dead memories at the cost of others’ lives, even if they weren’t human? Samantha had accused him of living inside a tank. Never coming out, never seeing her or their daughter until it was too late. It hurt, but he could see the truth in it now. If he said no, nothing would change. He’d stay in his tank forever.
But the merman had offered a trade…
He carved four more letters into the tablet, and went back to the door. Passed it through, heart pounding in his chest. The merman read it carefully, with some effort. Then he nodded and smiled wide, showing sharp needle-like teeth. David offered his hand through the barrier and the merman grabbed it in both of his and shook it firmly. They had a deal.
Bargain struck, David took the bowl and transferred the anemones and the two Nemos to it, fastening the mesh tightly over the top. He passed it through the barrier, where the merman took it reverently. The clownfish peeked at David through the purple tentacles one last time as the merman flipped his tail and powered away, off towards the distant city lights.
David closed the door and sat back down in his chair, looking at the now empty fish tank. He would never see Sarah or Samantha again, but that had been true for a long time. Realizing that finally let him see the opportunity that had come knocking. The details would come later, but for now it all came down to two words carved in clay:
|# ? Dec 27, 2015 10:10|
Sea Legs - 1379 words
When Dad was a whale doctor, he’d spend months living among a family of bottlenoses with his bio-prosthetic tail. His real legs were kept frozen while they waited, like us, for him to come home.
Whenever he came back, Abbie and I fought for his attention, asking after every member of the pod by name. With his powerful tail muscles and bionic gills, he could swim underwater for days on end, spending enough time with his cetacean patients that they accepted him as part of the family. Most of all we would ask about Missy, who as a calf had had her fin torn off by a shark. Without the stitches and prosthetic replacements Dad gave her, he told us, the wound would likely have been fatal.
Every night after dinner, he took a pill to stop his legs from healing back together with rest of his body. He’d need them to detach again easily for future assignments.
When Storm Beatrice hit in the month of my thirteenth birthday, it came sooner and harder than anyone expected. Near our village, the wind toppled a tree onto some cables, plunging half the parish into darkness. That night, Mum got a call from Ellen MacKaye, Dad’s handler aboard the ship. She and the rest of the crew were in Iceland, having jumped for the lifeboats when the tempest punched a hole in the hull and took out their electronics. They were soon rescued but lost contact with Dad, who had been underwater when it hit.
“So no one knows where he is?” Abbie asked when Mum told us.
“As yet, no,” Mum replied.
For three weeks we didn’t hear anything, and then he washed ashore in western Scotland. A stunned dog-walker had phoned him an ambulance, at his request, and we met him at a hospital in Glasgow.
“So,” said Abbie after we’d all hugged him, “when do your legs arrive?”
“They’re already here, Abs,” Dad said. His tail was so long it stuck off the end of the bed, barely covered by the duvet. “But I’m afraid it’s no use.”
“What do you mean it’s no use?” asked Mum. “Can’t you just swap them back?”
Dad pulled back the covers. Around his waist, where there had been an abrupt divide between his tan abdomen and the glittery flesh of his tail, there was now a smudgy gradient of colour and texture. Rivers of blue and silver ran up his stomach.
“I only had enough pills to last a few days,” he explained.
“Unfortunately the fusion is too advanced to operate on, Mrs Wilson,” said his doctor. “We can only hope that the drugs stop it progressing any further. Your husband will most likely have this tail for the rest of his life.”
The doctor brought us a wheelchair adapted for bodies like Dad’s, an awkward six-wheeled thing that stretched his tail out in front of him like a rolling futon. When we got him to the car, we quickly realised that his lower body would no longer fit into the foot-well of any seat. Dad had to rest his tailfins on the dashboard as Mum drove, fighting to keep himself upright at every bend.
At first he’d insist on trying to be helpful, even where he was no use at all. “I’ll help you walk the dog,” he said to me one night, as if he didn’t need me to push him up every curb or incline. I guess he wanted an excuse to get out the house, but outside I felt hostile stares from everyone we passed. One couple burst out laughing. Another time, a car slowed down enough for the passenger to yell at us out the window. Dad started to spend more time indoors.
People made comments in school, too, once his story became more widely known. One day, after the final bell had gone and I was on the way to the bus, I found myself cornered by Johnny Docton. “Hey Wilson,” he sneered, “If your dad has no dick how were you even born?”
“My dad does have a dick!” I shouted back. In retrospect, it was an ill-advised retort. One of Docton’s friends appeared from the crowd and they advanced towards me.
Then I felt someone’s shoulder brush my own from behind. “Get lost, creeps,” she said.
Johnny laughed but stepped away. “That your girlfriend, Wilson?”
“No, idiot, I’m his sister,” said Abbie.
For the first time in half a decade, we sat together for the trip home.
In through the front door, we walked right into an argument. Dad had been offered his position back at the University whenever he wanted it, and sick of being stuck indoors had been thinking sooner rather than later. But to Mum, Dad’s accident confirmed what she had thought for years: his job was unreasonably risky for a man with two kids to raise. He belonged with his family, she’d say. Abbie and I heard it all from my bedroom. As their debate dragged on into the evening, we read old issues of The Beano in a quiet union of shared anxiety.
I went downstairs for a midnight snack to find Dad passed out on the couch in front of the still-on television, an old episode of Blue Planet playing to the silent room. His tail, flopped over the armrest, twitched as if in time with the documentary.
It was my idea to go on a fishing holiday. Dad’s insurance paid out big time, easily covering a week’s rental of a small boat and a sea-front holiday cottage in the off-season. Dad still got stared at when we walked into town that first night, but with all of us together it didn’t seem as bad. On the way back along the coastal road, I spotted a house with a ‘For Sale’ sign clipped to front gatepost. From the side you could see the private slip-way running into its back garden.
The next morning, we drove out to sea in the boat. Dad taught me how to fish with a rod, then dived from the boat to go fishing himself. In the water his tail was no longer awkward but elegant, graceful: he flit near the surface like a minnow for a while, then disappeared down deep. When he resurfaced, he gripped a struggling codfish in his bare hands.
Dad’s phone rang as we wheeled him up to the house. He talked quietly for a few minutes then hung up. “It was the university,” he said.
“And?” Mum asked, shortly.
“They want to increase my salary.”
Tensions were raised again by dinner.
On the last day, after a lunch on the picnic table behind the cottage, Mum said she and Dad had been talking. They had something to tell us.
“You might have heard us talk about me maybe taking my job back,” Dad said. “Well, after discussing it with your mother, we have decided against it.” I looked at Mum, who was failing to supress a smile. “Instead,” Dad continued, “We got in touch with some people selling a house on the edge of town.”
“Here?” I asked, not quite believing it.
“Here. We have a viewing booked for Tuesday.”
It was the one I’d seen before. We got it, and a little boat too. One weekend in spring, Dad, Abbie and I took the boat out into the bay. Abbie read a book while I practiced my fishing, until Dad’s head bobbed up in the water just beside my float. “Kids!” he shouted up to us, “Come and meet our guest!”
He vanished underwater again. At the same moment, an enormous dark shape erupted from the waves behind where he had been and sailed into the air, sending a blast of foam spattering on the deck when it crashed back down. I gazed on, mesmerised, as the whale breached again. This time Dad jumped with it, skipping across the water’s surface like a dolphin.
Then the whale quietly surfaced by the side of the boat, almost under our feet. It lolled on its back, one staring eye above the waves as if to get a look at us.
“Abbie look,” I said “there’s something on its fin.”
“It is her fin, Jack,” said Abbie. “It’s Missy.”
EDIT: Oh and because I didn't post my merman earlier, it is:
Ceighk fucked around with this message at 16:09 on Dec 27, 2015
|# ? Dec 27, 2015 16:05|
The Fool (1186 Words)
Another failed joke. The Fool stared up at his King, mind racing to come up with something funny, a million jokes flashing through his mind like a flipbook. “My line of mistakes is rivalled only by the King's!” He croaked. Jellyfish bobbed about in the corals, each of them their own vibrant prism of color, their lights waxing and waning like an aurora.
The King shook his head, his thick beard flowing in the seawater. “It was a great effort, finding a squid fit for your talent.” His fin, known for it's beauty, was dyed black in mourning. The King observed the Fool, and was reminded of a shipwreck. “Instead, you were bested by a squid. I want a Fool, not an idiot.”
The reef was smashed nearly beyond repair, and the Fool sat in the worst of it. “Hah, well I meant that, your royal line, a mistake. And all... that...” Slumped against a rock, his body in ruins and a wretched hope plain on his face, the Fool's fin was the only one unblackened.
“Yes. Yes, I got it.” The King sighed and turned away, silently followed by his servants. “Come to the mourning banquet when you can, and leave your hat. I'll find some job you can do.” The Fool could only stare as the King of the Mermen disappeared into the blackness of the sea.
In the King's absence, silence reigned. The lights of the jellyfish had always been a comfort, in the Fool's childhood. Now they felt like the punchline to a bad joke. He'd become very familiar with those. “Guess you can be whatever color you want.” The jellyfish did not respond or care.
The squid returned, and laid on a mound of dirt. “You little dickhead.” The Fool's face was all cuts and sticky sea dirt, and scowling made the pain worse. The Fool moved slowly. “I'll get you. I'll loving get you.”
But his body betrayed him, and the squid drifted off as the Fool writhed in pain. Dirt scattered, blinding him and grinding deep into his cuts. Arms flailing and fin flying, the Fool cried like a child, only stopping to swear after hitting his hand on metal.
The dirt settled, and the thing became visible; a strange lamp, golden tinged. The Fool brightened immediately. “Wish people liked me!” He shouted without hesitation, rubbing the lamp with a passion.
Wispy smoke spilled from the lamp, thick even in the water. It formed into a single fist, with a thumb held up. Moments passed. The Fool grinned in anticipation, eager to meet his new friend. The smoke returned to the lamp without further comment.
“Heh, well, do you like me?” The Fool asked. The genie didn't respond. With a new spring in his swish, the Fool made his way to the Hall. He got halfway there before uncertainty began to gnaw at him. By the time he slipped through the side door, he was downright worried.
The King's fifth cousin had only a nasty cough, but protocol made it very clear that when a member of the royal family fell ill, a mourning banquet must be held, just in case. If a royal did die, everyone would be too busy to mourn them, after all.
The hall was thick with sorrow, each courtier crying more piteously than the last, pausing only to glance at the sick woman sitting beside the King. The Fool swayed in, his fin flagrant in its color, a weak smile on his face, and the bells of his hat jingling softly under his armpit. As the sobbing stopped, the Fool began to feel very alone, and not liked at all.
“Hullo.” The Fool said. The stares hurt. “Good to be here – er, get well soon, it would be good for him to be well, and here. Ha!” The King glared down at the Fool from his clamshell throne. “Ah, her, I mean. Since she's a lady and all. And she is here! My, how... lovely.” The sickly cousin coughed.
“Another skilless mockery to trouble our court with?” The King sighed, resting his head in his hands. “...I thought we could put you to work, even if only as a professional nuisance. Now I see how inept you truly are.” The Fool's smile froze. Some of the courtiers winced in sympathy, but made no move to speak.
A laugh filled the somber hall. His eyes wide open, in that way only truly strange people can manage, the Fool ascended. His laugh both brittle and booming, as though teetering on the edge between mockery and terror, the Fool brought himself to eye level with his King, who'd already grown red with indignation. “And now you laugh?! In this, our most dire hour, you would mock her?”
“Y'know, when I was a kid, i'd get sick. Pretty often, in fact.” The Fool began, placing his hat upon his head. It jingled merrily. “Bit irritating, sure, but I never made a big deal of it. I'd just sit around, eat clams, get better.” He turned towards the woman, his eyes burning with anger. “Has attending your own funeral made you feel much better, ma'am?” Her hacking cough was perfectly timed.
Whispers began to flow like tiny currents. “He's got a point, y'know...” “I dunno why, but doesn't he look a bit cool?” “These banquets are dull.” The King tried to speak, but every time the Fool would shake his head, his bells ringing merrily.
The Fool barely heard those faint mutterings, but they pushed him onward. “Put her to bed, or else we'll have to mourn you too!” And to his shock, people laughed. Not too loud, they weren't doubled over, but they laughed.
That got the King's attention. Maybe they laughed to dispel the tension, but they were laughing nonetheless. And really, it was ridiculous... “Fine! Fine, a decent enough jape, and a point well made!” He turned to his cousin. “And you, Justine...” Even in sickness she managed an impressive glare. “Teresa?” It was piercing, now. “Ah, Madeline, of course!” One disgusted shake of the head, and she was off to her chambers.
`The King watched her leave, frowning. The fool scratched the side of his nose. “Y'know milord, I think I remember my mistakes better than you do your family.” And with another bout of mild laughter, the Fool's Banquet began in earnest; not with ecstacy or enchantment, but with a warm peace.
A few weeks later, in the lamp under the dirt, the genie was lectured by his father. “What kind of genie are you going to make, handing out nice wishes?!”
The genie leaned against the golden wall. “Whatever, Dad. Ain't like we're going anywhere better. Might as well do nice things, instead of being clever-” The room began to shake, and the two stared up through their little nozzle, their argument blown away by a surprising sight.
“Hello again, just wanted to say thanks. Uh, you don't like dirt, probably. Wanna live with me instead?” The Fool's eye jerked away as smoke emerged from the lamp once more. A thumbs-up.
|# ? Dec 27, 2015 19:59|
me fail TD me finish anyway me next entry
|# ? Dec 27, 2015 22:28|
When You Can't Even
Sparky came swimming into the library and asked me a question. “Specs,” he said, “How can I get a really buff upper body?”
Mostly people come to the library wanting me to look up the location of some particular bit of sunken debris from the surface world, when they come at all. Nobody comes to read books. Hardly anyone in The Drink can even read, apart from Me, Wiz and the Doc, and they both own all the books they need.
“Well,” I said, “I think most people just go to Wiz for that.”
“What?” said Sparky. We were in school together for a while, him two years behind me. He always struck me as an energetic, goofy kid, so it was a bit of a shock to see him all grown up. Well, maybe not quite all grown up. A year out of school and he hadn't picked out a job yet. “Are you telling me
they don't even lift?”
“Well, no,” I said. “Do you?”
“No, not yet.” Sparky was deep in thought. “No way I can afford what Wiz would charge.”
I was already looking through the scouting reports. “There should be some weights over in Graham's Drift.”
Sparky checked the map, then shot toward the door. Then he turned around and said “Want to come with? I could probably use a spotter.” It wasn't that far from closing time, and it wasn't as though another visitor was likely, so I nodded and followed him.
We found the crate fairly easily, and it was full of small dumbbells and kettlebells. Sparky grabbed a pair and swam out to an open area of sea. Things did not go well.
We merpeople have neutral buoyancy most of the time. So when we pick up an extra ten pounds of weight, we either start sinking or we start swimming. Sparky swam. “This isn't doing any good,” he said. “I'm just using my tail, and my tail is buff enough already.” He wasn't at all wrong about that.
“Try swimming in place upward,” I said, “And do some extensions...?” He did, managing to lift his arms fully with the weights. Then he tried to move them back down. When the weights were extended in front of him they pulled down on his arms, spinning him downward. Now, we can do a lot of fancy things while swimming, but one thing that we can't do is go backward. Not that Sparky didn't try, but once those weights were below him and he was facing down, there were only two ways things could go. Either he could let go of the weights, or they would pull him straight down and face first to the ocean floor. Sparky didn't lit go of the weights.
Sparky came by again the next evening. “So,” he said, “Weights won't work. Anything else to try?” I had been thinking about him all day, and feeling like a foolish old mermaid enough while doing it. I kept forcing myself to think about the problem rather than the face and tail that went with it. We swam out to the same open area outside of town to try things out.
Sit-ups didn't work. We just don't bend like that. Same for any kind of standing lift. Push-ups were useless, because of the neutral buoyancy. He just pushed himself off the ground and kept floating. Bench presses seemed to work for a while, but then Sparky got dizzy and drowsy and almost passed out. He felt better immediately after stopping, but I insisted we go and see Doc to find out what was happening.
“Well,” said Doc, “The problem was that you were holding your tail still for too long.”
“Why would that be a problem?” I asked, sort of surprised to realize how rarely I did go for more than a minute without a swish or two.
“You've got to move them to keep your gills going,” said Doc.
Sparky and I had always thought we just breathed water through our mouths. “A common fallacy,” said Doc. “Under water it's in through the gills and out through the mouth.” Sparky asked Doc if he had any advice for his workout, but he just said “Just go to Wiz, like I do.”
But we didn't give up. Every night we'd go out and try and find some way to actually exercise the upper body. I asked Sparky why he wanted this so bad. “Well, these days you've got to have guns and a six-pack if you want to make out with any of the hot merpeople, let alone talk a female into showing you where her eggs are.” I sighed, but only after he turned around and I was sure he wouldn't notice.
After a week of dead ends, we finally started to find some things that worked. Sparky had the idea of a weighted belt, but it was always either too tight, cutting off circulation, or too loose, slipping down his smooth red tail. I suggested adding a pair of suspenders, and that worked well enough. The weighted belt opened up new possibilities. Push-ups still didn't work, with the weight being distributed all wrong, but pull-ups were our first real success.
Over the next few weeks the workouts got more and more intense, and varied. We designed and built a harness that held Sparky in place by the waist, letting him move his tail and also anchoring him solidly to the ground. In it, he had leverage and stability, letting him do one-handed weight exercises. And from the pull-up bar we moved on to something we were both sure had been invented specifically for the merman workout, the salmon ladder.
The workouts continued, and they had their desired effect, turning Sparky into at least as buff a merman as any of his spell-powered peers. I'm pretty sure he caught me staring at him more than once, although I never caught him noticing me at all.
Then one evening he came into the library with a strange look on his face. “Guess what?” he said.
“I've finally decided what job I'm going to take!” He brought his hand out from behind his back, revealing a bright red helmet which he put on his head. “I'm going to be a fireman!” I stood there, gaping. I mean, I couldn't even. “What?”
“Um, Sparky,” I finally said, “You do realize that The Drink is, well, an underwater city?”
“Yeah?” said Sparky, still grinning.
“And you do realize that a fireman's job is, well, to put out fires?”
“Yeah?” said Sparky, swimming closer to my desk.
“So where are the fires?” I asked.
“In your eyes, you sexy thing!” said Sparky as he moved in for a deep kiss.
We made out a bit after that. To be honest, we made out a lot. But I never did show him where I keep my eggs.
|# ? Dec 27, 2015 23:27|
ATTN: JUDGES I AM POSTING ON BEHALF OF BROENHEIM our dear brother who was struck down while making high quality posts
Word Count: 968
A Rock Falls to the Bottom if You Don’t Catch It
Something about the surface always had me coming back. The sun was always so warm, and you could get away from all the currents and actually be still for once.
So I’d jump out of the water and rest on these rocks I liked. I’d soak up the sun, and when night came, I’d swim back down and sneak into my room. I’m sure people knew what I was doing, but no one bothered me about it.
Then, one day, a little girl came up behind me. She tapped me on the shoulder, and out of instinct I jumped back into the water. I peeked my head out, and she was sitting over the edge of the cliff, laughing. I sunk back under the water and watched her through the darkness.
She reached over and grabbed a rock. Then, she threw it at me, hitting me in the head. I popped out of the water.
“What was that for?” I asked.
“It’s rude to stare,” she said.
“It’s also rude to sneak up behind someone.”
“I thought it’d be funny.”
I rolled my eyes. “Well, it wasn’t.”
She stood up, and leaned over the edge. “So, you’re a merman?”
“Didn’t know they existed.”
“Well, know you do.”
She smiled, a cute little grin, and stood up. “Can you teach me how to swim?”
“What’re you doing at the ocean if you don’t know how to swim?”
“Learning how to swim.”
I laughed, and swam up towards her. “More like learning how to drown.”
She pouted. “You don’t need to make fun of me.” Then, she reached her hand out over the edge. “So, are you gonna help.”
I shrugged. “Sure.” I reached over and grabbed her hand. It was warm and soft like sand, and I pulled her in. She wrapped her arms around my shoulders, shivering.
I mostly taught her how to use her arms, on account of me being a merman. The day went fast, and I wouldn’t let her out further then where she could stand.
When the sun broke past the horizon, she was lying on the sand. She closed her eyes for a while, then stood up fast and shook her head.
“You should go home,” I said.
“Will you be here tomorrow?”
She smiled, and reached into her pocket. “I grabbed this rock while I was coming up here.” She pulled out a pink stone. “I thought it was pretty.” She handed it to me. “You can have it.”
I grabbed it. “Thanks.”
“Don’t lose it,” she said. Then she ran off.
When I came up the next day, she was at the cliffside, but she was crying. Her tears fell and made ripples in the water. I swam up underneath her and she forced a grin when she saw me. Then, I pulled out the stone and handed it to her. She gave a small little laugh, wiped her tears away, and grabbed it.
“Ready for more lessons?” I asked.
I tried to teach her how to use her legs. I wasn’t really sure, but I had seen how other people swam before. She was able to go out further than the shallow parts and she even tried to race me once.
I let her win.
Night came again, and she was sitting at the edge. She reached down and handed me the pink rock.
“I told you to keep it,” she said.
“Well, I thought you would’ve liked it.”
“I did,” she said, “But it’s yours.”
I took it again. It was cold and smooth in my hand and I gripped it tight.
“Are you going to be here tomorrow?” I asked.
“Maybe,” she said.
“I’ll be here,” I said.
“Then I’ll try.”
The next day, she wasn’t there. She wrote a message in the sand.
Don’t come tomorrow.
I waited at the edge of the beach, staring at the message. The night came and everything was cold. I went back eventually.
I came the next day, but she wasn’t at the edge or lying in the sand. I swam around the cliff, and saw the water shake like someone was swimming in the distance.
I followed the splashes and saw her swimming through the waves. Her head bobbed in and out of the water. She was spitting out water whenever she was above the waves.
A huge wave crashed onto her, and she went under. I dived down and picked her up. I swam up, struggling through the currents. I broke up through the water and lifted her head up towards the sun. Her breaths were shallow and soft, but breaths nonetheless. Her eyes were closed.
I got back to the shore and put her on the shore. Her breaths got louder and stronger and her eyes opened. She coughed violently, and bent upwards. She looked at me and blinked a couple times. I smiled, and she turned away from me.
“Are you alright?” I asked.
She was silent.
I pulled out the pink rock and handed it to her. “Here,” I said.
She looked back at me and saw the rock. She bit her bottom lip, trying to stop herself from smiling.
“Take it. It’s yours.”
“No it’s not,” she said. “I gave it to you.”
“And now I’m giving it to you.”
She let go of her lip and gave a real smile. She picked up the rock, and moved it in between her fingers. “Thanks,” she said.
“Come back tomorrow,” I said.
“There’s still more to swimming.”
She smiled, and slipped the rock into her pocket.
“I don’t want to swim anymore,” she said.
“That’s fine then. We can do something else.”
“Alright. I’ll be here tomorrow.”
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 01:21|
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 01:25|
Mer-Murder Most Mysterious
The two grooms were floating at the top of the water, mouths agape, still holding hands despite their death. “No doubt, it’s a double mer-murder!” The merman officer announced.
The three suspects looked towards one another, each preparing accusations. The chef held his spatula defensively in front of his pecs, perhaps he had poisoned the couple’s food. The handyman protruded his abs in anger, his tool belt could have allowed him various methods of murder. The delivery man’s frowning boyish face contrasted his ripped figure, the package he delivered may have been death.
“Their necks are b-bleeding, the handyman must have d-done it,” the delivery man said.
“Like hell I did, you no-good rotten-tail fish-kisser. Where’s your delivery, huh? I don’t see it nowhere.”
“I, for one, do humbly agree. Please sir, display your package for our edification and delight,” the chef said, then swam down to the couple’s coral-side home. The rest followed.
Inside, the delivery man swam to the bedroom, which had a broken door. The package was open and empty atop the bed. “When I made the d-delivery, they met me outside. They asked me to come in and place it on their b-bed. When I d-did, they locked me in and asked me to j-join, but I d-didn’t want to and slammed the d-door until it b-broke. I forgot to get them to sign.” He displayed his signature sheet as proof. On it was the couple’s address, but no signature.
“That may be,” the chef said, “but it is also possible, nay, likely, that you knocked the door down, murdered them with the item from the package, and had the delivery sheet doctored. Why, are we even certain that you, sir, are a delivery man?”
“Let’s check,” the officer said. He questioned the delivery man for personal details, then phoned the station. While he waited for a response, he inspected the door and frame. “Hinges align with the so-called delivery man’s story.” His phone rang, a response. “Never mind, no so-called about it. He had a package to deliver here today. Only question left is, what was in it?”
“I can’t b-be sure, b-but I think it was that.” The delivery man pointed to three colorful dildos on the bedroom floor.
“I still don’t trust that fish-kisser, but fine, let’s check the chef. I don’t like the way he speaks all proper-like.” The handyman pounded his chest.
“Of course, sir, let me take you to my humble kitchen.” The chef said. He guided the group to the kitchen, where a plate featuring a large red herring lay, two bites on it. “I prepared this delectable treat for the sirs. Unfortunately, they did not find it to their liking and asked me to fetch them a different dish for their wondrous wedding tonight. I was at the local market when they were found dead. As you know officer, sir.”
The officer’s phone rang again. His handsome face contorted throughout the conversation, ending with his sigh. “The lab finished their report. One of the grooms was pregnant. A moment of silence for the third mer-murder, please.” After the silence, he continued, “Also, deadly poison was found in their system.”
“Holy carp, this proves it, don’t it?” The handyman grabbed the chef, who began struggling in his grasp. “Arrest him!”
“Let him go. That doesn’t prove anything.” The officer warned.
The delivery boy, who had been searching through drawers, pulled out a stack of papers. “No, b-but maybe this d-does?”
It was the chef’s contract, detailing him as an official adopted child of one of the grooms, to work around the chef being an illegal immigrant from the Indian Ocean.
“Insurance money murder, huh? You are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say-”
“Sir! Sirs! Wait, are you really going to allow this rapscallop to pull the algae over your eyes?” The chef pleaded.
“What d-do you mean?”
“The handyman. I am certain that I can prove his profound guilt.”
“Stop wasting water and shut up, you’re caught.” The handyman shook the chef.
“Let him speak.” The officer demanded.
“Thank you, officer, sir. Working here, I overhear many interesting conversations. Once, one groom said to the other he had an old relationship that went terribly. He bore a child from it, but was too young, and gave it for adoption. The old partner was quite upset by this ordeal and they fought until the groom ended the relationship. They eventually became friends again, but I don’t think the partner ever forgave the groom, because I heard them argue the other day. That partner was the handyman.”
“Don’t bring up what don’t matter, you green-gilled lover-murdering son-of-a-shark!” The handyman shook the chef more violently.
The officer hoisted his handheld harpoon. “Let him go. Now.”
The handyman did so. “It’s true, but so what? It don’t mean I murdered him. I loved him.”
“Where’s your screwdriver?” The delivery man asked.
“What’s that got to do with the price of fish?”
“Their necks were b-bleeding. What if you stabbed them, then poisoned them to frame the chef?”
“I reckon I left it by the chair I was fixing up for him.” With harpoon behind him, the handyman led them to the living room. A broken chair lay there, but no screwdriver. “Maybe it rolled under a cabinet.” He began searching.
“I found it, I think,” the delivery man said and pointed down the hallway with the couple’s room and broken door. He flexed and lifted the door to reveal the screwdriver, with a red handle and bloodied red tip.
The officer cautiously approached the handyman. “You are under arrest. You have the right-”
“I didn’t do nothing!”
“-to remain silent. Anything-”
“You sponge-brained harpoon-waving air-breather. Arrest the chef!”
“-you say or do can-”
“Officer, sir, you are doing the right thing by taking away this murderous simpleton.”
“-forget it! You’re just under arrest, turn around so I can cuff you.”
“No!” The handyman rushed towards the chef. The officer pulled the trigger. The harpoon shot out, impaling the handyman’s shoulder.
“Dad?” The officer looked towards the delivery man, confused.
The chef realized. “Oh. Sir.”
The delivery man cried. “I never wanted it to go this far. I j-just wanted to get revenge for being adopted out. Not only for me, but you.” The delivery man pointed to the bleeding handyman. “I’d get your revenge for you, d-dad, and maybe you’d go to j-jail, but I never wanted you to get shot. I took this j-job to make this d-delivery. I gave them the d-dildos. When they used them, the poison released. In their last moments they managed to knock d-down the d-door from the inside. I made sure they were d-dead using the screwdriver, then d-dragged them outside to float up.”
The handyman held his own shoulder. “Heh, my son’s a fish-kisser who killed my lover. I never even met you before this. Get arrested.”
The officer phoned in for an ambulance and backup, then cuffed the delivery man. “You. Arrest. Okay?” He said, exhausted.
The delivery man didn’t respond.
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 01:41|
POOL IS CLOSED fucked around with this message at 21:00 on Jan 2, 2016
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 03:06|
Sean O’Hennessy heard the sound of the ocean roaring like a million voices. He pulled his pillow against his ears and kept his eyes screwed shut, but the comforting silence of dreams escaped him. There was only the crash of waves against his second story window, the call of circling gulls and the taste of salt on his lip.
Then, amongst the million voices, one. From the ocean depths impossibly outside his room, calling his name, demanding to be answered.
In frustration, Sean threw his pillow at the window and sat bolt upright in his tiny, single bed, his fists clenched. “Mother Mary, leave me in peace!”
The sea rolled away and the gulls departed, leaving Sean alone in his room, naked and perspiring. But there was still salt on his lip. He touched his face and found he had been crying. In the room below, someone banged the ceiling with a broom handle, yelling at him to keep it down. “Sorry,” he yelled back, “just another nightmare.” The banging stopped.
Sean lay back, hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling until his heartbeat slowed. He felt a wreck. Tonight’s dream had been the worst yet. So loud and so real. He sighed and decided that, seeing as he was awake anyway, he might as well get ready for work.
Sean walked down Harbour Road, rare sunlight sprucing up the flaking paintwork of the terraced buildings. The door to the Annie Kelly’s was wide open. As he lumbered up the front steps, the familiar odour of beer-and-cigarette-laden carpet greeted him, spiced with an unmistakeable hint of sick. Collette was out in front already, a bucket of steaming, soapy water beside her.
“Morning Sean,” said Colette, not looking round. “Give me a moment, just finishing the worst of it. Bloody Patrick bet he could down a pint of whiskey and have room for a pint of beer.” She scrubbed at the front of the bar, leaving bubbly trails behind. “Now the whole place reeks. There.” She finished with a final polish and threw the cloth into the bucket. A little water sloshed over the side and onto the carpet, making a wet stain. Collette stood to face Sean.
“For the love of Pete,” said Colette, “but do you look like something the cat threw up.”
“Ocean dreams again,” said Sean
Colette sighed. “The ocean, again? In Tullamore? I tell, you, it’s plain as the nose on your face. You can’t get any more inland than here in the whole of Ireland, and yet here you are, on Harbour road, working in a bar named after a ship and being kept awake by the sound of the sea. Do you not think the universe is trying to tell you something?”
“The universe can mind its own drat business,” said Sean, heading for the back room where the morning float was kept.
“Oh it can, can it?” said Colette. “Well, I can mind mine, too. I can’t have you coming into work looking like a month of Mondays. Effective immediately, you’re on leave. G’wan, get out of town. Meet a nice girl, or a boy, who cares?. Lord knows you’ll never meet anyone special in Tullamore.”
“Eh? But you can’t…”
“Don’t you tell me what I can and can’t do in my own pub, lad. Catch the train, hitch the N80, frigging walk if you have to - but don’t you come back until you get the sea out of you.”
Sean bought a ticket from the machine at the bus station, and waited along with a small group of fellow sojourners. On the bus, he sat next to a dusty old man with a tangled beard.
The bus left Tullamore, taking only a few minutes to leave the town center and enter the crisp, green farmlands. Sean watched the cows go by. He thought they seemed happy, stuck in one place though they were. One grassy meadow blurred into another, and Sean’s eyelids grew heavier and heavier. He placed one arm against the slight sill and laid his head on his shoulder.
The bus careered off a pier and into the ocean.
The waters rose against the glass windows, panes bulging as the pressure increased. Sean watched in horror as they burst, shattered safety glass invisible against the foaming, briney sea. He struggled to climb from the wreckage, tried to kick his way out and up through the water, but his foot was trapped by twisted metal. In the dark reaches of the deep, beyond the bus’s broken frame, shadowy figures flitted to and fro. Was that his name being said? With the last of the air, Sean tried to call for help, but the salt water rose inexorably, pouring down his throat, filling him. He couldn’t even hear himself scream.
The rest of the bus could, however, as Sean found when he opened his eyes to find the entire bus staring at him like a freak. The dusty old man reached beneath his beard, into his jacket and pulled out a silver flask of something, then silently offered it to Sean.
It was very warming and very strong.
Sean stood on the coral beach of Trá an Dóilín. Above him, gulls called to each other across the harbour. Behind him, the lights of Galway shone. Surrounding him were the rocks and boulders where the land met the water, but before him there was nothing but the ocean, breaking upon stone and shore, roaring in his ears like million voices.
And amongst the million voices, one.
A vast wave came crashing toward the coral beach, all foam and flecks of coral, scintillating in the twilight. It broke before him, leaving in its wake a man, muscularly built and waist deep in seawater.
“Welcome,” said the man. Something flicked in the water behind him, like a fish breaching the surface. “I’m glad you came. I wasn’t sure our calls could be heard with you so far inland.”
“That was you calling?” asked Sean, incredulous. “The nightmares, the drownings, that was all you?”
“I’m sorry, Sean. We were desperate to find you, but it’s been so long. We had to call out strong so you’d be sure to hear us.”
Sean began to stammer a reply, but with a shock felt cold saltwater up to his knees. He looked down at his wet trousers, but it was like they were an illusion he had woken up from. A strong, fish-like tail stood in the water, unconsciously undulating to move him deeper into the sea, until he stood waist deep, at arms reach from the merman, whose own tail was now clearly visible. The merman reached out, took his hand, and pulled him towards deeper water.
“But Tullamore...the Annie Kelly...My job. I can’t give it up for a dream.”
“You have it wrong,” laughed the merman kindly. “Sometimes we dream of land and air, and sometimes we cannot find our way back from the inland dreaming without help. But we have found you now, Henna Sea of the merfolk. Time to wake up.”
Sean felt the waters close over his head like a mother’s embrace. He flicked his tail and dove deeper.
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 04:02|
Merry Christmas, Chairchucker!
Just Like Riding an Underwater Bicycle 932 words
Rear Admiral Pollock was watching the inflight movie, Help, I’m a Fish, when the call came over the intercom. “Hello passengers, this is Caroline, your cabin crew leader for this flight. Don’t read anything into this, but we were just wondering if there were any pilots on the plane? Paul and I, he’s one of my other cabin crew, were just making conversation really, and he asked ‘Hey Caroline, how many pilots do you think are on this flight,’ and I said ‘Hmmm I don’t know, why don’t we check?’ which leads us to this question right now, so, by a show of hands, who here is a pilot and, to make it interesting, could specifically fly, just as a random hypothetical example, this plane we’re in right now?”
Rear Admiral Pollock considered this for a moment. When you thought about it, a submarine and a plane were basically the same, right? I mean, sure, one goes through water and one goes through air, but the same basic principles applied. Yeah. Yeah, he could totally fly this plane. It wasn’t any bigger than a submarine, anyway. He raised his hand. After a few seconds, a lady dressed in the uniform of the airline came down the aisle, bent over next to him and said “So, Sir, you can fly this plane?”
“Yeah, I’d say so,” said Pollock.
“How interesting!” she said. “I’m Caroline, why don’t you come on up to the cockpit and we can chat further about your ability to fly this plane? Or other things, we could chat about other things I guess, but let’s start with this plane and your ability to fly it.”
Well, this was a rare treat. “Why certainly,” said Pollock, “that would be lovely.” He followed her to the front of the plane.
Once in the cockpit, Pollock looked around. It was nice and cosy and cramped, just like a submarine. Yes, he felt right at home here. “Oh, how convenient,” said Caroline, “both the pilot and the co-pilot chairs are vacant right at the moment. I’ve no idea how that came to be, but why don’t you go ahead and try one of them out?”
“Wow, this is an amazing experience,” said Pollock. “If I’d known this is the kind of treatment one can expect from this airline, I definitely would’ve flown with you beforehand. Are you certain it’s all right if I…?” and he indicated the pilot’s seat.
“I don’t see why not,” said Caroline with a wink, “I won’t tell the pilot you’ve been sitting in his chair if you don’t.”
Pollock settled into the pilot’s chair with a satisfied sigh. Ah yes, this was the stuff. Caroline settled into the co-pilot’s chair next to his. “Don’t forget to fasten your seatbelt,” she said, as she did her own up.
He did so, and then looked around at all the lovely dials and switches and lights and things like that. “Some impressive machinery here,” he said.
Caroline nodded. “Why don’t you show me what you can do with it?”
“Are you sure?” asked Pollock.
“Yeah, why not?” said Caroline. “Give her a bit of a workout. Why don’t you try to, oh, I don’t know, show me how you’d do an emergency landing somewhere down there?” She waved at the area with her hand.
“Hmmm,” said Pollock. “A lot of forest down there.”
“There is, a bit,” said Caroline.
“That lake down there, I reckon that’s where I’d do it.”
“Show, don’t tell!” said Caroline.
Pollock did that thing where you interlace your fingers and push your palms outwards – cracking your knuckles, that’s what it’s called. He cracked his knuckles to show that he meant business, and then grabbed the steering column. “I guess first, though, I should maybe tell the passengers to put their seatbelts on?”
“Let me handle that,” said Caroline. She grabbed the intercom, and said to the rest of the plane “Hello there passengers, me again, Caroline your cabin crew leader. You may have noticed I’ve just switched on the seatbelts sign,” and as she spoke she pressed a button to make it so, “so I’d encourage everyone to make their way back to their seats in the next, oh, let’s say ten seconds or so, and fasten their seatbelt. Also, once you’re there, why don’t you go ahead and assume the brace position, remember that one we learned at the start of the flight? Bending forward and leaning against the seat in front, or hugging your legs, let’s go ahead and all do that, yeah?” She turned to Pollock. “All right now, let’s see a really nice emergency landing now.”
“This’ll be a cinch,” said Pollock. “I don’t have to rely on some other crewman giving me sightings from the periscope.”
“What?” asked Caroline.
Pollock pushed the plane into a dive, and Caroline gripped the sides of her chair. “You’re gripping that chair pretty tight,” said Pollock.
Caroline tried to shrug without letting go of the sides of the chair. “I’m the same with rollercoasters, no need to read anything into it. Just making idle conversation really, but your comment about periscopes made me curious. How many actual planes have you previously flown?”
“Oh,” said Pollock, “this’ll technically be my first, if we’re not counting submarines. Although I don’t know if I can really count it, since I’m not doing the whole flight, just the landing.”
“Oh,” said Caroline, and closed her eyes.
Which is a shame, because she missed a spectacular water landing, in which very few people were maimed.
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 04:07|
Honest? I might not be able to finish this before the deadline. I'll still submit though. Leeway is appreciated but this isn't my first rodeo, I'll take what I can get.
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 04:11|
An Empty Shell
The contamination was nothing but a rumor, and yet the mayor had ordered all mermen and -women of Shellshore Town to evacuate. And they had. Just up and left. Left their homes behind, the homes they’d all worked so hard to build. Gone so fast the ghosts had moved into town before the living were even done packing. But not Gendos and his family. Because they were not scared by tall tales. Because they’d worked the scales off their fintails to keep their ranch running. Because someone had to do it.
That didn’t mean none of them was scared. Jenna and him, they had the same drat argument every night, her going, “Them scientists said,” and, “Them neighbors said,” and, “The mayor said,” and Gendos always saying that none of these people ain’t got no goddamn clue. They hadn’t. They hid inside their houses all their lives, what did they know about the ocean? That bit of dirt. His own algae farm filtered half a major town’s worth of toxins.
That didn’t keep her from worrying her pretty head, and it didn’t really matter what Gendos did either. He took her to watch the seahorses out on the field, watch them whinny and frolic, shimmering pink question marks against a deep blue horizon. The horses weren’t worried, and well, weren’t they known for their sense of danger?
He showed her the Grand McTallister reef, and even though the McTallisters had left like everyone else, their corals still did the same beautiful things to the sunlight, a shiny treasure of colors and patterns. Nothing was contaminated here.
But there was no getting through. Sometimes she’d just agree with him, with the same enthusiasm of a rustler who’d been forced to tie his own noose. Sometimes she’d start up about that goddamned gut feeling again, and “unseen dangers”, and the children, think of the children, Bobby, their little son, and Tara, Tara who was such a strong and clever girl. Can’t die on a dumb old farm.
Not that they would, but she wouldn’t hear it.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” Gendos said, sitting in his father’s old room like he often did, talking to his parents’ faded picture on the commode. “We can’t just let this all go to the hounds. You worked so hard to build this up. She just won’t see.”
Of course the picture didn’t reply. It never had, in all the time since his father had gone to the great Above the Sea, since Gendos had kept the room in order just like it had been left, muddied fintail-guard still slung over the bedpost, pearl shooters still collecting dust on the nightstand. But it helped to have someone to talk to before another round of “The mayor said”.
They lived like that for a good month, lived off their own land like always. Then came the seaweed harvest, and it was a sad crop. Like all the plants had decided that their hibernation wasn’t over yet. Those who hadn’t just shrivelled up underground had done so above. They would barely feed his family through the winter.
It was the first sign of things gone wrong. But then, sometimes harvests just go bad. And even if there’s something in the water, the ocean is full of filters. It would sort itself out.
Then the clam house started dying out, and Gendos’s own homegrown corals faded from their once vibrant blues and reds. And gone were the days when the passing kingfish disturbed the water in a way that tickled you out of your afternoon nap. Even the wild sharks disappeared. They’d been an annoyance, but now Gendos ran out of things to do, which only meant he had more time to argue with his wife. With every new piece of bad news she grew more nervous, her nails a bit more thoroughly chewed-through.
And then Bobby fell sick. Fever, a fever like any other boy could have had any time of the year, but this wasn’t any time of the year, this was the time of fears, of contaminations and uncertain futures. For Jenna, it was the last straw.
She just needed a day or two to cool off. That’s what Gendos told himself as he watched her pack. Told himself it was probably for the best. If she went some place with a doctor, just to ease her mind. It couldn’t have been anything serious. It was Bobby, he’d be fine. But still.
And then the one, two days turned to one, two weeks, and then Gendos had gotten used to living on his own. Not in a way that stopped him from stroking the bed where his wife had used to lie. Not in a way where he didn’t find himself crying to his father at the end of the day. But in a way that let him focus on work again.
What little there was left of it.
More algae disappeared each day. The last of the clams died out. One after the other, the sea horses fell sick and had to be put down. Even the McTallister reef had turned into a rocky graveyard. The land gave him nothing, and he worked his shiny behind raw to keep the place running, held on tight to every patch of land that still produced something, every single crop he could pull out of the ground.
He spoke to his father every day. Said things were sure to turn around. Any day now. He wasn’t sure if the old man was listening, but if he was, if he really did look down from the Above the Sea, the farm would still be there.
Even when the water turned sour and foggy, and when his skin began to itch.
Even when the few stirs that still happened in the water became ghostly touches. When the oily threads that had started appearing became shadows, bony fingers reaching out for him. When he ran out of things to do to until he found himself wandering the house, dreaming.
The kitchen. Ma had always stirred something here. Every morning, whenever Gendos got up, there she was, stirring pancake dough, or cookie batter, or eggs.
There in his father’s old room, the old man sitting at the table, bushy white beard floating in the murky water like a distant beacon, a light that pulled him closer, had done so even when he’d been a little merboy, every day he’d come home from school, his father on the porch, expecting him with open arms so they could tell each other how their days went.
He had proposed to Jenna on that porch.
And then the memories rained down on him. Jenna, knitting in the rocking chair. Bobby building sky-high castles from wooden blocks. Tara, smart Tara, who’d explored the land and learned the names of places and plants and currents and drawn them all into a journal.
Without them, the house was just an empty shell.
He took his parents’ picture off the commode and held it firmly to his chest. And then, gently, he put it back down and started packing.
Maybe it wasn’t too late.
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 04:11|
Mermen in Time of Plague
Read it in the archive.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 09:51 on Jan 3, 2016
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 04:17|
I don't know why my merman is so tiny
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 05:42|
The end of Western civilization came not with a bang but with a price tag. It was Black Friday, hereafter recalled as the Blackest of Fridays. The price was right, but the customers were wrong. Demand exceeded supply. Ground floor retailers sat perched atop a mountain of consumer products, "Made in China, motherland approved," and declared themselves lords of all creation. Millions died in the stampedes. In the end, even that formerly thought unassailable stronghold of American consumer culture Voidmart fell into ruin.
Needless to say, Bruce was out of a job.
“Oy. You gonna spend all day preening like a pigeon?”
Bruce’s own reflection stared back at him through the shattered glass of a former storefront. He watched himself adjust the lapels of his leather jacket. It’d belonged to an old friend of his before all this; before the dark times. He cocked his head to confirm the structural integrity of his pompadour. His reflection smiled, satisfied.
“End of the world ain’t no excuse not to look our best. That’s what separates us from the beasts, baby. You askin’ me to sink to the level of a common beast?”
“I’m asking you to get in the loving car.”
It was a woman who called out to Bruce from the loving car. “A real desert flower,” Bruce might’ve described her were he in the business of comparing human beings with unthinking plants. Her hair was blonde, short and disheveled, and her eyes betrayed a kind of dull certainty. Even so, she smiled. Her name was Mattie. She swore a lot, but Bruce knew she didn’t mean nothing by it. She took a drink from the flask she kept in the car door. The top was down and the sky was starkly beautiful.
“Chill baby, I’m here, I’m here.”
“Gotta get this poo poo to the next town over.” Mattie gestured over her shoulder toward the small mountain of boxes they’d piled in the backseat. “Don’t get paid if they don’t get it by sundown.”
Paper money was valueless, of course. Mail order AOL CDs were what greased palms these days.
“I get it Mattie, I get it. We gone.”
Bruce shifted the car into gear and their vintage ride lurched out from the shadow of the mini-mall into the streets of former downtown USA. There was a sound like thunder in the distance. Mattie checked her bolt-action rifle. Bruce took a moment to brush some imagined dust from his shoulder.
“You got a serious crush on that jacket, dude.”
“It’s a fine product, baby. Belonged to a buddy. Gotta keep those memories alive. Wore this jacket in a movie, you know? He was a warlord. This jacket was his symbol. Gave it to me after the premiere.”
“Sounds like he would’ve made something of himself.”
“Nah, he was just a guy. Even guys like that need friends though.”
“Uh-huh. So is he dead or what?”
“Nah, just moved to New Mexico.”
“drat, that’s pretty LOOK OUT.”
Mattie grabbed the steering wheel and turned the car sharply. Just ahead, down the road they might’ve taken, a large number of people began to spill out into the street, lean and hungry. Mattie released the wheel and scrambled for the rifle in her lap. Bruce reached into his pompadour and pulled out a carefully concealed bullet. He tossed it to Mattie. She caught it and pressed it into the chamber.
“Ah yeah, the boring bit’s over now baby.”
“Just drive the drat car, Bruce.”
“Don’t sweat it Matt. In the old world I was known as the master of Crazy Taxi.”
Bruce snapped his fingers and put his foot down on the gas. Mattie fired into the crowd that had gathered behind them and knocked down a fat one. His former compatriots circled the corpse. They started fighting over his designer shoes. Mattie reached into Bruce’s pompadour to retrieve another bullet. Bruce floored it.
A chariot pulled by men in football gear burst forth from the gathering of ravenous former citizens. At the helm was a man decked in military regalia he’d no doubt lifted from a costume store. He chewed on a Cuban cigar, his eyes masked by sunglasses Bruce surmised he wore at all hours. Mattie fired into the leader of his linebacker retinue. The first man fell and was trampled. The chariot raced on, undeterred.
“Some deep poo poo we got ourselves in here.” Mattie pulled another bullet from Bruce’s hair. She considered its weight. “Can’t piss away too many more of these.” She slotted her shot and aimed directly at the leader. She fired, he ducked, she swore. “Got any ideas, pretty boy?”
“Nope. Just full of optimism for the future.”
The car took another hard turn and sped on. Bruce tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. He licked his lips. The chariot swam into view in his rearview mirror. The man in the chariot had pulled out a shotgun.
“What kinda cargo we carrying again?”
“Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Suburban religious commune wanted it for the holidays. Pay was good so I figured why not.”
“Nah, fake as all hell.”
“Probably looks real. Why not share some with our diehard fans, Robin Hood-style? Our client probably won’t miss a little bit.”
Mattie hesitated, then threw open one of the boxes in the backseat. She grabbed handfuls of gold and tossed them out the back. The footballers eyes grew wide, their hearts heavy with greed. They each made a bee-line for the cast aside treasure, their formation thrown into complete disarray. The man in the chariot fired his gun moments before he was knocked from his perch. Mattie ducked at the blast, Bruce flinched at the sound, but the car sped on. Soon the chariot was but an unpleasant memory.
“poo poo,” Mattie slunk down in her seat. Her hands quickly located her little pick-me-up in the car door. “Glad that’s over.”
Bruce looked though the rearview mirror, then glanced over his shoulder.
“Looks like we’re leaking product, baby.”
Mattie turned around. She sighed.
“Myrrh,” she said. “Guess that rear end in a top hat managed to hit something after all. Least most of it’s in the backseat. Gonna be a real bitch to clean this up.”
“Better get to it then, baby. These magic hands of mine are full with the car.”
“Shut up Bruce, I ain’t your myrrh maid.”
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 05:45|
The Wettest Magick
a bunch of words??
Djeser fucked around with this message at 05:45 on Jan 1, 2016
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 06:15|
For archival purposes:
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 06:15|
Jebediah Quiller was halfway through his second Martini when the Devil caught his eye. He was standing at the edge of the rooftop party, leaning on the parapet. His skin was red, glistening hotly In the lights that hung like bunches of grapes from the taut canvas roof over the party. His eyes were yellow. And Jeb knew with sudden piercing certainty that he had to have him.
So he grinned, downed his drink, grabbed two fresh glasses from a passing tray and undulated through the New Year’s throng and around the opalescent pool towards the Prince of Lies. He could feel the familiar tension on his skin, the tingling of potential futures clustering up close all ready to be born or die unrealised. His crotch was tingling, and he was wearing his cleanest, most lucky undies. He was so, so up for this.
Satan was smoking, clove with a hint of sulphur. He gestured with the cigarette towards an empty space at the leaner for Jeb to put the glasses. The muscles on his red-skinned arms rippled as he did. Jeb placed them down without a tremor.
“I like your horns, “ he said. “Great commitment.”
The Devil tilted his head downward. The horns that sprouted from his skull were ridged and curled like a shofar.
“Your trousers are tight and the fabric is shiny.”
Jeb laughed in a smooth way and slid closer. “You’re a long way from home, Hellboy." He ran a well-clipped fingernail across the Devil's nipples. "Fancy a pit stop on the way back?"
“You want so little,” said the Star of Morning. His voice was a soft rumble, which should have been lost in the chattering of the party. Jeb heard it as though the Devil’s mouth was next to his ear. “A gently caress, a fumble, a quick kiss and on to the next,” he said. “And yet the pain you leave is so shallow. You skip across the ocean of suffering like a smooth stone flung by a child."
Jeb took the words like a punch. “I,” he said. “No, in fact. That’s not true.”
The Devil laughed, a shuddering sputter from deep in his thorax. “That boy over there? Warren, McSomething. He cried himself to sleep a few nights and and wished you death once. The redheaded man by the toilets, David or whatever his name was? He bought a car he didn't particularly want. It was on eBay a few weeks later. Petty pain, nugatory suffering.”
Jeb had noted them on the way in, discarded them as used goods. The musk of the Devil was overpowering, intoxicating. Jeb breathed in deep, regretted it as his head swirled. “What do you want me to do? Why do you care?”
“It's simple. Take your time. Get to know them. Slide yourself into their lives. Then when you pull yourself out, when you disengage like one of those,” the Devil gestured vaguely with his cigarette, “tick things, with the teeth, you’ll really leave a mark. And as for my interest, well. I am the Prince of Pain.”
Jeb gulped. "And if I don't?"
"I have a cup beside my throne, and drop by drop it fills with the tears of men. Keeps me hydrated. I need a litre in that cup from you over the next six months. If not, if by one single drop it is short, then I will put you in it. Forever."
Jeb shuddered. Then he flipped his phone up and thumbed the on-screen camera, brought it round for a selfie.
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 07:50|
yeah yeah, i'll post my dq story later. i was too busy peeing out my butt and breathing fire from my throat like a mother loving dragon.
in mermen-related news, i have discovered that i have developed a shrimps allergy!
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 08:03|
Subs are closed! I've read a decent chunk of the stories, but I'm going to be helping someone move into a new apartment tomorrow (exciting, I know) so expect judging no earlier than evening time tomorrow, depending on how time zones mesh and all. Looks like it's just me and spectres judging unless a third volunteer wants to step up at the last minute, either way works for me.
Also blah blah Christmas miracle or something, if any late stories show up before I finish reading, I'll probably ignore the tardiness, as, imo, a larger selection of merman-related fiction benefits the greater good.
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 08:43|
And that's a wrap for 2015 Tdome.
Kayfabe is off, say nice things, say dumb things, say things you like or hate or want to change or are curious about.
This is a strange and wonderful thing that has lurched through three years and four million words like a gigantic mega zombie made of words, thanks all for being a part of it.
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 09:34|
Most of you are pretty okay people.
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 09:40|
I hope stealth archer comes back b/c I liked his sass.
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 10:01|
I hope Lou Bega comes back
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 11:10|
Wait, kayfabe was on?
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 11:16|
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 17:24|
And that's a wrap for 2015 Tdome.
Just FYI, I will be posting the new thread NEXT Monday or Tuesday, at which point I'll link it here. Pls keep carrying on with these spineless sentiments, though, I want to know who 2016teen's weaklings will be, so I can cut them down early
I'd like to take this opportunity to ask everyone's suggestions for the next thread. Can we clarify the OP in some way? Are there rules you want to see/currently hate? I will probably ignore your suggestions unless they're really good, but it's nice to know people care. We also need a thread title. My current favorite is Thunderdome 2016teen: Fast Writing, Bad Writing, but I'd love to hear other ideas.
Thunderdome is really really great. If you're lurking and going, hm, I don't know if I'm cut out for this, what if I lose?? Hush. Swallow those fears with a swig of Mountain Dew and use those sausagey goon fingers to type 'in' for the next prompt. To everyone who's contributed their stories and crits and lols: we've made something exceptionally cool here in our little corner of Something Awful dot com. So thanks. You guys complete me. Which is horrifying. But nice?
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 19:41|
more emoticons like this in op
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 19:42|
more emoticons like this in op
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 19:51|
I really appreciate you guys.
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 20:08|
Just FYI, I will be posting the new thread NEXT Monday or Tuesday, at which point I'll link it here. Pls keep carrying on with these spineless sentiments, though, I want to know who 2016teen's weaklings will be, so I can cut them down early
Thunderdome has changed my life for the better in so many ways.
As for a title,
Thunderdome 2016teen: Only Complete Assholes, No Semi-Colons Allowed
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 21:36|
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 21:49|
╰( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡° )つ──☆*:・ﾟ ~Spell of Good Writing~
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 22:10|
Thunderdome 2016teen: the rules are made up, and the HMs don't matter
|# ? Dec 28, 2015 23:45|
I'd like to thank everyone for all your crits. I find it remarkable that so many take the time to read these stories and give meaningful feedback.
This thread has really helped my writing, both fiction and non-fiction. So ta for that.
I still doubt I'll write a story that someone will enjoy, but I'll keep trying.
Thunderdome 2016teen: He "Muttered" ,, Angrily My Minds Are Blank
|# ? Dec 29, 2015 00:24|
I'd like to thank everyone for all your crits. I find it remarkable that so many take the time to read these stories and give meaningful feedback.
td acts like it's all
but really it's all like
|# ? Dec 29, 2015 00:32|
Lazy Beggar, I've noticed your improvement. Some of your ideas are good, like the faulty bionic eyes in Robot Week, and I'm glad you're sticking around so we can see it when everything comes together for you.
Thunderdome 2016teen: The Never-Ending Stories
|# ? Dec 29, 2015 00:43|
|# ? Nov 29, 2022 18:49|
im finally off my probation so i can say that td is the worst and your all the worst and i hate that i love you all so much
|# ? Dec 29, 2015 00:54|